Untamed Christianity

Girl praying

You’ve been an evangelist for 16 years. What is different now from when you started?

The challenge is telling people they have the permission to go further than they have ever gone with the Lord. Over the years, people have been told they have to be reserved in church, so they just maintain to not offend anybody. The challenging part is convincing people they don’t have to sit in pews any longer. They can worship their way into another dimension of the presence of God.

 How does that play out in everyday life?

It changes how you walk and talk. It changes your vision because the freer you get in God, you begin to see things the way He wants you to see them. You wake up in the morning and you’re not saying, “Well, this is just going to be another ordinary day.” You start declaring that everything in your life is in alignment with God’s Word, and wherever God sends you throughout that day, you will have an impact on someone’s life.

Do you have a testimony of how the Lord has transformed your daily life?

In 2014 I was in Georgetown, South Carolina, for a revival. On a Wednesday I stopped in a McDonald’s to get some food as an illustration for a message I was preaching that night. As I walked inside, an older gentleman looked at me and said, “At this time every year, my bursitis acts up in my left shoulder.”

I’m looking at this guy and wondering why he’s telling me this. The Holy Spirit quickened me and said, Last night you preached about going to the next degree and getting your fire hotter. Ask the man if he believes in the power of prayer.

I asked him, and the man said, “Yes, I do.”

The Holy Spirit impressed me to ask, “Sir, can I pray for you?”

“Yes, you can,” he replied.

The moment I laid my hands on him, he jerked and said, “Whoa!”

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“When you laid your hands on me, it felt like fire went out of your hand into my body.”

He started moving his left arm and said, “There’s no pain in my left shoulder!”

God showed me in order to see what real revival is, I’ve got to allow Him to move me out of my safe place. Real revival is when you can take God’s glory to the marketplace and release His healing power in somebody who is needing a miracle. They may not come to church, but going to them changes your perspective. It caused my vision to change. No longer can I be content just going to normal church. I want to be the person who’s not afraid to cross boundaries and lines of religion that hold us back.

Describe the extraordinary revival that took place in West Virginia last year.

We anticipated being at the Regional Church of God in Delbarton for approximately two weeks. When we got there, I had no idea God had something so much bigger in store. It broke loose when we were invited to Mingo Central High School to speak to a prayer club that normally had only 40 students. This day they had 450 students!

I’m thinking, There are some things you don’t say in a public school for fear of getting sued. The Holy Spirit said, I’ll put the words in your mouth; you speak what I put in your spirit.

Matt and Blair Hartley
Matt and Blair Hartley

I started talking to these kids about destiny and purpose. I told them they were not born gay, they were not born a lesbian, and God did not make a mistake creating them. I then said, “The society and culture we live in tells us there are many different ways that lead to God. But Buddha is not God, and Allah is not God. There is only one God, and His Son’s name is Jesus. He is the only One who can change your life.”

When I said that, students stood up and applauded. When I gave the altar call, I watched 150-plus students with tears streaming down their faces come to the front of that auditorium and give their lives to Christ.

It was so intense, and we were on a time frame. These kids had to get on buses to go home. Our team jumped off the platform and started laying hands on these students, and they were instantly being filled with the Holy Ghost. They were weeping. Very quickly I told them, “There is revival at Regional Church of God at 7 o’clock. I’m going to be preaching. Get there!”

When they showed up that Tuesday night, the place was packed. Young people were sitting all over the floor. I told Pastor Mitch Bias, “All I need is a little bit of room and a podium.” During worship I watched those young people go after God.

Once these young people started getting this, it spread to other schools. It was like this generation had been so wrapped up in darkness that the moment Jesus was exposed, they realized it was truth. I’ve never seen a hunger like that before. People started coming from other states. We had different generations coming together, whether they were old-school Pentecostal or new-school Pentecostals—radicals going after Jesus.

What are you hearing from that area now?

It’s still going on. We go there periodically. They estimated 4,800 souls have been saved. We’ve seen divine miracles of healing. Women who had been told by their doctors they could not conceive and bear children were prayed for, and shortly thereafter found they were expecting. They started bringing other women who had been told the same thing, and God opened wombs.

Not only did revival happen in the church, it happened in the schools and on people’s jobs. Wives had been praying for their husbands to get saved. All of a sudden the presence of God was coming on the job and husbands were giving their lives to Jesus. They weren’t even coming to the revival. King Jesus walked into a community, and lives are getting turned upside down.

It was like this generation had been so wrapped up in darkness that the moment Jesus was exposed, they realized it was truth.

What sparked that revival?

The hunger. One of the greatest revelations I’ve had in Scripture was when Jesus walked into and out of Jericho but nothing happened (Mark 10:46). It gripped me because I wondered how many times Jesus has walked into our city and nothing happened because nobody put a demand on Him to stay. He just walked in, walked through, and walked out. The alcoholic never got set free, the prostitute never got delivered, and the gangs never laid down their guns. I believe if we ever start craving habitation instead of just visitation, revival will happen in other places besides West Virginia.

What price do we have to pay for that to happen?

You have to stay in a place of brokenness. You are so broken that everything in your life has to be put back together by Jesus. When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was near the Mount of Olives, where the olives were crushed so the oil could flow. You’ve got to stay in a broken place and center on Jesus. Walk in humility; it’s all about Him.

What message is burning in your heart for the church?

I’ve asked a lot of churches, “You say you want revival, but what does revival look like to you?” If you’ll go to the Book of Malachi, the prophet talks about the great day of the Lord that is coming. He ends it by saying, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” (4:5-6).

For 400 years, God was silent. There was no revival. The silence was broken when the angel Gabriel appeared before the priest Zacharias. He told Zacharias that he and his wife were going to have a son and to call him John. When John was born, everyone was looking at him saying, “He’s got his daddy’s looks.” Everything looked like Zacharias, but there was something different. An older generation couldn’t celebrate what God had just birthed, and because they couldn’t celebrate it, they lost their voice. John got his name, and people didn’t understand why his name was John, because it broke the tradition of being named after the previous generation. A real move of God is going to break tradition and destroy religion.

John did not go to the Temple and burn the incense; he craved the fire of God and went to the wilderness. He wore camel’s hair instead of fine linen. His cry was, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is going to look like something no one has ever seen before.”

It’s about your willingness to change your identity to something that domesticated Christianity cannot tame.

Matt Hartley is a full-time evangelist in the Church of God.