Are you willing to let your church die for the sake of Kingdom advance? Or, are you so locked in on local church growth that the region you are assigned to suffers?
Is it possible that the high majority of churches in our nation are dead-end churches? As you continue to read, you'll come to understand that many of the most vibrant, focused and Spirit-filled churches would be considered to be dead-end churches, or it's cousin, cul-de-sac churches.
Millions are assessing the current state of the church in America and the Western world—and they are right—it's in trouble. The church is so far off course that one might wonder if there's hope at all.
Listen to John talk about dead-end churches on his latest podcast…
While these millions are correct in their analysis, many of them are wrong in their response. They have left the church they have deemed to be in violation of God's design and have isolated themselves and self-identified as “the church” presuming their action moves them closer to revival. It doesn't. (Read my article that addresses this fallacy, “You are NOT the Church : The Scattering Movement.”)
THE GOVERNMENTAL CHURCH IS THE KEY TO REVIVAL
I often write and teach on the church, and my reasoning is simple. It's not because I am advocating for a better, more vibrant and impacting church experience (though I wouldn't be opposed to that). It's because the regional church, and the local churches that make it up, are the governing bodies and the way they function is critical. The church is the authority in the region and unless it's setup correctly, the hopes for revival can begin to fade away.
I'm not saying that a spark of revival can't ignite through small groups of Believer's who are going deep in prayer and crying out for an outpouring. It absolutely can. Historically it has happened more than once. However, that small group can't govern, can't administrate and can't facilitate the outpouring. While you may argue that no man has any business governing a move of God, you'd be wrong. God has set up the church as a governmental authority that not only has the responsibility but also the ability, if truly consecrated, to push back the enemy, to make room for God and to create healthy, Spirit-designed systems that both protect what God is doing and promote his activity throughout the region—and beyond.
A DEAD-END CHURCH DEFINED
As I explained above, dead-end churches can be full of life, active in outreach, aggressive in their mission and growing. In fact they can sometimes become very large, which very well may be a false positive for spiritual health. Growth and vibrancy aren't the problem. It's the vision and/or the implementation of that vision that can become poisonous.
Simply, if the focus is local church growth ahead of regional Kingdom advance, they have become compromised.
The pastor or governmental leader of that local church must have clarity on the vision, and it absolutely must be centered on regional impact. What this means is that their own desires for local church growth must be set aside as they give their energies to revival in the city God assigned them to.
Drawing and keeping visitors, growing in influence, developing local programs and ministries and other in-house focuses are put on the back burner, or sometime back on the shelf entirely, as their mandate has them focused regionally. A move of God in their city becomes the main thing.
A CUL-DE-SAC CHURCH DEFINED
A cul-de-sac is a dead end too, but it has a different vibe. While a dead-end church may be extremely focused on (misguided) vision, a cul-de-sac church is focused on family. Relationships. Togetherness.
Imagine a nice neighborhood with a safe and lively cul-de-sac. The kids are out playing, neighbors are talking amongst themselves, barbecuing, laughing, eating and everybody is truly enjoying spending time together.
I am more convinced then I've ever been that “family style” churches need to give way to true, apostolic, Spirit-filled movements made up of warriors who are contending for fire. The church is a military, not a vehicle for friend building. The call is to surrender all, to die to self, to cry out for God to move and to advance with a fervency that will cause the enemy to shudder.
It's in the foxhole of Kingdom war where true friendships are forged. Simple social gatherings won't cut it. We are under attack and we need warriors to assault the kingdom of darkness with ferocity. This, friend, is the church.
LET YOUR CHURCH DIE
Pastor, you have to be okay with letting your church, in its current form, die.
Two times in my nearly 30 years of ministry I made a conscious decision to let my church die. Both in Colorado and in Detroit I had heart-wrenching meetings with God as he instructed me to go deeper, to pray more intentionally and to invite the people on the journey with me.
In Colorado, we were in a time of momentum and I'm convinced, as were others, that we had what took to grow the church to 500 people or more if we stayed the course. Understand, our church was intense and alive. The gifts of the Spirit were in play. The passion and vision were powerful. We weren't a dead church by any means, but we were on our way to becoming a very vibrant dead-end church. The only way to avoid that was for me as the pastor to allow my vision and everything I was contending for to die, even if it meant my church would die along with it.
I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I had a clear choice: continue as we were going and grow the church to 500 and beyond or obey God, become zeroed in on intercession and revival and drop in number possibly by 50-90%—or more. I knew I'd probably lose my salary and may have to find outside work. I knew people would be upset at the change in direction. I knew people who misunderstood my heart and calling would laugh and mock. I knew I was creating a very difficult situation for myself and my family. I also had peace. God wasn't interested in my ability to grow a large church. He wanted my heart and my obedience.
In Detroit God gave me a directive to take people deeper, to come up against some destructive theologies and belief systems that many in the global church were adopting, and to focus on holiness and consecration, all from the furnace of intercession. I knew most people wouldn't be interested in such a lifestyle, but I had no choice. Again, I had to obey God. Overnight we lost a large percentage of the people in the church and we shifted into exactly what God had for us—an army of warriors, small in number yet zealous in spirit, who weren't looking for numerical growth, happy worship services or church as usual, a people who wanted nothing less than to be in the middle of God's blueprint for our region. The thoughts of revival consumed us.
The point? Church growth, local church vision, a family style focus, financial strength or attracting and keeping visitors isn't the goal. All of that, quite frankly, can compromise the goal of being a vehicle for regional Kingdom impact. Frankly, the hundreds of people you are seeking may very well threaten your ability to fulfill God's call on your life and for your church.
I would never change the decisions we made in Colorado or Detroit, even if it meant we would have grown a church of thousands. The model of a successful church has become quite skewed, and it's time we let those ideals die and capture the heart of exactly what God is calling us into.
MARKS OF A DEAD-END CHURCH
ONE: The pastor/leader doesn't connect and regularly collaborate with other churches and ministries in their region. Their energies are given almost entirely to their local church, misunderstanding the importance of their local expression of the city church. They don't realize that the church in Scripture has a regional designation attached to it. The church defined is the regional body of Believers who function under regional apostolic authority. Within that context, there are smaller, local churches that are never to be self-identified, but rather are to strategically connect and often yield to the regional expression. This is why it was so important for me to give leadership to two prayer movements, one in Colorado Springs and one in Detroit. We would visit a new church every Friday night and pray in the Spirit from 10pm until midnight. We visited over 100 churches in Colorado and over 70 in Detroit. That regional connection was invaluable.
TWO: The pastor doesn't encourage people in his church to connect with other churches and ministries on a regular basis. When I was leading churches I realized the immense value of other churches and ministries in our area. I'd let my folks know that they should definitely consider becoming faithful to other churches throughout the week, as we were but a single department of the city church. Other departments, other local churches, were important in the grand scheme and they would benefit from joining with them. In Detroit, I cancelled most everything in my church for a month as I led the people out of our church and into another about 45 minutes away that was experiencing a powerful move of God. We were there every single night for 28 days (I actually missed one night, reluctantly). My passion was not the growth of my local church but rather in fanning the flames of revival in my city.
THREE: The pastor has a competitive spirit. We need to kill that nasty spirit once and for all. I propose one way to do that is to invite other pastors and leaders to recruit anybody from our church that they would like. I'd let other leaders in the city know they could freely connect with my best leaders, my worship team, my staff and anybody in the church, and see if they might be interested in leaving us to serve with them. That eliminates competition and any threats of sheep stealing. They can't steal what I don't own and what I freely make available to them.
FOUR: The church has contagious and aggressive vision for local church growth, yet they rarely talk about regional revival. They emphasize the goals, the strategies and the determination to grow their church, to develop their ministries, to increase in number, to outgrow their building, to attract visitors or to focus on what benefits them on a local level.
FIVE: If they have a prayer emphasis at all, it's almost entirely directed toward their own local endeavors. They pray for all of the stuff I mentioned in the point above while having little zeal for an outpouring in the city. They don't understand that the revival may not even launch in their own local church, so they focus on a move of God happening in their own body while forsaking the call to intercede for regional transformation. Instead of groaning and crying out for God to move in their city, for wickedness to be exposed, for other churches to come alive, for an earth-shaking outpouring, they are praying for internal ministries, for their own tent pegs to expand and for local increase.
SIX: Money isn't sowed into their region. They use finances internally to grow their own local church. While they may have earmarked funds for missions and benevolence, the idea of sowing into regional revival is foreign to them. Further, when dead-end churches do give to outside ministries, it's almost always churches within their own denomination.
SEVEN: They rarely if ever bring in guest speakers who are leaders in other local churches in their region. They want to control the narrative and they don't want people to be influenced by a more dynamic speaker or someone who might connect better with people in their church. They fear losing those people. They fear their nice, tidy local family being disrupted. They also fear another leader behind their pulpit who carries a more potent vision for the region than they do. With all humility I can say that as a visiting guest minister in regions I've never previously been to, I've often had more vision for that city than the pastor of the church. It's crazy. I've also boldly coached pastors not to undo what God is about to do in the meetings. When God calls me to speak in a church, a lot will be confronted and exposed and a firestorm of God's loving reformation will be in the room. Pastors, have the guts to embrace someone who won't simply affirm what has been built, but will call the people higher.
MARKS OF A CUL-DE-SAC CHURCH
ONE: It's all about family. As I said above, I believe the family style church is a threat. Many of these types of churches could fit into the “seeker sensitive” category of churches. Many others emphasize the grace and love message in excess and, while there may be praying in tongues and dancing in the aisles, it all comes back to relationships. The thoughts of a vertical experience where people lock in with God and contend for him to move is something they would struggle with if it interferes with their desire for horizontal connections. It can be both vertical and horizontal, but in a cul-de-sac church, preference is given to personal, human relationships instead of aggressively advancing in the Spirit.
TWO: Their definition of revival is off. They see a growing number of people who are enjoying God and one another as the prime goal. While nobody can argue that growing in intimacy with God and that developing Kingdom relationships is wrong, it's the focus and the priorities that send cul-de-sac churches into the wrong direction. Instead of a supernatural war they value a growing, happy family of people who are enjoying God together. They would call that revival, and it's a far cry from it. They misunderstand the severity of the battle and don't regularly engage at the required level.
THREE: Positivity rules. They are adverse to anything that would be a downer to their block party in the cul-de-sac. They want their people encouraged, happy, stress-free and at ease. Topics such as Hell, sin, eternity, repentance, correction, expectations or anything negative are avoided like the plague. They refuse to speak to the national cultural crisis, politics, the end-times, wickedness such as abortion and homosexuality or any other issue that would be divisive, challenging or confrontational. Just as people advise others to avoid the topics of religion and politics around the Thanksgiving table for the sake of civility and keeping the peace, cul-de-sac churches avoid anything that would cause any measure of disturbance.
FOUR: Connecting with other churches, especially those that are aggressive in the pursuit of revival, holiness and a supernatural manifestation of God, is a no-go. They are happy within the four walls of their family gathering and they don't want any outside influences threatening that.
MARKS OF A KINGDOM CHURCH
Instead of a list of attributes of a Kingdom church, I'll draw this article to a close. I believe it's easy to deduce just what makes up a Kingdom church by reviewing the opposing views above.
The bottom line is that we absolutely must see a massive correction come to what we know as the church today. Regional and national revival is greatly hindered by a lack of true, Kingdom churches that are in existence not for themselves, but rather for the advance of, well, the Kingdom.
Pastors, let your vision die. Let your church die. It's okay. Let the stress of growing your own little spiritual experiment in a tiny little petri dish fade away. Even more importantly, get on board with what God has planned in your city. Let your personal endeavors go, as great as they seem to be, and contend with others in your region for an outpouring. Just gather together somewhere, anywhere, with governmental, Kingdom leaders and other revival-minded people and press into God's heart and intercede and advance exactly as God reveals to you as a part of the regional, governmental body. That's church. That's a Kingdom church. That church will turn the world upside down.
GRACE IN THE SHIFT
In closing (for real, this time), I want to encourage you not to get jaded. Don't point fingers at churches or pastors. Understand that they have a mega-burden, and even if they aren't advancing the way reform demands, pray for them. There must be love and grace in the process and in the ultimate shift. Also, understand God is diverse and there are many different types of people giving leadership, and they have varying levels of ability, experience, gifts, offices, prophetic revelation and understanding of the purpose of the church. In fact, many will disagree with this article. That's okay. This doesn't mean we can't contend for transformation in the local church, but it does mean we must have grace in the process.
I want to strongly encourage you to read a related article that is sure to provoke you to urgently considering the need for severe reformation in the church: “Nine reasons we may have to choose: Grow a large church or contend for revival.”
Disqualified people are rushing to social media to establish illegitimate ministries. Are pastors to blame?
There's a level of toxicity regarding the prophetic in today's churches that must be addressed if we hope to hear God's voice and advance with clarity and power in these end times.
People who have had their ministries rejected in the church are taking their services to Facebook and other social communities in hopes of developing influence. The problem? Influence without authority is birthed out of deep dysfunction and it can lead people into that same dysfunctional, unauthorized spirituality.
They would argue they receive their authority and their authorization from God directly. This tired argument is evidence of resistance to being rightfully responsive to flesh and bone people that God has called us to serve and honor. We don't have the option to reject human authority while, in the same breath, attempting to establish ourselves as an authority. It's silliness.
Listen to the podcast on this topic…
PROPHECY IS CRITICAL IN THE CHURCH TODAY
We cannot go on without pure, potent and mature prophecy filling our churches every single week. The lack of God's rhema voice is telling as churches are resorting more and more to sociological mind tricks instead of advancing according to supernatural revelation.
It has become quite rare to see a body that's healthy and strong in the prophetic as people are rightly equipped and released to communicate oracles from heaven. Faith is epidemically low as millions of Christians have no idea what God's voice sounds like.
17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17 (NKJV)
The word “word” in the above verse is translated as rhema. This is the “now” word of God, the revelation whether it's a prophetic word or the words of Scripture leaping off the pages. When this active, precise and timely message from God pierces a people, faith skyrockets.
Not only does a strong prophetic culture give a local church body the ability to move ahead in the direction God has determined, but everybody involved is wildly invested as a result of hearing God speak. True prophetic messages don't stop at the ears or the mind, but they sear our spirits and impact our emotions like no other message can. When this happens, faith goes up and we respond in unity, power and joy.
Sadly, most churches could not be described as prophetic churches. There are reasons for this. Blame rests both on the pastor and on the people. Let's deal with the people first.
10 REASONS WHY PASTORS DON'T LET YOU PROPHESY IN CHURCH SERVICES
ONE: A LACK OF HUMILITY
I'll begin by communicating loud and clear something many prophetic people won't want to hear: never, ever start attending a church with the intention of mentoring, teaching or refining the pastor via prophecy or otherwise. What arrogance it must take for you to presume such an uninvited role in your church. If your wealth of wisdom, knowledge and experience are needed, be sure the pastor will request your counsel. Otherwise, keep quiet.
Whether in this scenario or another, pastors have no use for people who want to minster to those they have been commissioned to protect if they aren't truly humble. Meekness is a prerequisite for prophetic ministry as any measure of arrogance or selfish ambition will taint the messages being delivered.
This following passage of Scripture speaks to this issue perfectly:
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. James 3:13-17 (NKJV)
Wisdom is demonic if self-seeking and envy is what drives it. Follow the advice in verse seventeen and be willing to yield.
Speaking of being willing to yield, undisciplined prophetic people tend to enjoy rebelling against the order of the house. Influencing the service with the spiritualized sound of their voice is what drives them.
Many years ago as I was planting my first church a visitor asked me about our prophetic protocol. I explained that we value prophecy and that she could deliver a prophetic word to me or leadership for review during the worship service. She didn't like that answer. She went on to say that she would have to interrupt the service, even if I were preaching, if God gave her a prophetic word for the body.
Ummm, nope. She presumed her supposed prophetic insight was important enough to violate order. We were interested in investing in her and in her prophetic gift and in developing a very active, life-giving prophetic culture, but she didn't want to function within those boundaries. She ended up leaving the church and we were the better for it.
There's a difference between someone who is actively and willingly growing in their gift and someone who refuses to grow up. Those who are intentionally undisciplined and who are not giving themselves to everything that needs to be done to grow and develop their gifting should not be set free to prophesy in the church. A lot of damage can be done.
These people love to prophesy, but you don't see them in the prayer rooms. They are unresponsive to leadership. They aren't in the Word.
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Hebrews 5:12-14 (NKJV)
Those who are prophesying are most definitely functioning in the arena of spiritual discernment. If they cannot discern spiritually due to a lack of maturity, there's no way they can be trusted to deliver prophetic words. Does this mean their prophecy is always wrong? No. But it means they are reckless in their devotion to stewarding their gift, and if they are driven by the wrong spirit, they can do damage.
FOUR: ADVERSE TO CORRECTION
There's no pastor alive who should allow someone to influence the body who won't take correction. This is not only an indicator of immaturity, but also of a dangerous, unsubmitted person. It reveals their heart and that's a heart that should never be trusted to minister.
1 Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, But he who hates correction is stupid. Proverbs 12:1 (NKJV)
FIVE: YOU WON'T TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER
The pastor has the right and responsibility to refuse to allow someone to deliver a prophetic word (or to minister in any fashion) if he chooses. If someone reacts wrongly to this, that's evidence enough that they shouldn't have been allowed to share the message.
Understand, much of the time a leader will disallow a prophetic word simply because he doesn't feel it fits. It may have nothing to do with the character of the person who desires to share the word. It may just be a timing issue. We need to yield to our leaders and not get uptight or feel rejected if they don't believe our ministry is appropriate at that time.
If you are a prophetic person, you need to understand that what you wish to share in a public setting isn't always what others feel should be shared. Since you are a person under authority, you need to be okay with the reality that your leaders may not want you to share your revelation at times. If not, you'll grow bitter very quickly, and then we should run far and fast from any prophetic word you try to impose on us.
SIX: A POOR TRACK RECORD
It wouldn't make sense for a pastor to allow someone to preach on a Sunday morning if they have a history of teaching error. Further, they shouldn't allow someone to minister as a part of the worship team if they are always off key or don't show up for rehearsals on time. This simple and obvious realty applies to prophetic people as well.
If they repeatedly deliver wrong, confusing or unscriptural messages, they can't be allowed to continue. Pastors must ensure truth is communicated and if someone can't be trusted to deliver truth, they must be benched until they can grow as a Believer.
This is a big, big point and I want to make sure I have your full attention: If you are attempting to use your supposed prophetic gift to steer the church in a direction not sanctioned by the leadership, you are functioning in witchcraft. You are in rebellion and your ministry is dark and it should not be tolerated.
Charismatic witchcraft is rampant and we must have bold pastors who fear God more than man to deal very aggressively with it. If you are operating in this unruly spirit and attempting to pass it off as prophecy, you need to go. Leave. Don't come back. I'd be quick to show someone like this the door, unless they were truly repentant.
Don't underestimate the damage that such a demonic spirit can do in a church, especially if the leaders God ordained to protect the flock refuse to act. Their silence can kill an entire church, and it happens every day.
God will protect a leader who is “wrong” (I'm not talking about sin, I'm talking about organizational direction) before he affirms a prophetic person who is “right” yet manipulative, rebellious and fueled by an evil spirit of witchcraft.
EIGHT: DOMINATING THE SERVICE
There goes Sister Linda again! Oh, Brother Joe is about to stand up and deliver a word…I can just feel it!
We know the all too predictable scenario all too well. In many churches there's one or two people who, week after week, dominate the prophetic culture by delivering word after word after word after word after word…you get it.
Again, the counsel is to yield! Do you have any idea how much cringing goes on in the church, by the pastor and by most of the body, when the same people are giving nearly the same words in most every service? Oh, it's true. The cringe factor is high.
Pastors, the body is often wondering why you don't put a stop to it. You need to do your job and lovingly encourage these types of people on how to rightly minister in your local church setting.
Closely related to manipulation, and equally as deadly, is gossip. Sadly, unrestrained prophetic people are famous for their ability to gossip. Stopping with a manipulative prophetic word is definitely not enough for them. When leadership doesn't change the course of the church after repeated doses of prophetic pressure, their next step is to gather people around them and to sell their perspective. Any good charismatic witch would do just that. All it takes is a Christianized coven meeting to give real power to their motives.
Gossips are some of Satan's most anointed salesmen, and when that person is looked up to as a prophetic voice, you have some incredible manipulative, supernatural and extremely evil power behind their words. They can destroy a church overnight, and they cannot be tolerated.
TEN: YOU ARE NEEDY/YOU HAVE IDENTITY ISSUES
People who need to minister for the sake of affirmation, or to feed their misguided identities, shouldn't be given a platform, unless that platform is at the altar. Too many wounded prophetic people have developed a craving for affirmation in their gifting, and that weakness has compromised that gift, no matter how precise or developed it is.
Our identity must be found in nobody and nothing else than Jesus. It should be easy to lay our gifts and callings down, with the only grief coming from our passion to see lives transformed. Our own need to minister should never be a factor.
Those who need to minister should not be allowed to minister. Instead, they should spend time with Jesus and give themselves to the process of healing. Then, they will be free, healthy and trustworthy when it's time to step into ministry again.
PASTORS, THIS IS WHAT PEOPLE NEED FROM YOU REGARDING THEIR PROPHETIC CALLING
A key reason there's so much dysfunction in prophetic people today, and a reason they are running to Facebook to minister, is because pastors have failed to equip them. It's as simple as that. Prophetic people are yearning to be trained, but it's nearly impossible to find a church today that includes a prophetic school as a part of their foundational culture. Heck, you can barely find a Sunday School class focusing on it.
Pastors, it's your responsibility to equip the people in the prophetic. How can you hear what God is saying if you don't? Church is a corporate venture, and while you are the point person, and while God will speak directly to you in most situations, you need others to confirm those words and to introduce additional revelation that's critical for the mission.
If you shut down the prophetic in your services to avoid the issues I addressed above, you are wrong. It's as clear as that. Their failure is most often your failure.
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 (NKJV)
TWO: AN OUTLET
People need an outlet. Prophetic messengers especially must have a place to release their revelations. If not in the church, then where? If not in a safe place with the oversight of leadership it will happen unmoderated, uncontrolled and undisciplined in public.
Pastors, you have no option but to nurture your prophetic culture in such a way that the body can minister the various impacts the Spirit of God is having on them. If they are muzzled they will most usually break free and unleash those words from a place of rebellion. Their rebellion is not only their fault. Very often, it's also yours.
26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 1 Corinthians 14:26 (NKJV)
Prophetic people want feedback. Those who are thin skinned will be revealed, which is advantageous to you. Those who are truly humble and teachable will come alive as you share your heart regarding their ministry.
Did they prophesy from a healthy heart? Let them know. Was their message a little confusing? Coach them. Be invested in their development and your church will be the better for it.
FOUR: NO FAVORITISM
First things first. It's okay for pastors to acknowledge prophetic people who have passed tests, proven themselves and been faithful. They absolutely should be favored. Further, those who have failed the tests should not be favored.
That being said, all things being equal, it's important that pastors give room to everybody who's healthy and ready to minister. The young need room to grow, the new people need a family to thrive in and those who have been trusted for years need to mentor the next generation.
If you want to ensure a church stays in a spiritual rut, refuse to acknowledge anybody except those who have been in the inner circle for decades.
FIVE: A RIGHT RESPONSE
Prophetic people don't simply want to share a legitimate word from God. They are excited about the shift in the atmosphere that it will bring. Too often, pastors want to grab the reigns as fast as possible after a prophetic word is given and redirect back in the previous direction.
Pastors must humbly admit that God will use prophetic people to bring fresh wind that demands the sails are repositioned so the boat starts moving the direction the Holy Spirit desires. These prophetic people simply want to see the fruit of their obedience to release oracles instead of the resistance and rejection that is so commonplace in the church today.
Everybody needs encouragement, especially prophetic people! Speak life into them and let them know how blessed you are because of their ministry. Thank them for their heart, for their devotion to humility, for their growth. Let them know you see them developing and that you appreciate them. A healthy, loved and encouraged prophetic person is a valuable member of your team.
There comes a time to publicly validate a ministry. This holds true for every ministry, but it seems those with prophetic callings are all too often overlooked. If someone has passed tests and proven themselves, over an extended period of time, let the body know you trust them and that their ministry is valid.
Not only will this encourage the individual and give them a track to run on, it will show everybody else the type of person and what it takes to be validated. It will give them a goal. It will communicate that others, who have not proven themselves, are not affirmed, at least not at that level.
A bunch of the above points could be applied to the other party. Pastors also must be humble. They shouldn't manipulate. They must be mature, teachable and not a gossip.
The prophetic person should encourage their pastor. They should have a right response to leadership.
However, lets start the way I laid it out. We must see health come to the church, especially today, and most certainly in the arena of the prophetic.
God has a lot to say to us.
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.
Listen to the podcast…
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)
The uniting of two sinister forces, hyper-grace and hyper-love, has created a ferocious monster that is devastating lives.
I'm going to do something I've never done, because I believe right now, in light of the current false-grace/false-love crisis, the message of my book “The Coming Church” is an urgent one. I'm giving away the ebook version of this 300 page nuclear bomb of prophetic revelation for FREE. Download your copy immediately HERE.
I believe there are two evil, powerful and seductive demonic spirits that are roaming freely in churches all over the world, and people are celebrating them, promoting them and imparting them into millions of others. These spirits, dark and crafty entities that have already caused extreme destruction in innumerable people, are: hyper-grace and hyper-love.
The reason I call these two mindsets, philosophies and theologies “spirits” is simple: Satan has devised a scheme to deceive the church to such a degree that people believe themselves to be radical followers of Jesus while living in such a way that disqualifies them from an eternity with Jesus. Those infected by hyper-grace and hyper-love are at great risk, with many of them already surrendering their salvation and many others moving in that direction.
I was at Jimmy Swaggart's confession in 1988. I helped give leadership to a city-wide prayer movement with Ted Haggard approximately 15 years ago. My wife and I had a private meeting with Todd Bentley in Lakeland in 2008. All three had a powerful, undeniable anointing. All three failed dramatically. Hyper-grace didn't restore them. Hyper-love didn't remedy the destruction.
I remember John Bevere sharing the story of him visiting Jim Bakker in prison. John asked Jim, “When did you stop loving God?” Jim shocked John Bevere by saying, “I never stopped loving God. I stopped fearing God.”
Listen to the podcast…
For a closer view into this topic of hyper-love, read one of my more popular articles titled, “The Great Love Deception: A False-Love Movement Is On The Rise,” HERE.
When we encounter love, we will be presented with a view of God that is quite different than what we previously understood to be true. God’s love can be expressed in a very direct, uncomfortable way that breaks you and may even wonder how a loving God could act that way. God’s expression of love will often put you at risk, threaten you and trouble you. ~The Great Love Deception: A False-Love Movement Is On The Rise
I'll say it loud, clear and repeatedly until it's finally received: The love of God that results in glorious breakthrough and warm feelings, no matter how great the revelation, is not nearly enough to keep us calibrated with the heart and expectations of God. (Yes, contrary to the love camp, God absolutely has expectations. If you read your Bible, you can't miss them.)
I've heard from countless people, most of them wonderful yet deceived, that all we need to do, whether its in evangelism, in our personal relationship with Jesus, in ministry or in any place in our life is to focus on God's love. Reveal God's love. Preach God's love. Grow in understanding of God's love. Go deep in God's love. Meditate on God's love. Study about God's love. Minister God's love.
I'll be the first to say that I agree we have the glorious opportunity to do what they are campaigning for. Going deep in revelation of God's love will mark us, transform us and overwhelm us. God's love is powerful beyond description. However, it's not enough.
The fear of God is critical (and fear here doesn't always translate as reverence. It's also translated as terror in places.) We must embrace both God's kindness and severity. We must minister both.
Someone mentioned to me that God would forgive him if he starts dating a girl who wants to have sex prior to marriage. He knew that this sin was wrong, but he didn't believe it was a big deal, and God certainly wouldn't send anybody to Hell over it. He argued he could just ask for forgiveness later and all would be well.
While most might not be as brazen as this young man, millions would actually agree with him. The percentages of people who profess Christ while also living in sexual sin is staggering. Fornication, pornography, lust, adultery and other sinful lifestyles are a pandemic in the church. A misunderstanding of God's love has led to this. The bible is clear on just what appropriate love looks like in this case:
11 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. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 (ESV)
True love protects the flock, and true love trusts God's wisdom. True love obeys God even when it doesn't feel like the humanized love so many have adopted.
When leaders are the ones in sin, love demands we handle it immediately. Ministry must stop for that individual. Restoration into the ministry is not the next step. It's possible they will never step behind a pulpit again. That's okay. Ministry has become an idol for too many. True love will expose that in someone's heart and deal with it.
True repentance is so rare today. I am waiting for the day the failed minister is more broken over the lives he destroyed than he is endeavoring to start preaching again. That is true love in action.
We as Christians are not exempt from judgment or from the repercussions of sin. If we are in Christ, there is no condemnation, but if we are deceived by false theology into thinking we are in Christ, while actually living in disobedience, we are in trouble. We are not in Christ and there is condemnation. No salvation. The wrath of God remains on us. False-grace doctrine is eternally deadly. There are many people following Jesus today in an unsaved condition. ~Five Marks of the False-Grace Message
When you add the deception of hyper-love to hyper-grace, a rampant theology that actually encourages Christians NOT to confess sin, you have a two-headed monster that is bringing widespread destruction to the church.
Those who subscribe to both deceptions promote God's love and forgiveness to the exclusion of his severity, and they believe God is indifferent to sin. This monster creates the perfect environment for sin to be nurtured, and to kill.
15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1:15 (ESV)
So, the response to sin is tepid. The threat is wildly minimized.
Instead of a severe and immediate response to sin, “love” and “grace” is enacted, believing all is well and that is all that's necessary to see happy restoration take place. This fallacy has put millions in the path of unrepentant ministers and has caused many of those millions to adopt doctrines of demons as a result.
When true love and true grace are in play, it looks very different than the passive, mild response we see today. People presume that we are all sinners (we are not) and that we all sin daily (we should not) and therefore the sexual sin, sins of leadership, unforgiveness, lust, greed and any other number of evil acts are minimized, deemed benign. In reality, unrepentant, unresolved sin is eternally deadly, especially for Christians.
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Hebrews 10:26-27 (ESV)
False-love coupled with false-grace will rip people to shreds spiritually. It's already seduced untold numbers of people.
I want to encourage you to read a bold, sobering and tear-driven message from Jeremiah Johnson regarding the recent controversy regarding Todd Bentley and Rick Joyner. It was written with much prayer and fasting, and the message it contains will have us all trembling in the fear of the Lord. You can read the message titled, “An Open Letter To The Body Of Christ 8/26/19,” HERE.
If you'd like more details on the current crisis, read a Charisma News article titled, “Revivalist Todd Bentley Accused of ‘Sexual Perversion' With Male, Female Interns,” that was released today HERE.
Even today's most Spirit-filled churches must embrace radical reformation.
Listen to a short podcast as I describe the 2 Chronicles church model, a revelation-driven, prophetic model, that must come to the church, and fast. Then, read this article. It's time for revolution.
TODAY'S SPIRIT-FILLED CHURCH EXPERIENCE
Like most of you, I have quite a memory bank full of church experiences, many of them phenomenal, many of them poor, but most of them quite average, not memorable, good, but honestly disappointing and unsatisfying.
There is a collective roar sounding over our nation, a bellowing cry for an end to church as usual. (By the way, here's the definition of bellow: emit a deep loud roar, typically in pain or anger. I think that fits.)
People are no longer impressed by a skilled worship team, a perfect flow, professional preaching or big dollar theatrics. They want a mighty move of God.
If you listened to the podcast, you'll understand that I'm attempting to bring distinction between today's very good Spirit-filled church experience and the radical reformation that must come. We are all familiar with the Sunday ritual:
- Be welcomed by greeters, friends and maybe the pastor.
- Acknowledge the refreshing presence of the Holy Spirit while worshiping for 30-40 minutes or so.
- Shift into a time for the offering and announcements.
- Listen to a decent message.
- Possibly spend some time at the altar as God touches your heart.
- Shake some more hands and then head out to lunch.
- Repeat next Sunday
This is a good experience. However, it's not the experience that can call down fire, usher in revival or shake the nations. Massive reformation must come to some very good Spirit-filled churches.
1 As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2 And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house. 3 When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” 2 Chronicles 7:1-3 (ESV)
I believe a mark of revival just might not be full buildings, but rather empty buildings.
Prayer and sacrifice resulted in fire coming down from heaven and the glory of the Lord filling the place! When that dramatic, supernatural event impacted that building, nobody could enter. They all hit the pavement and worshiped and declared God's goodness! This is the church experience the remnant is crying out for!
Pastors will have to fully stop their pursuits of numeric church growth and shift their efforts to facilitating a white-hot atmosphere of intercession, groans, tongues of fire and prophetic unction. Understand, the church isn't a house of teaching, a house of friendships, a house of evangelism. It's a house of prayer. If a church isn't praying in the Spirit as the very foundation of their ministry, then all of the rest is compromised. Powerless. Out of order. Every person in the church must be fully devoted to praying in tongues and allowing the groans of the Spirit to burn through them.
Instead producing an order of service that expects more people to be drawn in, pastors must raise the bar, turn up the temperature and contend with the remnant in otherworldly prayer—fully expecting most others to be repelled. The pretenders will be identified, but so will the faithful and hungry. You will find your remnant when you start offering what the remnant is longing for.
We must have a 180-degree response to the ultra-damaging seeker-sensitive movement of recent decades. We can grieve the Holy Spirit no longer by keeping him on a leash, tied up outside of the sanctuary. For too long, people have been expected to leave the Holy Spirit (and the manifestations he brings with him) outside the church building, though they were certainly free to untie him and take him home with them if they so chose. Ichabod churches are numerous and God is absolutely grieved. We should be too.
But, let me bring this back to center. It's easy to identify the spiritually dead or the supernaturally resistant churches. This message certainly can target them, but more specifically, it targets the spiritually vibrant churches that I identified above.
There are many such churches that are great places to raise a family, to connect with other Believers and to worship and grow in God. But, again, I'm sounding an urgent alarm—this church experience is insufficient. In fact, such churches can become breeding grounds of mediocrity. It's easy to attend such churches and to be casual in our relationship with Jesus. It's easy to be active in sin. It's easy to hide in the shadows.
On the contrary, churches that are marked by fire, with everybody praying in tongues, groaning in the Spirit, crying out for revival and contending for holiness, you cannot hide.
When everybody is praying, walking, crying, living and groaning in the Holy Spirit, when the fire of God sears them, when the challenge is intense and the atmosphere intentionally aggressive, impurities, sins and resistance are exposed. I've seen it time and again.
Sundays must quickly shift. Now. In fact, we are way behind schedule.
Instead of shaking hands and greeting visitors and meeting with friends, people will walk trembling into the sanctuary as a roar of intercession explodes throughout. People will be on their faces with deep supernatural groans erupting out of them. Others will be pacing, repenting, kneeling, crying out or exalting God with great passion.
Instead of sing-a-longs and sermons, a revelation-driven church will be filled with prophetic decrees, biblical declarations, groans of intercession and messages that shift atmospheres, all while people are shaking, hungering and crying out for fire to fall and for the Holy Spirit to come.
You might be surprised at how many visitors actually are drawn to such a life-changing and legitimate move of God. You might also be surprised at how many elders, Sunday School teachers, staff pastors, worship leaders, ushers and pillars of the church run for the exits with complaints and curses in their mouths.
This reformation will shake everything that can be shaken, but we can delay no longer.
May the supernatural church arise and the stigma of Ichabod be decimated as the Holy Spirit manifests in supernatural wonder again.
Bizarre, supernatural manifestations should be normal in the church. What happened?
When given the choice between hearing another sermon and witnessing invisible and very active demons being cast out of a precious soul, I'm buying the ticket to the deliverance. Why then, if deliverance is even allowed at all, is it so often stopped so they can escort the individual into a back room somewhere? Today's church needs to see the power of the Holy Spirit overcoming the power of the enemy in people's lives right before their eyes!
Here's a podcast on this topic:
In fact, supernatural manifestations are consistently shut down as irritations or some sort of spiritual disorder. Manifestations should be expected, not avoided. We must allow our all-powerful God to interact with the people. When such a mighty force touches weak, finite humans, it's simply impossible to maintain our casual or dignified disposition. We will react with shock, awe and wonder!
THIS REACHES BEYOND SIMPLE SUPERNATURAL MANIFESTATIONS
Too often the Western church is functioning in the safe, natural, middle ground, and the demons remain in hiding, very active and unconcerned about any Christian interference. There is no threat.
However, when a deeply determined and wildly prophetic people who are devoted to intercession and warfare unite, the unseen world starts to shake under the weight of their authority.
When people like this advance together, they are met with dramatic and often bizarre supernatural reactions. Demons and angels engage and respond, and this will be easily discerned by men and women of God who live their lives in the spiritual realm. The invisible realm becomes exposed.
We must have mature warriors who understand the realm of the invisible and who function in great authority giving key leadership in our churches. It's laughable to think that a church is truly having impact if the enemy isn't provoked and if the Holy Spirit isn't manifesting.
A DEMONIC COMMAND CENTER IN MANITOU SPRINGS, COLORADO
I'm astonished at how often Christians live in disbelief (or disinterest) regarding the demonic world. The story I'm about to share can easily be dismissed as too extreme. They'd prefer to climb back under their safe, comfy blanket and deny reality—all while the demonic army gains strength and momentum. Hiding under the blankets or sticking your head in the sand is no strategy against such a formidable force.
The Lord had revealed to me that Manitou Springs was a demonic communication center, a command center, much like NORAD, which was an active center of defense for our nation for years just a few miles from our town at the base of Pikes Peak. Further, it was expressed that Manitou Springs, at the base of America's mountain, was called to be an angelic command center of revival for the nation. We had a lot of work to do. A complete take-over and shift in authority must occur.
My lead intercessors and I were prayer walking through the streets of Manitou Springs, Colorado several years ago. This city is well known for it's occult roots. Anton LaVey, who wrote the Satanic bible, lived there. Witchcraft is rampant and homosexuality and liberal ideals promoted. In fact, the pastor of the city at the time led a profoundly heretical church.
During this particular prayer walk, which was one of hundreds, we were interceding on the grounds of a very old Episcopal church property. Suddenly, I saw a dark entity, a hooded creature. I told my intercessory friends, Miles and Jodi, about the encounter and we quickly moved closer to the church building where this demon was seen (and had since ducked into hiding).
It's extremely important that we are all prophetic people, able to hear God's voice very clearly. If we don't, we can miss some life altering instructions and revelations. What God said next was absolutely critical for the advance of the Kingdom in this dark city.
God told us the demon was a messenger on assignment, and that he was there to receive the keys of authority to the city. He was to transport them to his leaders. Understand, the enemy is granted great authority to advance its agenda when humans are in agreement. It gives power to their assignments. God revealed this particular messenger, on a very important mission, was fully surprised to see Spirit-filled children of God at his rendezvous point. It was even more shocked that I saw it. We prayed, seeking instructions on how to deal with this situation. God told us to intercept the keys. The authority in Manitou Springs was being transferred that day in surprise fashion.
AN ASSIGNMENT DEEP INSIDE THE EARTH
Very shortly after this transfer of authority I, along with very experienced and high ranking intercessors from the surrounding states gathered together for a prayer assignment in Manitou Springs. After some dramatic prophetic experiences that day, we capped it off with our primary assignment deep within a cave system.
The intercessors knew Manitou had very evil roots and a wicked history, and they wanted to gain spiritual intelligence so they could devise a strategy. As we were all about to enter the cave, the regional intercessory leader, who was a little older than the rest of us, told me she wouldn't be going into the cave. She would stay back and cover us in prayer. She then privately gave me an assignment: determine whether the deep part of the cave where we were going to end up was a demonic command center.
I eagerly accepted the challenge and then I, along with the rest of the team, started our journey into the depths. As I was walking deeper into the cave, I began to understand the severity of the assignment. I certainly didn't want to presume anything. I didn't want to guess. I needed to hear from God clearly about whether our final destination was in fact a center of demonic activity that was focused on destroying the people of Manitou Springs and the nation, or not.
When we finally entered the furthest room in the cave system, I was absolutely stunned at what I was experiencing. All I could think was, “The Holy Spirit isn't welcome here.” It was unlike anything I had ever experienced. The void created by the absence of God's manifest presence was something I never want to feel again. It felt like Hell without the fire and torment, and I can't imagine spending even a few seconds in there. However, I was on assignment and I had to deal with this supernatural reality. I couldn't leave. We stopped and turned off our lights and began to pray. It was perfectly dark.
I hit my knees, trembling, wondering what was going to happen and what God wanted us to do. In the spirit, I saw the earth open underneath me. A massive entity emerged from the depths. This was a portal between the demonic realm and the land of the living. I did in fact discover a demonic command center.
I was experiencing intercession unlike any time in my life. It's impossible to describe the experience. I was beyond overwhelmed, shaking, undone, disturbed.
It was confirmed that the determined agreement of humans in Manitou Springs with the Satanic realm was extremely strong, and demons emerged from the depths to give instructions to people and to receive information from them. These were messenger demons much like the one I experienced on my prayer walk by the Episcopal church.
Wait! The Episcopal church!
God reminded me of the encounter I had there. As this massive portal was opened up under my feet, it was clear what I was to do. I had taken the keys of authority. I had them! I was to use this new found authority to shut this portal down. Lock it up. Seal it shut. Take dominion.
I shared all of this revelation, in that pitch dark cave, with the other prophetic intercessors, and they all immediately agreed that I was discerning everything correctly. In that evil place where the Holy Spirit wasn't welcome, I felt a mighty shift. The anointing of the Holy Spirit filled me and I commanded, in the authority of Jesus Christ, that the enemy's assignment was over and that the portal must shut. We all roared and groaned in the Spirit, prayed with power, declared truth of the Word and successfully fulfilled our mandate.
As we emerged from the cave, the faithful general in the faith who remained behind to pray had a smile on her face. She asked me, “Well, was it?” I said, “Yes!” I went on to explain what happened. She nodded her head and told me that God revealed the same thing to her as she was praying.
Understand, this never could have happened if we didn't embrace the wild and bizarre supernatural realities that are all around us.
In fact, a secular drama company from Broadway in New York City put this experience and others into a production and toured it from Washington D.C to New York City to Chicago to Los Angeles. My prophetic decrees, powerful personal freedom and other supernatural stories from our ministry were depicted on stage in front of thousands of mostly liberal, atheistic people who were in a prime position to meet Jesus!
Isn't it amazing how God works when we start moving in the supernatural, spiritual realm?
A TEAR JERKING EMAIL
This assignment in the cave along with many others over several years (some even more dramatic than this one) resulted in powerful breakthrough.
This week, I received an email that moved me to tears. You see, we passed the baton to others as we eventually moved out of Manitou Springs. This message shows how much prayer, the prophetic, endurance and obedience can do to the enemy's camp. I pray this encourages you to allow God to move exactly as he wants, to invade the realm of wickedness with authority, to expect supernatural manifestations and to contend for freedom, even if you don't see the results on our watch.
I love getting your emails – they are so challenging and so good. Thank you for what you do!
I’m a huge believer in giving credit where it’s due – and since you were such a HUGE part of our transition and journey to Manitou, as David and I are a week away from transitionIng our, I wanted to give you an update – because you sowed seeds for so many years and made this ground so fertile.
You wouldn’t recognize Manitou today! It’s becoming a beautiful community – restoration taking place in the supernatural and in the natural. Houses and buildings being restored and families moving in seeking community.
We’ve prayed over every inch of this city. The bridge over rainbow falls was restored, and the day it reopened, we prayed over it as a city gate and renamed “beautiful” at the Lord’s prompting. The same weekend, we dedicated the old Masonic lodge as the new worship space for new life Manitou – cleansed the ground, and claimed that gate as well.
The mineral springs by the Loop was recently refaced, and, “coincidentally,” a new life member was contracted to do the work. He wrote our prophetic passage for Manitou on the back of each rock – Isaiah 41:17-20 – “the poor and needy are searching for water where there is none, and I THE LORD will answer them…” and now scripture is hidden in one of the central fountains in Manitou. It’s our little secret. 🙂
Not long after that, a sign that had been decades missing from the rainbow falls bridge was replaced. It says “Manitou Springs – healing waters.”
New Life Manitou has been a full-fledged, weekly church for 3 years now. We beat the odds! It’s a thriving community of believers serving the city and accepted as part of the community. We’re meeting in the renovated (and very well-cleansed!) Masonic lodge on El Paso and running around 150 each Sunday. Every week, it seems, a new family shows up saying they just felt called to Manitou. We’re literally the only evangelical church here – but Manitou has embraced and not just tolerated us.
Hiawatha Gardens, where you guys met for the HOP, is being restored. Interestingly, your banner is still hanging on the back door – even though they’ve been in there cleaning and renovating. There sign remains. Just a reminder of your mark on this community.
David and I have been here for 4 years, and now we’re being called away. My heart is so torn – I have grown to adore this town and its people – our neighbors who are atheists and lesbians and agnostics who we are leaving we now have to entrust to Jesus. We’re headed back to San Antonio to pastor a church there. I can’t help but think of your story of leaving and how it must have been so bittersweet for you and your family.
We have certainly felt the weight of living here – the call and yet the resistance and pressure – and yet the yearning to see more of God’s movement, knowing that you wouldn’t be here to see the completion firsthand.
Because of that, I wanted to tell you again that your hard work and toil and trials and prayer and faithfulness did not go unseen, unnoticed, or unfruitful. Your obedience here in Manitou for all those years paved the way for what is happening now and for the restoration and revival that is happening here in Manitou. I know from firsthand experience that it wasn’t easy and that you suffered for the call. But your legacy lives on here. Your faithfulness and intercession and prophetic words spoken over this city tore down strongholds and softened hearts. You pastored this city so well. Well done, good and faithful servant.
And thank you for giving us so much insight and comfort 4 years ago when we were so freaked out about moving here. Thank you for being the forerunner and for giving us the courage to carry the torch. Thank you for introducing us to Miles and Jodi, who passed the prophetic torch to us. I still have the house of prayer banner they gave us and still weep at the thought that our weekly prayer meetings were held in the very same room as your early prayer meetings were held.
God has such a heart for this place, and my heart breaks to leave it – We have wept over it, loved it, and learned so much in our time here – but our time is done and we did what we came to do – 4 years of so much joy, so much travail, so much beauty. And you were such a huge part – so thank you so much for your labor, John. You are a giant in the kingdom, and I just wanted to let you know that we recognize your sacrifices and work here. It lives on and you are part of a very beautiful story that God is writing in Manitou Springs.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. The Father is well pleased.
Sarah and David
I cried tears of joy.
A move of God in Jesse, West Virginia has left many wondering—how could any pastor promote seeker sensitive ministry?
This is what revival looks like. Surrendered hearts, Holy Fire, relentless worship. Intercession. Chains broken, healing happening, persistent people who are hungry for more.
Firebrands. Revivalists. Reformers. Revolutionaries.
Pursuing the face of God and His heart.
Different states, different intercessors, all coming together with one voice: a cry for the fire of God and revival to hit this land and shake the world.
May the flames of intercession never go out in Appalachia! ~Sarah
I'm back home in Branson, Missouri after a weekend of indescribable fire. I was somewhere near the middle of nowhere in Jesse, West Virginia, and I'm still trembling in my spirit. The anointing and stirring of the Holy Spirit is radiating through me. The power of God descended in that remarkable mountain revival town and many are testifying that their entire lives have been transformed. They can never go back to life or church as usual!
I experienced a church that actually had the guts to turn the Sunday service into a prayer meeting. I wrote about this in one of my most popular Charisma articles titled “5 Major Changes Coming to the Church.”
Sunday services being transitioned into prayer meetings was one of the major changes I addressed. It happened in West Virginia that morning.
I had the honor of ministering alongside the man, Pastor Jay Morgan, who craves God so deeply, that unbridled, uncontrolled fire on Sunday mornings is his only option. It was an amazing weekend at Appalachia Prayer Center Ministries which also featured Doug Abner, who was instrumental in a mighty move of God in Manchester, Kentucky. Read about that remarkable story in a Charisma News article HERE.
PRAYER-DRIVEN SUNDAY SERVICES
So how can we shift the Sunday service to a prayer-driven event? It's quite simple:
At the church in Jesse, the service started with intense intercession, followed by a couple powerful worship songs. People were dancing, waving banners and blowing shofars. They were ready.
Then, as the musicians played over the people, we moved into decrees and declarations for revival in the Appalachian states. People were at the altar crying out, dancing and groaning in the Spirit. More prophetic intercession for revival filled the atmosphere and then, at least two hours into the service, I brought a powerful and challenging message. I ministered for the next hour and a half. A life-changing altar time followed and then people very slowly and reluctantly started heading home at around 2:30pm. The presence of God in that unhurried Sunday morning service was simply indescribable. When the order of service is eliminated and you just don't care whether people like what's happening or not, God takes over and clocks disappear.
During the God explosion that Sunday morning, I asked the people, “Who would rather have a mix of prophetic worship, prayer, decrees and the freedom to hit your face on the carpet for an hour or two instead of an hour of predictable, karaoke style worship?” They all shouted! Yes!
Pastors, it's not hard to do this…AND it will cause the pretenders to finally leave your church. Those who are resistant to the depths of the Holy Spirit and the supernatural interruption to their comfort zones will leave, and you'll finally be able to advance toward an outpouring in great unity.
Pastor Jay transitioned his church from a seeker sensitive ministry to one that couldn't be more opposite. The spirit of intercession in that place is rare, and I believe it's a model that we need to pay attention to. I was wrecked watching that humble man of God lead the people as he was most definitely under the influence of some glorious new wine. The drunkenness was real and it was holy. He couldn't leave the sanctuary after the first night of the summit, and remained in God's presence there until 6am. When is the last time your pastor was so radically surrendered that he was saturated by God himself, fully drunk in the Holy Spirit? (I'm sure the religious crowd will be triggered by this question. That's okay. We need to provoke the resisters and invite them into the river!)
You can listen to the two messages from the summit in Jesse, West Virginia below, plus a raw podcast I recorded in my hotel room. I must warn you though, if you can't handle an aggressive, offensive message, you should skip them and go find some milk to drink.
SEEKER MINISTRY MUST COME TO AN END
The reason seeker style ministry seems valid to some pastors is simple: they are attempting to introduce people to God the same way they know him. It's a low level, relational, logical and mostly natural connection.
When those leaders have an authentic, supernatural, indescribable, all-consuming encounter with the Holy Spirit, it becomes laughable and fully impossible to ever lead a seeker sensitive church again.
I have proposed many times before, and I am doing so again—shut down the programs, quit focusing on visitor assimilation, give up the idol of church growth and eliminate everything that stands in the way of fervent, strategic and continual intercession. Our churches must become furnaces of Holy Spirit activity, supernatural houses of prayer and unapologetic champions of revival.
This shocking, shaking move of the Holy Spirit should be the norm for us as Believers.
We don't want anything invented, imagined or exaggerated. We are yearning for the weighty manifest presence of God to rock our churches again!
Pastors, it's up to you: do all you can to ensure everyone in your church is baptized in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues! The groans of the Spirit can be silent no longer!
THE MANIFESTATION OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD
All you folks who are “super careful” and “discerning” regarding supernatural manifestations like falling out in the Spirit, shaking, etc,… it's clear that some of you aren't being honest.
Just admit that you don't like it. It irritates you when you see it happen. The thought of it happening to you freaks you out. Becoming undignified is not an option. My heart breaks for you.
Further, for those who say it's not God, that it's a demon, that it's another spirit…remember, if we ask for a fish, God won't give us a snake. And, I believe I remember people accusing Jesus of having a demon. I wouldn't want to be those people.
The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is one sin that puts you beyond the realm of possibility for forgiveness. What is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? It's attributing a move of God to a demon. Of course, true Holy Spirit discernment is fully appropriate, but what many call discernment is little more than suspicious accusation in an attempt to control their spiritual experience and to limit others in theirs. Their eternities are at risk because of it.
When God moves powerfully and his undeniable, tangible presence, his anointing, his manifestation, hits you, and you can't stand, you are undone, you are wrecked, you are flowing with love and power, you can barely speak, you are shaking, groaning…would you really suggest that it's a demonic spirit that's behind it?
And, another question…WHO IN THE WORLD WOULDN'T WANT GOD TO ENCOUNTER THEM LIKE THAT? The answer: Only those who have not experienced God at that level or those who disbelieve that a supernatural, invisible God can manifest in people's lives.
God's glory is real! Millions of people have experienced it. Millions more have not. Tragically, many reject it. When asked to describe what it feels like to be overcome by the Holy Spirit, I received many replies. Here are some of them:
I shrunk to the ground on my knees with weeping unable to stand. It was glorious, light and heavy all at the same time. My skin felt like fire but it was beautiful.
It feels like I can’t stop shaking…
I felt like I went into a bubble. I could see but couldn’t really hear or process what all was going on around me. I was speaking in tongues and had never felt so much love in all my life.
It's almost like a cool fire burning right in the center of me.
This weekend, at the APC Summit, I had my first fully immersive experience in the spirit where I was entirely consumed. It kind of felt like sleeping, however from pictures and videos posted from throughout the Summit I was actually worshiping and waving flags. I could hear the Father roaring inside of my head. It was the most amazing experience of my entire existence.
I was just recently baptized in the Holy Spirit and I screamed and cried for an hour. It was one of the most supernatural experiences of my life!
After singing, praising & praying the Lord for a good while, Holy Spirit overwhelmed me. The fiery weight of His presence felt like sustained electric jolt, like touching an electric fence, just without the pain. I had to pull off the road, lay my seat back and allow Him to do His work. His presence felt like it washed over me again and again. I have no idea how long I was there really but was never the same afterwards.
And, I simply had to include the following testimony from Brittany. It's a bit long, but please read through it. It will absolutely rock you and drive you to tears of joy! It's true stories like this that keep me contending for freedom in people's lives! Wow!
The first service Saturday was nothing like I had ever experienced, I danced, sang, waved a flag and ran all over the sanctuary. The most unabandoned worship I had ever done! Then all of a sudden as we are listening to our Pastor become overwhelmed with the Holy Spirit, drunk on the Spirit! We started to laugh, everyone! I mean everyone was laughing!! It was said after crying, being sad and angry for so long that laughter was the best medicine. Guess what? It was! Then we prayed and worshiped. A man named Jonathan came up to me, grabbed my hand and said, “that relationship that wasn’t supposed to happen, you have to let it go.” I had never once seen this man, talked to him, he did not know me and I did not know him!!! He was telling me what God wanted me to know! I crumbled to the floor and began to weep the tears that I had been holding onto for the fact I was so ashamed that I had been in a relationship with a woman.
Saturday night now was yet again another beast all it’s own!!!!! Hearing prophetic words over our state and the state of Kentucky. Listening to women speak of their states and becoming on fire for revival in our area! Then came John Burton. He was the wake up call I needed, yes I've only been going to church for 7 months, yes my past had always been something I held onto, yes I still have so much to learn. But I have learned so much from the short amount of time I listened to him. That’s why I bought the master collection because I want to fully submerge my life in Jesus. That’s why I also took on John’s challenge and the next 30 days will be nothing but worship music and I’m just cutting out TV all together unless it is faith based. Now onto Saturday night, once John was done speaking he asked if there was anyone that hadn’t been baptized in the Holy Spirit to speak in tongues. I hadn’t, I went forward and honestly don’t remember too much from it other than screaming and crying for an hour! It was the most intense, supernatural experience of my life! When I finally did semi come to I was so intoxicated with the Holy Spirit that I could barely walk, I felt weightless and when I began to think about my life before that moment it’s like it’s a blur. Like it really didn’t happen, no anger, no sadness, NO pain!!!! I can think coherent thoughts and I’m so excited to tell my testimony so I can help others went through similar things and know that there is light at the end of the dark tunnel I was living in!
Sunday morning comes, we pray, we worship, we lay on our faces, we dance, we kneel, we intercede, we pray for each other. We listened to yet another word from John and then we prayed, we worshiped, we lay on our faces, we dance, we kneel, we intercede, we pray for each other!! You could tell that no one in the room wanted it to end. We had just spent the most amazing 4 days together in the presence of the Lord!!! Of course no one wanted it to end!
I figured up roughly 35 hours of worship, pray, given words, and interceding for me!!! It was the most exhausting, exciting, life changing, life altering event of my life! I couldn’t speak or barely move after it was over but if I had been told I could have 4 more days I would have jumped right in!!!! There was also so much more, so much more happen. I wish everyone could experience this!
But now that it is over we had to go back to “normal” life right?! NO!!! These past 2 days I have been just as on fire as it was this past weekend, we are forever changed! We are Firebrands! And guess what?!
The Summit NEVER ends for Firebrands!!! ~Brittany
As we have a resounding “yes” in our spirits, as Brittany and so many others do, for anything and everything that God wants to do in and through us, we will be eager participants in the pursuit of revival. God's glory will overwhelm us. The above testimonies cannot be refuted.
The supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit will displace a tepid, natural church experience. Ichabod will be replaced by kabod. Freedom will reign. Fire will rage. Intercession will pierce atmospheres. Holiness will become a cherished gift.
With holiness in mind, I delivered a challenge during a powerful time of ministry at the altar this weekend in West Virginia:
- Listen to no music but anointed worship music for the next 30 days.
- Watch no media with foul language, coarse jesting, sexual jokes, nudity, etc for the next 30 days.
I believe a commitment to holiness like that can launch revival. Many would argue that such a commitment should be obvious for any lover of Jesus, however it's extremely common for professing Christians to fill their lives with sitcoms, movies, YouTube videos, music and other media that is defiling, and they wonder why they aren't experiencing the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit.
NO MORE CHURCH GAMES
I burn with a critical message in this end time season. There is no more time for church games. There is a desperate need for awakening and activation, and I desire to be a part of that. However, I have no desire to leave my family and travel to various churches if those churches aren't ready for the deposit I'm called to leave. I'm done with nice Sunday services where the people resist the depths, are reluctant to contend and they are more interested in getting out on time than allowing the Holy Spirit to brood over them. I'm done.
I address this awakening in my books, specifically The Coming Church. I encourage you to grab it. Even better, The Master Collection gets you all of my books, several eBooks, over 100 audio teachings and more. Get equipped in fire!
I’m so glad I bought the whole collection of John Burton's books and audio recordings!!! They are blowing my mind! ~Brittany
Pastors, train your people to groan in the Spirit. Turn Sundays into prayer meetings. Blaze the trail toward revival. A quick, shallow, predictable sermon just won't cut it. A little worship and a nice prayer is laughable. Cultivate services where people never want to leave! Where are the revivalists? The intercessors?
I'm done with church as usual. I have no desire to minister in dead churches, unless they are ready for awakening. So, yes, I'll go where God says go. I'm thankful beyond words that a door opened to link arms with fiery zealots in West Virginia. “Normal church” is over and I have no desire to come to your region to preach if you are still trying to prop up an old wine skin.
Where is my tribe? Where are the burning ones? I'm ready to find those pillars of revival fire and contend together for an outpouring. If you are hungry for this, get ready. God is about to blow up your church. If you'd like, book me and I'll serve your church with passion.
Preaching to the saints? You need to understand that many of them are not safe—if they are saved at all.
“Who then can be saved?” Matthew 19:25 (ESV)
The call of church leadership is not to confirm someone's salvation, but rather to challenge it. We need the fear and trembling to reverberate through our spirits night and day that only wrestling with our salvation can produce.
Jonathan Edwards brought his bold, fearful message to the church, to the saints:
The wrath of God burns against them; their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared; the fire is made ready; the furnace is now hot; ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet and held over them, and the pit hath opened her mouth under them.
The devil stands ready to fall upon them, and seize them as his own, at what moment God shall permit him. They belong to him; he has their souls in his possession, and under his dominion. ~Jonathan Edwards
I understand that many who read this will wholeheartedly disagree with my conclusions. They are either adherents of eternal security doctrine or some form of unstable, unbiblical or fully false-grace ideologies. Instead of tossing this article aside or attacking the viewpoint, I challenge you to humbly, soberly take it in and ask God to impact you, to shake you regarding this very serious topic.
As you might have guessed I believe that it's not only possible to surrender one's position in Christ, but I'm convinced it's common. Entire churches, many of them “Spirit-filled,” are fully lost while others are filled with people who have never had their relationship with Jesus challenged, and are as lost as the wicked of the world—yet they don't know it.
It's from this position that I am shining the light on possibly the greatest epidemic regarding the issue of salvation in the construct of the church today. Pastors commonly presume those who are faithful attenders, givers and friends in their churches to be saved. It's a given. It's obvious. It's settled. If they are raising their hands, dancing at the alters, serving in ministry, leading small groups or involving themselves in other activities, then, of course, they are true followers of Jesus, right? Not always. In fact, the salvation journey is one of endurance, and it's extremely easy to pull back, to slip up, to become casual or to lose faith.
12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.
13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Matthew 24:12-13 (ESV)
Many in the church are simply not saved. They are following Jesus in an unsaved condition, all while the pastor is sharing messages on how to be successful in Christ, how to prosper, how much Jesus loves them and the benefits of the Kingdom—a kingdom they are not a part of.
Where are the gut-wrenching holiness messages? What happened to assaulting sin and compromise from the pulpit? Where is the weighty presence of the Holy Spirit that results in tearful repentance and an eager rejection of wickedness?
Pastors, do you realize that a large portion of your church is very possibly involved in pornography on a regular basis? Lust drives them. Many others are absolutely okay with filling their lives with movies, television and other media that is filled with filth. F-bombs, nudity and absolute evil is consumed day after day without the slightest conviction of the Holy Spirit. This puts their salvation at risk. To presume they are safe and destined for Heaven is to be blinded and duped. It's utter foolishness.
You've made it easy for them to fit right in on Sunday mornings, after a night of debauchery, to sing songs of worship and to blend right into the fellowship. You've convinced them that all is well and Heaven is their home, when the reality is that, absent legitimate repentance, they will be tormented in Hell forever.
I'm talking about elders and worship leaders, Sunday School teachers, youth pastors, ushers, children's ministry workers and faithful attenders. Many of these people are entertaining themselves with evil, fully devoid of discernment and convinced that God is unconcerned about their lifestyles.
ONE: Preach Hellfire and Holiness
“The Christian world is in a dead sleep. Nothing but a loud voice can awaken them out of it.” ~George Whitefield
It's nonsensical to teach the joys and blessings of the Kingdom to people who are foreigners, who are not truly adopted sons and daughters of the King. We have “Rich Young Rulers” filling our pews, except instead of alerting them to their unsaved condition, they are confirmed as legitimate followers of Jesus.
Those who are perverse, sleeping, unconcerned and driven by their flesh must have a shock come to their system! The fire from Heaven must consume them, but it's rare for a pastor to release that fire from the pulpit today. It's too risky. It's too costly.
Their eternal blood will be on the pastor's hands due to the failure to bring their rebellion and apathy to light. We need bold, confrontational messages today that strike us, break us and sear our flesh.
14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? Romans 10:14 (NKJV)
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)
TWO: Cultivate an Atmosphere of Holy Spirit Fire
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 (ESV)
Every meeting should be driven by the raging fire of the Holy Spirit. Cultivating a culture where bold, deep groans of intercession and praying in tongues is normal will have a clear result: those who are uncomfortable with an encounter with a very Holy Spirit will either repent or run.
I have often counseled pastors to bring this type of focus to their staff and leadership. Gather them to pray in tongues together for an hour a day and watch what happens. Staff members who are not on board with the vision, who are manipulative, who are functioning in Christian witchcraft and those who are gossips or resisters will be identified very quickly. When the Holy Spirit is present in such a deliberate and powerful way, impurities will be exposed. I also propose this type of environment be nurtured for the entire church body.
I heard in a message at church this morning that in the Assemblies of God, a historic movement that was shaped by revival and Pentecost, only 22% of people in their churches today have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues. How can this be?
Without this baptism of fire, oh my, the hope of living holy, obedient and fiery lives for Jesus is greatly and negatively impacted.
They are unable to build themselves up in the faith:
20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, Jude 1:20 (NKJV)
They are unable to pray the mysteries of God:
2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 14:2 (ESV)
They are unable to overcome their limited understanding when praying:
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. Romans 8:26 (ESV)
Those who don't live, walk and pray in the Spirit are disadvantaged significantly. This is why it's crucial for all Believers to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and to pray and groan in tongues daily! Doing so develops intimacy with Jesus. The prophetic in our lives intensifies. So do dreams and visions. Many will receive other gifts such as words of wisdom, words of knowledge, discerning of spirits, faith and more. And, most definitely, when the Holy Spirit is moving, the unholy won't be able to remain.
THREE: Revise How You Lead and What You Teach
The issue of salvation should be front and center week after week in the church. I'm not talking about simply giving the lost an opportunity to get saved. I'm referring to the sobering responsibility to lead the saints toward a successful transition into eternity.
Never presume someone is saved. Never confirm to them that they are. In fact, I never presume myself to be safe. It infuriates some that I would ever suggest that I or they may not retain our salvation. The great falling away will be very great. Enduring to the end is an intense and challenging call. Working out our salvation is a fearful thing.
Teach on holiness. Call people into obedience to the Word. Refute unbiblical grace theologies. Target the spirit of the age that has infiltrated so many in our churches. Expose the darkness of the media and entertainment that is being devoured by professing Christians without any concern whatsoever.
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Hebrews 10:26-27 (ESV)
29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:29-31 (ESV)
FOUR: Embrace Biblical Church Discipline
When is the last time you heard about someone being barred from the church for violations of Scripture that demand such action?
Failure to be faithful to the scriptural mandate to enact church discipline has resulted in compromised churches and a generation of people who are absolutely convinced they are saved, all while they are moving closer and closer to the fires of Hell.
Today unmarried men and women are living together, and they head to church together, hand in hand, each week, greeted by hugs and smiles. People who are consuming porn on Saturday are leading ministries on Sunday.
God is clear. We must purge those from among us who are sexually immoral, greedy or idolaters. We can't even eat with them.
In fact, turning them over to Satan is God's prescription in certain situations.
4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 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. 6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 1 Corinthians 5:4-6 (ESV)
We have entire churches that have been compromised because they are refusing to follow biblical church discipline protocols. This is extremely serious.
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 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. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (ESV)
In fact, it's not only sexual immorality or drunkenness or greed that we need to deal with. Check this out:
6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 2 Thessalonians 3:6 (ESV)
Those who are idle, lazy, not being productive as God has called them to be should be avoided as well. Why did I include this last verse? Well, first because it's in the Word. Second because I wanted to highlight just how serious God is about obedience and how we should respond to those who are in rebellion. Again, it's very serious.
Of course, when they are ready to repent, we run to them with open arms and welcome them back home!
19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20 (ESV)
So much focus is put on evangelism and people getting saved, while so little is put on staying saved. Failure in consecration and sanctification absolutely can impact justification.
Pastors, it's time to bring this issue front and center, and leave it there. Many under your care are in trouble. They are dying or dead spiritually and you haven't even noticed. That may be because your church culture is dead and they simply don't stand out. Or, it may be that your theology is off and that you believe salvation is easy and permanent. False-grace may have infected your ministry. You may have failed in the call to preach on the holiness of God. Hell and eternity may not be focuses as they should be.
I implore you to allow God to wreck you. Ask him to put the people in the church on your heart and intercede for them. Confront them. Challenge them. Awaken them. Eternity draws near.
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. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. 4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ Revelation 3:1-6 (ESV)
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.