A New Wave of Rookies

In the ‘70s and ‘80s, when the teachers were so prominent, we saw the big name teachers (Chuck Smith, Chuck Swindall, RC Sproul, …) and when we thought of teachers, these names came to mind. But there were tens of thousands of gifted and anointed teachers popping up around the land, some filling pulpits, others leading home groups around the land.

Teaching gifts fit in well with existing church leadership, and in some cases, help existing leaders to lead better. The “office of the teacher” is a 5-fold leadership office anyway, but all believers are commanded to be able to teach, able to disciple others, so there wasn’t a lot of controversy.

Later, when God breathed on the prophetic, we saw big name prophets (Bob Jones, Bill Hamon, Paul Cain and others) come to the forefront. And while they were blazing the trail (and taking the hits) to re-introduce prophetic gifts to the entire church, prophetic gifts began sprouting among believers from coast to coast.

Prophetic gifts come in three biblical flavors: manifestations of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12), ministries from the Father (Romans 12), and the 5-fold gift of the prophet, from the Head of the Church, Jesus himself (Ephesians 4). There’s been confusion between prophetic ministries and prophets, but we’re figuring that out now.

Unlike the teaching gifts of the previous wave, prophetic gifts did not fit comfortably with church leadership, so most of the budding prophetic people lived in hiding, or masqueraded as worshippers, intercessors and exhorters; a few used their new prophetic gifts to support their teaching or pastoring or leading gifts. A very few brave souls began to confess, “God says I’m a prophet,” and model their itinerant ministry after the traveling evangelist.

More recently, the church has grown more comfortable with both prophets and prophetic ministries as maturity has been showing up in the gifts, as people are finding their place among other ministries, and as the strangeness is replaced by familiarity.

We’re now in the midst of God’s restoration of apostolic gifts. There are big name apostles (Peter Wagner, Dutch Sheets, Che Ahn, John Eckhart, Heidi Baker) that have brought the church’s attention to the topic.

But as with the other movements, while the “big names” are pioneering the 21st century version of the office of the apostle, there are also thousands of un-famous apostles in, and outside of, local churches across the land. Some successful local church pastors are taking the title “apostle” for themselves, or having it thrust upon them by peers or congregants; many of these seem to think that an “apostle” is just a really, really successful or respected pastor.

Mostly, church leadership doesn’t know what to do with young apostles. Where immature teachers could themselves be taught, and where immature prophets could be shuffled off to the intercessors, young apostles aren’t as easy to push around or marginalize: that’s not rebellion, it’s part of the calling.

So if you as a leader, as an influencer among the people of God, if you find a young man or woman who’s bumbling confusedly about in what just might be a budding apostolic calling, what will you do with them? If you find a less-young man or woman who’s been walking with God for 30 years, but may be stumbling into a new apostolic anointing (and there are more of these than I expected!), how will you respond to them? 

If your job as a pastor, as a teacher, as a prophet is to “equip the saints for works of ministry…” then how will you equip these young apostles? How will you discern the real apostles from the wanna-be apostles? Will you receive them, rough as they are, or will you try to shuffle them off out of the public eye? (Hint: good answers to these questions will be more about relationship than about programs!) 

The point of this article is not to outline an Apostolic Training Program, but to acknowledge that you and I may very well have dozens of immature, rookie apostles within our spheres of influence, and to challenge us to get to know them, to not write them off as the proverbial bull in the china shop (which they appear to be). Maybe we can even give some thought as to how to encourage them as they pursue the mysteries that God is calling them to.

What are you going to do with them? It will affect the next generation of the church in your region!


Properly Discerning Judgment

Recently, I'd been asking Father for an upgrade in the gift of discernment, as He’d been emphasizing 1 Corinthians 14:29 to me (“Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.”). And what do you know, but suddenly I began getting scores of submissions for the www.northwestprophetic.com website, many of them with what I would call a fairly judgment-oriented interpretation.

Cool! I was getting schooled! 

So I brought each word to Him for my lessons, and he’d have me separately discern the revelation portion of the prophecy from the interpretation portion. In those particular prophetic words, over and over, I sensed the Holy Spirit in the revelation, but not in the interpretation. 

“They’re interpreting through their expectations. They’re not listening to me, but they’re listening to what they already believe,” he said.

One illustration from this season: one of the prophecies came from a fairly mature prophet, a mature man whom I knew and trusted personally. It spoke about the county where he lived, and it carried a deadline: two weeks away. The revelation spoke of earthquakes and volcanoes, and I could sense God in it. The interpretation spoke of disaster and judgment, and I did not sense God on it (whew!). I heard Father say, “This is not a literal revelation; it’s a metaphor. The earthquakes are about things that he thought were stable getting shaken, and the volcanoes are about deep, hidden things being brought to light, violently.” I had the fairly strong sense that the word applied to him personally.

I asked the prophet if maybe that word could be metaphorical rather than literal, and he rejected it out of hand. OK. Maybe I’m wrong. But God was not directing me to respond as if it were literal and I did not publish the prophecy on the website.

Three weeks later the deadline was behind us, and no earthquake or volcano had struck. He called me: “That word was right, but I got the date wrong!” and he gave me a new date. Then he added, “But could you pray for me? My whole life is getting shaken, and there’s stuff I thought was way behind me that’s becoming public now!” The revelation had been correct, but the interpretation, and therefore the application, were incorrect.

Frankly, I’m one of those prophetic folks who was always quick to interpret prophecies with words like “judgment” or “the remnant.” He corrected me: in this season, Father asked me, “Son, why do you expect judgment? Everything – every sin – that deserved judgment was paid for in the Cross.”

I have since come to believe that one day, those who rejected his payment for their sin would have the “privilege” of paying for their own sin (Revelation 20:12), but there were no sins – past, present, or future; individual or corporate – that were not covered by the blood of Jesus on the Cross.

This is not to say that I don’t think real trouble is coming to America, and to our region in particular. I actually do believe we’re in for tough times, and I’m asking for more revelation for how to prepare. But from the way I think I’m learning to understand the cross, those troubles are not about judgment, certainly not about judgment from God, and a good number of the prognostications of disaster are errors in interpreting true prophetic revelation. 

More recently, He’s been teaching me more about the power of our declarations as believers. It’s a lot. We’re made in God’s image, and he did his first big project by words: “And God said… and it was so.” Thats my Dad! I'm in his line of work.

Here’s where I’m going: there are a lot of believers who don’t understand the cross very well. (Yeah, I was one for a bunch of decades, durn it.) And a lot of believers have been declaring disaster coming to America, or declaring Mr. Obama’s incompetence, or similar things. Recently, I’ve begun to question whether our declarations of disaster may have a hand in causing disaster to come about, about whether our declaring icky things about Mr. Obama are bringing some of those things to pass, whether we are seeing the fulfillment of our own declarations.

By way of illustration, God himself (Genesis 18:21) seems to declare that the reason that Sodom & Gomorrah were judged was because of the outcry against it. I wonder– if there is judgment coming against our nation, or against “famously sinful” cities in our nation (San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, New Orleans, etc) – whether the judgment is not from God, but from God’s people.

So I’m pretty careful about speaking un-lovely things about people or nations; I’m really, really careful that I’m not interpreting prophetic words according to my own expectations.

Correcting What is NOT Being Said?

It is clear that there is a fair bit of new revelation in the air nowadays; God is revealing new truths, and new application of old truths.  

Anytime that happens, the enemy likes to fill the air with smoke in order to confuse God’s people. Discernment is needed: we must eat the meat & spit out the bones; we must reject revelation that is outside of “Spirit & truth,” remembering “Thy word is truth.” Godly discernment and the Bible are the standards by which we discern truth. 

But I have a growing conviction that much of what is being both corrected and rejected is not actually what is being revealed or declared. I am observing, with disconcerting frequency, a troubling pattern:

I’m seeing correcting what people are not saying, or at least what people mean to not say. 

Here’s what the process looks like; perhaps you’ve seen it happen:

  • Someone declares a revelation which is not entirely familiar. 

  • That revelation reminds a listener (or a reader) of something else, something uncomfortable or something false. Perhaps they encountered this revelation with an error in the past, or perhaps it’s just similarity. For example, the revelation that we are “saved by faith” often triggers “license to sin” warning lights, even though the person preaching salvation by faith has not promoted a license to sin. 

  • As a result, we argue against the something false (in this example, against a license to sin) even though it is not the revelation that was being presented.  

  • The result of that argument is multiple:
ü      the original revelation (in this example: that we are saved by faith) is lost in the confusion.
ü      an expression of the Kingdom is perverted in the direction of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, not the Tree of Life
ü      the one who brought the original revelation may become confused, discouraged, or frustrated.
ü      an opportunity to expand the Kingdom is missed.
ü      we as a community are less willing to consider new revelation, concerned that it will confuse/offend some, or for fear that they’ll be persecuted for it.
ü      relationships in the Kingdom experience unnecessary stress.

In other words, there is really nothing good that comes from arguing with what people have not said.

First cousin to “arguing against what someone has not said,” is the idea of “fine tuning what someone has said.” The process is similar:

  • Someone declares a revelation which is not entirely familiar. 

  • One of the listeners (or readers) immediately notices that it is possible to take this truth too far. So they immediately post their warnings about the truth.

  • As a result, people’s attention is taken away from the truth of the revelation (for example, “salvation comes through faith, not works,”) and focused on irrelevant details (“Yes but you MUST pray the sinner’s prayer or it doesn’t count” or some such).

  • The result of that foolishness is remarkably similar:
ü      the original revelation (in this example: that we are saved by faith) is lost in the confusion.
ü      an expression of the Kingdom is perverted in the direction of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, not the Tree of Life
ü      the one who brought the original revelation may become confused, discouraged, or frustrated.
ü      an opportunity to expand the Kingdom is missed.
ü      we as a community are less willing to consider new revelation, concerned that it will confuse/offend some, or for fear that they’ll be persecuted for it.
ü      relationships in the Kingdom experience unnecessary stress.

Frankly, these processes are often a real clear example of manipulation and control: they’re an attempt to draw attention to ourselves, instead of the person with the revelation, or the Spirit who gave them that revelation. Or they’re  the result of believing a lie: “The Holy Spirit needs ME to correct people, or else they’ll fall into error!” That’s rather a problem. In a public conversation, there is no good thing that comes from correcting an imaginary error in a friend.

Of course, the recommendation is to listen to what the other guy is saying, and then maybe even listen to what Holy Spirit is saying before shooting our mouths off.

Some disclaimers are appropriate: 

  • There is real heresy out there. For example, some people are promoting grace to the point of throwing out some of the authority of scripture. It really is happening, and it needs to be opposed in the places it is happening. It does NOT need to be opposed whenever someone says something similar to what those people are saying: that would be correcting what people are not saying, and that would not be helpful.

  • For some of us recovering from the error of Bibliolatry, the place of scripture in our lives is changing. It is no longer the legalistic trump card, cancelling personal relationship with God that it used to be: it really is being demoted from its place as the 4th person of the Trinity, and it should be. (And this in itself is triggering this process!)