Temple Tantrum

I have been thinking about the moneychangers in the temple and current false teaching and false gospels that are marketed in the church. I wonder if Jesus would look at some of the prosperity, prophetic, and apostolic teaching being passed off as ministry in the church today and declare it a den of thieves.

In my previous post, A Prophetic Word for 2008, we looked at how the false hopes and promises of prophetic platform ministry have compromised the integrity of prophetic ministry and dulled the ears of those who listen. I am not saying the ministers are false, meaning that they intend to mislead, however I do believe they have missed the mark of true prophetic function.

In the charismissional series for PDL, when Brother Maynard and I chatted about our experiences in prophetic ministry, we discussed the subject of itinerant platform ministry. Brother Maynard edited our conversation into an article entitled Prophetic Ministry:Reimagined Missionally.

“Having reached some notion of personal prophetic ministry as inherently missional, we got onto the subject of “platform ministry” and talked about “superstar” prophetic people who typically minister itinerantly and speak publicly to the church at large…

Bro.M.– Or is it (platform ministry) something that needs to be dropped and replaced with a missional form of the prophetic that doesn’t really function like that?

E.Grace – Both, I think that corporate prophecy will have a more communal flavor than the superstar model we’ve seen. I also believe that it is very necessary that the missional people of God move forward in the power of the Spirit making full use of the spiritual gifts available to us, including prophecy. The corporate word will be an expression of the combined voices of many. As each person contributes their part, there will be a synergy and harmony created that magnifies our understanding of what God is saying.”

He summed the article up with these two points:

  • “The practice of prophetic giftings in the context of everyday missional life inherently expresses both fundamental missional and fundamental prophetic impulses. We would envision this as a low-key expression of prophetic revelation blended into everyday life, typically with no label upon it as “prophetic” in any way… just allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through one person and highlight his own words in the heart of the other.
  • The mode of prophetic ministry that we’ve seen in the past as an up-front platform-based model could in missional practice blend into a kind of grassroots chorus. Rather than a single “superstar” speaking “the word of the Lord” with any kind of assumed authority, we would instead see multiple voices beginning to say the same or similar things which taken together form the chorus of what God is saying to the wider church. In this fashion, those who speak prophetically to the church at large may add nuance or local flavour, but may often not be prominent spokespersons. The voice of God is heard in the chorus where the voices blend together, ceasing to be individually credited.”

This post by Steve Hill about the lack of discernment and accountability within prophetic ministry blew me away when I first read it.

One reason there is no accountability is that the prophets operate within a kind of club, guild, union which only has one rule- get published, get conferences, sell products.

Do people start off this way? No. But something happens on the platform. We force people to perform!

The problem of “selling” religious experiences is this. How do you get the folks who came to your last conference to come to your next? What new thing do you have to talk about? What new experience do you offer to them? The problem about selling stuff is that you always have to have something new to sell!

Much of personal prophecy is flattery and has one purpose which is to create soul ties so that the prophet is invited back for another meeting and another honorarium.

The prophets and the apostles are to be the foundation of the church. They are to be first in pioneering new areas for the Kingdom of God. They are to be the first in suffering, first in sacrifice, first in obedience. These are not platform ministries. These are plowing the field ministries.”

In his latest Elder/Younger post, Robbymac mostly discussed authority, but near the end he dropped a few nuggets about recognizing true apostolic ministry.

I’d like to suggest that real ‘apostles’ don’t need to trumpet their status or try to get people to agree to be ‘under’ their authority. They just serve and people recognize their authority based on character and not on their need to have people ‘submit’ to them. But if you want another potentially provocative statement, try this:

“Real apostolic people might actually be held in contempt by those whose mindset is caught in an authority-based understanding and agenda.”

The experience at our former church gave us a close look at false apostolic ministry. Rather than true apostolic function of a person sent to build and plant, serving and equipping churches as they develop, false apostolic ministry comes into existing church groups and attempts to pull them under an umbrella of authority. It is not a grassroots expansion of the kingdom through the growth and spread of the gospel, but rather a pyramid-type structuring of control and financial support building the ministries of certain individuals.

Having closely watched a person develop an “apostolic network” with these methods, I saw first-hand the packaging and marketing of ministry into a product that could be sold. One of the reasons there is so much gnosticism, particularly in the current prophetic and apostolic teaching, is that in order to have a salable product, one must be promising something new and exclusive, the latest and greatest cutting-edge hype. There must be an ongoing need and demand created for the role of the minister.

Because of this, I am probably more skeptical than most to the language of networks. Even in house church and missional circles, I watch carefully when I see individuals attempting to position themselves for ministry by creating a system that requires others to be dependent upon them. When we need to have a following in order to provide an income for ourselves, we are pursuing ministry from the wrong motive. If ministry is established in this way, the minister feels obligated to build his reputation and to market his talents, gifts, and wares.

One of the things that Robbymac’s soon-to-be-released book Post-charismatic addresses is the charismatic history of chasing after hype. He helps to sort through the excesses and abuses in order to unearth the true spiritual ministry needed in the church today.

I don’t believe this is a charismatic-only problem however. The packaging, branding, and selling of ministry extends into the evangelical and mega-church circles also. The latest discussion of McChurch reveals some of the same elements of promoting the consumer church and certain celebrity ministers as a product instead of going out and being about the Father’s business of spreading the gospel of the kingdom.

Bill says…

Let me go all prophetic for a moment. This isn’t the wave of the future. This is the pathetic foreshadowing of the death of the mega-consumer-church and its franchised video venues.

He also quotes John LaGrou

I’m more persuaded that the whole modern religious package is looking more and more like a big commercial enterprise – so unlike simple, organic NT models.

Do you hear the snap of the whip and the crash of tables flipping?

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25 thoughts on “Temple Tantrum

  1. Grace,

    What a well thought out, well assembled, and remarkable piece. I sense that this post is far more prophetic than the flood of consumeristic packaging coming from what you refer to a “platform ministry”.

    In my own spiritual adventure, I was found of Christ 30 years ago. I was a member of a mainline denomination at the time. As I began to really study the Word, the denominational traditions and positions didn’t always line up with what I was discovering in my studies. I went to the Pastor with my questions and he basically said that the areas I was questioning (a 6000 year old world, baptism of the HS, infant baptism, spiritual gifts, etc.) were deep theological issues and only tend to bring problems and divisiveness into the church when ‘laity’ tried to address them in their limited understanding. I was dumbfounded! Not only wasn’t I supplied with any answers, I was basically told to quit messing in spiritual areas I didn’t understand. Thirty years ago the ‘televangelists’ (platform ministry) was in its public heyday. Because my church leaders were unwilling to supply answers, I turned to the media. Boy, did I get answers … and the delivery systems all fit so well into the mold that your posting has so adequately described. The two main tracks the televangelists were running on were ‘prosperity gospel’ and ‘prophetic ministry’. I quickly became deeply immersed in both. I sincerely and deeply loved the Lord, and my intent in following this path was to know more and to walk in all of the benefits He offered (that was the hype).

    The Lord was very patient and gracious with me, and in His providence (a long story), He brought me behind the Iron Curtain in 1986. There I met the Persecuted Church, face-to-face. And it was there that I discovered what a tremendous distraction the prosperity gospel and prophetic ministry (as marketed) were in Western Christendom. I said a silent prayer at the moment of that epiphany; “Lord, don’t ever let me forget the lesson you have taught me here today.” From that day, I got involved with a missional organization that supported the Persecuted Church. I was privileged to serve some of the most humble and deeply spiritual church leaders that you could possibly imagine. What a difference in the character of a spiritual leader who was forged in the flames of persecution and a spiritual ‘superstar’ that was forged in the pressure of a consumeristic culture. I came to discover that some of the richest, most prosperous believers in the world have very little of the world’s goods, yet they possess all things.

  2. What a timely post. Some friends and I were recently discussing that not only are people leaving churches and wandering alone in the wilderness, but also there are many, many folks who are leaving charismatic churches and instead attending non-charismatic places. Locally we have two very large non-charismatic churches who are being flooded with more and more folks from local charismatic churches. They cannot take the “prophetic” and “apostolic” the way it is currently “packaged” in the charismatic churches. It’s not that they don’t believe in the gifts, it’s just that they seen so many abuses and such flesh in their use that at this point in their lives they’d rather be without them completely. The charismatic pastors are beside themselves, but they still do not understand the why behind these folks heading to places where the spiritual gifts are not even believed in. I hope it becomes a wake-up call to the problems you’ve addressed here.

    Elle

  3. I am not saying the ministers are false, meaning that they intend to mislead, however I do believe they have missed the mark of true prophetic function.

    “I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their fathers forgot my name through Baal worship. Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?” declares the LORD. Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,” declares the LORD. “They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least,” declares the LORD.

    “Woe to you, blind guides!”

    grace: interesting consideration. If the prophets were truly prophetic they might just recognize they are misleading? And if they are not really prophetic, then they are seriously deceived?

    Except for some serious mental and/or psychological conditions, the Big Name prophets do what they do deliberately, without coercion & claim it is indeed “the word of the LORD.” They know what they are doing. They keep doing it…

    “Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their [phylacteries] reputations wide and the [tassels on their garments] words they prophesy long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the [synagogues] churches; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them [‘Rabbi’] ‘Prophet’.”

    Something smells fishy here. Something not quite right in those whitewashed tombs. The abuse of the ‘prophetic office’ or its associated gift a very serious spiritual problem. It is not innocuous or quirky or a passing fad. It is the worst misrepresentation of God happening today, plain & simple. I cannot accept there are any Old Testament appointed Prophets today & those that act like they are should be silenced. No prophets to nations or people groups or churches or denominations or whatever. It is not believable. And not even to be expected. How will this gift & function be cleansed of its cheap imitations & be reclaimed by faithful men/women today?

  4. Thought provoking post! I especially enjoyed Hill’s remarks about the apostolic and prophetic being the first to suffer/sacrifice as a foundational, groundbreaker sort of thing. I’m reminded of Paul’s description of the apostolic being despised as “scum of the earth”. My expanded translation says something like, “as dirt to be flicked off of oneself.” Not exactly what has been modeled in Western charismatic streams. I really liked Ken’s comment too. One person that I have seen straddle both worlds (persecuted church/western world) and really function apostolically (without claiming that title) is Heidi Baker of Iris Ministries in Mozambique. She does the stuff – has been shot at, imprisoned, beaten, etc. in the process of planting churches, raising up local leaders, caring for orphans, expanding the kingdom. AND she comes to the Western church to speak. She declares that this is her cross (coming to the western church), but God told her, “I love them too. Won’t you love them too?”

    I know you love them too, and that’s why you speak the hard truth in love on your blog. Keep it up! God hasn’t given up on us Western Christians yet. Like you, I long to see a transformation take place… God knows. There is a different breed rising, they are just mostly hidden now. :)

  5. A Modern Apostle?

    I know a man who , many years ago, accepted the call of the Lord to go plant a church in an area where Christianity is both suppressed and persecuted. He went under the guise of teaching a college course in one of the major cities. For the first three years he did nothing but acclimate himself to the culture and pray for some disciples he was mentoring (he discipled before he ever shared the gospel or before any ever came to faith in Christ). Finally, after three years, he was through the roof excited as three of the students professed their faith in Christ. He had some ‘seed’. That was about ten years ago. Today that ‘seed’ has multiplied into hundreds of ‘house churches that span hundreds, perhaps thousands of square miles, and three (relatively) larger underground ‘mother’ churches in the city where he lives. This brother would never consider himself an apostle – just a humble servant offering his service in expanding the kingdom. Even more amazing, this brother has never once entered any of the churches. His role has only and always been to disciple a handful of leaders who, in turn, disciple other leaders. Their ‘book of church order’ is the New Testament. I believe this is as close a model as I have seen as to what I think the NT office of apostle means.

  6. I so agree with you when you speak of the prophetic being a missional gift meant for everyday use by believers. As someone who pastors in a place that once had a lot of turmoil around the KC prophets I have to say that the problem is much bigger than the prophetic community. So much of churchianity is focused on public speaking.. prophets and teachers both have been seduced by the pulpit (http://eye4redemption.blogspot.com/2006/03/religious-seduction.html). Here is part of my story:

    “For about 15 years I spoke regularly at a very large charismatic church … I spoke in an extemporaneous ‘prophetic’ fashion … more times than not I would leave the platform hearing wild applause and cheering … looking back it was a very surreal experience. When I left that church in 1995 I went through years of what I would call public speaking withdrawal. So much of my identity and my life was wrapped up in speaking publicly on Sunday morning (and other times). The notoriety and the power of public ministry was intoxicating … it was like a drug … and I was an addict.”

    I think that until God deals with the issue of seductive religious egos we will continue to see the kind of “ministries” that you describe in your post.

    Thanks for posting this Grace!

  7. hmm yes, thanks Grace for tackling this. I stopped my subscription to the EL several years ago. A few friends forward things to me from time to time but basically the output is flaccid. (the best comparison I could think of).

    I am sick of safe, circle the wagons, drink some tea, and talk about/ wait for the revival christianity. My friends who forward the EL to me are almost as protecting of this form of the prophetic as the dispensational folks are of the rapture.

    That said I know folks who are truly gifted.

    Thanks for what you are doing.

  8. charismatic history of chasing after hype

    guilty as charged. god, i just cringe at some of the crap i labeled as Holy Spirit activity. Argh…

    But that was then, this is now, and I’m determined to not get swept up in hype ever again.

    Great post, Grace. Your writing skills have deepened tremendously since I first came across your blog. When are you going to write a book?

  9. Kansas Bob, I think you described it quite well as you detail the addiction to platform ministry. It’s the Christian version of celebrity. Rosie O’Donnel has a book about called, “Addicted to Fame” (I think…something like that…) Anyway, power, ego, you nailed it all. This is why I think Jesus told all those guys he healed, “Don’t tell anyone.” I always thought, duh, how can a person NOT tell? What was his point? Oh, I get it, the whole superstar thing. Jesus didn’t want his own tv show or tape ministry. I love how humility was exhibited in his life. My fave thing about God: his grace, but oh his humility. It absolutely floors me.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and life experiences, KB. I’ll have to check your blog out…

  10. The purpose of the Samuels was suppose to have been to search through the brothers, find and anoint the Davids. However, most of the David’s aren’t in the house anymore – and many of the Samuels weren’t sensitive enough to realize that – so they anointed the best looking brother they could find (or the one that looked the most like themselves). Even worse, many of the prophets saw the “apostolic” starting to rise – and rather than do the John the Baptist thing (anoint HIM and die) – they proclaimed themselves to be “the apostle”. So now coupled with the “best looking brother” you have a bunch of prophets posing as apostles. This mostly just serves to hold the current (Saul) structure up.

    Problem is – (the future) Mrs Jesus is starting to become a real woman – and she has this womanly thing going. (antenna in the back of her head) She’s starting to sense what Saul is all about (1 Samuel 8:11-21) – but she’s not quite come of age to get her focus on Mr Jesus yet – but He has come of age to have His focus intently on her. It won’t take her long though – she’s a whole lot more woman than Saul has realized and the sparks of His passion are about to ignite her.

  11. Though I think Jesus’ anger at the moneychangers was in one sense because they were ripping people off and using the temple to do their business, I think the other reason he drove them out was because their cacophony made it impossible for the Gentiles to use the Court of the Gentiles for it’s intended purpose: Prayer and worship of God.
    I have seen the prophetic ministry in the modes you have written about and I like this quote “The mode of prophetic ministry that we’ve seen in the past as an up-front platform-based model could in missional practice blend into a kind of grassroots chorus.”
    The church I attend has tried to do that sort of thing by having them write down their words to have them compiled together and so far it has been difficult to get anyone to do it. In one sense I think they figure the pastoral staff will do nothing with the words so why bother (personally I think they are wrong).
    I have also noticed that prophets are especially susceptible to pride. They have a need to see “their” word attached to their name (being a “soloist”) rather than to sing in the prophetic “chorus”.
    I think on some scale we are all called to be prophetic in the sense of hearing God and allowing him to use us to speak what he desires to say through us. This is where the chorus idea resonates most with me.

  12. Grace this is amazing. On so many levels. I could tell you stories that caused me to really REALLY question the whole prophetic movement as a whole. To the point where I questioned prophesy, the voice of God, and even what I myself was hearing. One point in my life, I thought I was seriously mentally ill because of the things I was hearing myself. All because of the things of the prophetic/apostolic movement and leadership I was exposed to. I grew up not knowing what this was so when I was exposed to it , and exposed to international ministers, I felt like I was spinning.

    Only very recently has God re-established what His true intent is of this gift and He is establishing biblical models in my life of what this gift is for and how it is to be used.

    I know a few people in particular that walk in this gift in a way I’ve never seen before. One I would definitely call a prophet, I personally believe called to be an Apostle and on their way in that direction… and they lead out of their life. No forcing anyone to submit (teaching it biblically) but no coercion… and no threats if you don’t. An amazing servant heart that has challenged me to become another model of that. The wild thing is I always felt like an underling in the former “movement”. Where I am now, I feel like I need to rise up to what God has called me to be and walk hand in hand with these people. Quite the difference.

    I love the “chorus” spoken of here… how it is all ours… no soloists… for so long I looked to be a soloist… anymore, I just want to hear.

    Thanks yet again Grace for great insight. :)

  13. Just a brief reaction to Inheritor’s comment about church leaders controlling what is prophesied (maybe I am reading too much into this):

    I think that the prophetic should not be managed or controlled – it should be pastored.. and by that I mean that prophetic people should be pastored.. mentored and encouraged in their gifting.

    I think that churches often put screening processes in place in an effort to control what is being prophesied. By doing this they often quench the spirit and discourage prophecy and prophetically gifted people. Under the guise of ‘decently and in order’ (1Cor 14:33) they try to make something neat out of something that is often very messy.

    On the flip side of this prophetic superstars have no restraints at all and say the most outrageous things which are challenged by no one.

  14. The spirit of a prophet …

    “I accept hard work and small rewards in this life. I ask for no easy place. I shall try to be blind to the little ways that could make life easier. If others seek the smoother path I shall try to take the hard way without judging them too harshly. I shall expect opposition and try to take it quietly when it comes. Or if, as sometimes it falleth out to Thy servants, I should have grateful gifts pressed upon me by Thy kindly people, stand by me then and save me from the blight that often follows. Teach me to use whatever I receive in such manner that will not injure my souls nor diminish my spiritual power. And if in Thy permissive providence honor should come to me from Thy church, let me not forget in that hour that I am unworthy of the least of Thy mercies, and that if men knew me as intimately as I know myself they would withhold their honors or bestow them upon others more worthy to receive them.”

    – A.W. Tozer from
    ‘The Prayer of a Minor Prophet’

  15. ken,
    Thanks for sharing your experience. Genuinely wanting more of God is what often leads into following after hype.

    What a difference in the character of a spiritual leader who was forged in the flames of persecution and a spiritual ‘superstar’ that was forged in the pressure of a consumeristic culture.

    Yes, there is an obvious difference in motive and spirit of the ministry.

    Thanks for sharing the real-life example of true apostolic function. It is encouraging to hear testimonies like that. And the Tozer quote…

    “Teach me to use whatever I receive in such manner that will not injure souls…”

    Good thoughts!

  16. Elle,
    We are seeing the same thing happening here. While the charismatic pastors will eventually have to deal with the abuses occurring in their arena, those moving to non-charismatic churches are also having to reinterpret the role and use of spiritual gifts in their lives. In many ways, it’s a good thing, although there is fair amount of detox and mourning involved.

    joseph,
    Obviously I can’t issue a blanket condemnation of every prophetic minister and their motives. I believe many of them are truly prophetically gifted and well-intended, functioning in roles and realms that they have learned through others. The gift of prophecy has a more grass-roots flavor in NT function, less predictive and judgmental, instead pointing toward encouragement and declaration of truth. I believe it is the platform nature of the ministry that tends to distort its function today.

    Sarah,
    The western consumer church often removes ministry from real-world situations. Isolated in that way, it mutates into something impure. I think we have much to learn from our brothers and sisters who minister in the trenches.

  17. bob,
    With the example of your situation, you have explained the problem very well. In a more organic, small setting, there is a natural tendency to correct and provide the necessary accountability for both teaching and prophecy. The nature of the platform/celebrity ministry contributes to the lack of restraint.

    Paul,
    While this post addresssed the issue more from the aspect of the minister, there is an interesting dynamic involved among the followers who are dependent on and chase after this kind of hype. I think that Bob and Pam’s words of addiction apply to the followers also, always looking for another fix.

  18. Pam,
    I was guilty too. It has been a learning experience to remain fully open to what God is doing without succumbing to the lure of hype.

    Thanks for your kind words. I don’t really consider myself a writer, and I am certainly not an expert in any particular area that would necessitate writing a book. Blogging suits me because I can share my ordinary opinions about many different topics.

    Jerry,
    Very interesting thoughts. We have also observed the phenomenon of prophets-turned-apostles. In fact, a close friend of ours who possibly had a true prophetic gift is now operating in a false apostolic role.

    inheritor,
    I also still believe very strongly that we are to be prophetic. I think it is a part of our DNA as believers. As you said though, the spotlight seems to affect the motive and manner of prophetic function.

    Ronni,
    Great thoughts! Our desire and prayer should be for true biblical models of prophetic and apostolic ministry and the ability to recognize and discern these gifts. As you said, a servant heart should be evident.

  19. grace:

    My favorite NT prophet of course is Agabus. Any other detail about this person from other writings or historical research?

    And the manner which the prophets worked alongside the Apostles seems to highlight the team aspect of how the giftings work together.

    Along with “strengthening, encouraging & comforting” the believers, Agabus also predicted an extensive famine & Paul’s eventual capture & transfer to the Roman judicial system…

    Such a gifting as mentioned in Acts almost just another detail not at all elevated to some superstar status. Seems the prophets & teachers were involved in the “rolled-up sleeve” ministry style along with Paul & Barnabas & Silas & the others Luke mentions…

    Apostle not as easy to categorize, but predicting a great famine and/or persecution or specific arrest a very obvious expression. But then there should be the associated fasting & prayer & complete immersion in the kingdom priorities that does go along with such a gifting…

  20. Thanks for your response. That disconnect has created so many problems for us. And has restricted us to an inward focus which is actually kind of anti-apostolic… (since apostolic is about being sent – outward focused).

  21. sarah,
    Exactly! In traditional charismatic circles, we have had little experience or equipping in focusing the use of spiritual gifts outside the safety of the four walls of church.

  22. When I was the intern for a youth group in college, we had taken our kids (unknowingly) to a very evangelical-conservative conference. I went to a youth leaders’ meeting, which turned out to be a “sell stuff to the youth leaders” meeting. The speaker, who was peddling his books and curriculum, actually asked us to think of the sales tables as “altars — altars of investment.” I almost laughed out loud as the heads began to nod all around me. Now there is a temple-table-turning moment if I’ve ever seen one.

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