Here are four reasons why much of today's evangelism is actually hurting the advance of the Kingdom.
The Great Commission is such a serious mandate that we have no option but to get it right. In fact, with Hell growing larger and innumerable people are flooding into that unspeakable place every day, we must sound the alarm, preach the truth and rescue the perishing.
I'd like to strongly encourage you to listen to the powerful story of Frank Jenner's simple yet wildly anointed life of evangelism. You may cry. You will be awestruck. It's called “The Man From George Street.” Listen HERE.
Yes, evangelism is critically necessary—if done rightly.
Listen to the podcast:
FOUR WAYS EVANGELISM CAN DO MORE DAMAGE THAN GOOD
ONE: IT LACKS A SPIRIT OF PRAYER
I was flown into a church in a large city many years ago to help with some video work. I had some free time the night I arrived so I decided to check out the church and to see if they had anything going on. I was happily surprised to see a sign announcing a prayer meeting that was underway. I was saddened by what I saw as I stepped into the large sanctuary.
There was no spirit of prayer at the prayer meeting. In fact, there were only a few people standing around in that massive auditorium. It was dead, which was markedly different from what I expected based on the size of the church and the fact that it was a Spirit-filled congregation.
I quickly learned that prayer was not job one in that place. Evangelism was. I've never been in a church that emphasized soul winning to such a degree, and one would think I should have been thrilled. I was not.
As I spent time with people and pastors in that church I witnessed very well intentioned but awkward, forced, scripted and manipulated Gospel presentations to anyone who would listen. While it's true that God's Word can work wonders with no additional help from you and me, it's also true that our delivery of the Word can be dead or alive, weak or powerful, tainted by our human spirit or anointed by the Holy Spirit.
Evangelism efforts that don't emerge from the white-hot furnace of intercession will most often be dead, weak and tainted. Those who hear what we are saying will most often resist, sensing no vibrancy or activity of the Holy Spirit at all. People who could have surrendered all if evangelism was done rightly, delivered with a burning unction, results instead of people being repelled by whatever stench just emerged from our souls.
TWO: THERE'S NO MENTION OF SIN, REPENTANCE, HELL OR THE CROSS
Much of today's prophetic evangelism zeros in on how wonderful God thinks people are to the exclusion of acknowledging their depravity. They are awakened to the possibility of love without understanding the radical surrender that's necessary.
It's quite possible many of these people are saying yes to the invitation and begin following Jesus in an unsaved condition. They don't understand how deadly their life of sin was because the evangelist didn't mention it. A false-grace theology can drive Gospel presentations like this, presuming a revelation of God's love is sufficient to draw people out of their old life and into the new. That's not biblical evangelism and it puts the hearers at great risk of adopting a compromised religion.
It wouldn't surprise me if multiplied millions of people who have “gotten saved” this way are currently lost, seduced by a version of love that's not legitimate. They are convinced that God's love is what seals their position when it's actually their radical response that is key.
THREE: IT BECOMES PRIMARY FOR EVERY CHRISTIAN
There are many verses in Scripture that make it clear that we should be ministering, sharing truth and advancing the Kingdom. Yes, we are to do the work of an evangelist, however, that verse makes it clear that not everybody is an evangelist. It would do us well to understand this.
The church I mentioned above put strong pressure on everyone in the body to evangelize always, in every environment. The problem? Evangelists are wired, gifted and anointed to do this. The rest are gifted in other areas and they should be free to minister mostly according to how they are put together by God.
Teachers, for example, are called by God to mostly reveal powerful truths to Believers. Their anointing will be most pronounced in that realm, and it would be smart to allow them to study and relay what they discover to the church.
On the contrary, if you put some evangelists behind the pulpit you may cringe as they attempt to communicate scriptural truths beyond the mission to win the lost.
Simply, we all have our calling. Yes, there is cross-training involved and we should be “instant in and out of season,” about to “do the work of an evangelist” and to preach truth in any setting. However, outside of the call for all to pray as a primary life focus, everybody has a different gift mix and calling.
FOUR: IT DISPLACES THE FOCUS ON REVIVAL
I personally believe the fasted route to the harvest is revival. Just as I shared in point one that it's important to start in the prayer room, a focus on revival will lay a foundation that can withstand the influx of hungry, repentant people.
It's not either/or. It's both/and. However, if we focus initially on prayer and revival, and if we prepare the people in both of these disciplines, the anointing to do the work of the ministry, including evangelism, will be electric.
Evangelists often (not always) struggle with the idea that the primary call is to pray. An evangelist who had the most tender heart and who could be found on the streets witnessing night after night asked me, “John, your church is so focused on prayer. Where will I bring people when they get saved? I can't expect them to come to such an environment.”
I challenged him. I said this is precisely the environment they need to experience the moments after they meet Jesus! This supernatural, vibrant atmosphere where the Holy Spirit is brooding and moving will result in baptism of power they will never forget!
Simply, we want people to meet Jesus in the place of raging, searing, life-altering revival!
You might argue, “Well, at least people are doing it! At least they are sharing the Gospel!.”
I get it. That makes sense. And, again, I do want to applaud those who are taking those bold steps to share truth. However, I believe it's okay, in fact it's important to analyze our motives and methods. After all, we are dealing with human lives and their eternities very well may be determined by our ministry. We should feel the sobering, weighty intensity to that reality.
We absolutely need a vibrant, active spirit of prayer when we are talking about Jesus.
We need to communicate the truth of sin, Hell, repentance and the cross.
It's important to appreciate and activate people in their specific gifts and offices.
And, by all means, a mass movement of revival will result in an introduction to Jesus that will be conducted by the Holy Spirit with supernatural, otherworldly precision.
Are you willing to let your church die for the sake of Kingdom advance? Or, are you so locked in on local church growth that the region you are assigned to suffers?Is it possible that the high majority of churches in our nation are dead-end churches? As you continue to read, you'll come to understand that many of the most vibrant, focused and Spirit-filled churches would be considered to be dead-end churches, or it's cousin, cul-de-sac churches. Millions are assessing the current state of the church in America and the Western world—and they are right—it's in trouble. The church is so far off course that one might wonder if there's hope at all. Listen to John talk about dead-end churches on his latest podcast… While these millions are correct in their analysis, many of them are wrong in their response. They have left the church they have deemed to be in violation of God's design and have isolated themselves and self-identified as “the church” presuming their action moves them closer to revival. It doesn't. (Read my article that addresses this fallacy, “You are NOT the Church : The Scattering Movement.”)
THE GOVERNMENTAL CHURCH IS THE KEY TO REVIVALI often write and teach on the church, and my reasoning is simple. It's not because I am advocating for a better, more vibrant and impacting church experience (though I wouldn't be opposed to that). It's because the regional church, and the local churches that make it up, are the governing bodies and the way they function is critical. The church is the authority in the region and unless it's setup correctly, the hopes for revival can begin to fade away. I'm not saying that a spark of revival can't ignite through small groups of Believer's who are going deep in prayer and crying out for an outpouring. It absolutely can. Historically it has happened more than once. However, that small group can't govern, can't administrate and can't facilitate the outpouring. While you may argue that no man has any business governing a move of God, you'd be wrong. God has set up the church as a governmental authority that not only has the responsibility but also the ability, if truly consecrated, to push back the enemy, to make room for God and to create healthy, Spirit-designed systems that both protect what God is doing and promote his activity throughout the region—and beyond.
A DEAD-END CHURCH DEFINEDAs I explained above, dead-end churches can be full of life, active in outreach, aggressive in their mission and growing. In fact they can sometimes become very large, which very well may be a false positive for spiritual health. Growth and vibrancy aren't the problem. It's the vision and/or the implementation of that vision that can become poisonous. Simply, if the focus is local church growth ahead of regional Kingdom advance, they have become compromised. The pastor or governmental leader of that local church must have clarity on the vision, and it absolutely must be centered on regional impact. What this means is that their own desires for local church growth must be set aside as they give their energies to revival in the city God assigned them to. Drawing and keeping visitors, growing in influence, developing local programs and ministries and other in-house focuses are put on the back burner, or sometime back on the shelf entirely, as their mandate has them focused regionally. A move of God in their city becomes the main thing.
A CUL-DE-SAC CHURCH DEFINEDA cul-de-sac is a dead end too, but it has a different vibe. While a dead-end church may be extremely focused on (misguided) vision, a cul-de-sac church is focused on family. Relationships. Togetherness. Imagine a nice neighborhood with a safe and lively cul-de-sac. The kids are out playing, neighbors are talking amongst themselves, barbecuing, laughing, eating and everybody is truly enjoying spending time together. I am more convinced then I've ever been that “family style” churches need to give way to true, apostolic, Spirit-filled movements made up of warriors who are contending for fire. The church is a military, not a vehicle for friend building. The call is to surrender all, to die to self, to cry out for God to move and to advance with a fervency that will cause the enemy to shudder. It's in the foxhole of Kingdom war where true friendships are forged. Simple social gatherings won't cut it. We are under attack and we need warriors to assault the kingdom of darkness with ferocity. This, friend, is the church.
LET YOUR CHURCH DIEPastor, you have to be okay with letting your church, in its current form, die. Two times in my nearly 30 years of ministry I made a conscious decision to let my church die. Both in Colorado and in Detroit I had heart-wrenching meetings with God as he instructed me to go deeper, to pray more intentionally and to invite the people on the journey with me. In Colorado, we were in a time of momentum and I'm convinced, as were others, that we had what took to grow the church to 500 people or more if we stayed the course. Understand, our church was intense and alive. The gifts of the Spirit were in play. The passion and vision were powerful. We weren't a dead church by any means, but we were on our way to becoming a very vibrant dead-end church. The only way to avoid that was for me as the pastor to allow my vision and everything I was contending for to die, even if it meant my church would die along with it. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I had a clear choice: continue as we were going and grow the church to 500 and beyond or obey God, become zeroed in on intercession and revival and drop in number possibly by 50-90%—or more. I knew I'd probably lose my salary and may have to find outside work. I knew people would be upset at the change in direction. I knew people who misunderstood my heart and calling would laugh and mock. I knew I was creating a very difficult situation for myself and my family. I also had peace. God wasn't interested in my ability to grow a large church. He wanted my heart and my obedience. In Detroit God gave me a directive to take people deeper, to come up against some destructive theologies and belief systems that many in the global church were adopting, and to focus on holiness and consecration, all from the furnace of intercession. I knew most people wouldn't be interested in such a lifestyle, but I had no choice. Again, I had to obey God. Overnight we lost a large percentage of the people in the church and we shifted into exactly what God had for us—an army of warriors, small in number yet zealous in spirit, who weren't looking for numerical growth, happy worship services or church as usual, a people who wanted nothing less than to be in the middle of God's blueprint for our region. The thoughts of revival consumed us. The point? Church growth, local church vision, a family style focus, financial strength or attracting and keeping visitors isn't the goal. All of that, quite frankly, can compromise the goal of being a vehicle for regional Kingdom impact. Frankly, the hundreds of people you are seeking may very well threaten your ability to fulfill God's call on your life and for your church. I would never change the decisions we made in Colorado or Detroit, even if it meant we would have grown a church of thousands. The model of a successful church has become quite skewed, and it's time we let those ideals die and capture the heart of exactly what God is calling us into.
MARKS OF A DEAD-END CHURCHONE: The pastor/leader doesn't connect and regularly collaborate with other churches and ministries in their region. Their energies are given almost entirely to their local church, misunderstanding the importance of their local expression of the city church. They don't realize that the church in Scripture has a regional designation attached to it. The church defined is the regional body of Believers who function under regional apostolic authority. Within that context, there are smaller, local churches that are never to be self-identified, but rather are to strategically connect and often yield to the regional expression. This is why it was so important for me to give leadership to two prayer movements, one in Colorado Springs and one in Detroit. We would visit a new church every Friday night and pray in the Spirit from 10pm until midnight. We visited over 100 churches in Colorado and over 70 in Detroit. That regional connection was invaluable. TWO: The pastor doesn't encourage people in his church to connect with other churches and ministries on a regular basis. When I was leading churches I realized the immense value of other churches and ministries in our area. I'd let my folks know that they should definitely consider becoming faithful to other churches throughout the week, as we were but a single department of the city church. Other departments, other local churches, were important in the grand scheme and they would benefit from joining with them. In Detroit, I cancelled most everything in my church for a month as I led the people out of our church and into another about 45 minutes away that was experiencing a powerful move of God. We were there every single night for 28 days (I actually missed one night, reluctantly). My passion was not the growth of my local church but rather in fanning the flames of revival in my city. THREE: The pastor has a competitive spirit. We need to kill that nasty spirit once and for all. I propose one way to do that is to invite other pastors and leaders to recruit anybody from our church that they would like. I'd let other leaders in the city know they could freely connect with my best leaders, my worship team, my staff and anybody in the church, and see if they might be interested in leaving us to serve with them. That eliminates competition and any threats of sheep stealing. They can't steal what I don't own and what I freely make available to them. FOUR: The church has contagious and aggressive vision for local church growth, yet they rarely talk about regional revival. They emphasize the goals, the strategies and the determination to grow their church, to develop their ministries, to increase in number, to outgrow their building, to attract visitors or to focus on what benefits them on a local level. FIVE: If they have a prayer emphasis at all, it's almost entirely directed toward their own local endeavors. They pray for all of the stuff I mentioned in the point above while having little zeal for an outpouring in the city. They don't understand that the revival may not even launch in their own local church, so they focus on a move of God happening in their own body while forsaking the call to intercede for regional transformation. Instead of groaning and crying out for God to move in their city, for wickedness to be exposed, for other churches to come alive, for an earth-shaking outpouring, they are praying for internal ministries, for their own tent pegs to expand and for local increase. SIX: Money isn't sowed into their region. They use finances internally to grow their own local church. While they may have earmarked funds for missions and benevolence, the idea of sowing into regional revival is foreign to them. Further, when dead-end churches do give to outside ministries, it's almost always churches within their own denomination. SEVEN: They rarely if ever bring in guest speakers who are leaders in other local churches in their region. They want to control the narrative and they don't want people to be influenced by a more dynamic speaker or someone who might connect better with people in their church. They fear losing those people. They fear their nice, tidy local family being disrupted. They also fear another leader behind their pulpit who carries a more potent vision for the region than they do. With all humility I can say that as a visiting guest minister in regions I've never previously been to, I've often had more vision for that city than the pastor of the church. It's crazy. I've also boldly coached pastors not to undo what God is about to do in the meetings. When God calls me to speak in a church, a lot will be confronted and exposed and a firestorm of God's loving reformation will be in the room. Pastors, have the guts to embrace someone who won't simply affirm what has been built, but will call the people higher.
MARKS OF A CUL-DE-SAC CHURCHONE: It's all about family. As I said above, I believe the family style church is a threat. Many of these types of churches could fit into the “seeker sensitive” category of churches. Many others emphasize the grace and love message in excess and, while there may be praying in tongues and dancing in the aisles, it all comes back to relationships. The thoughts of a vertical experience where people lock in with God and contend for him to move is something they would struggle with if it interferes with their desire for horizontal connections. It can be both vertical and horizontal, but in a cul-de-sac church, preference is given to personal, human relationships instead of aggressively advancing in the Spirit. TWO: Their definition of revival is off. They see a growing number of people who are enjoying God and one another as the prime goal. While nobody can argue that growing in intimacy with God and that developing Kingdom relationships is wrong, it's the focus and the priorities that send cul-de-sac churches into the wrong direction. Instead of a supernatural war they value a growing, happy family of people who are enjoying God together. They would call that revival, and it's a far cry from it. They misunderstand the severity of the battle and don't regularly engage at the required level. THREE: Positivity rules. They are adverse to anything that would be a downer to their block party in the cul-de-sac. They want their people encouraged, happy, stress-free and at ease. Topics such as Hell, sin, eternity, repentance, correction, expectations or anything negative are avoided like the plague. They refuse to speak to the national cultural crisis, politics, the end-times, wickedness such as abortion and homosexuality or any other issue that would be divisive, challenging or confrontational. Just as people advise others to avoid the topics of religion and politics around the Thanksgiving table for the sake of civility and keeping the peace, cul-de-sac churches avoid anything that would cause any measure of disturbance. FOUR: Connecting with other churches, especially those that are aggressive in the pursuit of revival, holiness and a supernatural manifestation of God, is a no-go. They are happy within the four walls of their family gathering and they don't want any outside influences threatening that.
MARKS OF A KINGDOM CHURCHInstead of a list of attributes of a Kingdom church, I'll draw this article to a close. I believe it's easy to deduce just what makes up a Kingdom church by reviewing the opposing views above. The bottom line is that we absolutely must see a massive correction come to what we know as the church today. Regional and national revival is greatly hindered by a lack of true, Kingdom churches that are in existence not for themselves, but rather for the advance of, well, the Kingdom. Pastors, let your vision die. Let your church die. It's okay. Let the stress of growing your own little spiritual experiment in a tiny little petri dish fade away. Even more importantly, get on board with what God has planned in your city. Let your personal endeavors go, as great as they seem to be, and contend with others in your region for an outpouring. Just gather together somewhere, anywhere, with governmental, Kingdom leaders and other revival-minded people and press into God's heart and intercede and advance exactly as God reveals to you as a part of the regional, governmental body. That's church. That's a Kingdom church. That church will turn the world upside down.
GRACE IN THE SHIFTIn closing (for real, this time), I want to encourage you not to get jaded. Don't point fingers at churches or pastors. Understand that they have a mega-burden, and even if they aren't advancing the way reform demands, pray for them. There must be love and grace in the process and in the ultimate shift. Also, understand God is diverse and there are many different types of people giving leadership, and they have varying levels of ability, experience, gifts, offices, prophetic revelation and understanding of the purpose of the church. In fact, many will disagree with this article. That's okay. This doesn't mean we can't contend for transformation in the local church, but it does mean we must have grace in the process. I want to strongly encourage you to read a related article that is sure to provoke you to urgently considering the need for severe reformation in the church: “Nine reasons we may have to choose: Grow a large church or contend for revival.”
Trust me, you will never look at the Burton family the same way again. Have we no shame?
18 Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him–for this is his lot. 19 Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work–this is a gift of God. Ecclesiastes 5:18-19 (NIV)A bunch of you out there have an aversion to enjoying life. You can probably blame a good, old fashioned religious spirit on that. God does want you to enjoy the life he died to give you. Of course, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. We should die daily and live in resurrection power. We should give and prosper. Recently, Amy and I had the privilege of hosting a team of high school business class leaders at our escape room business, Escape Code, and our axe throwing business, The Axe Game in Branson, Missouri. Something I thoroughly enjoy is introducing and sharing Kingdom principles and other bits of life-giving wisdom in the marketplace. I know the bulk of our success comes from our radical devotion to promoting godly standards and living with integrity in the workplace.
11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? Luke 16:11 (NIV)We recently “enjoyed” the opportunity going through a state audit for our escape room business. After hours, and hours, weeks and weeks of hard work, they met with us in person. Of course, we were nervous, wondering if our math would match with theirs. They reported that, aside from some very minor miscalculations, everything matched up. They were actually quite surprised and impressed at our honesty and integrity. My wife handles the finances, and if a single penny doesn’t match up, she will work hard correcting the error. She will pay that penny. That is not an exaggeration. After the high school students played one of our escape games, we had an opportunity to address the team of future business leaders and engage in a time of questions and answers. In addition to discussing the issues of extreme integrity and honor in the workplace, we encouraged them in a critical plan of action: develop multiple streams of income. When I was in high school, the only obvious option after graduation was to go to college. The question every junior and senior was asked time and time again was, “Where are you going to college?” It was college or bust. It would have been extremely valuable to know that there are many additional options in our big, wide world! Trade schools, alternative learning, business incubators, internships, various prosperous jobs that don't require college and many additional choices are out there. If our God loves to function outside the box, which he absolutely does, limiting our future and our income to a single, predictable track just doesn’t make sense. We made it clear that, yes, many would obviously benefit from a college degree, and, of course, many professions require it. I most certainly want our future doctors to have every degree and certification they need to operate. My oldest son, Skylar, is currently attending Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee as he prepares for a career in law. College, and more, is a requirement for him. However, whether college is or is not a part of one’s track toward success and prosperity, developing multiple streams of income is a valuable move. In my opinion, a non-negotiable one. For instance, people often criticize pastors who are financially prosperous, presuming they are immoral, thieves or greedy, when in fact they may have wisely developed multiple streams of income. They are appropriately creating wealth according to biblical standards. They have bought and sold real estate, written books, built businesses, consulted or initiated any number of other ventures that create wealth for them and their family.
18 You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth… Deuteronomy 8:18 (ESV)Amy and I never want to rely on a single source of income—or rely solely on ourselves. We want to let God lead and develop new ventures through us understanding that businesses fail, people get fired, the economy can crash and tides can turn. On the positive side, we are entrepreneurial at heart, and we have a blast creating businesses and fresh income strategies. It’s fun! We aren’t “rich,” but, then again, I believe we are. Our lives have been enriched in many ways. God has blessed us and we are thankful.
17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 1 Timothy 6:17 (NIV)Over the years we’ve had many streams of income, most of them small, that have helped us grow financially. In fact, when we leased space for The Axe Game earlier this year, two doors down from Escape Code, we also leased a storefront between the two businesses with plans to develop a third business at some point. It stands empty today as we give time to the praying and dreaming process. It is an exciting blank canvas for whatever big idea God drops into our spirit down the road.
5 The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. Proverbs 21:5 (NIV)
A HILARIOUS NEW POTENTIAL INCOME SOURCE—GET READY TO LAUGH RIGHT AT ME!The reason I’m writing this article isn’t to bring attention to what the Burton family is doing, but rather to share how God is working in us so as to encourage you to dream big and break free from the stranglehold of poverty and lack. In fact, Amy and I along with the younger kids recently ventured into a new business that many would call “cringy,” but I call “cringy cool!” It’s called Toys of the Realm. But wait, allow me to back up a few weeks first. Another video project preceded Toys of the Realm. Amy and I have been gifted in some specific ways, including communication, creativity, graphic design and video production. We also love to travel and do it often. Anything from short day trips to business trips to ministry trips to actual vacations keep us on the move regularly. While we are about ten years late to the game, we decided to launch a YouTube travel channel. Many who started years ago are enjoying very large monthly checks. Today, the competition is much greater, but we will not be deterred! We spent a few hundred dollars for some basic equipment and then launched out to create travel videos. It’s so much fun! As I walk around with my gimbal, recording anything from donuts at Hurt’s Donut Company, to rides at Silver Dollar City, to cave systems to food on the table of our our favorite restaurants, people wonder what we are doing. We explain that we are travel vloggers and then offer them a business card that directs them to the YouTube channel that will soon have the very content they are watching us record, possibly that very night. TPF! Travel Adventures is a fun, though time consuming, potential stream of income that we are taking very seriously. We understand that it may take anywhere from one to three years to see ad revenue from YouTube and our affiliate marketing to start trickling in. But, who knows, we may really need those paychecks at that time. We will be extremely thankful that we planned ahead and developed this stream of income.
27 Finish your outdoor work and get your fields ready; after that, build your house. Proverbs 24:27 (NIV)
TOYS OF THE REALM—CRINGY COOL
Definition, CRINGY: Someone or something that makes you embarrassed to be a part of the human race. Usually classified by seeing something and feeling extremely embarrassed, throwing your head back and closing your eyes to block your view, and biting your lip to keep in your scream of utter disgust. ~Urban DictionaryAfter Amy and I kept this next potential income stream a secret for the first four episodes, we decided it was time to let our pride go and let the world laugh with (at) us. I playfully posted this to Facebook last night:
I have to confess something… a hidden, secret part of my life. You may never look at Amy or me the same way again…but it's time for the Burton family to come clean… We can hear toys talk. Yes, it's true. You might know me as a fiery preacher, an author and passionate revivalist… but, I couldn't keep this hidden part of our lives from you, our friends and family forever. After you watch our first four videos about our wild adventures rescuing toys from the Toy Reaper, you are sure to lift an eyebrow, shake your head in wonder…and ask your kids to interpret just what is happening. Some of you may start interceding for us. That's OK. We need it. If you could, say some prayers for the toys as well. They are in great danger. The first video can be seen here…just don't say we didn't warn you: https://youtu.be/yz1Kt019KWE The link to our channel where you can watch all four thrilling episodes is: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMqwOHxpg5vWTxHbjGW5GYA Be sure to SUBSCRIBE so you can watch the adventure unfold multiple times each week. Please don't unfriend us. We need you now more than ever. John and Amy Burton and familyIt’s OK. Laugh. Amy and I have busted up laughing with tears in our eyes many times as we recorded and watched the final release of each episode. Definitely cringy…cool! So far, the toys have led us to castle ruins, through tunnels, into the woods and into a dungeon! How can that not be thrilling? Here’s the kicker. This channel may never bring us a dime, or some day it may bring in a truck load of dimes, but it has introduced something to our family that is exponentially much more valuable—we are having the time of our lives, together, as a family! The memories are more precious than all the gold in the world. In fact, there’s something to having fun as little children:
15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:15-16 (NIV)You can definitely laugh and cringe along with us. I can’t begin to tell you how much fun we are having with both of our channels. Recently Amy and I took a day trip to Lake of the Ozarks and recorded an episode about a monster in Ha Ha Tonka State Park. It was just good ole’ fun! We loved hanging together, coming up with story lines and just having fun on camera! Amy is a brilliant story teller. She develops all of our themes and storylines for our escape rooms. After playing, guests are regularly amazed at the fact that she designed them herself. She’s amazing! Now, with our children’s focused channel, Toys of the Realm, she uses that gift in another way. I’d strongly encourage you to watch, and cringe, and laugh HERE.
DO WHAT YOU LOVEAnother piece of advice we gave to the high schoolers was: do what you love. What causes you to come alive? Don’t base your career path on the amount of money it may provide. Discover your passion and have a blast discovering how you can turn that into a career! How often do we hear stories of people who have climbed the ladder and gained a six-figure income, only to burn out, quit and turn a hobby, something they are passionate about, into a career? It happens every day. I believe God puts passions inside of us, and often he enables us to turn those passions into wealth creating opportunities. Understand, when I say wealth, I’m not putting a gigantic number on it. Wealth is simply resource that enables us to live the life God has called us to, and to enrich others around us. Each stream of income may only bring in a few hundred dollars a month, but all together, they make it possible to pay the bills, give extravagantly and continue dreaming and developing new streams! Of course, those of you who know me understand that I’m all about revival and ministering in power. Laying down our lives and surrendering all should be our devotion every day. Many are called to venture into costly, challenging ministry assignments that don’t pay much at all. Definitely do that with your whole heart! However, I also believe we can still develop streams of income in the midst of ministry. When Amy and I were called to spend a season at The International House of Prayer in Kansas City, it would have been impossible if I hadn’t already developed sources of income that would sustain us. We eventually received a small stipend at IHOPKC as I first joined the graphic design team and then was asked to direct one of the four primary internships. That stipend was not nearly enough to sustain us. It took the other streams to make our ministry there possible. In fact, we were able to buy a house. There was no one single source of income that made that possible. Many streams (I believe we had developed seven separate small streams at that time) were required. So, we were able to do what we loved, what we were called to do and support a growing family! After our season there, we moved to Detroit with no job, no new income opportunities and even nowhere to live. We drove our moving truck there, rented a place the next day, started a church, developed new income sources and watched ministry and finances develop together!
DON’T BE LAZY!
25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.' 26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. Matthew 25:25-27 (NIV)Friend, many people are in lack because of this very parable. Look at how it continues:
28 “‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29 For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. Matthew 25:28-29 (NIV)Those who are lazy, those who don’t aggressively advance in their financial strategies will often find themselves losing ground while those who are prosperous and working hard will seem to gain with little effort. While it’s true that doing what you love will result in a life where you don’t really work at all, as the saying goes, the truth is that you must work very hard. But if you choose your career and businesses wisely, the work will be enjoyable. While I understand that we may not see financial rewards from our two video endeavors for years, we are recording several times a week and I’m editing late into the night, several hours at a time, day after day. I love it! However, it absolutely is work. Add that to running two extremely busy and demanding businesses, working often at those businesses personally to keep staff costs down, writing for Charisma and other publications, traveling for business and ministry, going to parent/teacher meetings, gymnastics and other soccer mom (and dad!) style responsibilities, and you have a lot of work! This being said, as you work very hard, stay healthy, get rest and always know it’s God who brings increase, you will live in victory. A wrong heart will do you in. A right focus will bring great success. Your work and faithfulness will result in God ordering your steps.
Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Proverbs 23:4 (NIV)
GUARD YOUR HEART
15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15 (ESV)The purpose of creating wealth is not for the sake of accumulating wealth. It takes a humble and zealous lover of Jesus to agree with the principle that God desires us to create wealth, and to have great resource to give extravagantly, while never, ever giving our heart to that wealth. In fact, if you can’t grow financially and grow in Jesus at the same time, I’d strongly encourage you to do what the Rich Young Ruler was instructed to do. Give it all away! Your eternity is not worth a temporarily large bank account. It’s laughable that it would be. So, guard your heart. Reject greed. Be a passionate, fervent lover of Jesus and allow the resources you develop to bring life to your family, to the church and to the Kingdom of God.
24 One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. 25 A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. Proverbs 11:24-25 (NIV)
YOU CAN DO IT!You absolutely have been given gifts and passions by God that can result in a joyful and very busy life that includes a strategic track toward financial prosperity. God isn’t going to drop the money into your lap. The Parable of the Talents should be enough to shake us all out of that mirage. Not only has God given us the power to create wealth, he has given us the responsibility to do so! I’d strongly encourage you to read a powerful article on the subject that I wrote recently titled: Why giving large percentages of our finances to the church might require disobedience to God. Here’s an excerpt:
Successful entrepreneurs and business people will understand this principle easily. Their money is simply a tool. It’s used to expand their business, make investments and multiply their resources so they can have greater and greater impact. Don’t ever look at a wealthy Christian in judgment. Many of them are doing exactly what God wants them to do. They aren't suppose to give everything to the poor or to the church. Their gift is much better used by multiplying resources and giving extravagantly year after year then by simply giving away what they have a single time. The result would be lack of resources and an inability to do what God has called them to do. If you have one million dollars, don’t give it all away. Multiply it and give millions and millions away. If we give all we have to the church, or more than God has called us to, we won’t have enough to put to work for the sake of multiplication. We must give the correct amount and invest the correct amount to see the greatest Kingdom impact.Kick into prayer. Develop strategies. Dream. Plan. Move. Risk. Maybe God will call you to develop something that has the world laughing at you…as you laugh right on over to the bank. Your pastor and ministries all over the world will certainly appreciate the upward spike in your giving receipts as well.
Is it possible we might be disobedient to God by “giving it all away” to Kingdom work?
While probably terrifying, we have to admit it feels extremely spiritual to consider the possibility of selling all we have and giving all of our money away for the sake of the Kingdom. It’s hard to argue with someone who endeavors to bless others in this extravagant manner.
In fact, many years ago I met a family who did just that. They sold everything and traveled the nation by horse and carriage preaching the Gospel. What a sight that was, watching a homemade carriage that contained all of their earthly goods being pulled by two horses right down the highway in front of my house in Omaha, Arkansas. They lived, cooked, ate and slept in that makeshift trailer. My parents invited them to pull over and enjoy dinner with us. Their horses ate the grass in our rural yard while we ate and then sang worship songs together. I’ll admit, I was blown away as a young man by their fervor for Jesus. It was clear materialism didn’t have a hold on them.
Though their devotion was remarkable, and I cannot and will not determine the appropriateness of their individual decision to give it all away, I am going to argue that, for most, such an extreme move just might require disobedience to God.
SELL IT ALL AND FOLLOW JESUS?
22 …Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Luke 18:22 (ESV)
It’s clear in Scripture that we must all be radical givers. I believe firmly that we must all respond to the call to give in great measure to the church, to ministry works and to people in need. It’s a joy to do so! Giving large amounts to our local church should be a goal for all of us. Further, financially blessing mission works, the poor, servers in the restaurants we eat at and families in need is a high honor for every Believer.
Many ministers today over-simplify the call to give, however. The scripture most often used might be found in the book of Luke:
38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38 (ESV)
The exhortation is clear: give financially and you will receive financially. The more you give, the more you receive.
I believe this. I’ve watched it manifest in my own life, not magically via some simplistic formula, but rather through joyful giving marked by expectant faith and a long-term devotion to bless others. It’s not about me and my bank account. It’s about those I’m serving. The result of that has been a lot of abundant life in Jesus and financial blessing in some truly miraculous ways. God loves to give back.
However, I believe pastors do great disservice to those under their care and the ministries they are leading if they simplify the call to “give more, receive more.” In fact, preachers rebuking the materialism in others to manipulate more extravagant giving to feed their own materialism just might be one of the darkest forms of evil behind the pulpit today. Some pastors have evil intent, but thankfully most don't. The majority who emphasize extravagant giving are simply short sighted or misguided. There’s more to it than continually encouraging more and more giving.
As I stated above, I believe it’s possible for pastors to unwittingly encourage people into a place of disobedience to God by asking them to give large sums while ignoring the call to steward what remains.
Why did Jesus instruct the Rich Ruler to sell everything and give it to the poor? The reason is simple: The Rich Ruler’s heart was surrendered to Mammon, the spiritual force behind the money he so loved and trusted in.
So, I do agree, if our heart is devoted to Mammon, by all means, give it all way, and fast! Jesus was extreme when he called people to separate themselves from anything that would compromise their eternities.
29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. Matthew 5:29-30 (ESV)
If your eye or your hand or your money causes you to sin, get rid of it!
24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money (Mammon). Matthew 6:24 (ESV)
However, as long as we can turn from the sin, and truly surrender our heart to Jesus, such extreme measures are not necessary, including the call to give all of our money away. You can keep your eyes in their sockets and your money in your pockets. Your money won’t stay in your pockets for long though. It has work to do.
YOU ARE CALLED TO MULTIPLY
Successful entrepreneurs and business people will understand this principle easily. Their money is simply a tool. It’s used to expand their business, make investments and multiply their resources so they can have greater and greater impact.
Don’t ever look at a wealthy Christian in judgment. Many of them are doing exactly what God wants them to do. They aren't suppose to give everything to the poor or to the church. Their gift is much better used by multiplying resources and giving extravagantly year after year then by simply giving away what they have a single time. The result would be lack of resources and an inability to do what God has called them to do. If you have one million dollars, don’t give it all away. Multiply it and give millions and millions away.
If we give all we have to the church, or more than God has called us to, we won’t have enough to put to work for the sake of multiplication. We must give the correct amount and invest the correct amount to see the greatest Kingdom impact.
In the parable of the talents, we see the other exhortation that pastors should be communicating in addition to simple giving. If they encouraged people to invest their money, to build businesses, to give a little less so they have a little more to leverage greater multiplication, we’d see a lot of money coming into the Kingdom and a lot of lives dramatically touched.
Simply giving and waiting for the money to return is not enough. We are crippling people financially when we don’t add the call to multiply into the equation. In fact, we’ll see in the following passage that God will take what was given to people who failed to multiply and redistribute it to those who have been most successful.
14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 25:14-30 (ESV)
It’s a long passage, so for those of you who tend to skim articles, allow me to sum it up.
God expects us to use money he gives us in strategic ways to ensure it is multiplied. Giving to the church isn’t our primary financial strategy. It’s important, and I believe we should always give at least the tithe. Even those who don’t believe the tithe is required for New Covenant Christians, they all admit that we should give extravagantly. So, start with a little less than extravagance at ten percent. Also, beyond the ten percent, give regularly to missions and to people in need. That’s the foundation.
Then, use what remains to invest, develop businesses, pay for training in a field of work you will enjoy and that will be prosperous or by strategically growing your financial portfolio in other ways so you can faithfully multiply what God has given you. God takes the call go give seriously. Based on what we see in the passage above, he takes the call to multiply finances very seriously.
I’ve met many, many Christians over the years who have been faithful givers, but who are barely making it financially. The missing piece for them is most always the biblical call to invest and multiply. Giving is powerful, but it’s not enough. Ultimately, God wants us to give much more than we currently are. The way it comes is not through more simple giving, but rather through shrewd, Holy-Spirit directed multiplication.
Pastors who only focus on giving will produce a culture of lack. Those who awaken the God-given ability to multiply wealth will see great resource come.
Here’s a powerful passage from Deuteronomy that mirrors the truths of the Rich Ruler and of the talents that we have been looking at:
17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18 You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Deuteronomy 8:17-19 (ESV)
God has given us all the power to get wealth, but we must not serve Mammon, the lord of money.
Giving our wealth away, however much that may be, feels like the most spiritual thing to do. On the contrary, it very well may be a major misstep. The Rich Young Ruler was instructed to give it all away because Jesus knew his heart was bound by it. However, Jesus revealed in the parable of the talents that we have a sober mandate to multiply the wealth God resources us with. If mammon is your master, give your money away. If Jesus is your master, use your money to multiply your wealth so the Kingdom can be resourced.
Beware of the natural familiarity of Ichabod churches (where the glory has departed).
And she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” 1 Samuel 4:21-22 (ESV)
Pastors, are you hearing what I’m hearing?
Most every day, in one venue or another, I’m hearing from disillusioned, frustrated people who cannot find a church that has been overtaken by the Holy Spirit. No extreme revival atmospheres can be found for many. The Upper Room experience that innumerable desperate people are searching for are nowhere to be seen, in some instances, within 500 miles of where they live. They complain of short, ordered, controlled services that, according to them, isn’t worth their time. There’s a measure of spirituality, but they don’t even come close to the explosive, supernatural experiences they are craving.
Pastors, are you hearing what millions are saying? The ark has been captured!
Open up your doors to the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit! The gifts must function. The order of service must be laid down. The crazy, unscripted, unrehearsed, unforeseen collisions that happen when an invisible, all-powerful Creator invades mortal humans must be expected. Every. Single. Sunday.
Do not quench the Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5:19 (ESV)
HALF-FILLED LAMP CHURCHES ARE THREATENING KINGDOM ADVANCE…AND PEOPLE’S ETERNITIES.
And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ Matthew 25:8-9 (ESV)
Misguided compassion is resulting in the wise becoming foolish while eternities are put at great risk.
Churches are filled with people the Bible would call foolish—those who are not spiritually vibrant, personally disciplined and deeply intimate with Jesus. Their lamps are empty.
This begs a question: How is it so many people in this category are so at home in churches all over the world?
If a church is ablaze with the spirit of prayer and alive as the Holy Spirit blows and burns through everyone there, those who are asleep and without any oil will definitely not feel comfortable. There is no way they can integrate in such a place without feeling the pressure to fill their lamps.
So, what do many pastors do to ensure these people feel a part of the family? They share their oil. “Come on in, you take half of my oil, I’ll keep half. We’ll both meet the bridegroom together.” It sounds loving. It feels compassionate. It’s foolishness.
The water level of Holy Spirit activity is brought way down so those who are marginally surrendered can dip their toes in the shallows—and integrate nicely with others who are equally resistant to the deeper things of the Spirit. They are spiritually interested, but not spiritually invested. They have not paid the price and have not bought their own oil.
Human wisdom that argues that it’s better for people to be in a moderate spiritual environment is better than the being shut out is actually called foolishness by God. By sharing oil, by toning down the activity of the Holy Spirit, all become foolish, and all are put at risk of Hell.
The truth is that oil can’t be shared. A price must be paid. Oh, and to take the heat off of pastors for just a moment, for all of you disgruntled experience seekers out there, quit getting so frustrated when your church doesn’t move in the gifts the way you’d like. Are you trying to share their oil? Don’t you have enough yourself? Is your lamp not full? While I absolutely understand the cry for a supernatural church, I refuse to empower those who refuse to get their own oil. If your lamp is full, you should be overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit and deeply intimate with Jesus! Just exactly how do you want a human pastor to add to that? Go get your own oil. Pay the price. Quit complaining about the church.
A MIDNIGHT CRY
Take just a minute and read the entire passage:
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Matthew 25:1-13 (ESV)
In order to make sure our lamps are full (and that we have extra in our flasks), we must pay the price for the oil and then stay at the ready. In the midst of delay, we all can experience spiritual fatigue, but the wise will rise up when they hear the midnight cry!
The difference between those who have their lamps full and those who don’t is stark. Those who are not ready when God suddenly moves will have the door shut to them. God will declare that he does not know them (even if pastors assure them they are part of the family).
I think about the Upper Room in the Book of Acts. Most didn’t respond to the call to wait, to pay the price. The door was shut to them. After a delay of ten long days, there was a midnight cry! The Holy Spirit has come! Those who had their lamps full, those who responded to the command of Jesus to wait and pray, were ready when the wind and the fire came!
A MIDNIGHT CRY CHURCH
Pastors, don’t share your oil. Don’t let misguided compassion cause you to quench the Spirit. Don’t build your local church on those who refuse to pay the price.
Build a midnight cry church! Build the fire, contend in fervent prayer, expect unusual, otherworldly manifestations of the Holy Spirit and break off any temptation to moderate the service so the sleepy foolish people who are pounding at your door can join in. Love them by modeling a life of fervency, preparation and intimacy with Jesus. Warn them. Contend in prayer for them. Some will join you in your Upper Room experience, but most will not.
It’s time we desire the ark more than people. When we do, the glory will return to the church and that glorious midnight cry will be heard, “Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.”
The old wineskin is becoming less and less useful—and God is looking for some Kingdom risk takers to usher in the new.
Watch this short video podcast I recorded on my ministry trip in Maryland.
My name is John Burton and I am praying for new Kingdom connections with pastors and leaders both in this nation and around the world.
I’d love to give you a call and hear more about your ministry. Is there a time that would work?
If you feel it would benefit your ministry, we can discuss scheduling a church event or conference in your region that would powerfully encourage you and your team!
In the meantime, my bio can be viewed at www.johnburton.net if you’d like to take a look.
The short version is:
- I’ve planted two churches, one in Colorado and one in Detroit.
- I’ve written eight books on the topics of prayer, reformation and revival.
- I directed one of the primary internships at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City.
- I crave being in God’s presence with other hungry people!
- I also believe strongly in the local church and would love to serve your mission.
Contact me any time via email at [email protected] or phone at 719.231.6000.
I can’t wait to hear from you!
God forgive us for building kingdoms of man on doctrines of demons in your name. ~Brian Ming
IT HAS TO STOP!
Watch this short, raw video on the issue of competitiveness, accusation and jealousy in the church. It has to STOP!
When Amy and I first moved to Detroit and launched Revival Church we sent out 200 copies of my book Pharaoh in the Church to pastors in the Detroit region. The book is written to leaders and those who are called to lead the people of God into encounter.
In that book I deal directly with the issue of personal kingdom building & how it can be a threat to the advance of God’s Kingdom in a region.
Not shockingly, but sadly we only heard from one pastor. One.
When a new Kingdom building church arrives on the scene, the pastors of the region should celebrate their arrival!
PEOPLE, MONEY & REPUTATION
Too much energy is invested into keeping people, protecting our financial situation and enhancing our reputations as leaders—energy that can not be used for its intended purpose of going hard after revival in a region and leading people into encounter.
If we are serious about the city church exploding in life and power, we must be willing to lose people, lose financial security (salaries, benefits) and lose our reputation. Jesus was of no reputation, why should we be?
How can you deal with this issue? Have a healthy ministry policy!
HEALTHY MINISTRY POLICIES
- PEOPLE: Have a policy that any pastor, leader or other person can come into your church at any time, with no fear or guilt, and openly recruit anybody, even your staff, to leave your church and join theirs. The fear of losing people and the resulting spirit of competition will disappear.
- MONEY: Give regularly to other churches and pray for them to be blessed in a greater measure financially than your own. Giving always causes fear of financial loss to subside. Additionally, never hold back leading in a biblical direction with full unction of the Holy Spirit if key givers may get leave. Preach them out and trust God!
- REPUTATION: Die. Surrender. Go low. Be humble. Allow people to ridicule you, accuse you, attack you and discredit your ministry. This happens when you preach truth. If you are of no reputation, then when you lose people, money, influence or anything else, your ego won’t drive you whatsoever.
Here’s a definition: Any conversation about an absent third party that wouldn’t meet the approval of that person.
Gossip is biblically forbidden communication.
When I, as a church leader, hear anybody gossip about a former pastor they are immediately disqualified from consideration for leadership in my church.
Why? I can’t afford to give place to a demonic anointing in my church.
This is how important it is to honor other pastors, churches and leaders—and everybody else in the body of Christ!
What do you do if you hear someone gossiping about a leader?
I am personally blessed when someone displays their honor, love and faithfulness when they won’t receive gossip about me. But, it’s not about me…it’s about the health of the church and the church of the city we are called to run with. It really is a big deal.
Why is it a big deal? Many reasons. One that will become very clear as the end of the age develops is that the church is going to be shifted violently to calibrate with God’s end-time plans.
The announcement of the shift will come through people. Prophets. Apostles. Those chosen by God to move into a region and reveal with boldness what is changing.
These people will be a serious threat to the status quo, and if pastors rely on the status quo to keep people in position, their salaries stable and their reputation under their control, they will resist these prophets of God with ferocity.
This is why we need to develop a culture of celebration, humility and honor for other leaders, new churches and people who are in the body of Christ in a region.
If we don’t, crosses may remain on the steeples while Ichabod is posted above the doors of resisting, self-centered pastors flowing in the spirit of Pharaoh as they remain focused on building their own kingdoms.
God led Amy and my family to Detroit to see revival land. God is bringing many others here as well. Many others have been laboring here for years and have been prepared for what’s coming. Let’s do all we can to unite and take advantage of the amazing convergence in this critical end-time season!
Our role has become much clearer after the troubling end of the Presidential election.
My focus in this article is to bring clarity of our vision to the Revival Church staff and team, yet it’s something that any Christian will appreciate.
I am simply confounded. No matter how I try, I cannot even come close to understanding how a Christian would support a candidate that has so clearly, boldly and methodically renounced biblical truths. I’m beside myself.
2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 (ESV) 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
That is a verse specifically dealing with the antichrist, but the principle remains. There is a strong delusion in the world today as the antichrist spirit gains momentum.
For example, consider abortion. If you understand biblical history, you know that it is a violent antichrist spirit. Just as with Herod during the arrival of Jesus on the Earth, there is an antichrist, God killing spirit in America. To stand with anybody who promotes this spirit is beyond nonsensical.
Yes, it’s true that one day after the election that Jesus is still the King. However, I’m trembling as I believe the King is closer to executing desperately needed judgment on America than he has ever been.
Franklin Graham, regarding the election of President Obama to another term: “…I think it will be to our peril and to the destruction of this nation.”
Have you ever considered the nation we love ceasing to exist? It’s possible. Many think it’s probable.
I’ve asked the following question several times yet it’s almost always dodged without an answer:
If a candidate were to support the murder of any child under the age of two, for any reason, would you vote for him? If it was OK to take your toddler, who was becoming an inconvenience to you, or if you couldn’t afford to take care of him, down to the clinic to have him dismembered and disposed of, would that be acceptable? If not, why is it OK to stand with a candidate who supports the murder of children who are younger?
Another even more provocative question is this:
If a two year old child was the result of rape, should it be OK to kill them? If not, then why is it OK to kill them at an earlier age?
The other issues that I consider most troubling are the destruction of the traditional family through the promotion of gay marriage, and the resistance to stand with Israel.
For me, the economy is a near non-issue for the Christian as our needs were already guaranteed to be supplied. My vote was not at all driven by questions about our economy.
A LUCIFERIAN SPIRIT
It’s shocking how deeply a Luciferian spirit has infiltrated the church and our nation. There is a deeper teaching that this article can’t give justice to, but allow me to share some of the key issues that we must be aware of so we can best understand our vision of reformation.
Simply stated, Lucifer was in the very presence of God, witnessing and experiencing all of his love, power and glory. The radiance of God’s presence and his unlimited and immeasurable power was before Lucifer continually. So, what happened?
With God in the room, Lucifer was focused on self.
It’s crazy! Yet, we see this every week in churches from coast to coast.
We see this troubling spirit in the story of the money changers in the temple. Jesus violently reacted as he picked up on this self-centered, Luciferian and religious spirit that resulted in people using God’s holy place for their own personal gain. The temple wasn’t about worshiping God that day, it was about worshiping self just as Lucifer did.
Today’s church, and today’s America is largely about the pursuit of happiness. God’s presence is not enough, and, an even more troubling reality is that, with God in the room, if he is blocking what we really want we will forsake him and spiritualize our own endeavors. That’s what happened with Eve in the garden. Satan appealed to her desire for godliness, for personal gain. So, she rebelled all while spiritualizing her decision.
It’s a Luciferian spirit that is driving so many in the church to focus on personal gain. It shockingly results in some Christians actually supporting abortion if it will result in a better life for the mother. It’s such a high level demonic deception that it has put our entire nation, not to mention the church, at great risk.
The Lucifiarian tradition usually reveres Lucifer, not as the Devil, but as a rescuer or guiding spirit. This philosophy is based on carnal fulfillment with consideration for the preservation of self.
This spirit must be dealt with from the opposing direction. Check out the story in Revelation:
Revelation 12:11 (ESV) 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
The blood of Jesus, the declaration of our surrender to him and focusing not on personal happiness but on embracing the call to martyrdom is the answer.
Our churches and our American lives can no longer be about personal gain, storing up blessings, self-centered happiness or loving our lives.
It’s so sad to me as a leader that the church at large is not satisfied with the fact that Jesus died for them. Is that not enough for us to lay down our own lives for him?
We see most every Christian conference today focusing on our blessings, our identity, our rights. Of course, there is biblical precedence for such topics when handled rightly, however the concern is that self-focus is what draws the crowds instead of the call to die daily and surrender all.
We also see this issue manifesting in the realm of finances. The greatest offerings are received when the greatest teaching on financial return is delivered.
It’s a Luciferian spirit that drives abortion as well. When focused on our own happiness, our delusion results in a willingness to to remove any hindrance to that pursuit—including unwanted children. That self-centered spirit is what drove Pharaoh when he tried to annihilate the Hebrews and what drove Herod when he tried to eliminate Jesus by killing children. It’s the same spirit that fueled the Holocaust. That spirit is powerfully active in America today.
The current abortion crisis in America is significantly worse than the horrific tragedy of the Holocaust. 17 million vs. 55 million dead.
Now, let me say this very, very clearly. I don’t believe the primary reason abortion is freely available in America today is our elected officials. It’s because the same Luciferian spirit that drives the abortion agenda drives so many in the church. Those seeking abortion are on the hunt for personal happiness and the elimination of any threat to it. In the church, the focus has become the same—personal benefit, happiness and freedom. The tickling ear messages and the focus on personal gain is rampant in the church today. Instead of calling the church to lay down their lives, the messages are nearly always about finding themselves and having the best life they can. As I’ve said before, I don’t believe it’s time to “become a better you,” it’s time to “become a deader you.” Dead to self, alive in Christ.
This is the current state of the church.
Charles Finney brought this strong charge back in 1873:
“The error that lies at the foundation of this decay of individual and public conscience originates, no doubt, in the pulpit. … Brethren, our preaching will bear its legitimate fruits. If immorality prevails in the land, the fault is ours in a great degree.
“If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it.
“If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it.
“Let us not ignore this fact, my dear brethren; but let us lay it to heart, and be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of this nation.”
So, that’s our setup. Now, what should our response be?
Revival Church team, it’s imperative that we all understand what the vision is and what it is not so we can fulfill the very finely focused mission God has given us.
Further, we must understand if a function of our ministry is a key component of the core vision, or if it’s a supplemental support to the core, or even if it’s contrary to the core. This will help ensure that the main things remain the main things.
Our call is to deal directly with a sleeping and dying church. It’s our prophetic mandate. The alarms must be sounded and repentance must be the result. There is a holy grief and a spirit of mourning that must be upon us, even as we are driven by a deep, abiding joy as God moves through us. Remember, Revival Church is a prophetic ministry that is focused on reformation and calling the greater church into a revival ready model. Many of the messages that come out of this ministry are not only for those in our church but are for those throughout the Detroit region and beyond.
The two chapters in the Bible that must be continually opened at Revival Church are Joshua 3 and Acts 2. Those are our blueprints. Study them. Memorize them. Pray through them. Continually.
Our key verse is Joshua 3:5: Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.
My book 20 Elements of Revival is our practical guidebook as it gives us a step by step process of city-wide revival. If it’s in there, it’s in our DNA.
Again, as we look at the vision, keep in mind the state of the church and the state of the nation. There is much calibration to be done.
WHAT IT IS AND WHAT IT ISN’T
- Revival Church is prayer-fueled and aggressive. We are calling people into an urgent lifestyle of holy striving and zealous prayer as we press toward the goal together. There is a literal groan of intercession that we must discover and release night and day.
- Revival Church is a movement of holiness, repentance, excellence and radical discipleship. Joshua 3:5 reveals that we are to consecrate ourselves and prepare for a life of wonders.
- Revival Church is an apostolic and prophetic church. As an apostle/prophet with a regional and national focus, we are leading from that edge. The constant focus around here is reformation, revival and regional impact which means we are always shifting and redirecting in our methods as we pursue the ultimate goal. Following a prophetic leader is a challenge to say the least. The vision is always expanding and the methodology is always changing which requires that everybody involved is ‘instant in season and instant out of season’. New projects are often initiated well before old projects are completed.
- Revival Church’s message isn’t locally limited. I say often that I’m a one string banjo. We are all about revival on a regional and national level. So, what this means is that those in our church will be hearing the same revival thread in our messages over and over again. We are intentionally focused and limited instead of diverse in our teachings. I understand that the messages I deliver are mostly for the region and nation, and the primary vehicle we are using is the Sunday evening Revival Church service. I’m certainly preaching to those in attendance, but I’m equally targeting those who will be hearing the message online. If I have to say the same thing over and over until those in attendance have it memorized word for word, that’s OK as long as the message is impacting those who are listening in our target areas around the world.
- Revival Church, by design, does not give all five of the offices equal attention. This is not to say that we don’t value all of the offices, but it does say that we know who we are and who we are not. In the current church structure the presumption is that all five offices must be active in every local church. That’s not true. First of all, that’s not realistic for smaller churches. Second, in scripture we know the church is identified by the city, not by the local expression. The five-fold offices must be in effect in the city church, which will require that we as leaders are OK with people in our church participating in other local churches that are anointed in another office.
- Revival Church, again by design, is not a Pastor led church. The current Pastor led church system in our nation has resulted in a lot of false expectations that are placed on leadership. This is one of our greatest challenges. Again, it’s not that we don’t value the Pastoral office, we do. However, our focus, time, energy and resources are not to be used to focus at a significant level on developing pastoral ministry. Interestingly, the presumption might be that without a strong pastoral focus that people can’t easily grow. It’s quite the contrary around here. We are raising up people who are growing at a faster pace than I’ve ever witnessed—and these people are self-motivated. When they notice a struggle in their lives, they proactively take steps to resolve it. False expectations can lead people to presume I as the Senior Leader will be fulfilling the role of pastor in their lives when, in reality, I’m not a pastor at all. This is a challenge to communicate and it can often feel like rejection to those who want close and constant access to me. However, it’s not rejection at all. It’s simply that a prophet/apostle interacts very differently with people than a pastor does.
- Revival Church has an unapologetically high bar of commitment. We believe the 24/7 church is coming, and the call around here is to start modeling this emerging church structure. Additionally, we are launching 50 new churches in this region alone, and we are asking everybody to consider how they will participate in this mission. Everybody here has the goal of changing the Detroit region and working toward revival. We are an “all hands on deck” ministry and are calling everybody to gather every time the doors are opened and the alarm is sounded.
- Revival Church has a vision that demands we expand and look outward. There is much that feels undone in our local church due to our focus to continue expanding in the region. We refuse to wait until everything is perfectly in place and mature before we move out and launch other ministries and projects.
- Revival Church’s core vision is extremely limited. If I had to narrow it down to just a few focuses I would have to include: Prayer, regional revival, church planting, groans of intercession, holiness, equipping carriers of fire and releasing regional and national prophetic alerts. Other focuses and ministries may or may not fit within the scope of our vision. Some are supplemental and greatly needed while others are beneficial, but not in our setting.
- Revival Church is less about the experience and more about raising up sober, broken prophetic messengers. We are preparing people who will prepare regions for coming moves and judgments of God. While having a happy heart, we will also carry the weight of the cross as we call people to surrender and awaken a sleeping church. Our services and ministries will reflect this, and while often joyful, the extreme nature of the burden and mission demands that we gather together, go low and allow God to use us to carry some of the most challenging burdens we’ve ever known.
- theLab is our primary equipping center. We are aggressively encouraging every person in Revival Church to permanently call theLab their home. It is where our core DNA is best experienced and where the team will discover their cohesion and receive their assignments. The limited focus of the church is mirrored at theLab as we raise up an army of people who carry the DNA of revival. (You can apply to theLab School of Fire here: www.revivallab.com.)
To confront the spirit of this age that has made significant advances even in the last 24 hours, and to promote the spirit of revival, we must all be signed up, locked in and carrying the message of freedom in our nation.
This means a de-emphasis on personal enjoyment in the church must come as we make way for the remnant to take position, lay down their lives and advance the Kingdom of God in America.
That’s not to say that we aren’t joyful in the house of prayer. We must be. But it must be unto something. The joy of our salvation must explode as we carry the vision of salvation for a sleeping church and a lost society.
It's time we stop looking for God to resolve issues, to revive economies, to fix society… and just start looking for God.
Living here only 3 1/2 years, I’m the new kid on the block in the Detroit region, but it’s not my first time around the block.
In my 22+ years of ministry I’ve experienced some great moves of God. Unfortunately, I’ve also had front row seats to an often sleeping church.
The only reason I uprooted my family, sold our house and moved to Detroit, with no promise of an income or position of any kind, no guarantee that anybody would welcome us with open arms, was for the sake of revival. Full blown regional transformation.
I have no reason to be here. I had no connections in Detroit. I have only visited a couple of times in my life prior to my six destiny filled ministry trips here in 2008. We were not even thinking of moving here—until God spoke. We are here on assignment—a mission for revival.
Enough is enough.
I am disturbed in my spirit beyond description. If I were to state it most honestly, I would have to describe it as sickening. I don’t want to use a dramatic word to grab your attention, but I can’t deny the sick and disturbing grief that I’ve been sensing in the spirit in this region lately. Something is going on.
Before I continue with that thought, it’s very important that you tap into the depths of my heart. First, there is a good measure of very important and effective work for the Kingdom occurring. I am humbled by having the privilege of knowing some of the most faithful men and women of God here in Detroit. There is a small remnant of revival minded people that includes pastors, intercessors and servants of the Most High God. You all have blessed me and I honor you! I know God sees you and is moving on behalf of you. You have done more than I could ever hope to do. It’s been amazing running with you!
In spite of some potent relationships with these anointed men and women of God, I can’t shake the disturbance.
Since I’ve been in Detroit I’ve heard a lot about revival. It seems the whole region is crying out for it. However, this is where the root of the disturbance in my spirit exists.
Most every time revival is mentioned, the intent of that desire is to experience some sort of breakthrough, blessing or restitution.
I believe the disturbance in my spirit is linked with the rapidly increasing jealousy of God. He is jealous, and he refuses to be replaced by material satisfaction.
Let me make this very clear:
It’s time we STOP crying out for God to revive the economy, for resolved issues, for racial tensions to subside, for a fixed city… and START crying out for God and God alone!
God is jealous and he won’t allow Detroit to be satisfied by money, security or anything else until we are satisfied in Him and no one or nothing else!
DO NOT expect revival until we return to our first love. It WILL NOT COME! In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if the situation in this region got dramatically worse. The choice is ours, however.
I STRONGLY recommend you read my recent article The Spirit of Abortion…in the Church? The spirit of selfish ambition that drives mothers to kill their babies is the same spirit that convinces Christians to abort their costly missions if they don’t get out of it what they want. If they don’t believe their participation will result in personal breakthrough, a greater personal experience, they abort mission and it has deadly impact on the cause of revival.
It’s absolutely shocking to me that so much emphasis is placed on the pursuit of breakthrough yet the call to breakthrough into a pursuit of God falls on deaf ears.
Will we only gather and pray if we have a hope of personal blessing? So far, generally speaking, the answer in Detroit is yes. Where are all of the hungry people in Detroit? The stadiums should be filled with zealous, praying people every night of the week! Have the cares of life and entertainment so bewitched us that we have become convinced that being with God is not worth it?
I propose starting a movement of encounter which only has one goal—to be fully satisfied in enjoying and responding to the Lover of our souls. Nothing else matters. If we all have to live in a cardboard box on the streets of Detroit to encounter God, so be it! Our goal is not financial! It’s not selfish! It’s to be with God! That is all!
Have you noticed that the majority of conferences emphasize the personal blessing we’ll receive if we attend? Church offering sermonettes all too often focus solely on the breakthrough we’ll get if we give. What if we show up to bless others? What if we gave with no expectation of return?
Listen church! It’s time to die! Instead of reading a book about “how to become a better you,” I believe God wants us to discover how to become a “deader you!” Revival at all costs! We die so that we can live and be fully satisfied in God alone!
I must again state my humbled admiration of a segment of extremely unified, love driven pastors and leaders in this region. You amaze me.
That being said, the fear driven competition between so many churches in Detroit is an embarrassment to this city. And we think revival is near? Not until repentance is deep and unity is strong.
I believe its time that we are willing to lose our people, lose our salaries, lose our reputations, lose it all for the sake of blessing other churches and ministries in Detroit.
It’s time to celebrate every new church and ministry that launches in this region! Encourage them! Support them! Even if they start on the same block as your church! Even if all of your people leave your church to join theirs!
I firmly propose an open hands policy in Detroit. This is our policy at Revival Church. Any leader, any person, can come to Revival Church and openly, without fear or guilt, recruit any person in our church, including any of my staff or leaders, to leave Revival Church and join their church. Our hands are wide open. You can’t steal my sheep if I don’t own my sheep. We don’t own people, we are there to serve and bless them and encourage them into their destinies, even if that’s in another place.
We must stop building our own kingdoms. Brian Ming wrote a chilling worship song that included these words: God forgive us for building kingdoms of man on doctrines of demons in your name.
I included that in my book Pharaoh in the Church, and I sent that book to 200 pastors in the Detroit region a couple of years ago. It is a bold call to self-less unity. I was saddened that I only received a few responses.
As someone who has led my amazing team into over 60 churches in the Detroit region, both urban and suburban, over the last year and a half to pray and unite with pastors, both black and white, I do feel I have a right to say what I’m about to say:
When I pray with people of any color I feel absolutely no racial issue in the church of Detroit. Many, many have agreed with my perspective as Spirit-filled people of all colors have smiled ear to ear in the joy of the Lord as we have prayed in power together.
If you do battle with the race issue, you don’t have a racial problem, you have a humility problem. You have a prayer problem.
When I was one of the leaders of a remarkable prayer movement in Colorado Springs several years back, we prayed in fire with pastors and hungry people every Friday night—in over 100 churches. Pray! Magazine interviewed me and asked, “How do you handle the issue of competition between pastors as you are gathering them together in this movement?” I simply answered, “It’s not possible to hate someone you are fervently praying for. If I’m praying for another pastor to have more success than me, a bigger church than me, more money than me, more influence than me, I simply can’t at the same time be divided against him.”
I don’t care if revival breaks out downtown Detroit, down in Toledo, over in Windsor or in a wealthy suburb. If we really understood what revival was, we’d shut down our lives and run hard and fast anywhere it broke out!
I have no patience with the absolutely ridiculous racial distractions in the church that are keeping us from serving and praying in fire together. Yes, I’m the new kid on the block with a different perspective. I humbly pray you check out the view from my perspective. It’s much happier here.
A CASUAL APPROACH
This issue is directed to Christians in general—where are you?
Are you so sleepy that you aren’t active and vibrant enough in the spirit to hear the alarms? Wake up! Wake up!
Never again treat the call to battle casually. Never again participate in your local church casually. It’s time to awaken and advance with an alert and ready spirit! If you don’t know how to connect, ask! Ask again! Show up! Be a warrior! Serve!
Pastors aren’t there to entertain you! They are their to gather you, to equip you, to assign you and to ensure you fulfill your mission.
Show up early. Stay late. Be at every prayer meeting. Cancel date night. Cancel Little League. Bring the kids into the streets of Detroit. Evangelize. Pray. Serve. Work!
The 24/7 church is coming…yes, we will be in church every day of the week in the not too distant future. The question is, will it take a terrifying calamity to convince us to gather together in God’s presence, or will it result from a simple desire to be with God continually?
I’ve been to some regional revival events in Detroit, and the venue is often nearly empty! Are you serious? Muslims can show up in mass, on time, without any excuse or conflicting activity standing in the way…to pray…at inconvenient times…yet, Christians, who serve the Living God, can’t show up to contend for revival? Pastors, it’s time to lead your people out of your own church and into other churches for the sake of an outpouring! Be the example that Detroit needs!
It has been prophesied that if the church of Detroit doesn’t come into agreement with revival, God will bypass this city and give Chicago the next chance.
I’m beginning to believe that that may just happen.
So, what’s my response? To give up? No. Quite the opposite.
My family just bought a house here. We planted roots. We are starting a second church. We are helping three others launch home churches out of Revival Church this year. We are planting 50 churches in this region over the next few years.
And, we are ready to lock arms with anybody who is sold out, zealous, available and committed to extreme unity, hard work and a lot of time invested in this city that is very much worth it.