10 SIGNS OF PROPHETIC ABUSE AND OR MANIPULATION
By Joseph Mattera
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 of 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 they are 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)!
Editor’s note: Particularly in this day of the Internet, conference calls, streaming, etc., and when more and more apostolic and prophetic ministers are functioning in their ministerial callings and offices internationally via streaming and other forms of media, rather than traditional means of physical travel to ministry venues, caution and some wisdom is needed in this regard so as not to be guilty of unbiblical condemnation and judgmentalism of genuine, God-called, and God-anointed prophets who receive freewill donations for their ministry. “Charging” monetary payment for prophetic words, per se, is unequivocally improper. However, in the case of prophetic ministers who do not receive compensation for their ministry from a church, for example, but are “ministers at-large,” who rely entirely upon the donations of the individuals to whom they legitimately minister, it is entirely proper for them to receive freewill contributions from those to whom they prophesy or counsel or minister deliverance, or otherwise minister. In defending his apostleship, Paul stated: “Do we not have a right to eat and drink?” (1 Cor. 9:4). He went on to say, “Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working (to make a living)?” (v.6). Then, he gave this dissertation regarding ministers having a spiritual right and even obligation or duty to make a living from their ministering of the Gospel of Christ, which ends with a COMMAND from the Spirit of God for legitimate ministers “to get their living from the gospel!”:
Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock? I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? So also the Lord DIRECTED (lit., COMMANDED) those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel. (1 Cor. 9:7-14)[End Editor’s note]
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 TV. 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; i.e., Jesus (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.###
[Comment by Dr. Steven Lambert posted on the original article appearing on the the author’s website:]
All this is exactly right, and, the problem is: it was and continues to be rampant in all the so-called “prophetic and apostolic organizations” who have fought and clawed their way to seize the prophetic/apostolic mountain. I personally saw with my own eyes every single one of these abuses occurring frequently in my four decades of experience with the so-called “prophetic and apostolic movements!”
What I personally witnessed horrified and sickened me, and I don’t care a hoot who and how many people think speaking out about such demonic abuses is being “negative,” and should be stifled! I guarantee that if the Apostle Paul was here living in the 20th & 21st Centuries, he would be speaking out about it; every one of his epistles consisted of and were directed toward correction of error occurring in the churches.
These disgraceful abuses brought a disgusting malignant blight upon the “prophetic movement” and the subsequent “apostolic movement” (if such terminology and view is really God-inspired at all), and is the primary reason God’s grace and anointing is not presently upon either of those emphases, but rather have been brought into disgrace and disrepute. Many discerning believers experienced and observed these precise abuses transpiring firsthand.
Those who forced and bullied their way into hijacking these moves of God and seizing dominion over them by brute fleshly force and did everything they could to mute, marginalize, and, minimize everyone they viewed as “the competition,” for their own self-aggrandizing purposes and designs, actually did more harm than good to the public perception regarding the apostolic and prophetic, to such a degree that substantive recovery going forward will be very slow and difficult.
The Word of God is clear that all of the ministry giftings and functions (offices) are for the perfecting/equipping of the saints and the spiritual edifcation of the Body of Christ, the Church, to the extent of attainment unto the spiritual stature of the very Son of God Himself!
The PRIMARY PURPOSE of the prophetic, and apostolic, and all the ministry functions and gifts of the Spirit is to EDIFY THE CHURCH, THE BODY OF CHRIST (1 Cor. 14:4,12; Eph. 4:11-16), individually and collectively, NOT to build a name for oneself, promote and proliferate a ministry or minister, to become well-known or famous, to build a church or a following, or merely developing a means of support or income for a ministry, or to sell books, CDs, and DVDs, or to achieve personal ambitions.
Both the recent prophetic and apostolic movements FAILED MISERABLY at all of this; they basically became a means of self-aggrandizement for a few at the top of the pyramid.
A “NEW and BETTER,” “IMPROVED” prophetic and apostolic RESTART is desperately needed! For which I, for one, am earnestly praying God will, in His mercy and grace, grant us a “re-do”![End of Lambert comment]
SLM highly recommends a related article, Prophetic Purpose.
Dr. Joseph Mattera has been in full-time ministry since 1980 and is currently the Presiding Bishop of Christ Covenant Coalition and Overseeing Bishop of Resurrection Church in New York, a multiethnic congregation of 40 nationalities that has successfully developed numerous leaders and holistic ministry in the New York region and beyond. This article was first published on his website at: http://josephmattera.org.
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