This should be the shock to the system that pastors need, or the next pandemic just may take the church out.
You'd expect the church to respond very differently than the world in the midst of crisis. Sadly, this hasn't always been the case. Social media is filled with freaked-out Christians who are absolutely terrified, spending their energies seeking out natural solutions to a supernatural situation. The fact that they can't disinfect their hands or wipe their, well, you know, has sent many into a frenzy. Something is terribly wrong and church as usual is no longer an option.
If ignoring, minimizing or seeking a natural solution to a demonic threat brings relief, don't presume you have won the battle. The entity is merely resting alongside you, thankful his foe has refused to fight.
The response is a glaring indictment on the church, and without question, the church must not ever allowed to go on as usual. This pandemic may be the catalyst to reformation the remnant has been crying out for.
THE CHURCH ISN'T READY
7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; Revelation 19:7 (ESV)
In an age when so many Believers are merely concerned with their personal eternal security and so many others are sitting back waiting to be raptured before the trouble comes, it's clear that the church is far from ready for the end-time waves of crisis that are crashing down.
Global traumas like the coronavirus very well may play a part in determining the wheat and the tares. Who will rise up in great, unmovable faith and who will shrink back in fear? Those who know God will respond very differently than those who are mere pretenders.
32 …the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. Daniel 11:32 (NKJV)
So, the question for pastors and every Believer in the midst of trial is, how can we prepare? Yes, there are natural precautions we should take. There are spiritual reactions that are necessary too. Many are suggesting adopting house church/small group models. That very well may come into play, but that's a functional shift. There are spiritual shifts that are much more important.
TEN WAYS EVERY CHURCH MUST RESPOND
INSTITUTE STRATEGIC PRAYER
The days of simply attending a Sunday morning service where we worship a little, pray a little and listen to a sermon before heading back into the world for a week must come to an end immediately.
The primary focus of every legitimate Christian church must be fervent, passionate, powerful and strategic intercession. The days of simple prayer lists and prayer chains are over as the call to groans and cries of spiritual prayer explode out of the saints.
For years I've been campaigning for services that are marked by people laid out at the altars from start to finish as the Holy Spirit broods over them. Deep, guttural groans of intercession will be heard throughout the sanctuary every Sunday (and ultimately, every day of the week).
I am absolutely convinced that a church filled with tongues of fire will do more than any other single activity to make everybody ready for the coming storms.
1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 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)
DEAL DIRECTLY WITH SPIRITS OF FEAR
It's astonishing how a very dark spirit of fear has blanketed the church. Fear results in unsettled, nervous reactions while faith results in a confident, peaceful, calculated response.
Pastors must introduce deliverance into their churches as a primary ministry. The spirits that are tormenting Christians have been exposed all over the world during the pandemic. I believe nearly all Christians need or have at one time needed deliverance. The enemy is especially attracted to children of God as he seeks to find open doors to latch on and destroy.
We cannot afford a scared, timid people who shrink back at the sight of their own shadow. This end-time season requires mighty warriors, an army who has annihilated fear and who will stare right through the darkness and expose the enemy and send him fleeing!
In fact, it very well may be time to allow those who are afraid to step back so the church can finally do what God has ordained it to do—fight and possess the land!
3 Now therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead.' ” And twenty-two thousand of the people returned, and ten thousand remained. Judges 7:3 (NKJV)
DEVELOP A PROPHETIC CULTURE
Possibly a primary source of fear in the camp is the lack of foresight, the absence of prophetic revelation. Imagine how different everything would be if God's people were made ready in their spirits as God prepared them with all sorts of prophetic communication.
Dreams, visions, God's still small voice, words of wisdom, words of knowledge and other divine impressions are extremely powerful and necessary if everybody in the church is to weather the storm.
Every Christian must be both equipped and activated prophetically. The church needs to hear God's ever-present voice now more than ever. To have some people who are not tuned in compromises the camp and gives the enemy a very powerful and secure foothold.
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 (NKJV)
GROW IN POWERFUL FAITH
There is an angry crowd of “Believers” who are demanding we “USE WISDOM!” regarding this crisis. I wish they'd shout “USE FAITH!” It's much more effective.
It's disappointing to see very little difference between the world and the redeemed in time of trouble. For so many, the initial and most powerful reaction is natural protection instead of supernatural advance. On social media I've run into an angry Christian crowd that snipes anyone who suggests peace, faith and authority over the schemes of the enemy are the answer. They see such counsel as a minimization of their human efforts and a threat to that strategy. I wonder just what counselor they are listening to.
They love to promote “wisdom” but tend to see faith as haphazard and even some sort of nonsensical supernatural voodoo. A life of true biblical faith is so foreign to them that the extent of their belief system is a cop-out by simply “trusting that God will do as he pleases.”
True faith looks nothing like that. It's confident, authoritative and declarative.
Pastors have no option but to repent of their silly anti-faith positions and to actually embrace some of the teachings they previously dismissed. Whether you appreciate the whole of who Kenneth Copeland (or similar ministers) is or not, you cannot deny the powerful truth on the subject of faith that he carries.
38 Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” Hebrews 10:38 (NKJV)
GO DEEP IN THE WORD
The world needs pastors who have the smell of fire on them as they emerge from the prayer rooms and stand with great anointing and authority behind the pulpit. The low-level milk of Bible teaching must cease as the Spirit of God reveals the deep mysteries of Scripture.
The people of God must be students of the inerrant Word, allowing the truth to radically transform them. Times like this require a spiritual response, and the foundation of God's wisdom is found in his timeless Word.
The tired Sunday School style sermons must cease as earth-shaking revelation from God's Word shakes us to our core, and equips us as mighty end-time soldiers.
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
DEAL DIRECTLY WITH SIN
The greatest debilitating factor in the church by far is unaddressed sin. A church that isn't pure, holy and consecrated is a liability, a breeding ground for demonic manifestation and a magnet for God's judgment.
Hellfire preaching must return to the church and a call to intense consecration is simply mandatory if we hope to endure to the end.
The Bible clearly instructs certain people to be removed from fellowship, but it's rare to find a leadership team that is willing to follow those orders. I propose it's either an attempt to extend more mercy than God himself is, or the leadership are steeped in the same sins themselves.
11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner–not even to eat with such a person. 12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.” 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 (NKJV)
5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 1 Corinthians 5:5 (NKJV)
TEACH ON THE END-TIMES
I believe the church's greatest hour will be during the Great Tribulation. I understand that many others don't believe that at all. Eschatology is a volatile topic, but we can't afford to ignore it any longer.
It's laughable to think the church is ready to endure such a terrible Tribulation period, even though God's wrath won't be expressed on his true church in that season. The measure of protection we'll have will be enough for us to have an opportunity to stay true to God and to proclaim his truth.
Yet, today, with a comparatively very minor crisis in the world, the church is failing miserably. The church isn't ready. We need leaders who will emphasize the trials that are coming, whether they occur during the Tribulation period or not. We are in the end-times, and the end itself draws nearer every moment.
I believe a casual approach and the thought that we'll be raptured away is detrimental and will cost potentially millions of Christians their very salvation. The falling away will be very great as countless Believers fail the test and don't endure to the end. Their blood will be on the hands of the pastors for failing to prepare them.
EQUIP IN SIGNS, WONDERS, HEALINGS AND MIRACLES
I've been sadly stunned at the number of professing Christians who have little to no confidence in God's supernatural ability, and have even less confidence in their authority to move in wonders themselves.
Training in signs, wonders, healings and miracles can't be delayed for another moment. We need a supernaturally charged people who are fiercely opposed to the illegal activity of the enemy. This includes fear, sickness, poverty and other assaults of the devil.
The church needs to learn the difference between God-ordained pestilence and devil-initiated attacks. From that place, the church can rise up and function in absolutely remarkable signs and wonders as a traumatized world looks on and witnesses God in action. Hope will flood in and countless desperate lost people will be saved.
29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:29-31 (NKJV)
KEEP ETERNITY IN FOCUS
The fact that Christians pay little attention to eternity and that their gaze is on the here and now has never been more evident in this generation than it is today. Instead of having peace and confidence about spending an eternity with Jesus, and being excited about that, so many are fearful and anxious about a virus that, in their minds, has the power to kill.
It's time for our preaching to be zeroed in on eternity and to prepare people for the place they will be living forever. I am personally gripped by forever, by the expectation of the glories of the age to come. Do I want to die before my time? Of course not. But, I place myself in God's hands, and I battle the enemy's attempts to bring destruction to me and I trust that I will go not a second before or after my designated time.
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 1 Corinthians 15:55 (KJV)
PREPARE TO GO UNDERGROUND
As easy as it was for our government to force everybody indoors, and to cancel everything from sporting events to church services, and to threaten imprisonment for those who defy the orders, we better be preparing the people to go underground.
We can't presume the internet will be available. We can't expect to be able to freely gather. There will come a time when we will have to choose to obey God rather then men and gather, illegally, to worship, pray and unite as Believers.
Read this passage and be ready to expect a very similar scenario as the end draws near:
27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” 33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. Acts 5:27-33 (ESV)
The call is for pastors to embrace a mighty shift in the church. Church as usual is no longer an option. We must see the people equipped as mighty men and women of great faith, fervent intercession, workers of miracles and prophetic instruments in the hands of God.
Does the church have the faith to endure pandemics, pestilences and global trouble?
Welcome to a divinely ordered test. I believe God is mercifully allowing his church to see just how ready it is in the face of an end-time crisis, a minor pandemic compared to what most certainly lies ahead. While I have been encouraged to see many Believers rise up in great faith in the face of this taunting Goliath, many others have had their shallow faith exposed.
24 And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid. 1 Samuel 17:24 (NKJV)
44 And the Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!” 45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 1 Samuel 17:44-45 (NKJV)
THE ERROR OF SEEKING NATURAL REMEDIES FIRST
I'm hearing from a lot of Christians during this pandemic about their concerns, their natural strategies, their fears and their determination to avoid people and situations that are threatening. So many of these same people are saying very little about their fearless resolve to fight the enemy and to go deeper in the Lord. Something's not right in the church.
12 And in the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa became diseased in his feet, and his malady was severe; yet in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but the physicians. 13 So Asa rested with his fathers; he died in the forty-first year of his reign. 14 They buried him in his own tomb, which he had made for himself in the City of David; and they laid him in the bed which was filled with spices and various ingredients prepared in a mixture of ointments. They made a very great burning for him. 2 Chronicles 16:12-14 (NKJV)
I believe we are seeing this scenario play out during our current crisis. Instead of first seeking the Lord as the primary and most important action, Christians are initially rushing to find the same natural protections that the unredeemed are. You can smell the fear as they are desperately attempting to take every natural precaution they can. Can you do both seek the Lord and prepare naturally? Of course, but the problem comes when the two steps are out of order.
The above passage is very interesting. Not only did Asa seek natural medical care as his prime hope, but he was despondent, surrendered and ready for his own death. He prepared his own tomb. I don't believe it's a reach to suggest that many of God's very own are doing the same thing. A sense of dread has blanketed them and instead of truly standing in powerful, confident, overcoming and authoritative faith, they are digging their own graves, preparing for the worst.
SHOULD CHURCHES CLOSE DURING THE OUTBREAK?
The issue of faith is intriguing. Note, I didn't say that we shouldn't take natural precautions, but rather that we should diligently, fervently seek the Lord and contend in the Spirit for supernatural resolutions first. From that place, God will give the peace necessary to make both spiritual and natural decisions with the clear guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The reason I said that faith is intriguing is that, sadly, a massive percentage of “people of faith” simply don't walk confidently in the faith they identify with. It's easy to say that churches should remain open and everybody should flood in and intercede with passion for breakthrough, unafraid of any assaults of the enemy. The question is, would everybody who floods in truly be functioning in great, biblical faith? No.
To walk in faith requires such an extreme consecration that it would be silly to presume that most live in that realm. They do not. All of us are greatly challenged in this area and few truly respond to that challenge. This is an indictment on Christians everywhere, and especially on pastors and leaders who have not prepared the people for such a time as this.
If you are paying attention to the chatter, you'll know that the world is mocking various churches and ministries for cancelling services and conferences. Supposed “faith ministries” are cancelling events and encouraging people to stay home, and the world is most certainly noticing, and laughing. Would it make sense for some churches to stop gathering together in the short term? Maybe. Maybe not. While I tend to believe that contending together in fervent intercession in person as a body makes all the sense in the world, some may think otherwise. Whatever the case, we can't ignore the fallout. The lost are having a field day saying, “I told you your faith was nothing more than superstition. You are as afraid, ummmm, I mean cautious, as the rest of us.”
The church is supposed to be made for times like these. Psalm 91:10 should be our rallying cry (No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling). We should be showcasing the power of God to protect and the revealing a fearless disposition that comes from intimately knowing Deity. The world is missing out on this opportunity in this current crisis.
I'm not suggesting we need to haphazardly or foolishly do things to “prove our faith” or even that those with faith are immune to sickness. Please don't presume I am. What I am saying is that we must rise up in strong, confident belief that Jesus has overcome sickness and that healing is our portion. The blood of Jesus doesn't grant us immunity. It grants us authority. My hope is that the church would be filled to overflowing during a pandemic with people who refuse to be intimidated by the enemy and coerced to stand down. However, if most are nervous and lack the spiritual confidence necessary to fight the devil at this level, I agree that the church itself has become compromised and is at risk. Spiritual resolutions that aren't heeded then give way to natural reactions.
With this in mind, I'll admit it is disturbing that so many are suggesting instructions that are opposite of what Scripture dictates. Instead of coming together in faith to lay hands on the sick, we are isolating.
14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. James 5:14-15 (NKJV)
17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:17-18 (NKJV)
I want to qualify something as I understand many are troubled by this current season. Is it appropriate to follow the instructions of medical experts in the short term by temporarily isolating and cancelling services? It very well may be. It's true that many are still young and growing in their faith and it can make sense to exercise caution. However, I must stress that fear cannot drive that decision. Further, we must aggressively, zealously seek the Lord, understanding that our protection comes from him. In a perfect world, I do believe we'd still gather in spite of threat and contend with great faith and ferocity in our spirits.
THIS IS A TEST
Speaking of faith, I wonder if we truly believe the following passages:
1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. Psalm 91:1-3 (NKJV)
9 Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, 10 No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; 11 For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. Psalm 91:9-11 (NKJV)
God is testing us. The above scriptures are the very words (the Word) of our perfect, omniscient, loving, eternal and undefeated God. Do you believe them without qualification?
If not, your lack of faith will absolutely compromise every part of your life. Fear can settle into your soul. Doubt can overwhelm you. Human wisdom will masquerade as spiritual wisdom. The enemy will have access to you. I'm not saying this to disturb you, but rather to awaken you to a very real scenario.
In order to succeed as Christians, we have to exercise common-sense-defying faith that refuses to surrender to a very powerful and demonic spirit of fear.
I wonder if we realize that you and I are God's mighty weapons in this hour. We are the ones who are commissioned to stare down this enemy with fire in our eyes and to change the course of history. We must stand together with absolute fearlessness!
I want to encourage you to fight the enemy, to pray with fiery passion and to stand in incredible faith. There are much greater troubles ahead, and the church must learn to walk in miracles, signs, wonders, healing and supernatural faith. This is what the lost need to see as despair threatens to overtakes the planet.
The church is suffering a crisis of faith as logic, experience, humanistic wisdom and emotional intuition are causing many to reject biblical truth.
5 …so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:5 (ESV)
It's stunning to see how easily some Christians change their theologies to match their experiences, their compassion, their definition of love, their frustrations, their logic, their doubts, their temptations and their emotions.
Read the Bible. Believe the Bible. It's that easy.
I'll take the chaos of faith over the precision of facts any day. Common sense would tell us a beautiful painting of mountains, trees and a log cabin on the banks of a rushing river would be more valuable than an abstract splattering of colors applied by whipping streaks and smears of paint onto a canvas.
Jackson Pollock's abstract art simply titled No. 5 is currently worth $140 million. It's chaotic, nonsensical and it doesn't depict anything other than streaks, splotches and randomness. Yet it's currently ranked as the fifteenth most valuable piece of art in the world. This is how I see faith. It often doesn't make sense, and there are many other representations of reality that sure seem more worthy of attention. Yet, as Believers, we affirm what God values, and he deeply values great faith.
6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)
The bottom line is that we believe God, no matter how obvious altering arguments seem to be. While an imperfect application, might I suggest that left brained people, those who are given to facts, figures, logic and intellectualism, might struggle more with faith then right brained people, those who see beyond the obvious and into the mystical. Their spiritual canvas is filled with random streaks and blotches that depict glorious life. They know truth trumps facts and it actually excites them to trust God at that level. Of course, as I said, this suggestion is not at all perfect as there are many brilliant intellectually wired men and women of God who are giants in the faith. Yet, the point I'm making is that many struggle to trust God when smacked in the face with seemingly clear and undeniable factual realities. Faith in the invisible can be snuffed out by reason.
For me, the Bible comes alive when I approach it as a trusting child. I read it and I believe it. I'm not saying I'm not challenged by it because of course I am. Yet, the collision of biblical truth with natural facts invigorates me. I come alive as I reject all that contradicts the Word of God, no matter how naturally convincing, and watch in faith for God's truth to miraculously activate in my life. If God said it, I believe it and that settles it.
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 (ESV)
The world is currently cowering in fear over the coronavirus scare, and sadly this includes many Christians. In fact, churches are banning handshakes and laying hands on people at the altar! “Lay hands on the sick and they shall recover” has suddenly changed for many Christians. Now it's “avoid touching the sick so we don't catch it.” I wonder if they realize this is the exact opposite way Scripture instructs them to respond.
15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:15-18 (ESV)
14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. James 5:14-15 (ESV)
In a recent article I dealt directly with the fact that coronavirus is embarrassing the church as supposed blood-bought Christians are freaking out just like the rest of the world, and faith is nowhere to be found.
Are you taking the opportunity to show the lost you are fearless, full of faith and joyful? Or do they sense your anxiety about coronavirus?
A crisis of faith has been exposed. Coronavirus is embarrassing the church.
Have you noticed any difference at all between the godless world and those who are seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus, the Healer? Bold decrees of faith, not confessions of fear and worry, should be exploding out of our mouths!
Instead, Christians are hiding in caves, running from the battle and trembling not in the fear of the Lord, but the fear of the enemy.
Sure, take precautions, but don't cower. Don't respond like the world. Don't allow the enemy to impact your life. Live! Be free! You are covered by the blood of Jesus!
Of all people, we should be the ones preaching faith not fear. Put the ridiculous spiritual face masks away. Your mouth is your weapon! Don't allow the enemy to muzzle you. Speak to the fear and command it to dissipate! Renounce the tactics of the evil one! Let the world see just how powerful Jesus is and how different his children are! We run to the battle! ~Christians are being embarrassed by coronavirus, John Burton
Universalism, annihilationism, false-grace, false-love and other heretical theologies are growing at record pace today. Why? People have traded truth for a golden calf. Emotionally, they can't reconcile how God is the perfect representation of pure love while also choosing to cast those who don't serve him into everlasting torment. Logically they have concluded that since no human father would ever punish a disobedient child in such a fashion, then, of course, God who loves at an exponentially deeper level than any human father wouldn't either. Common sense for them trumps biblical truth. In fact, I've heard some reject conscious eternal torment so ferociously that they foolishly equate such an act with the child sacrifices of Molech. That's venturing into blasphemy of the Holy Spirit territory. Be careful.
I believe it's a mistake to be limited to the realm of logic and emotion. We can't allow our sympathy and our compassion to define our theology. Simply trust that God's love transcends our understanding of how it functions. Judgment does fit within the construct of love. I have no need to force God to fit inside my limited definition of love, and in fact I hope that he never would. His justice and his mercy aren't competing realities. Love and wrath aren't mutually exclusive. The Bible has the final say and it reveals with clarity that those who die in their sins do in fact enter into never-ending torment. We can't rewrite Scripture. Just believe it and respond accordingly.
10 The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Revelation 20:10 (NKJV)
15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:15 (NKJV)
Born in Sin
Today it seems many have shifted from believing we are all born in sin to defending our various desires and temptations by declaring we were “born that way.”
Homosexuals, for example, are known for surrendering to feelings, emotions, yearnings and a strong pull to adopt what Christians know to be deviant lifestyles. They argue that the strength of their desires is evidence that we have been interpreting the Bible incorrectly.
Others believe it's ridiculous to suggest that a precious newborn baby is tainted by sin since they are innocent and have no capacity to commit sin. Still others suggest there's an “age of accountability” that must be crossed before sin becomes an issue.
The problem? The Bible suggests no such age of accountability. It clearly reveals that all are born in sin. It's also point blank obvious that certain lifestyles are in fact sin no matter how powerful the urges are. We were born wicked and every unholy desire must be crucified. We must surrender to Jesus if we hope to be saved.
Again, common sense, powerful desires, emotional cues, intellectual discernment and all forms of logic must submit to the truth of Scripture. Yes, it's truth that may at times seem contradictory and it is often mystical and too deep to grasp, but it's truth nonetheless.
Keep in mind that God has no obligation to explain himself to us. As harsh as it sounds, it's his way or the highway to hell. He is God and we are not. If you don't like that, don't follow him, but please don't attempt to redefine him to fit your perfect image of how a god should look and behave.
18 You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. Deuteronomy 8:18 (ESV)
Unbelief tends to consume people when it comes to finances. Remember, God is a very good God and he loves to prosper his children. In the age of certain greedy televangelists, it's common for many to renounce this pursuit as unrighteous, yet they are doing so in the face of clear Scripture to the contrary.
Common sense would say we can expect to lose money when we give it away, yet spiritual sense would agree with the Word. When we give, it's given back in much greater measure.
Don't attempt to rewrite the Word of God to match your own struggles with faith. Don't oppose other people who are standing in faith and who are seeing God miraculously move in their finances.
Does God promise to supply every need or not? Does God promise to prosper or not? Does God give us the ability to create wealth or not? We need to put to bed every argument in opposition to God's Word, no matter how logical they may seem.
19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 (ESV)
My article The Secret Sauce of Supernatural Encounter reveals several of the ingredients necessary to experience God. Answered prayer has a similar recipe.
It's grieving how quickly people give up on a life of intercession simply because they aren't seeing the breakthrough they are seeking. Natural proof has become their god and blind faith is deemed foolish.
Speaking of blind faith, I've heard it said that Heidi Baker prayed for every blind person she found for a solid year before the first one received their sight. This is critical to understand. God desires to heal. Period. He wants to move miraculously in every situation. The fact that we are experiencing breakthrough has nothing to do with God and everything to do with us. Heidi needed to learn how to see healing manifest. There was process. The fact that blind people weren't healed wasn't because of God, it was because Heidi was learning how to heal. To adopt a false teaching that says God doesn't always desire to heal due to our own delay would be a tragic decision. Unfortunately, it's a decision that many Christians have made.
There are usually several reasons why prayer goes unanswered, and few people are determined enough to wrestle through them. They prefer to blame God or to give up on the idea the healing is for today, that miracles are to be common and that we are to live in the supernatural realm.
There are multiple blockages to breakthrough including doubt, sin, a lack of fervency, misunderstanding of our spiritual authority, not engaging in spiritual warfare, misunderstanding the scriptural position on the matter, not hearing God's voice, not discerning his will, not praying in tongues, giving up too early, wrong motives and much, much more.
You see, you can't determine that God doesn't want to answer prayer just because he isn't doing so. We can't reject undeniable scriptural truths just because we can't break through. Prayer works when we pray correctly. It must be effective and it must be fervent.
16 …The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. James 5:16-18 (NKJV)
I could address several additional arenas of struggle when it comes to faith, but I think you understand the point.
The chaos of faith is immeasurably more valuable than the seeming stability of logic. Your life will become dramatically more thrilling, more powerful and more miraculous if you step beyond the limits of intellectualism and the bounds of emotional experience into the realm where common sense is regularly defied. It's the invisible realm where faith explodes, miracles are to be expected and the power of God burns through us.
I challenge you to read the Bible and to believe it without qualification or reservation. When the Word of God floods your mind and your spirit, faith will spike and the supernatural reality you are craving will be revealed.
17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17 (NKJV)
The spirit of control and the nightmare of dysfunctional churches.
I'll lead with the solution. A culture of prayer is the prescription not only for controlling, manipulative and dysfunctional churches, but also for every “normal, healthy” church. It's the call for all. I've written extensively on this and I am more convinced than ever that programs and politics must be set aside in favor of developing a night and day, all-encompassing, deeply saturating and strikingly potent culture of intercession in the church.
I hear often from people who have become jaded by controlling or even abusive pastors. I am also well aware of the resistance and manipulation that manifest through the people. The demands to fashion a golden calf are loudly sounded when the leader heads into inconvenient, costly and uncharted territory.
We don't only have one puppet master pulling the strings. The other side is pulling back and this wicked, internal battle is threatening the advance of God's kingdom.
THE PURPOSE OF CHURCH SERVICES
Prayer meetings. Intercession. A well developed culture that breathes and burns with the call to contend in prayer is the primary purpose of every church, and this means our church services should be driven by fiery, authoritative intercession.
We don't need another professional organization that gets more intoxicated every time new flesh, or, rather, a new visitor, walks through the door. We don't need humanistic vision, goals or projects to complete.
I'd encourage you to read my book Pharaoh in the Church. In it I call pastors to quit forcing people to make bricks so their personal kingdoms can be built. There is no need for bricks where they are called to go. The tent in the wilderness where the cloud and fire reside needs worshipers, not slaves.
A worship lyric by Brian Ming sums it up best:
God forgive us for building kingdoms of man on doctrines of demons in your name.
17 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.” 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. Mark 11:17-18 (ESV)
The spirit of control and manipulation that we see in so many churches today is a manifestation of the spirit of religion. In the above well-known Bible passage, it's clear that Jesus will have nothing to do with churches that are driven by personal ambition. The people were using the house of prayer for their own benefit, to financially profit. Of course, financial strength isn't inherently wrong. But, when motives are tainted by impurities, we have a problem.
It's another Tower of Babel, a massive project developed with heaven as the focal point…and self-exaltation as the goal.
4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:4 (ESV)
THE SPIRIT OF RELIGION
We see that in play with the thieves in the Temple and we see it in play in churches today. Pastors often fall into the trap of using the church as a vehicle to fulfill their personal missions and dreams. The people are well familiar with the consumer society we live in, and all too often they are consumers in the church as well. They want what they want and they won't make it easy for the pastor if they don't get it.
Again, the answer is developing a prayer culture that is so predominant and foundational that it drives the entire church. The services are more like prayer meetings than TED Talks, filled with cries and groans of intercession and the manifestation of holy love that results. It's very hard if not impossible to hate or despise or even to fight against those you are weeping over, contending in prayer for.
Pastors need to lay their expectations down and simply lead the people into the glory of God. Yes, challenge them. No, don't shrink back. But don't make the experience about busyness, projects or fulfilling a personal dream.
The people need to understand the leader is called to lead them into an uncharted place. They should let go of the demands and simply follow, pray and battle as holy soldiers.
DUELING PUPPET MASTERS
The dueling puppet masters need to stand down and eliminate the competition, the pressure and the strife from the camp. No more tug-of-war. No more control. We need the inappropriate expectations to cease.
Understand, I'm not campaigning for some sort of organic, casual, careless or passive church experience. Not at all. I believe our call into the Ekklesia, into God's governmental service, is one that will cost us everything. The price is high and it's not for the apathetic, self-indulgent person. The battle is extreme and it demands we are at our very best, equipped, prayerful and dressed for war.
Yes, our apostolic leaders must boldly call us into action. Yes, the body must be in position. They must lift up the arms of their leaders, strengthening them in the fight.
What we don't need for even one more Sunday service is pastors who are trading their prophetic mantle for that of salesmanship, attempting to convince the people buy what they are selling so they can be personally enriched, their reputation enhanced and their lust for success satisfied. No more spiritualizing personal endeavors and expecting the people to supply the need.
We also don't need a casual people who are passive-aggressive, who manipulate and control the leadership in order to coerce them to change the direction of the church or to meet their selfish demands.
We need bold, selfless leaders who are willing to lay down their lives for the sheep.
We need consecrated, surrendered people who are dying daily and enlisted as soldiers.
The innumerable projects, promotions, groups, functions and busyness in today's church really need to come to an end. Trade it all for prayer meetings. Gather the people together and run the race of intercession together. Equip the saints, preach on fire, pray without ceasing and head out into the wilderness of encounter. That, my friend, is church.
Those who don't know Jesus should not be expected to act like those who do.
(Looking for the article Dueling Puppet Masters: Controlling Pastors vs. Manipulative Congregations? Read it HERE.)
If you follow my ministry you'll know that I am an unapologetic preacher of holiness. You'll also know that most of my messages are directed to the church. Preaching holiness to the lost doesn't work well unless it's coupled with a powerful invitation to surrender all.
Those who haven't had a life-rocking encounter with Jesus are at a disadvantage and it's unfair for those who have been transformed to expect them to see things the way we do. In fact, to attempt to coerce them to adhere to our set of standards, in violation of their own free-will and their right to also have a say in morality is ineffective, and in most situations, unfair if not outright arrogant.
Who are we to say that pornography is wrong? What makes our version of truth regarding homosexuality more valid then theirs? To Christians, babies were created by God, given human spirits at the time of conception and they clearly, obviously deserve protection. Except, those who don't believe in God the way we do simply disagree that they are fully human at points of development prior to birth. They have a right to that belief, as horrifying as we think it is.
The result is a holy war between a group of people who have one set of standards and a group that has an entirely different set. Coercion in the political realm, in the high courts and in the battleground of public opinion becomes the only tool left in our tool belt. We vote or legislate our way to victory, further enraging those who oppose our paradigms.
Listen to the podcast here…
YES, WE SHOULD STILL GO TO BATTLE AGAINST THE SPIRIT OF THE AGE
Now, please understand, with humble hearts, we as people who are zealous about protecting the unborn and who have a responsibility to guard our children from being indoctrinated by the homosexual agenda, I absolutely believe we must use whatever tool we have in our tool belts. Yes, it's right to fight for laws that stand aggressively against human trafficking. We should work hard to overturn Roe v. Wade. Pornography, the legalization of narcotics and other destructive cultural vices that are being normalized in our society must be met with resistance.
However, it remains true that the unredeemed simply cannot understand things the way Believers in Christ can. This isn't because we are better. It's because we have surrendered to Jesus and our entire way of thinking was renewed. We were once compromised and unable to discern right versus wrong. Then, God touched us as wicked, confused, arrogant and very lost people and the light came on.
HOW ARE THE UNREDEEMED AT A DISADVANTAGE?
I pray you begin to mourn and weep over the lost as you grow in understanding as to how terribly the enemy is assaulting them. Yes, every person who has ever lived and who ever will live will be without excuse on Judgment Day. Yes, everybody has a choice, and the lost have made their choice. That shouldn't result in us marking them off as enemies while we puff ourselves up and sneer down our noses at them. We should be broken and our intercession should be taken to a much higher level.
BORN THIS WAY VERSUS BORN AGAIN
Those who argue that they were born gay, for example, may have something to their argument.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Psalm 51:5 (ESV)
We were all born in sin, in iniquity. It shouldn't take much for us to understand this. Sin comes very naturally to all and it takes the momentous event of being born again by the Spirit of God for that to shift.
In fact, the Bible calls those who are not his own, children of wrath. Are you seeing the extreme disadvantage the lost have when attempting to discern good versus evil? All they know are the inner urges that, in their minds, makes up the very core of their identity? If they have been attracted to the same sex for as long as they can remember, then, it seems clear that they were born this way. That should validate their homosexuality, or so they would argue.
Without a dramatic encounter with Jesus, without being born again, we can't expect people to understand biblical freedom or morality.
NO RELIEF FROM ANXIETY, FEAR AND DEPRESSION
The enemy seeks to steal, kill and destroy, and based on the rampant addictions to opiates in our generation, it appears that he's winning.
Spirit-filled Christians can fill their days with praying in tongues, meditating on God's Word and by singing songs of praise to break off the debilitating, suffocating assaults of depression, fear and anxiety. We have a very present friend in Jesus ministering to us, interceding for us, talking to us and walking with us.
The lost are limited to positive thoughts, drugs, counseling and, sadly and all too often, suicide. Truly, the only hope in the battle of emotional trauma is Jesus, and they haven't met him yet.
Can Christians also be in need of counseling and medical care including the administration of appropriate medications to help deal with chemical imbalances and other physiological and emotional difficulties? Yes, absolutely. As long as it takes place on a foundation of faith, such care can be an important part of the healing process.
10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)
THEY HAVE NO PEACE
Those who don't know Jesus simply cannot know peace. For Christians, peace rests on us and it is not dependent on circumstances or in understanding our situation. God is with us and his supernatural peace displaces the darkness.
It's not hard to understand why so many politicians, protesters and others who are advancing their various ungodly causes become enraged when they experience push back. They have no peace, and in their minds, the road to a life that is more centered and devoid of resistance is to hate, curse and attempt to slay anything and anyone that gets in their way.
33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (ESV)
THEY DON'T EXPERIENCE THE PRESENCE OF GOD
The thought of not having that constant burning of God's Holy Spirit within is enough to make me shudder. The glory of God and his anointing on our lives is irreplaceable and without it we would spiral out of control.
Our decisions, our mindsets, our emotional well-being, our belief systems, our desires and everything that make up who we are would radically shift. It would be a deeply disturbing way to live, yet the lost live in that reality every moment of every day of their lives.
11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11 (ESV)
THEY HAVE NEVER EXPERIENCED LOVE
No matter how determined society is at convincing us that they do what they do because of love, it's simply not true. They have fallen for a faux love that does not originate from the only one who can manifest love. Outside of God, we cannot know love. The reason is simple: God is love.
I want to encourage you to read my article The Great Love Deception. It's eye-opening.
Sure, the lost can experience infatuation, attraction, appreciation, strong desire, lust and many other emotions, but love is the one experience they can't have outside of Jesus.
The next time you hear about someone who is militantly promoting what we would call perversion, just remember they are yearning to love and to be loved. This isn't a defense of perversion, but rather it's a call to weep for our culture and to stand in the gap so people can finally discover the only true source of love.
10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD. Psalm 32:10 (ESV)
THEY HAVE NO ACCESS TO SUPERNATURAL WISDOM
The unredeemed are limited to their own logic and human ability to reason. That's it. They have no resource when their own abilities or the abilities of others to understand comes to an end.
The ceiling of understanding becomes their version of truth and they will fight to the end to support it.
For Christians, there is such a relief knowing that we won't ever understand it all, and that our own logic is often fallible. We simply read the Bible and believe it. God speaks and we respond. The lost cannot do that.
They will argue that getting drunk, for example, is just fine, as long as you don't get behind the wheel of a car. It makes sense to them. Christians, however, have no need to attempt to wrap their minds around the topic. God says don't get drunk, and he's much wiser than we are, so we buy in wholesale to what he says. As a result, life is much, much better.
Further, decision making becomes much easier as Christians. We may not know what job to take, what house to buy, where to go, who to marry or how to resolve life's problems. Thankfully we have a supernatural source of direction that goes well beyond humanity's resources.
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5 (ESV)
HAPPINESS IS THEIR ONLY HOPE
We all have the right to pursue happiness in our nation. Sadly, that's the limit for people who don't love and serve Jesus.
Christians, on the other hand, live with overwhelming, immeasurable, supernatural joy! Happiness is dependent on circumstances. Joy is not.
Instead of pursuing wealth, sex, fame, materialism and other pleasures as sources of happiness, Believers are fully satisfied by knowing God. It's a supernatural reality that can only be understood when experienced. It's not mind over matter. I'm not talking about mental gymnastics that turn bad situations to good. I'm talking about an actual Spirit that fills us up and brings supernatural joy to our hearts. Those in the world can never understand this.
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13 (ESV)
THEY LIVE OUTSIDE OF THE REALM OF MIRACLES
The lost have absolutely no hope of relief from life's woes unless mankind can come up with a solution. They are dependent and desperate and all too often, hopeless.
Believers in Christ live in the realm of miracles every day! Healings, wonders, signs, breakthroughs, prophetic revelation and much more are our portion!
The lost are feverishly doing all they can to avoid or avert dire circumstances in their own abilities. They turn to man, not God when they are in a time of need.
12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians. 2 Chronicles 16:12 (ESV)
Seeking the Lord is necessary for us to survive and thrive on the earth, and those in the world simply can't enjoy the miracles that result from such a devotion.
THEY HAVE NO REASON NOT TO SIN
Above I revealed the mindset regarding drunkenness. In the minds of the lost there is absolutely no reason not to get drunk. This logic can be used in other scenarios too. Lust is pleasurable as is pornography. Getting high on drugs feels good. Foul language and other behaviors are morally benign. If it's legal, it's okay.
In the world the line is drawn when one person's sin negatively impacts another. That's what defines morality in a culture that's not surrendered to Jesus. What the world defines as lawless and what God defines as legal are very different.
4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 1 John 3:4 (ESV)
Christians understand how destructive sin is and we embrace consecration and repentance eagerly. Sin kills even if we don't understand why. We don't define what is morally legal, God does.
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 (ESV)
THEY HAVE NO HOPE OF A WONDERFUL ETERNITY
Every ounce of life must be experienced in a window of approximately 80 years to those who don't know Christ. The thought of preparing for eternity is nonsensical to them. This over-magnifies the importance of fulfilling dreams and desires on the earth, as they do all they can to soak up all their short earthly journey can provide.
Of course, Believers know there are an unlimited number of years ahead of us. Every person, whether lost or saved, will live somewhere forever. This is what drives our lives. We do all we can to awaken the sleepers, to warn the apathetic and to rescue the perishing. This world means little in comparison to eternity.
Further, those who know Jesus are exhilarated knowing they will experience never-ending joy, abundant life, freedom, love and peace as we live day-by-day with God. This isn't some euphoric pipe dream. It's truth. It's going to happen. Those who don't know Jesus simply cannot understand this.
1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:1-6 (ESV)
CHANGE OUR DISPOSITION
I pray this will at least cause you to think differently the next time you get agitated at people who are promoting beliefs and behaviors that are repugnant to you. Pray hard for them. Battle for their souls.
Trust me, the moment one of these vile, wicked people truly find Jesus, they will turn on a dime and renounce everything unrighteous they previously supported. Meeting Jesus does that to a person.
“I just can't sit through one more church service!” This is the cry of our current remnant generation. Pastors, are you listening?
My wife and I were so excited to reconnect with a couple of friends yesterday. This couple has been invested in the prophetic and in the local church as powerful regional leaders for years. We spent the evening talking about the state of the church, and how the new wine simply must come, yet the church is far from ready.
One of them simply stated, “I just can't sit through one more church service!”
Such a simple statement yet it resonated powerfully in my spirit. I can't either.
Listen to a powerful podcast on this subject…
This afternoon I talked on the phone with another regional leader, a pastor who is more done with church as usual than any I've ever met. He's longing for God to identify like-minded pastors and leaders who are absolutely desperate for reformation and revolution in the church. He's crying out for revival and he is discovering it's challenging to find remnant leadership, fiery, broken and hungry pastors who no longer care about growing their church, adding programs, gaining notoriety, raising funds or seeking after “success.” His passion is to connect with others who are done and undone and longing for a pure, holy move of God.
PEOPLE ARE LEAVING THE CHURCH IN DROVES
Research by Ryan Burge, an assistant professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University, reveals:
In the early 1970s, about 38% of Americans attended church nearly every week or more. A third rarely or never attended church, while the rest attended once in a while. That all changed in the early 1990s, when the rarely/never attending category began a slow and unmistakable climb. Today nearly half of all Americans attend church once a year or less, and only about a quarter attend on a regular basis. A similar number attend once in a while.
I believe the bottom line is that a growing number of people see little purpose for the church. To them, the value of participating is greatly diminished. Why even go?
The last thing we need is a natural, logical solution to this problem. I believe it's critical that we function as the church, and gathering together as the ekklesia is commanded in Scripture. However, more programs, minor tweaks, practical adjustments or gimmicky ideas is not what is needed.
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)
We need a full deconstruction of today's model. Full-blown reform is required.
Today's powerless, predictable, boring church service simply must go.
SO, WHAT IS CHURCH AS USUAL?
When I talk about church in this article, I'm mostly talking about the gathering, the local, regularly scheduled church service that most usually takes place on Sunday mornings. Yes, I know the church isn't a building. That drum has been beat to death. The church must gather, and it's usually nice to do so indoors out of the heat or cold, rain or snow.
Most anybody who has attended church in the last several decades has a good idea of what it looks like. Greeting, worship, announcements, sermon, prayer, dismissal. Repeat next week.
In this context, there are key reasons why so many are leaving the church. It's true that a good number of those are leaving for selfish reasons. They are misguided or simply immature. They are pouting and leaving.
There are also many remnant Believers who, like my friend so clearly articulated, “can't sit through another church service!”
They are yearning for more. They can't handle another perfectly crafted, wonderfully produced, humanly orchestrated mess with just a sprinkle of supernatural flavor for good measure. They are done.
Specifically, I believe the remnant is fed up with a few things that should be fixed, like yesterday.
Pastors, we can learn what you are attempting to teach us from much more gifted preachers and through brilliantly written Bible resources online. I'm not trying to be cruel, I'm trying to make a very important point. People don't want your regurgitated Bible info forced on them over an agonizing 45 minutes. They want to smell the aroma of the Holy Spirit radiating from you!
The real point isn't boring preaching, it's a lack of fire and revelation due to a nonexistent spirit of prayer. When pastors spend most of their time on their knees right in the middle of the furnace of intercession night and day, the flames of anointing and revelation will rage out of them when they stand behind the pulpit. Weeping, groans of intercession, cries of repentance, an uncontrollable tremble and the brooding of the Holy Spirit will mark messages birthed in the prayer room.
FEAR OF MAN
Please pastors, stop with the careful wordsmithing and unoffensive sermon points. It's time for the troublers of Israel to arise! Preach on fire and shake the casual out of their stupor!
Say what needs to be said and let the big givers storm out with their money still in their pockets. Preach! Tear down strongholds, confront wickedness and scare the pretenders out of the holy place God has called you to steward.
It's time self-focused, semi-interested people are no longer given the opportunity to demand what they are looking for in a church. It's time to close up the welcome centers and put away the welcome gifts. When presented with the unmistakable burning only a supernatural church can offer, their decision to stay or leave will be immediate. ~It's Time to Start Scaring Visitors Away From the Church
TIRED ORDER OF SERVICE
Disenchanted remnant Christians are longing for church services that start with choruses of intercession, are filled with prophetic utterances and eventually end with decrees and declarations!
Eliminate the time for handshakes and Christian side-hugs, the painfully irritating announcements that interrupt the flow of the Holy Spirit, the unnecessarily invasive offering sermonettes and the perfect timing that ensures everything fits within a two-hour window.
Pastors, let go of the structure! Open the mic for people to pray with passion! Cancel your lunch reservations! Fill the service with fiery intercession, prophetic decrees and exhortation of powerful truths of Scripture as the Holy Spirit ebbs and flows in perfect violation of human order!
NO REVIVAL EMPHASIS
If there's one thing I can discern it's the spirit of revival. I've heard pastors talk about revival, but it's rare to find one that truly gets it. You'll know they don't get it when their revival talk centers around the hopes for their own church to grow instead of contending for a regional outpouring that has little to do with their local church.
I believe we need to see prayer and revival centers launch in cities all over the world. These are prophetic centers of intercession that burn continually for a move of God. They couldn't care less if the outpouring is centered in their own ministry or not. Their prophetic and apostolic assignment is much greater than that.
Churches and ministries that will draw the disenfranchised remnant are those that are fully devoted to partnering with the Holy Spirit in the region. They have no desire to find a nice local community where they can connect with new friends as they hold hands and sing some songs as they “do life” together. Nope. These are warriors. They aren't in it for the benefits. They are in it to the death, and they are ready to lay it all down for the sake of revival.
THE PROPHETIC IS MINIMIZED
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 (ESV)
I personally believe that churches that don't embrace prophetic ministry are significantly out of line. Without an active, vibrant prophetic culture in the church, it will feel dead, be misguided and it will muzzle those who have a mandate to release critical revelation to the body.
A prophetic culture will result in an electric, urgent and supernatural atmosphere that is fueled by a constant spirit of prayer. The body will watch the leadership function from their knees with a tremble in their spirit and will model that lifestyle. Prophetic unction will flow from all, and the release of revelation will powerfully mark the corporate gathering.
FOCUS ON CHURCH GROWTH
The focus on church growth must cease. The remnant doesn't care about a larger building or a growing population. Of course, they are consumed with passion for souls, but this is the difference between today's typical church strategy and the one today's revival minded people have adopted.
Typical church leaders equate success with a larger crowd. They argue that more people in the church equals more souls in the Kingdom. This is not usually the case. It's an immature and unrealistic strategy.
The remnant church, however, values the presence of God over the presence of people. They would rather gather together with twenty or thirty firebrands who have been marked by the Spirit of God instead of five hundred spiritually curious people. They want the Upper Room 120, not the thousands who were too busy to truly invest.
The strategy is prayer induced revival. When the small group of fully surrendered and sold out remnant revivalists pray on fire together, they are building a foundation for the harvest. They aren't looking for an extra few hundred people in their meeting, they want the millions!
In fact, growing with people who are not raging on fire for Jesus will only result in a watered-down experience where all sorts of compromises are made to ensure the moderates are satiated. Remnant Christians are done with such foolish distractions.
NO SUPERNATURAL ACTIVITY
A church without signs, wonders and miracles, without dreams and visions, without the glory of God, is a church without a strategic, powerful and supernatural prayer culture. A prayerless church is no church at all and remnant Believers refuse to waste their time with such a humanistic endeavor.
I hear about people scrutinizing churches that are functioning in the supernatural. I have often suggested that churches that do not operate in the invisible realm where the wonders of God manifest should be questioned. Why is God not moving in your midst?
As we cultivate a prayer-infused church where everybody prays with tongues of fire and prophesies and contends against the darkness, we'll have a church on fire that is driven by the winds of the Holy Spirit. People are so hungry for this but it is exceptionally rare to find a church that flows this way.
CONTROLLING AND RESTRICTIVE LEADERSHIP
Pastors, we must raise up people to outshine us! Get out of the way and celebrate the callings and gifts in others. Allow God to move mightily through them and step aside when God is ready to use them.
We need revival churches that are raising up sons and daughters and releasing them into the world! We need revival leaders who will drop the reigns and allow the messy, unpredictable and supernatural to happen!
I've known pastors who are completely lost without a perfectly timed order of service. They need to step off the platform and hit the altar and let the Spirit of God rage!
NO LEGITIMATE VISION
Why are we even gathering together? What is the vision? What's the point?
When many pastors are asked about their vision, they often share their ministry goals. The two couldn't be more different. You may have goals to add a certain number of people to the pews or to build a second campus, but that is not vision.
Vision is a supernatural infusion of the impossible. It's the burning purpose of the ministry. It's the very reason the leader is gathering people together. True vision will grip the pastor night and day. It's costly. It's deeply personal yet the body is invited to participate.
Revival-minded people want to run with a leader who has had their hip taken out by God, who has no other reason for living than to fulfill their mandate. The vision is alive, burning, raging, all-encompassing and humanly impossible to fulfill.
MISPLACED EMPHASIS ON WORSHIP
In many churches that consider themselves to be supernaturally motivated, a spirit of prayer has been replaced by a strategy of worship. Emphasis has been placed on an excellent musical experience, believing that it's the highest form of supernatural expression and the quickest route to fulfilling the goal of introducing a spiritual element into the service.
A sixty-second prayer as the worship team members hold hands in a circle on the platform is usually followed by an hour or so of practice.
I'll say this as clearly as I can: a spirit of true worship cannot come without a spirit of fervent prayer leading the way.
Some of my favorite worship experiences have been in churches with a single, ragtag guitar playing leader, sometimes with other musicians and sometimes not, who just bleeds intercession. You can see it. You can feel it. They play spontaneously, in the Spirit, with no song list, no script, no karaoke sing-a-longs. Intermixed are songs in tongues, tears of passion and powerful prayers and declarations. The people are undone, rocking, trembling and deeply hungry as the Holy Spirit whips through them like a mighty wind.
Compare this with highly polished, well-orchestrated worship sets with surface-level, manufactured exuberance that any discerning remnant Believer can pick up on with their eyes closed and their hands tied behind their backs.
Again, no spirit of prayer, no spirit of worship. Period.
Remnant Christians can't stand one more church as usual service. We are done!
It's time for unusual church. It's an unscripted, spontaneous, risky, messy, open-ended, explosive and often offensive environment where God blows in with might.
My pastor friend's plea is real. He wants to connect with pastors and leaders who are yearning for an unusual church experience. I do too.
My prophetic friends who last night cried out for anything but church as usual are not alone. There are many remnant Christians who are desperate for the new wine. I hear from people all over the world on a very regular basis asking me if I know where they might find such a church, an unusual church on fire. Sadly, I must confess most of the time that I do not. This must change.
Come on pastors, no more church as usual. For real this time.
I'm often asked how to experience God on a regular basis. I do believe there's an answer, but it's not a simple one.
There's a phenomenal opportunity available to every legitimate follower of Jesus: an indescribable and life-rocking encounter with an invisible, all-powerful Deity. Sadly so few do what's necessary to live in this realm where the Holy Spirit reveals his shock and awe to the children of God.
It seems so many are satisfied living a typical, logical life in the natural realm. The idea that we can be overwhelmed by a Spirit and experience unimaginable manifestations that only exist beyond where our eyes and ears can discern is silliness to them. Twilight Zone. X-Files. Science fiction.
Yet, to others, it's not far-reaching at all. They yearn to meet God in this place but they don't know how to get there. It's those hungry people I'd like to try to encourage.
THE RECIPE FOR ENCOUNTER
RAW, RISKY BELIEF
5 …so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:5 (ESV)
Intellectualism may be the greatest killer of faith and supernatural encounter among those who are truly living for the Lord. Their left-brained approach to invisible and mystical realities rarely works. When it does, you usually have to take the long way around.
My passion is for God to encounter me in ways my natural, logical, intellectual capacities could never predict, gauge or moderate. The moment I limit this to my own understanding or my careful analysis is the moment I've diminished my hope of moving into that spiritual realm that exists beyond what can be grasped.
The “I have to see it to believe it” mantra doesn't work in a “walk by faith, not by sight” Kingdom. Having to understand it before seeing it doesn't usually work very well either.
Of course, I'm not proposing a renunciation of the pursuit of understanding. However, when logical understanding must come first, before the other-worldly revelation that God wants us to experience, we short circuit the supernatural happenings.
While many would argue that seeing is believing, for Christians the opposite is true. Believing is seeing…and encountering, and being shocked by the fire and power of the Holy Spirit!
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 (ESV)
I'll never forget the night many years ago that changed my life. I witnessed God doing remarkable things in the lives of some of my friends. These seemingly normal American guys who were grunting on the basketball court and staying up to all hours playing video games were also undone by an unseen force. I'd watch them weeping in prayer, pacing the church and crying out to God for him to move. These people had tapped into something that I convinced wasn't invented. It wasn't fake. It was real and I had to meet God they way they had.
Alone one night, I paced around the youth room of the church, feeling nothing but desperation. I prayed a simple prayer, the only one I could. “God, you know my heart.” That's it. Over and over I was talking to God using those words, revealing the depths of my hunger in a simple statement. God knew how deeply I desired to know him.
The rest is history. My eternity has forever been altered by that simple yet overwhelming prayer. Shortly after, he flooded into my life in a way that could never be described by using human words, though I'll try. Extreme boldness replaced timidity in a split second. A tangible force shook my being. Passion for Jesus was instantaneous. There was a power source connected to me and I was radiating with fire.
I didn't seek to understand what I was pursuing. I was simply desperate. Hungry. Willing to surrender all. In fact, I told God in the days preceding this momentous experience that I didn't want anything to do with him if he “wasn't all that he was cracked up to be.” I wasn't interested in fairy tales or following some religious icon who didn't heal, couldn't deliver and wasn't omnipotent, good and alive. However, I also said, “But if you are all of this, I will die for you.”
While an initial encounter may not require a disciplined life of intercession, I've discovered that a regular, continual encounter with Jesus absolutely does. It's in the place of fervent, fiery prayer, especially praying in tongues, where the presence of God is constant, and very often extremely intense.
Some may wonder why it's so important to contend for encounter. They may see it as unnecessary and possibly even evidence of an imbalanced or immature person, someone who is driven by emotions or strange, mystical rushes of adrenaline. Oh my, this couldn't be further from the truth. Encounter is absolutely necessary for every blood-bought Christian.
As we walk in great faith and hunger with great desperation, the cries of our heart and the intercession of the Holy Spirit through us will launch us into the place where God can be clearly heard. We can discern his heart. He can reveal mysteries to us. Critical information, some of life and death, is transmitted to us through impressions, dreams, visions or other prophetic means. Simply, if we aren't living in encounter, we are tragically limited to our own understanding, the very understanding the Bible instructs us not to lean on.
But, as we pray in the Spirit, everything changes. The heavens open. God's voice resounds. An inner tremble shakes within. Our daily lives become adventures as God takes the reigns and gives us direction that can only be received via the Spirit.
God resists the proud. This is why I firmly believe the gateway to deeper levels in the Spirit includes many opportunities for humiliation.
I'll never forget meeting a young lady at an event who was a part of another church. She told me she so wanted to experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but had no idea how to do so. She was unpretentious and authentic as she shared her expectancy for what was going to happen at the worship conference we all converged at in Los Angeles.
I don't have space to explain what happened the next night other than to say, this hungry young lady was suddenly, without warning, flopping all over the ground as strange and wonderful new sounds were exploding from her mouth. God's activity in that moment hit her and many others, including myself. I was suddenly on the floor experiencing an extremely weighty manifestation of God's glory that wouldn't dissipate until the next day. The presence of God in that moment was something I can still remember, though it's been over twenty years since it happened.
Humility caused this young lady to dismiss how she might look to the hundreds of people all around as supernatural God invaded her natural self. She wanted God. She was hungry at a level few experience. She was filled.
If you think a very Holy Spirit is going to brood over you and manifest in and through you as you are living an unholy life, you have been terribly deceived. Holiness is absolutely mandatory if we have any hope of God moving remarkably in our lives. This is such common sense, yet so many Christians can't understand why they aren't being consumed by God's Holy Spirit.
You simply cannot watch movies, TV and other media that contains foul language, nudity, coarse joking and other immorality and think you are a candidate for encounter. You are kidding yourself. In fact, why would you want the Holy Spirit if that's your chosen lifestyle? You are only inviting conviction if not judgment.
I encourage everybody to eliminate all secular music and listen to nothing but anointed worship music. I even suggest doing away with most contemporary Christian music and pumping music through their headphones that carries the unusual fire and glory of God.
Those who have taken me up on this, time after time, experience dramatic breakthrough. Those who don't tend to trend downwards.
14 …For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14 (ESV)
Possibly the quickest shortcut to living a life of dramatic, supernatural encounter with God is to sign up as a martyr.
We are called to die daily, to take up our crosses and to love life not unto death. This is our portion as Christians. The key moment in my personal life came shortly after my initial encounter I described above. Do you remember that I told God I'd die for him? He was listening.
From my article Risks of the Upcoming Presence Movement:
One night my life changed forever. In the midst of my amazing daily encounters with Jesus, I found myself in a prayer room at a youth lock-in in Dayton, Ohio. While 300 students were playing volleyball and basketball I was alone in a dark, glorious room overlooking the skyline of the city. God was waiting for me when I waked in.
I paced around praying and worshiping as the presence of God swirled all around me. I never wanted to leave.
Suddenly, as I was enjoying God, walking back and forth in his manifest presence, I heard a voice, “John, I want you to give me permission to take your life tonight.”
I was irritated. My focus on loving Jesus was interrupted by someone with what felt like a terribly different agenda. Little did I know, it was an agenda to grow me up and gauge my devotion.
I shook off that distracting voice, and attempted to enter back into the glory realm. I prayed and worshiped, but the presence of God was completely gone—or so I thought.
Again I heard, “John, I want you to give me permission to take your life tonight.”
Though I clearly understood I was being asked to give my life for Jesus, my emotions were negative. I was distraught, irritated, lonely and even afraid. My enjoyment was gone. However, what I didn’t realize was this—my feelings were not sufficient to analyze the situation. God’s presence had actually increased exponentially in that room of destiny, not dissipated. The fearful judge had arrived and he meant business.
Though I tried to enter back into worship again, it was futile. I heard the voice one more time, “John, I want you to give me permission to take your life tonight.”
Finally, in a state of lonely desperation, I realized I couldn’t live my life without the fire of Jesus burning within me. I needed him. I wanted him, even if it meant the loss of my physical life.
Understand, I was convinced that I was going to physically die that night. It was very real to me.
I told God, “I can’t live without you. If my death will result in the advance of your Kingdom, I give you permission to take my life tonight.”
The moment I said that, his manifest glory flooded the room about one hundred times greater than I had experienced it before. I had experienced the glory and the severity of God, and I was forever changed.
ZEAL FOR THE WORD OF GOD
As I reveal the final ingredient of the secret sauce of encounter, I can feel the naysayers breathing down my neck right now. They are riled up at the thought of focusing on the experiential, on the suggestion that faith trumps logic, on the mystical, invisible and on what they would call hyper-Charismatic fluff.
I'll try to put them at ease. Nothing I am proposing can defy Scriptural truth. If there's ever a contradiction, it must be eliminated. This means that we must be students of the Word. There should be a burning zeal in us for the powerful, eternal and non-negotiable truths of Scripture.
However, while many would hold up the giant family Bible in the air as a defense against the supposed superstition that I'm dealing with here, true Bereans will excitedly search the Word to see what powerful revelations it holds.
From my article What To Do When We Hear Rumors Of Revival:
11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. Luke 24:11-12 (ESV)
Belief and expectancy will result in running as a result of any news that God has moved with great passion. Doubt will always result in resistance, staying away and embracing suspicion.
I often hear about the concept of being a Berean from some who may be considered heresy hunters. Those who are deeply suspicious of any report of a fresh move of God often attempt to disguise their unbelief and mocking spirit with a religious cloak. They say, I’m just being a Berean.
People driven by a false Berean attitude hear a report of a possible revival or outpouring and their immediate response is to discredit it. They pull out scriptures that supposedly renounce any new move of God and declare the participants to be misguided at best, heretics at worst. Others may take a less direct approach by holding back, waiting to see if it passes muster.
That, my friend, is not being a Berean.
I agree that we must be based on the Word of God more intentionally than ever in history. There is too much foolishness out there today in the name of revival. The answer is a people who are sensitive to the Holy Spirit and firmly grounded as students in the Bible.
However, I don’t agree that our immediate response to a potential fresh outpouring of the Spirit of God should be suspicion! This attitude can affect even the most godly of people. It’s all too easy to immediately doubt that such a move could be anything more than overreaching hope, hype or sensationalism.
I propose we all have the heart of a true Berean.
Before the stop at Berea, Paul preached about a powerful fresh move of God at Thessalonica. I believe heresy hunters are actually more like the Thessalonians than the Bereans:
2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” Acts 17:2-7 (ESV)
There was an urgent and immediate rejection of the report of resurrection power. Let’s contrast this with the pure hearts of the Bereans:
10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. Acts 17:10-13 (ESV)
This is a powerful passage of scripture!
The Bereans were more noble than those in Thessalonica. This is an important point! Why were they more noble? When they heard the report of a powerful, transforming, new move of God that would change everything in their lives, they received the word with all eagerness!
Their response was not scrutiny, unbelief, jealousy or resistance. They were excited to hear the news! They were so impacted by the potential of such a report that they immediately dove into the Word with the hope of confirming—not disproving—the life altering revelation!
But then, in verse 13, we see the unrelenting Thessalonians actually traveling to Berea to gather people to them in opposition to what God was doing there.
I hope you are truly ready for revival. This is what it looks like. The resistors will show up in force.
The question that needs to be answered is, which camp will you be in? Are you a scrutinizing Thessalonian or an eager Berean?
President Trump heroically affirmed school prayer. Maybe he can help return prayer to the church as well.
Claiming that “there’s a growing totalitarian impulse on the far left that seeks to punish, restrict and even prohibit religious expression,” Trump guaranteed that while he’s in office, “we will not let anyone push God from the public square. We will uphold religious liberty for all.” (NYDAILYNEWS.COM)
Of course, President Trump is referring to the issues of religious freedom and prayer in schools, but if that quote was ever-so-lightly reworded, one might think he was talking about the current expression of church in America.
Of course, nobody would balk at somebody offering up a prayer during a church service in most local churches today, but the spirit of intercession is certainly quenched, restricted or even fully rejected in too many places with the word church etched above the doorposts.
“It is a culture war,” Trump said. “You have two sides and you have a side that believes so strongly in prayer and they’re being restricted and it’s getting worse and worse and I think we’ve made a big impact,” he added. (NYDAILYNEWS.COM)
Now, that statement by President Trump could even more easily be applied to the church. There most certainly is a culture war and those who are contending for an atmosphere of Spirit-driven prayer on Sunday mornings are being restricted by those who would be uncomfortable by such an atmosphere. It's the remnant versus the religiously curious.
Understand, I'm not talking about saying prayers. I'm not referring to prayer requests or telling God about our ailments. When I say prayer I mean a furnace of intercession where people throughout the congregation are decreeing, declaring and pounding Heaven with fiery zeal that would wake the dead. Literally. The sleepers must arise and the comatose must be shaken out of their slumber. A corporate spirit of prayer does just that.
PRAYER IN SCHOOLS?
Let's bring it back just for a moment to the news of the day. President Trump is proving himself to be a champion of religious freedom, and that should be applauded.
The president announced from the Oval Office that his administration was taking “historic steps to protect the First Amendment right to pray in public schools.” (NYDAILYNEWS.COM)
I'd like to present a question. Does this proclamation carry any weight, will it have any impact, if it doesn't result in prayer movements being launched in public schools? If nobody is praying, is this announcement a wasted effort? No, I don't believe it is, but let's unpack it just a bit. The analysis can also be applied to the church.
I do believe affirmation of prayer in public schools accomplishes one important thing. It officially acknowledges God and everybody's right to worship him, both privately and publicly. It authorizes students and teachers to bring deity into the conversation. I believe President Trump's decree has authority in the spiritual realm and you better know the enemy is going to fight against it hard, just as he did in 1962 when prayer in schools was outlawed. So, instead of a vehicle for actual intercession, this move by our President accomplishes something else—it establishes authority for Christians to publicly declare that Jesus is Lord.
Here's another question. Is it better for prayer in schools to be authorized yet the schools are devoid of a spirit of prayer or for prayer in schools to be banned which results in an underground movement of intercession? Of course, the right answer would be for prayer to be authorized and for the spirit of prayer to overtake our classrooms. We want both. Consider this as we leap from the school system to the church.
PRAYER IN CHURCH?
Prayer has not been legally banned in the church in America, for now at least. Sadly, generally speaking, the first scenario I presented above seems to be manifesting in the church. Prayer is allowed yet churches are devoid of a spirit of intercession.
I propose that if most people in a local church are only attending one service a week, most probably on a Sunday morning, that service must be a strategic, passionate and supernatural prayer meeting. The power of prayer is too great to relegate it to an off day at an unusual hour in a side room. Prayer is too important to shelve it in favor of a little music, unnecessary announcements and boring public speaking.
The best prayer meetings are filled with decrees, declarations, spiritual songs, proclamations of Scripture and prophetic revelation. Yes there will be anointed preaching and yes there will be explosive worship but they will be driven by an atmosphere of intercession. Church cultures will change from natural to supernatural and people will finally, many for the first time, have a personal encounter with the One they decided to surrender their lives to.
I suggest it's actually a bit embarrassing that a leader of a secular society, our President, is doing more to advance the cause of prayer than many leaders of Christian congregations are. Are the parallels perfect? Of course not. I understand that. However, I invite you to think about this. Is there freedom of intercession in your church or is it minimized? Are intercessors shunned? Are there passionate cries of fervent prayer on Sunday mornings or is the spiritual temperature kept at a comfortable level so the lukewarm won't grow uneasy?
I made a promise to every person I had the privilege of giving leadership to over the years:
I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry.
Prayer must be front and center as the driver of the culture of every church. Let the visitors be uncomfortable and the pretenders get convicted. It's time for the burning ones to awaken and for pastors to lead people into passionate, heart-wrenching, wonderful prayer as the foundational expression of their local assemblies. We must stoke the coals in the furnace of intercession in our churches. President Trump is doing it for us in the schools.
14 if my people who are called by my name 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. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV)
Here are four reasons why much of today's evangelism is actually hurting the advance of the Kingdom.
The Great Commission is such a serious mandate that we have no option but to get it right. In fact, with Hell growing larger and innumerable people are flooding into that unspeakable place every day, we must sound the alarm, preach the truth and rescue the perishing.
I'd like to strongly encourage you to listen to the powerful story of Frank Jenner's simple yet wildly anointed life of evangelism. You may cry. You will be awestruck. It's called “The Man From George Street.” Listen HERE.
Yes, evangelism is critically necessary—if done rightly.
Listen to the podcast:
FOUR WAYS EVANGELISM CAN DO MORE DAMAGE THAN GOOD
ONE: IT LACKS A SPIRIT OF PRAYER
I was flown into a church in a large city many years ago to help with some video work. I had some free time the night I arrived so I decided to check out the church and to see if they had anything going on. I was happily surprised to see a sign announcing a prayer meeting that was underway. I was saddened by what I saw as I stepped into the large sanctuary.
There was no spirit of prayer at the prayer meeting. In fact, there were only a few people standing around in that massive auditorium. It was dead, which was markedly different from what I expected based on the size of the church and the fact that it was a Spirit-filled congregation.
I quickly learned that prayer was not job one in that place. Evangelism was. I've never been in a church that emphasized soul winning to such a degree, and one would think I should have been thrilled. I was not.
As I spent time with people and pastors in that church I witnessed very well intentioned but awkward, forced, scripted and manipulated Gospel presentations to anyone who would listen. While it's true that God's Word can work wonders with no additional help from you and me, it's also true that our delivery of the Word can be dead or alive, weak or powerful, tainted by our human spirit or anointed by the Holy Spirit.
Evangelism efforts that don't emerge from the white-hot furnace of intercession will most often be dead, weak and tainted. Those who hear what we are saying will most often resist, sensing no vibrancy or activity of the Holy Spirit at all. People who could have surrendered all if evangelism was done rightly, delivered with a burning unction, results instead of people being repelled by whatever stench just emerged from our souls.
TWO: THERE'S NO MENTION OF SIN, REPENTANCE, HELL OR THE CROSS
Much of today's prophetic evangelism zeros in on how wonderful God thinks people are to the exclusion of acknowledging their depravity. They are awakened to the possibility of love without understanding the radical surrender that's necessary.
It's quite possible many of these people are saying yes to the invitation and begin following Jesus in an unsaved condition. They don't understand how deadly their life of sin was because the evangelist didn't mention it. A false-grace theology can drive Gospel presentations like this, presuming a revelation of God's love is sufficient to draw people out of their old life and into the new. That's not biblical evangelism and it puts the hearers at great risk of adopting a compromised religion.
It wouldn't surprise me if multiplied millions of people who have “gotten saved” this way are currently lost, seduced by a version of love that's not legitimate. They are convinced that God's love is what seals their position when it's actually their radical response that is key.
THREE: IT BECOMES PRIMARY FOR EVERY CHRISTIAN
There are many verses in Scripture that make it clear that we should be ministering, sharing truth and advancing the Kingdom. Yes, we are to do the work of an evangelist, however, that verse makes it clear that not everybody is an evangelist. It would do us well to understand this.
The church I mentioned above put strong pressure on everyone in the body to evangelize always, in every environment. The problem? Evangelists are wired, gifted and anointed to do this. The rest are gifted in other areas and they should be free to minister mostly according to how they are put together by God.
Teachers, for example, are called by God to mostly reveal powerful truths to Believers. Their anointing will be most pronounced in that realm, and it would be smart to allow them to study and relay what they discover to the church.
On the contrary, if you put some evangelists behind the pulpit you may cringe as they attempt to communicate scriptural truths beyond the mission to win the lost.
Simply, we all have our calling. Yes, there is cross-training involved and we should be “instant in and out of season,” about to “do the work of an evangelist” and to preach truth in any setting. However, outside of the call for all to pray as a primary life focus, everybody has a different gift mix and calling.
FOUR: IT DISPLACES THE FOCUS ON REVIVAL
I personally believe the fasted route to the harvest is revival. Just as I shared in point one that it's important to start in the prayer room, a focus on revival will lay a foundation that can withstand the influx of hungry, repentant people.
It's not either/or. It's both/and. However, if we focus initially on prayer and revival, and if we prepare the people in both of these disciplines, the anointing to do the work of the ministry, including evangelism, will be electric.
Evangelists often (not always) struggle with the idea that the primary call is to pray. An evangelist who had the most tender heart and who could be found on the streets witnessing night after night asked me, “John, your church is so focused on prayer. Where will I bring people when they get saved? I can't expect them to come to such an environment.”
I challenged him. I said this is precisely the environment they need to experience the moments after they meet Jesus! This supernatural, vibrant atmosphere where the Holy Spirit is brooding and moving will result in baptism of power they will never forget!
Simply, we want people to meet Jesus in the place of raging, searing, life-altering revival!
You might argue, “Well, at least people are doing it! At least they are sharing the Gospel!.”
I get it. That makes sense. And, again, I do want to applaud those who are taking those bold steps to share truth. However, I believe it's okay, in fact it's important to analyze our motives and methods. After all, we are dealing with human lives and their eternities very well may be determined by our ministry. We should feel the sobering, weighty intensity to that reality.
We absolutely need a vibrant, active spirit of prayer when we are talking about Jesus.
We need to communicate the truth of sin, Hell, repentance and the cross.
It's important to appreciate and activate people in their specific gifts and offices.
And, by all means, a mass movement of revival will result in an introduction to Jesus that will be conducted by the Holy Spirit with supernatural, otherworldly precision.
Don't be shocked when prayer doesn't work. A comprehensive strategy is required to experience a powerful and effective life of prayer.
I've met many people who have become completely disenchanted with the hopes of encountering the supernatural power of God and they have lost all hope of experiencing regularly answered prayer.
The idea of God responding to prayer is fully ridiculous to the unredeemed who regularly mock this Christian concept. You will hear them laugh when God doesn't do what the religious zealots are petitioning him to do. Of course, it's no surprise that those who don't know God wouldn't understand the power of intercession. I get it.
What is grieving is when Believers give up on the call to surrender their lives to faith-driven, fiery and determined prayer. Their prayer ritual instead becomes a whispered request that flutters out of their mouths and into the great void of time and space. They fulfill their due diligence, so they think, by making their requests known. The reality is, however, that they doubt any answers will come. Their faith is at at similar level to those who don't know God at all.
The truth is that answered prayer at it's most basic level is a simple cry of the heart. But, if it's analyzed more closely, we'll see that many synchronized factors are required to experience a powerful and vibrant life of prayer.
A CONTENDING SPIRIT
Breakthrough prayer is most often a comprehensive supernatural strategy, not a momentary petition. Our lives must be marked by the fire that can only be found in the Upper Room, in that place of Holy Spirit impact. Night and day, praying continually, we give ourselves to a lifestyle of fervent prayer.
16 …The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16 (KJV)
As we live deliberately consecrated lives, we will be driven by a fervent spirit of intercession that refuses to relent no matter the cost. A casual approach will never do it. We will live well outside of the supernaturally wondrous life that God has planned for us and prayers will mostly fall to the ground.
Those who have a ferocious contending spirit will power through obstacles and shift atmospheres that result in miraculous breakthrough.
6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)
I do not believe any person or any prayer movement can be sustained in intercession without faith being a primary attribute. Where there is no belief there will be no contending. Prayers will be weak and saturated with doubt causing them to have very little effect at all.
We are called Believers, not “Hopers.” We are know by our unwavering belief in an invisible, omnipotent, divine person we call God. He is our everything! We don't hope our way to success, we stand firm on truth and we believe!
If faith is challenged, shift your focus from the thing you were contending for in prayer to faith itself. Cry out for a mighty influx of belief that can then be the impetus of your contending intercession for breakthrough.
23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Mark 9:23 (ESV)
22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” Matthew 21:22 (ESV)
When you contend in faith, you better know that there are forces of wickedness that will be resisting your advance into breakthrough.
So many get mad at God for not answering prayer, and this is evidence of an immature understanding of the spiritual realm. They see prayer the same way they do ordering a hamburger in the drive-through. They put in the order and expect the powers that be to have their lunch ready for them by the time they reach the window.
The truth is, to spiritualize the analogy, that many devils are doing all they can to keep the burger from being delivered. The answer to our prayer can absolutely be hindered by unholy entities who are running interference. They know that failure or even delay in answered prayer can negatively affect our faith and our contending spirit can lose its intensity.
13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, Daniel 10:13 (ESV)
If we understand the warfare component of answered prayer, we won't lose hope, we won't lose faith and we will contend all the greater! It's from this place where we can truly engage the enemy, rebuke him and fight back with ferocity and even a greater measure of supernatural faith!
Prayer without prophetic infusion is greatly limited. The most powerful breakthroughs in my prayer life have come when God has clearly spoken to me. Whether it's a still small voice, dreams, visions or other forms of prophetic communication, you will come alive and your faith will skyrocket.
It can be very easy to be off, sometimes just by a degree or two, and miss the breakthrough entirely. When prophetic revelation becomes a part of the recipe of intercession, many of the questions and much of the confusion are eliminated. You can pray with extreme focus and with great precision.
When we pray precisely according to God's will, as revealed by his Spirit, everything changes. I'd encourage you to read an article titled Discover a 100 Percent Effective Prayer Strategy (links: part 1, part 2 & part 3) based on my book, Revelation Driven Prayer. It will help you develop a prophetic life that will lead to a legacy of non-stop answered prayer.
Intimacy with Jesus is the cornerstone of a life of revelation. If you give yourself to anything this year, let it be developing deep, intense and vulnerable intimacy with God. You will be forever undone as the lover of your soul breathes life into you, reveals his love for you and shares his heart with you.
It's extremely easy to contend for good things outside of an intimate relationship with Jesus and to quickly get off base. Being branded by love only occurs in the place of intimacy, and without that brand, our very good ideas and determined pursuit of breakthrough will be tainted. Our understanding of God's heart is mandatory if we want to pray effectively and advance in our strategy of prayer with the right motives, character and humility.
5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:5 (ESV)
Agreement with God's plans is critical if we want to experience answered prayer. Equally critical is severing any alignment and agreement with the enemy. We must repent of adopting worldly mindsets, paradigms and strategies if we hope to enter the supernatural realm.
In the realm of the Spirit, our own understanding becomes laughable. We must advance with revelation that can only be found in that invisible place. We renounce our own limited, human plans in favor of God's wisdom.
It takes courage to do this, to leave behind our own common sense and to move into uncharted territory as the Holy Spirit leads. We must agree with God every step of the way. We must trust his leadership and come into an unbreakable agreement with him.
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)
31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. John 9:31 (ESV)
If we aren't living holy, righteous lives, not only shouldn't we presume that God will hear our prayer, we shouldn't presume we are saved. Continuing in sin is a very serious thing.
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)
I don't know how many times I've counseled people over the last three decades regarding unanswered prayer. Flooding your soul with foul language, sexual situations and other immorality in media will most surely result in you living an extremely frustrated life of unanswered prayer.
On the contrary, if we eliminate the foul media, shut off the secular music and start living in the Spirit, walking in the Spirit, listening to anointed and prophetic worship music night and day and then discover the overwhelming fear of the Lord, our prayers will be like fire!
17 When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. Psalm 34:17 (ESV)
DEATH TO SELF
Selfishness in prayer is a non-starter. Period. We must die to our own desires, our own pursuits, our own dreams and even our own perceived needs. We lay down our lives. We are walking dead people. Martyrs.
When we get fully out of the way and become available for God to move any way he desires through us, watch out. Talk about a supernatural life! This is the quickest way to get there.
There are a lot of people who forget to take something extremely critical on their journey when deciding to follow Jesus: their cross.
38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:38-39 (ESV)
When we lose our lives, take up our cross and surrender all, when we die, every day, the miracles begin.
PRAYING IN THE SPIRIT
If you want an explosive prayer life, there is no substitute to praying in tongues. This is an absolute non-negotiable element for every Believer if they desire prayer-driven breakthrough.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:26-28 (ESV)
If we want all things to work together for good, we have no option but to allow the Spirit of God to intercede for us with groanings.
If we don't know what to pray, what other solution is there? There is none. We must still pray with precision, we must still contend in the Spirit. We can't just stop and wait. The intercession must continue and the supernatural battle can't cease. We truly have no other option but to, in our weakness, pray in the Spirit. We need God's wisdom to manifest. We need mysteries revealed. We need supernatural infusion. Praying in tongues accomplishes this. Refusal to pray in tongues compromises not only our prayer lives but our lives as Christians.
Many articles and books could be written on this topic alone as it relates to prayer. It's utter foolishness to pray amiss, to pray outside of the bounds of Scripture. Yet, when we do pray from the foundation of biblical truth, look out. The prayer becomes nuclear!
Reading the Word with prayer in mind makes it an absolutely thrilling experience! Read it and then cry out for what it reveals. Contend for what you have discovered, believing in faith that it's true and that it must manifest in your life.
14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 1 John 5:14 (ESV)
Confidence in prayer comes when we see God's will in Scripture. He wrote it, we believe it and we contend for it to manifest.
Related to praying from the foundation of the Word is confidently and boldly releasing decrees.
Many are addicted to petition as their primary form of prayer, and they generally live powerless lives. But, when we, as Kingdom authorities, release prophetic decrees that originate from the Word of God, and also from the Rhema messages God speaks to us, all Hell shakes!
So often people are asking for things that have already been promised in the Word. This ignorance leads to a failed prayer strategy. If it's promised, but it hasn't manifested, go through your checklist. Are you in sin? How's your faith? Are you contending for it? Are you battling the enemy? Add to that checklist bold, authoritative decrees and declarations. Don't ask the mountain to move, and don't ask God to move it. You command it to move.
When we are in the Word and when the Spirit of God speaks to us, our faith spikes and our prayer becomes a force to be reckoned with!
17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17 (ESV)
If I know God is already settled on a matter, you better believe I'm not wasting time asking him about it. I'm shifting my prayer from talking to God to assaulting the enemy, to speaking to the situation and to commanding a shift!
I'd like to encourage you to get excited about the thrill-ride that a fully immersed life of prayer will give you. The low-level petitions and half-hearted requests that so many identify as a “prayer life” must give way to a much greater and extremely potent life of prophetic, intimate intercession. It will shake the planet and your love for Jesus will go to places you never thought possible!