It suggests that among some of the most well respected prophetic ministers that as much as 80 % of a given prophetic word being accurate, leaving 20% of what they share to to be off the mark – or false. The percentage rates fluctuate, but it is still a serious insinuation.
Is the Church seeing something of a prophetic Pareto principle in action – or are there other factors that need to be taken into consideration?
By way of explanation – the Pareto Principle takes what is known as the 80/20 Rule and applies it to wider issues of life, business and commerce. It is a generalised, unproven rule that suggests loose-cannon facts such as 80% of your customers are going to come from 20% of your marketing, 80% of your troubles will come from 20% of your customers. 80% of your profits will come from 20% of your sales. They sound interesting stats, but but good business sense would dictate otherwise.
What should or stance be about prophetic words that seem at face value to be accurate for the most part – but contain error in other parts?
For the Old Testament prophets, starting with Moses who was to be a standard for all prophets and prophecy (Deut 34:10), the commission was to pass on the the precise words that God intended. Verbal inspiration by the Holy Spirit meant that the verbal inspiration that He brought would enable the prophet to say exactly what God Himself would have said had He chosen to speak directly of His own person.
The words that the prophets used, while typical of their own personal vocabulary and style of speech, were nevertheless the very words that God Himself imparted.
The New Testament registers the same claim for the apostolic word ( 1 Cor 2:12-13) and ultimately for the whole of Scripture (2 Tim 3:14-17; 2 Pet 1:16-21).
The Old Testament picture of the prophet demonstrates that they got everything right. There is some contention about Jonah, but in the light of the affirmation that Jesus gives to Jonah’s life and message it would seem to fair that he too, was an accurate prophet.
Today, things seem to be a little different for a few reasons. When David Pytches interviewed the ‘Kansas City prophets’ it is suggested that they all agreed that they had all often been proven wrong – sometimes their revelation was right, but their interpretation or application was wrong. Mike Bickle at that time suggested that the prophets were proven right too often to be ignored.
In the old order of things, Deut 18:20 called for the stoning of false prophecy but the Apostle Paul urges greater caution and calls for grace, and that visions and prophecies should be weighed by others ( 1 Corinthians 14:29).
This is an area of massive contention – but we must not, absolutely must not, allow ourselves the shame of hardening our hearts and despising the prophetic and all the massive encouragement it brings.
It seems to me that a number of points need to be considered;
· The prophetic ministry appears to have clearly changed after John the Baptist. The focus of the OT prophets was on upholding the law, NT prophets no longer call for judgement but appeal to the hearers to respond to the grace of God that is available to them.
· There is a different emphasis for prophetic ministry in the church that was not prevalent in the Old Testament; OT prophets did not weigh each others contributions, or prophecy according to the measure of faith, but spoke the very words that God gave them.
· Prophecy is so valuable that the Apostle Paul urges the Church, (including the Churches today that have stopped believing the gifts exist today, based on historical experience and not the authority of Scripture)to eagerly desire that they may prophesy.
· Prophets today, are led by the Spirit and respond to revelation that comes through various means of impressions, dreams, visions, an audible voice and so have to make decisions based on their discernment of the Spirit’s leadings. Sometimes they get it wrong.
Prophets don’t want ever, to get their revelation wrong. They are not trying to deceive the Church – but they may hold their hands up to being in a place where they are looking for profile, recognition or acceptance by ‘proving they have the gift’.
To be honest, I do not know how we can be accurately hearing some things – and get other things wrong. That is why I am thankful for a culture of grace that prevails in my Church. It is a culture of life and family friendship where my capacity to step out in the realm of the Spirit is encouraged openly, and people are not expecting me to be perfect before I can contribute. It is a learning environment, and over time our discernment of God’s revelation grows and grows. Nothing shuts the voice of prophetic ministry down faster and more ferociously than legalism – and nothing stirs it like a culture and environment of encouragement and grace.
I have not answered the issue successfully, but I do urge that we put the brakes on grumbling against prophets that are investing their lives in huge amounts of private prayer, intercession and devotion on behalf of the Church – proactively seeking God for words of encouragement and direction that would equip the Church to fulfill its glorious commission.
What would help is for prophets to spend more time looking at doctrine and theology with well respected Bible teachers such as Grudem, Motyer, Keller, Fee, Piper, Mahaney et al, being openly accountable, and having meaningful relationships with the Church leaders that they fellowship with. And of course my old chestnut, don’t prophesy unless you belong to a Church.