A shakeup in the culture of superstar, itinerant ministry would do us all some good.
We’ve all become frustrated, or even disgusted, with much of what we are seeing in today’s Christian landscape whether it’s on Christian television, at conferences or online. Some of that irritation is absolutely warranted, while some of it may be our own inappropriate judgments based on a lack of information. What I mean is, the way someone comes across publicly may rub us the wrong way due to misunderstanding their motive or not really tapping into their hearts.
We should be careful when arriving at such judgments to ensure our own hearts are pure.
We also need to be discerning enough to know when reform is necessary.
In this article I want to narrow down the focus specifically to itinerant ministers.
We’ve all been in a church service with a special guest speaker at the helm. By and large I’ve been positively impacted by these men and women of God and I can easily endorse their ministry.
However, even while honorable people are traveling from church to church, conference to conference, I’m seeing trends and a developing itinerant ministry culture that leaves me frustrated.
I also travel and am not at all immune to what I am going to discuss here. It’s extremely easy to fall into traps, presuming them necessary to keep the ministry moving forward. Motives can be pretty good while the execution leaves something to be desired.
Some itinerant ministers enjoy a cult following, and they are masters at drawing in the crowds. We need a raw, inconvenient reformation to come to itinerant ministry. God will not be mocked.
7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Galatians 6:7-8 (ESV)
9 NECESSARY CHANGES FOR ITINERANT MINISTRY CULTURE
Stop with the hype
I never want to adopt a suspicious, cynical attitude regarding moves of God, but I have to admit it’s becoming more and more difficult. I absolutely affirm flowing in whatever charisma and stage presence that God has given to us as ministers. I believe that is a gift. What needs to stop is the tired drama and efforts to make a meeting appear more substantial that it is. Folks, it’s a meeting. It will be over in a few hours. Quit making it out to be more than that.
When we hype something we are lying. In fact, we are edging close to a terrifying category of ministers: False Prophet
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1 (ESV)
Of course, many ministers aren’t deliberate in their deception. I understand this. Some are overzealous which is a mark of immaturity. We don’t want to sit under false ministers or immature ministers. If you are in either one of these two categories I’d recommend repenting and growing before you proceed in your ministry.
Become accountable to an apostolic leader who will call you out on your reports. Stay humble. That’s the quickest track to true moves of God that will not need your hype.
“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6 (ESV)
Counterpoint: God will always out perform hype if we let him. We should definitely expect remarkable moves of God in our meetings, and when that happens it should leave us speechless—not hype machines that have to promote something in the hopes that your superstar status grows. If God is moving, by all means, spread the word. But be honest. If you want to use hype I believe you’ll limit God to what you can imagine and are falsely reporting. In fact, God might not hang around for long at all in such an environment.
Huge altar calls aren’t mandatory
Every traveling minister loves to post to Instagram or Snapchat wide angle shots of masses of people responding to their amazing message. Come on preachers, you know it’s true! I can’t deny that it feels great to see people rushing the altars, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. It’s when we manipulate the service in such a way to get that photo op that problems arise.
Altar calls are actually a fairly recent innovation. Charles Finney popularized them. I don’t believe seeing people at an altar is a good measure of truly converted and transformed lives. It can very easily be a false positive.
George Whitefield, who historians identify as the key preacher of the Great Awakening, refused to speculate on how many of his listeners had been converted. “There are so many stony-ground hearers which receive the word with joy,” Whitefield said, “that I have determined to suspend my judgment till I know the tree by its fruits.” Revivals were the sole work of the Holy Spirit, and the test of time either confirmed or disproved these conversions. ~www.christianitytoday.com
It’s actually quite common in meetings I’m leading to forgo the altar call altogether. I often want the weighty message to rest heavy on people as they go home. I don’t want to give an artificial sense of completion to their decision to respond to the message. Some of my most memorable services have resulted in empty altars as people filed out the door and into their world with burning spirits.
In fact, true biblical preaching will often lead many to become angry and to leave! When this happens we may be on to something.
I think we should shoot for services that cause many to be amazed and many to mock. The altars might not be full but the message will shock the city!
12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” Acts 2:12-13 (ESV)
Counterpoint: I’m waiting for the days when people can’t even make it through a heavily anointed message before they rush out of their seats to an altar in repentance. Very big, legitimate calls to the altar are in front of us, so as God leads let the people come in as a flood!
Praying for people isn’t mandatory either
Understand, I’m a prayer freak. I promote prayer relentlessly, so it may come as a surprise to you that I’m suggesting that prayer lines aren’t always necessary.
Something in my gut just doesn’t feel right when people attend a conference or a meeting with the primary motive of receiving prayer from the person bringing the message. Itinerant ministers often use this desire to their advantage as they call people forward, again, for that photo op or Facebook report.
Do I believe in praying for people, laying on of hands and activating the power of the Holy Spirit in their situation? Absolutely. I will never be able to give human language to encounters with God that I’ve had through other people who have prayed for me. However, it only happened when I was pursuing God alone and not some superstar preacher.
I often end services when I’m traveling without an altar call and without praying for people. I can often discern when people are craving some magical touch from a stranger they’ve never met instead of simply hitting their knees and encountering God themselves. I don’t typically like to play into that, unless God gives me the green light.
I’ve had pastors walk up to me after the service on many occasions asking if I’d pray for people. It seems the culture has been set and people are looking for that touch. In honor of the pastor who I am in submission to, I always comply with joy. However, I think we need to be led of the Spirit. Pray for those God highlights. Prophesy over those God points out. Often I’ll have people spread out in the room, find a place to pray and go hard after God alone as we close a service. The pressure to always give people that magical touch needs to stop.
In fact, do we understand that many people who want a touch are living in sin? They are unrepentant and are in search for healing or a prophetic word. The Bible is very clear regarding this:
Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. 1 Timothy 5:22 (ESV)
We can’t bring affirmation to a person’s situation by praying for blessing to manifest when they are unrepentant. There have been many times people have asked me to pray for them and the word God gave me for them had nothing to do with their supposed need. God would reveal a heart issue and their need for a loving rebuke.
I think we need a reformation in the prayer lines. Lets see God really work in power and have the fear of the Lord land again.
The prayer lines that result in people falling over for no real reason need to be dispersed. The circus atmosphere must come to an end. If God’s in it, and prayer is his plan for the service, then go for it. If not, it’s more appropriate to close another way.
Counterpoint: God will most definitely call ministers to pray for people. I’ve spend hours after a service was over praying for and prophesying over every single person in the room on many occasions. If God’s directing it, you have to do it.
Shut down the green rooms
I was a workshop speaker at a conference several years ago. A well known worship leader was brought in, and though I absolutely love her ministry I was disappointed by a complaint she aired to me. She was extremely irritated that there wasn’t a green room for her to hide away in during down time. I was disappointed at her apparent spirit of entitlement. She felt special because her name was on the program.
Now, it is true, it’s a wonderful thing to have a private place to retreat to when you are expending all sorts of energy—physical, emotional and spiritual—when traveling and ministering. The efforts some churches make to bless visiting ministers in this way are really wonderful. The issue is the attitude.
I had no problem, at that conference, with hanging out with the people and resting on the floor or in a chair just like everybody else did between sessions. Why are guest ministers in hiding except when they are on the platform or behind their book table?
It’s time we see guest ministers in pre-service prayer meetings, in the foyer after the service and serving the people with great passion.
We aren’t there just to bring a message or to sing a song. We are there to serve. If there’s a church picnic between services, go to it! If there’s a special prayer meeting, you have to be there! When I travel I do my best to act just as if I were a member of that church. If I attended there, what would be expected of me? I guarantee I wouldn’t be hiding away in a green room.
For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. Luke 22:27 (ESV)
Counterpoint: Traveling ministers do have unique challenges and needs. Will there ever be a time when retreating to pray and rest is needed? Yes, in fact it will be quite common. Hosts need to keep this in mind by not putting too much on their plate. If such an opportunity is given, guest ministers should receive that gift with thanks. If not, jump in with the rest of the body.
Stop focusing so much on money
Yes, it takes a lot of money to function as an itinerant minister. Churches, if you are hosting a guest speaker for a day or two, please ensure they are leaving with at least $1500-2000 in addition to their travel expenses if not much more. They have bills to pay that are much greater than you may realize. They should never have to even think about the money. You are hosting them. Be a really great host.
When I was pastoring, we had a very simple rule: Every dollar received in the offering for the guest minister, beyond expenses for the event, would go to them. If we received $10,000 in the special offering, all of it would go to the guest. If it was $1,000,000, the guest would become an overnight millionaire while the church received nothing.
Now, traveling ministers, the way many are approaching finances must change.
Please, stop the offering sermons that are nearly as long as the main message. We get it, you want a lot of money.
We also need to stop determining where we are going to minister based on the number of people there. What if a church of 10 wanted to bring you in? What if you had to sleep on the floor in the church basement? Would you go? I know many would, but many would not. I believe this attitude is shameful.
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Luke 9:58 (ESV)
Why would you not go? It usually because there would be no notoriety, no crowds, no money. Shameful.
For those who have a minimum honorarium requirement, I’d encourage you to go to the Lord with that plan. If you won’t travel and minister for a few hundred bucks, what does that say about your pride? Trust me, you aren’t all that important.
If it isn’t worth your time and energy to minister for a few dollars, that is extremely telling. Building people up, training disciples and saving souls isn’t worth your investment? Again, shameful.
Counterpoint: I do believe a certain emphasis on financial giving is appropriate. Certainly receive an offering. Communicate truth in the Word as it relates to giving. Share a testimony. It’s good to keep this in front of the people. However, it’s about giving to God and not to your ministry.
Shut up with all of your demands
No, you aren’t a rock star.
If you place a minimum number of stars on the hotel you will stay in, you’ve fallen into a superstar delusion. You have become a prima donna.
a very temperamental person with an inflated view of their own talent or importance.
You don’t need a certain type of bottled water, first class seats on the airplane or anything else that worldly celebrities might demand. Trust me, you aren’t all that special.
If you won’t sleep in a host home and eat what’s put in front of you I question your qualifications for ministry.
Remember, Jesus stayed in a one star hotel as he began his mission to serve all mankind. His accommodations included hay for a mattress in a smelly barn under a bright star.
I’ve stayed in some very uncomfortable places over the years (but nowhere near as uncomfortable as what baby Jesus experienced). I’ve stayed in homes with people that I don’t click with. Rooms I’ve slept in were musty and caused my allergies to go haywire. I’ve eaten meals from a can heated in a microwave. Is that what I prefer? Of course not. But, it’s not about me! I’m not there to be served! I’m there to lay down my life, my demands, my opinions and to serve with unrelenting passion!
You are there to give, to bless, to serve. It’s not the other way around.
43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:43-45 (ESV)
Counterpoint: I believe it’s just fine to communicate what type of food you prefer, what type of accommodations would be most comfortable and other points that would make your visit easier. Just don’t make them into demands. Honor them and don’t require them to honor you.
Quit exaggerating miracles
I know, people will flock to your meetings if they think miracles are happening. That’s unavoidable. What is avoidable is lying.
When reports of healings and miracles get most of the press instead of mass repentance and surrender you should be alert. That doesn’t mean God’s not moving, but it does mean that there may be exaggeration in the mix.
In the Bible we do see people repenting and excitedly reporting about healings and miracles. What we don’t see is Jesus blasting them all over the press of the day.
If healings aren’t clear and obvious, just steer clear. Quit reporting on possibilities.
A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish. Proverbs 19:9 (ESV)
If you are called to preach the Truth in your meetings, and you are lying about what God is doing, you should be trembling in the fear of the Lord right about now.
Counterpoint: We should expect miracles! When God is moving we should see great and mighty works before our very eyes. When this happens, shout it from the rooftops! You should find yourself without words to explain exactly what happened instead of wordsmithing something that needs your marketing skills for it to be convincing.
Stop giving the people what they want
Itinerant ministers are avoiding necessary scriptural truths in their meetings for the sake of drawing a larger crowd.
The topics of the hour seem to be prosperity, healing, encouraging words, signs and wonders and personal growth.
16 Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. 17 They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’” Jeremiah 23:16-17 (ESV)
We need preachers who will come out of their prayer rooms on fire with a message from Heaven! Preach the room empty with a striking, convicting word for the hour. Preach in such a way that people either hate you and leave with their money still in their wallets or the fall in love with Jesus.
Quit trying to make friends from the pulpit! Stop building your mailing list with admirers! Preach with the conviction of Peter on the day of Pentecost!
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. Acts 2:22-24 (ESV)
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:37-38 (ESV)
Counterpoint: No, every message doesn’t have to cut to the heart. There is a time to teach on blessing, healing, abundant life and other such topics. In fact, some people are raised up to teach on such topics often. But, there must be the searing Word of God burning through them. Messages of repentance and surrender simply cannot be forsaken.
Stop being dishonest about your meetings
I suppose this is related to the issue of hype. How often do you see posts on Facebook from a traveling minister that go like this:
I preached with passion and am hungry for an outpouring, but this service was a dud. The anointing wasn’t really there. People weren’t impacted. If I were sitting out there I’d be thinking of what I’m going to eat for lunch.
How refreshing a report like that would be! An honest evaluation of an event should lead to an honest report. Come on everybody, God doesn’t always do big things in a service. If he doesn’t, don’t tell the world that he did.
And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. Mark 6:5 (ESV)
How powerful is it that God himself reported on a bad service! (For Jesus, a bad service meant only a few sick people got healed!)
Is it possible your faith, your preparation, your anointing or your skill isn’t up to standards? Jesus was perfect and he experienced a bad service. My guess is you and I will experience many that are much worse…and often it’s because of our own lives and not the unbelief in the people.
Counterpoint: I would say it’s great if we report in faith, without lying. If we communicate that we sense God is desiring to do a great work in the midst of a challenging situation, that is a smart move—if he really said that to you.
I’m wrecked as I burn with critical messages that will prepare the church for what is ahead.
21 I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied. 22 But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds. Jeremiah 23:21-22 (NIV)
We are hearing endless supposed prophetic words that are happy and positive, without revealing the critical, troubling warnings from Heaven. It's time to repent and to declare the truth of God no matter if it's disturbing or engaging.
God is raising up those he can trust his Word with. His messages will shake us to the core, and he can be trusted to deliver what we need to hear. He needs prophetic voices to also trust God's words, and to deliver them unedited.
The fear of deception is giving way to a demand for it—often at the cost of people’s souls.
We are living in the days of deception on demand—a prophetic culture that serves encouragement at the expense of truth.
“Both prophet and priest are ungodly; even in my house I have found their evil, declares the LORD. Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery paths in the darkness, into which they shall be driven and fall, for I will bring disaster upon them in the year of their punishment, declares the LORD. Jeremiah 23:11-12
It’s important that you know as I begin this article that I hold a high value for prophecy. I’ve written and taught on it for years, and I strongly encourage everybody to live a bold, active prophetic life.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21
It would be equally as easy, and important, to write about movements that are defying scripture by quenching the Spirit and despising prophecies. Today, more than ever, the church must live and walk in the spirit as it hears God’s Rhema voice. God is absolutely talking and we must absolutely hear him—and relay key end-time prophetic data to the church and the world.
“For the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets. Amos 3:7
God has established the office of Prophet, and we need to embrace that office. Additionally, we are all called to live prophetic lives, and we should embrace that gift.
Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:1
With that established, we have to ensure the prophetic revelation is accurate, and that we don’t modify it at all—even if the message will be violently rejected. The way we handle prophecy will result in people either knowing God in the clarity of truth, or in people living a life of deception that may very well lead to an eternity in Hell.
The scripture instructs us not to despise prophecies, BUT it also instructs us to test it and to only hold to what is good. This is what we must do now in the prophetic movement—bad prophecy is doing great damage.
Wrong information will lead to a tainted analysis.
While many of today’s prophetic voices trend toward affirming people in their current condition via false words, these people are falling into deception that puts their very souls at risk.
How often have you heard someone affirm somebody’s salvation in order to bring them comfort? This is an example of a violation of prophetic protocol. We should never assure someone of their salvation, especially since we don’t know the depths of their hearts and we don’t know what type of decisions they will make in the years to come. False information like this is dangerous. Just as the disciples did, we need to all wrestle with our own salvation.
And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:23-26
Theologies and prophetic insights today rarely address the issue of salvation in any way other than affirming it—even for those who are only marginally devoted to Jesus. Somehow, there appears to be a certain valiance associated with the idea of easy salvation. What it communicates is that Jesus is willing and able to save every person regardless of their personal commitment and relationship with him. That feels heroic, and it is great news for those who are not fervent in their relationship with Jesus. Unfortunately, that great news is not the Good News.
Not everybody who hears the Good News receives it. In fact, the Good News doesn’t usually feel like good news at all. Most reject it.
And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Luke 18:18
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Luke 18:22-23
I am convinced that it is exceedingly rare for people to be legitimately saved. I’ve said before that I often wonder if even 10% of people in vibrant, Spirit-filled churches will end up in Heaven. Of course, there is no way to scientifically arrive at a literal percentage, but the inspection and analysis is appropriate. This is a prophetic process that is much different than the sugary prophetic imitations that are most common today.
When I have this discussion about uncommon salvation with fellow Christians, the reaction is most usually a mixture of shock, anger and fierce resistance. How dare somebody question their salvation!
It’s love that propels me to shine the light on the “angel of light” belief systems that are temporally satisfying yet eternally damning. Feel good messages are delivered which are actually not good at all—they are doctrines of demons.
And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. 2 Corinthians 11:14-15
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 1 Timothy 4:1
In fact, as I’ve said before, I only give myself an 80% chance of “making Heaven.” I am not exempt from deception. I am not immune to temptation. I have a free will and I can walk away at some point in the years ahead. The great falling away is coming, and every one of us will be courted by it. If I died today, I’m confident I’d be with Jesus, but tomorrow is another day.
Salvation is not a status, it’s a dynamic lifestyle that isn’t gauged by an on and off switch. It’s measured by a deep, growing, intimate love relationship with Jesus that manifests radical obedience and surrender.
Jesus warned about false prophets that will put people’s salvation at risk. This is very real, and we are in those days right now.
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:9-14
Lying prophets would never think of alerting an at risk person of their eternal future. Instead, they serve what is demanded—a promise of a future and a hope.
Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’” Jeremiah 23:16-17
As people are flooding into Hell while thinking they are on the road to Heaven, it’s horrific to think that we wouldn’t warn them!
Today’s lying voices who are building their own reputations are about to experience the reformation of the Lord in their lives. This reformation is coming to the entire prophetic culture in today’s church.
…spirits like Baal and Jezebel are working through those who accepted the call to ministry but have given in to the financial pressure of building their own kingdoms rather than serving the kingdom of God. ~Jennifer LeClaire
When supposed prophetic voices share nothing but happy, encouraging words, they lose credibility. There is absolutely no way, in today’s volatile world, that everything is OK and getting better. Where are the warnings? Where are the rebukes?
True prophets will warn as often as they encourage. They will rebuke just as they build up.
One of the most often misused verses in scripture is Jeremiah 29:11:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
This is one verse that doesn’t stand on its own very well. Context is necessary.
This is a perfect example of today’s prophetic culture—encouraging people without supplying the context and the often challenging instructions that are attached. Lets look at the context.
“For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. Jeremiah 29:10-14
Instead of receiving a nice, comfy personal prophecy that all will be well, that there’s a great future ahead, the truth is that there’s much more to this prophetic process!
The future comes after seventy years! The hope arrives when God’s plans are reactivated after the exile is over. It’s then that they can pray and be heard. It’s then that they will find God, but only if they seek him with all their heart! Not only is the prophecy about the far off future, it’s also conditional.
The process is spelled out precisely:
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD. Jeremiah 29:4-9
The prophecy they wanted to hear was that they would be freed immediately. God warned them not to listen to lies, false prophecies that would be exactly what they wanted to hear, and even words that seemed to validate their view of the goodness of God. Certainly, a good God would never approve of being held captive by their enemies, right? Wrong.
Remember, God assigned a demon to Paul. He cast Jonah into a fish. He threw Joseph into a pit. God’s ways most certainly aren’t our ways, and he most definitely is not compelled to fit within our definition of what is good and right.
For those in exile, the true word was inconvenient, disappointing, challenging and irritating. It even put the hearers at risk of losing hope and having an emotional meltdown!
The truth remains—they were to build houses, plant gardens, get married, have kids and even wait for them to get married and have kids. What a prophetic word! Their was no hope until they were grandparents!
Here’s a huge point—God was certainly interested the individual’s plight, but, as always, he was more interested in the bigger picture. This is such a critical issue in today’s narcissistic Christian culture! Yes, God loves us as individuals, but he is more interested in the future of his entire people. He will allow one to go through great trouble for the sake of the freedom of many. Of course, Jesus is the perfect model of this truth.
Martyrdom is another model of this truth. God will allow one to be tortured and murdered for the sake of the advance of the Kingdom. What if today’s prophetic messengers started revealing people’s call to die at the hands of a terrorist for the sake of the Gospel? What if they started affirming our call to die before we live? True prophecy will be troubling as often as it is affirming.
What this means is that our process is not only about us, but for many others.
So, instead of demanding the flaky, invented prophetic words that promise a quick improvement to our personal lives, we need to hear the difficult messages that deal with our sin, our struggle, our disobedience and what should be done to correct. We need the words that call us higher.
There are generally three types of messages:
- What God has done for us and the benefits that result
- What God is about to do to benefit us
- What our responsibility is
The first two are all too common, and when delivered appropriately, these messages are great.
The last one is what we must see an increase of. In fact, we need to hear what we are doing wrong! We have to be OK with that so we can be calibrated to God’s plan for our lives. This is great, great news indeed!
Lets move beyond generic, incomplete words that reveal that God has a future for us. Instead, we need to know what he expects from us, how we have failed, what we can build on, how we can grow and what the big picture is.
Prophecy should propel us to action, not satisfaction.
Eat the Scroll
The prophetic words of God will be weighty, and won’t usually be received very well.
And he said to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey. And he said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them. For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel— not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you. But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart. Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead. Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.” Moreover, he said to me, “Son of man, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart, and hear with your ears. And go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to them and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ whether they hear or refuse to hear.” Ezekiel 3:1-11
Today’s false or flaky prophetic movement is not birthed in the place of trembling intercession. It’s open to hear the most satisfying words that will result in the church elevating it, affirming it and celebrating it.
That’s why we need true prophetic messengers who will eat the scroll, carry the weight of the revelations of God and fearlessly confront the stubborn rebellion in the church. When we eat the scroll, we are undone, fearful and trembling.
Watch how Ezekiel, a true prophet, responds:
Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me the voice of a great earthquake: “Blessed be the glory of the LORD from its place!” It was the sound of the wings of the living creatures as they touched one another, and the sound of the wheels beside them, and the sound of a great earthquake. The Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness in the heat of my spirit, the hand of the LORD being strong upon me. And I came to the exiles at Tel-abib, who were dwelling by the Chebar canal, and I sat where they were dwelling. And I sat there overwhelmed among them seven days. Ezekiel 3:12-15
He was lifted up by the Spirit and experienced bitterness and heat in his spirit. His investment resulted in him being overwhelmed for a week. We need prophets who are overwhelmed.
Prophecy on Demand/Paying for Prophecy
I wrestle with the issue of prophecy on demand. On one hand, I do believe that God is always talking and that we can receive messages about others on a regular basis. On the other hand, all too often the prophetic words are nothing more than encouraging words that may or may not be accurate. There’s great immaturity and a lack of the fear of the Lord all too often.
True, biblical encouraging words are great, but I believe we need to take the prophetic label off of that ministry if it’s not truly prophetic.
That being said, there’s something that I am absolutely alarmed about—a growing trend of payment for prophecy. This must stop.
I see this in the prayer movement and there are many who affirm ministries that offer prayer and prophetic words in exchange for financial support. Boy, this is dangerous.
Not only is the financial exchange iffy, it puts people on the spot. If a prophecy is ordered, the supposed prophet must come up with a prophecy. What if God isn’t talking? What if the word is negative? What if the prophetic person is having a bad week? What if they can’t hear easily? We could go on and on with the issues.
The spiritualized fortune telling has to stop. I’m not saying it’s all entirely inappropriate, but the precedent it’s setting is dangerous at the least. The fear of the Lord must hit the prophetic movement, and by all means, ministries that charge for prophetic ministry must be shut down.
Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. Acts 8:18-22
Prophecy for payment is functioning today in the spirit of Balaam—administered by for prophet false prophets.
Balak paid Balaam to deliver a specific word of the Lord. Balaam was not invested in the process, but God did in fact put a word in his mouth, as a test. Balaam delivered this word, but Balak was furious—it wasn’t the word he paid for!
Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the LORD. Numbers 31:16
Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. Jude 1:11
Prophecy for payment feels right—Christian people are delivering words that even God may have initiated, just as he did with Balaam, but the foundation is that of divination.
The money changers in the temple are about to be overturned.
If someone wanted me to be their resident prophetic counsel, I’d direct them to a much more reliable source—the Bible.
All of this brings me to the issue that’s burning hottest in my spirit. The purest prophetic messages are those that are read directly from scripture.
The Bible must return to front and center in the prophetic culture.
The greatest anointing won’t come when we are foretelling or reading somebody’s mail. It will come when a prophetic spirit comes upon us as we declare the ancient truths of scripture.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Psalm 19:7-11
Wow! It seems everything people are looking for in personal prophecy can already be found in the Word of God. Rejoicing, enlightening, reward.
The issue is this—we must invest our lives into the Word of God. It takes effort. Personal prophecy is easy. We ask and receive.
Have you ever wondered why God is intentionally silent when we pray? Is it possible he doesn’t want us to have the information that a supposed prophet would be more than happy to divulge? Is it possible God wants us to search scripture for ourselves?
Personal prophecy has a place, but a reformation must come. It’s time we stop being lazy and resistant to the tough love of God as he either withholds information for a season or requires our radical participation in the process.
The prophecy games must come to an end. It isn’t harmless encouragement if it’s contrary to truth. The players in this game are being setup for eternal loss, and God is about to hold all of us accountable.