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NPPN interviews Rhonda Hughey, author of the recently released Desperate For His Presence: God's Design To Transform Your Life And Your City
Rhonda, tell us about the journey God had you on that resulted in your writing of Desperate For His Presence.
It really has been quite a journey. It began when I had the opportunity to live in the revival in Argentina in 1990 and the Lord turned my predictable relationship with Him upside down! That led to my joining Ed Silvosos team in 1994 for 5 years where the passion for seeing entire cities come to Jesus gripped my heart. For the last 10 years I have been working alongside many citywide efforts both in the United States and the nations. During the ministry journey, the Lord had me on a personal journey with Him which included two seasons of deep brokenness and personal transformation that challenged my ministry identity, motivations, ambitions, etc. While those were difficult seasons it helped me gain a better perspective on what transformation really is. I have deep convictions now that its NOT about our abilities, strategies or ability to communicate an anointed message. I have found that its actually our weakness, vulnerability and humility that attracts the presence of God. I began to make it my highest priority to be pleasing to Him, and to live out what I was preaching first in my own life. Along the way my value system was altered, and the effectiveness of my ministry in cities seems to parallel my personal growth rather than being disconnected from it.
After 7 or 8 years of ministry, I began to feel a deep sense that I was missing something, that we in the church in the US were missing something because even though there was a lot of ministry going on we just werent seeing the fruit that we had anticipated. I have come to believe that what we are missing is the presence of Jesus. I began to long for the presence of Jesus with a renewed desperation. I began to ask serious questions about why revival tarries in the Western World and why transformation seems so elusive in our culture. The book is a message drawn from my experiences and understanding of what God is saying to us in the Western World right now and how to prepare ourselves for revival and transformation.
The journey lead me to the International House of Prayer in Kansas City in 2000 to join a staff of 500 (mostly young adults) who are contending in 24/7 prayer and worship for the presence of Jesus. I cant begin to explain the impact this community has had on both my personal and ministry life. To be on the journey with people so passionate about Jesus stirs the longing in my heart for revival. I currently serve as part of the Senior Leadership team at the Intl House of Prayer. I also work closely with George Otis, Jr. as an Intl Transformation Partner. My burden is to connect the prayer and worship movement with the transformation movement because transformation is all about Presence! I also work closely with Youth With A Mission to take the message of intimacy, prayer and transformation and connect it to the nations.
Is this a book about personal renewal or city transformation? Is it a book for prayer leaders or city reachers?
Both! We cannot see transformation of a community until the lives of individuals are transformed. For too long the church has attempted to bring lasting change to communities without first considering her own condition and pressing in to God for revival INSIDE the church before we try to bring revival OUTSIDE the walls of our congregations.
The message of Desperate For His Presence has been developed from years of citywide transformation ministry so the principles and keys of revelation are specifically helpful for ministry leaders, pastors and prayer leaders who have a desire to see their city impacted by the Lord. I was encouraged by the endorsements of several of my mentors in city ministry, John Dawson, Ed Silvoso, Francis Frangipane, and others that they felt this was an important message for the church today. So this book definitely is serving to challenge and stimulate discussion among city reachers.
But the message of Desperate For His Presence is a message for everybody longing for a renewed, intimate encounter with Jesus. I have been receiving amazing reports from people who are experiencing powerful personal transformation from reading the first couple of chapters. That was something I had not expected. In the book I share my own journey and tell stories from a number of cities that are being transformed to offer real and practical examples of Gods heart to bring healing and transformation.
The book is divided into three sections: The Door of Intimacy, calling the church back to presence-based ministry, the Door of Hope, calling the church out of her compromised condition and into spiritual authority and the Door of Heaven, calling the church up to higher perspective and transforming purpose.
In your book you say In a declining culture, the church cannot fully recover the presence of God in her midst apart from the catalyst of a true revival from heaven. In your opinion, is the church convinced we need a recovery of the presence of God?
I wouldnt say we are convinced yet. I do see an encouraging sign that people have realized they want more than programs and methodologies of men they are longing for the presence of God. That is a good sign that revival is near. We cannot cry out for revival as long as we are satisfied with our substitutes. There is a growing awareness that simply recycling another religious program wont solve the problems we are facing today both inside the church and outside in our communities. People are weary of being taken on another rollercoaster ride of religious activity that doesnt produce lasting fruit. What I see happening across the Western World right now is the realization that we have left Jesus standing outside the door of His own church (Rev. 3:20). We have become the Laodicean Church and our only hope is to open the door and invite Him back in. My concern for the church right now is the lack of expectation of the tangible presence of the Lord in the midst of His people. Its been so long since we have experienced a sweeping spiritual awakening (100 years!) that unbelief has made our hearts sick from hope deferred. Without realizing we are actually MISSING the presence of Jesus in our midst it is now possible to actually do church WITHOUT Himthat is really a dangerous place to be. In His absence, we have turned instead to programs and spiritual activities and the machinery runs wellbut the life, power, authority, transforming change is notably absent. The church isnt more relevant, she is almost irrelevant in our culture. We desperately need to cry out for revival and prepare ourselves to invite Jesus back into His church and then into our communities.
You also say In order to fulfill the purposes of God for our cities, we must hear what the Spirit is saying to the church and be obedient to his voice. Are we not hearing or hearing but not obeying?
Unfortunately I think both things are true. I think it would be hard to argue that the church is hearing or obeying the voice of the Lord right now when you take a good look at the condition we are find ourselves in. Im not sure in our culture of frenetic activity and religious preoccupations that we even have the time or take the opportunity to listen for the voice of the Lord. Also, because we are convinced that we can do church without a present tense reality of His presence, we dont feel dependent on our interaction with Him. I dont believe the Lord has stopped speaking to us, we havent crossed that threshold, but His voice isnt being heard, its being drowned out by so many clamoring voices around us. I think our greatest challenge right now is listening, finding quiet intimate fellowship with Jesus. Jesus is wooing His church right now to return to her first love and turn from her spiritual harlotry. We only obey Him when we are in an exclusive relationship with Him. When the church wanders in pursuit of other lovers (Hosea) she disconnects from her sense of identity, authority and purpose. We must hear the voice of our Bridegroom calling us back into covenant relationship.
Do you see an awareness in American Christian leaders that the church is responsible for the cities?
There certainly is a growing sense among many leaders that they feel a responsibility to care for and love the city they live in. But I would say for the most part most believers are unaware of the spiritual responsibility the church has to be a agent of change in the community, not only through political action or compassion ministry but by becoming a carrier of Gods love, presence and glory. I think the spirit of unbelief has robbed us of our transforming purpose. We are huddled like hostages in the midst of our devastated communities. That is NOT what how the church should be functioning in society, we are to be salt, light and radical agents of counter-culture! I am seeing an increasing awareness and encouragement to see our cities from the perspective of heaven and desire to walk in partnership with Jesus to bring healing and restoration.
Cities have more in common with cities of other nations than the towns and villages of their own nation. What seems to be constant as you research city transformation across the globe?
Gods transforming work is unique and unpredictable in some stages of transformation and yet is very consistent and predictable in other stages. In the preparation phase of transformation for example, believers can follow instructions in Gods word and know God will respond. In the 300 + communities undergoing transforming revival right now in the nations, the principles that have been applied from Gods word (2 Chron 7:14 for example) are producing consistent fruit from one community to another. Those things that are proven to attract Gods presence which we read about in the Bible, humility, unity, repentance, reconciliation, etc. are found in every transformation testimony. Those principles are effective no matter the size of the community or even what cultural context. Thats the amazing thing about Gods methodology!
I think there are two constants in cities across the globe. First, cities are devastated by sin and disorder and people are suffering as a result. Secondly, where there is a faithful remnant of people crying out to God and applying Gods prescription for transformation, powerful change is occurring! I just witnessed this firsthand in the nation of Fiji! God is doing amazing things as people apply is word to their lives and communities.
How is God shifting our paradigms?
We in the church in the United States have been on such an interesting journey in the city reaching/transformation movement over the last 10-15 years. Along the way we have discovered more and more about who God is, what is on His heart, what His Kingdom looks like and how to pray in agreement with His heart and purposes. During our journey we have learned and gained more insight and understanding. For example, the issue of unity was a really hot topic 10 years ago. Just getting multi-denominational leaders to pray together was a huge step forward! After a couple of years however that became normative, most cities now have citywide expressions of the church praying together. But now, the realization is coming to many leaders that praying together in unity isnt enough! They are realizing that believers being in unity with each other is not the highest goal, but coming into agreement and unity with heaven first is critical to unity having a purpose.
Sometimes our paradigms change because as we seek the Lord He begins to reveal hindrances like our Greek mindsets and western worldview, or the reality of our ineffectiveness in producing change in our communities. In our desperation we turn to Him and He transforms our minds and gives us His Kingdom paradigm. We must be transformed by the renewing of our mind before we can be agents of His kingdom in our cities.
Rhonda, write a prayer we can all pray with you...
Jesus, you are beautiful and majestic! All powerful and full of glory, the One worthy of our praise and adoration! We ask you today to consider our condition, our barrenness and distant devotion and have mercy on us! Would you remove all traces of self-satisfaction, substitute pleasures and religious activity that have replaced our hunger for you? Will you fill us with an all-consuming fire that would stir our spiritual thirst for your presence? We need a drink of living water today Lord, we need a refreshing touch from your deep well. Jesus, would you examine our hearts and lead us in a way that is ever-lasting? Would you breakthrough our mindsets and change our paradigms from a culture of this world to a culture of Your Kingdom? How we long for you to visit us! To revive us and to transform our lives and communities! Come to us Jesus! May Your name be famous and that You would receive glory! God we ask you to deliver us from unbelief! From spiritual harlotry and religious routine! Increase our hunger for Your presence! In Your precious name, amen!
For more information or to order a copy of Desperate For His Presence, visit Rhondas website at http://www.prayerbydesign.com
Desperate For His Presence: God's Design To Transform Your Life And Your City
Rhonda Hughey, Bethany House Publishers
List Price: $12.99 ISBN: 0764200070
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