Building People of Substance for Works of Power
Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.Act 20:28-30 NKJV
Being a pastor in a Spirit-filled church can be challenging. We believe in the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. We love the vitality and encouragement that an inspired word from the Lord can bring to an individual or a congregation. Unfortunately, when we open the floor for participation, we run the risk of having things said or done which are not from God. Subjectivity has its risks. God knew this and provided for it. These things are supposed to be evaluated and the false corrected, the good celebrated. That’s not always easy.
In one of our churches, a lady began to visit who claimed to be a minister. She had graduated from a bible school and seemed quite knowledgeable. Still, there was something about her that didn’t sit right in my spirit; not a “thus saith the Lord,” but just a slight uneasiness when I was around her. After a few weeks, one of our members asked me if I knew that this woman was handing out a book to some of the women in the church. She was instructing them, “Don’t tell the pastor.” Well, I didn’t know about it, but I was very interested.
I approached this lady and asked, “I understand you’re distributing a book. Can I get one?” Unsurprisingly, the answer was, “No.” She had just conveniently run out of copies and would be unable to get one for me. Another lady overheard and loaned me her copy. A quick read revealed that the author thought we were heretics and unsaved. After much prayer, I told the book lady that if she believed this author, she should leave our church. She certainly wouldn’t want to go to a church where the pastor was unsaved. In any case, she should cease giving away books immediately or I would deal with her publicly. She left, and I addressed the doctrinal issues from the pulpit to correct anyone who had been misled.
One of the prime responsibilities of church leaders is the protection of the flock, in this case through the detection of wolves. Paul warned about it in several places. Peter and John were emphatic about it, using the terms false prophets and false teachers. (2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1-3) Jesus specifically used the term “false prophets” in conjunction with the idea of wolves seeking to harm the flock. Notice:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.Mat 7:15-20 NKJV
When someone says or does something in our service that is supposed to be from the Spirit, it’s the responsibility of leadership to judge: Is it God or not? If someone prophesies over you, gives you a “word” from God, it’s up to you to judge it. My first step in evaluating prophecy or any other supernatural event, is to look at the source. I’m aware that God has used donkeys, but then the donkey was not attempting to look like a sheep. The donkey episode is an exception, not the rule. Jesus tells us to beware of false prophets who come looking sheep-like on the outside. The problem is the motive of their heart.
Combining Paul’s caution in Acts 20 with this one from Jesus, we learn two ways to recognize those who may be “wolfish” in their motivations. First, take a fruit check. How does this person’s life and ministry impact the lives of others? Do they leave behind a trail of blessing, salvation, and love? Second, what’s the motive? Do their words and actions seem to draw attention to themselves, encouraging people to follow them? These are important questions. If you don’t know the individual well enough to answer them, then be wise enough to take their prophesying with a grain of salt.
Paul said to “know them which labour among you (1 Thessalonians 5:12 KJV)” for a good reason. It’s one thing to watch some stranger on television with professional camera crews and make-up artists. It’s another to live life day-to-day with someone and know how they live. I can love and appreciate someone new to my fellowship, but it takes time to know them.
Somebody said: “As New Testament Christians, we need the operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in our churches today. We should encourage every flame of fire that comes from God, but we also should realize that there are true and false gifts.”Kenneth E. Hagin
Scripture Reading: Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.Hebrews 13:7 NIV
Here’s the Point:
The move of the Holy Spirit in our churches is a precious thing. Getting a word of encouragement from the Lord at just the right moment, witnessing or receiving a miracle of healing, these things are priceless and wonderful. Part of being good stewards of the supernatural is learning to judge, to discern, the difference between the true and the false. Part of that process is recognizing the reliability of the vessel. If you’re a pastor, be careful who you allow to prophesy or minister in your service. If you’re a believer, be aware of who is prophesying over you. God could use a donkey in a pinch, but He usually opts for chosen vessels. Know the difference.
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Try reading “Is There an Interpreter in the House?” for more on this subject.