The prophetic movement and or prophetic leaders have perhaps been the most controversial in the body of Christ the past several decades. Some of it has to do with the fact that many people are afraid of any move of the Spirit and or criticize that which they do not understand. However, as someone who has functioned in prophetic ministry since the early 1990s, I would say that a fair share of criticism against the prophetic is warranted because of either flaky or false prophetic ministries.
It is the objective of this article to attempt to bring a distinction between a flaky and false prophet. By "flaky," I am referring to a prophetic leader who has serious flaws in their ministry, but their heart and motive is generally right before God. By a "false" prophet, I am referring to a person who is not only erroneous in some of their methodology, but in their motive and ambition. This is the kind of person I believe Jesus was referring to when He told His followers to beware of false prophets who come in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravening wolves (Matt. 7:15).
In my opinion, frequent patterns of mistakes and or subjectivity can be a sign of a flaky prophet, but a pattern of intentional deceit for self-promotion shows this particular prophetic person to be false. The former has to mature, get mentored and grow in their prophetic role—the latter has to repent, or they will face the judgment of God and be exposed or removed from their ministry.
7 Signs of a Flaky Prophet
(I hesitate to call these people truly prophetic people; however, for the sake of the argument in this article, I will leave it as is.)
1.They prophesy ambiguous words.
Their words are so general and ambiguous that it is really hard to judge them and even tell if it is accurate and or inaccurate (perhaps some want it that way). Consequently, when a supposed prophetic word (especially national words regarding the church or geo/politics) is too general, and open to many interpretations, then it is really not worth pronouncing in my opinion. In my estimation, those who regularly pronounce this sort of prophetic utterance (even though they may mean well) show signs of flakiness.
2.They prophesy things already stated in the media.
I have read numerous supposed prophetic words from so-called prophets that essentially prophesy after the fact—or after it is clear a church or cultural issue or person is trending a certain way. This kind of prophetic word is a waste of time, in my opinion, and demonstrates a certain amount of flakiness.
3.Their words are so mystical nobody can understand them.
I have been in numerous meetings wherein the prophetic words given were so symbolic and mystical that the recipient of the words did not understand, nor could they properly interpret them. When prophetic people don't give practical, applicable words (or teachings) easy to be understood and interpreted, then in my opinion, their ministry is flaky.
4.There is no focus or discipline in their ministry and life.
I have observed so-called prophetic people who go around giving generic words who never had enough focus to dig down and build anything substantive. All they do is go from conference to conference or church to church with no tangible fruit regarding the transformation of lives. This to me is a sign that they are flaky and need some serious mentoring and spiritual growth.
5.There is no scriptural passage when they preach.
I have sat under some so-called prophetic people since the early 1980s who regularly teach without using any scriptural text as a foundation for their message. Instead, all they do is subjectively share what they feel (which is good to a point), but the Bible is clear that it is the Word of God that is able to equip us, prepare us and make us wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:15,16). Hence, a person who has no word ministry but simply goes from place to place "sharing what they feel or sense" is a person that is not teaching the saints how to apply the Word, but merely teaching how people can hear "their words"—which simply is not enough to build up the body of Christ. Teaching without a strong foundation on Scripture is flakiness, in my opinion.
6.They think every natural and political catastrophe is a sign of the last days.
Every time there is a natural disaster like devastating earthquakes, wars, rumors of war, a financial crisis or political turmoil, there is somebody either writing an article and or a book about how this fits biblical prophecy and how the end is coming near.
Since the early church, almost every generation thought that they were the last generation. This happens generally because of a mishandling (and or a hyper dispensational interpretation) of the passages of Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, as well as other books like Revelation, Daniel, Ezekiel and more. Myself and most believers I speak to are sick and tired of these ridiculous last days pronouncements and take the approach of Jesus when He told His disciples to focus on the primary mission of the church and not on the times and the seasons the Father has determined by His own authority (See Acts 1:6-9).
When a prophetic person is constantly imposing current events on the text of Scripture, speculating about the end times and making corresponding prophetic pronouncements (that never come to pass), I would not say they are false prophets in the way Jesus described them (see Matt. 7:15) because generally their heart is right before God; I would merely call them flaky prophets. (Although you can call their prophetic word false in the sense that it did not come to pass.)
7.They always have extraordinary existential supernatural experiences with no fruit in their ministry.
I have heard several people telling me that they are always being caught up into heaven (one man even told me I can reserve a trip into heaven to meet Jesus via Facebook), seeing angels, talking with Jesus, the departed saints and so on. Through the years, I have even had some of these people in our church! (Rarely did I ever see any noticeable, practical fruit in their life.)
Now, of course I believe it is possible to be caught up into heaven (Paul was caught up into the third heaven, as we see in 2 Cor. 12). However, even the apostle Paul did not seem to have these experiences as regularly as some of the believers and prophetic people claim to have them today. Of course, when a person says they are regularly having conversations with the saints in heaven, I think it is also dangerous and can perpetuate the historically erroneous doctrine perpetuated by the Roman Catholic church having to do with praying to the saints, and to Mary instead of to the Father in the name of Jesus—see John 14-16.
Although some of the people practicing the things mentioned in this point can also prove to be false prophets, I also think many of these people are misguided, may have emotional and psychological issues, as well as bio-chemical imbalances. At best they may be flaky, at worst some may be false prophets.
Come back next week for part two of this article on the seven signs of false prophets.
Dr. Joseph Mattera is an internationally known author, interpreter of culture and activist/theologian whose mission is to influence leaders who influence nations. He is renowned for addressing current events through the lense of Scripture by applying biblical truths and offering cogent defenses to today's postmodern culture. He leads several organizations, including The United Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (uscal.us). He also has a blog on Charisma News called "The Pulse." To order one of his books or to subscribe to his weekly newsletter go to josephmattera.org.
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