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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.)
2 Tim 3:16 to 4:2 says: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction.
This is a passage on teaching and rebuking. Note that it is given to a pastor, who is in relationship with his flock and who is lovingly and carefully watching over them. Rebukes and correction are not given lightly, but "with great patience and careful instruction" and also with encouragement.
These instructions were given to Timothy, as a pastor, not as a prophet. And the rebuke is to come not from a prophetic source, but using scripture. In the New Testament, the role of rebuking and correcting falls primarily to the pastors and apostles. Why is it that so many current-day prophets think their job is to rebuke and sometimes to harshly correct?
The Bible makes it pretty clear that the role of prophecy is to "strengthen, encourage and comfort" (1 Cor 14:3) and to "edify the church" (1 Cor 14:4). The words "rebuke" and "correct" are not in this list of things that New Testament prophecy is supposed to accomplish on a regular basis.
In the Old Testament, prophets did bring correction, rebuke and even warnings of impending judgement... in fact this pattern is repeated over and over.. Noah, Jeremiah, Jonah, Ezekiel, and on and on... But even in this there was room for repentance and healing. The city of Nineveh repented and judgement was adverted (Jonah 3:7-10). God told Hezekiah that he would die, but then extended his life after he cried out to God (2 Kings 20:1-6). Over and over God said though His prophets "turn to me and repent, and I will repent of the judgement I was about to bring on you..." (Jeremiah 18:8, Jeremiah 26:3, Jeremiah 26:13, Jeremiah 42:10, Exodus 32:12, just to name a few). So God's intent of Old Testament rebuking/judgement prophecy was not to condemn, but to cause a turning of the people back to Him... to win their hearts back to His ways.
Rebuke and correction is not a regular aspect of New Testament prophecy. In fact, these types of operations usually fell to the apostles and leaders (who planted the churches in the first place. We see this frequently with Paul, particularly in his interactions with the Corinthians). The role of correction and rebuking also fell on those who were appointed to care for and oversee and pastor these churches, e.g. Timothy and Titus (2 Tim 2:14, Titus 1:9, 2:6, 2:15).
I am not saying that God NEVER uses New Testament prophets to warn, rebuke or correct. But this is not their common role. That type of assignment typically goes to those who are very mature in the office or to ones who are in some sort of relationship with the one who is being corrected. And when God does use modern-day prophets to correct/rebuke, it is not usually in a harsh and condemning way, but in a loving way a that turns the person back to God and helps them align that area of their life with God's perfect will for them.
One Sunday a woman visited my church. She used to be very close to my pastor but had not seen him in over 10 years. She and her husband were in the area and stopped to visit her old pastor (my current pastor). Of course, he was delighted to see her. He took a small group of us out to lunch with this woman. She recognized my name from the various internet writings I had done and sort of felt as though she knew me. I had never heard of her before, and did not feel like I knew her. We were in a group setting, so we hardly had any time to converse with each other. We spent less than 10 minutes talking to each other.
The next day, I received an email from her... a "prophetic" rebuke. God had apparently shown her that I was in rebellion to my pastors. She accused me of everything from having a bad relationship with my husband (who she had not even met) to not being able to hear God's voice to being unsubmissive and in rebellion against my pastors. (In reality, I have a very good understanding of biblical submission to God appointed authority, and I teach and walk in it. Also, I happen to be in good relationship with my pastors. In fact, I really LIKE them and I am very comfortable with them. They appear to like me too <smile>.)
She had obtained this "revelation" about me from a combination of "hearing God" speak to her about me during the service and watching me at church. She did not pray for me or even pray about it. Instead, she wasted no time to send me this "rebuke from God" ... the email arrived less than 24 hours after our brief meeting.
This woman believes she moves in some level of the prophetic. She thinks that God's purpose in bringing us together those few brief moments was so that God could rebuke me through her. Unfortunately, this is not the biblical model. As stated earlier, rebuke usually comes from pastors, not prophets. And it usually comes from people with whom we have a caring relationship, not from total strangers.
What this woman did was inappropriate. She made some incorrect assumptions about me (or judged me). Then she proceeded to deliver these judgements to me in the guise of a prophetic rebuke.. she did not have a relationship with me. She had no authority or permission to speak into my life. I did not know her well enough to value her inputs or to believe she cared at all about me.
When God desires to bring correction, He typically does it from someone who the person is in relationship with, not from a total stranger. And it is typically done in a non-condemning manner that breathes life into the hearer and moves them towards restoration.
What she did was to attempt to drive a "five ton truck of correction over a one ton bridge of relationship." That does not work.
We should take care not to judge those around us (Romans 14:13) .. for Judgement belongs to the Lord. In fact, the Bible directs us not to judge one another but rather to judge ourselves (1 Cor 11:31). Moving in the prophetic does not give us a license to violate the principles that are clearly set forth in scripture.
There are times when we, in a nonjudgmental way, need to warn or rebuke our friends. We might have a dear friend who is making some bad or hurtful decisions. We may want to talk to them because we love them, to warn them of the consequences of their actions and to help them to get back on the right path. This is ok, this is part of relationship and body ministry. But it is done in love and compassion and out of a mutual relationship.. where we have earned an authority to speak into this friend's life. This is not about prophetic correction, this is about walking together in a loving relationship.
There are times that we, in the prophetic, can see the weakness or sin in a person's life. That does not mean we are to reveal it to them or to condemn them or bawl them out for it. I once heard a story about Bill Hamon that has really stuck with me...
Bill was training a woman to move in the prophetic and she was ministering with him in a prayer line. Each person that came up had some sort of sin or failure in their life and she saw it under the prophetic anointing. She noticed that Bill was giving encouraging and edifying words, and so she said nothing. After several people had been ministered to, Bill took her to the side and asked her why she was not giving words. She explained that she was seeing their sin and dirt.
"Oh," Bill replied, "I see that too. But they are still God's children and He loves them dearly and He usually finds something nice to say to each one. So I ask Him what He wants to tell each one and that is what I tell them."
Also, there are times that God shows us things so that we can intercede or pray for the person. He does not intend for us to talk to them about it.. but to talk to Him about it on their behalf. Eph 6:18 encourages us to be constantly and continuously in prayer and intercession for our brothers and sisters and "watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." Sometimes God shows us things so that we can pray for them.
When God shows you something negative about someone, do ask Him **WHY** He is showing that to you. Chances are that He just wants you to watch and pray for them. He may not want you to confront them with that information.
If it turns out that He does want you to talk to them, then you need to discern His timing. Often He will show you something in advance and have you pray and intercede as He prepares their heart. Then, at a later time He will open the door for you to talk to them. If God does open a door for you to talk to the person, you might want to try a subtle approach instead of a "thus sayeth the Lord". Go with a heart and attitude to help them, not to put them on the defensive or to accuse them.
One time I was on the ministry team at an inner healing conference at my church. As I sat in my chair, the Lord showed me this particular woman, and showed me how she was bent over and crippled with bitterness and unforgiveness. Now in God's economy that is clearly sin. This was someone I knew and liked.. and I found myself repelled by seeing this sin on her. I wondered why God has shown this to me... but decided not to discuss it with her until God discussed it more clearly with me. I am afraid I did not handle this revelation well.. I felt appalled by what I had seen on her and I avoided her the rest of the day. I guess I judged her without meaning to.
That night, during my quiet time, the Lord rebuked me and showed me that I was to intercede for her. So I spent a lot of time praying for her that night. The next day, I ended up ministering to her. She had come up about something specific that had nothing to do with addressing the bitterness she carried. I assumed this was the time to address what God had revealed to me.. but He stopped me. He told me "not now." So I dealt with the issue she came up for and did not address the bitterness during the ministry time.
I did continue to intercede for her on and off over the next month.. As it turns out, about a month after the conference, a friend of hers was praying with her. The bitterness came up.. she saw it, repented of it, addressed it and became free of it. I never did get to minister to her about it nor did I get to tell her that I had seen it on her... but God did address it in precisely the right way at precisely the right time.
The point of this story is to share that sometimes God shows us things just to have us pray about them, not to have us address them.
I would like to briefly share about receiving the first corrective word I ever received. The Lord began to speak to me and prepare my heart hours before the prophet spoke to me. He stirred my heart that I was not walking in the fullness of what He had for me.. that I had been disqualifying myself and holding myself back. I could see this as He spoke to me and I found myself praying and asking Him to change me. He was already stirring my heart towards repentance in this area that needed to be changed.
Later that day, a prophet from the east coast called me.. we had never talked to each other before, but we had been trying to touch base on something related to the prophetic-school for several days. Over the course of the conversation, the Lord gave her a word for me. She asked me if she could share it with me. I said yes.
She then, in a very natural and conversational style, shared how God had a call and a plan and a purpose on my life. She shared how every time He tried to raise me up or thrust me forth, I tended to disqualify myself. She shared that I needed to settle within myself that God had called me and I had to choose to go with Him. She said that I could not advance in God's plans and purposes for my life until I settled this matter. Then she shared some examples from her own life of similar struggles she had gone through and how God helped her to overcome them. She built all kinds of hope in me about correcting this situation and moving on with God.. that He had a call on my life and good plans for me. She ministered in such a gentle and loving way that it took me about 10 minutes to realize I was being corrected. I never once felt judged, rebuked, condemned or put down.
After she was done, I asked her if what I had received was a corrective word. (I was not sure if it was because I felt so encouraged and built up by it.. I felt God breathing His life and hope into me.) She explained that it was a corrective word, and the purpose of God's correction is to restore and breathe life and put us back into the center of where we belong.. it is never to tear us down or make us feel terrible or scare us away from God.
Then she did something that really surprised me.. she offered to walk along side of me and help me to come to victory in this area of my life. She made herself available to help me, to answer questions and to encourage me. It took me about a month to really settle this within myself and to stop disqualifying myself (e.g., to stop fighting God when He tried to use me). But even after that was settled, we stayed in relationship. We are still friends today.
You see, when God sends a prophet to correct, He usually sends that prophet to help and assist the person to get and remain in the center of God's perfect will for them. When He sends His prophet with correction, He usually sends them with love, mentoring and support and encouragement. If God sends us to prophetically rebuke someone, then we had better be prepared to walk along side of that person, to be in relationship with them, and to help them walk into the fullness of what He is calling them into.
If God sends us to prophetically rebuke, He will also send us to build and deposit into that person's life. That means we will probably have to enter into some sort of relationship with that person and to give of ourselves to them. Think about that the next time you are eager to deliver a rebuke. Understand all that goes along with the rebuke and make sure you are willing to do so, and to do so from a right heart... in love and gentleness, building and encouraging the person back into the center of God's will for them.