“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.
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.
If a church is small, does that mean God’s favor isn’t there or that the pastor has failed? Not always.
Given a choice, I’d attend a large, impactful and vibrant church. That’s simply a preference of mine, though I understand why many others prefer smaller churches. Additionally, given a choice, I’d prefer to lead a large, impactful and vibrant church instead of a smaller one. The key words are impactful and vibrant. Over nearly three decades of ministry, however, I’ve learned that large does not always equal successful, small doesn’t always equal failure and a lack of numeric growth doesn’t always equal stagnant. It’s time we overcome the stigma of the small church.
Like most young church planters or pastors, my vision for the church I was leading included explosive numeric growth. That seemed to be the non-negotiable, obvious part of the ministry plan that required no explanation. Starting and developing a church clearly demanded attracting people to the mission as a core strategy. In fact, the Ekklesia is defined by three distinct marks: People. Leadership. Instruction.
The Ekklesia is a gathering of people in the region under governmental authority in order to receive apostolic instruction. More simply, it’s people coming together under God ordained leadership to fulfill a mission. So, yes, people are needed if you want to lead a church.
Some of my most memorable church planting moments include an empty 700 square foot room in Manitou Springs, Colorado where I’d pray, usually alone, in the early stages of our church launch there. Eighteen years have passed and a lot of lessons have been learned, but those hours on my knees or pacing around that room were the foundation of my church planting experience.
I’ll eliminate the countless remarkable stories, miracles, supernatural encounters and other happenings that spurred the church development process, both there in Manitou Springs and also in Detroit where we planted our second church. I’ve written about these miracles and wonders in some of my books (www.burton.tv/resources), but suffice it to say, I’m humbled at how God moved. In fact, I’m stunned at just how much God did. I and many others will never be the same, and for all eternity we will be able to praise God for what he did in those seasons.
To this day I wonder if my two church planting exercises were massive tests—for me. I know for sure that both contained many tests, but my question is about the comprehensive experience. Did God call me to plant two churches mostly to develop me personally and to test my heart? Certainly there were enough stories of impacted lives to fill many books and countless articles, so I don’t question whether the ministry was legitimate or not. I’ll be forever wrecked by the transformation that resulted in people in those two regions, in those two seasons. Watching lives supernaturally transformed before my eyes caused tears to flow.
Yet, as God truly branded many people with his fire in those many years of ministry, I do wonder if God was mostly testing me. Would I be more interested in growing my legacy, my ministry, my church and my reputation—not to mention my bank account—or, was I truly in it for love and to minister to the heart of God?
In both Manitou Springs and Detroit we saw the churches grow. People to this day count those years among the best of their lives. God was drawing people together and we were contending for revival together.
In both Manitou Springs and Detroit, God tested my heart. It was difficult to say the least. Crushing even. To simplify what he was doing, he called us to go deeper and to raise the bar higher. The cost of consecration and the call to fervent intercession became a much greater focus (and we were already known for being an edgy, intense ministry). While we had amazing people in both churches, I knew the decision to become even more revival focused, even more intercession driven and even more devoted to a consecrated, holy lifestyle would result in many people disengaging. I knew it. I was troubled. God was calling me to “intentional failure.”
I’ll never forget the key moments in both places when God nailed me to the ground and directed me to surrender all, including my reputation. There were many cries and questions during the many hours of prayer in those two defining seasons in Colorado and Michigan. If I obeyed God and introduced a new wine, reformation church that was very unique and specific to our particular mission, those who were mostly invested in the church experience for reasons other than revival, reformation, intercession and revolution would most definitely jump ship. That would be almost everybody. Literally. No exaggeration.
I was right. That’s exactly what happened. I could have stayed the course and watched the churches continue to grow and “thrive,” possibly into several hundred in number. I have no doubt that I could have chosen growth over God, and that freaks me out. It would have been very easy to spiritualize my decision and avoid the pointed fingers and accusations of failure by continuing on the way we started. And I would have failed some of my most critical tests. I would have satisfied people and rejected God and the church would have grown. That is absolutely terrifying.
Attempting to transition a passionate, Spirit-filled, fiery church into a church that’s even hotter, more costly and one that results in a terrifying tremble in our spirits is not for the feint of heart. You see, there are many who absolutely love to warm themselves by the fire, but very few who are willing to lay across the fire as it consumes their flesh as a sacrifice to the one they love.
If small churches have a stigma attached to them, and failure has a stigma attached to it, failed churches most definitely have a stigma attached! But why?
Stop and think about it. Pastor, I want you to be free from the finger-pointing and cruel accusations if you struggle to grow your church or if you fail altogether. Has anybody figured out why failure in this manner is such a negative for some people? Failure in man’s eyes means little. The question is, are you growing in God? Are you truly obedient to God even if such obedience results in people presuming you are weak? (By the way, we are all weak!)
Here’s a portion of an article based on my book Piece of Cake, which deals directly with the stigma of failure:
One of the greatest fears man has is that of failure. It invites scrutiny, accusation and mocking—but society’s greatest leaders embrace a culture of failure!
The goal isn’t to look like you know what you are doing, the goal is to experiment, try, fail, try again, grow, have epiphanies, gain knowledge, fail again and ultimately succeed!
Success doesn’t develop experts nearly as well as failure does.
Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” (attributed to Thomas Edison)
If we understand the scope of our project, it’s actually quite insane to presume we will accomplish it without significant and repeated failures.
Yes, you are going to fail. Go ahead and wrestle with it now, you can’t avoid it. I don’t mean ultimate failure, of course. But, I do mean that you will pray much, do your best to gain insight from God, consider your best options, seek wisdom from others and then move out with at least a measure of confidence—and you will experience failure!
Failure should not intimidate you! People will presume you to be inadequate, confused or immature during your experimenting.
Most young ministers crave for others to see them as successful and steady with a pipeline directly into the command center of Heaven. The reality? We see in part. We understand little. We have clarity on a small part of the big picture, and when we initiate action, others will watch as we stumble and struggle. Are you OK with that?
THE STIGMA OF SMALL CHURCHES
I’ve heard it said that small is the new big. I believe that is true for many, though we have to be careful not to use that as a cop out. There are some leaders out there who have what it takes to grow a large church yet their lack of personal growth, faith and surrender is standing in the way. Small is the new big only if God has called a particular ministry to be small. There are a lot of silly excuses pastors give for having a small church, just as there are many compromises pastors make to have a large church.
I know we could have easily seen our churches grow moderately large, but I also know I’m probably not gifted enough to lead anything in the thousands. But, in reality, if I honestly analyze God’s mandate on my life, I may not be able to stay true to God’s call while leading more than a hundred—if that. Twice I have traded my ability to grow a church for God’s mandate for a small army of zeroed in warriors. You have no idea how thankful I am that I didn’t fail those tests (though I’ve certainly failed a bunch of other tests over the years! I’m thankful for God’s grace and mercy!).
Further, many pastors simply are not equipped or called to lead a large ministry, yet they expend ridiculous amounts of energy trying to fill the seats.
Pastors, if you have a small church, it could be that you aren't gifted to lead a larger one. God didn't give you that ability. Leadership doesn't come naturally to you. The quicker you can admit that, if it's in fact true, the quicker you can shift expectations and pivot into strategies that take advantage of what you are gifted at.
There's such a stigma regarding small churches. People presume them to be failures. Why is that? Numeric growth should not be the barometer of health and success.
The moment you realize it's okay to be small, the stress and pride and anxiety will fall off. Joy will return as you enjoy being who God created you to be.
The truly scary reality is that many people are naturally gifted to lead a large church or ministry, but God has actually called them to lay that on the altar—and they don’t. They can’t imagine the ridicule, the mocking, the accusation and the massive price that would come if they took their church in a direction that few would join them in.
In fact, I wonder how many mighty church growth visions are being fulfilled as Ishmaels instead of Isaacs. I propose churches all over the world be laid on the altar of sacrifice as God brings redefinition and redirection. The revival we are yearning for requires a sacrifice—a surrender of personal ambition and dreams of success. Put it all on the altar. It requires the church is birthed supernaturally, as Isaac was, not naturally as Ishmael was.
I often think about heroes like Leonard Ravenhill. I would imagine if Ravenhill had decided to start his own church, it would probably be initially well attended, and then a colossal failure. His rebukes of the church that he’s so well known for in his writings would most definitely drive the typical church goer away with mocking and accusations flying out of their mouths. You see, if he would have experienced failure such as this, it wouldn’t be his failure, it would be the failure of those who rejected the call to respond.
Leonard Ravenhill received a lot of criticism about his view of the church being weak witnesses for Christ. He sought to rekindle the fire of the church into the devotion that the first century church had. To him, the greatest tragedy was not sinful activities of the world; it was a sick church in a dying world and so he thought, “Save the church and you will save the world!” Leonard Ravenhill was an old time preacher that warned of the wrath of God, hellfire, heaven, the need for repentance, confession of sin, living a life of holiness. ~Jack Wellman
IF I DECIDED TO PLANT MY THIRD CHURCH
I’d encourage you to read an article I wrote about just what my third church plant might look like, should God direct me to launch one: What My Third Church Plant Might Look Like.
Here’s a portion:
We Will Be Intentionally Small
Understand, I'm someone who absolutely loves large-group meetings. I love praying and contending with thousands of people at various conferences and events. I also would have no problem with a church that does in fact explode in number as a result of revival. I believe we will see that.
However, after 26 years, much of that in pastoral ministry developing churches, I no longer value growing numerically for the sake of numbers. I don't get excited when more people show up, unless those people are hungry and ready to engage God with us at an extreme level.
I believe the sharp, offensive messages that will be preached, the call for 100 percent of the people to be invested in supernatural, fervent prayer and the extreme commitment necessary to advance apostolically will repel most people. Only a remnant will be left. It's with that remnant that we can preach what much be preached, pray what must be prayed and do what must be done to prepare a region for revival.
IT’S TIME FOR REMNANT CHURCHES—WHICH MEANS MOST CURRENT CHURCH MEMBERS WILL LEAVE
Large churches can be a serious threat to revival—or a great strength to revival. We cannot measure success by the number of people who are attending. We must measure by the number of remnant Christians who are fully devoted and being equipped and marked by God in the fires of intercession. Again, some leaders can gather a small group of firebrands and some can gather hundreds or thousands. The key is the temperature of the fire and the level of surrender. When the fire gets hot, many will leave.
We have too many churches filled with people who are marginally interested in a move of God. They would be counted among those who rejected the call to the Upper Room. Understand, what happened in that Upper Room resulted in the launch of the church. If we don’t see tongues of fire igniting above everyone in attendance, and we don’t feel the wind of the Spirit of God blowing through the place, we have to know our church is either compromised or not ready.
The call must be so severe that most people reject it. Hundreds rejected the opportunity to be a part of the Upper Room prayer meeting. Those who did respond changed the world and ultimately impacted billions.
So, yes, when I gave leadership to the churches in Manitou Springs and in Detroit, I was so hungry for God to move more in the region than in my own meetings that I refused to pursue church growth at the cost of obedience and the greater vision. Those were painful years that resulted in a lot of tears as people moved on to other places. Understand, I don’t blame these people. Many are great friends who simply had a different focus in their lives. It’s easy for us to presume such decisions are black and white, but they rarely are. People are at all different places in life, and sometimes one crazy and wild church may just not be what God has for them at that time. I understand that.
I blessed those who left, as difficult as it was to see them go, but I knew my heart was pure and my decision to contend for revival and God’s plan instead of growing my church was correct. Would I do some things differently? Of course. But, the final, big decision to say yes to God and no to personal ambition was the only decision that really mattered.
Simply do what God calls you to do. Period. It really is that basic. There are many pastors that would be better served entering the marketplace. Others need to come to terms with the size of their ministry. Others have to mature and develop before they will see the next level. But, don’t allow people’s analysis of your progress control you or impact you emotionally. People, even many Christians, love to capitalize on someone who is down, and they will use that opportunity to elevate themselves. Just let them. It’s okay. Love them and trust God. All eternity will be marked by the way you respond to people and challenges. It truly is a glorious thing to be free from the scrutiny of others as we allow the fear of the Lord to overcome us. He is truly a very good Father who is cheering you on, not stepping on your neck when you are down and broken.
Carry Like Mary: A raging youth movement coupled with an aging generation of lovers of God will ignite a revolution.
I am coming out of a glory zone in Hillsdale, Michigan. At Camp Michindoh, the Eastern Region Open Bible Youth Ministries summer camp was rocking and burning from the very first night. I had a continual tremble and residual anointing radiating on me non-stop the entire week. I’m still experiencing it today.
The freedom to bring the messages of fire the Lord seared into my spirit was amazing. There was no conditioning or awakening the people—they were ready to explode from the first note the worship team played and the first word I spoke from the pulpit. The altars were magnetic as people rushed forward and couldn’t break away. They didn’t want to. They were finding freedom. They were meeting Jesus.
There is something about desperate, raw young people who haven’t been stricken by unbelief and relegated to humanistic dignity that often results from decades of disappointment. I’ll take their naivety and passion any day ahead of the human, secular wisdom, caution and apathy that many who are advanced in years often subscribe to. I’m looking for the abandoned, the zealots.
An environment like I experienced the last four nights catapults us close to revival. Church should be this hot—and hotter. We must refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. We must stop inviting God to wait outside the church doors so the visitors don’t freak out.
The openness and vulnerability of these supernatural students created a powder keg of an atmosphere.
They were on the floor crying and groaning.
They were on their feet dancing and spinning.
A fire tunnel resulted in bodies laid out all over as God was healing, freeing, loving and empowering desperate souls.
You might think this is emotional nonsense. I believe it’s supernatural, holy and evidence of people who won’t take no for an answer. They will wrestle with God and will encounter him—and stale religion won’t stand in the way.
Others were experiencing intense deliverance. When demons manifest and a service gets messy, it can be a very good sign! Evil spirits like to stay silent and hidden as they dig their claws deep into their host, but when the heat and pressure of God’s presence escalates like it did this past week, they can’t help but to be provoked—and terrified about their future.
Young people were crying real tears. One young lady, obviously rocked by God in an extreme way, told me after the service that she had makeup on when she arrived. By the end, it was all washed away by tears of freedom.
Ladies all around had makeup and mascara streaking down their faces. Suddenly their appearance didn’t matter anymore. Suddenly Jesus did.
I’d love to minister at youth camps every week of the year. However, I am equally fervent in my pursuit to see adults awakened. You see, both are needed in the coming revolution.
CARRY LIKE MARY
The revelation was hot and clear, and I was suddenly burning with a mandate that I couldn’t wait to communicate.
One of the key focuses of our ministry is to awaken sleepers and to call people’s God-birthed destinies out of them. It’s shocking how many Christians in today’s Church are hindered by a spirit of insignificance that convinces them they have little value and will have little impact in ministry.
The coming Church will be marked by bold, Holy Spirit-filled prayer warriors who burn night and day. They will be an explosive people who carry and release the fire of God into the cities of the Earth. There will be a regular tremble and a continual burn on them as they live in the supernatural realm in historic fashion.
Let’s check out the stories of a couple of people who carried God, Mary and Elizabeth. These are stories about history shaking carriers of God that turned the world upside down.
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” Malachi 4:5-6
This prophecy was about John the Baptist who would arrive in the spirit and the power of Elijah. His goal? To turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers. This is a significant end-time Scripture! We will see, as the story continues, how God is preparing the generations to converge.
Now, at this point John the Baptist was not yet on the Earth. How would he arrive? Well, it’s quite simple. He would have to arrive the same way every other human ever had—he would be conceived, carried and then delivered. But, of course, there’s a bit of a problem with this scenario. Elizabeth, John’s future mom, was barren.
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. Luke 1:5-7
So, Elizabeth had what was in her control taken care of. She and her husband both were righteous and blameless. They embraced holiness in the fear of the Lord. That set them up for quite a story. What was not in her control was the fact that she was barren. She was physically impaired. She could not conceive.
The coming Church will be identified by those who fear God and who walk uprightly—and who become conduits of God’s supernatural power.
As we continue in the story, consider Elizabeth’s predicament this way: she was old and barren.
Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. Luke 1:8-13
In the midst of a prayer-fueled church, there was angelic activity. The coming Church will be a prayer meeting first and foremost, and the supernatural, angelic activity will increase markedly.
Now, check this out:
…and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” Luke 1:15-17
Now, that is the way to carry a baby! Elizabeth would be carrying baby John the Baptist who, in turn, would be carrying God! This mighty prophet of God, this carrier of the Holy Spirit, would be birthed from the elder generation. Now let’s look at Mary, the younger generation.
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1:26-33
Elizabeth was old and barren.
Mary was young and a virgin.
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:34-38
If that wasn’t powerful enough for you, look at what happens next. Do you remember the prophetic promise in Malachi? The generations would again come together through the ministry of John the Baptist. This happened quicker than you might think.
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Luke 1:39-45
When the older and younger generations met, both carrying God (Elizabeth carrying John who was carrying the Holy Spirit and Mary carrying Jesus), there was a leaping of the baby and a greater in-filling of the Holy Spirit!
In this end-time generation, we are called to carry like Mary! There will be a leaping and a rejoicing and a great manifestation of the Holy Spirit when the carriers of God unite in faith and mission.
The burning fiery love of God in the coming Church of his presence will overtake end-time carriers who will impact regions all around the world.
Christ in Us
Now, this revelation causes everything to change. Christ, in fullness, is in you and me! That sounds impossible if you think about it. God, who created the universe fits inside of us fully! This should radically change the way we think and live.
Think of it this way. God knows everything. He lives in you. This means that every answer in the world is within you, correct? God knows the cure for cancer. I’m not talking about God miraculously healing someone of cancer, but rather, he knows the scientific resolution to this plague. He could enlighten a cancer researcher with the scientific blueprint that would once and for all end cancer on the Earth.
Do you understand what this means? The scientific cure for cancer is within you! The cure for cancer is in God, and God is in you. Of course, that knowledge hasn’t been activated and revealed, but the point is that the fullness of God is in us, and the power and resources of God are to be carried and released through us!
The powerful truth is this: We aren’t God ourselves by any means. We are weak and broken humans. However, that makes the truth so much more remarkable! We as weak, fallible people are carriers of an omnipotent God! This certainly opens up a lot of opportunities for God’s end-time army in the coming Church!
It’s time to carry like Mary, to unite the generations and to release the healing, awakening, consecrating fire of God in the nations!
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, o that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19
When we admit we are weak, then we will discover the Strength of the nations.
I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless. Isaiah 13:11 (NIV)
It’s an indictment on our nation when we puff up our chest in the face of our enemies and make trite, inaccurate statements about our supposed strength. American pride is finally coming back to haunt us. Our haughty, arrogant spirit has opened the gates of our nation to our enemies.
No, America, we are not strong, and we need to finally admit it. Without a radical devotion to Jesus, we have no hope.
A NEW AMERICAN REVOLUTION
We need our President to humble himself, to admit our extreme vulnerability without God and to lead the nation in cries of repentance. Pastors, do the same. Nothing less than a new American Revolution will stop our downward spiral as a nation.
Except, this time we aren’t fighting for our independence. We must humbly repent of our pride, arrogance and self-sufficiency.
Instead of overthrowing the authority of the British monarchy, we must submit to the authority of the Kingdom of God.
If we understand the nature of God, realization of our weakness is very good news for us—if we repent, cry out to God as a nation and surrender to the King.
And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Hebrews 11:32-34 (ESV)
American can become strong out of weakness and put ISIS, cop killers, terrorists and foreign armies to flight—if we turn to God.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)
PROTESTS VS. REPENTANCE & FORGIVENESS
What if, instead of protests and attempting to force an agenda, we simply forgave?
What if we hit our knees and admitted how dark our own hearts can be?
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17:9-10 (ESV)
God knows the depths of our heart and we are being tested as a nation.
Will we humble ourselves or rise up in anger and pride? The answer to that question will determine the direction of our nation.
“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6 (ESV)
We have to embrace meekness as a people—if we want our nation to be safe and favored again.
PRAYER FOR OUR NATION IS NOT ENOUGH.
It’s laughable when celebrities and politicians tweet and post about prayers being given during times of crisis. Are they really praying? To whom? Is the spirit of prayer really driving them, or is it something else?
Maybe if we didn’t wait for tragedy to hit before a national movement of prayer launches, we would find the protection and prosperity we so desire.
When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 2 Chronicles 7:13-15 (ESV)
Prayer isn’t enough.
Per the above passage in 1 Chronicles 7, the prescription for national safety is more involved than simply tweeting a prayer. It will truly take a new American Revolution to see a response like this on a large scale level:
- HUMILITY—We are nothing without God. This is why it’s so critical to elect politicians who are meek. Proud, arrogant people give hope in the natural, but spiritually they are a serious liability.
- PRAY—Prayer movements must erupt from coast to coast. Never ending, heart rending intercession must launch now.
- SEEK—God is calling us into his presence! A holy people running after and encountering God as a lifestyle is a must.
- TURN—The vile wickedness in our nation, and in so much of our church, is a stench in the nostrils of God. Repentance has to begin, and when it does, God will finally forgive our sin and hear our prayer!
Then, and only then, will God begin the process of healing America.
I’d say a revolution like this is well worth it.
Let’s do this America. Let’s see our great land become safe, free and prosperous again.
Prayer is much different than many of us understand it to be. A revolution of prayer is needed!
The concept of offering up requests in the hopes that an invisible God delivers what we desire is the primary model of prayer for many Christians today. Read the list of prayer requests and hope for the best!
I remember growing up as a young Catholic boy people reciting the Lord’s Prayer over and over again as if I was fulfilling some religious duty. Those were not happy days as I lived in unhealthy fear presuming God’s rejecting of me unless I fulfilled the quota.
Now, I do agree that even simple, faith filled recitation of God’s living Word is healthy and extremely positive. However, too many presume reading the Lord’s Prayer or other scriptures is the totality of their assignment in prayer. Read it, agree with it and move on. This is the error I want to talk about.
Prayer isn’t a stale, tedious chore that, once accomplished, we earn favor with God as our desires (or demands) are met as requested. Prayer is the expression of the passion of our heart as we come into fervent, joyful agreement with God. That expression is explosive and it’s actually laughable to presume it can be limited to the mouthing of words! True prayer is comprehensive and it overwhelms us into radical agreement with God and aggressive response to his directives.
Prayer Isn’t Mostly About Us
Prayer is at its most powerful when the focus isn’t on us.
5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. Matthew 6:5 (ESV)
While we may not bring focus to us by religiously praying on the street corners, is it possible that the content of our prayer is at times narcissistic? Is it about bringing attention to us and our situation or to God and his?
6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:6 (ESV)
Whatever I am passionate about is done as a part of my daily life, in public and in private. On a natural level, I don’t only watch Chicago Cubs games in public to attempt to seek positive attention from others (which would have not been possible until this past season!) but I watch them in private when nobody else is home. Why? I have a certain measure of passion for my home team.
Of course, that’s a sad example when compared to the glories of enjoying and encountering God! We should be praying continually, according to Scripture, because it just radiates in and out of us! It’s not about others being impressed with our religious fervor, it’s about being who we are—lovers of the Most High God!
Prayer Isn’t About Coercing God
7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Matthew 6:7-9 (ESV)
I was repeating the Lord’s Prayer over and over again as a young child, convinced that my devoted work of speaking out loud would please God and result in a big thumbs up. If you think about that, it’s kind of demented thinking! It reminds me of tribal religions where people sacrifice chickens and mark their bodies as an offering to their gods in the hopes that they are spared from drought, floods and other natural disasters.
Prayer for the Christian comes from the place of deep, abiding love and a wondrous relationship with Jesus.
4 Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. 6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Psalm 37:4-6 (ESV)
Again, our prayer is simply an expression of our revelation of Jesus! We are ignited with passion as a result of knowing God intimately. We can’t help but to declare the wonders of our God!
Imagine what would erupt out of you after having an experience like is described in Revelation 19. That outburst, that response, is prayer!
11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Revelation 19:11-16 (ESV)
The Prayer of the Lord
The Lord’s Prayer is just that—the passions of Jesus. It is truly the prayer of the Lord!
We aren’t to be limited to a simple recitation of words on paper. There is a fervent passion that should be sizzling in our veins as we declare this potent, culture rocking prayer!
16 …The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16 (ESV)
The Lord’s Prayer is an intense declaration of our lifestyles that are shaking and shocking our culture. It is an expression of agreement with the plan of God for the nations of the earth!
HOLY ARE YOU!
9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Matthew 6:9 (ESV)
This verse shouldn’t be easy to be casually read aloud! The call is for us to have a visitation of God and his holiness! A revelation that causes us to collapse to our knees with our faces buried in our hands as we tremble and cry, “Holy!”
Can you imagine what it will be like to gaze upon perfect purity in our beautiful God’s countenance second after second forever? Oh Lord Jesus come! What an eternity that will be! Day and night never ceasing to declare, “Holy is the Lord God Almighty!”
6 and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 7 the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. 8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” Revelation 4:6-8 (ESV)
YOUR KINGDOM COME
10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10 (ESV)
The conflict of flesh versus spirit should be causing veins to bulge in our necks as we cry out to God, “I despise the limitations of the flesh! I reject my own natural wisdom and I declare with boldness that your wisdom, your government, your Kingdom is superior!”
This prayer can’t be limited to a one sentence, three second read. As we draw closer and closer to Jesus we develop a never-ending yearning for God and his leadership. Everything else will appear as foolishness in comparison with the government of Jesus.
OUR DAILY BREAD
11 Give us this day our daily bread, Matthew 6:11 (ESV)
Related to the previous point we are declaring our joyful dependence on God. Instead of our Santa Clause style requests flying heavenward in hopes of having our desires gift wrapped and delivered by God, we tell him, “Get me whatever you want.”
How powerful is it to move beyond asking God for the obvious and allowing him to surprise us! Talk about an addicting prayer life! Sometimes the best prayer is not to pray at all. What I mean is, if we have faith that he will supply all of our needs, why would we beg him for our needs to be met?
We can certainly have honest discussions with God about what we are struggling with, but we should do so without worry or frustration. We simply rejoice as we trust God to give us our bread every single day, and I think it’s best if he chooses just what that bread is!
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV)
31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:31-33 (ESV)
12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:12 (ESV)
Again, this cry of our heart should be automatic. The Lord’s Prayer is a passionate decree of the reality of our lives in Christ. Sin should cause us to weep and grieve as we again draw near to God with confession on our lips. Unholy decisions should so disrupt our flow in the Holy Spirit that we are nearly crushed under the weight—only to find God himself running to us to forgive us and give us new life!
The seriousness and destructiveness of sin should also cause us to quickly, instantly forgive others who have wronged us. That declaration of freedom for others bellows out of us as we unlock prison cell after prison cell allowing the guilty to go free!
In fact, this point in the prayer is so critical, that it is revisited again at the end:
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15 (KJV)
A lifestyle of setting people free should mark every one of us. It’s what God does and it’s what we do!
DELIVER US FROM EVIL
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Matthew 6:13 (ESV)
As inhabitants of a fallen world, we are keenly aware of the power of evil and the enticement of the enemy. This passionate plea should be forever on our lips, or until we eternity at least.
The thought of anything compromising our energizing, fiery, zealous relationship with the Lover of our souls should result in sobriety and locked-in demeanor. We must understand the power of sin and we have no option but to continually be aware of it’s devastating force.
10 …so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. 2 Corinthians 2:10-11 (ESV)
IT’S ALL ABOUT GOD!
13 …For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. Matthew 6:13 (KJV)
Can you imagine declaring those words, …for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen… in eternity! Imagine how engulfed we will be in him and him alone!
This is true worship!
I want to exhort you to allow the Prayer of the Lord to become your own. Let it be an expression of your overflowing, all in lifestyle of worship and surrender to Jesus.
It’s not just a good group of words to read before bed. Prayer, especially prayer like this, is a testament to who we really are and what we really believe. It’s agreement with God and an unstoppable decree of our agreement with and position in him!
Watch the video & read the article: Confessions of a Frustrated Revivalist
49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Luke 12:49-50 (ESV)
If Jesus is distressed I think we should be as well. I am. I’m frustrated. I’m angry.
I’m 46 years old and have greater clarity than ever in my life—I am running out of time. The pursuit for city-wide revival has never been more intense for me, yet the window of opportunity as far as my role is concerned won’t be open forever.
In fact, I fully realize that the firestorm I’m so fervently pursuing for our nation may arrive after I’m gone from my physical body. I think of people like David Wilkerson and Leonard Ravenhill, modern day heroes who gave their lives for revival. They both left the earth before that which they were so passionate about manifested. Their work, however, shall not be in vain! I believe there is an army that God is making ready—a people who live for little else other than fanning the flames of legitimate, nation shaking revival.
While I understand spiritual labor in the here and now may not result in an outpouring until much later, I am nonetheless in a constant state of healthy frustration. My estimate is that many other revivalists are as well. The driver of the frustration is that any city in any nation could experience historic revival in a matter of months if only the response and the focus were correct. That reality haunts me.
Before you presume that any attitude of frustration is inappropriate, jump into the Bible and experience the expressive emotions of David and many others. The circumstances varied, but the frustration and anger were passionate.
19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! 20 They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain. 21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? 22 I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies. 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:19-24 (ESV)
6 I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words. Nehemiah 5:6 (ESV)
34 So Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger, and did eat no meat the second day of the month: for he was grieved for David, because his father had done him shame. 1 Samuel 20:34 (KJV)
I propose we need a movement of angry, frustrated saints who have had enough! Frustration without action leads to despair. Frustration plus action equals revolution! A righteous anger must rise up (there is an unrighteous anger the Bible warns us about) against every hindrance to God’s plans for revival in our generation. It’s time to contend for the fire to ignite before we finish our race on the earth!
Church cultures & movements that aren’t revival focused
It’s astonishing to me how rare it is to find churches that are radically invested in nurturing a powerful culture of revival. I really want you to hear me on this. The way you receive what I am communicating is critical. In no way am I dismissing or discounting the value of Christians who aren’t focused in this way—but, I am sounding the alarm. Focuses that don’t lead to or support revival will not be empowered or sustainable.
In fact, some of my favorite movements and streams can be a source of frustration at times. Let’s take the prayer movement, for example. I am a card carrying member of the prayer movement! The power of even the most simple prayer is enough to move an entire mountain, and that truth must be taught and modeled day and night all over the world. It’s that important. The frustration comes when the prayer is too often devoid of a fiery, other worldly explosion out of our spirits. I believe there are certainly times to soak in God’s presence, and I do that often when I’m alone with the Lord. However, to have a corporate prayer movement that doesn’t have that continual unction and the smell of fire is a movement that will fall short of the goal of revival.
We must return to gathering together in God’s raging presence, and during every church service or special event, breathe fire, fan the flames, awaken the sleepers and call the lost and lukewarm to repentance. No more sweet, happy services with sing-a-longs and nice teachings that give us a little extra knowledge. We must encounter God when we gather and cry out with groans for him to move in our city!
We need to see churches and movements that are intense and fervent, focusing on the fire of the Holy Spirit and with an atmosphere that is so hot that every lost soul that comes near it hits their knees and repents. In fact, a 2 Chronicles 7 church would be perfect:
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)
Can you imaging that happening at every service? I can. That’s why I’m frustrated.
A Focus on benefits
Is it not possible to gather hungry people to meetings without letting them know what’s in it for them? I’m frustrated—no, I’m angered—that today’s church has become so self-centered that we have traded in our mantles of prophet for those of salespeople, convincing they to buy what we are selling. Unless promises of healings, personal prophetic ministry, entertainment or other supposed values are given, the people will not show. I’m angry that exalting Jesus is not a sufficient enough of a reason for the masses to gather. This has to change. It’s about him, not us.
This self-centered attitude manifests in all areas of church and life. What if we didn’t give money to the storehouse for the sake of receiving more back? I’ve told people during the offering time that I can’t guarantee that they will be immediately financially blessed as a result of their giving—but those who receive their money will be. That should be enough to bring in millions of dollars! But, no, without promise of personal gain offerings tend to be quite small.
I’ve proposed that we hold an event called, “Come and Die.” A solemn assembly for those who are ready to surrender all no matter what the personal benefits are. We have too many Rich Young Rulers who will only follow Jesus if they can see the benefit.
21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Mark 10:21-22 (ESV)
Evangelism has been compromised by this method of church growth as well. Instead of telling people how great their life is going to be when they follow Jesus, we need to tell them they are hopeless, lost in darkness and infected by sin. We need to let them know that there is a God who is worthy of their surrender! He is worthy of their worship! It’s not about their blessing as much as it is about God’s glory!
Does this mean we never talk about the benefits of the Kingdom? Of course not. But, if I can be frank, I’m sick of it removing the focus from our glorious King.
Shock about hard preaching
When did we as Americans become so thin skinned? Political correctness and hyper-sensitivity to anything that’s not ultra sappy is neutering our nation and our churches.
You have to hear me on this point. I just can’t understand how some consider messages that I preach, or stances that I take to be hard or excessively challenging. Have we become so desensitized to truth, and so comfortable with sweet, encouraging messages that anything that calls us higher is too intense? It’s madness!
I am actually convicted often of my own tendency to hold back, to soften sharp truth for the supposed benefit of the hearers. I feel God pulling on me continually to be more, not less, intense as I deliver critical alarms and calls to repentance.
Consider this portion of a parable. This is not sweet, encouraging teaching! It’s a demand for action!
47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. Luke 12:47-48 (ESV)
I’m begging preachers to finally say something worth listening to! Again, if I can be direct, if I hear another message that affirms people in their apathy, their casual approach, their passivity and their sin I think I’m going to vomit. I’m crying out for true prophetic voices to rattle the nations and to rebuke the resistant! I honestly can’t believe good Christian people shut their ears to messages like this in favor of those that have no cost or expectations attached to them. This is unacceptable! This is why we must aggressively alert people to the signs and seasons!
54 He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? Luke 12:54-56 (ESV)
Pay close attention—those who are zealous for God and who are yearning to go deep in Jesus will always celebrate when direct, hard and costly messages are preached. They won’t reject them. They will respond to them immediately and shout for others to do the same.
One discerning person once told me the reason some people reject my messages as confrontational or too hard is simple—my messages, no matter the subject matter, have an unapologetic call to action attached to them. People would rather hear a word that they can easily forget or quietly reject, or, better yet, a word that lets them know how much the preacher affirms them! The focus is on feeling good and responding at their own pace instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to stare through their souls demanding an immediate and extreme change be made.
Please, God, give us a generation of unapologetic, raging, passionate, burning preachers like Leonard Ravenhill again.
Surrender to culture and schedules
Revival requires full immersion. Every Christian must invest extreme amounts of time, energy and money. There’s no other way around it. If we want revival we are going to have to be available virtually non-stop, day after day. I just don’t understand how any other activity compares to gathering together with others every day to contend in fervent prayer for revival. Why are other things given preference? Why are secular things given preference? It’s nonsensical.
Many people are interested in revival. Few are invested.
Can you imagine doing anything else in life after revival actually breaks out? We’ll get a few hours of sleep each night just to make room to be in the presence of God with others for hours every single day. But now, before revival breaks out, when the laborers are most needed, almost everything else is more important.
It’s embarrassing for our nation to model such a pathetic church culture. When I was in Haiti over a thousand people walked to the church every single night, many of them for two hours. There was no air-conditioning. It was not comfortable. But, they had nothing better to do! They were hungry for Jesus and they showed up. They responded to the call of their pastor. They were instant. They were expectant.
4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business… Matthew 22:4-5 (ESV)
It’s almost impossible to find a church that has Sunday morning and Sunday evening, not to mention Wednesday evening, services. In fact, Sunday morning services have been cut down to just an hour or two long. What in the world are we doing church? Instead of boldly leading change in the culture the church is being driven by culture!
Horizontal vs. vertical relationship
Please make sure you read this closely and don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say. I absolutely believe God is fully in favor of people developing life-giving relationships with other people. It would be foolish to try to deny that. In fact, we need to see even greater community develop where unity and love are modeled to the world.
The frustration I’m dealing with has to do with priority. I have known some of the most intense lovers of Jesus experience setbacks because their desire for human interaction was more immediate than simply loving, serving and enjoying Jesus. They have pulled back from churches when they couldn’t connect with others, even if the opportunity to connect with God was there. This wrecks me!
Because of this, churches have lessened the emphasis on a vertical focus and majored on connecting people horizontally. Dysfunction follows.
I’m not unsympathetic to this issue. I understand how alone one can feel when attending a new church. However, we must power through that and keep in mind the very reason we are in the church service—to minister to God. It’s not mostly about making friends or finding a place to fit.
Even churches that reject the concept of church as a social club have erred on the side of a horizontal, social focus. If they don’t, people will leave, so they presume.
Though God is very much pro-relationship between people, he will never allow that to get in the way of our focus on him.
51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” Luke 12:51-53 (ESV)
59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:59-62 (ESV)
I suppose I just wish we could all gather together and, without the need to know everybody’s name and an interesting fact about their life, simply hit our face and worship! Pray! Contend! Grow! The rest will come in time.
Too many churches have gained people and lost the Holy Spirit. They have connected people to each other as a priority and God is the next one in line, yearning for their attention.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:25-26 (ESV)
Please, pastor, lets do away with prayer meetings. Develop a prayer culture.
10 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! 11 Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! 1 Chronicles 16:10-11 (ESV)
18 praying at all times in the Spirit… Ephesians 6:18 (ESV)
It’s rare to find a church that actually has prayer as the main thing. Sure, they have prayer meetings—in a side room, at a time when most of the people aren’t in the building.
I was speaking in a church in Lakeland, Florida recently and I absolutely loved that their pre-service prayer was actually taking place in the sanctuary all the way up until the worship team started playing at 10am! Go figure! Prayer in the sanctuary!
17 …My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer… Mark 11:17 (KJV)
If every single person in the church doesn’t participate in fervent, corporate prayer, if it isn’t a primary reason they attend the church, if their face doesn’t light up when intercession goes up, something in that church is terribly broken. We should be disturbed. Alarms should be sounding. The house of prayer is prayerless!
This is a major issue, much more serious than we realize. Prayerless churches are easily at risk of being labeled Ichabod.
21 And she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. 22 And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” 1 Samuel 4:21-22 (ESV)
Having a church full of Christians who don’t pray would be like hiring bank tellers who can’t count money, a radio DJ who refuses to talk, a mechanic who can’t change spark plugs or a Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer who can’t swim. A church that has people who aren’t burning in fervent prayer simply does not make sense.
Jesus was frustrated with prayerlessness in the church as well:
37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Mark 14:37 (ESV)
To say I’m frustrated with such an extreme de-emphasis of prayer in the church today would be an extreme understatement. I’m indignant that more people aren’t rebuking that system and calling the remnant Believers to a lifestyle of solemn assemblies. We must have bold, prophetic voices in the church again. The church that doesn’t pray cannot be considered a church.
My own issues
Night time is my time to ponder and pray. Lately I have been growing extremely frustrated with my own condition. I am crying out for God to deliver the hard, sharp word to me. Rattle me! I don’t want there to be the slightest measure of unbelief, resistance to Him, pride or anything else that would hinder my walk with Jesus. Search my heart oh Lord!
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 (KJV)
I am craving more than any other time in my life rapid growth and a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit. Anything less than explosive passion, a life of miracles and great faith is unacceptable!
God is longsuffering, but I don’t want him to suffer long. My desire is to grow at his pace, not mine. Am I doing okay? Sure. But I was not born to do okay! You and I were born to dominate! We are to take dominion! We are to heal the sick and raise the dead! Anything less would be tragic.
So, yes, I’m frustrated. But, it’s a frustration that will not lead to despair. There’s action involved. It’s time for a revolution. It’s time to act—right now.
Audit theLab class “Unoffendable” this Thursday AND listen NOW to all three nights of fire from the conference in Manitou Springs!
First, you CAN’T miss my most requested teaching, Unoffendable, THIS THURSDAY at 7pm at theLab! You can audit the class for $25. Simply show up and pay at the door… and get ready for a night of prayer, impartation and deliverance!
theLab meets at CENTRAL CHURCH, 1529 E. 12 Mile Rd, Madison Heights, MI 48071.
CARRIERS OF FIRE: REVOLUTION EXPERIENCE IN MANITOU SPRINGS, COLORADO
The three nights were so overwhelming that we made a decision to return with a team from Detroit and IHOP six times in 2013.
If you are interested in joining these carriers of fire, contact me and I will discuss it with you. You MUST start planning now if you wish to join us. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org right away.
You can listen to all three nights here:
- DAY ONE (The Coming Church): media.johnburton.net/6954614
- DAY TWO (Your Spiritual Gifts): media.johnburton.net/6954658
- DAY THREE (Carry Like Mary): media.johnburton.net/6954727
The audio does not simply contain teaching, but the entire experience of deliverance, declarations, confrontations with witchcraft and homosexuality, fire tunnels and freedom!
As you listen, pray and ask God if you are meant to join us in Manitou this year.
There will be an application process, but we are opening it up to those outside of Detroit. If you know of people who are ready, and who are maturing, faithful, humble and submitted to authority, this could be a trip that will change the course of their lives.
The next trip will be at the end of May, so, the time is NOW to save money and start consecrating yourself!
HOUSE OF PRAYER IN DETROIT
I am getting URGENT and reliable words about the IMMEDIATE need to get this new house of prayer established.
I’m BOLDLY pulling on you, asking you to ask God about giving financially. We are looking for another $44,000 RIGHT AWAY.
We are looking for a property and are aggressively inviting prophetic messengers, musicians and intercessors to get ready for a major shift in their lives.
Contact me at email@example.com if you have thoughts or questions.
You can donate today at www.detroitrevivalchurch.com/donate.
Manitou Springs Event: Revolution Experience—Three Nights of Fire
Registration is FREE but REQUIRED for this powerful three night experience in the mountains of Colorado!
Register TODAY at www.rhop.com/revolutionexperience!
I will be bringing a team of intercessors and revivalists from Revival Church in Detroit and the International House of Prayer in Kansas City to pray and contend for a spirit of awakening in the Pikes Peak region.
Worship, intercession, powerful teaching, impartation and personal prophetic ministry are on the agenda for REVOLUTION EXPERIENCE at Revolution House of Prayer.
Wednesday, February 6th through Friday, February 8th at 7pm nightly we will experience an explosive atmosphere of Holy Spirit joy and freedom!
Spread the word and register early!
RHOP is located at 12 Old Man’s Trail, Manitou Springs, Colorado 80829.
The Jesus Manifesto
This article can be seen at its original place here: http://www.voiceofrevolution.com/the-jesus-manifesto/
The dawning of the 21st century finds the church of America in a moral and spiritual crisis. Decades of self-centered living and worldliness have taken their toll. Years of compromise and toothless gospel preaching have had their effect. And now we have reached the moment of truth: Either we wake up, stand up, speak up, and act up, or we run the risk of becoming a mere historic curiosity, an irrelevant religious sideshow, an entertaining, harmless spectacle. Something must change, and it must change now. There is no other choice.
Forty years ago, a counterculture revolution swept through America, resulting in a sudden, steep moral decline. Since that time (from the early ’60s until today), the divorce rate has doubled, the teen suicide rate has tripled, reported violent crime has quadrupled, the prison population has quintupled, the percentage of babies born out of wedlock has risen six-fold, and couples living together out of wedlock has risen sevenfold. And the end is not in sight.
The last generation’s counterculture of rebellion has become this generation’s establishment of revulsion, and what was unthinkable forty years ago – daytime talk shows celebrating adultery and incest; homosexual love scenes on major network TV; eleven year-old multiple murderers; massacres in our schools and houses of worship – is a matter of course today. We need a revolution!
But this revolution will be different than other revolutions – including the revolution that birthed our nation more than 200 years ago. This revolution will not be fought with earthly weapons of destruction – not with guns and knives and bullets and bombs. It will not be fought with hatred, anger, intimidation, or brute force. No. It will be fought with the message of the gospel, with the love of God, with the power of the Spirit, with radical holiness, with sacrifice, compassion, and courage. It will be a Jesus revolution, an intense clash between two spiritual kingdoms, a heavenly attack on the enemy’s strongholds, a no compromise stand for morality and truth. And it will impact society in a lasting way. It must!
Revolution means upheaval. Revolution means the overthrowing of the status quo. We dare not downplay the significance of the word. Revolution is a matter of life and death, and our revolution flows from the blood of the Savior to the blood of the martyr. We put down our sword and take up our cross, overcoming Satan by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of our testimony, and by not loving our lives so much as to shrink from death (Rev. 12:11). Nothing can stop a revolution like this!
Our revolution is fueled by the power of the gospel, and the gospel does violence to the forces of hell. We must recover the fullness of the gospel of Jesus! It is nothing less than a direct assault on the kingdom of Satan, a frontal attack on hostile, spiritual powers, a mortal confrontation of light against darkness. It brings about the ultimate counterculture conflict.
That’s why Jesus said to His disciples, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed My teaching, they will obey yours also” (John 15:18-20).
That’s why Paul explained that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12), reminding the disciples that, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). God’s people march to the beat of a different drummer. God’s obedient people will always offend the world, no matter how much we seek to be peacemakers and to walk in compassion and love. Our very lifestyles are a reproof to the ungodly.
That’s why Joseph Parker could say more than a century ago, “The man whose little sermon is ‘repent’ sets himself against his age, and will for the time being be battered mercilessly by the age whose moral tone he challenges. There is but one end for such a man — ‘off with his head!’ You had better not try to preach repentance until you have pledged your head to heaven.” The gospel means conflict and confrontation, and all who stand for righteousness will be resisted.
That’s why Jesus was accused by his own people of being “a Samaritan and demon-possessed” (John 8:48), why Paul and Silas were accused of “throwing cities into an uproar” (Acts 16:20) and “causing trouble all over the world” (Acts 17:6), why Paul himself was mistaken for being an “Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists out into the desert” (Acts 21:38). The gospel is subversive. The gospel is a threat to the kingdom of darkness. The gospel is revolutionary.
We’re in a war, and war means conflict, hardship, and sacrifice. As Leonard Ravenhill wrote, “When a nation calls its prime men to battle, homes are broken, weeping sweethearts say their good-byes, businesses are closed, college careers are wrecked, factories are refitted for wartime production, rationing and discomforts are accepted — all for war. Can we do less for the greatest fight that this world has ever known outside of the cross — this end-time siege on sanity, morality, and spirituality?”
Satan’s strategy is to institutionalize the Church, to turn the Body of Christ into a powerless religious system. If that tactic fails, he tries to desensitize us and lull us to sleep until we lose our convictions and our sense of outrage is gone. And he is always seeking to seduce us into sin until we become just like the world, enslaved by its passions and lusts. And when he thinks he has succeeded, when he no longer feels threatened by the people of God, then he gets aggressive and brazenly puts forth his agenda. He’s doing it today. We need a revolution!
The cat is out of the bag. The secret is no longer a secret. Anti-God forces are after the soul of our nation, and if we don’t wake up now, if we don’t take a stand now, if we don’t repent and pray and rise and speak and act now, then instead of this great country being “the land of the free and the home of the brave” our nation could become “the land of sleaze and the home of depraved.” We need a revolution!
DNA tests to find out who fathered the baby are here. (In fifteen of our nation’s largest cities, more than 90% of the babies born to teens are illegitimate.) Legalized same-sex “civil unions” are here. Children’s textbooks encouraging adolescent fornication are here. School hallways splattered with teenage blood are here. Bans on using the name of Jesus at our graduations are here. Topless, feminist “worship services” on our college campuses are here. We need a revolution!
We live in a time of ethical madness and social uncertainty, a time when talk of a moral revolution should be everywhere. Instead, the best-selling “revolutionary” books are books about new diets. What does this say for us as a people? When we need to be talking about the call to die for the gospel, we are talking instead about the call to diet for good looks. What a sad indictment! And what does it say of our self-deception and lack of discipline when we are at one and the same time the world’s best-read nation on diet and nutrition and the world’s most obese? Even our pets are overweight. We need a revolution!
The United States boasts the highest percentage of professing evangelicals in the industrialized world, with more than 36% of Americans – meaning more than 90 million people – classified as born-again. Yet America has:
• The highest percentage of single-parent families in the industrialized world
• The highest abortion rate in the industrialized world
• The highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases in the industrialized world (the rates of syphilis and gonorrhea transmission are almost 500% higher than the highest rates in the other industrialized nations)
• The highest teenage birth rate in the industrialized world (by far!)
• The highest rate of teenage drug use in the industrialized world
We need a revolution!
Our society is deteriorating all around us and even non-believers sense that something is wrong. Why? It is because we, the people of God, the army of the Lord Jesus, the messengers of liberation, the ambassadors of reconciliation, have been sidetracked by the love of this world and distracted by the cares of this age. As a result, we have not changed this generation. This generation has changed us!
Rather than seasoning the world like salt and brightening the world like light, we now smell and taste like the world, and its darkness is snuffing out our lamps. Rather than setting captives free by the power of Jesus’ blood, many of us are being ensnared and enslaved, making a mockery of that sacred blood. Rather than making disciples of sinners and teaching them the ways of God, many of us are being discipled by them, learning their ways, imitating their lifestyles, and conforming to their values.
A 1997 survey conducted by George Barna used 152 different items to compare the church and the world. He found virtually no difference between the two. In fact, the divorce rate today among evangelicals is higher than the divorce rate among atheists. We need a revolution!
Communist educators visiting America have been shocked by the materialism and worldliness of many of our Christian young people, while Islamic leaders are appalled by the rampant sexual sin and shameless immodesty among many who profess Christ as Lord. The ideals of the unsaved are often more lofty than the ideals of the saved. We need a revolution!
Just consider how far things have fallen, despite decades of 24-hour gospel radio and TV, hundreds of Bible colleges and seminaries, thousands of Christian schools and bookstores, and churches and ministries too numerous to count. Forty years ago, men having sex with men and women having sex with women was considered perverse. Now it is considered perverse – homophobic, hateful, mean-spirited, and bigoted – to call such behavior wrong. We need a revolution!
Forty years ago, not even science fiction writers would have predicted that American companies would be making money off the sale of the skin and brains and limbs and spinal chords of aborted babies. Today, Congress will not even pass legislation to make this thriving practice illegal. We need a revolution!
Jesus rebuked the leaders of his day who said of themselves, “If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets” (Matt 23:30) – and then they took part in shedding the blood of the greatest Prophet of them all. How hypocritical! Yet we do this very thing, saying, “If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in the detestable sin of slavery. We would never have tolerated such evil. We would surely have done something about it.”
Yet on our watch, in our day, we have tolerated an even more heinous sin: the slaughter of forty million babies in their mothers’ wombs. In what way have we been better than our forefathers who tolerated slavery – or better than the European “Christians” who tolerated the Nazi extermination of six million Jews? How much have we really done to stop this generation’s holocaust?
Bloodshed pollutes the land (Num 35:33), and the blood of these helpless victims – oceans of blood of these aborted little ones – has been crying out for justice for decades. What will our God do? We need a revolution!
In 1960, only 2.3% of percent of white women had children out of wedlock. By 1997, more than 25% — a ten-fold increase! – were having children out of wedlock (despite millions being aborted before they ever left the womb). In the African American community, that number rose from 23% percent to more than 68%. We need a revolution!
In 1962, the Supreme Court outlawed organized, public prayer in our schools (without citing a single historic precedent to back its decision), and we complied with that ruling. In the year 2000, the Court has banned voluntary public prayer in our schools. Why have we complied with this ruling too? At what point do we say, “We must obey God rather than man”? At what point do we say, “Enough is enough”? We need a revolution!
On April 12, 2000, at Pearl River Central High School in Carrierre, Mississippi, the Spirit of God fell upon the students attending a voluntary, pre-class assembly led by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. As students lined up fifty deep to confess their sins and get right with God and one another, the principal, Lolita Lee, herself a Christian, decided to let the meeting go on through the day. Civil libertarians were outraged, but, as Time magazine reported (June 5, 2000, p. 61), “The school received hundreds of congratulatory e-mails. ‘Thank you for your courage,’ wrote an Ohio man to Lee. ‘You have done the equivalent of not moving to the back of the bus.’” Isn’t it time we follow suit? If not now, when? What more needs to happen?
For more than two hundred years, the Bible was commonly used as a textbook in our schools, and generations of children learned the ABC’s with a Scripture truth for each letter. But in 1963, the Supreme Court banned required reading of the Scriptures from our schools, and once again, we complied with the ruling. Why? By 1980, the Court had ordered the removal of the Ten Commandments from public view in our schools and by 1985, it outlawed benedictions or invocations in formal school activities. Some lower courts even ruled against students praying out loud over their cafeteria meals. We need a revolution!
When the governing authorities seized the apostles and charged them not to speak in Jesus’ name, Peter replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). And they kept speaking! As a result, they were arrested, whipped, and strictly ordered not to speak any more in Jesus’ name. But, Scripture records, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah” (Acts 5:41-42). Can we learn something from this?
Christians around the world today are severely persecuted because they refuse to obey oppressive, unjust laws. Many of them are model citizens in every way, obedient, respectful and peace loving. But when the government – or religious establishment – forbids them to read their Bibles, forbids them to baptize, forbids them to share their faith, forbids them to gather together, forbids them to make disciples, then they say with the apostles, “We must obey God rather than man.” At what point does this apply to us?
Our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world have been discriminated against, deprived of their livelihoods, imprisoned, tortured, and killed, all because they refused to render to Caesar that which does not belong to Caesar. Yet we are afraid to take a stand for Jesus if it would threaten our income, or cost us a scholarship, or make us unpopular. Why this double standard? Why do they refuse to comply – even when threatened with imprisonment and death – while we willfully comply, even when there is no threat? We need a revolution!
When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were commanded to worship an idol or be subject to a fiery death, they refused to bow down (Daniel 3). But today, with no one commanding us, we freely worship the idols of our society, bowing down to the gods of unclean entertainment, sensual fashion, and unbridled materialism and greed. Our obsession with sports is idolatrous as well, to the point that many churches throughout the land make sure their Sunday services end in time for the afternoon football games, canceling their meetings entirely the night of the Super Bowl. We need a revolution!
When Daniel was told that an edict had been passed declaring that “anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to [the] king, shall be thrown into the lions’ den . . . he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before” (Daniel 6:10-12). It’s time that we follow his lead. Godly defiance spells triumph while retreat spells defeat. We need a revolution!
Year by year our religious freedoms have been taken away, while special rights and freedoms have been given to those whom the Bible calls “unrighteous” (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; in the Scriptures, homosexual activity is classified along with adultery, fornication, theft, drunkenness, hatred, anger, greed, and hypocrisy, and all who practice such things are called “unrighteous”). Thus the Supreme Court ruled that a school full of Christians cannot choose to have prayer before a school sporting event since it would offend and exclude the minority who don’t want to pray. But when homosexuals introduce children’s textbooks into our schools outlining in graphic detail the intricacies of gay sex, the offended majority is told to accept it. Right is now wrong and wrong is now right, and the will of the godless is imposed on the will of the godly. We need a revolution!
When a gay man is beaten to death because he is gay – this is a reprehensible, despicable act that every decent person should abhor – it causes a national uproar, with loud voices in the government calling for new legislation against hate crimes. And we should speak out against such deplorable crimes. But when Christians students are shot to death as they profess their faith in God, the government raises its voice to forbid the placing of memorial crosses on school property. The handwriting is on the wall. The strategy is clear. We need a revolution!
Teachers in our public schools can give condom demonstrations to our teens and use books like “Heather Had Two Mommies” to teach our kids to read, and we are required to support this with our own tax dollars. But let a teacher read from the Scriptures to a seeking, needy student, and that teacher could be out of a job – all because of the First Amendment’s so-called separation of Church and State.
But that is not what the First Amendment intended. It simply stated that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” meaning, first, that the government could not form a national denomination (like the Church of England of old) and require all Americans to be part of it, and second, that there would be religious freedom for all. As emphasized by Stephen Carter, professor of law at Yale University, “The wall of separation of church and state is not there to protect the state from the church; it is there to protect the church from the state. It stands as a divide to preserve religious freedom. And one needs to protect the church from the state because the latter will utilize its enormous powers to do what the state has always done – either subvert the religion or destroy it. If we continue our slide toward a state that breaches the wall of separation whenever it is convenient, then I worry about the great risk to religious freedom. In the end, such a breach could destroy our ability to form the communities of resistance that are crucial if we are going to have a chance to transform the nation.”
Our forefathers wanted to ensure that the government would not be able to impose its will on the church. For more than one generation now, this has been totally reversed and stood on its head, and the price has been very high, with skyrocketing crime rates and plummeting rates of morality and literacy. And what has become of the First Amendment’s guarantee of “the free exercise” of religion when the courts tell us that we cannot use religious symbols on public property, cannot post the Ten Commandments in government buildings, and cannot use the name of Jesus in public school events? We have lost our religious freedom. We need a revolution!
In 1999, a bill was brought before Congress that would have required businesses – which by implication could have included churches and religious institutions – to hire gays and lesbians if they were qualified for the job in question, despite their sexual preference. And the bill failed by only one vote! Even more distressing is that if the bill did pass, there was another bill ready to follow, calling for a ban on even speaking against a person’s sexual orientation. (A similar bill has now been passed in Canada.) Such speech would be deemed hate speech, punishable by law, and potentially meaning that a pastor simply expounding the Scriptures to his flock could be arrested. Yet this is the very thing from which our Founding Fathers were trying to protect us. So much for the First Amendment and religious freedom! The fact that such laws could even be crafted for Congress proves that we have long since passed the breaking point – yet some Christian leaders would have felt obligated to obey these laws if they had passed. We need a revolution!
We have gone from debating a woman’s “right to choose” to sucking out the brains of third trimester babies (with the backing of the courts!), from arguing about the medical definition of death to legalizing physician-assisted suicide, from needing metal detectors at airports to needing metal detectors at schools (and soon at houses of worship?), from tracking down absentee fathers to trying to figure out who the father is, from the outlawing of mandatory school prayer to the outlawing of voluntary school prayer. We need a revolution!
Without a holy, counterculture revolution, America could become a society where candid religious expression is outlawed, a society where it is almost impossible to keep our children free from the pollution of the world, a society teetering perilously close to the thunderous judgments of God. Such things have happened to other nations, and such things could happen to us.
But all is not lost! The gospel has changed societies before, and the gospel can change societies again. For countless centuries, India engaged in the practice of widow-burning, where the widow of a deceased man was sometimes burned alive with her husband’s corpse. This horrific practice was outlawed through the tireless efforts of missionary William Carey. Both slave-trading and unjust child-labor laws were abolished in Britain through the fearless work of the Christian political leader William Wilberforce. And this followed on the heels of England’s transformation through the sacrificial labors of John Wesley and his Methodist followers, saving the nation from the anarchy and violence of the French Revolution. Around the world today, whole communities are being impacted by united prayer and evangelism, and here in our land, there is a rising momentum of concerted, twenty-four hour worship and intercession not seen for decades.
There are pockets of spiritual renewal throughout the country, and the tides of a radical youth revival are rapidly rising. Another Jesus people movement could be near, a heaven-sent revolution far greater than the worldwide Jesus movement of 1967-1975, when hundreds of thousands of hippies and radicals were swept into the kingdom. Even now, it is at the door. And not only will multitudes of lost sinners be truly saved, but multitudes of casual church goers will also be truly saved. Just think of what would happen if even one-quarter of America’s professing believers got totally and uncompromisingly right with God – and then each of them touched just five or six other people. It would quickly reverse our nation’s moral decline. Despite our perilous condition, it’s still not too late!
If our nation could be changed for the worse in one decade – this is what happened in the 1960s, despite progress in Civil Rights and some other social areas – it can be changed for the better in one decade. If angry student protests on college campuses could help stop an international war (Vietnam), what could holy student “protests” on our campuses accomplish?
America can be impacted for the good, and as followers of Jesus, we are called to make that impact. We do it by walking in the light, as He is in the light; by calling the lost to turn back to God in repentance; by preaching the gospel and making disciples; by proclaiming liberty to the captives; by pursuing righteousness in every area of public and private life; by acts of kindness, mercy, and compassion, overcoming evil with good; by prayer, fasting, and the power of God; by living holy lives and setting holy examples; by being a prophetic voice and a moral conscience to society; by Spirit-led community involvement and godly political action; by non-violent resistance of injustice and oppression.
What else should Christians do? Should not the presence of tens of millions of believers be felt in a nation? Should we not make a difference for God? Should we not be a force for spiritual and moral reformation? Should we not actively extend the kingdom of God? Should not the Great Commission leave tangible results in its wake?
This is our sacred moment, our solemn time for action. If we will unshackle ourselves from the love of this world – from our lusts, our addictions, our obsessions – and give ourselves wholly to the purposes of God, we can shake this nation. If we learn the principle that to save our lives is to lose our lives, while to lose our lives for the Lord is to save our lives, then we can really live. As Martin Luther King declared in 1965, “A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right; a man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice; a man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.” It’s time we take our stand!
The counterculture revolution of the 1960s began when people said, “Something is missing. Something is wrong. There must be something greater than this.” And they were right! There must be something greater than eating and drinking, working and sleeping, existing. There must be something greater than the American dream. There must be something greater than simply getting a good education so that you can find a good job and have a good family so that your kids can get a good education and find a good job and have a good family so that their kids can a get a good education . . . . Is this really it? Is this why God put us here on this earth? There is more!
Our goal is revival, not survival, the transformation of the human race, not the preservation of the human race. There is a divine purpose and destiny to our time here on earth. Even atheistic revolutionaries understand that there must be a higher purpose to life, and they give themselves for their cause, freely dying for their revolution so that their families can live in what they hope will be a better world. And they do this without the promise of heaven or eternal life. How much more should we give ourselves to the cause of our Master? How much more readily should we hear the call?
Nate Saint and Jim Elliot, martyred as missionaries in 1956, understood this well. They recognized that life was far more meaningful, far more rich, far more significant than most of us ever realize, even if we live to be 100 years old. As Nate Saint wrote, “People who do not know the Lord ask why in the world we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget they too are expending their lives and when the bubble has burst they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted.”
Yes, everyone’s bubble will burst one day. The dust will return to dust and the spirit will return to God who gave it (see Ecc. 12:7). On that day, only one thing will matter: Did we fulfill the purpose of God? Did we make a lasting impact for Jesus? Did we leave behind a blessed legacy for the generation to come? All the silly little things that seemed so important to us during our few years here on earth will seem utterly insignificant when they are viewed in the light of eternity.
How wise it was for Jim Elliot to write these now-famous words: “That man is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” And how wise it was for him to lift up this petition before the Lord as a young man in college: “God, I pray, Thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus.” Oh, that all of us would lead truly full lives!
Columbine martyr Rachel Scott was not wrong when she wrote in her journal, “I have no more personal friends at school. But you know what? I am not going to apologize for speaking the name of Jesus. I am not going to justify my faith to them, and I am not going to hide the light that God has put into me. If I have to sacrifice everything, I will. I will take it. If my friends have to become my enemies for me to be with my best friend Jesus, then that’s fine with me.” Jesus is worth it to the end!
Fellow-soldiers, holy servants of the risen Lord, blood-bought disciples of the Master, heed the call. It’s now or never, time to put up or shut up. Either we take a stand once and for all or forever we hang our heads in shame. History is eagerly anticipating our next move. This is the hour we have been waiting for. So, on with it – by life or by death. The revolution won’t wait.