God is awakening His Church, but not without its challenges.
We are less than a week away from the National Awakening (Prayer Conference) in Arlington, Texas, where there will be 1500 people gathering from all over the United States and also from other countries. The very first Awakening conference was nine years ago in a little building in Fort Worth, Texas. It was launched because Corey Jones, pastor of Crossroads Tabernacle, heard the call of God to lead a prayer conference. Despite his reluctance, nearly seventy people gathered for the first prayer conference at his church. I don’t believe he had any idea at the time that one day so many hungry people would assemble to cry out to God.
Corey’s vision for nearly twenty years has been to see churches become centers of holy fire around our nation; houses of prayer that cry out to a living God for renewal, revival, breakthrough, and city-wide transformation. Many years ago, when he started praying with his church, he had managed to grow it down to about six people. He tells the story of lying prostrate on the “broccoli-cheese casserole” carpet weeping and repenting before God because of the sin, lethargy, and spiritual poverty of his church. They desperately wanted the manifest presence of God to dwell in their midst. After six months of weekly prayer meetings, there was a shift in the atmosphere. The winds of the Spirit began to blow and the glory of God descended.
Now, after nearly twenty years of crying out, Corey’s church is not just filled with the presence of Jesus, but it’s also filled with redeemed addicts, prostitutes, drug dealers, former gang members, and everything in between. I recently spent a week at Crossroads Tabernacle and the atmosphere of the church actually smelled like heaven. It’s a church that is immersed in the power and presence of God and it’s spreading throughout the community.
What excites me, though, is that there are more churches like this all over the nation. While Corey’s church is unique, there are stories of renewal and revival stirring in congregations from coast to coast. There truly is a national awakening occurring. I have the privilege to travel across our nation and I’m blessed to say that prayer is becoming a central activity for many pastors and leaders. But it’s not just prayer for prayer’s sake; it’s prayer with a purpose. It’s becoming the desperate cry of churches for the glory of God to rest upon them. The focal point for many churches, that I’ve had the honor to be in, is for the increasing manifest presence of Jesus. The results of His presence are signs, miracles, and wonders coupled with an urgency to transform cities.
There is a price to pay, however. Like Corey in the early days, pastors are discovering that not everyone desires to pray and seek after the presence of God. After meeting Corey in 2011, we converted our Wednesday evening service to a night of prayer. It wasn’t long until I got letters and people left our church. While that isn’t the story of every church, it seems to be the reality for churches that transition into a house of prayer. Prayer is the vehicle that invokes the presence of God, but when He moves upon a church not everyone will respond favorably.
I’m sobered in my heart every time I read how Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God (Ex. 19:17). Yet, when His presence descended, Israel stood at a distance and told Moses to not let God speak to them; they desired Moses’ voice more than God’s voice (Ex. 20:18-19). When God descends upon churches, people will often stand at a distant largely because His holiness is uncomfortable to our flesh. Unless we’re willing to be crucified, flesh will always resist the manifest presence of God. When Jesus cleansed the temple and established His presence as the centrality of the assembly, there was a backlash from religious leaders who didn’t want to yield to Jesus (Matt. 21:15). They viewed His presence and the miracles that He wrought, as an intrusion to their well-established customs and rituals.
I wish that pushback didn’t occur, but hundreds of pastors have experienced tremendous challenges in the midst of experiencing an awakening in their church. In reality, problems arise not with people, but truly against powers, world forces, and spiritual wickedness in the heavenly realms (Eph. 6:12). True revival is threatening to evil principalities, and the enemy doesn’t like giving up territory. Think about it, when churches become awakened to the possibilities of functioning in the power of the Holy Spirit, they begin to see spiritual conversions, healings, and deliverances. People are discipled, equipped, and deployed back into the community to reach the lost. Spiritual transformation starts to occur in the city which actually begins to displace darkness and pull down strongholds. In short, the enemy loses a foothold over a region.
Any pastor, leader, or church that hungers for a biblical awakening takes a stand against the enemy; therefore, the hordes of hell will manifest in various ways to distract them from pursuing the presence of God. My humble advice is to stay the course. Keep praying and pressing in for greater encounters with the presence of God. Remember, if we’ve been born of God we will overcome the world (1 John 5:4). Moreover, greater is He who is in us than the one in the world (1 John 4:4). Christ has disarmed the rulers and authorities, so keep your eyes on Jesus because He’s the author and perfecter of your faith (Col. 2:15; Heb. 12:2).
May we all experience a true awakening that ushers in a Third Great Awakening.
Jesus, we want you in our lives, churches, communities, and our cities. No matter the cost, we will live to pursue your presence. Set our churches ablaze. Let them become centers of holy fire, and use us to bring a national awakening.