Free speech isn't the only liberty at risk—the Gospel message itself is being threatened.
‘Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having.'
My approach in this article might be considered a bit strange since it's coming from someone who has a high value for holiness, love and honor of others. The right to offend opens up the floodgates for all sorts of cruel, immoral, hateful and ungodly behavior. In fact, we as Christians should never desire to cause others to fall into the prison of offense by our unrighteous words or actions.
I've written and taught on this critical topic for several years, and it's quite possibly the most feeing message I've ever delivered.
The Bible tells us that in the end, love will grow cold. Offense overtaking a culture is a key indicator of the arrival of the latter part of the end times:
“For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.” (Matthew 24:7–10, KJV 1900)
If we are going to survive and avoid falling away, we must live a life free from offense. We must be unoffendable. The moment offense takes root is the moment we have adopted the identity of a victim. We point fingers at others and blame and complain and allow their actions against us, beliefs about us and words said about us to define us. Instead of laying down our lives, loving, forgiving and blessing those who curse us, offense causes us to strike back. Imagine if Jesus did this as his haters were mocking him as he was dying naked on the cross.
This is why the vile sin of gossip is so destructive. Gossip erupts from the soul of an offended person. It's a form of hatred and revenge, and it is a powerful and wicked weapon against those who oppose us. Further, gossip breeds even stronger offense as it seeks to destroy, shame and manipulate.
With this in mind it's critical to understand that we have a dire responsibility to love with such passion that the unapologetic truth of Jesus will touch as many people as possible. We don't want people to be offended. Why?
“A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: And their contentions are like the bars of a castle.” (Proverbs 18:19, KJV 1900)
If we, through mean spirited, arrogant or unloving words or actions cause people to be unnecessarily offended, we imprison them. It's next to impossible to win them to Jesus.
So, I understand how it might seem a bit bizarre that I'm promoting “the right to offend.”
A CALL TO REPENTANCE IS POSSIBLY THE MOST OFFENSIVE MESSAGE MANY WILL EVER HEAR
The Daily Mail, a British publication, reports, “Judges have insisted that freedom of speech includes the ‘right to offend' in a landmark ruling which could help to turn the tide on ‘woke' intolerance…”
Presiding over a case in the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Warby said: ‘Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having.'
They added that ‘free speech encompasses the right to offend, and indeed to abuse another'. The judgment from two senior members of the judiciary will set a precedent for future cases involving freedom of speech.”
The reason Christians must support the right to offend is simple: the message we have been mandated to deliver to the world is by nature offensive to those who reject it.
According to the Bible, the cross of Christ is offensive. We can't avoid that. We can't soften it. Jesus offended to such a severe degree that people tortured and murdered him. Yet, he loved and forgave.
Our attitude when serving the message to our audience should never be offensive. We must preach with fire in our veins and tears in our eyes. Our hearts must be broken over the pain and hopelessness of the world. The moment we start shoving our favorite Bible revelations down the throats of the lost is the moment we started teetering on the verge of losing our own salvation. This is abhorrent behavior to say the least.
However, while the Gospel message is the greatest revelation of love the world will ever know, it is also threatening, corrective, invasive, unmoving and, yes, offensive.
“So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.” (1 Peter 2:7–8, ESV)
The Gospel message invades the private spaces of those who have rejected God. The Holy Spirit will confront the rebellion and the pain and the confusion in an attempt to reach the deepest places of their hearts. Many of you who are reading this know exactly what I'm talking about. It's quite possible, normal even, to be offended into the Kingdom of God!
The resulting collapse to their knees as they cry out to God for the first time in their lives is evidence of the power of sanctified, holy offense that the Holy Spirit is perfectly skilled at delivering. When the message offends, God can transform lives powerfully. However, when the messenger offends, ears are shut and hatred results.
THE RIGHT TO OFFEND GOES EVEN FURTHER
Let's bring this topic into the natural, secular realm.
The justices on the other side of the ocean are on to something. A nation becomes weak and liberties are threatened when its people become easily offended. The snowflake culture is more threatening to the strength of our nation than we know.
Does it make any sense that certain affinity groups would have a right to be protected from what others are saying while the rest of civilization does not? Why would those who have adopted a transgender lifestyle (which was the focus of the Daily Mail's article) have a specialized right to not hear what others have to say while the rest of the world has no choice but to have cruel, hateful vomit spewed all over them?
I was so saddened when I was watching a TikTok video the other day. A wonderful special needs adult who has a large following on the platform was attacked by a troll. This terrible person said it's “cute” when special needs children are on display on social media, but adults? They should be euthanized.
I was sickened. This was hateful speech. In comparison to an individual refusing to refer to a transgendered person by their preferred pronoun, well, there is no comparison.
Anyone who spends any amount of time online will see the most heinous people in our nation freely hating, attacking, trolling, bullying, mocking, canceling, shaming and attempting to wound anyone they disagree with. It's everywhere. So, again, the question is, why would certain affinity groups be protected from free speech while the rest of us are not?
My wife and I have a travel channel on YouTube. We are privileged to have a great community of people who are pleasures to interact with. However, there have been several who have been hurtful. Guess what? They have a right to say what they want. They can attack. They can hate. They have that right. I will defend their right to projectile verbal vomit all over me.
Comedian Dave Chappelle unleased absolutely disgusting, vile, unfunny and hateful language in the direction of conservative activist Candace Owens. I won't come close to sharing what he said here, but I will share the shocking and refreshing response from Candace. She tweeted:
To every Democrat tweeting me the clip of #DaveChappelle insulting me: I’m not a leftist. I have a sense of humor & I think comedians SHOULD make fun of people. Dave Chappelle is one of the greatest comedians of all time and I made it into one of his specials. That’s POWER!
Whatever the opposite of a snowflake is, that is Candace.
When Congressman-elect Luke Letlow recently died of COVID-19, many truly sick individuals started launching I-told-you-so attacks against him (regarding his more right-leaning beliefs concerning the virus that ironically took his life). The hatred that flooded Twitter and other social sites is protected free speech, but people become enraged when their affinity group isn't affirmed? This offensive, demented and loveless barrage of missel strikes on Luke Letlow has most certainly devastated even further his precious wife and children who are in mourning.
Of course we know Christians are often targets of hate. Where is the outrage?
The Daily News reports:
On New Year’s Eve, left-wing journalist and New York Times bestselling author Kurt Eichenwald wished “pain & misery” on Republicans and said that he wants to find an “antimasker” and “beat them to death.” During the volatile rant, Eichenwald also scolded alleged “anti-mask” “F***ING ‘Christians’ who preen about God saving [them] from COVID,” claiming they are who “Jesus condemns.” “I have so much hate in my heart tonight.”
With all sincerity, I pray God touches Kurt's heart and heals his pain.
Again, on TikTok, a creator was greeted with a comment that said, “I really hope this is a video of you having a stroke that will end your life.”
And, again, that hate speech is perfectly okay? Understand, comments like this are flooding the social-sphere night and day. Innumerable people being sniped by innumerable commenters with unfathomable hatred. Well, of course it isn't okay, but it's legal, and it should be. Voicing opinions, no matter how politically incorrect, evil or personal is protected in our nation. It's called free speech.
The saying goes, sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me. Of course, that's untrue. Words hurt. But, in our nation we are free to use hurtful words. We are free to use hateful words. Spend ten minutes outside of your Christian bubble and venture into the real world of public opinion. Every form of vile language and unrelenting hate-filled assaults are non-stop when it comes to politics, abortion rights, gay rights, masks, lockdowns, sports, parenting and pretty much every other hot topic in our culture.
Please tell me why this hate speech is protected but other hate speech is censored, rooted up and out. While you are considering that, let me know why some lies are affirmed while other lies are banished from social media.
THE RIGHT TO LIE
Okay, this is getting downright blasphemous. A Christian author supporting the right to lie?
It's not blasphemy. Honestly, it's common sense.
Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites have emerged as today's thought police, independently becoming arbiters of truth. They are either attaching disclaimers to “deceptive” tweets and posts or completely deleting them. Entire conservative accounts being deleted has become quite normal. In a nation that not only celebrates but was founded on free speech, alternate viewpoints (conspiracy theories) and even mainline, honest evaluations have become flagged as deceptive.
No longer can we question the election, share our beliefs regarding biology (science) when it comes to questions of gender or debate many of the liberal ideologies of the day.
Here's why we must support the right to lie. You will agree that it is common sense. The truth of the Word of God is already being rejected as a lie. If we don't support the right to lie or to hold positions that differ from secular society, our freedom to preach truth will be stripped.
Facebook, Twitter and the others: stop the moderation. You can't sanitize your platform of the truth you call a lie. If people want to promote belief in aliens, so be it. If we want to discuss election fraud, surely we should be allowed to. Our President surely should never be censored. (I'm talking to you, Jack Dorsey.)
But, friend, we have to know that as the end draws nearer, truth will be called a lie and lies will be called truth. This is why we must support the right to lie. We as Christians must be unmuzzled, free to spread “lies” that will set the captives free.
“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…” (Romans 1:24–25, ESV)
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20, ESV)
WE MUST BE UNOFFENDABLE
If we are unoffendable, we will remain full of life, joyful and victorious no matter what people say to us. Yes, words hurt, but they should not debilitate.
Both in the spiritual and the natural, we must discover this strength. Our churches and our nation will become stronger, healthier and enduring when we refuse to melt when the verbal (or written) attacks come.
The Daily Mail continued, “Mr Justice Warby explained that the relevant parts of the Communications Act ‘were not intended by Parliament to criminalise forms of expression, the content of which is no worse than annoying or inconvenient in nature'. Mr Justice Warby also suggested that the prosecution had been an ‘unjustified state interference with free speech'.”
Please hear me. I have already made the case that we should never desire to offend, but when we as Christians stand for truth, offense will come. There is a careful, Spirit-led balance that must be discovered. There is a time to avoid offending people, as Jesus made clear:
“When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”” (Matthew 17:24–27, ESV)
There's also a time to stand for what is right, defending the liberty of society, even though those who aren't willing to be graceful may strike back. It makes no sense that it's okay to call for a special needs adult to be killed but it's a crime for someone to call someone a he instead of a she. A spirit of offense truly is overtaking the world, and we cannot allow it to dictate laws and culture.
I'll conclude by requalifying and clarifying my position on personal holiness. We as blood-bought Believers must be spotless, rejecting a life of sin and driven by the love of Jesus. We should not lie, hate or intentionally offend. Our passion must be the transformation of those who God so deeply loves. The world needs to see us as an unoffendable army of lovers of our mighty God. We must stand for truth even when it's determined to be a lie. We must deliver the offensive truth of Scripture from a pure and unoffended heart. We must love so deeply that those who vehemently resist it lash out and call us haters.
Simply, get ready for persecution that living a consecrated life will bring.
Originally published by The Stream.
Disqualified people are rushing to social media to establish illegitimate ministries. Are pastors to blame?There's a level of toxicity regarding the prophetic in today's churches that must be addressed if we hope to hear God's voice and advance with clarity and power in these end times. People who have had their ministries rejected in the church are taking their services to Facebook and other social communities in hopes of developing influence. The problem? Influence without authority is birthed out of deep dysfunction and it can lead people into that same dysfunctional, unauthorized spirituality. They would argue they receive their authority and their authorization from God directly. This tired argument is evidence of resistance to being rightfully responsive to flesh and bone people that God has called us to serve and honor. We don't have the option to reject human authority while, in the same breath, attempting to establish ourselves as an authority. It's silliness. Listen to the podcast on this topic…
PROPHECY IS CRITICAL IN THE CHURCH TODAYWe cannot go on without pure, potent and mature prophecy filling our churches every single week. The lack of God's rhema voice is telling as churches are resorting more and more to sociological mind tricks instead of advancing according to supernatural revelation. It has become quite rare to see a body that's healthy and strong in the prophetic as people are rightly equipped and released to communicate oracles from heaven. Faith is epidemically low as millions of Christians have no idea what God's voice sounds like.
17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17 (NKJV)The word “word” in the above verse is translated as rhema. This is the “now” word of God, the revelation whether it's a prophetic word or the words of Scripture leaping off the pages. When this active, precise and timely message from God pierces a people, faith skyrockets. Not only does a strong prophetic culture give a local church body the ability to move ahead in the direction God has determined, but everybody involved is wildly invested as a result of hearing God speak. True prophetic messages don't stop at the ears or the mind, but they sear our spirits and impact our emotions like no other message can. When this happens, faith goes up and we respond in unity, power and joy. Sadly, most churches could not be described as prophetic churches. There are reasons for this. Blame rests both on the pastor and on the people. Let's deal with the people first.
10 REASONS WHY PASTORS DON'T LET YOU PROPHESY IN CHURCH SERVICES
ONE: A LACK OF HUMILITYI'll begin by communicating loud and clear something many prophetic people won't want to hear: never, ever start attending a church with the intention of mentoring, teaching or refining the pastor via prophecy or otherwise. What arrogance it must take for you to presume such an uninvited role in your church. If your wealth of wisdom, knowledge and experience are needed, be sure the pastor will request your counsel. Otherwise, keep quiet. Whether in this scenario or another, pastors have no use for people who want to minster to those they have been commissioned to protect if they aren't truly humble. Meekness is a prerequisite for prophetic ministry as any measure of arrogance or selfish ambition will taint the messages being delivered. This following passage of Scripture speaks to this issue perfectly:
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. James 3:13-17 (NKJV)Wisdom is demonic if self-seeking and envy is what drives it. Follow the advice in verse seventeen and be willing to yield.
TWO: DISORDERSpeaking of being willing to yield, undisciplined prophetic people tend to enjoy rebelling against the order of the house. Influencing the service with the spiritualized sound of their voice is what drives them. Many years ago as I was planting my first church a visitor asked me about our prophetic protocol. I explained that we value prophecy and that she could deliver a prophetic word to me or leadership for review during the worship service. She didn't like that answer. She went on to say that she would have to interrupt the service, even if I were preaching, if God gave her a prophetic word for the body. Ummm, nope. She presumed her supposed prophetic insight was important enough to violate order. We were interested in investing in her and in her prophetic gift and in developing a very active, life-giving prophetic culture, but she didn't want to function within those boundaries. She ended up leaving the church and we were the better for it.
THREE: IMMATURITYThere's a difference between someone who is actively and willingly growing in their gift and someone who refuses to grow up. Those who are intentionally undisciplined and who are not giving themselves to everything that needs to be done to grow and develop their gifting should not be set free to prophesy in the church. A lot of damage can be done. These people love to prophesy, but you don't see them in the prayer rooms. They are unresponsive to leadership. They aren't in the Word.
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Hebrews 5:12-14 (NKJV)Those who are prophesying are most definitely functioning in the arena of spiritual discernment. If they cannot discern spiritually due to a lack of maturity, there's no way they can be trusted to deliver prophetic words. Does this mean their prophecy is always wrong? No. But it means they are reckless in their devotion to stewarding their gift, and if they are driven by the wrong spirit, they can do damage.
FOUR: ADVERSE TO CORRECTIONThere's no pastor alive who should allow someone to influence the body who won't take correction. This is not only an indicator of immaturity, but also of a dangerous, unsubmitted person. It reveals their heart and that's a heart that should never be trusted to minister.
1 Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, But he who hates correction is stupid. Proverbs 12:1 (NKJV)Enough said.
FIVE: YOU WON'T TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWERThe pastor has the right and responsibility to refuse to allow someone to deliver a prophetic word (or to minister in any fashion) if he chooses. If someone reacts wrongly to this, that's evidence enough that they shouldn't have been allowed to share the message. Understand, much of the time a leader will disallow a prophetic word simply because he doesn't feel it fits. It may have nothing to do with the character of the person who desires to share the word. It may just be a timing issue. We need to yield to our leaders and not get uptight or feel rejected if they don't believe our ministry is appropriate at that time. If you are a prophetic person, you need to understand that what you wish to share in a public setting isn't always what others feel should be shared. Since you are a person under authority, you need to be okay with the reality that your leaders may not want you to share your revelation at times. If not, you'll grow bitter very quickly, and then we should run far and fast from any prophetic word you try to impose on us.
SIX: A POOR TRACK RECORDIt wouldn't make sense for a pastor to allow someone to preach on a Sunday morning if they have a history of teaching error. Further, they shouldn't allow someone to minister as a part of the worship team if they are always off key or don't show up for rehearsals on time. This simple and obvious realty applies to prophetic people as well. If they repeatedly deliver wrong, confusing or unscriptural messages, they can't be allowed to continue. Pastors must ensure truth is communicated and if someone can't be trusted to deliver truth, they must be benched until they can grow as a Believer.
SEVEN: MANIPULATIONThis is a big, big point and I want to make sure I have your full attention: If you are attempting to use your supposed prophetic gift to steer the church in a direction not sanctioned by the leadership, you are functioning in witchcraft. You are in rebellion and your ministry is dark and it should not be tolerated. Charismatic witchcraft is rampant and we must have bold pastors who fear God more than man to deal very aggressively with it. If you are operating in this unruly spirit and attempting to pass it off as prophecy, you need to go. Leave. Don't come back. I'd be quick to show someone like this the door, unless they were truly repentant. Don't underestimate the damage that such a demonic spirit can do in a church, especially if the leaders God ordained to protect the flock refuse to act. Their silence can kill an entire church, and it happens every day. God will protect a leader who is “wrong” (I'm not talking about sin, I'm talking about organizational direction) before he affirms a prophetic person who is “right” yet manipulative, rebellious and fueled by an evil spirit of witchcraft.
EIGHT: DOMINATING THE SERVICEThere goes Sister Linda again! Oh, Brother Joe is about to stand up and deliver a word…I can just feel it! We know the all too predictable scenario all too well. In many churches there's one or two people who, week after week, dominate the prophetic culture by delivering word after word after word after word after word…you get it. Again, the counsel is to yield! Do you have any idea how much cringing goes on in the church, by the pastor and by most of the body, when the same people are giving nearly the same words in most every service? Oh, it's true. The cringe factor is high. Pastors, the body is often wondering why you don't put a stop to it. You need to do your job and lovingly encourage these types of people on how to rightly minister in your local church setting.
NINE: GOSSIPClosely related to manipulation, and equally as deadly, is gossip. Sadly, unrestrained prophetic people are famous for their ability to gossip. Stopping with a manipulative prophetic word is definitely not enough for them. When leadership doesn't change the course of the church after repeated doses of prophetic pressure, their next step is to gather people around them and to sell their perspective. Any good charismatic witch would do just that. All it takes is a Christianized coven meeting to give real power to their motives. Gossips are some of Satan's most anointed salesmen, and when that person is looked up to as a prophetic voice, you have some incredible manipulative, supernatural and extremely evil power behind their words. They can destroy a church overnight, and they cannot be tolerated.
TEN: YOU ARE NEEDY/YOU HAVE IDENTITY ISSUESPeople who need to minister for the sake of affirmation, or to feed their misguided identities, shouldn't be given a platform, unless that platform is at the altar. Too many wounded prophetic people have developed a craving for affirmation in their gifting, and that weakness has compromised that gift, no matter how precise or developed it is. Our identity must be found in nobody and nothing else than Jesus. It should be easy to lay our gifts and callings down, with the only grief coming from our passion to see lives transformed. Our own need to minister should never be a factor. Those who need to minister should not be allowed to minister. Instead, they should spend time with Jesus and give themselves to the process of healing. Then, they will be free, healthy and trustworthy when it's time to step into ministry again.
PASTORS, THIS IS WHAT PEOPLE NEED FROM YOU REGARDING THEIR PROPHETIC CALLING
ONE: EQUIPPINGA key reason there's so much dysfunction in prophetic people today, and a reason they are running to Facebook to minister, is because pastors have failed to equip them. It's as simple as that. Prophetic people are yearning to be trained, but it's nearly impossible to find a church today that includes a prophetic school as a part of their foundational culture. Heck, you can barely find a Sunday School class focusing on it. Pastors, it's your responsibility to equip the people in the prophetic. How can you hear what God is saying if you don't? Church is a corporate venture, and while you are the point person, and while God will speak directly to you in most situations, you need others to confirm those words and to introduce additional revelation that's critical for the mission. If you shut down the prophetic in your services to avoid the issues I addressed above, you are wrong. It's as clear as that. Their failure is most often your failure.
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 (NKJV)
TWO: AN OUTLETPeople need an outlet. Prophetic messengers especially must have a place to release their revelations. If not in the church, then where? If not in a safe place with the oversight of leadership it will happen unmoderated, uncontrolled and undisciplined in public. Pastors, you have no option but to nurture your prophetic culture in such a way that the body can minister the various impacts the Spirit of God is having on them. If they are muzzled they will most usually break free and unleash those words from a place of rebellion. Their rebellion is not only their fault. Very often, it's also yours.
26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 1 Corinthians 14:26 (NKJV)
THREE: FEEDBACKProphetic people want feedback. Those who are thin skinned will be revealed, which is advantageous to you. Those who are truly humble and teachable will come alive as you share your heart regarding their ministry. Did they prophesy from a healthy heart? Let them know. Was their message a little confusing? Coach them. Be invested in their development and your church will be the better for it.
FOUR: NO FAVORITISMFirst things first. It's okay for pastors to acknowledge prophetic people who have passed tests, proven themselves and been faithful. They absolutely should be favored. Further, those who have failed the tests should not be favored. That being said, all things being equal, it's important that pastors give room to everybody who's healthy and ready to minister. The young need room to grow, the new people need a family to thrive in and those who have been trusted for years need to mentor the next generation. If you want to ensure a church stays in a spiritual rut, refuse to acknowledge anybody except those who have been in the inner circle for decades.
FIVE: A RIGHT RESPONSEProphetic people don't simply want to share a legitimate word from God. They are excited about the shift in the atmosphere that it will bring. Too often, pastors want to grab the reigns as fast as possible after a prophetic word is given and redirect back in the previous direction. Pastors must humbly admit that God will use prophetic people to bring fresh wind that demands the sails are repositioned so the boat starts moving the direction the Holy Spirit desires. These prophetic people simply want to see the fruit of their obedience to release oracles instead of the resistance and rejection that is so commonplace in the church today.
SIX: ENCOURAGEMENTEverybody needs encouragement, especially prophetic people! Speak life into them and let them know how blessed you are because of their ministry. Thank them for their heart, for their devotion to humility, for their growth. Let them know you see them developing and that you appreciate them. A healthy, loved and encouraged prophetic person is a valuable member of your team.
SEVEN: VALIDATIONThere comes a time to publicly validate a ministry. This holds true for every ministry, but it seems those with prophetic callings are all too often overlooked. If someone has passed tests and proven themselves, over an extended period of time, let the body know you trust them and that their ministry is valid. Not only will this encourage the individual and give them a track to run on, it will show everybody else the type of person and what it takes to be validated. It will give them a goal. It will communicate that others, who have not proven themselves, are not affirmed, at least not at that level.
VICE VERSAA bunch of the above points could be applied to the other party. Pastors also must be humble. They shouldn't manipulate. They must be mature, teachable and not a gossip. The prophetic person should encourage their pastor. They should have a right response to leadership. However, lets start the way I laid it out. We must see health come to the church, especially today, and most certainly in the arena of the prophetic. God has a lot to say to us.
The spirit of Absalom: How to respond to betrayal and strategic resistance against the church
The moment you advance with prophetic and apostolic focus is the moment the spirit of Absalom is awakened. That cunning wicked spirit specializes on feeding into the deeply felt frustrations of people whose desires go unmet in the church. Satan is a master at accusation due to the never-ending practice of his craft.
…the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. Revelation 12:10b
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. Zechariah 3:1
Satan intercedes “on our behalf” night and day, accusing us before the Lord. This is yet another reason why we must have a day and night prayer movement arise in every city on Earth!
Historically in our ministry it is when we take fervent, strategic intercession to the next level that we see the accuser begin to speak loudly and convincingly to the people who are running the race with us. He preys on those who are growing in their resistance to prayer.
MANITOU SPRINGS, COLORADO
When you take prayer to the next, critical level, you can expect schisms and disruptions to come to your ministry and your life. We have seen it in so many ministries, including our own in a variety of places and in a variety of ways.
I planted and gave leadership to Revolution Church in Manitou Springs, Colorado beginning in 2001. We experienced some extremely difficult seasons, each immediately after we shifted the church into a greater prayer focus. We weren’t only praying, but we were developing a prayer culture. Prayer was the main thing, and everything that we did, as the transition happened, was to support that emphasis.
Keep in mind that Manitou Springs is an extremely dark region right at the base of Pikes Peak. One national leader told me he believes it’s the darkest city in the nation. Witchcraft and the occult are extremely intense there, and there were no life-giving churches other than ours and a small Episcopal church that was led by a fiery, Spirit-filled pastor. In fact, I was told that since the mid 1980’s, fourteen churches had started and failed within their first two years.
It was in this environment where we experienced absolutely stunning supernatural manifestations. God was on the move, the enemy was feeling the assault against his kingdom and we had no option but to take prayer to a much higher level. There were many times that we’d take teams of intercessors deep into the cave systems in Manitou Springs, turn out our lights and pray for four to five hours in perfect darkness. I can’t begin to describe how powerful that was! In fact, one extremely significant day we took a prayer journey up to the top of Pikes Peak, and that evening we went into the belly of the Earth to continue our intercession. Prayer was on the rise—and the assault was about to land.
Two of the resulting challenges were directly initiated by the Absalom spirit.
My wife and I interviewed a man and his wife for a pastoral care position in the church. I am not a pastor myself, meaning, I don’t have the giftings of that particular office. Barbara Yoder who is a friend and the leader of the network that we submit to identifies me as a prophetic apostle. I don’t care at all about the title, but it’s helpful to know who you are and who you are not!
Since I was clearly not at all energized by the various demands of pastoral ministry, and I was focused on other important assignments, I really desired someone to step in to help carry the pastoral load.
I’ll never forget the slight check in my spirit that I had as we were interviewing this couple. God said, “No,” and I said, “You’re hired!”
The couple stepped right up and started connecting relationally to people. They seemed to be doing a great job! In fact, he would stand at the door every Sunday and hug people as they entered. In hindsight that should have been a red flag.
As time went by, I started to feel extremely unsettled in my spirit. Keep in mind, the prayer culture was starting to take form and, though I didn’t realize it at the time, this was the reason for the disturbance in my spirit. Resistance was increasing, though I didn’t know what the specific source was.
One day I called the staff together and shared with them the increasing trouble I was sensing and instructed them to pray. We went strong in prayer as a team—except for one. The new pastor was clearly struggling. The more intense the tongues, the more uncomfortable he appeared.
As we continued in that prayer storm I decreed that a shaking must come to our church. I shouted, “God, shake our church! Shake our church!” I prayed, in the fear of the Lord, for God to lovingly bring any necessary judgment to me and to our ministry—to make wrong things right. I knew only God, in his perfect wisdom, could resolve this trauma in the spirit.
A few days later I was sitting in the church with my Children’s Pastor and her husband, along with their baby who was sitting in a stroller. Our building was a 100 year old wooden structure with large beams along the top of the ceiling.
Suddenly the entire property started violently shaking! We looked around, wondering what was happening. It felt like an earthquake.
Then we heard a crashing sound above our heads as one of the large beams plummeted down and landed right between me and the baby. I didn’t connect the dots at that moment, but the shaking I had prayed for was manifesting. First in the natural, and next in the spirit.
Very soon after that happened I received an email from the pastor. He told me that he was resigning effective immediately. I was shocked. I emailed him back requesting a phone call or a meeting. He declined and I never saw him again.
He started his own church, took about 1/4th of our church—and then closed his church a month later and moved to Florida with his family. Everybody he influenced to leave was left to wander alone in confusion.
The Absalom spirit attacked with vengeance and it left destruction in its path.
God’s answer? Prune. We prayed for the shaking and the judgment, and while it was severe and difficult, it was necessary. Our ministry immediately became stronger and more unified after God swept through.
While I have extreme fear of the Lord on me when I feel it necessary to request the intervention of the judge, I always know that he is a good judge who loves deeply and who can be trusted fully.
There was another situation in Colorado many years ago that resulted in an underground “spirit of Absalom” situation that was fueled by offense.
I started to hear the rumors: John doesn’t love people. Amy and I felt like we were hit by a train.
Someone on my staff had a false expectation about something I considered to be incredibly minor. I was unable to meet that specific request due to needing to be somewhere later that night. It wasn’t until months later that I put two and two together and realized that an underground movement of gossip was setting some on my staff and team against me. The accusation? I don’t love people because I wasn’t there for them that day. Further, since that situation, according to their analysis, revealed my true, unloving heart, and my motives in ministry were now compromised, there must be an effort to resist the ministry—and, for them, it was in the name of love!
My initial split-second reaction when I received knowledge of the situation was this: That doesn’t make sense! I love that person and the others so much. Of all things how could that be the accusation?
I was really saddened that those who I expressed love to by welcoming them onto our team, supporting them in their ministries, encouraging them to be free to lead with passion, etc. were rejecting my expression of love! Wow! Isn’t it interesting how it all works together—how the enemy can twist and turn things in such a dastardly way!
This was the same individual that had come to me previously with a dilemma. She had to deal with a situation in the church, but she didn’t want to make waves. She asked, “John, how in the world can I handle this explosive situation and convince the person that I love them?” I simply responded, “Why are you trying to attempt to convince them you love them? Simply love them.”
If we try to convince people we love them, we won’t actually love them when administering true tough love, biblical discipline and other challenges are called for. True biblical love at times does not feel like the love our culture has defined.
My heart breaks over situations like this. Can I love better? Oh man, YES! But, I also need to help bring this issue to the surface. Too many leaders are not living according to their calling, because they are so busy modifying their personality and mandate to match what others expect!
We must love according to how God designed us. The cross wasn’t welcomed, but it was the method Jesus was mandated to use. It didn’t feel like love then, but boy was it.
As the prayer culture continued to develop, the resistance elevated. Some people broke away, and I’ll never forget the tears I could hear when I talked on the phone with my wife one day. She was wounded and broken.
Though I was supposed to take my position for a prayer watch that night, I left. I went home. I gave up that night as well. We went to bed hurting and troubled. As leaders, we were doing our best to move at the sound of the voice of the Lord—but the resistance was nearly too much to bear. Great friends betrayed us and we didn’t know what to do.
In the morning she and I woke up startled. My wife had a dream. The earth opened up underneath Manitou Springs and the entire town was sucked into Hell. I had a sharp pain in my body that I knew was due to an open door to a specific demonic attack. We both knew we couldn’t give up. The mission was still on. We repented and the split second I did, the severe pain left my body. The open door of wrongful surrender to the enemy’s threats was closed.
I will never get over how God works. He is beyond amazing. Both my wife and I will admit that we were deeply wounded when this individual rose up against us. We instantly had to humble ourselves and allow God to work on our hearts. Though we feel we handled it well, God will always test us. That test is not for God, but for us—it will clearly show where we really are with a situation.
The coming Church is going to be jealously guarded by God, a loving Bridegroom. There won’t be room for bitter, unforgiving leaders, and we have to be willing to be continually tested by God. We must crave his involvement!
Our staff member finally decided to move from Colorado to another far away state. We thanked Jesus! What a wonderful moment that was! Though we had forgiven her, it felt good that the drama was over.
A year or so later, Amy and I were called to leave Colorado and move to Kansas City to join the staff of the International House of Prayer. Though we loved Colorado and the ministry there, we couldn’t deny that God was opening doors to Missouri, and we also couldn’t deny that a fresh new season was quite welcome.
We thought we’d only be there for the three month internship, but ended up staying for two years as we gave leadership to that very same internship as Directors. It was a very exciting time for our family—until…the crisis. I won’t go into the entire dramatic story, but please understand we were suddenly blindsided and the pain was real.
We lost an unborn baby (we’ve lost a total of seven) and were replaced as Directors of the internship in the same week. Suddenly, a lot of life and joy was replaced by very real, unexpected and confusing pain. Now, understand, though we were in another trial, we were processing very well. Being replaced in the internship did make sense, even though we enjoyed serving in that ministry so much! That role called for a very different personality type and gift mix, and I didn’t realize this when Mike Bickle offered me the position. They were so gracious in the entire process, and we love that ministry deeply!
However, again, the pain was legitimate. You might wonder how this story connects with the story of pain in Colorado. Get ready for this.
Remember, God will go to great lengths to ensure we are operating in love, and that we are humble and teachable.
At this time, God began opening doors for ministry in Detroit, Michigan. In those meetings he began to move in a very dramatic and powerful way, confirming his Word with signs following. So after much prayer, we felt led that we should move to Detroit. Now in the natural, this was not the best time to sell our house in Kansas City. The economy was bad and Forbes Magazine had recently called our city the eighth fastest dying city in America! So my wife put out a fleece: if God wants us to move to Detroit, he will have our house sell for our full asking price within seven days of placing it on the market.
Miraculously, God sold our home after being on the market for only six days!
Glory to God! We were in another exciting, miraculous season!
About thirty days before we were to move from Kansas City to Detroit I sat in my last all-staff meeting at IHOP. There was over a thousand people in that meeting, and I sat in the very back, on the floor, kind of bored and ready to get on with my day. Then it happened. The impossible happened.
From the platform I heard the leader of the meeting say something like, “We would like to introduce a new staff member who will be giving leadership to a new ministry on our base. Everybody welcome…”
No way! No way! No way!
It was impossible! When I heard her very distinct, unusual name, and saw her welcomed onto the team, I was speechless. I think my jaw hung down for quite a long time. My head was spinning as I was witnessing an invasion into our fragile world.
There was simply no way that this person, who had done so much damage to our ministry in Colorado, who had moved to a far away state, could suddenly converge with our life in Kansas City!
I stepped outside and called my wife. I’ll never forget her response to my news. After I told her who was now on staff, all I heard her say, with defeat in her tone, was, “No.”
Do you realize what happened? God set up this encounter, this trial, to test our hearts.
When I got home that afternoon, we talked and resolved that it was indeed a test, and we endeavored to pray for this person and to ask God to bless her deeply!
I never did see her over the next month. Amy, however, had a very important chance encounter with her. The very last day we lived in Kansas City, as the moving truck was being loaded in the driveway, Amy went to the bank to close our account. You guessed it. Standing in line right in front of her was our former staff member.
My wife smiled big and gave her a huge hug! Amy felt so good that it was so easy to love this person!
That was the last time we ever saw her, and to this day we pray for her to be wildly blessed!
Love will certainly manifest in many different ways, but for those who are called of God, that love will be tested. The coming Church will be a love-bathed Church, and we must welcome the testing, no matter how painful it is. My wife would say the freedom and abundant life she feels regarding the Colorado/Kansas City crisis is well worth the trial she and I went through.
Though I will share strategies on how to deal with Absalom in a moment, the primary strategy must be love. We cannot react in bitterness or resentment. Love heals.
It’s very important to understand that betrayal and resistance are guaranteed to come if we are truly advancing as prophetic and apostolic leaders. Also, to de-spiritualize it just a bit, betrayal and resistance are guaranteed to come simply because we are weak, fallible humans. We will experience push back when we lead rightly and also when we struggle and fail. This is why humility is non-negotiable. Pride is not the right weapon to use against our attackers.
I find it very interesting that resistance and rejection cause so many people to leave ministry or to leave the church. When Jesus faced the same issues to a radically greater extreme, he laid his life down for the church. Betrayal was not enough to cause him to abdicate his responsibility to serve the church by giving his life. There was no gossip, no forcing his views on people and no attempt to be validated, affirmed or understood. He simply died.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” Matthew 5:43-44
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 1 John 3:16
Is there a response to the Absalom assignment against churches? Yes.
Let’s look at some diagrams that will help bring great clarity to the necessity and power of holy agreement—which is what Absalom is attempting to destroy. There is a biblical process that we must embrace in the arena of differing opinions. As humans it is normal to have a variety of different ideas from those we are in relationship with–including leadership.
Just how we handle those differing ideas is the matter at hand. If we are holding strong to our own selfish ambitions (even if those ambitions are good!), and we refuse to place our will on the altar, problems will abound. Churches will split, gossip will flourish and division will actually be entertained as an optional method of resolution.
However, if we embrace integrity, humility, servanthood and the preference of others above ourselves, we’ll easily be willing to die to our own opinions for the sake of the body.
When we’re agreed, we’re strong. In the midst of different ideas, experiences, thoughts, opinions and concerns we simply agree to disagree for the sake of the mission.
Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? Amos 3:3
Your watchmen shall lift up their voices, With their voices they shall sing together; For they shall see eye to eye When the Lord brings back Zion. Isaiah 52:8
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. John 17:20-21
Agreement must be a mandatory and deliberate position that we all stand strong in, even at the cost of personal comfort and advance.
If God is releasing you from participation, make sure you follow through in the usually lengthy process of transition from this assignment to the next. Don’t go if there is hardness, bitterness or unforgiveness in your heart. Go blessed and free and sent by your pastor.
Healthy argument is OK. It’s a part of life. We simply have seasons where we disagree, and it’s important and appropriate at times to discuss it with the our leaders. Of course, we don’t involve anybody other than those directly involved (leaders, pastors, etc.). We don’t gossip or allow ourselves to become irritable. We agree to disagree and remain unified.
In Amos we see that God will reveal corporate instructions to some but not all. The rest of us are called to respond to the call of God as given through an imperfect human, and that can be a challenge for the best of us!
But, when we humble ourselves and surrender our right to cause a disturbance we can still move ahead in strength. The corporate mission is not threatened!
If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it? Surely the Lord God does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets. A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken! Who can but prophesy? Amos 3:6-8
Here’s where the problems begin. We know that Satan is the accuser of the brethren, and he loves it when he finds allies in the fellowship of believers to help him with his schemes of destruction.
At this point, submission has failed. Honoring others hasn’t happened. Personal preference has turned into a personal mission of dominance.
Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. Revelation 12:10
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 1 Peter 5:8
These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren. Proverbs 6:16-19
The sowing of discord among brethren is an abomination! Did you feel the weight of that? It’s not OK!
After teaching this to a class of interns one of them came to me the next day. He said that ever since he arrived a month ago he has had a heavy heart. He couldn’t break through it. After this class God convicted him of embracing a divisive and accusing spirit. He was assisting in his youth group back home, and he wanted to take the youth to a prayer and fasting event, even though he knew his leadership didn’t embrace that particular stream within the body. So, he secretly gathered the youth together and took them himself.
So what happened? You can see it in the diagram on the right. Any idea what word should fill in the blank?
Agreement. Unholy agreement. He gathered people to himself, to his vision (a great vision) and away from his leadership. Even though his heart simply wanted God and he felt a prayer and fasting event would be entirely appropriate, his action against his authority was inappropriate. The agreement people had with his vision resulted in disagreement, disunity, with those who were their rightful leaders.
The enemy craves agreement. He knows the power of it. The alliance is so important.
So, this particular individual was in the prayer room here and immediately repented for his rebellion to his authority. He said immediately he was broken and experienced God for the first time in weeks. He cried and cried as the love of the Father rushed in.
He called his leaders in his church back home and repented. They forgave him entirely and thanked him for his heart to make things right.
How amazing is that! No matter how holy you think your purpose is, if you have to violate God’s established authority in your life to see it come to pass, you will have to align with the enemy in order to do so!
And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” Genesis 11:4-7
Division will lead to unholy agreement. As we allow ourselves to align with others against leaders we are enhancing demonic unity. Unity and agreement is powerful whether it’s holy or unholy. Let’s endeavor for holy unity even if it’s at the cost of our own personal plans and dreams.
I’ve witnessed many people resist authority in their lives, and I’ve done it myself. The motives can seem pure and we may have the best interest of the body at heart, but it never produces anything good. The story of Absalom should speak clearly to us in regard to this issue.
Now Absalom would rise early and stand beside the way to the gate. So it was, whenever anyone who had a lawsuit came to the king for a decision, that Absalom would call to him and say, “What city are you from?” And he would say, “Your servant is from such and such a tribe of Israel.” Then Absalom would say to him, “Look, your case is good and right; but there is no deputy of the king to hear you.” Moreover Absalom would say, “Oh, that I were made judge in the land, and everyone who has any suit or cause would come to me; then I would give him justice.” And so it was, whenever anyone came near to bow down to him, that he would put out his hand and take him and kiss him. In this manner Absalom acted toward all Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel. 2 Samuel 15:2-6
Absalom disagreed with his leader, and embraced the others who shared in his disagreement. We see this occur time and again within churches. It has a ring of honor to it as people presume to have the best interest of everybody at heart. However, it’s rebellion in its purest form. The results for those who embrace this spirit are often devastating.
Then Absalom met the servants of David. Absalom rode on a mule. The mule went under the thick boughs of a great terebinth tree, and his head caught in the terebinth; so he was left hanging between heaven and earth. And the mule which was under him went on. Now a certain man saw it and told Joab, and said, “I just saw Absalom hanging in a terebinth tree!” So Joab said to the man who told him, “You just saw him! And why did you not strike him there to the ground? I would have given you ten shekels of silver and a belt.” But the man said to Joab, “Though I were to receive a thousand shekels of silver in my hand, I would not raise my hand against the king’s son. For in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, saying, ‘Beware lest anyone touch the young man Absalom!’ 2 Samuel 18:9-12
Just as Absalom was met with judgment, I’ve witnessed over and over people enduring long seasons of struggle and frustration after rising up against God’s established authority–even if the authority is truly in error. It’s never acceptable to speak against the President of the United States, our supervisor at work, a teacher at school, our pastor or mom and dad. We always pray and support and love with abandonment! A differing opinion should never cause us to remove ourselves from a place of agreement with these people. We unite with them and serve as people who honor those God has placed in our lives.
Rebellion against any established human institution is a serious violation of God’s divine authority. We need to know and recognize the operation of God’s authority in all human institutions.
We never speak against or elevate our own opinions above God’s established authority. Pastors, prophets, apostles, politicians, policemen, bosses, etc. We humbly support them, unless, and only unless, they were to cause us to violate a CLEAR Scriptural truth. That’s it. If a leader is clearly corrupt and unrepentant then most certainly remove yourself from that person’s direct care.
Submit to God and be ready to serve Him through the process of love, prayer and encouragement for that leader. Watch what you say. Speak life always. Do not gossip.
It’s important to understand that to submit to God’s appointed leaders in our lives only to the point where we agree with the order is NOT submission at all. Submission is actually spotlighted when someone honors his or her authority when the order is contrary to their own opinions, experience or position. We can agree with our authority while not agreeing with the order or instruction or position. It is never appropriate to remove ourselves from a position of submission if the order given is inconvenient, bothersome or irritating.
In recent years the body has increasingly put demands on the very ones who they are to be receiving leadership from. This is sin, and it must stop.
The passage in Romans goes on to say this:
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. Romans 13:3
The enemy has caused millions of believers to be afraid of authority. It’s time to renounce the alliance with the spirits of Lawlessness and Self-government and do what is good. Many people who have been hurt by controlling pastors made a foolish decision by embracing that very same spirit for themselves–the spirit of control. We absolutely need to sever that alliance. God is our great Protector. Fear of authority will dissipate as the Holy Spirit once again takes up residence in the place where the spirits of Independence and Control once ruled.
Even when the church isn’t being run in what you would call an appropriate manner, it’s critical to support God’s government.
Gary Keiser said,
“It is better for us to live with a wrong system and uphold God’s authority than to destroy a system and thus destroy God’s authority in the process. We have to learn to submit to men and not to touch authority in a light way. In all these relationships we have to learn to know authority and practice obedience. We have to know that there are lords and masters in everything; we cannot assume to be the master as soon as we touch something. We have to learn obedience through many situations. One finds authority in the hospital. As soon as he works in a hospital, he has to obey the authority in the hospital. There is even authority in a restaurant. Some serve as managers, and we have to learn to obey them. If we touch authority in a genuine way, we will find authority wherever we go. In obeying the authority of earthly institutions, we are actually obeying God because all authorities are from God. We have to see that every authority is from God. Only a rebellious and proud man is blind to authority; only he will not submit to God’s deputy authority…. Titus 3:1 says that we should be “subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready unto every good work.” This is the proper attitude towards human government…. God’s authority in the universe is being carried out through human government.”
Absalom is a church destroying spirit that is fueled by human wisdom, complaint and gossip.
I’ve written and taught on the Absalom spirit quite a bit, including in a provocative article I wrote yesterday. I’d strongly encourage you to read it here: https://burton.tv/2013/08/08/a-raw-revealing-direct-message-from-my-heart-troubler-of-israel/
Interestingly, I received two emails today that hit on the topics in that article yesterday. One was from David Wilkerson on “Troubler of Israel” and the other was from Lance Wallnau on the Absalom spirit. I will include that article below.
I share some key revelation on that spirit in my book Covens in the Church, and I’d encourage you to pick it up. It’s only $2.99 on Kindle here: http://www.amazon.com/Covens-in-the-Church-ebook/dp/B005F0I1FG/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1312782087&sr=1-1
The Absalom strategy of the enemy is brilliant.
This spirit is fueled by human wisdom, complaint, gossip and a desire to prove what is right and to use that information to force change in a church. The complaints are often accurate, yet they aren’t driven by the spirit of truth, they are empowered by a demonic spirit.
When I say the complaints are accurate, what I mean is that people have analyzed the situation and arrived at a conclusion that is factually correct. Scripture can usually be found to support the argument. For example, the Bible tells us to take care of the poor. Someone in union with an Absalom spirit might take up the offense of the poor and accuse the church leadership of failure to serve them. The offense can spread and people can rally together and attempt to find someone in the church with influence and authority who will agree with them.
Whenever people attempt to satisfy legitimate needs via manipulation, that is witchcraft. Absalom is drunk on the spirit of witchcraft.
8 SIGNS YOU MAY BE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ABSALOM
How can you know if you are under the influence of the Absalom demon? Here are some indicators:
- Gossip: This should be the easiest indicator, yet even the most seasoned Christians fall victim to the spirit of gossip all the time. I’d discovered that very few really understand what gossip really is.
Here’s my favorite definition: Gossip is any discussion about a person or an entity (such as a church, group or business) that the person or leader of the entity would disapprove of.
Would your pastor approve of your discussion about the church? If not, you are under the influence of Absalom.
- Right vs. Wrong: Are you living in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil by attempting to prove yourself right and your leaders wrong? Or, are you living in the Tree of Life that results in honoring and serving them?
- Contrary Visions: You and others in the church may see the need for something, such as a soup kitchen, small group ministry or evangelism emphasis. While this may be a valid need, you have to ask the question, “Does it agree with the specific vision of my church?” All churches aren’t assigned to have soup kitchens, for example. It’s important to come under the vision of the house and leave other focuses on your shelf until God enables you to run with it.
- Gathering Others: Are you seeking support for your viewpoint? If you are gathering other people around you who have the same concerns as you, you can know that the same thing happened in the story of Absalom.
- Stealing Hearts: As you gather others, are you stealing their hearts, or are you affirming the pastor or leader they have been assigned by God to? Absalom stole the hearts of people who were under the care of David by listening to their complaints. Always call people to be loyal to their leaders and to approach them, not you, with their complaints.
- Disengaging: Are you running strong with the leader or are you shrinking back into a smaller group of disgruntled people?
- Matthew 18: Are you applying Matthew 18 protocol to situations you are concerned about? Do you approach leadership alone with your concerns, or do you violate Matthew 18 by involving other people and seeking their counsel?
- Division: Have you considered aborting your assignment in the church God planted you in by dividing off into another church? A lot of churches are born out of rebellion in the spirit of Absalom. Is this a desire of your heart? Or, are you willing to grow through the challenge in your current church?
I’ve watched the Absalom spirit absolutely destroy people and churches. The human wisdom that fuels it feels extremely spiritual! The arguments seem scriptural! However, the spirit is deadly.
One possible indicator that you have been impacted by Absalom is how you move from one church to another. If your influence to move on came through arguments of others, and you didn’t involve your leader in the decision, you’ve been hit by Absalom! You should be looking for counsel from the leader God gave you before you talk to others, and certainly before you actually make a decision to leave. Key partnerships of God have been dismantled through the Absalom strategy, and it has left the mission of Kingdom advance at risk.
Here’s the article by Lance Wallnau:
Beware of This Spirit … Absalom!
By Lance Wallnau
Remember my earlier posts on WITCHCRAFT? Here is an update —-Beware the SPIRIT OF ABSALOM who whispers in the ear to the discontented -against YOU!
Tonight I talked with the owner of a growing tech company who was perplexed by the behavior of a key employee. As we talked I kept seeing in my mind the face of an architect friend of mine. The architect had a key employee who one day announced he was leaving the company. He walked off with most of the employee's and all my friends key clients. It was devastating. He did so with out warning. So tonight I heard the word “Absalom” strong in my spirit. This was Absalom.
With this warning in mind I advised my friend tonight accordingly. There may be time to fix this…cause to be honest, this spirit can be active in anyone till you discern how it maneuvers and decide to have no part in it. In my early years, till this was exposed, i was challenged by this spirit. But once it bites you – you never forget it.
Absalom was the third son of David. His sister, Tamar, had been sexually abused and cast aside by David's eldest son, Amnon. (You see just one of the problem's that come's with multiple wives?) David loved his family, but he was a weak and flawed father. He didn't deal with the family problem and Absalom stewed in bitterness until he came up with his own solution – killing his brother. His bitterness, still not satisfied led him to a strategy that would produce the greatest threat to David he ever experienced.
Here is how this Absalom spirit operates. (2 Sam 15:1-31)
Absalom sat near the gate of the city and looked for people who were discontented or had problems. He would sympathize with them and tell them that if he were the leader it would all be different. Essentially, he sowed disloyalty and stole the hearts of the people away from the one God put in authority – and transferred that affection to himself. It worked. David's top team member's were seduced by this spirit.
Whenever Absalom showed up at the gate he had 50 men to run before him. ( In the Bible “50” is the number of Jubilee, when economic deliverance came every 50 years….. It is also the number of days between the resurrection and Pentecost. 50 is the number of the anointing.
This spirit will be close to the top, have talent, be bitter, feel entitled to more than God has yet given and split the business or ministry in a conspiracy – after whispering and planting seed's of disloyalty into the heart of those who are discontent, saying “oh that I were leader.” The number “50” means they are a false deliverer operating with a counterfeit anointing. Eventually they will cause division and destruction and hurt even themselves severely – in the spiritual backlash.
Absalom died because his glorious long head of hair got entangled in branches of a tree. His pride in lifting up his head over Davids eventually killed him. Absalom's are often attractive people. This son was very attractive and especially his hair. While struggling to get free he got hit with three darts. Jewish tradition say's one dart represented the betrayal of his brother, the next his father and thirdly the nation.
What saved David was the “Favor” of God that still shielded him.
Those who are not loyal are not part of your next level. Where there is interaction with key clients – make sure YOU do it also. No need to be paranoid, but keep your personal touch on the clients producing 80% of your revenue. Don't just send Absalom to shmooze key relations. Re-engage the hearts of your key relationships. Check on any new biz pipeline developing and meet those people. Absalom will tell you to keep out. Go in anyway. See what is going on.
Finally- talk to executive coaches and trainers like me. In a single day or few sessions we can walk your employees thru a process that will shift them into alignment and accountability in a fun and practical way. These spirits can be thwarted when “thrown in to the light.” Like all demons, that can only operate in the dark.
WARNING: if you have any tendency to control people or insecurity do not misunderstand this post. Last thing I want to see is a David getting treated like Absalom. You want to hire talent that can do and be better than you. You simply want them to be loyal. To do that YOU have to invest in the relationship….and watch. Cause these people are charming but self centered…watch.
This is a raw, timely message to the church regarding the risk necessary to see revival come to a region.
I'd like to encourage you to read Piece of Cake which is a guide for those who are called to move into ministry—but are nervous and hesitant.
In the midst of writing from the prayer room, I found myself compelled to share some of my journey with you—the successes and failures, the joys and the troubles.
There will always be extreme pressure to adjust your vision, sometimes ever so slightly, to be more appealing to others, but it’s this adjustment that will put your entire mission at jeopardy.
I’ll just say it—when God gives you your mandate, you must be both humble and stubborn—and no matter how humble you are, your stubborn disposition will invite trouble. Convincing arguments from wonderful people can lead you to compromise. Don’t do it. Love people in your stubborn, unmoving determination to obey God. In ministry, there are negotiables and non-negotiables. Never move on the non-negotiable vision God has called you to steward.
I believe there is a remnant, a very small army of prayer-devoted awakeners, who will respond to the mission God put into my spirit years ago.
So, what is the risk? Most would say, “Just go for it! Develop a ministry that gathers together those end-time firebrands!”
I absolutely agree, and we are attempting to do just that. But, there is significant risk when we consider what we are talking about here.
The purpose of this article is to help you eliminate fears and compromises as you develop your ministry. A fulfilled mission is required!
Mission ConfusionOne of the most difficult barriers to overcome when developing a ministry according to a fresh but unfamiliar vision is the “supposed to’s.”
In our Western church culture, there are numerous focuses, ministries, attitudes and functions that are just “supposed to” be a significant part of the ministry. When attention isn’t given to what others presume are non-negotiable, discord and accusation can quickly enter the camp. Many leaders (most) will diplomatically, democratically attempt to avoid discord by entertaining these arguments in the name of unity. However, the result is false-unity around the desires of people instead of true unity around the mandates of God. How can you tell the difference? False unity is inclusive of all, true unity requires agreement that most are unwilling to adhere to.
Under Moses, there was accusation that he was most interested in his vision to enter the Promised Land, and that he wasn’t concerned for his people and their safety. Their arguments were convincing—and they won the argument—and then died in the desert.
I once went through a trying season that highlights this point very well.
Our mandate has always been unique. As a ministry of reformation, it is by design entertaining disruption and recalibration, and this will always cause trouble. I won’t go into the details, but suffice it to say that God gave me a very clear prophetic word when I was leading a ministry in Colorado to transition from ministering to people to ministering to him. I was to vertically focus on God and draw others into that encounter with me. That vision is quite offensive as it takes the primary focus off of people and puts it on God.
As a result, our ministry would not look like a typical one and would not focus on many of the expected ministries that you find in other churches and ministries. When we went through our trying time, there were some amazing friends who were wired a bit differently, and who were seeking some ministry focuses that were good, but not what we were to facilitate. There was confusion in the camp as I was running one way and they wanted to run in a slightly different direction.
It was presumed that our church, or any church, was “supposed to” be pastor led with a focus on community. Revival Church was Apostle led with a focus on intercession. Mostly vertical with a little horizontal. Our friends saw a lack of focus on community, and the lack of pastoral ministry, as a problem while we saw it as intentional and core to our mission. I’m so blessed to have Barbara Yoder as our spiritual covering. She and her team have gone to great lengths to communicate that their church is not a “family church” but rather a regional equipping center. They are key in the reformation from one system to another. The family church is the expected norm today, and it does truly take quite an effort of vision casting to break through that expectation.
To see reformation, you will have to work hard to cast the vision, and then to stay true to it. Our culture of fiery intercession and equipping awakeners has resulted in a surprising and deep community of people that love one another and who are keeping their gaze upon the Lord together! We have burning ones who pray as their primary ministry, and enjoy doing it with friends and family around them.
At the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, you don’t see a lot of hanging out for the sake of hanging out, but you do see people in the prayer room together ministering to the Lord. That culture is a problem for those who don’t crave to pray, but can you imagine IHOP bending to develop a culture that doesn’t emphasize prayer? It’s nonsensical. But, it’s only nonsensical now because they have gone through much trial and trouble to set their culture. They stayed true to the mandate even when it was confusing to more traditional Christians.
ResourcesWhen you adhere to God’s risky vision, you are at great risk of losing the resources of the majority. Since an apostolic spirit of reformation is initiating change to the status quo, the high majority of those who still value the status quo will not invest in your vision.
The cash flow of your church or ministry is absolutely at risk of slowing to a crawl. Are you OK with that? Pastors may have to surrender their security and salaries, get secular jobs and trust that God will truly provide—because many people will stop giving.
They will also not show up. They won’t run with you. Are you OK with that or will you look for a happy medium that’s appealing to the majority?
If you pray for a remnant, don’t be surprised when a remnant shows up—and the majority leaves. I absolutely do want many to contend with us for revival, but, I am willing to sacrifice their investment for the sake of staying true to our mission.
I have a lot of weaknesses. That’s not false-humility, it’s true. Just ask my wife! However, I am convinced that I am skilled just enough to grow a church, with the right team, to possibly 250. We had a church consultant years ago that said we had what it took to grow a church to 300-400.
Why and I revealing this? To let you know how easy it might be to sacrifice the mission for the sake of personal satisfaction.
A church of 250 would ensure that I would have a great salary and the ability to pay other key staff members. We would also have significant resources to grow and facilitate additional ministries. We’d have the people and the money to do much. It would feel great to be ‘successful’ in the eyes of man.
In our recent trial, some friends were focused on church growth and on creating a vibrant, exciting atmosphere with people who were deeply connected to one another. This sounds great! And, I actually want this too. However, this is very important—that goal is not the goal. It is actually more of a desire than a strategic focus.
Yes, a lot of people gathering together each week can be very good, but I had already made the decision that we would not compromise the vision for the sake of resources—be it money or people or an energetic environment. I’m willing to run with a remnant and keep investing outside of the ministry to help pay the bills.
The resources this ministry needs are burning, interceding prayer warriors who minister to God night and day. Any compromise of the vision would ensure those people won’t show up. I’ve counted the cost, and that is my goal, no matter how great the challenge or how injurious it is to my ego, energy, time or ability to grow. In fact, the humility and challenge does me good.
Lack of MomentumSmall numbers and minimal buy-in are extremely hard for many people to look past. Staying the course on the way to mission fulfillment will result in that small remnant running with you, and for some, small numbers look like failure. The momentum won’t be there. That in itself can result in lost hope. This is not good! This is why unity around the vision is so critical. You must have buy in from those who are running with you.
Again, the vision is NOT a large group of people. It’s a fulfilled mission! I have to communicate this so false-expectations don’t result in frustration.
At one point in our ministry, our worship team moved on, and this is when we decided to hold off on finding a new one. We decided to lead the services in prayer. I knew numbers would drop, and they did. I also knew that I had a job ahead of me of communicating the true vision. Our vision is not to add people, and I had to make that clear. Anybody, including myself, loves a big crowd. There’s some sense of accomplishment when that happens. Momentum is addictive. However, it really is not the goal. I have led ministries that had decent sized crowds, and a sense of momentum, but I was grieved. We were growing with people who didn’t fully buy into the mission.
Trust me, I’d rather function without visible momentum while running with a few who are all in than with a crowd of people who are mostly there because of the experience. This is a huge point!
That being said, I am looking forward to the day when many buy into the vision and we actually see stadiums filled with burning intercessors! Now, that’s momentum! But, I don’t want to see a stadium filled with people who are only there for the experience. I’d rather buy a ticket to an NFL game at packed stadium and be legitimately entertained than attempt to spiritualize an electric quasi-worship-fest with an arena full of interested but non-invested people.
If we want momentum, we can create momentum. Just gather people around a self-satisfying, entertaining message and slap the name of Jesus on it. Or, you can reveal the costly, deadly message of the cross and call people to a life of inconvenient intercession and spend years and decades creating a prayer movement. I choose the latter.
Invisible Realities are Invisible NonethelessThe true church is a supernatural church. When you start leading people into the invisible, you will lose those who walk by sight and not by faith.
I often counsel pastors and others to check on who really is and who is not with them. Is their team invested in the vision? The way to do this is simple—throw a prayer meeting and develop a prayer culture. Create an environment for your leaders where only those who are walking in the spirit can keep up with you. Those who are living according to the flesh, or who are leaning on their own understanding instead of living in the spirit will be quickly exposed.
The desire for unbiblical community (as opposed to biblical community) is a result of focusing on the visible more than the invisible. I regularly encourage people to get their satisfaction from the invisible, spiritual realm primarily—be with God and encounter him daily! The person that truly follows that advice is rare indeed.
True, biblical community actually exists in the spirit realm! In the invisible realm!
The problem with leading people into the invisible realm? Those people have to invest radically into a life of consecration, fervent prayer and going deep in God. Those who don’t do this won’t even understand where you are going or how to follow. Leading a spiritual church requires a spiritual people. For those are are invested at a lesser level, they will struggle, and usually leave. It is hard to lead a supernatural church.
Understand, I’m not talking about a church where the supernatural manifests in the natural, I mean a supernatural church that exists in the invisible realm. Those who truly walk in the spirit aren’t focused on physical manifestations nearly as much as they are encountering God in the spirit.
It feels quite spiritual to cry out for God to manifest in our natural realm, but his desire is for us to manifest in his supernatural realm. The call isn’t “on heaven as it is on earth,” but “on earth as it is in heaven.”
Not so Friendly FireThere is a temptation to minimize the cost when moving out into a mission. However, a revolution is bloody. It’s not for the weak minded, or those who are looking for personal affirmation or a lot of friends. You absolutely will be slandered, attacked, accused, talked about, mocked and ridiculed. When you don’t lead the way that others believe you should, trouble follows.
The reason this point is so important to understand is that the enemy is extremely proficient at using the fear of friendly fire to keep leaders in alignment with his unholy plans.
You better be good at separating out people and devils! We cannot wrestle against flesh and blood. It’s extremely important for me to be able to easily, without issue, give those who have wounded me a big hug if I ever saw them again! That is the goal! The friendly fire will come, often through well meaning people who just don’t know how to facilitate their grievances. If you are afraid of the attack, you will compromise your mission before you even begin.
False-expectations will lead people to, at times, become quite fierce in their resistance. Since you are bringing reformation to a system they may value, you better get ready for a spiritual battle!
Gossip is revenge. I often teach on this, and I mention that I can most always feel the spirit of gossip, even when I have no natural indicators that its taking place. It’s a spirit of witchcraft, and I am very alert to that demon.
I’ll be very raw and honest with you. It’s grieving, but nonetheless a reality in my life—I am gossiped about a lot. I feel it. My family feels it. The wounds are real. It’s usually spiritualized gossip—wonderful people sharing their concerns about our ministry’s lack of ‘balance’ with other wonderful people. The spirit of Absalom is crafty—it highlights often accurate analysis about a leader, and it devises a plan to cause what they want to come to pass—or else.
You cannot avoid this! Stay humble and full of love. I was talking to a national leader once about a website that was fully devoted to communicating the author’s issues with him. It was vile. He even secured the domain of that leader’s name! He was intent on exposing and destroying. He was frustrated, mad, hurt and in disagreement with this leader. He used scripture to “back up” his claims and gathered other people around him to discredit the leader.
What was the leader’s response me when I asked him about it? He said God sent that man as a thorn in his flesh to keep him humble. Friendly fire turned to good!
Mike Bickle at IHOP has regularly been accused of not caring about people or creating an environment where people can socially connect with one another. What his accusers didn’t understand was that God was requiring him to develop a reformed culture where ministry to God was primary, and any ministry that stole focus from that had to be tabled until it could be developed in such a way that it supported the prayer movement.
Mike wasn’t anti-community, he was anti-distraction. He was guarding the main thing. However, the assaults against him have been merciless. Thank God, Mike has stayed the course and hasn’t compromised the mission of intercession for the nations.
High Potential of FailureIf you fear failure, you better find another line of work!
I’ll give you a glimpse into my book Piece of Cake where I address this issue in detail. Keep in mind, it’s a rough draft and I will be adding to it as I get closer to completing the book:
Yes, you are going to fail. Go ahead and wrestle with it now, you can’t avoid it. I don’t mean ultimate failure, of course. But, I do mean that you will pray much, do your best to gain insight from God, consider your best options, seek wisdom from others and then move out with at least a measure of confidence—and you will experience failure!
Most young ministers crave for others to presume them to be successful and steady with a pipeline directly into the command center of Heaven. The reality? We see in part. We understand little. We have clarity on a small part of the big picture, and when we initiate action, others will watch as we stumble and struggle. Are you OK with that?
Thomas Edison said, “Just because something doesn't do what you planned it to do doesn't mean it's useless.” Quoted in Artifacts: An Archaeologist's Year in Silicon Valley (2001) by Christine Finn. p. 90
Your job is not to be so careful that you avoid failure, it’s to be instant in obedience! In fact, failure is sweet when you learn how to handle the pressure it brings. Failure is an effective and desirable teacher. You may actually find yourself enjoying the various failures you experience, as a researcher would in a laboratory, in your pursuit toward efficiency and success. Really, the main thing standing in the way of the sweetness of failure is pride. If our goal is to impress people instead of developing ministries that set them free, we have no business even considering entering into a ministry project. We need to mature a little bit more first.
One of the most prevalent issues that I come across on a regular basis is the fear of missing God. Often people feel led to initiate a ministry, or to make a move in that direction, and they are afraid of being outside of God’s plan. This is a legitimate concern, but fear should not drive us. Wisdom should.
There was a time when I was living the life as a youth pastor in a church in the San Diego area. It was amazing! I was at the beach every Thursday and had a stress free, invigorating position in the church. I had full liberty to develop the youth department according to my vision and ideas. After a year and a half in that church I was offered a position in a large church in the Dallas area. It was a completely different environment, and making such a move would be a huge decision. I felt I had confirmation and I was excited about the possibilities this new opportunity presented, but I was afraid of missing God.
A good friend of mine gave me some of the most simple yet most profound and life changing advice I had ever received. He simply quoted scripture and said, “The steps of a righteous man are ordered of the Lord.”
The revelation was instant. If I was living a righteous life, and was making righteous decisions, God would order my steps—even if and when I ever made a misstep! The fear and pressure of making a wrong decision lifted off of me! I have used that counsel countless times in my life sense. When I feel led to make a decision, I ensure I’m living in righteousness and am doing my due diligence through prayer and seeking counsel, and then I step! I trust that God will direct my steps, and if I’m off track a little bit, he will lovingly guide me back. It’s really a glorious way to live!
As I do this, I am fully confident that a lot of sweet failure is ahead of me, and I learn how to stay joyful and teachable as I learn from every ministry experiment.
Keep in mind, I am not advising a haphazard life. That will only cause you unnecessary frustration. Measure your decisions and step according to wisdom as you live in the spirit, and refuse to fear knowing that both temporary failures and ultimate victory are both ahead!
I’ve heard it said that we should make quick, pretty good decisions as opposed to calculated, perfect ones. Using this book as an example, I could have pulled out various resources, created a perfect outline, pondered it for a few months and eventually start writing. But, instead, my quick, pretty good decision has resulted in writing chapter two just one day after I started designing and writing the book. If my schedule allows, I can have this entire book written, in less than perfect but fully acceptable form, in just a few days! I’m literally sitting here in the prayer room unsure of what I will write next, but that’s OK. My goal is to pour out my heart, get the message out and move on to the next project sooner than later.
I have no fear of failure. Many will enjoy this book, many won’t get past the first chapter and many will think it’s a ridiculous concept and never pick it up. That is OK! There are people who will be unlocked into their destiny and that is all that matters!
I’ll share another failure with you. I value the advance of the Kingdom through church and house of prayer planting. I personally love the process of starting with nothing and watching God build a ministry that truly touches lives.
While leading Revival Church in the Detroit region, my family and I moved about thirty minutes north by the apple orchards. It is a different environment than where our church is, and I felt the birthing and planting bug start to buzz in me again. So, we planted Revival Church North in my living room.
We met for several weeks on Sunday mornings and drew a handful of interested people, but, I could sense early on that the necessary traction wasn’t there. Just as quickly as I decided to plant the church, I punted. It was fourth down and we could go for it or we could admit failure and move on to the next project. If I was walking in pride, I would have fought to keep it going, but, rather, it was easy for me to let it go. That plant failed. So what? Clearly it wasn’t meant to be, and that’s OK. Believe it or not, I lost literally zero emotional energy through that process. I woke up the next day and refocused, prayed more and talked to God about next steps. There was still much burning in me and there are missions to attend to.
Thomas Edison said, “None of my inventions came by accident. I see a worthwhile need to be met and I make trial after trial until it comes.” Statement in a press Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Alexis Carrel & Charles Lindbergh (conference (1929), as quoted in Uncommon Friends: Life with 1987) by James D. Newton, p. 24
If there is a need that you are picking up on, get to work! Trial and error are both your friend! Don’t allow a spirit of insignificance to keep you from being the one that God wants to use to bring transformation, whether it’s in leading a Sunday School class, developing a Kingdom business, starting a church or doing anything else God is leading you to do!
Remember Gideon? All he knew was that he was the weakest and the least, yet all God called him was mighty man of valor! Gideon was cowardly, as was his entire community. They were in hiding from their enemy, afraid of losing their crops, their livelihood.
Judges 6:14-16 (ESV) 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?” 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.”
This is God’s call to you! Don’t fear! Don’t fear failure! God had ordered your steps you mighty man of valor! Don’t wait for others to affirm you, you will be waiting for decades possibly! Don’t wait for the perfect plan. Gideon advanced with one percent of the army available to him and told them to blow their trumpets and smash their jars. That doesn’t sound like a good plan at all, but it was what God led them to do. God has a Gideon’s army waiting for you to have the courage to respond immediately with an imperfect plan and an insufficient army to lead them into their destiny!
Remember that failure is an event, not a person. ~Zig Ziglar
Do you complain or gossip? Don’t die in your desert! Last night at Revival Church was heavily saturated by the Holy Spirit…listen now!
Joshua Generation: media.johnburton.net/7316237
There was a weighty, drunkenness of the Holy Spirit last night at Revival Church!
Greg Davis was amazing as he led worship…the flow of intercession and worship was insane!
The liquid love and hard core challenge of God was hitting us all… absolutely remarkable!
Listen NOW: media.johnburton.net/7316237
Here’s the notes!
I. The Great Mission
a. Threefold Strategy of God
i. Salvation & Deliverance: The initial goal in the Exodus was to escape captivity. (inward)
ii. Intimacy & Offering: The secondary goal was to worship God in intimacy in the desert. (upward)
iii. Warfare & Possession: The ultimate goal was to take their new culture of intercession and worship into the Promised Land and conquer demonic strongholds on cities that stand in the way. (outward)
b. This is our focus at Revival Church: get you free, encounter God in intimacy, rise up as warriors and fulfill a mission. All three must be active!
i. The house of prayer must come before we take the city!
c. That’s the great mission, and now let’s look at a great mistake.
II. The Great Mistake
a. They had been slaves there for over 400 years, and God went to great lengths to deliver them from bondage.
i. They appreciated the deliverance, but they didn’t transfer their gaze from inward to upward, from them to God.
b. Shortly after their salvation form Egypt, due to their persistent unbelief that God would faithfully and safely take them into a land of their own, the Promised Land (Canaan–or Israel), God brought judgment and chastisement upon them (Numbers 13–14). He sent them into the desert to wander for 40 years. (This is most Christians!) All of the people aged 20 years or older were destined to die in the desert and to never enter the Promised Land because of their unbelief (Numbers 14:26–35, Hebrews 3:16–19).
c. The great mistake? The Israelites were known for their complaint!
i. What a legacy!
ii. Their complaining led to unbelief which led to wandering and then death.
1. If you wander too long, you will not see your promise!
iii. One of the most tragic mistakes we can make is to assume our attitudes and personal dispositions don’t have much of an impact.
iv. Check this out:
d. Numbers 11:1 (ESV) 1 And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.
e. 1 Corinthians 10:8-10 (ESV) 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.
i. Dang! What is that! To be destroyed by serpents! Hard core! The Destroyer!
ii. Why? Just for sexual immorality? Grumbling?
iii. Yes, our attitudes and actions reap consequences!
f. Numbers 14:1-10 (ESV) 1 Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” 5 Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the people of Israel. 6 And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the LORD delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” 10 Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones. But the glory of the LORD appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel.
i. Do not rebel.
ii. Do not fear.
iii. You would think the complaining would end…but no! Check it out!
1. Numbers 16:1-3 (NIV) 1 Korah …became insolent 2 and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. 3 They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the LORD‘s assembly?”
2. Numbers 16:31-33 (NIV) 31 As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah's men and all their possessions. 33 They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community.
iv. This is getting serious!
1. Today it’s expected that leaders make it easy for people to follow.
2. I disagree. Leaders are called to lead you into the most challenging, risky and humanly impossible adventure!
3. We should make it easy for leaders to lead!
4. Paul said, Follow me as I follow Christ.
5. If you are going to follow apostolic leaders, you better have your running shoes on!
6. Philippians 3:13-14 (ESV) 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
7. 1 Corinthians 9:24-26 (ESV) 24 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. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.
a. Apostolic leaders lead into a difficult, costly mission with a sharp prophetic edge.
b. Pastors mostly lead you into comfort, and there is a place for that… and apostles lead you into mission, into movement.
c. This is why churches are usually best led by apostles and small groups are usually best led by pastors, or the regional church led by apostles, and local bodies led by pastors. They must work together.
d. We equip people to work, to move, to fulfill a mission.
e. Ephesians 4:11-12 (ESV) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
f. It’s time to move!
III. The Great Movement
a. From the Great Mistake to the Great Movement.
b. The older generation complained, grumbled, sinned sexually, had idols, etc… but the younger generation was humbled, tested and disciplined by the Lord during their desert sojourn.
c. They were ready to move into their mission.
d. Our church’s key verses:
i. Joshua 3:4-5 (ESV) 4 …Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.” 5 Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.”
1. Verse 4 is why we must embrace apostolic leadership—we have never been this way before…apostles are ‘sent ones’…they are pioneers.
a. You need a Daniel Boone leading you!
b. Despite some resistance from American Indian tribes such as the Shawnee, in 1775 Boone blazed his Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap in the Appalachian Mountains from North Carolina and Tennessee into Kentucky. There he founded the village of Boonesborough, Kentucky, one of the first American settlements west of the Appalachians.
c. Boone was a militia officer during the Revolutionary War (1775–83), which in Kentucky was fought primarily between the American settlers and the British-aided Native Americans. Boone was captured by Shawnee warriors in 1778, who after a while adopted him into their tribe.
d. Before the end of the 18th century, more than 200,000 European people migrated to Kentucky/Virginia by following the route marked by Boone.
2. The only way we can survive such a dangerous mission is if we follow verse 5 instructions: Consecrate yourselves and prepare for wonders!
3. Consecrate: Prepare, sanctify, clean, dedicate, purify
a. The older generation who died in the desert complained because they were lacking, and because they had unbelief.
b. Notice the remedy: The younger generation embraced a fasted lifestyle as they consecrated themselves…and also embraced ridiculous faith as they were called to step into the waters of the Jordan and march around the walls of a fortified city.
ii. We are moving into the uncharted, impossible, not into the predictable and casual! Daniel Boone! Joshua! How about Peter Pan?
1. Peter Pan Jesus
2. It’s time to follow! To blaze a new trail!
3. Joshua 3:2-3 (ESV) 2 At the end of three days the officers went through the camp 3 and commanded the people, “As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it.
4. God is raising up trailblazing leaders who carry the presence of God into the land of promise! Dare you follow?!
5. Joshua 3:9-13 (ESV) 9 And Joshua said to the people of Israel, “Come here and listen to the words of the LORD your God.” 10 And Joshua said, “Here is how you shall know that the living God is among you and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites. 11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is passing over before you into the Jordan. 12 Now therefore take twelve men from the tribes of Israel, from each tribe a man. 13 And when the soles of the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off from flowing, and the waters coming down from above shall stand in one heap.”
iii. Joshua 6:1-2 (ESV) 1 Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in. 2 And the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor.
a. If you want your city, you have to conquer your river.
b. If you want your Goliath, you have to conquer your lion and your bear.
c. If you are not interested in taking the city, you’ll waste away in the desert on the wrong side of promise.
d. If you aren’t interested in taking on Goliath, you’ll be bait for a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
e. We have no option. We must fight. We must believe. We must advance.
While potentially provocative, it’s important to discuss the issue of church competition as we progress toward revival.
It hits me very deeply, and it saddens me so much when I encounter a spirit of competition within the landscape of the church.
This issue is rampant and it has resulted in a weakened, compromised city church structure, which is extremely problematic as we prepare for revival.
1 Timothy 3:14-15 (ESV) 14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.
This passage is written with leaders in mind. It’s important to know how to behave in the household of God… and how not to behave.
Keep in mind, scripturally the church is identified by the larger city, by geography. It’s the Church at Ephesus, not the First Church of Jesus Christ and the Second Church of Jesus Christ and such and such Baptist church in the city of Ephesus. We don’t see the local church in the Bible, though God has and will move powerfully through local, smaller groups within the larger city Church. However, we have to understand that local churches are simply departments of a single city Church. Senior pastors are departmental leaders under the apostolic leadership of the city.
The call of leaders is to raise up a company of burning ministers of God with the expectation of seeing them released into world shaking endeavors. Some will be released into ministry in other cities, some will be released into other expressions of the church in their own city, while others will remain directly involved where they were trained.
But, everybody must be trained and released. The message to Timothy continues:
1 Timothy 4:14-15 (ESV) 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.
Everybody must be progressing.
prog·ress n. 1. Movement, as toward a goal; advance.
Everybody under my care at Revival Church must be moving! If someone is not able to progress, to move, to advance in their ministry due to nervous pastors, it is a serious violation of God’s instructions to the Church. As I said, movement may take people out of a local ministry and into the place they are called to advance into, and we as leaders must celebrate when that happens.
A spirit of Pharaoh within spiritual leaders will do everything possible to keep their people from leaving into their wilderness of encounter, into their destiny.
That unhealthy spirit of Pharaoh will use people to fulfill leader’s personal endeavors, and any thought of those people leaving will strike them with fear and anger. A divisive, controlling spirit is embraced while people who are meant to fulfill their destinies are required to continue making the bricks of a man-made Egypt.
I didn’t realize how much a simple statement would set someone free.
A new friend had been through a troubling situation at a church and her transition out was filled with unfortunate and unnecessary struggle and guilt.
She cautiously started to investigate Revival Church from her place of fear and pain. We were discussing our pursuit as a church of freedom in Detroit one day, and I told her, “I don’t own you. I don’t own people here. As a pastor, my role is to serve you, not use you.”
That simple statement changed her life dramatically and caused her to breathe more easily.
I often tell the people who are pressing ahead with great commitment and focus at Revival Church that I, as their leader, have wide open hands. They aren’t my possession, they are my joy. Anybody from any church or ministry can, at any time, openly recruit any person at Revival Church. I have open hands. Sheep stealing cannot happen at Revival Church because it’s impossible to steal what someone freely gives.
Additionally, I know that my church is simply a department of the city church. I am not an island to myself. I’m not the supreme leader (yeah, doesn’t that sound ridiculous?). It would be silly for a local church’s single’s pastor to refuse to allow someone in his ministry to also commit to a weekly small group in the same local church. The same is true within the context of the city church. It makes no sense to presume people running with us at Revival Church wouldn’t also have opportunities to serve in other local ministries. My job, as 1 Tim 4:14-15 declares, is to lay hands on them and allow them to immerse themselves in their ministry, to practice, to progress, and I realize that much of that practice will take place in places other than Revival Church.
If a pastor in Detroit encourages one of my key leaders to serve on his leadership team, then I should celebrate! And I do! They aren’t stealing one of my sheep. We are on the same team, in the same church!
A youth pastor once confronted a friend of mine, who was a youth pastor at a thriving youth ministry in Texas. He very boldly, full of agitation, accused my friend of stealing his sheep because many of the youth from his church were also attending my buddy’s youth ministry.
My friend boldly replied, “How is it that you are accusing me of stealing sheep that simply wandered away from you? It doesn’t sound like you are feeding them what they need.”
Now, there is some merit (harsh but true) to that reply. However, another scenario might very well be more accurate. Is it possible that the other youth pastor was so successful at cultivating hunger for God that his disciples were making determined decisions to go after God with abandon—beyond the walls of their local church? Is it possible that their ‘wandering’ could be looked at as a sign of success on his part? I think that might be the case!
I have to tell you, I absolutely come alive when people under my care are moving about the city involving themselves in other churches and ministries. I love it! I want them to carry the fire of God into every place they can every single week!
We often hear that churches should not focus on transfer growth, on growing as people from other churches start connecting in the new church. Of course, I agree that we must see the church globally grow through evangelism, through conversion growth. The lost must be found. However, a common reason we hear some pastors renouncing transfer growth is because of insecurity and nervousness. They don’t want to lose anybody because that loss would equate to lost money, lost reputations, lost control, etc.
Again, we must expect people to participate in a variety of churches and ministries in the city Church. Since we are all in a single city Church, people moving from one local expression to another does not mean they are leaving one church for another. They are still in the city Church. If someone moves from the single’s ministry to a small group, there’s no transfer growth for the small group. The city Church has remained exactly the same size.
We must also admit that any single local church simply doesn’t have everything necessary to equip everybody. In fact, we’d be a much stronger city Church if we understood that. I am able to focus on the vision God has given me at Revival Church, and I don’t have the pressure to be an expert in everything. I can encourage people to connect in another church that’s strong where I am weak. And, if they feel they must spend the majority of their time there, under the leadership of a person who’s more able to give them what they need, then that is great! They can transfer from my local church to theirs, but the city Church has not lost…it has actually won. That person will now be more able to grow and progress, and the city church will be the better for it.
This is where the gloves have to come off. It’s a serious violation of God to foster a spirit of competition.
I was with a well known apostle who has a huge heart for revival in Detroit. He has a lot of influence and a very successful church in another state. He felt led to make several trips to serve Detroit, and on this particular trip he was with a group of pastors. He said, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to move here and start a church.” Everybody laughed.
While funny, I was disturbed by that exchange.
Why would the thought of this man opening another department in the growing city church cause other pastors to worry?
Of course, I know the answer. Because a successful man starting a new church would threaten their own kingdoms.
I don’t want to be overly dramatic, but I have to say that actually sickens me. People are going to Hell and pastors are worried about another ministry being successful? Sick.
Dr. James Emery White said: If you think a new church opening up in your area is a threat to your “mission field”, you need mission lessons.
Mark 3:24-25 (ESV) 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.
Is there any wonder why there is no revival at a city level anywhere in the nation? The city Church is divided tragically. There is gossip about pastors and churches. There is fear and nervousness when other churches succeed. Hands are closed tight, not opened wide. The sheep are being used not served. People are jealous and divisive. This must end. Jesus is the head of the church and we have to finally let him govern freely.
3 John 1:9-10 (ESV) 9 I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. 10 So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.
This is a powerful verse. This is descriptive of situations that repeat every day in cities all over the world. Diotrephes gossiped and slandered and aggressively divided threatening people out of the church. Anybody that was a threat to his own preeminence was dealt with swiftly.
Contrary to this worldly, demonic approach to church leadership, look at how Jesus led:
Mark 9:35 (ESV) 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
That is leadership, and that is how we must approach other churches and ministries.
Every Friday night from 10pm-midnight our team travels to different church somewhere in the Detroit region. We pray in the Spirit and release blessing over that church, that pastor and their mission. I tell them that my prayer is for their church to grow much bigger than my own. I want them to receive greater offerings than we do. If they want some of my team to join their team, they are free to approach them about it.
Additionally, the call is for every pastor that we visit to join us every Friday night in another church and to pray the same things there. Can you imagine what would happen if every pastor in Detroit did that with us every Friday night? Revival would land nearly immediately.
One last point is critical: We cannot hold onto people so tightly that they are unable to respond to the greater, regional call. If something in the city church requires people from my team to move out of position in my local ministry and into position into the city ministry, I have to release them. A spirit of Pharaoh will keep people away from the greater calling. It will be common, as revival lands, for people in local ministries and churches to move out to serve regionally.
This will be a challenge for many. What do I do if my worship leader is tapped to serve the department that’s over my own? I let her go and trust God that he’ll ensure everything locally is covered. In fact, if it’s a city Church event, it would make more sense to shut down my ministry for the day or week and head out with everybody, in the spirit of Moses, into the greater, regional mission.
So, how about it church? It’s time to celebrate the growth of the city church, to release the people under our care, to burn with love and to lock arms with other Believers in the region—even if it means our own ministry shrinks. People with that type of heart will be exalted and rewarded as those with a heart after God’s own.