by Matt Sorger
I am witnessing an alarming trend in some of our charismatic circles and services. I travel full time on the road all across the United States and other parts of the world. Each week I am ministering in another state to a new group of hungry believers wanting to live in the fullness of God’s Spirit. Several times in the last few months I have encountered a disturbing and grievous observation. Before I share it with you, let me give you some of my personal background.
A FIRM FOUNDATION
I was saved at the age of 14. I am thankful to have been raised in a solid Bible preaching, Spirit-filled church. The word was always given a priority. An understanding of living a holy, sanctified life was always preached with conviction. I took my first steps of walking, living and ministering in the Spirit there. As a young pastor I was given some room to begin to spread my wings as the anointing and power of God began to move through my life. I took full flight when I launched out from pastoring six years ago to travel full time in a “prophetic revival” ministry.
My years before pastoring were spent seeking God as a young person, spending time in personal devotion and study of the word, as well as nearly four years in a great Bible school in Rhode Island where I served as class president during my time there. Upon graduation I stepped into the pastoral ministry. I learned many valuable things during those years that I carry with me to this day. Life experiences have a way of shaping you into the person God has called you to be.
I want to define to you what I consider “prophetic revival” ministry. For me “prophetic” means hearing and then declaring a true word from God, either through preaching and teaching God’s heart as revealed in His word, or declaring and speaking forth an unctioned word from His heart. But even that kind of prophetic word will be solidly rooted and grounded in scripture. “Revival” holds a dual meaning for me. I see it as stirring up the church for a deeper passion for God and learning to live and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and then seeing that passion overflow through the lives of believers into the world around us. The power of God in the life of the believer cannot be contained by oneself. It must overflow and impact the world around us.
AN ALARMING TREND
Now I must share with you an alarming trend I have witnessed taking place. I have even experienced it in my own meetings! Because this is hitting so close to home I can no longer be silent. I am a man of deep convictions. And it is time for me to share them with you. Recently, after a meeting I was standing near my resource table greeting people. A woman approached me to share of the wonderful overflow of the Holy Spirit she had experienced from the meeting the day before. She could sense a whole new level of God’s presence with her. It was clear she had been deeply touched. But she proceeded to share something with me that caused me to raise a “red flag.”
She said, “You know, when you started preaching, I thought, I have heard this before. I really came looking to hear something I had never heard before. But the presence of God in the meeting did have a profound impact on me, and I am not the same.” I rejoiced over what the Lord had done for her, but at the same time I grieved.
That same week a pastor I was having lunch with shared with me his thoughts concerning the meetings we were holding. We had only finished one day of meetings when he shared his thoughts with me. The night before I had preached a word the Holy Spirit had placed on my heart. After the preaching of the word I proceeded to be led by the Spirit in calling some folks out from the audience and prayed for them with a clear demonstration of God’s presence and power. I left the meeting rejoicing.
The pastor didn’t quite feel the same. He said to me, “You know, if the preaching of the gospel could have gotten the job done, it would have been done a long time ago. What we need are the signs. I just want to see the stuff. I don’t want you preaching. Preach just a few minutes. We want the miracles.” Only once before had I had such pressure put on me to “perform." It became apparent very quickly to me that what they were really wanting was a charismatic show. They wanted the “signs following” with no preaching of the word. I’m sorry; but I am making an announcement to the world. I am a WORD preacher.
I see an alarming trend. In the prophetic movement, it seems we may be unintentionally cultivating a mindset where the truth of the power of the cross and blood of Christ are no longer good enough. We need signs, signs and more signs. A life transformed by the power of God’s amazing word is no longer enough. “Let me hear and see something new. Something I have never heard or seen before, something that will wow me!” So we have hundreds of hungry believers fascinated by and following stories of supernatural encounters that have been, at times, exaggerated by charismatic personalities. Trust me when I say I have seen stories stretched and exaggerated to be something they never originally were. And I have seen people eat it up like popcorn and cotton candy. I want you to hear my heart in this. I am all for supernatural encounters. I have had many myself and I know of others in ministry that have had some beautiful, real, life-changing supernatural encounters with God. But I am not into charismatic hype or manipulation. Just say it like it is. Don’t exaggerate, add to or blow something up just to make a good story or to sell a bunch of CD’s. I am not being negative. I am seeking to bring balance back into a movement I am so proud to be a part of -- a movement that didn’t just want to hear empty words, but wanted it backed up with real substance, power and glory.
I want the real thing! I want the real manifest presence of God. I want the real miracles, the real signs and wonders, the real angelic encounters (as God chooses to give them to me.) I don’t want a hyped-up version. I don’t want to just hear something new and different, just for the sake of hearing something I have never heard before. I want my everyday life encountered in a real way by God’s word and anointing. I want to hear something that I can apply to my life. I want the fullness of God’s word to renew my mind, change me from the inside out and fill my life with real power and glory.
People who only want to hear something they have never heard before are in serious danger of opening themselves up to a gospel that is different from the one we find in scripture. If you are running around only looking for a new revelation without first putting into practice the hundreds of revelations given to us in God’s word, you are looking in the wrong direction. God has not called us to be flakey. He has called us to be solidly grounded in Him, to preach the gospel in season and out and to impact the world around us as salt and light.
I love the prophetic. I love the supernatural. But the moment we start wanting signs without the word of God, we are in trouble. And this is what I have been seeing. Recently I had two pastors in different parts of the United States both proceed to tell me that they wanted the preaching of the word to be kept to a bare minimum with an emphasis placed on the signs and the wonders. I need to set the record straight. Signs FOLLOW the preaching of the word. If you become a sign seeker apart from the word of God, you will become ungrounded and will reproduce that in your ministry. It will build an unhealthy and weak foundation in people’s lives.
THE MOST PRECIOUS SIGN
The sign I am most after these days is the sign of a life transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. I want to see people hungry to truly apply the word of God to their lives and not just want to hear something new, but put into practice what they already know. I want to see people walking in love. I want to see people living righteously. I want to see people knowing who they are in Christ so the devil can’t continually beat them up. I want to see people experience the abundant life Jesus came to give them. I want to see people preaching the gospel in power, laying hands on the sick, casting out demons and raising the dead. But we can never forget that the power of the gospel is revealed through the foolishness of preaching. Not just preaching our good stories, but preaching the word of God with power and authority. A sign without the word points nowhere.
I want to encourage the body of Christ in these days to evaluate everything you have believed and be sure it is pure gospel. Go back and read the New Testament from cover to cover and ask the Holy Spirit to write upon your heart the full counsel of God’s word as revealed in the New Covenant. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth and to be sure your foundations are strong and solid. Never neglect God’s word. It has the power to change your life. As you soak in God’s word and in His presence, you will truly live a Spirit-filled, Spirit-empowered life that will make a real difference in the world around you. Go and be the salt and light God has called you to be. And always remember, there is power in God’s word and in the Holy Spirit to give you power for life!