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Ministry Mistakes To Avoid Making
(The goal of this series is to open our eyes to some common mistakes and improper attitudes that occur during prophetic ministry. The intent is that we AVOID inadvertently falling into these mistakes as we minister.)
Revealing Too Much
I Cor 14:1-3,12 says: Follow after love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you might prophesy. For he that speaks in an unknown tongue speaks not to men, but to God: because no one can understand him, however in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he that prophesies speaks to men to edify, and to exhort, and to comfort. ... Even so you, insomuch as you are zealous for spiritual gifts, seek that you might excel in edifying the church.
The goal of those moving in the prophetic is to edify, exhort and comfort. It is to build people up in God and to encourage them in their faith and in their relationship with God. Here is the pattern for new testament prophets, taken from the lives of Judas and Silas from Acts 15:32:
Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers.
Philippians 2:1-4, encourages us to move in Christ's love and comfort, from a heart of tenderness and compassion, not from selfish ambition or vain conceit. We are to minister in humility, and not to look to our own interests but to the interests of others. This posture in ministry is one that draws people to God, that helps them open to His good touch in their lives. It encourages and motivates them to move into the fullness of all God has for them.
This type of ministry does not embarrass or humiliate the person. It does not evoke terror or dread in them... they should not be made afraid of coming to their loving Father, who has good gifts for them (Matt 7:11). Rather, they should be encouraged to "draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. [To] hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." (Heb 10:22-23). Our role in this is to "consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. ... let us encourage one another... " (Heb 10:24-25)
All of us have some form of weakness in our lives that we struggle with.. it is part of being human.. none of us here on earth have been transformed fully into the likeness of Christ... so none of us are perfect. For some who are very aware of their own imperfections, prophetic ministry can be frightening. They believe the prophet can see the secret weaknesses or sins that they struggle with. And sometimes the prophetic minister can see it, but that does not mean that he/she is supposed to expose it.
There are some prophets that do "minister" this way ... who publicly expose and embarrass people. This is NOT God's heart of how to minister. God wants to draw His children unto Himself, to encourage and strengthen them.. to build them up. The person waiting for prophetic ministry should NOT be made to wonder if God is going to say something terrible about them.. they should not have to be afraid that He is going to reveal all of their dirt for everyone to see. This leaves the person feeling vulnerable and frightened. It makes their guard go up, leaving them leery and less able to receive from God's hand. And some do not come at all because they don't want to risk being unduly embarrassed or humiliated.
God does not intend for us to minister that way.. He does not intend for us to frighten or embarrass those He wants to speak to. It is important that when we are ministering prophetically, we do all that we can to make the ministry safe and loving. It is to encourage them and build them up, not to tear them down and humiliate them.
I was at a meeting where the prophet would call people up front and minister to them over the microphone. He had a tendency to expose quite a bit more than was appropriate. For instance, he called one couple up. He began to speak words of encouragement over the wife and to praise her for her patience and endurance in a difficult family situation. Then he began tell her that her husband (who as standing right next to her as she received the word) was a difficult man to live with, that he gets angry easily, that he is demanding and unloving, puts her down and .. well, you get the picture. How would you like to be that husband standing in front of the whole church and being talked about this way? This type of "ministry" does not help the marriage or the relationship, it embarrassed both parties and made a difficult home situation public knowledge. The prophet went on his way, but that couple had to come back to the same church the following Sunday.. where everyone now knew about the stress in their relationship.
This same prophet called another woman up and shared over the microphone that she was struggling with depression and contemplating suicide. Somehow I don't believe that built her up or edified her very much.
Another prophet also liked to expose more than he should. He had a favorite saying, "Let's just lift the covers up a bit and take a peek." Then he would go on to expose their secret struggles or sins and then he would pray for them deliverance style. One time he ministered to a group of leaders from my former church (all godly and committed people). Many were exposed and had "spectacular" deliverances as he "ministered" to them. Some were huddled in little balls on the ground crying and shaking. About six months later, this prophet was in the area again. He was again invited to minister to the same group of leaders. As it turned out, some of the leaders did not want to come back and receive ministry from him again. In fact, a few of them, to this very day, remain somewhat leery of the prophetic. Those who did go to him the second time had pretty much the same sins/shortcomings exposed again. And they were once again "delivered" of the same stuff they had been delivered of the last time. This is not ministering under God's Spirit -- it is emotional manipulation. And it did not produce any lasting fruit in their lives.
God sends us to encourage and build up, not to manipulate people or play with their emotions. We may see a weakness when speaking over them, but do not dwell on this. Instead, dwell on the strengths and purposes God has for that person. We are to minister God's life, the person is to be encouraged and built up, edified, motivated to walk after God (to open themselves to God's good and healing touch). For God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Heb 11:6). And part of our job is to encourage them to diligently seek (and find) Him.
Do not embarrass the person or put the person into an awkward position. Model God's goodness and grace as you minister. Help them to open to God instead of erecting barriers of self-protection and defense.
When people watch you minister to someone, they should see the love of Christ flowing forth (1 Cor 13 teaches that we are to prophesy in love). As they watch you minister to someone, hope and encouragement should build up in their own heart.. so that they are eager for their word instead of feeling fearful or worried about what you might say/expose. We are to be kind to one another at all times (Eph 4:32), including when we are doing ministry.
Having said all of this, there may occasionally be times where we are called on to deal with and expose something. This does not mean that every grisly detail has to be laid bare for all to see. Sometimes we can make vague references to a situation, and it will be enough to convict the person's heart and lead them to repentance.
The goal in "exposing" is not to embarrass the person. It is not to impress others with the level of detail you know about someone's secret sin. The goal is to help the person repent and turn back to God and be restored. So we must exercise care in exposing. We must not destroy the person or force a scenario where there is no room for restoration.
Sometimes we can use generalities that speak specifically to someone, but are meaningless to everyone else. For instance, one prophet friend of mine had to rebuke a person for sexually abusing a young boy .. the offense took place in a dark room with the curtains drawn. The rebuke was given in a public setting but in a private way. The prophet spoke these words "Don't think that God did not see what happened in that dark room with the curtains drawn. He knows what happened there, and He is calling you back to Him. Turn back, turn back."
One time in a presbytery, the Lord was encouraging a person who really had a heart after God, but who continued to fall prey over and over to the same besetting sin. The man knew precisely what his sin was. The prophet first gave him many promises and encouragements. Then he said something like, "There is a large stone in your path.. a boulder that seems impassable. You have taken a chisel and chipped at it and chipped at it .. but it is too large for you to overcome on your own. You have wondered if this obstruction will ever be removed from your path. And the Lord wants you to know that even right now, He is removing that boulder and taking it out of your way." The man knew the boulder was the besetting sin.. and the Lord empowered him to turn it over to God and once and for all be free of it. No one else listening had a clue of what was going on.. nor did they need to know. But God ministered powerfully to that man and set him free.
Let's examine a real-life situation from the bible where Nathan had to expose sin and bring correction to King David. This is found in 2 Samuel 12. We know that David was a man after God's heart. Yet David had sinned (committed adultery with Bathsheba and then murdered her husband Uriah). We know that "this thing David had done displeased the Lord." (2 Samuel 11:27) As a result, David's heart was separated from God and he was out of relationship with God. And David had committed some pretty serious offenses (murder, adultery, etc). So God sent a prophet to deal with him.
Yet Nathan did not publicly proclaim the king's offense and cry out against him. He did not stand on the street corner and preach against the king.. instead he went directly to the king. We cannot tell, from the passage, whether Nathan's words fell ONLY on David's ears. They may have been delivered in court, where others could hear as well. But we do know that Nathan got as close to a private audience with the king as he could. We know that his intent was to convict/restore David, not to publicly condemn or embarrass him. David, when confronted with his sin, immediately repented (2 Samuel 12:13). To which the prophet immediately proclaimed restoration "The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die."
The purpose of Nathan's ministry was not to expose David's sin to all in the kingdom... it was to restore David to right relationship with God. He limited the scope of the rebuke to a need-to-know basis; he did not broadcast it publicly. And that gave room for David to repent and be restored.
A prophet friend of mine came to my area to do some ministry. There was a man who had a heart for God, but who was living in sin.. unfaithful to his wife. I knew of this situation, but did not share it with her. She met the man before a meeting and God told her all. She pulled me aside and told me how much she disliked his behavior and decisions, based on what God had shown her. She proceeded to accurately describe his family situation to me. She did not tell me anything I did not already know, from natural knowledge, as I was close to the family. She had accurately seen this man's sin.
The meeting became one of those meetings where God had a word for everyone who was present. When it came time for her to give a word to this man, I braced myself, expecting a rebuke. But she did not deliver a rebuke. Instead, she told him what the desires of his heart were, and how God would give them to him as he made right choices before the Lord. She invited him into deeper intimacy with God, holiness, and invited him to make a commitment to walk in His ways. It was a positive and uplifting word, but there was a clear choice presented to him. He had to explicitly choose God's way. Now she knew and he knew and I knew what that choice entailed.. part of it was to stop being unfaithful to his wife and to repent and walk in holiness before God. Very few others in the room had a clue about this situation, and she never spelled it out for them. She never specified what that choice was, but he knew.. and when she mentioned the word choice, his eyes narrowed and he got an ugly expression on his face. He later told me "She had me pegged and I did not like it." He understood what was going on and the choice being set before him. Sadly to say, he made a bad choice and continued to be unfaithful. His wife divorced him and his family fell apart and he does not appear to be walking in the desires of his heart.
Even in a case where the rebuke was well deserved, it was delivered in a gentle and positive way, where there was much hope of restoration and where he was not publicly humiliated. This prophet did not pull the man's pants down to publicly expose his nakedness (sin) before the whole body. She did not reveal more than she had to.
She ministered in love, looking towards a restoration. And that is how we should minister too.