Carrot and Stick

A few weeks ago, the brilliant Jeff Turner posted this superb piece on Facebook. This essay really grabbed my attention because it’s one of the things that God has been saying to me for a couple of years now. I will let you read it first, and a few of my own comments follow:

I don’t aim to offend with posts like the one that follows, but there are certain things I can’t help but say. Not because I aim to tear down this or that movement, but because I long to see people find freedom from the madness they willingly and hopefully submit to.

I’ve watched people who are dear to my heart, give literal decades of their lives to movements that are going absolutely nowhere. They are movements that lack mobility, based not upon helping hurting people (though, that’s a bit of an overstatement, as there are factions within these larger movements that certainly DO focus on exactly that) but upon pumping up the masses to expect a fresh wave of revival, or a “new thing” which God always seems to be on the verge of doing.

Year after year, decade after decade, the prophecies, promises and proclamations keep coming: “God’s getting ready to do this! God’s raising up that! We’re entering into a season of this! etc…” The fact that almost none of these promises ever materialize is ignored though, and the faithful are moved to heap guilt upon themselves, believing that if they’d only prayed harder, fasted more, or lived more consecrated lives, that something would have happened. They shoulder the guilt and responsibility that belongs to the irresponsible leaders who made the empty promises, blame themselves lacking in devotion, and determine to try harder next time. That isn’t to say they aren’t complicit, in that they never ask questions of their leaders, but, still, he guilt is misplaced. They pray, pray and pray some more, but the promises and prophecies never come to pass.

Eventually, when weariness sets in, the leaders switch gears, and begin emphasizing the necessity of spiritual endurance, and preaching about not giving up on your breakthrough, revival’s right around the corner etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum. This keeps the faithful…faithful, but also enslaved. They are hopeless devotees to a system founded on false hope. When the falseness of the hope begins to be revealed, however, they’re simply given bigger and flashier things to hope for.

But year after year, decade after decade, nothing changes.

And why does nothing change? Because instead of devoting ourselves to bettering humanity, we hide in prayer closets and prophecy clubs, begging God to act, and telling each other things are about to change. Deep inside, though, we know we’re lying. Once it becomes apparent that the movement we’ve been longing for is still a ways away, gears are shifted again, and now the faithful are told that God is raising up people to pray in the movement that God wants to raise up – which apparently He can’t raise up until we ask Him to do it. A lot. Now it’s not about expecting revival, but expecting God to raise up prayer warriors to pray in the revival. Which begs the question of what was it they were doing all those previous years, then? And why exactly would God need for us to pray for Him to raise up people to pray to Him so that He could do something He already wants to do? Any way you cut it, it’s madness. Faithful and devout madness, to be sure, and the tenacity and devotion of those involved is a marvel, but it’s madness all the same.

If you push a button on a vending machine and the screen says “all out,” you move on and press another button. And sometimes to an entirely different machine. And sometimes you even give up on vending machine cuisine altogether. Would it not be mad to stand pressing the same button for years, hoping that suddenly things would change? If something doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, and you move on, but these popular prophetic movements don’t allow you to move on. They’ve employed and trained an army to stand behind you and whisper in your ear, “Keep pressing that button! Don’t get weary in well doing. Harvest is on it’s way, breakthrough is coming, but don’t stop pressing or you might miss it!” If you’d only tune out their voices and press a different button, or move on entirely, you could get on with your life. But the fear of “what if they’re right and I miss out?”, and that niggling thought of “were the hours and hears I spent pressing the button just wasted, then?”, spur you on.

This madness has to end. Your life is too beautiful a thing to keep imprisoned in such insanity!

Dear friends, I mean no offense, but I know this insanity all too well. I’ve been trapped in such movements in my past, and almost destroyed my life and everything precious to me because of them. There is no hope in clinging to these sinking ships. There’s an abundant life waiting for you just a few short steps outside of the prison of unfulfilled prophecies and unanswered prayers that you’re living in. You don’t have to stay trapped and bound. There’s hope for you. You need not waste another moment. Run for your life, and find freedom and rest in Christ!

There’s a better way.

– Jeff Turner

Here is the link to the original Facebook post

And I think that’s so well said. It’s essentially carrot and stick. This is the carrot: God’s doing something new! Tomorrow! Which of course never comes! – and the stick is of course Hell. Surprise, surprise; predictable and boring.

So what happens is that you live every day looking forward to better things, and not appreciating today for what it is and how God wants to walk with you today. And all while under the threat that if you so much as put a toe wrong (that is, outside the church’s particular ruleset) then you’re toast forever. And that without butter, too.

But TODAY is the day that the Lord has made; today is the day of salvation. Living in the moment is all He expects us to do; anything else is just wasting our lives on wishes. I wrote an article on this sort of thing about a year ago (in fact it was exactly a year before Jeff wrote his post, on the 12th June); here it is:

Today is the Day of Salvation

No, life is for living – right now! – and in the freedom from fear (1John 4:18) that knowledge of God’s perfect Love gives.

Be free!


Postscript: I do believe, however, that revival is always just hanging over our heads, and God just waits to pour out His Grace and mercy on those who will receive it. That includes you and me, and it includes us right now. I also believe that God is indeed doing a ‘new thing’ in this day where He’s making it clear what He’s like, and making it clear whom He includes and whom is welcome with Him, and this despite what the church think about it. (Shall I do this and not tell Abraham? (Gen 18:17) It would appear that Abraham is not listening!) And, as usual, the religious are being left standing and the ‘sinners’ are going into the Kingdom ahead of them (Mt 21:31)


Header Image credit: Berger and Wyse

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2 thoughts on “Carrot and Stick

  1. “There’s an abundant life waiting for you just a few short steps outside of the prison of unfulfilled prophecies and unanswered prayers that you’re living in.”

    Sadly, I have yet to find that. I was trapped in that cycle that Jeff describes but escaping from it has not brought the abundant life. Life has been a struggle and seems to be spiralling down into a darker than ever pit of hardship while I cling desperately to faith in Jesus with little evidence. I’m sorry to sound so despairing, but that’s just how I am feeling at the moment. It’s very hard. I left the fellowship and have been unable to find a fellowship group where I fit. I begin to think that I am the problem and guilt does not lead to peace or abundance. Help me, Jesus!

    1. I’m sure He will, Jem. You’re not the problem; I sometimes think that unlearning all our previous dodgy doctrines are often the biggest hurdle. And, of course, if you do miss the people then that’s going to make it harder. Have you read my series on the Stages of Spiritual Growth? You might find something in there that might make sense for your current situation. Blessings bro 🙂

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