Much of the church has surrendered its mantle of prophet in exchange for the title of salesman.
Relevance. One could argue it makes sense to be relevant. We want people to have a legitimate, life-altering encounter with Jesus. He will reach people at the core of who they are, and they would absolutely confess their engagement with deity would be relevant. Jesus knows how to touch people's lives in exactly the right way.
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However, what most consider relevance in today's vernacular has resulted in a deviation from the hard-core, white-hot truth of Scripture.
Check out this definition:
rel·e·vance | \ ˈre-lə-vən(t)s practical and especially social applicability
To meet the demands of relevance, so much of today's church has dressed up Jesus, wrapped a bow around him and paraded him down the fashion runway in hopes that people will like his style, that he would be appealing, and sign on the dotted line of salvation. Their ultimate goal is for people to close their eyes, raise their hands and say a prayer that somehow seals their eternity with Jesus. Sadly, this method of evangelism has most probably resulted in millions of people following Jesus in an unsaved condition. There are many “Rich Young Rulers” out there who have been welcomed with open arms by today's preachers but who have not surrendered all.
Relevance has required that we lay down our mantle as a prophetic people who boldly preach soul-piercing truth in favor of the methods of a salesman. The result is innumerable people being added to an ever increasing lukewarm stew that will soon be vomited out of God's mouth. Relevance has neutered the church and has drained it of its power.
THE CHRISTIAN ROCK LESSON
Somewhere around 40 years ago, give or take a few, the phenomena of Christian rock emerged. As a youth pastor in the 90s, I preached multiple times about Christian rock, and the risk it presented. My belief is that music was never intended as an evangelism tool. Christian rock violated the original purpose of music as God intended. Music in it's purest form is anointed, glorious worship. Personally, my life is strengthened when I pump my spirit full of supernatural music that's devoted to exalting God. I'm listening to some old school Vineyard music from the 90s as I write this. (It doesn't get much better than that!)
The fruit of this spiritualized, worldly amusement includes a Christian culture that has no issue with secular music today. Pastors and worship leaders are often drawing from that ungodly well, giving no thought to the source of their entertainment. Add to that immoral movies, television and online media, and you have a compromised church that has lost its oil, if not its lamp stand.
As a youth pastor, intense worship, powerful deliverance, baptisms in the Holy Spirit, fervent prayer and visitations of God marked our culture. We had no need or desire to tone things down in the hopes that people would give a thumbs up to an altered form of Jesus and jump on board. While we must weep and mourn when people reject Jesus, we must also allow them to walk away if they aren't interested in surrendering all, signing up as martyrs and truly following God on his terms.
Attempting to sell the “Christian thing” with movie nights, parties, skits, ice-breakers, “Christinized secular music” and other attempts at relevance are foolish at best, devastating at worst. Hit your face, tremble under the weight of the Holy Spirit, get saturated with his glory and then worship and preach on fire—and watch those who are truly hungry rush in.
SEEKER SENSITIVE EVERYTHING
Additionally, the primary church service wasn't meant to be an evangelism tool. Yet, we have all watched seeker-sensitive churches emerge and thrive as prayer and the activity of the Holy Spirit took a back seat to coffee, music and human interest stories from the platform.
We must see the invisible, supernatural realm manifest in the earth again! We have become experts at using psychological, sociological mind-tricks in an attempt to connect with people and to compel them to consider Jesus. The seeker sensitive train wreck has impacted nearly every corner and crevice of today's church as we attempt to sell Jesus, sell our church and sell salvation.
What happened to revival? What about the indescribable glory of God that should be flooding our churches? Where are the manifestations? Tongues of fire? In most churches, quenched. All of it. Why? Because it's not relevant according to the expectations of today's culture. Manifestations of the Holy Spirit irritate the pretenders in the church and repel the mockers outside the church. Instead, many church leaders have adopted an often “successful” model of ministry that fills the seats while dumbing Jesus down and deeming the church impotent.
WE ARE NOT SALESMEN!
We need preachers who have the unction of the Holy Spirit in their gut and the fire of Holy Spirit in their mouths!
Our goal is not to rack up points for every soul “saved.” We must present truth and make it hard, not easy, for people to decide whether they want to follow Jesus or not.
Jesus died for you, what else could you want? That's a legitimate evangelism question. You see, none of us have bargaining power. We don't have leverage. We can't haggle. We don't have the option of jumping in at a lesser level. Without Jesus, we will be tortured and tormented every second of every day for ever and ever. We don't have a say in how we connect with Jesus. It's everything or nothing. It's full surrender or no surrender. It's radical repentance or no repentance. It's all or nothing.
I explained the extreme cost of following Jesus to a co-worker many years ago. I revealed the difficulties and the glories. I highlighted the issue of sin, God's solution and the permanence of eternity. I made it clear that life would be more challenging than he could ever imagine should he follow Jesus. Many friends may leave him. He might be lonely. His life of darkness would have to be abandoned. The love of God and the severity of God was presented unapologetically.
You see, I was honest with him. I didn't hold back. I revealed the indescribable invasion of life that Jesus alone can bring, but I didn't parade Jesus as a spectacle, as someone other than he truly is. I certainly didn't want it on my record that I led someone into an illegitimate relationship with Jesus. He understood without question what it was to follow Jesus. His response to me was equally honest. He said, “I just can't do that right now. I don't want to surrender my way of life to follow Jesus.”
I honored him for his honesty and let him know that Jesus was pursuing him. I pray he ultimately made the right decision and is an on-fire disciple of Jesus today as I believe the Holy Spirit used me to present to him a solid foundation to start from.
WHOLESALE CHANGE OF OUR MINISTRY METHODS
It's beyond time that we learned the Christian rock, seeker sensitive lessons. We are not of this world. We should stop mimicking it. We are aliens. We need an Area 51 experience as a curious people flock to look at the spectacle of an alien culture that doesn't try to blend in to society. Revival will do that. In Acts chapter two, many people marveled and many mocked when they saw the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. They were provoked by the aliens.
If you truly want to win the lost, then do away with delusions of relevance. Preach on fire. Pray on fire. Evangelize on fire. Worship on fire. Do everything on fire! We need to turn the temperature up, not down, when attempting to reach the lost. Too many have built a bonfire where people can warm their flesh when God has called us to surrender fully to the refining fire, to lay across it and die.
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)
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.
Church planting, conferences, events and church growth efforts must yield to a greater strategy of Kingdom advance.
More churches must be planted, effective conferences and events must take place and biblical church growth should be a focus. This cannot be debated. My attempt in this article, however, is to highlight what the predominate strategy must be—an emphasis that has to become non-negotiable for every pastor, leader and every Christian in a region. The focus must be prayer. Not only prayer, but regional prayer. This means that local emphasis must give way to regional emphasis.
Instead of people asking, “Where do you go to church,” I believe we need to start hearing, “Where do you go to pray?”
When the primary call of every Christians shifts from attending a local church to gathering continually for Spirit-fueled prayer in the region, this is the question people will begin to ask.
REGIONAL PRAYER MOVEMENTS
And day by day, attending the temple together… Acts 2:46 (ESV)
They were present at all the times of public worship, and joined together in prayers and praises to God… ~Adam Clarke's Commentary
Unless everything we are giving energy to in our church and ministry growth strategies begins to yield to the call to pray, our hopes of experiencing any measure of revival or effective Kingdom advance are futile.
I travel quite a bit, and I find it nearly impossible to find a regional, ongoing movement of prayer in cities I visit. Of course, I can find churches and occasionally I can find houses of prayer, but a fervent, strategic, regional strategy of prayer is extremely hard to come by. In fact, other than my experience with the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri, I have not found a regional prayer focus that is the predominate experience, ahead of Sunday services, programs and events.
People who are well trained by the American system of leisure, busyness and independence find it laughable that someone would suggest gathering together every day for corporate, Spirit-fueled prayer. The religious system hasn’t helped either. The Sunday service model of ministry has unwittingly communicated to a busy culture that attending a worship and teaching service a couple of hours a week is the expected maximum level of participation.
I firmly believe this has resulted in a generation of church goers who don’t know God, people who have a form of godliness but deny its power.
4 …lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 2 Timothy 3:4-5 (ESV)
People who love God have a yearning to pray. This is beyond debate. Instead of avoiding those who don’t desire to be with the one they say they love, as is the instruction in the above verse, we are actually building our churches with them! Before you get too defensive, I do understand that growing in prayer is a bit of a process. But, it certainly is not to be resisted as it is by so many professing Christians today.
Our primary focus should no longer be faithfully attending a church once or twice a week, but rather gathering together with Christians in the region for Holy Spirit driven intercession.
In order for this to happen, Pastors are going to have to be okay with a diminished attention to their own programs and as they lead the people under their care to the regional prayer events.
We don’t need another church plant, another church growth seminar or another amazing program—unless they are founded on regional, continual, fervent and Holy Spirit saturated prayer. One hundred percent of those who attend our churches should be on their faces day after day “in the temple” devoting themselves to prayer. This isn’t a call only for the mature or those specially called. Every Believer should be baptized with fire in corporate prayer in their city. A new church culture is necessary. We can no longer validate people’s devotion to Jesus if the most basic, defining call is ignored—the call to pray without ceasing.
In my city of Branson, Missouri I am currently working on a regional prayer strategy. I contacted churches inviting pastors and others to gather together every Friday from 10pm-midnight for regional prayer. I’m excited at the response so far, but my heart broke when one particular church replied to my email invitation. They simply informed me that they already have a prayer meeting and that I am welcome to join them any time. Now, I’m thrilled that they actually have a prayer meeting! That is rare in today’s church. What broke my heart is that they dismissed the call to regional collaboration in prayer in favor of their own local focus.
Will pastors in your city give preference to regional focus ahead of their own local focus? Most probably won’t, but you should lock arms and move ahead with those who will.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. Acts 16:25-26 (ESV)
Your city doesn’t need another great church program. They need to experience the power of prayer!
When we pray, the prisoners will be listening—and the earth will quake as it sets the captives free!
The enemy is working wonders and imprisoning millions of people—most of the people in the very city you live in—and we must bring impact through fiery prayer. I’m not talking about naturally minded petitions. We need a movement of fire that erupts through the groans of the saints! Every Christian must flow powerfully in prayer that is too deep for words!
26 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. 27 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)
This type of prayer is not reserved for a few. It is absolutely mandatory that we emphasize the critical need for every Christian under our care as leaders to pray at this depth! Prayer that is devoid of Holy Spirit fuel like this leads more often to frustration than breakthrough.
As we gather together continually with the other Christians in a region to pray on fire with groans that cannot be uttered, the anointing of the Spirit of God will overcome the church. Messages will explode out of yielded vessels that will carry a supernatural anointing that can only come through this type of prayer. Regions will be rocked!
18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. Ephesians 6:18-20 (ESV)
Did you notice the command in verse 18? We are required to pray in the Spirit at all times! How strange is it that prayer meetings are empty and churches are devoid of the spirit of prayer today. Prayer is not an extra-curricular activity! It is not optional. I believe a lifestyle of fervent prayer in the Spirit is an evidence of our relationship with Jesus!
When we pray in the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a regional church, bold messages pierce cities and nations! Check out what happened after the Holy Spirit was poured out in Acts chapter two. After explaining the move of the Spirit of God, and boldly, prophetically declaring the Word of the Lord, Peter didn’t hold back:
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:36-38 (ESV)
Peter didn’t hold back in his accurate accusation against the religious in attendance. He declared the divinity of Jesus and he rebuked them for crucifying God! They cried out for an answer and Peter simply called them to repent, be baptized and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
We must see regional voices emerge out of a movement of prayer in a city. When the Holy Spirit flows through people, and the water level of his activity in a region increases, messengers of God will begin to boldly call out religious systems, apathy, theological error and other hindrances to the advance of the Gospel.
Trust me, as this happens, many pastors and leaders will strike out against such a bold, confrontational message. Apathetic people will reject an advance like this. People with a local focus instead of investing in the regional church will give preference to lesser activities.
I believe it’s time to see every pastor, every leader and every Spirit-fueled Christian in a city gather together every week (or every day!) for hours of Holy Spirit driven prayer.
We have to transition our understanding of church from local to regional. In Acts 2 the people met as a region every day in the temple for prayer AND they met day by day in homes.
In today’s busy culture such a devotion is soundly rejected. People would rather sleep or play than pray. The emphasis is given to a couple of hours on a Sunday morning.
Maybe Sunday morning should shift to nothing more than a prayer meeting. Then, the pretenders would stay home and the true church would show up and pray, in the Spirit, and set in motion an earthquake that prisoners in our city are waiting to experience.
You will be shocked to life as you watch several new teaching and worship videos including Catherine Mullins at the Revival Church relaunch!
FIRST: Invite every burning and hungry person you know to Revival Church TONIGHT! We are in an unusual season of extreme Holy Spirit activity, and we are expecting miracles and fire beginning at 5pm in prayer, and then 6pm in the service! www.detroitrevivalchurch.com.
All of these videos and audios are ready NOW! You can also download the notes and follow along as I teach on The Tone of the Groan, Did God Actually Say? and other life-transforming topics.
The last two weeks at Revival Church have literally been indescribable. Groans and cries and baptisms in fire have been a common theme as people have been discovering wild and abundant life in the Spirit!
Head on over to http://media.johnburton.net now and get rocked, drunk in the Spirit and set on FIRE!