Stop the madness! It’s time for a reformation in the prophetic culture of the church.
I have a high view of true, biblical prophetic ministry. We will see legitimate prophetic ministries, messages and people increase in the end-times and we have to be careful not to quench the Spirit nor despise prophecies.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. 1 Thes 5:20-21
That’s our instruction, and it’s clear—prophecy must continue, but it must be tested. We hold to what is good and dismiss and expose what is not.
With that in mind, I’ll state the point of this article plainly—we must stop the prophetic madness!
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Church, we are embarrassing ourselves and putting God in an awkward if not very bad light.
They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness. 2 Peter 2:14-16
If you want to pack out a conference, develop a reputation of a Jeremiah 23 prophet. Refuse to mention anything challenging. Don’t rebuke. Don’t call to repentance. Don’t highlight the negative. Have a plastic smile on your face and cause everybody to feel great about their condition. Tell them God is thrilled with them and they are primed for massive reward, even if they are walking in compromise and darkness. Embrace the greed of Balaam and form your prophetic words just right so people will give extravagantly to your ministry.
If you want to be accused and despised by most, weep and cry at the state of the church and the world. Develop a backbone of steel and let the fire of God rage in your gut. Let the fire burst out of your mouth as it shocks the sleepers out of their coma!
16 This is what the Lord Almighty says:
“Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. 17 They keep saying to those who despise me, ‘The Lord says: You will have peace.’ And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’ 18 But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord to see or to hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word? Jeremiah 23:16-18
Here are some of today’s prophetic trends that simply must be addressed:
General words that seem to be for everybody
Of course, there are often general words that are sounded by prophetic people both throughout history and today that are meant for everybody in the church. A word of warning, for example, of impending national calamity would be meant for the general population of that nation. Additionally, God will do something in particular seasons that impact the entire church. It's true that some time frames have a greater grace for healing or promotion, or for judgment or correction, than others. God in his wisdom is the ruler of the seasons and it's important for the entire population to understand what that season holds for us.
That being said, all too often I receive a supposed prophetic word that's sent to everybody who subscribes to that particular email list, and apparently the message is for everybody who reads it.
For example I have seen prophecies that say, “This is your season for promotion! God is opening doors and this is your time to set through them into advancement in your life!”
That prophecy simply cannot be for everybody who receives it. For some it may be a season of chastening, breaking or demotion for the sake of humility. For others God doesn't want them to advance through a door of promotion, but rather he wants them to retreat through a door they inappropriately entered through in the last season. For some there's a mountain to go around yet again because they have not learned the lesson that God had prepared for them.
We have to be careful and responsible as we deliver words. The goal isn't to excite people with false hope for the sake of growing our following.
This year or this month is not the year of transition, promotion, open doors, advance or breakthrough for everybody who might know how to read an email. Not everybody is given the same opportunity, even if they are living rightly and staying aligned with God. Some are called into the secret place, some onto the platform. Some into trial, some into breakthrough. Some into greater challenge, some into a time of refreshing.
Yes, God can manifest pretty much any way he chooses. He will use simple things to confound the wise. Unusual signs will certainly show up and we want to be careful not to dismiss them prematurely. I've experienced some dramatic and unusual signs over the years, but I always maintain a responsible level of discernment when analyzing them.
Today's prophetic movement often lends itself to the Protestant version of seeing the Virgin Mary manifesting on a potato chip.
After a recent tornado I read a headline that read something like, “A sign of God appears in the sky after people escaped harms way in recent tornado.”
What was the sign? It was a telephone pole that was hanging by the wires because the bottom portion of the pole was sheered off by the wind. It looked like a cross. No, friend. That wasn't a sign from God. It was wood boards attached by human hands in the form of a cross that held up communication wires. That's it.
Or, have you ever heard someone exclaim that they captured the Holy Spirit or angels on their camera? They see some orbs in the photo and the “obvious” conclusion is that they must be supernatural in origin. While, as I said previously, it's possible, it's highly doubtful. There is almost always a natural explanation of why the orbs are appearing. We already know that the Holy Spirit and very often angels are in our worship meetings. Why would a manifestation in the form of orbs get us excited anyway? Would that make the reality that God is with us any more real? No.
Hyper-prophetic people also tend to get excited by clouds and contrails left by airplanes. The proclamation is that God has given us a sign in the heavens when it's so obviously nothing more than airplanes crossing in the sky or cloud formations looking like snowmen, trees and the occasional angel.
Please understand, I in no way am affirming suspicion or skepticism. We don't want to have that spirit. We want to have a spirit of expectancy and belief that's balanced with true discernment. God will do many things that will blow our minds. Unusual signs do happen and more are coming. They will be just a little more convincing than a couple of boards nailed together hanging by wires.
John 4:48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”
Only prophesying good, happy things
When I hear nothing but positive, happy prophecies about blessing, affirmation, promotion and other appealing topics coming from today's prophets, they lose credibility.
Ezekiel 13 2 Ezekiel, son of man, condemn the prophets of Israel who say they speak in my name, but who preach messages that come from their own imagination. Tell them it’s time to hear my message.
3 I, the Lord God, say those lying prophets are doomed! They don’t see visions—they make up their own messages! 4 Israel’s prophets are no better than jackals that hunt for food among the ruins of a city. 5 They don’t warn the people about coming trouble or tell them how dangerous it is to sin against me. 6 Those prophets lie by claiming they speak for me, but I have not even chosen them to be my prophets. And they still think their words will come true. 7 They say they’re preaching my messages, but they are full of lies—I did not speak to them!
8 So I am going to punish those lying prophets for deceiving the people of Israel with false messages. 9 I will turn against them and no longer let them belong to my people. They will not be allowed to call themselves Israelites or even to set foot in Israel. Then they will realize that I am the Lord God.
I do believe that judgment is coming to today's impure prophetic movement. Where are the warnings about trouble and sin?
True prophets will shock cultures much like Leonard Ravenhill did. They won't be popular. People won't flock to their conferences. To get near one is a fearful thing indeed as they radiate with the holiness and fear of the Lord.
It's time to hear God's clear and loving warnings about the penalties of sin, of coming wrath and of the necessary shaking that must come to the church. People say they don't want doom and gloom prophets. I do if the message of the hour that God has is doom and gloom. We can't pick and choose and filter out messages based on our mood or faulty theologies of a God who knows no emotions but happiness.
Prophecy on demand
I'll admit that this particular issue is a tough one to navigate. I personally believe that God does in fact have much more to reveal to people on a regular basis than we currently experience in the church. It's not at all uncommon for me to find myself in a time of ministry and then to start prophesying personally over people. There have been many times that I've prophesied over every person in the meeting (which can take hours!).
So, what I feel we must address here is not as much the act of prophesying on demand as it is the immature, casual way so many are handling it. Today people are actually making a business out of prophecy on demand. They receive orders online, usually accompanied by a payment (I mean, donation), and shoot back a personal word to their client.
I believe this is dangerous. There is a Simon the Sorcerer spirit that's attempting to hijack the true, pure prophetic movement. The desire for personal gain in the highlight and the vehicle is on-the-spot prophetic insight. The result of that is nothing more than fortune telling.
Acts 8 18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”
Prophecy is not to be used to develop our ministry. It's not to be sought after as a quick answer to life's mysteries. It's to be handled with the fear of the Lord for it is the very word of God that is being sought after.
While I absolutely affirm personal prophecy in the right contexts and in the right spirit, I believe the best response we as ministers can give people who are seeking an instant prophetic word may often be to instruct them to go into their prayer closet and wait until they hear God for themselves.
I remember years ago when I would crave prophetic words in my life. I was hungry, but I was immature. Today I rarely seek after a prophetic word, though I do appreciate them when the come, in God's perfect timing. Some of the most important times of my life have been when such revelation was temporarily rare. Those seasons forced me to be in the Bible and to walk out my life as the Holy Spirit has clearly called me to based on those timeless, black and white truths. God's eyes are on me in those seasons. I must diligently respond rightly to the truth of Scripture, truth that is always available, instantly and on demand.
Immature people prophesying
One of my favorite ministry activities is encouraging people to grow in the prophetic. There's a way to encourage and train people in the prophetic that's safe. It's a school environment where young emerging prophetic voices discover how to hear God, how to discern and how to apply what they have received.
However, today we also have environments that encourage anybody at any level of spiritual maturity to put God's name on the various impressions, insights, desires and ideas that they have.
One reason churches are radically limiting or evening eradicating prophetic activity is because of people who are not truly vested prophesying haphazardly.
We are called to test prophecy, which means we have to be okay with coaching and correcting people as necessary. Just because someone feels a strong emotion or has an impression it doesn't mean it's God, or, if it is God, it doesn't automatically mean it is to be shared. Immature people don't know how to handle what they are picking up on.
As a young, emerging prophetic man of God I would regularly step up to the mic in our youth group to prophesy. Often I would do this several times each service. I was convinced that God was calling me to share everything I was getting, but, I was wrong. The wonderful leadership of that church pulled me aside and explained to me that prophecy doesn't quite work that way and that I would need to limit the amount of times I was interrupting the service.
1 Cor 14 29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.
I've met so many people who have been convinced that they have heard God's voice, but they weren't rightly submitted to leaders and others who could test the word. So, they run with the revelation and end up causing a distraction or even quite a train wreck.
Signs that the devil actually causes
The enemy is a brilliant communicator. I have watched him mimic prophetic revelation time and time again, and I have watched some of the most amazing people get terribly sidetracked as they fell into the trap.
It's actually quite shocking how well Satan can lead people astray by revealing to them deceptive new ministry assignments, open doors, promotions and other spiritual promises.
Eph 5:17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
If we simply look at fleeces or confirmations with our natural eyes and analyze it with our natural logic it will be easy to be led astray time and time again.
For example, as a very young, very immature eighteen year old college student I started dating a girl. I was nowhere near ready for a relationship much less a serious one, yet we decided to think about marriage. We prayed about it. We put out several very challenging fleeces and, to our wonderment, every single fleece worked! The chances of that happening were astronomical so it was absolutely evident that it was God who gave us the confirmation. Except, it was not. It was the enemy who was so eager to answer our prayers.
I was so intent on doing what I wanted even though her parents weren't in agreement with the quick decision. We didn't seek out godly counsel. We were driven by our own desires and just who do you think is really good at giving us what our flesh wants? Satan. He responded to every fleece and posed as God in the hopes of derailing both of us.
2 Cor 11:14 No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
Can you imagine how different my life would have been had I actually gone through with that foolish plan? I wouldn't have my wonderful wife Amy or any of my children. My ministry would be nothing like it is today. I'd be living in a different place and my entire life would be out of sync with God's plan. Would there have been forgiveness and redemption. Sure. But, much would have been lost and nothing would be as it should have been.
I've watched people inappropriately move across country to join a ministry just because they were excited about it. God wasn't leading them and everything in the natural began to fall apart. Others have surrendered good seasons and roles in ministry as they presumed God to be leading them to greener pastures. They scrambled to get back to where they were.
I've received personal prophecy that sounded great but was not from God in the least. We have to discern carefully what God is saying because the enemy is very good at sounding just like him.
Future vs. ancient truths
Lastly, I believe it's important to deal with the need for true prophets to start focusing more on preaching the truth of Scripture than on impressing people with their ability to predict the future.
Foretelling is absolutely a true, biblical gift and it is important to give an appropriate measure of attention to it. However, it has become quite rare to hear people with the passion of someone like Leonard Ravenhill sounding alarms and calling people back to historic, biblical Christianity.
True prophets will analyze current situations and urgently call for repentance and calibration to the truths found in the ancient texts.
When we do reveal the future it will go hand in hand with an understanding that our response must be soundly biblical. The revelation of the future will result in us diving deep into the Word.
As we seek after a pure, fearsome prophetic message, the goofiness will end and the world will begin to be stunned by the undeniable truth of our very Holy God.