Done with church, done with Christianity?
Christians all over the world, including people I know, and probably others you know as well, are abandoning Christianity. They are fed up with God, or at least the way he’s represented. In reality, their anger–which is often quite explosive–is directed at people, usually church leaders. They are deconstructing and they aren’t hiding it. Many are loud and proud with their new found anti-faith.
Another sizable group wouldn’t admit to full-blown deconstruction. They are, however, equally loud and proud when announcing they have joined the leaderless cult called the “dones.” They are done with church, and just like those who are deconstructing, the prime motive is due to disappointing leadership and unfulfilling church experiences.
All who deconstruct are “dones” but not all “dones” have fully deconstructed. These two movements are uniquely related, however.
PASTORS, LISTEN UP
Being deconstructed or done isn’t an option and I implore those who have done so, or who are considering undergoing this faith-change operation in their lives, to fearfully reconsider. This decision is eternity crushing.
That being said, I absolutely understand some of the reasons people are frustrated enough to abandon the church.
Much of it is due to false expectations. People become jaded and disillusioned when leaders fail, when they feel rejected or when the church experience isn’t what they hoped for. However, we can’t abandon God or his glorious church due to this. I’ve had a front row seat to multiple national leaders dramatically and very publicly falling. It’s heartbreaking, but it cannot negatively affect our zealous love for God or his church.
While dealing with false expectations is the responsibility of the people, there is a good measure of responsibility that pastors have as well. Both need to do better.
Here are the bullet points from an article I wrote addressing this topic specifically:
Pastors, they are yearning for more. They can’t handle another perfectly crafted, wonderfully produced, humanly orchestrated mess with just a sprinkle of supernatural flavor for good measure. They are done.
Specifically, I believe the remnant is fed up with a few things that should be fixed, like yesterday.
Fear of man
Tired order of service
No revival emphasis
The prophetic is minimized
Focus on church growth
No supernatural activity
Restrictive and controlling leadership
No legitimate vision
Misplaced emphasis on worship
You can read that article in its entirety here.
DECONSTRUCTED OR CORRUPTED?
Let’s start with those who are deconstructing. I’m perplexed by the radical religious shift of friends and acquaintances who were previously burning white hot for Jesus. My brain explodes when considering the possibility that people who were sharply prophetic, invested in fervent and powerful intercession and devoted radically to the truth of Scripture could end up fading away. Yet, it’s happening. Over and over again.
Understand, I’m not talking about typical church goers. I’m referring to people who were transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Their every waking moment was consumed by a passionate love for Jesus. They were continually provoked to awaken the sleepers and sound the alarm. These were end-time messengers who had a powerful anointing and a critical call on their lives.
Now they are done. Deconstructing. Fading.
Of course, many would retort that they aren’t done with God. They are deconstructing from what they’ve know as Christianity, and more specifically, the expression of it.
The danger is very real, however. When we get fed up with the way God’s leaders are leading or the direction the movement is headed, a golden calf is most often the result. While Moses, an imperfect man, was literally meeting with God in one of history’s most critical moments, the people decided they had had enough. They didn’t give up on God, per se, but they had given up on Moses’ version of God.
“When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”” (Exodus 32:1, ESV)
So, what did they do? They deconstructed and redefined God to fit their personal desires.
“When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” (Exodus 32:5–6, ESV)
They decided to focus on self and the experience that’s more authentic, more trustworthy and more sensical to them. They planned a feast to the Lord, but it was the lord of self, the lord of Egypt and the lord of deconstruction.
Then God said this to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.” (Exodus 32:7, ESV)
This is what we are seeing today. Previously liberated people have had enough and, as a result, they have corrupted themselves.
TRADING “ORGANIZED RELIGION” FOR ORGANIC, RELATIONAL EXPERIENCES
One of the dones was interviewed by churchleaders.com and admitted, “I’m tired of being lectured to. I’m just done with having some guy tell me what to do.”
This is a prevailing complaint among those who have given up on church as we know it. Their idea of a New Testament church gathering looks more like an unmoderated circle of discussion and equalized interaction as opposed to primary leadership flowing through a single individual.
The problem? The church we see in Scripture is clearly led by God through specific individuals. We are supposed to be “lectured to and told what to do.” It’s called preaching. If it’s anointed, we should crave it and hate when it ends!
Five-fold leadership is non-negotiable. The church is less organic than many would like to believe. It’s strategic, militaristic and advancing. Like it or not, there’s rank and order. God calls individuals to gather holy soldiers to penetrate the darkness through intercession and Kingdom advance.
While there are healthy house churches, and we are sure to see biblically validated small and house churches explode on the scene, there’s a lot of wrong information on what is in fact biblical.
Many complain about the “institutional church” as restrictive. They expect to have a role in the service, as if that’s the ultimate platform for the expression of ministry. It’s not. Most minister outside of the church. A few minister within.
SHOULD EVERYONE BE ALLOWED TO ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE AS THEY DESIRE IN A CHURCH SERVICE?
A LEADERLESS MOVEMENT IS NOT BIBLICAL
THE RIGHT RESPONSE
STRATEGIC TEACHING DIAGRAM
Spiritual health demands that we are deliberate in focusing on three specific, strategic areas in our life: Known threats, unknown threats and our authentic identity in Christ.
- KNOWN THREATS include truths that we are fully aware of, but have failed to respond rightly to. This may include habitual sin, calls to consecration that go unmet, partial or full disobedience to Scripture or anything else that we know we should do (or not do).
- UNKNOWN THREATS often demand extra emphasis due to the fact that people are fully or mostly unaware. Teaching that results in revelation (the light bulb turning on) is critical if we are to live in victory. Unknown threats are different for everybody and can be quite diverse. The fact that they are unknown makes the threat, whether it’s to a victorious life or to our salvation, quite dangerous.
- AUTHENTIC IDENTITY is simply who we are in Christ because of what Christ did for us. Many don’t understand their authority, God’s love for them, their position in Christ or many other truths that relate to our born-again identity.
The diagram also highlights relationships between focuses:
- Known Threats + Authentic Identity: If we fail to grow in our identity in Christ while also refusing to deal with known threats in our lives, our identity becomes compromised. We can’t live according to our new nature because the old nature hasn’t been crucified.
- Authentic Identity + Unknown Threats: If we fail to grow in our identity in Christ while also not examining the unknown threats, confusion enters in. We can’t understand why we aren’t victorious, free, at peace, strong and living a supernatural life.
- Known Threats + Unknown Threats: If we fail to deal with both known and unknown threats, we are in great danger indeed. Our very salvation is at risk as we refuse to live consecrated lives or allow the Spirit of God to search our hearts.
A healthy spiritual life comes when we deal with all three areas. It’s important for pastors and ministers to deal with all three as well, though it won’t often be in equal measure.
In addition to a minister’s specific office, gift mix and vision which can dictate emphasis, the season the ministry is in will determine which focus is most timely and important to deal with.
We should all be reading books, listening to sermons and studying Scripture from the vantage point of all three perspectives. Majoring in one while neglecting another will result in delay or negative progress, or worse.
Spirit-filled churches are increasingly falling into the trap of becoming a "typical church."
I've given leadership to revival-style churches and ministries for decades. It's grieving how few Spirit-filled churches are truly taking people unapologetically into the depths of surrender to Jesus. Instead, the preference is to grow wide and shallow in the hopes that the seats stay full, the money keeps coming in and the programs are staffed.
Of course, the majority of churches, Charismatic included, aren't pretending to be concerned about revival at all. The pursuit of a wild-fire, other-worldly, supernatural habitation of the Spirit of God never even comes to mind.
The cost is too high. The chances are too slim.
To most, it's not worth it.
The truth is, revival churches don't see dramatic impact, big crowds and overwhelming wonders in the early stages. The wells of revival must be dug. The hours of prayer must be invested. Repentance, consecration and a radical devotion of time must be constant. Few are willing to buy in at this level, and pastors know it.
The preferred church growth method is to create a "healthy, vibrant" atmosphere that's focused on meeting needs and fulfilling expectations. The shock and awe of God's glory is traded for a more naturally familiar environment that's sprinkled with some worship, teaching and fellowship. Nothing too deep, expensive or disruptive.
Of course, not every church has descended into what I'm calling a typical church. And, not every church will have done so on every point. Some are hanging strong in some areas while slipping on others.
And, it should also be said that legitimate revival churches can fail on some points that typical churches are stronger in. However, I do believe the comparison is generally valid.
What follows are some differences between typical churches and revival churches in graphic form. I'll keep adding points as they come. Share one or all, or this entire article.
Let's contend for authentic revival in the cities of the earth!
What are some key differences between typical churches and revival churches?
Are you part of a NEW WINE ARMY that is DONE with church as usual?
I wrote this several years ago as a traveling preacher. My viewpoint has not changed now that I have planted a new church in Branson, Missouri:
I know I carry a critical message in this end time season. There is a desperate need for awakening and activation, and I desire to be a part of that.However, I have no desire to leave my family and travel to various churches if those churches aren’t ready for the deposit I’m called to leave.
I’m done with nice Sunday services where the people resist the depths, are reluctant to contend and are more interested in getting out on time. I’m done.Pastors, train your people to groan in the Spirit. Turn Sundays into prayer meetings. Blaze the trail toward revival.A quick, one hour sermon just won’t cut it. A little worship and a nice prayer is laughable. Cultivate services where people never want to leave! Where are the revivalists? The intercessors?Church as usual is over and I have no desire to come to your church to preach if you are still trying to build an old wine skin.
Where is my tribe? Where are the burning ones? I’m ready to find those pillars of revival fire and contend together for an outpouring.
Church as usual is coming to an end—and prophetic churches must emerge to fill the void.
Among them are people who are bellowing out that they are “DONE with church as usual,” but, for some strange reason, refuse to shift into the new.
The firebrands are few who are truly willing to break out of the old wine skin and enlist as soldiers who are absolutely reliant on the new wine of the Holy Spirit. This is a rare breed, indeed.
“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, ESV)
An Old Testament experience with the power of God should cause all of us New Covenant Believers to be troubled. Why isn’t God moving like that in our church?
The supernatural activity of the Holy Spirit today should absolutely blow away the encounters prior to the cross and resurrection of Christ and the Acts 2 awakening. Yet, here we are, struggling to break out of typical, familiar, comfortable and tired church life.
For decades, I’ve been looking for pavement people. Hungry, desperate Christians who are no longer looking for personal comfort in their church experience, but rather are ready to pay whatever price is necessary to see God manifest in overwhelming power.
To them, church as usual is dead. The old wineskin will no longer suffice. It can’t. The new wine they are yearning for demands an entire new model and they refuse to live another day bound up in the old.
Pavement people, as we saw in 2 Chronicles 7, weren’t interested in anything but the glory of God. God’s glory filled the house so powerfully that nobody could enter. That didn’t stop these fiery zealots. They hit the pavement and declared the goodness of God.
Literally nothing else mattered. They didn’t demand a certain order of service. They couldn’t care less about comfortable seats. They weren’t looking for friends or position or promotion. Air conditioning, greeters, programs, child care, predictable services and most everything else does not matter to these end-time, new wine warriors.
They want God.
A NEW WINE CHURCH EXPERIENCE
Pavement people have no patience for church experiences that aren’t fueled by deep, continual intercession. The glory of God has no comparison. The pursuit of wide-spread revival is the goal that causes them to burn white hot. Their devotion results in many sleepless nights as they weep over their city and cry out for the Holy Spirit to move.
When intercession and glory become the driving pursuits of people craving the wildfire of the Spirit of God, very little else becomes necessary in the church experience. In fact, they are so sensitive to the mission that they refuse to embrace anything that threatens the primary purposes of the new wine church.
As an example, at Revival X in Branson, Missouri, we are intentionally staying laser focused. This means we currently have no need to implement many things that are expected in old wine skin churches.
Live worship, children’s ministry, youth ministry, small groups, etc. aren’t currently important in the church plant. What is? Prayer. Intercession. Glory. Fire. Equipping. Deliverance.
Will we implement some of this in time? Possibly. Probably. Eventually. It must be done with great care so as not to distract from the primary purpose of the church. Additions will only come as they reinforce, support and give strength to intercession and revival.
The call is for all to pray as wild men and women, consumed with the fire of the Holy Spirit, allowing dreams, visions and a strong prophetic spirit to emerge. We must be trained in the fire, by the Fire, the Holy Spirit.
If you are “done with church as usual,” then get risky. Get out of the boat. Quit expecting “needs” of old to be met. Break out of old patterns and systems.
Don’t expect the new wine church to look anything like the old. The programs and purposes are going to shift dramatically. You will have to go deep in the Spirit, deep in intercession and develop a radically consecrated, holy, on-fire life of surrender. Literally nothing else will matter in comparison with your pursuit of God and revival.
A key reason pastors don’t steer their churches in this direction of Spirit-driven, prayer-fueled, revival-focused and risky ministry is they know few will respond positively.
What would happen if your pastor suddenly cancelled everything they do except for prayer and equipping?
What if they eliminated live worship and let the worship team get renewed in prayer for a year?
What would you do if there was no longer children’s ministry or youth ministry?
What about eliminating programs and ministries that you feel are extremely important?
How would you handle the shift? Would you take on your call to pray without ceasing? Would you go deep? Would you become the revivalist you were born to be?
Or would you complain, gossip, get frustrated, question leadership and look for a new, comfortable, old wine skin church?
I pray you’d accept nothing but the new wine. You’d be part of a very rare, special, end-time, remnant army that the world is waiting for.
The Coming Church will look nothing like the church we know today. Here are some of the significant changes on the horizon.
Over the last 22+ years of ministry, one of the most difficult challenges I’ve faced has been effectively communicating just what changes are coming to the church.
The current church paradigm is so prevalent and saturating in our culture that people just can’t seem to wrap their minds around the shift that is coming. It seems nonsensical, threatening or just plain bizarre. They wonder how their ministry stream or focus or gift fits in that structure. The reality is that it may not, or it may be radically redefined. The discomfort level will be quite high, and it will take a radical remnant to truly sign up for the reformation—for the revolution of the church.
The disciples of Jesus had an idea of what it would look like in Acts 1, but Jesus radically violated their dreams, plans and comfort zones by leaving—and commissioning them to establish what they hoped Jesus would build!
Acts 1:6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, jwill you at this time krestore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, l“It is not for you to know mtimes or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive npower owhen the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and pyou will be qmy witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and rSamaria, and sto the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, the was lifted up, and ua cloud took him out of their sight.
The Coming Church
This book that I’m currently writing will be addressing some of the spiritual and practical changes that will be coming to the structure and expression of the church. Trust me, it will shock our nation severely. Those who hold on to a structure or a ministry instead of Jesus himself will not be willing to go where God is leading.
I call this the ancient and emerging church. Ancient because it’s rooted in scripture, emerging because the biblical structure has been largely forsaken.
What will this ancient and emerging church look like? Here’s just a small peek into a grand shift in the structure of the church:
- Services will become more like prayer meetings. 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. The church is a house of prayer for all nations. Every person in the church will function as a burning intercessor and the services will be marked by this unified groan of fiery prayer.
- Personal need will give way to personal mission. Today, churches are often more like organic, socially driven hospitals. People tend to use the church as a way to meet their personal needs instead of serving it as a minister of God. This is going to change. Of course, there will still be personal ministry and true needs will be addressed. However, instead of the church functioning as a hospital, it will once again function as a mission-driven military. The mission will take precedence. The saints will be equipped for service, not for personal survival. In this ancient and emerging model, their will be MASH units that will take very good care of the wounded with the primary purpose of getting the soldier back into battle. Apostles will again lead with governmental authority and pastors will be seen as the main leader less and less as they focus more on shepherding and less on primary leadership.
- 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 giving nuggets of biblical info. While there will still be important Bible teaching, apostolic instruction will emerge as a necessary new ministry. There is enough Bible teaching online, on CD’s, in books and on video to turn every one of us into personal spiritual giants. We need to take it upon ourselves to grow. What is lacking, however, 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. An example of apostolic instruction is this: The apostolic leader gives a corporate assignment for everybody in the church to fast for a week and then show up together to prayer walk through the city streets. It’s a corporate call to action vs. biblical study. It’s mission focused vs. personal growth focused. 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.
- 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.
- Worship 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 God’s Shekinah and Kabod glory resides in his church. Worship teams will practice less and pray in the Spirit with tears in their eyes more.
Of course, this is an extremely limited glance into the many, many changes that are coming. I wanted to share this to provoke you to preparation. There is much that you and I enjoy in the church, or that is comfortable to us, that we will have to let go. Again, the coming church will be troubling and shocking, but it will result in the power and life that we have been crying out for.
God is about to answer that cry.
I strongly recommend that you read my book 20 Element of Revival. That book reveals much of the shift that we must embrace right now. If you truly take in all that it has to say, you’ll never participate in the church the same way again.
Revival X Vision of WILDFIRE REVIVAL in Branson, Missouri
Revival X in Branson is a NEW CHURCH ON FIRE with a massive vision of extreme Holy Spirit outpouring in the region.
Join us each week as we facilitate a powerful, prophetic atmosphere where the Spirit of God is free to heal, deliver and empower!
Learn more at www.revivalx.tv and www.burton.tv.
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Churches that don’t fan the flames of intense Holy Spirit activity need to go.
Like so many, I’m crying out for an earth-shocking move of God, an undeniable invasion of supernatural power that will drive us to our knees. The tears and the tremble that result will never leave us. Our very reason for existing will shift in an instant knowing we have just encountered Deity.
The church has both the call and the authority to usher in such a holy visitation. Tragically, many have left the church with deep frustrations, giving up after holding out such high hope that revival would be the prime focus. Hosting the presence of God with the ultimate goal of igniting a regional outpouring is simply not the supreme motive of most churches today. Sure, many pastors and leaders would give a hearty head nod to the idea, but when it’s time to contend, those who have refused to put down the weapons of warfare are few.
EMBRACE THE WEIRD
A pastor friend of mine recently mentioned the reason why so many in his Charismatic/Pentecostal denomination shy away from pursuing revival. They are “afraid of weird.”
I’ve said often that as a leader, I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. I fully embrace the weird. We need pastors who no longer care very much about how many mortals they have in the pews and start crying out for our immortal, fearful and omnipotent God to come! Oh yes, it will get wonderfully, supernaturally weird! Revival is messy, otherworldly, hard to understand and impossible to contain.
This is actually the problem. Many of today’s pastors and leaders prefer a controlled flame to a wildfire. God is yearning to blow the winds of the Spirit over fast spreading fire that threatens everything in its path. He wants to consume homes, businesses and all his fiery love can overcome. He doesn’t want containment. This fire must be wild.
NO MORE (SPIRIT-FILLED) CHURCH AS USUAL
Many have been campaigning for an end of church as usual. We need to take it a step further. It’s easy for the Spirit-filled crowd to presume they have it. They are open to the moving of the Spirit of God and, as a result, have somehow arrived. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
If a church genuinely wants the fire, they can no longer shut up the tongues. Tongues of fire must be unleashed in our churches again!
How rare is it to find supposed Spirit-filled churches that are roaring from groans that can’t be uttered? The explosive, guttural cries of supernatural fire erupting out of the mouths of desperate people is a rare experience today. After all, that’s weird and many of today’s Charismatic pastors avoid it like the plague.
We are all familiar with a typical Spirit-filled church service. You’ll get some extended, nicely polished worship along with some lifted hands, dancing and shouts. Sometimes people will fall over when prayed for which is a sure sign you are in a Charismatic church. A long, enthusiastic sermon comes next followed by quality time at the altars. You are with me, right? We’ve all been there, done that.
Of course, all of what I described, if authentic, is very good. Very, very good.
However, it’s not nearly what is needed if we want God’s supernatural presence to absolutely overwhelm us. Revival doesn’t launch from such a predictable, controllable church strategy.
A FORMULA FOR FIRE
To take the church from tired, predictable services into the mission of revival requires a significant shift in strategy. Carefully crafting a smooth, vibrant, mildly supernatural Sunday church experience will never suffice. Churches that refuse to go into the depths in these end-times should go. They are standing in the way of legitimate revival in their city and are robbing God’s people of the opportunity to experience an outpouring.
While churches may be exceptionally good at any number of things, including growth, outreach, teaching, encouraging and discipleship, if they aren’t doing it in the fire, they have become a liability in the Kingdom. Pastors may be brilliant leaders with thousands of people showing up to hear what they have to say each week, but without the knee-bending wind of the Spirit of God howling through the church, what’s the point?
Here are some of the key steps for promoting a wildfire revival.
A REMNANT MINDSET
In order for revival to become job one in the church today, the seeker mindset of old must go. We have to be ready and willing to allow the majority to exit our churches never to return if that is, in fact, the required cost of revival. Pastors, find your remnant and burn hot with them. Until we realize the church is more about ministering to God than it is ministering to people we’ll never even take the first step toward an outpouring. Pastors need an army of locked-in people who aren’t showing up for themselves, but rather as sacrificial warriors who are ready to pierce the darkness as a single unit.
TONGUES AND GROANS
From my article, The Tone of the Groan:
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.
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.’
This is the most important and most effective step, by far, in promoting a wildfire atmosphere. Instead of nice, catchy worship and other typical church elements, introduce the raging glory and power of groans and tongues. Literally, when stepping into the sanctuary on Sunday mornings, the atmosphere will radiate with supernatural power as everybody is engaging in aggressive, expressive and booming groans and tongues!
When pastors lead the way by engaging everybody in 30-60 minutes (or more) of continual, intense intercession at this level, literally everything in the church will change. It will shift from a low-level, mildly spiritual atmosphere that is mostly dependent on coercing people to tithe more, serve more and attend more to one that has people lined up outside the doors for hours waiting to get in.
I’m not talking about worldly vision or an entrepreneur spirit. I mean pastors and leaders must be living their lives saturated in prayer and the Word to such a degree that God exploded supernatural vision into their spirits. Dreams, visions and encounters will rock and shock them to such a degree that little else matters than running toward the fulfillment of what God has revealed to them.
Happy sing-a-longs, tepid prayer times, powerless sermons and a nice little family environment will give way to a vibrant, anointed, fearful and weighty atmosphere. Joshuas, Gideons and other bold, relentless biblically-modeled men and women of God will lead the charge into the great unknown. They know that only a remnant can get them where they need to go. Most will need to be released into the deserts of their own makings as they identify the few who have the courage to advance into the land of promise.
A PROPHETIC CULTURE
If authentic prophecy isn’t predominant in each and every gathering, the advance toward a glorious revival will be stunted.
While low-level, carnal, fake and invented “prophecy” must be rejected wholesale, true prophetic revelation must be embraced. Decrees and declarations based on the timely insight that God has revealed to that local body will shock the atmosphere with authority. The people, the remnant soldiers, should be trained and empowered to prophesy, and the entire body must be ready to shift and redirect as the winds of the Spirit move them.
Fire and brimstone preaching will have to make an appearance in such a revival-focused environment. Unapologetic calls to radical consecration are absolutely mandatory. Holiness and repentance must be a common thread through everything in the ministry. While an atmosphere of grace is key, allowing people to authentically reveal their struggles in a loving atmosphere, the severity of the fear of the Lord must also be felt.
THE WORD OF GOD
The Word of God must be read and fully believed, proclaimed and boldly decreed if revival is to be had. The mission must be based on extreme adherence to the challenging truths of Scripture. Those who know God will be strong and do great exploits, and the revelation of the Word along with an atmosphere of fervent prayer will result in a people who know their God.
Simply, Sunday School style Bible teaching won’t cut it. We need faith-filled, vision-driven and fearless proclamations of Scripture that rips apart strongholds and shatters the teeth of the enemy. We need biblical revelation that strikes us, marks us and wrecks us. We need the Word of God to pierce our hearts, captivate our minds and overwhelm our intellect.
THE SURRENDER OF CHURCH GROWTH
The pursuit of revival is a regional and national pursuit, not a local one. What I mean is, the end goal is not local church growth. It’s beyond time to forever surrender the annual goals of more people, more small groups, more offerings, new buildings and any focus on local.
If God starts moving powerfully in another local church in the city, pastor, you must shut your thing down for a season and support what God is doing on the other side of town. The goal is regional outpouring. The vision is much greater than four walls.
The moment the goal is the development of a single local church is the moment that church has been disqualified from the pursuit of regional revival.
I covered this mostly in the section about tongues and groans, but felt it necessary to doubly impress upon you the need for constant, fervent and powerful intercession. This is not a separate, side ministry that takes place before a service or on an off night. It’s not to be relegated to a side room or to be led by anybody other than the senior leader. It’s the most important, most powerful and most neglected ministry of the church.
The church isn’t a house of preaching, a house of relationships, a house of evangelism or a house of anything other than a house of prayer. That’s it.
Sunday services should be mostly vibrant prayer meetings. The cookie-cutter model we’ve become so used to must go. The worship, announcements, preaching, altar time paradigm must cease. The new wine skin is bathed in intercession, and every member of the remnant church must deliberately give themselves to it night and day.
We are far from revival. I hear prophets and preachers talking about how near we are, and I just have to shake my head and wonder what exactly they are discerning. In terms of timing, can revival break out sooner than later? Sure. But in terms of distance, in terms of where we are now and were we must be as a church to see revival hit, we are far.
The church must experience a reformation that will shock it to its core. It’s this shock and awe of God’s supernatural invasion that will never let us do church as usual again, Spirit-filled or otherwise. Every goal will change. Board and staff meetings will never be the same. Strategies and how money is spent will morph over night. When God visits, nothing else matters. The result will be a church on fire that prays night and day with ferocity.