Through the years, I have come to believe that there is nothing more important than the Scriptures to mature the Body of Christ.
Through the years, I have come to believe that there is nothing more important than the Scriptures to mature the Body of Christ.
In Acts 13:1-2, we see that the leadership of the Antioch church regularly ministered to the Lord together with the practice of fasting. This church was so new that they did not even have apostles in their leadership, only prophets and teachers.
Ever since the dawn of the era of the church, God has exploded onto the scene of humanity with awesome displays of strategy, power and missionary expansion. There is no greater example of this in the Scriptures than in the way God expanded His Kingdom through the planting of churches in key cities. As we examine the New Testament (especially the Acts of the Apostles) we see that God is not pleased with static, status quo Christianity that lives only to maintain itself and its members.
I have been striving since the early 1980s to help the church follow in “the way of Jesus and the apostles”. That being said, one of the earmarks of the first century apostolic church is how the church edified itself in love (Ephesians 4:16) and was led by a team of leaders whose primary purpose was to equip the church to perform the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11,12). Read this second half of the article which delineates traits 5 through 11 of the personality driven church.
5-The leader draws attention to himself
Paul warned of leaders who would arise drawing disciples after themselves (Acts 20:30). This takes place even today even in spite of the fact the Apostle Paul said that in all things Christ should have the supremacy (Colossians 1:19). There are some leaders who brag so much about the great things they are doing that the people’s attention and emotions are drawn more to them than to the Lord or to the church. When a leader does this, ultimately, danger and a huge fall is not far away since God humbles the proud and exalts the humble.
6-There is no room for other leaders to develop
In personality driven churches, people with a high upside regarding their leadership capacity usually get frustrated because there is no opportunity for them to use their gifts. Especially, those in the congregation called to the five-fold ministry as found in Ephesians 4:11. In these churches, there is a culture of “serving the pastor” (to the exclusion of serving the church) and enhancing “his ministry”, more than being equipped for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12). In healthy churches, the lead pastor is constantly strategizing to develop and release people to their divine assignment in the church and marketplace.
7-The lead pastor has no accountability
Usually, a personality driven church is led by a narcissistic and or insecure leader that shies away from personal accountability. Even if they have denominational or structural accountability, it is not functional. These leaders do not want to be told what to do in their personal life or church. The very fact that they created the environment for a personality driven church lends to the fact that they have lifted themselves up in regards to self-importance, which makes it difficult for them to listen to anyone else.
8-The government of the church is autocratic and highly centralized
In personality driven churches, there is strict control over what is said, what is done, what is marketed as well as the appearance of all things. Of course, even healthy churches are careful about their communications, public persona and marketing but personality driven churches have “over the top” control in all these areas. Consequently, there is a “top down” leadership style that is autocratic, highly centralized and very structured. When dealing with the leaders and department heads of their ministries, the senior leader of this kind of church just gives direction, presents his vision, and expects everyone just to follow orders without being a vital part of the strategic process.
9- There is no room for critical thinking and creativity
Personality driven churches discourage open dialogue about the true condition of their congregation, as well as critical thinking and creativity. By critical thinking I am not referring to being critical about the church; even healthy churches should discourage the spirit of criticism in their congregation), I am referring to the ability to learn how to think logically, to analyze, and to problem solve. Thus, personality driven churches do not encourage people to be self-aware, and think for themselves. All major thinking, strategy and creativity has to emanate from the senior leader or it is not viewed as legitimate.
10-The lead pastor leads a narcissistic lifestyle
In personality driven churches, the lead pastor attempts to live a lavish lifestyle because they have a sense of entitlement that everyone owes them something because of their “greatness.” Instead of being motivated to serve and feed the flock, the primary motivation of the personality driven leader is the desire to be served. (Whether consciously or unconsciously.)This is of course in direct contradiction to the clear teachings of scripture as found in Jeremiah chapter 23; Ezekiel Ch. 34 and John chapter 10. The godly shepherd will lay down his life for the flock; the personality driven pastor will sacrifice the church for their own benefit and pleasure.
11- The church doesn’t outlive the lead pastor
In personality driven churches, the likely hood that the church survives after the lead pastor is gone is very slim. This is because the whole ministry was built upon the gifts and abilities of the lead pastor. It may have been a mega church; however, it did not have a foundation of strong secondary leaders with a pool of potential successors that can take the reins of the lead pastor role. (Which is why some mega churches do not last beyond the first generation of their founding.) Even in the case of denominational churches where they choose a replacement for the lead pastor, usually said successor does not have the charisma to keep the church moving forward, resulting in a great demise in attendance and vision. In healthy churches, there is a multi-generational vision, which perpetuates the life of the congregation, way beyond the years of the tenure of the lead pastor.
In conclusion, while there is no such thing as a perfect church on this side of heaven, my prayer is that this article will inspire churches to become healthier and pursue the way of Christ and His apostles in regards to local church culture.
To read part I of this article, click this link …
I have been striving since the early 1980s to help the church follow in “the way of Jesus and the apostles”. That being said, one of the earmarks of the first century apostolic church is how the church edified itself in love (Ephesians 4:16) and was led by a team of leaders whose primary purpose was to equip the church to perform the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11,12).
I write this article as one who has been active socially and politically; additionally, I have preached and written on the Kingdom for many years. I have seen many extremes for the cause of Christ, and I want to attempt to bring clarity regarding the role of the church in culture. Anyone who has read my material understands that I believe the church should serve as the light of the world and influence in every realm of society.
The Bible teaches us that true prophecy edifies the church and also exalts the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthian’s 12:3-7; and 14:3,4). However, where there are true prophetic gifts, there are also counterfeits and/or the wrong use of God-given gifts. For example, in the Scriptures we see that the prophet Balaam tried to use his gift for financial gain (Numbers 22:21-39). We see in this narrative of Balaam, that even though his motives weren’t godly, he still had a bona fide prophetic gift.
I have been in the body of Christ now since the late 1970’s. I came into the prophetic movement in the early eighties and started moving out prophetically, even participating in prophetic presbytery while doing itinerant prophetic ministry. Furthermore, our local church has nurtured many outstanding prophetic leaders and voices as well as hosting numerous prophetic trainings and schools. My primary motivational gift and mode of ministry is prophetic, even when it seems like I am teaching. (I rarely use notes and teach and preach as prompted by the Holy Spirit when I am ministering.)
Furthermore, I have found the prophetic gift, including inspirational preaching, teaching and prophetic words to be the most edifying of all the gifts as St Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14. However, with every true gift of God comes either a counterfeit and or an abuse. You can say that about all of the cluster gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. The prophetic gift can especially be very dangerous if left un-checked, since people think the words spoken are directly from God and will often obey them without question or the use of discernment. Based on all my years of operating in the prophetic, as well as mentoring, nurturing, overseeing and hosting many prophetic ministers, the following are ten signs of prophetic abuse and manipulation.
I write this not to discourage prophetic function, but as a guide to increase the level of discernment and true edification in the body of Christ. All sincere prophetic people should welcome these warning signs. If they are truly endeavoring to serve the Lord, they will welcome correction and or desire more discernment in the Church.
1-Prophecies are intentionally given to people of wealth
I have noticed through the years that some prophetic leaders will discern who has the most money and influence in a church or conference, and will target them for a prophetic word. The reasons are obvious; first and foremost, they know that business people desire to have a direct connection with God so they can make the right decisions in their high-risk field. Actually, all influential people feel this way because of all their responsibility. The motive of this prophetic manipulator is that they want the personal cell phone number of the wealthy person so they can develop a relationship with them outside of the church and perhaps receive personal donations. In my opinion, the motive is wrong and the prophetic person is using their gift to manipulate unsuspecting potential donors. Not that it is wrong to give wealthy people a word, it is wrong when the hidden agenda is to befriend a potential high-end donor.
2-Prophecies commissioning people to high-level leadership
Prophetic leaders sometimes give prophecies to actual or potential leaders, telling them that they are called to be an apostle, prophet or great leader. When prophetic leaders give prophecies commissioning people they don’t know, in the context of a local church or conference, it is dangerous since they may be puffing up the head of an immature recipient. These are the kind of words that should not be given unless first clearing it with the person’s overseer. It can also cause churches to split since the recipient can now claim to be an apostle and doesn’t have to submit to their pastor’s oversight anymore. What makes this prophetic abuse is the harm it creates in both the individual receiving the word and the local church where they serve. Furthermore, I suspect some prophetic people also commission people into the apostolic or prophetic because it gives them a strong link and even possibly authority over the persons to whom they give the word. By celebrating, affirming and commissioning others as apostles and prophets, many prophetic leaders and their networks have gained them as adherents. Much of the time, these kinds of relationships are short lived because it is built upon a faulty foundation.
3-Prophecies are based upon on prior knowledge
In the 1980’s, I had a visiting minister come to our local church. Before he ministered, he asked me questions about several of our members. I was shocked when he got up to minister because he started prophesying to every single person I spoke to him about. His prophecies were general exhortations that orbited around the info I provided him prior to the service. Not only that, the few people he prophesied over without having prior knowledge, we did not speak about them, he was mistaken and inaccurate. Of course, the people who received a word from him based on his conversations with me thought he was a great prophet! However, after the service, I confronted him and he apologized and said he would never do that again.
4-Prophecies are given for monetary gain
There are several well-known, so-called, prophets who charge money for giving prophetic words, you can even call them up on the phone and receive a word, for a price of course! I was told that one person charges five thousand dollars for a “life transforming word”! Although there are some biblical instances in which people gave gifts to a prophet (1 Samuel 9:7-9; 2 Kings 4:42), it was more of an act of honor, the prophet did not demand it nor did he charge a specific fee for his prophetic gift. Prophets who charge money to give words are guilty of the sin of “Simony” which is when a person uses the gifts of the Holy Spirit for monetary gain. This is something the Apostle Peter strongly corrected (Read Acts 8:20-22). Truly, whenever we think the gifts of God and or godliness is a means for financial gain, we are greatly in error (1 Tim. 6:5; Titus 1:11)!
5-Prophecies go beyond the Scriptures to teach doctrine
I remember several years ago a famous healing evangelist was saying that he was in heaven and Abraham told him who wrote the book of Hebrews and other such things that can influence one’s view of Scripture and biblical doctrines. I don’t mind if someone says they visited heaven and heard amazing things; however, when we try to make the foundation of a biblical teaching an extra biblical source, it is very dangerous. (E.G. When Bishop Carlton Pearson erroneously said the Holy Spirit told him that all people would eventually be saved which led him to preach a doctrine of “inclusion” and or universalism). Consequently, if we allow this unbiblical mystical practice, then we open a door for the enemy to put subjective revelation on the same level as scripture, which can lead people to apostasy.
The greatest level of the prophetic will always be the Scriptures, once and for all given to the saints, and any tradition, or prophetic word that claims to be equal to the bible is in great error (Read 2 Peter 1:19-21).Some charismatics are so extreme they put their spiritual experiences above the plain teaching of Scripture and or are led by prophecies when making big decisions, even without a witness in their own spirit and or without checking biblical principles before making said decision.
6-Prophecies are used to manipulate relationships
Some people will even use prophetic words to try to manipulate people into remaining close to them, serving them, or even remaining their friend. I am not referring to accurate prophetic words given to a friend, employee or church member for their edification or for the sake of the kingdom, but words given for the purpose of emotionally manipulating a person into remaining in some kind of relationship. This is an abuse of the prophetic and very manipulative
7-Prophecies are used to get people to serve the prophet
There have been some prophetic leaders who will use the example of Elisha serving Elijah as a way of getting younger leaders to serve them (1 Kings 19). Although there is truth in this principle, it can also be used to manipulate naïve young prophetic people into waiting on older more seasoned prophetic leaders. No matter who gives you a word, it should not be obeyed if it compromises the relationships and commitments you presently have, including to your spouse, family and local church, and if God doesn’t clearly confirm it. Of course, in general, God will never tell you to leave your spouse and family.
8-The prophetic leader is not accountable when mistakes are made
There have been many prophetic leaders who have declared words involving national catastrophes, events, and even predictions about the last days. After it is clear they were in error, rarely does anyone have the guts to call them out in private or in public. Any prophetic leader that lacks a working, relational, accountability structure in their life, should shut their mouth until they get apostolically aligned for personal oversight.
9- Dramatic prophecies are given to build an audience
Some leaders feel compelled to give a dramatic word every time they minister or are on T.V. This is because they depend on the dramatic to maintain their audience which also brings in their donations. I am of the opinion, we should never feel pressure to perform or to give a prophetic word unless the Lord is clearly leading us to do so. Case in point; one time, after I finished preaching and prophetically ministering in a church, the pastor announced that I was going to prophesy over every person in the service. I promptly took the microphone and corrected him and told him I was done ministering since I had no more of a leading to continue. I was never invited back to that church because I did not perform up to his standards and expectations; that is fine with me since I always endeavor to minister to an audience of ONE.
10-The prophecies draw attention to the prophet
Some prophetic words begin and end with self affirming accolades describing themselves as “the man of God sent to them” or “the prophet sent to them”, or even as “the voice of God” that they need to hear. While this may be true in a very limited sense, there is only one completely accurate voice and expression of the Father, Hebrews 1:1,2. I am usually suspicious when a person points to himself or herself when giving a word. A true word both edifies the church and exalts the Lord Jesus Christ, not the speaker (1 Corinthians 12:3; 14:1-4). Whenever any minister or believer points to himself or herself instead of to Jesus, we should be very leery of that person. Paul said follow me as I follow Christ (1 Cor. 4:16). Since Jesus was not self-promoting, then his so-called ministers involved in chronic self-elevation are not serving in the pattern of Christ.
In closing, I hope that this article can serve as a guild for prophetic ministry in the church and beyond.
As somebody who has served in executive leadership and with many senior level leaders for many decades, I have observed the following twelve hazards. By hazard I am speaking about a common proclivity all executive level leaders need to monitor, lest they stumble.
I preach in a lot of different places and have been involved in evangelism and overseeing a local church for more than three decades. I have often found that it is not the Gospel that turns people off but the people carrying the Gospel that turns them off! It is my opinion that church leadership remove as many unnecessary stumbling blocks as possible so that as many as possible can be saved.