Everywhere I go I hear people desperately crying out for the end of church as we know it. They can't deny that the Spirit of God is creating a disturbance, a dissatisfaction and a yearning for brand new wine.
Pastors, please hear me. The Spirit-driven remnant that God is uniquely awakening to an end-time role will not be able to function in anything less than a raging furnace of intercession and extreme Holy Spirit activity in the church. No longer can you silence the zealots or smirk at the eccentric. These are your emerging end-time warriors.
I have people write me from all around the world, pleading for assistance in finding this type of church where they live. They have been aggressively searching for vibrant churches marked by supernatural revelation. Church as usual doesn't only disappoint them, it deeply disturbs them.
MARKS OF REVELATION DRIVEN CHURCHES
Pastors will be given to insane amounts of prayer throughout the week, and they will be supernaturally alert night and day. The result will be leadership that's marked by the incense of the Holy Spirit. Every decision, every service and every message will be branded by the active, Rhema revelation of the Spirit of God.
Dreams and visions will be normal among the church staff and members alike. The entire culture of the church will be driven by this critical communication of God.
Fueled by Intercession
The only way to develop and sustain an revelation driven church is to first develop and sustain a furnace of intercession. A large portion of the teaching must be devoted to supernatural, prophetic prayer. People tend to blank out when they are presented with the call to prayer, and the way to meet that reaction is by teaching continually on prayer.
People need to understand how to pray, why to pray, how to yield to the Holy Spirit, how to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the power of praying in tongues, how to steward prophetic revelation, how to pray the Scriptures, how to develop intimacy with Jesus, governing with authority and much, much more.
Then, a culture of raging, expressive, authoritative night and day prayer must overtake the whole of the church. People who don't pray as a primary call must be challenged and given continual opportunities to jump on board and legislate in the Spirit as God has called them to. A governmental body like this will wield great weapons against the spirit of the age and will walk in extremely powerful authority.
Understand, this culture must flow from the primary Sunday service. There is absolutely no way to develop a culture of prayer if it's relegated to off nights in a side room. It's time for hours of prophetic prayer to flood the Sunday morning sanctuaries week after week. Those who aren't interested in such a relationship with Jesus will leave—and your remnant will be revealed.
Unpredictable and Spontaneous
The days of predictable, scheduled, ordered church services must come to an end. We have become so enamored with human order in the church that Holy Spirit, biblical order is completely rejected.
When the primary service becomes a prayer meeting, with other expressions following, you simply cannot maintain an order of service. Any attempt to do so is laughable.
Revelation driven church services will commence with a roar of supernatural intercession as anointed, prayer-fueled musicians and singers play and sing over the people. It won't be unusual for this to last for an hour or two—or more. It will be common to turn the screens that display the lyrics off, as the people shift to mostly praying and singing in the Spirit. The Christian karaoke will come to an end.
From this furnace of worship and intercession, leadership will release oracles and give prophetic messages that will be right in step with what the Holy Spirit is doing in that moment. There will be a Holy Spirit orchestrated “dance” where prayer, worship, decrees, declarations, instruction, healing, deliverance and prophetic revelation will fill the room.
It will be impossible for any human to keep up, or to give any leadership whatsoever, if they aren't wildly devoted to holiness and a life of never-ending intercession. They won't be able to discern or keep up with what God is doing in the room, and they will attempt to grab the reigns and to do what is naturally familiar to them, quenching the Holy Spirit in the process.
I believe many would admit there is a deep grieving in their spirits when churches become focused and driven to grow the church numerically. Understand, numeric growth, when done rightly, can be healthy. We see in Scripture that God added to the church daily. However, the compromise that has overtaken the church in order to see this type of growth is truly grieving.
Instead of locking in on the growth of their local church, pastors and leaders who are embracing the revelation driven church model will be mostly interested in what God is doing regionally and nationally.
Their passion will be to see the church of the city become marked by the Spirit of God and for the new wine of the Holy Spirit to be poured out. They won't care one bit if the outpouring happens in another local church in the city. They will lead the people under their care out from their local expression of the city church right into the place where the pillar of fire and the cloud of God's glory have manifested.
Further, their energies will be devoted to confronting the national crisis and in standing as a governmental authority. They will train the people and equip for battle against the deadly, raging spirit of the age that's destroying our nation.
If their local church grows or shrinks numerically, their gaze and their assignment will not change. They are locked in, obediently advancing the cause of revival in their city and in the nation.
Everyone will be governing and impacting the atmosphere through Spirit-fueled prayer. Rapid-fire prayer is one great way to facilitate this, giving everybody a chance to release decrees and declarations in a meeting. Invite them up to pray with passion on the microphone for ten to twenty seconds.
As the service continues, include additional rapid-fire prayer sessions and provide a way for people to share prophetic revelation in the meeting. White boards can line the walls, giving people a place to write down prophetic words, to share dreams and visions or to draw prophetic art that God has impressed upon them.
Pastors, don't try to “find jobs” for everybody, hoping that keeping them busy and engaged is the answer to keeping them interested in the church. That's honestly a bit condescending. While everybody isn't ready for leadership in the church, most everyone should be given opportunities to pray, prophesy and release declarations of Scripture. We've muzzled people for too long.
When you successfully steward a deeply prophetic culture in the church, God will be talking—a lot. This prophetic data must be rightly responded to. Prophetic assignments will emerge and the intercessors will have a non-stop job to keep them covered.
You will find yourself heading out on prayer walks, making decrees over your city, researching the spiritual history of the land, engaging in high level spiritual warfare, starting prayer movements, challenging systems, developing strategies and journaling it all.
You will see the body dynamically moving from season to season, assignment to assignment. Everybody will have a part to play as you advance as a unified army into the darkness and toward revival. You will regularly be uniting with other pastors and leaders in the region as you'll quickly discover you only have a part of the bigger picture. The city church will awaken to it's comprehensive assignment.
Church services are not to be seeker sensitive. The days of focusing on drawing the lost in as a primary goal are coming to an end. The New Testament church is a movement of Believers who are praying continually and governing with great authority in the region.
Of course, the lost can and will come in, but the focus of the meeting will not change. The extreme activity of the Holy Spirit will be maintained and those who decide to say yes to Jesus will meet him in a way that could never be done in a dry, dusty, seeker environment.
These Believer's meetings will be white-hot, supernatural and other-worldly. The roar of intercession, the groans, the cries and the military-level strategic advance will produce saints who are ready and equipped for battle.
Focused on Spiritual Growth
The goal is obedience, impact and responding rightly to the instructions of the Holy Spirit, not numeric growth. As I said previously, growth can and will happen, but it's not an automatic indicator of health or success. I propose many churches must be pruned as they develop into a revelation driven church.
It's a rare person who will sign up to be part of this new wine, revelation driven church, so small numbers should be expected. The goal is to go deep and grow spiritually. The challenge of such a church will be rejected by many. The compromise of yesterday to get them into the seats must come to an end. Invite them to leave if they aren't interested in going deep and locking arms with the rest of the well-diggers.
Deep, Challenging Teaching
Teaching will be doused by revelation, and the tired Sunday-school lessons of old will finally come to an end. You can tell when a preacher has been pierced with the message they are preaching—and when they are merely regurgitating information.
The messages of Heaven will originate in the culture of fiery prayer and will absolutely rock everyone who hears them. Many will reject such an anointing as it demands a costly response, but those who respond will become sharp, full of fire and a mighty weapon in the hands of God.
RISKS OF REVELATION DRIVEN CHURCHES
The Shallow Will Revolt
When you transition your church into the deep realm of the prophetic, those who have been comfortable and who wish to remain that way will resist. You have to be ready for this. Accusations will fly as their flesh feels the fire of your devotion.
An Absalom spirit will very possibly emerge from within the ranks, and the battle will be fierce. You may be accused of promoting elitism, being religious or being careless. Are you ready for the fight against a very focused enemy? Love people deeply but don't entertain the dark strategies of Satan. Those who are shallow have been conditioned by the enemy of their souls, and the risk of the devil losing them to a life of radical surrender is one that won't be taken lightly.
Many (most) programs, ministries and focuses of old will be let go in favor of prayer and the prophetic strategies God assigns. Those who have found their identity in those programs may become angry, disillusioned and disruptive as you prune what they hold dear.
You have to understand that most people have an aversion to vibrant, Spirit-filled prayer, and since you are taking your church into that exclusive, focused direction, these people will fight against the move.
You better get ready. As I mentioned, Absalom is ready to move skillfully through some of your most devoted members. I'd encourage you to read my articles on how to deal with that crafty spirit HERE and HERE.
Of course, there are many other ways the enemy will initiate an assault against you and your church as you become tuned into the Spirit of God as a prophetic people. Ignoring him won't work. You must be alert, discerning, skilled and ready to respond. If you aren't prayed up and if you don't walk in strong governmental, apostolic authority, you will most definitely struggle.
It's important to develop a trusted intercession team to surround you as the leader and also to identify governmental strengths in others on the team. You will all need to fight together in great unity.
Other Pastors Will be Provoked
A supernaturally vibrant body will absolutely threaten other pastors in the region. I could tell you several sad (and repulsive) stories of other pastors who were incredibly reactive to ministries that are apostolic and devoted to the prophetic and prayer.
You need to love and bless these men and women of God even if they don't support you, and even if they resist you. God will use them to test your heart. God will also link you up with others in the city who are on board with a fresh prophetic advance.
You cannot go it alone. Pastors who aren't actively involved with other leaders in the city in an ongoing fashion should cause some red flags to fly.
You Will be Misunderstood and Resisted
Anybody who goes against the stream, who cuts against the grain and who calls out dead, tired systems will be marked as a troublemaker. Troublers of Israel.
You must learn to love deeply or you will be taken out by bitterness.
THE CRITICAL NEED FOR REVELATION DRIVEN CHURCHES
New Wine Skin
The old wine skin must be put away. It simply cannot contain the new wine that the Holy Spirit is pouring out. This revival Spirit will offend many and awaken many others. The current system isn't designed to facilitate what God is wanting to introduce.
Boring, Predictable, Powerless Church
The predictable church model that we are all too familiar with today simply has to come to an end. They must be replaced by prayer meetings and governmental, apostolic focus.
God Needs to Reveal His Plans
I have often wondered how in the world any pastor or leader can lead a church without an intense, continual, comprehensive and saturating prophetic culture. How do you know what to teach? How can you address the plans of a crafty, invisible enemy? How can the people hear God's voice? It's nonsensical. The new wine, revelation driven church must have its ear to the mouth and heart of God so it can respond moment-by-moment to his directives.
A Highly Trained Army is Needed
Every person in the church must have a never-ending tremble in their spirit as they live night and day in the place of intercession. The Spirit of God will train the church in the place of prayer and prophetic instruction. This army will know how to hear God's voice, how to change culture, how to move in authority and how to respond in unity.
Culture is not Effectively Challenged
It's disgusting how the church has failed to confront the spirit of the age today. Homosexuality has become not only normalized but legalized while people of faith are now at risk of being imprisoned for standing in opposition if certain legislation passes in our nation. Where is the church? Where are those who are highly skilled and who know how to hear God's supernatural instructions on how to advance?
The church in its current state absolutely cannot fight this invisible war.
The Harvest Will Have No Patience for Church as Usual
The lost clearly have no desire to integrate into the current church system. The found don't want to integrate either. Both are looking for a church on fire, a power-center in the region.
Eunice, a Facebook friend, said this after reading my introduction to this article:
Oh my Lord John Burton have you ever hit the nail on the head. We ARE waiting. We are homeless. We search to no avail. God is opening our voices with a tremendous end time roar. We need this desperately. We feel lost and so out of place.
It's time for revelation driven churches to emerge and for the old wine skins to be folded up and put away. The lost and saints alike are longing for a burning, vibrant, Spirit-driven experience that will shock the nations and call down the fires of revival.
Either the extreme activity of the Holy Spirit is critical to every Christian, or it is not.
I've resisted writing this article for a long time, as there doesn't seem to be a way around causing a schism, or at least provoking people to pick a side. Then again, maybe this is just what we need—an honest evaluation of the value and purpose of allowing the Holy Spirit to be fully free in our lives and in our churches.
Is the movement of the Holy Spirit vital to our success as Christians? Or, can we choose to tone down the manifestations due to personal discomfort or outright disagreement over how appropriate it is?
One of the reasons writing this article is such a struggle is because of how many truly amazing, godly and humble men and women of God there are who don't affirm the gifts of the Spirit. Additionally, there are many others who affirm the gifts and activity of the Holy Spirit, but don't emphasize them or give room for them in the church. In fact there are many “Spirit-filled” churches today that are sadly restrictive of the Holy Spirit. Yet, I've met so many of these pastors and leaders, and they are remarkable people.
I'm continually humbled by people like this who are lovers of God, faithful givers, students of the Word, brilliant leaders in the church and who possess truly tender hearts toward people. You won't find any praying in tongues, deliverance of demons, mention of dreams and visions or supernatural manifestations in their ministry. However, they are feeding the poor, visiting prisoners, giving to the needy, standing for righteousness, preaching with conviction and loving those God brings across their path.
There are those who would argue that people who discount or minimize the gifts and workings of the Holy Spirit are not saved at all. While I personally feel this is a serious issue, I could never jump to such an extreme conclusion. However…
BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT IS CRITICAL FOR ALL
I must admit my spirit is grieved terribly when Christians attempt to shut the Holy Spirit and his workings away.
I recently heard someone raise the question as to why the activity of the Holy Spirit is even necessary today. He argued that if we focus on the basics, on salvation and preaching the Gospel, that is more than sufficient. He wondered out loud, “Just what else is necessary?”
He felt the outward expressions, the loud groans of intercession, tongues, deliverance of demons, and other manifestations were hindrances to the advance of the Gospel. I do understand why he has arrived at his position. There are too many people acting out in bizarre, emotional and strangely spiritual manners while excusing it away as the activity of the Holy Spirit. While I fully embrace the truth that it will become supernaturally intense and even quite messy when God invades a people and a church in great power, too often overly zealous people are getting a little nutty when the power really isn't there. Their passion can get the best of them and, for better or worse, it turns a lot of people away from such theatrics.
With all of this in mind, I must clearly reveal the core of my heart and my position on this matter:
Those who dismiss, reject, minimize or tone down the gifts and activity of the Holy Spirit due to discomfort or theological position are at great risk of rejecting God himself—and encouraging others to do the same.
Yes, the baptism in the Holy Spirit which results in a remarkable life of power, praying in unknown tongues, experiencing the supernatural realm and living a prophetic life is critical, not simply optional, for all.
WHY IS THE HOLY SPIRIT SO IMPORTANT?
No, preaching the Gospel and winning the lost isn't all that we are called to do as Christians. Not even close. However, it's easy to argue that the very act of preaching the Gospel and leading the lost to Jesus can't be done with any real effectiveness, anointing or power without the very direct and active influence of the Holy Spirit.
Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. Acts 16:6
Only the Holy Spirit knows when, where, how and to whom we should be preaching the Gospel. Of course, we should default to preaching and ministering everywhere we go—unless the Holy Spirit tells us not to.
If we are not tuned in to the clear and present words of God, we will not be able to discern his will on anything, including our ministry strategy.
Further, we know that praying in tongues edifies us, and the Bible teaches clearly that this gift is available for all. While some of the different gifts of tongues (tongues and interpretation, for example) are reserved for select people, as is true for most spiritual gifts, the prayer language of tongues is a critically important gift for every Christian. We all need the edification that only the Holy Spirit can bring, and his chosen vehicle for that edification is praying in tongues. There is no substitute. No tongues, no edification. That is a recipe for disaster.
He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 1 Corinthians 14:4
Also, the Holy Spirit enables us to prophesy. We can hear God's voice, receive prophetic revelation, have dreams and visions and discern spiritually as the Holy Spirit moves in and through us.
Those who are not baptized in the Holy Spirit may occasionally receive rare and unusual revelation from the Holy Spirit, but such an important part of the Christian life is not supposed to be rare and unusual. Our lives should be filled with never-ending revelation from God. This is part of the wonder of the Spirit-filled life!
From my Charisma News article, Should the Church Get Scary?
We need a church on fire today more than ever. The lost are being introduced into lukewarm, natural, Ichabod religion instead of a supernatural shaking that can only come from the great I Am. They are convinced they are saved as they are assimilated into a community of like-minded quasi-spiritual people who would love to see God manifest in their natural realm—yet have no interest in manifesting in the spiritual realm where the Holy Spirit broods.
If you eliminate the activity of the Holy Spirit, you remove the navigator from your life. You fly blind without any unction in the depths of your spirit, without the supernatural stirring and unmistakable glory and presence of God radiating within.
Words of knowledge, words of wisdom, discerning of spirits, prophecy, power to do miracles, gifts of healing and other Holy Spirit endued abilities would disappear.
I often wonder how any Christian could ever attempt to live their lives much less lead a ministry, preach, write books, lead worship or do pretty much anything else without the baptism of the Holy Spirit, without tongues, without a prophetic spirit and without supernatural gifts.
Without the baptism of the Holy Spirit, evangelism, preaching, teaching and every other form of ministry reproduces not the electric, supernatural life of the Spirit, but, rather a simplistic, humanly understandable depiction of God. I'm not saying it's impossible to lead someone to Jesus or to teach the truth of Scripture if you aren't baptized in the Holy Spirit, but the efforts become more difficult at best and compromised at worst. If you aren't filled with power, just what are you imparting to them?
Without the baptism of the Holy Spirit and embracing the extreme activity of the Holy Spirit, and while attempting to subdue intense supernatural manifestations, deliverance won't happen, people will remain demonized, instantaneous healing will be rare, church services will be dead and naturally orchestrated, faith will be manufactured instead of imparted, prophecy will cease and power will fizzle out.
LIVING AN IMPOSSIBLE LIFE
I could write a book, no, many books, on this topic. This article is woefully incomplete, but I wanted to at least stir the waters and initiate some conversation.
We are called to live wildly supernatural lives. The experiences and mandates God has for us are fully impossible without moving in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The revelation that God has given me and my family over the years is so absolutely remarkable and other-worldly that I would be an entirely different person today if it had not come. The miracles and wonders that God has performed have marked us and moved us in directions that would have been impossible without the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Yes, I'll say it loudly: The Holy Spirit is that important as are his gifts, revelation and power.
Where are the soul crushing, convicting preachers that stir up demons and set the captives free today?
I don’t remember exactly what I was preaching that evening as a visiting guest minister, but I know there was an extremely sober, weighty atmosphere—and the message was hitting hard on repentance, eternity and holiness.
Suddenly, as people were silently, somberly on their knees at an altar, and in the middle of a teaching—no, a preaching—that was demanding a response, a response came.
A disturbed, provoked cry, “Damn John Burton to Hell! Damn John Burton to Hell! I’m going to Hell! I’m going to Hell!” shocked everybody in that church sanctuary. It was shouted, screamed, from the rear of the room, shattering the weighty atmosphere with demonic shrieks. The voice went on with the tirade while escorted to the foyer and then out into the parking lot to be ministered to by church staff. We all heard this person, a well respected part of this church from what I understand, continue in their manifestation as the Holy Spirit was bringing deep conviction to all who were present.
This type of demonic reaction to anointed, convicting preaching should not be rare in the church today, but it is. Extremely rare.
Jonathan Edwards, the central figure behind the Great Awakening and the preacher of the famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, caused quite a stir at Enfield:
An eyewitness, Stephen Williams, wrote in his diary, “We went over to Enfield where we met dear Mr. Edwards of Northampton who preached a most awakening sermon from these words, Deuteronomy 32:35, and before the sermon was done there was a great moaning and crying went out through ye whole House…. ‘What shall I do to be saved,’ ‘Oh, I am going to Hell,’ ‘Oh, what shall I do for Christ,’ and so forth. So yet ye minister was obliged to desist, ye shrieks and cry were piercing and amazing.” (http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/200201/200201_104_johnathan.cfm)
WE NEED HELLFIRE PREACHERS TO RETURN TO THE AMERICAN STAGE
Much of today’s church has been duped into thinking the quickest path to revival is through positive affirmation, encouraging words and happy, middle-of-the-road sermons. The idea is that a non-threatening church culture where God’s goodness and kindness are emphasized will make him appealing and easier for people to warm up to.
This method is woefully inadequate, even inappropriate. The motive of the leaders who employ such tactics is suspect. God’s fearful, weighty presence has been sidelined for a softer, more approachable version.
I recall prophesying over a mother at a service in another church I was visiting. This mom was extremely agitated that her daughter had decided to attend this revival style service and came with both barrels blazing. She wanted her daughter to leave immediately—but God had other plans. She decided to mock the theatrics and jumped right into the prophecy line with her daughter. Big mistake. I prophesied over approximately one hundred people that night, one by one, but something I said to this irritated mother changed her life. I don’t remember what I said (which is usually the norm when prophesying over people I’ve never met before), but after the service she was sitting in the corner, dumbfounded. She called me over and asked me how I knew everything I told her. She explained that nobody has ever known about the things I revealed.
The next night of the week-long event saw this mother and her daughter back in the service. I was preaching a pointed, aggressive message, and right in the middle of it I experienced another interruption. This mother shouted, “What must I do to get saved?!” All eyes darted toward her, and then toward me as she ran to the altar. The enemy thought he was sending her to disrupt a move of God the previous night. This night he lost a disciple to the glorious love of Jesus. The anointing broke her yoke of bondage.
ANOTHER GREAT AWAKENING
During the Second Great Awakening, we saw the following happen:
On the American frontier, camp meetings came to characterize revivals. The first camp meeting revival was in south-central Kentucky. At a meeting in June 1800, Presbyterian James McGready and two other pastors preached for 3 days; on the fourth day, two traveling Methodist ministers officiated and concluded with an emotional exhortation. Many physically collapsed at what they called conviction of sin. People were convinced they were experiencing a visitation of the Holy Spirit such as the early church had known at Pentecost. (https://www.christianity.com/church/the-2nd-great-awakening-11630336.html)
We must see another great awakening come to America! It’s time to shut down the predictable, stale church services and allow the disturbing yet wonderfully freeing messages of repentance emerge!
I was preaching at a regional youth conference, and, again, the message was provocative. Whenever messages like this are delivered, I can discern an intense resistance to it. Sadly, this often comes from leadership. Those who are living compromised lives often walk out. In fact, one person admitted to me that they were indignant and were about to walk out the previous night—until the Holy Spirit whispered to them, “Trust me and stay.” He did, and his life was transformed. He couldn’t stop thanking me and especially God for what had happened in his life.
At this youth conference, I prophesied very directly and precisely that someone was in extreme danger of being separated from God for eternity in Hell. I said this person was involved in sexual sin and I knew who they were, though I told them I wouldn’t expose them. It was up to them to bring their sin into the light. I implored them to repent, and fast.
After the service, the boyfriend of the person God had highlighted to me walked up to me. He revealed he was a youth pastor at one of the attending churches. He admitted that he and his girlfriend were involved in sexual sin and God had broken him that night.
Pastors, do you have any idea how much compromise and wickedness is occurring on your watch? We need to trust the Holy Spirit to lovingly and urgently convict the church. We must see mass repentance and a return to Jesus. Holiness must be preached again. Hellfire messages can no longer be avoided. Revival is an absolute necessity today. Where there is no revival, spiritual death will overwhelm our nation. George Whitefield knew this well:
After a sermon in Lyme, Connecticut, “many had their countenances changed; their thoughts seemed to trouble them, so that the joints of their loins were loosed, and their knees smote one against another. Great numbers cried out aloud in the anguish of their souls. Several stout men fell as though a cannon had been discharged, and a ball had made its way through their hearts.” (http://www1.cbn.com/spirituallife/a-great-awakening-stirs-the-colonies)
We can no longer be silent. Presuming all who hear our preaching to be spiritually and eternally okay is a great mistake. We need a booming shock to the system if we hope revival to come.
“The Christian world is in a dead sleep. Nothing but a loud voice can awaken them out of it.” ~George Whitefield
A sinister spirit is behind much of today’s church growth movement.
Leonard Ravenhil: “We need to close every church in the land for one Sunday and cease listening to a man so we can hear the groan of the Spirit which we in our lush pews have forgotten.”
A recent post on Facebook resulted in a long stream of comments from people shouting amen, asking me to start a church, sharing heartbreak over today’s church and dropping in a bunch of fire and bullseye emojis. Here’s part of what I wrote:
I'm more convinced than ever that attempting to grow churches and develop programs and ministries has made it nearly impossible to see the remnant church so many are yearning for.
Pastors, please hear me. Stop the madness! Stop counting how many people show up every Sunday morning. Stop analyzing metrics. Stop setting numerical growth goals. Stop casting vision that’s centered around your local church growing. Stop. For the love of everything holy, just stop.
I know, I know. The Bible tells us that the church was added to daily.
47 …And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:47 (ESV)
Notice, however, the Lord added to their number, not the assimilation team or the marketing team.
In fact, if we back up in the text just a bit, we’ll clearly see it wasn’t marketing or a seeker sensitive, low water level approach that resulted in growth.
40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. Acts 2:40-41 (ESV)
Unapologetic preaching and a call to repentance was the impetus for growth. A Holy Spirit infused message calling people out of a lifestyle of wickedness is what triggered the awakening—not assimilation strategies. The apostles had no need for church growth. They simply preached a transforming message in the power of the Holy Spirit and watched God move. Can you imagine the early Apostles sitting around a table in the Upper Room discussing how to form greeter teams, what coffee and donuts to buy and how to attract people to their services? The thought of it feels like blasphemy! Yet, today’s churches do just that every week. The fear of the Lord is nowhere to be found.
31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. Acts 9:31 (ESV)
The fear of the Lord and the moving of the Holy Spirit—not programs and ministries—resulted in growth and impact.
In fact, consider this powerful truth: False prophets and false teachers are smart enough to know what will truly attract is an encounter with the supernatural—not programs and pastries.
24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Matthew 24:24 (ESV)
If false prophets are focusing on the (unholy) supernatural, why are so many pastors and leaders tied to natural ideas and gimmicks to draw in the people? It’s foolishness. We need the fresh fire of the Holy Spirit to fall. We need to eliminate the distraction and undue stress of most of our church ministries and programs—and simply gather the remnant to pray.
FOCUS MUST SHIFT TO THE REMNANT CHURCH
I absolutely believe in church growth, but I don’t believe every local church must grow numerically in order to fulfill their purpose. The stigma of small churches has haunted many a pastor. Our focus must be on the city church and regional revival as opposed to local church numeric growth. The group of people on the local level that will spur on the pursuit of revival in the city is the remnant. It’s the remnant church. These are your champions of intercession, holiness and passion for Jesus. They will zealously dive deep and advance into uncharted waters. Note that I didn’t say these people are your core group or your leadership team. The remnant should be the whole of the church. Everybody going deep together. The lukewarm, apathetic people that so many pastors attempt to grow their churches with will be alerted to their condition and then left with a decision. They will either dive into the depths with the rest of the body or they will, by their own choice, shrink back. In fact the Bible says they will ultimately die. Pastors, why are we trying to grow our churches with the spiritually comatose?
1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Revelation 3:1-2 (ESV)
We need bold messages of awakening in our pulpits today! The call to holiness, prayer and revival must be continual. Their must be a prophetic unction burning in the guts of pastors today. The goal is not church growth! It’s obedience to Jesus and a lifestyle of intercession and fire!
From a recent Charisma Magazine article Should the Church Get Scary?:
We need to stop trying to attract the lost to church. The purpose of the church, of the ekklesia, is NOT to draw in the lost. Entire church mission statements and vision statements should radically change.
While the church isn't for the lost, it remains obviously true that we want to see the lost come to Christ. When the church is again a house of prayer, we will again see the necessary power to truly impact the world. The spirit of revival will explode as will the church.
When we understand that a group of twenty or fifty fiery, praying, devoted remnant Believers can do more to minister to God and shake a city than a thousand mildly curious church goers, our energy will shift from church growth to Kingdom impact. Are both mutually exclusive? No. But, the risk of compromise is great when we are attracted to numbers.
THE REMNANT IS DONE WITH CHURCH AS USUAL
Pastors have been duped into believing they need to (witch)craft their services in such a way that the seekers will be drawn, and not overwhelmed. They manipulate the environment to attract the largest possible group.
First, as I have already explained, the church wasn’t designed for the lost. The call for all is to radically and immediately surrender and turn from their wicked ways. Creating a culturally relevant atmosphere that gives people a comfortable warming up period to the concept of God is no way to run a church. The church service was never meant to be used for evangelism. It's a Believer's prayer meeting, not a place to assimilate seekers.
Second, when the lost do come in, when a move of God shakes the foundation and the neighborhood bars empty and the desperate line up at the church doors, they are not looking to be pacified and affirmed. They are ready to break! They want an encounter with deity! They don’t want your programs or ministry philosophies. They want Jesus!
The remnant has had enough of these low water approaches to ministry.
Those who are desperate for a move of God don’t really care that much about being greeted with a handshake and a smile at the door as they arrive on Sunday morning, yet pastors invest much energy and focus on assimilation, hospitality, visitation and other people-centric strategies. The remnant doesn’t care about being assimilated. They want to burst through the door and head to the altars alongside other desperate people.
They aren’t impressed by a perfectly produced and executed worship experience led by people who haven’t had an encounter with God in years—if ever.
They are not interested in the pastor’s latest, greatest teaching if it’s not burning with fire and dosed with anointing that can only come from hours in the prayer room.
They are bored with today’s predictable, powerless, structured and forgettable church services.
The remnant simply wants to gather together with others that have the smell of fire on them and pray. They aren’t looking to shake hands with others and they really could not care less about announcements, programs and special events. They want to be wrecked and rocked by the glory of God.
How far have we fallen as leaders when we think an unthreatening, casual environment would be the medicine for a spiritually apathetic people. Churches have the smell of death on them because they are attracting the dead to something devoid of resurrection power. Sometimes I wonder if there’s any difference between those in the pews and those in the ground in the church cemetery next door.
When the fear of the Lord manifests in a church service, people will immediately either hit the floor or hit the door. The travail, groaning, and agonizing over sin will either grip people to the core or they will simply run out the door. The fear of the Lord directly confronts neutrality and exposes all immorality.
A great majority of American churches have never actually experienced the fear of the Lord and it’s coming to this nation. Messengers with a hardcore message of repentance are arising who will enter into cities and regions with a mandate to break up the fallow ground of the hearts of men and usher the fear of the Lord back into the Church.
The sign to you that the fear of the Lord has arrived is when people only have two options: to either hit the floor or run out the door.
My friend Jeremiah Johnson also posted this recently:
When the offerings are down…
When attendance is low…
When the attacks won’t stop coming…
Will you continue to preach the gospel or go back to manipulating people?
If asked why they want their church to grow, pastors will offer some spiritual answers:
- We want to win the lost.
- Anything healthy grows.
- We want to impact our neighborhood.
While those points are good, and while there are many phenomenal pastors who are doing their best to serve God with obedience, I know there are other more honest answers to the church growth question we must consider:
- If the church grows, it’s evidence that people like me.
- I need the money a larger group will bring into the church.
- My reputation will take a hit if I can’t grow the church.
- If the church doesn’t grow, I’ll have to get another job.
- I’m being pressured by my board or overseers to grow numerically.
- We can only fulfill the vision if a lot of people buy into it.
- I’ll feel like a failure.
- My identity is tied to my performance in ministry.
- We have been seduced by the success of other ministries, and want to have the same success.
The pressure to grow numerically is insane. Pastors are falling into depression. Recently there have been horrible headlines of pastors committing suicide. The stress of leading ministries and meeting metrics can be too heavy to bear.
The allure and demand of church growth can be seductive indeed. If the Lord isn’t bringing increase (due to a failure to host the Holy Spirit and to boldly preach offensive truth), there is another spirit that is more than willing to extend a wretched, crooked hand. A demonic, wicked spirit of witchcraft thrives on control and manipulation. This spirit rebels against the methods of the Kingdom and against the purity of the Holy Spirit with tactics that will minister to the leader’s need for success.
Please understand me. I’m not saying all focuses on numeric growth are impure. I’m really not. It’s possible to possess an apostolic and prophetic spirit and to see through the eyes of God into a future of impact and explosive growth. It’s possible to discern a coming harvest. It’s possible to have the heart of an evangelist and to cry out for the lost and for a church filled with new, Spirit-filled, hungry converts. It absolutely is. In fact, a passion for the harvest, a cry for souls, must radiate out of every pastor and leader. Sadly, however, the allure of church growth is rarely born from such a pure desire.
Instead, an evil spirit is invoked, rarely deliberately, usually by default as an impure passion of the heart that demands satisfaction. Pastors souls are sold for the promise of a full house—a promise that is rarely delivered on. Further depression and failure is usually the result. Sometimes the church does explode, but not with burning zealots. Instead it’s a morgue, filled with people who are numb, cold and without signs of life.
The remnant church is wising up. While I have and always will teach that we must honor pastors and refuse to move in rebellion to God’s established authority, a disturbing shift must come to the church, and fast.
Pastors, we must stop using people to build our own kingdoms.
God forgive us for building kingdoms of man on doctrines of demons in your name. ~Brian Ming, as quoted in Pharaoh in the Church
The witchcraft necessary to coerce people to give financially, to serve the pastor’s vision and to build a ministry for impure reasons is extreme. It truly requires quite a few very powerful demons to anoint such a venture.
Please understand, I’m not talking about pastors who are intentionally evil and manipulative. I’m talking about pastors who have heart issues, those who try to spiritualize their ventures, those who are attempting to grow their church just like most every other pastor they know, those who have been seduced but don’t know it. They need to be shocked out of their deception and into the rest and peace that comes from allowing the Lord to bring the increase instead.
THE CHURCH WE ARE YEARNING FOR
Someone asked how I'd like to see church services go. Here's what I said:
Start with an hour of fiery intercession in the sanctuary prior to the service. Let it keep going as people show up for the service. Let the musicians play behind the prayer for the first 30 minutes or so of the service. Then, as prayer continues, let the musicians kick into some prophetic worship for a song or two. Open up the mic for decrees and declarations. Have the dancers and flaggers and others fill the altars. Encourage people to pace around the room or hit their face and contend. After a couple of hours or so, there might be a strong prophetic message, or just some declarations of the Word. Then flood the altars as people lead in prayers of repentance and reveal prophetic revelation that was received during the service.
Of course, that’s one model, but the point I’m making is that the coming remnant church simply isn’t interested in most of what is offered today—at all.
Pastors, when we realize the church service was never meant for assimilating seekers or evangelizing the lost, the stress of church growth falls off. The pressure to grow numerically can be replaced by the joy and passion of ministering to God.
Again, yes, we most definitely can believe God for numerical growth—if that’s God’s desire for our particular local expression of the church. And, also, there are those who will over-spiritualize their small congregation. They argue that their focus on holiness and revival don’t allow for numerical growth. Ridiculous. Remember, where the fear of the Lord, the power of the Holy Spirit and bold preaching exist, people will respond. Many will mock. Many will marvel. The city will be impacted. The local church may or may not grow numerically, but it will in spiritual depth and the church in the city will be impacted.
I’d encourage you to read my Charisma Magazine article, The Church We Crave But May Never See.
Here’s something to consider from that article. Keep in mind, the casual seeker won’t be attracted to a church on fire unless they are ready to surrender all. The church may shrink in number. However, the Holy Spirit will give leadership that will shock us to the core. Check it out:
For at least eight years specifically, and 23 years generally I've been teaching, writing articles, writing books, recording podcasts and posting videos about this very subject—extreme reformation in the church. Yet, the church service in nearly every Christian church looks the same (or worse) than it did decades ago.
I'm just about done. Finished. I can't stand the thought of additional years of church experiences modeled after a wine skin that's been outdated for years—yet, I acknowledge that it's all I may have to choose from while I'm still on the earth. Reformation seems to be far off.
The goal is not to hope for a more anointed old wine skin, but rather for such a radical reformation that it looks nothing like what we see today.
Simply, what's coming will look more like an extreme prayer meeting with people laid out all over the place with fire and tears in their eyes than the casual, tired and predictable worship and teaching services we see today.
Yes, the Sunday service will finally be the Upper Room experience that the burning, desperate remnant has been yearning for. Raging prayer, fervent prayer, passionate prayer will return to first place in the church.
Powerful strategies to eliminate templated, programmed church services
An Azusa Street report:
…disgraceful intermingling of the races…they cry and make howling noises all day and into the night. They run, jump, shake all over, shout to the top of their voice, spin around in circles, fall out on the sawdust blanketed floor jerking, kicking and rolling all over it. Some of them pass out and do not move for hours as though they were dead. These people appear to be mad, mentally deranged or under a spell. They claim to be filled with the spirit. They have a one eyed, illiterate, Negro as their preacher who stays on his knees much of the time with his head hidden between the wooden milk crates. He doesn't talk very much but at times he can be heard shouting, “Repent,” and he's supposed to be running the thing… They repeatedly sing the same song, “The Comforter Has Come.”
It’s becoming less common for Christians to jump out of bed on Sunday mornings, excited about heading to church. Of course, many do still love their church experience. The worship environment is powerful, the vision is alive and the part they play causes them to feel the fire of the Holy Spirit coursing through them. However, sadly, if we were honest, we’d have to admit that many church services are much less powerful, less anointed and less impacting than we’d like. In fact, a church that looks anything like what was described in the above Azusa Street report can hardly be found.
There is a way to fix that. The end result is an atmosphere that’s placed in the Holy Spirit’s control. I’ll tell you this, it’s impossible to be bored when God moves. Impossible. It can’t happen. It’s possible to be provoked, irritated, offended or troubled, but not bored or disconnected. What this means is that, in many churches, God isn’t moving in real power. It may be hard to admit that, but we must if we want to prepare for revival and an outpouring that will make us say, “I can never do church the way I used to again.”
An Azusa Street report:
All who are in touch with God realize as soon as they enter the meetings that the Holy Ghost is the leader.
SEVEN SURE-FIRE STRATEGIES TO END BORING, PREDICTIABLE CHURCH SERVICES
1. Lead in lengthy sessions of corporate praying and singing in tongues.
True Christian leaders will confidently, passionately and continually lead people in fervent and supernatural prayer. Lack of a powerful prayer emphasis on Sunday mornings is an indicator of a lack of a powerful prayer discipline throughout the week. When we are burning in intercession throughout the week, there is an explosion that simply must come on Sunday mornings and any other time the saints meet together.
Nurturing an atmosphere where everybody is praying in tongues and singing in the Spirit simply cannot disappoint. How easy would it be, in the midst of worship, to spend fifteen or twenty minutes pacing around the room, laying out at the altar or finding a place to pray in tongues with a zealous spirit? I recommend integrating this into every church service, understanding that the wind of the Holy Spirit may blow the program for the rest of the day well of course.
In fact, it would be valuable to bring the worship team down off the platform on occasion during this part of the service so they can be free to let the groans and cries of their heart out. Often, worship team members find a comfort spot behind their instrument or microphone. You’d be sadly surprised at how many people who have been entrusted to lead us into the Holy of Holies don’t operate from a burning, overwhelming spirit of prayer.
6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. Acts 19:6 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
Singing was sporadic and in a cappella or occasionally there would be singing in tongues. There were periods of extended silence. Attenders were occasionally slain in the Spirit.
2. Embrace a vibrant prophetic culture. Invite people to submit prophetic words during the service.
In order to stay right on track with the order of service and to ensure the focus of the day isn’t threatened, definitely do not promote a prophetic culture! Unfortunately, too many pastors have embraced that advice by eliminating or rejecting prophetic ministry on Sundays.
I’ve always believed one of the best ways to promote an absolutely electric church service is by allowing God to speak. When people are trained in the prophetic and are also given an outlet to reveal what God is desiring to communicate through them, the supernatural energy in the room spikes. I often wonder how many sermons have been delivered and how many church services have been conducted in such a way that God’s plan for the day was entirely missed.
As we effectively equip people in prophetic ministry, and facilitate an environment that affirms and promotes prophetic expression, God will blow through the saints and the atmosphere will shake under the weight of God’s Rhema word.
1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:1 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
…devotees of the weird doctrine practice the most fanatical rites, preach the wildest theories and work themselves into a state of mad excitement in their peculiar zeal. Colored people and a sprinkling of whites compose the congregation, and night is made hideous in the neighborhood by the howlings of the worshippers, who spend hours swaying forth and back in a nerve racking attitude of prayer and supplication.
3. Have open mic intercession. Invite people to pray 10-15 second prayers, to make decrees and to stir the atmosphere.
Praying in tongues corporately will naturally lead to some incredibly potent revelation stirring within the people. I believe it’s extremely valuable to invite people, in that Holy Spirit infused moment, to release that in the form of short prayers and decrees.
Simply open the microphone and watch the line grow as hungry, passionate saints of God prepare to lead the people in intercession, one after the other. Imagine twenty or thirty people or more shocking the atmosphere with Holy Spirit driven decrees! Not only is it powerful corporately, but it also empowers people individually to take ownership of what God is doing within. As they all respond to the impact of the Holy Spirit, they become stronger and the service will definitely be marked with fire.
15 The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. Psalm 34:15 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
There was spontaneous preaching and altar calls for salvation, sanctification and baptism of the Holy Spirit.
4. Invite people to make biblical declarations.
At another point during the service, open the microphone again. Invite people to release biblical declarations. The Word of God is alive, and when that sharp sword pierces the atmosphere as people read it and then call everyone to come into agreement with it, it will result in supernatural shockwaves.
5 Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore. Psalm 93:5 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
…in most services preaching consisted of Seymour opening a Bible and worshippers coming forward to preach or testify as they were led by the Holy Spirit.
5. Promote prophetic art, flagging, dance and other expressions during the service.
It’s disappointing that prophetic expression such as art, dance and flagging are almost extinct in the church today. I suggest we allow the dancers to dance! There’s serious prophetic power when anointed people flag, paint, dance and contend in the Spirit.
Put up the easels and allow the artists to draw or paint. Provide whiteboards for people to write down prophetic words anytime during the service. Celebrate the dance and encourage the flaggers. God has given them important gifts and it’s a mistake to shut them out.
I know many pastors would argue that they can be undisciplined. They might steal attention as they exhibit their gifting during the service. My question would be, what have you done to guide and equip them? Have you invested in them by training in protocols and equipping in prophetic ministry? If not, you can’t blame them if they don’t know exactly how to respond when their God-given desire to function in ministry is stirring within.
20 Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. Exodus 15:20 (ESV)
6. Have prayer for deliverance, healing and freedom.
When’s the last time you saw someone vomit at the altar? Yeah, I know, that’s a funny question. I personally don’t prefer to clean up the mess! (I love that some pro-deliverance churches have “bucket brigades!”) The point is valid, however. When is the last time deliverance has happened on a Sunday morning?
The weight of God’s glory should be so intense that demons easily manifest and deliverance commences right there at the altar. I’ve had demons react in some intense ways in services I’ve been in. It’s actually a thrilling adventure, not something to be shut down for the sake of keeping nice, quiet and sanitized order. When we know who we are and the authority we walk in, deliverance is something we should all get excited about.
As we contend for deliverance, healing and freedom on Sunday mornings, the order of service will often have to be violated. I’d personally rather see people free than hear the prepared sermon or get out of the service on time.
17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; Mark 16:17 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
Among first-hand accounts were reports of the blind having their sight restored, diseases cured instantly.
7. Expect manifestations of the Holy Spirit and don't shut them down when comfort levels are threatened.
How is it we can worship God, preach about God and gather together because of God but shut God out when he starts to interact in a supernatural way? Manifestations of the Holy Spirit should be expected. If God’s not moving, something is wrong!
I remember a meeting many years ago where God was moving in extremely intense power. People were absolutely rocked. God was touching people for at least two hours before the preaching even began. When the preacher was bringing the message, one lady was laughing and crying, under the power of the Holy Spirit. Some in attendance kept looking her way as God ministered to her. The preacher became agitated and said something like, “Can you not hear me? Should I have the sound crew turn my mic up? Pay attention. Do you really want me to shut down God’s ministry to that lady just because you can’t stay focused?”
That was a powerful moment indeed. One I’ve remembered for over two decades.
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; Acts 2:17 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
Soon the crowds became very large and were full of people speaking in tongues, shouting, singing and moaning. Many people would continually shout throughout the meetings. Finally, the front porch collapsed, forcing the group to begin looking for a new meeting place. They shouted three days and three nights. It was Easter season. The people came from everywhere. By the next morning there was no way of getting near the house. As people came in they would fall under God's power; and the whole city was stirred. They shouted until the foundation of the house gave way, but no one was hurt.
The attendees were often described as “Holy Rollers“, “Holy Jumpers”, “Tangled Tonguers” and “Holy Ghosters”. Reports were published throughout the U.S. and the world of the strange happenings in Los Angeles.
CHURCH SHOULD NEVER BE BORING
While I’m not at all proposing that church should entertain us, I am saying that it’s just not possible to be bored in an environment where the Holy Spirit is moving, touching, engaging, healing, delivering, wrecking and encountering the people.
I’d challenge every pastor to initiate all seven of these strategies. The result will be a church on fire that draws in a hungry, passionate remnant that is ready to release the oracles of God…and shake the nations.
An Azusa Street report:
Christians from many traditions were critical, saying the movement was hyper-emotional, misused Scripture and lost focus on Christ by overemphasizing the Holy Spirit. Within a short time ministers were warning their congregations to stay away from the Azusa Street Mission.
Proud, well-dressed preachers came to “investigate”. Soon their high looks were replaced with wonder, then conviction comes, and very often you will find them in a short time wallowing on the dirty floor, asking God to forgive them and make them as little children.
I’m burning with messages to shake nations…I’m ready to travel again!
I’ve been mostly off the road for the last one plus years waiting on the Lord to refresh and direct into my next season. Amy and I have been, and continue to be, working hard developing our two businesses in Branson, Missouri. We are having a blast and are also excited about connecting with some of you.
As I am going to protect my fragile balance with family, business and ministry, I won’t be able to accept every invitation. That being said, let’s see what God might do.
If you would like to invite me to your church or event, submit a booking request HERE.
In the mean time, check out my numerous articles, books and videos on my site at www.burton.tv.
I pray you are rocked by the fire of the Holy Spirit!
Many are working hard to attract the wrong crowd on Sunday—and the result is an Ichabod church.
We soon won’t be able to define going to church the way we do now. God is coming to reform, to crush structures of old for what is to be introduced very soon. Our call isn’t to stand strong until the shift comes, it’s to prophetically sound the alarm and awaken those at risk! God is coming! The force from Heaven, the celestial asteroid, is going to impact the Church, and most pastors and people will resist with everything that’s within them. Man-made support systems will be removed. People’s financial and relational structures will be threatened by this strange new spiritual invasion. The human wisdom and natural common sense that have been involved in the development of the current church structure will not be usable in the new. Those who walk by sight are in danger. ~The Coming Church, John Burton
I've met countless pastors and others who say they are focused on revival, but who are misguided on exactly what it is. Their focus is on attracting people to the church, on people getting “saved” and on other church growth strategies.
The problem? The foundational pursuit of revival has nothing to do with church growth or the lost. It has everything to do with the church awakening, contending in intercession and attracting the fire of the Holy Spirit.
The lost didn't show up in the Upper Room. Marginal followers of Jesus were repelled by the Upper Room.
Revival isn't marked by a full house. Revival starts in a room that reveals the remnant. The revival that erupted in that roomful of remnants resulted in explosive church growth and Kingdom advance.
Premature church growth will result in a multiplication of lukewarm, dead and dying people who have no idea what it feels like to have tongues of fire igniting over top of them.
1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. Acts 2:1-3 (ESV)
VISITORS SHOULD BE SHAKEN BY WHAT THEY SEE IN THE CHURCH.
The pure Christian message of surrender, repentance, holiness, intercession and rescuing souls from Hell has been replaced by a self-centered gospel that boldly affirms a focus on benefits without cost, on personal gain without sacrifice, on freedom without consecration. The Church has been unapologetically and boldly focused on how to have faith to receive while forsaking the call to have faith to give. The spirit of the age infiltrated churches long ago—and now, all too often, that demonic spirit is the primary counselor. ~The Coming Church, John Burton
It’s time self-focused, semi-interested people are no longer given the opportunity to demand what they are looking for in a church. It’s time to close up the welcome centers and put away the welcome gifts. When presented with the unmistakable burning only a supernatural church can offer, their decision to stay or leave will be immediate. I’ve often said that one indicator of the Holy Spirit moving in power is that bystanders will do one of two things. They will either marvel or they will mock.
12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” Acts 2:12-13 (ESV)
When naturally minded people walk into a furnace of intercession, a place that is electric with supernatural activity, they should be radically unsettled, yet so many church assimilation teams today attempt to make the environment as familiar and comfortable as possible.
I’ve often heard pastors admit they hide the pre-service prayer (for those who have pre-service prayer at all!) in a side room instead of filling the sanctuary with groans of intercession because they don’t want to freak out the soon-arriving visitors. I’ve heard that many, many times and I was grieved every time. There are a few legitimate reasons why prayer might not work in the sanctuary prior to the service in some churches, but that’s not one of them. If we are attempting to introduce people into the wonder of a supernatural encounter with Jesus, why would we, at the same time, work so hard at shielding their eyes? I propose bringing the fire and the groan right into the heart of the Sunday service! Those who remain will be the laborers you need to fulfill your mission.
Many years ago, when I first started Revolution Church in Manitou Springs, Colorado, I worked hard at assimilating visitors. I would excitedly connect with them and share just how much they would enjoy making our church their new home. It didn’t take long for me to start feeling like a used-car salesman; dirty; compromised. My strategy grieved my spirit. The truth was that our atmosphere and our vision were called by God to be driven by intercession and marked by a strong prophetic emphasis. The messages were intense. Revolution Church was not designed for those who would be marginally committed (as no church is}. The “Sunday go to meeting” Christians would, by choice, not remain for long.
The reality was, that by attempting to attract those types of people, I was compromising the vision. The church needed the remnant who would lock in and pray, who would contend for revival and who would endure with great strength. A large group of non-remnant people would be a distraction. Years would be lost. Lives would be at risk. Eternities would be in danger.
So, I shifted. I started literally trying to scare people away from our church.
To the dismay of those who simply want to hear a little worship and listen to good (and short) teaching, services will become more like prayer meetings. This is one of the most critical and most upsetting shifts that will come–and it must come now. Today, most of the energy church leadership teams expend is usually on attracting and keeping visitors instead of training and engaging intercessors. ~The Coming Church, John Burton
A CHURCH ON FIRE
America doesn’t need another bed-and-breakfast church that comforts our flesh (our natural desires). Our nation needs a Church with a volatile atmosphere that explodes, burns human flesh and shocks our culture. ~The Coming Church, John Burton
I knew we were called to lead a church on fire, and that just wasn’t possible with tepid, resistant, lukewarm people.
1 …I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die… Revelation 3:1-2 (ESV)
I was confident that, if I clearly shared the wild, costly, other-worldly vision that God had given us, and how people at our church were called to invest into that vision, that those who would not be interested in such a lifestyle would not return. Understand, my invitation for them to run with us was genuine. Our door was wide open. When I say “I tried to scare them away” I mean I was simply authentic. I stripped off the suit of a salesman and shared my raw, passionate dream of God to advance with a team of zealots for Jesus. Such an invitation was all I needed to see who was deeply hungry for revival and who was not. I would do my best to help those people connect in another local church. I’d give them the names of some churches they might enjoy. While I truly wanted the very best for them, it always broke my heart when they decided against adopting a lifestyle of intercession and revival. That lifestyle is not for a specialized few. It’s for all.
This resulted in a confidence that those who remained were, in most cases, part of our remnant, firebrands who would dig in and assimilate with our tribe of revivalists.
When you spend energy attracting the mildly committed, you compromise your entire vision. Simply, you need soldiers to become equipped and ready to lay down their lives and fight for the freedom of souls in the region.
I believe it’s core to the mission of the church to give opportunity for people to clearly evaluate their commitment and to give room for them to leave. The intensity of the truth demands it. We must call people out of a natural life and into the supernatural, out of a casual place and into radical surrender.
63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” 66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” John 6:63-67 (ESV)
Understand, similar to the way Jesus ministered in the above passage along with other key examples in Scripture, the Upper Room served as a filter. It filtered out those who weren’t radically devoted. Most were repelled by the call to pray. The agenda did not change in the hopes of assimilating more people. The disciples loved them as they went their way…and then they turned the world upside down with the few who remained as a result. What filters do you have in your church, pastor, to call people to a transparent, genuine place of soul searching and decision? You must start and continue with an Upper Room atmosphere and an offensive, flesh-crushing Gospel message.
It’s important to remember that the Ekklesia, the church gathering, was not designed for the lost. So many pastors get derailed on this point alone. The church is a house of prayer for all nations. The predominant church activity should be white hot intercession with tongues of fire atop everyone, with groans filling the atmosphere. It’s a remnant ministry. This call is for all who call themselves Christian.
If you build a church with people who won’t devote themselves to the prayer room, you build your church with those who are disinterested at best and lukewarm at worst. Your church will be a low-water-level church. It will be a place where the fire can’t rage. It will be naturally familiar with distant, elusive, marginally supernatural dreams. Pipe dreams.
Christians who aren’t invested in fervent, supernatural prayer will be enticed by the natural familiarity of Ichabod churches (where the glory has departed). ~The Coming Church, John Burton
WHAT ABOUT THE SEEKERS?
A question I hear from very good-hearted people is this: What do we do with people who are seeking? Do we just turn them away?
We absolutely don’t turn them away! We invite them into the furnace. We do not turn down the fire. We turn it up! Those who are hungry for God must not be introduced to a tepid, natural environment with an image of God that looks just like themselves. Reveal the glory of our mysterious, fiery, living God and watch them collapse to their knees in desperation!
However, as I have stated already, many will choose to leave at the sight of something so alien and costly. That’s a choice they themselves have a right to make.
Again, we must faithfully reveal the cost of following Jesus. We don’t come on our terms. We come on God’s. Too many are interested in warming their flesh by the fire instead of their flesh being consumed by the fire.
23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” 28 And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” 29 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” Luke 18:23-30 (ESV)
Many will turn away sad. Even the most devoted will feel the severity of a life devoted to Jesus. They will cry out, “Then who can be saved?” That tension will result in a church that is sober and on fire and something that true seekers will give themselves to. Pretenders will certainly go away sad as the remnant church is revealed.
My lifelong commitment in ministry is this: I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry.
That commitment requires everything I do to have the smell of smoke. In fact, pastors, one reason even the most devoted people aren’t coming to your prayer meetings is simple—they are dead, humanistic and boring. They are logically driven. They are simply a rehashing of what the natural mind can discern. As someone who comes alive in prophetic, prayer-fueled environments, I aggressively avoid powerless prayer meetings that are driven by lists of needs and human understanding. I don’t want my soul activated. I want my spirit to burn! I think tired, powerless petition-driven prayer meetings can do more damage than good much of the time. Do your prayer meetings have the smell of smoke? Are tongues of fire resting on everybody? If not, don’t be surprised when the even the most devoted disciples are no-shows.
We need a church on fire today more than ever. The lost are being introduced into lukewarm, natural, Ichabod religion instead of a supernatural shaking that can only come from the Great I Am. They are convinced they are saved as they are assimilated into a community of likeminded quasi-spiritual people who would love to see God manifest in their natural realm—yet have no interest in manifesting in the spiritual realm where the Holy Spirit broods.
My challenge to pastors is simple. Risk everything. Allow your church to dwindle, if necessary, to a few remnant people who will live, pray, walk and advance in the Spirit. The world is waiting for them.
You can download a free chapter and order The Coming Church by John Burton at www.burton.tv/resources.
What about the “freaky stuff?” How concerning is it when supernatural manifestations are rare in the church today?
My four-year-old daughter Eva just said something as I’m sitting here writing this article at a Starbucks in Branson, Missouri. While scanning through cartoons to watch on Netflix on her tablet, she zeroed in on one.
“I want to watch this one. But I don't. It's freaky and I love freaky stuff. But I also hate freaky stuff.”
I just had to laugh. In a way, that might sum up the tension of the Christian heart. Discerning good and evil is important for all of us. I’m proud of Eva at her young age!
Further, from an entirely different angle, it may also be the way many people think about the supernatural. Church experiences widely range from absolutely stoic and dead to bizarre and flamboyant. Freaky.
I think there are many mildly hungry yet cautious Christians out there in the middle who are intrigued by the “freaky stuff” but, then again, are tired of the ridiculous manifestations in many churches that aren’t Spirit-driven at all. It's just people acting strange in the name of freedom. Too often, they default to calm and safe instead of wild and risky. Many pastors fall into this category as well.
America needs to take a bold, confident step toward wild and risky. We need the freaky stuff in the church to emerge as it did at Azusa.
On Friday evening, March 1, His mighty power came over me, until I jerked and quaked under it for about three hours. It was strange and wonderful and yet glorious. He worked my whole body, one section at a time, first my arms, then my limbs, then my body, then my head, them my face, then my chin, and finally at 1 a.m. Saturday, Mar. 2, after being under the power for three hours, He finished the work on my vocal organs, and spoke through me in unknown tongues. (http://www.scrollpublishing.com/store/Azusa-Street.html)
Another local paper reporter in September 1906 described the happenings at Azusa with the following words:
…disgraceful intermingling of the races…they cry and make howling noises all day and into the night. They run, jump, shake all over, shout to the top of their voice, spin around in circles, fall out on the sawdust blanketed floor jerking, kicking and rolling all over it. Some of them pass out and do not move for hours as though they were dead. These people appear to be mad, mentally deranged or under a spell. They claim to be filled with the spirit. They have a one eyed, illiterate, Negro as their preacher who stays on his knees much of the time with his head hidden between the wooden milk crates. He doesn't talk very much but at times he can be heard shouting, “Repent,” and he's supposed to be running the thing… They repeatedly sing the same song, “The Comforter Has Come.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azusa_Street_Revival)
WE NEED MORE THAN EXPLOSIVE CHURCH SERVICES
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27 (ESV)
It’s true that I firmly believe we need a massive shift toward “groaning churches” with atmospheres of searing hot intercession that cause the building to shake. I’ve been in many, but nowhere near enough, such services that have left me in tears, trembling and under the influence of fire, drunk on something out of this world. The supernatural moments, in very legitimate ways, forever marked my life and my relationship with Jesus. When you add authentic experience to life-changing truth, you can’t help but be transformed from someone who is simply “devoted to Jesus” to someone who is raging in love, undone, undignified and suddenly alien. Everything changes through authentic encounter with Jesus. Nobody can remain the same.
Too often we presume we can achieve such an electric atmosphere in our church services through charisma, exuberance and a decent dose of exciting worship and expressive prayer. This is common in your more “alive” churches. People are just deep and hungry enough to “jump a little higher than before,” as the song goes (which, at some point becomes humanly impossible. Insert grinning emoji here.).
The point I’m making is this: It takes a leadership team and a zealous people who are setting a culture of deep and extreme prayer, sharp spiritual discernment, and who are wildly prophetic to experience breakthrough into the supernatural.
Natural and predictable church services are the result of spiritually lazy and naturally minded people who are not moving into the realm of the invisible.
FREAKY STUFF WILL SET THE STAGE
My life in ministry has been shaped by unusual and powerful supernatural conflicts and encounters. I say that not because it’s really cool, but because I’m really dumbfounded. A simple man praying fervent prayers has somehow triggered invisible entities into manifesting in the natural. As I started witnessing more and more, I began to understand how absolutely critical it was to live, walk, breathe and legislate in the Spirit—especially for those engaging in a dark world with an apostolic assignment.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12 (ESV)
How many Christians are actually confronting evil forces as a part of their ministry strategy? This takes way, way more than simple prayers. We must go deeper than ever. When we do, the fight is on and it will absolutely manifest in the natural realm. Get ready for some wild church services!
Definition of Authority: the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience; a person or organization having power or control in a particular, typically political or administrative, sphere.
Check out this breakdown of a powerful passage of Scripture:
Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV) 14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power (MIRACULOUS FORCE) through his Spirit (PNEUMA: BREATH, WIND, SPIRIT) in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend (SEIZE, POSSESS, APPREHEND) with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (DOESN’T EXIST IN THE VISIBLE REALM, OR EVEN IN THE DREAM REALM), that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (WOW! FILLED, FULLNESS OF GOD!) 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power (MIRACULOUS FORCE) at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Paul was praying for the Ephesians to be awakened to the reality of the power that God has given them. Growing in that revelation is key for anybody assigned to a church (that’s all of us). We must know our assignment and we must be equipped to conquer via the Spirit of God. When we are assigned by God in a region, as an authority, we have the power and right to give orders, to enforce obedience in the spiritual realm. This is a governmental, supernatural call.
One key principle I discovered years ago was invaluable. God will establish authority in regions, and it’s absolutely mandatory that those governing leaders learn how to discern in the spirit and conduct business in the spiritual realm.
Shortly after my wife Amy and I planted Revolution Church in Manitou Springs, Colorado, we started experiencing some powerful and revealing things. Our primary ministry method was prophetic intercession. We’d prayer walk that quirky town day after day. We’d receive fresh prophetic revelation and instructions by the Holy Spirit. After it was all said and done, I bet those streets had been prayer walked thousands of times. One particular target of our prayer was a specific church, the largest of five churches in Manitou Springs. This church was part of an apostate denomination and led by a man many considered, including the police department and City Hall, to be the pastor of the city. This man admitted to someone in my church that there was no Hell and demons didn’t exist. He refused to participate in a ministry alliance in the town because he didn’t want to offend his “pagan and Muslim brethren.” Clearly, this individual walked in unholy authority and had significant influence in the spirit in Manitou Springs, and that reality demanded a confrontation.
Our young family moved into an old home in Manitou Springs near the beginning of our ministry time there. Instantly I started discerning something very heavy. Every morning I’d wake up with a distinct “taste” or feeling in my spirit. It was demonic, disorienting and honestly a bit debilitating. Strangely, I couldn’t pray it off or shake it off, but as the day wore on, it would dissipate. This happened every day.
Some time went by, and I received an invitation to meet the pastor of the apostate church. The church building was just beyond the back yard of our house, so I walked there one afternoon for our meeting. The heavy oppression that I woke up with every day had worn off that by then and I was eager to connect with this city leader. I wasn't prepared for what was about to happen. The moment I walked through the doorway of the church, the EXACT same taste, the same distinctive oppression that I had experienced for so long every single morning, slammed me with force. I pulled myself together, put a smile on my face and shook hands with the pastor. We sat down and engaged in small talk. I mentioned to him that their church was very close to my house. He asked me to describe the house. I told him what it looked like and where it was located. We then compared notes on what it looked like inside. What he then said rocked me. “Oh, yes! My family and I lived there for years!”
I didn’t have to be a math genius to put two and two together. The demonic anointing the pastor walked in lingered. I bet those demons were quite surprised when a man of God on assignment moved in. After that fateful meeting with the pastor of the city, the oppression stopped. God communicated what I needed to understand. From that point on I was able to govern in the Spirit with precision. The spirits that were anointing that man’s “ministry” were uncovered.
Rumor has it that past city officials have also lived in that house. It was clear that, for whatever reason, authorities had lived there and I needed to consider what my apostolic, governmental responsibility was. I sensed in the Spirit a baton had been passed to me and our team. That revelation was invaluable as I truly understood God had our back and we could be confident in our advance.
WE CANNOT SURVIVE AS A CHURCH WITHOUT THE SUPERNATURAL
From that time, our prayer and apostolic strength increased. We would pray on the top of Pikes Peak and in caves under the earth. Many undeniable supernatural happenings would stun us time and again. We’d confront witchcraft and watch God work wonders. Demons would come out in the middle of services leaving visitors wide eyed. One deeply resistant and demonized young man vomited in the parking lot the moment we were praying for him with his girlfriend in the church. Moving in authority brings a shift to the atmosphere as demons can’t help but respond in obedience.
And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” Luke 4:36
Is our ministry causing people to be amazed? If not, go deep into the spirit and, as it happened at Azusa, you won’t be able to stop the presses. Word will get out and the amazement and mocking will both commence! Some will run to your church. Many will flee.
And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” Acts 2:12-13 (ESV)
The message I’m attempting to communicate is that we must go extremely deep behind the scenes. We have to stand in our authority. We must learn how to decree and declare and legislate in the Spirit. Leave the prayer lists and prayer topics behind. Defer to tongues and prophetic intercession when you don’t have a theme to focus on. Let revelation drive your prayer meetings. Lean not on your own understanding.
As I look back at my time in Manitou Springs I know it would have been impossible to break through and do what we were called to do without constant prayer meetings, prayer walks, engaging the enemy, moving in the Spirit, stimulating a prophetic culture, having dreams and visions and moving in great authority.
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19
My recommendation is to avoid trying to manufacture a vibrant atmosphere. Many worship teams and charismatic preachers are very skilled at this, but those who are sharp spiritually can see right through it. Let’s just stop the production and go deep Monday through Saturday and come into our Sunday services rocked and shocked by the revelation of Jesus and the spiritual battle we’ve run to. Live a life that provokes demons and angels. Expect the supernatural to happen. Shake Heaven and Hell. Enlist people who know how to groan and intercede night and day. When that happens, the lid will blow off our Sunday meetings. Whatever you do, DON’T PUT THE LID BACK ON! Let the supernatural scare away the resistant, awaken the sleepers and activate the remnant!
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. John 6:66 (ESV)
If you don’t stand in your authority, how will the church advance? If you don’t pray non-stop, how will you have strength and insight to advance against witchcraft and all that the enemy is bringing against you? Most curses and strategies that witches and others are targeting local churches with go unnoticed. People have no idea there are demonic beings wrapping their arms around the congregation like a vice.
I could share story after story of shocking and bizarre and absolutely critical encounters in the invisible realm we’ve had over the years. We must learn how to see in the Spirit. What is happening? How should we contend in prayer?
The American Spirit-filled church simply isn’t Spirit-filled enough. We are barely touching the surface. We are too concerned with keeping the visitors. A church full of those who would be scared away if God showed up is a church full of false-positives. Those particular people in the pews may very well not even be saved. We can’t just have happy services with laughing and dancing and handshakes and presume all is well. There is warfare raging and spiritual forces to be exposed, confronted and taken out.
I’ve said many times, I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. Supernatural, messy services that break human control must come. The only way human control releases is if those humans encounter God day after day. God has to convince them.
When we dig deep and uncover the demonic roots in our regions, and invade the darkness, and refuse to ask the Holy Spirit to “settle down,” the church will experience powerful advance.
It’s time for the freaky stuff to return to the church.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 (ESV)
Pastors must allow God to awaken them to the call to regional revival.
I regularly hear from people who are done with church, are frustrated with church leadership and are ready to abandon the weekly gathering, if they haven’t done so already.
I agree that there are significant issues. However, I relentlessly support God’s ordained leaders and encourage as many as I can to stay connected in life-giving churches. Now is not the time to abandon ship, even if we agree that reformation is necessary. This reform must come from within. The new wine skin is coming, and we need everybody in position and ready to serve the revival that results.
Since it’s critical for everybody to remain locked in to their assignments in this “all hands on deck” season, we need today’s leadership to shift toward the apostolic and become more regionally minded than locally minded.
SIX WAYS PASTORS ARE HINDERING REVIVAL
ONE: They don’t pray.
So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:2-4 (NIV)
The daily schedule for pastors should be mostly devoted to fervent intercession and study of Scripture. Sadly, most pastors don’t even lead corporate prayer meetings much less hide away in their prayer closet.
There is no way they can discern the spirit of revival if they aren’t given to a life of intensity in prayer. It’s extremely easy for me to discern whether the spirit of prayer and the spirit of revival is in a church. I travel all over the nation and I explode with life when I walk into some sanctuaries that have been bathed in prayer. You can feel the tangible presence of God. You are impacted by the weighty atmosphere that could only be the result of a praying pastor.
Praying pastors can’t help but to weave Holy Spirit fueled intercession throughout the Sunday service. Tongues of fire rest on top of the congregation, groans erupt from the saints and people are laid out all over the room. Not only does a praying pastor refuse to shut down such an atmosphere, he initiates it. God’s presence becomes a key driver of their ministry, and the goal changes from church growth or visitor attraction and assimilation in their local church to a raging fire in their region. If the pillar of fire emerges in a local church across town, the revival-minded, intercession-driven pastor will cancel everything at his home base to lead the people into the presence of God in the region.
TWO: They don’t embrace the prophetic.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 (ESV)
Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:1 (ESV)
Too often pastors are leading their local churches logically, using church growth methods instead of facilitating a prophetic culture. It’s one thing to point your ship in the direction you want it to go. It’s something altogether different to put up your sails, allowing the wind to take you where it wants to go.
We must hear God’s voice continually in our churches and the pastor is the one to encourage the growth of prophetic ministry. God will connect pastors with prophets (and other offices) so God’s specific mandates can be heard and heeded. Additionally, every person in the congregation must be equipped and released to prophesy. If a vibrant prayer culture has been developed in the church, you won’t be able to keep people from releasing oracles from Heaven! God will be continually communicating to everybody!
THREE: They don’t release people to follow the fire.
And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. Exodus 13:21 (ESV)
It grieves my heart and I’m certain the heart of the Lord when pastors refuse to release people under their care to follow the fire. The call of the church is to equip disciples and then to release them! We as leaders should have open hands, not tight fists. If a move of God launches in another church in the city, the pastor absolutely must encourage people to run to the outpouring! Better yet, he should be leading the way!
God will move geographically, and the fire most likely won’t ignite in your church, even if you are contending for it. If the outpouring is elsewhere, if you hold any value for revival, you will drive every day to that pillar of fire with a convoy of your congregation following behind!
FOUR: Their focus is on building their own ministry instead of the regional church.
…if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV)
It’s time to stop expending energy mostly on building local ministries to the detriment of the regional church. It’s good and right to develop what God has given us to steward, and it’s right to have vision, even locally. However, the end goal must not be local church growth. It has got to be a regional outpouring. God will heal the land, the region, not the local gathering.
It’s time we start hearing pastors crying out for a move of God in their city versus in their local church. If the prophetic ministry is sharp and active, you will hear words that focus on God’s plans for the city much more than you will his plans for the local church.
FIVE: Their focus is on attracting seekers instead of training and releasing disciples.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, Ephesians 4:11-12 (ESV)
Numerical church growth in our American church culture has overtaken more important goals. It’s true that everything healthy grows, but sometimes the growth is deep instead of wide. The strategy of local churches must shift from growing in number to training remnants in prayer, ministry, revival and leadership. Then, the goal is actually to shrink in number instead of growing in number as these disciples are released as apostolic men and women of God.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that the local church can’t still grow. It can, but it’s not a metric to be measured. It’s simply the overflow of an effective ministry that is regionally focused, prayer-driven and discipleship-minded.
SIX: They overestimate their role and leadership ability.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)
Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. Exodus 18:21 (ESV)
This one might sting.
Most pastors don’t have the God given ability to lead a regional revival. They have been called to nurture a small group.
God will raise up a leader or leaders who have the gifting to apostolically give leadership to a massive movement, and it’s important that everybody else in the city assumes their positions in support of the revival.
During an outpouring in Detroit several years ago, I was honored to be asked to lead the prayer emphasis. I wasn’t called to host the revival in my church, so I led the charge as many in my church drove 45 minutes every night to the outpouring. The fact that I wasn’t asked to lead, or that my church wasn’t the focus, or that any of the offerings weren’t coming to me, didn’t bother me in the least. How could it? I was in an outpouring!
In the city church, when a regional outpouring hits, God will utilize the willing pastors in the city in various roles. Humility will be required. Jealously will have to be killed. If that doesn’t happen, the revival is sure to die out as fast as it ignited.
Do we trust God’s message enough to risk everything to share it?
Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time… Jonah 3:1 (ESV)
We never want to cause God to bring his word to us more than once. Jonah was resistant. We are all familiar with the story. The mission the Lord gave Jonah was a critical one, and he wasn’t about give up over the childish, selfish approach of his prophet. Nineveh needed to hear from God, fast, and Jonah was the man to bring the message. The longer I live the more dismayed I become at the state of preaching and prophetic ministry. While there is a small, raging, faithful remnant that is operating out of the fear of the Lord in these dire end times, the normal approach to preaching in our nation is cautious at best, outright rebellious at worst. Human wisdom has taken over numerous pulpits. Many are trading unchangeable truths in Scripture for a modified version that seems more godly, and less costly. For example, I asked a question on Facebook recently: If a professing Christian was caught in sin such as greed, pornography, gossip or other intentional failures, and they repeatedly refused to repent, what should happen? Many rejected Matthew 18 as too severe. They generally replied by saying we should pray for them, keep them in the church so they can hear the truth, be patient, etc. That sounds good, but it’s not biblical. They are attempting to extend a type of mercy that God never intended them to.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17 (ESV)
Cultural resistance to any hint of judgment has caused many American preachers to go soft and silent. Churches are crawling with immoral people who name the name of Christ, and we as leaders will have blood on our hands if we don’t deliver a sobering message of repentance to our nation. The Bible is extremely clear on this point. We must judge with a heart of love and sobriety for the sake of the church:
But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 (ESV)
The Bible reveals in the end-times, people will call evil good and good evil. While church leadership as a whole isn’t at the point of calling sexual sin good, the lack of action as demanded by Scripture reveals that some leaders are calling evil something less than evil. Weakness. Struggle. Human nature. They wish to extend mercy to those who willfully continue in their deliberate decision to defy God. There comes a time when we must trust God’s wisdom and understand the unrepentant are evil. Period. Boy, that sounds self-righteous, doesn’t it? No, it doesn’t, unless you’ve been conditioned by the politically correct, religiously correct culture we are living in today. In truth, it’s not self-righteous. It’s simply righteous. We can, and must, have a heart of compassion and eyes filled with tears as we witness people rejecting God and his standards. Those tears however can’t result in a failure to exercise biblical protocol. There does come a time when we must act, no matter how terrible the action might feel. God can be trusted.
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 (ESV)
It doesn’t get any more direct than that.
A SECOND CHANCE FOR AMERICA’S PREACHERS
The primary purpose of this article is not to discuss protocol for discipline in the church, though that is a necessary sub-point. The reason I led with that point was to reveal the deep dilemma we are currently in in America. We have gone soft on sin and few are speaking on the crisis. Judgment is not only probable, it’s most likely necessary to ensure more people aren’t contaminated by compromised, carnal, passive, quasi-Christianity. Judgment is God’s method of giving opportunity for those who still have hope to escape the prison they locked themselves into through their disobedience. We need judgment. It’s God moving in both love and severity at the same time, for good cause.
Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” Jonah 3:1-2 (ESV)
This is a message for America. It’s time to call out against it. We have no option but to deliver the message that God gives us. We need great, humble and bold men and women of God to reject fear of man, to stop thinking about the impact on their ministry and reputation and call out! It’s time for a shaking to come to America, and it needs to be initiated by preachers behind pulpits and in front of cameras from coast to coast. We know that Nineveh famously repented, and God relented.
Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. Jonah 3:9-10 (ESV)
We need messengers of God to arise and open their mouths! We must call out against America and cry out for deliverance from destruction.
CALL OUT AND CRY OUT!
I’ve met many pastors who admittedly have surrendered the fiery and unapologetically confrontational message that God had given them years prior for a more palatable message that ensures people keep showing up on Sundays. As an itinerant prophetic minister, I’m often called in to bring a sharp prophetic message, when in reality the leadership should have been bringing it themselves all along. I understand what bringing in catalytic people can do. That is a God designed strategy, and many amazing pastors do that to help bring some fresh revelation and instruction into their situation. But, much of what I and others do can be accomplished without any outside help whatsoever. Call out and cry out night and day! Gather the people to pray! Repent! Refuse to lead a typical American church! Go deep and burn with passion! Call every person to be branded by the searing heat of the Holy Spirit. It’s time! We don’t want to live a Jonah 3:1 life. The second time God is required to speak due to our delay and disobedience is one time too many. Let’s back up to Jonah 1:1:
Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD. Jonah 1:1-3 (ESV)
There we see the original directive. Instead of calling out against Nineveh, Jonah instead went away from the presence of the Lord. Listen closely: Many of today’s prophets and preachers are ministering on the run, outside of God’s presence, in a spirit of self-centeredness. They are evading the hard messages because of unresolved inner issues in their lives. The thought of offending people, losing them from their ministry, losing financial support, losing favor and their pedestal, have all resulted in preachers without an anointing delivering a message born of their own hearts.Judgment is coming—first to the preachers, and then, very possibly to our nation. Remember, it’s God’s love that demands this. It would be the least impactful way to awaken the greatest number of people. Judgment is necessary if repentance is absent.
Being open to God’s voice in our lives will result in a lifestyle of inconvenience, challenge and impossible mandates. It will cause huge, huge problems in our lives, and it will cause damage and bring calibration to our lifestyle. But, as we understand our roles to bring reformation and calibration to the church and to the world, we’ll see that our lives won’t collapse. We will function in power as we hear God and release decrees and declarations! As many of today’s preachers and prophets are running from God’s mandate and asleep outside of his presence, the world is crying out for you to awaken!
So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.” Jonah 1:6 (ESV)
There is no safe place outside of God’s call. Jonah’s disobedience was putting the lives of those around him at risk. They demanded that he wake up and call out to God! I want to encourage you to do the same. Call out to God and then call out against America. Then, cry out for her as intercessors. A great drama is before us, and we must ensure that drama includes the greatest move of repentance in history; a revival that cannot be measured. Preachers, America is waiting for you to arise from your slumber and release the burning messages of God. Like Jonah, this is the very reason you were born.