Everything changes when we become radically devoted, raging on fire and deeply intimate with Jesus.
I’ve been asked countless times throughout my years of ministry, “John, how can I experience the miracles and wonders of God?”
People are so hungry and desperate for an encounter with deity! The zeal they have to escape the trappings of the world and to dive into the glories of God is intense, yet so many just can’t tap into that lifestyle. They find themselves gazing into the heavens and crying out, “God, where are you!”
My answer to these passionate people is not complicated. In fact, it couldn’t be more simple: Live holy and pray in the Spirit—a lot.
HEARING GOD IS THE GOAL
17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17 (ESV)
One of today’s greatest tragedies is being invited into to the depths of God and the supernatural realm he moves in—and declining. So many are crying out for God to manifest in the natural realm while he is calling us to manifest in his supernatural realm! There are wonders to behold when we live consecrated lives and pray on fire night and day!
Please hear me: You can begin your journey into the place where the Holy Spirit broods right now! In fact, I feel in my spirit as I write this to invite you to contend in prayer with me for just a moment:
Jesus, I decree in your magnificent name that the person reading this is free from disillusionment, disappointment and unbelief. I command, in Jesus’ name, that every haunting and taunting evil spirit to loose your grip and break away from them, right now! I declare wild freedom, joy and exuberant faith, NOW! Faith rise up! Zeal increase! Expectancy come! It’s time for them to step into the wonders of God! Amen!
As we eliminate anything that would hinder a walk in the Spirit from our lives, and develop a lifestyle of fervent, urgent and enjoyable intercession, both in our prayer closets and with other brothers and sisters, the heavens will open up over our lives.
It’s at this point that we will be able to start hearing God. I’m convinced the only way to consistently hear God’s voice is if we are living holy lives, walking in the Spirit and praying in the Spirit. However, the price is worth it. When God starts talking, everything in our live shifts dramatically! A prophetic force will radiate from within. Dreams and visions will become regular. We will be undone as a fresh revelation of the glory of God shocks and rocks us to the core!
Yes, when you start hearing God, everything changes. Read on for an important truth God revealed to me—a truth I could only receive because I had developed a life of supernatural prayer.
STOP! YOU’RE PRAYING WRONG!
That’s what God told me one day as I was in some deep prayer. I was currently working part-time at a call center. I had been fairly frustrated that I wasn’t able to leave that job so I could work full-time in the church I was planting in Manitou Springs, Colorado.
That day, I was praying from a place of frustration. “God, oh God, please grow the church! Let the finances increase! Please God!”
That was when, as clear as a bell, I heard God say, “Stop! You’re praying wrong!”
What? How could that be? I was praying so hard. As I walked around the 1000 square feet of sanctuary space in the early days of Revolution Church, I really felt like I was doing well. Didn’t God want the church to grow?
Then God said something I’ll never forget. “You are praying as if I’m resisting you. Don’t you realize I put those desires in your heart? Why are you begging me for a desire that I initiated? I gave you the desire in the first place!”
Wow! That ruined my whole perception of what prayer was! I had to think differently.
God then said, “There is one who IS resisting you though. The enemy doesn’t want these desires I placed in your heart to come to pass. It is the enemy whom you must fight.”
So, I launched into a new dimension of faith filled and violent prayer!
I felt impressed that God wanted me to practice this new revelation he gave me. He told me He wanted me to have more time to pray and initiate revival in the city. He wanted me to quit my job at the call center. I had captured the heart of God and I knew it was my turn to enforce His will. The enemy must move!
“In the powerful name of Jesus Christ, I command you devil to release! Get off of my schedule! I declare the heart of God is for me to quit my job and to advance His Kingdom full time in Manitou Springs! How dare you touch the plans of God!”
1 John 5:14-15 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
I prayed according to His will. He wanted me to work full-time in the ministry. One week later, as a church of about 35 people, we received a check in the Sunday offering for $50,000. The following week we received $25,000.
I was full time two weeks later.
That money was “more than enough.” We also used it to move into a 27,000 square foot building. God wanted us to have that all along. The enemy didn’t. I was praying wrong. I was praying as if the provision had to be coaxed away from God. In reality, God had already released it and I just had to go get it–and blast through the enemy’s resistance on the way.
Another story had an equal impact upon my life. I was again in a place of ‘frustration prayer’. I was crying out for needs to be met. I was banging on the doors of heaven in passionate prayer for finances, among other things. Once again I heard the voice of God deep within my spirit, “Your prayer is hindering you.” What? Did I hear correctly? God told me that my prayer in that moment was doing more damage than good. I should stop if I planned on continuing in that vein.
He then said, “Without faith it is impossible to please me.” He added, “Doubt in prayer will ensure that prayer goes unanswered.” Ok, He had my attention. I pondered this, and wrestled with these issues. I didn’t want to doubt. I wanted more than anything to be a man of faith. I wanted these pieces to fit together so I could arrive at some conclusion. God was telling me not to pray! Yet, I still had unresolved issues that demanded a miracle. Oh how alone I felt!
Then the answer came. God asked me why I was praying for something that was already promised in His Word. He has promised to supply all of my needs according to His riches in glory. The very act of asking God for my needs to be met revealed my lack of faith that it has already been done! I was attempting to convince God to do something that He already had resolved! My prayer evidenced my doubt which resulted in my prayer being unanswered!
The Bible reveals, as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. Doubt was in my heart. It also reveals that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. I was speaking unbelief. Finally, the Bible reveals that the power of life and death are in the tongue. The unbelief in my heart was manifesting as decrees of death over my finances! It would have been better if I didn’t pray at all!
Mark 11:24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
No begging, no coercing, no convincing, no doubting allowed in prayer!
James 1:5-8 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
I hear God and then declare how the situation must conform to His will. It turns us from a position of defeat and passivity to a position of victory and spiritual violence and powerful faith! We change from the afflicted to the afflicter!
If a church is small, does that mean God’s favor isn’t there or that the pastor has failed? Not always.
Given a choice, I’d attend a large, impactful and vibrant church. That’s simply a preference of mine, though I understand why many others prefer smaller churches. Additionally, given a choice, I’d prefer to lead a large, impactful and vibrant church instead of a smaller one. The key words are impactful and vibrant. Over nearly three decades of ministry, however, I’ve learned that large does not always equal successful, small doesn’t always equal failure and a lack of numeric growth doesn’t always equal stagnant. It’s time we overcome the stigma of the small church.
Like most young church planters or pastors, my vision for the church I was leading included explosive numeric growth. That seemed to be the non-negotiable, obvious part of the ministry plan that required no explanation. Starting and developing a church clearly demanded attracting people to the mission as a core strategy. In fact, the Ekklesia is defined by three distinct marks: People. Leadership. Instruction.
The Ekklesia is a gathering of people in the region under governmental authority in order to receive apostolic instruction. More simply, it’s people coming together under God ordained leadership to fulfill a mission. So, yes, people are needed if you want to lead a church.
Some of my most memorable church planting moments include an empty 700 square foot room in Manitou Springs, Colorado where I’d pray, usually alone, in the early stages of our church launch there. Eighteen years have passed and a lot of lessons have been learned, but those hours on my knees or pacing around that room were the foundation of my church planting experience.
I’ll eliminate the countless remarkable stories, miracles, supernatural encounters and other happenings that spurred the church development process, both there in Manitou Springs and also in Detroit where we planted our second church. I’ve written about these miracles and wonders in some of my books (www.burton.tv/resources), but suffice it to say, I’m humbled at how God moved. In fact, I’m stunned at just how much God did. I and many others will never be the same, and for all eternity we will be able to praise God for what he did in those seasons.
To this day I wonder if my two church planting exercises were massive tests—for me. I know for sure that both contained many tests, but my question is about the comprehensive experience. Did God call me to plant two churches mostly to develop me personally and to test my heart? Certainly there were enough stories of impacted lives to fill many books and countless articles, so I don’t question whether the ministry was legitimate or not. I’ll be forever wrecked by the transformation that resulted in people in those two regions, in those two seasons. Watching lives supernaturally transformed before my eyes caused tears to flow.
Yet, as God truly branded many people with his fire in those many years of ministry, I do wonder if God was mostly testing me. Would I be more interested in growing my legacy, my ministry, my church and my reputation—not to mention my bank account—or, was I truly in it for love and to minister to the heart of God?
In both Manitou Springs and Detroit we saw the churches grow. People to this day count those years among the best of their lives. God was drawing people together and we were contending for revival together.
In both Manitou Springs and Detroit, God tested my heart. It was difficult to say the least. Crushing even. To simplify what he was doing, he called us to go deeper and to raise the bar higher. The cost of consecration and the call to fervent intercession became a much greater focus (and we were already known for being an edgy, intense ministry). While we had amazing people in both churches, I knew the decision to become even more revival focused, even more intercession driven and even more devoted to a consecrated, holy lifestyle would result in many people disengaging. I knew it. I was troubled. God was calling me to “intentional failure.”
I’ll never forget the key moments in both places when God nailed me to the ground and directed me to surrender all, including my reputation. There were many cries and questions during the many hours of prayer in those two defining seasons in Colorado and Michigan. If I obeyed God and introduced a new wine, reformation church that was very unique and specific to our particular mission, those who were mostly invested in the church experience for reasons other than revival, reformation, intercession and revolution would most definitely jump ship. That would be almost everybody. Literally. No exaggeration.
I was right. That’s exactly what happened. I could have stayed the course and watched the churches continue to grow and “thrive,” possibly into several hundred in number. I have no doubt that I could have chosen growth over God, and that freaks me out. It would have been very easy to spiritualize my decision and avoid the pointed fingers and accusations of failure by continuing on the way we started. And I would have failed some of my most critical tests. I would have satisfied people and rejected God and the church would have grown. That is absolutely terrifying.
Attempting to transition a passionate, Spirit-filled, fiery church into a church that’s even hotter, more costly and one that results in a terrifying tremble in our spirits is not for the feint of heart. You see, there are many who absolutely love to warm themselves by the fire, but very few who are willing to lay across the fire as it consumes their flesh as a sacrifice to the one they love.
If small churches have a stigma attached to them, and failure has a stigma attached to it, failed churches most definitely have a stigma attached! But why?
Stop and think about it. Pastor, I want you to be free from the finger-pointing and cruel accusations if you struggle to grow your church or if you fail altogether. Has anybody figured out why failure in this manner is such a negative for some people? Failure in man’s eyes means little. The question is, are you growing in God? Are you truly obedient to God even if such obedience results in people presuming you are weak? (By the way, we are all weak!)
Here’s a portion of an article based on my book Piece of Cake, which deals directly with the stigma of failure:
One of the greatest fears man has is that of failure. It invites scrutiny, accusation and mocking—but society’s greatest leaders embrace a culture of failure!
The goal isn’t to look like you know what you are doing, the goal is to experiment, try, fail, try again, grow, have epiphanies, gain knowledge, fail again and ultimately succeed!
Success doesn’t develop experts nearly as well as failure does.
Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” (attributed to Thomas Edison)
If we understand the scope of our project, it’s actually quite insane to presume we will accomplish it without significant and repeated failures.
Yes, you are going to fail. Go ahead and wrestle with it now, you can’t avoid it. I don’t mean ultimate failure, of course. But, I do mean that you will pray much, do your best to gain insight from God, consider your best options, seek wisdom from others and then move out with at least a measure of confidence—and you will experience failure!
Failure should not intimidate you! People will presume you to be inadequate, confused or immature during your experimenting.
Most young ministers crave for others to see them as successful and steady with a pipeline directly into the command center of Heaven. The reality? We see in part. We understand little. We have clarity on a small part of the big picture, and when we initiate action, others will watch as we stumble and struggle. Are you OK with that?
THE STIGMA OF SMALL CHURCHES
I’ve heard it said that small is the new big. I believe that is true for many, though we have to be careful not to use that as a cop out. There are some leaders out there who have what it takes to grow a large church yet their lack of personal growth, faith and surrender is standing in the way. Small is the new big only if God has called a particular ministry to be small. There are a lot of silly excuses pastors give for having a small church, just as there are many compromises pastors make to have a large church.
I know we could have easily seen our churches grow moderately large, but I also know I’m probably not gifted enough to lead anything in the thousands. But, in reality, if I honestly analyze God’s mandate on my life, I may not be able to stay true to God’s call while leading more than a hundred—if that. Twice I have traded my ability to grow a church for God’s mandate for a small army of zeroed in warriors. You have no idea how thankful I am that I didn’t fail those tests (though I’ve certainly failed a bunch of other tests over the years! I’m thankful for God’s grace and mercy!).
Further, many pastors simply are not equipped or called to lead a large ministry, yet they expend ridiculous amounts of energy trying to fill the seats.
Pastors, if you have a small church, it could be that you aren't gifted to lead a larger one. God didn't give you that ability. Leadership doesn't come naturally to you. The quicker you can admit that, if it's in fact true, the quicker you can shift expectations and pivot into strategies that take advantage of what you are gifted at.
There's such a stigma regarding small churches. People presume them to be failures. Why is that? Numeric growth should not be the barometer of health and success.
The moment you realize it's okay to be small, the stress and pride and anxiety will fall off. Joy will return as you enjoy being who God created you to be.
The truly scary reality is that many people are naturally gifted to lead a large church or ministry, but God has actually called them to lay that on the altar—and they don’t. They can’t imagine the ridicule, the mocking, the accusation and the massive price that would come if they took their church in a direction that few would join them in.
In fact, I wonder how many mighty church growth visions are being fulfilled as Ishmaels instead of Isaacs. I propose churches all over the world be laid on the altar of sacrifice as God brings redefinition and redirection. The revival we are yearning for requires a sacrifice—a surrender of personal ambition and dreams of success. Put it all on the altar. It requires the church is birthed supernaturally, as Isaac was, not naturally as Ishmael was.
I often think about heroes like Leonard Ravenhill. I would imagine if Ravenhill had decided to start his own church, it would probably be initially well attended, and then a colossal failure. His rebukes of the church that he’s so well known for in his writings would most definitely drive the typical church goer away with mocking and accusations flying out of their mouths. You see, if he would have experienced failure such as this, it wouldn’t be his failure, it would be the failure of those who rejected the call to respond.
Leonard Ravenhill received a lot of criticism about his view of the church being weak witnesses for Christ. He sought to rekindle the fire of the church into the devotion that the first century church had. To him, the greatest tragedy was not sinful activities of the world; it was a sick church in a dying world and so he thought, “Save the church and you will save the world!” Leonard Ravenhill was an old time preacher that warned of the wrath of God, hellfire, heaven, the need for repentance, confession of sin, living a life of holiness. ~Jack Wellman
IF I DECIDED TO PLANT MY THIRD CHURCH
I’d encourage you to read an article I wrote about just what my third church plant might look like, should God direct me to launch one: What My Third Church Plant Might Look Like.
Here’s a portion:
We Will Be Intentionally Small
Understand, I'm someone who absolutely loves large-group meetings. I love praying and contending with thousands of people at various conferences and events. I also would have no problem with a church that does in fact explode in number as a result of revival. I believe we will see that.
However, after 26 years, much of that in pastoral ministry developing churches, I no longer value growing numerically for the sake of numbers. I don't get excited when more people show up, unless those people are hungry and ready to engage God with us at an extreme level.
I believe the sharp, offensive messages that will be preached, the call for 100 percent of the people to be invested in supernatural, fervent prayer and the extreme commitment necessary to advance apostolically will repel most people. Only a remnant will be left. It's with that remnant that we can preach what much be preached, pray what must be prayed and do what must be done to prepare a region for revival.
IT’S TIME FOR REMNANT CHURCHES—WHICH MEANS MOST CURRENT CHURCH MEMBERS WILL LEAVE
Large churches can be a serious threat to revival—or a great strength to revival. We cannot measure success by the number of people who are attending. We must measure by the number of remnant Christians who are fully devoted and being equipped and marked by God in the fires of intercession. Again, some leaders can gather a small group of firebrands and some can gather hundreds or thousands. The key is the temperature of the fire and the level of surrender. When the fire gets hot, many will leave.
We have too many churches filled with people who are marginally interested in a move of God. They would be counted among those who rejected the call to the Upper Room. Understand, what happened in that Upper Room resulted in the launch of the church. If we don’t see tongues of fire igniting above everyone in attendance, and we don’t feel the wind of the Spirit of God blowing through the place, we have to know our church is either compromised or not ready.
The call must be so severe that most people reject it. Hundreds rejected the opportunity to be a part of the Upper Room prayer meeting. Those who did respond changed the world and ultimately impacted billions.
So, yes, when I gave leadership to the churches in Manitou Springs and in Detroit, I was so hungry for God to move more in the region than in my own meetings that I refused to pursue church growth at the cost of obedience and the greater vision. Those were painful years that resulted in a lot of tears as people moved on to other places. Understand, I don’t blame these people. Many are great friends who simply had a different focus in their lives. It’s easy for us to presume such decisions are black and white, but they rarely are. People are at all different places in life, and sometimes one crazy and wild church may just not be what God has for them at that time. I understand that.
I blessed those who left, as difficult as it was to see them go, but I knew my heart was pure and my decision to contend for revival and God’s plan instead of growing my church was correct. Would I do some things differently? Of course. But, the final, big decision to say yes to God and no to personal ambition was the only decision that really mattered.
Simply do what God calls you to do. Period. It really is that basic. There are many pastors that would be better served entering the marketplace. Others need to come to terms with the size of their ministry. Others have to mature and develop before they will see the next level. But, don’t allow people’s analysis of your progress control you or impact you emotionally. People, even many Christians, love to capitalize on someone who is down, and they will use that opportunity to elevate themselves. Just let them. It’s okay. Love them and trust God. All eternity will be marked by the way you respond to people and challenges. It truly is a glorious thing to be free from the scrutiny of others as we allow the fear of the Lord to overcome us. He is truly a very good Father who is cheering you on, not stepping on your neck when you are down and broken.
Revival will both destroy and build up. Do we understand what we are signing up for?
Listen to a provocative podcast on this article:
Much of what people affirm in today’s church is going to be destroyed as revival breaks out. The call to consecration and extreme cost as opposed to personal comfort and ease will cause the majority to refuse participation in revival at even the most elementary phase.
Jeremiah 1:9-10 (ESV) 9 Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
The good news? We could see revival launch almost overnight—if we contended for it with passion and surrender.
If we cast the wrong vision for revival, which is quite common, we will experience disappointment or false starts. Even worse, we can become satisfied with something far inferior to what God has planned.
The easiest way to say it is this: The coming move of God won’t be defined by happy meetings where we enjoy an experience. That may be a very small part of what is coming, but it is not the goal.
Now, I will admit that I love great meetings. However, all to often they are self-focused instead of God focused. We have become drunk on experiences in the church and the pursuit of enhancements to our lifestyle.
I’ve hosted many amazing, anointed events over the years, and have enjoyed them immensely. But, we do have a problem. Time and again, I’ve watched seemingly zealous people flock to the experiential worship and personal ministry meetings, and then shrink back when the cross is preached. This is not a mark of revival, but rather of immaturity that can in no way bear the weight of the trouble revival will bring.
EIGHT REASONS REVIVAL IS NOT AS NEAR AS IT COULD BE
ONE: Negative messages are resisted.
Again, when revival breaks out it will not all be happy. In fact, we will most likely be in the midst of extreme crisis in our nation and the revival remnant church will be broken and grieved it intercedes for America. Sharp prophetic messages of correction and warning will be the backbone of the move, and it will be resisted and rejected by those who are not willing to bear the burden. Check out the first sermon that was preached in the outpouring in Acts 2:
Acts 2:22-23 (ESV) 22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
Peter refused to be nice. He ministered by accusing people of murdering Jesus, and the people were cut to the heart. The Acts 2 baptism of fire resulted in boldness and the ability to minister harsh truth in love. Today this is not the case. Revival ideas for most excludes troubling, heavy messages of the cross of Christ.
The warning about refusing to speak painful truth is severe:
Jeremiah 23:16-17 (ESV) 16 Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. 17 They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’”
TWO: Repentance and teaching on sin are unpopular.
Related to the first point, but important enough to warrant further discussion, focus on sin and repentance is nearly non-existent today. Historically, repentance has been the hallmark of every revival, and until we hit our faces in a culture of brokenness and repentance, we can’t presume to be anywhere near revival. Revival doesn’t only result in an awakening to the life of God, it’s provides a clear revelation of our own human condition.
Acts 3:19 (ESV) 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,
2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV) 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
“My heart aches for America and its deceived people…The wonderful news is that our Lord is a God of mercy, and He responds to repentance.” ~Billy Graham
“When he says America is in trouble, we have to repent…He’s (Billy Graham) gone through global wars as a spiritual shepherd. He’s seen a bunch of stuff and he’s saying America, ‘We have to repent.’ This may be our last chance to repent. We’ve turned away from God and God is just, loving and right to bring judgment.” ~Louis Cataldo
THREE: Prayer is nearly non-existent.
What does revival look like? Everybody praying. The primary purpose of the church will be reestablished in revival. For me, the first step and the goal in revival is the same—a prayer meeting. The church is to be a house of prayer for all nations, which means in revival we will all be fervent in intercession continually. Have you noticed how rare it is to find Christians who burn with a spirit of prayer? This is a problem. In Acts 2 the prescription for revival was simple—wait and pray. To think revival will break out when prayer isn’t the main thing simply doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t follow biblical protocol.
This is one reason I know we could experience revival nearly overnight if we wanted to. Since revival is a regional event, the regional church must participate—at least the remnant. What would happen if every church in the Detroit region cancelled every program, every ministry, every sermon for a year…and prayed in the Holy Spirit in its place? We’d have revival.
Acts 1:13-14 (ESV) 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
Personal death must be the goal if we want revival to come. The enemy is just fine with us going after an encounter without being disciplined in the Word. He knows those who are undisciplined will settle for what feels good, even if it’s contrary to truth. We need to be mature enough to know that revival may not look like a dance party, but rather it may result in a remnant on their face in tears with burdens and troubles burning in their spirits. True revival will see the true Christians in tears of both joy and grief.
We must be students of the Word, endure hardship and take up our cross. If we aren’t intentionally grounded, we will be tossed around by whatever feels good to us.
Ephesians 4:11-14 (ESV) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
I’m more convinced than I’ve ever been that the coming revival will actually be an underground movement of intercession minded people who are advancing the Gospel in the face of extreme crisis. It may be a terrorist attack, occupation of our nation by foreign armies or another traumatic event that results in consecration at a level we’ve never experienced. If happy meetings are your picture of revival, I challenge you to consider your position. It’s about to get extremely difficult.
Additionally, there is an ever increasing segment of Christianity falling for the deception that God no longer judges—and this means that those people will have no idea how to respond when judgment and revival come hand-in-hand. We will experience both God’s loving judgment and Satan’s hateful assaults against God’s people at the same time—and this will result in an awakened, revived church.
I was reading the book The Hiding Place by Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom, and God suddenly spoke to me, “Get ready.” It pierced me. Will there be an underground movement like hers in concentration camps? Will it be like the exploding Chinese church? I implore you—get ready. Now.
FIVE: Calls to consecration and holiness are rare.
Today, Christians are entertained by the sins that required the one we say we love to be tortured and murdered on a tree. To think we will have any part in revival with such a lifestyle is an indicator that we truly do not know who God is. He is holy. It’s time for a consecrated remnant to truly separate themselves from the world. Look nothing like it.
Joshua 3:5 (ESV) 5 Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.”
If we want wonders, consecration comes first.
SIX: We underestimate the scope.
First, we don’t understand just how deeply the pursuit of revival must impact our daily lives. The cares of life must be finally defeated as we allow God to tear into every part of our heart and call us into costly, time consuming devotion. We will be in church continually, in prayer and ministry, when revival hits. This means we must be in prayer and ministry continually now! I watched a video on the underground Chinese church that’s exploding, and they wake up every morning at 4:30am to gather together with the rest of the church and pray for two hours! I met a minister from Africa and he said the entire church walks for miles every Friday to gather together to spend the night in intercession! The cost is extreme!
Acts 2:44-46 (ESV) 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,
Second, we don’t understand the scope of the impact of revival. When revival truly hits, it won’t be a local event. It will impact the region. There are over 19,000 cities in the nation and NONE of them are experiencing the biblical normalcy of revival. Not one. Anything short of city impact can’t be defined as revival, or at least, it can’t be the goal.
In Detroit I will be encouraged but not satisfied when stadiums are filled with fiery intercessors. It will be a good start to full blown revival in this region.
SEVEN: There is confusion about salvation.
An offensive element will be connected to the next great outpouring. We are about to receive, through fire, a revelation of the coming reformation of the understanding of salvation. Gone are the days of easy salvations—the true cost of following Jesus will be made known. Most who would quickly sign up to follow Jesus will instead quickly reject him when the true cost is made clear. We have churches filled with Rich Young Rulers who have decided to follow Jesus—at their own pace—and have been affirmed by well meaning but terribly deceived leaders as being truly saved. Today there are millions who are following Jesus in an unsaved condition. Without intervention, they will be utterly shocked and confused to find themselves in Hell one day.
Matthew 19:16-26 (ESV) 16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Leonard Ravenhill said he doubts that 5% of professing Christians are in fact truly saved. If you have a church of 100, that might mean that five are saved!
The next revival will not allow for mass false-conversions. The call will be to come and die so that you may live.
Few leaders have the guts to preach in such a way that would result in casual church goers rejecting the message. However, the truth must and will be made clear before revival can come. A desire to burn in prayer will be one indicator of a legitimate conversion. Those who don’t desire to be with the God they presumably decided to follow can’t be affirmed in their position. Revival will result in prayer meetings replacing most everything, and those who are not in relationship with Jesus will be made known.
I boldly and without apology agree that a live devoid of prayer is a life that is, at best, in an at risk position in Christ. The first stop for new converts in the upcoming revival will be the prayer room. It will be their baptism into fervency and intimacy with Jesus—and their entire lives will be marked by an unending passion to intercede with Jesus.
EIGHT: We misunderstand the purpose.
The money changers tables were overturned violently by Jesus because of their heart. By their actions, they presumed the church to be a place where their personal gain was emphasized. They used the temple as they focused on their own welfare. Jesus would have nothing to do with it as he affirmed with passion the purpose of the church is to be a place of sacrifice.
Matthew 21:12-13 (ESV) 12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
Most people have the same mindset as the money changers when they think about revival. Here in Detroit, even those in the church often focus on financial revival as a prime goal. Others think about awesome meetings where their personal lives get better. The pursuits are most often self-focused.
The purpose of revival is not to make our lives better. It’s to glorify God and to reveal him to the world. It’s to calibrate Christians to biblical standards. It’s to break us, humble us and cause us to return the First Commandment to first place. When revival hits, we will suddenly find ourselves paying prices we have refused to pay—no matter the return. Pure obedience without measuring benefit to us will return to the church.
The return to burning love of Jesus and radical obedience will result in such deep transformation in the church and in our lives that our schedules, plans, dreams and life goals will suddenly shift. We will pay the price of prayer every day. We will live in glorious brokenness and humility. We will boldly declare the Word of God without reservation. We will change the world—all without thought to whether we like the services, feel anything or enjoy the process. We will be dead people raging on fire for Jesus—and the entire nation will know about it.
A revival culture is quite different than most realize.
The reformation that’s coming will be resisted by most—even by most who would say they are hungry for revival.
The surrender and work and trouble that’s required will cause those who are addicted to comfort and personal endeavors to stop well short of the mark.
I wanted to make it easy for people to understand what the vision at Revival Church is.
I want to answer the questions:
- What should I expect from the Revival Church experience?
- What should I not expect?
- What is the goal?
- What's expected of me?
- What are the core realities I should run with?
The entire vision is best viewed by reading 20 Elements of Revival. If it's in there, it's in our vision. But, it helps to narrow it down as well.
Here's what I came up with…it's still a work in progress, but I thought I'd let you take a look:
Revival Church Mission Statement
Revival Church exists to gather forerunners who are united in the mandate to initiate reformation in the church and revival in the region. As carriers of the fire of God, we are single-minded in our mission to rally a generation that will embrace the cross of Christ, pursue radical holiness, engage in fervent prayer, live a life of repentance and experience both the freedom and the fear of the Lord.
Revival Church Mission Strategy
Adapted from John Burton’s book 20 Elements of Revival, we rally around these revival strategies:
- Consecration: As a company of reformers we are alert and intentional in our mission. The call for all is to gather together continually, free of distraction, with surrendered hearts, in unwavering agreement and with an unusual investment of time, energy and passion.
- Fiery Prayer: The biblical church is a house of continual prayer, and we commit to upholding that standard. Every Christian has the sober responsibility and wondrous opportunity to pray in such a way that the fire of God burns night and day in our lives, our church, our region and the nations.
- Fear & Trembling: The fear of the Lord will always be before us. Brokenness and repentance is a continual reality in the resulting atmosphere that will facilitate a historic end-time revival.
- Culture shock: When truth is preached, religious spirits react and the hungry marvel. Comfort zones are threatened and personal endeavors are disrupted. In the fear of the Lord, we will prophetically decree shocking and liberating realities of the Kingdom of God.
- Wonders: A supernatural baptism of fire will hit all who have given themselves to Jesus without measure. Death to self, humility and a bold, burning spirit of prayer will open the door to a life of wonders!
The purpose of this is to help people understand what it really takes to see revival come. Of course, the above isn’t comprehensive, and it’s not meant to be. But, it does help people understand the foundations.
Let’s lock in and endure to the end together—it will be well worth it when the fire falls!