How would you respond if you knew that fifteen percent of your city was soon to come to Christ? Would you or your church be ready? How would you prepare?
In recent years, there has been a growing consensus among prophets and prognosticators around the Body of Christ that we are on the verge of a massive new great awakening. Many are predicting that up to a billion souls could come to the Lord in the next few years. These predictions are supported by the fact that the population of the earth has recently exceeded seven billion people with over a billion under the age of 20 years old. This hope of a massive harvest is also made more real by the fact that internet technology and social media has created a network of global communication unlike anything we have ever known. In fact, the winds of revival are already blowing in parts of Asia and Africa but the western world is lagging behind, but not for long. Like logs on a massive bonfire, all the elements are in place for a major, global outpouring of salvation, and all that is needed is a spark from heaven to ignite the world.
The million-dollar question is… “Will the church be ready?”
This is the question that is at the heart of my new book, “Revival Culture” that is co-authored by Banning Liebscher, the Director of Jesus Culture and published by Regal Books. As someone who was saved during the Jesus Movement in the 1970’s it was obvious to me that the Church was taken by surprise when a multitude of young people began to give their lives to Jesus. While there were many leaders and churches that embraced this unexpected harvest, the majority of churches were completely unprepared and failed to make the most of this amazing season of revival. I contend that by the Grace of God and with a little preparation, we can be ready when this huge harvest comes.
The Signs of The Times
I believe there are five signs of preparation that are beginning to emerge in the Church, that point to a new great awakening and these are found in Matthew 9:35-10:8
1. The Message of the Kingdom
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. -Mt. 9:35
One of the clearest signs of a new great awakening is the growing recognition that the Gospel that Jesus preached was not primarily a gospel of salvation but rather, a gospel of the Kingdom of God. Simply put, what some call Kingdom Theology is a simple way of viewing scripture that helps to clarify our role in the purposes of God.
The basic tenets of Kingdom Theology can be summed up in ten points:
- God created all things and declared them to be good.
- There was a rebellion in the heavens that spread to the earth.
- This great rebellion released a curse of evil, pain and poverty.
- In response, God set in motion a redemptive plan beginning with Israel.
- This plan culminated in God becoming flesh and dying on the cross.
- In his death, Jesus released forgiveness and broke the enemy’s power.
- Through faith in His death and resurrection we can be saved and set free.
- Jesus gave birth to a new creation of humanity filled with the Holy Spirit.
- He empowered us as partners in extending this gospel and healing the sick.
- We must represent God’s will in every sphere of society until He returns.
Over the last generation, this perspective of the Gospel has had a growing influence in the Body of Christ and has brought a renewed commitment to reaching the unreached and influencing the world around us. It counteracts the hopelessness that has crept into the church over the last century that has caused us to abdicate our role as ambassadors of God’s kingdom and withdraw from the world into the four walls of our churches. It also empowers us to keep a victorious perspective of the church in the challenging times that we live in. Regardless of your specific beliefs about the rapture or the millennium the Gospel of the Kingdom imparts the hope and courage to influence and impact the world around you.
2. Compassion for the Unreached
But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. -Mk 9:36
A second clear indicator of the coming harvest is the increasing heart of compassion that is filling the church. When Jesus looked upon the multitudes, He did not see them as dirty-rotten sinners who needed to be saved but He saw them as victims of an oppressive demonic system and was drawn to shepherd them into freedom and faith. This doesn’t mean that sin is not a critical issue. It is sin that tore the universe and required the suffering of the Cross. Sin is absolutely important, but it is not the primary lens through which God views humanity. God so loved the world…
The scripture gives us two equally true perspectives of humanity. We are sinners in need of a savior and we are victims of demonic forces in need of a deliverer. Acts 10:38 puts it like this: “…Jesus went about doing good and healing all those who oppressed of the devil for God was with him”.
In spite of our fallen state, we were created in the image of God and we carry eternity in our hearts in the form of Kingdom Longings that drive us from deep within. In fact, many of the harmful things that people do to themselves and others are merely sinful responses to these deep yearnings. This is no excuse for sin but it does provide the kind of understanding that will help us build a bridge of truth to help people cross over to Jesus.
There is a growing awareness of God’s love for the lost and broken, and this compassion is driving a movement of care and service that pleases the heart of God. We are beginning to understand that the Good Shepherd longs to enfold all of humanity in His flock and restore each one to the glory that was intended when they were created in the image of God
3. The Resurgence of Prayer
Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” -Mt. 9:37-38
Throughout history prayer has always been a primary catalyst for revival. To confirm this statement, we only have to remember the 120 disciples in the upper room, or Father Nash who spiritually ploughed the ground for Charles Finney’s great harvest of souls. For additional proof, we could look at Brother Seymore crying out in an Azusa street barn or a group of little old lady’s praying in a cottage in the Hebrides Islands. In fact, the rare exception is revival that was not preceded by concerted prayer.
For those who emphasize God’s sovereignty in revival, prayer is the first evidence of the Holy Spirit stirring the heart. For those who focus on human responsibility in welcoming a fresh wave of the Spirit, prayer is the initial cry that God hears and answers. Either way, prayer is essential. In this generation, the priority of prayer has been on the increase throughout the Body of Christ through leaders like Lou Engle who started The Call and has filled stadiums with passionate intercessors, or Mike Bickle who has grown the International House of Prayer to over a thousand full-time prayer missionaries. In addition to this there are hundreds of other local, regional and global expressions such as Generals of Intercession, 24/7 Burn, Luke 18 and the Global Day of Prayer.
Most of these and other prayer movements have also been recognizing the importance of integrating praise and worship into intercession. This is based on the idea that worship and praise are actually a form of corporate prayer in which we sing to God the longing of our hearts. This blending has sometimes been referred to as “harp and bowl” intercession (reference). The value of this combination of prayer and worship is also confirmed by Jesus, “If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you will ask what you will and it shall be done for you”. Praise and worship connects us to God in a deep and abiding intimacy that sifts and shapes our desires and forms requests that are increasingly aligned with the heart of God.
One of the clearest examples of New Testament prayer is drawn from the Old Testament story of Elijah (James 5). We are told that Elijah was a man with the same problems that we have, but he prayed and the heavens were opened. However, when we examine the actual story, we see Elijah after his great victory over the prophets of Ba’al, on the top of Mt. Carmel crying out seven times for rain. After each prayer he sent his servant to look for a sign to no avail. Yet after the seventh prayer, he sees a small cloud, “the size of a man’s hand” and Elijah confidently shifts his prayer from intercession to declaration.
God is raising up an army of prayer warriors who are filled with passion and purpose, who will not relent until God pours out his Spirit upon His people and releases laborers into the greatest harvest the world has ever known.
4. Empowering New Leaders
And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. -Mt. 10:1
The thought of a massive, billion-soul harvest is very exciting but if we are doing the math, we have to admit that the prospects of revival are also very challenging. In order to pastor a billion souls we will need ten million new leaders at a one-per-hundred ratio. If we will soon have a billion new spiritual babies on our doorstep, we need to get busy fixing up the nursery.
In his timeless book, God’s Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert Coleman, reminds us that Jesus’ “Plan A” for transforming the planet was to make disciples and train leaders… and there was no “Plan B”. Jesus chose the twelve, that they should be “with Him” and that they would carry His ministry forward. He did the same thing with the Seventy, the 120 and the disciples throughout the Book of Acts. He not only empowered them to do miracles but he also instructed them in the Gospel of the Kingdom and gave them specific strategies for reaching the unreached.
As we look forward to a new great awakening, the greatest challenge is to train and deploy leaders who will disciple this coming generation in the fullness of Jesus. Right now, around the world, there are many great bible schools and seminaries that are training young people to be ministers. There are also many short term training ministries such as Youth With A Mission that also provide immediate outreach opportunities as part of their training system. I have the privilege of teaching at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM) in Redding California that has over 1500 (Check) on-fire students who are trained to bring God’s presence and power into every sphere of society.
Although there are many great training schools around the Body of Christ, it is a sobering reminder to think that it will take 1000 schools, producing 1000 trained ministers per year for ten years to meet the challenge of ten million new leaders. I believe the real solution to this need is the fulfillment of the Malachi 4:6 promise. In the last days, God will raise up again the spirit of Elijah who will turn the Hearts of the Fathers to the sons”…. And the hearts of daughters to the mothers… that a new generation of leaders will be raised up in partnership with the seasoned generation to release a new breed of leaders to care for the emerging generation. As I travel throughout the Body of Christ, I am seeing a rising urgency in leaders everywhere to pour into the next generation to release the revivalists of tomorrow to reach souls and shape society for good.
5. Restoring the Supernatural
“Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.”f -Mt. 10:8
The final sign of coming harvest that I want to present is the rise of the supernatural Presence and Power of God in the Church. Although there are many will look at this verse and say that this only applied to the twelve apostles, all they would have to do is look at the next chapter to see the Seventy empowered in a similar way. Also, a careful reading of the book of Acts and church history will conclude that signs and wonders were always intended to be a part of the life of the church
When I gave my life to Jesus over thirty five years ago, the ministry I was a part of believed in miracles but we didn’t experience them very often, and when they did happen it was normally through a well known speaker on a stage. This all began to change in the early 1980’s when a man named John Wimber began to train believers how to hear the voice of God and move in the power of God. Wimber was one of the first leaders to actually equip believers to heal the sick, cast out demons and operate in the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Then in the spring of 1994, another wave of supernatural impartation came to the Body of Christ through what became known as the Toronto Renewal. As with every revival and renewal, this outpouring had its critics but the fruit of supernatural empowerment is undeniable. This move of God has given birth to some of the most impactful ministries the world has ever known, including Iris ministries led by Heidi and Rolland Baker who have now planted more than 10,000 churches in Africa with some of the most amazing signs and wonders ever recorded, including over a hundred, documented, raisings of the dead.
You and I are privileged to live in an extraordinary time and I believe, like Esther, we “have come into the Kingdom for such a time as this.” Let us embrace this challenge and prepare our hearts, our lives, our churches and ministries for the greatest harvest of souls that the world has ever known.