Breakthru Life Church Media interviewed revivalist pastor and author Bill Johnson while he was in Johannesburg recently for the Kingdom Come SA 2017 conference. Below is a transcript of part of the interview in which Johnson focuses on South Africa and shares keys to revival.
Q: Your first visit to South Africa is historic for us as a church! During the last three days, what do you see God doing here?
Bill Johnson: What I see in South Africa is a tremendous hunger for God and a real purity in the hunger. I have been with a group of 2-3 thousand people and I see a real purity and passion for the Lord and to please Him — in the sense of living honourably towards Him and that is so refreshing to see.
It’s always fun to be with people who you sense don’t have a hidden agenda, that they don’t want anything other than Jesus and the Kingdom. They don’t want fame or power or anything – it’s just not here. I’m sure that there are people who have that, but I love the purity and the passion and the hunger for what God’s doing here and we have quite a few South Africans, many of your friends, that are with us in Redding. And they are some of our finest people. So I really, really have come here with an anticipation to see what God is doing and I’m leaving, not disappointed, very encouraged.
Q: What are keys for the preparation for a move of God for revival?
Bill Johnson: In some ways it’s like: why don’t we start where we are, why don’t we experience one right now? It may not be the earth-shaking revivals we read about in the past but it can shake my world, and that’s where it starts.
I take what God has given me and I give myself completely to what He’s saying and what He’s doing.
I believe in the waves and the seasons of revival, I really do, but I also know the importance of embracing the moment He’s giving me; and living as if this is it, this is what I’m living for.
And something happens in those moments. It’s almost like you attract a greater breakthrough, you attract a greater outpouring, you attract wave after wave of great revival.
“That’s just what we started doing many years ago. We lived as if we were in the greatest moment in history and when you think that way, you expect differently and when you think differently He’s just attracted to the situation.”
That’s just what we started doing many years ago. We lived as if we were in the greatest moment in history and when you think that way, you expect differently and when you think differently He’s just attracted to the situation.
You know we can’t be impressed with the size of the political or economic problems, whatever we are facing. Those are unimpressive to God. If we live under the shadow of those disappointments, we’ll always be missing what He’s doing right now. And you don’t want to miss what He’s doing now or you’ll miss what He’s going to be doing in the future. It’s really living for those moments – that’s what I try to do.
Q: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.” Are significant verses for Bill. Why?
Bill Johnson: In May 1979 I was in the back of the church property as was my custom, to walk around the sanctuary and offices, praying and frequently I would read as I would pray and just interact with the Lord in worship.
It was all just one moment in God as I was reading out of Isaiah 60 and He spoke clearly to me and said this was a prophetic word to the church. It’s a long story but it comes down to this – basically He opened up my eyes to see that it was a Word for right now. It wasn’t something for the millennium, nor for Israel in the past. It was for us right now as ever in history! And the reason we know that’s true, is that He starts by saying: “Arise and shine for your light has come”. The Gospel of John says Jesus is the light who enlightens every person who comes into the world and my point is that there isn’t another light coming. He has already come to enlighten the hearts of people to the reality of God’s love for them. That is the light. That light has come so that word is for us “Arise and shine because your light has come”.
You have a responsibility because He has come. He really opened my eyes to see the role of the church in history along with the nation of Israel, and it changed my life. It has affected my thinking every day of my life since that Thursday afternoon in May 1979. Isaiah 60 – especially the first five verses impacted me deeply.
Darkness is unimpressive! I refuse to be impressed with darkness. I heard of an artist who refused to look at a bad painting twice because he didn’t want it to influence his work. I refuse to look at the works of the devil and let it impact me. If he impresses me, I’ll live in reaction to it. I can’t afford to do that.
Jesus lived responding to the Father and you can always find what God is doing in the earth and celebrate it. And when you do, that’s when He increases. When we, the ones who have been called to bring influence, set our attention on all the horrible things that are going on in the world, we lose the position to bring hope.
One of our young ladies told us years ago that the person with the most hope will always have the most influence, so I refuse to live without great hope.
It’s not denying the problems that exist, that doesn’t help anyone. But you’ve got to know when to deal with them. I live with great hope.
“In the prayer closet I bring my problems and I have learned to leave them in the prayer closet.”
In the prayer closet I bring my problems and I have learned to leave them in the prayer closet. If I walk out of the prayer time with a heaviness because of problems, then I probably wasn’t praying, I was complaining! And there’s a big difference. Because Jesus said: “Come to me you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” In other words He’s saying, give me your stuff and I’ll give you mine. You’ll leave with rest, I’ll take the heaviness. So that’s the reality of prayer. We make an exchange.
Q: How do you sustain your life with God in the midst of your schedule? Tips for pastors who don’t want to get burnt out?
The thing that can keep anyone from burning out is that you can’t give away more than you are receiving.
Any lake will run dry if more water is going through the dam, than coming from the tributaries into it. If more is going out than coming in, it will dry out! And every person will dry up if they are giving away more than they receive.
The key to healthy leadership is to recognise your personal place of need, put yourself into positions to receive from the Lord, from the Word, from family, from friends that keep you accountable, the exchange of life that comes from rich fellowship.
And don’t require lifestyles from the people around you that you are not living. It is living in rest, living in the fellowship of the Lord.
“We have to develop prayer lives that are not about our ministries. We have to study the bible, not so that we can teach. We have to have something with the Lord that is just for us. That’s where we thrive personally.”
We have to develop prayer lives that are not about our ministries. We have to study the bible, not so that we can teach. We have to have something with the Lord that is just for us. That’s where we thrive personally.
And then when we feed people we give them out of what we have been eating instead of becoming professional distributors of sermons or truths or whatever. We become people who take the bread of our own life and break it and just feed people and that’s the life in God. That’s what remains authentic.
And there’s a couple of things that are markers or indicators for me. One is that I can’t be many weeks away from tears. I can’t go for a long period of time without being moved to tears – either out of my joy in the Lord or difficulties or challenges, or whatever. I have to be tender enough that I don’t become resistant or hard.
And my affection for the Lord — that’s probably the thing that I work on the most– is turning my heart of affection towards Him. It’s often without words. It’s often accompanied by praise, adoration, those are important things. But it’s that burning heart of affection for him. He’s so attracted to that. He draws near and as long as you maintain that kind of tenderness, you realise it’s not about your performance, it’s not about the numbers of how many people got saved or attended church, or books you’ve written or songs or whatever it might be – that’s all fine but it’s not it. It is, how am I doing with my Father? How is my tenderness towards His voice? Can I hear Him and can I talk with Him when there’s nothing to do. Will I seek Him when it has nothing to do with my ministry or whatever.
It’s wanting to know Him, to be with Him, to be aware of His presence – just because He is. Not because I want something from Him. I don’t want to develop a tenderness before Him just so that I can be used in ministry. I want to develop tenderness because He is my Father. He’s God and He has invited me. That is reason enough. Out of that, flow works and ministry and other things but it matters so little at the end of the day. The only thing that’s really important to me is that statement “Well done, my good and faithful servant”.
Q: Bill, if you had a message for us to see his Kingdom come in South Africa, coming out of this conference, what would it be?
BILL JOHNSON: My message for the church is just what I’ve been saying for the last few days and it really comes down to this: be an authentic worshiper. Be one who celebrates the goodness of God day in and day out. Not because there’s a good worship team up there, leading us, but because it’s my lifestyle.
“Cry out to God in the secret place but take risk in public.”
And out of that, believe for the best, refuse to live without hope. Cry out to God in the secret place but take risk in public.
That’s really what it is. Look for opportunities for Him to show up and do what only He can do. He’ll prove Himself! He doesn’t need me as his defence attorney – He’s mine! And so you just live in a way that really invites Him into situations; whether it’s to heal or deliver or restore, give promise, whatever it might be. And that’s the real privilege that we have.
I would encourage you guys, the believers here in South Africa, just to live with that kind of expectation of good. Because He’s so good, He’s so perfect and His plans are all for our welfare. None of them are for calamity. There’s an answer for every situation that’s going on, and if I don’t live aware of that, then I’ll always be fighting for something that doesn’t require a fight.
It’s like living out of rest. It’s like the subject of faith, you know, faith doesn’t come out of striving. It doesn’t come because I work. It comes out of surrender and the whole lifestyle that God calls us to is the lifestyle of surrender. Living out of that place of rest.
It fascinates me to see what He does, what He’s willing to do. We are the people who need to be the most hopeful on the planet and South Africa might as well lead the way!