The Prophetic and Today’s Church, Part 2

As you recall, last week I introduced my concerns surrounding the prophetic ministry.  Today, I wish to point out 17 principles/teachings/warnings that I believe should guide prophetic emphasis in the Church. 

People often speak out of their soul instead of by the Spirit of God.  I call them “Pentecostal Well-Wishers.”  The man who prophesied to me about my dying mother fit into this category.  He meant well, however, his best intentions were mis-led.  He wanted to see my mom healed, but allowed his emotions to override what the Spirit was really saying.

And, if individuals have broken, unhealed areas in their soul — mind, will and emotions — they are likely to speak through those areas.  Beware!  God, of course, uses imperfect vessels to speak in today’s Church; however, we dare not filter the intended message through wounded emotions.  In the past, when I preached through anger, everyone suffered!  Love has to be the motivating force in all we do.  

Individuals with mental health issues or cognitive challenges often use the prophetic to exaggerate their importance or to draw attention to themselves.  They function as engines not hitting on all six cylinders.  In my opinion, these individuals must be re-directed away from public ministry, toward more behind-the-scenes types of ministry.  Frankly, the prophetic gift is perhaps the most likely to be abused.  

It seems that everything now has a prophetic angle to it — prophetic poetry, drawings, art, prayers, songs, choruses, etc.  What?  Why do we have to use the word “prophetic” to describe innate gifts or interests? 

Many who prophesy lack knowledge of God’s Word, are spiritually shallow or pseudo-spiritual, gossip, walk in unforgiveness, operate in pride or false humility or sow discord in the church.. Only consistent Christian character validates those who operate in the prophetic, or any of the gifts, for that matter.  

Believers who tend to be “loose cannons,” refusing to submit to pastoral authority and instruction, forfeit their right to express any prophetic gifts inside them. In summary, those who refuse to come under spiritual authority, disqualify themselves from speaking in the church. In the same way, women who function outside of healthy spiritual order in their home should be monitored closely.   

Many prophetic words do not line up with God’s Word.  Some even contradict God’s Word and/or obvious biblical principles.  We are called to judge the validity of any prophetic word.  

Prophetic words should ALWAYS be unto edification or bring comfort (1 Corinthians 14:12).  They should never be used as weapons of mass destruction! 

Some use the gift to “read others’ mail.”  God NEVER tattletales on “one kid to another!”  Prophetic words are separate from words of knowledge or words of wisdom, as these two gifts usually operate in obscurity and confidentiality.  

Too many treat prophetic words like a crystal ball — reading the future. Always remember, the gift of prophecy, when used by impure, self-serving vessels, closely parallels the travesty of divination, which aligns with enemy strategy.  One of the most dangerous realities happens when individuals who at one time operated accurately in the prophetic word, and subsequently turned apostate.  The gift inside them transferred to the demonic realm.  Currently, hundreds of psychic hotlines exist for those seeking answers to life’s questions and dilemmas. My guess is that a good number of these “readers” previously operated in the genuine prophetic word and sadly were somehow wounded in the house of God, and allowed offenses to make them rebellious.  You remember that “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft” (1 Samuel 15:23).  Operating in the gifts of the Holy Spirit remains a high and holy opportunity.  And an awestruck responsibility.  

Prophetic words are not given to provide direction, only confirmation.  God does not operate on a third party basis.  He’s not going to tell Bill to tell Bob to tell me!  What a beautiful experience it is to have someone confirm what God has already told us!  We all have direct access to God’s throne and should cultivate hearts that listen to God’s voice.

Prophetic words should not be elevated above God’s Word.  I’ve known people who kept dated journals of personal prophecies and relied on them more than trusting God’ Word.

The Scriptures nowhere support the practice of giving “personal prophecies,” or what I call “assembly line prophetic words.” Inflated egos, pride, manipulative people, and self-indulgent attitudes fill our churches when people are allowed to operate in this vein.  I’ve seen churches literally destroyed by allowing this self-serving practice to continue.   Some who refer to having a prophetic anointing really have the “gift of suspicion!”  This “gift” can bring much harm into any situation.  

Some overlook the fact that words of knowledge and words of wisdom are often given as prophetic words.  They are different in purpose and operation, and never meant for public expression. The gifts of prophecy, tongues and interpretation of tongues are the only verbal-public gifts discussed in 1 Corinthians.  And remember,  tongues manifested in the public worship service must always be followed by an interpretation.  

As a general rule, so-called prophetic worship/songs are given for individual edification and private times of praise, not for public worship.  I’ve been amazed at how “prophetic singers” attempt to lead entire congregations of worshipers, without realizing that the only one singing is the leader.  They are an audience of one!  Entire congregations are reduced to spectators. Some well-meaning worship leaders are  misdirected and/or oblivious to the very people they are trying to lead into the presence of God.  John Maxwell said it best:  “If no one is following a supposed leader, then he or she is simply out taking a walk.”  Worship leaders would do well to remember that the OBJECT of our worship is Jesus, and the IDEAL of worship is to get as many involved as possible in the ACT of worship. So-called prophetic worship automatically disengages the leader from those he strives to lead!  There are exceptions, but very few indeed!

What is prophetic preaching?  Not all biblical passages carry prophetic implications.  Paul told Timothy, “Preach the Word.”  He did not say, “Prophesy the Word.”  I may be splitting hairs, but the difference again remains the difference between Christ-centered and messenger-centered ministry.  My friend, when rightly divided, the Word speaks for itself!  We don’t “read into” the Word; we allow the Word to “read us.”  And this truth leads me to my last observation.
Some preaching referred to as prophetic preaching is simply drawing analogies or embracing allegories used to teach a higher principle, or one that hides beneath the surface of a Bible story.  Such preaching also draws from types and shadows revealed in a given passage.  Let me give an example of each:

A.  Analogy (Metaphors) — Proverbs 13:14 says, “The teaching of  the wise is a fountain of life.” This metaphor compares wise teaching to a flowing fountain. Sometimes when individuals give prophetic words, they use colorful Imagery to share God’s message.  This type of prophetic ministry is totally subjective, leaving the message open-ended and subject to personal interpretation.  I for one, am cautioned to not build my future on “I see or I think…or, take this for what it’s worth.”  I need something more solid!
How many people have walked away from having received a prophetic word of such a general nature, asking themselves, “What did that mean?”  I have!  Realizing what was spoken could have been understood in any number of ways!  Or misunderstood!             
B. Allegory — The Bible contains several allegories.  An allegory is a literary work in which the characters and events are symbolic of a deeper moral or spiritual truth.  For example, the Song of Solomon is viewed as an allegory by both Jewish and Christian scholars.  One says it’s an allegory of God’s love for Israel.  The other says it’s an allegory about Christ’s love for the Church.  Still, others believe it’s an allegory about married love. Prophetic words based on allegorical passages are also left up to private interpretation.  They too are subjective and need to be received with caution!    

C.  Types/Shadows — Acts 27 records the story of Paul sailing from Cesaerea to Rome when he encounters a shipwreck.  When the 276 passengers and crew announce they are jumping ship, Paul tells them if they remain in the ship, their lives will be spared. “Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, ‘Unless those men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.’”  The ship, then, is a type of the Church or “staying with the Lord.”  This type of biblical preaching is challenging because it too leaves room for personal interpretation.  

         So, what is the drawback on prophetic ministry that builds on analogies, allegories and types and shadows?  Always remember.  We need to draw on a literal interpretation of Scripture that requires full disclosure of the text and minimizes temptations to “read into the text” what may or may not be there.  This is also the drawback to preaching topical series!  Some search for Scriptures to support their erroneous thinking or personal opinions!  This is dangerous!

         Prophetic words that employ any of these three comparative genres have to be time tested and weighed in light of deeper, more solid biblical interpretation.  I sure would not build an entire church service or more important, a life decision on prophetic words that leave themselves open to interpretations that are general, not specific in their intent.  Such prophetic activity may seem good at the time; however, we must build our lives on “The Word,” not “A word.”

         I understand my potential for being misunderstood in this blog.  However, if prophetic ministry is allowed to run rampant outside the guidelines of biblical authority, the chances for confusion and division remain a constant threat.  And the gift of prophecy MUST never be allowed to get out of balance with the other ministry gifts.  Entire services that feature only prophetic ministry open the door to extremes that highlight imbalanced and over-zealous believers.  In my experience, nothing overrides the preaching of God’s Word.  

          NOTE:  This blog about the prophetic in today’s church should by no means be seen as a comprehensive treatment.  Volumes have been written about each of the above 17-mentioned guidelines.  This summary simply provides a general overview for those who have perhaps been confused (like me) regarding the intents and purposes for which the prophetic gifts should operate in today’s church.  



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