Over the past few weeks, some leaders have been criticized on social media for having the nerve to hold prophetic voices accountable for falsely predicting COVID would suddenly lift around Passover 2020 and for insisting that Trump would win reelection. (Some are still insisting on this even though President Biden has been inaugurated.)
Instead of apologizing, some prophetic leaders have tried to get off the hook by making the following statements:
— "Trump really won, but the election was stolen!"
— "Trump was inaugurated in heaven!"
— "There are still four more years left; anything can happen, so I am not apologizing now."
— "Trump will be set in around March or April after massive voter fraud is exposed."
— "The prophets said Trump would be elected a second term, but they never said it would be two consecutive terms. He will be president in 2024!"
You get the picture.
In my opinion, these kinds of excuses make things worse. It would have been much better for these prophetic voices to simply admit they missed it instead of digging in their heels and trying to convince people that they were right.
Furthermore, some people are saying that it is unfair that the prophets are being picked on and that the other ministry gifts should be scrutinized. One man told me, on social media, that I was maligning the prophets and should have corrected them in private. My friend, Dr. Michael Brown, informed me that he is getting a lot of hate mail for calling for prophetic accountability. Jeremiah Johnson reportedly received so much vitriolic pushback that his website crashed after apologizing for falsely prophesying a Trump presidential victory.
So again, I ask the question, "Is it wrong to hold prophetic voices accountable?"
First of all, it is always within the bounds of protocol to bring public correction to any person who teaches, prophesies or preaches something misleading to the people of God, especially if it was done on a public platform.
If a person says something incorrectly in public, they should be willing to be corrected in public. If they do not want to be corrected in public, they should not release anything on a public platform.
As a shepherd and a voice to those on my public platforms, I feel obligated to bring correction to false teachings, prophecies or anything else that I deem harmful to the people of God and the general public. When people disagree with me regarding an article or link that I release, I don't get bent out of shape. Instead, I either thank them if they bring out a good point, or I engage in dialogue with them if I don't agree with their point of view. If they act like a fool, calling me names or getting nasty, I merely block them from further engagement. Paul instructs us to publicly call out spiritual leaders, under certain situations, when at least three credible witnesses have verified their wrong (1 Tim. 5:20).
Second, if I do not know them or have a relationship with them, it would be difficult to speak to them privately before bringing a public correction. (Based on my busy schedule, there were so many who were prophetically off that it would have been nearly impossible to engage in a conversation with all of them.) It should be noted that the mandate by Jesus to privately speak to somebody is only in effect if they sinned against that individual person (Matt. 18:15-18).
Regarding the subject of this article, these false predictions did not involve the committing of a personal sin against me. Rather, a wrong was committed against the tens of thousands of Christians who believed these prophets who gave them false hope. Whether some prophets misled them intentionally, I cannot say or judge. I think most were sincere but blinded by their hope for a Trump election.
Third, Paul instructed church leaders to mark those who cause divisions in the church so that others will learn from it (Rom. 16:17). He also called out leaders in public when he deemed their words or actions harmful to the church (1 Tim. 1:20, 2 Tim. 4:14). He called out some who forsook him and left their assignment (2 Tim. 4:9-11). Even though I do not believe many of these prophets intended to sow discord, the charismatic church's ensuing confusion had to be addressed on a public platform. (Leaders like myself have no way of tracking down and personally connecting with the multiple thousands of confused Christians disillusioned by this prophetic faux pas.)
Fourth, perhaps more than any other ministry gift, God commands the prophetic to be judged according to the Scriptures. A few of the passages relevant to this point include Deuteronomy 13:1-5, Jeremiah 23, 1 Corinthians 14:29, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 and 1 John 4:1.
Fifth, everybody who teaches, preaches or prophesies are to be judged more strictly than those who do not endeavor to be an oracle for the truth (James 3:1). Thus, those who bring forth the word of God have to be very careful to accurately represent the mind and will of God based upon the Scriptures and their exposition of it. (See 1 Pet. 4:11.)
Sixth, regarding the charge that the prophets are being picked on more than the other ministry gifts, the truth is that for the past decade, the apostolic has been scrutinized more than any other fivefold ministry gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:1.
Many have even said that there is some kind of vast global conspiracy to take over and influence the church with self-proclaimed apostles who belong to the so-called New Apostolic Reformation. Of course, there is no such organization nor NAR conspiracy since the apostolic movement is global and cannot be contained, categorized or defined by one entity or movement.
However, instead of complaining that apostolic leadership is being picked on, I have engaged in fruitful, robust dialogue with some scholars who have written books against the NAR. We agree on the need to reign in some of the excesses and abuses found in the contemporary apostolic movement. These are things I have already written about in my book, Essays in Apostolic Leadership.
Furthermore, Jesus praised the Ephesian church for they "have tested those who say they are apostles, but are not" (Rev. 2:2b). Jesus desires that local churches test their ministry gifts before they validate and recommend their ministry to the body of Christ.
Finally, the Bible scrutinizes each of the fivefold ministries, not just the prophetic. But the very nature of the prophetic demands strict judgment since the one prophesying is claiming the Lord is speaking through them, instead of a teacher who is merely an expositor of already revealed (logos) truth (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
False fivefold ministry gifts are warned about in the Scriptures:
The Bible warns of:
— False apostles (2 Cor. 11:13).
— False prophets (Matt. 7:15, 2 Pet. 2:1).
— False evangelists/preachers (Gal. 1:8-9).
— False teachers (2 Tim. 4:3-4, 2 Pet. 2:1).
— False shepherds (Jer. 23, John 10:1-2).
In conclusion, the Bible says that any of these ministry gifts can fall into deception. Even sincere godly Christians, including prophetic leaders, can make mistakes and unintentionally mislead masses of people through social media platforms. Consequently, it behooves the church to collectively respond online to counter false teachings, judge prophetic words and bring greater balance to the church for the glory of God.
When bringing correction, may we treat each other with grace, kindness and mercy as we await the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Dr. Joseph Mattera is an internationally known author, consultant and theologian whose mission is to influence leaders who influence culture. He is the founding pastor of Resurrection Church and leads several organizations, including The U.S. Coalition of Apostolic Leaders and Christ Covenant Coalition. Dr. Mattera is the author of 12 bestselling books, including his latest The Jesus Principles, and is renown for applying Scripture to contemporary culture. To order his books or to join the many thousands who subscribe to his newsletter go to josephmattera.org.
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