Immature Prophetic Function
The difference between evil people doing false prophecy and good people breaking prophetic protocols is significant. Good people with good intentions may cross proper prophetic protocol boundaries for many reasons. They may end up in areas of dysfunction that call for correction and discipline even when they are basically good people. Their dysfunction isn’t necessarily a question of evil as much as immaturity.
A false prophet may function in valid revelation but function with the wrong motive. The communication of revelation may be faulty. The interpretation of revelation may be faulty. The application of revelation may be faulty. The implementation of revelation may be faulty. Yet, the person may be simply immature or false depending upon the intentions that motivate the use of revelation. That is, revelation is the initial, easy part of functioning prophetically.
I applaud the training and activation of prophetic function in intercession, worship, dance, and function of the gift of prophecy as well as the training of prophets. A prophetic atmosphere and culture should be available to the Ecclesia; in this atmosphere and culture, prophets will emerge, and the whole Ecclesia will function with a prophetic flavor that is foundational to the Body’s operation.
However, a couple of trends have emerged that actually diminish the greater goals of prophetic ministry, that overly-simplify how revelation ultimately works and produce a level of immaturity in prophetic function. This acceptance of overly-simplified prophetic function allows us to exaggerate our claim that “all may prophesy” and “prophetic function is for today.” In other words, we tend to dumb down the prophetic so everybody can participate simply because we are motivate to prove our point that people can hear God’s voice, receive revelation, and function in revelatory gifts.
I applaud the activation but we need to shore up our training. We cannot afford to seed the kingdom with prophetic playground activities in the name of restoring prophetic foundations. When we do, the immaturity – when unchecked by Biblical disciplines and leadership – will allow for a celebration of dysfunction, and this condition of dysfunction will cause people with more mature understanding of spiritual principles to turn away. When we don’t deal with dysfunction, we end up with nothing but dysfunction and call it the norm.
Let me illustrate with one specific prophetic activity – illustration purposes only. The shofar. This discovered and recovered instrument of history has significant prophetic meaning and value. Blowing the shofar has valid spiritual function. It isn’t a magic instrument because it is blessed by the right school or leader. It isn’t a fall back to Old Covenant type or shadow. It is a prophetic weapon and tool with a valid prophetic function: it provides a natural sound that helps us experience a spiritual reality. This is common to the way the New Testament kingdom works.
Valid. Weapon. Prophetic action. I’m for it! But, the next thing we know, we have 80 shofars blaring like sick cows bawling for their calves to come home, shofars blasting at inappropriate times in inappropriate places blown by people who have little or no understanding of why they possess a shofar or why they are blowing it. Immaturity. Playground rules apply. For some, if I may be bold, the spirit of wannabe breathes loudly into the blast. An uncertain sound. A dismal diminishing of valid prophetic function.
If you aren’t trained to blow it properly, understanding the use of the weapon and tool, matured as a person and prophetic leader in the proper use and protocol, submitted by placing this function at the disposal of the Ecclesia, you may be simply making some noise, a kingdom nuisance. Then, when the valid, mature, prophetic function should be available, the people of God don’t have the shofar because fixing the problem of mooing cattle resulted in the removal of all shofars. Or, the valid is simply associated with the invalid to the point that its true meaning is diminished by disgust.
Apply this concept to prophetic ministry generally. We may be activating people to revelation without properly preparing them to function. How many times do we have to go through “the intercessors run the church” cycle before we learn to prepare the function of prophetic intercession and provide protocols for that function so that hearing God, seeing visions, getting pictures, doesn’t become an opportunity for immature people to cross the prophetic protocols boundaries? I’m amazed at hearing about it over and over again! Shocked, actually, that we are still unable to provide the level of mature prophetic leadership that will both activate people and mature their function in what has been activated!
Without this maturity, the accepted solution for many ministries has been to disband, disgrace, disregard, and distort intercession to the hurt of the whole Ecclesia! Dysfunction in spiritual warfare and prophetic intercession shouldn’t be a reason to stop the practice! We never stop the false by ceasing to provide the authentic! The answer to poor or false leadership isn’t no leadership!
Exaggerations of Revelatory Meaning and Significance
Revelations are intense, overwhelming, other-worldly in nature. They may be extremely simple or amazingly complex. The code may be difficult to break, so to speak. Revelation at some levels may be panoramic, full-color, movie screen. In some cases, revelation enters into natural reality in such a way that we call it a sign and wonder. These revelatory experiences arrive even when people aren’t fully prepared or trained to properly handled them. That is, revelation can come to a person who isn’t prepared to know what to do with it.
Samuel heard God’s voice and didn’t know Who was speaking. He didn’t know how to respond. This didn’t cause any hesitation on God’s part, but Eli was the one who set the child on the proper course. Simply experience, but the principle holds true. God speaks to people who require someone to help them know what to do with the revelation; God gives us a proper response to revelation, and missing that protocol can make the revelation a trap. Misusing the brazen serpent. Attempting to purchase the power to release the Anointing. Attempting to appear to give more money than you have actually given in a season of strategic sacrifice. Offering the sacrifice instead of waiting on the proper leader to do this for you. Recall other circumstances in history in which people have misappropriated or misapplied the meaning and significance of valid revelation.
Paul had revelations. The after effect seldom appears in the training materials for activating the prophetic! Paul says that what he experienced wasn’t supposed to be shared. John had a similar experience in the Revelation. Just because you see it or hear it doesn’t mean you have permission to share it.
Intercessors, for example, who are watchmen or have intercessory assignments will often see and hear in the spirit. They often see it first. They see it intensely. They feel urgency. They should pray this out until they feel release and share this information to their leaders.
Sometimes these intense experiences become a source of inappropriate exaggeration in terms of significance in immature or poorly-prepared people. They tend to think their experiences worthy of greater attention than is actually warranted, and expect that other people and leaders should be more impacted by the information than they are. If they short-circuit the process of intercession by thinking the revelation licenses them to become the leader – “God showed me this so He must want me to start making decisions and solving problems” – instead of praying it out with God’s strategy for intercession, a malfunction and dysfunction may occur.
As a leader I expect to hear about these experiences from those assigned to intercession in our shared assignment. I expect to hear about these experience on a daily basis. I expect to hear more than one input or several aspects of the total picture. I expect that the intercessors will receive a strategy or a strategy will be set so this revelations can be prayed through with the authority of intercession. I don’t expect that the revelations qualify someone to take over my job or tell me what to do. I don’t expect that intercessors will use their experiences to create a sense of value or importance for themselves. Most do not. Some do. Whether or not they take appropriate action or fall into an inappropriate assumption, they revelations are not the problem. Maturing intercessors is the responsibility of every kingdom leader. Allowing people to invest revelations with meaning or significance that is not there or is exaggerated is the mistake a leader cannot afford to make.
At the other end of the spectrum, so to speak, are revelations through which prophets attempt to carve out their niche in the kingdom, using their revelations to prove their personal significance by exaggerating the meaning or significance of the revelations. Some go so far as to claim that Jesus has made them a source of new revelation – that’s never a good idea! Some go so far as to claim they have the last and final word on the subject, the ultimate revelation that can never be contradicted or outdone.
A few years ago we had the “I went to heaven and I know what’s gonna happen” scenarios about America. One prophet felt it important to claim that destruction was set in stone: “Don’t even pray for mercy because God has made up His mind about America’s destruction.” The whole scenario was a an obvious response to rejection or personal insignificance, a way of saying, “Now, you’ll see that I have been right, that Jesus has made me special and important, that my critics are wrong, and I should be sitting at the table with the big boys.” One way of providing greater meaning or significance to revelation so that the one receiving it can sell its importance is to “one up” everybody else in some way so as to leave the impression that Jesus has given them some proprietary role in the kingdom’s understanding.
Heavenly visits are certainly legitimate in terms of revelatory experiences. All believers have access to His Glory according to Paul’s discussion in 2 Corinthians 3. The picture Paul paints isn’t one of complete or ultimate revelation. He isn’t attempting to “one up” the other apostles in order to convince people that his revelations are undeniable even thought they are – Paul is writing Scripture! We aren’t!
The combination of encouraging people to hear God’s voice and experience His Glory with the tendency to exaggerate our claims in order to prove them can lead us to invest more meaning or significance to our revelations.
I have heard a hundred visions of tornadoes and tsunamis in Florida, my home state. I don’t discredit any of them in particular, but sometimes the people sharing their visions seem to expect a more dramatic reaction. They seem to think that they were the only ones to have such a vision, and that their particular vision should be shared on every website, announced at every prayer meeting, and given careful consideration by every kingdom leader. Immediately! “Why won’t you leaders listen to me? This is serious!” Sharing with them that a hundred other people have had similar visions and we might wish to think about what they mean rather than calling for the immediate evacuation of the region…
Prophets dueling for greater revelation isn’t an uncommon dysfunction. To the contrary, this is an easy trap. I have had a particularly vivid vision about Brasil. This vision continues to be part of my assignment in terms of discussing how God deals with nations and what God’s priorities for revival and awakening are. I share the vision frequently, unpacking its meaning and significance with Scriptural principles. It is a part of my ministry assignment to share this vision.
However, it is not part of my ministry protocol to exploit this vision. I attempt to be careful about how I share it. I’m not saying I’m the only one with these insights because that would be incredibly pretentious. When others share insights that match or mirror those I’m sharing, I don’t attempt to do the “I saw that first. I saw that more clearly. I should be the one sharing that.” I simply walk through the open doors of opportunity Jesus provides for this message to a nation to be shared. That has continued for a decade, so far. The revelation must be properly communicated. Then, interpreted, applied, and implemented. Many voices contribute this process!
We cross the boundaries of prophetic protocol by attempting to “one up” with prophetic revelations. The trend toward “realms, revelations, and angelic activities” do not concern me in the least, but the tendency to sell people on the idea that Jesus wants everybody visiting heaven to get in on the deeper stuff has explosive potentials in both directions. Who should be having revelations is God’s business. What should be done with revelations has already been established: Jesus has given us leaders. Paul has given us protocols. We must be careful of investing greater meaning and significance to revelatory experiences than they were intended to have.
Heavenly Visits and Spiritual Reality
Some discussion should be given to the idea that Jesus wants believers visiting heaven in order to tell people “how things work in the spirit” or “this is how heaven works.” In particular the idea that we have access to dead people, angels, and Jesus Himself in ways inconsistent with Biblical norms. Certainly these can be valid experiences. I have them. I share some of these experiences. I make clear distinctions about the meaning and significance of these experiences by applying them to Biblical revelation. The Bible introduces us to God by telling how God does stuff, how God deals with people, places, nations, and generations. In this way, when God gets involved in real life we can recognize His ways – “I know Who that is! That’s God!”
On the other human imagination being what it is, immature people fall into the trap of assuming every thought they have is God’s thought, every dream they have is a God dream, or every revelation is something they immediately understand well enough to communicate, interpret, apply, and implement. Poor assumptions! They will move you over the line beyond the proper prophetic protocols that should give order to revelatory operations.
Without stating the position, people will begin to give greater meaning and significance to revelatory experiences than the preached and taught Word. The subtle inference that “deeper” means something better or fuller than what is available through the disciplines of the Spirit and the Bible. “Deeper” should never be a way of saying that the Bible isn’t enough! “Deeper” should always mean that the Bible will become more clear so that we can go deeper into the Scriptures!
The Bible is Truth. The Bible isn’t exhaustive, however; whatever It says is perfectly True, but It doesn’t say everything. Some things are simply none of our business! Some information is too much for us. We wouldn’t know what to do with it if we had it because we aren’t authorized to act upon it. God isn’t interested in us knowing everything. The Father has some stuff going on that isn’t our business. He wants us to share His secrets, think His thoughts, know His heart, but we our revelation is not exhaustive. The Bible isn’t exhaustive.
When you listen to someone telling their stories and experiences and leaving the people with a subtle or even spoken impression that “in these days God wants us to know what the Bible didn’t say,” take care to measure what they mean with this impression. Some people are now saying they have revelation of Grace that pretty much makes the Bible a side note to their revelation. Some people are saying they’ve been to Heaven and Jesus told them stuff that basically writes an addendum to the Bible. The inference that you can disregard some things you read in Scripture for this “deeper realm” revelation is a dangerous exaggeration that tends to discredit valid prophetic experience.
Exaggeration can be the greatest enemy of the truth. People tend to see through the exaggeration at some point and throw out the whole collection of information, discarding and disregarding truth because of they cannot discern the line between truth and exaggeration.
Some of the exaggeration comes from poor doctrine. The idea that the end times will produce a group of spiritual X-men, supersaints that do the stuff like nobody ever did, can also produce deeper errors because those espousing it seek to prove that it is happening by showing off their stuff. Their claims are not consistently confirmed by the Bible protocols for confirmation. They tend to establish or seek to establish their own standards for prophetic and revelatory confirmation: This is God because…”
Taking Back New Age Mysticism
On the one hand, the kingdom should never relinquish Biblical norms for miracles, spiritual power and revelation, and experiences Jesus, apostles, and other men and women of God had. Scripture helps us understand how God communicates with people. The Bible describes the operations and functions of angels and demons. The worldview of the Bible is that spiritual things are more real than physical things, though unseen.
The worldview of the Bible is different from the worldview of mysticism in a new age sense, animism, and other religions. The Bible remains at odd with the assumptions of modern scientism and evolutionary philosophy. The Bible simply describes how things work in the spirit differently from these other explanation of reality.
On the other hand, we should take great care as we approach revelation and prophetic experiences that we do not unwittingly blend what we see presented in movies and television into our own worldview, or attempt to reconcile the worldview of the modern mindset with the Bible by sacrificing or reinterpreting what the Bible says. The worldview described in media like movies, video games, television, art, and electronic literature cannot be reconciled with Scripture when it portrays false presuppositions about the origins and existence of the natural world.
We shouldn’t throw out all the legitimate to avoid the false. We shouldn’t attempt a reconciliation of worldview either since this reconciliation compromises the absolutes of the Bible.
Pharaoh’s magicians were able to mimic some of Moses’ spiritual power, but they soon ran out of magic tricks. The Egyptians said, This is the finger of God. In Jesus’ day the same false presuppositions were applied by the Sadducees as the secularists of today. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day played the same religious games that religionists play today: if you disagree with me, God will never use you to release spiritual power; therefore, whatever power you have is of the devil, not God.
Some effort is being made today, not uncommon to history, to bring seekers into a Christian faith, but this effort cannot alter the protocols and practices of the Bible in order to attract people to the authentic by mimicking the psuedo. God isn’t speaking to people through horoscopes in order to redeem them from the evil of witchcraft. While this might seem like a good strategy to someone seeking to reconcile the unbelieving to God’s superiority – God can tell you something about yourself and destiny too! There remains a fundamental difference between the psuedo and the sacred. God isn’t changing tactics to accommodate the modern mind or the modern universalism.
Today, I was sharing some basic Bible about heaven, and a person from Sweden wrote me to say that what I was saying didn’t make any sense to him. He said, “I practice immortality every day.”
I said, “The Bible says that only Jesus is immortal.”
He answered, There is something wrong with your Bible.”
Taken with the worldview of movies and comic book heroes, he insisted that the Bible make room for his worldview. Sorry! No can do!
While an evangelism effort that brings people into contact with the true God is certainly a valid strategy, beware the implications of “we can do what you do better with Jesus.” This isn’t the contest we are supposed to be engaged in. Beware any Gospel that deletes preaching as a basic form of communication, but don’t take this fundamental as a reason avoid speaking to people personally as Jesus did with Nicodemos and the woman at the well. The differences may seem subtle to some, especially to someone who comes to Christ with a personal history of “how things work in the spirit.” Beware the tendency – so often assumed – that people who come to Christ from false religion, witchcraft, and new age experiences are somehow better at doing spiritual stuff. They are not, and their testimonies, though wonderful and precious, are not the basis for rewriting the protocols of revelation and prophetic function.