Today’s Christian generation in this nation at least is becoming quite the expert at right versus wrong. The fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil has been bit into, and not only does it taste great but it’s being shared among friends. Eve knew she needed Adam to taste and see that the tree was definitely good to make one wise—and the serpent was very pleased.
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:6)
My recent article posted to Charisma Media on the debacle with David Dao and United Airlines and various related Facebook posts resulted in some disturbing retorts.
Time and again professing Christians were speaking as supposed experts in right versus wrong, and many eagerly supported the rebellious behavior of David Dao. They were proud of him for standing up for his ‘rights’ and sticking it to United Airlines. The point that David may or may not be a Christian doesn’t matter. It’s not his behavior I’m addressing, it’s the response from Christians that is disturbing. The behavior of United Airlines or the airport police are non-factors as well, at least in regard to the appropriate reaction we should be supporting. No matter how badly we are treated, we must respond rightly, biblically.
I’m glad Jesus didn’t stand up for his rights when he was wrongly convicted and then slaughtered on a cross. He didn’t have to prove his innocence. He didn’t have to plot revenge. He didn’t have a “how dare they” attitude. He wasn’t analyzing right versus wrong.
His famous words would be well repeated by all of us: Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.
If we support violating Scripture in our attempt to right wrongs we are utilizing a demonic anointing of rebellion and witchcraft to do so. It’s that serious.
There’s an unholy spirit of protest that’s gaining strength in our nation in recent years, and much of the church is cheerleading that spirit from the pews and from the streets. Is there a way to deal with improprieties? Of course, but it involves the fruits of the Spirit. When we advance strategically against the enemy, we can never adopt his own strategies and anointing. The fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control must be evident.
The unhealthy spirit of protest actually plays out every day in churches around the world. People who don’t get what they want, and who are offended by pastors and leaders, do all they can to prove they were violated—while plotting revenge through gossip, complaining, accusation, slander or other devious means.
STOP USING LEADERS TO GAIN WHAT YOU WANT
It’s a spirit of religion that’s driving so much of the angst and anger that’s directed at those who stand in our way.
My definition of religion is: man’s attempt to use God to get what he wants.
Further, when we use other people to selfishly advance in our own lives, especially as it relates to spiritual matters, we can know it’s a demonic spirit of religion that’s driving us. In fact, it was Eve’s desire for spiritual advance that caused her to eat the fruit. It’s appropriate to desire to advance but it’s improper to walk it out by using people and disobeying the Word of God.
In my nearly three decades of ministry my heart is grieved at how often people live defeated and then blame leaders, pastors, parents and others for their misfortune.
I love this Tweet by @IHOPKC:
We can do the will of God in our life without relying on others to open doors or be our source of promotion.
We don’t have to fight with pastors, bosses, airlines, the police or other supposed oppressors. We don’t have to blame them for misfortune. There’s a better way.
I come alive when I see people growing and stepping into their ministries. When they take their callings seriously and give themselves to the process of promotion, God takes notice, and it’s God, not man who will ensure our ministries are fulfilled.
FROM MY BOOK SIX ENEMIES: ENEMY NUMBER SIX—RELIANCE ON MAN
A foundational component of God’s government (His way of delegating and administering) on the Earth is the facilitation of ministry through mankind. God uses people in a variety of very important manners in order for Kingdom life to function well. In this divine and diverse system God has established a system of interdependence. I need you and you need me.
Added to this key truth is the very important principle of submission. We must submit to one another, and we must most certainly submit to our authorities. I address this topic more comprehensively in my book Covens in the Church. We are not called to be anarchists who embrace a non-Biblical methodology of self-governance. God’s government demands humble submission to others in our lives.
It’s from this position and attitude of service where God can more effectively trust His children to become holy dreamers. God can entrust divine missions to us when He knows that our heart is bent on loving others well and preferring them above ourselves.
The problem comes when healthy interdependence gives way to burdensome co–dependence. All sorts of issues arise when we find ourselves being frustrated and held back in ministry and attaching blame to other people. If we align ourselves with this enemy, we’ll be fooled into thinking that the fulfillment of our ministry is fully dependent on our pastor or leader.
Does God use others to help facilitate our ministry? Yes. Are we to take it upon ourselves to determine how others are to facilitate our ministry? No. God has called us to serve. True ministry is actually service. So, as servants, we humbly avail ourselves to others and do our best to help them in their ministry.
Luke 14:8-11 (NKJV)“When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
As we truly embrace the principle of preferring others above ourselves, it will actually feel unusual to expect others to make a place for us and our ministry. Instead of becoming frustrated when a place isn’t made for us, we’ll be at peace knowing that God is fully in charge of our destiny. We can serve well, expect nothing, be fearless of rejection and allow the process of biblical promotion to naturally take place.
When that issue is resolved, you can focus on the journey of personal development and preparation for the ministry that God has called you to. If a call to preach has been burned in your heart, then in due time you will most certainly preach, but not before you are ready. God may use others to create a divine delay in your ministry. Don’t blame others for this speed bump. You aren’t to be reliant on others, but you are to avail yourself to others. Serve them well.
Luke 14:11 (NKJV) For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Your promotion isn’t dependent on others noticing your greatness, but rather is on the revelation of your weakness! When humility becomes the driving force in our lives, God gets very excited about the powerful ministry that will eventually flow through us.
John 13:2-5 (NKJV) And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.
Jesus was about to experience mankind enforcing their rule over him. However, no matter how resistant other people were to the ministry of Jesus, God would not be denied! Pontius Pilate couldn’t stop the earthshaking ministry of Jesus. Judas couldn’t. The guards couldn’t. Jesus prevailed.
This act of humility, as Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, was a visible revelation of the condition of His heart and character. Our call to humility is the same. No man can stop what God desires to do through our lives as we surrender in complete humility.
Our destiny will be facilitated in many ways through God’s government on Earth; however no man can stand in the way of our fulfilled destiny. Our reliance is on God, not man.
Often, people will leave churches because their ministry isn’t received. It’s hindered or even rejected. For example, someone may feel a calling to sing on the worship team. The worship team leadership, however, may not feel that this particular person is a good fit for the team. It can be very easy for the individual to allow offense to take root in their heart. Their thought is that the worship leader is standing in the way of God and is stifling the Holy Spirit. This person can easily embrace a divisive spirit, bitterness and anger. So, in frustration they just leave in hopes of finding a more enlightened leader who will allow them to minister.
This scenario tragically occurs every day in churches around the world. Rebellion to authority is embraced along with a heart of accusation as they take their immaturity to the next church on their unhealthy journey to personal affirmation.
Ministry is service. If a church doesn’t need our particular gifting to be expressed, then that’s OK. We serve another way. If God needs us to sing, to preach or to work in a particular function He will make sure that no man can stand in our way. Ministry, though personally fulfilling, isn’t about personal fulfillment. It’s about service.
Check out Paul’s description of ministry:
2 Corinthians 6:3-10 (NIV) We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
Are you sure you want to minister? Though the question is sobering and thought-provoking, the answer for all of us must remain “Yes.” We are called to minister, however true ministry as defined in Scripture may be something quite different than many think. It’s a call to wash feet and to die at the hands of others. It’s a tragic yet precious calling.
1 Thessalonians 2:6 (NIV) We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you …
2 Corinthians 4:8-12 (NIV) We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
If our destiny is to minister (it is!), then we must grab hold of the amazing example of Paul and other biblical leaders. In these two passages alone we discover:
- We are not to seek praise (affirmation, promotion, etc.) from man.
- We are not to be a burden.
- Though hard pressed we are not to be crushed.
Truly, our destiny, as Paul emphasized, is to die. The very people that we wanted our promotion to come through may actually be those that disappoint us and cause our flesh to die. God values the process of killing pride, selfish ambition and other obstacles to pure ministry. We must understand this if we are to come out of this healthy and invigorated! God is calling us to minister with power, and this reality should take us well beyond our own personal fulfillment when we are able to minister according to our own giftings and desires.
Our destiny will not be held back by pastors, leaders, friends, parents or anybody else, but God will use these people to facilitate the process of brokenness that is so necessary in our lives.
As we allow this process to happen, and refuse to indict others, a humble and burning man or woman of God will emerge as a powerful weapon in the hands of the living God!
1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (NIV) Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”
It’s from a humble, vulnerable place where we can allow God to flow through our weaknesses. God receives the glory and we boast in Him alone. It’s our reflection of the glory of God that will most quickly result in fulfilled destiny. As we shine Jesus, the world will crave what we have to impart.
Ephesians 4:1-3 (NIV) As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
So, the message of humility should be quite obvious at this point. The very simple conclusion for us as we pursue a fulfilled destiny and ministry is this: Rely on God and trust His process. God will use people to both encourage us and discipline us. They will be used to refine us and promote us. They are instruments in God’s hands. Don’t get upset at the instruments if they don’t recognize you. Serve them well and trust God to make you ready for the ministry that He has called you to.
theFurnace: Pastors, leaders, intercessors and the remnant church that is hungry for revival must come together.
NOTE: Our next revival event is MONDAY, JUNE 27 AT 7PM!
NOTE: Our next prayer event is FRIDAY, JULY 8 AT 10PM!
Meetings and services alone won’t cut it. We must to gather a company of firebrands from the region to contend together. This is the first phase of the strategy for revival in Branson.
What would happen if every pastor of every life-giving church in the region gathered together each week in fervent, Spirit-driven intercession and prophetic impartation? The atmosphere in the region would receive a continual shock of holy fire!
I’m looking for a revival company in Branson. These are pastors, intercessors and others who are ready to move past meetings and programs and burn hot with others in the region.
We will meet in churches for intercession, as we have been already in Branson. We will also meet on certain Monday evenings for prayer, training and prophetic messages.
Frank Bartleman, who was instrumental in the Azusa Street outpouring over 100 years ago, sent Evan Roberts a telegram. Evan was giving leadership to the great Welsh Revival and Frank Bartleman wanted to know what he could do to see a similar move of God in Los Angeles.
What Evan instructed goes down in revival history:
Congregate the people together who are willing to make a total surrender. Pray and wait. Believe God’s promises. Hold daily meetings.
This is what we are working toward in Branson.
While local churches are an important part of the overall plan, local churches alone have no hope of initiating or sustaining regional revival without significant, strategic unity with the greater spiritual blueprint. It’s time to bring focus to the city church and to lock arms together with Believers in our region at a much higher and consistent level.
THEFURNACE MISSION STATEMENT & STRATEGY
theFurnace exists to gather forerunners who are united in the mandate to initiate reformation in the church and revival in the region. As carriers of the fire of God, we are single-minded in our mission to rally a generation that will embrace the cross of Christ, pursue radical holiness, engage in fervent prayer, live a life of repentance and experience both the freedom and the fear of the Lord.
CONSECRATION: As a company of reformers we are alert and intentional in our mission. The call for all is to gather together continually, free of distraction, with surrendered hearts, in unwavering agreement and with an unusual investment of time, energy and passion.
FIERY PRAYER: The biblical church is a house of continual prayer, and we commit to upholding that standard. Every Christian has the sober responsibility and wondrous opportunity to pray in such a way that the fire of God burns night and day in our lives, our church, our region and the nations.
FEAR & TREMBLING: The fear of the Lord will always be before us. Brokenness and repentance is a continual reality in the resulting atmosphere that will facilitate a historic end-time revival.
CULTURE SHOCK: When truth is preached, religious spirits react and the hungry marvel. Comfort zones are threatened and personal endeavors are disrupted. In the fear of the Lord, we will prophetically decree shocking and liberating realities of the Kingdom of God.
WONDERS: A supernatural baptism of fire will hit all who have given themselves to Jesus without measure. Death to self, humility and a bold, burning spirit of prayer will open the door to a life of wonders.
YOU ARE NEEDED
I am looking for a small company of people who will pray and advance together every time we have an event scheduled.
You are invited to be on that team.
Pastors, leaders, intercessors, prophetic people and everybody hungry for a move of God—will you contact me today? Share your story and let me know if you have any questions. Then, let’s commit to advance toward revival in Branson together!
Contact me at [email protected] TODAY!
People are leaving churches in record fashion. Pastors, it’s time to look within for the reason.
Taken from John’s book Pharaoh in the Church, the follow up to Covens in the Church. (Covens in the Church is a message about the body’s responsibility to submit to authority and Pharaoh in the Church is a message calling leaders to stop using people to build their own kingdoms.)
God is looking for leaders who are humble, broken and driven by the fear of the Lord not the fear of looking like failures to their peers. We must be a people who trust God fully.
This must end! As a senior leader I had an open hands policy. I never owned the sheep and I made that known. I told other pastors and leaders that they were free to come to my church and, without guilt or fear, recruit anybody they chose to leave my church to join theirs. They could ask my best leaders, most amazing musicians and most committed intercessors to leave me to join them. If they agreed, I’d bless my friends as they entered into their new assignments.
It was important for me to kill the competition spirit, that spirit of Pharaoh, quickly—and that comes as we trust God and his church building process.
A Shocking Shift in the Church
Its days are numbered. I don’t know what that number is, but it isn’t large. In fact, the beginnings of change are here. You can feel the temperature fluctuating as the days are suddenly growing shorter. We’re in a transitional season that will ultimately result in the rebirthing and reintroduction of a long forgotten biblical structure–the Church.
As I thoroughly investigated in the sister book, Covens in the Church, the change is not, as many believe, an exodus from relationship with Christian leaders. It is, however, most certainly an exodus. In fact, it’s an exodus that will either invigorate or irritate leaders across our nation.
You see, there is a God-ordained and God-initiated revolution taking form. It is quite simple to understand that resistance to God’s process is always a tragic mistake and that embracing God’s process always guarantees success (God never fails). Revolution, by definition, is drastic and momentous change. It’s shocking and it’s shaking. It will rock every one of us as the process unfolds before us, but those who will trust God’s wisdom will survive–and even thrive as humble, faithful and tested men and women of almighty God.
I WAS DONE BEFORE I WAS DONE
One of the most important moments of my life, without any exaggeration in the least, occurred as God was calling me into the wilderness of encounter. I planted Revolution Church in Manitou Springs, Colorado, and though it was a challenge, we were watching with amazement as the church developed and grew in one of the nation’s darkest cities. You see, it has been reported that since the mid-1980’s, around 15 churches have been planted in Manitou Springs–and all ended up failing before hitting the two year mark.
I received a life mission from God in the early 1990’s, and that mission was to see a city taken for God. Pure revival at the city level was the mandate. I was extremely zealous in my adherence to God’s instructions, and I worked hard to see Revolution Church grow in strength, anointing and in number.
We were a few years beyond the ominous two year mark, and things were going well. I was in prayer at the church one day, and God said something that made no sense whatsoever. He said, “John, you’re done.”
What? How could this be? I wasn’t even close to being done. There were years of progress ahead of me. The city wasn’t even close to being taken and developed into a “model of revival for the nations” as another confirmed prophecy communicated.
“You’re done.” My brain was irritated, but my spirit was burning. I knew the second I received that message from God that I was done.
The next day, as I was emotionally undone and intellectually attempting to figure out what all of this meant, I went to a scheduled meeting with someone I had recently met. She brought a friend with her, who quite strangely remained silent for the first thirty minutes or so that we were together.
But then, she spoke. “John, I apologize for not participating in the conversation up until now, but God has been talking to me about you.”
She had my attention.
“John, God says to you that he is pleased with you, and with what you have built. He sees the foundation and the walls, and he is well pleased. However, John, the Father also says, ‘you are done.’”
Tears were instantly filling up in my eyes, and seconds later flowing down my cheeks. God was talking to me. He had my attention. I was shaken.
Over the next three weeks, eight or nine different people, most of whom I had never met, gave the exact same word. “John, you’re done.”
The word was expanded and confirmed time and again: “John, you’re done. You’re called apostolically to the cities of the Earth. This is very much about Manitou Springs and the vision there, and it’s also about so much more.”
Some time went by, and I did as well as I could in responding to God. Practically speaking, I honestly didn’t know exactly what to do, so I awaited further instruction. It came one day at the same altar where God revealed to me that I was ‘done’.
“John, you are to pray. I’ve called you to minister to me as a house of prayer for all nations.”
I understood then what the call was–the church was to rediscover its identity as a house of prayer. I’ve always been a zealous man of prayer, yet I know that the call was not only for me, but for the body, for those who would respond, to minister to God night and day in Manitou Springs.
My conversation with God, as I sat there alone in a dark room at the altar, went like this:
“God, I know I am to embrace and lead toward radical change. I know this body is to be a team of fiery, determined and tested people who pray on site continually. But, Lord, if I do this, the church is sure to lose people.” God offered no response. I sat there in silence as the implications of such a drastic change were bombarding my mind. My fear was evident as I continued my discussion.
“And, God, if I do this, I’m certain we’ll lose money.” Again, no response. Surely this was an acceptable concern. If we did something like this we’d experience such a severe loss of finances through the offerings that we’d most certainly fail to responsibly pay the church’s bills. Yet, God was silent.
As I sat there feeling both alone and very much in the company of Someone who was looking right into my heart, I finally said, “And, God, if I do this, I’ll lose my reputation.”
You see, I am a visionary leader. People had bought into the vision and had settled into the church in its current form. If I did this, I’d open the door for accusation, ridicule, mocking, disappointment and betrayal. I knew it would come, and it would be very hard.
“…if I do this, I’ll lose my reputation.” This time God responded with a message that changed my outlook on life forever. He said, “Good. My Son was a man of no reputation. Why should you be?”
I was broken in my humanness but spared the force of God as I hit my knees and prepared for the greatest shaking of my life.
Pharaoh in the Church
You may be wondering just exactly what the Pharaoh in the Church is. The spirit of Pharaoh that must be uprooted is revealed in a powerful line from a worship song by Brian Ming:
“Forgive us for building man’s kingdoms on doctrines of demons in Your name.”
There it is. Due to a great lack of understanding and trust of God and his process, it has become acceptable to use people to build religious systems. Pastors have often unwittingly taken on the mantle of Pharaoh as they advance their vision to develop their kingdom instead of leading the body into the burning presence of God in the wilderness of encounter. Again, much of what happens has benefited people. In fact, the development of excellent programs and ministries have both benefited people (to a degree) and built man’s kingdom. They have even, to a degree, built God’s Kingdom. It’s not always all bad or all good. There is some mixture. But, the call to minister to God in the desert will require a degree of trust that is rare today. We’ll discuss this further, but for now understand this: we must drop our bricks, rediscover our identity and follow God’s ordained leadership into the wilderness of encounter.
There is both a spirit of bondage and a spirit of Pharaoh upon the Church. In Egypt, the Hebrews’ very identity was based on their ability to produce–to make bricks and build the kingdom. Similarly, the Church has become comfortable in learning how to make bricks; our identity is founded on how we can fit in the body, how we are received and what we can produce. This focus is self-serving, and it can easily cause us to resist the call of God to change. This change will greatly affect both the body and the leadership–but, it is at its core a trust and obedience issue. Does the body trust God’s wisdom in placing us under our authority? Does the leader trust God’s call to release and lead the people into a place of encounter?
This is a call of release from making the bricks that are used in building the kingdoms of man. It’s an issue of trust as we see the body released into a place of intercession and ministry in the fire of God’s presence. It’s a great transition from a human system into a system of God that will lead us into the wilderness of encounter. Churches must at their very core be prayer fueled, encounter driven ministries unto God.
The goal should be for people to tremble and collapse under the weight of the glory of God as they walk up to the church building! In 2 Chronicles 7 they couldn’t even enter the building! They all hit the pavement as the glory of God consumed the place. That should be our church growth strategy today! It’s time to discover the fire and glory again.
We must understand that it’s time to stop trying to become expert brick makers and start following the voice of the Lord! There is no need for bricks where God is leading the Church!
The Church must become responsive to the prophetic voice of God to put down the bricks and to move out! There are tents to be set up, directions to be received, rivers to be crossed and cities to be taken! In order for this to happen, we first must move from our current position and step into the great unknown. God has mighty plans to blow our minds, and we have to trust that he’s very good at leading us into that brand new place.
The current system that is being threatened with reformation from Heaven is one that survives by using. Pastors and leaders must take notice. We must repent. We have marketed and sold our church experiences. We have been mindful of man ahead of God. The day has come where instead of convincing our communities that we have the best children’s ministry and the most progressive worship and the nicest sanctuary and the best way to connect with others we will actually announce the severity of the call!
When people join our churches, they must find themselves in the wilderness of encounter from day one! The bar will be raised high, the cost is everything they have, holiness is non-negotiable and an extreme lifestyle of prayer IS the experience! When the fire of intercession burns the flesh of those who wander into our meetings, you will witness a deep and dramatic conversion of desperate souls.
And, yes, it’s true, many won’t come. The tithes might be low. Pastors’ reputations will be at risk. Pride will take a mighty blow. Buildings may not be built. People will complain. You see, in Egypt it’s all about the desire of Pharaoh to build a kingdom. In the wilderness, control over the people is surrendered, and the only acceptable plan is to lead them into God’s presence. Pastors, we must let the people go–and lead them into the tent of meeting where God Himself burns night and day.
As I write this, tears are trying to form in my eyes. I’m quite undone. A violent groan is in my spirit. The call of the Lord is:
“NOW, NOW, NOW! The remnant, the hungry, the broken- step into position, stand up with a great burning within, a wellspring of tears pouring out, with your cross crushing your back… stand up and prepare to march. NOW, NOW, NOW! Change, change, change! I am coming! I am moving! I am moving! NOW, NOW, NOW!”
I feel we must be willing to risk losing everything for the sake of reformation. Recalling again that life altering moment at a dark, lonely altar at Revolution Church, I said, “God, if we do this, I’ll lose my reputation.” As a dreamer, leader and visionary, I had an all encompassing passion to fulfill my mission. People would certainly presume that I had missed God if I shifted gears so severely. They’d think I was confused. I was dropping the ball. But, of course, Jesus was of no reputation. It’s not about who we are; it’s about Who we represent.
Are we willing to risk everything for the sake of offensive, shaking, cross-centered revival that puts an end to much of what we have held dear? Will we move our churches into a place that may result in great personal loss? Will we be willing to lose our retirement, our health insurance, our salaries and our comforts? Friend, momentous change is coming. It’s a reformation. It’s a revolution.
The Egyptian System
The spirit of Pharaoh will use every tactic to keep the current structure in place and will resist the release of people and resources even if it means it will move the people closer to God.
Let me shout this with clarity–we must repent for, either intentionally or subconsciously, considering the growth of the Church ahead of the call to lead people into God’s presence!
We need to soberly understand that God is removing leaders who lead with the spirit of Pharaoh and is raising up those who declare without apology the current directive of the Lord.
Church, pastors, leaders, this is where we are now–God has come down to see what has been built, just as he did with the Tower of Babel, and he’s about to act.
Let me make a very important point–I am not saying that the old structure is fully and comprehensively evil–no way. Just as Moses himself lived in the Egyptian system and started to lead God’s people by defending them from the abuse of the slave drivers, there are leaders now who know nothing but the current church system and have a great heart for God’s people.
However, if we refuse to release the current structure, and the people of the Lord for what is next on God’s agenda, our evil intentions will be riled up and exposed. We must be humble, broken, alert and responsive. We must resign our positions and opinions daily and refuse to hold on to anything too tightly.
Exodus 5:2 And Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go.”
This spirit of Pharaoh has gripped the Church.This is evidenced in the alignment with Pharaoh’s statement–I don’t receive the word of transition. I don’t acknowledge that God is saying anything. I will not release my project of building what I’ve been working on for years.
As in other transitional periods throughout biblical history, the word of change resulted in hardened hearts instead of obedience. The current structure as we know it must be left entirely, and those who have anything to lose in that process will be tempted to fight the change.
Exodus 5:3 So they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please, let us go three days’ journey into the desert and sacrifice to the LORD our God, lest He fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.”
God is raising up prophetic men and women, messengers to sound the alarm, to call the Church into reformation. The declaration is clear–let the people go!
Note that the call is not simply to step outside the gates of the kingdom, but rather to travel a day’s journey. It’s a call far away from the current structure.
Exodus 5:4 Then the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why do you take the people from their work? Get back to your labor.”
Pharaoh became irritated at the first threat of the structure being disrupted. Allow me to boldly ask you to examine your own heart. A spirit of Pharaoh in a leader can often be evidenced through a resistance to the call of God for change. Pharaoh’s very identity was wrapped up in the development of Egypt. Any thought of risk to that identity was not even an option.
For those who align with this spirit, the prophetic call to change will be rejected, then mocked and then become a cause of great irritation.
Exodus 5:5-11 And Pharaoh said, “Look, the people of the land are many now, and you make them rest from their labor!” So the same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their officers, saying, “You shall no longer give the people straw to make brick as before. Let them go and gather straw for themselves. And you shall lay on them the quota of bricks which they made before. You shall not reduce it. For they are idle; therefore they cry out, saying, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ Let more work be laid on the men, that they may labor in it, and let them not regard false words.” And the taskmasters of the people and their officers went out and spoke to the people, saying, “Thus says Pharaoh: ‘I will not give you straw. Go, get yourselves straw where you can find it; yet none of your work will be reduced.’ “
The tension will certainly be extreme as the prophetic mandate for reformation hits a spirit that’s intent on staying the course of his kingdom-building plans.
This may be another good spot to bring some clarity to the point I’m trying to convey. I believe that the spirit of Pharaoh is something that every leader must contend with. I am by no means saying that the leaders I am writing this message to are evil, as we know Pharaoh was. This issue can affect the most amazing, zealous and surrendered servant-leaders in the Kingdom of God. The reality is that, in our Western, American culture, the pressure to succeed in the minds of men is extreme. Pastor’s salaries, reputations, security, retirement, stability in their own families and so many other factors are a part of this wide-reaching drama. All of that and much more is at risk. I understand that embracing an Egyptian building blueprint has loads of benefits and it may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done if and when you break this model of ministry off of your church.
In the story we see that Pharaoh is greatly irritated, and his response is to highlight his control over his people and his kingdom. Not only will he not relent, he proves that he is in charge and increases the demands on the Israelites.
Exodus 5:12-14 So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw. And the taskmasters forced them to hurry, saying, “Fulfill your work, your daily quota, as when there was straw.” Also the officers of the children of Israel, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, “Why have you not fulfilled your task in making brick both yesterday and today, as before?”
As the hope for freedom draws near, the enemy, Pharaoh, raises his head and strikes. More production with less resources is demanded, and the result is a mandate that can’t be obeyed. Unholy judgment comes and increases the fear and bondage of the people.
Pressure From Both Sides
Okay, are you ready? Can the pressure possibly get any greater? By now we realize the move from Egypt to the wilderness of encounter is going to be possibly the most difficult thing we’ve ever done. The fear and anger and tension is already quite extreme at this point of the story, but it’s about to be increased. Now both Pharaoh and the Hebrews resist!
Exodus 5:20-21 (Then, as they came out from Pharaoh, they met Moses and Aaron who stood there to meet them. And they said to them, “Let the LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us abhorrent in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us.”
The complaints against Moses were flying! Why? Suddenly, this movement toward freedom resulted in life becoming worse, not better than it was before. Rather than being mission minded, they were focused on their own comfort level. It’s the epitome of self-centeredness! Instead of agreeing with the call for the masses to experience freedom, instead of having a heart for our children who have an opportunity to be free from Pharaoh’s curse, the selfish cry for personal preservation resounds.
Leaders, get ready. When the word for change comes, the cries will begin to sound!
“I want this and that. This is NOT what I signed up for! Let me tell you how things are supposed to be!”
Wiersbe Expository Outlines reveals: Believers who are out of fellowship with God bring grief to their leaders instead of help.
Prophetic leadership by its very nature will attempt to lead people into the invisible realm, into the unknown. In the face of certain resistance, we must pray for agreement as God gives us the directions for the journey into the unknown and challenging place of discovery.
Those leaders who take on the mantle of Moses and press against the spirit of Pharaoh, will not only have that spirit to deal with. They can also expect to be attacked by the very people they are called to lead to freedom!
You see, the Egyptian system is a place of bondage, but it’s also a place of safety and comfort–if you follow the rules. As the captives are being led from chains to the very presence of God, their discomfort will be more than most feel they can bear. Don’t be surprised if most members of your church choose to remain in an Egyptian system when you attempt to lead them into freedom. It will be all too easy for them to leave your church and find another that reminds them of the ‘good old days.’ Do you remember the cry of the Israelites after they made it to the wilderness? They complained and wanted to return to Egypt. Truly, this call out of Egypt is extreme and costly. The message of comfort and safety must be replaced with the Kingdom message of advance!
This issue is a key reason why most leaders refuse to move the people into the primary focus of fervent prayer and intimacy with God. People will leave. They will take their money with them, and reputations will be lost.
When a prophetic word is given, the one delivering it will usually feel very alone and opposed by all sides–by the enemy and by those he is leading into freedom.
Noah was alone, Elijah cried out after his greatest victory that he was alone, Jonah was rejected by those on the boat who were concerned for their own lives, John the Baptist was murdered, and on and on.
If we are going to partner with God and be a mouthpiece for his prophetic word to the current system and culture, we better be prepared to stand alone for a season.
1 Kings 19:9-10 And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” So he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”
Yet, we are not alone.
1 Kings 19:18 Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
So much of this story surrounds what seems to be a trivial object–a brick. As I shared previously, Pharaoh’s identity was in the expansion of his kingdom, a kingdom built with bricks. Further, the Israelite’s identities were based on the bricks themselves. That’s what they did. If they made a good brick, life was good, if they made a bad brick, life was bad. They were as good as the bricks they made with their hands.
In the confrontation with Pharaoh, Moses was declaring that there was no need for bricks where God was taking the Israelites. Yet, because the Israelite’s security and livelihood were tied to the bricks, they couldn’t see beyond that. The idea of a life void of the very thing that gave them their security and identity was too much to bear. The Egyptian system is very good at giving leaders and the people a measure of security, identity and community. However, it’s a significantly flawed system; a self-serving system.
God, through Moses, was working overtime to communicate that they didn’t need bricks to build a tent! Not only were they being called to drop their bricks, the very thing they were building was about to change! What an amazing opportunity to move from building a kingdom for Pharaoh to building the tent that would house the very presence of the Living God!
Additionally, they didn’t need bricks to make an offering– God won’t accept a brick as an offering! In fact, in Isaiah he rebuked them for making a sacrifice on top of brick!
Isaiah 65:2-3 I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in a way that is not good, According to their own thoughts; A people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face; Who sacrifice in gardens, And burn incense on altars of brick;
God’s plan was to remove their bricks and replace them with gold to take into the wilderness! The plunder of Egypt was theirs if they would only drop their bricks!
Exodus 12:35-36 Now the children of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, and they had asked from the Egyptians articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing. And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they granted them what they requested. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.
As in any transitional period, there will be a time of insecurity and struggle as both personal and corporate identity is threatened.
“I’ve made bricks my whole life. I make a great brick. I am helping build something greater than myself. I’m taking classes on how to make better bricks much faster. My leaders like me. I don’t like change. Why are you making my life harder?”
This reformation requires a complete paradigm shift. It’s a brand new wineskin for a brand new season of revolution. As we release our control over the people God placed under our care, we simultaneously put to death that spirit of Pharaoh and take on the prophetic and apostolic mantle of Moses.
As we do this, oh my! Are you ready for what is coming? God’s chosen people, you and me and the people we are leading into the wilderness of encounter, will finally drop the heavy, dusty bricks of yesterday and take on the precious metals of God’s Kingdom! It’s time to drop the bricks! It’s time to move out into a mysterious and fresh place full of wonder and promise.
The Power of a Declaration
I’ll again highlight the connection between my previous book, Covens in the Church, and this one, Pharaoh in the Church.
What is the body’s right response to challenge within their local church? For one, it’s to honor their commitment and refuse to flee. At the moment of conflict, the inescapable reality that we are called to lovingly submit to authorities in our lives can’t simply be ignored or invalidated. However, the cry of the people from their caves of oppression is to be free, to encounter God. Their cry is tearing at God’s heart. They are sure to have their cries heard, and you are the Gideon, the Moses, with the call of the Lord to lead them into life.
In the midst of this chaos and crisis, the wrong response of the body would be to leave, to vacate their assignment to serve, and to look elsewhere for what they desire. Church hopping and church shopping is not an option at this point.
Additionally, God won’t simply force change in the current Church structure without our participation. Consider this truth–God so honors the authorities (good and evil) that he put into position that he will not violate himself by taking lightly the call for people under their leadership to honor them–even at terrible times of crisis. So, we can’t just move to another church. There’s process. We need to humbly pray and serve and hold up the arms of our leaders. However, leaders beware. God won’t casually sit back and allow an Egyptian system to keep his Beloved in slavery. Using people to build kingdoms of man instead of leading them into the glory realm of God’s presence will bring increasingly severe and convincing judgment.
For those of you whose theological perspective causes you to struggle with the concept of the judgment of God in the New Covenant, allow me to explain what judgment really is.
If we hold to an accurate definition of judgment there’s no way we’d ever think of living a single day without it. Judgment is simply making wrong things right. For example, when God heals a sick person, he’s declaring judgment on disease. We are crying out for judgment on a murderous system of abortion in America. That wrong must be righted.
If a church is Egyptian in structure, or if there are imperfections in the system, it’s okay to agree with a process of judgment. We want wrong church structures to be made right. The risk, fear and trembling come when we resist God’s often difficult, yet loving process of calibration.
However, hear me very clearly and be warned. The biblical principle for judgment is that whatever we embrace for others will visit us first. If we declare judgment on a religious system that’s oppressing us, prepare to have religious attitudes in our own lives addressed.
1 Peter 4:17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?
If we are praying for wrong things to be made right in our churches, we must be ready to receive the force of God’s correction in our lives first. Humility, love and determination to serve throughout the process are mandatory.
The Wild Process Toward Freedom
Now, with all of that being said, let’s look at the wild process that God took Pharaoh through. The Hebrews wanted to be free, and God wanted them to be free. They cried out, and God brought a prophet, Moses, to deliver them. It’s a done deal; they are moving into the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land.
Exodus 2:23-25 Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them.
However, since God won’t violate his own principle of established authority, he had to compel his delegate Pharaoh to agree with his plans and to make a governmental declaration that only Pharaoh himself could deliver–the people of God may go!
Exodus 8:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me.
We’ve heard this passage of scripture countless times, yet have you ever stopped to consider just what’s being said? We’re in the middle of this huge drama where some of the most bizarre signs and wonders ever recorded are taking place. By now in the story we have already had confrontations, staffs turning to serpents and a bold messenger of God risking his life by irritating the most powerful person in Egypt.
I’ll ask the question again–why in the world was all of this necessary? Why didn’t God simply snap his fingers and translate all of the Israelites into the wilderness (or directly to the Promised Land for that matter)?
Let’s look at one portion of the above passage again:
… Let My people go,
Is that not interesting? God didn’t say, “I’m taking my people, see ya!” He is making a demand on Pharaoh to let His people go.
Pharaoh had God’s rightful possession in his control. Because of Pharaoh’s governmental position, a position that God created and honored, he had to be the one to release the Israelites.
Romans 13:1-2 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
So, if God asked the Israelites to rebel against Pharaoh, clearly a very evil authority indeed, it would actually result in judgment landing upon them!
Exodus 8:21-22 Or else, if you will not let My people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies on you and your servants, on your people and into your houses. The houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground on which they stand. And in that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, in which My people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there, in order that you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the land.
So, instead of receiving judgment for prematurely leaving Egypt and rebelling against Pharaoh, God protected them from the judgment that hit the rest of the nation. A miracle occurred.
Leaders, please understand how devastating this entire process can be. If we refuse, as Pharaoh did, to release people from their brick-making duties, the pressure will increase. But even more tragic, those who are craving to move into God’s presence will not have that opportunity without enduring quite an ordeal. Or, if we cause people to abdicate their responsibilities of staying through the process of transition to leave for another church, the results can be devastating for all parties involved–sometimes for years or decades.
Okay, let’s really dig in and look at the process that was necessary, since God was honoring his established authority, Pharaoh.
Exodus 7:19-21 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your rod and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their streams, over their rivers, over their ponds, and over all their pools of water, that they may become blood. And there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in buckets of wood and pitchers of stone.’ “ And Moses and Aaron did so, just as the LORD commanded. So he lifted up the rod and struck the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants. And all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. The fish that were in the river died, the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink the water of the river. So there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.
So, the pressuring continues. However, while Pharaoh was certainly impacted, he was not yet ready to relent–not even close.
Exodus 7:22-23 Then the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments; and Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the LORD had said. And Pharaoh turned and went into his house. Neither was his heart moved by this.
His concern was clearly not for any of the people of Egypt. All he cared about was the advancement of the great Egypt building project.
Exodus 7:24 So all the Egyptians dug all around the river for water to drink, because they could not drink the water of the river.
Pharaoh returned to the safety and comfort of his house while the people under his charge went without water. Many in the church today might complain (which is a sin) about a leader that doesn’t nourish the body. While their analysis may be correct, their gossip and complaining is very incorrect. As leaders, we have to know that a malnourished people will become desperate. They will seek refreshing and water, and it’s our job to lead them to it. Of course, Pharaoh couldn’t care less.
Exodus 8:1-2 And the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me. But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all your territory with frogs.
Again, God’s cry is for his people to be free so they can be with him. So, pressure again increases.
Exodus 8:8 Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, “Entreat the LORD that He may take away the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the LORD.”
Well, isn’t that interesting? It looks like God has won! God’s leader, Pharaoh, seemed to come into agreement with the plan of the ages. However, notice that there is no official decree here. Let’s read on:
Exodus 8:9-10 And Moses said to Pharaoh, “Accept the honor of saying when I shall intercede for you, for your servants, and for your people, to destroy the frogs from you and your houses, that they may remain in the river only.” So he said, “Tomorrow.” And he said, “Let it be according to your word, that you may know that there is no one like the LORD our God.
Oops. Pharaoh wasn’t as determined as it appeared. Even in the midst of great trial, he decided to delay obedience to God’s directive to let the people go until the next day. This slight hesitation gave ample room for the enemy to haunt Pharaoh and to cause his heart to change. Delayed obedience is disobedience.
Exodus 8:15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not heed them, as the LORD had said.
Next we have the plague of lice which didn’t work. Maybe some flies would get the point across?
Exodus 8:25-32 Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God in the land.” And Moses said, “It is not right to do so, for we would be sacrificing the abomination of the Egyptians to the LORD our God. If we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, then will they not stone us? We will go three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the LORD our God as He will command us.” And Pharaoh said, “I will let you go, that you may sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only you shall not go very far away. Intercede for me.” Then Moses said, “Indeed I am going out from you, and I will entreat the LORD, that the swarms of flies may depart tomorrow from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people. But let Pharaoh not deal deceitfully anymore in not letting the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.” So Moses went out from Pharaoh and entreated the LORD. And the LORD did according to the word of Moses; He removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people. Not one remained. But Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also; neither would he let the people go.
Here we have Pharaoh starting to bend. He even asked for prayer! However, he placed conditions on the release of the Hebrews. This is a very important point that we have to consider. When God is calling us to transition, it truly is a call to the extreme. There will be a lot of temptation to compromise and to avoid as much static and risk as possible. When we take this approach, we are giving way to the enemy. We’re providing an opportunity for the enemy to counsel us in our place of wavering commitment to change.
Pharaoh agreed to let the Israelites go, but just a short distance,. That way, when they were done, things could return to normal. The bricks would be made again and the kingdom would be built again.
Understand, this movement is not a slight adjustment or a momentary redirect. This is massive reformation and the old will be left behind to fade away. The coming church will look nothing like the current.
Next God takes out the cattle of the Egyptians while saving the cattle of the Israelites. Pharaoh’s heart remained hard.
Would the spread of nasty boils throughout Egypt work? Nope. Pharaoh almost gave in again when the hail or the locusts came, but, once again, his heart hardened.
When the darkness came, we again see Pharaoh relent–to a degree.
Exodus 10:24-27 Then Pharaoh called to Moses and said, “Go, serve the LORD; only let your flocks and your herds be kept back. Let your little ones also go with you.” But Moses said, “You must also give us sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God. Our livestock also shall go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind. For we must take some of them to serve the LORD our God, and even we do not know with what we must serve the LORD until we arrive there.” But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go.
God’s call was for everyone and everything. This was not a conditional request. It’s all or nothing. Churches that attempt to keep one foot in Egypt while allowing another in the wilderness will end up with a hard heart. It just can’t work. We see this happen often when pastors provide a certain level of liberty for the resident intercessors to call the people to prayer–in a small room on a day, any day, other than Sunday. It’s a compromise that results in the main purpose of the Church, prayer for the nations, being relegated to an extracurricular activity. The prayer rooms will remain empty until the prayer meetings become the main meetings. The Church is a place of night and day prayer and ministry to God. Building the kingdom of man and the Kingdom of God side by side just can’t work.
Psalm 127:1 …Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain.
The Necessary Declaration
Now, the point of this message is before us:
Exodus 12:29-33 And it came to pass at midnight that the LORD struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of livestock. So Pharaoh rose in the night, he, all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead. Then he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, “Rise, go out from among my people, both you and the children of Israel. And go, serve the LORD as you have said. Also take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone; and bless me also.” And the Egyptians urged the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste. For they said, “We shall all be dead.”
It happened. Pharaoh finally released them. It was his choice and he chose to agree with God’s desire for his people. The risk of further loss was too great, and Pharaoh went from one who violently opposed God’s plans to one who then relented to a degree, yet placed conditions on the release of the Israelites, to one who wanted them gone–and fast. God’s pressure was sufficient. Throughout the entire process, the Israelites did not rebel. They stayed and submitted, and God protected them throughout. Now, as they were leaving, the freedom they were experiencing was indescribable. After the declaration by Pharaoh, the authority transferred from him to Moses. Pharaoh would attempt to chase after the people he no longer had any authority over, but now, due to his decree to transfer leadership to Moses, God then had full governmental cause to refuse his advance. Moses was now in charge. This is why the concept of seeking blessing from pastors prior to moving from one church to another is so important. We must transfer the authority and responsibility to serve and lead those God placed in our care to another.
Exodus 12:35-36 Now the children of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, and they had asked from the Egyptians articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing. And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they granted them what they requested. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.
Their new journey had begun, and God gave them everything they would need to bring an offering into the wilderness of encounter. Can you imagine how it must have felt to leave the heavy, dusty bricks in the sand while carrying gold and silver?
As this message closes, I want to drive home the point one more time. Since the body cannot rebel against authority and improper church systems, it’s up to the leaders to relent and make the governmental declaration that, yes, God’s people can go. The Egyptian system of old is done and we’re apostolically moving into a place of intercession, life and freedom.
While there are (rare) times to move from one church to another, I want to share five reasons NOT to leave:
1. When you don't fit in.
2. When it's easier for you to connect with God elsewhere.
3. The leaders aren't doing things the way most people think they should.
4. When another church has better programs for you and your family.
5. When God tells you to.
Five Reasons NOT to Leave a Church
A new Charisma Magazine article on this topic was published today. You can follow along while you watch the video if you’d like by reading the article HERE.
Unity around the mission of the church is something Satan cannot risk. The moment people lock arms, take their positions and unify with the Great Commission in front of them, it's over. He's done.
A spirit of independence is convincing Christians that it's time to take control of their lives and forsake the call to gather under leaders within the structure of the church. We must repent, and we must return to position and get ready to move as the alarm sounds.
This teaching is definitely a hot topic and sure to result in a variety of reactions. It is based on a Charisma Magazine article by John that was released today.
We are seeing the beginning of the greatest movement of love the world has ever known—and the greatest confusion about love in history.
In our self-centered, narcissistic generation, the demand for others to respond rightly to us seems to be overwhelming the command to respond rightly to others.
In ministry I have had the unfortunate opportunity to witness people spinning out time and time again when they aren't affirmed the way they think they should be. The enemy is offering his anointing of accusation to wounded people so they can point a finger and identify failures in others. The truth is that most often they simply don’t understand what love really looks like in the Kingdom.
It’s extremely easy to point out self-defined lack in another’s life with the accusation that they are not acting in love. This is an accusation that I and many other aggressive & prophetic leaders, who shock and rock and tear down idols and altars, have received more than once.
The problem? There’s confusion about what love is. True love will often shock us, and we are most certainly in a time when that jolt must come.
One of the greatest fears man has is that of failure. It invites scrutiny, accusation and mocking—but society’s greatest leaders embrace a culture of failure!
You can order Piece of Cake here: https://burton.tv/resources
A culture of failure? Yes!
The goal isn’t to look like you know what you are doing, the goal is to experiment, try, fail, try again, grow, have epiphanies, gain knowledge, fail again and ultimately succeed!
I implement a strategy in ministry called “Rapid Prototyping.” Simply, the moment a concept is conceived, there are immediate steps taken to initiate it—fully understanding that early experiments will most probably fail, but the knowledge and experience gained are critical.
Here’s a chapter from my recent book, Piece of Cake. This book is in itself an example of rapid prototyping. I received the download of an idea, designed the cover and wrote the first few chapters within hours! The entire project from conception to having an edited, printed copy from the publisher in my hands was less than three weeks!
I encourage you to try, fail, try, fail and try again! Here’s the chapter titled, Sweet Failure:
Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” (attributed to Thomas Edison)
Edison, when queried by a reporter about the seemingly incredible difficulties associated with his work on the lightbulb rebutted, “I have not failed 700 times. I’ve succeeded in proving 700 ways how not to build a lightbulb.” (attributed to Thomas Edison)
If we understand the scope of our project, it’s actually quite insane to presume we will accomplish it without significant and repeated failures.
In fact, the inventors of the famed lubricant WD-40 were so unintimidated by failure, that they actually included it in the name of their product. If you knew you’d fail thirty-nine times and succeed one, would you proceed?
In 1953, a fledgling company called Rocket Chemical Company and its staff of three set out to create a line of rust-prevention solvents and degreasers for use in the aerospace industry, in a small lab in San Diego, California. It took them 40 attempts to get the water displacing formula worked out. But they must have been really good, because the original secret formula for WD–40®—which stands for Water Displacement perfected on the 40th try—is still in use today. (quoted from www.wd40.com)
Yes, you are going to fail. Go ahead and wrestle with it now, you can’t avoid it. I don’t mean ultimate failure, of course. But, I do mean that you will pray much, do your best to gain insight from God, consider your best options, seek wisdom from others and then move out with at least a measure of confidence—and you will experience failure!
Thomas Edison could have named his light bulb, Lightbulb–1000! Maybe you can name the church you are considering planting First Church–100! Failure should not intimidate you! People will presume you to be inadequate, confused or immature during your experimenting.
Most young ministers crave for others to see them as successful and steady with a pipeline directly into the command center of Heaven. The reality? We see in part. We understand little. We have clarity on a small part of the big picture, and when we initiate action, others will watch as we stumble and struggle. Are you OK with that?
Thomas Edison said, “Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.” (Quoted in Artifacts: An Archaeologist’s Year in Silicon Valley (2001) by Christine Finn. p. 90)
Your job is not to be so careful that you avoid failure, it’s to be instant in obedience! In fact, failure is sweet when you learn how to handle the pressure it brings. Failure is an effective and desirable teacher. You may actually find yourself enjoying the various failures you experience, as a researcher would in a laboratory, in your pursuit toward efficiency and success. Really, the main thing standing in the way of the sweetness of failure is pride. If our goal is to impress people instead of developing ministries that set them free, we have no business even considering entering into a ministry project. We need to mature a little bit more first.
I stumbled across a blog article that I thought was interesting. It does a good job of explaining how to quickly initiate and develop a project:
“We only win in the long run by getting out there and bloodied in the short run.” (attributed to Tom Peters)
This blog is an example of rapid prototyping.
One week ago this blog did not exist except for a few ideas in my head so I thought it would be helpful to show how I went from step one to launch for very little time and money.
Now I own about 25 film books to every business book I have, but I think I first learned about rapid prototyping from Tom Peters. Some have called Thomas Edison “the father of prototyping,” but I imagine it goes back to a time closer to starting the first fire or inventing the wheel.
What is rapid prototyping? In filmmaking terms, it’s Edward Burns having a meeting at the end of 2010 with the Tribeca Film Festival people and coming up with an idea that he should make a feature to show for the festival’s 10th year and a few months later the film is written, cast, shot, edited and premiered. In an industry where the typical film can be in development for 3 to 5 years before it gets produced (or dies in development) Burns’ Newlyweds is definitely prototyping. Sylvester Stallone writing Rocky in six days is an example of rapid prototyping.
In the manufacturing world, a team of people may be put in charge of a project to design a widget quickly to meet a need in the marketplace. Rapid prototyping is messy business as it tends to follow the motto “fail early, fail often.” Because in the failing is where breakthroughs happen. (Scott W. Smith, efilmmaking.wordpress.com)
It’s always at least a little interesting hearing about someone else’s failures, and how they grew through them. When my wife and I moved to Colorado Springs to begin the process of starting a church, we honestly had no idea what we were doing. We didn’t have any money set aside for our church plant and we weren’t sent out by an organization. It was simply a boots on the ground venture. We showed up and started into the trial and error process.
One of our first steps was to connect with the largest church in the area, a ministry that we absolutely loved. They had a massive, vibrant small group ministry, and we thought it would be good to at least connect there as we waited for clarity on when to actually start the church. So, we attended the small group leader training and started planning our new small group. We were excited! We weren’t starting our own church yet, but we didn’t care. We wanted to connect with some new friends who shared our values, and we wanted to support the ministry of that church.
The weekend of the huge ministry fair came. This is where small group leaders were given a booth somewhere on the campus of the church where people could stop by before and after the Sunday services and get information about the various groups. Our booth was one of the best! We had looping video, excellent information and a powerful vision. It felt like a slam dunk!
Well, since this chapter is about failure, you know what’s coming! We were given one of the rooms in the church to hold our small group meeting as we hadn’t gotten settled in our own home yet. We prepared for the group and arrived early to setup.
When it was about 6:45pm, we had expected at least a few people to arrive early, but nobody did. At 6:55pm, we peeked down the long hallway to see how many people were walking toward our room. There were none. At straight up 7pm, Amy and I started to feel sadness rolling in, and by 7:15pm our dreams were fully crushed. At 7:30pm we packed up and snuck out with our tails between our legs, defeated.
We mustered up the courage to do the same thing the following week, just in case some people got the news of our amazing group a little late. This time by 7:05pm, we exited the building and went out for a lonely dinner, just Amy and me. Sweet failure didn’t feel so sweet that night. The group ended as fast as it started.
But, of course, we could not give up—though we did adjust our sails. We ended up launching Revolution Church a while later in our small living room with our family and a couple of other new friends. From there we grew into a 700 square foot building which held around 25 people, and then into a 2,000 square foot building where we peaked at 70, and finally into a 20,000 square foot building where we regularly ran around 100 in a very difficult region that was steeped in the occult. You see, in Manitou Springs, Colorado, at least 14 churches have started and failed in their first two years since the 1980’s. Revolution Church thrived.
One of the most prevalent issues that I come across on a regular basis as I talk to emerging leaders is the fear of missing God. Often people feel led to initiate a ministry, or to make a move in that direction, but they are afraid of being outside of God’s plan. This is a legitimate concern, but fear should not drive us. Wisdom should.
There was a time when I was living the life as a youth pastor in a church in the San Diego area. It was amazing! I was at the beach every Thursday and had a stress free, invigorating position in the church. I had full liberty to develop the youth department according to my vision and ideas. After a year and a half in that church I was offered a position in a large church in the Dallas area. It was a completely different environment, and making such a move would be a huge decision. I felt I had confirmation and I was excited about the possibilities this new opportunity presented, but I was afraid of missing God.
A good friend of mine gave me some of the simplest yet most profound and life changing advice I had ever received. He simply quoted scripture and said, “The steps of a righteous man are ordered of the Lord.”
The revelation was instant. If I was living a righteous life, and was making righteous decisions, God would order my steps—even if and when I made a misstep! The fear and pressure of making a right versus a wrong decision lifted off of me! I have used that counsel countless times in my life since. When I feel led to make a decision, I ensure I’m living in righteousness and am doing my due diligence through prayer and seeking counsel, and then I step! I trust that God will direct my steps, and if I’m off track a little bit, he will lovingly guide me back. It’s really a glorious way to live!
As I do this, I am fully confident that a lot of sweet failure is ahead of me, and I learn how to stay joyful and teachable as I learn from every ministry experiment.
Keep in mind, I am not advising a haphazard life. That will only cause you unnecessary frustration. Measure your decisions and step according to wisdom as you live in the spirit, and refuse to fear knowing that both temporary failures and ultimate victory are both ahead!
I’ve heard it said that we should make quick, pretty good decisions as opposed to calculated, perfect ones. Using this book as an example, I could have pulled out various resources, created a perfect outline, pondered it for a few months and eventually start writing. But, instead, my quick, pretty good decision has resulted in writing chapter two just one day after I started designing and writing the book. If my schedule allows, I can have this entire book written, in less than perfect but fully acceptable form, in just a few days! I’m literally sitting here in the prayer room unsure of what I will write next, but that’s OK. My goal is to pour out my heart, get the message out and move on to the next project sooner than later.
I have no fear of failure. Many will enjoy this book, many won’t get past the first chapter and many will think it’s a ridiculous concept and never pick it up. That is OK! There are people who will be unlocked into their destiny and that is all that matters!
I’ll share another failure with you. I value the advance of the Kingdom through church and house of prayer planting. I personally love the process of starting with nothing and watching God build a ministry that truly touches lives.
While leading Revival Church in the Detroit region, my family and I moved about thirty minutes north into a more rural area by the apple orchards. It is a different environment than where our church is, and I felt the birthing and planting bug start to buzz in me again. So, we planted Revival Church North in my living room.
We met for several weeks on Sunday mornings and drew a handful of interested people, but, I could sense early on that the necessary traction wasn’t there. Just as quickly as I decided to plant the church, I punted. It was fourth down and we could go for it or we could admit failure and move on to the next project. If I was walking in pride, I would have fought to keep it going, but, rather, it was easy for me to let it go. That plant failed. So what? Clearly it wasn’t meant to be, or the timing was off, and that’s OK. Believe it or not, I lost literally zero emotional energy through that process. I woke up the next day and refocused, prayed more and talked to God about next steps. There was still much burning in me and there are missions to attend to.
Thomas Edison said, “None of my inventions came by accident. I see a worthwhile need to be met and I make trial after trial until it comes.” (Statement in a press Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Alexis Carrel & Charles Lindbergh (conference (1929), as quoted in Uncommon Friends: Life with 1987) by James D. Newton, p. 24)
If there is a need that you are picking up on, get to work! Trial and error are both your friend! Don’t allow an insecurity to keep you from being the one that God wants to use to bring transformation, whether it’s in leading a Sunday School class, developing a Kingdom business, starting a church or doing anything else God is leading you to do!
Remember Gideon? All he knew was that he was the weakest and the least, yet all God called him was mighty man of valor! Gideon was cowardly, as was his entire community. They were in hiding from their enemy, afraid of losing their crops, their livelihood. They were experiencing failure after failure and their confidence was gone.
Judges 6:14-16 And the LORD turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” And the LORD said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.”
This is God’s call to you! Don’t fear opposition! Don’t fear failure! God had ordered your steps you mighty man of valor! Don’t wait for others to affirm you–you will be waiting for decades possibly! Don’t wait for the perfect plan. Gideon advanced with one percent of the army available to him and told them to blow their trumpets and smash their jars. That doesn’t sound like a good plan at all, but it was what God led them to do. God has a Gideon’s army waiting for you to have the courage to respond immediately as an insignificant person with an insignificant plan and an insignificant army to lead them into their destiny! Those who perceive themselves to be insignificant are but a moment away from initiating a move of God that will be felt throughout the city!
Remember that failure is an event, not a person. ~Zig Ziglar
Join theCore at the Detroit Prayer Furnace!
Just wanted to touch base regarding the revival movement in Detroit.
We are still contending after four years here in Detroit, and our next step is to identify 40 people who will be a part of theCore leadership at the Detroit Prayer Furnace.
We are also seeking 1000 intercessors to cover Detroit each week in prayer.
I’d love to talk with you personally about the opportunity!
God is equipping key prophetic people, and you most definitely have a role!
We’re connecting with pastors and leaders as well, so spread the word!
Check out two things:
- A brand new video that I just uploaded here on the need for prophetic town criers: http://youtu.be/bZmo_OJKXxY
- Info on how to join theCore here: http://www.detroitprayerfurnace.com/2013/08/15/how-to-join-thecore-and-the1000-in-detroit-thecore-leadership-team-at-the-detroit-prayer-furnace/
Contact me here: www.johnburton.net/contact
Watch a BRAND NEW XPmedia video on spiritual abuse and why NOT to leave a church!
If you’d like to book me for a COHESION EVENT where I teach on the content of this video, go here: www.johnburton.net/booking.
I often hear people use the term ‘spiritual abuse’ when sharing about challenges in their church. It seems to lend a clearly valid reason to leave a church, right? Not necessarily.
Watch a direct and fast paced teaching on Spiritual Abuse & 5 Reasons NOT to Leave the Church on XPmedia here: http://www.xpmedia.com/TMTb7qXAstev
I do understand that there are some horrible, selfish, mean spirited, controlling pastors—and congregants—out there. My heart is broken over situations like that. However, actual abuse is quite rare.
I recently had a conversation with someone regarding spiritual abuse, and here’s my response when it was argued that spiritual abuse is rampant in the church:
I think it's tragic when rejection causes people to flee the church when it was rejection that caused Jesus to die for the church. Jesus was abused, hated, physically destroyed… yet he served the church. He forgave.
We have people today who are leaving churches because of the most ridiculous reasons. When they don't get what they want, they accuse the pastor of control. Whenever accusation is in the mix we know someone has embraced a demonic anointing. He is the accuser of the brethren… and we should not be.
I also believe that abuse of people towards leaders is extremely rare. My wife and I have been in ministry 21 years… and we've experienced some very difficult things. Very cruel people… gossip, division, mistreatment, etc. But we've never been close to being abused.
I used to work for a 10/40 Window ministry. I've met Christian leaders in those nations who have been imprisoned in horrific conditions… stories of abuse like having a shotgun put in someone’s mouth because they didn't renounce Christ… they pulled the trigger and she lived. I could go on and on… pastors murdered in front of their congregation… another stripped naked and abused as he preached. I've seen piles of burning Christian bodies that were killed and torched by terrorists.
So, no, I haven't seen abuse much at all. I've seen bad stuff. Tough stuff. Inconvenient stuff. Emotionally difficult stuff. Unfair stuff. My heart goes out to those who have been treated poorly by pastors. And my heart goes out to pastors who have been treated poorly by people. But, I won't call it abuse if it's simply a very bad trial.
Here’s the content from the original article that resulted in this video:
People are leaving or changing churches at a record pace—when should we NOT leave a church?
Unity around the mission of the church is something Satan cannot risk. The moment people lock arms, take their positions and unify with the Great Commission in front of them, it’s over. He’s done.
Unity is so powerful that Satan used it as his primary weapon to build his kingdom on the Earth:
Genesis 11:4-8 (ESV) 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.
The unity driven plan, as impossible as it seemed, was on track to succeed—so God dealt a blow to what? Unity. It worked. The people scattered.
Now, in an attempt to turn the tables on God as he is building his Kingdom through unified people, Satan is attempting to scatter the church. It’s working. The church is at risk.
A spirit of independence is convincing Christians that it’s time to take control of their lives and forsake the call to gather under leaders within the structure of the church. We must repent, and we must return to position and get ready to move as the alarm sounds.
While there are (rare) times to move from one church to another, I want to share five reasons NOT to leave.
5 REASONS NOT TO LEAVE A CHURCH
When you don’t fit in. My three sons and one daughter would never leave the Burton family if they struggled to fit in, if they were misunderstood or if they were having a bad season of life. My wife wouldn’t either, nor would I. If we see the church as a part of the service industry like McDonald’s or Wal-Mart we will end up leaving if we don’t feel welcomed or served. However, God plants us in a covenant family, not a shopping center.
What most people really mean when they say, “I don’t fit in at this church,” is that they aren’t enjoying themselves. Possibly, they feel rejected. I find it disturbing when rejection causes people to leave a church when rejection is what propelled Jesus to die and launch the church. Remember, the church isn’t to be there for us as much as we are to be there for the church. The mission of the church is demanding and not always enjoyable and we must be in position ready to work. I guarantee anybody who approaches leadership and offers to serve in the nursery or by cleaning the church would absolutely fit in. Their serving heart makes a place for them.
Acts 4:11 (ESV) 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.
Luke 17:25 (ESV) 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
When its easier for you to connect with God elsewhere. I know this may be a shock, but the primary purpose of the church isn’t to make it easy for you to connect with God. If we understand this, a million arguments against staying at your church will instantly disappear. It’s our job, individually, to develop intimacy with Jesus. If we are dependent on a pastor, worship leader or others to nurture our relationship with Jesus, we’re in big trouble.
We should never arrive at church empty. We should be full of God and ready to pour out. If its easier for us to encounter God in our home or with a small group of friends, then great! That’s the way it should be! Then, take fire that you’ve cultivated to the critical corporate gathering and burn hot. Serve well. Get into position, lock arms, serve the leaders and advance the mission.
If we focus on personal edification and connecting with God as the primary purpose of the church, we can quickly forget the many additional needs that we have: Discipleship, challenge, discipline, accountability, maturing, giving, serving, and on and on.
Remember, you are not the church. You can’t leave the corporate gathering and be a part of the church. The church only exists when we gather under the call of leadership. Read this article: You are NOT the church
Acts 14:21-22 (ESV) 21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
The leaders aren’t doing things the way most people think they should. Many people believe leaders should make it easy for people to follow them. I disagree. Church leaders are mandated to lead people into some of the most challenging, risky and costly missions the world has ever known. People should actually make it easy for church leaders to lead them.
People made it hard for Moses to lead them into the Promised Land and they died. They made it easy for Joshua to do the same, and they dominated.
The demand of the people can be so strong sometimes that pastors and leaders forsake their mission. They end up pleasing the people instead of God.
Check this out. Jesus had just identified Peter as the church and made it clear that the gates of Hell would not prevail.
Matthew 16:18 (ESV) 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Then immediately after this, Peter, the church, unwittingly renounced the cross. He removed the cost, the surrender, the sacrifice. Watch what Jesus did:
Matthew 16:21-23 (ESV) 21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Peter (the church) was mindful of the things of man, not the things of God. Wow. The pressure of the people to steer the church in a certain direction can result in heeding their demands instead of the inconvenient and extreme mandate of the mission. Don’t be one of those people.
Hebrews 13:17 (ESV) 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
When another church has better programs for you and your family. We should never choose a church based on what we can get out of it. We are actually assigned by God himself to serve and build it.
My definition of religion is: Man’s attempt to use God to get what he wants.
When we expect to gain from the church ahead of sacrifice, we are embracing the same spirit that killed Jesus. The spirit of religion wanted to use Jesus for personal gain.
Consider the money changers. Right after the crowds were ‘worshiping’ Jesus by shouting Hosanna (which actually means, “save us now,”) Jesus dealt with that spirit. The crowds wanted Jesus to save them, to focus on them, to give them what they demanded. Then, the money changers, driven by the same spirit of religion attempted to use the church for personal gain.
Matthew 21:12-13 (ESV) 12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
The sin of the money changers? They expected to leave the temple (the church) with more than they entered with. The used the temple for personal gain. We see this same spirit in churches around the world. The expectation is to leave the temple with less than we enter with. We bring a sacrifice. An offering. We serve. We give. We place no demands on the place of sacrifice, but instead honor God through the sacrifice of intercession for the nations. Prayer is the primary purpose of the church, and the church needs you to join in that mission.
When God tells you to. OK, I’m sure you are awake now! Have you ever played the God card? As a leader I’ve heard many times, usually through the grapevine, that, “God told so and so to move to another church.” Really? That’s odd. I was entrusted as their leader, which is a very serious position, and God just forgot to tell me about this? He left me out of the loop? Maybe Hebrews 13:17 isn’t what we think it is? The church I’m leading isn’t important enough for people to honor the mission?
I hope you are getting the point.
We are called to submit to authority—even ungodly authority like judges, elected officials and our bosses at work. Certainly it makes sense that God would include our godly authority in a decision making process as important as leaving one family and one mission for another.
The point is this—God wouldn’t just tell you to leave without your leader being involved in the process. In fact, can I just be blunt? It’s extremely disrespectful, presumptuous, rude and self-serving to abdicate your responsibility in your current church by leaving without honoring the authority in your life. Your pastor has every right to participate with you in your process.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 (ESV) 12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.
The vision is HOT and I am boldly calling you into position.
Revival Church is a key gathering point for the entire regional church of Detroit—and the need for highly devoted people is skyrocketing.
We need you.
We are looking for people who really believe that revival can come to Detroit—but we aren’t looking for people who are waiting on the sidelines for something to happen. It’s time to work.
This need of fiery people includes 1000 people who won’t take no for an answer when presented with the possibility of revival. God gave me the job of gathering 1000 people to join together on Friday nights to pray for Detroit. See where we’ll be next Friday at www.revivallab.com.
**MY GUESS IS if you are in this region, and you are reading this, you are included in the 1000. We’re calling every leader, every pastor, every intercessors in the entire region to pray with us every week.
The importance of the region of revival minded Christians gathering together is so extreme.
Everybody MUST watch this video. It’s about the call to rock Detroit with fire! Go to www.revivallab.com and watch the video on the bottom left corner.
The State of the Church
I am humbled by what God has done in such a short amount of time. The culture that’s been developed at Revival Church is stunning!
>>One friend regularly comes from Chicago because she can’t find anything like Revival Church in her city of millions! Detroit is going to draw the masses just like this!
It’s rare to find a church that’s made up of so many people who have devoted themselves to revival. The cost is so high, and the reformation requires so much.
Our worship experience is rare and very special. TheLab School of Fire is growing fast and transforming a lot of people.
Our leadership team is unparalleled. We are blessed. It’s hard to believe we started in my living room just two and a half years ago.
- I am actively dreaming and allowing God to radically expand the vision of Revival Church.
- We must see another wave of people flood into position and refuse to allow anything to move them out. It’s time to lock in and refuse to let issues, unfulfilled expectations or frustrations shut you down.
- I’m boldly asking for another 150 people from the region to discover their role at Revival Church—and simply come every time the doors are open.
- I’m boldly asking for everybody to financially invest into this mission radically. Some can give hundreds and I’m convinced some can give tens of thousands of dollars.
- I’m seeking ways to impact a much broader region…well beyond the Detroit Metro area.
- I’m looking for 100 new students at theLab School of Fire. They must be trained in the DNA and vision that God has imparted into this regional ministry of revival. This will require thousands of dollars for marketing.
- I’m looking for my leadership team to expand significantly with people who are burning with the vision and who will serve humbly and feverishly (just like our current leaders!).
- It’s time to get our message on as many media channels as we can. Detroit must hear the sounding of the alarm to gather and advance the Kingdom in Detroit.
I received some rock solid insight regarding church development from Ed Young, and I wanted to pass this on. This is very much what we are applying at Revival Church. If you are a leader, this is for you:
- Draft impact players.
One of the most important skills as a leader is to have discernment. Draft people who are influencers. Draft yes men and women (i.e., people who are yielded and encouragers). Look at the spouse of your impact players. You better go spouse hunting because they are one. How do these people spell relational relief. Check out Facebook. Check references.
- Develop double vision.
If you have a church of 20 people, pastor like it is 40. If you have 200 people, pastor like it is 400.
Change > Conflict > Growth = the spin cycle of success. If you aren’t careful as a leader, you can get as a contemporary church become as predictable as a traditional church.
- Build a big shallow end in your church.
You better have a place where you can rapidly plug in new attendees and new Christ-followers. The church grows from the outside-in. Start reaching people, and make a big place for them.
- Put on your shades.
The vision should be so bright, so hot that people have to wear shades. Make people feel and know the vision of your church. Don’t assume that people know the vision. Talk about the vision. People don’t give to need; they give to vision.
- Las Vegas
Las Vegas has nothing to say, but they know how to say it. We have everything to say but don’t know how to say it. Most of us do a horrible job in promoting. We should be the best promoters in the world.
- Consult other leaders before you consult the consultant.
Talk to people who are in the game and not the consultants.
- Pay now or pay later.
You have to pay your people well. If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. What is well? I have no idea, but you’ll know if you ask questions. Put money in the hands of people that you know will be generous and bring the tithe. Where your treasure is, so your heart is. If you are going to err on the side of a poverty mentality or prosperity mentality, err on being generous.
- Have a good HATtitude.
What kind of hat do you wear? If you can’t put on the hat of enforcing the rules, you are doing something wrong. Sometimes you need the vision hat. Sometimes you need the corporate hat.
- Deal regularly and rapidly with staff infection.
When you see a shark on your staff – deal with it. If you have to sit down with a staff member and motivate them more than twice, you don’t need them around you.
- Watch the leaves.
People will leave your church. Don’t tell me how many people are coming to your church; tell me how many people are leaving your church. If you are doing the right things, people will leave. Even a third of the angels left heaven.
- Become childish.
One of the most important things in the church is your children’s ministry. Put your best energy, best time, best money, and best volunteers with the children.
- Pick up special deliveries.
Pyramid your church with special days (big events). It must have a meaning behind it and not just gimmicks.
- Tweak out!
Create a climate of critiques. Small tweaks take you to giant peaks.
- Investigate what you delegate.
People don’t do what you expect; they do what you inspect.
- To go out, you have to get under.
I have to get under the things that God has placed over me so that I can get over the things that God has placed under me. This is about authority issues. It is about honor.
- The message is the main thing.
Worship elements, videos, and other things are important, but the message is the main thing.
- Become a rescuer.
Church is about souls. We do all of this because people need the Lord Jesus Christ. We are rescuers.
See you tomorrow for burning prayer at 10pm and then Sunday at Revival Church!
Church Leadership: Can we stay unified when there are core doctrinal differences in the church?
I originally shared this with my Revival Church senior staff. I’ve communicated what I’m about to share with my various ministries throughout the years, and it’s been incredibly helpful to keep us on track toward revival.
I then realized that this would benefit not only my senior staff, but the greater body of Believers. This will help senior leaders and also those in the body who might may struggle with differing doctrines and focuses.
For example, IHOP and Bethel have some foundational theological differences, mostly surrounding eschatology, yet they remain great and close friends in the mission of Kingdom advance. We should all have the same heart and spirit within us.
Bill Johnson mentioned a key difference between prior church generations and what God’s doing now. We used to gather around doctrines. Movements launched around people adhering to same Christian theologies. Now, movements are launching as people gather around fathers and apostolic leaders who have a bold Kingdom vision and a mission. That is right on. Brilliant.
Here’s what I sent to my second tier of leaders at Revival Church last week:
I shared this with the senior leadership team recently and wanted to also get it in front of the rest of our amazing team! This will help you navigate through challenges with differences of vision and doctrine that arise as you meet and lead people in the church.
I've always shared this at various times in my ministries, but this is the first time I've done so at Revival Church:
- As our church grows, we will see MANY differing doctrines in our camp. I've been around this mountain more times that I can count.
- I've had Calvinists demand I study with them and change the official position of the church in favor of their doctrine.
- I've had strong grace doctrine folks want us to change our position.
- I had a guy hand me a huge manuscript he wrote that details why apostolic ministry is no longer for today and didn't approve of my focus on it in the church.
- I've had anti-spiritual warfare people share their positions. Anti-manifestation people shared theirs. Others don't believe Christians can be demonized. Others are pre-trib, others post-trib, others KJV only, etc.
- Others have shared their critiques regarding our vision, ministry emphasis, over-emphasis on one thing, under-emphasis on another, and on and on and on.
The emails I've received over the last 21 years could fill a book!
In every one of the above situations I listened openly and honored them in their personal pursuits, but I did not allow them to distract my primary focus. I did not allow them to compromise the mission we were on. They may not have realized it, but I had already processed through the positions they hold to and had made my doctrinal and ministry decision long ago.
I love this principle:
Someone once said, “I don't have to attend every argument I'm invited to.”
We as leaders have to use great caution and wisdom in the way we handle such matters. Confusion, distraction, division and disunity can creep in overnight if we aren't careful.
“In Essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, love.”
This is a key principle for us. The essentials, or the absolutes of scripture, are the classic, foundational Christian doctrines that cannot be violated. If one were to not adhere to an essential, an absolute, then that person would not be a Christian. For example, it’s mandatory for salvation that we agree that Jesus is God. However it’s not mandatory for salvation that we agree in the pre-tribulation rapture of the church. One is an absolute, or an essential, and one is not.
- Have clarity on what the doctrinal positions of Revival Church are and always commit to unity regarding them.
- While it's expected that leaders will hold to differing positions at times (non-absolutes), those positions must not be communicated to others in the church. A good way to handle this situation is: If someone asks you what your opinion on the end times is, for example, you could respond, “The church's position on this is Apostolic Premillennialism and I support them fully.” Now, I also value your personal processing through such situations. It's healthy to do so. If you want to discuss your position with me one-on-one, I'd love to do that at any time.
- Don't ever teach on a topic that is contrary to the position of the church.
- Always have the heart of a protector over senior leadership and the doctrines and vision of the church by voicing support and unity even if your personal doctrines/vision differ.
- If you want to discuss differing viewpoints, always approach me first, and then leave it to me to invite other leaders/people into the discussion if I feel led.
You'll notice that I rarely request feedback among leaders on doctrinal opinions, especially in a group or public setting. That's intentional for the sake of unity. I already know that we'll differ doctrinally. I often tell people, “The debate between Calvinism and Arminanism (for example) is not a new one. I don't have time to recreate that wheel of debate. Research the debated positions online yourself. I adhere to the Arminian position.” I don't let that distraction derail me.
Titus 3:9- But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.
Let's commit to this so we don't have splinter movements within the body.
It’s better to be unified yet disagreed on non-absolutes of scripture than it is to be divided in our search of affirmation of our biblical positions.
John 17:20-21 (ESV) 20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
Philippians 2:1-3 (ESV) 1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Ephesians 2:19 (ESV) 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
UNITY OF VISION
While we can all hold to differing non-absolutes of scripture, this doesn’t mean that we won’t be running in a specific direction on a specific track here at Revival Church. We honor those who have differing positions, but we also honor the clear vision and mandate that God has given us as a body. That vision and mandate does include a specific doctrinal focus and position.
For example, we are a church that openly encourages the practice of praying in tongues. We love and honor those who don’t pray in tongues, yet we aren’t going to eliminate our focus on the gifts for their sake. We know we will run with a certain tribe of people, and that’s OK. That vision is worth protecting.
Please always approach me with any teaching topics that you'd like to present in the church before you teach them. With new people coming in it can be easy for new leaders to presume I'm in agreement with something when I actually am not. A simple bulleted outline is all I need, and I trust you have clarity on the vision of the church and won’t teach in opposition to that.
There's no single stream that I'm 100% in agreement with (that would be weird!)… some of IHOP I agree with, some I don't. Some of Bethel I agree with, some I don't. Some of the Word of Faith I agree with, some I don't. Some Baptist doctrine I agree with, some I don't. And on and on!
Here's a great article on how to differentiate between absolutes and non-absolutes of scripture. I gleaned it from Ted Haggard in his book Primary Purpose:
When discussing ministry doctrines, styles and focuses, it’s important that we identify exactly where the particular topic rests within the whole spectrum. Let me explain. I believe there are several different levels in which we can examine structure or style of ministry. Most church bickering and splits would be eliminated if we understood this. Unity would thrive and the Great Commission would be more quickly achievable. Watch the progression from Absolutes of scripture to Interpretations and beyond:
- ‘Absolutes’– Every Christian church must agree on the absolutes. If a church doesn’t accept an absolute, it would certainly not be considered Christian. Absolutes include the fact that Jesus is God, he rose from the dead, salvation only comes through him, there is one true God, Jesus is coming again, sin separates us from eternal life, etc. We can never sacrifice an absolute. We must never waiver from our position here. Churches that accept the absolutes can get together for prayer, fellowship, etc. In Colorado Springs we had the nations largest National Day of Prayer event. Thousands got together to pray for our city in a downtown park. We all agreed on the absolutes.Example of a violation of an absolute: An Arlington, Virginia, minister said, “We have closed our minds to such trivial considerations as the question of the resurrection of Christ. If you fundamentalists wish to believe that nonsense, we have no objections, but we have more important things to preach than the presence or absence of an empty tomb 20 centuries old.”
- ‘Interpretations’– Next on the list, resting on the foundation of absolutes, are interpretations. These are scriptures, that we form opinions or sometimes even doctrines on. They are always taken within the context of the passage. They are fairly focused ideas, but since they are interpretations, there can sometimes be disagreement. The problem is when we allow this disagreement divide the church. Examples of interpretations can be- everybody is meant to speak in tongues, pre-trib rapture, etc. Since these aren’t absolutes, it’s ok to disagree. It’s tragic when people deem certain movements and people as ‘false’ because they disagree with them over interpretation.
- ‘Deductions’– Deductions are broader and more general than interpretations. You can arrive at a deduction when you read a larger portion of several passages of scripture. Doctrines should never be made on deduction alone, but there is much liberty to allow your ministry to include deductions as long as they agree with and enhance the absolutes. As with interpretations, it’s certainly negative to identify deductions as un-biblical when they in fact don’t contradict an absolute.
- ‘Subjective Opinions’– Broader still, subjective opinions are arrived at by individuals that experience certain insight when searching the scriptures coupled with living out what they find. Of course, subjective opinions must always agree with absolutes and must not contradict scripture or they must be thrown out. Subjective opinions my include teaching that hymns are more effective than contemporary worship or that we should dress like the culture that we are trying to minister and relate to them on their level. This is where ministry style can have a lot of freedom to experiment by trial and error. Discovering what works best in your situation at this level should never be accepted as absolute truth, or even as a deduction.
- ‘Personal Preferences’– Personal preferences may have less to do with controversial scriptural matters and more to do with personality, likes and dislikes. For example, a minister may prefer to have a robed choir every Sunday while another may prefer a single barefoot guitar playing worship leader straight out of the 70’s. Another example would be to take tithes and offerings by passing a plate rather than having the congregation bring the tithe to the front of the sanctuary and lay it on the altar. The Bible is usually silent on such preferences.
- ‘Feelings’– Feelings would include simply what we like and don’t like. Can you believe there have been church splits on this level??! What color the carpet, or whether to use hymnals or a video projector has more to do with atmosphere than with anything else.
- ‘Cultural Norms’– This simply has to do with the style and system of a particular culture. For example, you may find loud ‘Amen’s!’ in an Afro-American church while it may be more subdued in another style of church. You will also find a lot of cultural difference between different denominations and different socio-economic classes. If every church were a hooting and hollering roller coaster ride, then there would be a large segment of society that would not be reached, and vice versa.
Sometimes scripture doesn’t demand something be done a certain way. If we all focus on the absolutes and resist creating divisions based on lower levels, we will certainly have a powerful army ready and equipped to accomplish the Great Commission. Someone once said, “I don't have to attend every argument I'm invited to.”
Understand, I am all for discussion. Iron sharpens iron. But sometimes, the scripture remains silent or vague. As long as we do everything we can to create healthy churches, we have a lot of freedom to work it many different ways.