What an emotive and terrible subject heading – but it is a concern of many.
And I can probably guess from a handful of public figures who you may thinking about…
It is inevitable that people will make mistakes and go beyond and further than they should. We do need in our churches, to create an environment where people are free to fail, not so much in moral areas (but that is still true) but in taking risks in stepping out in faith in what God has shown or revealed.
The children’s television show, ‘The magic school bus’ has the maxim, “Have fun, get messy – make mistakes!” If only such a gracious freedom was apparent in the Church, not just in terms of the prophetic ministry but all areas.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating a necessary right to make doctrinal mistakes, but instead, being free as God’s family together, to step out courageously and believe God in areas of faith and witness. That’s part of being a people praying for the sick and believing God for His miraculous intervention of in everyday situations and opportunities. Grace takes away the need to be performance driven.
This includes the prophetic too. In sharing the things that God has brought to mind there is always a certain degree that at times things can go wrong, which is why we advocate accountability and relationship.
Here’s a question – if you had never shared what you believed that God had placed on your heart, how would you know the very first time, that you were going to get it right? We have to give people room to learn to hear God, almost like tuning in to His voice. Sometimes it is easier to hear God than at other times. Pastors looking critically at this will do well to remember the many times that they have preached a sermon that God put on their heart – only to discover that in its delivery it was simply awful! It took time to become the wonderful preacher you are now! (ignore the congregation sniggering!)
It is not easy to begin moving in the supernatural.
Moses encountered frustration at every level, not from God but from the congregation of Israel. Where people have set out to bless us and bring encouragement and have got it wrong we need to respond with abounding love, acceptance and warmth. Gentle correction in an environment of love and acceptance is most certainly the most fertile ground for mature gifting and ministry to grow.
Are you the gift giver?
An essential consideration you may have to make about an individual who has made mistakes with the gift of prophecy is that you didn’t give them the gift. Mike Bickle gave a teaching in the 1990’s that has been around for a while which I consider helpful to some degree, but would not adopt fully. The proposal that Bickle brings, is that there are three areas of the prophetic gifting.
He teaches (taught) that the prophetic person has a weakness in one or more areas; Revelation, Interpretation and Application.
Some would teach that we need to encourage some to just share the revelation of what they feel they have been shown by God, and maybe look for someone else to bring an interpretation or an application. I think this is a useful starting point to help some and you may want to consider it further.
Bickle considered Bob Jones as an example of someone who gets revelation, but his interpretation and application can be far off the mark. For Bob Jones’ critics that raises some very big questions.
A more pressing concern with some may be how to know the difference between false and poorly communicated prophecy. An immediate observation about false prophecy is that as such, it deliberately leads people away from the Lord. Usually such a person is not accountable, and for the most part, not rooted in a local Church.
The motivations are varied, some are prophesying out of their own inspiration and really have not seen anything from God, (Ezekiel 13:1-3), some may even be speaking from the deception of their own hearts (Jer 23:26). Some today are even prophesying for money (Micah 3:11).
This all highlights a major issue that we must address. If all of these things can be done wrongly in the name of prophetic ministry or gifting, how can we encourage, true, authentic prophetic ministry?
I think the answer to this issue starts with the conviction firstly that God gives gifts, especially in this case, prophecy.
That He gives it to build and encourage (there are other reasons too – which are addressed elsewhere on this site), and that our conviction of this is founded not in feelings or other motivations, but in God’s Word, the Bible. It is written.
The reason accountability is such an imperative is that sometimes prophetically gifted individuals have fallen in sin. That is an issue that we deal with under the subject of restoration on this site. We also accompany it with the challenge of John MacArthur, “Can fallen ministries be restored?”
The answer is not a simple one. What do you think?