Policing the prophets

It’s fantastic having the prophets ministering in the Church – they bring great encouragement, hope, vision and challenge, however, if we should ever need to question words, actions or teaching from the prophets, who are they accountable to?

Who polices the prophets, and do they need policing? 

The word, ‘policing’ is a strong term and perhaps not the most useful one, but it is one that we readily and easily understand.

It is useful to ask ourselves the questions, What do we mean by policing? I think most people would interpret it in a loose way as being accountable.

The question then is not only, ‘who are the prophets accountable to?’, but, ‘who is holding the prophets accountable?’ The answer to the latter question may be a bit of a surprise.

Even in a mature, healthy and scripture-honouring ministry of a prophet, there can be the genuine desire to experience spiritual input, affirmation and approval from their peers, especially when they are not getting that approval from the leaders in the Church.

However, prophets being accountable to each other is not the best or most healthy option; if accountability is restricted to a close-knit group sharing the same core-values and vision, it may possibly result in spiritual myopia. Prophets do well to avoid such a narrow view of accountability; it’s a common malady. It is more dangerous when it affects prophets because they speak for the Lord. At times their own opinions get so mixed up with what they are hearing together that they can’t seem to sort out what is God and what isn’t.

If they are independent and have little or no spiritual oversight and input from leaders in the local Church, then the inaccurate “prophetic” words they speak can wreak havoc. Prophets should never be just given, ‘free reign’ in the Church. Everything they do, say and teach should be weighed against the Scripture and submitted to the leadership with a view to how the leadership sense the confirmation and leading of the Spirit.

Let’s be honest, the church needs prophets – men and women willing to boldly speak what God is saying both in encouragement, direction or warning. We need Jonahs to bring us to our knees, and Josephs to encourage us to prepare for hard times.

Some people’s concern can be that the domain of the prophetic seems to some times be limited to blessings, new jobs and babies. When wrong words are given, or where words hang in the air for years and nothing happens. why is nothing ever said?

In our churches we are not interested in raising or releasing prophets and prophetesses who tickle the ears of those who flock to the meetings hoping for a “word from God.” Prophets can become “Lone Rangers,” giving prophecies that never come to pass without correction. What we are looking for is prophets to speak to the church, but they must be responsible for what they say and willing to accept reproof.

With the fractured nature of the church today there is no central place where these things are judged. It’s a problem not only with the prophetic but with other issues such as immorality and divorce among leaders. Instead of holding leaders accountable, everyone looks the other way. That’s why we need accountability, and it is why accountability is precious to those who have and give it.

So then, who are prophets accountable to? They are accountable to the Church, and especially to the leadership of the Local Church who are accountable for what happens in their midst.

If a prophet says that God is healing certain conditions then leaders should not be afraid to ask the question after, ‘did God do what the prophet said God would do?’ Neither should they be reluctant to ask clarifying questions about what a prophet meant when they spoke on given situations. Sometimes the prophet knows no more than they shared, but it is OK to ask!

Who is holding the prophets accountable? All of us. Insist that prophets belong to the local Church, that they are part of the life of the Church. They are a gift to the church, but they can’t be that if they only visit twice a year. Not only do they minister to the Church but they are called to be servants first. If they want the best seat, profile, recognition, their names on posters etc., then alarm bells should be ringing!

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