The Crisis in the Contemporary Prophetic Movement (Part 1)
Positive, Politically Correct, and Performance Based
I see a trend rising in the contemporary prophetic culture of America where everything must be positive, politically correct, and performance based or it can’t be from God. It is a trend toward releasing and only embracing general encouragement and words full of false hope that often have too little substance or depth. These words sound good in passing, but carry little weight long term. This shift and crisis in the current contemporary prophetic movement mirrors the shift and crisis that Jeremiah in the Bible experienced in his day. He cried out in agony and prophesied to his peers saying, “you are addressing the wounds of the people superficially. You are crying out, ‘peace, peace’ when there is no peace’.” As in the days of Jeremiah, so too the current contemporary prophetic culture in America is largely rejecting or ignoring calls to repentance, cries for reform, and addressing specific sin in the land. Jeremiah went on even further to address how the general public would receive prophetic words that are positive, politically correct, and performance based in chapter 5 and verse 31, “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority; AND MY PEOPLE LOVE IT SO! But what will you do at the end of it?”
Just as the people loved false prophecies of hope and peace, too many in the American Church are obsessed and in love with general and spontaneous prophecy that sounds good to the ears, but does little to bring change and reform to hearts. In order to win the applause of crowds and gain a partner base, how many have watered down their messages and in doing so have displeased the Lord?
Nonetheless, God has mercifully raised up voices in every generation that have confronted trending prophetic patterns. These voices are themselves prophets, but have been called by God to resist and expose the false and immature prophets in the land. He raised up Leonard Ravenhill in his generation who cried out with great clarity regarding the prophetic ministry and said, “The prophet comes to set up that which is upset. His work is to call into line those who are out of line! He is unpopular because he opposes the popular in morality and spirituality. In a day of faceless politicians and voiceless preachers, there is not a more urgent national need than our cry to God for a prophet!”
In recent years, men like Dr. Michael Brown have sensed a similar crisis as he exhorts prophetic voices to, “Make the saints firm and the sinners squirm. Build up the foundation of the meek and tear down the stronghold of the proud. Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Minister the message of God in a manner worthy of His name.”
Make no mistake; there is a tremendous crisis in the contemporary prophetic movement right now. I dare say that the number of prophetic voices who are actually carrying the legitimate word of the Lord are far fewer than many of us would think. In a day and age where the words and heart of the Lord are so necessary and needed in the land, I’m deeply concerned that the contemporary prophetic movement may be headed for strong judgment from the hand of the Lord.
Two types of prophecy exist: spontaneous and revelatory prophecy. All believers are capable of prophesying on a spontaneous level, particularly in small group settings and even in worship. Paul addresses this gift of prophecy in 1 Corinthians 14:1-5. The saints can bring edification, exhortation, and comfort to the body of Christ on many levels. Spontaneous prophecy rarely offends people (it shouldn’t) and it finds its roots in encouragement and blessing. Spontaneous prophecy can be given by individuals who are not prophets of the Lord, but simply exercising the gift of prophecy. On the other hand, revelatory prophecy can only be given by prophets themselves. While prophets can operate in spontaneous and revelatory prophecy, ordinary believers who operate in the gift of prophecy are limited to spontaneous prophecy. The contemporary prophetic culture wholeheartedly embraces spontaneous prophecy. They love and enjoy the general blessing and encouragement that comes from believers who move in the gift of prophecy as well as prophets themselves. The crisis comes when the only form of acceptable prophecy in the land is spontaneous prophecy. What about revelatory prophecy? Could it be that by labeling believers who operate in spontaneous prophecy as “prophets” that we are actually misleading and bringing confusion to a subject that really needs clarity and direction?
Inspirational prophecy is valid and an intricate part of church life, but revelatory prophecy goes way deeper. Revelatory prophecy is born in the place of prayer and fasting. It is usually given by the Spirit to a prophet initially and then requires days, weeks, and even months of careful prayer and mediation before it is released. Revelatory prophecy in nature is simply too directive, too corrective, and too predictive to be given on a whim. If you asked a prophetic voice in America when is the last time that they went on an extended fast before releasing the “word of the Lord” what would they say? If you asked them when is the last time you didn’t just receive a “word” and then immediately shotgun it out on periscope, facebook, or twitter, what would they say? Would it be too extreme to say that there is more spontaneous prophecy being released to the body of Christ than revelatory prophecy?
Revelatory prophecy is often corrective in nature. It pulls from the spirit realm and releases into the natural realm the plans and purposes of God. Typically, what is spoken in the spirit realm to the prophet will confront and challenge what is being done in the natural realm. The corrective nature of revelatory prophecy in the contemporary prophetic movement is being largely rejected and labeled as critical, judgmental, and in some circles “from the devil.” Revelatory prophecy often calls for repentance and warns of the consequences if the word of the Lord is ignored. Words of warning are the Lord’s last real attempt to keep us on track or restore us to the right path. Prophets cannot give revelatory words with the same freedom as they do spontaneous words.
The Great Divorce
Is it possible to embrace both spontaneous prophecy and revelatory prophecy? Can we accept spontaneous prophecy that brings general encouragement and blessing as well as revelatory prophecy that calls for repentance, warns of impending judgment, and shakes regions and nations? I absolutely think we can and we need to! The foundation for all prophetic ministry is built upon the character and nature of God. Many prophets and prophetic people have no problem acknowledging a God in the Old Testament executed wrath and judgment when needed, but numerous ones have an issue regarding a God in the New Testament who disciplines, judges, and corrects, much less a God who is still full of wrath and judgment.
Jesus Christ in the New Testament, came to be the full expression of every aspect of the character and nature of the God of the Old Testament, as revealed to Moses in Exodus 34. God was not just a Good God in the Old Testament and then said, “I will not be that way in the New Testament.” Nor did He say, “I am full of truth,” in the New Testament and then show Himself to not be like that in the Old Testament. I want to be very clear and transparent: the current pursuit by many prophets in the earth right now to divorce the God of the Old Testament away from the God of the New Testament is doing significant damage to the body of Christ.
I believe God is positioning the bride of Christ in this hour to a place where they will receive His correction, discipline, rebuke and therefore His justness without interpreting it as rejection. His judgment upon our lives is a demonstration of His goodness toward us as His people. The issue is not over whether He loves us, but over whether our own orphan hearts can receive His love for us. At times the words of the Father bring great comfort to our hearts and in other seasons His words sting in order to bring adjustment. We must always remember that whether the words comfort or sting, they are still coming from the same voice of our loving Father.
I want to be clear, while I do not believe that correction and discipline (judgment) is the primary way God deals with us as His children under the New Covenant, to throw out these aspects of His character and nature all together and say that the cross of Jesus Christ did away with them is not founded upon the full council of God. As prophetic people, we must take careful consideration and observation of ALL SCRIPTURE before we make blanket statements. God is a good and gracious Father, but He will in His truth and justness bring about correction and discipline for our good. As Hebrews 12:6 says, “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines and He scourges every son whom He receives.”
Distorted and Twisted Views
One of the greatest obstacles and hindrances to prophets and prophetic people accepting a New Covenant God that can and will discipline believers is a distorted view of the cross of Jesus Christ. To say that under the New Covenant that there is no more room for judgment and particularly no more room for the discipline of God upon the life of a believer is not only biblically inaccurate, but it also brings forth a potential greater underlying issue, namely that we can become so enamored and obsessed with certain aspects of God’s character and nature, that we totally disregard those that have the potential to be offensive to people.
In some prophetic circles, there is such an emphasis and focus being placed on the goodness and kindness of God, that anything in any prophetic word that even remotely speaks of God the Father’s ability to bring correction and rebuke as His discipline to His people’s lives is almost categorically rejected. Warnings, cautions, and anything whatsoever considered negative is thrown out the window as not being part of New Covenant prophecy. Prophetic words that address specific sin, call for repentance on a personal, city, or national level are frowned upon because they are considered judgmental. Many believe God is not into that anymore. As prophets and prophetic people, if we believe that God as Father is incapable of disciplining His kids, every prophetic word we release, regardless of how a person is responding to the truth of God in their lives, will assure them that only blessing and hope are around the corner. Nowhere in scripture does God promise peace, prosperity, and blessing to individuals, ministries, and nations who walk according to the council of the wicked.
In other prophetic circles, there is such an emphasis being placed on the judgment and correction of God, that any word that remotely speaks of God’s desire as Father to bring healing and restoration to His people is categorically rejected. Prophetic words filled with destiny, hope, and the promise of an awakening, are thrown out the window because God is now fed up with the sin of the people. As prophetic voices, if we believe that God the Father is incapable of demonstrating His kindness and goodness to His people, every prophetic word that we release, regardless of how a person is responding to the truth of God in their lives, will carry an unnecessary corrective and judgmental tone to it.
A New Prophetic Generation is Rising
The new prophetic generation rising in the earth will not only know God the Father as a good and kind God, but also a God and Father who disciplines because He loves. Whether it’s a word of rebuke and correction or a word of affirmation and applause, they will not reject certain aspects of God’s character and nature and accept others. They will not be limited by their personal experience and will take into consideration the full council of God as they sit before Him.
We all have to ask ourselves as prophets and prophetic people, “What arrows do I have in my quiver and what arrows do I need to receive?” What aspects of God’s character and nature do I currently understand, and therefore am capable of releasing to His people and what aspects of His character and nature quite frankly make me uncomfortable, and therefore limit me in my ability to minister to His people? Have I had hurtful experiences in the past that prevent me from receiving all of who God is?
The new prophetic generation is not only capable of prophesying incredible words of hope, destiny, and healing, but they are also trained in releasing words of correction, rebuke, and calls for repentance.
While prophets and people alike simply cannot fully comprehend this God of the Old Testament and God of the New Testament, this new prophetic generation will carry a rare grace to see them as one. They will testify that Jesus is not only full of grace, but also full of truth. They will testify that God the Father not only loves His children, but loves them enough to discipline them when they go astray. This new prophetic generation will know what the people of God need and when they need it. Just as an earthly father knows what his children need and when they need it, so this new prophetic generation will be keenly aware of the Father’s heart and have access to His mind and His emotions. I see indescribable beauty and testimonies too numerous to count as these messengers travel the earth rebuking and correcting one and releasing the Father’s goodness and kindness to another. You won’t have to worry, because to them, they are still representing the same loving Father regardless of how He chooses to manifest Himself. And oh my, how full their quivers shall be!
Maturing in the Prophetic
I want to try and articulate the very best way that I can that to continue majoring on certain aspects of God’s character and nature and to minor or plainly ignore others is both unhealthy and it leaves the prophetic movement greatly limited and ineffective in its impact on the body of Christ. Some prophetic people have an exceedingly great revelation of the kindness and graciousness of God, while others possess an immeasurable grace to deliver words full of correction and rebuke.
We must not lift up and magnify certain aspects of who God is to the degree that the people of God become totally unfamiliar and uncomfortable with other aspects. Whether God’s goodness and kindness make them uneasy or His ability to correct and bring adjustment makes them cringe, we must give ourselves to allowing God the Father to work into us the aspects of His character and nature that we do not yet possess. A fully mature prophetic person will carry and embrace every aspect of the character and nature of God and be graced with the ability to deliver at any moment to any individual the portion of who God is that the person is in need of.
We must see the prophetic ministry as God inviting His people through His servants into a full-on participation and encounter with His character and nature, rather than being spectators of the words He releases. I see prophetic schools in the days ahead spending way more time teaching prophetic people about the character and nature of God, and way less time on the mechanics of prophecy. Our desires in the prophetic movement to get words of knowledge for people and various details of their lives to produce a “wow factor” has too often derailed God’s desires to impart His character and nature to His people.
Once again, one of the primary roles of a prophetic voice is to assist people in their ultimate calling in life, which is to be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ, the Son. (Romans 8:29) In essence, we have too many prophetic voices ready to tell people what God wants to do for them and not enough messengers ready to tell people who God wants to be for them. I remind you as the reader, that Moses as the leader of Israel in Exodus 33 and 34 could not have been more ripe for a word of direction and future promises. Most prophetic voices would have jumped at an opportunity to prophesy to a man leading a one million man army, knowing what God had already spoken! But what does God Himself choose to release to Moses? His character and nature! It wasn’t what God could do for Moses that would get him to his destiny, but who God could be for Moses that would grant him access to His destiny for him. And let’s not forget, God shared all of who He was to Moses. He did not hide or ignore certain aspects of His character and nature to Moses, but rather He showed all of Himself to him and even more so to us as believers in the Person of Jesus Christ as revealed in the New Testament.
Delivering Corrective Words of Prophecy
While I believe that words of discipline from the Father are only reserved for New Testament prophets and not for those who operate in an occasional gift of prophecy, I also believe that corrective words of prophecy should never be delivered spontaneously in a public gathering. I have rarely seen a corrective word of prophecy that was delivered in this manner bear fruit, not only because it was released in the wrong setting, but it was so vague that it created more confusion than clarity.
As a believer who operates in the gift of prophecy, if all you are ever delivering and receiving are words of correction and rebuke for people, you need to go back and read 1 Corinthians 14 and while you’re at it, cry out for a revelation of the character and nature of God. And if you are called to be a New Testament prophet and all you ever release are hard and judgmental words toward leaders and the body of Christ, your quiver is not full and you need to embrace every aspect of God’s character and nature, so that those who sit under your ministry might receive a mature and complete revelation of who God is!
The fact that church leadership has to worry about some bizarre prophet walking into the back of the church building (and of course no one has ever seen them before) and rebuking the leadership for hidden sin or a number of different issues is completely out of alignment with the heart of the Father for the New Testament church. A prophet’s behavior should put a ministry team at ease, rather than on the edge of their seats with unnecessary fear. New Covenant prophets have been sent to local assemblies to be blessings rather than collateral damage!
With all of this being said, I absolutely believe that there is a place for corrective prophecy regarding the discipline of the Lord under the New Covenant, but it must never be given spontaneously and only delivered by broken and tested prophets. The issue at stake here is how to effectively steward corrective words from the Father in a way that will bring forth the greatest amount of fruit. Standing up in the back of a church building unannounced and starting to shout or grabbing a microphone and screaming will not have a far- reaching impact upon the saints. Ultimately, it will be destructive rather than becoming a blessing to an assembly of believers, which again is not the heart of the Father for the New Testament Church.
Protocol and strategy must be established in a local assembly by church leadership to provide a place for tested and broken prophets to submit corrective words of prophecy. I believe that how we deliver a word must be seen as a key ingredient in the fulfillment of it. I see a new breed of prophets coming forth in the earth that are seasoned and broken vessels that the Father can entrust with strong corrective words for individuals, ministries, and nations, because it is an aspect of His character and nature that He chooses to share with His people. This, as Hebrews 12:10 says, “…is for our good that we may share in His holiness”.
I would like to encourage prophetic people and also those who have been called to the ministry of a New Testament prophet that oftentimes God will reveal the shortcomings of others to you, not for ammunition against them, but as information on how to pray for them. If we would take the sin that we see in other people, ministries, and nations and allow God the Father to work His character and nature inside of us, we could never again deliver a corrective word from a place of arrogance, self-righteousness, or pride.
As prophets, we must constantly be on guard that our “corrective words from God” are not actually born from the spirits of accusation and suspicion. The enemy operates in vagueness. He constantly whispers that there is sin in the camp, but never gives any specifics. I believe with all my heart that an aspect of God’s character and nature as revealed in the New Testament is His ability to train, adjust, correct, and rebuke, but we must be very careful as prophets that we are spending significant time with Him in prayer and fasting to allow Him to work His Heart inside of us before we deliver His words. It is not enough to deliver His words, we must deliver them with His heart!
The abuse and misuse of this particular aspect of God’s character and nature has done a tremendous amount of damage to the body of Christ and the prophetic movement itself. On the other hand, we are also witnessing an over-emphasis being placed on God’s goodness and kindness at the expense of emphasizing His ability to discipline and bring correction to His body. And this, in part, because so many prophets that have gone before us have prophesied out of their flesh and not from spending time standing in the council of the Lord and allowing His Character and Nature to be fully formed inside of them.
I believe in order for the prophetic movement to put childish ways behind them and truly grow up in this hour, we are going to have to stop letting the extremes of our past experiences dictate our present and future beliefs of who God is and how we are to minister His character and nature to His people. Just because the prophets of the past may have prophesied about a God who was angry when really He was full of delight, does not mean we should currently prophesy about a God who is pleased when really He is upset or vice versa. As prophets, we must set aside the extremes and even our own experiences and go on a journey to discover His character and nature as revealed in His scripture. It is only through spending time with Him that we will carry an accurate revelation and interpretation of who He is and release it to the saints.
We desperately need clarity and revelation in the contemporary prophetic movement if we are going to navigate through the current crisis. We must begin to embrace and receive true prophets of God who move in revelatory prophecy and carry words that will shake cities, regions, and nations. As previously stated, I believe the way in which we choose to release this revelatory prophecy, especially in the local assembly will have a large impact on the fulfillment of it.
Bring on the spontaneous and general encouragement! I love it! We need more of it! But, oh how we need the word of the Lord that corrects, instructs, chastises, warns, rebukes, and releases the fear of the Lord. If we will position ourselves in America to receive both spontaneous and revelatory prophecy and seek to release both of these realities with clarity and revelation, I believe our greatest days in the contemporary prophetic movement are ahead of us.
Be on the lookout for Part 2 in the coming weeks!
Grace and Peace,