(Guest blogger – my wife) 🙂
I am not a cessationist. I still believe that God speaks to His people today, sometimes through prophetic utterance.
However, one aspect of our journey into “Charismania” that always made me a bit uncomfortable was the seeming over-emphasis our church placed on the pastor’s “prophetic gifting.” It was a pretty common occurrence for the pastor to “pull someone out” of the audience and begin to speak prophetically to them.
Initially I was fascinated by the whole thing. On several occasions, my husband was pulled out, and we quickly learned that everybody took these prophetic “Words” very seriously. We had two dear church friends who even transcribed the Words for the recipients, as a sort of ministry. We kept these transcripts, and, because of how easy it was to slide into “group think” in our enthusiastic, cheering congregation, we also began to view the so-called “prophetics” as coming from God.
At the beginning, I guess you could say that peer pressure caused me to set aside my discomfort. In my desire to exercise my faith—and also, to be like everyone else in our new church family—I neglected to exercise Scriptural discernment.
But I never really completely silenced the questioning voices in my thoughts, the discomfort. And after some years of watching the prophetic ministry, there were a few observations I simply could not ignore.
For instance, I found it suspect that so many of the “personal prophetics” seemed to follow a pattern. If you were a young black man, you were usually told that the devil had tried to take you out, that you were going to be a soul winner. If you were a woman, something would be mentioned about all the times you cried out before the Lord, and how God “hears your prayers, my daughter.”
The prophetic words were very rarely (in fact, I almost cannot remember a “word” that actually WAS) detailed or specific. They often reminded me of horoscopes—they could fit half the people in the room. And, the prophetic words were NEVER rebukes, which made them very little like at least 75% of the prophecies in the Bible.
In the Bible, prophecy was most often used to correct people, rather than encourage them.
I don’t believe that our former pastor was intentionally trying to deceive or manipulate people. I believe he was sincere in the way he exercised his “gift.” But, all too often, our congregation was taught to cling to the so-called “Thus saith the Lords” over our lives, to draw hope from these prophetic declarations. Even we—solidly Biblically educated folks—found ourselves deriving reassurances from our “Words.” As my husband went through some career uncertainties, we found ourselves pulling out those “Word” transcripts and reading them over and over again. They were very encouraging, and often they would help us not to worry about the future. After all, “God” had given us some amazing promises about how things were going to turn out.
Well, as more time passed, my doubts over the prophetic only increased, especially when the ONLY “Word” that contained specifics about timing (“By the end of January, you will be faced with making a decision between two courses of action in your career…”) did NOT happen.
Had God made a mistake when “He” spoke to us?
Since I knew enough to know that that wasn’t possible, I could only conclude that this particular “Word” was not from God.
Which brought up another huge issue for me: how, then, could we possibly figure out which “Words” were accurate (from God) and which “Words” were not?
I finally allowed myself to exercise some discernment, rather than cling in blind faith to what we were being taught. And what I realized is that, while, as I said, I do not believe our pastor was consciously trying to deceive or manipulate anyone, I now know that our congregation would do so much better if we were taught to place our hope in Jesus Christ and the written Word, rather than vague “prophecies.”
I’ve discovered an excellent discernment ministry that addresses many issues pertinent to today’s church. Check it out: http://cicministry.org/ . Below is a small snippet from Bob DeWaay’s commentary on some of today’s so-called prophets. I found his remarks very helpful:
“The false prophets are full of caveats to get themselves off the hook. They claim that predictions are conditional, and that if nothing happened then enough people in Los Angeles evidently repented so it did not happen. God decided to delay things for some reason. They claim that they are not 100% accurate yet in their prophetic ministries because they are still learning and growing.
All of this does not erase one glaring fact God is portrayed as a liar when someone claims to be speaking direct revelation from God, in His name, and what they say is false. False prophecy is hugely damaging in many ways: lives are uprooted, fear instilled and God’s name is blasphemed. This is a very serious thing and it is disturbing how blithely some are willing to pronounce, thus saith the Lord. People are looking to a man to be an infallible spokesman for God when only the inspired Scripture is inerrant and infallible.
For many, going to prophetic meetings and conferences has kept them away from sitting under solid, exegetical Bible teaching because it has been put aside for the new revelations of man. This creates immature and unstable Christians. Sadly many are starving to death for solid Biblical teaching in churches claiming to be seeking a great move of God. In the audio tape quoted in this article, Bob Jones talks about a hunger for God’s Word, but he was not talking about Bible teaching. The hunger is for personal, subjective revelations.
People want to hear from God. To receive this in their churches they should demand verse by verse expository preaching that delves deeply into the text of the Bible, bringing it to bear on the lives of the hearers. Then they will have heard from God. Paul said, For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe (1Corinthians 1:21). The message preached, as seen in the context, is the message of the cross.”