Whenever someone claims that what they’re currently experiencing is a ‘move of God’ I wonder what was happening to them before God moved! Throughout the past ten years, there have been many places across the world that have been branded with the term ‘a move of God’. If that’s the case, what does that say about what’s happening in my neck of the woods! Does it mean that what I have is less than what they have? Does it mean that before ‘God dropped in’ there was an absence of God? I sure hope not.
I believe in the sentiment behind ‘a move of God’. I want a ‘move of God’. I also want to see a mass movement of people entering into the kingdom of God blowing our expectations right out of the water! What I’m wanting, however, is not actually a ‘move of God’. I’m wanting a ‘move of people’. I’m looking for a people movement. Because God never actually stops moving, the expression ‘move of God’ is a poorly coined expression that often masks an undealt with inferiority complex of which most Christians are unaware.
The only time that God’s movements are ever slowed down amongst the saints is when individuals vacate the seat of faith. At all other times – He’s moving. He’s knocking on doors to the heart; He’s leading the blind; He’s protecting the weak; He’s empowering the goings out and comings in of His people. He’s always moving like the wind.
It all originates from the same lack of spiritual confidence that has renamed the ‘manifestations of the Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 12:7) for ‘the gifts of the Spirit’. ‘Manifestation’ presumes hidden presence. ‘Gift’ presumes absence of presence. All nine ‘gifts’ are in essence nine manifestations of a God who resides in the heart of the born again. For a spirit-filled church, it is much healthier to sing ‘Holy Spirit rise’ than ‘Holy Spirit fall’. In that way, we’re left aware that we’re still in possession of what we felt at that particular time we sensed God ‘fall’, a long time after the ‘falling’ has passed.
The human spirit has a bias for acknowledging the God of eternity who sits in the heavens, over and above the internally residing Spirit of eternity. This bias is caused by both an inferiority complex and a ‘hormone’ replacement of faith with feelings. We don’t feel powerful. We feel our failings and feel our inadequacies. It’s our human spirit that searches for water beyond the river instead of drawing from the river itself that currently flows from its inmost being (John 7:38).
In the running of our weekend services, I am constantly reminding my ministry team to ‘declare’ blessing more than ‘pray’ for blessing. There are parts of our services where we especially connect to the needs and emotions of the congregation through perhaps a word of prophecy or a word of knowledge. One of my ministry team leading the meeting will then ask those who feel like the word is for them to lift their hands and get ready for a further impartation of the Spirit. It’s at this crucial point that confidence leakage in the leader often occurs. Prayers are prayed instead of declarations declared. The same can happen for each of us – we can lose our confidence and reduce our lives to simply ‘asking God’ for stuff instead of prophetically declaring both His praises and His provision into our need. Even though the Lord’s prayer is a combination of both prayer and declaration, Jesus never ‘prayed’ for the sick and never openly prayed for provision. He declared ‘be healed’ and He ‘gave thanks’ and He ‘rebuked the spirit’ but, under the influence of the Spirit, never asked His Father to do what He believed He could do through the Spirit’s enablement. This baton of confidence was then carried by His disciples, one of whom famously declared, ‘silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give to you. In the name of Jesus, walk’. He took on the name of Jesus and touched the crippled man in the power of the Spirit. He may have lacked in finance, but he didn’t lack in confidence.
Don’t misunderstand me. It’s good to pray. Jesus taught us to pray. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, ‘If my people pray … I’ll heal their land’. It’s just that much of our praying, as opposed to declaring, comes out of a lack of believing and a lack of acknowledging the real power invested in us through the Holy Spirit’s residency.
In our own church, because people can easily pick up on the wavering of our confidence, our Sunday ‘prayers’ are often met with a quiet but respectful ‘amen’. It’s so different when we move into declaration. These are often met with a noisy rise of affirmation and agreement. That rise shows how the climate changes according to the confidence exuded.
Can Jesus really save?
While on the subject of prayer, and just to be controversial, praying for the salvation of souls is not a prayer Jesus encouraged us to pray (even though I do it a lot!). Out of all of the things that our God can do, making someone get saved is not one of them. He never overrides a person’s right to choose. What He can do, however, is set the culture to make it easier for a right decision to be made. God can hold back demonic clouds and lead a person to life giving water. All they have to do then is choose. Because this process involves our participation as well as theirs – Jesus did urge us to pray, however, that God would send out ‘labourers’ into the fields that are ripe for the picking. Even though the spirit behind praying for souls is passionate and powerful, the answer to it isn’t a ‘move of God’ but, again, a ‘move of people’. It’s a movement of people outward to create a movement of people inward.
Because ‘our moving’ is a large part of ‘God moving’, it’s true to say that as long as we’re moving, God’s moving! People who are simply and solely ‘waiting’ for a move of God find themselves in a stalemate situation. God is waiting for them to move!
I’m in revival
When starting a church plant in Leeds, I was asked by a man who’d been around church life for quite some time when I thought revival was going to come to Britain. I told him that he was looking at it! I am in revival. It’s great! Maybe it’s different to all it’s hyped up to be, but it really is brilliant. The only times I haven’t been in revival is when I’ve vacated the seat of faith and entered the corridor of sin and striving. At all other times – I’ve been in revival. Swimming in it! His perception was one of waiting for a sovereign move outside of our involvement. As long as I’m moving, God is moving. As long as God’s moving, and He never ceases to move, I’m moving. My movements are proof of a God at work. Prompted by the Spirit, obeying the Spirit, and being nurtured by the Spirit – this is the revival so many are longing for. This is ‘a move of God’.
To attach a ‘move’ with a collection of dramatic healings is to detach it from a daily collection of more subtle moving, yet just as profound. It may be true that if we prayed more diligently then God may pour out a greater array of both the subtle and the spectacular, but it cannot be said that the power taken to instantly heal a migraine is of lesser quality or quantity than that taken to heal cancer. If it takes power to heal a limp then it doesn’t take more power to heal a leper – or more faith.
At the start of my ministry as a Youth Pastor, I believed for very small amounts of money that would get my wife and I through the following week. I no longer do that. I believe for hundreds of thousands of pounds to complete our church’s building projects. It’s not more faith and the outcome is only greater in that the answer to my faith now involves a change of thinking of many more people in order to complete the vision. It is not a miracle of greater size. A miracle is a miracle is a miracle.
Jesus did say, however, that, ‘Greater works shall you do’ (John 14:12). Because His range went from winemaking to dead raising, it is obvious that the word ‘greater’ doesn’t mean in scope but in amount. The Holy Spirit’s power would no longer be confined to one man and His disciples.
I’ve found that lurking within most Christians is a feeling that they simply don’t deserve a move of God and that’s why He’s always moving elsewhere. The greatest reason for this is a religious spirit of condemnation that, when left unchecked, declares that we just don’t quite make the grade. We begin to take the side of slavishness over sonship, focussing more on our weaknesses, misgivings, failures and sins rather than our strengths, His blood, our success and His victory in us.
The problem with religious spirits is that in their piety, they not only create mass inferiority and a sense of failure, they can also create a strain of superiority and a sense of having made it. Missionaries are no less prone to this deception than the rest of us. In their zeal to communicate their vision and achievements to their ‘home’ church, they can so easily spawn the spirit of, ‘What are you fat, comfortable, consumeristic Westerners really doing for God, while the rest of the world goes to hell?’ spiel. Spurred on by a growing resentment at having received such little financial and communicative support, the listeners are left feeling that it’s only the missionary who’s cutting it in a far flung land. This in turn leads to even great paralysis in the movements of the people in the ‘home’ church.
The cutting edge
All of this exposes another spiritual myth of some people being ‘on the cutting edge’ or ‘on the front line’ of Christianity while others are not. Paddling up the Amazon looking out for unreached tribes is seen as the ‘front line’ while putting out the washing and saying hello to the suburban neighbours is not. As I have pointed out in my previous book, ‘Jesus Save Me from Your Followers’, it often leads people to believe that the people sitting next to Jesus after we all get to heaven must be either a ‘Hudson Taylor’ type person or a ‘Mother Teresa’ type person. The truth of the kingdom is that our rewards come from what we do with what we have, and not where we do it and in what century we did it in.
In search of great faith
In defence of the church in the western world, I have two things to say. Firstly, there are only two places in the Gospels where Jesus claimed that someone had ‘great faith’. The first was the Centurion leader regarding his paralysed servant (Matthew 8:10), and the second was the Canaanite woman who claimed that even the dogs ate the crumbs from the master’s table (Matthew 15:24). In both cases, Jesus was not geographically present at the place where the miracle happened. For the woman with the issue of blood, the two blind men as well as the ten lepers, Jesus was present, not absent. Because none of us have ever seen Jesus, touched Him or heard Him in a tangible, physical sense, the faith we operate in is always what Jesus defined as ‘great faith’. We believe each day, not only with the physical absence of Jesus but often in the complete absence of demonstrative miracles and healings. While Christians in many third world countries may regularly see the more obvious wonders of God, we continue to believe in their absence. That is nothing other than ‘great faith’.
Secondly, all of us are on the front line. Our enemy is the clear gas of consumerism and selfism. It takes both the wisdom and power of God to discern it, counteract it and walk unswervingly through it. This can be a harder opposition to overcome than the more obvious opposition of persecution and hatred. To own things and not love things needs the constant cleansing by generosity as well as a disciplined refocusing on spiritual values that may not be needed in places where there’s generally an absence of ‘things’.
Why do churches grow and decline?
When a church in our nation suddenly mushrooms in size, it is often claimed that they’re having a ‘move of God’. In the general spirit of good sportsmanship, I usually comply with the comment but not necessarily agree with it. ‘Moves of God’ that cause churches to suddenly rocket in size, I believe, can actually have nothing to do with the movements of God. People join churches for many varied reasons. For some, it’s because their friends have moved there and they don’t want to live life without them. For others, it’s the need to be ‘where it’s at’ or to be a part of ‘the next big thing’. For others, it’s because they like the minister or the music or the length of service. For others, it’s because the kids love it. They’re all good reasons but they may simply all be led by the soul rather than the Spirit. Looking for belonging, identity and security are all the basic needs of humanity and it’s these basic needs that direct much of the movements of people from one church to the next. It’s the urgings of the soul rather than the promptings of the Spirit that so often inflate one church and deflate another nearby. Jesus did meet ‘felt’ needs but when the rubber hit the road, He removed the immediate benefits and held out for faith filled followership. ‘Moves of God’ are based on a sense of call, a revelation of God’s word and a transformation of a person from the inside out.
The movement of people from one church to another can actually hinder a move of God while being classified as one. When people get ‘saved’, the real proof that their response is beyond the meeting of ‘felt’ needs is found in the profound change that takes place on the inside of their hearts, resulting in relational, attitudinal and behavioural changes. Only then can it be confirmed to be a ‘move of the Spirit’.
Let’s be determined to always be a part of the moving of God and never allow our lack of confidence to place someone else’s move as more significant than ours! It’s all God and it’s all good!