"Parking Lot Prophets?" Responding to Charismatic Abuses

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"I have a Word from the Lord for you..."

Many people who have been around the Charismatic movement have heard these words from self-appointed "prophets" who are, in reality, non-profits. I am reminded of a young lady I met a few years ago who suffered from numerous mental and emotional disorders, many of which were the result of substance abuse and promiscuous sexual activity. She often said that she "heard voices" and would launch into long, rambling sentences which made little sense to others.

One particularly disturbing statement came during one of these litanies, as she was saying she "didn't know what to do" so she "needed a prophecy." Later, during a church service, she specifically asked the Pastor if he had a prophecy for her! To his credit, the Pastor said no. A person of lesser integrity could have very easily taken advantage of such a situation. Sadly, there are those who use such Christian terminology in order to manipulate others, often with disastrous results. This sort of manipulation is nothing more than witchcraft.

I am writing this message not so much as a detailed study, but as an essay to address what I see as a serious problem. As most of you know, terms such as "Apostolic" and "Prophetic" refer to very holy things, and I am concerned that they are thrown around far too frivolously in today's church. Although I firmly believe that these ministry offices are still for us today, I can probably count on one hand the number of ministers that I would personally apply these labels to. (Of course, I realize there are more, but I can only speak for the ones I have had contact with). Scripture gives us exhortations to "know them which labour among us" (1 Thessalonians 5:12) and to "try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). I would only acknowledge a person as being an apostle or prophet if I was very familiar with their ministry and the type of fruit it has produced. What is their track record? Who are they accountable to? What is their relationship to their own church?

It is for these reasons that I am very cautious when these issues arise in relation to our web ministry. For example, although our linking policy is fairly inclusive, I refuse to link to, or accept into our web rings, sites which claim to be "apostolic" or "prophetic" in nature. If someone is surfing the web and comes across a site which claims to be "prophetic," on what criteria should they judge this claim? Anyone can add a "God told me" or a "Thus saith the Lord" to any statement they make, no matter how outrageous, and call themselves a prophet. My concern is that these type of ministries cannot be validated simply by visiting a web site. I see the New Testament gift of prophecy as being primarily for use in a church setting, where it can be judged and evaluated by the church's leadership (1 Corinthians 14:3-4, 29).

I have been a stalwart part of the charismatic movement for almost 20 years now and I have seen both its strengths and its weaknesses. One such weakness is that it does sometimes appeal to those who are spiritually gullible and are looking for a "christianized" version of the late night psychic hotlines on TV. Great spiritual harm can come to people when they come looking for answers, and are misled by spurious "prophecies" or other things of this nature. Lives have been devastated as a result. I am reminded of one minister who I feel handled this situation quite well. When asked by a woman if he "had a word from the Lord for her," he opened his Bible and said "Yeah, read yours!"

2006 JHB

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