Yes, church as we know it is over, but not anywhere near the way the FOX News author suggests.
Church leaders and pastors have spent time every week encouraging, inviting and pleading with people to come to a specific place at a specific time on Sundays. This approach has created church staffing models, systems and ministry strategies focused on improving attendance.
But that way of doing church is dead.
And just like Joshua needed to hear God say, “Moses my servant is dead” (Joshua 1:2), so he could move into the next level of leadership, I think the Church needs to accept the fate of physical church as we know it, so we can move into the next phase of digital church. ~Dave Adamson, FOX News, https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/churches-as-we-know-it-are-over-here-is-how-to-engage-the-faithful
And the church takes another hit, this time not from the anti-church society that’s filled with disgruntled Christians who didn’t have their expectations met in the last church they attended, and not from the organic, house church proponents, but from a pastor featured by FOX News. His take on the emerging, morphing church in the twenty-first century isn’t unique, but it is gaining steam, especially among those who are pretty much done with church as it has been known for centuries.
There’s a problem though. What is being proposed simply cannot be defined biblically as the church. Technology, video and alternate methods of worshiping, listening to teachings and even connecting with other Christians are all benefits for Believers. Every night I fall asleep to worship music I’m streaming online. I am thankful for the never ending live stream of the prayer room at the International House of Prayer. Limitless sermons are available to all of us. In fact, nobody has an excuse in this digital age for lacking in spiritual depth, knowledge and intimacy with Jesus. The opportunities for spiritual growth are endless. This is good, but this is not church.
An omni-channel approach to church would allow people to fully connect and engage with a church without the need to step inside a physical environment every week. They could attend one Sunday, listen to the message on podcast the following week, watch a live online stream the Sunday after, and catch the message on-demand in an church app the week after that. ~Dave Adamson
That sounds freeing, but it’s not the church. It is not the Ekklesia.
In fact, Dave misunderstands the purpose of the church gathering quite remarkably. It’s not simply to connect, worship and learn. If that were the case, the online options would absolutely be better in many ways than connecting physically in a local church. It’s easy to find the best of the best worship experience, the deepest and most impacting teaching and the experience we specifically desire somewhere online. Those experiences will most always out perform what the local church can offer. Except for at least one, important thing—the governmental gathering. The Ekklesia.
The church isn’t primarily there to satisfy our desires for worship, teaching and connections. It’s been ordained by God as a governmental force in the region. Ekklesia is actually a secular term referring to the gathering together of the people in the region by governmental authorities for the purpose of relaying information and calling people to action.
So, for the Ekklesia to function, there must be local leadership, a regular gathering under that leadership and a responsiveness to what God is calling people unto.
Add to that the key purpose of the church, corporate intercession, and you realize it’s not possible to have church or to be the church in any legitimate way online.
In my Charisma Magazine article titled Ancient and Emerging: 5 Major Changes Coming to the Church, I write:
We will gather together most days of the week. The 24/7 church will again emerge as the church drives culture instead of reacting to culture. Cares of life will lose their power as we simplify our lives and put corporate prayer and mission ahead of most everything else.
This may be the most challenging change for Christians. Today, Sundays are the days to set aside for corporate worship while we give precedence to our ‘normal lives.' In The Coming Church, the very reason we live will be to pray on fire together every day, receive apostolic assignments and then move out into our lives as kingdom ambassadors. It wouldn't be surprising if a tithe of our time is what became the standard. Two to three hours a day, whether it's in the morning, afternoon or evening, or even in the late night hours, will be given by every believer to praying on site together with others, ministering and giving ourselves to intercession-fueled kingdom ministry. Of course, much of what we have been giving ourselves to will have to be eliminated so we have the time necessary to devote.
I want to encourage you to consider picking up a copy of my book The Coming Church. This 300 page book is a powerful revelation of what I believe is coming to the church, and the changes for every one of us will be dramatic.
In fact, I’ll make the digital version of this book available FREE for anyone who reads this article. Visit www.burton.tv/freechurchbook and you can download it immediately.
In my article titled Five Unusual Marks of the Coming Church, I write:
The church will drive culture instead of being driven by culture. The 24/7 church is coming and it will violate the prevailing culture of busyness and distraction.
Gone will be the days of formatting our churches to fit within the schedules and expectations of society. The seeker movement will fade away and the urgent call to the wall will overpower even the most demanding of personal and social pressures.
Acts 17:6 (ESV) 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also,
ESV Study Bible: These hostile opponents spoke better than they knew, for the spread of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire was the beginning of a movement that would change the course of history forever.
The coming church will be marked by its boldness and culture will be threatened for the good.
WHAT ABOUT CHURCH ONLINE?
To Dave Adamson’s credit, he did state:
This approach allows the church to connect with people physically for 1 hour on Sunday, and stay connected for the other 167 hours of the week, digitally.
While one hour per week in church is woefully short of what is coming in the 24/7 church, he does emphasize staying connected. Utilizing technology to stay strategically and actively locked in to what is happening in the local church is a smart move. While I disagree with surrendering to the whims of today’s noncommittal generation and encouraging empty pews, I believe using online media and social connectors is a great move. I remember spending hours in the prayer room every day at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City while also watching the live web stream from home and watching teachings by Mike Bickle and others. IHOPKC is doing media right as it enhances their 24/7 mission instead of replacing it.
However, we need to look a little deeper at the idea of online church.
In my article titled: You are Not the Church: The Scattering Movement, I deal with this concept of church online. There are some very clear issues that can’t be ignored.
- DEVOID OF APOSTOLIC LEADERSHIP—There is most probably (there are exceptions) no clearly defined apostolic leadership involved. We have to know who we’re called to serve with. We have to all hear, together, in our local congregation, how we are to respond in mission advance. What’s God calling our leaders to focus on? How are we to participate? What are the goals? What steps must we take to prepare ourselves to see this come to pass?
- LACK OF STRATEGIC CORPORATE INTERCESSION—While not impossible, it’s very hard to involve ourselves in the number one purpose of the church this way—corporate intercession. We just have to be together to pray with unity and consistency if we are to have the sufficient strength to see significant impact.
- NO ACCOUNTABILITY—Accountability and discipline are nearly non-existent outside of the context of the local church. Most who flock from the church and into alternative spiritual activities do so to avoid conflict, accountability and correction from leadership. We have to understand that this is a critical part of the refining process. We must be receptive and humble and ready to be challenged—even if the leaders God established for us are exceptionally flawed and out of touch with our needs.
- PROMOTES MISUNDERSTANDING OF THE PURPOSE OF THE CHURCH—It can quite easily reinforce a wrong understanding of the purpose of the church. I would say this is the most serious issue. The prevailing thought these days is that the church is there for us. Whatever needs we have, we can get many of them met in the church. So, we attend if we are ministered to. Or, we may determine that we can get what we’re looking for without regular church attendance. So, the church becomes unnecessary to us. Friend, this concept is a defilement of the church. I can’t say it any less striking than that. We are called to gather together with other believers primarily to intercede for the nations. We are there to give, to leave offerings, to serve, to minister, to pray, to grow. The church isn’t primarily there for us, we are to be there for the mission of the church. We may say that we don’t need the church but have we considered that the church needs us?
The purpose of the church simply cannot be fulfilled through technology. Video, social media, websites like this one and other mediums absolutely can be powerful supplements to what we are experiencing in our weekly gathering, but they simply aren’t designed to handle the demands of the Ekklesia, the governmental, prayer-fueled, local church.
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Most presume my book Covens in the Church addresses witchcraft, curses and attacks against the church. They are correct, but they misunderstand just what type of witchcraft I’m dealing with until they read the book—and are shocked.
I deal with (among other things) those in the church who are spiritualizing their manipulation, control and rebellion by abandoning the local church, rejecting authority and church government and launching home churches without blessing or qualification. When birthed out of a heart that resists authority, home churches are little more than coven meetings. I have been a bold advocate for what many call the institutional church while shining the light of scrutiny on the exodus to house churches.
It’s important for all who read to understand I’m a staunch supporter of local church pastors and any movement that attempts to circumvent biblical government must be exposed and renounced.
I also want it to be clear that I actually do agree with many house church advocates on many points. They have legitimate disagreements with the way the local church is functioning today, and their issues have been largely ignored by pastors and those who are in leadership. Their evacuation out of the institutional church and into house churches may be the wrong move for some of the right reasons. There are serious issues to deal with, and pastors, it’s time to wake up and lead the church into the new wine skin.
The institutional church is at great risk of irrelevancy and extinction. However, I’m not convinced house churches are the best move if they develop at the expense or exclusion of the local church.
WHY ARE SO MANY REJECTING THE LOCAL CHURCH IN FAVOR OF HOUSE CHURCHES?
I asked a question on Facebook earlier today:
What are some reasons people are choosing home churches over the institutional church?
It didn’t take long for comments to start flooding in. It’s obvious to me that the anti-institutional church sentiment is unapologetic and passionate. The reasons they shared demand some analysis.
I should make it clear that there are most definitely house church movements, when rightly aligned in the government of the city church, that are biblically appropriate and full of fire and power. I’m not anti-house church. I’m anti-rebellion.
Before I get into the reasons people are leaving the church in favor of home churches, I wanted to share a reply that I just received from someone who read my Facebook post. It comes from a pastor’s wife. She gave me permission to publish it. As we continue through this local church/house church debate, let’s keep in mind just how precious God considers his pastors and leaders to be, and how many are laying down their lives for what God has called them to:
As a third generation pastor, who has seen both my parents and grandparents pour themselves out for the local church, selflessly giving and loving the body of Christ it saddens me to see so many abandon what so many paid such a steep price for in faithful service to the Lord. I get it. No church is perfect. Be it a home church or an “institutional“ church. Let me tell you though, it is not easy being a pastor in this day and age. Everyone has instant access to the greatest and best preachers and teachers out there via social media. I know for myself and my husband we are revivalists. We desire a move of God, and give space and place for the Lord to do what He desires. I see many people post online how they’d love to find churches that do that but then in real life we have people come in, decide it’s too steep a price, and go to an easy believeism church or someplace they can be hit and miss with no accountability. The reality is that for the presence and the glory of God to invade an atmosphere it’s because someone has paid a price for it. In intercession, fasting, years, faithfulness.
Just to be honest, as a pastors wife, sometimes reading these kinds of posts adds to the feeling of discouragement. ~Debra McBride
Here are ten reasons people are leaving the local church in favor of house churches:
They desire genuine community.
It’s true that people can get lost in a larger church, especially if they are gathering people together just an hour or two a week. The Sunday service typically doesn’t provide opportunity for people to authentically connect and develop relationships.
Those who are yearning for deeper friendships can feel their frustration grow every week as they shuffle into a row and sit through a programmed service, only to shuffle right back out and into the parking lot.
I agree that godly relationships are valuable, though I believe people’s frustration can be misplaced. I affirm the desire for relationships can be overwhelming, and loneliness can eat away at us if we don’t handle it rightly. However, the purpose of the church, the Ekklesia, is not mostly to make friends. It’s to gather together as Believers under apostolic leadership and vision to pray and prepare for Kingdom advance.
Relationships will never be developed on a Sunday morning. There’s no way. They aren’t supposed to. And, pastors, please abandon all attempts at trying to fit them in. The three-minute window you give people to walk around and greet one another is a sad and unnecessary attempt at nurturing togetherness. The right approach is to admit the Sunday services are meant for prayer, worship and apostolic instruction. The fellowship can happen at other times and in other places. Any attempt at fellowship on a Sunday morning is misguided.
For those disappointed because the pastor won’t connect closely with you, I have some news for you. Your pastor isn't supposed to be your best friend. He's probably not going to be your friend at all. He may rarely connect with you personally. It may never happen.
His job is to pray, study the Word and facilitate an atmosphere of intercession and equipping. His relational energy will be reserved for just a few, just as Jesus modeled. Those who are prone to rejection, or those who presume the church is supposed to be ultra-relational, will suffer in such environments.
I don’t know when it became the church’s job to become matchmaker, developing circles of friends and facilitating the relationship building process. If people want to hang out, let them connect in the prayer rooms and on the mission field and then head out for coffee or initiate a Bible study on their own time. It doesn’t have to be organized, and it shouldn’t distract from the greater mission.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the local church hosting small groups. They can be enriching and very good. The problem is when the living room instead of the prayer room becomes the glue that holds the church together. Relationships are actually critically important, but they can’t be the premier goal. The church has a much greater purpose. There’s a world to change. There’s revival to pursue. If people trusted that process, they would develop life-long friendships from the fox hole of ministry. The first church was birthed just like that.
1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. Acts 2:1 (ESV)
They are tired of unnecessary hype, productions and programs.
Every few weeks it seems there’s a new project or ministry focus that is instituted just to prove the church is getting bigger and better, is alive and moving forward. People can see right through these attempts and, quite frankly, are tired of investing so much money, time and energy for such a small return. They have had enough of the “bigger is better” mindset and simply want to give themselves to simple, organic church life.
The stage productions, expensive programs, lights, smoke and Hollywood style video presentations might look good, but the house church crowd is rejecting them wholesale. The vision the pastor might have for such a ministry isn’t shared by them.
I’ll be the first to argue that we need to shut pretty much everything down and simply gather together to pray. Filling the calendar with ministries, groups, programs and other endeavors without clear vision and buy in from the people is simply not attractive or, in most cases, effective.
Pastors, it’s time to get back to the basics. It’s true that those who have been conditioned by media and today’s culture might reject the basics, but we aren’t here to pander to culture. We are here to shake the nations.
So, does this mean the pyrotechnics, media and high production value are inherently evil? Absolutely not. Those who are abandoning churches simply because a church has implemented such tactics need to re-evaluate their heart. It’s not okay to abandon ship just because you don’t appreciate this style of ministry, but I can’t deny that’s it’s your right to be troubled if the theatrics veer the ministry off it’s proper course.
I’ve often said that I despise hype and exaggeration. When we employ such psychological methods to project our efforts beyond where they actually are, we limit God to our own imagination. We get overly excited about what we can produce instead of allowing God to blow our minds!
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV)
They want to be released to minister according to their giftings.
This argument is common. People are discouraged because they cannot function according to the gifting God has placed within them. They are chomping at the bit to be activated. They were created for a purpose, yet, so often in the local church, they are not released to move in their ministry.
As one who has planted and given senior leadership to churches for years, I’ll be the first to come to the defense of local church pastors. Just because you have a gift and calling does not mean you are ready to function in it in the church. There are a lot of broken, immature, untrained, prideful or simply weird people out there who should not be given a place in public ministry—until they have been made ready.
There is significant process involved in the ministry development incubator. If you aren’t willing to submit to authority and give yourself to the process, and allow significant time to pass as you die daily and gradually grow stronger, your ministry cannot be validated.
Many people are launching house churches because their ministry was not confirmed in the local church. This is where a lot of immature people are launching premature ministries. Their authorities have determined they are not ready, but they turn aside from that counsel and move out in childish rebellion—all in the name of spiritual freedom.
That being said, pastors, you must do a better job at equipping the saints. While there are many pastors and church leadership teams that excel at this, most don’t.
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children… Ephesians 4:11-14 (ESV)
The church only goes as deep as the majority will allow.
The house church crowd is typically a spiritually hungry one. We can’t deny that most local churches simply don’t go deeper than the majority will allow. I’m not talking about seeker sensitive churches, I’m referring to Spirit-filled churches that promote exuberant worship and devotion to Jesus.
There are many churches like this that will just go so deep. There’s a limit. They know if they get as passionate and as supernaturally infused as the zealots in their midst, the majority will leave.
Pastors, you must wake up! Let the pretenders leave! It’s time to bring the fire, the shock and the awe back into the church! How can you fault people who desire to leave because they want to experience Jesus more than you do?
For those who are hungry for the deep, I won’t pull any punches. This alone is not a reason to leave a church and to start your own. You can go as deep in God as you want regardless of how far your church goes. I challenge you to burn hot, pray without ceasing, stimulate dreams and visions and raise the temperature of every atmosphere you walk into.
Will God eventually move you on to another church or to build a new ministry yourself? He most certainly may. Just make sure you handle the move with integrity and honor. If your current church is apathetic, you can be sure God will bring resolution one way or another without your intervention.
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3:15-16 (ESV)
Being guilted into serving more, giving more and building the church.
House church people generally are more interested in Kingdom activity than the local church. They are more passionate about God’s expression among a people in a region than a local ministry. They are tired of building a single man’s kingdom by giving and serving and enhancing that local church instead of investing in the advance of the Kingdom of God.
Again, as one who has been involved in the church for decades, I understand. There’s so much pressure today to grow big ministries, to be successful and to keep everybody active and on task. Leaders want people to take ownership. In our American culture we are individualistic and laser focused on whatever project we deem most beneficial to us. The problem? There is much more that needs our focus than a single local church.
I believe it’s healthy and important for people to have a home church while also engaging at a high level in other local churches, ministries and Kingdom activities. When I was giving leadership to churches, I would strongly encourage people to frequent other ministries in addition to our own. Investing in the city church is more important than the local church.
I started this message by mentioning my book Covens in the Church. That book as directed at those who wrongly abandon assignments for the sake of pursuing their own spiritual endeavors. This point requires I highlight the follow up book titled, Pharaoh in the Church. This book was written to pastors who are so focused on building their own ministry that the people are wrongly used, expected to continually serve, give and sacrifice for that never ending project.
In the words of Brian Ming, “God forgive us for building kingdoms of man on doctrines of demons in your name.”
Pastors, right or wrong, this is another reason people are leaving your church for the more efficient, simple and authentic house church.
The power of God isn’t there.
I’ll admit that I’ve been to some small group meetings that are electric! The Holy Spirit was blowing through that living room or office space like a wind and a fire! When you gather people who are all likeminded and hungry for Jesus, you can’t help but to see God respond.
I’ve been to local church meetings like this too, but they are rare. How often do you leave an institutional church remarking about how powerfully and supernaturally the Holy Spirit moved? Some of you reading this are truly blessed, and you’d respond by saying, “Nearly every Sunday!” Most would have to honestly admit that it’s extremely uncommon or nonexistent.
Understand, I’m not talking about a great worship experience or an encouraging message. I mean, when is the last time the supernatural presence of God flooded the place to such an extreme that people were trembling, crying, and laying out all over the place? This should be the norm for the church. Pastors, until you can steward this call and facilitate a white-hot atmosphere of Holy Spirit power, it will be easy for people to be disappointed in your church.
1 As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2 And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house. 3 When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” 2 Chronicles 7:1-3 (ESV)
Services are predictable, overly structured and polished.
People who are hungry for authentic encounter with Jesus are done with perfectly orchestrated worship sets and precisely ordered services. House churches offer an opportunity to ditch the set lists and eliminate the clocks in favor of spontaneous, unpredictable and untimed worship, prayer and teaching along with a fervent pursuit of an ever increasing tangible presence of the Holy Spirit.
Instead of the spit and shine, they long for the messy, unpredictable, uncontrollable move of God that simply won’t allow for manmade organization.
How often are the people in the pews crying out for the pastors to get out of the way and to let the Holy Spirit move? It’s time we admit that our messages really aren’t that great, and our worship sets aren’t that special. Let’s move aside, hit our knees and let the Holy Spirit run our services! I’ll tell you this, when it happens, people won’t be frustrated and disappointed, fleeing the church, they’ll be flooding out from wherever they are to the place where the fire is burning!
The truth is it can be easier to fan the flames of revival in a small house church than in a local church simply because local churches aren’t typically focused on the remnant. They want the bigger crowds and are willing to compromise to ensure the people stay connected. Those in house churches aren’t focused on numbers or on drawing the seeker. They simply want God. Period. They have no order of service. They pray. They cry out. They minister to God and to each other.
While I acknowledge this reality, my belief is that we need to see such a remnant focus in the local church! I believe apostolic hubs, houses of prayer and house churches have emerged because local churches have abdicated their responsibilities to be centers of prayer and Kingdom advance. They have become fully local to the detriment of the city vision. Prayer has taken a back seat because most resist such a devotion.
I love houses of prayer, apostolic hubs, para-church ministries and even healthy, rightly aligned house churches. I also love the local church and am campaigning for it to break out of the old, tired and predictable in favor of a Holy Spirit who cannot be controlled.
13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ …Matthew 21:13 (ESV)
Pastors who are functioning out of ability, creativity or charisma instead of anointing.
Stage shows seem to be overtaking much of the church today. Instead of contending for hours in the prayer rooms, pastors are often functioning from their creativity and charisma. The anointing simply isn’t intense. They haven’t been branded by the fire that can only be found at the altars.
How rare it is to see the man or woman of God trembling behind the pulpit after emerging from an encounter with almighty God in the prayer room.
Leonard Ravenhill said, “Pastors who don’t pray two hours a day aren’t worth a dime a dozen.”
People can see right through pastors who are operating out of gifting instead of anointing. It’s leaves a very bad taste in their spirits. They want to be led by people who are continually encountering Jesus, people who aren’t so confident in their giftings that they simply put together “creative” programs, conferences, sermon series and whatever else they can orchestrate.
That being said, house church friends, I challenge you to re-read the appeal from Debra at the beginning of this article. Have enough compassion for God’s leaders that you don’t rise up in pride, determined to be more spiritually driven then they are. In fact, I bet most house church people are no more spiritually devoted than most local church pastors.
17 pray without ceasing, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (ESV)
A lack of focus on the greater church.
House church folks don’t like to be limited in their church experience. They don’t value, and actually devalue, the demand many pastors have to commit fully and only to their specific local church. It stinks of personal kingdom building instead of truly being Kingdom minded.
As I said above, we need to encourage people to invest in a variety of churches and ministries in our region. In fact, pastors should be very active in supporting other churches and ministries. Lead the people in your church to conferences, prayer events, special church meetings, revival services and strategic Kingdom happenings in the region.
House churches can easily become equally unhealthy when they become inward focused and disconnected from the greater city church. In fact, many, many house churches regularly fall into this trap.
Out of one side of their mouth they confess to being “Kingdom focused” while on the contrary they never visit and lock arms with other local churches, ministries or functions in the region.
46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes… Acts 2:46 (ESV)
They are plain bored with the old wine skin.
Church as we know it is done. This is the driving message behind my book The Coming Church. I’ve preached about this, written about this and led movements with this in mind. The old wine skin must give way to the new. The house church, for many, seems to be a logical step out of the old and into the new.
The reality is that the new wine skin looks nothing like anything we see in local or house churches.
However, one key component that many house church enthusiasts may not be too excited about in the new wine skin is: authority. The government of God will be firmly established and the five-fold ministry will be foundational. No longer can people just do as they please presuming that God is their only authority. We will function within Kingdom government, and we must acknowledge the various leaders in the region.
22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” Mark 2:22 (ESV)
HOUSE CHURCH OR LOCAL CHURCH?
Both. Neither. Actually it’s the city church we should be advancing. Local churches are important as larger groups of people lock in to contend for revival and advance the Kingdom. Smaller churches that are more keenly focused will exist in homes along side the rest of the church of the city. Apostles, prophets and other leaders will serve with sobriety and boldness.
The key is having pure motives, honoring all and being faithful to the calling and the process God has given you to steward whether it’s in a local church, house church, apostolic hub, house of prayer or other community of faith.
We all want revival, or, rather, we all think we want revival. We crave God’s presence. We want the fire. But, let’s all be challenged. When the fire comes, will we honestly allow it to consume us? Will we stay devoted, humble and surrendered? Or will we rise up in pride, dissatisfied with the way things are unfolding and move out in rebellion to start an alternate, individualistic, isolated, coven in the church?
Many are working hard to attract the wrong crowd on Sunday—and the result is an Ichabod 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! The force from Heaven, the celestial asteroid, is going to impact the Church, and most pastors and people will resist with everything that’s within them. Man-made support systems will be removed. People’s financial and relational structures will be threatened by this strange new spiritual invasion. The human wisdom and natural common sense that have been involved in the development of the current church structure will not be usable in the new. Those who walk by sight are in danger. ~The Coming Church, John Burton
I've met countless pastors and others who say they are focused on revival, but who are misguided on exactly what it is. Their focus is on attracting people to the church, on people getting “saved” and on other church growth strategies.
The problem? The foundational pursuit of revival has nothing to do with church growth or the lost. It has everything to do with the church awakening, contending in intercession and attracting the fire of the Holy Spirit.
The lost didn't show up in the Upper Room. Marginal followers of Jesus were repelled by the Upper Room.
Revival isn't marked by a full house. Revival starts in a room that reveals the remnant. The revival that erupted in that roomful of remnants resulted in explosive church growth and Kingdom advance.
Premature church growth will result in a multiplication of lukewarm, dead and dying people who have no idea what it feels like to have tongues of fire igniting over top of them.
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. Acts 2:1-3 (ESV)
VISITORS SHOULD BE SHAKEN BY WHAT THEY SEE IN THE CHURCH.
The pure Christian message of surrender, repentance, holiness, intercession and rescuing souls from Hell has been replaced by a self-centered gospel that boldly affirms a focus on benefits without cost, on personal gain without sacrifice, on freedom without consecration. The Church has been unapologetically and boldly focused on how to have faith to receive while forsaking the call to have faith to give. The spirit of the age infiltrated churches long ago—and now, all too often, that demonic spirit is the primary counselor. ~The Coming Church, John Burton
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. I’ve often said that one indicator of the Holy Spirit moving in power is that bystanders will do one of two things. They will either marvel or they will mock.
12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” Acts 2:12-13 (ESV)
When naturally minded people walk into a furnace of intercession, a place that is electric with supernatural activity, they should be radically unsettled, yet so many church assimilation teams today attempt to make the environment as familiar and comfortable as possible.
I’ve often heard pastors admit they hide the pre-service prayer (for those who have pre-service prayer at all!) in a side room instead of filling the sanctuary with groans of intercession because they don’t want to freak out the soon-arriving visitors. I’ve heard that many, many times and I was grieved every time. There are a few legitimate reasons why prayer might not work in the sanctuary prior to the service in some churches, but that’s not one of them. If we are attempting to introduce people into the wonder of a supernatural encounter with Jesus, why would we, at the same time, work so hard at shielding their eyes? I propose bringing the fire and the groan right into the heart of the Sunday service! Those who remain will be the laborers you need to fulfill your mission.
Many years ago, when I first started Revolution Church in Manitou Springs, Colorado, I worked hard at assimilating visitors. I would excitedly connect with them and share just how much they would enjoy making our church their new home. It didn’t take long for me to start feeling like a used-car salesman; dirty; compromised. My strategy grieved my spirit. The truth was that our atmosphere and our vision were called by God to be driven by intercession and marked by a strong prophetic emphasis. The messages were intense. Revolution Church was not designed for those who would be marginally committed (as no church is}. The “Sunday go to meeting” Christians would, by choice, not remain for long.
The reality was, that by attempting to attract those types of people, I was compromising the vision. The church needed the remnant who would lock in and pray, who would contend for revival and who would endure with great strength. A large group of non-remnant people would be a distraction. Years would be lost. Lives would be at risk. Eternities would be in danger.
So, I shifted. I started literally trying to scare people away from our church.
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. ~The Coming Church, John Burton
A CHURCH ON FIRE
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. ~The Coming Church, John Burton
I knew we were called to lead a church on fire, and that just wasn’t possible with tepid, resistant, lukewarm people.
1 …I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die… Revelation 3:1-2 (ESV)
I was confident that, if I clearly shared the wild, costly, other-worldly vision that God had given us, and how people at our church were called to invest into that vision, that those who would not be interested in such a lifestyle would not return. Understand, my invitation for them to run with us was genuine. Our door was wide open. When I say “I tried to scare them away” I mean I was simply authentic. I stripped off the suit of a salesman and shared my raw, passionate dream of God to advance with a team of zealots for Jesus. Such an invitation was all I needed to see who was deeply hungry for revival and who was not. I would do my best to help those people connect in another local church. I’d give them the names of some churches they might enjoy. While I truly wanted the very best for them, it always broke my heart when they decided against adopting a lifestyle of intercession and revival. That lifestyle is not for a specialized few. It’s for all.
This resulted in a confidence that those who remained were, in most cases, part of our remnant, firebrands who would dig in and assimilate with our tribe of revivalists.
When you spend energy attracting the mildly committed, you compromise your entire vision. Simply, you need soldiers to become equipped and ready to lay down their lives and fight for the freedom of souls in the region.
I believe it’s core to the mission of the church to give opportunity for people to clearly evaluate their commitment and to give room for them to leave. The intensity of the truth demands it. We must call people out of a natural life and into the supernatural, out of a casual place and into radical surrender.
63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” 66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” John 6:63-67 (ESV)
Understand, similar to the way Jesus ministered in the above passage along with other key examples in Scripture, the Upper Room served as a filter. It filtered out those who weren’t radically devoted. Most were repelled by the call to pray. The agenda did not change in the hopes of assimilating more people. The disciples loved them as they went their way…and then they turned the world upside down with the few who remained as a result. What filters do you have in your church, pastor, to call people to a transparent, genuine place of soul searching and decision? You must start and continue with an Upper Room atmosphere and an offensive, flesh-crushing Gospel message.
It’s important to remember that the Ekklesia, the church gathering, was not designed for the lost. So many pastors get derailed on this point alone. The church is a house of prayer for all nations. The predominant church activity should be white hot intercession with tongues of fire atop everyone, with groans filling the atmosphere. It’s a remnant ministry. This call is for all who call themselves Christian.
If you build a church with people who won’t devote themselves to the prayer room, you build your church with those who are disinterested at best and lukewarm at worst. Your church will be a low-water-level church. It will be a place where the fire can’t rage. It will be naturally familiar with distant, elusive, marginally supernatural dreams. Pipe dreams.
Christians who aren’t invested in fervent, supernatural prayer will be enticed by the natural familiarity of Ichabod churches (where the glory has departed). ~The Coming Church, John Burton
WHAT ABOUT THE SEEKERS?
A question I hear from very good-hearted people is this: What do we do with people who are seeking? Do we just turn them away?
We absolutely don’t turn them away! We invite them into the furnace. We do not turn down the fire. We turn it up! Those who are hungry for God must not be introduced to a tepid, natural environment with an image of God that looks just like themselves. Reveal the glory of our mysterious, fiery, living God and watch them collapse to their knees in desperation!
However, as I have stated already, many will choose to leave at the sight of something so alien and costly. That’s a choice they themselves have a right to make.
Again, we must faithfully reveal the cost of following Jesus. We don’t come on our terms. We come on God’s. Too many are interested in warming their flesh by the fire instead of their flesh being consumed by the fire.
23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” 28 And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” 29 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” Luke 18:23-30 (ESV)
Many will turn away sad. Even the most devoted will feel the severity of a life devoted to Jesus. They will cry out, “Then who can be saved?” That tension will result in a church that is sober and on fire and something that true seekers will give themselves to. Pretenders will certainly go away sad as the remnant church is revealed.
My lifelong commitment in ministry is this: I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry.
That commitment requires everything I do to have the smell of smoke. In fact, pastors, one reason even the most devoted people aren’t coming to your prayer meetings is simple—they are dead, humanistic and boring. They are logically driven. They are simply a rehashing of what the natural mind can discern. As someone who comes alive in prophetic, prayer-fueled environments, I aggressively avoid powerless prayer meetings that are driven by lists of needs and human understanding. I don’t want my soul activated. I want my spirit to burn! I think tired, powerless petition-driven prayer meetings can do more damage than good much of the time. Do your prayer meetings have the smell of smoke? Are tongues of fire resting on everybody? If not, don’t be surprised when the even the most devoted disciples are no-shows.
We need a church on fire today more than ever. The lost are being introduced into lukewarm, natural, Ichabod religion instead of a supernatural shaking that can only come from the Great I Am. They are convinced they are saved as they are assimilated into a community of likeminded quasi-spiritual people who would love to see God manifest in their natural realm—yet have no interest in manifesting in the spiritual realm where the Holy Spirit broods.
My challenge to pastors is simple. Risk everything. Allow your church to dwindle, if necessary, to a few remnant people who will live, pray, walk and advance in the Spirit. The world is waiting for them.
You can download a free chapter and order The Coming Church by John Burton at www.burton.tv/resources.
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Check out some of the reviews from books including The Coming Church, 20 Elements of Revival and The Terror of Hell:
Very inspiring! John is a man on fire! And he is starting fires everywhere he goes. ~Larry
This is a book that is challenging and awe inspiring! A must read for every pastor! The time for revival is now!! ~Gilbert
“Every member of every ministry in every denomination should be required to read this book!” ~Mae
My world has been rocked..I am on my knees trembling and yet I am in the complete comfort of the Holy Spirit. How amazing is that! People get ready! ~Hal
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- Contending for Revival in a Culture of Positivity
- Defeating Absalom
- Eight Clear Reasons Revival is Not as Near as it Could Be
- Five Reasons Not to Leave a Church
- Operation Babel
- Orphans No More
- Prophecy Games
- Revival Games
- Shock Christianity
- Sweet Failure
- The Great Love Deception
- The Salvation Equation
- Their Freedom is Your Mission
- Three Dangerous Churches
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By now you’ve most likely heard about my book The Coming Church. If you haven’t started reading it yet, I encourage you to dive in! You will find yourself coming alive and burning hot as God shakes you to your core!
In addition to The Coming Church, I’ve written nine other books on topics such as prayer, intimacy with God, dealing with authority and fulfilling your mission.
If you like to watch or listen to full length teachings, head over to www.burton.tv/media. Teachings from my studio here in Branson, Missouri and also other messages from the road are available at no cost to you!
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Most of all, I love to hear from all of my partners and friends!
Let me know what God is doing in our region.
I’d love to come out and hold some meetings in your church or at your camp or conference. Let’s connect and see what God might do!
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.
Barbara Yoder says this about The Coming Church by John Burton, “Read with care. This is the future.”
I had an encounter that left me shaken and shocked.
What I saw was clearly a picture of the church…clearly in my spirit, that is, because my intellect was confounded. It didn’t make sense.
In my encounter, the vision I saw was shocking and quite mysterious. I have had many visions of the Church, of reformation, but this one was markedly different. It sure didn’t look like a vision of the Church, but it immediately felt like one.
I was standing in an apocalyptic looking environment. It was dark and weighty. In front of me was an absolutely massive, burning crater. God immediately revealed to me that I was looking at the soon coming Church.
When man moves, it’s naturally familiar. When God moves, it’s SUPERNATURALLY SHOCKING.
~The Coming Church
ORDER THE COMING CHURCH TODAY! Choose either the 300+ page printed version or a PDF e-book that can be downloaded immediately!
Visit www.burton.tv now!
This book will rock your boat! John Burton isn’t an ordinary church leader. He is one of the emerging, cutting edge and at times raw (cuts to the chase) ministries who are changing the face of the church. Some will be upset with this book. Those lovers of God, radical revelatory types will jump up and down. John’s book will set them on fire. Read with care. This is the future.
Barbara J Yoder
Want to grow your church? Increase your success and influence in the community? Don’t read this book! John Burton isn’t going to give you the latest Church growth strategies or messages that will make your life easier. This book is a clarion call to the Church to quit selling her birthright and to accomplish all God has for her.
Anyone can criticize the church, John tears down while building up and calling forth the Coming Glorious Church!
The Coming Church is a must read for every Christian. This is a timely word and challenge to seriously get aligned with the Kingdom for such a time as this. It will ignite an urgency and fire in any reader who is willing to wrestle and respond.
The spirit of God has rested upon John Burton; the Lord has placed fire in his hands. That translates in the intercession-driven ministry that pours out of him.
The power & revelation the Lord has released into John Burton is a breath of fresh air. It is so fresh that I have not seen the uniqueness he bears elsewhere.
This book carries fire on every page. That fire leaps out bringing awakening to the deep places within you as the Holy Spirit moves through the revelation of the coming church and our part in it. There’s no denying it, and there’s no hiding it as the revelatory words are laid out on the table. This book screams ‘Ready or not, here I (the church) come!’ Are we ready to receive the revelation? Better yet, are we willing to receive it?
Forward: Brian Simmons
One: The Encounter
Two: Celestial Elements
Three: A Troubling Shift
Four: Fierce Religious Resistance
Five: Their Freedom Is Your Mission
Six: The Great Love Deception
Seven: Hell, Holiness and the Fear of Man
Eight: A Civil War In The Church
Nine: A Call for Reformation
Ten: Carry Like Mary
Eleven: The Salvation Equation
Twelve: Regional Impact
Thirteen: The Scattering Movement
Fourteen: False Human Rights
Fifteen: The Spirit of Abortion
Sixteen: A Remnant Movement
Seventeen: Wake Up! Strengthen What Remains!
Conclusion: A Joshua Company
John Burton is available to minister in your church or at your conference or event. John has been developing and leading ministries for over 25 years and is a sought out teacher, prophetic messenger and revivalist. John has authored ten books, is a regular contributor to Charisma Magazine, has appeared on Christian television and radio and directed one of the primary internships at the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City. Additionally, he has planted two churches, has initiated two city prayer movements and a school of ministry.
John Burton has a long history of planting churches, pastoring, authorship and much more. However, knowing him personally, all of his credentials are outweighed by his passion for revival and the supernatural fire of God. I have no doubt that he has and would lay down everything for that cause. His radical faith mixed with undying pursuit has led him to encounter the Lord in miraculous ways including dreams, visions and fresh revelation. The bottom line is, John Burton has a message that the body of Christ needs to hear.
Dr. Andy Sanders
5 Fold Media
John Burton is a man with unquenchable passion for God. His life is a living Epistle of the truth that the Kingdom of God is not just in word, but in power. He lights fires wherever he goes leaving behind the unmistakable fragrance of the life of Christ. I highly recommend his ministry to you.
President of Awake Nations
OH MY WORD!! Talk about an on time message from John Burton last night @ God Invasion!! I can truly say it was so refreshing to hear & experience!! Haven't heard this caliber of teaching in over 30 years! He is a TRUE revivalist & while we think REVIVAL is one thing, it's soooo much more!! Get ready folks for GOD'S version of Revival!! It's gonna rock your world!!
Cindy Hicks Nobles
John carries a real passion and anointing for revival, breakthrough and transformation. He carries and releases the tangible fire of God and brings people into encounters with God's presence. He is a strong equipper in the areas of prayer and evangelism and mobilizes people to carry God's word and presence outside the four walls of the church building. John is also a great preacher of the word. He has had many years of ministry experience both as a pastor and evangelist. His understanding of local church ministry makes his ministry well rounded and unique. He pastors, oversees a school of ministry and travels releasing the fire of God and igniting hearts with a passion for Jesus. I believe he would be a great blessing to your church.
John Burton is a man who has continued to allow himself to be thrust into the middle of what God is doing. He not only hears from Heaven, but is willing to boldly shout it from the rooftops. If John is stirred about something, I would recommend that you listen.
World Revival Network of Ministries
I’m thankful for men like John Burton who hear a sound coming out of heaven, a trumpet sound, calling this generation to something more than good meetings and life as usual. We need men and women who are more than echoes of the past, but voices who prophesy what is to come. I believe those men and women are being prepared to arise and take their place in human history.
Dr. Brian Simmons
The Passion Translation
Visit www.burton.tv now to order The Coming Church or one of John’s other powerful books!
My name is John Burton and I’m a church planter.
I find it hard to go long before the itch for advancing the Kingdom through new works starts to really get to me.
Recently I’ve been praying and thinking about just what it would look like to plant my third church. The first two were exciting, full of adventure and supernatural. They were also both challenging and sprinkled with heartache! Like any church planter my wife and I experienced good old fashioned betrayal at times and glorious comradery at others. The brand God left on us and on our team and the countless people who were a part of the ministry at one time or another seared us like a hot iron. I’m sure it will be an eternal mark.
Of course, the longer you do anything, the wiser you become, as long as you are teachable. After 26 years of ministry, and after two years removed from giving senior leadership in a church setting, I find myself wondering just what a new church would look like. I have learned much, and I’m at the point where I’m not willing to waste energy on anything other than the main things.
A RISING REMNANT
Everywhere I travel when ministering I run into burning, hungry, desperate people. There is a rising remnant in our nation that is yearning for a corporate experience in the supernatural that shocks our culture. They can’t handle church as usual any longer.
God is moving on the hearts of pastors and others in preparation of a powerful, otherworldly new wine skin, and it’s a skin that most will initially reject. It’s for this reason that I’m slow to launch a new wine skin church. Resistance will be extreme. Timing is critical.
At Revival Church I’m on the hunt for what I call Pavement People. These are the 2 Chronicles 7 people who couldn’t even enter the building due to the glory of God filling it—so they hit the pavement and worshipped. No comfortable chairs, no music, nothing but them, the pavement and God.
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. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house. 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
And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Nehemiah 8:6
KEY ELEMENTS OF A NEW WINE SKIN CHURCH
PRAYER WILL BE THE MAIN THING
…“Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?…” Mark 11:17
This foundational element will be enough to cause most to run. Today, even the most prayer based churches limit intercession to secondary times and venues. Usually the prayer meetings are relegated to a side room at an odd hour, which means only the few who are available and wired to respond to the challenge of corporate intercession will do so. Sadly, it’s important in today’s model to keep prayer at bay so as not to make the visitors or those who are less interested in spiritual matters uncomfortable.
I envision prayer saturating everything that goes on in the context of the church. I believe it’s an indictment on today’s church that the house of prayer isn’t mostly a ministry of prayer. Sunday morning must become the main prayer meeting of the week, and everybody in the church must pray on fire as their primary ministry. I’m not talking about logically praying through a prayer list. I mean facilitating an electric atmosphere where groans of intercession, fervent tongues and prophetic decrees shake the building off its foundation!
Imagine walking into the sanctuary at 10am and everybody is on their face or pacing the aisles crying and groaning in the Spirit. I see that becoming the regular Sunday morning experience in the coming church. Worship and teaching may or may not always occur. The common experience will be to spend two hours in intercession with some occasional worship and teaching being interjected at key moments.
Simply, Sunday mornings will become intercession sets. Sunday evenings will become intercession sets. Youth services will become intercessions sets. Children's ministries will become intercession sets. Then, in that environment, apostolic instruction, prophetic decrees, songs of worship and other important expressions will occur.
Everything will take a back seat to an earth quaking atmosphere of prayer. Worship, programs, assimilation, outreach, everything. Meetings will sometimes be devoid of these things, but prayer will never be compromised.
How can we even presume to be a legitimate Christian church if prayer isn’t primary? According to scripture, the church is a house of what? Worship? No. Teaching? No. Fellowship? No. The church is a house of prayer—except in America. Except in the Western world.
Regarding worship I’ll qualify this one time as I dive deeper into this point—I am zealous about worship and affirm it is critical and biblical, without question. I have worship music playing hour after hour as I go through my day. Misty Edwards is leading worship on the screen as I write this, and I love it!
That being said, I am troubled at the attention musical worship receives in the church today. It has become an idol for many and is all too often devoid of a spirit of prayer.
I’ve said before that worship music in its current state can be used as a lazy man’s intercession. It’s entertaining. It feels good. It feels spiritual. Yet, it by no means defaults in spiritual maturity or true worship. ~Prayer and Worship: The church I crave and may never see
THE EXPERIENCE WILL BE MOSTLY VERTICAL
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24
I’m grieved at how much energy is given to making visitors comfortable while neglecting the call to make the Holy Spirit comfortable. Sometimes those two pursuits are mutually exclusive. A key reason why prayer doesn't fill the atmosphere on Sunday mornings is because visitors and most others would feel out of place. As much as we'd like them to minister to God with us, it's time we are okay with visitors heading back to the parking lot.
As I’ve said often, I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. We must nurture environments that are raging with fire, an atmosphere that will cause those who are living in the flesh to either run to the altars or out the back doors.
Instead of waiting by the door to greet a visitor, I propose we stay on our face under the weight of God’s presence. Model that. Don’t worry, you’ll have a chance to introduce yourself at some point. What I’m trying to get across is that the focus of the church isn’t developing relationships for the sake making new friends, and it’s not about adding people to the ministry. The goal of church growth will finally be put to rest as we focus on the goal of ministry to God.
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 one hundred 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.
MESSAGES WILL CAUSE PROBLEMS
Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” Matthew 15:12 (ESV)
Pastors can be neutered no longer. We can’t be muzzled. The leadership necessary to bring a shock to a nation will result in many becoming offended—not because of the fault of the leader, but because of their own unresolved issues.
We just came through a volatile election season—a season that had most pastors silent out of fear that those who disagreed with their position would leave the church—or that the IRS would revoke their tax exempt status.
I lost that fear long ago. We must refuse to hold back truth and key prophetic messages out of fear that some will revolt. In fact, we need to know that our words will cause great damage, both actual and collateral, when we speak with authority. They will also set the captives free.
This will result in regular heart checks in the camp. Will we murmur and complain as the Hebrews did under the leadership of Moses—and die in the desert—or will we rally around leaders in the spirit of Joshua who refuse to give in to the taunts and threats of the people?
LOVE WILL BE REAL
We will experience a connection with others in a way that we have never known as we endeavor to advance as soldiers together. Friendships will be forged in the fox hole. Nobody will be involved simply for the sake of finding a friend. Mission will come first, but in that mission we will discover a love for people that is real, deep and alive.
Many will reject love like this since it turns focus from them and their desire for social interaction to God and his mission.
In the natural, it was quite a sight to behold watching the Chicago Cubs advance through the regular season, then through the post-season to win their first World Series in 108 years. All-Star and team leader Anthony Rizzo cried very real tears during the victory parade, in front of five million people, as he talked about his love for retiring catcher, and father figure, David Ross. It was moving to say the least.
Understand, the Chicago Cubs didn’t invite people to participate on the team so they could develop relationships with one another. That’s laughable. The right people who were locked in to a magnificent mission were invited to join the team. Those people fought together and discovered respect and love. It was real, or as real as it can get without God in the mix. I trust you understand the point I’m trying to make.
Of course, the church isn’t going to invite only the most gifted or talented to participate, but, the end result will be that only those who are willing to focus on the mission will want to stay.
PROGRAMS WILL BE FEW
In the past I intentionally limited programs, ministries and outreaches in the churches I led so we could all stay focused and energized for the main thing, which was prayer. The truth is that a culture of prayer will result in more fruit and legitimate disciples being made that typical programs or outreaches would. The effects might not be as immediate, but truer conversions and lasting disciples will result.
I see this strategy continuing.
In past churches, we’d all gather as a group a few times a week for prayer and training. We had our school of prayer that trained in revival, prayer and the apostolic. We'd prayer walk the streets. We initiated prayer movements in over 170 different churches. Everybody involved in our churches at a core level was either praying, being trained in prayer, preaching on prayer or giving attention to supporting topics such as revival, deliverance, authority or other key focuses.
The goal was for the remnant to be so full and so united in the pursuit of revival, that it spilled out everywhere they went. They would invite people to come to our prayer events, to the school and to other ministries. They’d develop supplemental ministries on their own. They would explode on fire night and day!
As an example, one of my key leaders in Detroit took on a specific part of downtown Detroit as her mission field. She would develop teams to go down there for prayer. We would often join her as a church to pray on site. It was an important ministry project that she initiated and that we supported. We could remain focused on the main thing and people had the freedom to launch out and fulfill their callings.
MY PERSONAL ACCESS WILL BE LIMITED
But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:4 (ESV)
I will be relentless in protecting my call to pray, to training and to developing a revival strategy.
This means most of my time will be spent alone in prayer. Some of my time will be spent with my core leadership team. A small portion of my time will be spent with others.
Those who need a strong pastoral connection will most probably struggle, and I believe the struggle is a good one. I believe you can grow much faster in that culture than you can otherwise.
The focus will be unapologetically apostolic/prophetic.
So, as I sit here writing this, I’m craving the opportunity to give leadership to such a church. However, I am not convinced that it’s quite time. In fact, while it may be time within the next month, it may not be for the rest of my lifetime. I fully understand that.
I’m excited about the local church I’m running with now and believe God will continue do wonders through their ministry. I’m privileged to be a part of that revival and prayer minded family!
There’s a lot more I could share than I did in this article. I also understand there are many invisible, hidden parts that I have yet to discover as I continue to consider the future of the church. The passion in my heart for such an end-time church is real, and it will only grow. As more clarity comes, I’ll know how to proceed.
But, let me leave you with a question. Regardless of where you live, would you jump into a church culture like I described? Or does it sound good, but too challenging? Is it possibly not attractive? Do you hold to a different paradigm? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them!
I want to encourage you to read a related article I wrote previously HERE.
Also, DOWNLOAD a free chapter of my book The Coming Church. It comprehensively covers this topic.
We may need to choose: Grow a large church or contend for revival in a region.
God's world changers always favor being idealistic ahead of being realistic. They are dreamers, visionaries and supernatural theorists instead of analysts driven by logical data. They refuse to work within natural limits for the sake of quicker, more visible success. They would rather fail a thousand times contending for the impossible than succeed once at something that's humanly possible. These leaders won’t compromise the call to revival by seeking to fill the seats with the lukewarm. They are calling forth the burning ones. Their dream is to shock cities with a remnant army.
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)
300 was better than 33,000.
This truth is the focus of this article.
The Big Meeting
For as long as I can remember I have loved the large group atmosphere with innumerable zealous people worshiping God and going deep together. There’s something about the catalytic power and synergy in an atmosphere like that—if the majority are raging radicals for Jesus. A gathering like this most always takes place in the form of conferences or conventions. For example, for me, there’s nothing like the Onething conference that the International House of Prayer in Kansas City hosts at the end of each year. That Missouri city becomes the focal point for people who embrace the call to a life of prophetic intercession in the end times. People from all over the world converge there which results in the large group atmosphere I and so many others value.
Over my 25 years of ministry I have enjoyed many large conferences like this but have also discovered that such gatherings rarely exist within the construct of the local church. Understand, I’m not saying the local church can’t attract a lot of people, become mega in size and become influential in the community. Many do just that. We’ve just ventured through an era where seeker sensitive churches became some of the largest churches in the nation. What I am arguing is that it’s extremely rare to find a church that’s raging on fire by establishing a prayer-fueled, revival focused, region shocking, Upper Room level culture.
In fact, I wonder just how common it is to grow a church to more than one or two hundred people with such an approach. I believe it is possible yet extremely rare. With some exceptions, small revival tribes of 30-70 people are a much more predictable expectation—until revival actually breaks out.
120 in the upper room can quickly become thousands in the church of the city.
NINE REASONS GROWING A LARGE CHURCH AND CONTENDING FOR REVIVAL MAY BE MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE PURSUITS
1. Muzzled Speech
It’s all too tempting for today’s church growth focused leaders to trade in their prophetic mantle for that of a salesman. Instead of cutting, bold, unapologetic truth being delivered with a prophetic edge, lesser, neutered messages are given in the hopes that there won’t be any kickback. Fear of offending the tithers overwhelms fear of offending the Spirit.
The prevailing question becomes, “What will the people respond to?” I’ll major on that. Then, “What will people resist?” I’ll avoid those topics at all costs—even the cost of revival.
The demands of revival include, at the most foundational level, God’s leaders refusing to be careful as they pierce with a sharp blade the sphere of influence they have been entrusted with. If leaders consistently communicate revival truths, only the remnant will remain. The masses that promised a mega-church experience would leave the pastor with but a handful to run with. Very few are willing to pay that price. The alternative is much more attractive—muzzled speech that the majority will enjoy.
This, friend, is not the call of today’s leader—not at this critical time in history. We must see troublers of Israel emerge once again.
When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals. Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” 1 Kings 18:17-19 (ESV)
Elijah refused to be silenced. He wasn’t attempting to gain favor or approval. He had a message and he refused to be muzzled. The same was true of Micaiah:
And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.” 1 Kings 22:8 (ESV)
And the messenger who went to summon Micaiah said to him, “Behold, the words of the prophets with one accord are favorable to the king. Let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.” But Micaiah said, “As the LORD lives, what the LORD says to me, that I will speak.” 1 Kings 22:13-14 (ESV)
Micaiah was sent to prison because he refused to cower when ordered to only speak what is favorable. I wonder how leaders will preach against the sins of the day when it becomes illegal to do so if the fear of losing people is such a struggle. It’s shocking to me when people reveal they haven’t heard troubling, shaking preaching on holiness, sin and repentance in decades! We must have the prophetic mantle return to the pulpits again!
Consider the following:
“My aim is to agitate and disturb people. I'm not selling bread, I'm selling yeast.” ~Miguel De Unamuno
“If Jesus preached the same message minister's preach today, He would have never been crucified.” ~Leonard Ravenhill
Revival leaders will bring trouble, and people will leave when they feel the blade of the sword touch their flesh.
Today, we have leaders who refuse to speak on the troubles of the day, on politics and on other critical issues out of fear that they will divide the crowd and send some running with all of their resources in their pockets. The same is true with many itinerate ministers, evangelists and others who make a living from the Gospel. The more careful their speech, the more diplomatic they can be, the more appealing their focus, the greater the numbers and the more respected they become. Unfortunately, such an approach is an enemy to revival. Few will respond to those who trouble Israel.
The coming Church will be marked by those who will preach truth without moderation. I want to directly address fellow pastors and leaders with both brokenness and boldness—open your mouths! When people tell me that I have guts to say what I do in teachings, on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, I am shocked! Really? They can’t be serious! I barely reveal even a small percentage of what is burning within me. The messages are minor and obvious, yet somehow in our passive, ultra-sensitive culture they come across as sharp and risky. We have to open our mouths and deliver the troubling truth! No more messages designed to grow churches. No more sermons that result in us looking good, smart and polished. If we are out to save face, we may do just that—as we ultimately lose our soul in Hell. The raw, irritating, offensive messages of the Word of God must explode out of us with the full understanding that many of those under our care will revolt! That is true love-based preaching! We can’t even call people to prayer today due to the fear that they will leave our churches! My God! How can we presume revival is near? ~The Coming Church
One day God spoke clearly to me: John, when you pray for a remnant, don’t be surprised when the remnant shows up.
Personally, I’d much rather have a church of 30 devoted, burning, remnant revivalists than a church of several hundred people who will leave when the fire gets hot and the message cuts their flesh.
2. Visitor magnets
The primary purpose of the church is to be a gathering of Believers under apostolic authority with prayer and equipping being the dominant activities for all. Focusing on attracting visitors can quickly compromise that core church mission. The Bible tells us the church is to be a house of prayer for all nations. It is not to be used as an evangelistic tool, but rather evangelism should be a result of what happens in the gatherings.
In my book The Coming Church I highlighted several ways today’s church is going to drastically change. One is the move away from seeker style ministries. The church gathering is for Believers who are praying:
Even churches that aren’t identified as seeker sensitive tend to be intent on attracting visitors and they gear their ministry to do so. Instead of attempting to grow the church by focusing on visitors and seekers, the leaders will be fully devoted to a 2nd Chronicles 7 strategy of compelling God to show up in extreme, weighty power. The pillar of fire that connects Heaven to Earth is the new goal. In fact, an empty church is a better goal than a full church if we understand that passage of Scripture correctly! Many disgruntled people will leave the church as a more serious devotion to Holy Spirit activity is given, but the supernatural invasion will result in fire, smoke and earthquakes that will rock cities and nations. ~The Coming Church
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. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house. 2 Chronicles 7:1-2 (ESV)
I made a significant transition in my own ministry many years ago regarding my focus on visitors and church growth. In the early days, I’d get frustrated when they didn’t show up and overly excited when they did. It was common for my wife and me to take visitors out for lunch or coffee to encourage them that there was definitely a place for them and their giftings in our church. While we did grow, our vision was compromised due to attracting people who were more excited about their own ministry than the mission of revival. Over time we had people who could lead worship, serve in children’s ministry, wave flags, dance and serve as ushers. The problem? The church is called first and foremost to be a house of prayer. We had a lot of activity, a solid group of people and an underlying resistance to going deep in intercession. Our visitors turned leaders were not invested in prayer.
I believe one of the most damaging things a pastor of a church can do is release people into ministries and roles if the they aren’t on fire, living in the Spirit and praying without ceasing.
We wouldn’t allow anybody to step into any role until they completed an intense three month internship that revealed our DNA, our focus and the cost of running with us. This approach resulted in a small army of burning ones locking arms together in the pursuit of revival.
Our transition from empowering visitors to warning and preparing visitors was key to our progress. We went from encouraging them that they would definitely fit in to being forthright with them. We let them know that they have stepped into an extremely challenging ministry. It would be hard, not easy, for them to connect. Everybody prays on fire as their primary function, we all rally around the vision of city transformation and we embrace radical holiness and a consecrated lifestyle. We stopped pursuing people, taking them out for lunch or attempting to sell our experience to them. The expectation was for the visitors to show up in the fire with us and to watch powerful relationships develop in that fox hole.
We made the decision to trade in being a large church with people who were merely intrigued by the vision with being a smaller church with people who are wrecked by the vision.
“…these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” Isaiah 56:7 (ESV)
3. Naturally Relevant
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. ~The Coming Church
Most people are much more familiar with their natural, predictable, tangible world than they are the invisible, supernatural reality of God. With that in mind, outside of actual revival, church meetings that allow supernatural manifestations and embrace a spontaneous, bizarre environment will be avoided by most.
When is the last time a Sunday morning service has erupted in a couple hours of groans of intercession as people go face down on the carpet? A friend of mine who is an extremely mature and seasoned Christian worked for a major prophetic ministry. During our services, she would regularly manifest with groans and violent shaking and other reactions to the Spirit of God. She kind of looked like a super intense, supernaturally possessed karate kid! That was not naturally relevant behavior! Most people would not visit a church again if that was a regular occurrence. The remnant would, though.
From my book The Coming Church:
I met with a House of Prayer network leader the other day who said that people leave churches when leaders shift time, energy and attention from them to God. I’ve watched that happen myself, and it rips me up! In our church in Colorado we shifted from potlucks to prayer meetings, and there was a mass exodus. We lost people and money. I had to get a part-time job. It was disruptive. It was heartbreaking that people ran from the call to pray. Where are the ones who aren’t looking first for human friends, personal affirmation or a sense of belonging but who are seeking after every available minute to minister to God in prayer? The prayer rooms must be full—and the main prayer room in the American Church is the Sunday morning sanctuary!
And don’t you even think of using the excuse that you need to create a non-threatening environment for the new believer! Every person, young or old, immature or seasoned must be in the prayer room—and it must be their primary focus! What if the Upper Room were toned down in the hopes of drawing a bigger crowd and interested seekers? We must absolutely refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry! God is a consuming fire, and he is about to consume what is unholy and compromised. Who are we to presume we know better how to facilitate a service? Is inviting the Holy Spirit to step aside as we give preference to human wisdom the way to go?
I’ve heard it said that the main Sunday service should be a toned-down meeting so as not to freak out visitors and seekers. Apparently the meeting where the Holy Spirit has liberty to move in freedom should be reserved for a night when there’s little risk of the unconverted showing up. This is humanistic religion at its best! Did those in the Upper Room tone down the Holy Spirit so as not to confuse and trouble the seekers in the city? Absolutely not! In fact, the power was so extreme and so unusual that the people were provoked to wonder and proclaim, “they must be drunk!” What was happening was off of their grid. When man moves, it’s naturally familiar. When God moves, it’s supernaturally shocking.
4. Prayer as a program
I commit to serve all, but I refuse to strategically align with someone who doesn’t embrace fervent prayer as a lifestyle, holiness as a principle and dying daily as a goal. ~The Coming Church
I’ve led life impacting prayer events in over 170 different churches, and while there was a lot to leave me in awe of God’s power, I was also left with disappointment. Sadly it was easy to see which pastors allowed room for a program of prayer in their church and which had established a culture of prayer. I was initially shocked when I’d see pastors show up, often alone with none of their staff or the people in the church, to pray in the Spirit for two hours on a Friday night. We were bringing anywhere from 30 to 250 people to their church, to pray with them and their people for the fire of God to engulf their church, and very often it was just us. I didn’t understand.
Time and again I’d see pastors engage for 20-30 minutes and then get distracted, bored or restless. While the sanctuary was exploding in raging tongues of fire, over and over again pastors would be uncomfortable. Often they’d open their Bibles and read or they’d go to their office or talk to people in the foyer. Frankly, I don’t see how these leaders are even qualified to pastor. It’s unthinkable to me that anyone would presume they can lead a supernatural church without living a supernatural life of prayer. The reality is they aren’t leading a supernatural church. They are leading one that will attract the spiritually numb and naturally invested.
Ministers who do not spend two hours a day in prayer are not worth a dime a dozen – degrees or no degrees. ~Leonard Ravenhill
Occasionally a pastor would show up, on fire, with all of his staff and a significant number of the people in his church. Oh, I lived for nights like that! I knew that prayer was appropriately primary in that church and that it was more than a program. They had nurtured a culture where prayer saturates every part of their ministry.
When every person in the church is called into the furnace of intercession as a lifestyle, you are going to be left with only those who are truly passionate about Jesus and ready to contend for revival with you.
Listen closely: the lukewarm, casual Church must be shaken! Yes, the true Church is one that is burning hot, in love with her Bridegroom. I risk off ending a lot of people when I deal with this issue of fervency and costly discipleship as it’s an assault against their theologies and lifestyles. It is NOT OK to be casually committed, loosely connected and given to the apathy that is destroying the Church. I’m calling awakeners to rise up! We must pray and burn non-stop! You can do this! There is no better way to live—and there is no other option!
I know this is why some don’t connect well in houses of prayer, or even in my own church—the call to burn hot is beyond what most are comfortable with. The call over the edge is unsettling for those who don’t even want to come near the edge. Listen—your eternity is at risk! Be fervent and radical in your love of God and commitment to his mission! The coming Church will be a burning hot crater of searing fire. It will be pure and it will be rejected by most in today’s culture. ~The Coming Church
I believe it would be more biblically normal to have everybody praying, decreeing the Word of God and crying out in intercession for two hours on a Sunday morning than to continue putting on the predictable, tepid, schedule driven services we have today. I often challenge pastors by asking them what would happen if every church in the city cancelled every program, every group, every service for six months and did nothing but hit our faces and prayed instead. Instead of worship and teaching on a Sunday morning, we’d instruct everybody to find a place and cry out to God. Instead of children’s ministry, the kids would be with their parents in intercession. Instead of small groups and youth ministry events we’d pray.
The pastors almost always answer by saying they believe revival would break out suddenly. I agree, yet I have not met one leader who had employed this strategy. Why? It threatens the goal of local church growth. People with money might leave. The less hungry will walk. This grieves my spirit.
If prayer is a program you will have the opportunity to pray with a handful of others during the week. If prayer is the culture, nobody in the church will be able to avoid the call to fervent intercession because it occurs at every meeting they attend. It becomes seared into their very identity.
When the call to the Upper Room was sounded, they didn’t tone down the prayer in the hopes that more than 120 would show up. They allowed hundreds to walk.
We must repent for forsaking the house of prayer. The primary ministry of every church must be prayer. This commitment to intercession is to be modeled and led by senior leadership. The primary purpose of the Church is not teaching, visitor assimilation or fellowship. It is undeniably night and day prayer for the nations. Lengthy prayer should be taught and modeled as the dominant activity of every believer. ~20 Points of Reformation, found in The Coming Church
5. Programs everywhere
It makes logical sense that we should have ministries available to attract the broadest group of people we can. This means programs, ministries and groups all over the schedule in order to draw every type of person is necessary.
On the contrary, churches that are pursuing revival are calling people into one primary meeting—the prayer meeting with apostolic leadership giving direction.
I’ve heard some wisdom over the years that I actually agree with to a point. It’s been said that if someone senses there’s a program or ministry that needs to be started in a church, the leader should thank them for their analysis and encourage them to be the ones to start it. After all, they are the ones with the vision for it. I can’t disagree that this is an effective method to diffuse accusation of lack in a ministry, but I do disagree that it’s an appropriate strategy across the board.
Over the years I’ve used this method and watched people start ministries and crash and burn due to a number of reasons, not the least being that they didn’t embrace the vision of revival. They simply wanted to lead something or be a part of something they affirm.
The better strategy I’ve employed in recent years is to simply say no. What they think is lacking is by design. What they think we need to add should not be added. Redirect people to the fire. Call them to refocus and to be calibrated with the unified vision of the church.
In latter years, instead of filling the calendar with programs, or even a variety of scattered prayer meetings, we would maneuver everybody to our primary meetings. In fact, we had 24/7 prayer for an extended period of time and had every slot filled. Over time we decided the corporate vision demanded corporate meetings. We had to be together. Scattering, even in prayer, was doing damage to our mission. I’d rather have 3 larger prayer meetings than a hundred smaller ones.
It also became less important to have youth and children’s ministries, small groups or various programs and much more important to gather people together for corporate intercession and apostolic instruction.
Yes, this will result in a smaller church, but people won’t be scattered. Am I saying there can never be supplemental ministries or events? No, but you have to be careful.
Mike Bickle initiated small groups at the International House of Prayer several years ago. From what I understand, they were “successful” but at a cost of their primary, corporate mission. People loved gathering together in homes each week, but these small group meetings negatively impacted the prayer room. Instead of everybody contending in prayer as the main thing, there was now another option to connect, and the prayer room suffered.
Mike then eliminated the small groups for many years and only recently reinstalled them again, with a new strategy that ensures those secondary programs supported and funneled into the prayer room.
Those focused on church growth want people in programs. Can those programs be good? Sure. However, the moment you start contending for revival don’t expect the strength, commitment or passion from the laborers to be there.
The pursuit of revival is a very narrow one. Revival churches aren’t called to meet every need. They are called to pray in the laborers, the remnant, to pray on fire and shake the city.
6. A quenched atmosphere
I want the prophetic spirit upon me or I want to die. ~A.W. Tozer
We live in a day when churches promote comfort and self-satisfaction. Coffee, personal ministry, blessing, programs and other lesser things are overshadowing the call to the cross. The alarm of the hour is not a welcome sound. Casual spirits are driving the culture. The problem? The message of the cross is not a casual message. The bottom line is this: A casual spirit will always reject a prophetic warning if it threatens their comfort. A prophetic spirit will always threaten something. ~The Coming Church
Above I mentioned how powerful it would be to shut down everything in the church for a season except for prayer. I asked this question on Facebook:
If your church cancelled everything for a year…cancelled children’s ministry, teaching, programs, pot lucks, small groups… and replaced those activities with prayer meetings, would you stay in your church?
One response rocked me. It encouraged me that the remnant is out there:
That’s when I’ll return to the church.
When we walk into the church we must be blown over by the unusual, overwhelming, otherworldly shocks of the Spirit of God. Simply, we need a powerfully prophetic atmosphere that causes everybody to respond by either running out the door or collapsing to their knees.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 (ESV)
A truly prophetic atmosphere will result in a never-ending charge in the room. People will be expressing themselves in many ways including cries of intercession, banners and flags flying, prophetic art, trances, encounters, repentance, dreams and visions and more. The goal isn’t the manifestation but rather avoiding restriction of Holy Spirit activity.
A prophetic atmosphere will repel the more naturally wired people, unless their hunger for God is greater than their resistance to him.
Revival churches absolutely must be driven prophetically in every service. We must hear the oracles from Heaven as we strategically advance day to day.
There is a rapidly increasing movement of people who are shutting their ears to any prophetic words that have any measure of alarm to them. The warnings are not wanted as they threaten the current structures of comfort and ease. These people are at risk of a catastrophe that will mercilessly hit them and those who have been influenced by their messages of peace and safety. There are true voices that must emerge and declare the word of the Lord in its pure form.
If we EVER temper a message in the pulpit, online or one-on one in the hopes of maintaining an audience, we’ve become a 2 Tim 4:3-4 false teacher.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 ~The Coming Church
Revival always includes the conviction of sin on the part of the Church. What a spell the devil seems to cast over the Church today! ~Billy Sunday
7. Teaching vs. apostolic instruction
Another shift we will see has to do with teaching. Teaching will be minimized while instruction is emphasized. Teaching is mostly for personal edification while instruction is mostly for corporate assignments. Today, most churches focus on teaching principles of Scripture, providing truths that will help believers navigate through their lives and on offering nuggets of biblical information. While there will still be important Bible teaching, apostolic instruction will emerge as a necessary new ministry.
The responsibility of prophetic leaders is to relay the messages of God and to instruct the people accordingly. Though teaching materials are in abundance, what is lacking is apostolic leaders, military commanders, who give instruction, assignments, to a ready army. Teaching is personal growth based while instruction is a call to corporate action for the sake of mission fulfillment.
It’s a corporate call to action vs. a simple biblical study. It’s mission focused vs. personal growth focused (though I can’t imagine a better way to grow personally than by being invested in a corporate mission!). Personal growth will be largely our responsibility between services so we can be ready to respond to the corporate instruction where we will receive our assignments. ~The Coming Church
When I was a youth pastor at a large church in the Dallas area, part of my job was to change out the marquee every week. The pastor’s sermon title for the upcoming Sunday was to be displayed for the many cars passing by on the busy road. It got to the point where I usually didn’t have to remove the two words of the previous week’s message: How to…
How to be an amazing parent, how to grow in God, how to prosper financially, how to walk in healing, etc.
Those topics are fine, but they represent teaching versus instruction. Teaching is showing someone how to fish. Instruction is telling them to go fishing.
Teachings are nuggets of truth that will help the people navigate their lives. However, I’m pretty certain if that large church of over 1200 people shifted to apostolic teaching unto revival, they would probably shrink to less than 100 people.
My instruction when leading churches in Michigan and Colorado was for everybody to arrive at every service full, not empty. I challenged them that it was their responsibility to grow aggressively, intentionally, through the week so they would be maturing, on fire and ready to move out into mission. When we gathered together, I had the freedom to share key dreams and visions, to prophetically reveal how we must pray and act in the current season, share warnings and national words to prepare people for what is coming.
for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:13-14 (ESV)
Those who refuse to mature and who really don’t care much about revival or national or regional prophetic revelation won’t want to connect in such a church. Growing a church this way is extremely difficult, but gathering a remnant is more powerful.
It was extremely common for people to arrive for prayer before the service and hear clear, specific revelation that I or other leaders received the night before. That would change the entire service as I’d preach from that place of prophetic activation and we’d pray and contend the rest of the night in our new direction.
That service would always be irrelevant to those who are simply showing up to gain some biblical insight (and especially those who didn’t arrive early for prayer). They would be disconnected. However, the revival minded would come alive and would be alert and ready to respond with great conviction.
8. Karaoke Worship
When in Colorado leading Revolution Church, I instructed our media team not to display the words to the worship songs on the screens for a season. I was grieved at how dependent on the screens people were as they simply sang along karaoke style to what was being sung on the platform. It was time for them to launch into a prophetic realm of worship and prayer!
In fact, we eliminated a worship team altogether in Detroit for a couple of years and filled the atmosphere with spontaneous, prophetic decrees, prayer and groans of worship. Music would sometimes play in the background, but we weren’t simply singing along from our soul. Our spirits were crying out!
Revival churches must facilitate an explosive, supernatural atmosphere, understanding that the high majority of people will not join such a thing.
As we become supernaturally changed in a place of extreme intercession, worship will change significantly. It will be supernaturally driven. There is a new sound coming to worship, and it’s not simply a new style. There is a supernatural, otherworldly groan of intercessory worship that will explode out of the entire body as a new breed of trembling worship leaders lead the way into the shock and awe of the glory of God. We will no longer simply sit in a pew or stand with a raised hand while a familiar worship song is sung. The prophetic, groaning sounds of Holy Spirit-facilitated worship will make it normal to shake and fall to our faces as we cry, “Holy!” The natural, logical sing-a-longs will be no more.
We will have a hard time standing as man’s karaoke gives way to God’s Shekinah and Kabod glory that takes up residence in his Church. Worship teams will practice less and pray in the Spirit with tears in their eyes more.
Today, along with most other expressions of church life, worship is at least slightly and sometimes extremely marginalized for the sake of the less adventurous attendee. Since most people tend to be adverse to more supernatural forms of worship, and many would leave if the atmosphere became too uncomfortable, the majority has been winning.
I’ve said it countless times, and have written before that I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. How is it that the naturally-minded majority has supplanted the supernatural remnant in the Church? How is it that burning, raging, intercessory worship that’s driven by the groans of the Spirit himself are not appreciated enough to risk losing people from our churches? For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:5-8 ~The Coming Church
9. The threat of regional focus
It was extremely important to me as a leader that everybody in the church was investing in the region. This means I wanted them to connect in other churches and ministries, to be ambassadors of revival and to become regionally unified. Growing a local church, to the contrary, focuses on having everybody in that church overly invested at that level, in the local setting. There’s no room for regional ministry.
In fact, even Spirit-filled, revival focused churches can easily become resisters when the pursuit of revival in a region threatens their own pursuits.
Pastors and leaders must have a clear vision not only for revival in the region, or only their personal part to play, but for the church of the city. How should everybody in the local army be investing in the regional mission? It’s important to not only encourage but also to lead people into regular regional events that are unto revival.
If we are trying to grow a large church, this becomes difficult because most people won’t share the passion for revival in the city. They want to come, grow personally and connect relationally to a spiritual family. But, when they are called into regional mission, they just won’t have the passion or energy for it.
The coming Church will be a regional Church, expressed on a city level. The local expressions will be important, but only as they are connected regionally. The regional Church will be important, but only as it is connected with God’s Kingdom government.
The coming Church will be a praying Church that understands its authority and responsibility in the region.
This is how the coming Church will function governmentally. As we focus on the region and the greater mission, we will be in step with God’s passion for the nations. Grace and favor will follow. Unusual interventions by God will become common. This is such an important point, especially with the state of today’s Church in mind. We no longer can sweat, bleed and burn out by trying to build our own local ministries. The vision absolutely must be a regional one as we give ourselves to true city unity, intercession for revival and Kingdom advance. This doesn’t mean all local churches will close (though many will), but it does mean that they will no longer be at the pinnacle of the priority list. Local church leaders will mostly give their attention to corporate advance regionally with the Church of the city instead of to local issues. ~The Coming Church
I’m sure I’ll receive emails from people who report that their church is large and contending for revival. I celebrate that! I’ve been to a few like that.
I would then have a few thoughts:
- Do they really understand the intensity of the new wineskin church that I reveal in The Coming Church?
- Is everybody in the church truly raging on fire in prayer and contending at an intense level toward revival or is there simply a great atmosphere and a focus on revival?
- This would be a remarkable exception and I absolutely want to visit! There are some brilliant, anointed leaders out there who can pull it off!
As I said, most churches that are truly revival churches will be quite small. 120 just might be a good goal! The majority will be less than 70 in number of soldiers in their local army.
Pastor, are you okay with such a shift in strategy? Trust me, 70 scalding hot warriors who can move mountains in faith filled prayer will do more for your city than two thousand moderates ever could.