It’s time to start scaring visitors away from 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.
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like a mighty rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. There appeared to them tongues as of fire, being distributed and resting on each of them (Acts 2:1-3).
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The pure Christian message of surrender, repentance, holiness, intercession and rescuing souls from hell has been replaced by a self-centered gospel that boldly affirms a focus on benefits without cost, on personal gain without sacrifice, on freedom without consecration.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.
They were all amazed and perplexed, saying to each other, “What does this mean?”
Others mocking said, “These men are full of new wine” (Acts 2:12-13).
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.
I know your works, that you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain but are ready to die (Rev. 3:1-2).
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.
It is the Spirit who gives life. The flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray Him. Then He said, “For this reason I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it were given him by My Father.”
From that time many of His disciples went back and walked no more with Him.
So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”
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.
When he heard this he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich. When Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Those who heard this said, “Who then can be saved?”
He said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”
Peter said, “Look, we have left everything and followed You.”
He said to them, “Truly, I tell you, there is no man who has left his home or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”
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 as at burton.tv/resources.
The coming shift in the church away from senior pastoral leadership
Originally posted at www.burton.tv April 13, 2013.
Possibly the most shocking shift coming to the church is the transition away from senior pastoral leadership.
The church army became a nursery. We want to play all day and cry for our needs to be met. Grow up! ~Isaiah Saldivar
I’m currently writing my next book titled The Coming Church, and I am continually stricken by fear and trembling as I communicate what is about to hit. The coming fire will be consuming everything that is outside of God’s design. The coming church will look so different than the church of today that we will find ourselves speechless. Everything man-made is going. Everything that God deems good but outdated is going. The coming church will be a defined by fire and it will repel the lukewarm and religious—as it draws in the hungry and desperate.
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I continually hear people eagerly declaring that they are done with church as usual. Their heart is for God to move in and explode in power. I count myself as one of those people. However, the shift necessary to see this happen will upset what has been setup, and that price may be too costly for most.
Consider the radical differences between the United States Marines and a spa.
Today, the church structurally has the makeup of a spa that is setup to draw people in via programs and promises of personal attention. The coming church will function like a military that is setup to draw people in compelled by the magnitude of the mission. They will not show up to be served by to serve.
People join a spa to be nurtured and enjoy life with themselves in mind. People join the military to serve unto death with others in mind.
After 22+ years of ministry my opinion is that one of the weakest links in the church today is false expectations—expectations perpetuated by leaders who want to fill the pews. Let me explain.
In the local church context today, most want to connect in the place that will meet their expectations. There is a predetermined set of expectations that people enter the church with, and If those expectations aren’t met, negativity creeps into the camp. So, today, people won’t continue in a church if it doesn’t offer what they want, and pastors can’t imagine the thought of losing them, so they adjust course and focus on giving them what they expect.
In the Western church, the pastoral office is the natural office to lead a church that’s fueled by people’s need for nurture. After all, it’s presumed that pastors, by design, are the ones to meet the expectations of the people. They have the heart to do so. Therefore, pastoral leadership is widely embraced by those who are more inclined to receive than to give.
Does that sound like American culture? Does a consumer mentality have its touch on most every area of our lives? Absolutely, and, it has nearly overtaken the church, and we as leaders have left that problem largely unresolved.
What happens now is that pastors are overwhelmed with connecting with people, feeding them what they prefer and ensuring they are attended to—and that has compromised the strength and outward mission of the church.
Now, of course, helping people is absolutely appropriate and necessary, and pastors are the ones best equipped by God to do that, but this ministry was never meant to be the primary function of the church!
Today, churches act much like hospitals. Their key function is to deal with the wounded. In reality, they should look more like MASH units! Soldiers who are wounded in the mission are quickly stitched up so they can get back to the war!
God is raising up people who want to get challenged, not fed. ~Isaiah Saldivar
Ephesians 4:11-12 (ESV) 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,
The nurturing, equipping process is important, but it is not the goal! Notice that the equipping is for a reason! To work! Additionally, we have every opportunity and responsibility to feed ourselves instead of relying fully on the church. Today there are countless teachings online, in books, on CD’s and more. There is no excuse for any of us to rely on anybody else for our nourishment. We should not be showing up to the church empty waiting to be fed. We should arrive full and overflowing with the richness of the Word that we have fed ourselves with that week!
As an prophetic apostle, my focus is over the horizon. It’s on just a few narrow topics. I need everybody on their face praying, and I’ll do everything I can to teach them how. I want everybody going after regional revival, and I’ll teach week after week on how they can do that. I prophetically have a pulse on the church and I’ll constantly relay that information to the church so they can respond. But, they will have to take it upon themselves to learn most everything else. Of course, I’m not the only teacher in my context either. Others can and do impart knowledge and revelation, but it is still limited and it’s still required that we devour the Word ourselves.
Today, pastor led churches nurture and feed as the goal so much of the time without casting the vision that they are about to call everybody to pick up their weaponry and move out to battle!
The coming shift will result in less feeding and a higher bar of committed and focused response. The problem? Pastors are not the ones best gifted or called to lead this transition. The pastor led church is functionally compromised.
Simply stated, the church is out of biblical order.
Apostles and Prophets are Coming
Prophets announce, among other things, the coming governmental order and apostles bring the order.
1 Corinthians 12:27-28 (ESV) 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.
These offices are listed in order of importance and function in the church.
Life Application Commentary: Paul specifically ranked them as first, second, and third to show their prime importance above all the other gifts.
ESV Study Bible: First… second… third… then seems to be a ranking of importance or benefit to the church, with apostles being primary and then prophecy and teaching also contributing greatly to building others up.
The apostolic ministry is actually the first one that our Lord, Jesus, established in the New Testament church.
Lk 6:13 And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles.
Why did Jesus establish the apostolic ministry first? Because it was to be the foundation of the church government in the New Testament, as the priesthood was the foundation of the ministry in the Old Testament. So, without apostles in the ministry, the ministry gifts are literally without the necessary foundation.
Eph 2:20 And (you) are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.
There are governmental levels in spiritual realms. These are called “principalities, powers and rulers.” Each has a different realm of authority, a different authority level, and a different manner of operation.
Eph:6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Likewise, we have different levels of authority in the different ministry gifts. Here is where the apostle’s authority is truly needed. At times, a pastor is confronted with different types of spiritual attacks. Without the spiritual covering of an apostle, he can be battling against powers and rulers that he is not actually anointed, or prepared to battle against. With the apostolic covering, he is able to draw upon the apostle’s anointing, understanding, and experience in these battles. Instead of fighting alone, he has the spiritual support he needs.
The current structure or model of church ministry revolves around the pastoral paradigm (model) of ministry. A paradigm is a structure of ministry that serves as a model or pattern. It’s astonishing but the word pastor, Greek poimen is only mentioned once in the entire New Testament. From one occurrence in scripture we have built thousands of pastoral churches. Yet there were no churches ever built in the New Testament by pastors. Even the one started at Antioch soon received Barnabas as an apostolic leader. Barnabas was a sent-one (apostolic gift) from the church in Jerusalem.
In reality we have created a structure of church services that is designed to bless, nurture and comfort attendees. After all, that is the dominate grace on the pastoral ascension gift to comfort, bless, nurture, protect and lead to still waters. There is nothing wrong with being a pastor. What we are discussing is the transition into an apostolic model of ministry that enables us to be more effective in establishing and advancing the Kingdom of God.
Let’s face it the pastoral-only model of ministry is not working. We need something that is more effective and that’s going to be the apostolic model of ministry that we are experiencing today, the new apostolic prophetic church.
There will always be a set man over a congregation. Scripture says, “Let the Lord the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation” (Numbers 27:16). Apostolic ministry models may have a plurality of leadership gifts working together to equip believers known as a presbytery but there will always be one set man that is ultimately responsible before God to apostle a church.
The Holy Spirit is going to restore an effective structure of ministry that will empower you to raise-up strong sons and daughters in the Lord that will take the battle out of the church and into the city.
Apostolic ministry gifts are spiritual master builders that carry the revelation of Christ governing Church. As Paul said, “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon” (1 Corinthians 3:10).
The Purpose of the Church
The church is not a house of teaching or a house of evangelism or a house of friendships. The very purpose of the church is prayer! It is a house of prayer for all nations! If someone in the church is resistant to the call to pray corporately, they can’t consider themselves to be a functional part of the church.
This is a huge problem!
In today’s church very few live a lifestyle of prayer. In fact, most pastors don’t either!
Leonard Ravenhill said: Pastors who don’t pray two hours a day aren’t worth a dime a dozen!
Mark 11:15-18 (ESV) 15 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching.
We are in a Mark 11:15-18 season in our nation. In that situation, the people were using the church for personal gain. They had expectations of personal benefit. They entered the church with the expectation of leeching off of it, of using it, and leaving with more than they entered with. This is a defilement of the church!
The call is to go into the church with the expectation of leaving with less than we enter with! We bring an offering, a sacrifice! We minister to God!
This is critical! Pastor led churches more easily seek to give people what they expect out of the church. Now, please understand me. Pastors are God ordained! But, when they function outside of their appropriate governmental position, it brings disorder. The same would be true of any of the offices. You probably don’t want a prophet trying to nurture people! Thank God for pastors!
The House of Prayer
In the coming church, everybody will pray as their primary ministry! Yes, everybody!
This means a great offense is coming as suddenly those focused on their own expectations and who are resistant to the call to prayer will have nowhere to go!
The governmental order in the church will require a mass exodus of uncommitted, unwilling hearts as intercession takes first place again. This type of dramatic shift requires the skills of an apostle to pull off.
You might presume that intercession is to be reserved for the mature, for those who have graduated from the equipping process. No! No! No!
The best equipping center is the prayer room! If an 18 year old pimple faced young person fresh out of high school with no experience, no knowledge, no wisdom can join the Marines and fight for our country, he can do the same in the prayer room!
Again, there is a place for pastors to nurture people like this, and, in fact, we need pastors not as senior leaders, but as smaller group leaders who can invest time into individuals. They need to prepare them quickly to respond to the coming instructions from the apostles and prophets. It would make sense to have serving with an apostle maybe ten to twenty pastors for every one hundred people in a church.
Islamic prayer: The second pillar of Islam is salat, the requirement to pray five times a day at fixed times. Children are often required to fulfill this daily requirement by the age of 7.
If a mosque can be jam packed full of people praying early in the morning on a weekday as happens in our area, and if children as young as 7 are praying five times a day in that system, certainly an all consuming, Holy Spirit fueled life of prayer for a Christian is not hard to imagine at all!
Act like priests!
When you stand as a priest before the Lord, you aren’t representing yourself, you are representing others in corporate identificational prayer. ~James Goll
You are a priest, and that means that you have a job to do. You are a priestly intercessor before God and the call is to pray individually and corporately continually!
In the coming church, under apostles and prophets, we all will show up and pray! That is church! Church services will be prayer meetings again!
Personal expectations will be replaced by assignments to serve, give, pray and lay down our lives! We won’t show up with our prayer lists or our own issues but rather we will represent the nations as we invest into them in prayer.
We are all priests and we all carry extreme authority! This is church at its best!
The Simple Blueprint
Apostles and Prophets
- The shift: Corporate leadership will shift from pastors to apostles and prophets primarily. Instead of merely relaying information, messages will be mostly challenging and directive with a clear expected response as the body is rallied to fulfill a corporate mission together. They will lead with the expectation that the entire unit will be moving in step with them as they fulfill the vision of the church in unity.
- The difficulty: Those that are averse to responding to prophetic instruction or who simply want a ‘pick me up’ each week to help them make it to the next Sunday will suddenly find themselves well outside of the vision of the church. There will be costly calls to serve, give, pray and function as a priest before the Lord, and that will be unappealing to many. The new aggressive, fast moving military will be challenging to say the least.
- The shift: In the coming church, pastors will mostly be relieved of primary church leadership responsibilities and will be released to spend most of their time one-on-one with people and in small groups.
- The difficulty: Pastors who are senior leaders will be asked to relinquish their positions, their salaries and their influence in favor of an apostle God is calling them to serve under.
- The shift: Many programs of the church will be eliminated, possibly including children’s ministry, youth ministry, drama, etc. and will be replaced by prayer meetings, training and outreach.
- The difficulty: People will have to change their expectations and make themselves ready to serve by growing intentionally on their own in a significant way each day. They probably won’t have close, direct access with the leader and will have to trade personal desire for close friendship for a readiness to respond to the sound of the alarm.
- The shift: Most services will look more like prayer meetings than anything else. Everybody will spend the bulk of the service ministering to God in intercession and community will surround that emphasis.
- The difficulty: The desire to be entertained and overfed will no longer be met. Mostly receiving will change to mostly giving. Rapid maturity will be required as apostolic leaders move ahead aggressively in a rapidly and ever changing culture of ministry to the nations. Those resistant to growth or to change won’t easily find a place to connect. Additionally, relational community will occur only around the mission. The prayer meeting will be the gathering point for friendships to develop. People looking for these types of connections will be disappointed if they aren’t willing to jump in the bunker in a risky mission with their fellow soldiers. Gladly, the pastors will be in the bunkers with them.
- The shift: Seeker churches will quickly fade away as the fire of the Holy Spirit rages in the houses of prayer. The lost won’t be relationally converted as much as they will be converted by fire. We will trust God’s wisdom as in Acts 2 and allow the fire of God impact a region. The prayer room will become the place of choice to bring the lost.
- The difficulty: Everybody will have to drop most everything and tend to the fire in the house of prayer. To ensure the atmosphere is supernaturally charged, everybody in the church will be spending hours a day in the prayer room together. False salvations will drop to near zero as they won’t be based on a simple prayer but rather on an encounter with the God of fire.
It’s important that I do say that many current pastors are actually gifted with apostolic and/or prophetic offices. They will help lead the shift!
We will all have to trust God as our personal finances, plans, dreams, influence and structures are threatened. God really does have plans to prosper us even in this dramatic, unsettling shift!