Powerful strategies to eliminate templated, programmed church services
An Azusa Street report:
…disgraceful intermingling of the races…they cry and make howling noises all day and into the night. They run, jump, shake all over, shout to the top of their voice, spin around in circles, fall out on the sawdust blanketed floor jerking, kicking and rolling all over it. Some of them pass out and do not move for hours as though they were dead. These people appear to be mad, mentally deranged or under a spell. They claim to be filled with the spirit. They have a one eyed, illiterate, Negro as their preacher who stays on his knees much of the time with his head hidden between the wooden milk crates. He doesn't talk very much but at times he can be heard shouting, “Repent,” and he's supposed to be running the thing… They repeatedly sing the same song, “The Comforter Has Come.”
It’s becoming less common for Christians to jump out of bed on Sunday mornings, excited about heading to church. Of course, many do still love their church experience. The worship environment is powerful, the vision is alive and the part they play causes them to feel the fire of the Holy Spirit coursing through them. However, sadly, if we were honest, we’d have to admit that many church services are much less powerful, less anointed and less impacting than we’d like. In fact, a church that looks anything like what was described in the above Azusa Street report can hardly be found.
There is a way to fix that. The end result is an atmosphere that’s placed in the Holy Spirit’s control. I’ll tell you this, it’s impossible to be bored when God moves. Impossible. It can’t happen. It’s possible to be provoked, irritated, offended or troubled, but not bored or disconnected. What this means is that, in many churches, God isn’t moving in real power. It may be hard to admit that, but we must if we want to prepare for revival and an outpouring that will make us say, “I can never do church the way I used to again.”
An Azusa Street report:
All who are in touch with God realize as soon as they enter the meetings that the Holy Ghost is the leader.
SEVEN SURE-FIRE STRATEGIES TO END BORING, PREDICTIABLE CHURCH SERVICES
1. Lead in lengthy sessions of corporate praying and singing in tongues.
True Christian leaders will confidently, passionately and continually lead people in fervent and supernatural prayer. Lack of a powerful prayer emphasis on Sunday mornings is an indicator of a lack of a powerful prayer discipline throughout the week. When we are burning in intercession throughout the week, there is an explosion that simply must come on Sunday mornings and any other time the saints meet together.
Nurturing an atmosphere where everybody is praying in tongues and singing in the Spirit simply cannot disappoint. How easy would it be, in the midst of worship, to spend fifteen or twenty minutes pacing around the room, laying out at the altar or finding a place to pray in tongues with a zealous spirit? I recommend integrating this into every church service, understanding that the wind of the Holy Spirit may blow the program for the rest of the day well of course.
In fact, it would be valuable to bring the worship team down off the platform on occasion during this part of the service so they can be free to let the groans and cries of their heart out. Often, worship team members find a comfort spot behind their instrument or microphone. You’d be sadly surprised at how many people who have been entrusted to lead us into the Holy of Holies don’t operate from a burning, overwhelming spirit of prayer.
6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. Acts 19:6 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
Singing was sporadic and in a cappella or occasionally there would be singing in tongues. There were periods of extended silence. Attenders were occasionally slain in the Spirit.
2. Embrace a vibrant prophetic culture. Invite people to submit prophetic words during the service.
In order to stay right on track with the order of service and to ensure the focus of the day isn’t threatened, definitely do not promote a prophetic culture! Unfortunately, too many pastors have embraced that advice by eliminating or rejecting prophetic ministry on Sundays.
I’ve always believed one of the best ways to promote an absolutely electric church service is by allowing God to speak. When people are trained in the prophetic and are also given an outlet to reveal what God is desiring to communicate through them, the supernatural energy in the room spikes. I often wonder how many sermons have been delivered and how many church services have been conducted in such a way that God’s plan for the day was entirely missed.
As we effectively equip people in prophetic ministry, and facilitate an environment that affirms and promotes prophetic expression, God will blow through the saints and the atmosphere will shake under the weight of God’s Rhema word.
1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:1 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
…devotees of the weird doctrine practice the most fanatical rites, preach the wildest theories and work themselves into a state of mad excitement in their peculiar zeal. Colored people and a sprinkling of whites compose the congregation, and night is made hideous in the neighborhood by the howlings of the worshippers, who spend hours swaying forth and back in a nerve racking attitude of prayer and supplication.
3. Have open mic intercession. Invite people to pray 10-15 second prayers, to make decrees and to stir the atmosphere.
Praying in tongues corporately will naturally lead to some incredibly potent revelation stirring within the people. I believe it’s extremely valuable to invite people, in that Holy Spirit infused moment, to release that in the form of short prayers and decrees.
Simply open the microphone and watch the line grow as hungry, passionate saints of God prepare to lead the people in intercession, one after the other. Imagine twenty or thirty people or more shocking the atmosphere with Holy Spirit driven decrees! Not only is it powerful corporately, but it also empowers people individually to take ownership of what God is doing within. As they all respond to the impact of the Holy Spirit, they become stronger and the service will definitely be marked with fire.
15 The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. Psalm 34:15 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
There was spontaneous preaching and altar calls for salvation, sanctification and baptism of the Holy Spirit.
4. Invite people to make biblical declarations.
At another point during the service, open the microphone again. Invite people to release biblical declarations. The Word of God is alive, and when that sharp sword pierces the atmosphere as people read it and then call everyone to come into agreement with it, it will result in supernatural shockwaves.
5 Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore. Psalm 93:5 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
…in most services preaching consisted of Seymour opening a Bible and worshippers coming forward to preach or testify as they were led by the Holy Spirit.
5. Promote prophetic art, flagging, dance and other expressions during the service.
It’s disappointing that prophetic expression such as art, dance and flagging are almost extinct in the church today. I suggest we allow the dancers to dance! There’s serious prophetic power when anointed people flag, paint, dance and contend in the Spirit.
Put up the easels and allow the artists to draw or paint. Provide whiteboards for people to write down prophetic words anytime during the service. Celebrate the dance and encourage the flaggers. God has given them important gifts and it’s a mistake to shut them out.
I know many pastors would argue that they can be undisciplined. They might steal attention as they exhibit their gifting during the service. My question would be, what have you done to guide and equip them? Have you invested in them by training in protocols and equipping in prophetic ministry? If not, you can’t blame them if they don’t know exactly how to respond when their God-given desire to function in ministry is stirring within.
20 Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. Exodus 15:20 (ESV)
6. Have prayer for deliverance, healing and freedom.
When’s the last time you saw someone vomit at the altar? Yeah, I know, that’s a funny question. I personally don’t prefer to clean up the mess! (I love that some pro-deliverance churches have “bucket brigades!”) The point is valid, however. When is the last time deliverance has happened on a Sunday morning?
The weight of God’s glory should be so intense that demons easily manifest and deliverance commences right there at the altar. I’ve had demons react in some intense ways in services I’ve been in. It’s actually a thrilling adventure, not something to be shut down for the sake of keeping nice, quiet and sanitized order. When we know who we are and the authority we walk in, deliverance is something we should all get excited about.
As we contend for deliverance, healing and freedom on Sunday mornings, the order of service will often have to be violated. I’d personally rather see people free than hear the prepared sermon or get out of the service on time.
17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; Mark 16:17 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
Among first-hand accounts were reports of the blind having their sight restored, diseases cured instantly.
7. Expect manifestations of the Holy Spirit and don't shut them down when comfort levels are threatened.
How is it we can worship God, preach about God and gather together because of God but shut God out when he starts to interact in a supernatural way? Manifestations of the Holy Spirit should be expected. If God’s not moving, something is wrong!
I remember a meeting many years ago where God was moving in extremely intense power. People were absolutely rocked. God was touching people for at least two hours before the preaching even began. When the preacher was bringing the message, one lady was laughing and crying, under the power of the Holy Spirit. Some in attendance kept looking her way as God ministered to her. The preacher became agitated and said something like, “Can you not hear me? Should I have the sound crew turn my mic up? Pay attention. Do you really want me to shut down God’s ministry to that lady just because you can’t stay focused?”
That was a powerful moment indeed. One I’ve remembered for over two decades.
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; Acts 2:17 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
Soon the crowds became very large and were full of people speaking in tongues, shouting, singing and moaning. Many people would continually shout throughout the meetings. Finally, the front porch collapsed, forcing the group to begin looking for a new meeting place. They shouted three days and three nights. It was Easter season. The people came from everywhere. By the next morning there was no way of getting near the house. As people came in they would fall under God's power; and the whole city was stirred. They shouted until the foundation of the house gave way, but no one was hurt.
The attendees were often described as “Holy Rollers“, “Holy Jumpers”, “Tangled Tonguers” and “Holy Ghosters”. Reports were published throughout the U.S. and the world of the strange happenings in Los Angeles.
CHURCH SHOULD NEVER BE BORING
While I’m not at all proposing that church should entertain us, I am saying that it’s just not possible to be bored in an environment where the Holy Spirit is moving, touching, engaging, healing, delivering, wrecking and encountering the people.
I’d challenge every pastor to initiate all seven of these strategies. The result will be a church on fire that draws in a hungry, passionate remnant that is ready to release the oracles of God…and shake the nations.
An Azusa Street report:
Christians from many traditions were critical, saying the movement was hyper-emotional, misused Scripture and lost focus on Christ by overemphasizing the Holy Spirit. Within a short time ministers were warning their congregations to stay away from the Azusa Street Mission.
Proud, well-dressed preachers came to “investigate”. Soon their high looks were replaced with wonder, then conviction comes, and very often you will find them in a short time wallowing on the dirty floor, asking God to forgive them and make them as little children.
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.
The condition in our nation is so weighty that we must awaken ‘groaning intercessors’ who contend together for revival in the church.
Throughout scripture we see groans preceding a great deliverance—and this deep groan of the Spirit must erupt in our churches and in our cities now. The days of quiet, sedate church services built upon human order must come to an end—Sunday mornings must resound with a prophetic shock and a new sound of trembling people exploding in groans of the Spirit.
Acts 7:34 (ESV) I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them.
Romans 8:22-26 (ESV) 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
I've been privileged to give leadership to some events where intercessors and hungry people have shaken and shocked atmospheres. The loud, erupting sound of groans have been resounding in our meetings. It’s been prophesied many times that a new sound is going to be released. A new tone. I am convinced that this is not a new musical style, but rather it is a new groan of the Spirit. It’s the tone of the groan that will be heard around the world.
One of the most misapplied scriptures is Romans 8:28. When people are struggling, it’s common to share this verse with them. It’s actually pretty bad counsel if we don’t let them know that this verse is dependent on the preceding verses. Romans 8:28 starts with the word “And,” which should reveal that it’s connected to what came before it:
Romans 8:26-28 (ESV) 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Things work together for good WHEN we allow the Holy Spirit to intercede through us with groans! No groan, no guarantee of success.
This is talking about a literal groan. Just like praying in tongues requires a literal sound to come out of our mouths, the groans are also deep, zealous sounds…tones…emitted from the depths of our inner man.
Churches must begin to become prayer and groan driven! The sound will break strongholds and usher in deliverance into our nation.
Yes, it will make a lot of people uncomfortable…but the Holy Spirit will be radically comfortable.
When the groans begin, Romans 8:28 initiates. As the powerful mysteries of God are exploding out of us in prayer, we easily find ourselves loving God with deep intimacy. We embrace the calling that’s on our lives. We have a resounding yes in our spirits even though we don’t know logically what we are agreeing with! In fact, bypassing our logic and intellect through groans of intercession is a primary reason WHY we are in agreement with God!
Our minds can’t understand what’s being prayed, and therefore can’t come into disagreement with it!
PRAYING IN TONGUES: THE SOLUTION FOR DEAD PRAYER MEETINGS
I don’t know that you can really have a dead prayer meeting if people are erupting in tongues!
Honestly, it’s difficult to understand why so many Charismatic churches minimize tongues in their meetings. It makes no sense whatsoever!
We need Azusa-level reports to shoot around the planet as we explode in supernatural cries!
In a skeptical front-page story titled “Weird Babel of Tongues”, a Los Angeles Times reporter attempted to describe what would soon be known as the Azusa Street Revival. “Breathing strange utterances and mouthing a creed which it would seem no sane mortal could understand”, the story began, “the newest religious sect has started in Los Angeles”. Another local paper reporter in September 1906 described the happenings with the following words:
…disgraceful intermingling of the races…they cry and make howling noises all day and into the night. They run, jump, shake all over, shout to the top of their voice, spin around in circles, fall out on the sawdust blanketed floor jerking, kicking and rolling all over it. Some of them pass out and do not move for hours as though they were dead. These people appear to be mad, mentally deranged or under a spell. They claim to be filled with the spirit. They have a one eyed, illiterate, Negro as their preacher who stays on his knees much of the time with his head hidden between the wooden milk crates. He doesn't talk very much but at times he can be heard shouting, ‘Repent,' and he's supposed to be running the thing… They repeatedly sing the same song, ‘The Comforter Has Come.'
The Comforter has come! Oh, for a movement where the testimony of our heart was simply that! The Comforter is here! He is blowing in and through us and there is absolutely no denying his love and power!
Now think of a typical American prayer meeting. I know, I don’t want to attend either!
We must see the tone of the groan return to the church again! Oh, and a supposed “disgraceful intermingling of the races” would do wonders for the a movement of unity and revival too, don’t you think? We could fix dry and dusty prayer meetings along with the current racial turmoil in the land at the same time!
I often propose to churches, and model it often in our own ministry, to pray for one or two hours straight in nothing but tongues. No English. No petition. No prayer requests. No worship. Nothing but tongues, nonstop, for hours. Prayer meetings, Sunday meetings and every other meeting would begin to radiate brightly and new life would come to the church almost overnight.
TONGUE DRIVEN PRAYER MOVEMENTS
I’ve seen two powerful prayer movements impact two cities, Colorado Springs and Detroit.
Every Friday night our team of local zealots would be invited into a different local church in the city. We’d pray, without ceasing, for two hours in tongues. In all, we prayed in over 170 total churches between the two cities.
We had one foundational rule: tongues would never be sacrificed or minimized for anything, including unity. How could true unity reign if we ask the Holy Spirit to wait outside the door?
It was always tempting, because of our love for pastors and people from all Christian streams, to remove the tongues requirement. That would gain us entrance to hundreds of additional churches that didn’t embrace the gifts of the Spirit. I was always resolute, however. I knew the movement would die when tongues ceased.
I simply don’t believe prayer is sufficiently powerful without the burning of the Holy Spirit. We need tongues of fire that scorch atmospheres.
I’m believing for new movements of prayer that result in churches being baptized afresh in the fire and power of the Holy Spirit.
I don’t know about you, but I am craving revival in the church of our nation, and we can be sure that all things will absolutely work together for good in America if the church begins groaning in the Spirit. Time is short, open your mouth and let the fire of the Holy Spirit rage through you in an other worldly language. That supernatural cry will have a sound that shakes atmospheres and brings life to the dead. You absolutely have a unique tone. It’s the tone of the groan.
Then when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at his feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the Spirit and was troubled … Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lie against it … now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” And he who had died came out …” John 11:32-44
It’s common for the Holy Spirit to be asked to “sit this one out” as attempts at unity are made.
I have wrestled with this topic for years . It has troubled me considerably. I’ve held off writing on it for a long time to ensure I do my very best to communicate the issue as purely and precisely as I can. I believe now is the time to hit this head on, even though some will still misunderstand or completely disagree.
It’s extremely important to me that you grasp just how much I value people who are devoted to Christ, deep in the Word and living a life of integrity—whether they embrace the gifts of the Spirit or not. There are some absolutely amazing, humble, servant-hearted Christians out there who touch my heart deeply. Many of them are brilliant leaders who are models of both passion and compassion for the people on God’s heart. I look up to them and desire to emulate their lives.
I know others have the same testimony—they have been blessed powerfully by such people. It’s for this reason that gifts of the Spirit have been willingly minimized by some for the sake of unity.
Again, I highly value unity, and I do embrace unifying around the cross of Christ as opposed to dividing away on other lesser theological issues. It’s clearly true that anybody who is a legitimate believer in Jesus Christ should be embraced as a brother or sister. Unity, fellowship and love should be pursued and guarded.
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. John 17:20-21 (ESV)
Additionally, I don’t presume those who function in the gifts of the Spirit to be better, more precious to Jesus or elite. The accusation does come at times that practitioners of the gifts presume themselves to be more spiritual. We better not think highly of ourselves, lest we fall!
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Romans 12:3 (ESV)
Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 1 Corinthians 10:12 (ESV)
I hope this helps you peer into my heart a little bit. I endeavor to be humble, teachable and full of honor for everyone Jesus shed his precious blood for!
This being said, I do believe we have underestimated the necessity of the Holy Spirit and His gifts—to the detriment of true, biblical unity and to Kingdom advance.
Mark records the final words of Jesus before he left the earth to be:
17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:17-18 (ESV)
MINIMIZING THE ACTIVITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
I understand there are many Christians who do not agree theologically with the practice of the gifts of the Spirit. I also understand that unity with a greater number of Christians would, by default, require that we minimize the activity of the Holy Spirit in our combined events.
This is where we can stumble into trouble. This is where a reformation must come if we hope to have the necessary power to fulfill a humanly impossible mission. Holy Spirit power must be non-negotiable.
Isn't it interesting that the Holy Spirit is called the Comforter, yet He makes so many Christians uncomfortable?
I saw something on a church website that disturbed me. What I read sounds good, and a lot of churches and ministries are adopting this philosophy, but that's all it is—a philosophy. I believe it's extremely dangerous. We simply cannot reject the activity of the Holy Spirit in the hopes that unity results. Here’s what was posted:
Those who claim to possess the gift of tongues and other sign gifts are welcome to worship and fellowship with us if they are willing to be a source of unity rather than division within our church body. UNNAMED CHURCH seeks to prevent the propagation of doctrines that would cause divisions within an individual church. Therefore, members of and adherents of UNNAMED CHURCH are not to propagate the teachings and emphases of the current charismatic movement.
Before you presume me to be naïve, you need to know that I fully grasp that the above church is not what we would consider to be Spirit-filled, and that they are attempting to take a healthy position in the name of unity. However, consider that many, many Spirit-filled churches today are also minimizing the activity of the Holy Spirit in the hopes that they can attract, and not offend, visitors. It’s extremely common for the Holy Spirit to be dismissed for the Sunday morning service while inviting him back into HIS house for the Sunday evening service.
I have always, unapologetically, declared to those in churches I was giving leadership to that I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry.
How could we ever presume that less supernatural, less spiritual methods that are driven by our human spirit and human wisdom could have more impact with visitors and others than the Holy Spirit? It is nonsensical.
The manifestation of the Holy Spirit is absolutely necessary if we hope to experience the power required to see lives transformed.
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (ESV)
While we can be unified in love as brothers and sisters while disagreeing about the activity of the Holy Spirit, I firmly believe it’s time that we as Spirit-filled believers humbly admit that we cannot accomplish much of anything without the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The activation of the gifts of the Spirit is mandatory. The level of power in the church today is embarrassingly low. We can’t use unity as an excuse to keep the Holy Spirit on the bench any longer. It’s His time to shine.
The above passage of Scripture reveals that the gifts of the Spirit are for the common good. That sounds like unity to me. It also says that God empowers these gifts in us. This is for the sake of the fulfillment of ministry.
When the Holy Spirit was given in that Upper Room, two specific manifestations were imparted into the people who were baptized in fire:
- Boldness: And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:31 (ESV)
- Power: But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (ESV)
The church must not only experience boldness and power, but we must be fueled by it in every moment, every service, every event. This is what was happening at Brownsville Assembly of God:
All told, more than 2.5 million people have visited the church's Wednesday-through-Saturday evening revival services, where they sang rousing worship music and heard old-fashioned sermons on sin and salvation. After the sermons were over, hundreds of thousands accepted the invitation to leave their seats and rush forward to a large area in front of the stage-like altar. Here, they “get right with God.” . . . Untold thousands have hit the carpet, where they either writhe in ecstasy or lie stone-still in a state resembling a coma, sometimes remaining flat on the floor for hours at a time. Some participants call the experience being “slain in the Spirit.” Others simply refer to receiving the touch of God. Regardless of what they call it, these people are putting the “roll” back in “holy roller.”— Steve Rabey
I believe we must see the manifestation of the Holy Spirit increase to a radical degree—enough that we have the supernatural power necessary to succeed. We need an outpouring like Brownsville to become normal in our churches again.
This means those who don’t embrace the gifts will have a decision to make. Understand this very clearly: we must never divide away from anyone who names the name of Christ, and who is living according to the Word of God. However, if others refuse to participate because the gifts are in play, they are the ones causing disunity. They are making the choice to pull away. It’s on them.
If we shut the gifts down, we are communicating that we are more interested in people being in attendance than the Holy Spirit, or at least, we want people to give leadership and determine what the Holy Spirit is allowed to do. This mindset should terrify us.
When I hold prayer events, praying in tongues is a constant. I absolutely love it when those who have yet to experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit join in with us. Honestly, that is one of my favorite times in prayer—when those who don’t pray in tongues refuse to allow that to get in the way.
Sadly, there are also those who refuse to attend such gatherings. It’s their decision, not mine.
But, let it be known: I will always choose the attendance of the Holy Spirit ahead of people. I will always allow the Holy Spirit to manifest the way he chooses, even if it upsets people. I will never offend the Spirit of God, even if that offends people.
I am smart enough to know that the goal of any corporate meeting is absolutely impossible without the power of the Holy Spirit raging throughout.
The manifestation of the Holy Spirit can’t be limited to times of prayer and worship. We need anointed men and women of God to preach with such power that entire rooms are filled with fire! Our church services much change, and fast!
While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. Acts 10:44 (ESV)
It’s time we see the temperature of Holy Spirit activity shoot so high the thermometer explodes. We need to have meetings that are so full of God’s presence that people have to crawl through the door! It’s time for a shaking, quaking, Spirit-filled environment of eruptions in prayer every Sunday morning (and every other day of the week)!
Doing ministry any other way just won’t work. It will accomplish some things, sure, but the goal we have been given requires power, boldness, signs, wonders, miracles and a lifestyle of burning, Spirit-driven intercession and worship. It’s time we actually become okay with scaring the visitors with the tangible, fearful movement of God in our services! They may actually hit their knees and cry out in repentance instead of sitting quietly filling out a visitor card. Maybe the greeter’s handshake in such an environment might actually impart something:
Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Acts 8:17 (ESV)
We can’t keep the Holy Spirit on the bench. We can no longer choose when or how he manifests. Do we want revival or not? Try to imagine revival without a supernatural atmosphere. You can’t. It doesn’t exist.
A newspaper report on the Asuza Revival:
..disgraceful intermingling of the races…they cry and make howling noises all day and into the night. They run, jump, shake all over, shout to the top of their voice, spin around in circles, fall out on the sawdust blanketed floor jerking, kicking and rolling all over it. Some of them pass out and do not move for hours as though they were dead. These people appear to be mad, mentally deranged or under a spell. They claim to be filled with the spirit. They have a one eyed, illiterate, Negro as their preacher who stays on his knees much of the time with his head hidden between the wooden milk crates. He doesn't talk very much but at times he can be heard shouting, ‘Repent,' and he's supposed to be running the thing… They repeatedly sing the same song, ‘The Comforter Has Come.'
Are you ready for the Comforter to come?
$1.99 Operation Babel: A Nine Point Strategy to Address Homosexuality in our Culture
During a time of prayer, God opened up a powerful strategy to disrupt the momentum of the homosexual agenda to me, and a successful campaign will result in innumerable people set free in Jesus!
We've heard it often-love the sinner, hate the sin. Is this really the limit of our wisdom? Is there truly nothing beyond that simple thought that can result in true liberty?
I'm sure the LGBT community is sick, bored and tired of that defense-and I am too.
It offers no real strategic plan of action and it reveals that we have exhausted our arguments. After loving the sinner and hating the sin, where does that leave us? What do we do? What happens with the aggressive growth of the homosexual movement that is leaving people devastated?
That statement, love the sinner and hate the sin, really needs to be retired.
In fact, it was made famous by someone who wasn't even a believer in Jesus:
Hate the sin and love the sinner. ~Mahatma Gandhi
As I was considering this current cultural crisis in prayer, God suddenly and powerfully revealed a clear, easy to understand strategy that will, without question, stop the fast moving gay agenda in its tracks-if we stay the course.
The church just has to make it happen. Spoiler alert: We have to pray, in unity, with one language, in the Holy Spirit.