We have radically misunderstood the purpose of the church—and the Gideon principle is the shock it needs.
Pastors, quit getting excited when your church grows in number.
Quit getting depressed when it declines in number.
Quit selling your soul to compel people to join you on Sunday mornings.
Numeric church growth is not the goal—mission completion is—and the people you are wooing just may be your downfall.
CHURCH AS WE KNOW IT
As one who has planted two churches and spent many years in church leadership, both as a staff pastor and senior leader, I have had a front row seat to the American church reality. There’s much that has been absolutely amazing and much that is radically disappointing.
Church as we know it, however, doesn’t take years of leadership experience to analyze. It’s simple: we gather together once or twice a week and worship a little and pray a little (usually very little) and listen to teaching. After saying hi to friends and small talking with others we head out into our world until next week.
Pastors are heroes, in my opinion. Superheroes in fact. However, even mighty men and women of God must step back at times and truly analyze their motives and ministries. I suggest part of that analysis must include reckoning with an unhealthy desire to see the church grow numerically. Pastors tend to get weighted down when the seats are empty, and then, miraculously, they perk up and have an extra jump in their step when the roar of the crowd is louder. It’s human nature. Unfortunately, it’s human nature that is threatening the church and the lives of people it’s called to impact. We need to adopt supernatural wisdom as we move into the next generation of the church.
THE DEEP, THE SHALLOWS AND THE SAND
I shared a prophetic word at a city pastor’s gathering in Detroit several years ago. I don’t believe it was received well as most remained silent after I shared it and then they moved on to other business. I do believe it was the Lord, however. It was a word of warning and a strategic call.
I saw an ocean beach on a sunny day. There were many people on the sand, a good number splashing in the shallows and a handful of people swimming in deeper waters.
Those who were on the sand were mostly happy building sand castles, tanning and enjoying the afternoon sun as the cool mist from the crashing waves blew over them. Some were curious about the water and even took off their sandals and walked where the waves met the sand. Others would slowly venture out and start splashing in the shallows, but most were satisfied just where they were.
The people in the shallows were having a good time. They were together, jumping, splashing and swimming. They were in waist high water and were able to stand on the sandy bottom. They were also satisfied.
I then looked out at the small number of people who were in the deep. They couldn’t stand as the water was well over their heads. They were so hungry to explore the wide-open seas. It made no sense to them why anybody would be satisfied experiencing so little. However, these people had nobody to lead them into the deeper waters. You see, the people on the sand, in the shallows and in the deep all represented a single local church.
What I saw next brought clear, obvious revelation to the situation.
I saw a man, the pastor, in khaki pants, a dress shirt and a tie. His shoes were off and his pant legs were rolled up. He had one foot in the water and the other on the sand. He was not dressed for the deep. In fact, he wasn’t dressed for the shallows or the sand either. He determined to remain anchored between the sand and the shallows where the majority of the people were, yet unable to really reach any of them.
The pastor was under great stress as he would look upon those on the sand, then those in the shallows and he’d then squint as he saw those who were drifting out to sea. His eyes continually darted between the three groups, attempting to maintain some sort of control over the spiritually diverse congregation. However, he couldn’t. Those in the deep became a nuisance. He found it easier to allow them to go and to focus on the sand and the shallows. He
knew those in the low water would not go deeper and those on the sand were safe, and maybe, some day, they would jump in and splash around with the others.
3 Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. 4 Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. 5 Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. 6 And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. Ezekiel 47:3-6 (ESV)
9 And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Ezekiel 47:9 (ESV)
26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:26-27 (ESV)
THE CALL TO THE DEEP
I believe the strategy of the church must radically change. The pastor, the leader, must be in the deep ahead of the people. The priests are called to step into the waters and to lead people into miraculous situations.
14 So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, 15 and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), 16 the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho. Joshua 3:14-16 (ESV)
The evangelists are called to minister to those on the sand. Prophets can call them into the waters. The local church’s apostolic leaders must focus on the deep, calling people to advance into impossible waters as they seek to encounter the wonders of God and to take new ground. They announce the need to live consecrated lives as they prepare for God to move in power.
5 Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” Joshua 3:5 (ESV)
Seeker churches are well known for focusing on the people on the sand. The beach goers have been affirmed in their position by this regrettable church movement. Further, the poison of seeker ministries has soaked into the soil of the greater American church foundation. Today, most churches may not identify as seeker sensitive, but seeker principles are adopted and adapted to fit their local expression in hopes of attracting the very same sand dwellers and shallow splashers. Those yearning for the deep are minimized and ignored—often because of the pastor’s own lack of depth—and commonly because of the pastor’s devotion to growing a larger church.
THE GIDEON CHURCH GROWTH PRINCIPLE
Churches have too many people, or at least they have the wrong people. Church missions have been compromised.
Please understand, I do believe in numeric church growth. We see in Scripture how thousands were added. I believe we’ll see stadiums filled with Christians interceding and contending for revival. The harvest will come in. There absolutely are and will continue to be anointed, surrendered leaders who have been graced to lead large numbers without compromise. There are “churches of the deep” that are diving into unseen realms and growing mighty disciples. In fact, if given a choice, I’d rather attend a large church like this than a small group of unified zealots—though I do value both.
With that in mind, most churches and pastors will benefit from applying the Gideon principle, though it will be scary, painful and humbling. Death to self, rejection of selfish ambition and mighty faith are required. I believe God is about to invite leaders into divine wrestling matches as they renounce their fabricated and confused identities and adopt their divine callings and discover their identities in Christ instead of success.
12 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.” 13 And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” Judges 6:12-13 (ESV)
God also believes his pastors and leaders are heroes. He addressed Gideon, a leader who had yet to step into that identity, as a mighty man of valor. It would do us well to honor God’s men and women in the same way. While many will reject the call of God to shift, some will hit their spiritual rock bottom and cry out from their caves of desperation. God is raising up warriors like this, and we should celebrate the process.
Whenever we are out of sync with God a common complaint will be, “God, where were you? Why have you forsaken us?”
Today pastors are gazing up into the heavens wondering why God isn’t bringing growth. Where is he? Why is his presence so rare in their local church? What is going on?
This is a good prayer as long as we are ready for God’s reply.
14 And the LORD turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” Judges 6:14 (ESV)
Go in might. I have sent you. That’s God’s reply.
15 And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” 16 And the LORD said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” Judges 6:15-16 (ESV)
If we allow God to truly search our hearts, this is where the divine wrestling match begins. We may honestly feel unworthy, unprepared, weak and the least of all. What a contrast to God’s identifying decree: You are a mighty man of valor, I will be with you and you will be victorious—but the victory depends on radical surrender and wild faith. Pastor, will you allow this Gideon principle to take over your church and your life?
The process included Gideon seeking God, looking for confirmation, hearing his voice, discovering his new identity and emerging as a true leader. It would do us well to cry out for a similar process to initiate in our own lives.
EMERGING JERUBBAAL LEADERS: DESTROYING ALTARS AND ADVANCING IN VICTORY
25 That night the LORD said to him, “Take your father’s bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it 26 and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of the stronghold here…Judges 6:25-26 (ESV)
The next step is critical. We must destroy altars of old. We must differentiate between God-given mantles and God-opposed altars. God absolutely will grace us with the water from the wells that our fathers and their fathers dug years ago. There are mantles and rich, godly traditions that have eternal value. However, there are unholy altars that have become normal in the church today that must be torn down. Traditions of man, selfish ambition, the pursuit of notoriety, becoming drunk on money and pride must be crushed. Annihilated.
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.” 32 Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he broke down his altar. Judges 6:28-32 (ESV)
Are you ready to be renamed? Are you an emerging Jerubbaal? When we tear down ungodly altars, we step into a promotion in the spirit. We will be known as one who has stared evil in the eye and is unafraid at the threat of demonic backlash.
When we have proven ourselves to possess the obedience and fearlessness necessary to stand against the prevailing religious culture of the day by tearing down altars that so many hold so dear, we will be ready to advance in the mission—by allowing most people to leave.
THE PEOPLE IN YOUR CHURCH MAY BE HINDERING YOUR MISSION
Remember, we are called to leave the sand, to leave the shallows and to lead into the deep. Most people will not remain when you allow God to shift your church into a “deeper water” ministry. Your mission requires the right laborers be with you and those who are resistant to be let go. It doesn’t mean we don’t love them. It means we understand those who leave will pale in comparison with those will be set free through our obedience.
2 The LORD said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ 3 Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained. Judges 7:2-3 (ESV)
Pastor, when you cast this renewed vision of going into the deep, most in your church will, most likely, be afraid of such a venture. It will not be what they signed up for. They wanted you to occasionally wave at them as they soaked up the sun on their beach blankets. They wanted you to splash with them if they ever decided to test the shallows. This new, awakened leader will be an irritant to them. Most will leave. That’s okay. The mission is for all who are fearless and surrendered to Jesus. The choice is theirs. If Gideon would have refused this filtering process, the entire camp would have been decimated. The enemy is ready to decimate our churches too. We need Jerubbaal to emerge and lead with the mysterious, illogical wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
4 And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” Judges 7:4 (ESV)
6 And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. 7 And the LORD said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.” Judges 7:6-7 (ESV)
God knew who was needed to get the job done. 300 out of 32,000, less than one percent, were called as the church, the Ekklesia, a governmental people with determined unity and a fearless disposition, to rout the enemy.
AN UNCONVENTIONAL CALL
The result of applying the Gideon principle for church growth will most probably result in an extreme decrease in numbers but a supernatural increase in power.
An unconventional man, Gideon, was called.
An unconventional army, only 300 in number, was gathered.
An unconventional method, banging jars and shouting, was used.
The result was glorious victory.
20 Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow. And they cried out, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” 21 Every man stood in his place around the camp, and all the army ran. They cried out and fled. 22 When they blew the 300 trumpets, the LORD set every man’s sword against his comrade and against all the army. And the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath. Judges 7:20-22 (ESV)
ACCUSATION WILL COME
I’ll conclude this article with a key point that could easily have been ignored.
1 Then the men of Ephraim said to him, “What is this that you have done to us, not to call us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they accused him fiercely. Judges 8:1 (ESV)
When God calls you to destroy religious altars, and to advance mostly alone in your region, you will absolutely be accused by other pastors and leaders. Who are you, after all, to presume you know what should be done in the city? Your answer? You are Jerubbaal.
While I appreciate it when pastors in a city meet together and attempt to unify and support one another, it’s rare for them to truly promote revival in a region. The reason? They presume their efforts to affirm one another and support one another are the goal. It’s satisfying. Somehow, unifying around this low level commitment feels spiritual. It’s nice, but it can be threatening to the greater mission. When God calls you to tear down altars they have built, or that their fathers have built, then what? When God calls you to advance in the city without them (due to their own choice), with a small army of radicals, how will they respond? Many will accuse.
This doesn’t mean, by any means, that we go rogue and function in an independent, rebellious spirit. God will crush that fast. He resists the proud. God will, however, awaken key people to do what few others will, and what most will flatly reject. This Jerubbaal leader will threaten religious structures. Their humble surrender and bold resolve to obey their God at every turn will threaten those who have their religious culture carefully defined.
Who are you? What is your identity? You are a mighty man of valor. God is inviting you as a Jerubbaal. He will rally an army around you to assault the enemy and to advance the Kingdom of God. Those who leave, and those leaders who aren’t consulted, will most certainly accuse you.
That’s okay. Go in this spirit of Jerubbaal and see God move in some of the most remarkable signs, wonders and miracles the world has ever known. You are invited, mighty man of valor, to be an instrument in God’s hands in a dark and desperate world. This hour is yours.
Arguments against the invitation to go deep in God are increasing…and it’s Christians who are leading the resistance.
re·li·gion /rəˈlijən/ Man’s attempt to use God to get what he wants.
Slap the label “religious” on anything that threatens your theology or impacts your definition of freedom. It feels spiritual. It is spiritual. The demonic spirit realm is filled with unholy wisdom, and very often this is the source of such a defense. Today’s rallying cry seems to be fueled by the desire to be free from anything that places restraints, expectations or requirements upon someone. All of that, to them, is religious.
Many of the arguments are coming from those who have been duped into believing an unbiblical doctrine of grace. This false-grace ideology presumes that all has been completed by Jesus, and that nothing remains for us to do in order to be in relationship with him. Simply, his actions on the cross and at the tomb were sufficient. The result, if we only understood, they would argue, is that absolutely nothing can be done by us to increase our nearness to him, and, from the other direction, nothing can be done to decrease his nearness to us.
They argue that our sin is impotent. Our effort is both futile and unnecessary, and actually an offense to the finished work of Jesus. Their proposition is that we simply need a revelation of this supposed truth. When they discovered it themselves, burdens and weights were lifted and they began enjoying God as a good, good Father. They would say they do nothing, except believe and receive and live in that revelation.
The truth is that eliminating every burden (God’s burden is light, not non-existent) just may cost us our lives. If you are carrying a backpack on your three-day hike into the mountains, it’s going to get heavy. If you decided to take it off and leave it behind, it will feel like freedom! You are suddenly relieved of that irritating, uncomfortable burden. However, you will also be without food, water, a sleeping bag and shelter. The elements of the world will overtake you and you may very possibly succumb.
I celebrate with zeal every time someone I know encounters legitimate freedom and the immeasurable love of the Father! However, our experience in God cannot stop there. Those who do stop short need to be awakened to the deeper call of God on their lives.
You see, religion isn’t that which produces a barrier to freedom, it’s the attempt to use God in order to have the most pleasurable experience possible, no matter how selfish that pursuit may be.
Those who wanted Jesus to be their king one day, turned on him and demanded his death the next. Why? They were not set on worshiping Jesus but rather on using him. When he didn’t deliver what they wanted, they decided to eliminate him for a better option. This is religion in action.
9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:9 (ESV)
12 And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” 14 And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. Mark 15:12-15 (ESV)
A SIMPLE YET PROFOUND CALL
God is calling us into the deep.
The only way there is through radical surrender, fervent intercession, living in the Spirit and unapologetic holiness.
We must die daily. We must be living sacrifices.
I’m writing this from my hotel room during a ministry trip to Albany, New York, and I’m watching The International House of Prayer’s prayer room live on YouTube. I was on staff at IHOPKC for a couple of years and it was easy to see one specific reality: Most of these people were devoted to God at a level rarely seen in this nation. They weren’t perfect people, but they were hungry people with a level of consecration rarely seen in the church. I’ve known many people who are offended at this. They actually despise IHOPKC and ministries like them. Why? Because their own level of passion for Jesus and depth in God are exposed as lacking. The thought that much is required of disciples of Jesus is contrary to their personal pursuits of undisciplined freedom.
Understand, I know these words I’m writing are provocative. I also believe they must be written so I can most effectively make my point. As obvious as it seems, a growing number of people in this generation don’t get it: we can only experience the deep things of God if we are fervent, radical, surrendered and dying daily to the things of the flesh. There is no other way. There are no shortcuts.
At IHOPKC and other similar ministries all around the world, people are praying 2-4 hours a day or more. They are allowing the groans of the Spirit to erupt out of them. They are devouring the Word of God as they allow the presence of God to permeate them in the prayer room. The Holy Spirit is speaking to them with clarity. The prophetic atmosphere around them is electric. Dreams, visions and a powerful anointing become regular. The chambers of their heart are opened to the searching of the Spirit of God. These people are undone, hungry, desperate and relentless.
Yet, those who subscribe to the unbiblical “freedom theologies” that I addressed above somehow believe that they are as close to God as those who are giving themselves in a more deliberate manner, even if they make no effort in drawing close to him.
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:7-10 (ESV)
A POWERFUL ANOINTING
I’ll never forget the time I had a regional prayer meeting in my church. A well known mega-church leader was in the prayer meeting along with several of his friends. I was praying with my eyes closed when I felt this intense wave of the glory of God wash over me. I opened my eyes and this man of God had just walked by me. I waited for him to make another lap, and as he passed by again, the wave hit me a second time. This happened several times.
I knew this man knew God. There was a depth that was uncommon. He was living in such a way that resulted in a very powerful anointing swirling around him. I yearned to do whatever it took to carry that type of glory on my own life.
I’ve experienced similar manifestations several times, and each time leaves me crying out for a deeper hunger and a more resolute life.
Pastor John Kilpatrick was preaching at a Bay of the Holy Spirit remote event in Detroit. I was on the front row during this morning session enjoying the wisdom that John was releasing to us. Suddenly, in the middle of a point, he stopped. He simply said, “He’s here.”
As he gazed toward the rear of the auditorium, I turned my head and looked myself. You could see a wave of God’s glory moving from the back to the front, row by row. Then it hit me. If I had an unlimited vocabulary at my disposal, I would still not be able to describe that experience. Simply, God arrived.
There is no way that manifests except via a radically devoted life, a life that John Kilpatrick exemplifies. There are precious few who live this way.
1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” Isaiah 6:1-7 (ESV)
As we life consecrated lives, encounters are revelations will increase. The truth found in Scripture will explode off the pages. We will be undone. As with Isaiah, the revelations will result in a declaration of God’s holiness and our weakness and struggle. If there is sin in our lives, it will be instantly evident. Then, the fire will sear us and our redemption and deliverance will be made clear.
We will live with a never-ending burning in our spirits and a tremble that marks us forever.
If we want to experience the wonders of God, radical consecration is the only option.
5 Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” Joshua 3:5 (ESV)
Not only will we live tepid, powerless lives that are focused mostly on our own personal experience instead of laying our lives down for Jesus, but those who refuse to consecrate and devote in the place of intense prayer and surrender are at risk of eternal separation from God. There is a terror of Hell that the enemy is making ready for them to experience.
My book The Terror of Hell is a sobering message of how intimacy with Jesus and salvation in Jesus are related. In the encounter, I was dragged toward Hell. The terror I experienced was horrifying and fully indescribable. God spoke to me after the encounter and said, “John, many Christians will be shocked to find themselves in Hell one day.”
It’s possible that a Christian may be in a good place today, but in the future they may grow apathetic or they may lose their first love. Here’s a portion of an article based on my book:
A backslider is focused on his own condition, on his own comfort zone while a good man is in tune with the heart of God. His pleasure comes from intimacy with Father God. His pleasure comes from going where God is going, doing what he is doing and feeling what he is feeling. There is no sense of ease in the storm, but there is satisfaction and joy in the presence of God and by being in active agreement with him. This message is a wake-up call for every one of us. Many wonderful people will be terribly shocked to find themselves separated from God forever.
Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
This scripture is in reference to those who would call themselves Born Again Christians. People who have understood and actually flowed in the power of the Holy Spirit. They understood their heavenly position and earthly authority as they overcame demons. These were your miracle workers.
We need a wakeup call, church. We can’t presume to be in a place of safety simply because we said a prayer, go to church, give offerings and talk about Jesus. An intense pursuit of holiness and intimacy is required.
This is a message that must be shouted from the rooftops.
I can’t imagine multiplied millions of people who are current following Jesus in an unsaved condition crying out in terror one day, “I’m going to Hell? That’s impossible!”
“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. 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. 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. Revelation 3:1-3 (ESV)
WE MUST DIVE INTO THE DEEP
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. Revelation 3:1-2 (ESV)
Unbiblical “freedom theologies” reject the call to the deep. I’ve had people actually tell me that going deep is unnecessary. Others have called people out of the prayer rooms! They argue it’s an unnecessary practice if we truly understand that there is nothing left to be done. They say we just need to rest in our fully resolved position in Christ. Still others reject prayer movements like IHOPKC because their devotion to intercession is a devotion to unnecessary works.
I’ll be honest with you, I never thought I’d see entire movements of supposed Spirit-filled Christians standing in opposition to prayer!
Someone connected with me on Facebook recently and shared her desperation to see a prayer movement emerge in her region. She actually said she’s been involved in a church that’s all about revival, but they haven’t had a prayer meeting in ten years! I simply responded by confirming her suspicions: you can’t be a revival church without a fervent, consistent and supernatural culture of prayer. It’s impossible.
THE SUBMARINE DREAM
My wife and I were in a military grade nuclear submarine following behind a second submarine that contained my Father and Mother-in-law.
I was analyzing the situation, trying to gain understanding on what exactly were were doing while my wife was playfully looking through the periscope. Both submarines were staying at the surface of the water, and they were being used as tour vessels. The atmosphere was playful and carefree.
After a short time everybody was done playing and we decided to park the submarines alongside a long pier. We climbed out and walked down the pier and onto an ocean side boardwalk. There were people everywhere enjoying a beautiful sunny day. The restaurants and shops were full of activity.
We walked onto the sandy beach which was about one hundred yards from the submarines.
As we gazed out over the water, both submarines suddenly began leaving. They headed out toward deeper water.
My in-laws immediately started running into the water giving chase to the submarines. As they did, I was thinking that it was impossible for them to get anywhere near to the fast moving vessels and I didn’t understand why they had tried.
Then, my wife ran into the water as well.
What I saw next can’t easily be described in a way that is true to the emotion I felt. The water immediately began erupting as if a powerful hurricane was upon us. I was terrorized as I frantically tried to devise a plan to help. What I saw next drained every bit of hope from my being. A whirlpool opened up underneath my in-laws and sucked them under. Then, a second whirlpool took my wife.
I was screaming for help. A few people gathered around but could offer no help whatsoever. I called 911 and all I heard was this recording, “We can’t send help for an hour. We can’t send help for an hour.”
It looped over and over. I knew that THIS was the hour. I couldn’t wait! The emergency was upon us.
As I stood on the beach, hopeless, the scene changed.
Only a few days had passed yet it was now bitterly cold and the water had frozen over. There was at least ten feet of snow on top of the ice.
I started moving slowly, though as quickly as I could, through the snow in the direction of where the whirlpools were.
I started digging ferociously and what I saw next will forever be seared in my memory.
It was my wife, frozen. She was gone.
I ran back to the boardwalk and into a restaurant. I saw someone who had tried to help previously behind the counter of a sports bar. He was a volunteer firefighter in addition to working at the restaurant. I yelled, “Help! Help! I found her! I found her! Come quickly!”
He just casually said, “Sorry man, I’m working.”
What? I couldn’t believe what I heard. I said, “No, you don’t understand! I found my wife! I need help!”
He just said, “Sorry.” and then looked at a customer and said, “How can I help you?”
I ran back to the snow where my wife was buried. I thought that maybe, just maybe, since she was frozen that there was a chance she could be revived. I’ve heard of people freezing and their heart beat is slowed to almost nothing before being brought back.
As I was thinking about this I looked down at her, and there was a piece of paper right next to her frozen face.
I picked it up. All it said was, “Wake up and strengthen what remains and is about to die.”
Then I woke up.
When I woke up I was shaken to my core.
As I started to pray and analyze the dream, the following is what was highlighted to me:
- The submarines: Vehicles represent ministry, and I believe the submarines represented the church. The church is not meant for casual play at the surface of the water. It’s a military weapon of war designed to move into the deep as it advances toward enemy targets. When the submarines left on their own, that represented the truth that the church will most certainly advance on its mission with or without us. We can be left behind as we continue our focus on entertainment and leisure if we so choose.
- My family: Of course, this was a hard core part of the dream. The first reaction is to do everything I can to ensure those close to me are doing well and burning hot for Jesus. Beyond that, symbolically I feel they represented familiarity and presumption. It’s very easy to presume those who are close to us are most certainly doing well in their relationship with Jesus—and then to model our lives after theirs. What happens so often is that we can adopt their pace and their level of passion instead of staying locked in, on alert and advancing in the fire of God. The pressure of maintaining civilities and false-unity can result in a marginalized, lukewarm, casual disposition.
This verse best represents what I am communicating:
…I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Revelation 3:1
We must be careful not to presume that we are alive and that others are alive simply because of the preceding reputations. There are many people with both a spiritual legacy and a name for being zealous who are doing little more than playing—and it’s possible that those people may be some of our closest friends, family, pastors and other personal heroes. Don’t measure your life by their grid. We must calibrate to the truth in scripture that will bring light to every issue of our heart.
Then, we can be true awakeners. If we think people who are are asleep are already awake, then we will have no need to step into our roles as end-time prophetic messengers.
- 911: I was sounding the alarm in a variety of ways including by calling 911. I also ran into the sports bar looking for help. Both rejected the alarm. It’s clear that the hour is now for awakening though even those trained as emergency responders won’t see it. What was the alarm? Those that have a reputation of being alive are dead! Wake up!
- The storm: It was sudden, violent and really out of place. It didn’t make sense, but it wasn’t obligated to explain itself. If we would have been in the submarines AND in the deep, the storm would not have touched us.
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; Matthew 24:36-38
So, what’s the call?
It’s simple, and it’s directed to the church, to those who are to be in the deep:
Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Revelation 3:2
Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:4-6
God instructed me to wrestle with Revelation 3:1. I've been burning hot for Jesus for over 20 years, yet, is it possible that my devotion is not as deep as I might think? Yes, it is possible.
God didn't accuse me of being dead. He didn't reveal that my passion was false. He simply wanted me to always consider the possibility that my reputation will always be at risk of being more intense than my reality.
…I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Revelation 3:1
It's time to go deep, to be awake and alert and then to awaken the sleepers…many who may have a reputation of being very much alive…but are not.
It’s time for revival, not the promotion of selfish “freedom theologies.” This is the hour.
I knew there was a risk of losing everything when the call to the deep was announced.
We’ve become such a passive church society that the abrasion that’s coming will be wholeheartedly rejected by mainstream Christianity. False-humility and superficial pleasantries are masquerading as spirituality while truth is moderated to ensure it doesn’t disturb anybody.
The result is a Christian culture that celebrates the shallows and merely acknowledges the depths as optional for those who may want to venture in.
Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. Ezekiel 47:3-6
The time is coming when the deep is no longer presented as an option for the Christian, but rather, it’s the only hope for those who desire to truly follow Jesus. Prophetic awakeners will be boldly moving into deep waters and calling out those who are splashing like children in the shallow waters while presuming themselves to be normal, biblical Christians. These awakeners will be shocking an apathetic people like madmen!
Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 2 Corinthians 11:23
We have fallen for the deception that we are all equal in our Christianity and any type of distinction based on maturity, passion or discipline is quickly hushed out of fear that the less committed will feel alienated. This fear is going to cease as prophetic voices will be calling all who are willing into the deep—and those who choose to splash and play will do so of their own volition.
But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:1
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, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Ephesians 4:11-14
About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, Hebrews 5:11-12
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 1 Corinthians 13:11
Grow up and get into position! That’s the call of the hour. It’s time to count the cost, get into position and run with passion as the Church worthy of the name of Jesus Christ!
Don’t think for a minute that you can’t do it. That would be an insult to the grace of Christ!
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Paul refused to shrink back. He moved in great grace and turned the world upside down! He ran. He fought. He knew his sole purpose on the Earth was to advance the Kingdom and that mission burned in him night and day.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 1 Corinthians 9:24
Paul said to the people, “Follow me as I follow Christ,” and not to Jesus, “Hey, wait up, let’s move at the pace of the people.” God sets the pace, not us.
The fear is that others will presume we are arrogant or haughty when we call them higher—after all, if we are calling them higher, we must think we are higher already.
- First, the closer we get to Jesus, the deeper we go, the more humble and broken we become—our own depravity, weaknesses and struggles are clarified as the holiness and majesty of Jesus are magnified. The deeper we go the deeper we have to keep going. The deep is truly the point of no return.
- Second, what would the suggestion be? That we lessen our intimacy with Jesus and encourage people in their apathy so as not to offend any or invite division within the camp? No way.
And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Matthew 11:6
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:34-39
When I called the church into the deep in Colorado several years ago, I knew that I would lose many people, a lot of money and even my reputation. Many would be angered that we were picking up the pace and raising the bar—beyond where they were willing to go. I fully understood there was a risk of killing Revolution Church when we did this—and it literally almost happened. Many truly thought I was a madman—and they were right! The remnant came alive to the call and ran with passion, but, sadly, those who were given to this costly, fiery, normal Christianity were very few and far between. I decided early on that I’d rather have a small church on fire with Christians who were ready to invest their very lives than a church of two or three hundred people who gathered around a space heater—and I knew I could have either. A church of 200 would provide a good salary and stability for my family. Good programs and honey-dipped messages would draw the socialites who would invest just enough to provide a cozy, Laodicean environment for all of us. I get sick even thinking of that option—and so does God.
So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3:16
In a world where lukewarm is normal, the common response to an extreme church environment is that it’s not the appropriate church experience, that it’s not for a typical Christian, even though some would agree such a ministry has some value, for some people. An extreme church culture to many is more like a para-church ministry than a legitimate church. It doesn’t fit within their definition of what a church is suppose to be and do. The accusation is that such an extreme focus is only for a small minority of Christians—and then, most probably just for a short season.
I’ve spent years and tears attempting to address this fallacy. Normal church today is that of mildly committed followers of Jesus who put limits on their passion and devotion—it’s children splashing in the shallows. This is not the Christianity of the Bible.
“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ Matthew 11:16-17
Revival Church is not an extreme environment, not even close. However, compared to the user friendly, bread and breakfast version of the church that dominates the landscape of our nation, it does feel like a para-church, over the edge, specialized ministry for the minority instead of the majority. This grieves me—not because I want more people to stuff themselves into our church building, but because the thought of extreme passion feels specialized and uncommon, unwanted and unnecessary.
The church experience in our nation has become more about living a wonderful life instead of dying a remarkable death—and pastors know very well that a focus on surrender versus benefit will result in empty pews and offering plates.
While I would never presume to have a perfect understanding of the function of the church, I am confident on several points—and when I employed these critical elements into our ministry I fully believed that the result would be a sound, vibrant and biblical church. We are para-church in no way. I want to alleviate the fear pastors may have of being accused of not being a legitimate church—when you gather together to pray on fire and release the messages of the Lord, you are modeling the coming church. This is what the church will look like when the reformation is complete! That being said, the accusations will fly, but don’t relent. Stay the course, gather the people and pray.
Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber. Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep and say, “Spare your people, O LORD, and make not your heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” Joel 2:15-17
The call is for every person who has made the radical and costly decision to follow the living God to dive into the fire together. No matter how long we’ve known Jesus, our pace should be the same—intense and fiery.
Have you ever met someone who was recently radically saved? They can’t run fast enough or burn hot enough! Yet, we’ve fallen for the deception that new Christians need to take baby steps! No way, no more!
Extreme church is the only option in today’s end-time climate. The formula is simple—too simple for most—pray with fervent passion together with others several times a week, read the Bible, believe it and respond to God’s mandates with faith and obedience. Pray continually. Live in the spirit. Die daily. Surrender all. Be holy.
This is normal church. It’s a culture of uncommon holiness and passion for intercession where we refuse to be amused by darkness and endeavor to slow the flow to Hell with prayer and action. This is why were are on the Earth.
I believe we would be much closer to the true, biblical model of the church if we did little more than pray nonstop in tongues for two hours on a Sunday morning than what we see today.
The Coming Church
Please understand this point. Consider it. Pray on it.
We live in a day where Christians are boldly, unapologetically defending their measured religious devotion and are denouncing calls to extreme commitment. I hear it all the time—fervency is shunned in favor of the status quo. Can you believe this? Being extreme for Jesus is an unwelcome negative attitude, an invasive intrusion into the well guarded lives of American Christians.
If the thought of the church experience being made up mostly of praying in the Spirit with infusions of apostolic messages and reading of scripture feels incomplete or uncomfortable to you, you will find yourself frustrated and resistant in the coming church.
Change is coming. For example, many are looking for a church with an amazing worship experience where it’s easy to sit back and bask in the atmosphere. In the coming church, in place of polished worship teams, we will see an environment where groans of intercession are echoing in the room—with or without instruments. Everybody will be on their face burning, groaning and crying out as acts of worship in place of today’s Christian karaoke. Imagine gathering together multiple nights a week to hit our faces and groan in intercession together! Most everything else that we’ve come to know in today’s church will be done away with as we all serve as worshiping intercessors in the house of prayer for all nations. We will worship in spirit. In truth.
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24
This type of a church environment seems extreme, and demanding, and uncomfortable. Yes. Today it will feel like that, but when the reformation and revolution in the church is complete, it will feel normal, and God will call us to yet another level—a level today that we wouldn’t even think is possible. It’s a level, one beyond the level where we are going next, that will result in continual supernatural power. Keep that in mind. If the next level seems extreme, just compare it to what’s coming beyond that!
Again, the coming church, the next level, will be white hot and perfect for every Christian at every maturity level. The prayer room is the only room for the new Believer and the apostolic leaders who are investing into them! This is my heart for Revival Church. I see this model being perfect for people of all levels as it calls everybody into the same place—death and destiny. Everybody gathers, prays, grows and is intentional in their discipleship. It’s intense and life changing. And then, when the remnant does this together in unity, it will be world changing.
Our ministry school, theLab University, is an extreme experience of prayer and maturity—and my view is that the school is closer to a normal, biblical church than churches we see today.
The commitment level at theLab is high (by today’s standards)—we meet together four days and nights a week. We have homework to complete and turn in on a weekly basis. There are prayer events that are required for us to attend somewhere in Detroit every Friday night. We are held accountable for our attendance and participation. Holiness is commanded. We are a family. We are locked in and ready to grow at a rapid rate together. This, my friend, is church. However, in America, it’s para-church. It’s extreme. It’s not for the general Christian. This, again, deeply grieves me.
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Romans 12:11
Zeal is not a personality trait! It’s a command!
And he said, “Come with me, and see my zeal for the LORD.” So he had him ride in his chariot. 2 Kings 10:16
I challenge you—live so boldly that others take notice, and call them to experience your zeal for the Lord! Call them higher! Call them out of the dead and dying manmade American church system that is headed for judgment!
“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. Revelation 3:1
…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. Revelation 3:3
The coming church is what the scoffers and mockers and seekers and disillusioned are waiting for. They want to see a people who are serious about their God, radical in their devotion and done with the imitation religion of our day.
They want to see a church that’s finally devoid of hypocrites—people that won’t be amused by unrighteousness in media that required the death of the one they say they love.
They are waiting for a church that will not only boldly expose the sins of the nation, but also pray night and day for it.
The world needs a church that burns with such love and anointing and holiness and that’s single minded in it’s purpose—to set the world ablaze.
No more programs, productions or promotions. It’s time to pray as the church again. America is waiting.
Tomorrow at Dearborn Heights First Assembly of God I’ll be teaching on (and bringing!) revival, and then at 10pm theLab prayer event starts!
FIRST: Get ready for a BRAND NEW website—www.detroitprophecy.com. You will be able to check out the up-to-date prophetic instructions for this region, send in your dreams and visions and ensure we’re all on the same page as we advance together. I’ll be designing it soon!
FRIDAY NIGHT: We’re looking for the remnant church to awaken and do the extreme work necessary to initiate revival in Detroit.
I’ll be teaching on the strategic plan for revival in Detroit tomorrow (Friday) at 7pm. We’ll experience some powerful worship, and we are intent on facilitating an atmosphere where we can all go very deep together.
The Fireplace has stirred us, and now it’s time to move to the next place in the process of revival in Detroit.
After worship, teaching and ministry, we’ll stay and give leadership to theLab from 10pm-midnight! Get ready for a night of fire that we won’t want to end!