There is an area of concern at large on the internet that have grave concerns about the accuracy of prophetic words that are being given. 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 (), 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 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.
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.
10 And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, (ESV)
12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. (ESV)
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (ESV)
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (ESV)
20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ (ESV)
29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. (ESV)