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I go to a church where the pastor is an Apostle and Prophet. When I first came to this church some time ago, he gave me a few accurate prophetic words and I accepted him as a legitimate prophet of God. He is also a good preacher. Until recently, I have been very happy there. But some things happened the past 6 to 8 months that raise serious red flags for me, and I am wondering if I belong in this church.
Recently his words and messages have taken on an exclusive theme that alarms me. He has been preaching that our congregation is the only solution for this world, that we have open doors to Heaven, and we are privileged people.
Instead of going to bed (and to sleep) on Saturday nights, he spends the entire night in prayer with God. I always considered that a good thing. But now he is having visions and encounters with God that I find questionable. For instance, he had a vision where God told him that he was the only prophetic voice left in the earth. Another time he had an encounter with God where God him by the hand to a place that the people came and put gifts on his feet (our Apostle's feet, not the Lord's feet).
Currently he spends about half of each sermon talking about God or other church-related stuff. He spends the other half talking about himself. Also, when he wants to convince anyone of anything, he claims to be speaking for God instead of for himself.
Many of the church leaders have already left, and our pastor explains their leaving as "God is cleaning the Church." My husband and I are concerned that we are in the wrong place. We really want to follow God, and our spirits do not feel good about this situation. What we can do?--Sincerely Alarmed
Dear Sincerely Alarmed
Wow, that does sounds like an alarming situation.
I am going to respond from a "pastoral advice" perspective. I.e., what I am saying is not a prophetic word from the Lord, but what I hope is godly advice from someone knowledgeable in the area of the prophetic. Please consider this as input to help you make a prayerful decision. But I don't think you should look to myself or any other person to tell you what to do; I think this is something that you and God have to decide together.
In fact, I strongly feel that as a para-church ministry leader, it is not my place as a to tell anyone that they do (or do not) belong at a given local church. Each person needs to hear that type of thing directly from the Lord. So when it comes to the question of 'what church should I attend,' I believe that is something that God wants to speak directly to a person. The same is true for deciding when it is time to leave a given church.
The good news is that God has the ability to speak clearly to our spirits on an issue even if we are not particularly skilled in hearing His voice. One of the ways that God communicates to us is through checks or alarms in our spirit. From the tone of your email, it sounds like He may be doing that with you about this church. In fact, I suspect that God has already communicated His will to your spirit, and you are just being cautious and double-checking things before acting on it.
In this context, let me give you a little information and evaluation of the issues at hand.
First, let's talk about a person being the only prophetic voice alive on the earth at this moment. That is not Scriptural and it is also not true. There are many valid modern-day prophetic voices generally recognized as such by the body of Christ: Bill Hamon, Todd Bentley, Bill Johnson, Cindy Jacobs and a multitude others, including (I hope) myself.
The bible talks about prophecy as one of God's gifts to the church. It is plural (prophets) not singular (prophet). 1 Corinthians 12:28 says: "And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues."
Ephesians 4:11 also talks about New Testament prophets in the plural: "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets..." It doesn't say that He gave us "one" member of the Church to act as a prophet, it says "some" prophets, which is plural, implying more than just one at a time.
There have been times in bible history where a prophet thought he was the only one alive. That happened to Elijah, and God told him he was wrong. The new testament talks about that very explicitly in Romans 11:2-5:God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, 3 'Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life'? 4 But what does the divine response say to him? 'I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.' 5 Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
Your pastor is defiantly in error if he thinks he is the only prophetic voice left on this earth. However, that error does not necessarily mean he is a "bad" or false prophet; he may just be momentarily deceived by the enemy. (Even Elijah was momentarily deceived by the enemy at one point in his ministry.) The devil will try, at times, to deceive legitimate prophets by giving them false revelation. It may take them a short while to sort out that the revelation they received came from the enemy instead of from God. But if they are truly walking close to the Lord and sincerely serving God, God will be faithful to correct their misunderstanding and show them His truth.
If his "I am the only true prophet" vision is recent and he is a legitimate prophet, then the Lord will sort it out with Him in a short while. If that has been going on for the entire 6 to 8 month period you are talking about--then that would be a serious red flag for me. The Lord would normally correct that type of error in a much shorter time frame. If he holds on to that type of false revelation that long, it raises a serious question about how open his heart is to receive revelation from the Lord.
Let's look as his message that "our congregation is the only solution for this world, that we have open doors to Heaven, and we are privileged people." That can be true or false, depending on how it is intended/interpreted. If the message is that Jesus is the only solution for this world, that is very true. Your pastor could be saying, "Jesus is the only solution and since our congregation has Jesus, we have the only solution." That would be true as long as he recognized that all other churches are in the same situation of having the only solution of Jesus. But if he is saying that none of the other churches have the solution except his, then he would be in error.
The same goes for the other two parts of his statement. If he is saying that as a believer we have open doors to Heaven, that is correct. It is available to all believers (thought not all walk it out in their day-to-day lives). It is also true that all believers are a privileged people. So if your pastor's intent is to teach your body of it's rightful place in the kingdom of God (as shared by all who belong to Jesus), that is good teaching and I agree with it. Many in the body of Christ don't realize all that Jesus has done for us, and don't walk in the fullness of what God intends. If that is the message your pastor is trying to explain that to his congregation, then I do agree with him.
On the other hand, if he is trying to set your congregation apart from all other churches and congregations, then I feel that he is in error. If he is saying that the riches of Heaven are just for a select few (and his church happens to be that select few), that is exclusivism and it is not true. The bible says that we are all equal before God and that all believers have access to what Jesus has given to the Church. Ephesians 2:18-22 says:18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. 19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
You raised two other concerns. One was that the pastor spends half of his time talking about himself. That may or may not be a cause for alarm. If he is simply promoting himself, that is "not good." Most prophetic people would rather promote about the Lord than to promote themselves. On the other hand, if is possible that he is attempting to use testimony to illustrate his point and to create hunger for God in those who he is speaking to.
My personal teaching style is to include a lot of my own stories and experiences with God as illustrations. The goal is to show people what is possible; to get them hungry for the same things to happen in their own walk with God. I am transparent and share as many stories that make me look "bad" as with ones that make me look good. The goal isn't to build myself up, it is to exalt God and to motivate others to move into that same type of experience with God.
If your pastor is using testimony as a teaching illustration, that is a teaching style that a lot of people relate to. There is a lot of power in testimonies; they raise faith and show people things that are possible for them to experience. I personally love this style of teaching because I see people start to press into God with an "I want it too" attitude. Even more exciting, they usually get it from God as they pursue Him for it. If that is what your pastor is doing, it is not a bad thing. On the other hand, if he is constantly and repeatedly promoting himself, that would certainly be a cause for alarm.
Finally, you said that any time he wants to convince someone of something, he claims that God is the one speaking it. That sounds like a form of manipulation, because who can argue with God? That style of persuasion raises red flags for me.
It is possible that the issue is poor communication skills instead of manipulation. God could have given him a vision (e.g., a goal or destination move the churches towards). He may have come up with a plan to implement the vision, and he may be trying to sell the plan as God's idea. His intentions may be ok, but he may not be achieving it in a very good manner. In fact, even with good motives, it is always a bad idea to put your own words into God's mouth.
When people recognize someone as a prophetic voice, that person needs to be very careful to clarify when they present their own things. They can share that they think God showed this to them, and allow others to judge whether or not they heard God clearly on that. But as soon as they try to get people to agree with them by presenting their ideas (or strategies) as an irrefutable "thus sayeth the Lord," they have ventured into the realm of false prophecy.
A true prophet will be careful to distinguish his (or her) opinion from a "Thus sayeth the Lord." A true prophet would not want to put any words in God's mouth that God did not actually say. A true prophet would not pretend to be God speaking to manipulate people to do what they want. If they did that, it would be prophetic manipulation, which is a very bad thing.
If you would like more information on prophetic manipulation, see lesson 5 in my teaching series titled Prophetic Bloopers & No-Nos. I think you will find it helpful. The URL to the series is: http://www.godspeak.net/ps_lessons/ps5_index.html I hope this helps you make a prayerful decision with the Lord about what He wants you to do.