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Michael Brown: Never Try to Control the Spirit’s Work

An excerpt from Michael L. Brown’s latest book: Seize the Moment: How to Fuel the Fires of Revival.


Revival is God’s work. It comes from the heavenly throne, not from human effort, and it comes with intensity. That is the very essence of revival: it is sovereign (in that we cannot schedule it or make it happen), and it is intense (in that it comes with force and power in order to bring about radical change). Just as the fire alarm is meant to wake people up and stir them to action, revival is meant to awaken sleeping believers, to alert the lost to their condition, and to fill the hungry and thirsty in dramatic and lasting ways.

If it’s not intense, it’s not revival. If it’s not overwhelming at times, it’s not a real outpouring. And if it doesn’t test your faith in God and your trust in the Spirit’s leadership, it’s not a real visitation.

This is not spiritual rocket science. It’s Revival 101. But this is where we often fail, wanting to conform the revival to our sensibilities, wanting to avoid the reproach of the unusual, wanting to avoid the fear of the unknown, wanting to keep things under our own control.

The moment you try to tame the revival, you end the revival.

That is an absolutely fatal mistake to make in revival, similar to taking water from a wave in the ocean and putting it into a bottle. The moment you bottle it, you lose it. The water may remain, but the wave is gone. The substance may look the same, but it has lost its power. It has been tamed.

So, mark this down and never forget it: the moment you try to tame the revival, you end the revival. The moment you decide to quench the Spirit, the fire will go out. It may not happen at that very instant, but soon enough, there will be no doubt at all. You have put out the flames, and you cannot start them again. You have tried to take control and harness the Spirit. You have ended the move of God in your midst. We must be very careful here!

This chapter, “Never Try to Control the Spirit’s Work,” is an excerpt from Michael L. Brown, Seize the Moment: How to Fuel the Fires of Revival (Charisma House, 2024).

If you want an outpouring that you can turn on and turn off, then you don’t want a real outpouring. If you want a visitation that fits conveniently in your schedule, then you don’t want a real visitation. If you want a lovely home-and-garden type of revival, then you really don’t want revival at all.

Elsewhere in this book, I talk about the dangers of overwork (chapter 18) and about the importance of being conscious of the condition of your flock (chapter 17). I also warn about the dangers of getting caught up in weird doctrines and practices (chapter 7). It is important to find a sustainable pace if you’re experiencing a multimonth (or, even more, multiyear) revival. It is important to be wise stewards of the revival and to shepherd the move of God (see chapter 11). Demonic activity should not be tolerated. Fleshly responses should be gently corrected. Spiritual oversight is needed.

But all that is very different from trying to control or harness the Spirit. All that is very different from quenching the holy fires. Instead, we must wholeheartedly embrace what God is doing, no matter how challenging that may be (see chapter 19). We must fall on our faces and say, “Let God be God!” We must submit our programs and plans to the Lord’s programs and plans, in many cases scrapping our own entirely. More than ever, we must say, “Your will be done!”

Again, like everything else in this book, this is easier said than done, more easily theorized than realized. It’s like looking at an obstacle course thinking, “I can do this easily,” only to fall into the water after the very first hurdle. There’s a reason others fell into the water too.

Most of us who love the Holy Spirit would say, “Of course I would embrace everything He does.” But when He comes with suddenness (at the wrong time, in fact!), when He comes with intensity (this is a bit much!), and when He comes for a while (we’re ready to go home now!), that’s when the rubber meets the road. It’s one thing to pray and fast for revival. It’s another thing to welcome revival when it comes.

John Kilpatrick would be the first to tell you that he was somewhat of a control freak before the revival came. And although his church was technically Pentecostal, belonging to the Assemblies of God, he said you would not have known that if not for the sign in front of the building. Everything was under control.

But when revival came suddenly on Father’s Day 1995, Pastor Kilpatrick welcomed it, publicly and openly. He recognized that a holy river had swept into the building (he literally felt it and heard it), and he announced to his people, right there on Sunday morning, not in a back room at a midnight prayer service, “This is it. Revival’s here. Get in!”

If you’re not willing to be taken out of your comfort zone, don’t even bother praying for revival. Pray for yourself first!

A moment later, as Steve turned to pray for him (without touching him at all), Pastor Kilpatrick was flat on his back, overwhelmed by the Spirit’s power. And he lay there for the next three hours, hearing everything that was happening, but remaining too overcome to move.

This was a total shock to the congregation since he had never done anything like that before. He was always at the helm in total control. Yet now, he was flattened by the Spirit, lying there motionless, and this further sparked the faith of his people. They knew it was real!

Reflecting on what had happened, a perceptive leader said to me, “Pastor Kilpatrick’s desire for the glory of God overrode his desire to be in control.”

Exactly! It was more important to Pastor Kilpatrick to let God move and to experience the Spirit than to exert his fleshly control over what was happening, even if it took him out of his comfort zone. (Note this, too: If you’re not willing to be taken out of your comfort zone, don’t even bother praying for revival. Pray for yourself first!)

To be sure, in the years that followed, Pastor Kilpatrick became an excellent steward of revival and of his congregation. But, to repeat, we always knew that when God broke out in power and in unusual ways, he would get out of the way, as would Steve Hill, Lindell Cooley, and any others among us who were helping to lead.

In fact, some nights, right in the midst of joyful celebration, Lindell, the worship leader, would make a sudden turn, dramatically changing the direction of the meeting. Under normal circumstances, you would think to yourself, “That guy just quenched the Spirit!” But we knew Lindell too well. Instead, he was riding the wave of the Spirit, sensing the Lord had other plans. I remember we would turn to each other and say, “Let’s see where this goes.” And suddenly, the Lord would break out powerfully, with glorious, lasting results. To say it again, let God be God!

It is absolutely true that “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1 Cor. 14:32, NKJV), meaning you can decide to wait to deliver a prophetic message you have received, allowing someone else to speak first. It’s also true that everything must “be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:26–33, 40, NKJV), meaning that when we gather together (say, in a house meeting), one person speaks in tongues, another interprets, another leads in a song, another prophesies.

Is another move of God on the horizon?

In that sense, Brownsville was conducted in an orderly way. If Steve was preaching and someone tried to interrupt the message, they would be shut down (or escorted out). If it was time for the altar call, we would all be focused on that moment rather than each of us doing our own thing and walking around prophesying to people. There were even directives for the prayer teams each night.

But when the Spirit took over and changed our order, we went with the Spirit. When the Spirit’s plans were different from our own, we went with the Spirit—even if that meant skipping the offering that night (which was needed to pay the weekly bills) or shortening the message or eliminating planned testimonies or keeping us on our faces for protracted periods of time. All of us knew, to the core of our being, that revival was a sovereign work of the Spirit. In the holy fear of God, we knew that we could not get in the Spirit’s way.


This chapter, “Never Try to Control the Spirit’s Work,” is an excerpt from Michael L. Brown, Seize the Moment: How to Fuel the Fires of Revival (Charisma House, 2024).

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Category: Spirit, Winter 2024

About the Author: Michael L. Brown, Ph.D. (New York University), is founder and president of FIRE School of Ministry in North Carolina, Director of the Coalition of Conscience, and host of the daily, nationally, syndicated talk radio show, The Line of Fire, as well as the host of the apologetics TV show, Answering Your Toughest Questions, which airs on the NRB TV network. He is the author of more than 30 books including Our Hands Are Stained with Blood: The Tragic Story of the “Church” and the Jewish People (1992), Playing With Holy Fire: A Wake-Up Call to the Pentecostal-Charismatic Church (2018), Israel’s Divine Healer (1995), Saving a Sick America: A Prescription for Moral and Cultural Transformation (2017), Breaking the Stronghold of Food: How We Conquered Food Addictions and Discovered a New Way of Living with Nancy Brown (2017), Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur's Strange Fire (2015), and the highly-acclaimed five-volume series, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus. Read full biography at AskDrBrown Ministries. Google+. Twitter: @DrMichaelLBrown

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