You shouldn’t argue with baby killing demons, no matter how brilliant your defense may be.
4 For they have forsaken me and made this a place of foreign gods; they have burned sacrifices in it to gods that neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah ever knew, and they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent. 5 They have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as offerings to Baal–something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind. 6 So beware, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when people will no longer call this place Topheth or the Valley of Ben Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter. Jeremiah 19:4-6 (NIV)
There is a battle to be waged against the murderous spirit of abortion in our nation, but many in the church are fighting the wrong fight in this valley of slaughter—and they are losing.
My wife and I have lost seven babies, not to the intentional act of abortion, but to the heartbreaking shock of miscarriage and stillbirth. I’ll never forget my wife convincing her doctor to induce labor on what would be the earliest, smallest baby he’s ever delivered naturally. I’ll also never forget the moment that tiny baby was delivered into our waiting hands. She was little. She was perfect. All babies are perfect. All seven of ours most certainly were.
In the middle of our losses, Amy and I were in the delivery room praying, contending and crying out that our baby boy would be delivered, alive and healthy. Less than a minute before Jet Samuel Burton would enter the world, the doctor, who was with us through our previous losses, asked me if I’d like to deliver my new baby boy. We switched positions and he took me to medical school—a thirty-second lesson on how to deliver a baby.
I was unprepared, but more ready than I can explain. Jet’s head emerged, I carefully grasped it and helped guide him into the world. Emotions were overwhelming. Tears were flowing. Jet was alive.
In fact, my miracle baby is sitting next to me right now in Starbucks as I’m writing this. I asked him to smile for a pic as he hangs out with me, watching videos on his phone. Children are precious. All of them. Another picture is of me delivering Jet twelve years ago. I’ll never forget that moment.
So, yes, children are worth fighting for. But, are we fighting the right battle?
FLESH, BLOOD AND MOLOCH
The Bible makes it clear that we don’t war against flesh and blood. As gruesome as it is, this symbolic picture becomes very real when we deal with the spirit of abortion. Literal flesh and blood are ripped and spilled every hour. Worldwide, there is an unborn baby violently destroyed every second. Eight-six children are sacrificed to the murderous principality Moloch every minute. The worship is Satanic at a level none of us can truly understand.
Moses warned the Israelites about sacrificing to this god. In their rebellion, they rejected the mandate of God.
Read this sobering passage of Scripture:
36 They worshiped their idols, which became a snare to them. 37 They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons. 38 They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was desecrated by their blood. 39 They defiled themselves by what they did; by their deeds they prostituted themselves. 40 Therefore the LORD was angry with his people and abhorred his inheritance. 41 He handed them over to the nations, and their foes ruled over them. 42 Their enemies oppressed them and subjected them to their power. Psalm 106:36-42 (NIV)
America is at this point. The land is desecrated by the blood of millions of children sacrificed to a deadly demonic entity.
The church is fighting the wrong battle.
To be clear, I do see some value in presenting a godly defense and in electing righteous politicians who can promote righteous laws. However, I don’t believe the battle should be waged there as it cannot be won there.
It’s easy to rise up in a spirit of debate, attempting to use logic to sway people from one position to another. There are some out there who can cause true introspection using this method. I think of someone like Ben Shapiro, a non-Christian who is extremely effective at using secular logic and debate to make a case. Ray Comfort is a Believer who can be quite effective at causing individuals to reconsider their stance on abortion. However, we need to understand that memes, Facebook posts and righteous indignation directed at those who support taking the life of babies are poor weapons in this war. Why? The battle is spiritual.
Zachary King, a former high wizard in a satanic church says abortion is a spiritual battle that must be fought with spiritual weapons.
“I know abortion is a satanic sacrifice,” King said at a conference on spiritual warfare organized by Toronto-based Serviam Ministries.
“Why is the devil intent on killing the unborn?” he said. “Satan does fear certain things. Innocence is one. You can’t get more innocent than the baby in the womb.”
“Every hex, we used an abortion,” he told the conference.
“The bigger thing you request from the devil, the more you have to do for the devil to get it. … A hex requires an aborted baby.”
Indeed, if everyone on Earth marched against abortion, the next day, the abortion centers would still be open, King said.
He knew it was a spiritual battle.
“It’s spiritual warfare, (but) we fight it physically,” he said. “You cannot defeat a spiritual enemy” with physical weapons.
HAS VOTING REPLACED INTERCESSION?
While he’s not anywhere near the perfect President, I’m thrilled that President Trump was voted into office and that he’s promoting godly agendas. He addressed hundreds of thousands of pro-life advocates during the March for Life. But, I’m concerned.
It seems millions of Christians have traded in the call to intercede and govern in the Kingdom for a vote. For many, it’s now President Trump’s job to deal with abortion. The Supreme Court is looked to as a force against abortion as well. But, what about the intercessors? Where are those who are waging war in the spirit?
Understand, the people we are debating are mostly ungodly and even demonized. Using logic against their Moloch anointed mission is futile. President Trump and the Supreme Court are absolutely helpless against such a powerful principality. The church is the nation’s only hope.
MOLOCH MUST BE DEFEATED
You’d be shocked at how many professing Christians, including pastors, are unapologetic advocates for abortion. While this is nearly impossible to believe, it’s true that much of the church is actually in covenant with Moloch. Others in the church are doing little to confront this spirit other than voicing their irritation on Facebook. Governmental intercession is nearly nonexistent in today’s church.
Manesseh, the king of Judah, instituted pure evil in the temple. Included was a sacrifice to Molech.
1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. 2 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, following the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. 3 He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had demolished; he also erected altars to the Baals and made Asherah poles. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. 4 He built altars in the temple of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “My Name will remain in Jerusalem forever.” 5 In both courts of the temple of the LORD, he built altars to all the starry hosts. 6 He sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger. 2 Chronicles 33:1-6 (NIV)
He sacrificed his sons to Molech. God was provoked to anger. America is in this place right now.
I’m hoping you can see memes, marches and debates will never defeat a principality as powerful as Moloch. It’s laughable. Again, please hear me. I’m not opposed to voicing truth, to confronting the spirit of the age and addressing evil arguments. There is value in that. There is value in voting righteous people into position. There is value in using logic. But, the value is limited. Alone it’s futile beyond measure. We must see the church lead the nation in repentance, prophetic decrees, governmental intercession and high level spiritual warfare. It’s time for the church to govern again.
IT’S TIME TO WRESTLE
It shouldn’t shock us that most of the people who are aggressively promoting murder are those who simply don’t know God. Listen closely to me please. THEY HAVE NEVER EXPERIENCED LOVE. They don’t know what it’s like for a Heavenly Father to flood their souls with immeasurable, indescribable, supernatural love. They don’t understand. They are completely limited to their logic, emotions and human wisdom.
8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:8 (NIV)
They cannot love unborn babies because they don’t know God. The only way we can love unborn babies is because of a revelation of God’s love. It’s as simple as that.
We must not wrestle against these people. There is a spirit they are aligned with that has defiled them, confused them and desecrated them. It’s that spirit that demands our warfare.
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)
Too many Christians are wasting time and energy struggling against people while fully ignoring the necessary battle against rulers, authorities, powers and spiritual forces.
We know the spiritual armor necessary to fight. A helmet, a belt, shoes, a sword. We also need to pray. Prayer is the forgotten weapon, and without it we cannot win.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers… Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)
The flesh and blood of millions of babies cries out. But, it’s not flesh and blood that killed them. It’s a wicked and powerful spirit that has been worshiped in our nation for years.
It’s time to:
- War against spiritual forces with spiritual weapons.
That is the three-fold strategy to see Moloch taken down and for abortion to be eradicated in our blood soaked land.
We fight blood with blood. The blood of millions cries out for the blood of Jesus to cover America.
Let me finish with a prayer.
In the name of Jesus, I declare we are covered in his precious blood as we wage this war. We reject the spirit of the age that is attempting to seduce us into a state of mindless inaction. We call the church to rise up and lead the nation in repentance, in war and in intercession. Holy Spirit I pray you would anoint your people to pray like they never have before. Forgive us for any and all partnership with wickedness, compromise and apathy. I speak life over our church and over our nation! Church rise up! Amen.
17 no weapon forged against you will prevail… Isaiah 54:17 (NIV)
We have radically misunderstood the purpose of the church—and the Gideon principle is the shock it needs.
Pastors, quit getting excited when your church grows in number.
Quit getting depressed when it declines in number.
Quit selling your soul to compel people to join you on Sunday mornings.
Numeric church growth is not the goal—mission completion is—and the people you are wooing just may be your downfall.
CHURCH AS WE KNOW IT
As one who has planted two churches and spent many years in church leadership, both as a staff pastor and senior leader, I have had a front row seat to the American church reality. There’s much that has been absolutely amazing and much that is radically disappointing.
Church as we know it, however, doesn’t take years of leadership experience to analyze. It’s simple: we gather together once or twice a week and worship a little and pray a little (usually very little) and listen to teaching. After saying hi to friends and small talking with others we head out into our world until next week.
Pastors are heroes, in my opinion. Superheroes in fact. However, even mighty men and women of God must step back at times and truly analyze their motives and ministries. I suggest part of that analysis must include reckoning with an unhealthy desire to see the church grow numerically. Pastors tend to get weighted down when the seats are empty, and then, miraculously, they perk up and have an extra jump in their step when the roar of the crowd is louder. It’s human nature. Unfortunately, it’s human nature that is threatening the church and the lives of people it’s called to impact. We need to adopt supernatural wisdom as we move into the next generation of the church.
I shared a prophetic word at a city pastor’s gathering in Detroit several years ago. I don’t believe it was received well as most remained silent after I shared it and then they moved on to other business. I do believe it was the Lord, however. It was a word of warning and a strategic call.
I saw an ocean beach on a sunny day. There were many people on the sand, a good number splashing in the shallows and a handful of people swimming in deeper waters.
Those who were on the sand were mostly happy building sand castles, tanning and enjoying the afternoon sun as the cool mist from the crashing waves blew over them. Some were curious about the water and even took off their sandals and walked where the waves met the sand. Others would slowly venture out and start splashing in the shallows, but most were satisfied just where they were.
The people in the shallows were having a good time. They were together, jumping, splashing and swimming. They were in waist high water and were able to stand on the sandy bottom. They were also satisfied.
I then looked out at the small number of people who were in the deep. They couldn’t stand as the water was well over their heads. They were so hungry to explore the wide-open seas. It made no sense to them why anybody would be satisfied experiencing so little. However, these people had nobody to lead them into the deeper waters. You see, the people on the sand, in the shallows and in the deep all represented a single local church.
What I saw next brought clear, obvious revelation to the situation.
I saw a man, the pastor, in khaki pants, a dress shirt and a tie. His shoes were off and his pant legs were rolled up. He had one foot in the water and the other on the sand. He was not dressed for the deep. In fact, he wasn’t dressed for the shallows or the sand either. He determined to remain anchored between the sand and the shallows where the majority of the people were, yet unable to really reach any of them.
The pastor was under great stress as he would look upon those on the sand, then those in the shallows and he’d then squint as he saw those who were drifting out to sea. His eyes continually darted between the three groups, attempting to maintain some sort of control over the spiritually diverse congregation. However, he couldn’t. Those in the deep became a nuisance. He found it easier to allow them to go and to focus on the sand and the shallows. He
knew those in the low water would not go deeper and those on the sand were safe, and maybe, some day, they would jump in and splash around with the others.
3 Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. 4 Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. 5 Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. 6 And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. Ezekiel 47:3-6 (ESV)
9 And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Ezekiel 47:9 (ESV)
26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:26-27 (ESV)
THE CALL TO THE DEEP
I believe the strategy of the church must radically change. The pastor, the leader, must be in the deep ahead of the people. The priests are called to step into the waters and to lead people into miraculous situations.
14 So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, 15 and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), 16 the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho. Joshua 3:14-16 (ESV)
The evangelists are called to minister to those on the sand. Prophets can call them into the waters. The local church’s apostolic leaders must focus on the deep, calling people to advance into impossible waters as they seek to encounter the wonders of God and to take new ground. They announce the need to live consecrated lives as they prepare for God to move in power.
5 Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” Joshua 3:5 (ESV)
Seeker churches are well known for focusing on the people on the sand. The beach goers have been affirmed in their position by this regrettable church movement. Further, the poison of seeker ministries has soaked into the soil of the greater American church foundation. Today, most churches may not identify as seeker sensitive, but seeker principles are adopted and adapted to fit their local expression in hopes of attracting the very same sand dwellers and shallow splashers. Those yearning for the deep are minimized and ignored—often because of the pastor’s own lack of depth—and commonly because of the pastor’s devotion to growing a larger church.
THE GIDEON CHURCH GROWTH PRINCIPLE
Churches have too many people, or at least they have the wrong people. Church missions have been compromised.
Please understand, I do believe in numeric church growth. We see in Scripture how thousands were added. I believe we’ll see stadiums filled with Christians interceding and contending for revival. The harvest will come in. There absolutely are and will continue to be anointed, surrendered leaders who have been graced to lead large numbers without compromise. There are “churches of the deep” that are diving into unseen realms and growing mighty disciples. In fact, if given a choice, I’d rather attend a large church like this than a small group of unified zealots—though I do value both.
With that in mind, most churches and pastors will benefit from applying the Gideon principle, though it will be scary, painful and humbling. Death to self, rejection of selfish ambition and mighty faith are required. I believe God is about to invite leaders into divine wrestling matches as they renounce their fabricated and confused identities and adopt their divine callings and discover their identities in Christ instead of success.
12 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.” 13 And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” Judges 6:12-13 (ESV)
God also believes his pastors and leaders are heroes. He addressed Gideon, a leader who had yet to step into that identity, as a mighty man of valor. It would do us well to honor God’s men and women in the same way. While many will reject the call of God to shift, some will hit their spiritual rock bottom and cry out from their caves of desperation. God is raising up warriors like this, and we should celebrate the process.
Whenever we are out of sync with God a common complaint will be, “God, where were you? Why have you forsaken us?”
Today pastors are gazing up into the heavens wondering why God isn’t bringing growth. Where is he? Why is his presence so rare in their local church? What is going on?
This is a good prayer as long as we are ready for God’s reply.
14 And the LORD turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” Judges 6:14 (ESV)
Go in might. I have sent you. That’s God’s reply.
15 And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” 16 And the LORD said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” Judges 6:15-16 (ESV)
If we allow God to truly search our hearts, this is where the divine wrestling match begins. We may honestly feel unworthy, unprepared, weak and the least of all. What a contrast to God’s identifying decree: You are a mighty man of valor, I will be with you and you will be victorious—but the victory depends on radical surrender and wild faith. Pastor, will you allow this Gideon principle to take over your church and your life?
The process included Gideon seeking God, looking for confirmation, hearing his voice, discovering his new identity and emerging as a true leader. It would do us well to cry out for a similar process to initiate in our own lives.
EMERGING JERUBBAAL LEADERS: DESTROYING ALTARS AND ADVANCING IN VICTORY
25 That night the LORD said to him, “Take your father’s bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it 26 and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of the stronghold here…Judges 6:25-26 (ESV)
The next step is critical. We must destroy altars of old. We must differentiate between God-given mantles and God-opposed altars. God absolutely will grace us with the water from the wells that our fathers and their fathers dug years ago. There are mantles and rich, godly traditions that have eternal value. However, there are unholy altars that have become normal in the church today that must be torn down. Traditions of man, selfish ambition, the pursuit of notoriety, becoming drunk on money and pride must be crushed. Annihilated.
28 When the men of the town rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built. 29 And they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And after they had searched and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” 30 Then the men of the town said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has broken down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.” 31 But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.” 32 Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he broke down his altar. Judges 6:28-32 (ESV)
Are you ready to be renamed? Are you an emerging Jerubbaal? When we tear down ungodly altars, we step into a promotion in the spirit. We will be known as one who has stared evil in the eye and is unafraid at the threat of demonic backlash.
When we have proven ourselves to possess the obedience and fearlessness necessary to stand against the prevailing religious culture of the day by tearing down altars that so many hold so dear, we will be ready to advance in the mission—by allowing most people to leave.
THE PEOPLE IN YOUR CHURCH MAY BE HINDERING YOUR MISSION
Remember, we are called to leave the sand, to leave the shallows and to lead into the deep. Most people will not remain when you allow God to shift your church into a “deeper water” ministry. Your mission requires the right laborers be with you and those who are resistant to be let go. It doesn’t mean we don’t love them. It means we understand those who leave will pale in comparison with those will be set free through our obedience.
2 The LORD said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ 3 Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained. Judges 7:2-3 (ESV)
Pastor, when you cast this renewed vision of going into the deep, most in your church will, most likely, be afraid of such a venture. It will not be what they signed up for. They wanted you to occasionally wave at them as they soaked up the sun on their beach blankets. They wanted you to splash with them if they ever decided to test the shallows. This new, awakened leader will be an irritant to them. Most will leave. That’s okay. The mission is for all who are fearless and surrendered to Jesus. The choice is theirs. If Gideon would have refused this filtering process, the entire camp would have been decimated. The enemy is ready to decimate our churches too. We need Jerubbaal to emerge and lead with the mysterious, illogical wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
4 And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” Judges 7:4 (ESV)
6 And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. 7 And the LORD said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.” Judges 7:6-7 (ESV)
God knew who was needed to get the job done. 300 out of 32,000, less than one percent, were called as the church, the Ekklesia, a governmental people with determined unity and a fearless disposition, to rout the enemy.
AN UNCONVENTIONAL CALL
The result of applying the Gideon principle for church growth will most probably result in an extreme decrease in numbers but a supernatural increase in power.
An unconventional man, Gideon, was called.
An unconventional army, only 300 in number, was gathered.
An unconventional method, banging jars and shouting, was used.
The result was glorious victory.
20 Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow. And they cried out, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” 21 Every man stood in his place around the camp, and all the army ran. They cried out and fled. 22 When they blew the 300 trumpets, the LORD set every man’s sword against his comrade and against all the army. And the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath. Judges 7:20-22 (ESV)
ACCUSATION WILL COME
I’ll conclude this article with a key point that could easily have been ignored.
1 Then the men of Ephraim said to him, “What is this that you have done to us, not to call us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they accused him fiercely. Judges 8:1 (ESV)
When God calls you to destroy religious altars, and to advance mostly alone in your region, you will absolutely be accused by other pastors and leaders. Who are you, after all, to presume you know what should be done in the city? Your answer? You are Jerubbaal.
While I appreciate it when pastors in a city meet together and attempt to unify and support one another, it’s rare for them to truly promote revival in a region. The reason? They presume their efforts to affirm one another and support one another are the goal. It’s satisfying. Somehow, unifying around this low level commitment feels spiritual. It’s nice, but it can be threatening to the greater mission. When God calls you to tear down altars they have built, or that their fathers have built, then what? When God calls you to advance in the city without them (due to their own choice), with a small army of radicals, how will they respond? Many will accuse.
This doesn’t mean, by any means, that we go rogue and function in an independent, rebellious spirit. God will crush that fast. He resists the proud. God will, however, awaken key people to do what few others will, and what most will flatly reject. This Jerubbaal leader will threaten religious structures. Their humble surrender and bold resolve to obey their God at every turn will threaten those who have their religious culture carefully defined.
Who are you? What is your identity? You are a mighty man of valor. God is inviting you as a Jerubbaal. He will rally an army around you to assault the enemy and to advance the Kingdom of God. Those who leave, and those leaders who aren’t consulted, will most certainly accuse you.
That’s okay. Go in this spirit of Jerubbaal and see God move in some of the most remarkable signs, wonders and miracles the world has ever known. You are invited, mighty man of valor, to be an instrument in God’s hands in a dark and desperate world. This hour is yours.
People are leaving the church in droves, and most fingers are pointed at the senior pastor.
Triggered. That’s the best way to describe a lot of people when the topic of “going to church” is brought up. You see, there’s a group of ex-church goers who are so angered by their previous church experiences, that any suggestion of support of the local church triggers them. I’ve had interactions with many people who tense up the moment I start a discussion about the church and the importance of being rightly aligned and connected with leadership.
Let me be clear: I’m a fierce advocate of the local church. I’m also a passionate visionary. I see well beyond the current structure and I regularly rock the boat and challenge systems, motives and traditions that exist within the local church. I believe we should stay connected, submitted and tender hearted within the church while we are, with wisdom and honor, advocating for reformation.
Sadly, many who share my passion for revolution within the church have gone the route of abdication, accusation and hibernation. They have abandoned their post while pointing fingers at pastors and leaders who didn’t measure up to their standards. They end up spiritualizing their decision to stop going to church so they can, as they say, “be the church.” The problem? You can’t be the church if you don’t go to church. I dealt with that in my article: You are NOT the church : The scattering movement.
I also address the abandonment of the church in my book Covens in the Church. People are leaving assignments and putting the church at great risk. It’s a movement of witchcraft and rebellion in the name of God.
A key reason why people are so disenchanted with the church is simple: Their expectations of what pastors are supposed to do and how the church is supposed to function are wrong.
MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT THE ROLE OF PASTOR AND THE CHURCH
THE PASTOR IS SUPPOSED TO BE MY CLOSE, PERSONAL FRIEND
There are many disappointed people who expected the pastor of the church they once attended to become a close, personal friend. While it’s true that pastors will have friends, and it’s possible to be counted among them, that should not be the goal or the expectation.
In fact, it’s a bit ludicrous to presume the pastor has to squeeze time, emotional energy and attention to you into his very busy and important life. The pastor’s role is not to be your close, personal bud. It’s to be a faithful leader and to watch out for your soul.
Stop and think about this for a moment. Do you have unlimited time and energy to give to literally everyone who chooses you as their new friend? How would you do it? Would you go out to lunch with them every day? What about hundreds of others who have the same demands? It simply doesn’t make sense.
We need to honestly understand just why pastors may choose not to be our close, personal friend. Here are a few:
His mandate is mostly to pray and study the Word.
1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:1-4 (ESV)
It’s concerning today that pastors, instead of spending loads of time on their knees and in the Word, are being pulled in every direction to visit people in the hospital, meet with visitors to the church, answer the phone at all hours of the night and meet the needs of everybody in the congregation.
One of my favorite stories about Mike Bickle of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City brings clarity to this point. A person of great influence was flying through Kansas City and wanted to meet with Mike during his layover. Mike was unavailable. The layover was during Mike’s daily scheduled prayer time. He politely declined the meeting.
We need a new breed of leader that will install a team who will take care of the people and then focus on meeting with God, getting wrecked in his presence, gaining powerful revelation in the Word and, as a result, stand behind the pulpit with fire in their eyes and a tremble in their spirit.
He may not have sufficient time or emotional energy to invest in another close relationship.
Related to the point above, pastors are busy. Really busy. Even those who lead small churches can’t be expected to be best friends with everybody. I’ve heard people say that if they can’t be close friends with all, they should resign from ministry. Ridiculous.
Further, do you know how many ministry families are being torn apart because of the pastor having absolutely unreal, unnecessary demands placed on them? Burnout is real. Pastor’s kids are often neglected. Pastor’s wives often live with great resentment against the church and those who are crushing her husband under the weight of their demands.
This study by Robin Dunbar is revealing:
Is there a limit to how many people you can actually be friends with at a time?
According to psychologists, the answer is yes. A study by Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at University of Oxford, shows the average person can only manage five close relationships at a time.
So, if your church has more than five people attending, chances are the pastor simply won’t have room for another close friend.
He may not like you.
This one may sting. I’m confident you don’t have a blast hanging out with everybody. You have your favorites. So do pastors. It’s natural. It’s normal. Your personalities might not match. You might be clingy, weird, co-dependent, high maintenance or unbalanced. He'll be most effective ministering to you from afar.
This doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. It doesn’t mean you can’t be friend at a less intimate level. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about you. He just isn’t going to take you on vacation or hang out in his PJ’s watching football with you.
You have yet to prove yourself or invest in the ministry.
Smart leaders will invest mostly in those who have proven themselves faithful. Jesus devoted himself to twelve, and then at a closer level to three. Pastors will hang with those who share his vision, who are fierce defenders of the church and who don’t exhibit selfish tendencies. The pastor has a serious call of God to lead the church into an impossible vision, and he needs people around him who will empower that vision.
If you are dead weight, they will love you, pray for you and do their best to awaken you, but they won’t—and shouldn’t—be close friends with you.
God told him not to get too close to you.
There have been a number of people over the last two plus decades of ministry that I was specifically warned about. God told me not to befriend them. Some had devious intentions. Others would be a time-suck. Others would want to be inappropriately close to my family and me. Healthy boundaries were necessary.
Sometimes, my wife would be the one to wave the red flag of warning about an individual. It’s always wise to listen to a discerning spouse! And, often, God didn’t tell me exactly why I should keep my distance. I simply had to obey.
Other reasons God may keep you from a close personal relationship with your pastor abound. God may want you in a desert season. He may want you to pass the test of rejection. He may want you more focused on God than man. The list goes on and on.
You would be better served connecting with others in the church.
While a pastor’s charisma and maturity may be appealing, they may not be the best fit for friendship. It would be best to honor their role in your life as teacher, intercessor and leader while enjoying deep relationships with a few others in the church. The fit would simply be much better.
You wouldn't be able to handle his strong leadership in a close relationship.
Good leaders will slice and dice you in love, challenge you to the extremity of your limits and rebuke you, again in love, for deficiencies that remain unaddressed. Most people can’t handle such a direct approach. Their skin isn’t thick enough.
A well known, influential senior pastor of a huge mega-church met with my wife and me in his office one day. I had ministered with him in prayer events and, while we were not close friends by any means, we were friends. He had access to my life. At this particular meeting, he reached into my soul, pulled it out and threw it against the wall. He challenged me. He was very direct and the meeting was extremely upsetting. My wife cried on the way home—and several times thereafter. We were rocked, but we took his counsel to heart, though I didn’t know if I agreed with everything, and I felt he was quite harsh about simple philosophical differences. I was troubled.
The next week we had another scheduled meeting. We were anxious to see him again in hopes of asking some questions and gaining clarity. We were also a bit uptight as we didn’t know what else he may challenge us with.
To our surprise he looked me in my eye and simply said, “You passed the test.” Then he hugged me.
He went on to explain that he was intentionally pushing me to my limit, challenging things he knew I held dear in ministry and wanted to see how I’d respond. He said other pastors and leaders have stomped out of his office in pride and indignation after similar confrontations.
Though I admittedly was angry after the first meeting, I also understand that’s the culture within structures led by leaders with strong personalities and cutting-edge leadership abilities. They don't play around.
He is mostly focused on connecting with his leaders, who, in turn, train others to connect with the body.
Pastors should be spending most of their time and energy on a small number of leaders, not the entire body. Those leaders will then multiply what they received into others.
Do you think Moses could be best buds with every one of the millions who left Egypt? That’s ridiculous. It’s also unnecessary. There’s a better way to ensure people in the church are connected.
18 You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. 19 Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, 20 and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. 21 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” Exodus 18:18-23 (ESV)
THE CHURCH IS SUPPOSED TO MOSTLY FOCUS ON MEETING MY NEEDS
This possibly may be the most destructive belief about the local church.
People who are disenchanted about the church are usually upset that their needs haven’t been met. In fact, for many it’s a strange thing to hear that the church isn’t mostly there for them. Instead, they are to be there for the church.
Churches should not be started in the hopes of drawing in people and simply ministering to them. But, this is the extent of the vision of many church planters and pastors. Churches should be started when there’s a powerful, God-given vision for advance. For example, if God speaks to a man about transformation and revival in a certain city, it might make sense to start a church and gather the laborers. Those laborers will be trained for the sake of running the specific race God has given that church.
Yes, churches should absolutely reach out to widows and orphans. They should be centers of healing. When there are needs, the church should do what it can to help (though, it can’t always help in every way at all times). That being said, those who have been trained, healed and equipped should understand the church needs them as laborers, as intercessors, as financial givers and as champions of the vision.
Most of the spiritual needs we have don’t require the involvement of the pastor. We can easily grow in the Word on our own. We can seek out deliverance through others. We can learn to lean more on God than man.
If our churches were strong militaries where everyone signed up to give to the mission instead of making demands, the world would be turned upside down.
RELATIONSHIPS ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING
If there one thing that troubles me, it’s when people gather together in the church to meet with friends and then lose passion when they are called to invest in the vision. I’ve seen this happen many times. People who want to connect relationally will stay involved until that well runs dry. Then, the pastor and leadership are accused of not having a loving church or facilitating friendships. While relationships are important, they aren’t the goal. The pastor’s job isn’t to develop a friendship club. The mission of intercession and Kingdom advance should be their focus.
I heard a story, again about IHOPKC, that speaks to this. Long ago, they instituted small groups. They started to flourish as people focused on developing relationships and satisfying that desire to make friends. That’s good. However, the primary, foundational purpose of IHOPKC was compromised. The main reason the ministry was founded was to gather people to pray and worship night and day. The prayer room started to empty as the small groups grew. They put an end to the small groups. It wasn’t until years later that they reinstituted them using a different model, one that ensured the small groups empowered the prayer room instead of threatening it.
This is one reason many churches today focus on small groups, visitor assimilation, pot lucks and connecting events—as the call to prayer goes silent. That’s what will fill the church, and kill the very reason we are to gather in the first place. To pray. Prayer is to be the main thing in every church.
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.” Mark 11:17 (ESV)
WE SHOULD ALL BE ALLOWED TO MINISTER DURING THE SERVICE
26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 1 Corinthians 14:26 (ESV)
This is the famous verse many disgruntled people use when they share their frustrations about the church. They want to minister in the service and they don’t like just sitting there and listening to one person teach. They attempt to spiritualize their irritation.
This argument is often a manifestation of a spirit of rejection. Their ministry has not been given a place and they took offense. As one who has led churches for years I don’t apologize for disallowing certain people from ministering in the service. My role is to protect the sheep. If someone desires to minister, but it’s from a wounded heart, it can do great damage. But, let’s leave that alone for a moment and deal with the crux of the matter.
Shortly after Pentecost, the early church had, as some estimate, over 10,000 Christians. There would be, of course, no way for all of them to teach a lesson or deliver a message in tongues, and then wait for an interpretation. It’s impossible.
The reality is there were two complimentary expressions of the church, the large group meeting and the small group meeting.
In the small group meeting, spiritual gifts could be exercised. A variety of people could share a message. Various songs could be sung. However, this is not the only expression of the church. In fact, I’d argue the large meeting just might be the most important. This is where God’s ordained leader would gather the people and bring mature, focused instruction. In fact, the Ekklesia best defines the large group meeting. It’s a secular term that indicates a governmental gathering where leadership gives instructions to the people.
Paul did this. Peter did this. God reveals key information to pastors and leaders regarding the mission of the church, the culture, the hour and the resistance of the enemy. The pastor must then have the attention of the people so they can rightly respond.
WE AREN’T SUPPOSED TO BE SPECTATORS
Let’s deal with this two ways. First, I believe at times we absolutely are to be spectators, meaning, we sit at attention and listen carefully to the teaching. We can’t diminish the value of this, as I revealed in the previous point. Second, it’s true that we all have a role to play. The pastor has no obligation to allow us to minister any way we choose. When I was a youth pastor in a large church in Texas, the pastor assigned some ministry assignments to me that I despised. My ministry was to clean all of the bathrooms between services and to spend 8 hours every Friday in the scorching heat mowing their massive lawn. Oh yeah, I got to do some youth pastor stuff too.
I guarantee, those who are truly serious about not wanting to be spectators will have many opportunities to serve in the church! In fact, I bet if you ask your pastor where you can serve he’ll give you at least two or three options.
WE CAN WORSHIP AND GROW IN THE WORD ALONE OR IN SMALL GROUPS
Yes, we absolutely can grow alone. In fact, we should grow alone and in small groups. As I explained above, the small group expression of the church is valuable. Additionally, we should all be students of the Word and in prayer all by ourselves. Our prayer closets can’t hold more than just one of us.
However, don’t forget, the purpose of the church isn’t primarily to meet our personal needs, be they spiritual or natural. It’s great that you can grow better on your own than by sitting in the pew on a Sunday morning. That’s exactly what’s supposed to happen. But, remember, the purpose of the church is to be a house of prayer for all nations. You are needed as a soldier to show up for duty. You are needed on the wall. The church isn’t there to load you up with Bible knowledge or to act as a bridge between you and intimacy with God. You can do that on your own. The church needs you to meet it’s needs.
THE CHURCH ISN’T A BUILDING
Somebody needs to shout this loud and clear: Stop saying the church isn’t a building!
This argument is most often a passive aggressive attempt to devalue the Sunday local church gathering. People say this to validate their decision to disengage from the local church and to just “be the church.” Yeah, no. That doesn’t work.
As far as I can tell, people who leave “the building” to meet in homes are still meeting in buildings. Homes are buildings. Further, buildings are really great when it’s snowing or raining outside. I’m a big fan of buildings.
They may also argue that they don’t want to invest money in the maintenance of a building when they can simply meet in homes instead. This argument doesn’t work either. As I shared above, there must be two expressions of the church. The large group gathering is important. What happens if the church grows beyond 50 or 100 people? Some would say to multiply out and start new home groups.
This might work at times, but very often it doesn’t. We forget that God will specifically call a man or woman to lead a work. It’s important that we have the opportunity to sit under that person’s leadership, and that will most usually require a large venue.
When I was a part of IHOPKC, it was important for me to be in services with the entire community to hear Mike Bickle teach, share vision and give direction. It was invaluable. It required a large auditorium to do that.
WE ARE ALL EQUAL AND PASTORS SHOULDN’T BE ELEVATED ABOVE US
Nonsense. God absolutely favors people differently and he calls people differently. Some are able to teach, and some aren’t. Some have the gift of leadership and others don’t. We all play a part, but every single part is different.
Throughout Scripture, God called specific people to give leadership over others. Moses, Joshua, Paul and many others were put into leadership roles. Their function was not the same as others. Their maturity was not the same. Their gifting was not the same. Their anointing was not the same. None of that was equal.
Of course, God is no respecter of persons when it comes to his love, his passion for their lives and the fact that he died for them. But, you’d have to be biblically blind to say he favors and positions everybody equally.
We must understand there is rank and order in God’s government. God has generals, captains, privates, and, sadly, a bunch of people who have gone AWOL because they don’t affirm this leadership in their lives.
Give double honor to spiritual leaders[a] who handle their duties well. This is especially true if they work hard at teaching God’s word. 1 Tim 5:17
I’d encourage you to recalibrate your expectations of the church and of pastors with Scripture. God hasn’t called us into rebellion against his precious church. We need the large and small group gatherings. God’s leaders must spend their time in prayer and the Word. The church isn’t mostly about feeding you, it’s about equipping you as a soldier in a war. When we all get unified in prayer and mission, the church becomes both a beautiful bride and a potent weapon in the hands of God.
Arguments against the invitation to go deep in God are increasing…and it’s Christians who are leading the resistance.
re·li·gion /rəˈlijən/ Man’s attempt to use God to get what he wants.
Slap the label “religious” on anything that threatens your theology or impacts your definition of freedom. It feels spiritual. It is spiritual. The demonic spirit realm is filled with unholy wisdom, and very often this is the source of such a defense. Today’s rallying cry seems to be fueled by the desire to be free from anything that places restraints, expectations or requirements upon someone. All of that, to them, is religious.
Many of the arguments are coming from those who have been duped into believing an unbiblical doctrine of grace. This false-grace ideology presumes that all has been completed by Jesus, and that nothing remains for us to do in order to be in relationship with him. Simply, his actions on the cross and at the tomb were sufficient. The result, if we only understood, they would argue, is that absolutely nothing can be done by us to increase our nearness to him, and, from the other direction, nothing can be done to decrease his nearness to us.
They argue that our sin is impotent. Our effort is both futile and unnecessary, and actually an offense to the finished work of Jesus. Their proposition is that we simply need a revelation of this supposed truth. When they discovered it themselves, burdens and weights were lifted and they began enjoying God as a good, good Father. They would say they do nothing, except believe and receive and live in that revelation.
The truth is that eliminating every burden (God’s burden is light, not non-existent) just may cost us our lives. If you are carrying a backpack on your three-day hike into the mountains, it’s going to get heavy. If you decided to take it off and leave it behind, it will feel like freedom! You are suddenly relieved of that irritating, uncomfortable burden. However, you will also be without food, water, a sleeping bag and shelter. The elements of the world will overtake you and you may very possibly succumb.
I celebrate with zeal every time someone I know encounters legitimate freedom and the immeasurable love of the Father! However, our experience in God cannot stop there. Those who do stop short need to be awakened to the deeper call of God on their lives.
You see, religion isn’t that which produces a barrier to freedom, it’s the attempt to use God in order to have the most pleasurable experience possible, no matter how selfish that pursuit may be.
Those who wanted Jesus to be their king one day, turned on him and demanded his death the next. Why? They were not set on worshiping Jesus but rather on using him. When he didn’t deliver what they wanted, they decided to eliminate him for a better option. This is religion in action.
9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:9 (ESV)
12 And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” 14 And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. Mark 15:12-15 (ESV)
A SIMPLE YET PROFOUND CALL
God is calling us into the deep.
The only way there is through radical surrender, fervent intercession, living in the Spirit and unapologetic holiness.
We must die daily. We must be living sacrifices.
I’m writing this from my hotel room during a ministry trip to Albany, New York, and I’m watching The International House of Prayer’s prayer room live on YouTube. I was on staff at IHOPKC for a couple of years and it was easy to see one specific reality: Most of these people were devoted to God at a level rarely seen in this nation. They weren’t perfect people, but they were hungry people with a level of consecration rarely seen in the church. I’ve known many people who are offended at this. They actually despise IHOPKC and ministries like them. Why? Because their own level of passion for Jesus and depth in God are exposed as lacking. The thought that much is required of disciples of Jesus is contrary to their personal pursuits of undisciplined freedom.
Understand, I know these words I’m writing are provocative. I also believe they must be written so I can most effectively make my point. As obvious as it seems, a growing number of people in this generation don’t get it: we can only experience the deep things of God if we are fervent, radical, surrendered and dying daily to the things of the flesh. There is no other way. There are no shortcuts.
At IHOPKC and other similar ministries all around the world, people are praying 2-4 hours a day or more. They are allowing the groans of the Spirit to erupt out of them. They are devouring the Word of God as they allow the presence of God to permeate them in the prayer room. The Holy Spirit is speaking to them with clarity. The prophetic atmosphere around them is electric. Dreams, visions and a powerful anointing become regular. The chambers of their heart are opened to the searching of the Spirit of God. These people are undone, hungry, desperate and relentless.
Yet, those who subscribe to the unbiblical “freedom theologies” that I addressed above somehow believe that they are as close to God as those who are giving themselves in a more deliberate manner, even if they make no effort in drawing close to him.
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:7-10 (ESV)
A POWERFUL ANOINTING
I’ll never forget the time I had a regional prayer meeting in my church. A well known mega-church leader was in the prayer meeting along with several of his friends. I was praying with my eyes closed when I felt this intense wave of the glory of God wash over me. I opened my eyes and this man of God had just walked by me. I waited for him to make another lap, and as he passed by again, the wave hit me a second time. This happened several times.
I knew this man knew God. There was a depth that was uncommon. He was living in such a way that resulted in a very powerful anointing swirling around him. I yearned to do whatever it took to carry that type of glory on my own life.
I’ve experienced similar manifestations several times, and each time leaves me crying out for a deeper hunger and a more resolute life.
Pastor John Kilpatrick was preaching at a Bay of the Holy Spirit remote event in Detroit. I was on the front row during this morning session enjoying the wisdom that John was releasing to us. Suddenly, in the middle of a point, he stopped. He simply said, “He’s here.”
As he gazed toward the rear of the auditorium, I turned my head and looked myself. You could see a wave of God’s glory moving from the back to the front, row by row. Then it hit me. If I had an unlimited vocabulary at my disposal, I would still not be able to describe that experience. Simply, God arrived.
There is no way that manifests except via a radically devoted life, a life that John Kilpatrick exemplifies. There are precious few who live this way.
1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” Isaiah 6:1-7 (ESV)
As we life consecrated lives, encounters are revelations will increase. The truth found in Scripture will explode off the pages. We will be undone. As with Isaiah, the revelations will result in a declaration of God’s holiness and our weakness and struggle. If there is sin in our lives, it will be instantly evident. Then, the fire will sear us and our redemption and deliverance will be made clear.
We will live with a never-ending burning in our spirits and a tremble that marks us forever.
If we want to experience the wonders of God, radical consecration is the only option.
5 Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” Joshua 3:5 (ESV)
Not only will we live tepid, powerless lives that are focused mostly on our own personal experience instead of laying our lives down for Jesus, but those who refuse to consecrate and devote in the place of intense prayer and surrender are at risk of eternal separation from God. There is a terror of Hell that the enemy is making ready for them to experience.
My book The Terror of Hell is a sobering message of how intimacy with Jesus and salvation in Jesus are related. In the encounter, I was dragged toward Hell. The terror I experienced was horrifying and fully indescribable. God spoke to me after the encounter and said, “John, many Christians will be shocked to find themselves in Hell one day.”
It’s possible that a Christian may be in a good place today, but in the future they may grow apathetic or they may lose their first love. Here’s a portion of an article based on my book:
A backslider is focused on his own condition, on his own comfort zone while a good man is in tune with the heart of God. His pleasure comes from intimacy with Father God. His pleasure comes from going where God is going, doing what he is doing and feeling what he is feeling. There is no sense of ease in the storm, but there is satisfaction and joy in the presence of God and by being in active agreement with him.
This message is a wake-up call for every one of us. Many wonderful people will be terribly shocked to find themselves separated from God forever.
Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
This scripture is in reference to those who would call themselves Born Again Christians. People who have understood and actually flowed in the power of the Holy Spirit. They understood their heavenly position and earthly authority as they overcame demons. These were your miracle workers.
We need a wakeup call, church. We can’t presume to be in a place of safety simply because we said a prayer, go to church, give offerings and talk about Jesus. An intense pursuit of holiness and intimacy is required.
This is a message that must be shouted from the rooftops.
I can’t imagine multiplied millions of people who are current following Jesus in an unsaved condition crying out in terror one day, “I’m going to Hell? That’s impossible!”
“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Revelation 3:1-3 (ESV)
WE MUST DIVE INTO THE DEEP
1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Revelation 3:1-2 (ESV)
Unbiblical “freedom theologies” reject the call to the deep. I’ve had people actually tell me that going deep is unnecessary. Others have called people out of the prayer rooms! They argue it’s an unnecessary practice if we truly understand that there is nothing left to be done. They say we just need to rest in our fully resolved position in Christ. Still others reject prayer movements like IHOPKC because their devotion to intercession is a devotion to unnecessary works.
I’ll be honest with you, I never thought I’d see entire movements of supposed Spirit-filled Christians standing in opposition to prayer!
Someone connected with me on Facebook recently and shared her desperation to see a prayer movement emerge in her region. She actually said she’s been involved in a church that’s all about revival, but they haven’t had a prayer meeting in ten years! I simply responded by confirming her suspicions: you can’t be a revival church without a fervent, consistent and supernatural culture of prayer. It’s impossible.
THE SUBMARINE DREAM
My wife and I were in a military grade nuclear submarine following behind a second submarine that contained my Father and Mother-in-law.
I was analyzing the situation, trying to gain understanding on what exactly were were doing while my wife was playfully looking through the periscope. Both submarines were staying at the surface of the water, and they were being used as tour vessels. The atmosphere was playful and carefree.
After a short time everybody was done playing and we decided to park the submarines alongside a long pier. We climbed out and walked down the pier and onto an ocean side boardwalk. There were people everywhere enjoying a beautiful sunny day. The restaurants and shops were full of activity.
We walked onto the sandy beach which was about one hundred yards from the submarines.
As we gazed out over the water, both submarines suddenly began leaving. They headed out toward deeper water.
My in-laws immediately started running into the water giving chase to the submarines. As they did, I was thinking that it was impossible for them to get anywhere near to the fast moving vessels and I didn’t understand why they had tried.
Then, my wife ran into the water as well.
What I saw next can’t easily be described in a way that is true to the emotion I felt. The water immediately began erupting as if a powerful hurricane was upon us. I was terrorized as I frantically tried to devise a plan to help. What I saw next drained every bit of hope from my being. A whirlpool opened up underneath my in-laws and sucked them under. Then, a second whirlpool took my wife.
I was screaming for help. A few people gathered around but could offer no help whatsoever. I called 911 and all I heard was this recording, “We can’t send help for an hour. We can’t send help for an hour.”
It looped over and over. I knew that THIS was the hour. I couldn’t wait! The emergency was upon us.
As I stood on the beach, hopeless, the scene changed.
Only a few days had passed yet it was now bitterly cold and the water had frozen over. There was at least ten feet of snow on top of the ice.
I started moving slowly, though as quickly as I could, through the snow in the direction of where the whirlpools were.
It was my wife, frozen. She was gone.
I ran back to the boardwalk and into a restaurant. I saw someone who had tried to help previously behind the counter of a sports bar. He was a volunteer firefighter in addition to working at the restaurant. I yelled, “Help! Help! I found her! I found her! Come quickly!”
He just casually said, “Sorry man, I’m working.”
What? I couldn’t believe what I heard. I said, “No, you don’t understand! I found my wife! I need help!”
He just said, “Sorry.” and then looked at a customer and said, “How can I help you?”
I ran back to the snow where my wife was buried. I thought that maybe, just maybe, since she was frozen that there was a chance she could be revived. I’ve heard of people freezing and their heart beat is slowed to almost nothing before being brought back.
As I was thinking about this I looked down at her, and there was a piece of paper right next to her frozen face.
I picked it up. All it said was, “Wake up and strengthen what remains and is about to die.”
Then I woke up.
When I woke up I was shaken to my core.
As I started to pray and analyze the dream, the following is what was highlighted to me:
- The submarines: Vehicles represent ministry, and I believe the submarines represented the church. The church is not meant for casual play at the surface of the water. It’s a military weapon of war designed to move into the deep as it advances toward enemy targets. When the submarines left on their own, that represented the truth that the church will most certainly advance on its mission with or without us. We can be left behind as we continue our focus on entertainment and leisure if we so choose.
- My family: Of course, this was a hard core part of the dream. The first reaction is to do everything I can to ensure those close to me are doing well and burning hot for Jesus. Beyond that, symbolically I feel they represented familiarity and presumption. It’s very easy to presume those who are close to us are most certainly doing well in their relationship with Jesus—and then to model our lives after theirs. What happens so often is that we can adopt their pace and their level of passion instead of staying locked in, on alert and advancing in the fire of God. The pressure of maintaining civilities and false-unity can result in a marginalized, lukewarm, casual disposition.
This verse best represents what I am communicating:
…I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Revelation 3:1
We must be careful not to presume that we are alive and that others are alive simply because of the preceding reputations. There are many people with both a spiritual legacy and a name for being zealous who are doing little more than playing—and it’s possible that those people may be some of our closest friends, family, pastors and other personal heroes. Don’t measure your life by their grid. We must calibrate to the truth in scripture that will bring light to every issue of our heart.
Then, we can be true awakeners. If we think people who are are asleep are already awake, then we will have no need to step into our roles as end-time prophetic messengers.
- 911: I was sounding the alarm in a variety of ways including by calling 911. I also ran into the sports bar looking for help. Both rejected the alarm. It’s clear that the hour is now for awakening though even those trained as emergency responders won’t see it. What was the alarm? Those that have a reputation of being alive are dead! Wake up!
- The storm: It was sudden, violent and really out of place. It didn’t make sense, but it wasn’t obligated to explain itself. If we would have been in the submarines AND in the deep, the storm would not have touched us.
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; Matthew 24:36-38
So, what’s the call?
It’s simple, and it’s directed to the church, to those who are to be in the deep:
Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Revelation 3:2
Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:4-6
God instructed me to wrestle with Revelation 3:1. I've been burning hot for Jesus for over 20 years, yet, is it possible that my devotion is not as deep as I might think? Yes, it is possible.
God didn't accuse me of being dead. He didn't reveal that my passion was false. He simply wanted me to always consider the possibility that my reputation will always be at risk of being more intense than my reality.
…I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Revelation 3:1
It's time to go deep, to be awake and alert and then to awaken the sleepers…many who may have a reputation of being very much alive…but are not.
It’s time for revival, not the promotion of selfish “freedom theologies.” This is the hour.
A suffocating spirit was out for destruction as we were contending for revival.
I’ve waited fifteen years to write this article. I implore you to read every word.
As young church planters in one of America’s darkest regions, Amy and I along with our two oldest boys, who were little guys back in 2001, launched Revolution Church. The vision was intense and our passion was for revival that would launch in that strategic city and impact the nations.
Manitou Springs, Colorado is famous for its dark history and present liberal leanings. Rumor has it that Anton Levey wrote at least some of the Satanic Bible from his home there. It’s a quirky town at the base of Pikes Peak near Colorado Springs. We started the church there in a 700 square foot office space and then quickly grew to a core of 25 people. We moved to our second of four ultimate locations, a 2000 square foot storefront right downtown Manitou Springs. It’s there where we met Janet (name changed for the sake of this article).
I’ll never forget the Sunday morning service as the sun shined brightly through the large plate glass windows in our small meeting place at the Arcade in Manitou Springs. Janet was a first-time guest, and she seemed to be attempting to engage during the service. Understand, at the time, Christians in Manitou Springs were few and far between, so it was not common to see Spirit-filled people visiting, unless they drove from Colorado Springs. In fact, I was invited to preach at a Manitou Springs festival the first year we were there. The organizer had no idea what he had done! In the middle of my fiery message, a bold declaration of the power and necessity of the blood of Jesus, a tall man in flowing garments stormed to the front and demanded equal time. This alternate religious, New Age leader was agitated by the anointing. It was uncommon in Manitou Springs and his turf was certainly being threatened.
At the end of the service I invited people to come forward to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Janet sprung from her seat and kneeled at the altar. I quickly realized she was not even saved.
After spending time with her, introducing Jesus to her and ministering to her, she boldly asked a question, “Do you ever pray for people in their homes?”
We agreed to meet at her townhouse that week to pray and encourage her. We had no idea what we were about to get ourselves into.
We arrived one evening, sat on the couch and prayed for Janet and her baby. It was an unusual moment for us as I felt little to no anointing. Something was hindering our prayers. Janet confided in us that she had dabbled in witchcraft and was ready to move on from it. I applauded her courage to break away from what I know is a very strong, seductive spirit. She repented of her involvement and we prayed some more. The breakthrough remained elusive. I asked her if she owned anything inappropriate that she should get rid of. She reluctantly admitted she did and disappeared upstairs to retrieve some items.
She emerged down the stairs with a T-shirt with some occult symbolism on it. She also held the witch’s handbook.
She surrendered these two pieces of occult paraphernalia to us, and we again prayed. I thought it would be easier to pray now that she had removed them from her life. I was wrong. Amy and I didn’t understand why it felt so dead in her home, but we had done all we knew to do. We encouraged her again and prepared to leave. She then asked us, “I’ve heard of anointing homes in oil. Do you do that?” I told her to find some Crisco.
We anointed doorways, windows and anywhere else we could dab some oil. After we finished anointing and praying downstairs, I led the way up the staircase. At the top of the stairs I saw a guest room and a bathroom. I also saw Janet’s room. I was not prepared for what happened next.
I stepped into her room and immediately could not breathe. It felt like I stepped into a swimming pool sideways. I was engulfed with a suffocating, heavy, evil presence. I stepped back outside her room. Relief.
I didn’t share my experience with Amy or Janet, but instead prayed through the guest room and bathroom. I then stepped back into Janet’s room. Crushing suffocation.
I attempted to pray in tongues, but there was absolutely no way I could. Every prayer fell dead to the ground.
I urgently asked Janet if there might be any additional items she should throw in the trash. She slowly, casually looked in her closet and pulled out a couple things and placed them on her bed. That didn’t work. I was gasping for air, but not only air, for the breath of the Holy Spirit! We needed God to move in that place, and quick!
I was very direct with her. I said, “Janet! I will not pray for you and you will not find freedom if you don’t immediately eliminate every single thing from your life that is impure!”
I was standing between her bed and the wall, next to her night stand. She placed several more items on her bed, but it was not helping. One final time, as I was ready to get out of there, I said, “There is something you are holding on to that is much more evil than anything you’ve surrendered so far. What is it? No more delay!”
She reluctantly glanced over to the night stand, inches from where I was, and pointed at something I had not noticed. She said, “Well, that’s where I perform my sacrifices.” I looked at a small altar with ashes all over it. Yes, that was it.
She ran down and grabbed a large, plastic trash bag. We renounced what was happening at that altar and threw it away. Immediately I could pray in the Spirit. The wind of the Spirit was refreshing beyond description. The fire in my prayer was a stark contrast to how debilitated I was previously.
Amy then began to pray with Janet and talk with her. I was praying in tongues and doing my best to hear what God was saying. God instructed me to ask Janet about demons visiting her room. God had given me incredibly precise revelation. I revealed to her that those demons require written documentation about her interactions with them. Her jaw dropped and her eyes spread open. She had never been more stunned at something someone said. I read her mail.
She went to the closet and pulled out a stack of at least 20 spiral notebooks. She said she had much more stored on her computer. She confessed that demons visit her every night and terrorize her. She is forced to write about their visits. That is why she invited us to her home. She wanted the demons to leave.
She put the notebooks and many additional things on her bed. Six trash bags of occult and witchcraft materials were taken to the dumpster.
JANET’S STRUGGLE CONTINUES
After that experience in Janet’s tiny townhouse, you’d imagine she would have gone on toward radical deliverance. Sadly, that didn’t happen, at least as far as we know. She disappeared. We aggressively searched for her and finally, after several weeks, did track her down. She would attend church occasionally, but would manifest demonically at times. She aggressively confronted my wife once and then ultimately vanished again. That was the last time we ever saw Janet, well, sort of. Janet was about to visit some people in their dreams.
HALLOWEEN SEASON IN MANITOU SPRINGS
October in Manitou Springs is always extremely volatile. Witchcraft is rampant and the atmosphere in that town is heavy. Creepy. Threatening. Also, it was my favorite time of the year. We knew we were called to contend against the darkness as we we were advancing toward revival.
Each year in Manitou Springs we’d prayer walk the city as we witnessed small fires in the foothills of the mountains ignite. The flames would dance as thought the mountains were alive. Witches were having their meetings, and we were having ours. We’d never consider hosting a harvest party or other event like that on Halloween. It was all out war, a spiritual war, and we had no option but to be alert, armed in the Spirit and on assignment. It was time for prayer.
The attack during October each year was intense. Three years in a row, precisely on October 31st, our oldest son was admitted to the hospital with a severe asthma attack. The suffocating spirit was assaulting him every October, until God gave us some revelation on how the enemy was assaulting us. We responded and the Halloween attacks on him then ceased.
In 2003, two years after we had planted Revolution Church, and quite some time since we’d seen Janet, Amy was pregnant with our third child. One night, in the middle of October, Amy shot up in bed, frantic, and woke me up.
She was shaking. She said she just had a horrifying, vivid dream of Janet wielding a large knife. She drove it into my wife’s stomach and killed our baby.
After praying we went back to sleep, shaken but confident that God was in control. The next morning we awoke and prepared for a scheduled church staff meeting at our home. At the beginning of the meeting, I asked our staff for prayer and started to mention Amy’s dream. I was interrupted by one of our staff members. She said, “Amy, I had a dream about you too last night. It was disturbing. I saw Janet with a knife. She stabbed you in your stomach and killed the baby.”
We were speechless. Another staff member was beside herself. She said, “I didn’t have a dream, but I had an vision about the exact scenario you both described!”
Later that day, a friend of Amy’s who had never met Janet or known anything about her called. She was upset. She didn’t want to scare Amy, but she had to share about a dream she had. “Amy, there was this girl (she went on to describe Janet’s unique appearance precisely), and I saw a large knife in her hand. She attacked you, stabbed you in the stomach and killed the baby!”
Amy and I proceeded to do literally everything we could. We prayed, of course. We stood in our authority. We had a powerful deliverance minister and his team conduct a spiritual house cleaning in our home. They reported it was the cleanest house they had ever been in.
A CHRISTMAS EVE TO FORGET
A couple of months passed, and we had shaken off the disturbances that October visited on our family. In fact, we were excited about a special doctor’s appointment on Christmas Eve. We were going to hopefully discover the sex of our baby!
I will never, for the rest of my life, forget what happened in the waiting room. Amy, our two sons and Amy’s parents were there as we waited our turn to meet with the sonographer. Our appointment was the last of the day and doctors, nurses and receptionists were scurrying around, closing up shop and preparing to head out to various holiday festivities. Joy was in the house!
Suddenly, I felt an extremely heavy, holy blanket of grace descend upon me. My emotional strength suddenly tripled at least. I was spiritually tuned in, sensitive, wondering why God had decided to strengthen me in that manner. I was about to find out.
“Amy Burton,” called the nurse. It was our turn.
Amy and her mom joined me in the ultrasound room. Amy laid back as we were all excited about seeing our wonderful, new baby. The sonographer placed the instrument on Amy’s belly, and instantly removed it.
She said, “Wait here. I need to see if I can find a doctor before they all leave for the day.”
The next two minutes were spent in silence. Joy and gladness gave way to nerves.
The doctor finally arrived, took a quick look, and said, “I’m so sorry, your baby has died.”
WITCHCRAFT KILLED OUR CHILD
The next day was Christmas morning. We did all we could to make sure it was a wonderful one for our boys. We unwrapped gifts as we sat around the tree. Literally every single present I got for Amy was either maternity clothing or a gift for the baby. She carefully unwrapped each as her turn came and placed them in a pile to return to the store.
The following day we were in a hospital room, waiting for Amy to deliver Elizabeth Hope Burton.
As the labor inducement was quite a ways from taking effect, Amy said I could go to a late-night prayer meeting a few blocks away. My phone was kept on and I remained ready to rush back to the hospital at any moment. At that prayer meeting, God again strengthened me. Shortly after returning to the hospital at around midnight, we both met Elizabeth.
The doctor was shocked at the cause of death. It was a cord accident. Cord accidents aren’t unusual, but this particular one was. He said he’d never seen a cord wrapped five times around a baby’s neck. Elizabeth was suffocated to death. Witchcraft killed Elizabeth.
WE WRESTLE NOT AGAINST FLESH AND BLOOD
Amy and I bless Janet. We pray for her, wherever she may be. We don’t hold her accountable in any way. She was a hurting, lost young lady. She didn’t kill Elizabeth. Extremely vile, destructive, evil entities did. At the time, we did all we knew to do to help Janet. We also did all we knew to do to cancel the curse and to wage war against hateful, murderous evil spirits. We failed. We learned.
We lost six more babies after we lost Elizabeth, but we are so blessed to have three wonderful boys and two precious girls in the Burton family.
Amy has been a champion. She has ministered to those who have lost babies to stillbirth or miscarriage. She has cried with them, grieved with them, prayed with them and stood with them.
While our faith was hit, it was not shattered. We have learned over the years to war, to wrestle with the enemy and to contend with faith and passion. Life isn’t about some set of rules that Satan has to obey. He cheats. He hates. He does all he can to rip us to shreds, and he wastes no time finding just the best way to do that.
I know many of you who are reading this are already thinking about theological issues with my story. You might think Christians can’t be touched by witchcraft. You’d be wrong.
The slightest open door or lazy approach to intercession, or pride or even ignorance can give the enemy access. He doesn’t fight fair. He knows our weaknesses. In fact, some of you may be considering Job. He was upright, yet struck.
Understand, the blood of Jesus doesn’t grant us immunity. It grants us authority. We need to enroll in the school of the Spirit and learn how to battle. If we don’t fight, the fight will come to us. If we don’t engage, we will be hit.
I held off for fifteen years in writing this article because it’s not a happy story. But, I realized that so much of today’s church has become inauthentic by only highlighting that which makes us happy.
In order to win battles, and ultimately the war, we have to learn from struggles. We must understand the ferocity of the enemy. We need to be in the Word, in prayer and free from even the slightest sin or compromise.
The lesson we learned was not that we were steeped in sin. We weren’t. We were living holy lives as young though immature Jesus lovers. The lesson is that we must clearly understand that the enemy is ready to pounce, and that we must be ready.
HALLOWEEN IS EVIL—AND NO CHRISTIAN SHOULD PARTICIPATE AT ANY LEVEL
Witchcraft is permeating the atmosphere this and every October. It’s time to war, not party. Pastors, call solemn assemblies instead of holding harvest parties. This is an all hands on deck season.
I’ll leave you with some short bullet points that I posted to Facebook earlier today about Halloween. If you didn’t understand before why I so vehemently renounce this unholy day, you now should.
Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD. Joel 1:14
Eleven reasons Christians celebrate Halloween
- They don't believe witchcraft is a big deal.
- They wrongly think the way they celebrate doesn't involve witchcraft.
- They incorrectly assume Christians are immune to curses and the power of witchcraft.
- They can't imagine the thought of their kids missing out.
- They celebrated Halloween as children and conclude it didn't have any negative impact on them.
- They wrongly equate it with Christmas, which “also has pagan roots” yet is universally embraced by Christians.
- They believe it can be sanitized and Christianized.
- They believe it's a great opportunity to evangelize, but without exposing the darkness or revealing how wicked the holiday is.
- They have fallen for false-grace deception that allows them to be free and have fun no matter what.
- They haven't experienced the wonder and terror of the spirit realm.
- They lack discernment.
Powerful strategies to eliminate templated, programmed church services
An Azusa Street report:
…disgraceful intermingling of the races…they cry and make howling noises all day and into the night. They run, jump, shake all over, shout to the top of their voice, spin around in circles, fall out on the sawdust blanketed floor jerking, kicking and rolling all over it. Some of them pass out and do not move for hours as though they were dead. These people appear to be mad, mentally deranged or under a spell. They claim to be filled with the spirit. They have a one eyed, illiterate, Negro as their preacher who stays on his knees much of the time with his head hidden between the wooden milk crates. He doesn't talk very much but at times he can be heard shouting, “Repent,” and he's supposed to be running the thing… They repeatedly sing the same song, “The Comforter Has Come.”
It’s becoming less common for Christians to jump out of bed on Sunday mornings, excited about heading to church. Of course, many do still love their church experience. The worship environment is powerful, the vision is alive and the part they play causes them to feel the fire of the Holy Spirit coursing through them. However, sadly, if we were honest, we’d have to admit that many church services are much less powerful, less anointed and less impacting than we’d like. In fact, a church that looks anything like what was described in the above Azusa Street report can hardly be found.
There is a way to fix that. The end result is an atmosphere that’s placed in the Holy Spirit’s control. I’ll tell you this, it’s impossible to be bored when God moves. Impossible. It can’t happen. It’s possible to be provoked, irritated, offended or troubled, but not bored or disconnected. What this means is that, in many churches, God isn’t moving in real power. It may be hard to admit that, but we must if we want to prepare for revival and an outpouring that will make us say, “I can never do church the way I used to again.”
An Azusa Street report:
All who are in touch with God realize as soon as they enter the meetings that the Holy Ghost is the leader.
SEVEN SURE-FIRE STRATEGIES TO END BORING, PREDICTIABLE CHURCH SERVICES
1. Lead in lengthy sessions of corporate praying and singing in tongues.
True Christian leaders will confidently, passionately and continually lead people in fervent and supernatural prayer. Lack of a powerful prayer emphasis on Sunday mornings is an indicator of a lack of a powerful prayer discipline throughout the week. When we are burning in intercession throughout the week, there is an explosion that simply must come on Sunday mornings and any other time the saints meet together.
Nurturing an atmosphere where everybody is praying in tongues and singing in the Spirit simply cannot disappoint. How easy would it be, in the midst of worship, to spend fifteen or twenty minutes pacing around the room, laying out at the altar or finding a place to pray in tongues with a zealous spirit? I recommend integrating this into every church service, understanding that the wind of the Holy Spirit may blow the program for the rest of the day well of course.
In fact, it would be valuable to bring the worship team down off the platform on occasion during this part of the service so they can be free to let the groans and cries of their heart out. Often, worship team members find a comfort spot behind their instrument or microphone. You’d be sadly surprised at how many people who have been entrusted to lead us into the Holy of Holies don’t operate from a burning, overwhelming spirit of prayer.
6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. Acts 19:6 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
Singing was sporadic and in a cappella or occasionally there would be singing in tongues. There were periods of extended silence. Attenders were occasionally slain in the Spirit.
2. Embrace a vibrant prophetic culture. Invite people to submit prophetic words during the service.
In order to stay right on track with the order of service and to ensure the focus of the day isn’t threatened, definitely do not promote a prophetic culture! Unfortunately, too many pastors have embraced that advice by eliminating or rejecting prophetic ministry on Sundays.
I’ve always believed one of the best ways to promote an absolutely electric church service is by allowing God to speak. When people are trained in the prophetic and are also given an outlet to reveal what God is desiring to communicate through them, the supernatural energy in the room spikes. I often wonder how many sermons have been delivered and how many church services have been conducted in such a way that God’s plan for the day was entirely missed.
As we effectively equip people in prophetic ministry, and facilitate an environment that affirms and promotes prophetic expression, God will blow through the saints and the atmosphere will shake under the weight of God’s Rhema word.
1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:1 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
…devotees of the weird doctrine practice the most fanatical rites, preach the wildest theories and work themselves into a state of mad excitement in their peculiar zeal. Colored people and a sprinkling of whites compose the congregation, and night is made hideous in the neighborhood by the howlings of the worshippers, who spend hours swaying forth and back in a nerve racking attitude of prayer and supplication.
3. Have open mic intercession. Invite people to pray 10-15 second prayers, to make decrees and to stir the atmosphere.
Praying in tongues corporately will naturally lead to some incredibly potent revelation stirring within the people. I believe it’s extremely valuable to invite people, in that Holy Spirit infused moment, to release that in the form of short prayers and decrees.
Simply open the microphone and watch the line grow as hungry, passionate saints of God prepare to lead the people in intercession, one after the other. Imagine twenty or thirty people or more shocking the atmosphere with Holy Spirit driven decrees! Not only is it powerful corporately, but it also empowers people individually to take ownership of what God is doing within. As they all respond to the impact of the Holy Spirit, they become stronger and the service will definitely be marked with fire.
15 The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. Psalm 34:15 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
There was spontaneous preaching and altar calls for salvation, sanctification and baptism of the Holy Spirit.
4. Invite people to make biblical declarations.
At another point during the service, open the microphone again. Invite people to release biblical declarations. The Word of God is alive, and when that sharp sword pierces the atmosphere as people read it and then call everyone to come into agreement with it, it will result in supernatural shockwaves.
5 Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore. Psalm 93:5 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
…in most services preaching consisted of Seymour opening a Bible and worshippers coming forward to preach or testify as they were led by the Holy Spirit.
5. Promote prophetic art, flagging, dance and other expressions during the service.
It’s disappointing that prophetic expression such as art, dance and flagging are almost extinct in the church today. I suggest we allow the dancers to dance! There’s serious prophetic power when anointed people flag, paint, dance and contend in the Spirit.
Put up the easels and allow the artists to draw or paint. Provide whiteboards for people to write down prophetic words anytime during the service. Celebrate the dance and encourage the flaggers. God has given them important gifts and it’s a mistake to shut them out.
I know many pastors would argue that they can be undisciplined. They might steal attention as they exhibit their gifting during the service. My question would be, what have you done to guide and equip them? Have you invested in them by training in protocols and equipping in prophetic ministry? If not, you can’t blame them if they don’t know exactly how to respond when their God-given desire to function in ministry is stirring within.
20 Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. Exodus 15:20 (ESV)
6. Have prayer for deliverance, healing and freedom.
When’s the last time you saw someone vomit at the altar? Yeah, I know, that’s a funny question. I personally don’t prefer to clean up the mess! (I love that some pro-deliverance churches have “bucket brigades!”) The point is valid, however. When is the last time deliverance has happened on a Sunday morning?
The weight of God’s glory should be so intense that demons easily manifest and deliverance commences right there at the altar. I’ve had demons react in some intense ways in services I’ve been in. It’s actually a thrilling adventure, not something to be shut down for the sake of keeping nice, quiet and sanitized order. When we know who we are and the authority we walk in, deliverance is something we should all get excited about.
As we contend for deliverance, healing and freedom on Sunday mornings, the order of service will often have to be violated. I’d personally rather see people free than hear the prepared sermon or get out of the service on time.
17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; Mark 16:17 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
Among first-hand accounts were reports of the blind having their sight restored, diseases cured instantly.
7. Expect manifestations of the Holy Spirit and don't shut them down when comfort levels are threatened.
How is it we can worship God, preach about God and gather together because of God but shut God out when he starts to interact in a supernatural way? Manifestations of the Holy Spirit should be expected. If God’s not moving, something is wrong!
I remember a meeting many years ago where God was moving in extremely intense power. People were absolutely rocked. God was touching people for at least two hours before the preaching even began. When the preacher was bringing the message, one lady was laughing and crying, under the power of the Holy Spirit. Some in attendance kept looking her way as God ministered to her. The preacher became agitated and said something like, “Can you not hear me? Should I have the sound crew turn my mic up? Pay attention. Do you really want me to shut down God’s ministry to that lady just because you can’t stay focused?”
That was a powerful moment indeed. One I’ve remembered for over two decades.
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; Acts 2:17 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
Soon the crowds became very large and were full of people speaking in tongues, shouting, singing and moaning. Many people would continually shout throughout the meetings. Finally, the front porch collapsed, forcing the group to begin looking for a new meeting place. They shouted three days and three nights. It was Easter season. The people came from everywhere. By the next morning there was no way of getting near the house. As people came in they would fall under God's power; and the whole city was stirred. They shouted until the foundation of the house gave way, but no one was hurt.
The attendees were often described as “Holy Rollers“, “Holy Jumpers”, “Tangled Tonguers” and “Holy Ghosters”. Reports were published throughout the U.S. and the world of the strange happenings in Los Angeles.
CHURCH SHOULD NEVER BE BORING
While I’m not at all proposing that church should entertain us, I am saying that it’s just not possible to be bored in an environment where the Holy Spirit is moving, touching, engaging, healing, delivering, wrecking and encountering the people.
I’d challenge every pastor to initiate all seven of these strategies. The result will be a church on fire that draws in a hungry, passionate remnant that is ready to release the oracles of God…and shake the nations.
An Azusa Street report:
Christians from many traditions were critical, saying the movement was hyper-emotional, misused Scripture and lost focus on Christ by overemphasizing the Holy Spirit. Within a short time ministers were warning their congregations to stay away from the Azusa Street Mission.
Proud, well-dressed preachers came to “investigate”. Soon their high looks were replaced with wonder, then conviction comes, and very often you will find them in a short time wallowing on the dirty floor, asking God to forgive them and make them as little children.
Most presume my book Covens in the Church addresses witchcraft, curses and attacks against the church. They are correct, but they misunderstand just what type of witchcraft I’m dealing with until they read the book—and are shocked.
I deal with (among other things) those in the church who are spiritualizing their manipulation, control and rebellion by abandoning the local church, rejecting authority and church government and launching home churches without blessing or qualification. When birthed out of a heart that resists authority, home churches are little more than coven meetings. I have been a bold advocate for what many call the institutional church while shining the light of scrutiny on the exodus to house churches.
It’s important for all who read to understand I’m a staunch supporter of local church pastors and any movement that attempts to circumvent biblical government must be exposed and renounced.
I also want it to be clear that I actually do agree with many house church advocates on many points. They have legitimate disagreements with the way the local church is functioning today, and their issues have been largely ignored by pastors and those who are in leadership. Their evacuation out of the institutional church and into house churches may be the wrong move for some of the right reasons. There are serious issues to deal with, and pastors, it’s time to wake up and lead the church into the new wine skin.
The institutional church is at great risk of irrelevancy and extinction. However, I’m not convinced house churches are the best move if they develop at the expense or exclusion of the local church.
WHY ARE SO MANY REJECTING THE LOCAL CHURCH IN FAVOR OF HOUSE CHURCHES?
I asked a question on Facebook earlier today:
What are some reasons people are choosing home churches over the institutional church?
It didn’t take long for comments to start flooding in. It’s obvious to me that the anti-institutional church sentiment is unapologetic and passionate. The reasons they shared demand some analysis.
I should make it clear that there are most definitely house church movements, when rightly aligned in the government of the city church, that are biblically appropriate and full of fire and power. I’m not anti-house church. I’m anti-rebellion.
Before I get into the reasons people are leaving the church in favor of home churches, I wanted to share a reply that I just received from someone who read my Facebook post. It comes from a pastor’s wife. She gave me permission to publish it. As we continue through this local church/house church debate, let’s keep in mind just how precious God considers his pastors and leaders to be, and how many are laying down their lives for what God has called them to:
As a third generation pastor, who has seen both my parents and grandparents pour themselves out for the local church, selflessly giving and loving the body of Christ it saddens me to see so many abandon what so many paid such a steep price for in faithful service to the Lord. I get it. No church is perfect. Be it a home church or an “institutional“ church. Let me tell you though, it is not easy being a pastor in this day and age. Everyone has instant access to the greatest and best preachers and teachers out there via social media. I know for myself and my husband we are revivalists. We desire a move of God, and give space and place for the Lord to do what He desires. I see many people post online how they’d love to find churches that do that but then in real life we have people come in, decide it’s too steep a price, and go to an easy believeism church or someplace they can be hit and miss with no accountability. The reality is that for the presence and the glory of God to invade an atmosphere it’s because someone has paid a price for it. In intercession, fasting, years, faithfulness.
Just to be honest, as a pastors wife, sometimes reading these kinds of posts adds to the feeling of discouragement. ~Debra McBride
Here are ten reasons people are leaving the local church in favor of house churches:
They desire genuine community.
It’s true that people can get lost in a larger church, especially if they are gathering people together just an hour or two a week. The Sunday service typically doesn’t provide opportunity for people to authentically connect and develop relationships.
Those who are yearning for deeper friendships can feel their frustration grow every week as they shuffle into a row and sit through a programmed service, only to shuffle right back out and into the parking lot.
I agree that godly relationships are valuable, though I believe people’s frustration can be misplaced. I affirm the desire for relationships can be overwhelming, and loneliness can eat away at us if we don’t handle it rightly. However, the purpose of the church, the Ekklesia, is not mostly to make friends. It’s to gather together as Believers under apostolic leadership and vision to pray and prepare for Kingdom advance.
Relationships will never be developed on a Sunday morning. There’s no way. They aren’t supposed to. And, pastors, please abandon all attempts at trying to fit them in. The three-minute window you give people to walk around and greet one another is a sad and unnecessary attempt at nurturing togetherness. The right approach is to admit the Sunday services are meant for prayer, worship and apostolic instruction. The fellowship can happen at other times and in other places. Any attempt at fellowship on a Sunday morning is misguided.
For those disappointed because the pastor won’t connect closely with you, I have some news for you. Your pastor isn't supposed to be your best friend. He's probably not going to be your friend at all. He may rarely connect with you personally. It may never happen.
His job is to pray, study the Word and facilitate an atmosphere of intercession and equipping. His relational energy will be reserved for just a few, just as Jesus modeled. Those who are prone to rejection, or those who presume the church is supposed to be ultra-relational, will suffer in such environments.
I don’t know when it became the church’s job to become matchmaker, developing circles of friends and facilitating the relationship building process. If people want to hang out, let them connect in the prayer rooms and on the mission field and then head out for coffee or initiate a Bible study on their own time. It doesn’t have to be organized, and it shouldn’t distract from the greater mission.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the local church hosting small groups. They can be enriching and very good. The problem is when the living room instead of the prayer room becomes the glue that holds the church together. Relationships are actually critically important, but they can’t be the premier goal. The church has a much greater purpose. There’s a world to change. There’s revival to pursue. If people trusted that process, they would develop life-long friendships from the fox hole of ministry. The first church was birthed just like that.
1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. Acts 2:1 (ESV)
They are tired of unnecessary hype, productions and programs.
Every few weeks it seems there’s a new project or ministry focus that is instituted just to prove the church is getting bigger and better, is alive and moving forward. People can see right through these attempts and, quite frankly, are tired of investing so much money, time and energy for such a small return. They have had enough of the “bigger is better” mindset and simply want to give themselves to simple, organic church life.
The stage productions, expensive programs, lights, smoke and Hollywood style video presentations might look good, but the house church crowd is rejecting them wholesale. The vision the pastor might have for such a ministry isn’t shared by them.
I’ll be the first to argue that we need to shut pretty much everything down and simply gather together to pray. Filling the calendar with ministries, groups, programs and other endeavors without clear vision and buy in from the people is simply not attractive or, in most cases, effective.
Pastors, it’s time to get back to the basics. It’s true that those who have been conditioned by media and today’s culture might reject the basics, but we aren’t here to pander to culture. We are here to shake the nations.
So, does this mean the pyrotechnics, media and high production value are inherently evil? Absolutely not. Those who are abandoning churches simply because a church has implemented such tactics need to re-evaluate their heart. It’s not okay to abandon ship just because you don’t appreciate this style of ministry, but I can’t deny that’s it’s your right to be troubled if the theatrics veer the ministry off it’s proper course.
I’ve often said that I despise hype and exaggeration. When we employ such psychological methods to project our efforts beyond where they actually are, we limit God to our own imagination. We get overly excited about what we can produce instead of allowing God to blow our minds!
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV)
They want to be released to minister according to their giftings.
This argument is common. People are discouraged because they cannot function according to the gifting God has placed within them. They are chomping at the bit to be activated. They were created for a purpose, yet, so often in the local church, they are not released to move in their ministry.
As one who has planted and given senior leadership to churches for years, I’ll be the first to come to the defense of local church pastors. Just because you have a gift and calling does not mean you are ready to function in it in the church. There are a lot of broken, immature, untrained, prideful or simply weird people out there who should not be given a place in public ministry—until they have been made ready.
There is significant process involved in the ministry development incubator. If you aren’t willing to submit to authority and give yourself to the process, and allow significant time to pass as you die daily and gradually grow stronger, your ministry cannot be validated.
Many people are launching house churches because their ministry was not confirmed in the local church. This is where a lot of immature people are launching premature ministries. Their authorities have determined they are not ready, but they turn aside from that counsel and move out in childish rebellion—all in the name of spiritual freedom.
That being said, pastors, you must do a better job at equipping the saints. While there are many pastors and church leadership teams that excel at this, most don’t.
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children… Ephesians 4:11-14 (ESV)
The church only goes as deep as the majority will allow.
The house church crowd is typically a spiritually hungry one. We can’t deny that most local churches simply don’t go deeper than the majority will allow. I’m not talking about seeker sensitive churches, I’m referring to Spirit-filled churches that promote exuberant worship and devotion to Jesus.
There are many churches like this that will just go so deep. There’s a limit. They know if they get as passionate and as supernaturally infused as the zealots in their midst, the majority will leave.
Pastors, you must wake up! Let the pretenders leave! It’s time to bring the fire, the shock and the awe back into the church! How can you fault people who desire to leave because they want to experience Jesus more than you do?
For those who are hungry for the deep, I won’t pull any punches. This alone is not a reason to leave a church and to start your own. You can go as deep in God as you want regardless of how far your church goes. I challenge you to burn hot, pray without ceasing, stimulate dreams and visions and raise the temperature of every atmosphere you walk into.
Will God eventually move you on to another church or to build a new ministry yourself? He most certainly may. Just make sure you handle the move with integrity and honor. If your current church is apathetic, you can be sure God will bring resolution one way or another without your intervention.
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3:15-16 (ESV)
Being guilted into serving more, giving more and building the church.
House church people generally are more interested in Kingdom activity than the local church. They are more passionate about God’s expression among a people in a region than a local ministry. They are tired of building a single man’s kingdom by giving and serving and enhancing that local church instead of investing in the advance of the Kingdom of God.
Again, as one who has been involved in the church for decades, I understand. There’s so much pressure today to grow big ministries, to be successful and to keep everybody active and on task. Leaders want people to take ownership. In our American culture we are individualistic and laser focused on whatever project we deem most beneficial to us. The problem? There is much more that needs our focus than a single local church.
I believe it’s healthy and important for people to have a home church while also engaging at a high level in other local churches, ministries and Kingdom activities. When I was giving leadership to churches, I would strongly encourage people to frequent other ministries in addition to our own. Investing in the city church is more important than the local church.
I started this message by mentioning my book Covens in the Church. That book as directed at those who wrongly abandon assignments for the sake of pursuing their own spiritual endeavors. This point requires I highlight the follow up book titled, Pharaoh in the Church. This book was written to pastors who are so focused on building their own ministry that the people are wrongly used, expected to continually serve, give and sacrifice for that never ending project.
In the words of Brian Ming, “God forgive us for building kingdoms of man on doctrines of demons in your name.”
Pastors, right or wrong, this is another reason people are leaving your church for the more efficient, simple and authentic house church.
The power of God isn’t there.
I’ll admit that I’ve been to some small group meetings that are electric! The Holy Spirit was blowing through that living room or office space like a wind and a fire! When you gather people who are all likeminded and hungry for Jesus, you can’t help but to see God respond.
I’ve been to local church meetings like this too, but they are rare. How often do you leave an institutional church remarking about how powerfully and supernaturally the Holy Spirit moved? Some of you reading this are truly blessed, and you’d respond by saying, “Nearly every Sunday!” Most would have to honestly admit that it’s extremely uncommon or nonexistent.
Understand, I’m not talking about a great worship experience or an encouraging message. I mean, when is the last time the supernatural presence of God flooded the place to such an extreme that people were trembling, crying, and laying out all over the place? This should be the norm for the church. Pastors, until you can steward this call and facilitate a white-hot atmosphere of Holy Spirit power, it will be easy for people to be disappointed in your church.
1 As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2 And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house. 3 When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” 2 Chronicles 7:1-3 (ESV)
Services are predictable, overly structured and polished.
People who are hungry for authentic encounter with Jesus are done with perfectly orchestrated worship sets and precisely ordered services. House churches offer an opportunity to ditch the set lists and eliminate the clocks in favor of spontaneous, unpredictable and untimed worship, prayer and teaching along with a fervent pursuit of an ever increasing tangible presence of the Holy Spirit.
Instead of the spit and shine, they long for the messy, unpredictable, uncontrollable move of God that simply won’t allow for manmade organization.
How often are the people in the pews crying out for the pastors to get out of the way and to let the Holy Spirit move? It’s time we admit that our messages really aren’t that great, and our worship sets aren’t that special. Let’s move aside, hit our knees and let the Holy Spirit run our services! I’ll tell you this, when it happens, people won’t be frustrated and disappointed, fleeing the church, they’ll be flooding out from wherever they are to the place where the fire is burning!
The truth is it can be easier to fan the flames of revival in a small house church than in a local church simply because local churches aren’t typically focused on the remnant. They want the bigger crowds and are willing to compromise to ensure the people stay connected. Those in house churches aren’t focused on numbers or on drawing the seeker. They simply want God. Period. They have no order of service. They pray. They cry out. They minister to God and to each other.
While I acknowledge this reality, my belief is that we need to see such a remnant focus in the local church! I believe apostolic hubs, houses of prayer and house churches have emerged because local churches have abdicated their responsibilities to be centers of prayer and Kingdom advance. They have become fully local to the detriment of the city vision. Prayer has taken a back seat because most resist such a devotion.
I love houses of prayer, apostolic hubs, para-church ministries and even healthy, rightly aligned house churches. I also love the local church and am campaigning for it to break out of the old, tired and predictable in favor of a Holy Spirit who cannot be controlled.
13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ …Matthew 21:13 (ESV)
Pastors who are functioning out of ability, creativity or charisma instead of anointing.
Stage shows seem to be overtaking much of the church today. Instead of contending for hours in the prayer rooms, pastors are often functioning from their creativity and charisma. The anointing simply isn’t intense. They haven’t been branded by the fire that can only be found at the altars.
How rare it is to see the man or woman of God trembling behind the pulpit after emerging from an encounter with almighty God in the prayer room.
Leonard Ravenhill said, “Pastors who don’t pray two hours a day aren’t worth a dime a dozen.”
People can see right through pastors who are operating out of gifting instead of anointing. It’s leaves a very bad taste in their spirits. They want to be led by people who are continually encountering Jesus, people who aren’t so confident in their giftings that they simply put together “creative” programs, conferences, sermon series and whatever else they can orchestrate.
That being said, house church friends, I challenge you to re-read the appeal from Debra at the beginning of this article. Have enough compassion for God’s leaders that you don’t rise up in pride, determined to be more spiritually driven then they are. In fact, I bet most house church people are no more spiritually devoted than most local church pastors.
17 pray without ceasing, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (ESV)
A lack of focus on the greater church.
House church folks don’t like to be limited in their church experience. They don’t value, and actually devalue, the demand many pastors have to commit fully and only to their specific local church. It stinks of personal kingdom building instead of truly being Kingdom minded.
As I said above, we need to encourage people to invest in a variety of churches and ministries in our region. In fact, pastors should be very active in supporting other churches and ministries. Lead the people in your church to conferences, prayer events, special church meetings, revival services and strategic Kingdom happenings in the region.
House churches can easily become equally unhealthy when they become inward focused and disconnected from the greater city church. In fact, many, many house churches regularly fall into this trap.
Out of one side of their mouth they confess to being “Kingdom focused” while on the contrary they never visit and lock arms with other local churches, ministries or functions in the region.
46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes… Acts 2:46 (ESV)
They are plain bored with the old wine skin.
Church as we know it is done. This is the driving message behind my book The Coming Church. I’ve preached about this, written about this and led movements with this in mind. The old wine skin must give way to the new. The house church, for many, seems to be a logical step out of the old and into the new.
The reality is that the new wine skin looks nothing like anything we see in local or house churches.
However, one key component that many house church enthusiasts may not be too excited about in the new wine skin is: authority. The government of God will be firmly established and the five-fold ministry will be foundational. No longer can people just do as they please presuming that God is their only authority. We will function within Kingdom government, and we must acknowledge the various leaders in the region.
22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” Mark 2:22 (ESV)
HOUSE CHURCH OR LOCAL CHURCH?
Both. Neither. Actually it’s the city church we should be advancing. Local churches are important as larger groups of people lock in to contend for revival and advance the Kingdom. Smaller churches that are more keenly focused will exist in homes along side the rest of the church of the city. Apostles, prophets and other leaders will serve with sobriety and boldness.
The key is having pure motives, honoring all and being faithful to the calling and the process God has given you to steward whether it’s in a local church, house church, apostolic hub, house of prayer or other community of faith.
We all want revival, or, rather, we all think we want revival. We crave God’s presence. We want the fire. But, let’s all be challenged. When the fire comes, will we honestly allow it to consume us? Will we stay devoted, humble and surrendered? Or will we rise up in pride, dissatisfied with the way things are unfolding and move out in rebellion to start an alternate, individualistic, isolated, coven in the church?
Proclaim the message of intercession and revival to the nations!
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What about the “freaky stuff?” How concerning is it when supernatural manifestations are rare in the church today?
My four-year-old daughter Eva just said something as I’m sitting here writing this article at a Starbucks in Branson, Missouri. While scanning through cartoons to watch on Netflix on her tablet, she zeroed in on one.
“I want to watch this one. But I don't. It's freaky and I love freaky stuff. But I also hate freaky stuff.”
I just had to laugh. In a way, that might sum up the tension of the Christian heart. Discerning good and evil is important for all of us. I’m proud of Eva at her young age!
Further, from an entirely different angle, it may also be the way many people think about the supernatural. Church experiences widely range from absolutely stoic and dead to bizarre and flamboyant. Freaky.
I think there are many mildly hungry yet cautious Christians out there in the middle who are intrigued by the “freaky stuff” but, then again, are tired of the ridiculous manifestations in many churches that aren’t Spirit-driven at all. It's just people acting strange in the name of freedom. Too often, they default to calm and safe instead of wild and risky. Many pastors fall into this category as well.
America needs to take a bold, confident step toward wild and risky. We need the freaky stuff in the church to emerge as it did at Azusa.
On Friday evening, March 1, His mighty power came over me, until I jerked and quaked under it for about three hours. It was strange and wonderful and yet glorious. He worked my whole body, one section at a time, first my arms, then my limbs, then my body, then my head, them my face, then my chin, and finally at 1 a.m. Saturday, Mar. 2, after being under the power for three hours, He finished the work on my vocal organs, and spoke through me in unknown tongues. (http://www.scrollpublishing.com/store/Azusa-Street.html)
Another local paper reporter in September 1906 described the happenings at Azusa with the following words:
…disgraceful intermingling of the races…they cry and make howling noises all day and into the night. They run, jump, shake all over, shout to the top of their voice, spin around in circles, fall out on the sawdust blanketed floor jerking, kicking and rolling all over it. Some of them pass out and do not move for hours as though they were dead. These people appear to be mad, mentally deranged or under a spell. They claim to be filled with the spirit. They have a one eyed, illiterate, Negro as their preacher who stays on his knees much of the time with his head hidden between the wooden milk crates. He doesn't talk very much but at times he can be heard shouting, “Repent,” and he's supposed to be running the thing… They repeatedly sing the same song, “The Comforter Has Come.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azusa_Street_Revival)
WE NEED MORE THAN EXPLOSIVE CHURCH SERVICES
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. 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. Romans 8:26-27 (ESV)
It’s true that I firmly believe we need a massive shift toward “groaning churches” with atmospheres of searing hot intercession that cause the building to shake. I’ve been in many, but nowhere near enough, such services that have left me in tears, trembling and under the influence of fire, drunk on something out of this world. The supernatural moments, in very legitimate ways, forever marked my life and my relationship with Jesus. When you add authentic experience to life-changing truth, you can’t help but be transformed from someone who is simply “devoted to Jesus” to someone who is raging in love, undone, undignified and suddenly alien. Everything changes through authentic encounter with Jesus. Nobody can remain the same.
Too often we presume we can achieve such an electric atmosphere in our church services through charisma, exuberance and a decent dose of exciting worship and expressive prayer. This is common in your more “alive” churches. People are just deep and hungry enough to “jump a little higher than before,” as the song goes (which, at some point becomes humanly impossible. Insert grinning emoji here.).
The point I’m making is this: It takes a leadership team and a zealous people who are setting a culture of deep and extreme prayer, sharp spiritual discernment, and who are wildly prophetic to experience breakthrough into the supernatural.
Natural and predictable church services are the result of spiritually lazy and naturally minded people who are not moving into the realm of the invisible.
FREAKY STUFF WILL SET THE STAGE
My life in ministry has been shaped by unusual and powerful supernatural conflicts and encounters. I say that not because it’s really cool, but because I’m really dumbfounded. A simple man praying fervent prayers has somehow triggered invisible entities into manifesting in the natural. As I started witnessing more and more, I began to understand how absolutely critical it was to live, walk, breathe and legislate in the Spirit—especially for those engaging in a dark world with an apostolic assignment.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12 (ESV)
How many Christians are actually confronting evil forces as a part of their ministry strategy? This takes way, way more than simple prayers. We must go deeper than ever. When we do, the fight is on and it will absolutely manifest in the natural realm. Get ready for some wild church services!
Definition of Authority: the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience; a person or organization having power or control in a particular, typically political or administrative, sphere.
Check out this breakdown of a powerful passage of Scripture:
Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV) 14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power (MIRACULOUS FORCE) through his Spirit (PNEUMA: BREATH, WIND, SPIRIT) in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend (SEIZE, POSSESS, APPREHEND) with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (DOESN’T EXIST IN THE VISIBLE REALM, OR EVEN IN THE DREAM REALM), that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (WOW! FILLED, FULLNESS OF GOD!) 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power (MIRACULOUS FORCE) at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Paul was praying for the Ephesians to be awakened to the reality of the power that God has given them. Growing in that revelation is key for anybody assigned to a church (that’s all of us). We must know our assignment and we must be equipped to conquer via the Spirit of God. When we are assigned by God in a region, as an authority, we have the power and right to give orders, to enforce obedience in the spiritual realm. This is a governmental, supernatural call.
One key principle I discovered years ago was invaluable. God will establish authority in regions, and it’s absolutely mandatory that those governing leaders learn how to discern in the spirit and conduct business in the spiritual realm.
Shortly after my wife Amy and I planted Revolution Church in Manitou Springs, Colorado, we started experiencing some powerful and revealing things. Our primary ministry method was prophetic intercession. We’d prayer walk that quirky town day after day. We’d receive fresh prophetic revelation and instructions by the Holy Spirit. After it was all said and done, I bet those streets had been prayer walked thousands of times. One particular target of our prayer was a specific church, the largest of five churches in Manitou Springs. This church was part of an apostate denomination and led by a man many considered, including the police department and City Hall, to be the pastor of the city. This man admitted to someone in my church that there was no Hell and demons didn’t exist. He refused to participate in a ministry alliance in the town because he didn’t want to offend his “pagan and Muslim brethren.” Clearly, this individual walked in unholy authority and had significant influence in the spirit in Manitou Springs, and that reality demanded a confrontation.
Our young family moved into an old home in Manitou Springs near the beginning of our ministry time there. Instantly I started discerning something very heavy. Every morning I’d wake up with a distinct “taste” or feeling in my spirit. It was demonic, disorienting and honestly a bit debilitating. Strangely, I couldn’t pray it off or shake it off, but as the day wore on, it would dissipate. This happened every day.
Some time went by, and I received an invitation to meet the pastor of the apostate church. The church building was just beyond the back yard of our house, so I walked there one afternoon for our meeting. The heavy oppression that I woke up with every day had worn off that by then and I was eager to connect with this city leader. I wasn't prepared for what was about to happen. The moment I walked through the doorway of the church, the EXACT same taste, the same distinctive oppression that I had experienced for so long every single morning, slammed me with force. I pulled myself together, put a smile on my face and shook hands with the pastor. We sat down and engaged in small talk. I mentioned to him that their church was very close to my house. He asked me to describe the house. I told him what it looked like and where it was located. We then compared notes on what it looked like inside. What he then said rocked me. “Oh, yes! My family and I lived there for years!”
I didn’t have to be a math genius to put two and two together. The demonic anointing the pastor walked in lingered. I bet those demons were quite surprised when a man of God on assignment moved in. After that fateful meeting with the pastor of the city, the oppression stopped. God communicated what I needed to understand. From that point on I was able to govern in the Spirit with precision. The spirits that were anointing that man’s “ministry” were uncovered.
Rumor has it that past city officials have also lived in that house. It was clear that, for whatever reason, authorities had lived there and I needed to consider what my apostolic, governmental responsibility was. I sensed in the Spirit a baton had been passed to me and our team. That revelation was invaluable as I truly understood God had our back and we could be confident in our advance.
WE CANNOT SURVIVE AS A CHURCH WITHOUT THE SUPERNATURAL
From that time, our prayer and apostolic strength increased. We would pray on the top of Pikes Peak and in caves under the earth. Many undeniable supernatural happenings would stun us time and again. We’d confront witchcraft and watch God work wonders. Demons would come out in the middle of services leaving visitors wide eyed. One deeply resistant and demonized young man vomited in the parking lot the moment we were praying for him with his girlfriend in the church. Moving in authority brings a shift to the atmosphere as demons can’t help but respond in obedience.
And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” Luke 4:36
Is our ministry causing people to be amazed? If not, go deep into the spirit and, as it happened at Azusa, you won’t be able to stop the presses. Word will get out and the amazement and mocking will both commence! Some will run to your church. Many will flee.
And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” Acts 2:12-13 (ESV)
The message I’m attempting to communicate is that we must go extremely deep behind the scenes. We have to stand in our authority. We must learn how to decree and declare and legislate in the Spirit. Leave the prayer lists and prayer topics behind. Defer to tongues and prophetic intercession when you don’t have a theme to focus on. Let revelation drive your prayer meetings. Lean not on your own understanding.
As I look back at my time in Manitou Springs I know it would have been impossible to break through and do what we were called to do without constant prayer meetings, prayer walks, engaging the enemy, moving in the Spirit, stimulating a prophetic culture, having dreams and visions and moving in great authority.
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19
My recommendation is to avoid trying to manufacture a vibrant atmosphere. Many worship teams and charismatic preachers are very skilled at this, but those who are sharp spiritually can see right through it. Let’s just stop the production and go deep Monday through Saturday and come into our Sunday services rocked and shocked by the revelation of Jesus and the spiritual battle we’ve run to. Live a life that provokes demons and angels. Expect the supernatural to happen. Shake Heaven and Hell. Enlist people who know how to groan and intercede night and day. When that happens, the lid will blow off our Sunday meetings. Whatever you do, DON’T PUT THE LID BACK ON! Let the supernatural scare away the resistant, awaken the sleepers and activate the remnant!
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. John 6:66 (ESV)
If you don’t stand in your authority, how will the church advance? If you don’t pray non-stop, how will you have strength and insight to advance against witchcraft and all that the enemy is bringing against you? Most curses and strategies that witches and others are targeting local churches with go unnoticed. People have no idea there are demonic beings wrapping their arms around the congregation like a vice.
I could share story after story of shocking and bizarre and absolutely critical encounters in the invisible realm we’ve had over the years. We must learn how to see in the Spirit. What is happening? How should we contend in prayer?
The American Spirit-filled church simply isn’t Spirit-filled enough. We are barely touching the surface. We are too concerned with keeping the visitors. A church full of those who would be scared away if God showed up is a church full of false-positives. Those particular people in the pews may very well not even be saved. We can’t just have happy services with laughing and dancing and handshakes and presume all is well. There is warfare raging and spiritual forces to be exposed, confronted and taken out.
I’ve said many times, I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. Supernatural, messy services that break human control must come. The only way human control releases is if those humans encounter God day after day. God has to convince them.
When we dig deep and uncover the demonic roots in our regions, and invade the darkness, and refuse to ask the Holy Spirit to “settle down,” the church will experience powerful advance.
It’s time for the freaky stuff to return to the church.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 (ESV)
The condition in our nation is so weighty that we must awaken ‘groaning intercessors’ who contend together for revival in the church.
Throughout scripture we see groans preceding a great deliverance—and this deep groan of the Spirit must erupt in our churches and in our cities now. The days of quiet, sedate church services built upon human order must come to an end—Sunday mornings must resound with a prophetic shock and a new sound of trembling people exploding in groans of the Spirit.
Acts 7:34 (ESV) I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them.
Romans 8:22-26 (ESV) 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 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.
I've been privileged to give leadership to some events where intercessors and hungry people have shaken and shocked atmospheres. The loud, erupting sound of groans have been resounding in our meetings. It’s been prophesied many times that a new sound is going to be released. A new tone. I am convinced that this is not a new musical style, but rather it is a new groan of the Spirit. It’s the tone of the groan that will be heard around the world.
One of the most misapplied scriptures is Romans 8:28. When people are struggling, it’s common to share this verse with them. It’s actually pretty bad counsel if we don’t let them know that this verse is dependent on the preceding verses. Romans 8:28 starts with the word “And,” which should reveal that it’s connected to what came before it:
Romans 8:26-28 (ESV) 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.
Things work together for good WHEN we allow the Holy Spirit to intercede through us with groans! No groan, no guarantee of success.
This is talking about a literal groan. Just like praying in tongues requires a literal sound to come out of our mouths, the groans are also deep, zealous sounds…tones…emitted from the depths of our inner man.
Churches must begin to become prayer and groan driven! The sound will break strongholds and usher in deliverance into our nation.
Yes, it will make a lot of people uncomfortable…but the Holy Spirit will be radically comfortable.
When the groans begin, Romans 8:28 initiates. As the powerful mysteries of God are exploding out of us in prayer, we easily find ourselves loving God with deep intimacy. We embrace the calling that’s on our lives. We have a resounding yes in our spirits even though we don’t know logically what we are agreeing with! In fact, bypassing our logic and intellect through groans of intercession is a primary reason WHY we are in agreement with God!
Our minds can’t understand what’s being prayed, and therefore can’t come into disagreement with it!
PRAYING IN TONGUES: THE SOLUTION FOR DEAD PRAYER MEETINGS
I don’t know that you can really have a dead prayer meeting if people are erupting in tongues!
Honestly, it’s difficult to understand why so many Charismatic churches minimize tongues in their meetings. It makes no sense whatsoever!
We need Azusa-level reports to shoot around the planet as we explode in supernatural cries!
In a skeptical front-page story titled “Weird Babel of Tongues”, a Los Angeles Times reporter attempted to describe what would soon be known as the Azusa Street Revival. “Breathing strange utterances and mouthing a creed which it would seem no sane mortal could understand”, the story began, “the newest religious sect has started in Los Angeles”. Another local paper reporter in September 1906 described the happenings with the following words:
…disgraceful intermingling of the races…they cry and make howling noises all day and into the night. They run, jump, shake all over, shout to the top of their voice, spin around in circles, fall out on the sawdust blanketed floor jerking, kicking and rolling all over it. Some of them pass out and do not move for hours as though they were dead. These people appear to be mad, mentally deranged or under a spell. They claim to be filled with the spirit. They have a one eyed, illiterate, Negro as their preacher who stays on his knees much of the time with his head hidden between the wooden milk crates. He doesn't talk very much but at times he can be heard shouting, ‘Repent,' and he's supposed to be running the thing… They repeatedly sing the same song, ‘The Comforter Has Come.'
The Comforter has come! Oh, for a movement where the testimony of our heart was simply that! The Comforter is here! He is blowing in and through us and there is absolutely no denying his love and power!
Now think of a typical American prayer meeting. I know, I don’t want to attend either!
We must see the tone of the groan return to the church again! Oh, and a supposed “disgraceful intermingling of the races” would do wonders for the a movement of unity and revival too, don’t you think? We could fix dry and dusty prayer meetings along with the current racial turmoil in the land at the same time!
I often propose to churches, and model it often in our own ministry, to pray for one or two hours straight in nothing but tongues. No English. No petition. No prayer requests. No worship. Nothing but tongues, nonstop, for hours. Prayer meetings, Sunday meetings and every other meeting would begin to radiate brightly and new life would come to the church almost overnight.
TONGUE DRIVEN PRAYER MOVEMENTS
I’ve seen two powerful prayer movements impact two cities, Colorado Springs and Detroit.
Every Friday night our team of local zealots would be invited into a different local church in the city. We’d pray, without ceasing, for two hours in tongues. In all, we prayed in over 170 total churches between the two cities.
We had one foundational rule: tongues would never be sacrificed or minimized for anything, including unity. How could true unity reign if we ask the Holy Spirit to wait outside the door?
It was always tempting, because of our love for pastors and people from all Christian streams, to remove the tongues requirement. That would gain us entrance to hundreds of additional churches that didn’t embrace the gifts of the Spirit. I was always resolute, however. I knew the movement would die when tongues ceased.
I simply don’t believe prayer is sufficiently powerful without the burning of the Holy Spirit. We need tongues of fire that scorch atmospheres.
I’m believing for new movements of prayer that result in churches being baptized afresh in the fire and power of the Holy Spirit.
I don’t know about you, but I am craving revival in the church of our nation, and we can be sure that all things will absolutely work together for good in America if the church begins groaning in the Spirit. Time is short, open your mouth and let the fire of the Holy Spirit rage through you in an other worldly language. That supernatural cry will have a sound that shakes atmospheres and brings life to the dead. You absolutely have a unique tone. It’s the tone of the groan.
Then when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at his feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the Spirit and was troubled … Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lie against it … now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” And he who had died came out …” John 11:32-44