(This originally appeared in the Fall 1999 edition of the MCOI Journal beginning on page 4)
By Pastor Bill Randles
A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof? —Jeremiah 5:30-31 (KJV)
“I think you’ll find that the prophets are pretty nice people, by and large. I’ve come to know them and love them. We’ve invited several of them here, I think maybe five or six, that are from the Kansas City Fellowship. And then we have Paul Cain …” (John Wimber, “Unpacking Your Bags,”audio tape)
Jeremiah 23 is a polemic against false prophets, which starts out by putting the blame where it really belongs. Who does the Lord make responsible for the explosion of false prophets, initially? Not the false prophets, nor the congregations, but the Pastors! God knows that the ministries of these false prophets would be all but impossible without pastors opening up their platforms and pulpits to them.
“Woe be unto the Pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture, saith the LORD. Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:1-2)
How would these false prophets even exist without the shepherds opening up their pulpits to give them meetings? Therefore, it is the shepherds God addresses when He opens up this passage about false prophets. Pastors are supposed to feed their sheep the Word of God and protect them from wolves. The flourishing of false prophets is an indictment against us for failing to faithfully do this! The Word of God. like manna, has failed to satisfy the lust too many have for the novel and exciting! A good number of us shepherds are going to have to answer to charges that for gain, and out of greed, or fear of being left out, we have opened our flocks to the teachings and prophecies of these men who speak such great swelling words of great vanity.
The current false movements have succeeded in creating an incredible peer pressure in the ministry. The pressure is on to distinguish yours as a church which is “cutting edge,” in pace with the latest of the current religious fads. The last thing anyone would want to be accused of is being “dead” or “religious.” Thus, a good many pastors are “desperate,” but it is not the type of desperation that pushes an individual to seek God. The kind of desperation many pastors are experiencing these days is the desperation to keep up with the fast-moving trends in the religious world of today. “If we don’t open up to the Pensacola revival, the church down the road just may, and I’ll lose half of my people.” This desperation never leads one to fasting and prayer but rather to conferences and church-growth seminars. When asked about why he plunged his church into Toronto, in spite of his admitted reservations, one pastor candidly replied,
“I wasn’t sure if it was of God or not, but we were so dry, and so desperate, we couldn’t afford not to take the chance…”
Results. Truth is secondary these days, just give us some results, generate some excitement, or we will scatter in this wilderness. Hirelings are defined as those who run when the wolf comes rather than lay down their lives to protect God’s sheep. Who are the modern hirelings? The ones who know these new religious fads are unscriptural but are afraid of standing up to them, lest they lose their numbers, prestige, “anointed” reputation, and so forth. Like Aaron in the “Golden Calf’ incident, they know this is wrong; but in order not to scatter the people, they are willing to offer them something to see, feel, and experience. They don’t advocate a new God. but they inaugurate ways — of worshiping Him and “points of contact” to Him — that He, Himself, never instituted. This is called Will Worship” in the Scriptures, the worship of God on our own terms As in the “Golden Calf’ incident, they have proclaimed a “feast unto Yahweh” where there is no feast (Exodus 32:5)!
There are a lot of Aarons these days in Pentecostal and Charismatic leadership who know these movements — Toronto Blessing, Pensacola. Promise Keepers, drunkenness in the Spirit, ecumenism — are wrong, but they are afraid of losing their lives and ministries for truth, so they compromise. Besides that, it is profitable to cater to recent religious fads. When Aaron took an offering for the golden calf, it was one of the most willing offerings ever taken, for people will gladly pay for their idols.
“And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me, and all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears and brought them unto Aaron.” (Exodus 32:2-3)
The Assemblies of God are an example of this, for they condemned Toronto and the laughing revival, until they had their own version of it. What is the difference between Toronto and Pensacola? One gave birth to the other. Pensacola sprang from the Holy Trinity Brompton Church in London, England—the church which virtually “blanketed England with the Toronto Blessing and literally corned the phrase ‘Toronto Blessing.” Can both good and bad water come from the same source? … How the Assemblies of God could have shone brightly these days by holding up the truth of the Gospel! There are many independent Pentecostals who have looked up to the Assemblies because of their previous strength, experience, and holiness. I have no doubt, there are still many within the denomination who are grieved over the apostasy, but the leadership seems to have taken the “ends justify the means” approach. These new revivals are appealing because they do generate excitement!
Going back to Jeremiah 23. It is because of the hireling mentality of the shepherds, the pastors, that the people of God were affected by the prophets. And what are those effects?
Folly and Error
“And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; They… caused my people Israel to err.” (Jeremiah 23:13)
There are numerous examples of the folly and error that false prophets have brought upon God’s people. Jacob Prasch tells of the British Prophet Gerald Coates… who foretold of an earthquake in New Zealand which persuaded the leaders of a Pentecostal denomination to appear on national television to warn the nation. The national news coverage leading up to it featured churches taking survival courses on the basis of that ‘ prophetic” word. When the predicted date came and went, the Christian church was made into a national laughing-stock. A sincere, but naive Christian leader was made a fool of in his own nation, all because he allowed himself and many others to listen to a false prophet’s predictions.
“… for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land. ” (Jeremiah 23:15)
Do you know what the word “profaneness” means? To profane something means to make it into something common, nothing special at all. It is the opposite of the words ‘holy” or “sacred” which mean “special, set apart.” God’s Word is Holy — special and set apart. It is to be regarded as Holy by His people. When Christians — who have been bought with the blood of the Lamb, have received the Holy Spirit, and have been exposed to the Bible — then feel they need to go out crossing land and sea to get a “word from the Lord” (through people like the Kansas City prophets), they are profaning the Holy Word of God. The Word of God is being profaned by those who are constantly saying things like: “God is a lot more than God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Book,” or “God is a lot bigger than a doctrine,” or even, “The church is so hung up on ‘Bible study’ they don’t really know Jesus.” These are the same people who produce reams and reams of prophecies, expecting you to take those seriously! This profanity will spill out into other areas for it cannot long be contained. I believe the prophecy movement is partly responsible for a kind of “been there-done-that” attitude to the teaching and preaching of the Word of God.
They Make You Vain!
“Thus saith the LORD of Hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you; they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD. ” (Jeremiah 23:16)
The false prophets will make you vain! This is the warning of Jeremiah to those who would be enamored of these new “seers.” In biblical thought, vanity is a blight to be avoided for it means “lightness, irrelevancy, to be futile and of no consequence.”
Think about it; we live in a world that is in spiritual and moral confusion, and a good many thinking people — both saved and unsaved — are aware of this. At a time when the Christian church could be holding forth substantial answers that actually speak to the current dilemma of man, answers that are a part of our inheritance from Christ, we are, instead, being seduced into abandonment of our thinking faculties by the Rodney Howard-Browne’s of this world; who beckon us to “turn off your mind and go with the flow.”
This false prophetic movement has made us vain! It has promised renewal to countless thousands of pastors and churches, but it has, instead, tended to self-absorption. That shouldn’t surprise us when you consider the content of the bulk of these prophecies. They fall into the categories of either the “You-are-the-greatest-generation-of-the-church-ever” variety or more along the lines of an”Annanias-and-Sapphira-are-the-fate-of-those-who-dare-question-this-movement” type of utterance. After 20 years or more of this, anyone would be vain. Pastors, we are responsible for this. Why have we opened the flocks up to this? What were we looking for when we sought these ministries? We have succeeded in making our people vain, when they could be sharp, sober, and ready — able to give an answer for the hope we have in Christ — instead of being self-absorbed, drunk in the Spirit, living for the next “outpouring.”
I warned in my earlier book, Weighed and Found Wanting: Putting the Toronto Blessing in Context, that spiritual drunkenness is real, but it is not a blessing from God but rather a judgement on an unfaithful and unbelieving church! Isaiah proclaims,
“His watchmen are blind; they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, everyone for his gain, from his quarter. Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and tomorrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant. ” (Isaiah 56:10-12)
They Encourage Them That Despise The LORD
“They say unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh in the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you. ” (Jeremiah 23:17)
There is a tremendous judgement coming upon our nation for her many sins and, of course, judgement must begin in the house of God; for as Peter has rightly said, “If the righteous scarcely be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinners?” (1 Peter 4:18). Peter and the Apostles called the church to soberness, vigilance, good works, and so forth in view of the coming day of God’s judgement.
“Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God…” (2 Peter 3:11-12)
Those who “despise” the Lord are not necessarily those who “hate” the Lord for, in biblical usage, to despise is “to esteem lightly, to fail to take a person seriously.” The new prophets are dangerous, because they make the church the issue and not the Lord. Their prophecies, as I have already demonstrated, are about the coming greatness of the church — what we will do, how we will reign, our exploits (of course, “in the power of God”). The actual bodily return of Jesus is not the true goal of the new prophets in many cases; rather it is the coming glory — the “presence of God” — that has been prophesied by these in order to envelope the church in the days immediately preceding the bodily return of Jesus Instead of calling men to “… Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgement has come …” (Revelation 14:7). An indulgent church is being urged to “soak up” as much of the “anointing” as possible, to get drunk on the new wine, and to enlist themselves into Joel’s army — an army that, itself, is doomed to be judged by God (Joel 2:20)!
They encourage them who despise the Lord to carry on in a thousand-and-one ways! For example, if a man really fears the Lord, he will want to exercise discernment, to think critically, and not to just throw open his spirit to every passing religious fad. These new prophets strongly discourage this — to the point of mockery and threatenings! They have helped to foster an antagonism in the church between the ones they have seduced and those who are more cautious. The “Civil War” prophecy of Joyner, Campbell, Bob Jones and James Ryle, the sarcasm of Rodney Howard-Browne (rarely missing an opportunity to mock and castigate his detractors), the whole “us vs. them” mentality has given much encouragement to those who despise the Lord enough to relish this division.
“But if they had stood in my counsel and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings. ” (Jeremiah 23:22)
In Conclusion …
The pastors have been given the charge to feed and protect the flock of God which He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28). Therefore, the responsibility for the false prophets, in part, is laid to rest at their feet. These false prophets would not be able to operate if the people of God had been fed sound doctrine and the shepherds were willing to bark! Therefore, the chapter in Jeremiah that explicitly discusses false prophets, begins with “Woe to the pastors…” (Jeremiah 23:1). In the very face of false predictions, outrageous teachings, and glaring misuse of spiritual gifts, too many pastors insist all of that can be overlooked for the potential benefits that these false prophets offer.Ω
The staff would like to thank Pastor Bill Randles for his contribution to this issue of the Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc. Journal This article is actually a chapter out of one of Pastor Randle’s books, “Beware the New Prophets” A Caution Concerning the Modern Prophetic Movement. Bill is the pastor of Believers in Grace Fellowship Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He has a wife, Kris, and four children Bill is the author of two other books: Weighed and Found Wanting Too Light: Putting the Toranto Blessing in Context, and Making War In The Heavenlies: A Different Look.
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