The prophets of doom and the ‘clairvoyant’

Fourth blog in the series Prophets and Prophecy. After the introdiction blog I wrote about what is prophecy, what sorts are there in the Bible, are they still here and in what form does it function in the church?

profeten-4-toekomstdingesWhat do you do with the prophets of doom who predict disasters and judgements and the ‘clairvoyant’, who tell a church or an individual what (good) is going to happen in the near or further future? How can you tell if they are ‘real’? Are their impressions based on inspiration of God or their own wishfull thinking?

About the prophets of doom I shall be brief: If someone predicts a flooding or the third World War or other misery and there is no message to return to God together with a message of hope (see my 2nd blog), you can’t do anything with it.

And if you would change your life when you know in six months something terrible is going to happen, isn’t is wise to change it anyway, even nothing is going to happen?

The reaction to disaster prophecy is usually not that people repent, but that they go ‘doomsday prepping’. They are going to take care of themselves in stead of trying to change society.

The ‘clairvoyant’ i.e. ‘people with a prophetic ministry’ sometimes remind me of Maureen Hancock. Even though the Christian version doesn’t get messages from some ones dead grandpa but from the Holy Spirit, the concept is reasonably comparable. The -often travelling- minister is in front of an audience and gives messages to random people in the audience. People especially attend these meetings to hear about themselves. I have been present at a number of them and I noticed a few things.

The majority of people with a prophetic ministry are people with a deep living faith in Christ, a big empathic capacity and a large amount of human knowledge. Because of the combination of these gifts they are able to encourage people they have never met before. I certainly believe they are inspired by the Holy Spirit, but what part of their message is their own and what part is from God, you never can tell for sure. Their words often result in people getting nearer to God and being strengthened or comforted. Because of this fruit I would want to take a positive attitude towards this.

A small part of the people with a prophetic ministry are imposters. They promise all you want to hear to everybody who wants to listen. They think it is great that people look up to them and are there mostly for themselves and their income.

Like most people I am always curious what God has to say to me about my future. Does He have something extraordinary for me? Does He think I am special enough to give a prophet a message for me? Most of the time there was no message for me and when there was one it was so common it could be for anybody, or it was something I already knew. It disappointed me and made me sad, until I realized that common messages like ‘you are a woman of God’ or ‘God loves you very much’ are more valuable than a prediction of a very successful future. It took me some growing up to see that a future with everything I desire but without the certainty of the love of God is not a desirable future. And when you know you will have a future with God, it is not really important what will happen there exactly.

The psychological effect of the people with prophetic ministry is very large. People have questions and expect answers, probably just like the people in the Old Testament or the early church who went to a prophet (see blog 2 en 3). If you get an answer then it is worth a lot; God has spoken didn’t He? This puts a huge responsibility on the shoulders of the people with a prophetic ministry. They can build someone up and bring them closer to God, but they can also nearly drive someone away from their faith. Deuteronomy 18:18-22 says therefore that a prophet that makes up things himself should be put to death. Fortunately we now live in a time of grace, but a false prophet should be silenced. This is an important task for the leaders in a church.

So, what do we to with the prophets of doom and the ‘clairvoyant’?

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good,(1 Thes. 5:19-21) Prophets are and remain human. They have a gift, but they are not infallible. When a prophecy is nonsense, it should be said clearly. Is a prophecy a message of God, then we should listen to it. I myself favour seeking advice and council within the own community above insights from a stranger. Like I showed in blog 3, there are certainly people in your church where you can go to for a ‘word of the Lord’. This can be in the form of a bible verse, an arm around your shoulder, a kick against your butt or just a good conversation.