Monday, January 07, 2008
Prophetic or Pathetic
What is prophecy? my own understanding and experience of prophecy comes from the Charismatic/Pentecostal church. During an inspiring time of worship someone would get up and say they “had a word” from God, or a scripture and would normally start by saying “God wants to say this morning” or words to that affect. As a church leader I often had to be the filter of these words. Someone would come and share with me and then I would release them on to stage to share at the appropriate time! Occasionally people would say one thing and then get up and share something completely different! Occasionally they would go on for to long or even use the time as an opportunity to bang their drum or have a go about a specific part of church life, all dressed up nicely in spiritual language.
A lot of church prophecy leaves me cold, it’s always about revival imminent, every time we have heavy rain fall you get the prophets predicting…. Or often it is stating the obvious. The best prophecy I ever heard was this “we don’t need another prophecy” we just need to live in the ones we have.
We then had prophetic teams which I really liked the idea of, although at times they can become a little independent and try to drive the church forward from the rear, occasionally speaking out of their rears!
As you can tell prophetic ministry hurt me. Funny really the most damaging thing that ever happened to me in church leadership was fellow prophetic Christians. Once I was told that I was the bulldozer and the prophetic was the driver, it got under my skin. Someone else said you are the word guy and the prophetic are the spirit guys! It made me question my own spirituality and ability to hear God.
Can it be challenged?
The problem with many prophetic people is that they make it difficult for you to challenge what they have said by dressing it up in language that makes it sound like they have spoken the exact words of God. Some prophetic types needed it to sound like it came direct from Jeremiah or Elijah for it to have weight. Like all of us they don’t like being told they are wrong and make it very hard for you to do so. There can be a lack of accountability when do we ever invite them back to our church and say “you were wrong, explain yourself”?
Then you had the guys with prophetic ministries, many of whom I admire, but it was always slightly scary that they could pick people out of a crowd and give them this fantastic word that would encourage them and send them forth into greatness. It just made you feel a little second-class if you didn’t get one! I have had a few of those, and I swear a couple went to people that should have been for me!
My own gift
I get a bit weirded out by the prophetic I personally have had a number of very clear premonitions over the years, something inside me knows it is God but I can’t work it up or make it happen. I just get these impressions that then come true!!!!! We’re not just talking minor things either, I unexpectedly get impressions a lot, but I struggle with them. I see dead people. My biggest worry is being wrong so I keep quiet or that I mistake one of my paranoid worrying shadow thoughts as the voice of God and become a suspicious whacko. Or that I try to drive my own agenda by calling it a word from God.
Now days I have a much healthier view of what is prophetic and what is pathetic. I can embrace the broad spectrum of what is prophetic.
The Broader View
The prophetic is so much more than words, in fact it is much more powerfully revealed in lifestyle.
Mother Theresa was prophetic; she jarred against a culture and made others aware of Gods heart for the poor. Jackie Pullinger was prophetic; by showing that God wanted to walk amongst the crack dens of the walled city in Hong Kong. Shane Claiborne is prophetic by challenging others to embrace a radical form of Christianity. Dare I say that even Willow Creek is prophetic by challenging comfortable middle class churches to think of seekers rather than themselves? I have seen Church being prophetic by moving to slums or starting orphanages. Or communities being prophetic by moving into houses together and spending their money and time differently. Bono is prophetic. Then I see prophecy happen every week in local church communities where kind words are spoken, people are encouraged and built up by the voices of others. I know of a guy who walked around his city in chains, another who carried a cross as and act of prophetic symbolism and intercession. I have placed hyssop in ponds and poured oil on ancient stones as gestures of a desire for breakthrough from a higher power and a longing that my God would intervene in this broken world.
Prophecy calls people back to ancient biblical paths of prayer and holiness, it propels people forward into greater intimacy but should also challenge the status quo, it should make people uncomfortable, it should challenge predetermined mindsets, it should provoke, jar and inspire.
Is being prophetic more about actions than words?
I do believe in prophecy, if anyone’s got one for me I’d love to hear it…….