Three Dangerous Phenomena Within the Current Prophetic Movement
I have had the opportunity of being involved with prophetic and apostolic ministry and ministries internationally for close to 3 decades. I count myself the richer and wiser for this privilege of rubbing shoulders with many men and women who God has spoken through to the body of Christ in wonderful ways with wonderful messages of encouragement and exhortation.
Unfortunately, over the last decade, or so, I have also seen the current prophetic movement both become more extreme and, more extremely irrelevant to true Biblical Kingdom purposes. I believe there are three specific harmful phenomena that have emerged which are much in evidence today. They are:
1. A Phenomenal focus on self promotion
2. A Phenomenal lack of self accountability
3. A Phenomenal emphasis on phenomena, to the cost of de-emphasizing the Lord Jesus
For the sake of not unduly losing anyone too quickly, allow me to discuss the last point first. I have absolutely no problems with Holy Spirit caused, or induced, manifestations. Whether it is Holy Spirit induced laughter, weeping, shaking, or such things as gold dust appearing, or even gold teeth. My concern is rooted in the hunger for these things as opposed to hungering and thirsting for the person of God and His righteousness. As my friend Loren Sandford has written “In the church today there is a trend toward seeking ways and means to generate these experiences by our own initiative”
The danger of seeking after spiritual phenomena is really two fold: Firstly, it ends up becoming a downward spiral of deemphasizing the Person and lordship of Christ in one’s life and ministry. Secondly, it opens the door for demonic deception in a huge way. The devil can, and will, appear as an angel of light if that’s what you’re hungering for. My fear regarding this current hunger for phenomena is summed up by the apostle Paul’s words found in 2 Corinthians 11.3: “I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”
Ministries which continually emphasize extreme phenomena and revelation do so to their own, and others, destruction. There is absolutely nothing more extreme than the love, the compassion, the power, and the majesty of God Himself. The moment we begin to emphasize His gifts, or manifestations, more than He, Himself, we are headed down the same track of those carnally obsessed lost souls Paul spoke of in Romans. They chose to exchange the worship of creation for the worship of the Creator!
Until we have truly grasped and realized the height, the width, the depth, and the breadth of God’s love let’s not settle for focusing on anything less than that. If, as we journey with God, He sovereignly causes phenomena to happen and releases paradigm shaking revelation then let’s grow in our sense of amazement and wonder of His goodness. But to digress from seeking Him and allowing Him to lead us and guide us as He sees fit is a demonic digression.
What’s being built- the Kingdom of God, or the empires of man?
Earlier this year (I won’t say when, or where) I spoke at a conference with two other speakers. One of the speakers took one of the night sessions and spoke 3 hours and mentioned the Lord Jesus twice in passing. The Bible was never once referred to. His whole message, and his whole ministry I suspect, is all about… his ministry. God wants to heal us of all woundedness, but there is such a thing as a Godly brokenness which David sang about in Psalm 51.16 & 17: “You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise”. This ‘godly brokenness of David’s is evident in his prayer in Psalm 27: “One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD And to meditate in His temple.”
Jesus’ whole ministry on earth was to restore people to a vital relationship with the Father. (John 17.3). His protein, what nourished Him, was to do the will of the Father. He was so fixated on pleasing the Father He walked away when the crowd wanted to crown Him- it simply wasn’t the Father’s time. Too many ministries today, however, run to any opportunity at all of being crowned before men.
Speaking for myself, I love to tell testimonies of God healing, delivering, and revealing Himself to people. And I thoroughly enjoy the privilege of being able to be part of the process. But there is a huge difference between telling stories in such a way that glorify the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as opposed to glorifying me, myself, and I. Much of the self-promotion being done today on websites, book covers, and presentations is at the very least self aggrandizement and at worst demonic in that it, again, deemphasizes the wonder of Jesus. And what seems to be a bigger problem is the willingness of many Charismatics to chase after ministries that are preoccupied with themselves. After nearly sixty years of the countless moral failings of supposed giants of faith with midget sized character the Charismatic and Pentecostal church is still hungering for the next hero. This speaks volumes of our lack of discernment due to a lack of experience with the real thing- Jesus. At the very least let’s take hold of Paul’s wisdom regarding reputation; “For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends.” (2 Cor. 10.18) Let’s live and breath for the commendation that comes from God. That commendation is often far from the conference crowd.
Does Truth Matter?
Two presidencies ago (in the U.S) the president was caught in a very public lie regarding martial infidelity. At one point while being questioned he responded to a particular question with the question: “what does ‘is’ mean?”. Essentially, with one swell swoop, the truthful meaning of words was, to a large degree, thrown out the window. And while politicians have always been politic to the point of saying the right things to the right crowd, in today’s arena of public speaking, whether political, or otherwise, truth is now largely seen as negotiable. In a demonic Machiavellian manner the end justifies whatever means are utilized.
This almost absolute disregard for truth has, in turn, infected some contemporary prophetic ministries. When I say prophetic ministry I am more speaking of the ministry of prophets as opposed to the ministry of prophetically gifted people in the local church. These are two very different ministries with two widely differing spheres of influence.
The first red flags I began to notice were back in 1998 and 1999. At that time it was quite fashionable, albeit, unanoited, to prophetically jump on the Y2K bandwagon. A lot of the ‘whose who’ in the prophetic arena prophesied that global economic destruction was going to take place as we entered the new millennium due to the computers not being able to handle the digital change.
While I have certainly made my share of prophetic mistakes I heard the Lord say quite clearly that not only was the Y2K catastrophe not going to happen, but the false prophecies were actually going to derail many churches which were quite focused on prayer and outreach to their communities. To a certain degree this did happen. Many, many churches began to focus on the supposed inspired message to buy generators, store up food, water, and supplies and get ready.
Well, the catastrophe never happened. And a lot of the church members who were part of those ‘get ready for the worst’ scenarios ended us very disillusioned with prophetic ministry. I saw first hand how the number of churches in North America, Europe, and the UK who were beginning to grow substantially in intimacy with God and seeking to know His voice began to view prophecy today with real skepticism.
As bad as all of that was, that in and of itself, was not the worst part of the problem. The big problem was the lack of accountability. Very few, indeed, of the big voices who had given the false words ever came back in a public way and said “sorry”. For the most part no one is expecting prophets to be perfectly accurate. The weight of New Covenant priesthood is for the hearer of a word to correctly weigh the word and see if it bears witness with his or her own discernment from the Holy Spirit, as well as ascertain the Biblicality of it.
But to the level that God grants visibility accountability must be in evidence, or else the whole of the ministry comes into disrepute.
A friend of mine who pastors an influential church on the East Coast confronted one of the loudest voices of the Y2K message. When he asked for a mere public acknowledgement of being wrong that prophet responded “oh no, because we prophesied the warning the church prayed and the problem never happened”! The problem with her justification, how ever, was it was simply dead wrong.
The prophecy had not been “if My people pray”. It had been “this will absolutely happen and God will use the chaos to birth revival”. Now 10 years down the road many so called prophetic ministries used this sort of ‘open ended’ theology as a loop hole for false prophecies. Any evidence of humility and authentic accountability has been thrown by the wayside. The reality of this can be seen in the 2008 U.S. presidential elections when so many prophetic ministries cooked up wrong predictions as to who would win. And only a few of those I know of who falsely predicted the outcome have publicly acknowledged their mistake.
In order for the body of Christ to take seriously a critically important God given gift there must be accountability within the context of grace. Since many prophetic ministers head up their own ministries the weight is doubly on them to regard accountability as a context for the operation of the gift. Other wise the gift of God speaking will continue to be devalued in the church at large and those ministries will end up kings of ‘anointed entertainment’. There will be a degree of revelation and power but it will not have the true kingdom fruit God desires.
If we are going to represent the truth of Jesus, in truth, then that begins with our hearts and motives being focused and absorbed with the Truth, Himself. Let’s take heed of the prayer from the ‘man who shook the world’: “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”