If a church is small, does that mean God’s favor isn’t there or that the pastor has failed? Not always.
Given a choice, I’d attend a large, impactful and vibrant church. That’s simply a preference of mine, though I understand why many others prefer smaller churches. Additionally, given a choice, I’d prefer to lead a large, impactful and vibrant church instead of a smaller one. The key words are impactful and vibrant. Over nearly three decades of ministry, however, I’ve learned that large does not always equal successful, small doesn’t always equal failure and a lack of numeric growth doesn’t always equal stagnant. It’s time we overcome the stigma of the small church.
Like most young church planters or pastors, my vision for the church I was leading included explosive numeric growth. That seemed to be the non-negotiable, obvious part of the ministry plan that required no explanation. Starting and developing a church clearly demanded attracting people to the mission as a core strategy. In fact, the Ekklesia is defined by three distinct marks: People. Leadership. Instruction.
The Ekklesia is a gathering of people in the region under governmental authority in order to receive apostolic instruction. More simply, it’s people coming together under God ordained leadership to fulfill a mission. So, yes, people are needed if you want to lead a church.
Some of my most memorable church planting moments include an empty 700 square foot room in Manitou Springs, Colorado where I’d pray, usually alone, in the early stages of our church launch there. Eighteen years have passed and a lot of lessons have been learned, but those hours on my knees or pacing around that room were the foundation of my church planting experience.
I’ll eliminate the countless remarkable stories, miracles, supernatural encounters and other happenings that spurred the church development process, both there in Manitou Springs and also in Detroit where we planted our second church. I’ve written about these miracles and wonders in some of my books (www.burton.tv/resources), but suffice it to say, I’m humbled at how God moved. In fact, I’m stunned at just how much God did. I and many others will never be the same, and for all eternity we will be able to praise God for what he did in those seasons.
To this day I wonder if my two church planting exercises were massive tests—for me. I know for sure that both contained many tests, but my question is about the comprehensive experience. Did God call me to plant two churches mostly to develop me personally and to test my heart? Certainly there were enough stories of impacted lives to fill many books and countless articles, so I don’t question whether the ministry was legitimate or not. I’ll be forever wrecked by the transformation that resulted in people in those two regions, in those two seasons. Watching lives supernaturally transformed before my eyes caused tears to flow.
Yet, as God truly branded many people with his fire in those many years of ministry, I do wonder if God was mostly testing me. Would I be more interested in growing my legacy, my ministry, my church and my reputation—not to mention my bank account—or, was I truly in it for love and to minister to the heart of God?
In both Manitou Springs and Detroit we saw the churches grow. People to this day count those years among the best of their lives. God was drawing people together and we were contending for revival together.
In both Manitou Springs and Detroit, God tested my heart. It was difficult to say the least. Crushing even. To simplify what he was doing, he called us to go deeper and to raise the bar higher. The cost of consecration and the call to fervent intercession became a much greater focus (and we were already known for being an edgy, intense ministry). While we had amazing people in both churches, I knew the decision to become even more revival focused, even more intercession driven and even more devoted to a consecrated, holy lifestyle would result in many people disengaging. I knew it. I was troubled. God was calling me to “intentional failure.”
I’ll never forget the key moments in both places when God nailed me to the ground and directed me to surrender all, including my reputation. There were many cries and questions during the many hours of prayer in those two defining seasons in Colorado and Michigan. If I obeyed God and introduced a new wine, reformation church that was very unique and specific to our particular mission, those who were mostly invested in the church experience for reasons other than revival, reformation, intercession and revolution would most definitely jump ship. That would be almost everybody. Literally. No exaggeration.
I was right. That’s exactly what happened. I could have stayed the course and watched the churches continue to grow and “thrive,” possibly into several hundred in number. I have no doubt that I could have chosen growth over God, and that freaks me out. It would have been very easy to spiritualize my decision and avoid the pointed fingers and accusations of failure by continuing on the way we started. And I would have failed some of my most critical tests. I would have satisfied people and rejected God and the church would have grown. That is absolutely terrifying.
Attempting to transition a passionate, Spirit-filled, fiery church into a church that’s even hotter, more costly and one that results in a terrifying tremble in our spirits is not for the feint of heart. You see, there are many who absolutely love to warm themselves by the fire, but very few who are willing to lay across the fire as it consumes their flesh as a sacrifice to the one they love.
If small churches have a stigma attached to them, and failure has a stigma attached to it, failed churches most definitely have a stigma attached! But why?
Stop and think about it. Pastor, I want you to be free from the finger-pointing and cruel accusations if you struggle to grow your church or if you fail altogether. Has anybody figured out why failure in this manner is such a negative for some people? Failure in man’s eyes means little. The question is, are you growing in God? Are you truly obedient to God even if such obedience results in people presuming you are weak? (By the way, we are all weak!)
Here’s a portion of an article based on my book Piece of Cake, which deals directly with the stigma of failure:
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!
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!
Success doesn’t develop experts nearly as well as failure does.
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)
If we understand the scope of our project, it’s actually quite insane to presume we will accomplish it without significant and repeated failures.
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!
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?
THE STIGMA OF SMALL CHURCHES
I’ve heard it said that small is the new big. I believe that is true for many, though we have to be careful not to use that as a cop out. There are some leaders out there who have what it takes to grow a large church yet their lack of personal growth, faith and surrender is standing in the way. Small is the new big only if God has called a particular ministry to be small. There are a lot of silly excuses pastors give for having a small church, just as there are many compromises pastors make to have a large church.
I know we could have easily seen our churches grow moderately large, but I also know I’m probably not gifted enough to lead anything in the thousands. But, in reality, if I honestly analyze God’s mandate on my life, I may not be able to stay true to God’s call while leading more than a hundred—if that. Twice I have traded my ability to grow a church for God’s mandate for a small army of zeroed in warriors. You have no idea how thankful I am that I didn’t fail those tests (though I’ve certainly failed a bunch of other tests over the years! I’m thankful for God’s grace and mercy!).
Further, many pastors simply are not equipped or called to lead a large ministry, yet they expend ridiculous amounts of energy trying to fill the seats.
Pastors, if you have a small church, it could be that you aren't gifted to lead a larger one. God didn't give you that ability. Leadership doesn't come naturally to you. The quicker you can admit that, if it's in fact true, the quicker you can shift expectations and pivot into strategies that take advantage of what you are gifted at.
There's such a stigma regarding small churches. People presume them to be failures. Why is that? Numeric growth should not be the barometer of health and success.
The moment you realize it's okay to be small, the stress and pride and anxiety will fall off. Joy will return as you enjoy being who God created you to be.
The truly scary reality is that many people are naturally gifted to lead a large church or ministry, but God has actually called them to lay that on the altar—and they don’t. They can’t imagine the ridicule, the mocking, the accusation and the massive price that would come if they took their church in a direction that few would join them in.
In fact, I wonder how many mighty church growth visions are being fulfilled as Ishmaels instead of Isaacs. I propose churches all over the world be laid on the altar of sacrifice as God brings redefinition and redirection. The revival we are yearning for requires a sacrifice—a surrender of personal ambition and dreams of success. Put it all on the altar. It requires the church is birthed supernaturally, as Isaac was, not naturally as Ishmael was.
I often think about heroes like Leonard Ravenhill. I would imagine if Ravenhill had decided to start his own church, it would probably be initially well attended, and then a colossal failure. His rebukes of the church that he’s so well known for in his writings would most definitely drive the typical church goer away with mocking and accusations flying out of their mouths. You see, if he would have experienced failure such as this, it wouldn’t be his failure, it would be the failure of those who rejected the call to respond.
Leonard Ravenhill received a lot of criticism about his view of the church being weak witnesses for Christ. He sought to rekindle the fire of the church into the devotion that the first century church had. To him, the greatest tragedy was not sinful activities of the world; it was a sick church in a dying world and so he thought, “Save the church and you will save the world!” Leonard Ravenhill was an old time preacher that warned of the wrath of God, hellfire, heaven, the need for repentance, confession of sin, living a life of holiness. ~Jack Wellman
IF I DECIDED TO PLANT MY THIRD CHURCH
I’d encourage you to read an article I wrote about just what my third church plant might look like, should God direct me to launch one: What My Third Church Plant Might Look Like.
Here’s a portion:
We Will Be Intentionally Small
Understand, I'm someone who absolutely loves large-group meetings. I love praying and contending with thousands of people at various conferences and events. I also would have no problem with a church that does in fact explode in number as a result of revival. I believe we will see that.
However, after 26 years, much of that in pastoral ministry developing churches, I no longer value growing numerically for the sake of numbers. I don't get excited when more people show up, unless those people are hungry and ready to engage God with us at an extreme level.
I believe the sharp, offensive messages that will be preached, the call for 100 percent of the people to be invested in supernatural, fervent prayer and the extreme commitment necessary to advance apostolically will repel most people. Only a remnant will be left. It's with that remnant that we can preach what much be preached, pray what must be prayed and do what must be done to prepare a region for revival.
IT’S TIME FOR REMNANT CHURCHES—WHICH MEANS MOST CURRENT CHURCH MEMBERS WILL LEAVE
Large churches can be a serious threat to revival—or a great strength to revival. We cannot measure success by the number of people who are attending. We must measure by the number of remnant Christians who are fully devoted and being equipped and marked by God in the fires of intercession. Again, some leaders can gather a small group of firebrands and some can gather hundreds or thousands. The key is the temperature of the fire and the level of surrender. When the fire gets hot, many will leave.
We have too many churches filled with people who are marginally interested in a move of God. They would be counted among those who rejected the call to the Upper Room. Understand, what happened in that Upper Room resulted in the launch of the church. If we don’t see tongues of fire igniting above everyone in attendance, and we don’t feel the wind of the Spirit of God blowing through the place, we have to know our church is either compromised or not ready.
The call must be so severe that most people reject it. Hundreds rejected the opportunity to be a part of the Upper Room prayer meeting. Those who did respond changed the world and ultimately impacted billions.
So, yes, when I gave leadership to the churches in Manitou Springs and in Detroit, I was so hungry for God to move more in the region than in my own meetings that I refused to pursue church growth at the cost of obedience and the greater vision. Those were painful years that resulted in a lot of tears as people moved on to other places. Understand, I don’t blame these people. Many are great friends who simply had a different focus in their lives. It’s easy for us to presume such decisions are black and white, but they rarely are. People are at all different places in life, and sometimes one crazy and wild church may just not be what God has for them at that time. I understand that.
I blessed those who left, as difficult as it was to see them go, but I knew my heart was pure and my decision to contend for revival and God’s plan instead of growing my church was correct. Would I do some things differently? Of course. But, the final, big decision to say yes to God and no to personal ambition was the only decision that really mattered.
Simply do what God calls you to do. Period. It really is that basic. There are many pastors that would be better served entering the marketplace. Others need to come to terms with the size of their ministry. Others have to mature and develop before they will see the next level. But, don’t allow people’s analysis of your progress control you or impact you emotionally. People, even many Christians, love to capitalize on someone who is down, and they will use that opportunity to elevate themselves. Just let them. It’s okay. Love them and trust God. All eternity will be marked by the way you respond to people and challenges. It truly is a glorious thing to be free from the scrutiny of others as we allow the fear of the Lord to overcome us. He is truly a very good Father who is cheering you on, not stepping on your neck when you are down and broken.
Is it possible your church is risking revival by adopting Seeker strategies?
All these new methods of how to build the church has left me confused. ~David Wilkerson
It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing revival is defined by an influx of new Believers into the church. After all, we see this happening in the great revival chapter of the Bible, Acts 2:
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:46-47 (ESV)
The ultra-simple protocol seems clear: Provide opportunities for the lost to get saved and as a result the church will grow. Ultimately, it is presumed, with enough such impact, that revival will land.
Unfortunately, many pastors are adopting this paradigm, and, due to the necessity it creates, they are also adopting many of the strategies that Seeker Sensitive churches are known for. Most of these pastors would be shocked and horrified at such an accusation. Yet, the truth remains that many pastors who are passionately pursuing revival are compromising that pursuit due to a misunderstanding of just how revival will come.
Friend, the ultimate goal of revival is not a church full of new Christians. It’s a church full of the presence of the Holy Spirit and an army of fully surrendered burning men and women of God. You'll know revival has hit when the church is full of people who can't stop praying on fire, which is a key evidence of legitimate salvation. The desire to be with God night and day consumes us!
The Seeker model results in some very tempting false positives. Keep the bar low, the atmosphere naturally familiar and the pace slow and you absolutely can gather a crowd of people who are interested in Jesus. Churches can become mega in size, leaders can gain a reputation of success and a lot of people can entertain an affinity for God as their busy lives allow.
I could buy a large building, fill it with comfortable leather couches and serve the best coffee in the city for half the price of everybody’s favorite chain. Add in some connection opportunities, possibly some live entertainment and some ten-minute sermonettes and I would have a large group of people almost overnight.
Or, I could call a prayer meeting and wait for the remnant to show up.
5 SEEKER STRATEGIES THAT THREATEN REVIVAL
1. A Non-Threatening Environment
The purpose of the church, including the Sunday service, is not, nor has it ever been, to draw in visitors. It is not to be an evangelistic tool.
The purpose of the church is clear in Scripture. It is to be a Believer’s intercession meeting with a focus on the nations.
And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” Mark 11:17 (ESV)
When I was pastoring several years ago, I became increasingly frustrated with our pre-service prayer. I have always held raging, explosive intercession for one hour before the start of every service. I started this as a youth pastor and continued as a senior leader.
I wasn’t frustrated with participation because people filled up that room every week. It was often my favorite part of the day. I wasn’t frustrated with the level of passion or focus. The roof regularly came off that prayer room.
My frustration hit after a simple revelation. If the church is a house of prayer for all nations, why was prayer intentionally scheduled to end when the church service began?
I have always been aggressively given to prayer. I’ve taught on it, written a book and innumerable articles and based a school of ministry on it—yet I was embarrassed by my error.
The obvious reason why a fiery prayer meeting would end prior to the start of the service was because many people who would be uncomfortable in such an atmosphere would feel out of place. It seemed right. It felt appropriate that we would be sensitive to the seekers who might not enjoy such a supernatural environment. Oh how that human wisdom grieves me today!
My job as a leader is not to create an atmosphere that is naturally familiar! It’s to invite everybody into a shocking, burning atmosphere of Holy Spirit activity that will cause the flesh to cringe and spirits to explode!
The most important shift I ever made in church ministry was to extend the hour of pre-service prayer right into the first half of the service! When the service began, the firebrands were already on their face, pacing the room, praying in tongues, dancing and shouting and declaring the Word of the Lord with boldness. The previous hour of fire would launch the beginning of the service like a rocket. Not only did we start the service with raging intercession, we also moved musical worship down a notch. It would come in later, after prayer set the foundation for the rest of the service. The service was finally a prayer meeting; the church, a house of prayer.
My promise to those under my leadership has always been clear: I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. This means we must promote an extremely threatening, costly, uncomfortable church atmosphere that results in only the hungry and surrendered locking in.
You see, the church wasn’t “added to daily” through natural means. Don’t forget how it all started:
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:1-4 (ESV)
2. Overemphasis on Connecting People
So often today, churches are marketing themselves as the perfect place for YOU. YOU matter. Come as YOU are. We have saved a place for YOU. I have to wonder if it’s a club or a church, a place for natural man or our magnificent God.
Again, the primary goal of the church is to nurture a habitation for the Spirit of God to dwell and for the people to pray for the nations.
I cringe at church marketing strategies that emphasize just how well I would fit in if I attended their church. Pastor, it’s not about me! Tell me how much Jesus is glorified and how massive your vision is for prayer, revival and Kingdom advance and then I’ll get excited. The moment I hear about how special I am and just how I can fit in is the moment I realize filling seats is a little too important.
My favorite church growth strategy actually results in an empty church building, not a full one:
As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” 2 Chronicles 7:1-3 (ESV)
The church doesn’t need seats filled with people who receive a gold star for showing up. We need pavement people! Those who will hit their face on the pavement and declare God’s goodness! We need an army to stand in position, ready to train and do battle against the enemy! Warriors are needed to assume the position on their knees in intense, Holy Spirit-driven prayer!
I don’t know how many times I would get excited when a small group of prophetic, prayer-fueled warriors showed up for a church service because I knew we were actually going to get something done!
And, yes, a function of the church does include ministering to orphans and widows. Without question that must happen, but not as a foundational goal. First comes a culture of raging, burning prayer, and then we can invite the orphans and widows into that blaze!
I propose eliminating most strategies and programs that focus on connecting people and drawing them in, and starting giving much more energy to prayer and training the remnant, which brings me to my next point:
3. Underemphasis on Training People
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:35-38 (ESV)
Jesus had compassion on those who were ready to become part of the remnant church. Trained laborers are needed to fan the flames that revival ignites in people’s lives.
The plan is simple. Train laborers in fervent prayer, the prophetic, revival, the Kingdom and other key disciplines while simultaneously praying in the Spirit together several hours every week. Then, invite the harvest into those prayer and training sessions and watch them get set ablaze!
When I was leading Revival Church in Detroit, we had a powerful, prayer based ministry school called theLab. It was an intense, three-month training program that was required for anybody who wanted to serve in any capacity in the church. We strongly encouraged every member to enroll in the school. It was in this furnace of intercession and discipleship where the vision was caught and the passion for Jesus consumed them.
I believe we need intensives like that one at the foundational level of every church. It will quickly identify those who are merely socially or naturally interested while revealing your remnant warriors, those who can take their place on the wall of intercession in the house of prayer.
4. Being Naturally Familiar
The church is a strange, other-worldly entity. It is meant to be unusual, supernatural and confounding to human intellect.
And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” Acts 2:12-13 (ESV)
But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. Acts 2:14-18 (ESV)
I believe there is a day coming when worship will be mostly sung in the Spirit. Groans of intercessory worship will radiate out of the people. Screens with words that assist with karaoke sing-alongs in today’s church experience will go dark as remnant intercessors are erupting with spiritual songs.
Prayer will follow the same pattern as English (or the language of the culture) gives way to tongues of fire! Prayer lists will no longer be needed as people prophetically cry out and decree the prayer on God’s heart in perfect sync.
In this atmosphere, the desperate and unsaved will yearn for God as they cry out in repentance and hit the floor in tears under the weight of an invisible Savior. We are a peculiar, supernatural people!
…But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 1 Peter 2:8-9 (KJV)
Such a spiritual Sunday morning experience is rare even in churches that would laugh if you suggested they have adopted seeker strategies.
The simple litmus test is this: Are we doing anything to make visitors comfortable that would be different if everybody was a part of the on fire remnant?
Are the teachings deep or shallow?
Is prayer low key or moved to a different part of the day or week?
Is the atmosphere intentionally not “scary” or strange to ensure visitors are welcomed?
5. Lack of Fiery Preaching
I'm not about to put up a silly skit and preach a 15-minute message on ‘how to cope' to a multitude of people who are dying and going to hell. I tremble at the thought. ~David Wilkerson
Those who are zealous for Jesus and who are part of the remnant absolutely crave in your face, challenging, convicting sermons.
It’s time we stop apologizing for preaching hard truth and deliver what is necessary to refine and prepare the people.
The remnant church is quickly becoming bored with all of the teachings that are directed at the seekers and marginally interested. It’s time for bold, prophetic preaching to erupt from our pulpits again!
We are so easily offended today. I say, let the truth offend and clear the pews of the pretenders! They are a risk to revival and are costing the hungry the meal they so desire.
If our preaching doesn’t often result in some running out into the parking lot with cursing, at the same time others run to the altar in tears, something is wrong.
I’ll never forget the time I was a guest speaker at a church and was preaching with an extremely sharp edge on the reality of Hell. I made clear that Christians are at risk of an eternity there if we aren’t sober and alert.
Suddenly someone in the back started shouting and cursing me. They ran into the foyer and then out the door screaming into the parking lot.
When anointed preaching lands, there is a spiritual reaction that can’t be denied.
Pastor, when you preach truth it will be controversial. It will trouble. It will cause some of your best tithers to leave the church. It will result in a continual disturbance in your ministry.
Do you know what Finney did? Finney preached sometimes, and the whole congregation got up and walked out on him. That's a good meeting! He sent them out horrified! I only preach for two reasons these days: either to send people out that door blazing mad at me or blazing with the peace of the Holy Ghost! That's all! ~Leonard Ravenhill
There are many other seeker strategies that put revival at risk. These are but a few. I want to challenge you to let our holy God grip you. Burn with fire so hot that flesh can’t stand in your presence. Preach with a tremble in your voice. Shock and shake a dead religious culture with truth. Love people deeply but build the ministry around God. Minister to him first and watch the nations report about the strange and wonderful things that are happening in your region!
Friendships are often the glue that hold churches together—but have we gone too far?
When did you last tip-toe out of the sanctuary? When you couldn't say a word to anybody because you were so overwhelmed with the glory of God. ~Leonard Ravenhill
People. They are everywhere, and we are all blessed to have some of them in our lives in a close, personal way. Relationships are the only thing we’ll take into eternity, and they are precious. The people in our lives hold value that’s beyond measure.
As you read through this message, I in no way want you to think I am devaluing people. Jesus died for all because of his great love. It’s a personal love. It’s intense and it’s laser focused on 7 billion individuals. He has the capacity to be deeply connected to every single one of them (while I, as an admitted introvert, may have room for but a few!).
The struggle I have is just how much our lives, our churches and our daily focus is dependent on connecting with other people. To explain further, I want to propose a question: is it possible that human friendships are more satisfying, important and key to our lives than relationship with Jesus?
And, to get right to the crux of the matter, as one who has either given leadership to or simply attended churches for my entire life, I’m frustrated at the amount of energy, time and resources that are given to drawing, connecting and keeping people. Yes, without hesitation, I will agree that we must invest in people, that we have a mandate to disciple them and we should have a burning desire to see them grow in God. However, we are coming at it from the wrong direction. We must expend every resource to ignite the atmosphere with the never-ending presence of God first.
If you know a church on fire for God, tell me and I'll go. A church where (after) you've gone in, you don't come out the same, believing that God is there (and) you've been in His holy presence! ~Leonard Ravenhill
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
In my own awakening experience nearly 30 years ago, there were most definitely people in my life that God used powerfully to introduce me to him. These people weren’t enticing me to come to church with programs and potlucks. Their primary plan wasn’t to grow their church, increase participation in their ministry or make some new friends. They were going hard after God, they refused to be diverted, and they invited me along for the ride.
Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NKJV)
The church where I was awakened to the love and power of God was not moving in the wrong direction. They loved people, but didn't allow them to become priority. Way of the Cross Church in Dayton, Ohio led faithfully by Pastor Bill Loudermilk was focused on Jesus. That seems like such an obvious analysis of a church. They are focused on Jesus. What I’m attempting to communicate is that it is becoming increasingly rare to find a church that really does this. Many go to great lengths, create amazing programs and jump through impressive hoops to entice people to come, and to convince them they will be loved. Fewer and fewer do the same to entice the Holy Spirit to come and convince him he is loved. The reality is that the more we invest in God, the less time we have to invest in people. Further, the deeper we go in God, the fewer the people who are willing to follow will be.
What if the focus on friendships and affinity groups and potlucks gave way to intercession?
We see this in churches today, in fact. People will flock to small groups, the potlucks, the picnics, the special events and other functions where they can connect with friends. That's not bad, but what if the call was simply to minister to God without any opportunity to connect with other people? What happens when a prayer meeting is called?
Sunday morning (attendance) shows how popular the church is; Sunday night shows how popular the preacher is; (Wednesday) prayer meeting shows how popular God is. ~Leonard Ravenhill
While there were people who opened the door for my awakening in Dayton, Ohio, my focus was most definitely not on them. I appreciated them and will for all eternity. But I didn’t go to that church to hang out with them. I was struck with such a holy lightning strike from Heaven that all I wanted to do was hit my face and pray! I wanted to be with God!
The pastor gave me the key to the building, and most every day after work I would go into the sanctuary, turn on some worship music and pace around in the most enjoyable prayer you could imagine. As a young, 21 year-old newly awakened man of God, I was experiencing the true, primary purpose of the church! It wasn’t to connect with people. It was to minister to God!
It didn’t matter to me who showed up to the services. While I truly enjoyed the relationships with people there, and some of them are great friends to this day, I couldn’t imagine going into that building with any other purpose than to encounter Jesus.
How many come to church expecting a confrontation with Deity? ~Leonard Ravenhill
But, today, there are churches everywhere that are falling into the trap of presuming that most of their energy should be spent attracting people in the hopes that they might run into Jesus along the way.
The correct way to do it is to gather those who are willing to pray without ceasing and to focus time, energy, services, money and everything else at our disposal to create a habitat for the presence of God. Then, when people do come, they won’t be able to help running into God. He will consume them!
When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2 Chronicles 7:1 (NKJV)
23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of meeting, and came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people, 24 and fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces. Leviticus 9:23-24 (NKJV)
Shortly after my great awakening at Way of the Cross Church, I was attending a youth lock-in at a YMCA in Xenia, Ohio. I’ll never forget that night.
God was wildly challenging me and drawing me closer to him. There were a few hundred people there enjoying everything from wallyball to basketball to ping-pong.
They had also set up a prayer room in one part of the building. As a young man who was getting blasted by the Holy Spirit with amazing regularity I presumed the room would be full of hungry young men and women of God. Sadly, I was wrong, though the nearly empty room provided me quite an atmosphere to pray in.
The atmosphere was full of the presence of the Holy Spirit and, to date, it was literally one of the most powerful God moments of my life. I was so full of life that I found myself pacing around with lifted hands and a fire in my belly for quite a long, wonderful time.
All of a sudden, I heard something in my spirit.
“John, I want you to give me permission to take your life.”
Huh? Where in the world did that thought come from? What an unwelcome interruption it was! I shook it off and moved back into prayer and worship. But, something was wrong. The warm and consuming presence of God had left the room. I didn’t realize it then, but God’s presence didn’t leave the room–it had simply changed. God was honoring me with a serious call to follow Him.
I tried for the next fifteen minutes to enter back into prayer, but I felt entirely alone. No unction, no flow, no passion.
I kept hearing the words, “John, will you let me take your life?”
I finally realized that the warmth of God’s presence had transitioned into the challenge of God’s purposes. He was testing me. Was I really ready to take up my cross? Was I really in it for Jesus? Or, was I into this Christian life mostly for what I could get out of it? You see, this crossroads question from the most Holy One would result in ensuring my destiny–either in one direction or in the other. And, it wouldn’t make any difference if I kept paying tithes, going to church and lifting my hands in worship if I chose the road toward personal satisfaction that fateful night.
The Holy pressure in that dark prayer room was extreme. I honestly thought, beyond any doubt, that the decision I was about to make to my Lord would result in my physical death that very night. The call was that urgent. But, I immediately realized I couldn’t stand to live the rest of my life outside of the warmth of the tangible presence of Jesus that I felt as I first entered that room.
“God, if it will result in warming your heart, and in advancing your Kingdom on the Earth, you can take my life. I love you and you are teaching me more about love in this moment than in my previous two decades. I trust you.”
The split second I communicated that in my heart, the fire of the Holy Spirit rushed in with power. It was better than any previous experience with God I had ever had. Far better. I was consumed by his love. I was surrendered to him unlike anytime in my life. I was his.
Song of Songs 1:2-4 THE SHULAMITE Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth– For your love is better than wine. Because of the fragrance of your good ointments, Your name is ointment poured forth; Therefore the virgins love you. Draw me away! THE DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM We will run after you. THE SHULAMITE The king has brought me into his chambers. THE DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM We will be glad and rejoice in you. We will remember your love more than wine.
To this day I don’t know if God will suddenly take my life–and while I wish to live for a long time on earth, I am longing to live for eternity with my Lover.
You see, my focus that night at the YMCA was not to connect with people. It was to connect with God. In fact, people could have easily gotten in the way of that connect. While there’s a place for fun, and that might have been the place for some of the others who were there that night, for many other people, fun and games did get in the way of a God connection.
The empty prayer room was proof.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Our goal is not to draw people to the church. It’s to draw God. The church meeting isn't supposed to be used as an evangelism tool. It's a house of prayer, designed for the Bride of Christ to meet with him.
I'm sick to death of the so-called Christianity of our day. What's supernatural about it? When do people come out of the sanctuary awed and can't speak for an hour because God has been in glory there? Dear God, as soon as they get out, they're talking football, or sports or something or there's going to be a big sale downtown or somewhere. We are not caught up into eternity! ~Leonard Ravenhill
I often say the most obvious evidence of God moving in a church is not a packed house, it’s an empty one.
Notice how the passage in 1 Chronicles 7 continues:
1 When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2 And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD'S house. 3 When all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed their faces to the ground on the pavement, and worshiped and praised the LORD, saying: “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever.” 2 Chronicles 7:1-3 (NKJV)
Nobody could enter the house of God because God was rightfully in his place. He was first. The focus was on him. His presence was overwhelming and too intense to bear.
The enemy is brilliant at causing us to focus wrongly on human connections, and then to bring strife and disruption to those relationships. In the midst of that chaos, God certainly isn’t being enjoyed, worshiped or ministered to as he should be. People are scurrying into and out of the church, engaging with other people, sometimes happy with them, sometimes mad, always focused on those human interactions…while God's presence is nowhere to be found.
How many people leave churches because of human conflicts? It happens many times every day.
I propose we gather together people that are most interested in cultivating an atmosphere where God reigns and where he can manifest in power. If people come, then great. If not, that’s OK. I’d rather have a church of 10 burning in the fire of the Holy Spirit instead of a megachurch filled with warm bodies who refuse to minister to God in fiery intercession.
I'd rather have ten people that want God than 10,000 people who want to play church. I want to see the glory of God come so our young people don't have to be told to go to church. ~Leonard Ravenhill
Friend, I’m not going to church to see you, though I do like to see you. I’m going to encounter God and minister to him. That’s the passion that consumes my life. Pastor, if your church is more concerned about attracting people and reporting numbers you can count me out. I don’t want to be there when Ichabod is nailed above your doorposts.
And she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. 1 Samuel 4:21 (ESV)
It’s becoming rare to find prophetic voices who are calling the church into holiness.
If we truly believe in the power of the blood of Jesus we would not be anxious about focusing on—and dealing directly with—sin.
Sometimes I have to slap myself to make sure I’m not dreaming about the current state of American Christianity. It’s actually a very real nightmare. Are Christians really campaigning against holiness preaching and a radical devotion to righteous living? Yes, they really are. Calls to obedience are a threat to their faux freedom and their independent spirits.
Any call to renounce immorality is firmly rejected as legalism or evidence of having a religious spirit. Now, some in that camp would agree that the goal is to live a righteous life, but according to them the way to get there is to ignore sin and to focus on Jesus alone. That sounds spiritual, but it’s not biblical.
2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Revelation 3:2-3 (ESV)
Others, however, are outright proclaiming that sin is no longer an issue—that we can live freely without concern for our salvation. Instead of freedom from sin these false prophetic voices are teaching on freedom in sin.
I received an email this week from a distraught person who is in the middle of a situation in what very well may be an Ichabod church.
She was grieved, as she should be, by the casual approach to sin by the church’s pastoral staff. Foul language, except, according to them, the “F” word and using God’s name in vain, is actually celebrated from the pulpit and in practice as proof that they aren’t perfect and they aren’t religious. Joking about sexual immorality has taken place just prior to entering into worship. This was just the tip of the iceberg, but it’s enough to cause even the least discerning true Christian to be troubled.
3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; Ephesians 5:3-7 (ESV)
Do not allow deception to cause you to partner with those who are promoting sin and immorality! It’s time to expose the deadly darkness!
Others are trumpeting their freedom to be entertained by immorality in movies and on television. I was shocked and angered when I found myself in the middle of a thread on Facebook about R rated movies. I simply said:
If the world deems certain movies immoral by rating them R, how in the world can some Christians deem them OK? #lukewarm
The uproar was stunning. Somehow it’s more immoral to call people to purity than embracing immorality itself!
Many are deceived into believing their freedom in consuming alcohol proves they are not religious. We are in the midst of a spiritual generation that is calling evil good and good evil!
20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! 22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, Isaiah 5:20-22 (ESV)
Again, I’m slapping myself, shocked this issue even has to be addressed. Christians and even pastors and church leaders are minimizing the deadly power of sin, and many are playing with that serpent without realizing they are moments from destruction. When leaders endorse sin as harmless, the consequences are extreme.
6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! Matthew 18:6-7 (ESV)
Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the LORD. 1 Samuel 2:12 (ESV)
34 And this that shall come upon your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you: both of them shall die on the same day. 35 And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. 1 Samuel 2:34-35 (ESV)
19 Now his daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant, about to give birth. And when she heard the news that the ark of God was captured, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed and gave birth, for her pains came upon her. 20 And about the time of her death the women attending her said to her, “Do not be afraid, for you have borne a son.” But she did not answer or pay attention. 21 And she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. 22 And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” 1 Samuel 4:19-22 (ESV)
God is looking for faithful priests, faithful men and women of God, faithful prophetic voices who will do what is right in God’s heart and mind. The American church is at risk of having Ichabod nailed above the doorposts.
We must be sick and grieved at the state of today’s preaching. Consciousness of sin must return to our churches! Pulpits today are lulling people into slumber with soft spoken sermons devoid of anointing—or into a frenzy as they seek out enhancements to their lives.
Enough! Where are the preachers with fire burning through their veins—those who refuse to build their ministry by promising fringe benefits to those who have a mere appreciation for Jesus?
The state of today’s preaching must be addressed with tears in our eyes and rage in our gut.
“If Jesus preached the same message minister's preach today, He would have never been crucified.” – Leonard Ravenhill
Preacher, stop forming your messages to draw a crowd and to keep people in the seats! Stop avoiding controversy! Stop worrying about who will stay or leave if you preach the Word in power!
Preach on sin! Preach on obedience! Reveal the extreme, costly lifestyle that is required if people choose to follow Jesus. I believe we should preach our churches nearly empty, leaving only a remnant—those who are true disciples.
A consciousness of sin must return to the church! We must call people to a standard of living that God has enabled—and mandated—us to adhere to. If we don’t, their blood will be on our hands.
17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 18 If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 19 But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. 20 Again, if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die. Because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds that he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood I will require at your hand. 21 But if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul.” Ezekiel 3:17-21 (ESV)
Understand, this isn’t a call to be conscious of past sin. It’s a call to be conscious of sin that is alive and active, unrepented of and poisonous to our eternities.
Let’s look at the verse that many use to renounce sin consciousness:
1 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Hebrews 10:1-4 (ESV)
The truth presented here is that offering bulls and goats cannot eradicate sin. If it could, those who lived prior to the cross would have not had any consciousness of sin. It would be gone. It would have been automatic.
What the passage isn’t saying is that we are to ignore sin in the New Covenant as if it wasn’t there. It’s not saying to be unconscious to active sin in our lives.
17 then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Hebrews 10:17-18 (ESV)
Sin that has been covered by the blood of Jesus, the perfect offering, is eradicated. This is glorious!
However, it doesn’t eradicate sin that we willingly embrace.
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Hebrews 10:26-27 (ESV)
We must not become numb to sin in our lives, falsely presuming that it is harmless. No, no, no! Sin that is active in the lives of anybody, Christian or heathen, puts eternities at risk.
How many conferences can we continue to have that highlight the goodies of the Kingdom while calls to repentance go silent?
We must have an awakening! The closer to Jesus we get the more we are aware of our own depravity—and it’s wonderful! It’s deep love that results in a revelation of our own sub-standard living so we can eagerly repent and fall more deeply in love with Jesus.
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. John 14:23 (ESV)
And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. 2 John 1:6 (ESV)
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15 (ESV)
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3 (ESV)
“You shall therefore love the LORD your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always. Deuteronomy 11:1 (ESV)
Pastors, conference speakers, leaders, writers—please shift your message in this dire hour. Let the conviction of the Holy Spirit overtake your meetings. Allow some tears to be shed. Let the fear of the Lord overwhelm you. Awaken the sleepers. Expose the darkness. Call people to repentance in our land once again.
We can’t afford empty, soul-pleasing words in our pulpits any longer. It’s time for mighty, broken men and women of God to prophetically decree the word of the Lord with boldness.
6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:6-14 (ESV)
Unsaved Christians—do we understand the threat of sin in the life of Christians?
There is a glorious salvation to be had, and the enemy has tainted powerful, life-giving theologies in an attempt to counterfeit them—and draw people away from the one true God. God’s passion is for people to be wildly in love with him, and that is what the enemy is afraid of. Instead of radical intimacy and passionate obedience, people are falling for a lesser false-doctrine that communicates God’s apparent affirmation of them and affection for them—and it is resulting in a faux closeness to him for millions of “Christians.”
Our salvation is glorious and it is also weighty. We can’t presume upon it or take it lightly. I suggest it’s possible that most people who are convinced of their position in Christ would actually be in Hell if they died today. I will share some convincing and powerful stories that speak directly to further down in the article. People like Corrie Ten Boom, John Mulinde and Daniel Ekechukwu have a perspective that few others do.
The concept of unsaved Christians seems contradictory. I understand that. A Christian is a follower of Jesus. I am suggesting that there are many followers of Jesus, many who name the name of Christ, who are living their lives following him in an unsaved condition.
“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ Revelation 3:1-6
But, are we not free from condemnation if we are in Christ Jesus? Yes. But, let’s look at that verse:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1
A massive and increasing number of Christians have been lulled into a slumber regarding the reality of salvation. They have a reputation of being alive, but are dead because of their sin. The common presumption is now that if we pray, read our Bible, go to church and identify ourselves as Christians than we are automatically exempt from condemnation. The problem? Too many have misunderstood just what it means to be in Christ Jesus. Tragically it’s true that countless professing Christians are actually living in a place of condemnation because they aren’t truly in Christ Jesus. We can’t just call ourselves Christians and presume that we are truly in Christ.
For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:6-8
For the last 24 years my life and ministry have been marked by a troubled spirit and an unrelenting passion for extreme surrender, zealous prayer and an unapologetic call for passion, repentance and holiness. I understand just how separated, intense and broken we must be to truly be counted among the saved—or, I at least have an understanding of the type of deception that is causing people to remain careless in their walk with Jesus. To be a true follower of Jesus requires more than today’s theologies are communicating, and that does indeed both anger and wreck me. This is why I just cannot lead a church or ministry without an intense, burning edge to them. Anything short of radical just can’t be promoted anymore!
Why is my spirit troubled? Because I am convinced both by Scripture and by a horrifying encounter I had with the terror of Hell over two decades ago that a shocking percentage of professing Christians are on their way to Hell. We must exhort one another into radical faith.
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:12-13
The risk of falling away is very real, and very terrifying:
For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. Hebrews 6:4-6
In my encounter, I was dragged toward Hell as a praying, worshiping, professing Christian—and I almost went mad. The terror is beyond anything I could ever describe and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. When people tell others to go to Hell, they have no idea what they are saying.
When I came out of the encounter I received the most troubling message that God has ever given me: Many Christians will be shocked to find themselves in Hell one day. My life long mandate is to shout this truth and awaken the sleepers.
These are people who believe they are in Christ Jesus—but are not—and who are heading to a judgment day that will stun them. This is why continual warnings and messages of awakening must pierce our church culture. This is why anything less than a white hot, high bar atmosphere of fervent prayer, repentance and brokenness must be rejected in our churches. It’s time for Ichabod churches to be made known so it become clear who the martyr-minded true Believers are. Those who are willing to take up their cross make up the true church.
Today the world is watching millions of people following Jesus with no cross on their backs, and this is the heretical deception that must be exposed. God will, in time, reveal the wheat and the tares.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 16:24-25
CHRISTIANS LIVING IN MINOR SIN GO TO HELL?
And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 1 Peter 4:18
With the emerging of the false-grace, or what I prefer to call unbiblical grace, teachings, the thought of worshiping, tithing, praying, Bible reading Christians who have great families and seem to be the model of righteousness going to Hell seems ridiculous.
I believe this is one of the most important passages of Scripture in today’s false-grace generation:
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:26-31
This means that tongue talking, hand lifting pastors, for example, can go to Hell if they struggle with lust. People that refuse to forgive another are at risk of Hell. If we continue in sin the Bible is clear—there remains no sacrifice for those sins. There are supposed minor sins such as gossip, lust, rebellion to authority, lying and others that seem to fly below our radar—but not God’s. We can’t continue in so called minor sins and presume all to be well. We will experience judgment in this life and in the next if we do not repent. This brings the sweet little lady who’s known as the church gossip into the light—and a terrifying light it is.
Have you ever met someone who has lived with unforgiveness in their heart? What about someone who is into pornography? It’s horrifying to think this, but those very people, even if they are amazing in every other way, are very possibly unsaved right now. Barna recently reported that 97% of BORN AGAIN CHRISTIAN men are into pornography! 84% of Christian women are viewing pornography.
Is it any wonder Leonard Ravenhill famously said that he doubts that 5% of professing born again Christians in America are truly saved?
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation… Hebrews 2:1-3
CORRIE TEN BOOM
Consider Corrie Ten Boom. You may have read her story in the book The Hiding Place. She was a general in the faith as she and her family hid Jews during the Holocaust. Eventually they were discovered and were put into a concentration camp. She ministered Jesus in inhuman conditions. She was faithful in a time where all faith was lost. Ultimately, after torture at the hands of one particular guard and countless horrors, her entire family was killed. The war ended and Corrie was released.
Shortly after Corrie was walking down the road when a man approached her. He said, “Excuse me, you were in the camp, weren’t you?” Corrie affirmed that she was. He continued, “After the war I gave my life to Jesus. I prayed that he would allow me to find one person that I hurt so badly in the concentration camp.” It was the guard—the one who brutally tortured and killed her family. He said, “I told God that I wanted to seek their forgiveness. Would you please forgive me?”
Corrie, in her own words, shared her reaction. She said that she simply could not forgive him. As that thought consumed her soul, God spoke to her. He said, “Corrie, if you don’t forgive him, I won’t forgive you.” She knew, as a general in the faith, if she refused to forgive that man than she herself would die in her sins. Hell was her future. She then looked at the man who brought so much horror to her and took his hand and said, “I do forgive you.”
She said the love of God shot through her hand into the former guard’s.
Tragically, so many Christians today presume they are exempt from such truths in Scripture.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15
THIS IS A MUST WATCH VIDEO. IT WILL ROCK YOU TO TEARS:
Daniel Ekechukwu is a Nigerian pastor who died tragically in a car accident. He was told that he would go to Hell if he wasn’t raised up—because he refused to forgive his wife regarding an issue. Here’s a short transcript:
“Daniel, if the book of your life was to be closed today, this would be your portion.”
“No, I’m a pastor; I’m a child of God. I’m born-again — and I’ve preached all over….”
“Enough, Daniel, on your way to the first hospital, you were asking God to forgive you, but you would not forgive your wife. And your sins have not been forgiven. It is a matter of reaping what you’ve sown. You cannot sow unforgiveness to your wife and reap forgiveness from God.”
Check out this lengthy but wildly troubling story of an encounter by John Mulinde, a leader with a world ministry on every continent except Antartica. God told him, “If I had come today to take My Bride, you wouldn’t be part of that. I wouldn’t take you.” :
Then suddenly a bright light hit my eyes. My eyes were closed. I was on my knees with my head on the ground, but a bright light hit me. I lifted up my eyes and said, “What is this?” I opened my eyes and I couldn’t look in the light. Even when I closed them, it pierced into my eyes. I bowed my head again, and I was trembling and thinking, “What on earth is going on?” Then I heard a voice, deep and calm. He called my name three times. I couldn’t answer. There was no strength in me to answer, but inwardly I was saying, “I’m here.” He called me—“John”—three times.
Then He said to me, “I knew you before the creation of the world, and I chose you and set you apart to serve Me as a witness in these last days. I want to say to you, if I had come today to take My Bride, you wouldn’t be part of that. I wouldn’t take you.” I can’t describe the shock that came upon me. I think I was in shock. I didn’t even respond. It hit me. He repeated it. He said, “I wouldn’t take you. For it is written, ‘He will appear to those who wait upon Him’ (Isa. 49:23, paraphrased). You’re not living your life as a person waiting upon Me. You’re allowing all kinds of filth to come into your life. You’re living like one who cares not.” As I said, I couldn’t speak with my lips.
At that moment I was thinking, “This can’t be happening to me. I gave up my job to serve the Lord; I gave up my house that my father had given me because I wanted to go to the mission field. I gave up this, I gave up that; this can’t be God saying to me that He wouldn’t take me.” None of my theology and teachings could accept that. He spoke to me these words written in the book of 1 Corinthians 6. He quoted them; I found them later. I couldn’t even remember that they were in the Scriptures, but later on I found them in the Scriptures. It says: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:10). “THE HEART IS DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS, AND DESPERATELY WICKED”
He went on to say to me, “Your life is so full of filth. You walk with an outward appearance, and you cover many things in your heart. You forget that I am the Lord who examines the heart. You are not ready to meet Me.” He began to say to me, “If your life is full of this and this and this and this, then are you ready for My appearance?” As He measured the various things, I could say, “OK, Lord, have mercy.” But then He mentioned one thing that my heart rejected. In my own understanding, I had never turned into that. He said, “If your life is full of fornication . . . ” And everything in me said, “Oh, no. That cannot be.” I said it in my heart, and the voice stopped. For a moment there was silence. Then He said to me, “There is no crooked word that comes out of My mouth. Do you call Me a liar? But because you don’t even know your own heart, I will show it to you. Remember this day when you were in this place at this hour?”
Brothers and sisters, I didn’t even remember. I practically saw myself back in that very moment—not as a memory, but as a reality. I was back in that moment. I saw myself sitting in the taxi waiting for the taxi car to be filled. Then I was looking out at some lady with all kinds of filthy imaginations. The moment it came back, I thought, “Oh, God, I have sinned against You.” He said, “No, you haven’t sinned. You live in sin. You live in that. You live from morning to evening in such imaginations. Even in your bed at night you indulge in the same. I know every moment of your private life. I know your thoughts. You don’t even fear, even sitting in church. Someone steps up on the platform to serve Me and you strip them naked in your imagination. You imagine all kinds of things. I am the Lord who examines the heart. Have you not read that he who even looks upon a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her (Mt. 5:28)?” Pictures began to pass before me of how my imagination works.
This isn’t something of which I could say, “Lord, I fell in sin. Lord, I was weak.” It was my way of life. It was my constant way of life. I was comfortable in it. I was comfortable that no one else could see it, but God was saying, “I see it. I am the Lord who examines the heart.” I was so ashamed, but then He said, “That’s not the worst of all. You still live in this.” He began to mention things that appear humanly small: the envy, the manipulation and undercutting of one another so that you remain appearing the best, so that you appear to do the best, to preach the best, to work more miracles, to be more anointed; all the manipulation and self-promotions, all the grudges we hold in our hearts when we see someone else being promoted or recognized before us.
The way the Lord brought it up, it was so filthy. I cried and cried, and at some point I was so intent on my grief. Then He raised His voice and said, “Keep quiet and listen.” “I NEVER KNEW YOU; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS!” I kept quiet, and He went on and on and on, unveiling more and more things. Even the things which appear so small, at that moment appeared so rotten. I felt like I was standing before the judgment seat with everything being thrown out. I wanted to say, “Stop, stop, I accept it all,” but He wasn’t stopping. At some point I was just saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” He said, “Keep quiet.” I wasn’t speaking loudly; I was speaking in my heart. He said, “Keep quiet and listen.”
As He continued I thought, “I must have been deceived. All along I thought I was serving God and yet I’m so filthy inside. I must have been deceived. The Devil must have taken my life captive a long time ago.” At that moment I thought of the miracles we were witnessing. I thought of the healings. I thought of all those wonderful things, and suddenly my heart sunk. I thought, “The Devil has so deceived me that he could even use me to produce counterfeit miracles; to produce things I thought God was working—and yet it was the Devil all along . . . ”
The voice kept quiet for a moment, and then He said to me, “Why are you imagining such thoughts? I don’t do miracles because you’re worthy. I do miracles because I love My people before whom you stand to preach. Have you never read of how they will come to Me on that day and say, ‘Lord, Lord, in Your name we worked miracles, cast out demons, and prophesied’? Then I will say to them, ‘Get out of My sight, you workers of iniquity. I never knew you’” (Mt. 7:21–23, paraphrased). He said, “Don’t depend on the miracles to assess your worthiness. Your worthiness isn’t in the signs and wonders you witness in ministry. I do miracles because I love the people, and My name shall never be left without witness on earth.” He said, “Have you not ever read that without holiness, no one will see God (Heb. 12:14)? It’s not the miracles; it’s the holiness that comes from God.” He spoke to me the scripture in the book of Hebrews.
Here’s the full length sermon he delivered at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City—possibly one of the most powerful sermons ever:
Do we need to confess our sins as Believers? Should we be sin conscious?
Yes and yes.
False-grace teachers would say that it’s not necessary to confess sins because there is no sin in us. God’s grace has eradicated it.
Folks, let me be very, very clear: that is a heretical teaching that absolutely puts people at risk of Hell.
1 John 1:8-9 (ESV) 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Life Application Bible notes:
Being God’s people does not mean denying sin (1:8), but confessing it. Because all people are sinners, Jesus had to die. Because sin is not completely eradicated from the lives of those who believe in Jesus, God graciously gave his followers provision for the problem of sin.
It’s not only critical, but it’s wonderful to live in a state of continual repentance! God’s love for us is so amazing, that running away from sin and to him is awe inspiring!
As we daily allow God to search our hearts and reveal issues that are barriers to his love fully impacting us, the freedom and resulting life is amazing!
I often hear people say that Christians shouldn’t be sin conscious. Not only is that not biblical, it does us a disservice. Ignoring sin doesn’t disarm it, it empowers it! Allow God to reveal the darkness and set us free!
2 Corinthians 7:1 (ESV) 1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
We must remain diligent regarding sin. As we grow in grace and knowledge we will have the strength to remain stable.
2 Peter 3:14 (ESV) 14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.
2 Peter 3:17-18 (ESV) 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
FIVE MARKS OF THE FALSE GRACE MESSAGE: A THEOLOGY OF EXEMPTION
I discuss this point in an article titled Five Marks of the False Grace Message:
We believe in a theology of exemption.
A theology of exemption states that since we are saved, we are exempt from the penalties of sin. That there are parts of the Bible that no longer apply to us. Yes, it’s a heresy. False-grace removes bible-based responsibilities to respond to God in holiness.
The number of people who subconsciously or unwittingly embrace a theology of exemption is far greater than those who explicitly pronounce their agreement with this doctrine. Many subscribe to false-grace doctrines without realizing their deception.
Many have been lulled into a false sense of security while actually existing in an unsaved state. They are confident they’d enter Heaven if they died, yet the reality is that they would not. They have come to believe they are exempt from certain parts of the Word of God that requires response.
1 Peter 1:15-17 (ESV) 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,
Be holy. God judges according to one’s deeds. Those who hold to a theology of exemption don’t believe they are subject to what this verse is communicating. The command to be holy is to them a great goal, but not a mandate. A principle not a command.
Our name can actually be removed from the book of life—and that is determined by our obedience, our holiness. Sin can still separate a follower of Christ from him. The Rich Young Ruler saw that this was the case. He wanted to follow Jesus, but could not. He was not exempt from judgment even though he wanted to follow Jesus.
The argument of grace is actually quite revealing. People in the false-grace movement would say, “It’s not possible to be holy, or to avoid sin, so thank God for his grace that covers those sins. In fact we are automatically holy… innocent by association!”
Grace isn’t meant to cover up sin, grace is power! Those who walk in true grace would never say that we, as Christians, are predisposed to sin! True grace enables us to do the impossible! False-grace confesses that we cannot. Because of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus, we now have something they didn’t have in the Old Covenant—we have the power to obey! We can do this!
In fact, not only aren’t we exempt from obedience in the New Covenant, the call to obedience is even more humanly impossible than in the Old!
Matthew 5:21-22 (ESV) 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
We as Christians are not exempt from judgment or from the repercussions of sin. If we are in Christ, there is no condemnation, but if we are deceived by false theology into thinking we are in Christ, while actually living in disobedience, we are in trouble. We are not in Christ and there is condemnation. No salvation. The wrath of God remains on us. False-grace doctrine is eternally deadly. There are many people following Jesus today in an unsaved condition.
John 3:35-36 (ESV) 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
John 3:18-19 (KJV) 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
Deeds. Fruit. Works. They are evidences of our position in Christ.
Yes, it’s hard to get saved, hard to stay saved, but if we walk in humility and grace and in the Spirit, eternity with Jesus is our inheritance!
WHAT ABOUT GRACE?
I believe one of the most vile teachings the unbiblical grace message communicates is that we as Christians are hopeless—that we cannot find freedom from sin. It is presumed that we will continue in sin but we are exempt from judgment. What a fallacy that is! It is an offense to the cross to declare through our teachings that the sacrifice of our precious Lord is insufficient to keep us from sin.
True grace enables us to turn from temptation. Grace is power and we need a revelation of this power in the church like never before!
When we turn to God in repentance after falling, it’s the mercy of God that keeps judgment from us. If we are truly in Christ, repentant and walking in obedience, God will always be there to help us through every addiction, habit, fear, inappropriate thought and attitude of the heart. His grace empowers us to win! The cross is that powerful!
I often hear Christians say, “Well, we sin every day…” What? If we sin every day we have a serious sin problem. This is a very dangerous place to be. If we continue in sin, there remains no sacrifice for that sin! We need the true grace of God to enable us to walk free from sin, not free in sin!
We must shout this message and pray for a reformation in the understanding of salvation. Christian Universalism is moving at great speed. A local well known minister has recently declared their church to be gay friendly, that the Bible in it’s current form is not the accurate Word of God and that they believe that all will ultimately be saved. My God! This is a manifestation of a theological thread that is weaving into the fabric of mainstream Christianity.
This is exceedingly dangerous. Will you help sound the alarm? We must slow the flow to Hell and our mission begins in the church.
For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 1 Peter 4:17-18
Salvation is not easy to receive or continue in, contrary to popular teachings—but for those who are truly saved, we have a glorious eternity with the lover of our souls ahead of us!
I wrestle with the severity of salvation daily, and while I do fail at times, I do not have a pattern of sin in my life—not because of my ability, but because of God’s. This must be the testimony of all, and from that place we can live in never-ending joy, freedom and abundant life!
Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” Luke 18:26-30
Are today’s churches and Christians ready for the extreme nature of reformation churches? Is there any hope for revival in our lifetime?
This is a follow-up message to the one I released earlier today. I strongly encourage you to read it first, and watch a the video that you’ll find there. I share the future of Revival Church and the importance for reformation ministries in our cities. Check it out here in a new window: https://burton.tv/2014/11/30/the-burtons-future-and-revival-church-important-schedule-changes/
Can we have reformation ministries? Yes.
Can we have reformation churches? I don’t think so. Not yet. And I doubt true revival can come without them.
We can have ministries staffed by a few radicals who will faithfully carry and release the burning messages of God. People like Leonard Ravenhill did this powerfully.
But, to gather a people who burn night and day with a spirit of reformation and revival into a reformation church culture is extremely difficult—finding those who are ready for a daily life of intense intercession, surrender and continual prophetic shocks to the system is even harder. The reformed church will strike and trouble every Believer, and this transitional season of moving from the old to the new wineskin is more costly than most are comfortable with.
Reformation requires bold prophetic voices that do more correcting than comforting, more rebuking than affirming and more commanding than suggesting. Yet, such voices are soundly rejected in today’s casual, sleepy, independent culture. Reformation churches led by people with a never-ending shock in their voice are rare today.
We need prophets who are more skilled at revealing the ancient truths and calling people to repentance than prophets who are more given to revealing the future and calling people to their conferences.
Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’” Jeremiah 23:16-17
The prophet in his day is fully accepted of God and totally rejected by men. The prophet is violated during his ministry, but he is vindicated by history. The prophet comes to set up that which is upset. His work is to call into line those who are out of line! He is unpopular because he opposes the popular in morality and spirituality. There is a terrible vacuum in evangelical Christianity today. The missing person in our ranks is the prophet. The man with a terrible earnestness. The man totally otherworldly. The man rejected by other men, even other good men, because they consider him too austere, too severely committed, too negative and unsociable. In a day of faceless politicians and voiceless preachers, there is not a more urgent national need than that we cry to God for a prophet! ~Leonard Ravenhill
Forerunners are prophetic messengers who blaze new trails and call out with passion to the remnant church to follow them into new territories, new models and new wine skins. They are awakeners who understand the urgency to gather the church on the other side of the Jordan River—away from the old and familiar and into the land of promise. This type of advance requires a new form of leadership, a type that we see in Joshua as he boldly, urgently commanded the people to follow God into a land of risk.
At the end of three days the officers went through the camp and commanded the people, “As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it. Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits in length. Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.” Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” And Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on before the people.” So they took up the ark of the covenant and went before the people. Joshua 3:2-6
Moses surrendered to popular opinion as a bad report was given about the very land they had been pursuing for years. The decision was to remain in the place of familiarity instead of paying the price to advance. Today’s church is in the same place. It’s foolishness to think revival is to be had if we are still standing in fear next to the water in the desert. Giants are in the land and we must have a fearless people who are willing to lay down their dreams and personal endeavors for the sake of corporate advance. God is waiting for such a people to arise—and when they do we will have true reformation churches.
Revival tarries because we presume it's a rare & extraordinary work of God alone. It also requires a rare & extraordinary work of man. The response must be significant, immediate and extreme. Revival costs much, and right now too few are willing to pay the price.
FIRST CHURCH OF STARBUCKS
As I sit here in a Starbucks with my headphones on listening to some worship music I wonder if this is just the atmosphere today’s church is looking for. Great coffee, amazing music, potential friends all around, lots of comfort and people behind the pulpit (oops, I mean counter) to get me what I need.
I was downtown Chicago one day, driving behind a bus. On the rear of the bus was an ad that still troubles me to this day:
Vineyard Church…Experience God and great COFFEE.
Yes, the word COFFEE was in all caps. I know it’s just an ad, but it bothered me. I think it speaks something. It speaks to surrender to our culture. What if instead the ad said:
Vineyard Church…come and die.
It doesn’t have the same zip, does it? I actually like it better.
A toned down message can certainly result in bigger numbers, but, in my 45th year of life, I have no desire to modify the message or deemphasize the cost for the sake of butts in seats. For me, it’s a reformation church or nothing. And, as I shared in the previous article, numbers are greatly suffering at Revival Church and we are in a place of considering whether this nation is ready for such an extreme call—but we will not compromise the call in order to pay the bills or provide the appearance of success. Hell is begging me to do that and I refuse to listen.
So, I do wonder if a reformation church is ready for prime time. I don’t think it is. Too many people are still sleeping and disinterested in the call to the cross—to carry it and to lay down everything for its sake.
…“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:14-17
Alarms of awakening are always extremely irritating to disinterested, comfortable sleepers. Alarms of awakening are even more irritating to those who are convinced they are already awake. Those convinced they are awake are at the greatest risk of spiritual death as they intentionally ignore warnings they presume are not for them. We all must be willing to question whether we are as awake as we think we are. I ask myself the question often: Am I kidding myself? Am I possibly talking it up without walking it out? The fear of the Lord rests on me day and night.
…I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Revelation 3:1-2
But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Matthew 25:6-13
I live every day with a God given disturbance in my gut…knowing that so many people who are convinced that they know God, convinced there’s time to fill their lamps with oil, are actually on a track toward Hell. Awakening them is my number one job in my short time on the Earth. I grieve daily over this.
As I drive by various churches I have a constant, underlying question that wrecks me…is it possible that everybody in that church is going to Hell? I'm not talking about obviously heretical churches…I'm talking about mainline, Spirit-filled churches. I'm even talking about my own church! I don't presume it to be the case…but I always have the question. Do they, do we, really know what it is to be surrendered to Jesus? Has apathy, sleepiness and deception crept in? Is Hell growing larger because of us? My God. Reformation must come!
So for me to simply tell people how much God loves them and to encourage them to rejoice in that fact would be a major violation of my calling. There are possibly millions of people today who are celebrating God's love for them while living in an unsaved condition. I can't encourage them in that…my passion is to call people into radical extravagance, surrender, death daily, deep intimacy and night and day prayer as we prepare for even greater troubles ahead.
As I’ve shared before, I only give myself an 80% chance of making Heaven! Why? Not because I'm insecure in my salvation now…but because I'm keenly aware of my vulnerability to failure in the future. I can't presume myself to be exempt from the great falling away. I will have many options to allow my love to grow cold and to fall asleep. It's that message that I need to get out there. We can be joyful and full of life while being sober and broken over the reality of our situation. Without holiness we cannot see God. If we leave that message out then we will lead people right to Hell. Reformation churches major on the call to repentance—and most don’t want to live in such an atmosphere.
And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:12-14
This is what must be preached!
Leonard Ravenhill said he doubts that 5% of professing born again Christians in the USA are truly saved. That means in a church of 100 worshiping, dancing, tithing, Bible reading people… 5 of them might go to Heaven and 95 will burn forever in Hell.
Somebody needs to warn them before it's too late. We must have bold, and yes, aggressive, unapologetic prophetic leaders who draw a line in the sand and call the church to stop the madness. We must see the apathy come to an end and awaken today’s comatose church into mandatory response. We can’t be passive. We don’t have time.
Be careful not to reject such an invasive, direct messenger as arrogant. A lesser known but very real threat to revival is false humility. So many hold back offensive messages so they don't come across as brash, arrogant or presumptuous. They hope to display humility, but at the expense of truth. The thought is, if we appear loving as defined by what the recipient desires to feel, then we are loving and the person hearing the message is more likely to respond. This simply isn't true or biblical. I once heard, “You can't sacrifice truth on the altar of love.” Be bold. Love deeply. Shock the dead to life. Reformation churches will do just that.
CAN WE HAVE REFORMATION CHURCHES?
This is the question of the hour. I honestly wonder if we can, or if they might be extremely rare.
To fill the seats we have to bring the bar down a bit so as not to scare away the less committed. That grieves my spirit terribly.
I believe we must embrace this wheat and tare season that we are in and refuse to lower bars. Let God prune and define the true remnant. The question is, will there be enough people left after the pruning?
He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 1 Kings 19:14
Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” 1 Kings 19:18
Yes, there is a remnant who will not bow. They are very small in number, but they are out there. Now is the time for them to gather. Where are you remnant? Awaken church! Strengthen! Pray! Gather! The 24/7 church is needed and YOU are the warrior God has created for this hour! If the remnant gathers in full force, then, and only then will we have enough to have reformation focused remnant churches in our cities. Until that happens we are left with a choice: Lead low key churches that satisfy people of various commitment levels or raise the bar to the level of Scripture and wait for the few burning ones to arrive for battle.
Pastors, the choice is yours.
Negative. Offensive. Irritating. Why provocative messages are so critical today.
To silence a preacher from preaching judgment is like being awoke from sleep by a fire alarm, and just silencing the alarm, and going back to sleep. –Unknown
Though they often cause a bit of a ripple, I honestly don’t see the messages, status updates, videos and other communication I release as very striking at all. I am often amazed at how a firestorm of trouble can result from what I consider to be simple, orthodox truths—truths that have been too often abandoned by today’s church, even churches that look vibrant and active.
So often, after I share a very basic post I hear people commenting on how edgy it was. That never ceases to amaze me. I personally feel weak, broken and living too far below the bar God has for me to communicate anything that’s truly provocative—not the way the prophets of old did, at least.
Yet, even the insufficient words from this messenger tend to cause trouble. The deeper I go in the Lord, the more troubling the messages become—and the messages don’t originate in my mind. They are delivered my spirit in dreams, visions and in Scripture. God is shaking his church, and he’s shaking me as well. The messages will only get stronger.
All you have to do is decide to walk a little closer to God and you'll be criticized more in the church than in the tavern down the street. ~Leonard Ravenhill
When compared with spiritual heroes of old, we still have miles to go before we are anywhere near the level of shock that their messages caused.
If we have another Pentecost and it was real , we'd all be in jail within a month. We're such an accommodating Christianity today. ~Leonard Ravenhill
We are living in a day where deception has so overwhelmed the church that anything less than clear, black and white preaching of the Word won’t suffice. The enemy has convinced millions of professing Christians that they are OK and in a good place as he craftily leads them to Hell.
The devil can counterfeit all the saving operations and graces of the Spirit of God. ~Jonathan Edwards
There isn't a “Pentecostal” Church in America. If there is, tell me where it is. ~Leonard Ravenhill
I'm embarrassed to be a part of the (so-called) church of Jesus Christ today because I believe it's an embarrassment to a Holy God ! ~Leonard Ravenhill
Simply put, some presume most in the world are saved and I believe they are not.
Many presume most in the church are saved and I have my doubts.
I doubt if 5% of professing Christians in America are born again. ~Leonard Ravenhill
For this reason, the disturbing messages of awakening to the church must continue. They can’t be occasional or squeezed between other less costly teachings. The alarm cannot be interrupted.
Someone asked me, “Do you pray for the dead?” I said, “No, I preach to them!” I think every pew in every church is death row. Think about that! They're dead! They sing about God; they talk about God, but they're dead! They have no living relationship (with God). ~Leonard Ravenhill
There's one thing we need above everything else; it's something we don't talk about these days. We need a mighty avalanche of conviction of sin. ~Leonard Ravenhill
Effectively Communicating the Struggle
As a communicator it’s so frustrating to me when I can’t effectively get a point across (which happens more often than I’d like to admit!).
I’ve been wrestling with how I can best represent the urgency I have in my spirit regarding the state of the church. Maybe the following will help.
Even the revival/prophetic stream that I most easily identify with would presume that, in general, most in the church are in right standing before God. They are saved.
This is where my internal struggle intensifies. I have a low level of confidence that that’s true.
This point of departure radically impacts how messages are delivered and received.
How you believe God perceives people will determine how you respond to them. –Jacquelyn K. Heasley
Consider the well known “Urgency/Importance Matrix.”
Urgent means that a task requires immediate attention.
Important tasks are things that contribute to our long-term mission, values and goals.
My messages are most often situated right in the center of the URGENT/IMPORTANT section of the matrix. What this means is that the calls for awakening are so critical that if they aren’t heeded, many praying, tithing, church going, professing Christians will end up in Hell—and the lost will remain lost. Simply, my message is to awaken the at risk church and to establish again the clear, biblical structure of the church—to be a house of prayer for all nations.
Additionally, for the remaining who are truly saved, the message retains its urgent status as it calls the remnant church to abruptly shock the rest of the world out of the grip of the spirit of the age. Billions are headed to Hell and anything less than a white hot burning church won’t work.
We're blind to the fact (that) we have an obligation to five billion people in the world. This generation of Christians is responsible for this generation of lost souls! ~Leonard Ravenhill
For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 1 Peter 4:17-18
Even the righteous are scarcely saved, so we need a steady, continual sledgehammer approach to our messages. Awaken! Strengthen what remains!
Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Revelation 3:2
The American church is living so far below the bar, and it has become convinced that it’s normal. We have been deceived.
I don't believe 90% of people who claim to have the Baptism of the Holy Spirit truly have it. True power is missing. ~Morris Cerullo
I'm astounded, bewildered, confused, baffled when people tell me there are 75 million people in America that are filled with the Holy Ghost and we're the most rotten nation on earth. ~Leonard Ravenhill
God is taking His hands off of America. We've had so much light and we've rejected it. ~Leonard Ravenhill
Additionally, regarding revival, it’s easy to presume that the foundation has already been laid and that now we are to expect an outpouring. I depart from this perspective as well. Of course, revival can spark anywhere through anybody that is wholehearted toward God, but on a regional and national level I’m still in the URGENT/IMPORTANT square.
Instead of millions finding Jesus in a season of revival, the risk is high and immediate for millions to end up in Hell. The alarms should still be sounding. It’s not time to shift to another square on the matrix, and it won’t be for quite some time.
I'm concerned in my spirit (that) the reason the world goes to hell-fire tonight is because we've (the church) lost Holy Ghost fire. ~Leonard Ravenhill
It seems the majority of other preachers and teachers and Christian leaders don’t wrestle with this the way I do (though some definitely do so and at a much higher level than me). So, their starting point is different.
Since their feeling is that professing Christians are out of harms way, the urgency factor is not there. Their messages are most often categorized as NOT URGENT/IMPORTANT. They take on the feel of exhortation instead of proclamation, encouragements instead of mandates.
So, the starting point for those in the NOT URGENT/IMPORTANT quadrant is that we are safe, and now we can start the process of improvement, enhancement and development. With the urgency factor removed, there is no need for strong preaching or offensive messages. There’s no call to desperation in the place of prayer.
Without the urgency of prayer, the importance of reaching the masses and seeing revival is a pipe dream. Daily gatherings of prayer must return to the church!
I can think of one thing when I get to the Judgment Bar and Jesus will look down and say, “I had many things to tell you but you couldn't bear them.” We're too busy running our own lives: praying when you want to pray, eating what you want to eat, going where you want to go, spending what you want to spend, reading what you want to read, (Do you) call that a spiritual life? Brother, it is carnal as carnality! ~Leonard Ravenhill
At this level there is a false sense of unity that tends to take over. The unity is around a presumed state of salvation, and this common ground actually results in an aggressive rejection of URGENT/IMPORTANT messages. Those messages are disruptive, and in fact, are often re-categorized by the hearers as NOT URGENT/NOT IMPORTANT. Distractions. They disagree with both the message and the delivery. They are irritants to their focus on enhancement and development. They seem to be counter-productive and a threat to their mission.
There's is certainly a cry for unity in the church. The question is, will we unite at the lowest common level or at the highest & most costly?
Regarding revival, the lack of urgency has resulted in a premature focus on strategies and advance. The NOT URGENT/IMPORTANT approach toward revival reveals that most feel the church is in a good place, ripe for revival, and that now it’s time to plan. On the contrary, the church is in a deeply compromised place and we must return to the basics. We must do little else than pray, repent and proclaim truth in this very troubling phase.
A Culture of Nice
This NOT URGENT/IMPORTANT church position has resulted in what some are calling a “culture of nice,” or the “false gospel of nice.”
The strategy is simply to be nice in the hopes that people will get saved and that the church will be unified—and that sounds great. The problem is that many of today’s issues require that we aren’t nice and passive. A confrontation is necessary. There’s even a sharp increase in evangelism that eliminates any mention of sin and repentance in the hopes that they communicate a nice, loving God that simply wants to be befriended. That type of evangelism results in people shifting from rejecting God to appreciating God—but not surrendering all to him.
We don't preach salvation. We preach forgiveness. ~Leonard Ravenhill
There are many, many people who are extremely active in churches today that have not had their false theologies challenged, who feel no pressure to deal with sinful attitudes and who presume to be in right standing in Christ—because nobody wants to threaten the culture of nice. The challenge to their positions never comes. The rebukes are absent. The conviction of the Holy Spirit is hushed.
Instead, the focus is on affirming and encouraging people in their current state. The NOT URGENT/IMPORTANT approach casually encourages them to grow and to become all they can be—if they want to. It’s important, but not immediately necessary. It’s the equivalent of being encouraged to get a college degree. It’s important, but not urgent. But, if they decide not to grow and advance, if the cost is too high, that’s OK. God still loves them anyway and all is well.
“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 1 Corinthians 15:32
The incorrect understanding of God’s love also results in a non-urgent approach to social issues. Homosexuals are affirmed in the church in the hopes that someday, if they so choose, they can find freedom. Pre-martial sex is discouraged but not shunned. Gossip is tolerated since it’s seemingly nice and important to value people’s opinions and to allow them to share their hearts. After all, if those same people are also feeding the hungry, giving financially, serving in the ministry and being nice, it can be presumed that they are in a good place and that they are to be affirmed.
We're living in an unprecedented day (when) evil is no longer evil. We've changed the terminology– iniquity is now infirmity; wickedness is now weakness; devilry is now deficiency. ~Leonard Ravenhill
If I am content to heal a hurt slightly, saying “Peace, peace,” where is no peace; if I forget the poignant word “Let love be without dissimulation” and blunt the edge of truth, speaking not right things but smooth things, then I know nothing of Calvary love. –Amy Carmichael
We must stop avoiding the “negative,” false-unity threatening truths!
Jennifer LeClaire from Charisma Magazine said:
Jesus isn’t bending His standards for any generation, and if people choose to desert the faith to fit in with the crowd or because the truth is too hard to bear, it would grieve Him, but He still won’t change His mind.
When Jesus taught that He was the bread come down from heaven and said, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:54), many deserted Him. The Bible says, “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you also want to go away?'” (vv. 66-67).
Even if the 12 had left His side, Jesus would still not compromise the truth. We can’t compromise the truth either. Ultimately, it won’t serve youth, millennials or any generation to cave on 2,000 years of Christian orthodoxy. Especially not now. We’re in the last days. All signs point to a soon return of the Lord.
Not Urgent/Not Important
A lack of urgency, a culture of nice and a rejection of what’s important results in the lifestyle we see in our nation—NOT URGENT/NOT IMPORTANT.
Not only is there no urgency to go to church, for example, now the argument is that it’s also not important.
There’s no urgency to warn people of the destruction that media is bringing to our culture and it’s also no longer important to avoid that media ourselves.
There’s no urgency to gather together to pray, and, in fact, the call to prayer in the church is being rejected by many. It’s not important, or at least not as important as other things.
No church is going to have a revival with a prayer meeting (only) one day a week! ~Leonard Ravenhill
The surest thing in the world is not death and taxes, it's death and eternity. Yet, we're so unconcerned. ~Leonard Ravenhill
So now, a NOT URGENT/NOT IMPORTANT lifestyle results in laziness and a life-threatening misevaluation of what is important. Deception has taken over.
Pleasure and entertainment have filled the void and time is spent watching TV, relaxing and playing.
Doubt about what God deems important overtakes people and the result is a casual, happy-go-lucky approach to life.
It is now possible to live a “christian life” without doing the things that Jesus commanded us to do. ~Cal Thomas
The church is supposed to do what? To stop corruption? Is the church doing that? No! The world is corrupting the church! ~Leonard Ravenhill
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:1
Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your statutes continually! You spurn all who go astray from your statutes, for their cunning is in vain. All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your testimonies. My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments. Psalm 119:117-120
This leaves us with the last quadrant—URGENT/NOT IMPORTANT.
It’s very easy to fall into this category while presuming we are in the URGENT/IMPORTANT category.
The easy way to explain URGENT/NOT IMPORTANT is this—it’s all about priorities.
I've heard a million words, sermons, and read books: (and) I'm accountable to God for everything I have. Every moment of my time, every dime of my money. ~Leonard Ravenhill
We live in a very busy culture that demands our attention continually. Additionally, we can give ourselves to goals and activities that require our focus immediately and continually, but that are less important than what God would have us involved in.
The cares of life fall directly into this section.
And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” Mark 4:18-20
This is why we must be students of the Word. The Bible reveals what is most important to us, not our urgent, intense, demanding American culture.
The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible is the religion of Christ's church. ~Leonard Ravenhill
The pursuit of riches or other things results in an urgency to obtain them, even though we know in Scripture that it’s not at all important.
Tell the students to give up their small ambitions and come eastward to preach the gospel of Christ. — Francis Xavier, missionary to India, the Philippines, and Japan
What message are you preaching?
Do you presume all is well? Are you mostly focused on enhancing and developing, or is there a spirit of a reformer ready to be awakened in you?
There is a need for URGENT/IMPORTANT prophetic messengers to rise up.
You will be resisted by the NOT URGENT/IMPORTANT crowd—many of whom are wonderful, valuable Christians who sincerely see things differently. Their view on salvation and on the necessary level of intensity in our generation may differ. But, that doesn’t remove your mandate to urgently sound a critically important message—wake up and strengthen what remains and is about to die.
Today’s church has stricken a sympathetic pose in the hopes that it will help turn hearts. It won’t.
We love old saints, missionaries, martyrs and reformers… We will do anything except imitate them.- Leonard Ravenhill
Enough! Today’s passive reaction to a vile culture is killing the church!
We have become little more than a socially aware sympathetic ear to a culture that, if we are honest, we have sold our birthright to as well.
The emerging strategies to impact culture today look little like the powerful, bold, prophetic messages that were delivered by the burning messengers of old.
In today’s religiously correct society (yes, I’m talking to the Spirit-filled church) the primary methods of evangelism and cultural impact are driven by human sympathy instead of the supernatural revelation of the Word of God.
We are being nice, cautious, soft-spoken and relevant while convincing ourselves that the true Church is advancing because of it! It’s time our messages result in the mass exodus of our friends and the ferocious resistance of our enemies!
“Why in God's name do you expect to be accepted everywhere? How is it the world couldn't get on with the holiest man that ever lived, and it can get on with you and me?” ~ Leonard Ravenhill
The offense of the cross has been traded for appealing camaraderie in marginalized, religious social structures that couldn’t be further from the model of the biblical church.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:6-10
If we don’t change our approach by adopting the historic blueprint of preaching holiness in light of the realities of both Heaven and Hell, Christianity will become little more than a myth or fable to nearly every person on the planet.
“The only reason some of us are not exiled or thrown into prison is simply because we do not preach as fervently and as sternly as did Paul, John, Peter and others. This modern “santa claus” religion that is sweeping country today is not the religion Jesus taught and John practiced.” ~Oliver B. Greene
“It is not enough to do God's work; it must be done in His way and for His credit.” ~ Erwin Lutzer
Duck Dynasty & Phil Robertson opposed by…a Spirit-filled mega-church pastor?
When I read a Charisma Magazine article today about Carl Lentz, the pastor of Hillsong NYC, standing in opposition to public messages regarding homosexuality, I couldn’t stay silent. Can you imagine Leonard Ravenhill saying what this pastor said? How far has the church fallen? Very, very far.
While Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson is currently facing serious backlash in the wake of his comments about homosexuality, a popular New York City pastor has made it clear he will not take a public stance on the controversial issue.
Carl Lentz, who leads megachurch Hillsong NYC, told Katie Couric in an interview on her self-titled show that he did not believe he had a “moral imperative to speak publicly about some of these more controversial issues” because, he says, “We try to be like Jesus.”
“Very rarely did Jesus ever talk about morality or social issues,” the 35-year-old pastor explained in a pre-recorded interview that aired Thursday. “It was about the deeper things of the heart, and often people want to talk about behavior modification. Our church isn’t about that.”
When Couric asked Lentz if his church has a position on issues like gay marriage, he said, “We have a stance on love, and everything else, we have conversations.”
Sure, it’s great to have conversations. It’s important to walk with people through their struggles. But, he actually said that he refuses to make a public stand on homosexuality! Does he forget that Jesus, Paul and others had no problem whatsoever taking a public stand?
“If Jesus had preached the same message that ministers preach today, He would never have been crucified.” ~ Leonard Ravenhill
Our Christianity is degenerating into a middle class culture, a comfortable nostalgia, in the avoidance of the Cross of Christ Jesus. ~ Art Katz
Is it possible that our churches are full of people who have been seduced by culture and, thus, blinded by God himself?
“He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn–and I would heal them.” Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him. Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God. John 12:40-43
as it is written: “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day.” Romans 11:8
When preaching truth is avoided due to fear that most will reject it, the fruit of our ministry will be little more than a gathering of spiritually blind people—people who have rejected God and who are rejected by God.
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. John 3:19
We cannot avoid the controversial social topics of our day (which, in fact aren’t controversial, they are simply resisted by blinded people). We need a bold prophetic people who will renounce the shameful ways of the world and who will refuse to distort the Word of God!
Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 2 Corinthians 4:2-5
When did the definition of biblical love shift to mean little more than human sympathy?
I wrote extensively on this topic in an article that should awaken you to the reality of true love. You can read it in a new window here: https://burton.tv/2013/09/21/the-great-love-deception-a-false-love-movement-is-on-the-rise/
The passage so often trumpeted in today’s watered-down Christian evangelism culture is in Romans 2:
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance? Romans 2:1-4
God’s kindness leads us toward repentance. This is truth! Without question.
However, this has to be applied appropriately. What this passage is saying is that we can’t be cruel and spiteful and condemning when people don’t live up to biblical standards. There is a nasty spirit out there that can lead people to operate much like Westboro Baptist Church who terribly and unapologetically pronounces condemnation on people. They cry out, “God hates fags!” They picket funerals of people who didn’t live up to their standards. It’s this type of approach that God is dealing with here. He’s reminding us that he is kind by not judging us prematurely. He’s longsuffering.
What it doesn’t say is that we put on some cheesy smile, affirm people’s apathy and casually nudge them toward the light at the end of their dark tunnel. Being kind does not mean being passive. It doesn’t mean we lose the fire in our bellies. It doesn’t mean we don’t have unction. It doesn’t mean we don’t have a fierce disposition as we renounce sin and reveal both the fires of God’s heart and the fires of an eternal Hell.
Preaching truth won’t cause most to cozy up to us. It will cause most to hate us.
All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. Mark 13:13
Please understand—this means that very possibly most in your current church will begin to hate you (though they may not publically admit it) when you call them higher than they are willing to go. Pastors will despise you too. A life surrendered to the cross in love is threatening and offensive as it reveals the lesser commitments of those around you.
Yesterday's prophets focused on causing people problems, and today's on fixing people's problems. Pastors, do you understand that you are called to trouble the saints? You are called to wreck their pursuits of satisfaction while calling them to die. I’m not talking about taking a week or two out of the year to mention consecration, Hell or the cross. I mean the very culture of your ministry must be threatening, volatile and burning—like a volcano that impacts society hundreds of miles around.
God did not save Paul from the consequences of being Pauline. Men vowed to kill him, because He was a perpetuation of Jesus Christ Himself. ~ Art Katz
It’s time that we understand that our love-driven preaching of truth will cause most to hate us. The plumb-line of truth isn’t the level of response it generates. The greater the truth, the greater the resistance by both the world and the church. Mega-churches can easily shrink from ten thousand members to less than a hundred when the offensive, costly message of the cross is preached with power—and churches of one hundred can impact millions.
“If you're going to be a true Christian, I'll tell you one thing amongst others: it'll be a lonely life. It's a narrow way and it becomes narrower and narrower and narrower.” ~ Leonard Ravenhill
“All you have to do is get in a closer walk with God and you'll find your enemies are in your own church.” ~ Leonard Ravenhill
Listen, we are absolutely kidding ourselves if we think simply being nice is going to result in mass salvations. Being nice can’t result in that—but preaching truth can.
I propose that it was Leonard Ravenhill’s deep love that provoked so many people to offense, and so many to freedom, and not his sober, intrusive, irritating attitude.
“What's the condition of America like, spiritually, tonight? Zero. Why? Because we've got blind men coming out of seminaries. Men there don't teach them; they don't hear a word about Hell. They're blind themselves, and as blind men, they lead the blind and they go to Hell.” ~ Leonard Ravenhill
How is it that we have fallen for the lie that toning down truth in such a way that people will cozy up on the couch next to a flesh-warming fireplace to listen to our spiritualized human wisdom is an appropriate strategy?
Our goal is NOT to gain more hearers! That approach will always result in compromised truth—always. The goal is to preach undiluted truth that results in extreme reaction—both for and against. If there is not a provocation in people’s inner man, than we have to question whether it’s truth being delivered or or if it’s Christianized philosophy.
When is the last time you’ve heard a message to our nation that includes Hell and God’s wrath as focal points? Today’s pop-religion rejects such approaches as unloving, even though they are clearly communicated in scripture.
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. Romans 1:18-19
Is it possible the obnoxious street preacher with a megaphone is closer to preaching uncompromised truth than most pastors with a growing audience? I do think that may often be the case.
Christian! It is time to pull out the ancient messages from generations ago and shock a comfortably resistant culture with the truth of eternal torment in Hell, God’s judgment and his wrath that is currently resting on the unrepentant! Authentic Christians will celebrate even the most offensive, troubling message of the cross while the rest will resist it. Do you want to know who’s truly in line with scripture as authentic Christians? Preach truth and watch the pretenders get offended and scatter.
“It is a poor sermon that gives no offense; that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher” ~George Whitefield
If we truly flow in God’s love we will unapologetically preach the truth of God’s wrath! Those two topics aren’t mutually exclusive, they are intertwined and flowing from the same heart of God.
There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment. Men's hands cannot be strong when God rises up. The strongest have no power to resist him, nor can any deliver out of his hands. — He is not only able to cast wicked men into hell, but he can most easily do it.
They are now the objects of that very same anger and wrath of God, that is expressed in the torments of hell. And the reason why they do not go down to hell at each moment, is not because God, in whose power they are, is not then very angry with them; as he is with many miserable creatures now tormented in hell, who there feel and bear the fierceness of his wrath. Yea, God is a great deal more angry with great numbers that are now on earth: yea, doubtless, with many that are now in this congregation, who it may be are at ease, than he is with many of those who are now in the flames of hell.
So that it is not because God is unmindful of their wickedness, and does not resent it, that he does not let loose his hand and cut them off. God is not altogether such an one as themselves, though they may imagine him to be so. The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet, and held over them, and the pit hath opened its mouth under them.
The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose. It is true, that judgment against your evil works has not been executed hitherto; the floods of God's vengeance have been withheld; but your guilt in the mean time is constantly increasing, and you are every day treasuring up more wrath; the waters are constantly rising, and waxing more and more mighty; and there is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, that holds the waters back, that are unwilling to be stopped, and press hard to go forward. If God should only withdraw his hand from the flood-gate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God, would rush forth with inconceivable fury, and would come upon you with omnipotent power; and if your strength were ten thousand times greater than it is, yea, ten thousand times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it.
O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment. — And consider here more particularly. ~ Jonathan Edwards
The church’s response to the aggressive, militant homosexual agenda has been laughable at best. Attempts at relevance have resulted in being rejected both as Christians and as friends. They see right through us.
We’ve fallen for the fallacy that being nice equals loving people—and somehow that strategy gives us the best shot at winning them to Jesus. We’ve bitten at their accusations of intolerance, and we’ve surrendered our prophetic mantle. In fear of coming across as intolerant and unloving, biblical truth has been silenced. God’s methods have been traded for human wisdom in the hopes that it will result in peace, common ground and changed hearts.
“If the Holy Spirit guides us, He will do it according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them.” ~George Muller
First, it’s time that we understand that our primary goal isn’t to attempt to win everybody to Jesus via sympathetic strategies! It is to worship & reveal Jesus in the spirit of truth—and to function in the Holy Spirit as we reveal Jesus to the nations. Keep in mind, when Jesus is revealed as he truly is, he, and we, will be despised by most. That’s why our goal simply cannot be winning everybody. That just won’t happen. But, when we trust truth, the remnant will be revealed.
Historically when truth is preached, the core desire has always been to reveal Jesus to as many people as possible with the understanding that the extremely high majority will say no. They will reject Jesus when he is revealed as he truly is. It’s only a quasi-Jesus that’s accepted at a high level today. A Jesus that doesn’t exist.
“The Jesus that men want to see is not the Jesus they really need to see.” ~G. Campbell Morgan
The spirit behind the homosexual agenda is so destructive that we cannot use relational, sympathetic methods in an attempt to eradicate it.
We must have bold, offensive, authoritative, confrontational preaching that’s anointed by the Holy Spirit to tear down the arguments that are being embraced by by our culture, media and churches.
“The first duty of the gospel preacher is to declare God's law and to show the nature of sin.” ~Martin Luther
God himself is extreme in the way he deals with those who are vile and unrepentant. How is it that we think we can casually woo them in when God’s strategy is to turn them over to their desires?
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. Romans 1:24
Do you not see how successful that evil spirit has become?
All it takes is Phil Robertson to very simply affirm classic, historic biblical truth to set off a firestorm!
Will someone please trumpet the truth that homosexuals will not enter Heaven? Will someone let them know? Will someone reveal the undeniable truth that homosexuals will spend eternity in torment beyond our capacity to fathom? Will someone love them enough to warn them of the crisis that’s ahead? Is telling someone with a gun in his hand that he’ll go to prison for life if he pulls the trigger hatred? Intolerance? No! It’s love!
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Romans 1:26-27
God gave them over to their lusts—and they are under penalty for their perversion. The Bible makes this clear, yet we are afraid to make this known!
Their future is sure unless they repent! God wasn’t subtle or relevant or sweet as he revealed this:
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. Romans 1:28-32
The accusation against preaching this way is that we are unloving, hateful and angry. Intolerant. Arrogant. Not nice.
We don’t have to defend ourselves. God will truly judge us if we are operating in a spirit of hate or pride. That is sure. But we don’t have to defend scripture. It stands on its own.
We must stand against the spirit of the age however it manifests. We have to stand for holiness. We can’t presume that many will respond. We can’t modify the message in hopes that more will receive it. We must present God and his Truth accurately.
It’s time to expose the darkness! If we don’t, than the blood of many will be on our hands. We live in a culture where Romans chapter one is playing out before our eyes. People are full of greed, strife, gossip, disobedience and every kind of wickedness—and God says that they deserve death! God says that! Is he unloving?
Who will warn the world of its impending destruction? If we only tell them that God loves them, that is an insufficient, incomplete message! Definition must be given to that truth as it can be presumed that God’s love equates to his indifference. God is not indifferent. He is longsuffering but not tolerant!
God loves homosexuals, adulterers, gossips and the others who are willfully gripped by the powers of darkness—but that looks very different than we might presume. His anger and wrath are on them at the same time he is loving them!
Somehow we’ve fallen for the lie that hiding the fact that God’s wrath remains on the unrepentant will result in them wanting to get saved more quickly. We must never trade biblical truth for human wisdom! We can’t veil truth! It must be preached and we must trust God’s wisdom!
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. Ephesians 5:11
The method we must embrace is a sharp, clear call to repentance! Sympathy won’t do it. Pop-psychology won’t do it. A demand for holiness in our nation must be decreed!
This powerful spirit of the age has nearly overtaken the church today.
We are entertained in media by the very things that required the death of the one we say we love.
It’s shocking that calls to holiness IN THE CHURCH are resisted and those delivering the message are called angry legalists!
No, it’s not OK to listen to cuss words in a movie! It’s not OK to see nudity! It’s not OK to play first person shooters! It’s NOT OK. We have been desensitized by crafty demonic spirits and it’s time to shut them down! How can we presume to have any authority to confront the homosexual spirit in our culture if we ourselves think lustful thoughts? We don’t have any authority whatsoever when we embrace the very spirits we are attempting to rebuke. It’s time to repent church! Wake up!
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Revelation 3:15-19
May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever. Pour out your wrath on them; let your fierce anger overtake them. May their place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in their tents. For they persecute those you wound and talk about the pain of those you hurt. Charge them with crime upon crime; do not let them share in your salvation. May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous. Psalm 69:23-28
This is hard core!
The answer is simple—repent! The church must see prophetic messengers arise who will boldly awaken sleepers, expose the spirit of the age and call people out of clearly defined darkness!
As I conclude this message, I am going to include, in full, one of the most important messages I’ve ever given:
Almost homosexual: A crisis in the church
After I woke up from a significant dream about Ellen DeGeneres, I read my verse of the day… here it is:
Colossians 4:5 Be wise when you engage with those outside the faith community; make the most of every moment and every encounter.
I felt God had a message of love for Ellen that I should try to get to her.
I decided to email Ellen. I have no idea if she will ever get it, but I pray she does.
Here’s what I sent to Ellen DeGeneres:
Here’s a strange story for ya! I’m a pastor & author, and I had a dream about you last night. It was crazy long and detailed and the first two part dream I’ve had (I got up to go to the bathroom in the middle and the dream continued after I went back to sleep).
You aren’t someone I think about often at all (sorry!), so I have a feeling God may have dropped that dream on me. It started with you at the Academy Awards (or something similar) and you called me on stage from the audience. I was overwhelmed with grief and whispered to you, “Please forgive me for judging you.”
Later, you went on to share with me from your heart about some pain and you talked about your mom. Later on I met your mom and your brother at their home. (I didn’t realize you had a brother until I googled it just a moment ago.)
There were other pieces to the dream, but I thought I’d leave it at that for now.
A little about me; I may appear to fit the stereotype as I do believe any lifestyle that embraces activities that God, in his wisdom, deems unhealthy must be avoided. Homosexuality included. However, what’s also included is pride, which the Christian church is often steeped in. So is selfish ambition and having cold love. All deadly, all have hit the church at large. Again, please forgive me.
After the dream I decided to preach tonight on a crazy controversial message calling the church to repentance titled, “Almost Homosexual: The Church in Crisis.”
God likes you, he loves you. Me too.
I'd strongly encourage you to listen to this powerful teaching & intercession for Ellen from a Revival Church service here:
As I begin this urgent and troubling prophetic message, I must do my best to make several points extremely clear.
- God is passionately jealous and zealous for his beautiful bride, the church. His emotions are extreme and deep as he yearns for love fueled intimacy with those he laid down his life for. His affection cannot be described by even the most romantic or poetic language.
- When I mention the church in this message, I am referring to the global body of Christ. The global bride of Christ. I'm fully aware and thankful that there are many local expressions of the church that are radically surrendered and given to the lover of their souls—Jesus Christ.
- The primary points I will expound on have little to do with sexuality, or sexual sin. You will have to intentionally keep this in mind so as to ensure you understand the issues when I deal with the spirits behind homosexuality and how these spirits are being embraced in the church (again, the global church; or, the church in general).
Jer 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? 10 I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.
This is a powerful verse, and the more time we spend on our face in the presence of God, the more we realize how true it is.
Before we can go any further, we have to all agree on the above point that is found in Jeremiah 17: Our hearts are both deceitful and wicked. What does this mean? Very simply, it’s possible and common for impure motives to be rooted deeply in us even though we may be devoted followers of Christ.
The more time I spend in prayer the easier it is for the Lord to dig deep and bring to the surface issues that wouldn’t normally be evident. My heart has harbored pride at times though at the surface I felt meek. Other times I’ve verbally forgiven people, but then the Holy Spirit revealed to me a deeper reality—that I hadn’t truly done so.
This is why we must not only be OK with messages like this one, but we have to eagerly invite God to shine his burning light into every part of our lives.
Is 6:5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
When God is in our midst, a revelation of our own sin and issues are made known. A key problem today is that God’s manifest presence isn’t with us as He should be! Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy. He is the Revelation. He is the Word. Where God is, revelation is. You can’t separate the two.
As God, in his burning love for us, reveals our hearts to us, we will find ourselves falling to our knees.
God is calling the church to massive repentance.
God has suddenly revisited me with a prophetic word that shocked me and those I shared it with a few years ago—and he’s added to the revelation.
Trust me, I’ve waited several days before deciding to write this (I usually write prophetic words the moment I receive them). I’ve considered the trouble it may bring. I’ve also considered God’s thoughts about the matter and I’ve chosen to trust his wisdom that this will free many more people than it will disturb. God’s word and his wisdom must return to the pulpits again.
Deuteronomy 4:23-24 (ESV) 23 Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the LORD your God has forbidden you. 24 For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
God is jealous of his church—and the spirits that have not only invaded the church, but that have been embraced by the church, have made him jealous indeed.
As I was on the airplane flying into Colorado a few years ago, the Lord surprised me with a strong and striking word for the church. I was shaking.
The church is almost homosexual.
This is a word that I’m confident is tearing at the heart of God… he’s watching his bride become bewitched.
Question—Is it possible that we in the church are close to embracing the same spirits that fuel the homosexual agenda?
As I was watching the mountains of Colorado draw closer during the final approach to the airport that day, the Lord revealed three drivers of the homosexual agenda:
Understand—the driver of the homosexual agenda is not same-sex attraction, but rather there are strong deceiving spirits of pride, self-promotion and identity, and lust.
I was on a train where two homosexual girls were very visibly hanging on each other, making it very clear that they were together. Their actions were not a result of raging hormones, but rather, they were making a bold declaration, a prideful pronouncement of their chosen identity as lesbians.
They wanted to force affirmation, be noticed and demand acceptance and equality.
“All of the acceptable sins in church are keeping us sick.”-Steve Gray
“Be careful about what you think is innocent. It may come back and choke you.”- Steve Gray
The church has been bewitched by the same spirits that give fuel to the homosexual agenda—and this is a primary reason we have not had success in winning homosexuals to Jesus. We can’t cast out the same demonic spirits we embrace.
We’ve all heard of gay pride. Pride is a hallmark of the homosexual movement, and, all too often, it’s a driver of the church as well.
I hear continually that it’s rare to find a church where the tangible, manifest presence of God can be experienced. I believe, sadly, there are more Ichabod churches than we realize. An Ichabod church is simply a church that is devoid of God’s glory. The ark of God’s presence has been captured. It doesn’t mean God hates that church. Quite the opposite—He is grieved that he must be removed from his lover, his bride.
1 Samuel 4:21-22 (ESV) 21 And she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. 22 And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”
1 Peter 5:5 (ESV) 5…Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
You may not have thought about it this way, but God, though he loves so deeply, actually opposes, or resists, those who are proud. God’s glory departs.
We live in a culture where we fight for success, we jockey for position and we can’t imagine being hidden or failing. Compromise has consumed the church as it seeks success, a larger building, more people, more influence, more money and other demands. Pride has resulted in worship of images made of gold where humility demands the gold is given as worship to God. Pride has resulted in worshiping a packed house where humility calls for laying down our lives for even one.
We wonder why the church isn’t having more success in the culture.
I believe a key reason is that we are attempting to attack worldly pride with religious pride. We are actually retaining the services of the very same demons that we are attempting to battle! A spirit of pride! God resists the proud! Is it possible that we are attempting to change culture from a position of religious pride all while God is not standing with us?
When humility reigns, the church will have the grace that God promises in 1 Peter 5.
This point is the most burning issue in my spirit right now.
I am fully given to seeing people step into their destinies, discover their true identity in Christ and finding freedom from lies and emotional scars that the enemy has given them. It’s a significant focus of my own ministry.
However, we have a growing problem.
- Focus is on self more often that it is on God.
- Focus is on living more than it is on dying daily.
1 Corinthians 4:10-13 (ESV) 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.
Please understand, I believe we are seated in Heavenly places with Christ Jesus. We are kings and priests. We have great authority. We have overcome. We are the head and not the tail, above and not beneath.
But, our identities, when rightfully understood, don’t lead us to focusing mostly on personal benefit. When we embrace the cross of Christ, which is where our identities originate, we are now focused on going low, humbling ourselves, serving with passion and identifying with the scum of the world—so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.
A focus on our own benefits, our own healings, our own identities as it relates to personal gain has actually resulted in us aligning with a key spirit that drives the homosexual movement.
Just as with homosexuals, God loves them and us too deeply to affirm a false identity—no matter how desirable and convincing that identity may be! God’s wisdom is much higher than ours, and it takes humility to admit that.
This is a huge, huge point!
When we fight for a false identity that feels so overwhelmingly a part of us, and when our focus is on acceptance, affirmation and human rights, we give up the call to die to our own desires. Suddenly securing our own identity is more important than serving the masses.
The goal is not to be affirmed, accepted, liked or honored. We aren’t to look for equality. We don’t compare ourselves with others. We can’t make demands when life is unfair. The church is to die so that others may life. Our identity is to be fully and entirely in Christ.
An improper attention given to the pursuit of identity (acceptance, affirmation, etc.) causes us to forsake the call to focus on our mission for the sake of devotion to narcissism. This is where the temptation to disobey God and submit to the demands of man can happen.
“For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” James 3:16
Lust is oozing through the church today. Yes, it’s true that sexual lust is rampant as pornography has been viewed by as many as 50% of Christian men recently.
However, lust is not limited to the sexual variety.
Simply ask the question, “What causes you to get excited, to come alive?”
Many honest Christians would admit that everything from money to fame to popularity to sex could be the answers.
James 1:14-15 (ESV) 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Lust results in death. It really is that simple. The life is sucked right out of people. Suicide is on the rise. Eternal death is another threat as well.
This is a tragic reality in the church today—we’ve lost our first love! False intimacy in the form of lust has take the place of a deep, satisfying, truly intimate and never ending encounter with Jesus! He yearns for us while his beautiful bride is yearning for other lovers!
The church has lost its desire for intimacy with Jesus. Many Christians don’t even know what it is to be overwhelmed by his deep, burning love. Jesus is more of a principle or a foreign character in a book than he is a real, tangible, literal person you can feel.
This lack of revelation and encounter in a very intimate, life giving way with Jesus has resulted in one more comparison with the homosexual movement:
The bride is becoming intimate with the bride.
What does that mean?
We have become more interested in reproducing after our own kind than in receiving a fresh impartation directly from God himself. How does this play out? Several ways:
- We become enthralled with a certain stream in the body (Word of Faith, house of prayer, etc.) and want to have a relationship with that stream hoping that it produces life.
- We turn to other people in the church instead of to God through prayer and study of the Word in the hopes that the union can result in the outcome we are looking for.
- We are move connected socially to people than we are spiritually to God.
- We believe our church growth comes through people, so we comprise the mission, cancel prayer, water down the message and get intimate with the body!
An intimate union with God will result in a fresh stream birthing through your ministry!
A deep encounter with Jesus will bring the results that a million human counselors never could!
“You can have all of your doctrines right—yet still not have the presence of God.”Leonard Ravenhill
Intimacy. Repentance. Falling in love with Jesus. Humility.
Yes, fervent, zealous prayer must return to our churches again!
2 Chronicles 7:14-16 (NKJV) 14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there forever; and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.
We cannot anymore develop systems that enhance our own identities, stroke our pride or fuel our lust for power, recognition or anything else.
It’s time again to declare the cross, holiness, humility and passion from our pulpits and on our faces!
The core call is for a movement of humility and holiness.
It’s a call to become broken and undone, desperate and deeply intimate with Jesus.
It’s a call to a fasted lifestyle, to full surrender and complete saturation in the advance of the Kingdom.
It’s a call to the deeply humble, yet powerfully bold life of John the Baptist.
Are we ready to let the Lover of our souls invade the deepest parts of our inner man? He is wooing his glorious bride back to him…will we respond?
Song of Songs 1:4 (ESV) 4 Draw me after you; let us run. The king has brought me into his chambers.
I’m going to let it rip—this is one message you won’t want to skim.
Troubler of Israel
1 Kings 18:17-18 (ESV) 17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals.
Is there anybody out there like Leonard Ravenhill and David Wilkerson who is bringing attention to how so much of the church is following the Baals?
I told you I’m going to let it rip. Understand that I am not sending this out of frustration or because of a personal vendetta. This is a searing, troubling message that is consuming every part of me—and it’s time for it to come out with strength.
We need more troublers to arise! Why? Based on what we see in Elijah’s story, the prevailing culture is actually what is troubling the church and it’s the prophets of God that MUST stand boldly in the face of their accusations. Truth will prevail. God will answer by fire.
First, I want to directly address fellow pastors and leaders with both brokenness and boldness—open your mouths!
When people tell me that I have guts to say what I do in teachings, on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, I am shocked! Really? They can’t be serious! I barely reveal even a small percentage what is burning within me. The messages are minor and obvious, yet somehow in our passive, ultra-sensitive culture they come across as sharp and risky. We have to open our mouths and deliver the troubling truth! No more messages designed to grow churches. No more sermons that result in us looking good, smart and polished.
If we are out to save face, we may do just that—as we ultimately lose our soul in Hell.
The raw, irritating, offensive messages of the Word of God must explode out of us with the full understanding that many of those under our care will revolt! That is true love based preaching!
Just so you know—yes, I am extremely intentional with the messages I post, and they are meant to trouble and provoke, boldly and in love. They are meant to expose error and awaken people to truths they may have not considered—but that often has serious impact on their eternities. My posts are meant to trouble the spirits that are assaulting the church and the people who are entertaining them! We must be disturbed & wrecked by our mandate to awaken the sleepers & warn those falsely convinced of their salvation—and those at risk of losing it.
We can’t even call people to prayer today due to the fear that they will leave our churches! My God! How can we presume revival is near?
Over 340 Houses of Prayer closed their doors last year. I met with a house of prayer network leader the other day who said that people leave churches when leaders shift time, energy and attention from them to God. I’ve watched that happen myself, and it rips me up! In our church in Colorado we shifted from potlucks to prayer meetings and there was a mass exodus. We lost people and money. I had to get a part-time job. It was disruptive. It was heartbreaking that people ran from the call to pray.
Where are the ones who aren’t looking first for human friends, personal affirmation or a sense of belonging but who are seeking after every available minute to minister to God in prayer? The prayer rooms must be full—and the main prayer room in the American church is the Sunday morning sanctuary!
And, don’t you even think of using the excuse that you need to create a non-threatening environment for the new Believer! Every person, young or old, immature or seasoned must be in the prayer room—and it must be their primary focus! What if the Upper Room was toned down in the hopes of drawing a bigger crowd and interested seekers?
I told God one day many years ago that, if I responded to his call, I would lose my reputation. People would sever relationship with me and hurl accusations my way.
God said, “Good. My Son was of no reputation, why should you be?” I was rocked. It was that day, many years ago, that I stopped trying to look good and build a ministry and make people happy about running with me. Selfish ambition died that day. The moment we make decisions based mostly on attracting people, keeping people or raising money is the moment we have failed as leaders.
Philippians 2:7-8 (KJV) 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
I’m not trying to build a ministry—I’m devoted to obeying God and delivering the messages he has given me. I know these messages will directly hit theologies and ideals that so many hold dear. That’s the point. I crave people’s freedom from those harmful ideals! I desire the truth of Jesus to invade everybody’s life!
Matthew 10:34 (ESV) 34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
One reason I’m OK with this divisive strategy (that Jesus affirmed above) is that it clearly reveals who’s for and who’s opposed. I’d rather make the message clear and know who I’m running with then to tone it down and have those who are opposed to it in our camp (Have you ever had a witch infiltrate your ministry? I have, and it’s not fun!). So, we love and serve everybody in the camp, but we can’t get sidetracked from our mission for the sake of their comfort.
Trust me, the resulting remnant of burning ones will rejoice at such an atmosphere of clarity and fire! Those who are lukewarm today just may awaken and burn tomorrow—if we have the courage to preach the very difficult, costly truth!
There are some people thanking me for my boldness in delivering the messages God gives me. There are others who are vocally opposed to me. There are many more still who are silent but resistant—many of them friends in the past who I don’t hear from anymore. They sadly just disappeared from our lives.
I’m sure there are some who translate boldness and refusal to soft step issues as arrogance—but I do not apologize. Yeah, I know that sounds arrogant! The reason I don’t apologize is because I wrestle with the call to humility continually, and I check my heart non-stop. The possibility of pride and arrogance is there, without question, and I take that very seriously. I check my heart to ensure I’m humble and full of love. It’s wisdom to receive insight from your critics, at least to a point!
People that are close to me do know my heart—and they know I’m broken before the Lord. My call is to aggressively sound alarms, gather people around the mission of revival and call people to pray night and day. It can’t be a soft spoken suggestion if we hope to awaken a great end-time army!
Several years ago in Colorado, the Lord directed me very urgently to learn how to walk in extreme humility and extreme boldness at the same time. It was full year of intense prayer and discovery—a personal school of the Holy Spirit. In that school, I learned much, including this—I was not to attempt to appear humble, I was to be humble. Why was this important? Because the Elijah level boldness that is required to impact a region would often look like anything but humility. It would appear as arrogance and selfish ambition.
We are not in a season where we need to gather around a table and water down the message in the hopes of finding common ground that results in handshakes and smiles. The message of the hour will overturn that table with violence.
I endeavor to love every person deeply, but I refuse to affirm systems, methodologies, theologies and lifestyles that are an offense to the Word of God. I will, in humility and boldness, be relentless in provoking the sleepers to awaken and those given to a lukewarm life to be shaken. Prophetic threats against human systems and unholy altars results in accusation, gossip and resistance.
Judges 6:28-31 (ESV) 28 When the men of the town rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built. 29 And they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And after they had searched and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” 30 Then the men of the town said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has broken down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.” 31 But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.”
I know the accusations will continue, but you need to know that, if you are bold, you will provoke. You must be OK with that! Love people deeply, hate the enemy powerfully and know there will be a crisis in the middle as God, people and demons step into the ring. Don’t wrestle against flesh and blood! Be innocent! But, don’t presume a passive spirit is the same thing as a humble spirit.
FALSE UNITY IS NOT MY GOAL
Today I hear a lot about leaders, churches and movements in a region unifying for the sake of revival. I have been disturbed by that strategy for years.
First, it’s imperative that we honor people. That’s a heart condition issue that will either qualify or disqualify you from ministry. But, honor and unity are not at all the same.
I commit to serve all, but I refuse to strategically align with someone who is doesn’t embrace fervent prayer as a lifestyle, holiness as a principle and dying daily as a goal.
Today we have worship leaders who listen to secular music and go to secular concerts. There are pastors who are entertained in media by the very sins that required the death of the Jesus they preach about. It makes you wonder just what they are ministering to us!
I’ll say it plainly—we cannot align with those who are operating in the spirit of Baal. We must confront them in the spirit of Elijah!
Ephesians 5:11-14 (ESV) 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
There is so much fear today that messages of holiness will result in accusations of legalism. I say, bring on the accusations! You have to be kidding me if you think it makes sense to lessen the call to purity for the sake of unity!
When preaching holiness results in accusation of legalism you can know darkness is increasing in strength in our culture—and in the church.
No, it’s NOT OK to watch movies that have cussing, nudity, violence or crude humor it it. It’s NOT OK to soak in secular music in one moment and with worship music in the next.
It’s so hard for so many to encounter God today—and this is the main reason! Media! Holiness! Prayer!
I have a high value for true unity and am looking for those in the Detroit region that will truly gather in a spirit of humility, brokenness, intercession and passionate, unhindered focus on the goal of God’s heart—revival that transforms a culture.
The call today is first for consecration, not liberation! First comes holiness and a resolve to be single-minded in our pursuit of a holy God—and then the power to set the captives free will come.
Joshua 3:5 (ESV) 5 Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.”
Listen closely: the lukewarm, casual church must be shaken! Yes, the true church is one that is burning hot, in love with her Bridegroom. I risk offending a lot of people when I deal with this issue of fervency and costly discipleship as it’s an assault against their theologies and lifestyles. It is NOT OK to be casually committed, loosely connected and given to the apathy that is destroying the church. I’m calling awakeners to rise up! We must pray and burn non-stop! You can do this! There is no better way to live—and there is no other option!
I know this is why some don’t connect well in houses of prayer, or even in my own church—the call to burn hot is beyond what most are comfortable with. The call over the edge is unsettling for those who don’t even want to come near the edge. Listen—your eternity is at risk! Be fervent and radical in your love of God and commitment to his mission!
In the end, this issue is what drives me. It is my life mandate. Hell.
Why? If you would have had the same encounter that I had by being dragged toward Hell, you wouldn’t ask that question.
Many, MANY in the church will be SHOCKED to find themselves in Hell one day. I’m talking about seemingly alive people who lift their hands, live good lives and made a decision to follow Jesus.
Revelation 3:1-3 (ESV) 1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.
I am grieved and shocked by the casual attitude in this nation regarding salvation. There’s such a quick and easy thought that “of course” we are saved, yet for MANY of those people, they are NOT. They WILL go to Hell when they die, and will be utterly confused as to why they are there.
This article is not at all meant to be a theological study. I’ve done that in the past and will do it in the future. This article is a raw eruption of the emotions of my heart—and my heart is sickened and broken over such terrible theologies that affirm the salvation of people in such a cavalier way. The attempt is to affirm the culture and encourage people in their lifestyles—even though it’s resulting in eternal tragedy! I'm concerned that the American church is working so hard at aligning with culture instead of irritating it.
The greatest resistance I receive is when I talk about eternity. To be specific, the threat of living eternally in Hell. (People love to hear about Heaven!) There are great people who are living great lives who reject messages that focus on Hell—due to fear. The accusation is that I shouldn’t preach on messages that result in fear. My response? If you aren’t going to Hell, you have no fear! If you are in the love of God, you should have no fear whatsoever, no matter what is taught! If you are in fear, the issue is with you, not with the messenger, and I want to help you move out of fear and into the love of God, leaving any threat of Hell behind you!
This is the primary reason I am so violent against the false-grace message (https://burton.tv/grace-message). I will not be silent on this matter. It’s not a minor theological issue that we can just agree to disagree on. It’s sending potentially millions of people to Hell—people that will be in maddening torture a hundred billion years from now just because they embraced this heretical teaching. I can’t stay silent, hoping to keep from making waves, trying to make friends and grow my church while every single day churched people shockingly live their first eternal moments in a tormenting fire they were convinced they were exempt from.
So, yes, I am violent and vigilant and brash at times because of the reality of Hell. Wouldn’t you be? Shouldn’t you be? Yes!
RAW, RISKY CONFESSION
I’ll admit, like Elijah (though I’m not pretending to be anywhere in the ballpark of the great Elijah!) I do feel extremely alone here in Detroit. But, I’m smart enough to know there are 7,000 who have not bowed their knees to Baal. (1 Kings 9:9-18)
I’m also blessed by the amazing friendships I have with some leaders, forerunners and intercessors in the area. But I’m so saddened by others who have disappeared from our lives—those I know had a calling to run as men and women on fire! I wrestle with anything I may have done to wound that relationship, that destiny, and I live in repentance and tears over it. I see so much destiny in people that it is crushing when I don’t get to see it come to pass! I get violent against the enemy that would attempt to threaten that relationship and that alignment!
I am EXTREMELY hesitant to share this, as I really don’t need to for my own emotional health. But, I do believe there is something that must be dealt with in this region, and in regard to church health in any region. A spirit of competition and distrust between pastors and churches just saturates Detroit, and it’s time for it to come to an end.
First, you’d be shocked at how easy (and wonderful!) it is for me to enjoy people who have disappointed us, wounded us or betrayed us. Really, it is! My message on being unoffendable really, really works! (https://soundcloud.com/johneburton/becoming-unoffendable) These are truly amazing people that I love!
So, my agenda in this portion of the article is not personal. It may be hard for you to believe that, which is why I’ve avoided dealing with this for so long. But, I’ve just met too many wounded people who are afraid to deal with these issues due the fear of accusation. I have no such fear. Lets do this.
When I first started traveling to Detroit, the energy was electric. People were ready (or so it seemed) for revival in this region and the meetings and strategies I was privileged to be involved in had a level of excitement I had never experienced before.
Then, after moving from Kansas City to Detroit, something strange happened—I was awakened to the spirits of this region. There were giants in the land. (I discuss this more in my brand new book Piece of Cake: http://detroitrevivalchurch.com/2013/08/06/wondering-how-to-start-a-ministry-or-other-project-piece-of-cake-is-available-for-order/).
Every day I check my heart, as I shared before, to ensure I’m not driven by arrogance, selfish ambition, self promotion or other attitudes that would ultimate disqualify me from ministry. Humility is the only option.
I started hearing through the grapevine, almost immediately upon the launch of Revival Church four years ago, that some people were not happy with us doing so. It was a strange shock as we had been convinced that these people were running just as we were in Detroit for regional revival.
In fact, one church actually met with us (two of their associate pastors) and accused of of strategizing to steal their sheep. To their credit, they came to me, which both Amy and I really appreciated! However, that accusation was so far from the truth that we couldn’t even begin to imagine where it came from. We were extremely intentional about honoring other pastors and churches. It’s core to our DNA! We want other churches to grow faster than ours!
As an example, our primary plan when moving to Detroit was to launch a different church (before Revival Church) out of a local ministry. However, we predetermined to honor a local pastor who was connected to that ministry by refusing to launch it without his blessing. He didn’t bless it due to its proximity to his own church and other concerns, so we didn’t launch it. It was very important for us to honor him, and we still do to this day.
We continued to serve and bless that ministry even though we didn’t have an official connection with them anymore, and love those leaders a lot! They are great friends.
When we were released from that, we aligned with Barbara Yoder’s ministry and launched Revival Church.
So, in our meeting with the two associate pastors, we didn’t know where they were getting their information that we were attempting to steal people. I knew that it was simply the enemy that was spreading lies that were very easy to hear in such a volatile, competitive region.
Amy and I blessed them after that meeting.
I had another meeting with a leader in a nearby city who actually repented to me. He knew he was to connect with me and have me speak at his church, but someone there was speaking against me and he entertained her accusations. He knew it was wrong, and he contacted me to ask for my forgiveness. I love that! But, it shows how vile gossip and accusation can be, and, most importantly, how it absolutely disrupts the pursuit of revival!
I’m convinced revival should have broken out a few years ago! But, there was resistance against a 20+ day move of God in Dearborn. God was moving, but resistance came.
So, here we are in a strange new land looking for alliances with revival minded friends, but instead, we experienced quite a bit of resistance. It broke my heart, but didn’t nullify my mission. I’ve grown to understand that apostolic ministry will do that. It’s a ground taking, status quo shaking anointing and it will disturb those who don’t agree with that type of Kingdom advance.
Since that day we have experienced amazing growth and advance and have developed extremely important, key relationships with apostolic and prophetic leaders with regional authority. We have also experienced a lot of additional attack, which is not unexpected, but here’s the point I really want to make:
Church of Detroit, you MUST break off the spirit of competition, distrust and accusation that has infiltrated you! If we embrace a spirit of Accusation, that spirit one day will turn on us. If we embrace a spirit of Criticism, that spirit will one day attack us mercilessly.
I refuse to shrink back on this out of fear that people will accuse me of wearing my emotions on my sleeve or that some may even resist relationship with us due to erring on the side of caution. I’m really not here to make friends (though I like friends!). I’m here to bless people and to sound alarms in a city that just went bankrupt and is dying! Now is not the time for diplomacy! I didn’t move here to let this city die and I know my revival minded friends in the city won’t let that happen either—not on their watch!
Honoring Leaders & Leaving Churches
When I wrote my book Covens in the Church I exposed what the enemy can do in churches through independent spirits of gossip and accusation. The book deals directly with how to appropriately honor your leaders, how and when to leave your church, processes and protocols, that must be followed, etc. I deal with the Absalom spirit that entertains gossip and initiates division. Detroit needs to hear this message!
I believe the principles in that book must be embraced in this city!
I teach those principles at Revival Church and in theLab University. There is a pattern that must be broken if we hope for revival to break out here.
Here’s the principle: Honor leaders and the mission God has you on by staying in position, through challenge and joys. If you feel led to move on, initiate a process with your leader and stay locked in as you walk through the transition together, ultimately leading to a blessing as you go.
It’s a tough call, and I understand that. It’s not enough simply to announce your plans to leave to your leaders (though even that would be a step in the right direction!) but we must bless them by asking them to partner in the decision making process. Give them the voice in the decision they rightfully have.
I love it when I have the opportunity to celebrate and bless people both privately and publicly when they move on from our church to another! It’s rare that I am able to do that. What results is improper transition where people are uncovered and independent, and, unfortunately, the pattern most often repeats itself. The church of the city is weakened.
This is not unique to our church, I realize that. But, I do want to initiate change! This region must discover the power of being surrendered and unified. Upper Room level power will result! The purpose of this entire article is to awaken a dysfunctional, sleepy church into its destiny—sooner than later!
The call? Honor! Stay connected! Stay locked in! You are important! Revival needs YOU!
Here’s a very interesting portion from my book Covens in the Church that explains exactly how the process should go:
An earlier version of this book was read by a couple who lived in another state. They were feeling strongly that God wanted them to move to Colorado Springs to serve the developing House of Prayer movement. They were extremely excited about the call and while they didn’t have all of the answers to their questions (when do any of us have it all figured out?), they we’re burning hot with the vision.
So, during this process, they read this book. I met them for the first time as they were visiting Colorado at a conference in Denver. They shared their testimony with me there.
In the midst of their planning and excitement they read Covens in the Church. Both of them reported that they felt a great offense crawling up their spine as they turned through the pages. It was hard for them to embrace.
They re-read it and prayed. Through the process they both felt God confirming that what they were reading was what they needed to grasp as they were getting ready to move into another important season of their lives.
What they shared with me next absolutely floored me. They went to their pastor and shared all of their dreams and plans to move away. However, they told him this, “Pastor, we honor you as our God ordained authority–not in title only, but in function. We want you to know that though we feel led that we are to go, if you tell us that you feel it is not the right move, we will honor you and stay. You make the final call.”
They saw tears start to roll down the cheeks of their pastor. He looked at them and said, “I’ve been in pastoral ministry for fifteen years and this is the first time anybody has ever come to me like you just did. You are the first people who have ever asked me to partner with you as you move on. Thank you.”
The result? Their church prayed intently for Revolution House of Prayer every week. We prayed for them and were excited about the new relationship that would soon follow. It’s the healthiest transfer from one church to another that I’ve ever experienced. This is the way it is supposed to happen.
An Amazing Update
I am blown away at the lengths God goes to when confirming His prophetic insights. I have been gripped by the content of this book since I first received it several years ago in Kansas City. I, of course, am convinced at the supernaturally driven freedom that comes as we’re fully submitted in love to leadership, however one day very recently I was asking God to give me further confirmation.
The very next day was the first day of the new internship that Amy and I are giving leadership to. We met a couple from a house of prayer in the Michigan area and asked them if they knew this particular couple that I shared about above. They said, “Oh yeah! We know them very well!”
We talked a little more and discovered something amazing. God answered my prayer of just a day prior by actually bringing this couple’s leaders from the ministry in Michigan to the internship I was directing! They said they have never witnessed anybody leave a church or ministry with such excellence, integrity, humility and honor. They we’re astounded at their maturity and decided then and there that they would also model their exit plan when they themselves left. They did so and these leaders also departed in a mature and healthy manner and ended up running the race with me in the internship! They will be teaching one of the tracks each session here–and I wonder if all of this might not have come together as it did if every party involved, me included, would not have been obedient and surrendered to the biblical blueprint for honoring authorities in our lives. I’m still stunned.
There you have it. There is much broken, and we can’t just keep repeating the positive and hope that a head in the sand approach will work. The good news is that we can all go low, repent, love deeply and refuse to surrender to the spirit that is driving the region. It’s the Holy Spirit’s turn, and he is seeking willing hearts to move through.
So, what do you think?