Prophetic Reformation

Never in my life have I felt such a sense of disarray in the body of Christ, and most especially around prophetic ministry. Over the years, too many prophetic words have been published, taken seriously, seized upon by the body of Christ in a flurry of excitement and then failed to materialize. And yet we, the body of Christ, kept listening. I highly value good prophetic ministry, but we’ve been in need of serious prophetic reformation for a very long time.

Going back 21 years there were all the prophetic warnings about an impending Y2K disaster when the computers would crash and the world would fall apart. Prophets told us to store up food and supplies because when the computers crashed, the world would be paralyzed. Some even sold survival packages. It didn’t happen. The reality was that computers simply didn’t work like that, then or now, but almost no one seemed willing to check that out. I knew it prophetically but I believe in objective confirmations, so I asked an IBM executive what was up. Big problem? Yes. What will happen? He told me that people would get their paychecks on Wednesday instead of Friday but the computers wouldn’t crash.

The problem was that, instead of facing facts, people preferred to get stirred up about it and then claim that it didn’t happen because we prayed it wouldn’t happen. The reality was that computers simply didn’t function like that. There never would have been a crash with or without prayer. The prophets were wrong. Something similar, but less known, happened leading up to 2008. A group of otherwise reliable prophets prophesied that Senator Brownbeck of Kansas would be elected president. Brownbeck ran for his party’s nomination and failed.

Many well known prophetic voices told us that that the Covid-19 crisis would dissipate at Passover, 2020. Obviously, it didn’t and here we are, ten months later, wearing masks and enduring the shutdowns. Now we’re looking at a similar situation involving a large number of prophets who predicted a specific political outcome for 2020 that has not come to pass. Some of them are holding onto the idea that the election will be miraculously overturned, but there is no legal path for that to occur.

All of this has shaken the entire charismatic wing of the church. A subtle form of idolatry is being purged away by the hand of God, intended to restore us to the true center and purpose of prophetic ministry if we’ll embrace the shaking. I’ll say it as simply as I can. We placed too much faith in the prophets. Their words – our words – were elevated to the same level of infallibility as the Scriptures by a great many people. Wrong! So very wrong!

The truth is that in this compounded crisis of church closures and prophetic failure, we’re being driven back to the simplicity of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, to that purified message, to that foundation as the central theme. We are being summoned back to a basic, deep and simplified intimacy with God that we seem to have lost and into which we prophetic people were obligated to lead God’s people.

In the charismatic wing of the church we’ve made a lot of noise in recent decades, not just in the prophetic world, but in a long list of other ways. We preached keys to this and keys to that. We built big flashy ministries and cultivated huge ministry platforms. Commercialization of ministry products has exploded. We’ve had ever more dramatic prophetic words issued by those of us with the biggest names and the widest recognition.

In this yearlong crisis we’ve endured, it’s like looking at a building being demolished right down to the foundation so that something better and more solid can be built on it. I hear the voice of the Lord saying STOP. When did you begin relating to the structure itself as if it were the foundation? I must dismantle the structure and restore you to the foundation.

As prophetic people, this a time to come back to the prayer closet where our primary calling lies, on our knees and on our faces, even in sackcloth and ashes repenting. Back to the simple things – the cross, the blood, intimacy with Jesus without all the bling and flash to distract us from the vision of His face. Back to solid Bible study, cherishing the eternal written Word where especially we charismatics have been out of balance in seeking supernatural experiences, dreams and visions while neglecting the study of the eternal and unchanging Word of God, the Bible.

It’s time to return to simple fellowship with one another in love, cherishing the beauty of what God has created in our brothers and sisters. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and in prison for this is pure religion in the sight of God (James 1:27). Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and cast out demons, but do it all from simple, quiet intimacy with our Father, our Savior and Holy Spirit.

We need to study again the prophets who went before us and reform the thrust of our own ministries. What was their message? The vast majority of what has been passed down to us in the biblical prophets is a call to come out of idolatry, to purify the focus on God alone. The prophets separated the precious from the vile, the holy from the unholy and good from evil. They pointed out what was idolatry to a people too blind to see it for themselves. Their gift was first and foundationally a gift of discernment, to cut through the fog and see where pollutions had entered in, then to hear from God how to address it, to pass His warnings on. Predictions were predicated on how Israel would choose to respond to the warnings. Would they repent? And if they did not then destruction was certain. Other predictions told them how God would use the destruction to refine and restore them, then to bring them back to the land to live once again under God’s favor.

It was all relational. Biblical prophetic ministry was about relational issues between God and the people He loved. None of the prophets prophesied simply because they could. In fact, Amos 3:7 Surely the Lord God does nothing Unless He reveals His secret counsel To His servants the prophets. Clearly, not everything a prophet knew or heard was to be spoken aloud, and the same is true today. Much of what we hear is for our ears alone to guide us in how and what we pray, or simply to share the burden on the Lord’s heart in oneness with Him. God does love our company.

I Corinthians 14:3 But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. I want to suggest something you may not have seen in this verse. Remember that some things the Lord speaks to a prophet are not to be spoken aloud. Part of what I Corinthians 14:3 is telling us is that we ought to question whether a word we’ve received is really going to benefit the body of Christ to edify, console or exhort, or is it just meant to inform our own praying and connect us with the burden on God’s heart?

We need to ask how something we’re sensing or hearing from God benefits the body of Christ if we were to speak it aloud. Or have we made it just fortune-telling, just something that generates excitement but doesn’t really point people to Jesus or connect them more intimately with Him? Remember that the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus. Once again, the core of the message is Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

That said, how was prophesying a Trump victory in the election supposed to 1) reveal Jesus or testify to Him in any real way and 2) how was that supposed to edify and strengthen the body of Christ as a body? Did many of us even consider these things before we put that word out there? Was that even a question? Or were we too eager to attract attention and build our followings? I don’t mean to be critical or accusatory here. I’m putting myself in the category of one who normally does not fail in this regard, but I allowed myself to fail in this instance.

Because we failed to ask these questions, instead of strengthening God’s people in the testimony of Jesus and connecting them more intimately and firmly with Him, we rather stirred them up to connect their hope in an idolatrous way to a man or a political party. The fruit is that we’ve thrown the church into disarray and the name of Jesus has been dragged through the mud.

In this regard, it doesn’t really matter who was right and who was wrong, whether we who issued apologies were right or wrong, or whether those who continue to stand on some kind of miracle to overturn the election are right or wrong. The hard fact is that Donald Trump is not in the White House and the charismatic wing of the body of Christ has been badly shaken an divided, not strengthened. For this, we all bear responsibility before the throne of God. Repentance is in order.