Paul says, “Do not despise prophesying.”
Why would he need to say such a thing? If prophesying is a spiritual capacity that all of us should seek, if prophesying reveals the secrets of men’s heart so they say, “God is among these people,” if prophesying is encouraging, edifying, and comforting, why would anyone ever despise it?
The Greek term translated “despise” [exoutheno], means “to treat as worthless, nothing, make light of what is valuable, to dismiss as insignificant, to reject with scorn.” The sense of this term is to have contempt for the activity so that we roll our eyes, sneer, or dismiss prophesying.
Again, why would anyone do that?
<strong>Immature Prophetic Function</strong>
Whatever function of the prophetic we may experience, whether the gift level of spiritual capacity or the office of the prophet, we may experience prophecy at varying levels of maturity, effectiveness, purity, and intention.
Prophetic ministry should occur in settings where proper supervision is available, where proper adjustments are made, and correction is given that maintains the integrity of the prophetic experience. In order to develop prophetic functions, immature people must have a safe place to prophesy. They must be taught the protocols. Activating their revelatory gifts isn’t that difficult at all. God is speaking to every believer, and every believer can learn to recognize what God says to them that He wishes to speak through them.
However, some of the effort that has been made to activate people has also come with too much emphasis upon proving the point that “all may prophesy.” So, we have dumbed down the prophetic to include every revelatory gift and to allow people to share whatever they hear from God with little discussion of what they have permission to share from God. Since every believer is hearing and seeing to some measure, and we are proving that everyone can prophesy, we tend to overstate the case and exaggerate the capacity in ways that devalue it. We do so without consciously meaning to do so, but the end result is that speaking a word of knowledge becomes “prophecy,” discernment becomes “prophecy,” or visions and dreams become “prophecy.” When that occurs, we dumb down the exercise of the gift of prophecy by broadening our definition of its function and frustrate everyone involved in the process.
Most of what a believer is hearing and seeing is for himself since Holy Spirit is alway teaching us. Then, another great portion is for the purpose of prayer. Finally, a rather small and specific aspect of this greater, personal, daily walk with God will result in things known by the Spirit that He is giving so the person can share them. This much smaller portion then enters into a prophetic process that gives the proper value to revelation that is prophetic. Much of what we are calling “prophetic” involves prophesying about something more than prophesying. It lacks authority to comfort, encourage, or edify. It answers the flesh’s desire to hear someone tell us we are going to get rich, healthy, and live in panacea until Jesus comes. And, a great portion of it appears as an effort to obligate God to do what we would like Him to do, so it is simply another form of witchcraft: instead of “asking amiss” as James puts it, we “prophesy amiss.” [James 4:3]
<strong>Unique or Odd Delivery Systems</strong>
We may experience prophecy in ways that seem odd, or unnecessarily strange to us and despise the prophecy because of the delivery system. This occurs very often simply because of the stilted way in which people act out their spiritual experiences, carrying spiritual reality into natural gestures. Some prophetic people find it necessary to appear, speak, and gesture in what they consider to be prophetic ways, and discredit the valid function of the gift or office with these unnecessary and distracting appearances. They seem to feel they cannot function without the recognition that they are special, so they insist upon streaking their hair, marking themselves, acquiring Jewish paraphernalia, speaking with stilted language and rhythms.
The word they speak can be, however, very prophetic! No one was there to help them develop the function without this distracting presentation or they are simply exhibiting spiritual reality in ways that appear odd to you. Others are simply odd people with prophetic gifts! They simply don’t have a clue that their clothing is mismatched, ill-fitted, or strange looking.
They carry some of the cultural aspects of the prophetic culture too far, thinking that if a little shofar is good, a lot of shofar is better, for example. Finally, after everyone is blowing shofars like fatted calves, banging cymbals with the Star of David so loudly you can’t think, throwing pieces of silk around like flying kites, or thrusting an ornate sword into the air like a scene from Braveheart, they finally feel that something prophetic has occurred. To some people, they just seem odd.
Of course, all of these things can be legitimate prophetic expressions, but without proper supervision and leadership they denigrate into silliness. The silliness comes from the mistaken idea that we all need these trapping in order to properly “get into the Spirit” or communicate prophetically. Someone needs to help us understand the proper place and use of prophetic action, symbols, and function so that immaturity doesn’t devalue the greater prophetic experience.
In any case, we disobey when we dismiss the entire process of prophecy because of immature prophetic functions.
<strong>Lack of Proper Prophetic Protocols</strong>
We may experience a mixture of good and bad, according to Paul. This is to be expected, as we noted in the previous discussion of immature prophetic process. When we do not feel safe, we tend to seek the level of security by avoidance behavior: “I’ve been to that location before, and I didn’t have a very good experience.” It feels like going to eat at a place that has poor sanitary protocols, getting sick on your dinner, and associating that particular place or food with the experience.
I have gotten sick on a certain food, the last food in my mouth before being violently ill. When my body rejected the food for whatever reason, the taste of that food was associated with the experience of rejecting it. I didn’t want to see or smell or taste that food again. Ever! Under any circumstances! Sick on sushi? I didn’t want to see raw fish. Sick on pasta? Don’t order a pizza.
When a ministry functions in prophetic ways, leadership must be stronger and more mature than ever. More supervision and submission is required, not less. Perhaps people fall into the mistaken notion that because they are hearing and seeing revelation, they should be seen as less likely to need such leadership. <strong>If so, they shouldn’t be allowed to prophesy until they get their heart and head straight about prophetic protocols! The more revelation we experience, the more accountability we require.</strong> Not less.
In our ministry, because we seek to function at a very high level of prophecy, we are even more careful about people saying, “God told me.” Perhaps functioning at a lower or more immature level of prophecy, we allow this to be banter about with little consequence, and people are attributing to God all sorts of silly notions and impulses. If we are to have a mature ministry, however, we must be more careful, raise the standard, and hold people accountable. In a revelatory atmosphere and prophetic culture, the immature must be held to account or the entire ministry is diminished by the silliness of prophetic immaturity.
In one way, this is why many people despise prophesying. They observe the practice of the prophetic in the mature and accountable, but they also see people who refuse accountability and training who use the atmosphere to do whatever they wish and blame God for it! The conclusion of the situation becomes, “This isn’t safe or sensible because it encourages the feebleminded, immature, spoiled and indulged to use prophecy as an excuse to do whatever they want and blame God for it.”
Observe how the rebellious and spoiled will pull rank on you to avoid supervision, advice, or wisdom so they can do what their flesh desires. They will simply say, “Well, God told me to leave, to go, to say, to buy, to speak, to rebuke. I listen to God more than man.” They use the concept of God speaking to people and through people as a means of avoiding leadership and trumping any other opinion. Once they say, “God told me to,” the discussion is over. Of course, the scenario plays out that they don’t followthrough with what God said, they fall into disarray because God didn’t say it, and they are obviously avoiding some offense, personal issue, or submission problem simply by pulling rank. They are using prophetic words to do whatever they wish.
To have a prophetic house, we must not allow this to go unchallenged. People will lie and use God as their justification: that is, they will simply attribute to their wishful thinking some revelation. One example would be to project upon other people what they wish those people would do or how those people would act. A grandmother says God told her that her granddaughter should be the dance team leader. A young person who sees themselves on foreign soil says God told them that certain people would give them the money to go there. A jealous or envious person will say God called them to be the leader and showed them the weakness and sin of the person standing in their way of being in that position.
The people who read where Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who took a journey to a far country,” and then pack a bag and get on the plane to Timbuktu. The popular and handsome young man who knows eleven girls who have prayed through the revelation that God told them he is their husband. The person in love with idea of winning God’s version of American Idol, the spirit of wannabe fully functioning in them, convinced that God has shown them they will be the next Darlene of “Shout to The Lord” fame.
If we do not establish God’s protocols for prophecy, the entire function will come into disarray, disrepair, and dysfunction. And, many leaders simply do not wish to walk through that process of establishing, training, and reinforcing. It is simply much, much easier to do without prophecy or hide it in a room somewhere and pat it on the head.