Are you willing to let your church die for the sake of Kingdom advance? Or, are you so locked in on local church growth that the region you are assigned to suffers?
Is it possible that the high majority of churches in our nation are dead-end churches? As you continue to read, you'll come to understand that many of the most vibrant, focused and Spirit-filled churches would be considered to be dead-end churches, or it's cousin, cul-de-sac churches.
Millions are assessing the current state of the church in America and the Western world—and they are right—it's in trouble. The church is so far off course that one might wonder if there's hope at all.
Listen to John talk about dead-end churches on his latest podcast…
While these millions are correct in their analysis, many of them are wrong in their response. They have left the church they have deemed to be in violation of God's design and have isolated themselves and self-identified as “the church” presuming their action moves them closer to revival. It doesn't. (Read my article that addresses this fallacy, “You are NOT the Church : The Scattering Movement.”)
THE GOVERNMENTAL CHURCH IS THE KEY TO REVIVAL
I often write and teach on the church, and my reasoning is simple. It's not because I am advocating for a better, more vibrant and impacting church experience (though I wouldn't be opposed to that). It's because the regional church, and the local churches that make it up, are the governing bodies and the way they function is critical. The church is the authority in the region and unless it's setup correctly, the hopes for revival can begin to fade away.
I'm not saying that a spark of revival can't ignite through small groups of Believer's who are going deep in prayer and crying out for an outpouring. It absolutely can. Historically it has happened more than once. However, that small group can't govern, can't administrate and can't facilitate the outpouring. While you may argue that no man has any business governing a move of God, you'd be wrong. God has set up the church as a governmental authority that not only has the responsibility but also the ability, if truly consecrated, to push back the enemy, to make room for God and to create healthy, Spirit-designed systems that both protect what God is doing and promote his activity throughout the region—and beyond.
A DEAD-END CHURCH DEFINED
As I explained above, dead-end churches can be full of life, active in outreach, aggressive in their mission and growing. In fact they can sometimes become very large, which very well may be a false positive for spiritual health. Growth and vibrancy aren't the problem. It's the vision and/or the implementation of that vision that can become poisonous.
Simply, if the focus is local church growth ahead of regional Kingdom advance, they have become compromised.
The pastor or governmental leader of that local church must have clarity on the vision, and it absolutely must be centered on regional impact. What this means is that their own desires for local church growth must be set aside as they give their energies to revival in the city God assigned them to.
Drawing and keeping visitors, growing in influence, developing local programs and ministries and other in-house focuses are put on the back burner, or sometime back on the shelf entirely, as their mandate has them focused regionally. A move of God in their city becomes the main thing.
A CUL-DE-SAC CHURCH DEFINED
A cul-de-sac is a dead end too, but it has a different vibe. While a dead-end church may be extremely focused on (misguided) vision, a cul-de-sac church is focused on family. Relationships. Togetherness.
Imagine a nice neighborhood with a safe and lively cul-de-sac. The kids are out playing, neighbors are talking amongst themselves, barbecuing, laughing, eating and everybody is truly enjoying spending time together.
I am more convinced then I've ever been that “family style” churches need to give way to true, apostolic, Spirit-filled movements made up of warriors who are contending for fire. The church is a military, not a vehicle for friend building. The call is to surrender all, to die to self, to cry out for God to move and to advance with a fervency that will cause the enemy to shudder.
It's in the foxhole of Kingdom war where true friendships are forged. Simple social gatherings won't cut it. We are under attack and we need warriors to assault the kingdom of darkness with ferocity. This, friend, is the church.
LET YOUR CHURCH DIE
Pastor, you have to be okay with letting your church, in its current form, die.
Two times in my nearly 30 years of ministry I made a conscious decision to let my church die. Both in Colorado and in Detroit I had heart-wrenching meetings with God as he instructed me to go deeper, to pray more intentionally and to invite the people on the journey with me.
In Colorado, we were in a time of momentum and I'm convinced, as were others, that we had what took to grow the church to 500 people or more if we stayed the course. Understand, our church was intense and alive. The gifts of the Spirit were in play. The passion and vision were powerful. We weren't a dead church by any means, but we were on our way to becoming a very vibrant dead-end church. The only way to avoid that was for me as the pastor to allow my vision and everything I was contending for to die, even if it meant my church would die along with it.
I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I had a clear choice: continue as we were going and grow the church to 500 and beyond or obey God, become zeroed in on intercession and revival and drop in number possibly by 50-90%—or more. I knew I'd probably lose my salary and may have to find outside work. I knew people would be upset at the change in direction. I knew people who misunderstood my heart and calling would laugh and mock. I knew I was creating a very difficult situation for myself and my family. I also had peace. God wasn't interested in my ability to grow a large church. He wanted my heart and my obedience.
In Detroit God gave me a directive to take people deeper, to come up against some destructive theologies and belief systems that many in the global church were adopting, and to focus on holiness and consecration, all from the furnace of intercession. I knew most people wouldn't be interested in such a lifestyle, but I had no choice. Again, I had to obey God. Overnight we lost a large percentage of the people in the church and we shifted into exactly what God had for us—an army of warriors, small in number yet zealous in spirit, who weren't looking for numerical growth, happy worship services or church as usual, a people who wanted nothing less than to be in the middle of God's blueprint for our region. The thoughts of revival consumed us.
The point? Church growth, local church vision, a family style focus, financial strength or attracting and keeping visitors isn't the goal. All of that, quite frankly, can compromise the goal of being a vehicle for regional Kingdom impact. Frankly, the hundreds of people you are seeking may very well threaten your ability to fulfill God's call on your life and for your church.
I would never change the decisions we made in Colorado or Detroit, even if it meant we would have grown a church of thousands. The model of a successful church has become quite skewed, and it's time we let those ideals die and capture the heart of exactly what God is calling us into.
MARKS OF A DEAD-END CHURCH
ONE: The pastor/leader doesn't connect and regularly collaborate with other churches and ministries in their region. Their energies are given almost entirely to their local church, misunderstanding the importance of their local expression of the city church. They don't realize that the church in Scripture has a regional designation attached to it. The church defined is the regional body of Believers who function under regional apostolic authority. Within that context, there are smaller, local churches that are never to be self-identified, but rather are to strategically connect and often yield to the regional expression. This is why it was so important for me to give leadership to two prayer movements, one in Colorado Springs and one in Detroit. We would visit a new church every Friday night and pray in the Spirit from 10pm until midnight. We visited over 100 churches in Colorado and over 70 in Detroit. That regional connection was invaluable.
TWO: The pastor doesn't encourage people in his church to connect with other churches and ministries on a regular basis. When I was leading churches I realized the immense value of other churches and ministries in our area. I'd let my folks know that they should definitely consider becoming faithful to other churches throughout the week, as we were but a single department of the city church. Other departments, other local churches, were important in the grand scheme and they would benefit from joining with them. In Detroit, I cancelled most everything in my church for a month as I led the people out of our church and into another about 45 minutes away that was experiencing a powerful move of God. We were there every single night for 28 days (I actually missed one night, reluctantly). My passion was not the growth of my local church but rather in fanning the flames of revival in my city.
THREE: The pastor has a competitive spirit. We need to kill that nasty spirit once and for all. I propose one way to do that is to invite other pastors and leaders to recruit anybody from our church that they would like. I'd let other leaders in the city know they could freely connect with my best leaders, my worship team, my staff and anybody in the church, and see if they might be interested in leaving us to serve with them. That eliminates competition and any threats of sheep stealing. They can't steal what I don't own and what I freely make available to them.
FOUR: The church has contagious and aggressive vision for local church growth, yet they rarely talk about regional revival. They emphasize the goals, the strategies and the determination to grow their church, to develop their ministries, to increase in number, to outgrow their building, to attract visitors or to focus on what benefits them on a local level.
FIVE: If they have a prayer emphasis at all, it's almost entirely directed toward their own local endeavors. They pray for all of the stuff I mentioned in the point above while having little zeal for an outpouring in the city. They don't understand that the revival may not even launch in their own local church, so they focus on a move of God happening in their own body while forsaking the call to intercede for regional transformation. Instead of groaning and crying out for God to move in their city, for wickedness to be exposed, for other churches to come alive, for an earth-shaking outpouring, they are praying for internal ministries, for their own tent pegs to expand and for local increase.
SIX: Money isn't sowed into their region. They use finances internally to grow their own local church. While they may have earmarked funds for missions and benevolence, the idea of sowing into regional revival is foreign to them. Further, when dead-end churches do give to outside ministries, it's almost always churches within their own denomination.
SEVEN: They rarely if ever bring in guest speakers who are leaders in other local churches in their region. They want to control the narrative and they don't want people to be influenced by a more dynamic speaker or someone who might connect better with people in their church. They fear losing those people. They fear their nice, tidy local family being disrupted. They also fear another leader behind their pulpit who carries a more potent vision for the region than they do. With all humility I can say that as a visiting guest minister in regions I've never previously been to, I've often had more vision for that city than the pastor of the church. It's crazy. I've also boldly coached pastors not to undo what God is about to do in the meetings. When God calls me to speak in a church, a lot will be confronted and exposed and a firestorm of God's loving reformation will be in the room. Pastors, have the guts to embrace someone who won't simply affirm what has been built, but will call the people higher.
MARKS OF A CUL-DE-SAC CHURCH
ONE: It's all about family. As I said above, I believe the family style church is a threat. Many of these types of churches could fit into the “seeker sensitive” category of churches. Many others emphasize the grace and love message in excess and, while there may be praying in tongues and dancing in the aisles, it all comes back to relationships. The thoughts of a vertical experience where people lock in with God and contend for him to move is something they would struggle with if it interferes with their desire for horizontal connections. It can be both vertical and horizontal, but in a cul-de-sac church, preference is given to personal, human relationships instead of aggressively advancing in the Spirit.
TWO: Their definition of revival is off. They see a growing number of people who are enjoying God and one another as the prime goal. While nobody can argue that growing in intimacy with God and that developing Kingdom relationships is wrong, it's the focus and the priorities that send cul-de-sac churches into the wrong direction. Instead of a supernatural war they value a growing, happy family of people who are enjoying God together. They would call that revival, and it's a far cry from it. They misunderstand the severity of the battle and don't regularly engage at the required level.
THREE: Positivity rules. They are adverse to anything that would be a downer to their block party in the cul-de-sac. They want their people encouraged, happy, stress-free and at ease. Topics such as Hell, sin, eternity, repentance, correction, expectations or anything negative are avoided like the plague. They refuse to speak to the national cultural crisis, politics, the end-times, wickedness such as abortion and homosexuality or any other issue that would be divisive, challenging or confrontational. Just as people advise others to avoid the topics of religion and politics around the Thanksgiving table for the sake of civility and keeping the peace, cul-de-sac churches avoid anything that would cause any measure of disturbance.
FOUR: Connecting with other churches, especially those that are aggressive in the pursuit of revival, holiness and a supernatural manifestation of God, is a no-go. They are happy within the four walls of their family gathering and they don't want any outside influences threatening that.
MARKS OF A KINGDOM CHURCH
Instead of a list of attributes of a Kingdom church, I'll draw this article to a close. I believe it's easy to deduce just what makes up a Kingdom church by reviewing the opposing views above.
The bottom line is that we absolutely must see a massive correction come to what we know as the church today. Regional and national revival is greatly hindered by a lack of true, Kingdom churches that are in existence not for themselves, but rather for the advance of, well, the Kingdom.
Pastors, let your vision die. Let your church die. It's okay. Let the stress of growing your own little spiritual experiment in a tiny little petri dish fade away. Even more importantly, get on board with what God has planned in your city. Let your personal endeavors go, as great as they seem to be, and contend with others in your region for an outpouring. Just gather together somewhere, anywhere, with governmental, Kingdom leaders and other revival-minded people and press into God's heart and intercede and advance exactly as God reveals to you as a part of the regional, governmental body. That's church. That's a Kingdom church. That church will turn the world upside down.
GRACE IN THE SHIFT
In closing (for real, this time), I want to encourage you not to get jaded. Don't point fingers at churches or pastors. Understand that they have a mega-burden, and even if they aren't advancing the way reform demands, pray for them. There must be love and grace in the process and in the ultimate shift. Also, understand God is diverse and there are many different types of people giving leadership, and they have varying levels of ability, experience, gifts, offices, prophetic revelation and understanding of the purpose of the church. In fact, many will disagree with this article. That's okay. This doesn't mean we can't contend for transformation in the local church, but it does mean we must have grace in the process.
I want to strongly encourage you to read a related article that is sure to provoke you to urgently considering the need for severe reformation in the church: “Nine reasons we may have to choose: Grow a large church or contend for revival.”
Even today's most Spirit-filled churches must embrace radical reformation.
Listen to a short podcast as I describe the 2 Chronicles church model, a revelation-driven, prophetic model, that must come to the church, and fast. Then, read this article. It's time for revolution.
TODAY'S SPIRIT-FILLED CHURCH EXPERIENCE
Like most of you, I have quite a memory bank full of church experiences, many of them phenomenal, many of them poor, but most of them quite average, not memorable, good, but honestly disappointing and unsatisfying.
There is a collective roar sounding over our nation, a bellowing cry for an end to church as usual. (By the way, here's the definition of bellow: emit a deep loud roar, typically in pain or anger. I think that fits.)
People are no longer impressed by a skilled worship team, a perfect flow, professional preaching or big dollar theatrics. They want a mighty move of God.
If you listened to the podcast, you'll understand that I'm attempting to bring distinction between today's very good Spirit-filled church experience and the radical reformation that must come. We are all familiar with the Sunday ritual:
- Be welcomed by greeters, friends and maybe the pastor.
- Acknowledge the refreshing presence of the Holy Spirit while worshiping for 30-40 minutes or so.
- Shift into a time for the offering and announcements.
- Listen to a decent message.
- Possibly spend some time at the altar as God touches your heart.
- Shake some more hands and then head out to lunch.
- Repeat next Sunday
This is a good experience. However, it's not the experience that can call down fire, usher in revival or shake the nations. Massive reformation must come to some very good Spirit-filled churches.
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)
I believe a mark of revival just might not be full buildings, but rather empty buildings.
Prayer and sacrifice resulted in fire coming down from heaven and the glory of the Lord filling the place! When that dramatic, supernatural event impacted that building, nobody could enter. They all hit the pavement and worshiped and declared God's goodness! This is the church experience the remnant is crying out for!
Pastors will have to fully stop their pursuits of numeric church growth and shift their efforts to facilitating a white-hot atmosphere of intercession, groans, tongues of fire and prophetic unction. Understand, the church isn't a house of teaching, a house of friendships, a house of evangelism. It's a house of prayer. If a church isn't praying in the Spirit as the very foundation of their ministry, then all of the rest is compromised. Powerless. Out of order. Every person in the church must be fully devoted to praying in tongues and allowing the groans of the Spirit to burn through them.
Instead producing an order of service that expects more people to be drawn in, pastors must raise the bar, turn up the temperature and contend with the remnant in otherworldly prayer—fully expecting most others to be repelled. The pretenders will be identified, but so will the faithful and hungry. You will find your remnant when you start offering what the remnant is longing for.
We must have a 180-degree response to the ultra-damaging seeker-sensitive movement of recent decades. We can grieve the Holy Spirit no longer by keeping him on a leash, tied up outside of the sanctuary. For too long, people have been expected to leave the Holy Spirit (and the manifestations he brings with him) outside the church building, though they were certainly free to untie him and take him home with them if they so chose. Ichabod churches are numerous and God is absolutely grieved. We should be too.
But, let me bring this back to center. It's easy to identify the spiritually dead or the supernaturally resistant churches. This message certainly can target them, but more specifically, it targets the spiritually vibrant churches that I identified above.
There are many such churches that are great places to raise a family, to connect with other Believers and to worship and grow in God. But, again, I'm sounding an urgent alarm—this church experience is insufficient. In fact, such churches can become breeding grounds of mediocrity. It's easy to attend such churches and to be casual in our relationship with Jesus. It's easy to be active in sin. It's easy to hide in the shadows.
On the contrary, churches that are marked by fire, with everybody praying in tongues, groaning in the Spirit, crying out for revival and contending for holiness, you cannot hide.
When everybody is praying, walking, crying, living and groaning in the Holy Spirit, when the fire of God sears them, when the challenge is intense and the atmosphere intentionally aggressive, impurities, sins and resistance are exposed. I've seen it time and again.
Sundays must quickly shift. Now. In fact, we are way behind schedule.
Instead of shaking hands and greeting visitors and meeting with friends, people will walk trembling into the sanctuary as a roar of intercession explodes throughout. People will be on their faces with deep supernatural groans erupting out of them. Others will be pacing, repenting, kneeling, crying out or exalting God with great passion.
Instead of sing-a-longs and sermons, a revelation-driven church will be filled with prophetic decrees, biblical declarations, groans of intercession and messages that shift atmospheres, all while people are shaking, hungering and crying out for fire to fall and for the Holy Spirit to come.
You might be surprised at how many visitors actually are drawn to such a life-changing and legitimate move of God. You might also be surprised at how many elders, Sunday School teachers, staff pastors, worship leaders, ushers and pillars of the church run for the exits with complaints and curses in their mouths.
This reformation will shake everything that can be shaken, but we can delay no longer.
May the supernatural church arise and the stigma of Ichabod be decimated as the Holy Spirit manifests in supernatural wonder again.
A shakeup in the culture of superstar, itinerant ministry would do us all some good.
We’ve all become frustrated, or even disgusted, with much of what we are seeing in today’s Christian landscape whether it’s on Christian television, at conferences or online. Some of that irritation is absolutely warranted, while some of it may be our own inappropriate judgments based on a lack of information. What I mean is, the way someone comes across publicly may rub us the wrong way due to misunderstanding their motive or not really tapping into their hearts.
We should be careful when arriving at such judgments to ensure our own hearts are pure.
We also need to be discerning enough to know when reform is necessary.
In this article I want to narrow down the focus specifically to itinerant ministers.
We’ve all been in a church service with a special guest speaker at the helm. By and large I’ve been positively impacted by these men and women of God and I can easily endorse their ministry.
However, even while honorable people are traveling from church to church, conference to conference, I’m seeing trends and a developing itinerant ministry culture that leaves me frustrated.
I also travel and am not at all immune to what I am going to discuss here. It’s extremely easy to fall into traps, presuming them necessary to keep the ministry moving forward. Motives can be pretty good while the execution leaves something to be desired.
Some itinerant ministers enjoy a cult following, and they are masters at drawing in the crowds. We need a raw, inconvenient reformation to come to itinerant ministry. God will not be mocked.
7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Galatians 6:7-8 (ESV)
9 NECESSARY CHANGES FOR ITINERANT MINISTRY CULTURE
Stop with the hype
I never want to adopt a suspicious, cynical attitude regarding moves of God, but I have to admit it’s becoming more and more difficult. I absolutely affirm flowing in whatever charisma and stage presence that God has given to us as ministers. I believe that is a gift. What needs to stop is the tired drama and efforts to make a meeting appear more substantial that it is. Folks, it’s a meeting. It will be over in a few hours. Quit making it out to be more than that.
When we hype something we are lying. In fact, we are edging close to a terrifying category of ministers: False Prophet
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1 (ESV)
Of course, many ministers aren’t deliberate in their deception. I understand this. Some are overzealous which is a mark of immaturity. We don’t want to sit under false ministers or immature ministers. If you are in either one of these two categories I’d recommend repenting and growing before you proceed in your ministry.
Become accountable to an apostolic leader who will call you out on your reports. Stay humble. That’s the quickest track to true moves of God that will not need your hype.
“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6 (ESV)
Counterpoint: God will always out perform hype if we let him. We should definitely expect remarkable moves of God in our meetings, and when that happens it should leave us speechless—not hype machines that have to promote something in the hopes that your superstar status grows. If God is moving, by all means, spread the word. But be honest. If you want to use hype I believe you’ll limit God to what you can imagine and are falsely reporting. In fact, God might not hang around for long at all in such an environment.
Huge altar calls aren’t mandatory
Every traveling minister loves to post to Instagram or Snapchat wide angle shots of masses of people responding to their amazing message. Come on preachers, you know it’s true! I can’t deny that it feels great to see people rushing the altars, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. It’s when we manipulate the service in such a way to get that photo op that problems arise.
Altar calls are actually a fairly recent innovation. Charles Finney popularized them. I don’t believe seeing people at an altar is a good measure of truly converted and transformed lives. It can very easily be a false positive.
George Whitefield, who historians identify as the key preacher of the Great Awakening, refused to speculate on how many of his listeners had been converted. “There are so many stony-ground hearers which receive the word with joy,” Whitefield said, “that I have determined to suspend my judgment till I know the tree by its fruits.” Revivals were the sole work of the Holy Spirit, and the test of time either confirmed or disproved these conversions. ~www.christianitytoday.com
It’s actually quite common in meetings I’m leading to forgo the altar call altogether. I often want the weighty message to rest heavy on people as they go home. I don’t want to give an artificial sense of completion to their decision to respond to the message. Some of my most memorable services have resulted in empty altars as people filed out the door and into their world with burning spirits.
In fact, true biblical preaching will often lead many to become angry and to leave! When this happens we may be on to something.
I think we should shoot for services that cause many to be amazed and many to mock. The altars might not be full but the message will shock the city!
12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” Acts 2:12-13 (ESV)
Counterpoint: I’m waiting for the days when people can’t even make it through a heavily anointed message before they rush out of their seats to an altar in repentance. Very big, legitimate calls to the altar are in front of us, so as God leads let the people come in as a flood!
Praying for people isn’t mandatory either
Understand, I’m a prayer freak. I promote prayer relentlessly, so it may come as a surprise to you that I’m suggesting that prayer lines aren’t always necessary.
Something in my gut just doesn’t feel right when people attend a conference or a meeting with the primary motive of receiving prayer from the person bringing the message. Itinerant ministers often use this desire to their advantage as they call people forward, again, for that photo op or Facebook report.
Do I believe in praying for people, laying on of hands and activating the power of the Holy Spirit in their situation? Absolutely. I will never be able to give human language to encounters with God that I’ve had through other people who have prayed for me. However, it only happened when I was pursuing God alone and not some superstar preacher.
I often end services when I’m traveling without an altar call and without praying for people. I can often discern when people are craving some magical touch from a stranger they’ve never met instead of simply hitting their knees and encountering God themselves. I don’t typically like to play into that, unless God gives me the green light.
I’ve had pastors walk up to me after the service on many occasions asking if I’d pray for people. It seems the culture has been set and people are looking for that touch. In honor of the pastor who I am in submission to, I always comply with joy. However, I think we need to be led of the Spirit. Pray for those God highlights. Prophesy over those God points out. Often I’ll have people spread out in the room, find a place to pray and go hard after God alone as we close a service. The pressure to always give people that magical touch needs to stop.
In fact, do we understand that many people who want a touch are living in sin? They are unrepentant and are in search for healing or a prophetic word. The Bible is very clear regarding this:
Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. 1 Timothy 5:22 (ESV)
We can’t bring affirmation to a person’s situation by praying for blessing to manifest when they are unrepentant. There have been many times people have asked me to pray for them and the word God gave me for them had nothing to do with their supposed need. God would reveal a heart issue and their need for a loving rebuke.
I think we need a reformation in the prayer lines. Lets see God really work in power and have the fear of the Lord land again.
The prayer lines that result in people falling over for no real reason need to be dispersed. The circus atmosphere must come to an end. If God’s in it, and prayer is his plan for the service, then go for it. If not, it’s more appropriate to close another way.
Counterpoint: God will most definitely call ministers to pray for people. I’ve spend hours after a service was over praying for and prophesying over every single person in the room on many occasions. If God’s directing it, you have to do it.
Shut down the green rooms
I was a workshop speaker at a conference several years ago. A well known worship leader was brought in, and though I absolutely love her ministry I was disappointed by a complaint she aired to me. She was extremely irritated that there wasn’t a green room for her to hide away in during down time. I was disappointed at her apparent spirit of entitlement. She felt special because her name was on the program.
Now, it is true, it’s a wonderful thing to have a private place to retreat to when you are expending all sorts of energy—physical, emotional and spiritual—when traveling and ministering. The efforts some churches make to bless visiting ministers in this way are really wonderful. The issue is the attitude.
I had no problem, at that conference, with hanging out with the people and resting on the floor or in a chair just like everybody else did between sessions. Why are guest ministers in hiding except when they are on the platform or behind their book table?
It’s time we see guest ministers in pre-service prayer meetings, in the foyer after the service and serving the people with great passion.
We aren’t there just to bring a message or to sing a song. We are there to serve. If there’s a church picnic between services, go to it! If there’s a special prayer meeting, you have to be there! When I travel I do my best to act just as if I were a member of that church. If I attended there, what would be expected of me? I guarantee I wouldn’t be hiding away in a green room.
For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. Luke 22:27 (ESV)
Counterpoint: Traveling ministers do have unique challenges and needs. Will there ever be a time when retreating to pray and rest is needed? Yes, in fact it will be quite common. Hosts need to keep this in mind by not putting too much on their plate. If such an opportunity is given, guest ministers should receive that gift with thanks. If not, jump in with the rest of the body.
Stop focusing so much on money
Yes, it takes a lot of money to function as an itinerant minister. Churches, if you are hosting a guest speaker for a day or two, please ensure they are leaving with at least $1500-2000 in addition to their travel expenses if not much more. They have bills to pay that are much greater than you may realize. They should never have to even think about the money. You are hosting them. Be a really great host.
When I was pastoring, we had a very simple rule: Every dollar received in the offering for the guest minister, beyond expenses for the event, would go to them. If we received $10,000 in the special offering, all of it would go to the guest. If it was $1,000,000, the guest would become an overnight millionaire while the church received nothing.
Now, traveling ministers, the way many are approaching finances must change.
Please, stop the offering sermons that are nearly as long as the main message. We get it, you want a lot of money.
We also need to stop determining where we are going to minister based on the number of people there. What if a church of 10 wanted to bring you in? What if you had to sleep on the floor in the church basement? Would you go? I know many would, but many would not. I believe this attitude is shameful.
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Luke 9:58 (ESV)
Why would you not go? It usually because there would be no notoriety, no crowds, no money. Shameful.
For those who have a minimum honorarium requirement, I’d encourage you to go to the Lord with that plan. If you won’t travel and minister for a few hundred bucks, what does that say about your pride? Trust me, you aren’t all that important.
If it isn’t worth your time and energy to minister for a few dollars, that is extremely telling. Building people up, training disciples and saving souls isn’t worth your investment? Again, shameful.
Counterpoint: I do believe a certain emphasis on financial giving is appropriate. Certainly receive an offering. Communicate truth in the Word as it relates to giving. Share a testimony. It’s good to keep this in front of the people. However, it’s about giving to God and not to your ministry.
Shut up with all of your demands
No, you aren’t a rock star.
If you place a minimum number of stars on the hotel you will stay in, you’ve fallen into a superstar delusion. You have become a prima donna.
a very temperamental person with an inflated view of their own talent or importance.
You don’t need a certain type of bottled water, first class seats on the airplane or anything else that worldly celebrities might demand. Trust me, you aren’t all that special.
If you won’t sleep in a host home and eat what’s put in front of you I question your qualifications for ministry.
Remember, Jesus stayed in a one star hotel as he began his mission to serve all mankind. His accommodations included hay for a mattress in a smelly barn under a bright star.
I’ve stayed in some very uncomfortable places over the years (but nowhere near as uncomfortable as what baby Jesus experienced). I’ve stayed in homes with people that I don’t click with. Rooms I’ve slept in were musty and caused my allergies to go haywire. I’ve eaten meals from a can heated in a microwave. Is that what I prefer? Of course not. But, it’s not about me! I’m not there to be served! I’m there to lay down my life, my demands, my opinions and to serve with unrelenting passion!
You are there to give, to bless, to serve. It’s not the other way around.
43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:43-45 (ESV)
Counterpoint: I believe it’s just fine to communicate what type of food you prefer, what type of accommodations would be most comfortable and other points that would make your visit easier. Just don’t make them into demands. Honor them and don’t require them to honor you.
Quit exaggerating miracles
I know, people will flock to your meetings if they think miracles are happening. That’s unavoidable. What is avoidable is lying.
When reports of healings and miracles get most of the press instead of mass repentance and surrender you should be alert. That doesn’t mean God’s not moving, but it does mean that there may be exaggeration in the mix.
In the Bible we do see people repenting and excitedly reporting about healings and miracles. What we don’t see is Jesus blasting them all over the press of the day.
If healings aren’t clear and obvious, just steer clear. Quit reporting on possibilities.
A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish. Proverbs 19:9 (ESV)
If you are called to preach the Truth in your meetings, and you are lying about what God is doing, you should be trembling in the fear of the Lord right about now.
Counterpoint: We should expect miracles! When God is moving we should see great and mighty works before our very eyes. When this happens, shout it from the rooftops! You should find yourself without words to explain exactly what happened instead of wordsmithing something that needs your marketing skills for it to be convincing.
Stop giving the people what they want
Itinerant ministers are avoiding necessary scriptural truths in their meetings for the sake of drawing a larger crowd.
The topics of the hour seem to be prosperity, healing, encouraging words, signs and wonders and personal growth.
16 Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. 17 They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’” Jeremiah 23:16-17 (ESV)
We need preachers who will come out of their prayer rooms on fire with a message from Heaven! Preach the room empty with a striking, convicting word for the hour. Preach in such a way that people either hate you and leave with their money still in their wallets or the fall in love with Jesus.
Quit trying to make friends from the pulpit! Stop building your mailing list with admirers! Preach with the conviction of Peter on the day of Pentecost!
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. Acts 2:22-24 (ESV)
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:37-38 (ESV)
Counterpoint: No, every message doesn’t have to cut to the heart. There is a time to teach on blessing, healing, abundant life and other such topics. In fact, some people are raised up to teach on such topics often. But, there must be the searing Word of God burning through them. Messages of repentance and surrender simply cannot be forsaken.
Stop being dishonest about your meetings
I suppose this is related to the issue of hype. How often do you see posts on Facebook from a traveling minister that go like this:
I preached with passion and am hungry for an outpouring, but this service was a dud. The anointing wasn’t really there. People weren’t impacted. If I were sitting out there I’d be thinking of what I’m going to eat for lunch.
How refreshing a report like that would be! An honest evaluation of an event should lead to an honest report. Come on everybody, God doesn’t always do big things in a service. If he doesn’t, don’t tell the world that he did.
And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. Mark 6:5 (ESV)
How powerful is it that God himself reported on a bad service! (For Jesus, a bad service meant only a few sick people got healed!)
Is it possible your faith, your preparation, your anointing or your skill isn’t up to standards? Jesus was perfect and he experienced a bad service. My guess is you and I will experience many that are much worse…and often it’s because of our own lives and not the unbelief in the people.
Counterpoint: I would say it’s great if we report in faith, without lying. If we communicate that we sense God is desiring to do a great work in the midst of a challenging situation, that is a smart move—if he really said that to you.
The Local Church is a threat to revival? Watch as I continue looking at the threat of the local church.
We must serve the mission of the local church with passion while also contending for a revolution that will help set the stage for a revival in the earth.
John discusses ten clear and present dangers to revival breaking out in a region. If we can diffuse these threats we will be on the verge of a massive city-wide outpouring!
Based on my latest Charisma Magazine article, I discuss key changes that are coming soon to the church.
John discusses a recent Charisma Magazine he wrote dealing with significant changes coming to the church. Much will be introduced and much will be eliminated, and if we aren't ready we risk resisting, being offended or fully rejecting what the Holy Spirit is doing.
Watch the video and check out the Charisma article HERE.
Watch the video: Reformation Churches Part 2—it’s time for the prophetic messengers to awaken the remnant!
FIRST: Don’t miss the last two CoFI Break messages, “Advancing in Your Ministry” and “My Three Motivations.” They are both powerful teachings that will help you stay on fire and advance in your calling every day! Use the series browser on the media player HERE.
REFORMATION CHURCHES PART 2
Revival requires a movement of reformers who will pray with passion and advance as forerunners in the cities of the Earth.
God is awakening prophetic voices to sound the alarm and call people into a supernatural life as we contend for reformation in the church.
COVENS IN THE CHURCH/PHARAOH IN THE CHURCH BUNDLE
Brand new! Order and immediately download this three piece bundle which includes both books AND the full length audio teaching!
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BOOK ONE: Covens in the Churchby John Burton
A nest of demons has gathered to violently assault the church worldwide-all with the church’s agreement.
Join in on a discussion on the issues of unity, authority and mission advance.
As we lock arms in intentional agreement, and refuse to move out of position because of offense or hurt, the church will fulfill its mission of Kingdom advance.
BOOK TWO: Pharaoh in the Church by John Burton
This book is a burning message, an Exodus call that originated in at least a small way like the original Exodus call in a burning bush. Moses experienced the zeal of the deliverer to see His people free to encounter Him. The goal of this book is for you to discover the pounding heart of God in a way that, I believe, will result in a deep and resounding cry of agreement to embrace a radical revolution in the church.
Our first CoFI Group teaching is ready!
Gather together with friends, have a prayer meeting, watch the video and discuss it!
Our studio is in process with some really great new equipment to come, but I think it turned out pretty good!
The previous thirty days of media is absolutely FREE!
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You can watch this week’s video here: www.thefurnace.tv/media.
Every Saturday (Yes, I know today’s Wednesday) a new CoFI Group teaching will be uploaded for you and your group to watch. Most every other day a short CoFI Break video will be available.
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WATCH: The change that’s coming to the church is absolutely unnerving and fearful
I had an encounter that left me shaken and shocked.
What I saw was clearly a picture of the church…clearly in my spirit, that is, because my intellect was confounded. It didn’t make sense.
Before I share the vision, and some very interesting confirmation and insight, lets look at the current model of the church:
There’s no way I’m going to attempt to present a comprehensive picture of the church with all of its varying streams and complexities. The point I’m focusing on is the simple, common experience that the current structure and function of the church presents.
- Teaching driven: In most churches, the Sunday service revolves around the message, the teaching.
- Sunday only: The average attendance for a church goer in America is less than two services a month. Most of those services occur on Sundays.
- Predictable & scheduled: Each service and ministry of the church is mapped out and scheduled, and while there is often some flex, you can usually have a pretty good picture in your mind of what to expect during each event. Several songs of worship, a few announcements, receiving the offering and a 30-40 minute message is what most have come to expect.
- Mostly natural: While some churches do experience a measure of supernatural activity, the overwhelming experience is logical, natural and humanly comprehendible.
- Locally focused: Most churches have a vision that is limited to themselves. Their local church is where most of their energy is focused.
- Seeker focused: Even churches that aren’t identified as “seeker sensitive” tend to be intent on attracting visitors and they gear their ministry to do so.
- Personal gain highlighted: God blesses and that message when presented in appropriate context is a necessary one. But, most churches highlight personal benefit while keeping the bar of personal surrender and commitment quite low.
In my encounter, the vision I saw was shocking and quite mysterious. I have had many visions of the church, of reformation, but this one was markedly different. It sure didn’t look like a vision of a church, but it immediately felt like one.
I was standing in an apocalyptic looking environment. It was dark and weighty. In front of me was an absolutely massive crater. God immediately revealed to me that I was looking at the soon coming church.
Really? It sure didn’t look like a church. My initial analysis was that what was coming wouldn’t be defined by what is logically communicable. The building and steeple and Sunday experience was gone, and what replaced it was frightening.
My spirit was provoked and raging, but I knew that those who were more logical than spiritual in their life experience would most probably resist what is just over the horizon.
1 Cor 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
Note, this doesn’t mean the unsaved, it means those who are naturally minded. That’s a lot of Christians. Here’s what Paul says next:
1 Cor 3:1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready…
The crater that I was looking at looked alive. It was moving and churning. There was glowing red lava coursing throughout.
The closer I got to the edge of the crater, the church, the greater the fear of the Lord was, the more ominous the vision was. I couldn’t casually participate as the shaking and trembling rocked my whole being as I approached this invasion of Heaven into Earth.
Then the vision ended.
I shared this vision in a class at theLab Internship and one of the interns about came out of her skin.
She just watched a National Geographic special on craters on the Earth!
She shared some dramatic revelation about the coming crater based on what God was revealing through my vision and the program she watched.
- The asteroid that caused the crater was huge. When it impacted the ground, the top of it was still 30,000 feet up—that’s where jets fly!
- When it hit, a pillar of fire instantly exploded and reached from the surface of the Earth up into the heavens.
- Balls of fire shot out from the pillar and scorched regions far away from the point of impact.
- A cloud of smoke then rose and actually surrounded the entire planet. The entire Earth was covered by the residual impact of the asteroid.
- Celestial elements, parts of the asteroid that don’t exist on this planet, were implanted into the ground. Heaven was brought to Earth.
- Earthquakes rocked the Earth all around.
- Molten rock filled the crater.
THE COMING CHURCH
We won’t be able to define ‘going to church’ the way we do now.
God is coming to reform, to crush structures of old for what is to be introduced very soon.
The force from Heaven, the celestial asteroid, is going to impact the church, and most pastors and people will resist with everything that’s within them. Man-made support systems will be removed. People’s financial and relational structures will be threatened by this strange, new spiritual invasion.
The human wisdom and natural common sense that has been involved in the development of the current church structure will not be usable in the new. Those who walk by sight are in danger.
We will have to rely on a new set of senses as we, in faith unlike any we’ve ever allowed ourselves to embrace, begin to walk blindly into a fearful new church reality.
- Encounter driven: We will gather together with the primary goal of having an overwhelming encounter with an invisible God. The burning of God will engulf us day after day. A 2 Chronicle church will be the normal reality.
- The 24/7 church: The thought of only gathering in the crater, in the lava of God’s shocking presence, on occasion, a few times a month, will be laughable. Our entire lives will be empowered by this tent of meeting and our energies will be spent gathering the desperate masses into the fire to experience an otherworldly spiritual encounter together. Most days of the week we will easily make room to be in the church, on our faces, trembling under the weight of God.
- 2 Chronicles 7:1 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.”
- Unpredictable: Finally we will begin to know a God who is limitless in expression. Every moment with him, in our corporate gatherings, will be unlike any other. The fierce burning will never stop, the myriad of emotions we experience as God hovers over us will surprise and overwhelm us continually. A gathering of burning ones will result in fire balls of worship that lead to sharp swords of prophetic teaching that shake the people to their core. Wave after wave of fiery shock and awe will never disappoint. Services will be open ended and will overlap each other as room is made for an uncontrollable Holy Spirit to orchestrate the events in his wisdom.
- Supernatural: We will take the leap from mostly translating God into our natural language and understanding to allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us out of the natural realm and into a supernatural culture that can only be understood via our spirits. The lost will finally have hope as we stop trying to give them logical reasons to ‘get saved’ and we start introducing them to a supernatural God that they have been craving to meet.
- Regionally focused: The level of impact that the rock from Heaven will bring will not be confined to a local church. Pastors and leaders will stop focusing mostly on developing their own local ministry and will instead shelve much of what they did in the old church model and focus on serving the regional mission. The local will give way to the regional as leaders ‘lead’ the people into encounter, into regional mission and into the greater vision of revival and reformation. The spirit of Pharaoh that focuses on personal goals and keeping people locally focused will give way to the spirit of reformation and Kingdom advance that was manifested through Moses and Joshua.
- God focused: Instead of attempting to ‘grow the church’ by focusing on visitors and seekers, the leaders will be fully devoted to a 2 Chronicles 7 strategy of compelling God to show up in extreme, weighty power. The pillar of fire that connects Heaven to Earth is the new goal. In fact, an empty church is a better goal than a full church if we understand that passage of scripture correctly! Many people will leave the church as a more serious devotion to Holy Spirit activity is given, but the supernatural invasion of fire will result in fire, smoke and earthquakes that will rock cities and nations.
- Personal surrender highlighted: Instead of compelling people to ‘join our church’ through the promise of personal gain, we’ll highlight the cross. The cost. The Rich Young Rulers will leave while the end-time remnant will gain confidence in leaders seriousness for revival and will flood in and serve with military level commitment. You will know leaders have turned the corner toward the new model of church when they actually raise the bar so unapologetically that those with money and influence are allowed to go. How many RICH RULERS are in our churches because leaders have compromised the call, just so they don’t lose their money?
The new church will look nothing like we see now. We must learn how to live in the Spirit if we hope to embrace this uninvited yet deeply needed invasion from Heaven. Everything is at risk. Will you embrace or resist this reformation?
Are today’s churches and Christians ready for the extreme nature of reformation churches? Is there any hope for revival in our lifetime?
This is a follow-up message to the one I released earlier today. I strongly encourage you to read it first, and watch a the video that you’ll find there. I share the future of Revival Church and the importance for reformation ministries in our cities. Check it out here in a new window: https://burton.tv/2014/11/30/the-burtons-future-and-revival-church-important-schedule-changes/
Can we have reformation ministries? Yes.
Can we have reformation churches? I don’t think so. Not yet. And I doubt true revival can come without them.
We can have ministries staffed by a few radicals who will faithfully carry and release the burning messages of God. People like Leonard Ravenhill did this powerfully.
But, to gather a people who burn night and day with a spirit of reformation and revival into a reformation church culture is extremely difficult—finding those who are ready for a daily life of intense intercession, surrender and continual prophetic shocks to the system is even harder. The reformed church will strike and trouble every Believer, and this transitional season of moving from the old to the new wineskin is more costly than most are comfortable with.
Reformation requires bold prophetic voices that do more correcting than comforting, more rebuking than affirming and more commanding than suggesting. Yet, such voices are soundly rejected in today’s casual, sleepy, independent culture. Reformation churches led by people with a never-ending shock in their voice are rare today.
We need prophets who are more skilled at revealing the ancient truths and calling people to repentance than prophets who are more given to revealing the future and calling people to their conferences.
Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’” Jeremiah 23:16-17
The prophet in his day is fully accepted of God and totally rejected by men. The prophet is violated during his ministry, but he is vindicated by history. The prophet comes to set up that which is upset. His work is to call into line those who are out of line! He is unpopular because he opposes the popular in morality and spirituality. There is a terrible vacuum in evangelical Christianity today. The missing person in our ranks is the prophet. The man with a terrible earnestness. The man totally otherworldly. The man rejected by other men, even other good men, because they consider him too austere, too severely committed, too negative and unsociable. In a day of faceless politicians and voiceless preachers, there is not a more urgent national need than that we cry to God for a prophet! ~Leonard Ravenhill
Forerunners are prophetic messengers who blaze new trails and call out with passion to the remnant church to follow them into new territories, new models and new wine skins. They are awakeners who understand the urgency to gather the church on the other side of the Jordan River—away from the old and familiar and into the land of promise. This type of advance requires a new form of leadership, a type that we see in Joshua as he boldly, urgently commanded the people to follow God into a land of risk.
At the end of three days the officers went through the camp and commanded the people, “As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it. Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits in length. Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.” Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” And Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on before the people.” So they took up the ark of the covenant and went before the people. Joshua 3:2-6
Moses surrendered to popular opinion as a bad report was given about the very land they had been pursuing for years. The decision was to remain in the place of familiarity instead of paying the price to advance. Today’s church is in the same place. It’s foolishness to think revival is to be had if we are still standing in fear next to the water in the desert. Giants are in the land and we must have a fearless people who are willing to lay down their dreams and personal endeavors for the sake of corporate advance. God is waiting for such a people to arise—and when they do we will have true reformation churches.
Revival tarries because we presume it's a rare & extraordinary work of God alone. It also requires a rare & extraordinary work of man. The response must be significant, immediate and extreme. Revival costs much, and right now too few are willing to pay the price.
FIRST CHURCH OF STARBUCKS
As I sit here in a Starbucks with my headphones on listening to some worship music I wonder if this is just the atmosphere today’s church is looking for. Great coffee, amazing music, potential friends all around, lots of comfort and people behind the pulpit (oops, I mean counter) to get me what I need.
I was downtown Chicago one day, driving behind a bus. On the rear of the bus was an ad that still troubles me to this day:
Vineyard Church…Experience God and great COFFEE.
Yes, the word COFFEE was in all caps. I know it’s just an ad, but it bothered me. I think it speaks something. It speaks to surrender to our culture. What if instead the ad said:
Vineyard Church…come and die.
It doesn’t have the same zip, does it? I actually like it better.
A toned down message can certainly result in bigger numbers, but, in my 45th year of life, I have no desire to modify the message or deemphasize the cost for the sake of butts in seats. For me, it’s a reformation church or nothing. And, as I shared in the previous article, numbers are greatly suffering at Revival Church and we are in a place of considering whether this nation is ready for such an extreme call—but we will not compromise the call in order to pay the bills or provide the appearance of success. Hell is begging me to do that and I refuse to listen.
So, I do wonder if a reformation church is ready for prime time. I don’t think it is. Too many people are still sleeping and disinterested in the call to the cross—to carry it and to lay down everything for its sake.
…“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:14-17
Alarms of awakening are always extremely irritating to disinterested, comfortable sleepers. Alarms of awakening are even more irritating to those who are convinced they are already awake. Those convinced they are awake are at the greatest risk of spiritual death as they intentionally ignore warnings they presume are not for them. We all must be willing to question whether we are as awake as we think we are. I ask myself the question often: Am I kidding myself? Am I possibly talking it up without walking it out? The fear of the Lord rests on me day and night.
…I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Revelation 3:1-2
But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Matthew 25:6-13
I live every day with a God given disturbance in my gut…knowing that so many people who are convinced that they know God, convinced there’s time to fill their lamps with oil, are actually on a track toward Hell. Awakening them is my number one job in my short time on the Earth. I grieve daily over this.
As I drive by various churches I have a constant, underlying question that wrecks me…is it possible that everybody in that church is going to Hell? I'm not talking about obviously heretical churches…I'm talking about mainline, Spirit-filled churches. I'm even talking about my own church! I don't presume it to be the case…but I always have the question. Do they, do we, really know what it is to be surrendered to Jesus? Has apathy, sleepiness and deception crept in? Is Hell growing larger because of us? My God. Reformation must come!
So for me to simply tell people how much God loves them and to encourage them to rejoice in that fact would be a major violation of my calling. There are possibly millions of people today who are celebrating God's love for them while living in an unsaved condition. I can't encourage them in that…my passion is to call people into radical extravagance, surrender, death daily, deep intimacy and night and day prayer as we prepare for even greater troubles ahead.
As I’ve shared before, I only give myself an 80% chance of making Heaven! Why? Not because I'm insecure in my salvation now…but because I'm keenly aware of my vulnerability to failure in the future. I can't presume myself to be exempt from the great falling away. I will have many options to allow my love to grow cold and to fall asleep. It's that message that I need to get out there. We can be joyful and full of life while being sober and broken over the reality of our situation. Without holiness we cannot see God. If we leave that message out then we will lead people right to Hell. Reformation churches major on the call to repentance—and most don’t want to live in such an atmosphere.
And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:12-14
This is what must be preached!
Leonard Ravenhill said he doubts that 5% of professing born again Christians in the USA are truly saved. That means in a church of 100 worshiping, dancing, tithing, Bible reading people… 5 of them might go to Heaven and 95 will burn forever in Hell.
Somebody needs to warn them before it's too late. We must have bold, and yes, aggressive, unapologetic prophetic leaders who draw a line in the sand and call the church to stop the madness. We must see the apathy come to an end and awaken today’s comatose church into mandatory response. We can’t be passive. We don’t have time.
Be careful not to reject such an invasive, direct messenger as arrogant. A lesser known but very real threat to revival is false humility. So many hold back offensive messages so they don't come across as brash, arrogant or presumptuous. They hope to display humility, but at the expense of truth. The thought is, if we appear loving as defined by what the recipient desires to feel, then we are loving and the person hearing the message is more likely to respond. This simply isn't true or biblical. I once heard, “You can't sacrifice truth on the altar of love.” Be bold. Love deeply. Shock the dead to life. Reformation churches will do just that.
CAN WE HAVE REFORMATION CHURCHES?
This is the question of the hour. I honestly wonder if we can, or if they might be extremely rare.
To fill the seats we have to bring the bar down a bit so as not to scare away the less committed. That grieves my spirit terribly.
I believe we must embrace this wheat and tare season that we are in and refuse to lower bars. Let God prune and define the true remnant. The question is, will there be enough people left after the pruning?
He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 1 Kings 19:14
Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” 1 Kings 19:18
Yes, there is a remnant who will not bow. They are very small in number, but they are out there. Now is the time for them to gather. Where are you remnant? Awaken church! Strengthen! Pray! Gather! The 24/7 church is needed and YOU are the warrior God has created for this hour! If the remnant gathers in full force, then, and only then will we have enough to have reformation focused remnant churches in our cities. Until that happens we are left with a choice: Lead low key churches that satisfy people of various commitment levels or raise the bar to the level of Scripture and wait for the few burning ones to arrive for battle.
Pastors, the choice is yours.
Negative. Offensive. Irritating. Why provocative messages are so critical today.
To silence a preacher from preaching judgment is like being awoke from sleep by a fire alarm, and just silencing the alarm, and going back to sleep. –Unknown
Though they often cause a bit of a ripple, I honestly don’t see the messages, status updates, videos and other communication I release as very striking at all. I am often amazed at how a firestorm of trouble can result from what I consider to be simple, orthodox truths—truths that have been too often abandoned by today’s church, even churches that look vibrant and active.
So often, after I share a very basic post I hear people commenting on how edgy it was. That never ceases to amaze me. I personally feel weak, broken and living too far below the bar God has for me to communicate anything that’s truly provocative—not the way the prophets of old did, at least.
Yet, even the insufficient words from this messenger tend to cause trouble. The deeper I go in the Lord, the more troubling the messages become—and the messages don’t originate in my mind. They are delivered my spirit in dreams, visions and in Scripture. God is shaking his church, and he’s shaking me as well. The messages will only get stronger.
All you have to do is decide to walk a little closer to God and you'll be criticized more in the church than in the tavern down the street. ~Leonard Ravenhill
When compared with spiritual heroes of old, we still have miles to go before we are anywhere near the level of shock that their messages caused.
If we have another Pentecost and it was real , we'd all be in jail within a month. We're such an accommodating Christianity today. ~Leonard Ravenhill
We are living in a day where deception has so overwhelmed the church that anything less than clear, black and white preaching of the Word won’t suffice. The enemy has convinced millions of professing Christians that they are OK and in a good place as he craftily leads them to Hell.
The devil can counterfeit all the saving operations and graces of the Spirit of God. ~Jonathan Edwards
There isn't a “Pentecostal” Church in America. If there is, tell me where it is. ~Leonard Ravenhill
I'm embarrassed to be a part of the (so-called) church of Jesus Christ today because I believe it's an embarrassment to a Holy God ! ~Leonard Ravenhill
Simply put, some presume most in the world are saved and I believe they are not.
Many presume most in the church are saved and I have my doubts.
I doubt if 5% of professing Christians in America are born again. ~Leonard Ravenhill
For this reason, the disturbing messages of awakening to the church must continue. They can’t be occasional or squeezed between other less costly teachings. The alarm cannot be interrupted.
Someone asked me, “Do you pray for the dead?” I said, “No, I preach to them!” I think every pew in every church is death row. Think about that! They're dead! They sing about God; they talk about God, but they're dead! They have no living relationship (with God). ~Leonard Ravenhill
There's one thing we need above everything else; it's something we don't talk about these days. We need a mighty avalanche of conviction of sin. ~Leonard Ravenhill
Effectively Communicating the Struggle
As a communicator it’s so frustrating to me when I can’t effectively get a point across (which happens more often than I’d like to admit!).
I’ve been wrestling with how I can best represent the urgency I have in my spirit regarding the state of the church. Maybe the following will help.
Even the revival/prophetic stream that I most easily identify with would presume that, in general, most in the church are in right standing before God. They are saved.
This is where my internal struggle intensifies. I have a low level of confidence that that’s true.
This point of departure radically impacts how messages are delivered and received.
How you believe God perceives people will determine how you respond to them. –Jacquelyn K. Heasley
Consider the well known “Urgency/Importance Matrix.”
Urgent means that a task requires immediate attention.
Important tasks are things that contribute to our long-term mission, values and goals.
My messages are most often situated right in the center of the URGENT/IMPORTANT section of the matrix. What this means is that the calls for awakening are so critical that if they aren’t heeded, many praying, tithing, church going, professing Christians will end up in Hell—and the lost will remain lost. Simply, my message is to awaken the at risk church and to establish again the clear, biblical structure of the church—to be a house of prayer for all nations.
Additionally, for the remaining who are truly saved, the message retains its urgent status as it calls the remnant church to abruptly shock the rest of the world out of the grip of the spirit of the age. Billions are headed to Hell and anything less than a white hot burning church won’t work.
We're blind to the fact (that) we have an obligation to five billion people in the world. This generation of Christians is responsible for this generation of lost souls! ~Leonard Ravenhill
For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 1 Peter 4:17-18
Even the righteous are scarcely saved, so we need a steady, continual sledgehammer approach to our messages. Awaken! Strengthen what remains!
Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Revelation 3:2
The American church is living so far below the bar, and it has become convinced that it’s normal. We have been deceived.
I don't believe 90% of people who claim to have the Baptism of the Holy Spirit truly have it. True power is missing. ~Morris Cerullo
I'm astounded, bewildered, confused, baffled when people tell me there are 75 million people in America that are filled with the Holy Ghost and we're the most rotten nation on earth. ~Leonard Ravenhill
God is taking His hands off of America. We've had so much light and we've rejected it. ~Leonard Ravenhill
Additionally, regarding revival, it’s easy to presume that the foundation has already been laid and that now we are to expect an outpouring. I depart from this perspective as well. Of course, revival can spark anywhere through anybody that is wholehearted toward God, but on a regional and national level I’m still in the URGENT/IMPORTANT square.
Instead of millions finding Jesus in a season of revival, the risk is high and immediate for millions to end up in Hell. The alarms should still be sounding. It’s not time to shift to another square on the matrix, and it won’t be for quite some time.
I'm concerned in my spirit (that) the reason the world goes to hell-fire tonight is because we've (the church) lost Holy Ghost fire. ~Leonard Ravenhill
It seems the majority of other preachers and teachers and Christian leaders don’t wrestle with this the way I do (though some definitely do so and at a much higher level than me). So, their starting point is different.
Since their feeling is that professing Christians are out of harms way, the urgency factor is not there. Their messages are most often categorized as NOT URGENT/IMPORTANT. They take on the feel of exhortation instead of proclamation, encouragements instead of mandates.
So, the starting point for those in the NOT URGENT/IMPORTANT quadrant is that we are safe, and now we can start the process of improvement, enhancement and development. With the urgency factor removed, there is no need for strong preaching or offensive messages. There’s no call to desperation in the place of prayer.
Without the urgency of prayer, the importance of reaching the masses and seeing revival is a pipe dream. Daily gatherings of prayer must return to the church!
I can think of one thing when I get to the Judgment Bar and Jesus will look down and say, “I had many things to tell you but you couldn't bear them.” We're too busy running our own lives: praying when you want to pray, eating what you want to eat, going where you want to go, spending what you want to spend, reading what you want to read, (Do you) call that a spiritual life? Brother, it is carnal as carnality! ~Leonard Ravenhill
At this level there is a false sense of unity that tends to take over. The unity is around a presumed state of salvation, and this common ground actually results in an aggressive rejection of URGENT/IMPORTANT messages. Those messages are disruptive, and in fact, are often re-categorized by the hearers as NOT URGENT/NOT IMPORTANT. Distractions. They disagree with both the message and the delivery. They are irritants to their focus on enhancement and development. They seem to be counter-productive and a threat to their mission.
There's is certainly a cry for unity in the church. The question is, will we unite at the lowest common level or at the highest & most costly?
Regarding revival, the lack of urgency has resulted in a premature focus on strategies and advance. The NOT URGENT/IMPORTANT approach toward revival reveals that most feel the church is in a good place, ripe for revival, and that now it’s time to plan. On the contrary, the church is in a deeply compromised place and we must return to the basics. We must do little else than pray, repent and proclaim truth in this very troubling phase.
A Culture of Nice
This NOT URGENT/IMPORTANT church position has resulted in what some are calling a “culture of nice,” or the “false gospel of nice.”
The strategy is simply to be nice in the hopes that people will get saved and that the church will be unified—and that sounds great. The problem is that many of today’s issues require that we aren’t nice and passive. A confrontation is necessary. There’s even a sharp increase in evangelism that eliminates any mention of sin and repentance in the hopes that they communicate a nice, loving God that simply wants to be befriended. That type of evangelism results in people shifting from rejecting God to appreciating God—but not surrendering all to him.
We don't preach salvation. We preach forgiveness. ~Leonard Ravenhill
There are many, many people who are extremely active in churches today that have not had their false theologies challenged, who feel no pressure to deal with sinful attitudes and who presume to be in right standing in Christ—because nobody wants to threaten the culture of nice. The challenge to their positions never comes. The rebukes are absent. The conviction of the Holy Spirit is hushed.
Instead, the focus is on affirming and encouraging people in their current state. The NOT URGENT/IMPORTANT approach casually encourages them to grow and to become all they can be—if they want to. It’s important, but not immediately necessary. It’s the equivalent of being encouraged to get a college degree. It’s important, but not urgent. But, if they decide not to grow and advance, if the cost is too high, that’s OK. God still loves them anyway and all is well.
“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 1 Corinthians 15:32
The incorrect understanding of God’s love also results in a non-urgent approach to social issues. Homosexuals are affirmed in the church in the hopes that someday, if they so choose, they can find freedom. Pre-martial sex is discouraged but not shunned. Gossip is tolerated since it’s seemingly nice and important to value people’s opinions and to allow them to share their hearts. After all, if those same people are also feeding the hungry, giving financially, serving in the ministry and being nice, it can be presumed that they are in a good place and that they are to be affirmed.
We're living in an unprecedented day (when) evil is no longer evil. We've changed the terminology– iniquity is now infirmity; wickedness is now weakness; devilry is now deficiency. ~Leonard Ravenhill
If I am content to heal a hurt slightly, saying “Peace, peace,” where is no peace; if I forget the poignant word “Let love be without dissimulation” and blunt the edge of truth, speaking not right things but smooth things, then I know nothing of Calvary love. –Amy Carmichael
We must stop avoiding the “negative,” false-unity threatening truths!
Jennifer LeClaire from Charisma Magazine said:
Jesus isn’t bending His standards for any generation, and if people choose to desert the faith to fit in with the crowd or because the truth is too hard to bear, it would grieve Him, but He still won’t change His mind.
When Jesus taught that He was the bread come down from heaven and said, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:54), many deserted Him. The Bible says, “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you also want to go away?'” (vv. 66-67).
Even if the 12 had left His side, Jesus would still not compromise the truth. We can’t compromise the truth either. Ultimately, it won’t serve youth, millennials or any generation to cave on 2,000 years of Christian orthodoxy. Especially not now. We’re in the last days. All signs point to a soon return of the Lord.
Not Urgent/Not Important
A lack of urgency, a culture of nice and a rejection of what’s important results in the lifestyle we see in our nation—NOT URGENT/NOT IMPORTANT.
Not only is there no urgency to go to church, for example, now the argument is that it’s also not important.
There’s no urgency to warn people of the destruction that media is bringing to our culture and it’s also no longer important to avoid that media ourselves.
There’s no urgency to gather together to pray, and, in fact, the call to prayer in the church is being rejected by many. It’s not important, or at least not as important as other things.
No church is going to have a revival with a prayer meeting (only) one day a week! ~Leonard Ravenhill
The surest thing in the world is not death and taxes, it's death and eternity. Yet, we're so unconcerned. ~Leonard Ravenhill
So now, a NOT URGENT/NOT IMPORTANT lifestyle results in laziness and a life-threatening misevaluation of what is important. Deception has taken over.
Pleasure and entertainment have filled the void and time is spent watching TV, relaxing and playing.
Doubt about what God deems important overtakes people and the result is a casual, happy-go-lucky approach to life.
It is now possible to live a “christian life” without doing the things that Jesus commanded us to do. ~Cal Thomas
The church is supposed to do what? To stop corruption? Is the church doing that? No! The world is corrupting the church! ~Leonard Ravenhill
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:1
Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your statutes continually! You spurn all who go astray from your statutes, for their cunning is in vain. All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your testimonies. My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments. Psalm 119:117-120
This leaves us with the last quadrant—URGENT/NOT IMPORTANT.
It’s very easy to fall into this category while presuming we are in the URGENT/IMPORTANT category.
The easy way to explain URGENT/NOT IMPORTANT is this—it’s all about priorities.
I've heard a million words, sermons, and read books: (and) I'm accountable to God for everything I have. Every moment of my time, every dime of my money. ~Leonard Ravenhill
We live in a very busy culture that demands our attention continually. Additionally, we can give ourselves to goals and activities that require our focus immediately and continually, but that are less important than what God would have us involved in.
The cares of life fall directly into this section.
And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” Mark 4:18-20
This is why we must be students of the Word. The Bible reveals what is most important to us, not our urgent, intense, demanding American culture.
The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible is the religion of Christ's church. ~Leonard Ravenhill
The pursuit of riches or other things results in an urgency to obtain them, even though we know in Scripture that it’s not at all important.
Tell the students to give up their small ambitions and come eastward to preach the gospel of Christ. — Francis Xavier, missionary to India, the Philippines, and Japan
What message are you preaching?
Do you presume all is well? Are you mostly focused on enhancing and developing, or is there a spirit of a reformer ready to be awakened in you?
There is a need for URGENT/IMPORTANT prophetic messengers to rise up.
You will be resisted by the NOT URGENT/IMPORTANT crowd—many of whom are wonderful, valuable Christians who sincerely see things differently. Their view on salvation and on the necessary level of intensity in our generation may differ. But, that doesn’t remove your mandate to urgently sound a critically important message—wake up and strengthen what remains and is about to die.