The Prophetic and Today’s Church, Part 1

I believe in the prophetic ministry. You’d think this would be a foregone conclusion for a man of my theological persuasion — Pentecostal (although I dislike labels).  However, I have struggled with the Church’s sometimes over the top teachings on the prophetic during the past 25 years.  

Can I be honest with you?  I never heard the phrases, “Prophetic Word” or “Prophetic Preaching” used in our circles until the latter part of last century.  I was perfectly comfortable with the phrase, “The preached Word.”  Then, as if a new doctrine hit the church scene, many began talking about “the prophetic” as if God was introducing something new. I’m not trying to be disrespectful or snide; I have really struggled with what many dub the “Prophetic Movement.”    

And I have never heard so much ridiculous teaching and seen so much hyper-sensationalism done in the Name of the Lord. How many offerings have I sat through that used some aspect of the prophetic to move people to give?  I do not see myself as a close-minded preacher, but I admit it, I am squeamish when it comes to the prophetic.  I personally believe that many people have used the Lord’s name to scratch their “hyper-spiritual itches,” and to elevate themselves “above what is written” (1 Corinthians 4:6).  Removing humility from the prophetic leads to disaster.  

I tire of the showmanship and attention-seeking that accompanies a lot of prophetic meetings.  Yes, God does speak to individuals; and yes, there are times when prophetic words are welcome, but too much of the time, the “prophetic word” smacks of a “pathetic word,” when individuals are highlighted and “the testimony of Jesus, who is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10) is sidelined.  I understand the prophetic gift involves “seeing,” but the pronoun “I” is used way too much for my comfort.

If truth be told, my hesitancy to embrace certain aspects of the modern prophetic movement, goes all the way back to 1972 when my mother passed away after a long, grueling sickness.  A well-meaning man, whom I admired in the Faith, came to me and said, “The Lord said, ‘I’m going to heal your mother.  Watch Me perform my wonders.’” I was overwhelmed with emotion and accepted the man’s “word from the Lord” to be true.  

Three weeks later mom died.  I was a fairly new believer, and her death shook me to my core, emotionally and spiritually.  I suppose it was this unfortunate incident that made me suspicious of the prophetic.  However, I do not wish to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I’m being brutally honest, so wait before you judge me!

Go with me to Ephesians 4:11a. “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers…” We refer to these offices as the “five-fold Ministry.”  And I’m so thankful for these wonderful gifts that Christ gave to His Church.  We need all of them functioning in a biblically sound manner if we are to come into the fullness of the stature of Christ:  “For the equipping of the saints for the work of service to the building up of the body of Christ.”(11b).  And so, we acknowledge the office of prophet.  However, unless these offices and their functions are properly taught and understood, then we are likely to have a “Five-fold Feud” on our hands!

I usually explain the individual roles this way:

The Apostle:  To send
The Prophet:  To see
The Evangelist:  To speak
The Pastor:  To tend
The Teacher:  To teach (Of course!) 

I’m going to go out on a limb and say based on personal experience (40 plus years in ministry) these five gifts, to work effectively and to stay in balance, need to channel through the office of pastor.  After all, it is the pastor who gets in the trenches with the sheep!  The other four gifts should humbly come into line with the pastor’s ministry, as he, under God, leads each local church.  This is the pattern I see in the New Testament, as revealed in Paul’s writings to the various churches. And of course, these offices can and do overlap one another.  Neither time nor space will allow me to cover apostles, evangelists, pastors and teachers, so let me get back to the office of prophet.  

Are there prophets in today’s Church?  Of course!  “Now at this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.  One of them named Agabus, began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world.  And this took place in the reign of Claudius” (Acts 11:27-28).  The above mentioned famine later embraced the entire known world at the time.  These were in fact, New Covenant prophets!  

However, please understand that prophets in today’s church are different from the prophets mentioned in the Old Testament.  Prophets of renown — Isaiah,  Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Elijah, Elisha — FORETOLD what God was doing, especially pertaining to Israel.  They were protectors of the Covenant and foretold the coming of the Messiah with amazing and detailed accuracy.   

Prophets today FORTHTELL what God has already proclaimed in His Word, because the Canon of Scripture — the Bible — is closed.  God has already told us everything we need to know as it pertains to our salvation and those things yet to come upon the earth.  And like the prophets mentioned in Acts 11:27-28, God uses prophets today to warn of things to come — those things related to sin and judgment.  Perhaps the Prophet Amos said it best:  “Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets” (3:7).   This verse balances the “Fore-telling” with the “Forth-telling” aspects of prophetic ministry.   

The late David Wilkerson, I believe, was a prophet.  He did not like to be labeled; however, in 1986 he prophesied of a coming plague that would hit New York City, and like all true prophets, his words came to pass.  At the time of this writing, we find ourselves in a world-wide pandemic; with New York City being one of the hardest hit areas.  The acid test of a true prophet is that his prophecies come true.

I still struggle, however, with men and women of God who insist on carrying titles. We have become both image and title crazy. And  I’m very concerned about the abuses I’ve personally witnessed and heard in regards to the gift of prophecy, as discussed in 1 Corinthians 12.  “Now there are varieties of gifts…and to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good…to another prophecy…” (verses 4,7 and 10).  Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth to correct abuses that had developed while employing the gift of prophecy and the other gifts mentioned in chapter 12.  

And today, the potential for abuse is present as well.  Pastors have the responsibility to make sure these gifts bring edification and comfort, not confusion and strife. “All things have to be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40). A wonderful gift in the wrong hand (heart) becomes a sideshow attraction that draws attention away from Christ to the individual.  All attention and adoration goes to Jesus!  Only Him!

In next week’s blog, I discuss principles/teachings/warnings that I believe should guide prophetic ministry.



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