“Letters to a Young Prophet” (2005)

3 - “Death to the Prophetic?”

Dear Friend.Thanks for such a swift response and forceful enquiry. I agree with you. That second quotation (“Competition and rivalry is instant death to the prophetic!”) definitely deserves immediate comment and expansion. I’m glad you picked up on it. If you hadn’t, I think I’d be very concerned about you personally.

It’s one of those mysterious God-statements that is in fact quite obvious, and yet you know for sure that within those few, simple words lurk all kinds of hidden depths of meaning which don’t merely deserve to be obtained, but must be quarried at all costs. To leave this kind of truth buried leads to multiple disasters…personal and communal. You ask if I think this statement is “over the top”. No! I would say that it is not only acute, but also completely accurate.

The Bible scorns such “selfish ambition”:

“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.” (James 3.14-16)

Now I do understand that these verses apply across the board; to the whole Church and to all ministries. And I also do believe that in the Western Church “competition and rivalry” is now totally out of control, especially amongst leaders, ministries and movements/denominations. The proof of this is the evident “disorder and every evil thing…anarchy and all kinds of base deeds.” Where do I see such “anarchy”? In the behaviour of Christians who are simply a law unto themselves. They will sit in a church so long as everything goes along according to their agendas and personal likes and dislikes. Then when things go awry, some of these “saints” have no qualms whatsoever in rising up to attack their Fellowship’s shepherds and overseers, even to the point of threatening legal action and hinting at physical violence.

Where do I see “all kinds of base deeds”? I n the trail of smashed up, virtually-destroyed people who lie like so much discarded litter in the wake of leaders who will stop at nothing to achieve their own ministry goals, which they do not hesitate to identify as being the absolute Will of God. The end never, ever justifies the means. Why? Because the means will largely shape and determine the kind of end we eventually reach. God’s government of us through human vessels was designed to create an atmosphere which is outstandingly “pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.” (James 3.17) Where ministers and ministries are in fact motivated or driven by “competition and rivalry” there will be manipulation, contention, aggression, intolerance, legalism, bad fruit, inconsistency, and double standards (one for the leaders and another for the people).

But the quotation we are pondering targets prophets in particular. Is that fair? Too right! But if “competition and rivalry” is off-limits to all ministers of the Gospel, then why pick especially on prophetic people? Because the bottom-line for the prophet is the responsibility of communicating the Word of God on behalf of God. The prophet alone, from time to time, will dare to say, “Thus says the Lord!” Of all ministries his is the most oracular…requiring immediate and moment-by-moment divine inspiration. There’s not going to be a huge margin of error here. And while none dare claim perfection or infallibility, there is a real sense in which the prophet either gets it or misses it! And so if the Word you bring makes you unpopular, then that’s tough. If the Word that you bring makes you popular, then that’s tough too. Therefore a prophet cannot “have” or possess a ministry in the same way as an evangelist or a pastor or a teacher might.

One of the founding fathers of the 16th century Protestant Reformation, John Calvin, wrote an essay entitled “Impiety of Attributing a Visible Form to God”. It contains this phenomenal quote, “God is opposed to idols, that all may know He is the only fit witness to Himself.” Wow! That should rock every Christian communicator way, way back onto their haunches. It’s a powerful reminder that we are just so utterly dependent upon the Spirit of God to enable us to provide a “fit witness to Himself”. And of all ministers and preachers, the prophet must understand Himself as being most piteously and gloriously dependent upon Him to do his job. And even more he must recognize how utterly vile and deadly a menace to his mission will be the slightest whiff or hint of competition and rivalry!

Today there’s such a massive emphasis put on ministerial success along the lines of numbers. How many people come to your church or your meetings? How many people got saved? How many people got healed? How many people did you prophesy over? Were there lots of signs and wonders? How many demons did you cast out? (Matthew 7.22-23)

So you can see that when the prophet starts to head off down that comparing-pathway, he’s just begun to take a long walk off a short wharf; he’s a goner; he’s a dead duck. Why? Because where’s the rationale for competition for the postman who collects a letter on time and delivers it to the right person at the right address? Who are you racing when you receive a dream or a vision from God, and simply recount it with scrupulous honesty to the God-identified recipients? What are you going to brag about when you simply pass on a gift from God to one of His Blood-purchased children?

The moment the prophet begins to compare himself, his activities, his “results”, his prophesying with those of others, then his eyes and his ears and his heart are off of God. He’s longing for something other than God; success, fame, a following, big offerings! And all of a sudden and oh so curiously his preaching and teaching and visions and prophesying begin to resemble that of those whose lives and results he admires and covets. And that sir is bound to end disastrously for all concerned; both the prophet and his star-struck followers!

Along these lines I think there’s all too much of two things happening. One…the elevation of some prophets to almost Popish status (infallibility and adulation?). And two…the denigration and destruction of other prophets who aren’t prepared to toe “the (party) line” and play “the game”. I’m sure a lot of this foolishness and dangerous nonsense could be majorly dealt too if only we would take Hebrews 1.1-2 really seriously,

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.”

Jesus is The Prophet…and any others to whom that title or description may be attached had better be totally convicted and convinced of the following:

* If he is a prophet, it’s only because he’s a servant of The Prophet. (“Moses said, The Lord God shall raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren; to Him you shall give heed in everything He says to you. And it shall be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.” Acts 3.22-23)

* Jesus The Prophet’s Ministry is completely comprehensive; ours is partial and fragmentary. (“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.” 1 Corinthians 13.9)

* All of your speaking must be an expression of what is on the heart of The Prophet and in the end had better make the Son of God (rather than the speaker) look great and wonderful and glorious. (“For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 19.10)

Not too much scope left for odious comparisons and bragging after that I would have thought?

(Just as an aside…how different the Church would be today if those proclaiming themselves to be modern-day apostles actually regarded Jesus as being The Apostle according to Hebrews 3.1. And what if local pastors truly regarded Him as being The Great Shepherd, according to Hebrews 13.20?)

If you don’t feel much like being a prophet after this literary outburst, then, dear friend, God bless you! And let us be in touch. If however you remain convinced God has laid His hand upon you for such a task, then, God bless you too! I look forward to hearing from you.

I employ the words of the Apostle John to say goodbye. I am “your companion in the distress, the kingdom and the faithful endurance to which Jesus calls us.” (Revelation 1.9)


(December 2004)