Hey, that lets me off the hook, sort of. My daughter emailed me about a prophecy I had given to her. Didn’t look accurate seven months after it was shared. The ones I had given to her siblings on our family retreat did. I gave her three possibilities: 1) I was wrong. Been there before. 2) I was partially right, which is sometimes true of contemporary prophecies. We prophesy “in proportion to our faith” (Rom. 12:6), so as faith grows, so does the gift. 3) I was right, and it will be fulfilled. I told her that we hold prophecies lightly. Most are given “for encouragement, edification, and comfort” (I Cor. 14:3) rather than for direction or correction.
We don’t stone faulty prophets in the New Covenant like was expected in the Old, but we always weigh prophecies. We have truckloads of prophets around since Pentecost opened the door and “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” That means much more encouragement—and much more testing. It calls for prophetic accountability.
So who is holding today’s prophets accountable? Many who are giving dramatic predictions do not appear to be connected to a local church or under apostolic authority, at least not one that is reining them in. In our house church we weigh both prophecy and prophet. When was the last time you heard a prophet go public and acknowledge that he was wrong? Sadly, I can only remember one—Dutch Sheets. Way to go, Dutch!
Come on, seers! We won’t condemn you if you acknowledge that your record is not perfect. But we may quit listening if you don’t come straight when you clearly missed.
What about the earthquake that was going to lace Southern California (really easy to predict), the race was going to be won and wasn’t, the tsunami that was going to hit New York, or the massive economic collapse that was sure to happen. Where is the accountability? How about Elijah’s List keeping track of prophecies and help us produce some retractions. Journalism has its watchdogs. Politicians are subject to the truthometer. The Church is not looking good in this regard.
Exercising some vulnerability would help the prophetic movement. We want to see some character. We are not demanding infallibility; we are expecting integrity. Where are the church fathers? Where are the watchdogs?
Are we supposed to trust prophets when they did not come clean after a major glitch? The church was “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” I would not want my church built on the example of some modern-day prophets. I do thank God for the gift of prophecy and the benefit it brings especially to the local church. Trans-local prophecy is sometimes a fuzzier matter. The Word of God does not stutter when it speaks of natural disasters and large-scale catastrophes. If we do, let’s acknowledge it.
Revelation includes sixteen chapters of judgment. But let’s listen closely before we say that God is about to wipe out LA or San Francisco for her sin. If you do proclaim it, you had better be weeping and not hoping like Jonah that judgment comes quickly. I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I am hearing the Lord say that revival, not judgment, is imminent. Think Malachi 4:5,6! Halleluia!