In this article read how past prophetic insights are now coming to pass, discover new church models and how you and your community can be best positioned to advance the Kingdom in this changing landscape.
The perils of meeting in a bar
Some years ago, we established a church in our hometown of Chester, England. It wasn’t what you’d call a ‘traditional’ church since we met in a bar in our local neighbourhood of Blacon, Chester. It was the type of place where your shoes would stick to the floor on Sunday mornings from the previous night’s activities (don’t ask)!
Locals smoked weed down the hallway and when the back doors were open, the wind would blow the sweet-smelling cannabis smoke into our meetings. We didn’t know if the congregation were full of the Holy Spirit or getting high on inhaling second-hand weed half the time.
The bar in the room we met was back to back with the local’s bar, so as well as all the noise coming through, we’d also get drunken locals joining our meetings. One time we had a guest speaker who was accosted during his sermon by one of these – I had to get up and bring the staggering, singing man to sit next to me on the front row. With his one hand wrapped around his vodka and the other draped over my shoulders, he kept upright, leaning on me, for the remainder of the meeting.
Slithering and retching
I noticed a newly saved woman slithering along the floor like a snake one time during the worship, bashing her head on the sound system as a demon manifested. And that wasn’t unusual. We had a witch get saved one Mothering Sunday and while the children were giving out daffodils to all the mothers, she was screaming and puking in the offering bucket as demons were leaving. ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ I shouted, in between her retching!
So no, our church was perhaps not that ‘traditional’ but even so, we began to realise that most of the fruit and transformation of lives came about through our cafes and shops and B&B businesses than through Sunday ‘church’ meetings. We reached many more people through our hospitality businesses, even being able to mentor them through the small groups we ran there.
We found that most people coming to faith in Jesus didn’t want to start attending a typical Sunday morning church meeting. Yes, they wanted to follow Jesus, they gave their lives to Him and wanted to meet up with others, to be mentored and part of community. But not in the traditional church model that we’d grown up with.
Martin Scott’s predictions
Some years ago we published an article by Martin Scott, a friend and recognised prophetic voice, sharing these predictions:
- a new apostolic shape has to be discovered. It will not be possible to simply travel the world to discover it elsewhere. It has to be birthed indigenously.
- there will be criticisms as to how the church is developing with talk of its demise, because what is fresh will be growing at the margins and largely hidden.
- a new apostolic Gospel will be marked by a focus on the margins and the poor, not the centre and the powerful.
- it will carry a wave of signs and wonders through the hands of the apostolic band of unknowns.
- it will push into new waves of thinking about economic issues, as it refuses to bow at the feet of a narrowly defined prosperity.
- let’s not expect the future to be simply a ‘new improved’ re-run of what has been. It has to be something not seen before; not even a going back to the first-century.”
This seemed to echo what we were sensing at the time. I remember clearly the Lord showing me that for years many of us had been building our churches as best we could, working hard implementing our programmes, activities and services, praying for revival and waiting for God to extend His Kingdom and fill our churches.
It’s all been upside down!
However, what He showed me was that we had it all back to front and He was going to turn what we were doing on its head! That in fact, Jesus told us to go and proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven and demonstrate His love and power through signs, wonders and miracles, thereby extending His Kingdom. He told me that instead of praying for revival, we were to ‘be revival’ and we should ignite revival everywhere we went.
As we do that, He promised that He would build His church (see Matthew 16). If we follow that model, we’ll find that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church that the Lord builds, as opposed to the church that we try and build.
The ship is going down
In 2012 the Holy Spirit clearly told Sylvain Gauthier to travel from his home in Canada to attend our European roundtable in Chester. There he shared a word for us from the Apostle Paul’s shipwreck during a hurricane in Acts 27: “I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.”
At the time, we were witnessing hundreds of healings, miracles and salvations through our hospitality businesses and so this warning of impending storms and potential shipwreck seemed out of context. But just one year later, after every option for a venue for our Sunday church meeting forced us out, we cried out to the Lord and He clearly led us to close the two churches we’d planted some years earlier.
What! No Sunday meeting?
We could not understand it at the time, but we were obedient to the Holy Spirit’s direction even though there was a sense of loss and guilt – the thought of not attending church on a Sunday was alien to me. The instruction from Hebrews 10:25 “Don’t give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing’ would ring in my head. Even now, after all these years, I still don’t know what to say when someone asks me which church I attend on a Sunday!
It’s not that meeting on a Sunday was wrong, but we gradually realised that the Lord was doing something different with us and we found that we were pioneering a new model of church. In 2009 we established our ‘all day breakfast’ café in the heart of Blacon, a ‘deprived’ community, and then also opened a gift and coffee shop two miles away in the tourist city of Chester. Instantly we found ourselves at the centre of ‘revival’ as God moved dramatically through the power of His Holy Spirit at both places, and then later through our B&B.
Harvesting is hard work
What we learned from that time is that revival is messy. Harvest time is hard work and we recognised that we didn’t have the framework in place to look after and train the new converts. At that time, the Lord showed me that He was withholding the harvest until the storehouses were ready. Since then, we’ve been putting in place some of what was missing over that intense time of ‘mini-harvest’. It was as if the Lord gave us a taster, albeit on a smaller scale, of what was to come.
Since that time, we’ve filmed scores of videos and launched an online portal. These videos help people to go deep with the Holy Spirit, but are explained simply enough for even new Christians to understand, with faith activations and home tasks for practical application. We’re able to lead people to Jesus this way, helping them mature spiritually and in turn they’re reaching others, in many nations.
A new model of church
And this year we launched weekly Spirit Lifestyle Classes. We don’t run these ourselves but we’re training and raising up believers in various nations who are using the training videos we’ve produced to reach others, leading them to Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit and then mentoring through small Classes. We’re finding that we’re not limited by buildings, money, people or even location, as we began with online Classes during lockdown and now local physical Classes are springing up where Covid restrictions are easing.
The key is to follow the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to show you heaven’s plan for your community and your assignment. It’s already been conceived in the heart of God and just like the blueprints for the tabernacle were downloaded to Moses from heaven, so God’s heavenly blueprints are ready to be downloaded to you through the Holy Spirit. Then by faith you and your team can bring it to birth in the right place and at the right time. This seems to be the season for birthing.
And like Martin Scott predicted, it’s happening in the margins, not from a large centralised headquarters, but with ‘unknown’ people, indigenously and yet powerfully. We at Spirit Lifestyle don’t even have a ‘ministry’ building. There are no salaried staff members. We have a very small team and we’ve all been working from home, long before Covid came on the scene. We’re finding that as we empower others to launch out and use the resources we’ve put together, they’re stepping into their own callings and fulfilling their destinies and so it goes on as they raise up others. It’s early days but we’re seeing sustained growth in many nations already and as we hold it all lightly, not trying to force a traditional model or a certain direction, we trust that this movement will grow exponentially.
In fact, we’re now considering helping others launch hospitality businesses in their communities with signs, wonders, miracles and supernatural training and we’re also seeing existing churches run our weekly Classes from their own church buildings with wonderful results.
Many years ago Rick Joyner prophesied:
“A revolution is coming to Christianity that will eclipse the Reformation in the sweeping changes that it brings to the church. When it comes… the way that the world defines Christianity will be radically changed. What is coming will not be a change of doctrine, but a change in basic church life… When this new church emerges, she will be so different from what is now perceived to be the church, that the whole world will not even recognise that there was ever a connection between the two…
There is about to be a jail-break. A great people are about to emerge from the present forms of church that have been built upon the ways of men, and they will risk everything to seek that which God is building. A true union of the church is not possible until the forces of spiritual slavery are defeated and all people are set free to follow the Lord in their own quest…
The future leaders of the church are now being given a vision of radical New Testament Christianity being restored… it is time to heed the call and allow the Lord to lead His people to the new wineskins that will be able to hold what is about to break out upon the earth… The new dynamic of church life will overshadow the Great Awakenings in their social impact, transforming cities and even whole nations.”
We’re seeing others model church in new ways too. Friends of ours who lead a Baptist Church have been meeting within communities each week and once a month they all come together for a church-wide gathering. They’ve been helping pioneer ‘missional communities’ successfully over the past number of years.
A changing landscape
In 2012 Mark Buchanan had a prophetic dream which he shared at our roundtable and subsequently wrote for our ejournal at the time. The Lord is still speaking through it now, so ask Him to speak to you personally as you read it:
“I was in a fairly high place looking at what I knew was a model of a city. I could see it had a skyline and all the various buildings you would expect in any city. Dominant on the skyline was a beautiful church with a traditional steeple and all the carvings and details that go with it. As I watched, the church started to melt. It turned out to be made of wax, which had been very carefully sculpted and painted. As it melted it sank down and, as it did so, I was lifted up so that I could see over the other buildings on the skyline to what was happening to the church. Obviously, heat was being applied to the church, causing it to melt into a pool of molten wax.
I felt the Lord‘s significant pleasure at what was happening. So it clearly wasn’t a rebuke. As the wax became molten, it began to flow – driven by gravity and the contours of the landscape. Where, previously, there had been lots of straight edges and evidence of man’s intentions, designs and strategies, there was not a straight line to be seen anywhere – just organic shapes. The molten wax ran downhill and pooled wherever there was a dip in the landscape. Eventually there were no more slopes and the wax settled and presumably started to cool down and go solid again.
We are no longer meant to predominantly be a beacon on the skyline. That’s not important in this next phase. There’s no hierarchy in what’s happening. So building up edifices in the church, building up formal structures and layers is no longer relevant. Importantly, in the picture, wherever the wax of the church ended up – molten or solid – its molecular structure remained exactly the same.
However, where it ended up was actually decided by the land itself. So it’s about us – the church – going wherever the need takes us. Wherever we end up flowing and stopping, that’s the right place for us to be. It’s not about planning in advance in all kinds of detail.
The wax symbolises our substance. We are the church, we are God’s body. There should be no fear if we end up in strange places and we shouldn’t be disturbed if where we end up seems to be driven much more by society and the community than it does by some sort of a plan. Our confidence should be in the nature of the wax, which is our identity in Christ. That’s the part that will never change.”
Change is here
After the dramatic changes we’ve seen already in 2020, churches no doubt will eventually be able to return to meetings as usual, however, this is a perfect time to be seeking the Lord and asking for His blueprints from heaven.
What have we learned?
So what we’ve learned is this: don’t try to form a rigid structure, access the heavenly blueprints, go with the flow of what the Holy Spirit is doing, be led by the community you are called to, use whatever methods and means the Lord lays on your heart and the skills you and your team and community have. Don’t try and fit into a mould, let it be organic, demonstrate His Kingdom in love and power, step out in faith, take courage, lay down your life and go with what’s in your heart. And don’t make decisions based on money (whether that be to attract finance or because you don’t have enough). DREAM BIG, be creative, work alongside others and let’s bring in the harvest together, full of joy.
“Look at the nations and watch and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” (Habakkuk 1:5).