Much of the church has surrendered its mantle of prophet in exchange for the title of salesman.
Relevance. One could argue it makes sense to be relevant. We want people to have a legitimate, life-altering encounter with Jesus. He will reach people at the core of who they are, and they would absolutely confess their engagement with deity would be relevant. Jesus knows how to touch people's lives in exactly the right way.
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However, what most consider relevance in today's vernacular has resulted in a deviation from the hard-core, white-hot truth of Scripture.
Check out this definition:
rel·e·vance | \ ˈre-lə-vən(t)s practical and especially social applicability
To meet the demands of relevance, so much of today's church has dressed up Jesus, wrapped a bow around him and paraded him down the fashion runway in hopes that people will like his style, that he would be appealing, and sign on the dotted line of salvation. Their ultimate goal is for people to close their eyes, raise their hands and say a prayer that somehow seals their eternity with Jesus. Sadly, this method of evangelism has most probably resulted in millions of people following Jesus in an unsaved condition. There are many “Rich Young Rulers” out there who have been welcomed with open arms by today's preachers but who have not surrendered all.
Relevance has required that we lay down our mantle as a prophetic people who boldly preach soul-piercing truth in favor of the methods of a salesman. The result is innumerable people being added to an ever increasing lukewarm stew that will soon be vomited out of God's mouth. Relevance has neutered the church and has drained it of its power.
THE CHRISTIAN ROCK LESSON
Somewhere around 40 years ago, give or take a few, the phenomena of Christian rock emerged. As a youth pastor in the 90s, I preached multiple times about Christian rock, and the risk it presented. My belief is that music was never intended as an evangelism tool. Christian rock violated the original purpose of music as God intended. Music in it's purest form is anointed, glorious worship. Personally, my life is strengthened when I pump my spirit full of supernatural music that's devoted to exalting God. I'm listening to some old school Vineyard music from the 90s as I write this. (It doesn't get much better than that!)
The fruit of this spiritualized, worldly amusement includes a Christian culture that has no issue with secular music today. Pastors and worship leaders are often drawing from that ungodly well, giving no thought to the source of their entertainment. Add to that immoral movies, television and online media, and you have a compromised church that has lost its oil, if not its lamp stand.
As a youth pastor, intense worship, powerful deliverance, baptisms in the Holy Spirit, fervent prayer and visitations of God marked our culture. We had no need or desire to tone things down in the hopes that people would give a thumbs up to an altered form of Jesus and jump on board. While we must weep and mourn when people reject Jesus, we must also allow them to walk away if they aren't interested in surrendering all, signing up as martyrs and truly following God on his terms.
Attempting to sell the “Christian thing” with movie nights, parties, skits, ice-breakers, “Christinized secular music” and other attempts at relevance are foolish at best, devastating at worst. Hit your face, tremble under the weight of the Holy Spirit, get saturated with his glory and then worship and preach on fire—and watch those who are truly hungry rush in.
SEEKER SENSITIVE EVERYTHING
Additionally, the primary church service wasn't meant to be an evangelism tool. Yet, we have all watched seeker-sensitive churches emerge and thrive as prayer and the activity of the Holy Spirit took a back seat to coffee, music and human interest stories from the platform.
We must see the invisible, supernatural realm manifest in the earth again! We have become experts at using psychological, sociological mind-tricks in an attempt to connect with people and to compel them to consider Jesus. The seeker sensitive train wreck has impacted nearly every corner and crevice of today's church as we attempt to sell Jesus, sell our church and sell salvation.
What happened to revival? What about the indescribable glory of God that should be flooding our churches? Where are the manifestations? Tongues of fire? In most churches, quenched. All of it. Why? Because it's not relevant according to the expectations of today's culture. Manifestations of the Holy Spirit irritate the pretenders in the church and repel the mockers outside the church. Instead, many church leaders have adopted an often “successful” model of ministry that fills the seats while dumbing Jesus down and deeming the church impotent.
WE ARE NOT SALESMEN!
We need preachers who have the unction of the Holy Spirit in their gut and the fire of Holy Spirit in their mouths!
Our goal is not to rack up points for every soul “saved.” We must present truth and make it hard, not easy, for people to decide whether they want to follow Jesus or not.
Jesus died for you, what else could you want? That's a legitimate evangelism question. You see, none of us have bargaining power. We don't have leverage. We can't haggle. We don't have the option of jumping in at a lesser level. Without Jesus, we will be tortured and tormented every second of every day for ever and ever. We don't have a say in how we connect with Jesus. It's everything or nothing. It's full surrender or no surrender. It's radical repentance or no repentance. It's all or nothing.
I explained the extreme cost of following Jesus to a co-worker many years ago. I revealed the difficulties and the glories. I highlighted the issue of sin, God's solution and the permanence of eternity. I made it clear that life would be more challenging than he could ever imagine should he follow Jesus. Many friends may leave him. He might be lonely. His life of darkness would have to be abandoned. The love of God and the severity of God was presented unapologetically.
You see, I was honest with him. I didn't hold back. I revealed the indescribable invasion of life that Jesus alone can bring, but I didn't parade Jesus as a spectacle, as someone other than he truly is. I certainly didn't want it on my record that I led someone into an illegitimate relationship with Jesus. He understood without question what it was to follow Jesus. His response to me was equally honest. He said, “I just can't do that right now. I don't want to surrender my way of life to follow Jesus.”
I honored him for his honesty and let him know that Jesus was pursuing him. I pray he ultimately made the right decision and is an on-fire disciple of Jesus today as I believe the Holy Spirit used me to present to him a solid foundation to start from.
WHOLESALE CHANGE OF OUR MINISTRY METHODS
It's beyond time that we learned the Christian rock, seeker sensitive lessons. We are not of this world. We should stop mimicking it. We are aliens. We need an Area 51 experience as a curious people flock to look at the spectacle of an alien culture that doesn't try to blend in to society. Revival will do that. In Acts chapter two, many people marveled and many mocked when they saw the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. They were provoked by the aliens.
If you truly want to win the lost, then do away with delusions of relevance. Preach on fire. Pray on fire. Evangelize on fire. Worship on fire. Do everything on fire! We need to turn the temperature up, not down, when attempting to reach the lost. Too many have built a bonfire where people can warm their flesh when God has called us to surrender fully to the refining fire, to lay across it and die.
12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” Acts 2:12-13 (ESV)
The church has been duped by a wicked and crafty culture.
The world is boldly and unapologetically preaching it's version of truth to the church, demanding compliance, and it has successfully caused change in theologies, church mission statements and a large segment of the body of Christ. In fact, the spirit of the age is working hard at redefining love in the minds of many Christians. Anything short of tolerance and everything smelling of judgment are branded as pure and utter hatred. Again, Christians by the millions are falling for the deception and the fiery unction of the Holy Spirit has been shut down in their lives.
I'll make the point of this article clear:
God still judges today and we desperately need his loving judgment. We also need preachers, prophets and Christians everywhere to rise up with fire in their veins and a steel rod in their backs and confront sin, renounce wickedness and expose the darkness in the land.
WE NEED JUDGMENT IN AMERICA TODAY
I've written on this topic before, yet it seems the church is slipping further and deeper into the tainted theology the world is promoting today. The no judgment zone is expanding and anybody who violates it is immediately renounced.
Can you imagine parenting without any form of judgment? It's ridiculous to consider. Can you imagine a workplace without any repercussions for violating company rules? How about a government with no judges and no judgments? It would result in anarchy and absolute disinterest in justice as the thugs run free. On the contrary, we celebrate justice and are thankful when rapists, killers, shoplifters and reckless drivers must stand before a judge and be held accountable for their crimes. Yet, many in the church are tragically renouncing justice (judgment) in the context of our modern Christian experience.
We can trust God's judgment. We need him to make wrong things right. Our nation is spiraling out of control. We must not take his demands lightly, and the fear of the Lord must strike the church and our nation again.
I wrote an article titled, “Revival or Judgment: Is God About To Move Positively Or Negatively?” for Charisma Magazine several years ago. Check this out:
“Then the trees of the forest will ring out before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth. Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy endures forever” (1 Chr. 16:33-34).
We should be singing for joy regarding His judgment!
Let me make something clear right up front—judgment isn't the result of an evil God doing evil things. Judgment is a vehicle used by a loving God to positively impact those who will respond (though the impact will certainly be negative for the rebellious). Judgment is an act of deep love. It has to be, as God is love just as He is the Judge. He doesn't lay down love when He moves in judgment and He doesn't forsake justice when He pours out His love.
We as end-time Christians should be ardent supporters of God's judgment, of His act of love.
Many who have a distorted view of biblical grace have adopted an unbiblical “God is always in a good mood” mindset, diminishing him to a passive, disconnected and nonchalant personal buddy instead of a good yet fearful Master. They have created a mythical image of a god that is more appealing and less severe than the Lord truly is.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. Romans 1:18 (ESV)
If you continue reading in Romans chapter one, you will see God's judgment in action:
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. Romans 1:28 (ESV)
If that isn't judgment in the New Covenant, I don't know what is. What follows reveals God's severity against sin as well.
29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,
30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,
31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:29-32 (ESV)
AN EASILY OFFENDED PEOPLE ARE MUZZLING THE PREACHERS AND PROPHETS
Today's society has gone mad. It takes little more than a sideways glance to trigger people and send them crying and accusing and attacking. The #nojudgment hashtag is a warning to all who engage with today's social media posts to step cautiously in conversation and to avoid sharing personal and biblical convictions. They'd rather remain imprisoned to their passions than be confronted with truth.
It's time for the preachers to preach again! We must rip into the vile behaviors and paradigms that are destroying our nation and infecting the church. Today's Christians have become so timid in response to the demonic indoctrination of the world that they refuse to stand boldly against sin out of fear of being branded as haters, judgmental or religious. They have become psychologists and sociologists instead of piercing mouthpieces of God, attempting to soften their delivery from a place of overreaching sympathy instead of simply preaching truth and calling sin what it is—sin.
I want to encourage you to follow The Activist Mommy. She is fearlessly, humbly and powerfully standing against the putrid wickedness in our nation. When our preachers go silent, thank God we have “mommies” like Elizabeth Johnston who will rise up with conviction, passion and anointing. What God has judged as good and evil is clearly being revealed through this woman of God.
We need to understand that God is still a righteous judge, and it's our job as Christians to reveal this reality to the world. We absolutely need hellfire preachers again! His wrath remains on the lost, and they are in grave danger, yet we have been muzzled, paralyzed, unable to speak, disallowed from pointing this truth out to them. We are haters if we do.
Yes, we need hell fire preaching in the church again.
It's also true that God is longsuffering, but only He knows how long his suffering will be. The full force of his wrath will be released one day, and many lesser though terrible judgments will come before that happens. ~Is It Time For Hellfire Preaching Again, John Burton
36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. John 3:36 (ESV)
Ephesians 2:3 also clearly communicates that the lost are children of wrath. God's wrath remains on the lost. His judgment remains on both the lost and the saints.
When we see culture diving deeper into wickedness, we must understand this is God's judgment in action. In Romans we see God giving people up to the lusts of their flesh. He gave them up to dishonorable passions. He ultimately gave them up to a debased mind. This is judgment.
Further, God's judgment isn't restricted to the world. It actually begins in the church. While true Christians (who are much fewer in number than professing Christians) are not under God's wrath, we are all subject to his judgment. The two are not one in the same.
We must have burning prophets arise who will fearlessly call out professing Christians who are dabbling casually in sin. It is wisdom to embrace God's judgment. It's foolishness to minimize it, or worse, to reject it as no longer in effect.
Today, a large percentage of professing Christians (and pastors) regularly view pornography (per a Barna report). The statistics are astounding. Many more watch movies and television with inappropriate language, sexual innuendos, nudity and other debauchery without even the slightest concern. This is not a sick and twisted world I'm referring to, it's a sick and twisted church, and the preachers have gone silent. These people are at risk of judgment, and they must be warned.
I'll never forget the time a pastor told me that foul language doesn't bother him. F-bombs and other filth are no big deal to him. I felt sick and angered, and I wondered just when it became more important to consider what's a big deal to him instead of what's a big deal to God. We must see God's judgment come to the church, and fast.
We need preachers to reveal clearly what the Word of God judges as holy and unholy, as truth and error. Those who practice sin are in serious trouble as the judgment of God hangs over them. Without a preacher, how will they hear, and respond, and repent?
2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.
3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?
4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:2-4 (ESV)
Pastors are refusing to confront culture, sound alarms or to address today’s political crisis—and it may be time for them to step down.
17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals. 1 Kings 18:17-18 (ESV)
God is raising up a new generation of bold, prophetic messengers who are fearless, broken and undone by the weight of what’s happening in our world. They couldn’t care less if people leave churches they minister in. They aren’t looking for accolades or book deals. They are criers in the wilderness, a new breed of burning ones who aren’t into building churches, but they are very much into confronting culture and shocking the nations with prophetic unction.
We need bold, confrontational leaders formed after the spirit of Elijah, people who are commissioned and unafraid to expose the wickedness in the land. Sadly, it’s rare to find men and women of God like this today.
You can listen to a podcast on this topic here:
Though I’m going to share seven reasons pastors are refusing to confront culture or to dive into politics from the pulpit, the honest truth is that I am so disturbed that I even have to write about this. How can supposed men and women of God just go on teaching generic Sunday School style messages every Sunday morning when the escalating crisis in the world demands an immediate and Spirit-led response?
Pastors, it’s time to repent for your silence—or step aside!
Repent from your tired, unimpressive and self-centered attempts to grow your church. Repent from being a wordsmith instead of a prophet. Repent from being careful when you are called to risk everything. Repent from keeping people happy and controversy at bay. You have lost your voice!
Pastors, if you don’t have a prophetic voice, you don’t have a ministry.
We live in a day where babies are being butchered and many people are campaigning for the slaughter to be extended to those who survive the womb. Homosexual activism has muzzled so much of the church as they force their vile beliefs on us. Pornography and human trafficking are destroying millions. Where is your response?
“If Thou canst do something with us and through us, then please, God, do something without us! Bypass us and take up a people who now know Thee not!”― Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries: A Classic on Revival
7 REASONS PASTORS ARE SILENT IN A WICKED CULTURE
ONE. Fear of man
5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:5 (ESV)
Fear of man is possibly the most obvious reason, though I don’t believe it’s the greatest reason in most cases. However, it’s true that many pastors do fear confrontation. They lack confidence in their ability to tear down arguments and to advance with boldness. It’s the Holy Spirit that enables this boldness, and, sadly, it’s true that many pastors are not filled to overflowing with the activity of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
It’s also true that many pastors are muzzled by their boards, elders and others who exhibit control in the church. It can be easy to succumb to the demands and expectations of those and others who have the ability to make life difficult if the pastor doesn’t move in the direction they expect.
The opposite of the fear of man just very well may be the fear of the Lord. Where is the tremble in our pulpits today? Where is the troubling, weighty terror of God in our churches? What will it take for the fear of man to be displaced by fear of the Lord? It’s embarrassing that there is so much fear of man, that pastors today are working overtime to keep the peace, instead of calling people into a place of urgent response to a threatening, deadly spirit of the age.
The sword will divide, and those who are bound by fear of man will keep that sword in their sheath, if they possess one at all.
“A man who is intimate with God is not intimidated by man.”― Leonard Ravenhill
TWO. Fear of loss
24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” Matthew 27:24 (ESV)
I believe the fear of loss is an even greater motivator for pastors to keep their mouths shut than the fear of man is. Today we have pastors who are wordsmiths instead of prophets, people who are experts at framing their words in such a way that no possibility of offense or disagreement is there. They are keenly focused on being balanced, avoiding controversy and developing a happy, encouraging atmosphere in the church that helps ensure there is no loss. People remain in their seats, money keeps coming in and everybody is happy.
Pilate would have given different leadership if the threat of riots and of losing his position and influence weren’t there. He surrendered because he feared loss. While it might be quite offensive to compare a pastor to the man who turned Jesus over for death, we have to honestly consider the scenario. Instead of doing the right thing, Pilate caved. Pastors are turning on Jesus all too often today by rejecting his directives as they would prove to be too costly. Great loss would certainly come.
Pastors are right. The moment they actually have a strong opinion and take a strong position on a controversial topic, they absolutely will experience pruning.
While there are some absolutely amazing churches out there, in most churches you won’t hear messages that cause any problems with your theology, cause offense or provoke you in any way. When is the last time you heard a message about abortion, homosexuality, pornography or other cultural issues? When is the last time your pastor has pierced the atmosphere with prophetic unction in response to something happening in our society? In some churches it happens. In most it does not. Why? Fear of loss. Pastors can’t afford to lose people, money or their dream of a happy, growing church.
THREE. They have no prayer life/prophetic unction
Pastors who don’t pray two hours a day aren’t worth a dime a dozen. ~Leonard Ravenhill
This one is obvious and easy. If pastors are not spending time in the fires of intercession, they simply will not be alerted to much of anything in the spirit. On the contrary, it’s absolutely impossible to live in the prayer room and not hear God’s voice and to discern the crisis in the land.
Spending hours in that place of prayer will result in a burning and an inner tremble that will result in a cry and a shout and a decree from the pulpit on Sunday morning. There will be a fierce spirit that won’t be silenced. The fear of man becomes laughable. Fear of loss is a willing price to pay. Their passion is no longer building their own dream but rather becomes all about being a voice in the wilderness, tearing down strongholds and refusing to be muzzled!
Peter went from a man driven by fear to a fearless wonder, coming out of ten days in the prayer room and carrying a Pentecost fire that would not be ignored.
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. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. Acts 2:22-24 (ESV)
FOUR. They misunderstand the governmental purpose of the church
Ekklesia: A governmental gathering under apostolic leadership
I have long been frustrated at the misunderstanding of the purpose of the church that is epidemic today. The key, foundational purpose of the church is to be a house of prayer for all nations. Further, the ekklesia is a governmental gathering. Under apostolic leadership, the church is called to be a governing force in a city.
Sadly, many pastors and people presume the church to be little else than a place to meet together, to sing and learn and to involve themselves in various ministries, programs and projects. Of course, there are many supplemental ministries and projects that are absolutely appropriate and valuable, but they can never supersede the primary call—to pray and govern.
Pastors should absolutely be responding to the crisis in the land as they are the ones who have been commissioned to do so! They have been authorized, ordained, anointed and given a mandate to invade the darkness and command in the spirit!
FIVE. They want to stay out of politics
28 …“We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. Acts 5:28-29 (ESV)
Many pastors reveal they intentionally stay out of politics. Often they communicate this as if they are operating in some form of wisdom or caution, when in reality they are abdicating their responsibilities.
We are called to legislate. We are called to govern. If the church is a governmental agency, as I shared in the previous point, it makes absolutely no sense that pastors would not address political issues in the nation. Often a desire to avoid politics has to do with fear of man and fear of loss. They understand the moment they get political is the moment they draw a line in the sand. We need leaders, not managers. We need people who will boldly draw that line and make it very clear that they won’t be stopped as they deal with the crisis at hand.
We wouldn’t be as concerned about finding the right candidate for office, whether it’s mayor of the city or President of the United States, if our church leaders had some guts and gave political leadership themselves.
Peter responded to politics just as we must. We must obey God rather than men.
SIX. They just want to preach the bible
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22 (ESV)
It sure sounds spiritual to say they just want to focus on the Bible, but it’s not possible to only do that. You can’t simply preach the Bible and ignore what’s going on in culture. What do you do with all the accounts of the apostles and others who confronted culture, wickedness and the spirit of the age?
If they are preaching and teaching the Bible then they must model their lives and ministries after the people they are studying. We need pastors with the spirit of Elijah. Where are those who lead like Gideon and tear down ungodly cultural altars?
We must, without question, not only be hearers but also doers. If these heroes of the faith confronted culture, than we must as well.
SEVEN. Wrong theologies and a culture of positivity
“One of these days some simple soul will pick up the book of God, read it, and believe it. Then the rest of us will be embarrassed.”― Leonard Ravenhill
There are streams today that only focus on what is positive and encouraging. They presume to find strength there and it gives license to ignore the negative and troubling issues of the day.
These are false-grace tainted doctrines and they are a threat to the call for the church to go on the offensive against wickedness in the world.
We need prophetic leaders who will speak with unction and with fire in their guts, people who will aggressively assault the kingdom of darkness and deal directly with the great evil that’s increasing in power.
PROPHETIC VOICES RISE UP
The days of carefully guarding our churches, salaries, security and reputations are over. It’s time to let churches die if necessary. We need prophetic voices behind the pulpits, people who will scare away the pretenders and provoke the sleepers and confront the wickedness that is among us.
The demonic hoard that has been released upon the world have been mostly uncontested. Their threats have gone unmet. We need governmental leaders in churches to finally stand firm for truth and to tear down arguments and altars with no thought of their own safety or well being.
Pastors must allow God to awaken them to the call to regional revival.
I regularly hear from people who are done with church, are frustrated with church leadership and are ready to abandon the weekly gathering, if they haven’t done so already.
I agree that there are significant issues. However, I relentlessly support God’s ordained leaders and encourage as many as I can to stay connected in life-giving churches. Now is not the time to abandon ship, even if we agree that reformation is necessary. This reform must come from within. The new wine skin is coming, and we need everybody in position and ready to serve the revival that results.
Since it’s critical for everybody to remain locked in to their assignments in this “all hands on deck” season, we need today’s leadership to shift toward the apostolic and become more regionally minded than locally minded.
SIX WAYS PASTORS ARE HINDERING REVIVAL
ONE: They don’t pray.
So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:2-4 (NIV)
The daily schedule for pastors should be mostly devoted to fervent intercession and study of Scripture. Sadly, most pastors don’t even lead corporate prayer meetings much less hide away in their prayer closet.
There is no way they can discern the spirit of revival if they aren’t given to a life of intensity in prayer. It’s extremely easy for me to discern whether the spirit of prayer and the spirit of revival is in a church. I travel all over the nation and I explode with life when I walk into some sanctuaries that have been bathed in prayer. You can feel the tangible presence of God. You are impacted by the weighty atmosphere that could only be the result of a praying pastor.
Praying pastors can’t help but to weave Holy Spirit fueled intercession throughout the Sunday service. Tongues of fire rest on top of the congregation, groans erupt from the saints and people are laid out all over the room. Not only does a praying pastor refuse to shut down such an atmosphere, he initiates it. God’s presence becomes a key driver of their ministry, and the goal changes from church growth or visitor attraction and assimilation in their local church to a raging fire in their region. If the pillar of fire emerges in a local church across town, the revival-minded, intercession-driven pastor will cancel everything at his home base to lead the people into the presence of God in the region.
TWO: They don’t embrace the prophetic.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 (ESV)
Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:1 (ESV)
Too often pastors are leading their local churches logically, using church growth methods instead of facilitating a prophetic culture. It’s one thing to point your ship in the direction you want it to go. It’s something altogether different to put up your sails, allowing the wind to take you where it wants to go.
We must hear God’s voice continually in our churches and the pastor is the one to encourage the growth of prophetic ministry. God will connect pastors with prophets (and other offices) so God’s specific mandates can be heard and heeded. Additionally, every person in the congregation must be equipped and released to prophesy. If a vibrant prayer culture has been developed in the church, you won’t be able to keep people from releasing oracles from Heaven! God will be continually communicating to everybody!
THREE: They don’t release people to follow the fire.
And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. Exodus 13:21 (ESV)
It grieves my heart and I’m certain the heart of the Lord when pastors refuse to release people under their care to follow the fire. The call of the church is to equip disciples and then to release them! We as leaders should have open hands, not tight fists. If a move of God launches in another church in the city, the pastor absolutely must encourage people to run to the outpouring! Better yet, he should be leading the way!
God will move geographically, and the fire most likely won’t ignite in your church, even if you are contending for it. If the outpouring is elsewhere, if you hold any value for revival, you will drive every day to that pillar of fire with a convoy of your congregation following behind!
FOUR: Their focus is on building their own ministry instead of the regional church.
…if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV)
It’s time to stop expending energy mostly on building local ministries to the detriment of the regional church. It’s good and right to develop what God has given us to steward, and it’s right to have vision, even locally. However, the end goal must not be local church growth. It has got to be a regional outpouring. God will heal the land, the region, not the local gathering.
It’s time we start hearing pastors crying out for a move of God in their city versus in their local church. If the prophetic ministry is sharp and active, you will hear words that focus on God’s plans for the city much more than you will his plans for the local church.
FIVE: Their focus is on attracting seekers instead of training and releasing disciples.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, Ephesians 4:11-12 (ESV)
Numerical church growth in our American church culture has overtaken more important goals. It’s true that everything healthy grows, but sometimes the growth is deep instead of wide. The strategy of local churches must shift from growing in number to training remnants in prayer, ministry, revival and leadership. Then, the goal is actually to shrink in number instead of growing in number as these disciples are released as apostolic men and women of God.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that the local church can’t still grow. It can, but it’s not a metric to be measured. It’s simply the overflow of an effective ministry that is regionally focused, prayer-driven and discipleship-minded.
SIX: They overestimate their role and leadership ability.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)
Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. Exodus 18:21 (ESV)
This one might sting.
Most pastors don’t have the God given ability to lead a regional revival. They have been called to nurture a small group.
God will raise up a leader or leaders who have the gifting to apostolically give leadership to a massive movement, and it’s important that everybody else in the city assumes their positions in support of the revival.
During an outpouring in Detroit several years ago, I was honored to be asked to lead the prayer emphasis. I wasn’t called to host the revival in my church, so I led the charge as many in my church drove 45 minutes every night to the outpouring. The fact that I wasn’t asked to lead, or that my church wasn’t the focus, or that any of the offerings weren’t coming to me, didn’t bother me in the least. How could it? I was in an outpouring!
In the city church, when a regional outpouring hits, God will utilize the willing pastors in the city in various roles. Humility will be required. Jealously will have to be killed. If that doesn’t happen, the revival is sure to die out as fast as it ignited.
The blood of Jesus doesn’t grant us immunity. It grants us authority.
The rise of the unbiblical false-grace message has had predictable results: Christians are increasingly dabbling in darkness in the name of freedom. Those in that camp wrongly presume their casual response to sin has no consequences and that God’s love will cover every iniquity.
My recent Charisma News article on the dangers of engaging in cultural wickedness resulted in some Christians reacting in disagreement. Many vehemently resisted the idea that we should have any measure of concern about participating in Halloween due to our position in Christ—a position they believe cannot be compromised no matter how we behave. However, this emerging false principle reaches far beyond whether we should go trick or treating or not. Our entire lives are at risk the moment we dismiss caution regarding the unholy.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)
This unbiblical, permissive principle that laughs at concern over evil in our culture gives license to careless playing with darkness. As a result, the aggressive defense against calls to separation and consecration very often comes in the form of an accusation. They presume to be standing for liberty and against religion as they boldly accuse messengers of holiness of legalism.
I actually believe it’s a severe offense to the cross when we reject calls of consecration in the name of freedom. This liberal position of casual unrighteousness is gaining wide acceptance in the Charismatic world. Instead of exposing the darkness, the evil in the land is resulting in a collective yawn.
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Ephesians 5:6-10 (ESV)
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. Ephesians 5:11-12 (ESV)
The argument is that we as Christians should never be afraid of repercussions from entertaining worldly elements in our culture. After all, perfect love casts out all fear, right?
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18 (ESV)
Perfect love doesn’t automatically manifest simply because we are saved and that we have a connection with Jesus. Not even close. Perfect love produces evidences and one of those evidences is a repulsion of anything that is unholy.
I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O LORD, I will make music. I will ponder the way that is blameless. Oh when will you come to me? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. Psalm 101:1-3 (ESV)
Perfect and steadfast love, as declared in the above passage, results in worship of God AND living a blameless life. We won’t put anything worthless, or anything wicked as the Kings James Version puts it, before our eyes. We will have a hatred of anything unholy and will do all we can to ensure it doesn’t cling to us.Sadly, instead of hating the wickedness in our culture, many are working hard to validate their “innocent” participation as proof of their freedom. The result? Wickedness is clinging to them as they bring dishonor to the God they say they love. Deception is running rampant.
WHAT ABOUT THE BLOOD?
Many presume the mere act of repeating a prayer and inviting Jesus into their life makes them bulletproof. The idea is that a revelation of the power of the blood will result in a confidence that we are untouchable by the enemy. Thus, we can have no concern regarding our behaviors, what we are entertained by or the growing darkness in the land. We can participate without fear. Friend, that is a gross misunderstanding of liberty, love and fear.
Others have accused preachers of righteousness of inciting fear in people when they talk about the consequences of participating in worldly entertainment such as Halloween, immoral movies and television and music. The truth is that ungodly fear of the enemy is an expected result if we are aligning ourselves with him. The warning is to resist the devil, not to ignore him. If we resist, we can walk free from fear. However, if we ignore the enemy or dismiss worldly attractions as benign, we open ourselves up to a very real nightmare. We can’t embrace evil and avoid fear. It’s not possible.
If we are entertaining demons and the evil that demanded the slaughter of Jesus, we can be sure our love has not been made perfect. Further, we can have confidence that access to our lives has been granted to very evil beings.
The blood of Jesus absolutely does not grant Christians immunity from attack or from the influences of evil that we open our lives to. The blood of Jesus grants us authority to pierce the darkness as we live consecrated, blameless lives of perfect love.
Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live, but he who pursues evil will die. Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the LORD, but those of blameless ways are his delight. Proverbs 11:19-20 (ESV)
Our connections, or alliances, or permissions can make us extremely vulnerable. They result in open doors for the enemy to access our lives.
A very important question comes from the Bible: Can two walk together, except they be agreed? Amos 3:2-3 (KJV)
The moment we roll our eyes at those who are making calls for holiness is the moment we become aligned with evil. Further, our agreement with the enemy and his plans of destruction result in a hand-in-hand walk with him. We become partners. We further his cause while we shout freedom from the rooftops and mock those who are exposing the darkness.
No, the blood of Jesus doesn’t grant us immunity. But, if we walk in authority the power of the blood is beyond our ability to imagine! Sin is eradicated in a moment. Disease is healed, demons are cast out and people are transformed for eternity!
HOUSE CLEANING AND DELIVERANCE
I’ve been involved in some incredible deliverances and house cleanings over my 25 years of ministry. I absolutely love it when I can participate in ministering freedom and deliverance to people who are bound up by the enemy.
Some amazing Christian people have been unable to break free until they went through deliverance or until they invited people to pray through their house. One person actually removed twelve large trash bags full of items from their home after such a ministry session with my wife and me. The items were acting as curses upon them simply because they brought them into their homes.
Others eliminated movies and other media from their DVR or devices that were resulting in oppression and demonic activity.
In fact, over twenty years ago I sat down to watch a very popular movie at the time, Silence of the Lambs. Common spiritual sense should have made it clear that I shouldn’t watch such a movie. Nevertheless, I did, and in the middle of it the Holy Spirit spoke very directly to me: John, you have to turn this off.
Some time went by and my new wife and I were vacationing in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. One night in the hotel I was exhausted and decided to go to bed early. As I was drifting to sleep I noticed my wife decided to watch Silence of the Lambs. I saw that it was on network television, so it was the “sanctified” version. I wasn’t too concerned and I fell asleep quite quickly.
I suddenly started dreaming, if you can call it that. It was real and it was pure evil. I couldn’t breathe as the demonic atmosphere overwhelmed me. In the dream I was in the same bed, in the same hotel room as I was in reality. I looked over and saw my wife next to me. She was watching Silence of the Lambs.
I then started levitating above the bed and was maneuvered above my wife. Somehow I had a very large knife in my right hand. As I was convulsing due to the inability to breathe, I took the knife and violently advanced against my wife with the intent to murder her.
Then I woke up.
My wife was extremely disturbed as she was shaking me awake. She told me I was convulsing and aggressive. Nothing like that had ever happened to me and it was disturbing.
As I came to, Silence of the Lambs was still on the television. I told her to turn it off immediately.
The room was filled with the thickness of demonic activity. Now awake, I could still barely breathe. The evil we somewhat unwittingly invited into the room had taken up residence.
Now, remember, my wife and I were blood-bought, Spirit-filled Christians. We were not immune to the attack of the enemy that we invited into our lives by watching that video. We opened the door and gave Satan authority to move in.
After turning off the television, we didn’t rely on immunity and ignore the myriad of demons in the room. That immunity wasn’t there. What we did, however, was move in our authority.
We repented for our sin and commanded every demon to leave, in the name of Jesus. Instantly they obeyed and left. The room was clean again and I could breathe.
Why am I sharing this? I want to point out how vulnerable we are to the enemy if we participate in unrighteousness. The evils of Halloween, most media and other forms of entertainment are saturated with demonic intent, and all it takes is an open door. Our participation is that open door. You can’t innocently, harmlessly go trick or treating, dress up the kids and eat candy. You can’t determine that certain types of movies don’t offend you if they contain forbidden content. We must not put anything wicked before our eyes. We must not adopt the evil in our culture.
“When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. Deuteronomy 18:9 (ESV)
Depression, fear, anger, sickness and even death can come if we don’t aggressively resist the devil and his schemes while proclaiming to follow Jesus. It’s that serious.
Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 1 Corinthians 11:28-30 (ESV)
It’s critical that we examine ourselves, live blamelessly and resist the devil. If we are careless in the name of freedom, we can only expect open doors to allow those who are bent on destroying us free access.
On the contrary, if we sound the alarm, reject wickedness and call people to righteousness, if we live in love and are zealous servants of the most high God, we can walk in extreme authority and annihilate the kingdom of darkness!
Listen to 7 new conference teachings including how to develop a culture of prayer in your life and church from Jasper, Alabama!
Listen to this FREE conference series from Cornerstone Church in Jasper, Alabama online right now!
The first two sessions were specifically for regional pastors and leaders. I taught on how to develop a culture of prophetic prayer in their church. This teaching was based on my recent Charisma Magazine article that can be read HERE.
Here’s the full list of teachings:
- How to Develop a Culture of Prayer in Your Life and Church (Part 1)
- How to Develop a Culture of Prayer in Your Life and Church (Part 2)
- Spiritual Authority
- Revelation Driven Life
- Your Impending Adventure
- Fire From Heaven (Part 1)
- Fire From Heaven (Part 2)
5 specific ways to implement a supernatural, prophetic culture of prayer in your life and in your church
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! Romans 11:33 (ESV)
…do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 (ESV)
I refuse to give myself to a model or method of prayer that is devoid of expectancy, supernatural life and power, one that is driven by my own intellect or human experience. I just can’t do it!
I understand why people so eagerly run away when the call to prayer is sounded. If we were honest, we would admit that models of old have left the church with anemic faith and little more than a religious, soulish measure of satisfaction. Prayer should cause the atmosphere to explode and miracles to occur, but instead boredom too often tends to be the experience for many.
Prayer is most effective, enjoyable and electric when it is driven by revelation. It’s based on what God says versus what we perceive. Prophetic prayer is so potent that other methods truly seem to be a poor use of our time. Their effectiveness is lacking.
5 WAYS TO LIVE A LIFE OF PROPHETIC PRAYER
1. Eliminate topic driven prayer meetings:
The prayer list radically limits God's ability to direct the prayer meeting, whether it's public or your own private closet time. I rarely enter a prayer session with any topic, no matter how pressing or obvious it may be. As we press into the heart of God, and nurture a prophetic environment, we will discover the list that God wants us to pray. I believe it’s an act of faith at times when we leave the list at the door and trust that God is in control. It might feel like you are failing to cover key issues, but if we pray in the Spirit, that definitely won’t be the case. This brings us to our next point.
PRACTICE: Go an entire prayer meeting without introducing any topics at all. Don't think about what's needed or pressing. Instead, go deep in intimacy. Experience God. See what he reveals to you.
2. Pray in the Spirit:
Groans of intercession will do more in a prayer event than any focused, topical focus ever could. Pray on fire, in tongues, as the primary expression of your meeting. The best prayer times I've had are when every person in the room did nothing but pray in the Spirit, with no English words, for well over an hour. When we do this, topics of prayer become much less necessary as we cover exactly what is on God's heart.
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)
PRACTICE: Spend the entire prayer session by praying non-stop in tongues. Don't pray any English words at all.
3. Nurture a prophetic culture:
As you drop the prayer lists and contend in the Spirit it will be normal for God to expose his heart and desires to you. Now, instead of praying for something that seems to take precedence, God is actually talking to us and we can pray in agreement. It wouldn't make sense to pray for finances or personal open doors if God reveals we must pray in unity against a potential terrorist attack or for a people group in another nation that's in danger.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches… Revelation 2:11 (ESV)
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet. Revelation 1:10 (ESV)
4. Pray mostly outside your own doors:
When we can pray mostly about the greater mission, instead of our own situation, the anointing increases and God's heart is truly blessed. Instead of mostly praying for your own ministry to grow or for your finances to increase, pray more for the end of abortion or protection for Christians in dangerous nations. Additionally, pray that God puts the greater call of intercession on your heart. He'll give you a burden that goes well beyond your own situation.
Therefore he said he would destroy them— had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them. Psalm 106:23 (ESV)
And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. Job 42:10 (ESV)
PRACTICE: Spend the session praying with the nations on your heart. Don't consider your own situation or even the immediacy of the ministry that God has called you to. There's a time for that, certainly, but practice by only interceding for the greater mission.
5. Minimize petition driven prayer:
I call this “addiction to petition” or “petitionitis.” So often we are asking God for things that he is already in agreement with. Instead, develop a lifestyle of decreeing, declaring, commanding and calling forth. As an example, nowhere in Scripture do we see the apostles asking God to heal someone. They command the healing. Asking God for things that are already resolved, or that he hasn't revealed his agreement with prophetically (see above), can result in frustration as we waste our time praying in the wrong direction. Is there a place for petition? Sure. We see that in Scripture. But, I believe it should be much less common than it is.
As we focus intently on decreeing, declaring and commanding we will grow in our knowledge of just what God is in favor of. We never have to ask God for something that he has given us the authority and the responsibility to possess ourselves. As we grow in the Word of God it becomes evident what he has already sanctioned. Another example: we never have to pray for our needs to be met because Scripture reveals that he has already promised to meet our needs.
Now, we can give our energy in war against the enemy, by forcing mountains to move and by advancing as true ambassadors in prayer. Add to that the personal, specific prayer focuses God reveals to us via prophetic revelation and we will find it easy to spend hours praying in the Spirit, enforcing what God has already revealed and moving forward with great effectiveness.
PRACTICE: Spend an entire prayer meeting without any petition at all. Trust me, you'll watch your faith explode! Simply don't ask for anything. Learn to decree and declare what God has already revealed that he supports. For example, it doesn't make sense to petition God for financial needs to be met. Those needs are already promised to be met according the the Bible. Instead, command mountains to move and for money to come in. Of course, rely on what you have discovered prophetically as opposed to what topics you are naturally inclined to cover.
A simple principle found in Scripture is the answer we need for the Black Lives Matter vs. the police tragedy in America.
Anger and fear are erupting in the streets of our nation, and the crisis demands a solution that transcends human common sense. We need God to step in and provide a solution. The ancient wisdom that we need is found in the book of Romans, chapter twelve.
Before we explore that passage, I want to address what I believe to be a calculated strategy of Satan in these last days. I’ve watched him execute his plan via the homosexual activism that has emerged in recent years in addition to other social movements of our day.
While it’s true that many professing Christians need to be rebuked for their heartless dealings with people who associate with certain unrighteous cultural movements, such as the homosexual community, we have to look at how the enemy is manipulating that reality. True, compassionate, loving Christians have been forced into a position of faux sympathy. Instead of standing for the timeless, non-negotiable revelation found in Scripture regarding homosexuality, we have lost our prophetic voice. Most are remaining silent instead of confronting the spirit and dogma of the age, whether it’s through homosexual activism, Black Lives Matter, abortion or other counter-biblical movements. Some are actually surrendering to this spirit and aligning with those who are deviant. Why is this? Fear.
The accusation of the enemy is that we have lost our love for homosexuals (or abortionists or other groups who oppose the truth we embrace) and we have no option but to repent and “prove” our love for these people by affirming (or at least ignoring) their positions, desires, identities and supposed freedoms. Fear is even causing people to avoid saying “Blue Lives Matter,” or “All Lives Matter,” because of accusations that such comments are bigoted.
The devil is forcing Christians to reject biblical principals and to accept his theology of universal affirmation.
Satan himself is calling for a movement of repentance! The demand is to apologize for adhering to timeless Christian truth instead of embracing his more “compassionate” religion (that positions him as god). He is calling the church to abdicate our position of Godly love in favor of a demonic affinity, affirmation and agreement with what is unholy. The enemy is forcing us into a sympathetic position.
Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” Matthew 27:20-23 (ESV)
The demonic, religious demand was to affirm and release back into society what is unholy, represented by Barabbas, while calling for the eradication of righteous standards, of holiness, represented by the Holy One himself, Jesus. The crowds responded en masse.
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20 (ESV)
The demand is to affirm evil and to reject good. Those who refuse, those who stand as true holy soldiers in opposition to the demands of the enemy are threatened and identified as haters. In fact, many Christians will lose their lives in the Tribulation because of this very situation. We will be marked as haters, as being in opposition to what is right and just, and will be martyred.
Today, anytime a Believer stands opposed to homosexuality, we are convincingly accused of hatred. If we oppose abortion, we are anti-woman and anti-freedom. Similarly, if we stand opposed to the rebellion that’s manifesting through the Black Lives Matter movement, we are labeled as racists who are fueled by radical hatred of African Americans.
The results are stunning. Entire Christian (actually, former Christian) denominations are now gay-affirming. They have surrendered to the enemy’s demand to “repent” and to prove their love and sympathy for those who choose to live as homosexuals. Many pastors and churches affirm the woman’s right to choose to end the life of their children. And most recently, Christians are forsaking biblical truth in favor of vengeance and anger toward our nation’s police force.
Satan, though evil through and through, is brilliant. He is duping Christians to submit to his demands for a sympathetic response of affirmation. It’s false love.
How can something so demonic and evil be embraced as loving, compassionate and true?
Satan has been masquerading as God since the beginning.
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5 (ESV)
The highest (or lowest) form of demonic deception results in people being convinced his wisdom is actually good, godly and superior.
Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” Matthew 2:7-8 (ESV)
Satan and those who are advancing his cause want us to believe that they are in union with God. The true motive, obviously, is not to worship God or advance his causes. Their plan is destruction and coerced allegiance to the enemy.
And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. Matthew 24:4-5 (ESV)
Similarly many will advance deviant cultural norms and promote them as godly when in reality they will lead many astray.
Currently, police shootings and the resulting uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement have the nation’s attention.
Scripture gives us a clear, simple blueprint. Is it possible for our nation to reject the demonic deception and anger that’s ripping our land to shreds in favor of true love?
We don’t have to oppose our nation’s law enforcement officers to prove our love of African Americans. We shouldn’t denounce African Americans who are feeling very real pain to prove our support of law and order. There’s a more godly, effective way.
Here’s the simple, powerful biblical protocol found in the Book of Romans that must prevail:
BLACK LIVES MATTER:
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Romans 12:14 (ESV)
THE POLICE AND SOCIETY:
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15 (ESV)
Live in harmony with one another… Romans 12:16 (ESV)
ONGOING TRUTH FOR ALL:
…Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:16-21 (ESV)
A shakeup in the culture of superstar, itinerant ministry would do us all some good.
We’ve all become frustrated, or even disgusted, with much of what we are seeing in today’s Christian landscape whether it’s on Christian television, at conferences or online. Some of that irritation is absolutely warranted, while some of it may be our own inappropriate judgments based on a lack of information. What I mean is, the way someone comes across publicly may rub us the wrong way due to misunderstanding their motive or not really tapping into their hearts.
We should be careful when arriving at such judgments to ensure our own hearts are pure.
We also need to be discerning enough to know when reform is necessary.
In this article I want to narrow down the focus specifically to itinerant ministers.
We’ve all been in a church service with a special guest speaker at the helm. By and large I’ve been positively impacted by these men and women of God and I can easily endorse their ministry.
However, even while honorable people are traveling from church to church, conference to conference, I’m seeing trends and a developing itinerant ministry culture that leaves me frustrated.
I also travel and am not at all immune to what I am going to discuss here. It’s extremely easy to fall into traps, presuming them necessary to keep the ministry moving forward. Motives can be pretty good while the execution leaves something to be desired.
Some itinerant ministers enjoy a cult following, and they are masters at drawing in the crowds. We need a raw, inconvenient reformation to come to itinerant ministry. God will not be mocked.
7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Galatians 6:7-8 (ESV)
9 NECESSARY CHANGES FOR ITINERANT MINISTRY CULTURE
Stop with the hype
I never want to adopt a suspicious, cynical attitude regarding moves of God, but I have to admit it’s becoming more and more difficult. I absolutely affirm flowing in whatever charisma and stage presence that God has given to us as ministers. I believe that is a gift. What needs to stop is the tired drama and efforts to make a meeting appear more substantial that it is. Folks, it’s a meeting. It will be over in a few hours. Quit making it out to be more than that.
When we hype something we are lying. In fact, we are edging close to a terrifying category of ministers: False Prophet
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1 (ESV)
Of course, many ministers aren’t deliberate in their deception. I understand this. Some are overzealous which is a mark of immaturity. We don’t want to sit under false ministers or immature ministers. If you are in either one of these two categories I’d recommend repenting and growing before you proceed in your ministry.
Become accountable to an apostolic leader who will call you out on your reports. Stay humble. That’s the quickest track to true moves of God that will not need your hype.
“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6 (ESV)
Counterpoint: God will always out perform hype if we let him. We should definitely expect remarkable moves of God in our meetings, and when that happens it should leave us speechless—not hype machines that have to promote something in the hopes that your superstar status grows. If God is moving, by all means, spread the word. But be honest. If you want to use hype I believe you’ll limit God to what you can imagine and are falsely reporting. In fact, God might not hang around for long at all in such an environment.
Huge altar calls aren’t mandatory
Every traveling minister loves to post to Instagram or Snapchat wide angle shots of masses of people responding to their amazing message. Come on preachers, you know it’s true! I can’t deny that it feels great to see people rushing the altars, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. It’s when we manipulate the service in such a way to get that photo op that problems arise.
Altar calls are actually a fairly recent innovation. Charles Finney popularized them. I don’t believe seeing people at an altar is a good measure of truly converted and transformed lives. It can very easily be a false positive.
George Whitefield, who historians identify as the key preacher of the Great Awakening, refused to speculate on how many of his listeners had been converted. “There are so many stony-ground hearers which receive the word with joy,” Whitefield said, “that I have determined to suspend my judgment till I know the tree by its fruits.” Revivals were the sole work of the Holy Spirit, and the test of time either confirmed or disproved these conversions. ~www.christianitytoday.com
It’s actually quite common in meetings I’m leading to forgo the altar call altogether. I often want the weighty message to rest heavy on people as they go home. I don’t want to give an artificial sense of completion to their decision to respond to the message. Some of my most memorable services have resulted in empty altars as people filed out the door and into their world with burning spirits.
In fact, true biblical preaching will often lead many to become angry and to leave! When this happens we may be on to something.
I think we should shoot for services that cause many to be amazed and many to mock. The altars might not be full but the message will shock the city!
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)
Counterpoint: I’m waiting for the days when people can’t even make it through a heavily anointed message before they rush out of their seats to an altar in repentance. Very big, legitimate calls to the altar are in front of us, so as God leads let the people come in as a flood!
Praying for people isn’t mandatory either
Understand, I’m a prayer freak. I promote prayer relentlessly, so it may come as a surprise to you that I’m suggesting that prayer lines aren’t always necessary.
Something in my gut just doesn’t feel right when people attend a conference or a meeting with the primary motive of receiving prayer from the person bringing the message. Itinerant ministers often use this desire to their advantage as they call people forward, again, for that photo op or Facebook report.
Do I believe in praying for people, laying on of hands and activating the power of the Holy Spirit in their situation? Absolutely. I will never be able to give human language to encounters with God that I’ve had through other people who have prayed for me. However, it only happened when I was pursuing God alone and not some superstar preacher.
I often end services when I’m traveling without an altar call and without praying for people. I can often discern when people are craving some magical touch from a stranger they’ve never met instead of simply hitting their knees and encountering God themselves. I don’t typically like to play into that, unless God gives me the green light.
I’ve had pastors walk up to me after the service on many occasions asking if I’d pray for people. It seems the culture has been set and people are looking for that touch. In honor of the pastor who I am in submission to, I always comply with joy. However, I think we need to be led of the Spirit. Pray for those God highlights. Prophesy over those God points out. Often I’ll have people spread out in the room, find a place to pray and go hard after God alone as we close a service. The pressure to always give people that magical touch needs to stop.
In fact, do we understand that many people who want a touch are living in sin? They are unrepentant and are in search for healing or a prophetic word. The Bible is very clear regarding this:
Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. 1 Timothy 5:22 (ESV)
We can’t bring affirmation to a person’s situation by praying for blessing to manifest when they are unrepentant. There have been many times people have asked me to pray for them and the word God gave me for them had nothing to do with their supposed need. God would reveal a heart issue and their need for a loving rebuke.
I think we need a reformation in the prayer lines. Lets see God really work in power and have the fear of the Lord land again.
The prayer lines that result in people falling over for no real reason need to be dispersed. The circus atmosphere must come to an end. If God’s in it, and prayer is his plan for the service, then go for it. If not, it’s more appropriate to close another way.
Counterpoint: God will most definitely call ministers to pray for people. I’ve spend hours after a service was over praying for and prophesying over every single person in the room on many occasions. If God’s directing it, you have to do it.
Shut down the green rooms
I was a workshop speaker at a conference several years ago. A well known worship leader was brought in, and though I absolutely love her ministry I was disappointed by a complaint she aired to me. She was extremely irritated that there wasn’t a green room for her to hide away in during down time. I was disappointed at her apparent spirit of entitlement. She felt special because her name was on the program.
Now, it is true, it’s a wonderful thing to have a private place to retreat to when you are expending all sorts of energy—physical, emotional and spiritual—when traveling and ministering. The efforts some churches make to bless visiting ministers in this way are really wonderful. The issue is the attitude.
I had no problem, at that conference, with hanging out with the people and resting on the floor or in a chair just like everybody else did between sessions. Why are guest ministers in hiding except when they are on the platform or behind their book table?
It’s time we see guest ministers in pre-service prayer meetings, in the foyer after the service and serving the people with great passion.
We aren’t there just to bring a message or to sing a song. We are there to serve. If there’s a church picnic between services, go to it! If there’s a special prayer meeting, you have to be there! When I travel I do my best to act just as if I were a member of that church. If I attended there, what would be expected of me? I guarantee I wouldn’t be hiding away in a green room.
For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. Luke 22:27 (ESV)
Counterpoint: Traveling ministers do have unique challenges and needs. Will there ever be a time when retreating to pray and rest is needed? Yes, in fact it will be quite common. Hosts need to keep this in mind by not putting too much on their plate. If such an opportunity is given, guest ministers should receive that gift with thanks. If not, jump in with the rest of the body.
Stop focusing so much on money
Yes, it takes a lot of money to function as an itinerant minister. Churches, if you are hosting a guest speaker for a day or two, please ensure they are leaving with at least $1500-2000 in addition to their travel expenses if not much more. They have bills to pay that are much greater than you may realize. They should never have to even think about the money. You are hosting them. Be a really great host.
When I was pastoring, we had a very simple rule: Every dollar received in the offering for the guest minister, beyond expenses for the event, would go to them. If we received $10,000 in the special offering, all of it would go to the guest. If it was $1,000,000, the guest would become an overnight millionaire while the church received nothing.
Now, traveling ministers, the way many are approaching finances must change.
Please, stop the offering sermons that are nearly as long as the main message. We get it, you want a lot of money.
We also need to stop determining where we are going to minister based on the number of people there. What if a church of 10 wanted to bring you in? What if you had to sleep on the floor in the church basement? Would you go? I know many would, but many would not. I believe this attitude is shameful.
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Luke 9:58 (ESV)
Why would you not go? It usually because there would be no notoriety, no crowds, no money. Shameful.
For those who have a minimum honorarium requirement, I’d encourage you to go to the Lord with that plan. If you won’t travel and minister for a few hundred bucks, what does that say about your pride? Trust me, you aren’t all that important.
If it isn’t worth your time and energy to minister for a few dollars, that is extremely telling. Building people up, training disciples and saving souls isn’t worth your investment? Again, shameful.
Counterpoint: I do believe a certain emphasis on financial giving is appropriate. Certainly receive an offering. Communicate truth in the Word as it relates to giving. Share a testimony. It’s good to keep this in front of the people. However, it’s about giving to God and not to your ministry.
Shut up with all of your demands
No, you aren’t a rock star.
If you place a minimum number of stars on the hotel you will stay in, you’ve fallen into a superstar delusion. You have become a prima donna.
a very temperamental person with an inflated view of their own talent or importance.
You don’t need a certain type of bottled water, first class seats on the airplane or anything else that worldly celebrities might demand. Trust me, you aren’t all that special.
If you won’t sleep in a host home and eat what’s put in front of you I question your qualifications for ministry.
Remember, Jesus stayed in a one star hotel as he began his mission to serve all mankind. His accommodations included hay for a mattress in a smelly barn under a bright star.
I’ve stayed in some very uncomfortable places over the years (but nowhere near as uncomfortable as what baby Jesus experienced). I’ve stayed in homes with people that I don’t click with. Rooms I’ve slept in were musty and caused my allergies to go haywire. I’ve eaten meals from a can heated in a microwave. Is that what I prefer? Of course not. But, it’s not about me! I’m not there to be served! I’m there to lay down my life, my demands, my opinions and to serve with unrelenting passion!
You are there to give, to bless, to serve. It’s not the other way around.
43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:43-45 (ESV)
Counterpoint: I believe it’s just fine to communicate what type of food you prefer, what type of accommodations would be most comfortable and other points that would make your visit easier. Just don’t make them into demands. Honor them and don’t require them to honor you.
Quit exaggerating miracles
I know, people will flock to your meetings if they think miracles are happening. That’s unavoidable. What is avoidable is lying.
When reports of healings and miracles get most of the press instead of mass repentance and surrender you should be alert. That doesn’t mean God’s not moving, but it does mean that there may be exaggeration in the mix.
In the Bible we do see people repenting and excitedly reporting about healings and miracles. What we don’t see is Jesus blasting them all over the press of the day.
If healings aren’t clear and obvious, just steer clear. Quit reporting on possibilities.
A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish. Proverbs 19:9 (ESV)
If you are called to preach the Truth in your meetings, and you are lying about what God is doing, you should be trembling in the fear of the Lord right about now.
Counterpoint: We should expect miracles! When God is moving we should see great and mighty works before our very eyes. When this happens, shout it from the rooftops! You should find yourself without words to explain exactly what happened instead of wordsmithing something that needs your marketing skills for it to be convincing.
Stop giving the people what they want
Itinerant ministers are avoiding necessary scriptural truths in their meetings for the sake of drawing a larger crowd.
The topics of the hour seem to be prosperity, healing, encouraging words, signs and wonders and personal growth.
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.’” Jeremiah 23:16-17 (ESV)
We need preachers who will come out of their prayer rooms on fire with a message from Heaven! Preach the room empty with a striking, convicting word for the hour. Preach in such a way that people either hate you and leave with their money still in their wallets or the fall in love with Jesus.
Quit trying to make friends from the pulpit! Stop building your mailing list with admirers! Preach with the conviction of Peter on the day of Pentecost!
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. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. Acts 2:22-24 (ESV)
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:37-38 (ESV)
Counterpoint: No, every message doesn’t have to cut to the heart. There is a time to teach on blessing, healing, abundant life and other such topics. In fact, some people are raised up to teach on such topics often. But, there must be the searing Word of God burning through them. Messages of repentance and surrender simply cannot be forsaken.
Stop being dishonest about your meetings
I suppose this is related to the issue of hype. How often do you see posts on Facebook from a traveling minister that go like this:
I preached with passion and am hungry for an outpouring, but this service was a dud. The anointing wasn’t really there. People weren’t impacted. If I were sitting out there I’d be thinking of what I’m going to eat for lunch.
How refreshing a report like that would be! An honest evaluation of an event should lead to an honest report. Come on everybody, God doesn’t always do big things in a service. If he doesn’t, don’t tell the world that he did.
And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. Mark 6:5 (ESV)
How powerful is it that God himself reported on a bad service! (For Jesus, a bad service meant only a few sick people got healed!)
Is it possible your faith, your preparation, your anointing or your skill isn’t up to standards? Jesus was perfect and he experienced a bad service. My guess is you and I will experience many that are much worse…and often it’s because of our own lives and not the unbelief in the people.
Counterpoint: I would say it’s great if we report in faith, without lying. If we communicate that we sense God is desiring to do a great work in the midst of a challenging situation, that is a smart move—if he really said that to you.
Christians are playing the God card during this election season. Could it be the Trump card?
WATCH A VIDEO BY JOHN BURTON ON THIS TOPIC:
The American Christian church has ventured into dangerous ground over the last several years. This current political season is making that quite evident.
The number of Christians who are using the God card to support their personal endeavors today is troubling. I’ve been in some form of Christian leadership for over 25 years, and I never stop being shocked at how casually someone can attach the name of God to their own opinions and desires.
Doing so is a serious violation. Stating that God endorses our personal desires when he in fact does not is taking his name in vain.
When immoral preachers announce that God said you’d receive a blessing if you sent them money, that’s taking the Lord’s name in vain.
When we prophesy over someone by saying, “God told me to tell you…” when you are selfishly advancing your own agenda, you are taking his name in vain.
Before you dismiss me as one who is opposed to the prophetic, I need to make it clear that I believe we need to hear God’s voice much more regularly in the church today. God absolutely is talking to us and we not only have the opportunity but the responsibility to know him intimately and receive what he is communicating to us. I am unapologetically a prophetic minister and I actually believe it’s quite impossible to follow God in fullness without being a prophetic people.
From my book Revelation Driven Prayer:
To default to human logic in neglect of the present voice of God Himself is a very average, not to say dangerous way to live.
The issue we have today is not the fact that we need people to dive deeper into a prophetic life, it’s the way so many are jumping in.
I'm hearing more and more people saying they are following the leading of the Holy Spirit, or that God said this or that…while ignoring truth that's already revealed in Scripture. It's time we stop using the God card and get back to the timeless principles in the Word of God. If Scripture doesn't support our mystical revelations, we have to throw them out.
I don’t know how many times in my life I’ve heard people attach a nearly indefensable excuse to a decision they are making: God said. That’s it. We are expected to accept their decision or behavior simply because they declare that, “God said.”
Except, so often, he did not.
I know, it’s extremely offensive to be challenged on our ability to hear God’s voice, but we have to be okay with some scrutiny for the sake of the health of the church, our nation and ourselves. We must stop stating what God is telling us to do unless we have firm biblical support to back us up.
People that use the God card to accomplish what they desire are very often the same people who barely have a prayer life, aren’t in the Word of God as they should be and who rarely hear God giving input on anything other than what personally benefits them.
God told me it’s time to leave my church without the blessing of my pastor.
God said it’s okay to leave my wife.
God said it’s okay to watch immoral movies since I’m mature enough to handle the smut.
The Holy Spirit wants more freedom in my church, and he chose me to give this information to so I can tell the pastor.
God said I don’t have to do this.
God revealed I can do that.
God said Donald Trump is his man of the hour.
If I lost you, I’m sure I have your attention again.
THE TRUMP CARD
I need to make a point extremely clear so there is no confusion whatsoever. God has not told me that Donald Trump is the one he has chosen to lead our nation. God has also not told me Donald Trump is not the one he has chosen. I think we must come back to sensibility regarding one of the most important decisions we as voting Christians will make over the next four years. We must be based on the Word of God as the plumbline, not a subjective sense that we call prophetic. Is it possible for God to speak in the moment to us personally about this issue? Of course. However, he will do so with clarity and without compromising principles in the Word.
Quit using the God card when it comes to the political future of our nation. Doing so just may be the trump card for Donald Trump’s campaign.
It’s a sad, revealing picture of today’s church when some truly amazing children of God are absolutely ignoring or dismissing clear and troubling issues just so they can promote the person they want for the office of President.
“Men acting under the belief and awe of God as their inspector and judge, to whom they consider themselves accountable for their conduct and whom they fear to offend.” Matthias Burnet, 1803 election sermon
“Nothing will so surely, so rapidly bring on the dissolution of society, and the loss of the liberties of a people, as a want of virtue and integrity in their rulers.” ~Chandler Robbins, 1791 election sermon
It's shocking how many Christians are using the excuse that we aren't electing a “Pastor in Chief”. What a strange argument! How can we be so eager to elect someone who does not know God? Would it not be preferable to have an anointed pastor running our nation? What a glorious four years that would be!
Prov 29:2 When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked rule, the people mourn.
We have a duty to choose godly leaders. How is it so many are using the God card by saying that we are to ignore that scripture by choosing an ungodly authority? It’s been said that Donald Trump may be the most vulgar man ever to run for President! How can anybody not see the conflict? We had two Christian men in Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio to choose from, but the evangelical church has rejected true children of God for a more popular secular leader.
So many are presuming God will work through an ungodly person, a Cyrus as it has been stated, more effectively than through a godly one. That, friend, doesn't hold scriptural muster. It's nonsense.
Our Forefathers must be turning in their graves. Why would we not want a godly man or woman in the nation's highest office?
I don't believe anyone can rightly govern without a legitimate relationship with Jesus Christ. I don't think it's possible. Yet, it seems millions of Christian men and women of God are rejecting that reality in favor of one who has achieved success by secular, worldly means. We can't afford an ungodly person leading our nation no matter how brilliant, bold or innovative they may be.
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”
– George Washington
“Americans should select and prefer Christians as their rulers.”
– John Jay, The first Supreme Court Justice
“There are a good many problems before the American people today, and before me as President, but I expect to find the solution to those problems just in the proportion that I am faithful in the study of the Word of God.”
– Woodrow Wilson, 28th President
God said to vote for Donald Trump? If he really told you that, simply back it up with Scripture.
I would agree that God may want Donald Trump in office, and that he may desire to establish him as authority over our nation, but it would most probably be as a means of judgment, not blessing.
God has done that in the past. Scripture reveals that quite clearly.
On the contrary, God may one day move powerfully on Donald Trump’s heart and we could have quite an amazing leader.
However, that has yet to happen, and voting for him in hopes that it does is irresponsible, in my opinion.
After the election is over we will all have the opportunity to serve our leader with passion. That will be an honor.
For all of those who oppose Donald Trump as President, you better be ready to become his biggest advocate and servant in intercession should he get elected. That won't be a time for arrogant pouting, but rather for undergirding and prayer. Does that mean you should vote for him? No, not if your values would be compromised. But you must love him and go to battle for him for the sake of his soul and our nation. Pray with such humility that your position of opposing him is proven to be wrong.
In closing, in the midst of this unparallelled political season, we must remain humble and full of life.
If you aren't able to honor and bless others while discussing politics, you should stop the conversation. If you lose your joy, get angry, get offended or want to divide away from another brother or sister in Christ if they disagree with you, something's not right. Keep smiling. Rejoice always. Stand for truth. Love deeply.