My name is John Burton, and I'm a church planter.
I find it hard to go long before the itch for advancing the kingdom through new works starts to really get to me.
Recently, I've been praying and thinking about just what it would look like to plant my third church. The first two were exciting, full of adventure and supernatural. They were also both challenging and sprinkled with heartache. Like any church-planting couple, my wife and I experienced good old-fashioned betrayal at times and glorious camaraderie at others. The brand God left on us and on our team and the countless people who were a part of the ministry at one time or another seared us like a hot iron. I'm sure it will be an eternal mark.
Of course, the longer you do anything, the wiser you become, as long as you are teachable. After 26 years of ministry, and after two years removed from giving senior leadership in a church setting, I find myself wondering just what a new church would look like. I have learned much, and I'm at the point where I'm not willing to waste energy on anything other than the main things.
A Rising Remnant
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Everywhere I travel when ministering, I run into burning, hungry, desperate people. There is a rising remnant in our nation yearning for a corporate experience in the supernatural that shocks our culture. They can't handle church as usual any longer.
God is moving on the hearts of pastors and others in preparation of a powerful, otherworldly new wineskin, and it's a skin most will initially reject. It's for this reason that I'm slow to launch a new wineskin church. Resistance will be extreme. Timing is critical.
At Revival Church, I'm on the hunt for what I call Pavement People. These are the 2 Chronicles 7 people who couldn't even enter the building due to the glory of God filling it—so they hit the pavement and worshipped. No comfortable chairs, no music, nothing but them, the pavement and God.
"And when Solomon finished praying, fire came down from the heavens and consumed the burnt offering and sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. And the priests were not able to enter into the house of the Lord, for the glory of the Lord filled the Lord's house. And all the sons of Israel saw when the fire came down and the glory of the Lord came on the temple, and they bowed their faces low to the ground on the pavement, and they worshipped confessing, 'The Lord is good, and His mercy endures forever' (2 Chron. 7:1-3).
"When Ezra blessed the Lord as the great God, all the people responded 'Amen, Amen!' By lifting up their hands as they bowed their heads, they worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground" (Neh. 8:6).
Prayer and Worship: The church I crave and may never see
Key Elements of a New Wineskin Church—Prayer Will be the Main Thing
..."And He taught them, and said, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it a 'den of thieves'" (Mark 11:17).
This foundational element will be enough to cause most to run. Today, even the most prayer-based churches limit intercession to secondary times and venues. Usually the prayer meetings are relegated to a side room at an odd hour, which means only the few who are available and wired to respond to the challenge of corporate intercession will do so. Sadly, it's important in today's model to keep prayer at bay so as not to make the visitors or those who are less interested in spiritual matters uncomfortable.
I envision prayer saturating everything that goes on in the context of the church. I believe it's an indictment on today's church that the house of prayer isn't mostly a ministry of prayer. Sunday morning must become the main prayer meeting of the week, and everybody in the church must pray on fire as their primary ministry. I'm not talking about logically praying through a prayer list. I mean facilitating an electric atmosphere where groans of intercession, fervent tongues and prophetic decrees shake the building off its foundation.
Imagine walking into the sanctuary at 10 a.m. and everybody is on their face or pacing the aisles, crying and groaning in the Spirit. I see that becoming the regular Sunday-morning experience in the coming church. Worship and teaching may or may not always occur. The common experience will be to spend two hours in intercession, with some occasional worship and teaching interjected at key moments.
Simply, Sunday mornings will become intercession sets. Sunday evenings will become intercession sets. Youth services will become intercession sets. Children's ministries will become intercession sets. Then, in that environment, apostolic instruction, prophetic decrees, songs of worship and other important expressions will occur.
Everything will take a back seat to an earth-quaking atmosphere of prayer. Worship, programs, assimilation, outreach, everything. Meetings will sometimes be devoid of these things, but prayer will never be compromised.
How can we even presume to be a legitimate Christian church if prayer isn't primary? According to Scripture, the church is a house of what? Worship? No. Teaching? No. Fellowship? No. The church is a house of prayer—except in America. Except in the Western world.
Regarding worship, I'll qualify this one time as I dive deeper into this point—I am zealous about worship and affirm it is critical and biblical, without question. I have worship music playing hour after hour as I go through my day. Misty Edwards is leading worship on the screen as I write this, and I love it.
That being said, I am troubled at the attention musical worship receives in the church today. It has become an idol for many and is all too often devoid of a spirit of prayer.
I've said before that worship music in its current state can be used as a lazy man's intercession. It's entertaining. It feels good. It feels spiritual. Yet it by no means defaults in spiritual maturity or true worship.
The Experience Will Be Mostly Vertical
"Yet the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. For the Father seeks such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth" (John 4:23-24).
I'm grieved at how much energy is given to making visitors comfortable while neglecting the call to make the Holy Spirit comfortable. Sometimes those two pursuits are mutually exclusive. A key reason prayer doesn't fill the atmosphere on Sunday mornings is because visitors and most others would feel out of place. As much as we'd like them to minister to God with us, it's time we are OK with visitors heading back to the parking lot.
As I've said often, I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. We must nurture environments that are raging with fire, an atmosphere that will cause those who are living in the flesh to either run to the altars or out the back doors.
Instead of waiting by the door to greet a visitor, I propose we stay on our face under the weight of God's presence. Model that. Don't worry; you'll have a chance to introduce yourself at some point. What I'm trying to get across is that the focus of the church isn't developing relationships for the sake making new friends, and it's not about adding people to the ministry. The goal of church growth will finally be put to rest as we focus on the goal of ministry to God.
We Will Be Intentionally Small
Understand, I'm someone who absolutely loves large-group meetings. I love praying and contending with thousands of people at various conferences and events. I also would have no problem with a church that does in fact explode in number as a result of revival. I believe we will see that.
However, after 26 years, much of that in pastoral ministry developing churches, I no longer value growing numerically for the sake of numbers. I don't get excited when more people show up, unless those people are hungry and ready to engage God with us at an extreme level.
I believe the sharp, offensive messages that will be preached, the call for 100 percent of the people to be invested in supernatural, fervent prayer and the extreme commitment necessary to advance apostolically will repel most people. Only a remnant will be left. It's with that remnant that we can preach what much be preached, pray what must be prayed and do what must be done to prepare a region for revival.
Messages Will Cause Problems
"Then His disciples came and said to Him, "Do You know that the Pharisees were offended after they heard this saying?" (Matt. 15:12).
Pastors can be neutered no longer. We can't be muzzled. The leadership necessary to bring a shock to a nation will result in many becoming offended—not because of the fault of the leader, but because of their own unresolved issues.
We just came through a volatile election season—a season that had most pastors silent out of fear that those who disagreed with their position would leave the church—or that the IRS would revoke their tax-exempt status.
I lost that fear long ago. We must refuse to hold back truth and key prophetic messages out of fear that some will revolt. In fact, we need to know that our words will cause great damage, both actual and collateral, when we speak with authority. They will also set the captives free.
This will result in regular heart-checks in the camp. Will we murmur and complain as the Hebrews did under the leadership of Moses—and die in the desert—or will we rally around leaders in the spirit of Joshua who refuse to give in to the taunts and threats of the people?
Love Will Be Real
We will experience a connection with others in a way that we have never known as we endeavor to advance as soldiers together. Friendships will be forged in the foxhole. Nobody will be involved simply for the sake of finding a friend. Mission will come first, but in that mission, we will discover a love for people that is real, deep and alive.
Many will reject love like this since it turns focus from them and their desire for social interaction to God and his mission.
In the natural, it was quite a sight to behold watching the Chicago Cubs advance through the regular season, then through the post-season to win their first World Series in 108 years. All-Star and team leader Anthony Rizzo cried very real tears during the victory parade, in front of five million people, as he talked about his love for retiring catcher and father figure David Ross. It was moving to say the least.
Understand, the Chicago Cubs didn't invite people to participate on the team so they could develop relationships with one another. That's laughable. The right people who were locked in to a magnificent mission were invited to join the team. Those people fought together and discovered respect and love. It was real, or as real as it can get without God in the mix. I trust you understand the point I'm trying to make.
Of course, the church isn't going to invite only the most gifted or talented to participate, but the end result will be that only those who are willing to focus on the mission will want to stay.
Programs Will Be Few
In the past, I intentionally limited programs, ministries and outreaches in the churches I led so we could all stay focused and energized for the main thing, which was prayer. The truth is that a culture of prayer will result in more fruit and legitimate disciples being made that typical programs or outreaches would. The effects might not be as immediate, but truer conversions and lasting disciples will result.
I see this strategy continuing.
In past churches, we'd all gather as a group a few times a week for prayer and training. We had our school of prayer that trained in revival, prayer and the apostolic. We'd prayer-walk the streets. We initiated prayer movements in over 170 different churches. Everybody involved in our churches at a core level was either praying, being trained in prayer, preaching on prayer or giving attention to supporting topics such as revival, deliverance, authority or other key focuses.
The goal was for the remnant to be so full and so united in the pursuit of revival that it spilled out everywhere they went. They would invite people to come to our prayer events, to the school and to other ministries. They'd develop supplemental ministries on their own. They would explode on fire night and day.
As an example, one of my key leaders in Detroit took on a specific part of downtown Detroit as her mission field. She would develop teams to go down there for prayer. We would often join her as a church to pray on-site. It was an important ministry project that she initiated and we supported. We could remain focused on the main thing and people had the freedom to launch out and fulfill their callings.
My Personal Access Will Be Limited
"But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:4).
I will be relentless in protecting my call to pray, to training and to developing a revival strategy.
This means most of my time will be spent alone in prayer. Some of my time will be spent with my core leadership team. A small portion of my time will be spent with others.
Those who need a strong pastoral connection will most probably struggle, and I believe the struggle is a good one. I believe you can grow much faster in that culture than you can otherwise.
The focus will be unapologetically apostolic/prophetic.
So, as I sit here writing this, I'm craving the opportunity to give leadership to such a church. However, I am not convinced that it's quite time. In fact, while it may be time within the next month, it may not be for the rest of my lifetime. I fully understand that.
I'm excited about the local church I'm running with now and believe God will continue do wonders through its ministry. I'm privileged to be a part of that revival- and prayer- minded family.
There's a lot more I could share than I did in this article. I also understand there are many invisible, hidden parts that I have yet to discover as I continue to consider the future of the church. The passion in my heart for such an end-time church is real, and it will only grow. As more clarity comes, I'll know how to proceed.
But, let me leave you with a question. Regardless of where you live, would you jump into a church culture like I described? Or does it sound good, but too challenging? Is it possibly not attractive? Do you hold to a different paradigm? What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear them.
I want to encourage you to read a related article I wrote previously here. Also, download a free chapter of my book The Coming Church. It comprehensively covers this topic.
John Burton has been developing and leading ministries for over 25 years and is a sought-out teacher, prophetic messenger and revivalist. He ministers in churches and at camps and conferences throughout the nation. John has authored ten books, is a regular contributor to Charisma magazine, has appeared on Christian television and radio and directed one of the primary internships at the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City. Additionally, he has planted two churches and has initiated two city prayer movements and a school of ministry. A large and growing library of audio and video teachings, articles, books and other resources can be found on his website at burton.tv.
For the original article, visit burton.tv.
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