Several years ago, we had a young man in our church moving in the prophetic. He prophesied regularly during church services and even had a visiting prophetic minister pull him out of the congregation and give a word about his prophetic calling.
He was on the fast track to the prophetic.
Up to this point his prophetic words were fairly innocuous. There was nothing specific about them or directional. They were God loves you type of prophesies that could literally apply to anyone and everyone.
There is nothing wrong with these type of words, because often the Holy Spirit will grab the word and highlight it to specific individuals and say this word is for you.
And then it happened.
The pastor of the church was heading to a conference. As we gathered around to lay hands on him, the young man stepped up with a prophetic word and prophesied some very specific things were going to happen to the pastor at these meetings. One in particular, involved a person at the conference coming to the pastor with a dream.
When the pastor returned, I made a point of asking him whether any of those specific words had come to pass.
The pastor said not one of them had.
And this is where we failed this young man. We did nothing about it. Not only did “we” do nothing, but I did nothing as well as I was part of the leadership team.
What we should have done is gone to that young man and talked to him about this prophecy. I believe he had a prophetic gifting, but prophesying is not easy. Even if you have the gift, it takes time and practice to accurately discern God’s voice to deliver an accurate prophetic word.
People are not purposefully prophesying inaccurately, but sometimes they simply confuse their own thoughts with God’s. We have thousands of thoughts coming into our mind every day, and it takes practice to learn which of them are from God or our own imaginations.
It is a problem common to prophetic ministry:
2 “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy from their own inspiration, ‘Listen to the word of the Lord! (Ezekiel 13:2 NASV)
Because of this, in ancient Israel they set up schools of the prophets. Some translations refer to them as a “company of prophets” or “sons of the prophet,” but they were training centers for the prophetically gifted and were led by proven prophets such as Elijah or Elisha.
In these schools, prophets in training were allowed to practice with feed back from other prophets to help them develop their accuracy before venturing into a more public ministry (1 Samuel 19:18–24; 2 Kings 2; 2 Kings 4:38–44).
This young man needed to step back and figure out where he went wrong, but we never talked to him and he continued to prophesy.
I am on an email list of a small group that regularly sends out messages and prophetic words (it is not Elijah List). A few years back, during the spring they sent out a prophecy about a specific thing that was going to happen that summer in the United States.
It involved stores running out of food and this was going to happen because of a lack of food not mismanagement by the stores because they failed to reorder or their deliveries were not on time.
I regularly follow the news and I never heard of one incidence where this took place. Because this spoke of a specific thing happening within a set time frame, there should have been some acknowledgement that this prophetic word delivered to probably hundreds of people was inaccurate.
If they sent out a retraction, I missed it. But I suspect they did what we did with our failed prophecy and just ignored it. It is difficult to deal with them particularly if the person delivering the word is a friend or a respected minister.
When it came to prophetic words, the Apostle Paul was very clear. We need to judge prophecies:
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test (dokimazete) them all; hold on to what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 NIV)
In this passage he tells us to “test” the prophecies. This is the Greek word “dokimazete” that means “to approve after testing.” The word is even used in the sense of a court of law and putting something on trial to determine if it is true or not.
In other words the prophetic words and the prophets delivering them need to be tested and approved. And if we read that verse properly if we don’t judge, then eventually it will cause all prophecies to be treated with contempt. This in turn will result in a quenching of the Holy Spirit, as people begin disrespecting prophetic words because some were off and they were never properly dealt with.
How do we know this?
Because this is exactly what was going on in the Thessalonian church. Paul was telling this church to judge prophesy, because there were people giving prophetic words that Jesus had already returned:
2 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message (literally word) or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 NASV)
Nobody was judging prophecies and people were saying all sorts of weird things and not being challenged. If we do not judge these words, then those giving inaccurate prophecies will be emboldened.
If we judge prophecies then those moving in the gift will be more careful before stepping into public ministry.
Paul gave the same warning to the Corinthian church:
29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. (1 Corinthians 14:29 NASV)
As we move into darker times, I believe the prophetic will become more important and even necessary. Because of this, it is vital we test the words now, so we can count on them later when needed.