The scourge of yesterday's seeker sensitive movement has infected today's mainstream church.
A question was posted to a local Facebook group, and while I applaud anyone's desire to be involved in an on-fire church, the request revealed something troubling.
“Where can I find an on-fire church…with no tongues?”
That was the question.
The answer? Nowhere.
Such a church doesn't exist. The concept is quite impossible.
DEFINING AN ON-FIRE CHURCH
Of course, it's entirely possible to find a church that is vibrant and passionate about Jesus without the gift of tongues in operation. There are many such places where you can connect, grow, and enjoy godly relationships. You can serve, go on mission trips, study the Bible together and experience an emotionally satisfying community of faith. There are such churches represented by most every authentic Christian denomination (or non-denomination).
However, the individual wasn't asking about vibrant churches. They specifically sought out an on-fire church. I maintain my contention that it is impossible to find a church that's authentically on fire without tongues manifesting.
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1–4, ESV)
There is an immeasurable difference between a vibrant community of faith and one that's marked by the fire of the Holy Spirit. When a church is birthed and bathed in fervent, supernatural prayer, and unlimited room is given for the Holy Spirit to blow and burn in their midst, the resulting fire is indescribable. Incomparable. Other-worldly.
To be on fire is not to be emotionally excited. To be consumed by biblical fire is a spiritual reality. The Spirit of God breathes in and through us and ignites a supernatural flame that defies description.
Simply, there is an anointing that rests on churches that embrace the gift of tongues. You'll notice in the passage of Scripture above that tongues of fire rested on everyone there. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they all spoke in tongues.
I'm not going to dive into a teaching on the different types of tongues, but to briefly address those who are convinced that the Bible teaches that “all don't speak in tongues,” suffice it to say that there are multiple types of tongues. All can speak (or sing) in the personal gift of tongues. Not all, however, operate in other types of tongues such as “tongues and interpretation.” I'd encourage you to study out the differences.
An on-fire church is an Acts 2 church where all have the opportunity to be baptized in the fire of the Holy Spirit. In fact, a true on-fire church will manifest groans of intercession and a supernatural release of God moving through all in attendance.
“…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)
LARGE SCALE RESISTANCE TO THE GIFT OF TONGUES
I contacted two churches in my area that by all appearances were full of life and devoted to Jesus. I watched some of the worship online and people were legitimately engaging with lifted hands and at least a measure of visible passion. What I'm trying to communicate is that they appeared to be Spirit-filled churches.
I scoured their websites looking for a statement of faith or any evidence that they affirmed the gifts of the Spirit. I found nothing that remotely gave me confidence that I'd be stepping into an on-fire, Charismatic church should I choose to visit.
So, I emailed them. The first church copied and pasted their vague beliefs from the website I already studied. Here was my reply:
Thanks! Can you let me know your stance on the gifts of the Spirit? For example, during your services do people pray or sing in tongues? Are their words of knowledge? I appreciate it! Blessings to you all!
I never heard back from them.
The second church never replied at all.
Very interestingly, the first church was quick to reply to the Facebook post this article is about. “Where can I find an on-fire church…with no tongues?” A representative from the church claimed their church fit their requirements perfectly. Many other suggestions of other churches were offered as well.
I find it even more disturbing that churches that presume to be Spirit-filled are all too often minimizing the gifts of the Spirit and even forbidding the gift of tongues during the service. The seeker sensitive paradigm has overtaken many churches as they seek to make everybody as comfortable as possible.
The opportunity to engage in worship at many Spirit-filled churches has been reduced to fifteen or twenty minutes. I've visited churches that don't allow the people to go deep in the place of worship, to cry out, to repent, to groan in intercession or to encounter the Holy Spirit due to ridiculously short services. In fact, it's more common than ever to sing for fifteen minutes while being forced to listen to an often dry, tedious sermon that lacks any measure of anointing for nearly an hour. This is grieving!
Pastors, you might notice that the rise of 24/7 prayer and worship is capturing people's hearts. However, you aren't going to find a 24/7 preaching and teaching movement. Both are important, but we must understand priorities. A foundation of fervent intercession and deep, supernatural worship is mandatory if the Word of God is going to have fertile soil to grow in.
From my book The Coming Church:
As we become supernaturally changed in a place of extreme intercession, worship will change significantly. It will be supernaturally driven. There is a new sound coming to worship, and it’s not simply a new style. There is a supernatural, otherworldly groan of intercessory worship that will explode out of the entire body as a new breed of trembling worship leaders lead the way into the shock and awe of the glory of God. We will no longer simply sit in a pew or stand with a raised hand while a familiar worship song is sung. The prophetic, groaning sounds of Holy Spirit-facilitated worship will make it normal to shake and fall to our faces as we cry, “Holy!” The natural, logical sing-a-longs will be no more. We will have a hard time standing as man’s karaoke gives way to God’s Shekinah and Kabod glory that takes up residence in his Church. Worship teams will practice less and pray in the Spirit with tears in their eyes more. Today, along with most other expressions of church life, worship is at least slightly and sometimes extremely marginalized for the sake of the less adventurous attendee. Since most people tend to be adverse to more supernatural forms of worship, and many would leave if the atmosphere became too uncomfortable, the majority has been winning. I’ve said it countless times, and have written before that I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. How is it that the naturally-minded majority has supplanted the supernatural remnant in the Church? How is it that burning, raging, intercessory worship that’s driven by the groans of the Spirit himself are not appreciated enough to risk losing people from our churches.
In the coming Church, it will be normal for people to hit their faces and tremble and cry holy as the fire of God’s presence rages! Do you see why we can’t formulate low level, seeker focused worship services that can be fully understood naturally?
Yes, people are drawn to churches that provide healthy community, excellent children's ministries, skilled musicians, engaging teaching and effective programs. However, this isn't the picture of an on-fire church. Not even close.
We need the raging, searing and fearful glory of God to burn through our services. The gifts of the Spirit must manifest and a supernatural tremble needs to strike us all. The shock and awe of the Holy Spirit should drive us all to our knees as we quake under his power.
What many are calling an on-fire church and what is authentically an on-fire church couldn't be more opposite. It's time for another Acts 2 outpouring to hit our nation.
From my article, “Seven sure-fire ways to end boring, predictable church services,” I'd like to suggest just what an on-fire church might include:
- Lengthy sessions of corporate praying and singing in tongues
- Embracing a vibrant prophetic culture
- Encouraging people to release prayers, decrees and declarations on the mic during service
- Inviting people to make biblical declarations
- Promoting prophetic art, flagging, dance and other expressions during the service
- Providing prayer for deliverance, healing and freedom
- Expecting manifestations of the Holy Spirit and refuse to shut them down
I'll leave you with one of my favorite descriptions of an on-fire church from over a hundred years ago:
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.”
All who are in touch with God realize as soon as they enter the meetings that the Holy Ghost is the leader.
I'm convinced many Christians have no understanding of the term “Spirit-filled.”Stay with me. The topic of this article could easily trigger those who are easily offended at the suggestion that some churches are more Spirit-filled than others. I'd like to challenge you to remain engaged and to honestly consider what I'm about to communicate, even if you ultimately disagree. Someone asked a question in a Facebook group I'm subscribed to about the types of churches in our area. They mentioned some particular churches, including Upperroom in Dallas, Texas, as the type of church they were looking for. It seemed clear, at least to me, that they were looking for a church that many would label as Spirit-filled. This, however, was lost on most of the people who responded. Some wonderful Christians started filling up the comments with suggestions. What struck me was that the majority of them were not Charismatic, Spirit-filled churches. Many of the people were emphasizing the upbeat, contemporary style of worship, the relevant teaching and the family atmosphere their suggested church offered. As I read through everybody's input, I couldn't help but to flashback several years ago to my first Sunday in town. Our family visited a fairly large, well-established and vibrant church that was filled with friendly people. The worship was concert-style, professional and well polished. Several people were closing their eyes and lifting their hands as they sang along. The preacher was a young guy with the rough, raw yet skilled edge you'd imagine in an environment like this. He communicated well and the message was biblical. I couldn't get out of there fast enough. Again, stay with me. Please hear my heart. I'm convinced this place was filled with legitimate Christian brothers and sisters, people who were devoted to the Lord and who loved their church home. I applaud this. It wasn't for me, though. Why? I later discovered this was not a church that believed in the manifestations and gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us that spiritual things must be discerned spiritually and, while what I discerned naturally was really appealing, spiritually I was discerning a lack of Holy Spirit activity. This is the point of this article. Churches that do embrace Holy Spirit gifts and manifestations are radically different than those that do not, even if they may look similar to the human eye.
THERE IS A DIFFERENCEYears ago when the worship movement really began to take off I often wondered how churches and movements that were “more Baptist” in theology and practice would respond. Would they move on from hymns or resist the new sound in the earth? To my surprise many of them adopted the songs, the vibrancy, some of the more mild expressions and the passion. What was missing in many of these scenarios however was the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The invisible move of the Spirit of God was absent. Yesterday's Facebook conversation confirmed yet again the idea that many Christians simply don't understand the difference between “Spirit-filled” and not “Spirit-filled.” They are limited to human emotion and intellectual understanding. They are looking for songs that move them, sermons that inspire them, teachings that inform them and a Christian experience that saves them. Supernatural discernment and spiritual revelation are foreign concepts. Again, please hear my heart. I despise mean-spirited finger pointers who look down on others who “don't line up” with their definition of appropriate. I cringe to think I'd be one of them. At the same time I believe it's important to discuss some potentially irritating topics so we can all go deeper in Jesus. This is one of those topics. There certainly is a difference between Charismatic and non-Charismatic churches. The theologies of cessationism and continuationism are definitely not the same. Those who endorse and practice spiritual gifts and those who don't are in different places.
A SPIRITUALLY ELECTRIC ATMOSPHEREIt would only be fair to admit that even many of today's Spirit-filled churches have disengaged spiritually. They have stepped back from the movement of the Holy Spirit more and more in recent years. The glorious manifestations of an omnipotent, invisible God interacting with finite man are undeniably rare today. My message is a call to all. Whether you affirm supernatural activity or not, I encourage you to dive deeper into the realm of the Spirit than you ever have in your life. It should be normal for everybody in today's church to have dreams and visions. Praying in tongues, prophecy and trembling in the fear of the Lord should be experienced by all. Supernatural boldness, signs, wonders and miracles and burning night and day with the fire of the Holy Spirit are our portion! The church should be the place where Believers gather to collapse to the ground in groans of intercession. The place to boldly decree prophetic oracles, to prophesy and to get equipped in the Spirit. Loud guitars, a perfectly orchestrated set, ripped jeans, fog, lights, friendly people, relevant talks about the Bible and programs for all is not what makes up a New Testament church. All of that can be there, but it's nothing more than paint on the walls. Decor. Instead of fog machines we need to contend for the mist of the Holy Spirit to descend into our churches. It should be difficult to stand at times as the cries of our heart explode out of us and as the weighty, tangible presence of God covers us. Yes, a Spirit-filled church is something to behold. It's a place where God orchestrates everything and man gets out of the way. It's where God's presence is so thick that our human intellect cannot process what's happening. It's a revival atmosphere. It's a place of miracles. It's church. The moment you experience it is the moment you understand that there's a stark difference between churches that promote Holy Spirit activity and those that don't. It's night and day, black and white. When you are swept over by the most powerful force in the world and filled with indescribable fire and love and freedom and joy, you'll never be able to go to a church that doesn't experience that. I'm excited about the opportunity to introduce people who have never experienced this all-consuming fire, this invisible force, to something so wondrous that they are transformed for all eternity.
Satan has a plan to infiltrate and defile the modern worship movement.
Theologians believe that Lucifer was the worship leader in heaven, in the very presence of God. He was exceedingly beautiful and endowed with special abilities. As we see in the passage from Isaiah 14, Lucifer looked upon his own beauty and wisdom – attributes created in him by the Lord – and he decided that he would raise his throne above God. He foolishly declared, “I will make myself like the Most High.” ~CBN
Luciferianism is a belief system that venerates the essential characteristics that are affixed to Lucifer. The tradition, influenced by Gnosticism, usually reveres Lucifer not as the devil, but as a liberator, a guardian or guiding spirit or even the true god as opposed to Jehovah. For Luciferians, enlightenment is the ultimate goal. ~Wikipedia
As one who lives much of my life with headphones on, including as I write this article, with anointed worship music being pumped into my spirit night and day, this is a challenging message to deliver. It’s challenging due to the fact that I highly revere the anointing that rests on so much of today’s and yesterday’s worship music. It disturbs me that such an article would even be necessary. The obvious argument would highlight the overt evil, immorality and demonic culture we live in, and the filth in media that results. The argument would declare it’s highly inappropriate to attack music that, in comparison, should be celebrated.
I concur that the majority of music and media today is offensive and a stench in the nostrils of God. I also agree that we must encourage all to flood their lives with truly anointed media including worship music. For years, my prescription for people who have come to me confessing struggle in their walk with God was to eliminate all media for a season that was not explicitly anointed, worshipful and godly. In fact, I’d go so far as to ask them to consider turning off even contemporary Christian music (or whatever else they enjoyed) and take in a steady diet of Vineyard (my favorite back in the day) or other worship music for a month.
Without fail, those who took me up on my experiment reported powerful breakthrough while those who did not continued to struggle. Worship music anointed by the Holy Spirit is more powerful than we might realize. So is music that’s anointed by Lucifer.
A recent, related article that I wrote for Charisma Media has been shared over 50 thousand times from their site alone. Worship Leaders Must Take a Stand Against Homosexuality addresses the need for holiness in worship leaders, and it was a call for them to make a vocal stand in opposition to the spirit of the age. Why is this important? Because the theological and moral positions of our worship leaders will directly impact the advance of revival and the Kingdom. Additionally, the enemy, just as he did in the very beginning, is looking to seduce today’s spiritual generation by subtly twisting worship music just enough so that it takes on his anointing instead of God’s.
THREE WAYS LUCIFER CAN INFILTRATE WORSHIP MUSIC
Many people wrongly believe that the worship leader’s theology is unimportant. The train of thought is that the Senior Pastor is the gatekeeper regarding theology in the local church and the worship leader plays a lesser, supporting role. All we have to do is jump back a bunch of years to see that the Great Gatekeeper, God himself, was assaulted and his mission was radically damaged.
“How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.' Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit. Those who see you will gaze at you. They will ponder over you, saying, ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world like a wilderness and overthrew its cities, who did not allow his prisoners to go home?'” (Isaiah 14:12-18)
Lucifer, the worship leader, was not unified with God and truth was violated. God himself couldn’t (or didn’t) stop what happened next:
- One third of the angels fell with Lucifer.
- Countless millions of humans will burn in the Hell that was made for him after he was cast out of Heaven.
Bad theology in your worship leader can easily lead to many others in the church succumbing to the deception.
Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. (Ezekiel 28:17)
The mix of pride and beauty can be extremely seductive. I think we’d all admit there are worship leaders we absolutely love. Their music, their stage presence, their passion is all extremely attractive. For those who are truly humble and godly, there is nothing wrong with that. However, for those who embrace theologies and belief systems that are unbiblical, their anointing will remain—but the source of the anointing will change. The music, stage presence and passion will be as compelling as ever, but the truth will not be what is driving their worship. Bad doctrine compromises anointing.
You would be shocked at how many worship leaders (and pastors for that matter) affirm the grisly act of abortion. Others have been conditioned by false-grace doctrines, supposed “gay Christianity,” prosperity, me-centered theologies and other beliefs.
For many, the goal of a worship experience is enlightenment. To tap into another realm and experience the supernatural isn’t bad. It’s good, as long as it’s the right realm. Unfortunately, too many simply want the high regardless of just what anointing exists there. This is Lucifer’s goal. Seduce with enlightenment and trap people with what the biblically compromised worship leader is offering.
They retain their “beauty,” the enlightenment is powerful and their attraction is intense. However, their anointing can be very dangerous indeed.
TWO: Secret Life
Worship leading should not be the primary job description of worship leaders. It should be the natural outflow of a life of intense, continual prayer. Praying in the spirit night and day must be job one for all of us, and especially those who are supposing to lead us into an encounter with a holy God.
It should be obvious that we cannot lead people where we have not gone. I propose many of today’s worship leaders are simply pointing people to the holy place instead of going ahead of them and leading them there.
One of my favorite takeaways from my time at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City was the worship culture. Every day, the worship teams spent hours in the prayer room, praying, studying the Word, pacing around the room crying out to God, and only then would they take the stage. Only then would they truly have something to offer. Only then could they hope to lead people into the encounter they just had with God. The result is powerful, often spontaneous songs that are deep and spiritual alive instead of the karaoke worship we are all so used to.
On the contrary, so many of Sunday morning’s worship leaders and musicians are taking the stage after possibly saying a quick, casual prayer together, and often after spending many prayerless days. Many are coming off a Saturday night that was filled with unholy media and movies. Others are secretly struggling with sins—while others aren’t struggling at all. They are embracing a sinful lifestyle wholeheartedly.
Decades later, I’m still shocked at the times early in my Christian walk when I witnessed worship leaders, pastors and others in the church casually enjoying vile, R-rated movies or listening to music that is unholy. They’d fill their lives with the pleasure of the day, every single day, and then sing and preach in God’s house of prayer. My spirit is sickened.
Sadly, the church has become so desensitized that we can’t tell when the anointing has departed.
The secret lives of worship leaders absolutely can result in Ichabod being hung above the doorposts of the church.
And she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured… (1 Sam 4:21)
Do we even understand the cost involved in hosting the ark of God today?
Does anybody else notice the trend in worship music toward the glorification of man?
Benefits, our position, our experience…shouted in song after song.
We need to get back to God-centered lyrics that proclaim his goodness!
- “We exalt thee! We exalt thee! We exalt thee, oh Lord!”
- “All hail the power of Jesus’ Name! Let angels prostrate fall; Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all.”
- “Blessing and honor, glory and power Be unto the Ancient of Days From every nation, all of creation, Bow before the Ancient of Days Every tongue in heaven and earth shall declare Your glory Every knee shall bow at your throne in worship You will be exalted O God And Your kingdom shall not pass away O Ancient of Days”
- “Are you washed in the blood, In the soul cleansing blood of the Lamb? Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”
Friend, it’s not about us! It’s not about our benefits! It’s not even as much about how much God loves us as it is about how much we love him!
Imagine writing a love song for your spouse, and then passionately singing it to them. Imagine the lyrics were all about how much he or she loves you instead of how deeply you are in love with them. That would be bizarre! We need to exalt God a lot more than we do celebrating his love for us.
It is becoming more and more common to hear worship lyrics (and contemporary Christian music lyrics) that are either wishy-washy and watered down or simply not biblical at all.
LET’S INITIATE A TRUE WORSHIP MOVEMENT
There is a true worship movement that emphasizes our death and exalts God that will shake the foundations of the earth!
As we live lives of humility, deep prayer and holiness, the music that comes out of this movement will cause demons to flee!
Worship leaders, I plead with you, don’t allow your beauty and your passion to lead the people God has given you to serve. Lead from your knees, from the prayer room, from that secret place of intercession. Only then will you have what is necessary to set the captives free and introduce a troubled and demon-assaulted generation to the love and power of a holy God!
And whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him. (1 Sam 16:23)