We have radically misunderstood the purpose of the church—and the Gideon principle is the shock it needs.
Pastors, quit getting excited when your church grows in number.
Quit getting depressed when it declines in number.
Quit selling your soul to compel people to join you on Sunday mornings.
Numeric church growth is not the goal—mission completion is—and the people you are wooing just may be your downfall.
CHURCH AS WE KNOW IT
As one who has planted two churches and spent many years in church leadership, both as a staff pastor and senior leader, I have had a front row seat to the American church reality. There’s much that has been absolutely amazing and much that is radically disappointing.
Church as we know it, however, doesn’t take years of leadership experience to analyze. It’s simple: we gather together once or twice a week and worship a little and pray a little (usually very little) and listen to teaching. After saying hi to friends and small talking with others we head out into our world until next week.
Pastors are heroes, in my opinion. Superheroes in fact. However, even mighty men and women of God must step back at times and truly analyze their motives and ministries. I suggest part of that analysis must include reckoning with an unhealthy desire to see the church grow numerically. Pastors tend to get weighted down when the seats are empty, and then, miraculously, they perk up and have an extra jump in their step when the roar of the crowd is louder. It’s human nature. Unfortunately, it’s human nature that is threatening the church and the lives of people it’s called to impact. We need to adopt supernatural wisdom as we move into the next generation of the church.
I shared a prophetic word at a city pastor’s gathering in Detroit several years ago. I don’t believe it was received well as most remained silent after I shared it and then they moved on to other business. I do believe it was the Lord, however. It was a word of warning and a strategic call.
I saw an ocean beach on a sunny day. There were many people on the sand, a good number splashing in the shallows and a handful of people swimming in deeper waters.
Those who were on the sand were mostly happy building sand castles, tanning and enjoying the afternoon sun as the cool mist from the crashing waves blew over them. Some were curious about the water and even took off their sandals and walked where the waves met the sand. Others would slowly venture out and start splashing in the shallows, but most were satisfied just where they were.
The people in the shallows were having a good time. They were together, jumping, splashing and swimming. They were in waist high water and were able to stand on the sandy bottom. They were also satisfied.
I then looked out at the small number of people who were in the deep. They couldn’t stand as the water was well over their heads. They were so hungry to explore the wide-open seas. It made no sense to them why anybody would be satisfied experiencing so little. However, these people had nobody to lead them into the deeper waters. You see, the people on the sand, in the shallows and in the deep all represented a single local church.
What I saw next brought clear, obvious revelation to the situation.
I saw a man, the pastor, in khaki pants, a dress shirt and a tie. His shoes were off and his pant legs were rolled up. He had one foot in the water and the other on the sand. He was not dressed for the deep. In fact, he wasn’t dressed for the shallows or the sand either. He determined to remain anchored between the sand and the shallows where the majority of the people were, yet unable to really reach any of them.
The pastor was under great stress as he would look upon those on the sand, then those in the shallows and he’d then squint as he saw those who were drifting out to sea. His eyes continually darted between the three groups, attempting to maintain some sort of control over the spiritually diverse congregation. However, he couldn’t. Those in the deep became a nuisance. He found it easier to allow them to go and to focus on the sand and the shallows. He
knew those in the low water would not go deeper and those on the sand were safe, and maybe, some day, they would jump in and splash around with the others.
3 Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. 4 Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. 5 Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. 6 And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. Ezekiel 47:3-6 (ESV)
9 And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Ezekiel 47:9 (ESV)
26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:26-27 (ESV)
THE CALL TO THE DEEP
I believe the strategy of the church must radically change. The pastor, the leader, must be in the deep ahead of the people. The priests are called to step into the waters and to lead people into miraculous situations.
14 So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, 15 and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), 16 the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho. Joshua 3:14-16 (ESV)
The evangelists are called to minister to those on the sand. Prophets can call them into the waters. The local church’s apostolic leaders must focus on the deep, calling people to advance into impossible waters as they seek to encounter the wonders of God and to take new ground. They announce the need to live consecrated lives as they prepare for God to move in power.
5 Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” Joshua 3:5 (ESV)
Seeker churches are well known for focusing on the people on the sand. The beach goers have been affirmed in their position by this regrettable church movement. Further, the poison of seeker ministries has soaked into the soil of the greater American church foundation. Today, most churches may not identify as seeker sensitive, but seeker principles are adopted and adapted to fit their local expression in hopes of attracting the very same sand dwellers and shallow splashers. Those yearning for the deep are minimized and ignored—often because of the pastor’s own lack of depth—and commonly because of the pastor’s devotion to growing a larger church.
THE GIDEON CHURCH GROWTH PRINCIPLE
Churches have too many people, or at least they have the wrong people. Church missions have been compromised.
Please understand, I do believe in numeric church growth. We see in Scripture how thousands were added. I believe we’ll see stadiums filled with Christians interceding and contending for revival. The harvest will come in. There absolutely are and will continue to be anointed, surrendered leaders who have been graced to lead large numbers without compromise. There are “churches of the deep” that are diving into unseen realms and growing mighty disciples. In fact, if given a choice, I’d rather attend a large church like this than a small group of unified zealots—though I do value both.
With that in mind, most churches and pastors will benefit from applying the Gideon principle, though it will be scary, painful and humbling. Death to self, rejection of selfish ambition and mighty faith are required. I believe God is about to invite leaders into divine wrestling matches as they renounce their fabricated and confused identities and adopt their divine callings and discover their identities in Christ instead of success.
12 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.” 13 And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” Judges 6:12-13 (ESV)
God also believes his pastors and leaders are heroes. He addressed Gideon, a leader who had yet to step into that identity, as a mighty man of valor. It would do us well to honor God’s men and women in the same way. While many will reject the call of God to shift, some will hit their spiritual rock bottom and cry out from their caves of desperation. God is raising up warriors like this, and we should celebrate the process.
Whenever we are out of sync with God a common complaint will be, “God, where were you? Why have you forsaken us?”
Today pastors are gazing up into the heavens wondering why God isn’t bringing growth. Where is he? Why is his presence so rare in their local church? What is going on?
This is a good prayer as long as we are ready for God’s reply.
14 And the LORD turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” Judges 6:14 (ESV)
Go in might. I have sent you. That’s God’s reply.
15 And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” 16 And the LORD said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” Judges 6:15-16 (ESV)
If we allow God to truly search our hearts, this is where the divine wrestling match begins. We may honestly feel unworthy, unprepared, weak and the least of all. What a contrast to God’s identifying decree: You are a mighty man of valor, I will be with you and you will be victorious—but the victory depends on radical surrender and wild faith. Pastor, will you allow this Gideon principle to take over your church and your life?
The process included Gideon seeking God, looking for confirmation, hearing his voice, discovering his new identity and emerging as a true leader. It would do us well to cry out for a similar process to initiate in our own lives.
EMERGING JERUBBAAL LEADERS: DESTROYING ALTARS AND ADVANCING IN VICTORY
25 That night the LORD said to him, “Take your father’s bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it 26 and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of the stronghold here…Judges 6:25-26 (ESV)
The next step is critical. We must destroy altars of old. We must differentiate between God-given mantles and God-opposed altars. God absolutely will grace us with the water from the wells that our fathers and their fathers dug years ago. There are mantles and rich, godly traditions that have eternal value. However, there are unholy altars that have become normal in the church today that must be torn down. Traditions of man, selfish ambition, the pursuit of notoriety, becoming drunk on money and pride must be crushed. Annihilated.
28 When the men of the town rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built. 29 And they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And after they had searched and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” 30 Then the men of the town said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has broken down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.” 31 But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.” 32 Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he broke down his altar. Judges 6:28-32 (ESV)
Are you ready to be renamed? Are you an emerging Jerubbaal? When we tear down ungodly altars, we step into a promotion in the spirit. We will be known as one who has stared evil in the eye and is unafraid at the threat of demonic backlash.
When we have proven ourselves to possess the obedience and fearlessness necessary to stand against the prevailing religious culture of the day by tearing down altars that so many hold so dear, we will be ready to advance in the mission—by allowing most people to leave.
THE PEOPLE IN YOUR CHURCH MAY BE HINDERING YOUR MISSION
Remember, we are called to leave the sand, to leave the shallows and to lead into the deep. Most people will not remain when you allow God to shift your church into a “deeper water” ministry. Your mission requires the right laborers be with you and those who are resistant to be let go. It doesn’t mean we don’t love them. It means we understand those who leave will pale in comparison with those will be set free through our obedience.
2 The LORD said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ 3 Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained. Judges 7:2-3 (ESV)
Pastor, when you cast this renewed vision of going into the deep, most in your church will, most likely, be afraid of such a venture. It will not be what they signed up for. They wanted you to occasionally wave at them as they soaked up the sun on their beach blankets. They wanted you to splash with them if they ever decided to test the shallows. This new, awakened leader will be an irritant to them. Most will leave. That’s okay. The mission is for all who are fearless and surrendered to Jesus. The choice is theirs. If Gideon would have refused this filtering process, the entire camp would have been decimated. The enemy is ready to decimate our churches too. We need Jerubbaal to emerge and lead with the mysterious, illogical wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
4 And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” Judges 7:4 (ESV)
6 And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. 7 And the LORD said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.” Judges 7:6-7 (ESV)
God knew who was needed to get the job done. 300 out of 32,000, less than one percent, were called as the church, the Ekklesia, a governmental people with determined unity and a fearless disposition, to rout the enemy.
AN UNCONVENTIONAL CALL
The result of applying the Gideon principle for church growth will most probably result in an extreme decrease in numbers but a supernatural increase in power.
An unconventional man, Gideon, was called.
An unconventional army, only 300 in number, was gathered.
An unconventional method, banging jars and shouting, was used.
The result was glorious victory.
20 Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow. And they cried out, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” 21 Every man stood in his place around the camp, and all the army ran. They cried out and fled. 22 When they blew the 300 trumpets, the LORD set every man’s sword against his comrade and against all the army. And the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath. Judges 7:20-22 (ESV)
ACCUSATION WILL COME
I’ll conclude this article with a key point that could easily have been ignored.
1 Then the men of Ephraim said to him, “What is this that you have done to us, not to call us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they accused him fiercely. Judges 8:1 (ESV)
When God calls you to destroy religious altars, and to advance mostly alone in your region, you will absolutely be accused by other pastors and leaders. Who are you, after all, to presume you know what should be done in the city? Your answer? You are Jerubbaal.
While I appreciate it when pastors in a city meet together and attempt to unify and support one another, it’s rare for them to truly promote revival in a region. The reason? They presume their efforts to affirm one another and support one another are the goal. It’s satisfying. Somehow, unifying around this low level commitment feels spiritual. It’s nice, but it can be threatening to the greater mission. When God calls you to tear down altars they have built, or that their fathers have built, then what? When God calls you to advance in the city without them (due to their own choice), with a small army of radicals, how will they respond? Many will accuse.
This doesn’t mean, by any means, that we go rogue and function in an independent, rebellious spirit. God will crush that fast. He resists the proud. God will, however, awaken key people to do what few others will, and what most will flatly reject. This Jerubbaal leader will threaten religious structures. Their humble surrender and bold resolve to obey their God at every turn will threaten those who have their religious culture carefully defined.
Who are you? What is your identity? You are a mighty man of valor. God is inviting you as a Jerubbaal. He will rally an army around you to assault the enemy and to advance the Kingdom of God. Those who leave, and those leaders who aren’t consulted, will most certainly accuse you.
That’s okay. Go in this spirit of Jerubbaal and see God move in some of the most remarkable signs, wonders and miracles the world has ever known. You are invited, mighty man of valor, to be an instrument in God’s hands in a dark and desperate world. This hour is yours.
Many churches that don’t identify as Seeker Sensitive are actually employing Seeker strategies that threaten revival.
You can read the first article where I dealt with five clear threats to revival that are propagated through seeker sensitive church growth strategies on the Charisma News site HERE.
The very purpose of the church and the experience in the church meeting have become confused, so much so that most would consider today’s typical Spirit-filled service to be biblically normal, though some have “Ichabod” etched above their doorposts.
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. And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” 1 Samuel 4:21-22 (ESV)
We have so neutered the supernatural influence that mostly natural religious expressions with a few raised hands and occasional shouts of “Hallelujah!” give it just enough spiritual unction to pass muster. The glory has departed and few have noticed—or cared.
The church must shift from being naturally familiar to being supernaturally shocking! The tremble must return to the church as Believers are functioning in raw, Holy Spirit power that can only be found in a lifestyle of zealous intercession.
From my book The Coming Church:
We soon won’t be able to define going to church the way we do now. God is coming to reform, to crush structures of old for what is to be introduced very soon. Our call isn’t to stand strong until the shift comes, it’s to prophetically sound the alarm and awaken those at risk! God is coming!
America doesn’t need another bed-and-breakfast church that comforts our flesh (our natural desires). Our nation needs a Church with a volatile atmosphere that explodes, burns human flesh and shocks our culture.
To the dismay of those who simply want to hear a little worship and listen to good (and short) teaching, services will become more like prayer meetings. This is one of the most critical and most upsetting shifts that will come–and it must come now. Today, most of the energy church leadership teams expend is usually on attracting and keeping visitors instead of training and engaging intercessors.
One of the greatest indictments on the Church today is that prayer is not the driving force. Today, people tend to choose churches based on the appeal of the teaching and the worship instead of the fervency of prayer. If the Church was a house of teaching, or a house of worship, that would make sense—but it’s not. Scripture reveals that the Church is a House of Prayer for all nations (Mark 11:17) Every person in the Church will function as a burning intercessor, and the services will be marked by this unified groan of fiery prayer. It simply does not make sense that people gather together as Christians without prayer being their primary activity!
Christians who aren’t invested in fervent, supernatural prayer will be enticed by the natural familiarity of Ichabod churches (where the glory has departed).
5 MORE SEEKER-SENSITIVE STRATEGIES THAT THREATEN REVIVAL
1. Fewer, Shorter, Predictable Services
First, I’m quick to admit that I, like many others, do not like poorly formatted church services that are too long for all the wrong reasons. Do away with Sister Martha’s five minute announcement on the upcoming social and a special song by Brother Larry that unnecessarily fills space. Let’s do away with announcements and other time wasters and dive into what is more pressing.
That being said, we have to stop the trend of churches giving into the demands of the culture. It’s laughable to think the church can impact the world if the soldiers are only together two hours a week (or less than an hour in some churches). What happened to being in church every time the doors are open? I suppose this still happens since the church doors are only open from 10am-noon on Sunday mornings. The house of prayer is eerily empty, dark and closed most hours of the week.
So continuing daily with one accord in the temple… Acts 2:46 (NKJV)
It’s time to call the warriors together for fervent intercession and apostolic instruction and expect the Spirit of God to shock and rock the service! Even some of the most revival focused, Holy Spirit friendly churches out there have limited services and have created a predictable, repeatable, user-friendly order of service that ensures very little spontaneous would ever happen. Stop and think of the various elements that happen in every single church service, at exactly the same point every single time.
People are typically creatures of habit and it’s proven that growing churches are structured, shorter and mostly predictable. This is a tried and true Seeker strategy. It makes it comfortable for the seeker while it creates a foreign environment for the Holy Spirit. God must not only be given room to move in unusual and unique ways, but the service must be formatted in such a way that such Holy Spirit activity is nurtured and facilitated. I’d rather wait on my knees in silence for an hour waiting for God to move than to go through the order of service as if God has chosen another church to visit that day.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Acts 2:2 (NKJV)
2. Programs for Everyone
The Upper Room had one program, one expectation, one mandate. Pray. Hundreds of invited people chose not to attend, and that was okay. Sad. Unbelievable. But, okay. The mission was more important and it would not be compromised to attract a few hundred more distracted seekers.
Many of today’s pastors are so eager to keep every visitor and make every participant feel connected and satisfied that a massive and every growing menu of programs, small groups and activities is carefully created. The reasoning behind this is to ensure everyone has a place. This feels right. It seems to be a great way to welcome and include as many people as possible. However, if we look at what is really being done it will infuriate you. It does me.
There is a place for everyone in the church, in the house of prayer, in that Upper Room. The place is the prayer room! When we create programs and activities in an effort to keep people in our church it’s evidence that we have not successfully developed the culture of prayer that the church demands. We end up empowering people in their resistance to a lifestyle of intercession. If the prayer room isn’t magnetic enough, those you are attempting to attract just have to be allowed to move on.
This is why I’m a firm believer that the prayer meeting must take place on Sunday mornings. It’s the main thing, the program for all, the activity that entire families give themselves to night and day.
Even the most revival-centric churches fall into the trap of enticing people to stay via means other than the call to prayer.
The true church lives and moves and has its being in prayer.”
In fact, the call isn’t only to pray, but to pray in the Spirit! We need people praying in tongues, groaning in the Spirit, crying out to God night and day. This is the program that must be developed, and until all are involved other efforts should be tabled.
praying at all times in the Spirit… Ephesians 6:18 (ESV)
3. Easy Salvation
This point could easily demand an entire article, or even an entire book to deal with effectively.
Suffice it to say the American church has failed miserably by presenting a casual, easy, costless salvation that is sealed by repeating a sinner’s prayer. This is an offense to the cross of Christ!
When I minister I always invite people to salvation by saying, “Every eye open and everybody looking around.” It’s common today to give people a private moment to ask Jesus into their heart by saying, “Every eye closed and nobody looking around…” I understand what they are trying to do. I understand how intimidating it can be to raise a hand and come to an altar, however if we are training people that salvation can occur without powering through the fear we are providing a lot of them with a false security.
We cannot be ashamed of Jesus! We must call people to radical surrender! The cost is high. The surrender must be complete. There are many people following Jesus in an unsaved condition because they have not been presented with the true Gospel. They have not been confronted with their depravity. They are filled with messages of how much God likes them without highlighting the reason they are separated from him.
True salvation results in a fervent, committed person who will burn hot, serve with passion and rend their hearts continually.
From The Coming Church:
The horrific confusion regarding the issue of salvation in the Western Church is the key reason why I am so intense. I am intentionally extremely off balance as a heavy counterweight due to current off-balance theologies. People are going to Hell. They think they are saved.
Just so you know how I see things, due to this encounter that I had 22 years ago (of being dragged toward Hell and hearing God tell me that many Christians will be shocked to find themselves in Hell one day): when I’m in a vibrant, Spirit-filled church of, lets say, one thousand people—people who are lifting their hands, worshiping Jesus and paying their tithes—I see maybe 100 of them, on average, ending up in Heaven. That’s not a judgmental statement, as I have no way of truly judging that on a person-by-person basis. It’s simply a statistical, analytical reality for me based on my encounter with Hell. How can I stay silent even for a day if billions of unsaved people are going to Hell—not to mention many others in churches who are following Jesus in an unsaved condition?
4. Slow, Easy Pace
Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Understand, as we follow Jesus, we are called to lead others in that procession—but it’s at the pace of Christ, not the pace of the followers.
Seeker churches provide a “taste and see” environment for people to consider the ways of Jesus at a level that’s comfortable to them. We need churches that will stun the people and preach messages of urgency and radical consecration!
Under Moses the Hebrews dictated the pace of their advance and they all died in the desert—all but Joshua and Caleb. Under Joshua’s leadership, there was precision, urgency and unity in the advance into the land of Promise.
If we truly understood the urgency of the hour we would be shouting from the rooftops, calling people into immediate, radical surrender!
Hell continues to grow larger and today many will begin their eternity there. It’s a horrifying, tragic reality and we cannot allow people under our leadership to be casual, disinterested, lukewarm and disengaged. I believe their blood will be on our hands as leaders if we don’t start preaching with fire and shocking the dead to life!
5. Focusing on Numbers
This is such a huge point that I really want it to hit hard. True revival churches, with very limited exceptions, can expect to be very small in number. The goal of growing in number will almost immediately hijack the primary purpose of calling the remnant together for raging intercession, consecration and inconvenient instructions.
I was personally set free many years ago when God told me to never consider the number of people in the church again, but rather to consider how obedient I am. How well do I allow the Holy Spirit to lead?
It’s a very rare remnant that will gather together in the furnace that is being stoked, prodded and heated. Most people love to warm themselves by the fire but very few will actually lay across the fire and allow God to burn fully through them, to refine them and to cause them to blaze. We don’t need people who have the smell of fire on them, we need those who are burning.
We must let God build his church with rare, remnant burning ones.
God is ready to ignite his remnant bride. We must get ready for a raging furnace of prayer to burn in our churches again. It’s time. It’s past time. Most won’t be ready. Most weren’t ready for the Upper Room. The Upper Room wasn’t changed, programs weren’t added, the time there wasn’t shortened, the pace wasn’t easy, the cost was high. The pretenders had excuses and the remnant was surprised by supernatural power that turned the world upside down.
Yes, we need Upper Room churches in America, and fast.
John continues his teaching on the threat of the Seeker Sensitive Movement.
The church is to be a supernatural church!
More than ever we need the fire of the Holy Spirit to drive our services and prayer must be our fuel.
The option of a low level, casual, God-minimized primary service is simply not there. We can't afford Ichabod to be posted above our doorposts.
It's time the church burns again!
Enjoy reading the Seeker Sensitive version of the Bible!
In my series, 10 Threats to Revival, last night I shared on threat #5: The Seeker Sensitive Movement. God broke out in power during the service. I’d highly recommend you listen to it here: http://media.johnburton.net/5464525
Acts 2: Seeker Sensitive Version
Disclosure: Not an accurate translation
The First Seeker Church is Born
Acts 2:1-47 (SSV) 1 When the day of fellowship arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from the espresso machine a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and the aroma of ground, organic coffee beans filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And the warmth of friendship touched each one of them. 4 And they were all appreciative of the Holy Spirit and began to speak about the challenges of life as their human spirit gave them utterance. 5 Now there were dwelling in the nation religious people, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak about the same life issues as they had. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking church goers? 8 And how is it that we hear them talking about the same things we talk about? 9 Chicago and Los Angeles and South Carolina and residents of Dallas, Denver and Orlando, Kansas City and Paris, 10 London and Amsterdam, Switzerland and the parts of Tijuana belonging to Mexico, and visitors from Australia, 11 both church goers and seekers, Americans and Europeans—we hear them asking in our own words their questions about God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They have had way too much coffee.” 14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of America and all who dwell in Detroit, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not over-caffeinated, as you suppose, since the coffee bar has only been open a short time. 16 But this is what was uttered through the story teller and great motivator Joel: 17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will encourage human wisdom to be poured out, and your sons and your daughters shall share relevant stories, and your young men shall create media presentations, and your old men shall not get in the way; 18 even on my guys and gals in those days I will give them new fashion sense, and they shall be hipsters. 19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, light shows, and pyrotechnics, and smoke machines; 20 Sunday School stories will be told about the sun turning to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the hard to believe, but great and magnificent day. 21 And it shall come to pass that the mention of salvation will be subtle and culturally relevant.’ 22 “Men of America, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty human difficulties that he overcame, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, happily traded his life for yours. 24 God raised him up, as you have witnessed in your Easter stage productions. 25 For David says concerning him, “‘I saw the Lord always before me, with great encouraging principles to help me stay strong; 26 therefore I was thrilled and really happy; my flesh also will dwell in hope. 27 For you, we don’t want to talk too much about Hell, which shouldn’t be a concern. 28 You have made known to me the six step plan for a happier life; you will make me full of gladness with your principles of victorious living.’ 29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the old guy David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a great motivator, and knowing that God promised that he would set someone in his family in his position, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the suspenseful drama of Jesus, and because of this you can be happy. 32 This Jesus God really appreciates, just like he appreciates you. 33 Hanging out with his Dad, and having received from him awesome wisdom, he has poured this out that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David couldn’t see into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “let’s hang out, 35 you have no more problems at all.”’ 36 Let all the Christians therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus who traded his life for yours.” 37 Now when they heard this they were happily encouraged, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “This is pretty cool, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Simply know that God appreciates you just like you are and, over time, you will slowly start walking the direction he walks, and you will receive the gift of understanding and awesome living. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Make better choices than the others in this culture.” 41 So those who received his word received a free latte, and there were added that day about three thousand church attenders. 42 And they devoted themselves to the life coach’s stories and hanging out together at the mall, to the buffets and the low key talks about God. 43 And apathy came upon every soul, and no wonders or signs were being done through them. 44 And all who had questions were together and focused on happiness. 45 And they were buying new possessions and belongings and giving to social causes as they felt led. 46 And once or twice a month, listening to the leader’s stories together and watching football in their homes, they enjoyed eating, 47 thinking about God and being pretty much the same as all the other people in the world. And they added to their number day by day those who were being anesthetized.
Another Disclosure: This is really, really not an accurate translation. Thank God.
Here’s the real version. Notice any difference?
Acts 2:1-47 (ESV) 1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” 14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ 22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him, “‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; 26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. 27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ 29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
What will it take for revival to land? What is standing in the way?
There are over 19,000 cities in America—and none of them are experiencing the biblically normal culture that revival would bring. Something is tragically wrong! Extreme, shocking and potentially offensive reformation is necessary.
To better help you take the pulse of your own life and your own city, I am suggesting some threats to revival. As we eliminate the threats, we’ll be steps closer to an outpouring. Some of what I’m sharing is from my book 20 Elements of Revival and some is from what I’m currently witnessing in my city of Detroit, Michigan.
First, consider this quote by Evan Roberts, the hero of the Welsh Revival, as he shares the simple formula for revival:
“Congregate the people who are willing to make a total surrender. Pray and wait. Believe God's promises. Hold daily meetings.”
You’ll notice Evan’s formula for revival is addressed throughout the following points:
TEN THREATS TO REVIVAL
The local church—Yes, I know that’s a provocative statement, and I must state very clearly that I love the church and I love pastors—and honor their amazing devotion. However, the alarm must be sounded. If a regional call to action is muted by the over-saturated, over-protected local church calendar, the necessary strength to both initiate and then support revival on a regional level won’t be there. Additionally, if we allow jealousy, insecurity, offense or other tactics of the enemy to keep us and the people in our churches away from the regionally emphasized mission, revival will most certainly not arrive, and the grace to run our local churches won’t be there. It’s a lose-lose situation. It’s time that we as leaders intentionally monitor closely where the fire is burning in a region—and then cancel our lesser activities so we can lead the people there. We must see the mobile, regional, 24/7 church emerge.
A belief in fate—Many people tend to believe that they have little effect on whether revival breaks out or not. They may say things like, “Nothing will stop God if he wants to pour out in a region,” or “If God wants to bring revival, he will.” A belief in fate minimizes the radical importance of our participation. Additionally, the many prophecies that have been revealing God’s plans for an outpouring in Detroit are conditional. In order to see them come to pass, we must involve ourselves in the process. As Mike Bickle says, “Prophecy isn’t a guarantee, it’s an invitation.”
Taking a “wait and see” approach—Related to the above point, many are sitting back waiting to see if this current outpouring in Detroit is in fact a move of God. The problem? God’s moving is largely dependent on you and me! We have been instructed to tend to the fire, and in our unwitting arrogance we have reassigned that job back to God! We believe God is to do our job of keeping the fire burning when he explicitly requires us to do it. If we don’t build the fire, the fire will go out—even though God’s prophesied plans are to bring the fires of reformation to Detroit.
The scattering movement—We are in the end-times, and it’s clear in scripture that we must gather together even more during this historic season. Satan’s plans to overthrow God were well on track as the greatest movement of unity in history was advancing. That unity gave strength to the building of a tower that would reach the heavens. God realized the threat and initiated ‘operation scattering’. The language was confused and they scattered all over the Earth. Now, Satan is using God’s own strategy against the most powerful governmental system on the planet—the Church. Instead of gathering in unity that would be strong enough to overthrow Satan’s kingdom, we are being scattered. We are not together. This is why stadiums will be critical in this next season. We must have the city church literally together, in the same place, consistently. Read more about the scattering movement in my article You are Not the Church. Remember, a key element of revival, which is emphasized by Evan Roberts, is daily meetings. Yes, it will be normal for people to be in church, together, under apostolic leadership most every day of the week.
A seeker-sensitive movement—I’ve often told the people in my church that I will never tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. We need burning churches that result in people falling to their faces and crying “Holy!” when they walk through the door. It’s arrogance to presume that our human strategies are more potent than the supernatural capabilities of the Holy Spirit. When people are in desperate need they don’t look for Clark Kent, they are don’t want someone who looks just like them to come to their rescue. They need to experience the superpowers of the Burning Holy Spirit.
A lack of intercession—Evan Roberts declared that revival hinges on our obedience to pray and wait. The call in Detroit is for 1000 intercessors to gather together in the same place every Friday night as we release fire and cover this great mission. If we don’t respond, we probably don’t want the consuming fire of revival to come. We won’t be prepared for such a fearful burning.
Fear of loss—A key reason pastors don’t advance their churches into the experiential realm of encounter with God is that the risk of losing people, money and their reputation is high. It’s clear that a instituting a marginalized church culture is a much less risky option to develop a growing church in America. However, it’s also clear that such a culture is void of power and miracles. The world isn’t looking for another man-made system to join. In fact, the world does a much better job of building humanistic kingdoms than the church does. We’ll only see revival when we have the guts to call people into the wilderness of extreme encounter where the Fire and the Cloud leads them into a supercharged adventure. Pastors, let’s be willing to lose people, lose our salaries, lose our reputations, to allow our local churches to close if necessary—for the sake of the advance of the regional, city church! Such a disposition will result in a greater grace on both the local and regional levels.
Unbelief—Evan Roberts reveals one of the elements of revival is simply to believe God’s promises. It’s stunning how little the church believes in the supernatural. Healing, freedom, power and abundant life are tragically rare. Its no wonder that people are avoiding the church today. We are a people who are living on the wrong side of the Ascension. In Acts 1, the disciples were waiting for Jesus to snap his fingers and work more wonders. They wanted him to establish his Kingdom. But Jesus gave them clear instructions that would shock them to their core. They weren’t to wait and hope for something to happen (hope deferred makes the heart sick)—they were to do it themselves! They transitioned from disciples on one side of the Ascension to apostles on the other. Now, they, as ‘sent ones’, were to believe and act. They were to be the answer to people’s impossible situations. They waited for the necessary power to change the world, and when they received the Holy Spirit, they went everywhere in fiery belief healing, delivering and preaching the Kingdom.
Seeking an enhanced life—People generally want God to make their current lives better. They want an enhancement, an upgrade. However, the demands of revival include the willingness to embrace a fire that won’t warm your flesh—it will consume your flesh. Evan Roberts called for people to gather—but not all people—only those who were willing to make a total surrender. Revival doesn’t enhance lives, it crushes them. If we attempt to advance with a semi-surrendered people, the fire simply will not fall.
A lack of immediate response—This is one reason why church schedules must be flexible. It’s also a reason why daily meetings are critical. When prophetic instruction is received, the entire region must know about it right away, and the people must respond. In Joshua 3, the instructions were clear, and everybody responded in unison. There’s no way to fulfill this mighty mission if we are only together one day a week (actually 2 hours a week!). There’s way too much work to be done! As an example, Mike Bickle recently called an urgent meeting. Most of the departments at IHOP in Kansas City were immediately closed and the people all gathered together to receive an urgent prophetic message. In Detroit, we must promote extreme alertness and flexibility so we can respond moment by moment to the demands of regional revival. If we are mostly focused on our local, personal ventures, we’ll stay disconnected from the greater, regional mission. The response won’t be what is necessary and revival will most likely never come.