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.
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?