We may need to choose: Grow a large church or contend for revival in a region.
God's world changers always favor being idealistic ahead of being realistic. They are dreamers, visionaries and supernatural theorists instead of analysts driven by logical data. They refuse to work within natural limits for the sake of quicker, more visible success. They would rather fail a thousand times contending for the impossible than succeed once at something that's humanly possible. These leaders won’t compromise the call to revival by seeking to fill the seats with the lukewarm. They are calling forth the burning ones. Their dream is to shock cities with a remnant army.
And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” Judges 7:4 (ESV)
300 was better than 33,000.
This truth is the focus of this article.
The Big Meeting
For as long as I can remember I have loved the large group atmosphere with innumerable zealous people worshiping God and going deep together. There’s something about the catalytic power and synergy in an atmosphere like that—if the majority are raging radicals for Jesus. A gathering like this most always takes place in the form of conferences or conventions. For example, for me, there’s nothing like the Onething conference that the International House of Prayer in Kansas City hosts at the end of each year. That Missouri city becomes the focal point for people who embrace the call to a life of prophetic intercession in the end times. People from all over the world converge there which results in the large group atmosphere I and so many others value.
Over my 25 years of ministry I have enjoyed many large conferences like this but have also discovered that such gatherings rarely exist within the construct of the local church. Understand, I’m not saying the local church can’t attract a lot of people, become mega in size and become influential in the community. Many do just that. We’ve just ventured through an era where seeker sensitive churches became some of the largest churches in the nation. What I am arguing is that it’s extremely rare to find a church that’s raging on fire by establishing a prayer-fueled, revival focused, region shocking, Upper Room level culture.
In fact, I wonder just how common it is to grow a church to more than one or two hundred people with such an approach. I believe it is possible yet extremely rare. With some exceptions, small revival tribes of 30-70 people are a much more predictable expectation—until revival actually breaks out.
120 in the upper room can quickly become thousands in the church of the city.
NINE REASONS GROWING A LARGE CHURCH AND CONTENDING FOR REVIVAL MAY BE MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE PURSUITS
1. Muzzled Speech
It’s all too tempting for today’s church growth focused leaders to trade in their prophetic mantle for that of a salesman. Instead of cutting, bold, unapologetic truth being delivered with a prophetic edge, lesser, neutered messages are given in the hopes that there won’t be any kickback. Fear of offending the tithers overwhelms fear of offending the Spirit.
The prevailing question becomes, “What will the people respond to?” I’ll major on that. Then, “What will people resist?” I’ll avoid those topics at all costs—even the cost of revival.
The demands of revival include, at the most foundational level, God’s leaders refusing to be careful as they pierce with a sharp blade the sphere of influence they have been entrusted with. If leaders consistently communicate revival truths, only the remnant will remain. The masses that promised a mega-church experience would leave the pastor with but a handful to run with. Very few are willing to pay that price. The alternative is much more attractive—muzzled speech that the majority will enjoy.
This, friend, is not the call of today’s leader—not at this critical time in history. We must see troublers of Israel emerge once again.
When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 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. Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” 1 Kings 18:17-19 (ESV)
Elijah refused to be silenced. He wasn’t attempting to gain favor or approval. He had a message and he refused to be muzzled. The same was true of Micaiah:
And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.” 1 Kings 22:8 (ESV)
And the messenger who went to summon Micaiah said to him, “Behold, the words of the prophets with one accord are favorable to the king. Let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.” But Micaiah said, “As the LORD lives, what the LORD says to me, that I will speak.” 1 Kings 22:13-14 (ESV)
Micaiah was sent to prison because he refused to cower when ordered to only speak what is favorable. I wonder how leaders will preach against the sins of the day when it becomes illegal to do so if the fear of losing people is such a struggle. It’s shocking to me when people reveal they haven’t heard troubling, shaking preaching on holiness, sin and repentance in decades! We must have the prophetic mantle return to the pulpits again!
Consider the following:
“My aim is to agitate and disturb people. I'm not selling bread, I'm selling yeast.” ~Miguel De Unamuno
“If Jesus preached the same message minister's preach today, He would have never been crucified.” ~Leonard Ravenhill
Revival leaders will bring trouble, and people will leave when they feel the blade of the sword touch their flesh.
Today, we have leaders who refuse to speak on the troubles of the day, on politics and on other critical issues out of fear that they will divide the crowd and send some running with all of their resources in their pockets. The same is true with many itinerate ministers, evangelists and others who make a living from the Gospel. The more careful their speech, the more diplomatic they can be, the more appealing their focus, the greater the numbers and the more respected they become. Unfortunately, such an approach is an enemy to revival. Few will respond to those who trouble Israel.
The coming Church will be marked by those who will preach truth without moderation. 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 of 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! 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? ~The Coming Church
One day God spoke clearly to me: John, when you pray for a remnant, don’t be surprised when the remnant shows up.
Personally, I’d much rather have a church of 30 devoted, burning, remnant revivalists than a church of several hundred people who will leave when the fire gets hot and the message cuts their flesh.
2. Visitor magnets
The primary purpose of the church is to be a gathering of Believers under apostolic authority with prayer and equipping being the dominant activities for all. Focusing on attracting visitors can quickly compromise that core church mission. The Bible tells us the church is to be a house of prayer for all nations. It is not to be used as an evangelistic tool, but rather evangelism should be a result of what happens in the gatherings.
In my book The Coming Church I highlighted several ways today’s church is going to drastically change. One is the move away from seeker style ministries. The church gathering is for Believers who are praying:
Even churches that aren’t identified as seeker sensitive tend to be intent on attracting visitors and they gear their ministry to do so. Instead of attempting to grow the church by focusing on visitors and seekers, the leaders will be fully devoted to a 2nd Chronicles 7 strategy of compelling God to show up in extreme, weighty power. The pillar of fire that connects Heaven to Earth is the new goal. In fact, an empty church is a better goal than a full church if we understand that passage of Scripture correctly! Many disgruntled people will leave the church as a more serious devotion to Holy Spirit activity is given, but the supernatural invasion will result in fire, smoke and earthquakes that will rock cities and nations. ~The Coming Church
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. 2 Chronicles 7:1-2 (ESV)
I made a significant transition in my own ministry many years ago regarding my focus on visitors and church growth. In the early days, I’d get frustrated when they didn’t show up and overly excited when they did. It was common for my wife and me to take visitors out for lunch or coffee to encourage them that there was definitely a place for them and their giftings in our church. While we did grow, our vision was compromised due to attracting people who were more excited about their own ministry than the mission of revival. Over time we had people who could lead worship, serve in children’s ministry, wave flags, dance and serve as ushers. The problem? The church is called first and foremost to be a house of prayer. We had a lot of activity, a solid group of people and an underlying resistance to going deep in intercession. Our visitors turned leaders were not invested in prayer.
I believe one of the most damaging things a pastor of a church can do is release people into ministries and roles if the they aren’t on fire, living in the Spirit and praying without ceasing.
We wouldn’t allow anybody to step into any role until they completed an intense three month internship that revealed our DNA, our focus and the cost of running with us. This approach resulted in a small army of burning ones locking arms together in the pursuit of revival.
Our transition from empowering visitors to warning and preparing visitors was key to our progress. We went from encouraging them that they would definitely fit in to being forthright with them. We let them know that they have stepped into an extremely challenging ministry. It would be hard, not easy, for them to connect. Everybody prays on fire as their primary function, we all rally around the vision of city transformation and we embrace radical holiness and a consecrated lifestyle. We stopped pursuing people, taking them out for lunch or attempting to sell our experience to them. The expectation was for the visitors to show up in the fire with us and to watch powerful relationships develop in that fox hole.
We made the decision to trade in being a large church with people who were merely intrigued by the vision with being a smaller church with people who are wrecked by the vision.
“…these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” Isaiah 56:7 (ESV)
3. Naturally Relevant
The coming Church will be marked by bold, Holy Spirit filled prayer warriors who burn night and day. They will be an explosive people who carry and release the fire of God into the cities of the Earth. There will be a regular tremble and a continual burn on them as they live in the supernatural realm in historic fashion. ~The Coming Church
Most people are much more familiar with their natural, predictable, tangible world than they are the invisible, supernatural reality of God. With that in mind, outside of actual revival, church meetings that allow supernatural manifestations and embrace a spontaneous, bizarre environment will be avoided by most.
When is the last time a Sunday morning service has erupted in a couple hours of groans of intercession as people go face down on the carpet? A friend of mine who is an extremely mature and seasoned Christian worked for a major prophetic ministry. During our services, she would regularly manifest with groans and violent shaking and other reactions to the Spirit of God. She kind of looked like a super intense, supernaturally possessed karate kid! That was not naturally relevant behavior! Most people would not visit a church again if that was a regular occurrence. The remnant would, though.
From my book The Coming Church:
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 were toned down in the hopes of drawing a bigger crowd and interested seekers? We must absolutely refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry! God is a consuming fire, and he is about to consume what is unholy and compromised. Who are we to presume we know better how to facilitate a service? Is inviting the Holy Spirit to step aside as we give preference to human wisdom the way to go?
I’ve heard it said that the main Sunday service should be a toned-down meeting so as not to freak out visitors and seekers. Apparently the meeting where the Holy Spirit has liberty to move in freedom should be reserved for a night when there’s little risk of the unconverted showing up. This is humanistic religion at its best! Did those in the Upper Room tone down the Holy Spirit so as not to confuse and trouble the seekers in the city? Absolutely not! In fact, the power was so extreme and so unusual that the people were provoked to wonder and proclaim, “they must be drunk!” What was happening was off of their grid. When man moves, it’s naturally familiar. When God moves, it’s supernaturally shocking.
4. Prayer as a program
I commit to serve all, but I refuse to strategically align with someone who doesn’t embrace fervent prayer as a lifestyle, holiness as a principle and dying daily as a goal. ~The Coming Church
I’ve led life impacting prayer events in over 170 different churches, and while there was a lot to leave me in awe of God’s power, I was also left with disappointment. Sadly it was easy to see which pastors allowed room for a program of prayer in their church and which had established a culture of prayer. I was initially shocked when I’d see pastors show up, often alone with none of their staff or the people in the church, to pray in the Spirit for two hours on a Friday night. We were bringing anywhere from 30 to 250 people to their church, to pray with them and their people for the fire of God to engulf their church, and very often it was just us. I didn’t understand.
Time and again I’d see pastors engage for 20-30 minutes and then get distracted, bored or restless. While the sanctuary was exploding in raging tongues of fire, over and over again pastors would be uncomfortable. Often they’d open their Bibles and read or they’d go to their office or talk to people in the foyer. Frankly, I don’t see how these leaders are even qualified to pastor. It’s unthinkable to me that anyone would presume they can lead a supernatural church without living a supernatural life of prayer. The reality is they aren’t leading a supernatural church. They are leading one that will attract the spiritually numb and naturally invested.
Ministers who do not spend two hours a day in prayer are not worth a dime a dozen – degrees or no degrees. ~Leonard Ravenhill
Occasionally a pastor would show up, on fire, with all of his staff and a significant number of the people in his church. Oh, I lived for nights like that! I knew that prayer was appropriately primary in that church and that it was more than a program. They had nurtured a culture where prayer saturates every part of their ministry.
When every person in the church is called into the furnace of intercession as a lifestyle, you are going to be left with only those who are truly passionate about Jesus and ready to contend for revival with 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 off ending 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! The coming Church will be a burning hot crater of searing fire. It will be pure and it will be rejected by most in today’s culture. ~The Coming Church
I believe it would be more biblically normal to have everybody praying, decreeing the Word of God and crying out in intercession for two hours on a Sunday morning than to continue putting on the predictable, tepid, schedule driven services we have today. I often challenge pastors by asking them what would happen if every church in the city cancelled every program, every group, every service for six months and did nothing but hit our faces and prayed instead. Instead of worship and teaching on a Sunday morning, we’d instruct everybody to find a place and cry out to God. Instead of children’s ministry, the kids would be with their parents in intercession. Instead of small groups and youth ministry events we’d pray.
The pastors almost always answer by saying they believe revival would break out suddenly. I agree, yet I have not met one leader who had employed this strategy. Why? It threatens the goal of local church growth. People with money might leave. The less hungry will walk. This grieves my spirit.
If prayer is a program you will have the opportunity to pray with a handful of others during the week. If prayer is the culture, nobody in the church will be able to avoid the call to fervent intercession because it occurs at every meeting they attend. It becomes seared into their very identity.
When the call to the Upper Room was sounded, they didn’t tone down the prayer in the hopes that more than 120 would show up. They allowed hundreds to walk.
We must repent for forsaking the house of prayer. The primary ministry of every church must be prayer. This commitment to intercession is to be modeled and led by senior leadership. The primary purpose of the Church is not teaching, visitor assimilation or fellowship. It is undeniably night and day prayer for the nations. Lengthy prayer should be taught and modeled as the dominant activity of every believer. ~20 Points of Reformation, found in The Coming Church
5. Programs everywhere
It makes logical sense that we should have ministries available to attract the broadest group of people we can. This means programs, ministries and groups all over the schedule in order to draw every type of person is necessary.
On the contrary, churches that are pursuing revival are calling people into one primary meeting—the prayer meeting with apostolic leadership giving direction.
I’ve heard some wisdom over the years that I actually agree with to a point. It’s been said that if someone senses there’s a program or ministry that needs to be started in a church, the leader should thank them for their analysis and encourage them to be the ones to start it. After all, they are the ones with the vision for it. I can’t disagree that this is an effective method to diffuse accusation of lack in a ministry, but I do disagree that it’s an appropriate strategy across the board.
Over the years I’ve used this method and watched people start ministries and crash and burn due to a number of reasons, not the least being that they didn’t embrace the vision of revival. They simply wanted to lead something or be a part of something they affirm.
The better strategy I’ve employed in recent years is to simply say no. What they think is lacking is by design. What they think we need to add should not be added. Redirect people to the fire. Call them to refocus and to be calibrated with the unified vision of the church.
In latter years, instead of filling the calendar with programs, or even a variety of scattered prayer meetings, we would maneuver everybody to our primary meetings. In fact, we had 24/7 prayer for an extended period of time and had every slot filled. Over time we decided the corporate vision demanded corporate meetings. We had to be together. Scattering, even in prayer, was doing damage to our mission. I’d rather have 3 larger prayer meetings than a hundred smaller ones.
It also became less important to have youth and children’s ministries, small groups or various programs and much more important to gather people together for corporate intercession and apostolic instruction.
Yes, this will result in a smaller church, but people won’t be scattered. Am I saying there can never be supplemental ministries or events? No, but you have to be careful.
Mike Bickle initiated small groups at the International House of Prayer several years ago. From what I understand, they were “successful” but at a cost of their primary, corporate mission. People loved gathering together in homes each week, but these small group meetings negatively impacted the prayer room. Instead of everybody contending in prayer as the main thing, there was now another option to connect, and the prayer room suffered.
Mike then eliminated the small groups for many years and only recently reinstalled them again, with a new strategy that ensures those secondary programs supported and funneled into the prayer room.
Those focused on church growth want people in programs. Can those programs be good? Sure. However, the moment you start contending for revival don’t expect the strength, commitment or passion from the laborers to be there.
The pursuit of revival is a very narrow one. Revival churches aren’t called to meet every need. They are called to pray in the laborers, the remnant, to pray on fire and shake the city.
6. A quenched atmosphere
I want the prophetic spirit upon me or I want to die. ~A.W. Tozer
We live in a day when churches promote comfort and self-satisfaction. Coffee, personal ministry, blessing, programs and other lesser things are overshadowing the call to the cross. The alarm of the hour is not a welcome sound. Casual spirits are driving the culture. The problem? The message of the cross is not a casual message. The bottom line is this: A casual spirit will always reject a prophetic warning if it threatens their comfort. A prophetic spirit will always threaten something. ~The Coming Church
Above I mentioned how powerful it would be to shut down everything in the church for a season except for prayer. I asked this question on Facebook:
If your church cancelled everything for a year…cancelled children’s ministry, teaching, programs, pot lucks, small groups… and replaced those activities with prayer meetings, would you stay in your church?
One response rocked me. It encouraged me that the remnant is out there:
That’s when I’ll return to the church.
When we walk into the church we must be blown over by the unusual, overwhelming, otherworldly shocks of the Spirit of God. Simply, we need a powerfully prophetic atmosphere that causes everybody to respond by either running out the door or collapsing to their knees.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 (ESV)
A truly prophetic atmosphere will result in a never-ending charge in the room. People will be expressing themselves in many ways including cries of intercession, banners and flags flying, prophetic art, trances, encounters, repentance, dreams and visions and more. The goal isn’t the manifestation but rather avoiding restriction of Holy Spirit activity.
A prophetic atmosphere will repel the more naturally wired people, unless their hunger for God is greater than their resistance to him.
Revival churches absolutely must be driven prophetically in every service. We must hear the oracles from Heaven as we strategically advance day to day.
There is a rapidly increasing movement of people who are shutting their ears to any prophetic words that have any measure of alarm to them. The warnings are not wanted as they threaten the current structures of comfort and ease. These people are at risk of a catastrophe that will mercilessly hit them and those who have been influenced by their messages of peace and safety. There are true voices that must emerge and declare the word of the Lord in its pure form.
If we EVER temper a message in the pulpit, online or one-on one in the hopes of maintaining an audience, we’ve become a 2 Tim 4:3-4 false teacher.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 ~The Coming Church
Revival always includes the conviction of sin on the part of the Church. What a spell the devil seems to cast over the Church today! ~Billy Sunday
7. Teaching vs. apostolic instruction
Another shift we will see has to do with teaching. Teaching will be minimized while instruction is emphasized. Teaching is mostly for personal edification while instruction is mostly for corporate assignments. Today, most churches focus on teaching principles of Scripture, providing truths that will help believers navigate through their lives and on offering nuggets of biblical information. While there will still be important Bible teaching, apostolic instruction will emerge as a necessary new ministry.
The responsibility of prophetic leaders is to relay the messages of God and to instruct the people accordingly. Though teaching materials are in abundance, what is lacking is apostolic leaders, military commanders, who give instruction, assignments, to a ready army. Teaching is personal growth based while instruction is a call to corporate action for the sake of mission fulfillment.
It’s a corporate call to action vs. a simple biblical study. It’s mission focused vs. personal growth focused (though I can’t imagine a better way to grow personally than by being invested in a corporate mission!). Personal growth will be largely our responsibility between services so we can be ready to respond to the corporate instruction where we will receive our assignments. ~The Coming Church
When I was a youth pastor at a large church in the Dallas area, part of my job was to change out the marquee every week. The pastor’s sermon title for the upcoming Sunday was to be displayed for the many cars passing by on the busy road. It got to the point where I usually didn’t have to remove the two words of the previous week’s message: How to…
How to be an amazing parent, how to grow in God, how to prosper financially, how to walk in healing, etc.
Those topics are fine, but they represent teaching versus instruction. Teaching is showing someone how to fish. Instruction is telling them to go fishing.
Teachings are nuggets of truth that will help the people navigate their lives. However, I’m pretty certain if that large church of over 1200 people shifted to apostolic teaching unto revival, they would probably shrink to less than 100 people.
My instruction when leading churches in Michigan and Colorado was for everybody to arrive at every service full, not empty. I challenged them that it was their responsibility to grow aggressively, intentionally, through the week so they would be maturing, on fire and ready to move out into mission. When we gathered together, I had the freedom to share key dreams and visions, to prophetically reveal how we must pray and act in the current season, share warnings and national words to prepare people for what is coming.
for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:13-14 (ESV)
Those who refuse to mature and who really don’t care much about revival or national or regional prophetic revelation won’t want to connect in such a church. Growing a church this way is extremely difficult, but gathering a remnant is more powerful.
It was extremely common for people to arrive for prayer before the service and hear clear, specific revelation that I or other leaders received the night before. That would change the entire service as I’d preach from that place of prophetic activation and we’d pray and contend the rest of the night in our new direction.
That service would always be irrelevant to those who are simply showing up to gain some biblical insight (and especially those who didn’t arrive early for prayer). They would be disconnected. However, the revival minded would come alive and would be alert and ready to respond with great conviction.
8. Karaoke Worship
When in Colorado leading Revolution Church, I instructed our media team not to display the words to the worship songs on the screens for a season. I was grieved at how dependent on the screens people were as they simply sang along karaoke style to what was being sung on the platform. It was time for them to launch into a prophetic realm of worship and prayer!
In fact, we eliminated a worship team altogether in Detroit for a couple of years and filled the atmosphere with spontaneous, prophetic decrees, prayer and groans of worship. Music would sometimes play in the background, but we weren’t simply singing along from our soul. Our spirits were crying out!
Revival churches must facilitate an explosive, supernatural atmosphere, understanding that the high majority of people will not join such a thing.
As we become supernaturally changed in a place of extreme intercession, worship will change significantly. It will be supernaturally driven. There is a new sound coming to worship, and it’s not simply a new style. There is a supernatural, otherworldly groan of intercessory worship that will explode out of the entire body as a new breed of trembling worship leaders lead the way into the shock and awe of the glory of God. We will no longer simply sit in a pew or stand with a raised hand while a familiar worship song is sung. The prophetic, groaning sounds of Holy Spirit-facilitated worship will make it normal to shake and fall to our faces as we cry, “Holy!” The natural, logical sing-a-longs will be no more.
We will have a hard time standing as man’s karaoke gives way to God’s Shekinah and Kabod glory that takes up residence in his Church. Worship teams will practice less and pray in the Spirit with tears in their eyes more.
Today, along with most other expressions of church life, worship is at least slightly and sometimes extremely marginalized for the sake of the less adventurous attendee. Since most people tend to be adverse to more supernatural forms of worship, and many would leave if the atmosphere became too uncomfortable, the majority has been winning.
I’ve said it countless times, and have written before that I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. How is it that the naturally-minded majority has supplanted the supernatural remnant in the Church? How is it that burning, raging, intercessory worship that’s driven by the groans of the Spirit himself are not appreciated enough to risk losing people from our churches? For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:5-8 ~The Coming Church
9. The threat of regional focus
It was extremely important to me as a leader that everybody in the church was investing in the region. This means I wanted them to connect in other churches and ministries, to be ambassadors of revival and to become regionally unified. Growing a local church, to the contrary, focuses on having everybody in that church overly invested at that level, in the local setting. There’s no room for regional ministry.
In fact, even Spirit-filled, revival focused churches can easily become resisters when the pursuit of revival in a region threatens their own pursuits.
Pastors and leaders must have a clear vision not only for revival in the region, or only their personal part to play, but for the church of the city. How should everybody in the local army be investing in the regional mission? It’s important to not only encourage but also to lead people into regular regional events that are unto revival.
If we are trying to grow a large church, this becomes difficult because most people won’t share the passion for revival in the city. They want to come, grow personally and connect relationally to a spiritual family. But, when they are called into regional mission, they just won’t have the passion or energy for it.
The coming Church will be a regional Church, expressed on a city level. The local expressions will be important, but only as they are connected regionally. The regional Church will be important, but only as it is connected with God’s Kingdom government.
The coming Church will be a praying Church that understands its authority and responsibility in the region.
This is how the coming Church will function governmentally. As we focus on the region and the greater mission, we will be in step with God’s passion for the nations. Grace and favor will follow. Unusual interventions by God will become common. This is such an important point, especially with the state of today’s Church in mind. We no longer can sweat, bleed and burn out by trying to build our own local ministries. The vision absolutely must be a regional one as we give ourselves to true city unity, intercession for revival and Kingdom advance. This doesn’t mean all local churches will close (though many will), but it does mean that they will no longer be at the pinnacle of the priority list. Local church leaders will mostly give their attention to corporate advance regionally with the Church of the city instead of to local issues. ~The Coming Church
I’m sure I’ll receive emails from people who report that their church is large and contending for revival. I celebrate that! I’ve been to a few like that.
I would then have a few thoughts:
- Do they really understand the intensity of the new wineskin church that I reveal in The Coming Church?
- Is everybody in the church truly raging on fire in prayer and contending at an intense level toward revival or is there simply a great atmosphere and a focus on revival?
- This would be a remarkable exception and I absolutely want to visit! There are some brilliant, anointed leaders out there who can pull it off!
As I said, most churches that are truly revival churches will be quite small. 120 just might be a good goal! The majority will be less than 70 in number of soldiers in their local army.
Pastor, are you okay with such a shift in strategy? Trust me, 70 scalding hot warriors who can move mountains in faith filled prayer will do more for your city than two thousand moderates ever could.
Is it possible that the local church itself might be a hindrance to revival?
First, read my latest Charisma Magazine article that was released today: Will the Future Church Resemble Our Vision of the Ideal Church?
So many say they are tired of church as usual, yet those same people are still employing the same methods of ministry they have for decades. Being tired of church as usual isn't enough—we must embrace and initiate radical change.
TEN THREATS TO REVIVAL PART 1—THE LOCAL CHURCH
In this first teaching in a brand new series John discusses ten threats to revival manifesting in a region. The first threat to revival? The local church. Will local churches support the call for revival in the city or will their own schedules, focuses and insecurities keep them away?
Are solemn assemblies the answer to revival?
First, I MUST encourage you again to listen to one of the most important messages you may hear this year. It’s spreading around the internet… listen and share it with everybody you can. Listen here: https://burton.tv/2012/10/01/listen-now-a-sudden-outbreak-of-the-spirit-of-revival-in-detroit-last-night/
Charisma Magazine just posted a great article on the effectiveness of large corporate prayer gatherings and solemn assemblies. You can read that article here.
As I shared in my previous post, there have been many prophecies about stadiums in Detroit being filled with intercessors and revivalists. I agree with that prophecy.
I agree with Jennifer Leclaire, the author of the article on prayer rallies in Charisma Magazine, that large corporate prayer gatherings and solemn assemblies absolutely do work and are wildly necessary.
She said, “I believe every prayer lifted to heaven in the name of Jesus makes a difference. I believe every intercessor’s Spirit-inspired utterance is making up a hedge of protection around this nation. I believe if the prayer stopped, the skeptics would start asking us to pray again.”
I couldn’t agree more.
We need the stadiums full, but, there is a much more challenging and costly strategy that revival is tightly hinged on.
The church must become a house of prayer again, and the corporate body must live a life of such extreme sacrifice that the prayer house is filled most every day of the week.
Yes, the price is our time and the costly surrender of our American lifestyle and the eradication of the cares of life.
Again, let me make it clear:
The average American Christian who works a 9 to 5 job, who has kids in sports and school programs, will need to shift most everything in their daily schedule and gather together under key apostolic and prophetic leadership to pray and respond to instruction most every night of the week.
The stadium level prayer events must happen, but, they won’t have lasting impact if we don’t also live a disciplined life of white hot, deep corporate prayer most every day.
We often talk about Easter Christians who only attend church on Easter and Christmas.
I want to offer a comparison. Today we have event Christians who trust in the conferences and stadium events to carry them and to advance the Kingdom on the Earth. That strategy alone won’t work.
We must pray together continually.
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)
I’ve said this countless times, and I’ve written about it in my book 20 Elements of Revival: The 24/7 church will arise again and Christians will gather together every day to pray and contend for Kingdom advance.
I don’t know if it will take a national calamity or if it will come as the church suddenly awakens, but the 24/7 church is coming—and it will require a passionate, disciplined, undistracted people.
Ephesians 6:16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance…
As we are driven by faith, pray ALWAYS in the Spirit…persevere and stay alert, we will establish a biblically normal church: A house of prayer that’s filled continually with zealous, surrendered Christians who feel the weight of the hour and intercede with passion for the nations.
We can’t meet in a stadium once a year and hope for revival. It’s time to gather together with the fear of the Lord provoking us into intimacy with God and bold Kingdom action.
THE CITY CHURCH
When this biblical model has matured, we’ll see it function on a city level very powerfully.
The apostolic/prophetic leadership of the city will call regular corporate prayer events and the entire city church will show up. Stadiums will be filled regularly.
Then, between events, the local expressions of the city church will be together day after day in prayer and response to local apostolic instruction.
I want to encourage you to order 20 Elements of Revival as I go into detail on the structure of a revival ready city church.
You can order it for print or Kindle at www.johnburton.net/resources.
I am BURNING with the SHOCK and AWE of God’s plans for the church of Detroit.
DON’T miss the service TONIGHT at Revival Church! I’m burning, trembling.
Our worship leader just texted me: I know God is about to do something crazy tonight! You keep mentioning and army rising and I have been planning to do a new song tonight talking about an army rising up!
I’ll be releasing an URGENT message on the call for a CITY FIRE.
There is a massive transition from local church emphasis to a city church mandate that’s upon us now. We’re moving from an Egyptian model of ministry that keeps us secluded and contained into a dominion model of ministry that expects the wild fire of God to spread.
Steve Gray of World Revival Church in Kansas City said, “Too many people are waiting for a move of God that fits what already exists.”
In Egypt, Pharaoh was demanding that the people STAY while Moses was calling for God’s people to GO. Pharaoh’s kingdom was at risk if he lost people.
We as leaders have to be careful not operate in the spirit of Pharaoh by refusing to let God’s people go. If I find myself getting depressed or nervous when people leave my church, it’s an indicator that I’m influenced by this Egyptian strategy of kingdom building.
Brian Ming said in a song he wrote: God forgive us for building kingdoms of man on doctrines of demons in your name.
God forgive us!
An offensive shift is upon the church and an inappropriate response will result in continued bondage. While there is a lot of good happening within the context of the local church, it is by nature restrictive!
The call of Jesus was to GO while all too often the call of the local church is to STAY!
At Revival Church I have a policy that anybody from any church or ministry can freely recruit any person that’s connected to our ministry. We have open hands. We actually expect people to catch fire here and then impact other churches and cities!
Steve Gray- “Most churches are concerned with losing people and money. I wish they would be a little more concerned with losing the Holy Spirit.”
The fire we are going after cannot be contained at Revival Church. It will die out. It must spread! The carriers of that fire must GO!
For the corporate fire to spread, it must take on the nature of an out of control wild fire that follows the wind and seeks a never ending supply of fuel.
The new church will look nothing like we see now. We must learn how to live in the Spirit if we hope to embrace this uninvited yet deeply needed invasion from Heaven. Everything is at risk.
Come tonight. Get ready to get shocked. Get ready to come alive. Revival is drawing near. See you tonight. Prayer starts at 5pm and the fire starts spreading at 6pm!
We meet at THE TABERNACLE: 14205 12 Mile Road, Warren, MI 48088
As we progress toward the 24/7 church, revival is brining calibration to the biblical model in Detroit.
I’ve written books and articles and taught countless messages on the emerging 24/7 church that’s coming to this nation. I was convinced that it would take a revival atmosphere to finally draw people together every night—into the 24/7 model—simply because they would then be convinced that there was literally no better place to be or no more important thing to do than encounter God with others.
A PROPOSAL: THE FLEX CHURCH STRUCTURE
Local churches have the unique position of either being a great threat to a regional outpouring, or a great strength. The demands of the regional, corporate gathering are increasing in intensity, and any competing activity (within the church or outside of it) will put the greater city mission at risk.
For example, the need for laborers at The Fireplace is growing. We need people in position—intercessors, pastors, ushers, cleaning crews, musicians, techs, etc. If local churches don’t release their people to participate, then this outpouring is at risk.
Another example of what I’m trying to communicate occurred shortly after I moved to Detroit. Long story short, I was asked to be the keynote speaker at The Palace (where the Detroit Pistons play) where an all-city church outreach was planned. Sadly, churches refused to cancel their own local Wednesday night services so their people could support the event. So, it was cancelled. Do you see what I mean?
Here’s the FLEX CHURCH STRUCTURE proposal: Have a primary local church service that trumps most everything else. Meet on Sunday mornings, for example, and have a high bar of expectancy that your congregation will gather together. Also, have vision-driven, prayer-fueled meetings at other times of the week (Bible studies, youth meetings, small groups, etc.). However, they must be ready to flex—to give way to the demands of the greater regional focus. If a regional call is sounded, pastors will lead their congregations to that event.
Additionally, we as leaders must have open hands and release the people under our care into other churches and ministries. The regular schedule may include Sunday morning at your church, Sunday evening at a house of prayer, Monday evening at a church well known for it’s strengths in teaching, Tuesday evening in a Bible study at another ministry, etc. through the rest of the week. The 24/7 church will be 1.) regionally focused and 2.) include participation with multiple ministries and churches each week.
So, if there’s a Bible study on a Tuesday night, but a fire is lit in another part of the city, then cancel the Bible study and lead the people to the fire. If there’s a youth meeting on a Friday night, cancel that and head to the regional event that God is uniquely moving in.
Check out what Pastor Joe Sazyc wrote this morning:
Something hit me last night after the service… I could do this til Jesus comes! Yes, I the guy who didn't want nightly meetings in the beginning!
There is a hunger in this city! Word is spreading.
What if someone needs God on a Monday night? Do they need to wait for Sunday to have a touch of glory? And what if the glory doesn't “fall” that Sunday or NEVER falls in their church? I am being haunted by Brian's phrase a while back… “God doesn't just want you to have a house of prayer here, he wants you to have a house of GLORY!” All this is reminding me of a passion I have had for years, but all my busyness has stifled in recent months. I have always believed church should be 24/7! Even long before I knew about 24/7 prayer and before IHOP or anything like that existed! I've got to believe a major metro area like Detroit (especially one being marked by God for Awakening) can certainly sustain at least nightly meetings if not 24/7.
All that to say, I'm so hungry for this, I'm tempted to keep this thing going after the 21 days, even if no one were to go with me. It may not look exactly like what we have now, but SOMETHING that invites God's GLORY needs to continue nightly. The Fireplace cannot go out! I KNOW I cannot do it on my own, so I pray our team stays intact and even grows. I pray we begin to see an influx of crazy people who will staff this thing as musicians, ushers, tech people, etc… I think we need to AGGRESSIVELY pray for laborers (Matt. 9) and resources. What's encouraging is that I believe GOD wants this. We won't be bending a reluctant arm!
First—Revival Church is a REGIONAL strategic center of revival. We are calling all of the hungry people in Detroit, everybody who’s ready for a move of God, to converge every Sunday night with us. TONIGHT we’re gathering the army and preparing for revival at 6PM. Come on out if you are anywhere within 50 miles! www.detroitrevivalchurch.com
Those of you who follow my ministry know a key component is the preparation for a massive reformation in the church. Extreme change to the current structure, style of service and day-to-day operations of the local church must come—and quickly.
I trust that you’ll understand that I am intensely positive and driven by excitement and joyful expectation for the coming revival in the church. I love and currently lead a local church myself. However, we’re at a critical point in history where honest analysis must come forth. Everything is not OK, and a reformation is coming.
Here are some key concerns I have in regard to the local church:
- THE LOSS OF CITY CHURCH IDENTITY—Scripturally we see the church of the city emphasized much more than the smaller, localized church. Today, it seems that the concept of a city church to many is more a fable than a biblical reality. Without question, the proposal to function as a city church has little positive response when discussed among pastors and other leaders. It’s one thing to participate in token city church functions a few times a year, but it’s something entirely different when we’re talking about weekly city church staff meetings, shared responsibilities, pooling of resources and releasing the body to intentionally connect several times a week in other local churches.
Witness Lee said this: “…we cannot have a street church, nor an avenue church, nor a church on a college campus, nor a church in a house that is not also the church in the city. According to the New Testament we can have only a city church, that is, the church in the city where we are.”
Watchman Nee said, “I believe God in His great wisdom made the locality the boundary of the church in order to eliminate the works of man, which try to divide the church within one locality.”The local church is a puzzle piece. A single puzzle piece has no purpose or value if it’s not connected to the completed picture. But, when connected, it’s powerful.
- A TEMPERED ENVIRONMENT—When I led Revolution Church in Manitou Springs, Colorado I made a promise to the church. I would never tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. If we fear that extreme Holy Spirit activity will drive people away, I’ll propose we’re in an extremely dangerous place. Our true motive of church growth ahead of Holy Spirit freedom becomes clear. We presume we have a more natural, logical, social and appropriate way to touch lives. We actually say, “Holy Spirit, I’ll take it from here.” The reality is that it takes a supernatural infusion to touch lives. A logical, social approach as the primary strategies just can’t work.
Today it has become rare to find a church that is exploding in life, power and heavy moves of the Holy Spirit. The reality is that, at least in the formative stages, a church that emphasizes Holy Spirit liberty and allows a weighty manifestation of God’s presence is at risk of losing people. Most people do enjoy a quick touch, a healing, an experience in God’s presence—at a low cost. However, few—very few—are willing to pay the price, week to week, to go into the deep. The cost is high and the Western church has created a culture of satisfying the desires of the people ahead of mission advance and intimacy with God. I wonder how many people have been lulled into a false sense of eternal security due to a tempered corporate expression.
- IT’S DIFFICULT TO EMPHASIZE AND FACILITATE A CULTURE OF PRAYER—Why is this? Poorly steward time, for one. Most churches today intentionally limit the length of the Sunday service to less than two hours. Most people today only attend a Sunday morning service. We have little choice but to reform this model and introduce deep, zealous, faith-driven prayer and intercession for the nations back into our primary services. Today, pastors, on average, pray six minutes a day. This is a horrifying statistic. The church of our nation is being led primarily by people who know certain things about God, but may not deeply and intimately know him.
- COMPETITION BETWEEN CHURCHES—I’ll make my feelings on this point clear. It’s tragic and often sickening when churches compete, exhibit jealousy and aren’t clearly connected to each other. We have to admit that something’s wrong when established churches aren’t rushing to the front of the line to welcome and help a new church plant.
I’ll share my own story of insecurity from the early days of Revolution Church in Manitou Springs, Colorado—a city with only five churches, and only two that were open to a move of the Spirit. We had a huge vision for that region. We had invested much and were working hard to advance the mission. On day I stumbled upon a new church’s website that highlighted a vision of their own to plant a satellite church in Manitou Springs. Though I handled the news just fine publicly, I’m embarrassed by my personal, emotional response. I was nervous. I didn’t want to lose ground, lose people or be upstaged by something more successful. Sad but true! What should my response have been? What should the response of established churches be when other churches are on the move and advancing in their mission?
- I should have sent them money.
- I should have celebrated their arrival.
- I should have found some of my best leaders and families and sent them to the new church for several months to help them get established( even if those families felt led to remain in that new church indefinitely).
- I should have taken the pastor and his wife out to dinner.
- I should have rejoiced at the greater opportunity to expand the Kingdom of God in Manitou Springs!
I absolutely love Mike Bickel’s philosophy—anybody at any time can walk through the doors of his ministry and recruit anybody they want to leave and join them in their own ministry. That’s the way it should be! The time is growing short where building our own kingdoms and jealously guarding them is coming to an end. We simply have to keep our hands open. I encourage the people at Revival Church to serve, enjoy and connect with other churches in the city. We also welcome people with open arms from other churches to connect at Revival Church.
- REDUNDANCY—This point is so simple that it’s shocking that we haven’t figured it out. The secular business world is sharper than the church on this issue. McDonalds would never attempt to build a restaurant on each of the four corners of an intersection. It would be foolish beyond description to do so. The world knows this, and also finds it easy to laugh and mock when they see four Christian churches, one at each corner of the same intersection. It’s madness!
Our independent, controlling methodologies as church leaders have resulted in an extreme waste of resources. You see, it would make perfect sense for there to be one McDonalds, one Taco Bell, one KFC and one Pizza Hut on each of the four corners of an intersection. Each restaurant has a specialty, a fresh take on the dining experience. On Monday the family enjoys McDonalds, on Tuesday it’s Pizza Hut, etc.
If we in the local church could understand that we are to create departments of the city church as opposed to autonomous and independent local churches, and it’s ok to specialize on one or two Kingdom focuses instead of unsuccessfully trying to do it all, the Kingdom will advance very quickly. Let’s take those four churches, consider the pastors to be associate staff members on the city church staff, allow them to only focus on what they are gifted to do and encourage their members to visit all four at different points during the week.