Pray fiery prayers for Tiger Woods
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Woods is “lucky to be alive.”
My heart goes out for Tiger Woods who was involved in a tragic car accident today. With the gut-wrenching death of Kobe Bryant not far behind us, news like this hits the raw, exposed nerves of our rattled nation. Of course, as so many are communicating, we must pray for Tiger right now. Yet, I’m suggesting our intercession go far beyond a petition for his physical healing.
Fight @tigerwoods like the champion you are for your kids and the world. Love and prayers
— Mike Tyson (@MikeTyson) February 23, 2021
Prayers up for @TigerWoods
— Baker Mayfield (@bakermayfield) February 23, 2021
Praying for @TigerWoods My thoughts are with you champ!
— Sugar Ray Leonard (@SugarRayLeonard) February 23, 2021
Fox Sports reports, “The sports community was rattled on Tuesday shortly after news broke that golf legend Tiger Woods was involved in a serious car wreck. Woods, 45, suffered “multiple leg injuries” after being involved in a “single-vehicle roll-over” collision on the border of Rolling Hills Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes at around 7:12 a.m. local time, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and his agent Mark Steinberg.“
IT’S TIME FOR AWAKENING TO COME TO OUR NATION’S CELEBRITIES AND INFLUENCERS
I’m grieved in my spirit any time I hear reports like this. Just the other day I was watching a video of a celebrity dropping an F-bomb from her hospital room, clearly shaken as she was about go undergo major surgery. After a very short recovery period, she entered eternity. She was gone. Today she is very much alive and alert in her eternal home. I’m grieved at just where that may be.
I wish I could express how deeply such news impacts me. News of Tiger’s accident today should make it vividly clear that we are all mere inches and moments away from our spirit leaving our body and either entering into God’s glorious presence — or into the maddening torments of hell. I don’t know where Tiger is spiritually, but if he isn’t zealously in love with Jesus and wildly surrendered to him, it must happen immediately. Tiger, if you are reading this, I implore you to grab hold of God’s hand as he draws you into his heart. His passion for you is immeasurable.
Yes, prayer for physical healing is absolutely appropriate, and as Christians we know that God has quite a track record for stunning, miraculous, divine healings. He’s been delivering the shock and awe of his healing power for thousands of years. Yet, as incredible as a physical healing is, it lasts for but a time. We need to shift our focus from the temporal to the eternal. Every one of us will be living forever somewhere. One hundred years from now we will all be alive and alert either with God or with Satan. A million years later and we will be in the very same place. It’s a message that fewer and fewer preachers are sharing today, yet it’s critical truth that can’t be denied. Either heaven or hell awaits.
REVIVAL IS OUR ONLY HOPE
This is the church’s greatest hour, an opportunity to rise up in fervent intercession and supernatural faith for a massive move of God in our nation. Literally and without any exaggeration, revival is America’s only hope. It’s time that we see heart-wrenching repentance overwhelm all of us. There’s no way we can expect our nation’s celebrities to hit their knees and surrender all to Jesus if the church doesn’t push back the enemy and go to battle for their souls. We have been called to live pure and holy lives, to embrace radical consecration, to go deep in God and to pave the way for culture-shocking, earth-shaking revival.
I yearn for the day when we see celebrities overcome with emotion as they lift their hands in undone worship. I long to see Michael Jordan, Charlie Sheen, Tom Cruise, Oprah Winfrey, Nancy Pelosi, David Letterman, Adam Sandler, Tiger Woods and so many other influencers lifting their hands in passionate worship of Jesus as tears stream down their cheeks. I so deeply desire to see them free, alive and transformed by the overwhelming love of Jesus. Holy Spirit, move on them and bring an awakening to their souls!
A REVELATION OF JESUS
When Jesus manifests in a person’s life, everything changes. Of course, after experiencing the glory of God in my own desperate life it troubles and saddens me beyond words when others reject such a great salvation. There is nothing that compares to knowing God. Nothing. Fame, fortune, power and the lusts of life are pathetically devoid of what only God can give. Encountering such a holy, omnipotent, supernatural entity that fills his days with thoughts of love for me results in rivers of tears and oceans of gratitude that no human words could ever express.
If it hasn’t happened already, I so desire for Tiger Woods to know the lover of his soul, Jesus, like this. I want God to visit him, to transform him, to wash away the pain, to heal his body, to touch his heart and to overwhelm him with love. I pray the forgiveness of his heavenly Father will flood his soul as he gladfully surrenders all. A revelation of Jesus (not just knowledge about Jesus) will result in a never-ending tremble within. Something in the neighborhood of billions of pounds of despair, heartache, sin, fear and everything else that troubles mankind will dissipate in a split second at the moment we lift our hands, hit our knees and release control of our very short lives to God.
This is what I pray happens for Tiger, Michael, Oprah and the rest. One second in the presence of God is all they need. The first second in the fires of hell, however, will result in nothing short of regret, hopelessness and terror. The thought of people saying no to Jesus rips at my soul.
It’s time to be an outspoken, fiery, zealous and undignified worshiper of Jesus. Church, we must rise up in intercession. There are terrible accidents planned well in advance by the enemy. He wants to rip us to shreds. He’s bent on death and destruction. We can’t play games anymore. People are inches and moments from eternity. Let’s go to battle for their souls and see a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit hit Hollywood, the sports world, Nashville, Washington D.C. and our entire nation.
Functioning primarily out of our soul results in division, fear, recklessness and arrogance.
Social media has been distressing to my spirit this year. Really, all media has been, including the few sources that might be considered trustworthy. I'll be the first to admit it's easy to dive into debates at a soul level, arguing logic that seems so obvious while being legitimately confused at how anybody else just cannot see it the same way.
Everything from masks to President Trump to racism has polarized our nation. The damage left in the wake of the raging debates has been devastating. More concerning, the church has been caught up in the exact same soul-level social battles.
When our soul leads the way in our debates and decisions, the results can be quite toxic. We've seen fear and division overcome the people of the “home of the brave.” Arrogance has been masquerading as authority and recklessness as freedom.
The soul is the center of emotions and logic, and without the anointing of the Holy Spirit, arguments initiated from that level are not to be trusted. Powerful emotions with the help of seemingly obvious logic will convince people they are functioning from a place of wisdom when in truth they are reacting in fear. Faith is eliminated from the equation. Wisdom (fear) trumps faith when we don't live, breathe, pray and walk in the Spirit.
25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:25-26 (NIV)
DIVISION IS NOT ALWAYS NEGATIVE
34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law– 36 a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' Matthew 10:34-36 (NIV)
The true church will always introduce division simply because of the topics we are promoting. There is an agenda. Jesus made it clear that ecumenical unity wasn't his goal. World peace wasn't the focus.
We can expect division when the Gospel is preached. When revival hits, people will be split like the Red Sea with many running to the altar and many running out the back door.
Many pastors today are attempting to avoid the very necessary schisms that clearly define the remnant and the pretenders. Truth rightly presented demands decisions. In the end the Final Judgment will bring the greatest division of all, separating the sheep and the goats for all humanity to see.
Many Christians have attempted to apply this principle of biblical division to their own humanistic stubborn opinions. They celebrate as their pet positions cause others to get riled up and split off. They feel spiritual, but this is soul-level activity and it is grieving to the Lord.
30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another… Ephesians 4:30-32 (NIV)
Preach the Word of God and, often times, you can expect division.
Preach masks, politics, the Constitution and on the racial issues of the day? We as Spirit-filled, blood-bought children of the King should speak with great love and grace. Is there ever a time to strike against wicked arguments with force and precision? Absolutely. But, not from our soul. This type of engagement must be led fully by the Spirit.
WHAT IS GOD SAYING?
Church, it's time to come up higher. In this toxic season of politics, sickness, murder and distress, we need to resist the urge to function from our soul. It's time to minister from our spirits.
We've heard all of the arguments about masks, both pro and con. We know all of the reasons people are going to vote for Trump or Biden. People are dogmatic about taking a knee or not. The memes and GIFS and posts and rants about all of these volatile issues and others have become predictable — and nauseating.
Where are those who have emerged from their closets of intercession, those who have a clear word from the Lord? Where is the tangible anointing that pierces through arguments? In this critical, historic hour, where are the true prophets?
Understand, this doesn't mean we can't discuss issues at a logical level. I'm not even saying the soul (emotions and logic) should be minimized. God gave us a soul and he will certainly cause us to speak intelligently and even passionately on secular matters, with wisdom, love and clarity. Debates and discussions can be beneficial. The critical call, however, for every Christian, is to do so with the mind of Christ.
The greater the activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives, the more impacting our words will be. I would challenge you to disengage from the madness that has bewitched so much of the world and the church. Pull back. Stop functioning mostly from your soul. Don't get so excited about your logic. Be teachable. Die to your own opinions. Speak truth under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and people will be absolutely confounded.
When the truth you speak causes both people and demons to react, you know you've moved from soul-level arguments to spirit-driven, authoritative declarations:
22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!” 25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. 27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching–and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee. Mark 1:22-28 (NIV)
TAKE A BREAK
As I said above, it's easy to get sucked into the soul-level debates of the day. And, as I said, not all of these debates are unhealthy. However, a whole bunch of them are.
They can distract those who are supposed to be functioning in the realm of the Spirit and cause us to fight in the flesh. If your revelations on the matters of the day aren't burning with anointing, take a break. If you aren't having dreams and visions about how to address the madness of this hour, take a break.
Seriously. Resist the urge and stop posting to Facebook. I'm not talking about the infamous month-long breaks from social media that people regularly announce. Those folks are back and active usually in less than 24-hours.
I'm talking about going deeper in God than you ever have. See the futility of your arguments. Humble yourself. Finally understand that nobody needs to hear what your soul has to say. Find your prayer closet and discover what God is yearning to reveal to our nation.
The whole world will want to hear what you have to say then.
When crisis comes, the church must respond with a fiery resolve to fan the flames of revival.
Revival or riots? It's clear which one is taking the nation by storm right now.
It's been said that wherever Paul went he'd kick-start either a revival or a riot. The sharp edge of the message he was bringing resulted in people either surrendering all to follow Jesus or in a mass resistance.
5 But some of the Jews were jealous, so they gathered some troublemakers from the marketplace to form a mob and start a riot. They attacked the home of Jason, searching for Paul and Silas so they could drag them out to the crowd. 6 Not finding them there, they dragged out Jason and some of the other believers instead and took them before the city council. “Paul and Silas have caused trouble all over the world,” they shouted, “and now they are here disturbing our city, too. Acts 17:5-6 (NLT2)
When the true Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached we can expect either revival or riots. However, the riots that are erupting in cities all over the nation as a result of the horrific and inexcusable death of George Floyd has nothing to do with a powerful message of truth. Love expressed through the truth of the Word will result in a rioting mob, but so will hate. Today's riots have everything to do with hate and nothing to do with love. All of this is happening on the church's watch.
RIOTING IS THE LANGUAGE OF THE UNHEARD
Pastor Eric Smith of Destiny Church in Dayton, Ohio saw a protester holding a sign that repeated the words of Martin Luther King: Riots are the language of the unheard.
Eric simply and profoundly said, “Time to get a new language.”
It's important to note that Dr. King was a fierce resistor of violent protest. His analytical statement, however, was true. When people are not heard, when they are pushed to their limits, it's possible to break. An uprising is to be expected. However, Pastor Eric was correct. If riots are the language of the unheard, it absolutely is time to get a new language.
WICKED SPIRITS OVERTAKING OUR NATION
Part of my grief over the death and violence that has erupted is due to a loss of discernment in our nation. I believe there's a mighty spirit of confusion that's settling over America right now.
Coronavirus exposed a severe spirit of fear that absolutely devastated millions, whether they were infected by the virus or not. Mobs verbally assaulted those who didn't wear a mask while shopping. Stop and think about just how fierce that demonic spirit of fear is.
Then a spirit of rage and, for many, hatred exploded overnight after another heart-wrenching and tragic death of an African-American at the hands of a police officer. A call to “kill cops” is being sounded by some in the midst of this crisis. As you watch the news and witness fires burning all over the nation, you can understand the power of this particular spirit of rage and hate as well.
Another spirit preceded our recent testings, and it's gaining strength today. America has been seduced by a strong delusion. Strange confusion has overtaken our culture.
Just a week ago, protesters marching against the lockdowns due to COVID-19 were called murderers by some because they weren't social distancing or wearing masks. Fast forward several days and a new set of protests emerged in the land for a very different reason. Where are the calls for social distancing and masks as peaceful protesters marched and as rioters converged in mass to destroy businesses and attack people including business owners and police officers?
Add to this the gender confusion that's been in the news in recent years. Men are women and women are men, so it seems, and you can be legally responsible if you don't address these people by their chosen gender. It's absolutely bizarre.
I could write into the night with example after example of strange confusion and delusion that has spread through society. Suffice it to say it's clear that a very wicked and very strong demonic agenda has been unleashed against our nation. Fear, rage, hate and delusion have blanketed the land and it's time for the church to finally rise up.
A NEW LANGUAGE
Some of you will be frustrated with my prescription in the midst of the virus and riots and madness. Most, it seems, are looking for governmental resolutions, legislation and penalties for those who don't comply. While appropriate new laws can certainly help, the truth is that we can never legislate away the assaults of invisible and very crafty evil spirits. Satan rages and he won't submit to man's laws. You can't create a law that eliminates hatred. You can't create systems that alleviate fear. Why? These are spirits warring against us and the only way to fight back is in the invisible, spiritual realm.
The grief that grips me is that most are looking for logical and natural solutions to a spiritual problem. While we can certainly take some steps in the natural, our victory won't be found there.
The new language that Pastor Eric was referring to, if I might suppose just a bit, centers around repentance instead of riots, love instead of hatred and spiritual violence instead of natural rage.
Simply, we must pursue full-blown, supernatural and overwhelming revival as our primary resolution. The new language, at its root, is passionate, aggressive and vein-popping intercession. We as God's government on the earth must rise up and pray!
This is the force the spirit of the age must feel coming against it in these end times. As we live a life of soul-ripping repentance and contend for revival in the land, we will be consumed with the desire for prayer. The need will overwhelm us. Tears will flow down our cheeks as we stand in the gap as spiritual warriors and push the enemy back.
It makes little sense to attempt to seek peace in the midst of war when the enemy hasn't yet been defeated. The enemy isn't a virus or blacks or whites or Asians or the police or politicians. To think so is laughable. The destruction of the adversary, of Satan's hordes, is the solitary key to winning this battle and driving out spirits of fear, rage, hatred and confusion.
It's the love of Jesus that will cause us to fight like this. From that place of intercession and spiritual warfare we will discern the enemies that those who are not living in the spirit can't see. We are God's secret agents and revival is our cry.
Imagine the cities that are burning today transformed by the fire of the Holy Spirit! We need millions to fall desperately in love with Jesus! The harvest is ripe! They are waiting for an otherworldly message that will shock them to their core and drive them to their knees!
Only then will we have the revival and riots that Paul experienced. As for the riots we are seeing today, they are the cry of the unheard. Yes, we must all listen to them, hear their pain and cry with them. I also pray their cry turns to intercession instead of violence. That's the language that Pastor Eric was really talking about.
It's time for a humble yet unapologetic and holy army to stand opposed to the unrighteous restrictions of human government.
Many politicians, police officers, judges and officials would be shocked to hear that the American government isn't the supreme authority in the nation. In fact, they would scoff at the higher ranking government they must yield to: the church.
God's government is based on the Word of God, is legislated through the church and is positioned higher than any other government, court room or human establishment on earth. Simply, if a human order, law or mandate violates orders, laws or mandates found in Scripture, the Bible wins. God reigns supreme.
When there is no conflict between man-made and spiritual ordinances, it's right and expected to obey the laws of the land. Doing so helps establish integrity and promote humility as we intermix with the world. However, there comes a point when civil disobedience is not only suggested but required if we are to respond obediently to the Lord, the highest power, the greatest governmental leader the world will ever know.
LOCKDOWN: A VIOLATION OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
12 Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Daniel 6:12 (ESV)
A 30-day lockdown was enacted in the kingdom and religious freedom was forbidden. Petitions and permissions could only be received from the lawmaker, the king. Daniel understood this was unquestionably the time for civil disobedience, and he also understood the consequences. His thrice daily prayer continued.
Daniel famously was instrumental in the establishment of this tyrannical government when he interpreted the handwriting on the wall for the previous ruler, King Belshazzar.
23 …And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored. Daniel 5:23 (ESV)
Daniel rebuked the king for dishonoring God, just as his father had. Where are the prophetic leaders today who are confronting today's governmental officials in the same manner? It's time for God's people to arise and to renounce the wickedness that's poisoning our nation and attempting to neuter the church.
Daniel went on to interpret King Belshazzar's supernatural encounter by revealing an end to the kingdom. It would be divided and given to the Medes and Persians. That very night the king was killed and the kingdom was given over as prophesied. Now, Daniel had to deal with the new ruler who was forbidding his intercession.
Members of an armed Michigan militia say they will stand at the door of a barbershop in Owosso to protect the owner from being arrested for allegedly violating the state's lockdown order.
“We are here to make sure he doesn't get arrested,” Daniel Brewer, a member of the militia, told local media on Saturday. “We're willing to stand in front of that door and block the entrance so the police will have no entry there today.” ~Washington Examiner
Once again the secular world is responding more courageously and speedily than so many in the church when liberties are threatened. While many Christians have been exposed as having dimmed and dulled discernment as they have surrendered their religious rights for the promise of health and safety, we see bold if not brash patriots standing in solidarity with a 77-year-old man who was simply trying to earn a living. Where are those who will stand up for the church? We are closer to going underground then any of us realize, and it because of a cowardly people who refuse to make the necessary sacrifices to ensure religious freedom remains.
I want to make it very clear: church leaders have every right to choose to forgo services, prayer meetings and other events if they deem it necessary based on their own unique situation. What is not allowed is a lower ranking government attempting to trump the greater authority, the Word of God. Mayors and governors have no right to mandate a ceasing or limiting of prayer meetings and other church gatherings. Many are arrogantly demanding the church petitions only them. The idea that Scripture has any authority in today's crisis is laughable to them. They have determined nobody else would dictate how the church should function. Not Christians, not pastors, not the Bible, not even God.
The truth is, the church isn't the only organization that outranks the United States government. The Constitution of the United States outranks local, state and federal governmental authority (when they attempt to establish rulings that contradict that document), and the Constitution is clearly on the side of religious liberty. The case for civil disobedience can be made.
The resistance should be done in an honoring, humble and appropriate manner, and shouldn't be fueled by anger or malice. As Believers in Jesus Christ, we must be driven by a resolve to honor God in the midst of unrighteous demands of society.
27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. Acts 5:27-29 (ESV)
GET READY FOR THE LIONS
We all must be prepared to face the repercussions of our actions. The government will do what it wills in the face of resistance. We've already seen both threats and action brought by ungodly mayors, governors and political leaders including filling skate parks with sand, arresting pastors, placing moms in handcuffs for taking their children to the playground, requiring churches and businesses to report the names of patrons and ticketing church goers at a drive in service. If we don't do something, it will get worse. Much, much worse.
16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” Daniel 6:16 (ESV)
There will be a national taunting of Christians, and we as Believers must be ready both to face the lions and to stand in great faith as our God brings the accusers to shame.
19 Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” Daniel 6:19-22 (ESV)
A blameless people will reveal God's miraculous saving power to a stunned nation. As we refuse to stop praying, respond to worldly authorities with integrity and honor and remain willing to pay whatever price necessary to obey God rather than man, God will move in undeniable and miraculous power. America will have no option but to take notice, and the very government officials that brought the angst to God's people will be instrumental in a sudden outbreak of revival in the nation. The process may be severe, and we must be ready to face lions, giants and the hordes of hell, but the resulting outpouring of God will make it all very much worth it.
25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. 26 I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. 27 He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.” 28 So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian. Daniel 6:25-28 (ESV)
Originally published by The Stream.
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John, Isaiah and Neeko will be talking about the sobering realities of Hell…realities that have been dismissed and minimized if not fully renounced by pastors all over the world.
“I just can't sit through one more church service!” This is the cry of our current remnant generation. Pastors, are you listening?
My wife and I were so excited to reconnect with a couple of friends yesterday. This couple has been invested in the prophetic and in the local church as powerful regional leaders for years. We spent the evening talking about the state of the church, and how the new wine simply must come, yet the church is far from ready.
One of them simply stated, “I just can't sit through one more church service!”
Such a simple statement yet it resonated powerfully in my spirit. I can't either.
Listen to a powerful podcast on this subject…
This afternoon I talked on the phone with another regional leader, a pastor who is more done with church as usual than any I've ever met. He's longing for God to identify like-minded pastors and leaders who are absolutely desperate for reformation and revolution in the church. He's crying out for revival and he is discovering it's challenging to find remnant leadership, fiery, broken and hungry pastors who no longer care about growing their church, adding programs, gaining notoriety, raising funds or seeking after “success.” His passion is to connect with others who are done and undone and longing for a pure, holy move of God.
PEOPLE ARE LEAVING THE CHURCH IN DROVES
Research by Ryan Burge, an assistant professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University, reveals:
In the early 1970s, about 38% of Americans attended church nearly every week or more. A third rarely or never attended church, while the rest attended once in a while. That all changed in the early 1990s, when the rarely/never attending category began a slow and unmistakable climb. Today nearly half of all Americans attend church once a year or less, and only about a quarter attend on a regular basis. A similar number attend once in a while.
I believe the bottom line is that a growing number of people see little purpose for the church. To them, the value of participating is greatly diminished. Why even go?
The last thing we need is a natural, logical solution to this problem. I believe it's critical that we function as the church, and gathering together as the ekklesia is commanded in Scripture. However, more programs, minor tweaks, practical adjustments or gimmicky ideas is not what is needed.
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)
We need a full deconstruction of today's model. Full-blown reform is required.
Today's powerless, predictable, boring church service simply must go.
SO, WHAT IS CHURCH AS USUAL?
When I talk about church in this article, I'm mostly talking about the gathering, the local, regularly scheduled church service that most usually takes place on Sunday mornings. Yes, I know the church isn't a building. That drum has been beat to death. The church must gather, and it's usually nice to do so indoors out of the heat or cold, rain or snow.
Most anybody who has attended church in the last several decades has a good idea of what it looks like. Greeting, worship, announcements, sermon, prayer, dismissal. Repeat next week.
In this context, there are key reasons why so many are leaving the church. It's true that a good number of those are leaving for selfish reasons. They are misguided or simply immature. They are pouting and leaving.
There are also many remnant Believers who, like my friend so clearly articulated, “can't sit through another church service!”
They are yearning for more. They can't handle another perfectly crafted, wonderfully produced, humanly orchestrated mess with just a sprinkle of supernatural flavor for good measure. They are done.
Specifically, I believe the remnant is fed up with a few things that should be fixed, like yesterday.
Pastors, we can learn what you are attempting to teach us from much more gifted preachers and through brilliantly written Bible resources online. I'm not trying to be cruel, I'm trying to make a very important point. People don't want your regurgitated Bible info forced on them over an agonizing 45 minutes. They want to smell the aroma of the Holy Spirit radiating from you!
The real point isn't boring preaching, it's a lack of fire and revelation due to a nonexistent spirit of prayer. When pastors spend most of their time on their knees right in the middle of the furnace of intercession night and day, the flames of anointing and revelation will rage out of them when they stand behind the pulpit. Weeping, groans of intercession, cries of repentance, an uncontrollable tremble and the brooding of the Holy Spirit will mark messages birthed in the prayer room.
FEAR OF MAN
Please pastors, stop with the careful wordsmithing and unoffensive sermon points. It's time for the troublers of Israel to arise! Preach on fire and shake the casual out of their stupor!
Say what needs to be said and let the big givers storm out with their money still in their pockets. Preach! Tear down strongholds, confront wickedness and scare the pretenders out of the holy place God has called you to steward.
It's time self-focused, semi-interested people are no longer given the opportunity to demand what they are looking for in a church. It's time to close up the welcome centers and put away the welcome gifts. When presented with the unmistakable burning only a supernatural church can offer, their decision to stay or leave will be immediate. ~It's Time to Start Scaring Visitors Away From the Church
TIRED ORDER OF SERVICE
Disenchanted remnant Christians are longing for church services that start with choruses of intercession, are filled with prophetic utterances and eventually end with decrees and declarations!
Eliminate the time for handshakes and Christian side-hugs, the painfully irritating announcements that interrupt the flow of the Holy Spirit, the unnecessarily invasive offering sermonettes and the perfect timing that ensures everything fits within a two-hour window.
Pastors, let go of the structure! Open the mic for people to pray with passion! Cancel your lunch reservations! Fill the service with fiery intercession, prophetic decrees and exhortation of powerful truths of Scripture as the Holy Spirit ebbs and flows in perfect violation of human order!
NO REVIVAL EMPHASIS
If there's one thing I can discern it's the spirit of revival. I've heard pastors talk about revival, but it's rare to find one that truly gets it. You'll know they don't get it when their revival talk centers around the hopes for their own church to grow instead of contending for a regional outpouring that has little to do with their local church.
I believe we need to see prayer and revival centers launch in cities all over the world. These are prophetic centers of intercession that burn continually for a move of God. They couldn't care less if the outpouring is centered in their own ministry or not. Their prophetic and apostolic assignment is much greater than that.
Churches and ministries that will draw the disenfranchised remnant are those that are fully devoted to partnering with the Holy Spirit in the region. They have no desire to find a nice local community where they can connect with new friends as they hold hands and sing some songs as they “do life” together. Nope. These are warriors. They aren't in it for the benefits. They are in it to the death, and they are ready to lay it all down for the sake of revival.
THE PROPHETIC IS MINIMIZED
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 (ESV)
I personally believe that churches that don't embrace prophetic ministry are significantly out of line. Without an active, vibrant prophetic culture in the church, it will feel dead, be misguided and it will muzzle those who have a mandate to release critical revelation to the body.
A prophetic culture will result in an electric, urgent and supernatural atmosphere that is fueled by a constant spirit of prayer. The body will watch the leadership function from their knees with a tremble in their spirit and will model that lifestyle. Prophetic unction will flow from all, and the release of revelation will powerfully mark the corporate gathering.
FOCUS ON CHURCH GROWTH
The focus on church growth must cease. The remnant doesn't care about a larger building or a growing population. Of course, they are consumed with passion for souls, but this is the difference between today's typical church strategy and the one today's revival minded people have adopted.
Typical church leaders equate success with a larger crowd. They argue that more people in the church equals more souls in the Kingdom. This is not usually the case. It's an immature and unrealistic strategy.
The remnant church, however, values the presence of God over the presence of people. They would rather gather together with twenty or thirty firebrands who have been marked by the Spirit of God instead of five hundred spiritually curious people. They want the Upper Room 120, not the thousands who were too busy to truly invest.
The strategy is prayer induced revival. When the small group of fully surrendered and sold out remnant revivalists pray on fire together, they are building a foundation for the harvest. They aren't looking for an extra few hundred people in their meeting, they want the millions!
In fact, growing with people who are not raging on fire for Jesus will only result in a watered-down experience where all sorts of compromises are made to ensure the moderates are satiated. Remnant Christians are done with such foolish distractions.
NO SUPERNATURAL ACTIVITY
A church without signs, wonders and miracles, without dreams and visions, without the glory of God, is a church without a strategic, powerful and supernatural prayer culture. A prayerless church is no church at all and remnant Believers refuse to waste their time with such a humanistic endeavor.
I hear about people scrutinizing churches that are functioning in the supernatural. I have often suggested that churches that do not operate in the invisible realm where the wonders of God manifest should be questioned. Why is God not moving in your midst?
As we cultivate a prayer-infused church where everybody prays with tongues of fire and prophesies and contends against the darkness, we'll have a church on fire that is driven by the winds of the Holy Spirit. People are so hungry for this but it is exceptionally rare to find a church that flows this way.
CONTROLLING AND RESTRICTIVE LEADERSHIP
Pastors, we must raise up people to outshine us! Get out of the way and celebrate the callings and gifts in others. Allow God to move mightily through them and step aside when God is ready to use them.
We need revival churches that are raising up sons and daughters and releasing them into the world! We need revival leaders who will drop the reigns and allow the messy, unpredictable and supernatural to happen!
I've known pastors who are completely lost without a perfectly timed order of service. They need to step off the platform and hit the altar and let the Spirit of God rage!
NO LEGITIMATE VISION
Why are we even gathering together? What is the vision? What's the point?
When many pastors are asked about their vision, they often share their ministry goals. The two couldn't be more different. You may have goals to add a certain number of people to the pews or to build a second campus, but that is not vision.
Vision is a supernatural infusion of the impossible. It's the burning purpose of the ministry. It's the very reason the leader is gathering people together. True vision will grip the pastor night and day. It's costly. It's deeply personal yet the body is invited to participate.
Revival-minded people want to run with a leader who has had their hip taken out by God, who has no other reason for living than to fulfill their mandate. The vision is alive, burning, raging, all-encompassing and humanly impossible to fulfill.
MISPLACED EMPHASIS ON WORSHIP
In many churches that consider themselves to be supernaturally motivated, a spirit of prayer has been replaced by a strategy of worship. Emphasis has been placed on an excellent musical experience, believing that it's the highest form of supernatural expression and the quickest route to fulfilling the goal of introducing a spiritual element into the service.
A sixty-second prayer as the worship team members hold hands in a circle on the platform is usually followed by an hour or so of practice.
I'll say this as clearly as I can: a spirit of true worship cannot come without a spirit of fervent prayer leading the way.
Some of my favorite worship experiences have been in churches with a single, ragtag guitar playing leader, sometimes with other musicians and sometimes not, who just bleeds intercession. You can see it. You can feel it. They play spontaneously, in the Spirit, with no song list, no script, no karaoke sing-a-longs. Intermixed are songs in tongues, tears of passion and powerful prayers and declarations. The people are undone, rocking, trembling and deeply hungry as the Holy Spirit whips through them like a mighty wind.
Compare this with highly polished, well-orchestrated worship sets with surface-level, manufactured exuberance that any discerning remnant Believer can pick up on with their eyes closed and their hands tied behind their backs.
Again, no spirit of prayer, no spirit of worship. Period.
Remnant Christians can't stand one more church as usual service. We are done!
It's time for unusual church. It's an unscripted, spontaneous, risky, messy, open-ended, explosive and often offensive environment where God blows in with might.
My pastor friend's plea is real. He wants to connect with pastors and leaders who are yearning for an unusual church experience. I do too.
My prophetic friends who last night cried out for anything but church as usual are not alone. There are many remnant Christians who are desperate for the new wine. I hear from people all over the world on a very regular basis asking me if I know where they might find such a church, an unusual church on fire. Sadly, I must confess most of the time that I do not. This must change.
Come on pastors, no more church as usual. For real this time.
Traveling ministers and the pastors who invite them most both welcome correction.
The money changers’ sin was simple—they attempted to use God’s temple for personal gain. They were focused on making a profit. This resulted in one of Jesus’ most violent reactions, and I believe a similar reaction is coming to a corrupt ministry scheme today. ~Snake Oil Ministry
Of my nearly three decades of ministry, I've spent many years as a pastor inviting guest ministers in and I've spent many years as the guest minister, traveling to serve a pastor when called. Wholesale reform in this exchange must come if the impact we are hoping for is to be realized.
Of course, there are many humble and pure-hearted itinerant preachers and many local church pastors who are godly and ridiculously amazing. And, of course, there are many who are not.
Caught in the middle, I suppose, are many more who are simply unaware of what appropriate itinerant ministry looks like. My hope is that we can shine a light on the issue and call for an adjustment.
REVIVAL CAN COME
I propose the reasons for inviting in a guest minister are few. The underlying desire should absolutely be to pursue an outpouring and to stimulate the fires of revival. A move of God is the motivating factor.
The guest minister will certainly carry something the preachers of the house don't. Their ministry should be valued and given room to bring impact. Again, revival is the goal.
However, in order for this greatest of pursuits to have even the slightest hope of kindling, we need to see significant change come.
Listen to the podcast…
HOW ITINERANT MINISTERS MUST CHANGE
Don't travel unless you are truly carrying the burden of the Lord.
If you don't have a burning message from God seared into your spirit, you should question whether you should accept an invitation to minister. Today we have too many professional guest speakers who are regurgitating messages that may have held impact years ago but are now nothing more than spiritual information devoid of anointing or timely weightiness.
I propose you pray and seek God for a heavy, transforming word for the people you are about to minister to. The pastor and the people are paying greatly (or, they should be) to bring you in. Anything less than full investment is dishonoring to them.
Bring the new wine and a “now word” of God, not a collection of lifeless notes from yesteryear.
Get out of the green rooms.
If a guest minister isn't engaged with passion in the worship service and is instead hiding away in the green room or the pastor's office awaiting the perfect moment to make their appearance, they should stay hidden away. Go away. Don't take the microphone.
If revival is the goal as it should be, the itinerant preacher has no option but to be right in the middle of the flow of the service. They should be interceding, discerning the atmosphere, declaring breakthrough, engaging in spiritual warfare and worshiping with abandon.
Stop with the marathon money grabs (I mean, offering times).
It's the pastor's job to ensure you are very well taken care of financially (we'll get to them in a moment). Leave that part of it alone and focus on the job at hand. You are called to preach and to ignite the fires of revival, not breaking in the middle for 30 minutes to receive (or, actually, take) an offering. Becoming a distracted money-changer when you should be flowing in an overwhelming anointing for breakthrough is dishonorable.
Oh, and if you attach their breakthrough to their giving in that service, I fear for your soul.
Weep with the people.
If you can't feel the hearts of the people and if you aren't invested deeply in their freedom, you have no business standing behind another leader's pulpit. It's easy to know when itinerant ministers are simply professional public speakers. They confidently deliver their well polished message and are already thinking about selling some books, heading out to lunch and jumping on their flight to their next destination.
We need those who will be in the moment, people who will weep when the people weep and dance when they dance. Develop relationships, fight for their breakthrough and go to battle for their souls!
Stop the embarrassing theatrics.
Quit pushing people over at the altar. Quit measuring success by how many people come to the altar. Quit hyping up an atmosphere. Just quit.
Many times when I travel and minister I won't have an altar call at all. I won't attempt to create some sort of faux energy or stimulate a hypnotic atmosphere. While I'm all for wild and bizarre manifestations of the Holy Spirit, I'm certainly not going to manufacture it.
Preach with passion. Fight from the platform. Engage the enemy. Welcome the Holy Spirit. Respond accordingly and get out of the way. You may not have an Instagramable pic of people flooding the altar, but that's okay.
Be submitted in a local church.
Itinerant preachers, be they prophets, apostles, evangelists or whatever, must be covered in a local church. They should be active members and in a position of learning as they sit under another's leadership.
Itinerant ministry is not a promotion out of the church. It's an expression of the church. I personally wouldn't be comfortable inviting in a guest speaker who isn't locked into a local church. I've done it in the past and much of the time there was a strong, prideful, independent spirit at play in their ministry. Pastors can't afford for their people to be infected with that.
HOW PASTORS MUST CHANGE
Be prepared to give a lot of money to your guest.
Itinerant ministers aren’t being paid for only one hour of preaching. They have given more than that. They have invested much by leaving their family, expending energy as they travel, paying for their food on the road, sleeping in unfamiliar beds and, possibly most importantly, stepping out in faith believing that God would provide their every need.
If their monthly family budget (you know, money to pay for their teenage monsters to devour entire sides of beef, braces for crooked teeth, Christmas presents, car payments, vacations, toilet paper, shoes, etc.) is $6000 a month, that means anything less than $1500 puts them in a compromised position. It’s usually their spouse who is handling the bills and taking care of precious and wild kids who gets hit the most when the finances aren’t coming in. Being an itinerant minister is an extremely challenging life and I want to do my best to relieve the financial pressure from them and their family. ~Snake Oil Ministry
I personally believe $1000 per time your guest speaks is a bare minimum, and, by all means, send them home with the honorarium. Don't expect them to be happy about your lack of preparation when you tell them you'll have to send it to them in the mail the next week. Remember, I'm coming at this discussion now from the perspective of pastors, not the itinerant minister. Traveling ministers travels must be willing to do what they are called to do for nothing. But, pastors shouldn't put their guests in that position. They should also have integrity with the offering:
I have found that people love to give, especially when I tell them 100% of the offering will be going to the guest speaker (after expenses are covered). If one million dollars comes into the offering, the church receives nothing and the guest is now a millionaire! I believe this approach deals with any scrutiny that may be in people’s minds when giving. They love the fact that they are able to have 100% of their gift go directly to the guest! ~Snake Oil Ministry
I've had some cringe worthy experiences as a traveling preacher. While the vast majority of visits have been amazing, there are a handful that still make me shudder! I'm going to battle for traveling preachers everywhere because I know that leaving after a grueling, tiring weekend filled with long travel and uncomfortable situations with only a few hundred dollars can be tough.
Give them room to minister.
If revival is the goal, you can't expect even the most anointed guest speaker to move everybody in that direction in 30 minutes. The people should be well aware that it's a special day and what is normal in their culture is about to be violated.
You should have done your homework before you invited them in, meaning you are fully comfortable with their ministry and you can confidently release the reigns. Let them know they are free to preach as long as they'd like about anything God puts on their hearts. No limits.
Now, back to the guest speaker for a moment: if you are boring, losing the crowd or if it's just an off day, stop the bleeding and put the people out of their misery. Get off the stage and head off to lunch with everybody else.
Get them a nice hotel.
I'll sleep on the floor if necessary to bring the burden of the Lord to the people God is sending me to. That being said, I can't express how blessed I am, and relieved, when I hear my host is putting me up in a hotel instead of a host home.
Staying in a place where I can be alone to rest, study and pray is priceless. While many host homes have been amazing and I've had a lot of fun spending time with the host families, it's almost always better to stay alone.
For example, I stayed in a beautiful home with an absolutely amazing family many years ago. I can't express enough how impressed I was with them and how much I enjoyed hanging out. However, I was unable to rest as my calendar was filled up with activities and my sleep schedule was disrupted as I was served an incredible 7am breakfast. The problem? I don't eat breakfast and I stay up very late at night. I was exhausted.
I know that sounds like a silly or even a selfish, thankless complaint, but the cost of that scenario is a de-energized preacher who isn't able to pray and get alone with the Lord in preparation for the services.
Just get them a hotel and ask them what schedule they'd like to keep.
Don't try to undo what they did after they leave town.
Again, the purpose of bringing in guests is to be catalysts for an outpouring. They are supposed to do things differently than the pastor and local leadership. They carry a different anointing and they can break through things in a different way.
Many are called to disrupt, to trouble and to initiate a great shaking. Allow that process to happen.
Unless clear heresy is being preached, don't try to set back up what the preacher has been called to upset.
I once heard about a pastor who tried to put the people back at ease the week after I preached with fire, sending God wanted to remove them from their ease. It was a fearful message of holiness and salvation, and, unfortunately, the pastor encouraged the people, correcting what I said and ensuring that they were nice and saved and should not be concerned in any way.
Honestly pastor, if you are going to do that, don't waste my time. It's costly enough to preach a message like that without it all being undone the moment I head for the airport.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Have a pure heart, contend for revival, give largely, honor deeply and give God a lot of room to move. Revival has launched through the ministry of guest preachers before and it can happen again, but I believe it's clear we need reform in this area before we can legitimately expect it to happen.
Here are four reasons why much of today's evangelism is actually hurting the advance of the Kingdom.
The Great Commission is such a serious mandate that we have no option but to get it right. In fact, with Hell growing larger and innumerable people are flooding into that unspeakable place every day, we must sound the alarm, preach the truth and rescue the perishing.
I'd like to strongly encourage you to listen to the powerful story of Frank Jenner's simple yet wildly anointed life of evangelism. You may cry. You will be awestruck. It's called “The Man From George Street.” Listen HERE.
Yes, evangelism is critically necessary—if done rightly.
Listen to the podcast:
FOUR WAYS EVANGELISM CAN DO MORE DAMAGE THAN GOOD
ONE: IT LACKS A SPIRIT OF PRAYER
I was flown into a church in a large city many years ago to help with some video work. I had some free time the night I arrived so I decided to check out the church and to see if they had anything going on. I was happily surprised to see a sign announcing a prayer meeting that was underway. I was saddened by what I saw as I stepped into the large sanctuary.
There was no spirit of prayer at the prayer meeting. In fact, there were only a few people standing around in that massive auditorium. It was dead, which was markedly different from what I expected based on the size of the church and the fact that it was a Spirit-filled congregation.
I quickly learned that prayer was not job one in that place. Evangelism was. I've never been in a church that emphasized soul winning to such a degree, and one would think I should have been thrilled. I was not.
As I spent time with people and pastors in that church I witnessed very well intentioned but awkward, forced, scripted and manipulated Gospel presentations to anyone who would listen. While it's true that God's Word can work wonders with no additional help from you and me, it's also true that our delivery of the Word can be dead or alive, weak or powerful, tainted by our human spirit or anointed by the Holy Spirit.
Evangelism efforts that don't emerge from the white-hot furnace of intercession will most often be dead, weak and tainted. Those who hear what we are saying will most often resist, sensing no vibrancy or activity of the Holy Spirit at all. People who could have surrendered all if evangelism was done rightly, delivered with a burning unction, results instead of people being repelled by whatever stench just emerged from our souls.
TWO: THERE'S NO MENTION OF SIN, REPENTANCE, HELL OR THE CROSS
Much of today's prophetic evangelism zeros in on how wonderful God thinks people are to the exclusion of acknowledging their depravity. They are awakened to the possibility of love without understanding the radical surrender that's necessary.
It's quite possible many of these people are saying yes to the invitation and begin following Jesus in an unsaved condition. They don't understand how deadly their life of sin was because the evangelist didn't mention it. A false-grace theology can drive Gospel presentations like this, presuming a revelation of God's love is sufficient to draw people out of their old life and into the new. That's not biblical evangelism and it puts the hearers at great risk of adopting a compromised religion.
It wouldn't surprise me if multiplied millions of people who have “gotten saved” this way are currently lost, seduced by a version of love that's not legitimate. They are convinced that God's love is what seals their position when it's actually their radical response that is key.
THREE: IT BECOMES PRIMARY FOR EVERY CHRISTIAN
There are many verses in Scripture that make it clear that we should be ministering, sharing truth and advancing the Kingdom. Yes, we are to do the work of an evangelist, however, that verse makes it clear that not everybody is an evangelist. It would do us well to understand this.
The church I mentioned above put strong pressure on everyone in the body to evangelize always, in every environment. The problem? Evangelists are wired, gifted and anointed to do this. The rest are gifted in other areas and they should be free to minister mostly according to how they are put together by God.
Teachers, for example, are called by God to mostly reveal powerful truths to Believers. Their anointing will be most pronounced in that realm, and it would be smart to allow them to study and relay what they discover to the church.
On the contrary, if you put some evangelists behind the pulpit you may cringe as they attempt to communicate scriptural truths beyond the mission to win the lost.
Simply, we all have our calling. Yes, there is cross-training involved and we should be “instant in and out of season,” about to “do the work of an evangelist” and to preach truth in any setting. However, outside of the call for all to pray as a primary life focus, everybody has a different gift mix and calling.
FOUR: IT DISPLACES THE FOCUS ON REVIVAL
I personally believe the fasted route to the harvest is revival. Just as I shared in point one that it's important to start in the prayer room, a focus on revival will lay a foundation that can withstand the influx of hungry, repentant people.
It's not either/or. It's both/and. However, if we focus initially on prayer and revival, and if we prepare the people in both of these disciplines, the anointing to do the work of the ministry, including evangelism, will be electric.
Evangelists often (not always) struggle with the idea that the primary call is to pray. An evangelist who had the most tender heart and who could be found on the streets witnessing night after night asked me, “John, your church is so focused on prayer. Where will I bring people when they get saved? I can't expect them to come to such an environment.”
I challenged him. I said this is precisely the environment they need to experience the moments after they meet Jesus! This supernatural, vibrant atmosphere where the Holy Spirit is brooding and moving will result in baptism of power they will never forget!
Simply, we want people to meet Jesus in the place of raging, searing, life-altering revival!
You might argue, “Well, at least people are doing it! At least they are sharing the Gospel!.”
I get it. That makes sense. And, again, I do want to applaud those who are taking those bold steps to share truth. However, I believe it's okay, in fact it's important to analyze our motives and methods. After all, we are dealing with human lives and their eternities very well may be determined by our ministry. We should feel the sobering, weighty intensity to that reality.
We absolutely need a vibrant, active spirit of prayer when we are talking about Jesus.
We need to communicate the truth of sin, Hell, repentance and the cross.
It's important to appreciate and activate people in their specific gifts and offices.
And, by all means, a mass movement of revival will result in an introduction to Jesus that will be conducted by the Holy Spirit with supernatural, otherworldly precision.
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.”