Monday, February 20, 2023

Winds of Revival? Now What?

I am confident that the winds of revival are blowing.

For me it started nearly two years ago. I believed it was coming and set myself to applying my energy to building capacity for revival in a local church we’ve held dear since the earliest days of the young congregation (Pursuit). My work, mostly as a consultant, was a year of building organizational infrastructure… systems that helped support and sustain the work. That expression of revival still burns, seemingly gaining a second wind in recent days. 

These winds of revival are blowing in and from Kentucky… from the campus of Asbury University.

We experienced some of those winds last Sunday morning as we worshiped at Venture Church. Dr. Brandon Beals, Venture’s lead pastor, ventured back to his alma mater to see for himself. He brought a report to an anticipating congregation and we could not help but welcome God’s revival winds to blow in our midst. We’ll gather again Wednesday evening, with expectation, welcoming those winds to blow in, among, and through us.

There are reports from others too… revival winds blowing in congregations in which saints hunger for spiritual awakening in their hearts, churches, cities, and regions.

Along with the reports, there are criticisms and concerns.

I certainly understand the caution and concern. There is a long, repeated history of revivals burning out the vessels of revival. Revival’s human vessels too often crash and burn. Churches that host revivals too often falter and then either stand empty or disappear within a generation. I’m certain it is not inevitable, nor is it God’s will… but the common vessels that contain the wind and fire, the uncommon presence of God, so easily lose our way. It is not, of course, a new phenomenon; such is recorded of the patriarchs in our most ancient Biblical texts.

But there is also a repeated theme in Scripture that urges us to not let the fear of failure keep us from God’s best.  

So, what do we do with these revival winds?

I see that some (many? Including loud voices) accuse us of whipping up, or mimicking, revival. That if we desire revival, or pray for revival, or plan for revival, or provide an atmosphere for revival, we are somehow removing revival’s authenticity.

Again, I understand the caution and concern. We, who are skilled in such, could simply stir up an emotional crowd and call it revival. I am sure some have.

But, again, fear of getting it wrong must not keep us from God’s best either.

As I have been thinking and praying about this, especially praying for those in positions of leadership, I keep coming back to Matthew 14. I believe the passage encourages us, at times like these, to get out of the boat.

After Jesus and His Disciples fed the 5,000, Jesus sent his friends ahead as He lingered back to pray. His friends set out on the waters of the Sea of Galilee. This was familiar territory for many aboard. They were likely led by Peter, one Jesus was preparing for leadership, an expert due to his profession as a fisherman on precisely those waters.

In spite of their expertise, they found themselves, literally, in rough waters "a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it." (Matthew 14:24)

Are there parallels here as the winds of revival blow? Pastors and other leaders are where we are because of obedience to Jesus, just as those Disciples were following the Lord’s direction as they went ahead on the boat. Pastors and other leaders are here, working within our expertise, bringing our best as we are obedient to Jesus… again, just as they were on the Sea of Galilee.

Allow me to pause here for a moment and consider bringing our best, obediently to Jesus.

At Asbury, their best is an historic chapel with simple wooden seating, an edifice in the style of what one might expect from a 130-year-old school in Dixie, with roots in the Wesleyan-Holiness movement. Compared to the church auditoriums to which I am accustomed, it is pretty low-tech at Asbury. The sound and lights are simple. The music is student-led on mostly acoustic instruments. The simple charm of it seems to be part of the appeal. It is authentic. It is their best.

As we catch the winds from the Asbury Revival, should we turn down our audio systems? Should we opt for fluorescent house lights instead of our stage lighting and hazers? Should our projectors and LED walls go dark? Would that be authentic? Would that be our best?

Let’s not mimic the best of others; let’s bring our best. Whatever we have expertly built to provide a platform for the presence of God, even that to which we aspire as we bring extra to our best, that is authentic. If pipe organs or acapella singing is the expertise that has you where you are, do it to your best, authentically. If it is lights, media, and walls of sound, do it to your best, authentically.

Let’s bring our best, and even aspire to a little more. Let’s bring our hunger. Let’s bring our expectation. And let’s see what God will do as His revival winds blow.

Okay… now back to the text.

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said. (Matthew 14:25-29)

Within the winds of our day, could Jesus be calling us to come, to step out of our boats, to walk in faith toward Jesus? 

Could we, with all our expertise and obedience, finding ourselves in these unusual winds… might we take those extra, trusting steps of faith toward Jesus?

Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:29,30)

It seems pretty clear that when Peter had his eyes on Jesus, when He obeyed the Lord’s command and walked toward Him, Peter walked in a miracle. When Peter looked around and was afraid (“doubted” as Jesus put it) he sank. But, of course, Jesus was still there to save in the midst of doubt. 

There was revival in the boat once Peter and Jesus took their places among the Disciples. The text reads: 

when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:32,33)

Faith arose. They saw, again, who Jesus is, and they worshiped.

My encouragement in these winds of revival is this: get out of the boat. Bring our best, operate in our expertise, and when we see Jesus, ask Him to call us closer, even when that means trusting Him beyond the rails of our safe boats. Let’s keep our eyes on Him and see what He will do… and let’s expect awakening and revival in the hearts and lives of all who might see.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

He Gets Us. Will They Get Us?

The big game is this weekend. I forget, are we allowed to say Super Bowl? Is that some sort of copyright infringement?

The Super Bowl is now much more than just a game. It is an event… nearly a national holiday. Outside of the game, there are the parties and the shows and, of course, the ads.

This Sunday there will be two ads with a message that is perhaps new to the game. There will be two ads for Jesus. The He Gets Us campaign will debut two new ads, paying the big bucks for the most prestigious airtime in the marketing world.

Allow me to state my position. I am a fan. I am in favor and supportive of the He Gets Us campaign. When I first saw the ads, I was a bit skeptical, mostly because of the anonymity of the money behind the effort. But I came around. Endorsements by key leaders confirmed and sealed my support… people including Doug Clay (leader of the Assemblies of God, my archbishop I suppose), Nona Jones (author, preacher, and business leader), and Ed Stetzer (trusted Evangelical missiologist and supernerd). I was especially glad to know that Ed Stetzer is engaged in the project, including having a hand in the theological vetting of the content of the ads.

I am also glad to know that there is a coordinated effort to engage churches and Christians in leveraging the campaign, tools to share the Gospel and lead people to faith using the ads as catalysts for conversation. I’ll be in a leadership meeting with some of my tribe, the Assemblies of God, next week; the He Gets Us campaign is on the agenda, and I will do all I can to support our efforts together.

The best place to get started, if you haven’t yet, to find tools to leverage the campaign, is their partner website: You’ll find a rich set of resources to help us engage conversations, take the conversations deeper, and follow up.

I hope that these efforts play a part in bringing many to faith. I don’t expect people to drop to their knees and get saved when they see an ad during the Super Bowl. But an ad can lead to a conversation. An ad can lead to further exploration. An ad can lead someone to pick up a Bible. An ad can urge someone to give church a try, again, or perhaps for the first time. An ad can lead someone to seek out a Christian friend for connection. An ad can play a small part, be one of many ingredients, that results in people believing Jesus. I hope the ads work.

I have another hope, too… and a closely related concern.

My hope is that the ads can play a role in refocusing believers, the Church, on Jesus.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m a marketing expert. But I am a student, having earned a graduate degree in the field. I also have decades of experience as a practitioner, specifically in advertising with a Christian message, having led marketing in Christian Higher Education for schools across the country; I’ve done some church advertising too. I have spent a lot of Kingdom money on ads, direct, local, and national.

Marketing folk know that, while usually targeted at potential and current customers, there is a vitally important, secondary target for marketing efforts; the organization’s own personnel, especially those in the sales force, are impacted. That is particularly the case with brand advertising.

Most of the Super-Bowl ads will be brand advertising, rather than specific product advertising. We won’t likely see an ad during the Super Bowl selling a specific product with a specific price at a specific location. The car dealer leasing Camrys for $299 a month on the outskirts of town can’t afford the airtime.

He Gets Us is brand advertising… and the brand is the He in He Gets Us; the brand is Jesus. What a brand! A unique brand for all sorts of reasons. One of the ways this brand is differentiated from all the other brands is that this brand lacks typical business structure.

If Toyota ran Super-Bowl ads this Sunday (they usually do, but apparently Toyota is skipping it this year) the corporate heads would control the brand message and control every aspect of the brand throughout the process. They would coordinate the product specs, manufacturing, sales and delivery. The impact to the bottom line would not merely be the impact of an ad, but more likely a result of the tightly controlled integration of the entire process, from design to delivery.

Not so with He Gets Us; there is no tight control from headquarters or a comprehensive coordinated campaign that runs all the way through to sales and delivery. The He Gets Us folk are on their own. Organizations, denominations, and networks are on their own. Individual churches are pretty much on their own. And individual Christians are on our own. The only real control and coordination we have is in God’s Hands; perhaps the Holy Spirit is better than a corporate campaign plan. I suppose we will see.

Now, back to my hope that the campaign will impact personnel.

When a corporation like Toyota does a campaign, they expect the sales force to adopt the brand language. The brand campaign identifies priorities and shapes the way personnel think about and talk about the brand.

I hope we get some of this with the He Gets Us campaign. Sometimes we forget the main thing; churches forget that Jesus is the main thing. The campaign could help us refocus on Jesus. We also forget that Jesus is for everyone, not merely our cliques. The campaign could help us remember that Jesus is relevant… that with a little effort, we can connect Jesus to today’s needs in today’s circumstances, even with today’s language.

I hope that the campaign reaches people, and I hope it invigorates the brand’s personnel, believers in our churches.

That leads me to my related concern.

There is an adage that goes something like this: the quickest, most effective way to kill a business is with great advertising.

It isn’t that great advertising kills a business. Great advertising is great for a great business. But great advertising can be really bad for a bad business.

Grizzled marketing practitioners have stories. One might go like this. A new restaurant opens to a packed house, even long lines because the advertising was so great. But customers find that the restaurant really wasn’t ready. They were overwhelmed. There was chaos resulting in bad service and crummy food. Word spread and the great advertising was quickly undone by the trusted word of mouth. The ads did not match the reality… at least not yet. Business never recovered and the doors were closed.

An early mentor of mine would often say, “Bad is worse than good is good.” Raising expectations but then leaving them unfulfilled does damage, sometimes irreparable damage.

Should we be concerned that the way Jesus is portrayed in the He Gets Us campaign does not match the way Jesus is portrayed in churches?

The campaign obviously casts a wide net. The message, the words, the music, the images… everything aligns with an inclusive message culminated in the simple, last words that tag every ad: All of us. The ads appear to purposefully challenge what the prevailing culture may think about church, especially affluent evangelical churches. The ads are edgy. One might come away from the ads thinking that Jesus gets us, all of us, regardless of race, class, background, wealth, politics, or even sexual preference.

What if someone found themselves in our church but found that all of us does not include them? Does all of us include a rebel or a liberal. Does all of us include people who are poor or gay? Do we look like an all-of-us people, multi-ethnic, multi-generational?

Let’s ask ourselves if we are ready to receive people who expect an all-of-us welcome. Are our churches and Christian organizations ready? Are you and I ready for a conversation with someone with all-of-us expectations. Can we ready ourselves? Shouldn’t we ready ourselves?

Sadly, I’m sure that my concern is well founded in some cases. There will be people who, change their minds, give Jesus a chance, respond to the all-of-us message in the ads, but find themselves in churches, or in conversations with Christians, who are not welcoming to all of us.

Apart from the miraculous, some will end up worse off.

But it is a risk worth taking because there are lots of us all-of-us Christians in lots of all-of-us churches. Perhaps the ads will even nudge a few more of us into the all-of-us category. God help us.


If you would like to continue the conversation, perhaps with some coaching or consulting, reach out today. It could be that Greatifiers has some tools and approaches that would help make your good thing great.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

The Audience Comes Last

Recently, on 60 Minutes, acclaimed music producer Rick Rubin said: "The audience comes last… the audience doesn’t know what they want." 

It made me think of a favorite quote from Howard Schultz in one of his first books about the success he led at Starbucks, Pour Your Heart Into It. Schultz said: “You don’t just give customers what they ask for. If you offer them something they’re not accustomed to, something so far superior that it takes a while to develop their palates, you can create a sense of discovery and excitement and loyalty that will bond them to you. It may take longer, but if you have a great product, you can educate your customers to like it rather than kowtowing to mass-market appeal.”

Much of my background, experience, education, perhaps even expertise, is in marketing. More specifically, I have often been about the work of marketing church and church-related organizations. When bringing the Church and its various “products” to “market” I have been guided by this notion that, as Rubin says, “the audience doesn’t know what they want.” What God has for people is, indeed, “something so far superior” than anything they could articulate. The Gospel, along with all the good gifts God offers, is the sort of thing that is so extraordinary that it cannot be imagined… but once truly had, we cannot imagine being without the Gospel.

That is what we followers of Jesus have to offer, are compelled and commanded to offer; we offer the Gospel (“market" the Gospel) to those who don’t know they want it.

The Church routinely bungles the task. We routinely just give up and turn our focus inward. We don’t bother really thinking of those beyond our walls, beyond our ilk, beyond our cliques, beyond our cultures, and settle for an inward focus. We determine that outsiders don’t want what we have so we insulate and isolate ourselves with religious trappings. Any potential audience finds our message indecipherable.

We might give lip-service to our desires to spread the Gospel, build God’s Kingdom, and increase our numbers… but we are so attached to our inward focused ways that there is little hope for the Gospel to take root in others through our meager efforts.

We err on the other end of the spectrum, too, by being so marketing-minded that we truly focus on giving our “customers” what they want. We bundle up an appealing package of goods and services, slap on a patina of Christianity, but fail to focus on the Gospel. We may draw a crowd of the pleased and unoffended, we may build a brand and balance our budgets, but ultimately we fail because our market-minded efforts only result in building our little fiefdoms rather than God’s Kingdom.

There’s a hybrid that is common in the Church too… a dangerous, sort of inward-focused, market-minded approach. It is market-minded as it is purposefully appealing… but only appeals to a popular stream in Christianity (perhaps an excess, or even error, in some cases). It is inward-focused as it only targets a precise Christian niche. In years past that niche might be focused on prosperity; these days it could be something like Christian nationalism on the right, or unattached social justice on the left. Again, we might likely draw crowds and balance budgets serving the niche, but such an approach has little impact on unbelievers. It is just a crowd of the already blessed. Few are converted.

I am confident that there is a sweet spot, a place from which Church leaders understand that the Gospel is far beyond what consumers might want, but still outward focused. It takes skilled, Spirit-empowered leaders who can manage the tension between the transcendent Gospel and the unknowing masses.

Leadership is more than just asking people what they want and giving it to them, and it is certainly more than deciding for people and forcing it on them. Leadership holds out a better destination and makes a way to get there. The Gospel is, of course, that very best destination… and the Church, its members, and leaders, must do better to make way for people to get there.


Perhaps I can help you with coaching, evaluation, or planning. Greatifiers aims to help you make good things great. Reach out; I’d be glad to help.