Is it possible your church is risking revival by adopting Seeker strategies?
All these new methods of how to build the church has left me confused. ~David Wilkerson
It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing revival is defined by an influx of new Believers into the church. After all, we see this happening in the great revival chapter of the Bible, Acts 2:
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:46-47 (ESV)
The ultra-simple protocol seems clear: Provide opportunities for the lost to get saved and as a result the church will grow. Ultimately, it is presumed, with enough such impact, that revival will land.
Unfortunately, many pastors are adopting this paradigm, and, due to the necessity it creates, they are also adopting many of the strategies that Seeker Sensitive churches are known for. Most of these pastors would be shocked and horrified at such an accusation. Yet, the truth remains that many pastors who are passionately pursuing revival are compromising that pursuit due to a misunderstanding of just how revival will come.
Friend, the ultimate goal of revival is not a church full of new Christians. It’s a church full of the presence of the Holy Spirit and an army of fully surrendered burning men and women of God. You'll know revival has hit when the church is full of people who can't stop praying on fire, which is a key evidence of legitimate salvation. The desire to be with God night and day consumes us!
The Seeker model results in some very tempting false positives. Keep the bar low, the atmosphere naturally familiar and the pace slow and you absolutely can gather a crowd of people who are interested in Jesus. Churches can become mega in size, leaders can gain a reputation of success and a lot of people can entertain an affinity for God as their busy lives allow.
I could buy a large building, fill it with comfortable leather couches and serve the best coffee in the city for half the price of everybody’s favorite chain. Add in some connection opportunities, possibly some live entertainment and some ten-minute sermonettes and I would have a large group of people almost overnight.
Or, I could call a prayer meeting and wait for the remnant to show up.
5 SEEKER STRATEGIES THAT THREATEN REVIVAL
1. A Non-Threatening Environment
The purpose of the church, including the Sunday service, is not, nor has it ever been, to draw in visitors. It is not to be an evangelistic tool.
The purpose of the church is clear in Scripture. It is to be a Believer’s intercession meeting with a focus on the nations.
And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” Mark 11:17 (ESV)
When I was pastoring several years ago, I became increasingly frustrated with our pre-service prayer. I have always held raging, explosive intercession for one hour before the start of every service. I started this as a youth pastor and continued as a senior leader.
I wasn’t frustrated with participation because people filled up that room every week. It was often my favorite part of the day. I wasn’t frustrated with the level of passion or focus. The roof regularly came off that prayer room.
My frustration hit after a simple revelation. If the church is a house of prayer for all nations, why was prayer intentionally scheduled to end when the church service began?
I have always been aggressively given to prayer. I’ve taught on it, written a book and innumerable articles and based a school of ministry on it—yet I was embarrassed by my error.
The obvious reason why a fiery prayer meeting would end prior to the start of the service was because many people who would be uncomfortable in such an atmosphere would feel out of place. It seemed right. It felt appropriate that we would be sensitive to the seekers who might not enjoy such a supernatural environment. Oh how that human wisdom grieves me today!
My job as a leader is not to create an atmosphere that is naturally familiar! It’s to invite everybody into a shocking, burning atmosphere of Holy Spirit activity that will cause the flesh to cringe and spirits to explode!
The most important shift I ever made in church ministry was to extend the hour of pre-service prayer right into the first half of the service! When the service began, the firebrands were already on their face, pacing the room, praying in tongues, dancing and shouting and declaring the Word of the Lord with boldness. The previous hour of fire would launch the beginning of the service like a rocket. Not only did we start the service with raging intercession, we also moved musical worship down a notch. It would come in later, after prayer set the foundation for the rest of the service. The service was finally a prayer meeting; the church, a house of prayer.
My promise to those under my leadership has always been clear: I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. This means we must promote an extremely threatening, costly, uncomfortable church atmosphere that results in only the hungry and surrendered locking in.
You see, the church wasn’t “added to daily” through natural means. Don’t forget how it all started:
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:1-4 (ESV)
2. Overemphasis on Connecting People
So often today, churches are marketing themselves as the perfect place for YOU. YOU matter. Come as YOU are. We have saved a place for YOU. I have to wonder if it’s a club or a church, a place for natural man or our magnificent God.
Again, the primary goal of the church is to nurture a habitation for the Spirit of God to dwell and for the people to pray for the nations.
I cringe at church marketing strategies that emphasize just how well I would fit in if I attended their church. Pastor, it’s not about me! Tell me how much Jesus is glorified and how massive your vision is for prayer, revival and Kingdom advance and then I’ll get excited. The moment I hear about how special I am and just how I can fit in is the moment I realize filling seats is a little too important.
My favorite church growth strategy actually results in an empty church building, not a full one:
As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” 2 Chronicles 7:1-3 (ESV)
The church doesn’t need seats filled with people who receive a gold star for showing up. We need pavement people! Those who will hit their face on the pavement and declare God’s goodness! We need an army to stand in position, ready to train and do battle against the enemy! Warriors are needed to assume the position on their knees in intense, Holy Spirit-driven prayer!
I don’t know how many times I would get excited when a small group of prophetic, prayer-fueled warriors showed up for a church service because I knew we were actually going to get something done!
And, yes, a function of the church does include ministering to orphans and widows. Without question that must happen, but not as a foundational goal. First comes a culture of raging, burning prayer, and then we can invite the orphans and widows into that blaze!
I propose eliminating most strategies and programs that focus on connecting people and drawing them in, and starting giving much more energy to prayer and training the remnant, which brings me to my next point:
3. Underemphasis on Training People
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:35-38 (ESV)
Jesus had compassion on those who were ready to become part of the remnant church. Trained laborers are needed to fan the flames that revival ignites in people’s lives.
The plan is simple. Train laborers in fervent prayer, the prophetic, revival, the Kingdom and other key disciplines while simultaneously praying in the Spirit together several hours every week. Then, invite the harvest into those prayer and training sessions and watch them get set ablaze!
When I was leading Revival Church in Detroit, we had a powerful, prayer based ministry school called theLab. It was an intense, three-month training program that was required for anybody who wanted to serve in any capacity in the church. We strongly encouraged every member to enroll in the school. It was in this furnace of intercession and discipleship where the vision was caught and the passion for Jesus consumed them.
I believe we need intensives like that one at the foundational level of every church. It will quickly identify those who are merely socially or naturally interested while revealing your remnant warriors, those who can take their place on the wall of intercession in the house of prayer.
4. Being Naturally Familiar
The church is a strange, other-worldly entity. It is meant to be unusual, supernatural and confounding to human intellect.
And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” Acts 2:12-13 (ESV)
But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. Acts 2:14-18 (ESV)
I believe there is a day coming when worship will be mostly sung in the Spirit. Groans of intercessory worship will radiate out of the people. Screens with words that assist with karaoke sing-alongs in today’s church experience will go dark as remnant intercessors are erupting with spiritual songs.
Prayer will follow the same pattern as English (or the language of the culture) gives way to tongues of fire! Prayer lists will no longer be needed as people prophetically cry out and decree the prayer on God’s heart in perfect sync.
In this atmosphere, the desperate and unsaved will yearn for God as they cry out in repentance and hit the floor in tears under the weight of an invisible Savior. We are a peculiar, supernatural people!
…But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 1 Peter 2:8-9 (KJV)
Such a spiritual Sunday morning experience is rare even in churches that would laugh if you suggested they have adopted seeker strategies.
The simple litmus test is this: Are we doing anything to make visitors comfortable that would be different if everybody was a part of the on fire remnant?
Are the teachings deep or shallow?
Is prayer low key or moved to a different part of the day or week?
Is the atmosphere intentionally not “scary” or strange to ensure visitors are welcomed?
5. Lack of Fiery Preaching
I'm not about to put up a silly skit and preach a 15-minute message on ‘how to cope' to a multitude of people who are dying and going to hell. I tremble at the thought. ~David Wilkerson
Those who are zealous for Jesus and who are part of the remnant absolutely crave in your face, challenging, convicting sermons.
It’s time we stop apologizing for preaching hard truth and deliver what is necessary to refine and prepare the people.
The remnant church is quickly becoming bored with all of the teachings that are directed at the seekers and marginally interested. It’s time for bold, prophetic preaching to erupt from our pulpits again!
We are so easily offended today. I say, let the truth offend and clear the pews of the pretenders! They are a risk to revival and are costing the hungry the meal they so desire.
If our preaching doesn’t often result in some running out into the parking lot with cursing, at the same time others run to the altar in tears, something is wrong.
I’ll never forget the time I was a guest speaker at a church and was preaching with an extremely sharp edge on the reality of Hell. I made clear that Christians are at risk of an eternity there if we aren’t sober and alert.
Suddenly someone in the back started shouting and cursing me. They ran into the foyer and then out the door screaming into the parking lot.
When anointed preaching lands, there is a spiritual reaction that can’t be denied.
Pastor, when you preach truth it will be controversial. It will trouble. It will cause some of your best tithers to leave the church. It will result in a continual disturbance in your ministry.
Do you know what Finney did? Finney preached sometimes, and the whole congregation got up and walked out on him. That's a good meeting! He sent them out horrified! I only preach for two reasons these days: either to send people out that door blazing mad at me or blazing with the peace of the Holy Ghost! That's all! ~Leonard Ravenhill
There are many other seeker strategies that put revival at risk. These are but a few. I want to challenge you to let our holy God grip you. Burn with fire so hot that flesh can’t stand in your presence. Preach with a tremble in your voice. Shock and shake a dead religious culture with truth. Love people deeply but build the ministry around God. Minister to him first and watch the nations report about the strange and wonderful things that are happening in your region!
I’m going to let it rip—this is one message you won’t want to skim.
Troubler of Israel
1 Kings 18:17-18 (ESV) 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.
Is there anybody out there like Leonard Ravenhill and David Wilkerson who is bringing attention to how so much of the church is following the Baals?
I told you I’m going to let it rip. Understand that I am not sending this out of frustration or because of a personal vendetta. This is a searing, troubling message that is consuming every part of me—and it’s time for it to come out with strength.
We need more troublers to arise! Why? Based on what we see in Elijah’s story, the prevailing culture is actually what is troubling the church and it’s the prophets of God that MUST stand boldly in the face of their accusations. Truth will prevail. God will answer by fire.
First, I want to directly address fellow pastors and leaders with both brokenness and boldness—open your mouths!
When people tell me that I have guts to say what I do in teachings, on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, I am shocked! Really? They can’t be serious! I barely reveal even a small percentage what is burning within me. The messages are minor and obvious, yet somehow in our passive, ultra-sensitive culture they come across as sharp and risky. We have to open our mouths and deliver the troubling truth! No more messages designed to grow churches. No more sermons that result in us looking good, smart and polished.
If we are out to save face, we may do just that—as we ultimately lose our soul in Hell.
The raw, irritating, offensive messages of the Word of God must explode out of us with the full understanding that many of those under our care will revolt! That is true love based preaching!
Just so you know—yes, I am extremely intentional with the messages I post, and they are meant to trouble and provoke, boldly and in love. They are meant to expose error and awaken people to truths they may have not considered—but that often has serious impact on their eternities. My posts are meant to trouble the spirits that are assaulting the church and the people who are entertaining them! We must be disturbed & wrecked by our mandate to awaken the sleepers & warn those falsely convinced of their salvation—and those at risk of losing it.
We can’t even call people to prayer today due to the fear that they will leave our churches! My God! How can we presume revival is near?
Over 340 Houses of Prayer closed their doors last year. I met with a house of prayer network leader the other day who said that people leave churches when leaders shift time, energy and attention from them to God. I’ve watched that happen myself, and it rips me up! In our church in Colorado we shifted from potlucks to prayer meetings and there was a mass exodus. We lost people and money. I had to get a part-time job. It was disruptive. It was heartbreaking that people ran from the call to pray.
Where are the ones who aren’t looking first for human friends, personal affirmation or a sense of belonging but who are seeking after every available minute to minister to God in prayer? The prayer rooms must be full—and the main prayer room in the American church is the Sunday morning sanctuary!
And, don’t you even think of using the excuse that you need to create a non-threatening environment for the new Believer! Every person, young or old, immature or seasoned must be in the prayer room—and it must be their primary focus! What if the Upper Room was toned down in the hopes of drawing a bigger crowd and interested seekers?
I told God one day many years ago that, if I responded to his call, I would lose my reputation. People would sever relationship with me and hurl accusations my way.
God said, “Good. My Son was of no reputation, why should you be?” I was rocked. It was that day, many years ago, that I stopped trying to look good and build a ministry and make people happy about running with me. Selfish ambition died that day. The moment we make decisions based mostly on attracting people, keeping people or raising money is the moment we have failed as leaders.
Philippians 2:7-8 (KJV) 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
I’m not trying to build a ministry—I’m devoted to obeying God and delivering the messages he has given me. I know these messages will directly hit theologies and ideals that so many hold dear. That’s the point. I crave people’s freedom from those harmful ideals! I desire the truth of Jesus to invade everybody’s life!
Matthew 10:34 (ESV) 34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
One reason I’m OK with this divisive strategy (that Jesus affirmed above) is that it clearly reveals who’s for and who’s opposed. I’d rather make the message clear and know who I’m running with then to tone it down and have those who are opposed to it in our camp (Have you ever had a witch infiltrate your ministry? I have, and it’s not fun!). So, we love and serve everybody in the camp, but we can’t get sidetracked from our mission for the sake of their comfort.
Trust me, the resulting remnant of burning ones will rejoice at such an atmosphere of clarity and fire! Those who are lukewarm today just may awaken and burn tomorrow—if we have the courage to preach the very difficult, costly truth!
There are some people thanking me for my boldness in delivering the messages God gives me. There are others who are vocally opposed to me. There are many more still who are silent but resistant—many of them friends in the past who I don’t hear from anymore. They sadly just disappeared from our lives.
I’m sure there are some who translate boldness and refusal to soft step issues as arrogance—but I do not apologize. Yeah, I know that sounds arrogant! The reason I don’t apologize is because I wrestle with the call to humility continually, and I check my heart non-stop. The possibility of pride and arrogance is there, without question, and I take that very seriously. I check my heart to ensure I’m humble and full of love. It’s wisdom to receive insight from your critics, at least to a point!
People that are close to me do know my heart—and they know I’m broken before the Lord. My call is to aggressively sound alarms, gather people around the mission of revival and call people to pray night and day. It can’t be a soft spoken suggestion if we hope to awaken a great end-time army!
Several years ago in Colorado, the Lord directed me very urgently to learn how to walk in extreme humility and extreme boldness at the same time. It was full year of intense prayer and discovery—a personal school of the Holy Spirit. In that school, I learned much, including this—I was not to attempt to appear humble, I was to be humble. Why was this important? Because the Elijah level boldness that is required to impact a region would often look like anything but humility. It would appear as arrogance and selfish ambition.
We are not in a season where we need to gather around a table and water down the message in the hopes of finding common ground that results in handshakes and smiles. The message of the hour will overturn that table with violence.
I endeavor to love every person deeply, but I refuse to affirm systems, methodologies, theologies and lifestyles that are an offense to the Word of God. I will, in humility and boldness, be relentless in provoking the sleepers to awaken and those given to a lukewarm life to be shaken. Prophetic threats against human systems and unholy altars results in accusation, gossip and resistance.
Judges 6:28-31 (ESV) 28 When the men of the town rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built. 29 And they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And after they had searched and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” 30 Then the men of the town said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has broken down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.” 31 But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.”
I know the accusations will continue, but you need to know that, if you are bold, you will provoke. You must be OK with that! Love people deeply, hate the enemy powerfully and know there will be a crisis in the middle as God, people and demons step into the ring. Don’t wrestle against flesh and blood! Be innocent! But, don’t presume a passive spirit is the same thing as a humble spirit.
FALSE UNITY IS NOT MY GOAL
Today I hear a lot about leaders, churches and movements in a region unifying for the sake of revival. I have been disturbed by that strategy for years.
First, it’s imperative that we honor people. That’s a heart condition issue that will either qualify or disqualify you from ministry. But, honor and unity are not at all the same.
I commit to serve all, but I refuse to strategically align with someone who is doesn’t embrace fervent prayer as a lifestyle, holiness as a principle and dying daily as a goal.
Today we have worship leaders who listen to secular music and go to secular concerts. There are pastors who are entertained in media by the very sins that required the death of the Jesus they preach about. It makes you wonder just what they are ministering to us!
I’ll say it plainly—we cannot align with those who are operating in the spirit of Baal. We must confront them in the spirit of Elijah!
Ephesians 5:11-14 (ESV) 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
There is so much fear today that messages of holiness will result in accusations of legalism. I say, bring on the accusations! You have to be kidding me if you think it makes sense to lessen the call to purity for the sake of unity!
When preaching holiness results in accusation of legalism you can know darkness is increasing in strength in our culture—and in the church.
No, it’s NOT OK to watch movies that have cussing, nudity, violence or crude humor it it. It’s NOT OK to soak in secular music in one moment and with worship music in the next.
It’s so hard for so many to encounter God today—and this is the main reason! Media! Holiness! Prayer!
I have a high value for true unity and am looking for those in the Detroit region that will truly gather in a spirit of humility, brokenness, intercession and passionate, unhindered focus on the goal of God’s heart—revival that transforms a culture.
The call today is first for consecration, not liberation! First comes holiness and a resolve to be single-minded in our pursuit of a holy God—and then the power to set the captives free will come.
Joshua 3:5 (ESV) 5 Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.”
Listen closely: the lukewarm, casual church must be shaken! Yes, the true church is one that is burning hot, in love with her Bridegroom. I risk offending a lot of people when I deal with this issue of fervency and costly discipleship as it’s an assault against their theologies and lifestyles. It is NOT OK to be casually committed, loosely connected and given to the apathy that is destroying the church. I’m calling awakeners to rise up! We must pray and burn non-stop! You can do this! There is no better way to live—and there is no other option!
I know this is why some don’t connect well in houses of prayer, or even in my own church—the call to burn hot is beyond what most are comfortable with. The call over the edge is unsettling for those who don’t even want to come near the edge. Listen—your eternity is at risk! Be fervent and radical in your love of God and commitment to his mission!
In the end, this issue is what drives me. It is my life mandate. Hell.
Why? If you would have had the same encounter that I had by being dragged toward Hell, you wouldn’t ask that question.
Many, MANY in the church will be SHOCKED to find themselves in Hell one day. I’m talking about seemingly alive people who lift their hands, live good lives and made a decision to follow Jesus.
Revelation 3:1-3 (ESV) 1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.
I am grieved and shocked by the casual attitude in this nation regarding salvation. There’s such a quick and easy thought that “of course” we are saved, yet for MANY of those people, they are NOT. They WILL go to Hell when they die, and will be utterly confused as to why they are there.
This article is not at all meant to be a theological study. I’ve done that in the past and will do it in the future. This article is a raw eruption of the emotions of my heart—and my heart is sickened and broken over such terrible theologies that affirm the salvation of people in such a cavalier way. The attempt is to affirm the culture and encourage people in their lifestyles—even though it’s resulting in eternal tragedy! I'm concerned that the American church is working so hard at aligning with culture instead of irritating it.
The greatest resistance I receive is when I talk about eternity. To be specific, the threat of living eternally in Hell. (People love to hear about Heaven!) There are great people who are living great lives who reject messages that focus on Hell—due to fear. The accusation is that I shouldn’t preach on messages that result in fear. My response? If you aren’t going to Hell, you have no fear! If you are in the love of God, you should have no fear whatsoever, no matter what is taught! If you are in fear, the issue is with you, not with the messenger, and I want to help you move out of fear and into the love of God, leaving any threat of Hell behind you!
This is the primary reason I am so violent against the false-grace message (https://burton.tv/grace-message). I will not be silent on this matter. It’s not a minor theological issue that we can just agree to disagree on. It’s sending potentially millions of people to Hell—people that will be in maddening torture a hundred billion years from now just because they embraced this heretical teaching. I can’t stay silent, hoping to keep from making waves, trying to make friends and grow my church while every single day churched people shockingly live their first eternal moments in a tormenting fire they were convinced they were exempt from.
So, yes, I am violent and vigilant and brash at times because of the reality of Hell. Wouldn’t you be? Shouldn’t you be? Yes!
RAW, RISKY CONFESSION
I’ll admit, like Elijah (though I’m not pretending to be anywhere in the ballpark of the great Elijah!) I do feel extremely alone here in Detroit. But, I’m smart enough to know there are 7,000 who have not bowed their knees to Baal. (1 Kings 9:9-18)
I’m also blessed by the amazing friendships I have with some leaders, forerunners and intercessors in the area. But I’m so saddened by others who have disappeared from our lives—those I know had a calling to run as men and women on fire! I wrestle with anything I may have done to wound that relationship, that destiny, and I live in repentance and tears over it. I see so much destiny in people that it is crushing when I don’t get to see it come to pass! I get violent against the enemy that would attempt to threaten that relationship and that alignment!
I am EXTREMELY hesitant to share this, as I really don’t need to for my own emotional health. But, I do believe there is something that must be dealt with in this region, and in regard to church health in any region. A spirit of competition and distrust between pastors and churches just saturates Detroit, and it’s time for it to come to an end.
First, you’d be shocked at how easy (and wonderful!) it is for me to enjoy people who have disappointed us, wounded us or betrayed us. Really, it is! My message on being unoffendable really, really works! (https://soundcloud.com/johneburton/becoming-unoffendable) These are truly amazing people that I love!
So, my agenda in this portion of the article is not personal. It may be hard for you to believe that, which is why I’ve avoided dealing with this for so long. But, I’ve just met too many wounded people who are afraid to deal with these issues due the fear of accusation. I have no such fear. Lets do this.
When I first started traveling to Detroit, the energy was electric. People were ready (or so it seemed) for revival in this region and the meetings and strategies I was privileged to be involved in had a level of excitement I had never experienced before.
Then, after moving from Kansas City to Detroit, something strange happened—I was awakened to the spirits of this region. There were giants in the land. (I discuss this more in my brand new book Piece of Cake: http://detroitrevivalchurch.com/2013/08/06/wondering-how-to-start-a-ministry-or-other-project-piece-of-cake-is-available-for-order/).
Every day I check my heart, as I shared before, to ensure I’m not driven by arrogance, selfish ambition, self promotion or other attitudes that would ultimate disqualify me from ministry. Humility is the only option.
I started hearing through the grapevine, almost immediately upon the launch of Revival Church four years ago, that some people were not happy with us doing so. It was a strange shock as we had been convinced that these people were running just as we were in Detroit for regional revival.
In fact, one church actually met with us (two of their associate pastors) and accused of of strategizing to steal their sheep. To their credit, they came to me, which both Amy and I really appreciated! However, that accusation was so far from the truth that we couldn’t even begin to imagine where it came from. We were extremely intentional about honoring other pastors and churches. It’s core to our DNA! We want other churches to grow faster than ours!
As an example, our primary plan when moving to Detroit was to launch a different church (before Revival Church) out of a local ministry. However, we predetermined to honor a local pastor who was connected to that ministry by refusing to launch it without his blessing. He didn’t bless it due to its proximity to his own church and other concerns, so we didn’t launch it. It was very important for us to honor him, and we still do to this day.
We continued to serve and bless that ministry even though we didn’t have an official connection with them anymore, and love those leaders a lot! They are great friends.
When we were released from that, we aligned with Barbara Yoder’s ministry and launched Revival Church.
So, in our meeting with the two associate pastors, we didn’t know where they were getting their information that we were attempting to steal people. I knew that it was simply the enemy that was spreading lies that were very easy to hear in such a volatile, competitive region.
Amy and I blessed them after that meeting.
I had another meeting with a leader in a nearby city who actually repented to me. He knew he was to connect with me and have me speak at his church, but someone there was speaking against me and he entertained her accusations. He knew it was wrong, and he contacted me to ask for my forgiveness. I love that! But, it shows how vile gossip and accusation can be, and, most importantly, how it absolutely disrupts the pursuit of revival!
I’m convinced revival should have broken out a few years ago! But, there was resistance against a 20+ day move of God in Dearborn. God was moving, but resistance came.
So, here we are in a strange new land looking for alliances with revival minded friends, but instead, we experienced quite a bit of resistance. It broke my heart, but didn’t nullify my mission. I’ve grown to understand that apostolic ministry will do that. It’s a ground taking, status quo shaking anointing and it will disturb those who don’t agree with that type of Kingdom advance.
Since that day we have experienced amazing growth and advance and have developed extremely important, key relationships with apostolic and prophetic leaders with regional authority. We have also experienced a lot of additional attack, which is not unexpected, but here’s the point I really want to make:
Church of Detroit, you MUST break off the spirit of competition, distrust and accusation that has infiltrated you! If we embrace a spirit of Accusation, that spirit one day will turn on us. If we embrace a spirit of Criticism, that spirit will one day attack us mercilessly.
I refuse to shrink back on this out of fear that people will accuse me of wearing my emotions on my sleeve or that some may even resist relationship with us due to erring on the side of caution. I’m really not here to make friends (though I like friends!). I’m here to bless people and to sound alarms in a city that just went bankrupt and is dying! Now is not the time for diplomacy! I didn’t move here to let this city die and I know my revival minded friends in the city won’t let that happen either—not on their watch!
Honoring Leaders & Leaving Churches
When I wrote my book Covens in the Church I exposed what the enemy can do in churches through independent spirits of gossip and accusation. The book deals directly with how to appropriately honor your leaders, how and when to leave your church, processes and protocols, that must be followed, etc. I deal with the Absalom spirit that entertains gossip and initiates division. Detroit needs to hear this message!
I believe the principles in that book must be embraced in this city!
I teach those principles at Revival Church and in theLab University. There is a pattern that must be broken if we hope for revival to break out here.
Here’s the principle: Honor leaders and the mission God has you on by staying in position, through challenge and joys. If you feel led to move on, initiate a process with your leader and stay locked in as you walk through the transition together, ultimately leading to a blessing as you go.
It’s a tough call, and I understand that. It’s not enough simply to announce your plans to leave to your leaders (though even that would be a step in the right direction!) but we must bless them by asking them to partner in the decision making process. Give them the voice in the decision they rightfully have.
I love it when I have the opportunity to celebrate and bless people both privately and publicly when they move on from our church to another! It’s rare that I am able to do that. What results is improper transition where people are uncovered and independent, and, unfortunately, the pattern most often repeats itself. The church of the city is weakened.
This is not unique to our church, I realize that. But, I do want to initiate change! This region must discover the power of being surrendered and unified. Upper Room level power will result! The purpose of this entire article is to awaken a dysfunctional, sleepy church into its destiny—sooner than later!
The call? Honor! Stay connected! Stay locked in! You are important! Revival needs YOU!
Here’s a very interesting portion from my book Covens in the Church that explains exactly how the process should go:
An earlier version of this book was read by a couple who lived in another state. They were feeling strongly that God wanted them to move to Colorado Springs to serve the developing House of Prayer movement. They were extremely excited about the call and while they didn’t have all of the answers to their questions (when do any of us have it all figured out?), they we’re burning hot with the vision.
So, during this process, they read this book. I met them for the first time as they were visiting Colorado at a conference in Denver. They shared their testimony with me there.
In the midst of their planning and excitement they read Covens in the Church. Both of them reported that they felt a great offense crawling up their spine as they turned through the pages. It was hard for them to embrace.
They re-read it and prayed. Through the process they both felt God confirming that what they were reading was what they needed to grasp as they were getting ready to move into another important season of their lives.
What they shared with me next absolutely floored me. They went to their pastor and shared all of their dreams and plans to move away. However, they told him this, “Pastor, we honor you as our God ordained authority–not in title only, but in function. We want you to know that though we feel led that we are to go, if you tell us that you feel it is not the right move, we will honor you and stay. You make the final call.”
They saw tears start to roll down the cheeks of their pastor. He looked at them and said, “I’ve been in pastoral ministry for fifteen years and this is the first time anybody has ever come to me like you just did. You are the first people who have ever asked me to partner with you as you move on. Thank you.”
The result? Their church prayed intently for Revolution House of Prayer every week. We prayed for them and were excited about the new relationship that would soon follow. It’s the healthiest transfer from one church to another that I’ve ever experienced. This is the way it is supposed to happen.
An Amazing Update
I am blown away at the lengths God goes to when confirming His prophetic insights. I have been gripped by the content of this book since I first received it several years ago in Kansas City. I, of course, am convinced at the supernaturally driven freedom that comes as we’re fully submitted in love to leadership, however one day very recently I was asking God to give me further confirmation.
The very next day was the first day of the new internship that Amy and I are giving leadership to. We met a couple from a house of prayer in the Michigan area and asked them if they knew this particular couple that I shared about above. They said, “Oh yeah! We know them very well!”
We talked a little more and discovered something amazing. God answered my prayer of just a day prior by actually bringing this couple’s leaders from the ministry in Michigan to the internship I was directing! They said they have never witnessed anybody leave a church or ministry with such excellence, integrity, humility and honor. They we’re astounded at their maturity and decided then and there that they would also model their exit plan when they themselves left. They did so and these leaders also departed in a mature and healthy manner and ended up running the race with me in the internship! They will be teaching one of the tracks each session here–and I wonder if all of this might not have come together as it did if every party involved, me included, would not have been obedient and surrendered to the biblical blueprint for honoring authorities in our lives. I’m still stunned.
There you have it. There is much broken, and we can’t just keep repeating the positive and hope that a head in the sand approach will work. The good news is that we can all go low, repent, love deeply and refuse to surrender to the spirit that is driving the region. It’s the Holy Spirit’s turn, and he is seeking willing hearts to move through.
So, what do you think?
There is a portion of Scripture that convicts me deeply. Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. . . If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:2, 6).
I have read and re-read these powerful words of Christ, and I cannot escape their convicting power. The Holy Spirit has impressed upon me the importance of understanding these words, “My Father is the husbandman . . . every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away.”
This matter of Christians bearing fruit is not optional with God. He watches over His vine and all the engrafted branches with great jealousy and concern, patiently waiting for the branches to bring forth fruit. He stands beside it with pruning knife in hand, lovingly watching for the slightest evidence of corruption, blight or disease which could hinder growth. God expects fruit from every branch.
Without fruit, it is impossible to honor and glorify Him or be a true disciple of Christ. Jesus said: “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples” (John 15:8).
Bearing fruit has everything to do with pleasing God-fulfilling our mission in Christ- and with having our prayers and petitions answered.
Jesus said, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you” (verse 16).
Actually, bearing fruit concerns what we are becoming, rather than simply what we are doing. I am bearing fruit when there is nothing hindering the flow of the life of Christ into me. That is what Jesus meant when He said, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3). He is saying, “Because you believed My word-trembling over it, letting it reveal every hidden secret, bringing to light every dark thing, allowing the Word of God to purge you-the hindrances are all gone!”
© 2013 World Challenge – a registered trademark of David Wilkerson
The church in America is like the frog in the kettle. We don’t understand how far we have fallen.
Our country really does seem in complete disarray. I'm not talking politically, I'm not talking about the result of the November sixth election; I am saying that something has gone wrong in America and that we have turned our back on God.
I mean millions of people have decided that God doesn't exist, or he's irrelevant to me and we have killed fifty-four million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition. Believe me, that is going to have consequences too.
And a lot of these things are happening around us, and somebody is going to get mad at me for saying what I am about to say right now, but I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the Scripture and on God Almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us. I think that's what's going on.
James is right—we have no clue how far we have fallen from righteousness and morality. There are entire unbiblical theologies that are skyrocketing in popularity right now that communicate a minimal impact of sin on us personally and corporately.
I actually heard someone say last night, “In the New Covenant God doesn’t convict of sin. As Christians we cannot sin.” What?!
The false-grace message is truly wiping out masses of people who have been lulled into a state of false-comfort and false-peace. In the end there will be a great falling away, and we are in the beginnings of those troubles.
We must repent with brokenness and tears. We must stop calling good evil and evil good. We can no longer do what is right in our own eyes. The Bible says there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. That death is all around us.
I’d strongly encourage you to watch a Sid Roth episode on counterfeit grace. He and his guest Tony Kemp feel strongly that multiple messages about this dangerous movement must be broadcast. Watch it here: http://www.sidroth.org/site/News2?abbr=tv_&page=NewsArticle&id=12311
I personally don’t believe there is an option to become comfy and casual in regard to our salvation. There are end time false theologies that truly put many Christians at great risk of falling away.
ENTERTAINED BY THE SIN THAT RESULTED IN THE DEATH OF JESUS
“That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:12)
Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils” (1 Corinthians 10:21)
I believe an “old time religion” style holiness movement must visit the church immediately.
It’s shocking to me, and I know this sounds old fashioned and legalistic, how many Christians allow themselves to be entertained by the very things that required the torture and brutal murder of the One we love!
Allow the Holy Spirit to bring wonderful conviction!
Allow the deadly numbness to dissipate!
We as Christians should be cut to the heart when light hearted jokes about sinful lifestyles are heard. When foul language is heard. When the private and God given gift of sexuality becomes pubic.
How is it that this has become rare to hear? Just a generation ago television wouldn’t even depict married couples laying in the same bed together!
Do we not know that we as Christians cannot lust? We can’t even think those thoughts, much less hear impure discussion or see it played out on the screen.
Steve Hill also says:
Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers must be willing to drop spiritual bombs, fire anti-heresy missiles, and even drive into the danger zones armed with explosive truth to confront this potential avalanche. The generals of this generation must leave the war room and put their years of experience on the front lines.
We are truly deceived if we believe we will participate in any measure of revival if we take holiness lightly, are entertained by sin and are apathetic in the call to take up our cross?
We cannot reform a culture we are so invested in.
GREAT FALLING AWAY
If you haven’t heard the epic and heart wrenching clip from David Wilkerson titled A Call to Anguish, you must take seven minutes of your day and listen. You will be ripped to the core. Watch and listen here: http://youtu.be/lGMG_PVaJoI
In 1995 David Wilkerson wrote:
The apostle Paul speaks of two frightful things that will strike the church just prior to Jesus' return. Indeed, the Lord will not come back until these two awful things happen. And I want to show you that both things are taking place right now – before our very eyes!
First, Paul tells us that in the last days there will be a great falling away. And second, he warns that an evil spirit of antichrist will overtake many believers who are turning aside!
The antichrist spirit is invading the hearts of many apostate Christians even now. They are being absolutely possessed of evil. “But how?” you ask. “Why would certain apostate Christians ever turn to the Antichrist?”
It is because they are like-minded with him! John writes:
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world….
“Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time” (1 John 2:15-18).
John is warning us that those who still love the things of this world have opened themselves to the spirit of antichrist. He's saying, “You know these are the last days – because so many are full of the covetous antichrist spirit!”
Beloved, if you are serving Jesus only 50 percent – or even 90 percent – then you are denying His full salvation. You aren't serving Him with all your heart, mind, soul and body. And you have opened up an inroad for the antichrist spirit to come in!
I agree with David. Many in the church will be shocked one day to find themselves in Hell. Is that offensive? It should be! It must be!
David Wilkerson writes further:
I am totally convinced that the antichrist spirit's most effective means of preparing hearts are cable TV and filthy movies. He knows that the eye is the gateway to the heart. And he marches straight through the corrupted, jaded eye of a Christian and takes over the throne of his heart!
This is why the antichrist spirit has taken control of the secular media – TV networks, movie production, Broadway theater, the press. Who but the antichrist spirit could so bias the media that abortion is now considered a right rather than a sin? Who but this spirit could justify euthanasia, the killing off of the elderly or infirm?
Who but the spirit of antichrist could mock everything that is sacred and holy, through wicked movies and vile TV programs? I believe the antichrist spirit is actually producing the programs on MTV and the Fox Network. From what I read of their shows, it's all absolute filth. Who but the antichrist spirit could be responsible for it?
The spirit of lawlessness is growing bolder and bolder, and our society is on the brink of becoming a raging hell. The antichrist spirit now pervades our schools, our courts, our streets, our businesses, even our homes. And, sadly, this evil is rapidly moving into the church.
I believe the spirit of antichrist is establishing churches all over the United States. This spirit is the motivating force behind “outsider friendly” churches. Who but the antichrist spirit would call for the ungodly to set the spiritual agenda – sending church founders door to door, surveying people: “What would you prefer church to be like? We want to tailor it so that you'll come.”
These megachurches are being built on skits and dramas, because people don't want to hear reproof. They want no conviction – so they hear a gospel that is almost totally devoid of repentance, judgment, the Cross. They are told all about God's grace and mercy, how to cope with problems – but nothing of God's judgment and hell. They're being lulled to sleep in their sinful lifestyle.
“But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils” (1 Corinthians 10:20-21).
NOBODY IS IMMUNE TO FALLING AWAY
We must humbly admit that we are at risk of being the frog in the kettle. We can be desensitized. We can slowly move from being horrified by sin to entertained by sin. We can go from being consecrated to being defiled.
The defense that I hear all too often is, “There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus! Talking about sin invites condemnation!”
Let me say it very plainly: That defense is ridiculous!
- First, if we are in Christ Jesus, we will invite his deep and continual inspection into our hearts so that any sin can be eradicated! We won’t resist that process! We won’t want to harbor any sin whatsoever!
- Second, we are often too casual and quick to presume that we are in Christ Jesus! If teaching on sin and holiness results in resistance in our spirits, we have to wonder if we are actually in Christ Jesus! Are we saved? Have we bought into a false teaching that’s not biblically sound? If we are not in Christ Jesus, any condemnation we may be feeling is accurate! We will die in our sins and will go to Hell.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
I know that’s hard to swallow, but truth is often wonderfully troubling. We have to deal with this now before it’s to late at the end of our lives.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24)
It’s time for a prayer-fueled movement of repentance and holiness in the church. Many will resist this message, but we have to be OK with that. Eternity is a very long time.
The LAST-DAY CHURCH
I believe God´s vision for His last-day church is based on His revealed Word-because the Bible clearly outlines what the church of Jesus Christ will be like just prior to His coming.
The church in America is far from what God envisioned it to be. For the most part, entire denominations today operate without the Holy Spirit. They are devoid of the presence of Jesus and bankrupt of all spiritual gifts. They practice a form of religion without any power, conviction or saving message. They are cozy with the world and are more political than spiritual. They appease sin, wink at divorce and ridicule the supernatural, while tossing aside all teaching about heaven, hell, repentance and judgment.
The New Testament church made devils tremble! It drove legions of demons into the abyss, prayed prison doors open, made rulers cringe in fear. Those early believers had such faith and power that cripples rose up leaping and beggars became evangelists. They believed in the supernatural and they opened blind eyes, unstopped deaf ears and healed all manner of diseases. They even raised the dead!
I am not saying God´s last-day church will be a repeat or copy of the first-century church. No-I am saying it will be even greater than that! It will be mightier, stronger, with an ever greater revelation of Jesus. It will have greater unction from the Spirit than ever- greater even than at Pentecost! God always saves His best wine for last!
The prophet Daniel confirms this. He said that certain prophetic truths were locked up, only to be revealed in the last days: “For the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. . . .
And none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand” (Daniel 12:9-10).
Today the Holy Spirit is revealing these things to spiritual, discerning saints! “It is written: `Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love Him.´ But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).
The Lord is preparing a powerful yet humble army of shepherds after His own heart and also a remnant congregation of hungry sheep who have turned away from the deadness and sin of the modern church. The scene is being set for that church which will be hot, not lukewarm-and it will rock the very foundations of hell.
No power on earth will be able to ignore or despise it!