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

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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: Pragmatic Modernism

The disease of the church truly is systemic at this point. Everything that it once was, it no longer is. Instead, it has become a steadily focusing mirror of the predominant groupthink of the day. This may sound extreme to you, it does to most people. The reason for that is very simple; you tend to normalize your surroundings in order to keep sane.  Most kidnap victims will begin to have empathy with their kidnappers. A recent poll of girls aged 12-25 revealed that over 45% of them thought there were grounds for a man to hit a woman and 40% said they would take him back if he did it.

You normalize your surroundings and so you bob and weave through life normalizing everything you see until you eventually come to believe that ‘it has always been this way’.

Case in point; in reformed circles today you will hear about how everyone that the Father gives to the Son will come to him. Therefore, why sweat things like evangelism? Since God is the one who seeks you out and since it is he that draws you with irresistible grace, why go through all of the rigmarole of troubling yourself with evangelism? And yet they have forgotten George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon, all champions of evangelistic effort.

In Arminian circles there is also massive confusion. Everyone is so focused on the newest revelation, the freshest program and the most relevant façade that they have forgotten their own history and thrown orthodox doctrine out the window.

We are a product of the age that we live in, have no doubt about that. And the modernist mindset has held sway in the church for a very long time now. And it is that pragmatic, humanist mindset that has led to the decline that we currently see in the church.

To those under the influence of the zeitgeist, it may seem like there is actually no problem at all. There are large churches; there are Christian radio stations and Christian television channels. There are Christian schools and universities that you can send your kids to. There are Christian bookstores selling Christian mints that you can use to “evangelize” your unsaved friends and loved ones. What could possibly be wrong?

I am going to lay out for you one of the issues that I think is most hindering us at this point and one that I feel we must correct if we are ever going to see revival: pragmatic flesh-based ministry. What do I mean by that exactly? A pragmatic flesh-based ministry is one that sees everything totally based on a human’s viewpoint and then sets goals and meets them based on what works best.

Recently, I had someone get very, very angry with me because I said in a service that it is absolutely wrong to go to church. They were shocked and offended because they had been a church-goer for years and it was a main part of their life, how could I even suggest that going to church was wrong? I can just hear some of you now wondering if I actually said that to the group. I did.

But my point was not that you shouldn’t attend a service or be a part of a group of the Elect who are walking out the dominion of the Kingdom of God on earth. My point was that if you “go to church” you are already deceived because we ourselves are the church. But for most people, it is easiest to confuse the terms because that way, you can assume that you are the church because you attended one. But as Keith Green said, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger”.

Pragmatism says that the most efficient way to be a Christian is to decide to and then proceed to do the things that Christians do, like go to church. You should sing songs, learn the lingo and read a bible. But the Word does not say to do any of that in order to be a Christian. It says that you must repent, it says that you must die and be raised with Him through baptism and receive the promise of the Holy Spirit. But pragmatism can’t be bothered with any of that, it takes too long and is generally outside the comfortable confines of our convenience.

Let me ask you an important question; what is the church? Is it a group of like-minded individuals who gather together regularly to worship? Or is the church truly people of differing skills brought together by God under a single head that serves as the government of God in the area that they occupy?

If it is the former then everything is fine. You can afford to qualify its success or failure on tangible things like the number of people who attend and the amount of money that they generate. As the Pastor, you can drool your seeker-sensitive affirmations all over them and lull them into an eternal sleep because all that matters is the number of people attending not what they are doing. If you know whether or not God is with you by the amount of income generated then use any means that you can to generate it. Go ahead, help yourself.

But if it is the latter then we are in deep trouble. If you can’t determine the success of intangibles using tangibles, how should you determine the success of what you are doing? If we are truly people of differing skills brought together by God under a single head that serves as the government of God in the area that we occupy, how much area do you occupy? How do the poor fare in your district? How is injustice ended? How are your people living under common grace? Is Eden being spread and has the Kingdom come and is his will being done in your district as it is in heaven? If we asked the poor, the drug addled, the suicidal, the criminal individuals in your district who the Christians are, would they say it was you? Or are you hoping that they would say it based on the numbers and money that you generate?

The Westminster Confession states that man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. We like to assume that God is glorified in our buildings and programs. Just like the Crystal Cathedral, right? I mean, they had people and money so God was obviously glorified.

Doxazo (Glorify) means to make something renowned, to render it illustrious, to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged. Most of what we do glorifies ourselves and our inflated sense of calling and importance but does little to nothing for the glory of God.

We are flesh and we have adapted our methods and goals to the flesh. It is as Tozer said, one fallen head instructing another fallen head. But it has been normalized and become convenient and finding the truth would be so darned difficult. Besides, I have to pay bills and eventually retire. So, while truly pursuing the glory of God sounds nice, it is not pragmatic nor practical.

God help us all before the Bema.

So, here is my challenge to you today; read only the red that Jesus said for the next week. Don’t bother with the Old Testament or Pauline sections, just stick to the red bits and ask yourself how closely you are following what He said. Then read just the Book of Acts for the next week. Write down everything that they did and the way that they did it. And then juxtapose that with what you are doing right now. If we are going to get it right then we must base everything on the original intent. It can’t be Luther, Calvin, Finney or Spurgeon alone. We must get back to the whole counsel of the Word of God outside of the zeitgeist.

And then I double dog dare you to begin to live out what Jesus told you to do and to begin to conduct your church as they did it in the Book of Acts. I am not telling you to only meet in homes as cell groups or totally eschew the use of buildings, I am telling you to do what they did; meet together in homes daily for prayer and fellowship, breaking bread together. Voluntarily redistribute your goods. Care for the widow and orphan. Evangelize the world. Stand against tyrants and usurpers. Take correction and love others enough to correct them. Be merciful. Bear fruit. Make disciples.

In other words, settle for no less than actually being a Christian.

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.