Eulogy for the American Preacher

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I am sorry. I am sad to report that preparations are underway for the funeral of someone who has been, up to this point, an American mainstay: the Preacher.

I regret to inform you all that in the event of his death, there will be no open casket or even a time of visitation, as most who would have mourned his passing in the past, today would no longer much care.

For those who are unfamiliar with the preacher, his story can be found in virtually every chapter of our American history. He is seen in the first colony that landed on Plymouth Rock and you could find him shaking the windows of Philadelphia and the rest of the 13 colonies during and after the American Revolution. It was the Preacher in those days that rallied the troops and caused the swelling of national pride as he rode far and wide in the Black Regiment.

The preacher was active on both sides of the War Between the States. D.L. Moody served as a missionary on the front, finding out if dying men were saved before they perished. And in the South, the preachers would hold impromptu baptism services whenever they could, sometimes even in the midst of battle and in full view of the enemy.

America has heard the voices of A.W. Tozer and Paris Reidhead preaching a true Prophetic call. We heard the voice of Edwards, Whitefield and Ironside, Roberts and Ravenhill tell us that God was terrifying, loving and infinitely just. They would level a room with their voices expressing the holiness of God and the depravity of man. And in their voice the depraved heard the soft and tender call of the grace of God.

And yet today in America the voice of the preacher has nearly fallen silent. And I am grieved to carry to your itching ears the somber news that the voice that we need to hear now more than ever, may never be heard from again.

The American preacher, that icon of modern religion, the last of a long and noble line, has been on an unpublished endangered species list for decades. And here at the turning of the tide, at that moment when it would seem that we need him the most, his absence leaves a hole that can be felt only by the discerning heart that longs after God.

For in these days of the soft Prophet, the buddy, the encourager and the snake-oil salesman, the voice that calls you to awaken from your hyper-grace induced slumber is not welcome. Who wants to hear someone yell in a service anyway? Who in their right mind wants a return to the days of fire and brimstone when men spoke for God and called the comfortable to repentance and the lukewarm to task? Why should I repent, change, convert, awaken, give, love, serve?

Why should I give anything back in exchange for the grace that I lavish on myself, like the murderer who desperately tries to cleanse his hands under an open tap from the blood that he has just shed?

Who would want a return to those days when the church sought those who were lost, called the prodigal home and the truth searched the hearts of the un-consecrated in the sheepfold? Many eagerly await the news, it seems, that the voice of the preacher has fallen silent for good. That the one who troubled us is gone and his like shall not be seen again anymore.

But the annals of history shall reveal the terrible truth: that should we choose to let the preacher die- we choose to let the hopes of revival and indeed, the salvation of our nation die as well.

And choose it is, have no doubt about that. We choose when we do not pray for those standing between the living and the dead, calling for reinforcements in the battle of the ages. We choose when we withhold support, we choose when we do not attend meetings and we choose when we do not invite them to our churches and communities.

We choose, all of us. And that choice is to leave this nation in the spiritual hands of the mealy-mouthed purveyors of the humanistic Gospel. It is to abandon the morals of our nation to the oversight of those who will not offend the masses- so long as they continue to give. We will give over the helm to those that would abandon absolutes for post-modern questions with no answers, leadership with no authority, eternity with no certainty and doctrine with no foundation, other than the bi-polar whims of the Adonijah that stands before you.

God help us but the church has been all but usurped by businessmen who equate spiritual success with physical numbers and money. And in order to achieve that, they say nothing that may offend. When the goal is numbers and money, why stand for truth?

Who speaks for God today, the High and Holy One that does not look at crowds but individual hearts? Do we remember that He is still the One that overturned the tables of the moneychangers in the temple as they merchandized worship? The one who desires obedience and not sacrifice? The one who rejected the mammon of this world for true riches and told us that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his goods? Will we give over the reins of the Church to those who would attempt to crown Him with those very things that He rejected, as Tozer said?

The American Preacher is not extinct, not just yet. But he is rare enough that even spotting one deserves observance. Like the nature photographer who sees a Siberian Tiger feeding in the wild; it is not impossible but neither is it expected. And how we need him today.

God, raise up prophets once again, those who cry loud and spare not. Give us those who come to the pulpits and the streets fresh from an encounter with your Spirit in prayer. Send us those who carry in their hearts and upon their lips, hot coals from the altar of God. Give us those who are beautifully broken, who do not abuse in anger, but plead in earnestness. Give us those whose passion for you far outstrips their fear of man. Send us the Reformers, the Revivalists, the Repentant who cry for repentance, the Radicals who see no value in mere money but desire justice above all else. Send us our Whitefield and Wesley, our Edwards and Luther.

Deliver us from Adonijah and Absolom, God. And glorify yourself once again in us, in our churches, in our cities and in this land.

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Spirit Filled Evangelist

We are in transition as a ministry. It has been a long, strange trip and it feels like many pieces are finally falling into place. Today, one of the final pieces rolled into place as we felt the mandate to roll power gift evangelism back to the forefront of what we do.

There is an incredible lack of Spirit filled Evangelists in the church right now, they simply do not fit in with most Pastor’s personal agendas. It could be added however that most of those Pastors do not fit in with God’s agenda.

We need a return of men speaking to communities with more of the truth of the Word and a demonstration of the supremacy of Christ and less pandering to the whims of the world system with seeker sensitive church growth methods.

We have totally lost our way, my friends, and looking for yet another new church is not the answer. Those of us that feel this to be true must transition now away from a compromised system and into one based upon the manifest power of God and confrontational truth.

How badly we have swerved away from the truth is easily demonstrated. Awhile ago, I was given a gift for visiting a church on a Sunday morning. The church was an Assembly of God and they gave us June’s copy of “Today’s Pentecostal Evangel”. Inside was an article on “The Changing Face of Evangelism” and there was a picture of Billy Sunday and some hipster that I didn’t know.

Anyway, as I read, I became livid.

The first comment that caught my attention was the following, “Gone are the days when a camp meeting was a big event in town”. I thought to myself, “Okay, that’s just an opinion. It lacks foresight but I can agree to disagree with that.” Then I read further “An Evangelist supplements by providing a particular specialty that may not be the local Pastor’s strength, such as teaching on Spirit baptism.”

Um…what?

“The Evangelist complements by teaching the people from a second voice that confirms what the Pastor has been sharing with them.”

Are you kidding me? That is the job of the Evangelist in the church, to complement the local Pastor? And this was coming from the AG! I’m sorry but I don’t know what books they are handing out in Springfield for leaders to read but apparently it isn’t the Bible anymore.

The reason that we are at a .02 percent growth rate for new conversions is because the evangelist has gone as extinct as the Dodo bird. When the people who carry the anointing and calling of God that acts as the means of grace for God to save a soul are busy confirming what a Pastor is saying, no one will be getting saved. When our evangelists spend all of their time going inside churches and no time outside of it, we are in trouble. When they must “book dates” and raise money, they cannot focus on their calling because they have become businessmen instead of prophets.

How did we ever get here?

Here’s is the revelation that we must get right now: you are besieged, church. You are trapped behind the four walls of your church by the enemy outside and the only ministry that you know is to other besieged people. You are devouring one another and defining ministry gifts by what you can do while you are besieged, not by what God had intended for us as His church!

The job of an Evangelist is not to supplement a local Pastor. The job of an Evangelist is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world, in the world. But our Evangelists are not Evangelists anymore; they are travelling preachers with a career agenda and money on the brain. In fact, I don’t even think that I personally know an Evangelist other than Mario Murillo right now.

Let me lay this out for you- it is time and high time for a coup d’church; a radical overthrow of all of the things that we know are wrong in the system but do nothing about.

What is our current state, you ask? Well, let’s take the Moravian Church for instance, who at one time held a 24/7 prayer ministry for 100 years while sending out over 300 missionaries to areas unreached by the Gospel message. Today many of them doubt the infallibility of the very Word that scores of them gave their lives for in the past.

When those who should lead us have fallen into secularism and liberalism, it is time for a coup d’church.

Methodist women used to have “pray-in’s” where they all sat as a group in front of the doors of local taverns and prayed, refusing to move and refusing to allow anyone inside. Methodists used to hold camp meetings where God moved, people repented and were saved. They used to send circuit riders all over the country, covering rural areas with the good news. Today they are now mainstream and neither God nor the people move.

When the new wineskin becomes the old wineskin, unable to contain any new wine, its time for a coup d’church.

We could mention the Salvation Army or the Presbyterian Church and how far removed they are from the radical manifestations of revival in their past.

We could mention Pentecostals who now too dignified to have the gifts of the Spirit operate in public or the Word of Faith folks who took revelation from God and started commanding stones to become bread for their own use.

The list is too long and too painful for me because I love the church. But I cannot abide what a church does to people when it is based on lies, compromise and the world system.

The disease of the church is systemic and what change can come to it must come from outside of it, period.

We must take what we can from the past and never lose them while being sure to lose everything that came later as a result of the compromises of weak men. To be clear, I am calling for an outright revolt where it is deserved. I am calling for a coup in the church because they are simply not competent to lead us into the future.

Let us love them but get free. Let us wish them well but move on. Let us hold no malice but not compromise an instant longer. Let us harbor no bitterness but press forward.

The days of revival are coming, mark my words. But Saul’s armor does not fit and simply singing in the camp is not the battle that we were born for. There is no revival because the people that God has chosen to ignite it refuse to break free and seek him until he is found.

That is you.

You were born for better than this. You were placed on this planet for a time such as this, enginneered by God for the Hell you would see. But you have to be that person right now, throwing off all restraint and the chains of men. Because you are the change that you have been waiting for

Battlelines: The Wal-Mart Church

So, I have watched as the church has transformed over the last 21 years. Actually, it has been even longer than that because I have been around some aspect of the church my entire life. When I was growing up, it was in a small Pentecostal church in Pennsylvania. The church was never large, that was not even on the radar in those days. The question was one of effectiveness, not numbers.

If someone were getting saved, delivered or healed, the church was a success. They might struggle for finances or stay in the same building for 30 years without anyone raising the question of whether or not they were supposed to be there. If God was present, that closed the issue.

When I was first saved, it was pretty much the same. In fact, if you were a big church it probably meant that you had compromised something vital in order to get the numbers up. The focus was still not on size but rather quality of ministry, purity of the Word spoken and effectiveness in evangelism.

Back then there was still street ministry and witnessing that took place, imagine that. And a preacher could still get a crowd if he came to town. If you spit hard enough you would hit an evangelist in shiny shoes. True story. I began my ministry as an Evangelist, first on the streets and then travelling from town to town.

Then Swaggart and Bakker happened. Suddenly, being an Evangelist was linked to money and televangelist flash and it became one of the least popular professions in the country. Pretty soon, you couldn’t find an Evangelist to save your life, unless it was in Africa. Everyone here in America started being “teachers” (during the Word of Faith craze) and then later “prophets” (during the prophetic movement).

Today we just have a hole where a foundational gift to the church used to be.

During these years we also saw the rise of the monster named Rex Walmartasaurus in corporate America. They would plant one of these stores in a town and slowly drain the life from all of their competition. First it was the competition in the city falling by the wayside as Kmart, Shopko, Sears and many others started to tank. Wal-Mart offered everything and they offered it cheaper than everything else. And in a culture addicted to convenience, having everything available in one great location became like crack. Soon, small mom and pop stores had to start shutting the doors because they simply could not compete with the Wal-Mart juggernaut.

Even in the town where we live, prices are dollars higher per item in our local store than at Wal-Mart. And in a slow growth economy, who is going to drive around looking for different items when Goliath has everything right there at your fingertips.

So, small stores in small towns have been forced to adapt in order to survive. The only way to do that is by carving out a niche as a boutique and offering super specialized items that can’t be found at a big box store.

Get the picture? Our small towns have become bedroom communities as our industry moved to big cities and then our commercial businesses got smaller and more restricted in order to stay afloat. The big box dominates all and a person is hard pressed to start a business and prosper by offering goods and services to their own town. Everyone drives 30 minutes to the nearest Wal-Mart rather than pay higher prices for a smaller selection.

The same is true in the church and the changes took place at the same time.

Today, you have mega churches (where God is interested in what they are doing), upper-middle sized churches (that are on their way to being mega) and the small churches serving communities (where God ignores them because they are too small, because if you are from God, you gots to be big, baby).

The mega church offers everything: campuses designed to look like city streets with shops, bookstores, jungle gyms, Kids areas designed to look like castles, programs for everything from singles to the Latvian Lesbian midget support groups. Everything is right there at your convenience and you can rest assured that the teaching is good because the preacher is on TV, which is a sure sign of personal integrity, dedicated prayer lives and orthodox teaching. These are the Wal-Mart’s of the church world. Everyone from the area goes to these places because they can be anonymous, catered to, they are offered convenience and the chance to be a part of something big.

The mini mega church is like the Target chain. They have some of the good stuff, just less of it. But they really want to be a Wal-Mart and so they adapt to whatever Wal-Mart is doing. Ambition drives these churches, usually helmed by a preacher who is certain that he is the next big thing. They have all of the things that it is going to take to break the ceiling and become big and solidify what they have always known: they are from God (I am big! You like me, you really like me!).

At the same time that the fight for growth is occurring, you have those that don’t really matter laboring on anonymously inside of a small church. These churches are like bases in baseball where all of the church hoppers, ne’er-do-wells, dysfunctional elites and know-it-alls have to make brief stops before quitting the system altogether. They are usually hampered by a lack of finances, a lack of devotion, an overabundance of tourists and the crushing weight of ineffectiveness and obscurity.

Now, let me ask you; is this the way that it is supposed to be?

The answer that we need isn’t as simple as some would have us to believe. It is not a matter of the first church having met in houses and so we should meet in houses too. Because near as I can tell, church buildings and houses both have walls, floors, ceilings and windows. They are both buildings, Copernicus. The reason that the first church met in homes was because it was illegal to be a Christian, the synagogues (where they preferred to meet) were closed to them and they couldn’t build a temple.

No, the answer isn’t about location, style or format; it is all about motivations.

Why are any of us doing this? Is it to get rich or famous? If it is, go sit in the back of the bus.

Is it to fulfill our own ego by equating ministry success with personal worth? Go to the back of the bus.

Is it to control people and build a cult following? Sorry, back of the bus for you.

God needs a people that are interested in effectiveness rather than notoriety. We need to change our definition of success so that the question of God’s glory is included somewhere. We need to stop basing our determination of spiritual success on material possessions. And we need to start counting bodies healed, lives changed, hearts melted, lives repenting and salvations occurring as the primary gauge of ministry effectiveness.

We as ministers must start speaking the truth in love with boldness, no matter how large the congregation that God has us serving. We must hear from Him alone as to what He wants our branch of the government of God to be doing.

We must act as ambassadors, regardless of the region that we serve. We have to care for the poor, shower the region with common grace, preach boldly so that the elect hear the message and respond and change the spiritual temperature where we live. Bringing the Kingdom of God to where we live and making that area resemble heaven- that is our calling.

It has nothing to with the flesh, with numbers, with money. And many big time preachers sitting in big time churches are going to be in big time trouble when they approach the Bema and find out that God was more interested in how they treated a little obscure pastor or how they overlooked the poor and hurting than in how big of a building they built to house their congregation of spiritual pygmies.

Have you been reading the red and the book of Acts like I suggested in the last article? Then you should be ready for this next bit.

You will not find success in Christ by buying into the Wal-Mart doctrine. It isn’t through being clever or different that you will see numbers go up. That is the boutique mindset and it can only survive, not thrive. You won’t find personal fulfillment by chasing mega churches or mega preachers either. You will only find success as you get back to basics, shun the system, leave the camp and seek God. See, I have news for you preachers- numbers are no gauge as to God’s favor because it can be counterfeited. No, God’s favor comes through the fire, through prayer and through the breaking of a man until he resembles the Christ that he serves.

I want you to start acting today as if your life is under the hand of sovereign arrangement. Every person that you talk to, every setback that you experience, every temptation, trial and tribulation that comes your way has a hand behind it. The true quality of your life and ministry will be measured by your responses to the acts of God’s sovereign arrangements and by nothing else.

Many of the things that we do for God will not matter at all because they did not originate in God but in ourselves. But our responses to the things that have their origin in Him, they will mean everything.

So, forget the hype and the hoopla, the game and the boy’s club. Instead, consecrate your life to him, ask for the wisdom to see his sovereign arrangements and then live those moments as you saw Jesus live and teach about and the first church carry out. Being big isn’t important, being faithful and pure is.

Battlelines: The Preamble

Revolution is about the overthrow of one system for another. In the course of time, two ideas that once co-existed have finally become diametrically opposed to one another. At the outset of revolution, one side remains entrenched in power while the other side actively seeks to supplant it. This is revolution, friends, and never mind what the commercials tell you or what the trendy youth group says that it is. Revolution is messy, divisive, chaotic and uncomfortable. Real revolution is never pleasant; the two different sides will dig in and defend their positions, violently if necessary. This was just as true for David and Saul as it is in our day. When God begins to do a new thing, the old thing starts chucking javelins.

Today we find ourselves in a pre-revolutionary period in the church. All of the pieces are in place if you look for them. They are sitting there, simmering just under the surface, waiting for a spark, a move, a shot across the bow that will send the mighty wheel of revolution turning. This is the calm before the storm, that moment when détente is being practiced by diplomats and people are seeking ways to build a compromise that will leave everyone happy.

But there will be none of that. The gulf between mindsets is too far apart now. The ideas and ideals of the two parties can’t be brought together. Saul knows that David is the next thing, his kingdom is coming to an end and his only legacy will be a cautionary tale of humanism, corporatism, gimmicks and the substitution of the real for the gimmick.

It is my experience that people generally do not want to hear this truth. That is especially true in our world today. What we want instead is a series of affirmations that what we think, feel or do is right. We seek churches that will do this, ministries that will do this and read books that do this. When we hear that something that we have been believing is wrong, we immediately get defensive, it is just our humanist nature, I guess.

The history of the Christian church is one of progressive revelation. At times the church has forgotten this and tried to introduce something that had no basis in what God was previously doing. The result of this is always the same- error, heresy and shame. The Protestant church of the 20th century bears no similarities to the church of the 19th century. The Pentecostals have lost Azusa and the Methodist church only resembles Asbury and Wesley in name only. The Salvation Army has become thrift stores without salvation, an army of retailers and not revivalists. The reformed churches have forgotten Calvin and Knox while the Presbyterians have forgotten Red River.

We have forgotten who we are and have simply started just making things up that felt good to our flesh. But God instructs us his people line upon line, precept upon precept. The revelation of the previous generation becomes your foundation and God then adds to his grand story with the lines of your age.

Like all true revolutions, this one will occur when we make a decision that no matter what, we must get free or die. The disease of the church is systemic and the only ones that support what it has become are the fat cats that profit from it. For the rest of us, we cannot live in the system as it is set up and we can tolerate no compromise with it. And so we, like Moses, must leave the camp and seek God where he is.

The fault of where we find ourselves today can be laid at the feet of a few trends that have become the norm in the last 40 years or so and an older worldview that has infected us to our core. Let me be clear, these methods and worldviews have nothing to do with the progressive revelation of God but are rather compromises with the spirit of the age. And we must begin to see them as exactly that- a hindrance to revival and in enmity with God.

  1. The church growth movement with its emphasis on numbers and money as a gauge of success.
  2. The pragmatic mindset that excuses any gimmick, fad or phase as being from God if it works to appeal to the flesh of men.
  3. The corporate mindset that tells us that we should grow real big and offer everything to everyone, like Wal-Mart, then franchise our product all over. This mindset has caused the exact same “big-box store versus boutique” phenomenon in the church as it has in the world marketplace.
  4. The individualistic mindset that constantly focuses all attention and energy on the all-powerful ME.
  5. Finally, the humanistic mindset that places the highest priority on man and his existence rather than on God and his eternal glory.

This is American Churchianity. And like seeing an embattled and aged Ali sitting ringside at a boxing match, everyone knows what you used to be and pities what you have become.

God willing, this is the start of a new series that will begin to look at each of these things in detail and offer the alternative. What you do with this is up to you. I would encourage you to read what is written, prayerfully consider the implications and then commit yourself to the revolution with wild abandon.

Those We Leave Behind

 I seem to be drawn to those that have been overlooked, marginalized or forgotten.

 I really, honestly, don’t care about the “boy’s club” I don’t care about TBN or Charisma. I don’t care about fitting in with your group, your dogma or your religious preferences.

 I do care about all of the things that the church seems to have forgotten about. Maybe a part of that is because the church has never been my church.

That is not to say that I am an “out-of-church Christian”, I am certainly not. I have always just happened to be someone constantly on the outside looking in.

 I can remember one time when I was a runaway in Phoenix, Arizona. I had just turned 16 years old and took the 300 dollar car that I had and left with my friend. To fund the trip, my friend stole a bunch of stuff from his step-father and we pawned it.

 When we got to Phoenix, we knew no one. We looked for the local scene there and didn’t find too much. By the second night, I had been pulled over and my car was impounded. Instead of taking us in for no insurance, no registration and vagrancy, we were dropped off by the cops on Van Buren Street at 1 am with no money and no vehicle. Big fun.

 We walked all night and in the afternoon found ourselves in a suburb on Thanksgiving Day. And almost 20 years later I can still vividly recall the feeling of standing on a curb in a pretty suburb, looking through the window at a family having Thanksgiving dinner when I had nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat.

 I feel like that sometimes in regards to the church. That I am still standing on that sidewalk watching the people, knowing that their life is not my life.

I have always been drawn to the disenfranchised, dispossessed and disillusioned. And there are plenty of them out there to busy myself with, believe me. We are surrounded by the invisible, the lonely lurkers who are not seen. And they need Jesus, regardless of their station. They need care, self respect and viable options for their future. They need instruction and they need knowledge to accompany the spiritual food they are starving for.

Over the years we have found ourselves in the barrios of New Mexico, the slaughterhouse towns of Minnesota, the dying mountain towns of Pennsylvania, the Indian reservations of South Dakota, the inner city of Chicago, the rural farmtowns of Iowa and the streets and hospices of Houston.

 We have been shocked by the apathy of the church so many times that we have grown quite jaded. When we work with squatters in Chicago and discover that there are 5500 homeless youth there but only 200 available beds in shelters, yet the church will not concern itself with the problem, it is easy to get frustrated and tired.

 We have been faced with the problem of watching theTally-heads, the 8 and 9 year old kids who take dollar bills into the dark alleys of Uptown to buy a thinner-dipped rag to get high with, then wander drunkenly down the streets, oblivious to the world and quite invisible to the church. Little bodies that can no longer think are many times kidnapped for use in underground kiddie porn or murdered in an abandoned tenement with no one to shed a tear for them at all.

 The Natives on the reservations, drunk and diseased as a lifestyle. In the county where we lived, there was an 85 percent alcoholism rate. It was common to see 11 year old girls pregnant from a night of terrifying rape, usually at the hands of a drunken relative. Ten to fifteen people living in two rooms, grandmothers taking care of the continuous line of children birthed to mothers who do not care and have no way to properly raise the children, and the wheel turns on and on and on. And faced with the awful trauma, the church sent food to an already obese people as an answer.

 Over and over again we have stood helpless in the face of dire need. And over and over again we find the church unwilling to do anything at all about it.

 And after screaming ourselves hoarse for the church to awake from its sugar coma to no avail, only one solution makes any real sense: to become the church on our own terms and among our own kind and to meet the needs that we see with abandon.

 To plant churches in the inconvenient places, to raise up preachers discipled ourselves and to evangelize in the way that we feel led, not needing permission or approval from anyone. To organize into a group that will not shirk the responsibility and will never break and run when faced with outrageous odds.

 We must reemploy the tactics of the Methodist circuit riders, planting where there is a need and not caring if it is rural or how many show up for services. We must train those that are saved to take the message to the world. We must put evangelism first here in this country, using tents and street ministry to win those who are not even sought by the traditional church.

 We must take responsibility for the state of our generation and win the lost at any cost.

 I will not be tormented by spiritual impotence anymore, friends. I will not miss one more invitation to third world nations because the church does not care. I will not see brothers suffer in obscurity because they are not marketable.

I can not live with the hauntings any longer, the ghosts of the faces of those we have left behind, the need still there, the pain still there.

 This must become our moment as the outcast church, our time to band together and to do all that is in our hearts to do. We must find a way because if we do not, no way will ever be found. The need is the claim on you and I.

 And truthfully, what better place than right here and what better time than right now?

 -JC