Spirit Week: Does ‘the Prophetic’ Have a Future?

What great feedback on Charismatic Chaos or (Holy) Spirited Deconstruction! I will be interacting with all of your thoughtful replies soon. And while that post outlined my affirmations of this new bacchanal of the Spirit, I still have a few caveats, which I will be airing this week. But in the spirit of filial kindness or what have you, I’ve emailed Ben and John personally in hopes of getting them to give me some feedback first. I want to hear from them in their own words – whether in the tongues of men or angels.

I know they’re probably busy, so I’m giving them a coupla more days; they can even have a guest blog if they want.

In the meantime I wanted to share with you something my friend/professor/mentor Jay Gary wrote, reflecting on the US & European pneumatic prophetic movement. In studying Strategic Foresight, I interact with future possibilities through a variety of lenses: human, ecological, technological, economic, political and – yes – spiritual futures. I’m often asked by my charismatic and Pentecostal friends how my studies relate to the revelatory spiritual gifts of prophecy, words of wisdom, knowledge, etc…

I have yet to articulate a fully satisfying response. But the good Professor Gary – scholar, consultant, and futurist extraordinaire – sheds some light. Read on!

Do You Hear Voices in Your Head? – Jay Gary

It is not normal to hear voices in your head, at least in my culture. Yet many of my friends claim to. If you confessed to ‘auditory hallucinations’ you would normally be diagnosed as borderline schizophrenia by your psychiatrist.

Among psychologists there is little agreement as to why people hear voices. Most relate the experience to our unconscious minds, which presumably aims to resolve our past troubles. Today there are dozens of support networks to help people learn to cope with their voices and the problems that may lie behind them. Not every one who hears voices is mentally ill, nor do they drown their children, like Andrea Yates.

Recently I spent two days with a growing number of true believers who aim to induce each other into ‘hearing voices.’ They are part of what Pentecostal Christians call “prophetic ministry.” They claim the practice of listening to the Holy Spirit goes back centuries to biblical prophets such as Elijah, Daniel, or even Jesus. Granted, few claim to “hear voices” in the literal sense, but they do claim to hear God through the “inner voice” of their spirit.

While receiving personal guidance has been widely practiced in Christianity, especially among Quakers or Friends through the “inner light,” the modern day prophetic claims it receives guidance far beyond personal matters. A contemporary web site, the “Elijah List” aggregates daily prophetic “words” to a subscription base of over 130,000, about matters ranging from church sloth to U.S. foreign policy crises.

Few books offer an objective view of the prophetic movement. Most are written to the choir, like Pytches and Buckingham’s 1991 account, “Some said it thundered: A personal encounter with the Kansas City prophets.” As an insider to this sub-culture, Clifford Hill has written a fairly balanced overview entitled “Prophecy past and present” (Vine, 1989).

Some boast the 21st century prophetic is part of a new breed of believer, who is spiritual charged to take back what’s been lost to a secular culture. While the warfare motif is strong across the prophetic, which some number up to 500,000 in the U.S., there is a modulating bridal dynamic at work, calling believers to recapture a new innocence with their Lord.

Few demonstrate this self-reflective, “bride of Christ” focus better than Graham Cooke. Recently I went to hear Cooke, after being prodded by a friend for nearly four years. The conference was packed wall to wall with 600 people, mostly suburban 40- and 50-somethings. Interactive Journals

Following an extended session of worship the first morning, Cooke gave a 100-minute talk. His British manner was very disarming. His conversational style and anti-institutional rhetoric was the polar opposite of a TV evangelist. In taking about upgrading one’s life, he spoke in street-language as appropriate to an Irish pub, as much to a church. I was surprised also, that unlike other prophetic superstars, he did not engage in any “called-out” prophecy to his audience, made famous by psychic medium John Edward, in a parallel world to Christian fundamentalism.

To me Cooke’s message was surprisingly refreshing–and future-oriented. He spoke about living out out of our dreams, nurtured by God’s love. He talked about “suddenlies” or encounters with life that re-orient us to who we can become, not just who we have been.

Perhaps taking a cue from Reggie McNeal’s book, The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church, Cooke labeled these as “present-future” experiences, rather than “present-past” fixations. To deal with our baggage, the Holy Spirit must speak to us from the future. The Word renews our identity, and makes way for us to inherit a larger work and service. In turn we are called to relate to our spouses or relatives as emerging, in their present-future potential, rather than present-past stereotype.

While the main sessions went from dawn to dusk, the real action was in the back room…

Continue Reading “Do You Hear Voices In Your Head?” …

This was originally posted on May 29, 2008.

11 Responses to Spirit Week: Does ‘the Prophetic’ Have a Future?

  1. Gunnar May 29, 2008 at 3:19 pm #

    To throw something else into this mix, (P.S., I love this blog, and I as well LOVE some of the questions Jay Gary throws out to us) I have been contemplating a few different ‘practices’ in the prophetic. As a whole, the charismatic movement seems pretty comfortable with prophesy as used in ‘personal words’ etc, but I have heard many, and I must admit, I am a big, desirous advocate of, throw around the phrase ‘strategic prophetic.’ At least at my end, the concept is such as the sons of Issachar in the bible, ‘who knew the times and what Israel should do.’ It seems to me to possibly be the kind of gift that combines prophetic, KNOWING the word of God, wisdom, and applying them all for the benefit of many (community) as opposed to we each have our own thing and need to go do it on our own, etc. (I do NOT mean to say we all desire, or that others desire, to shallowly do our own thing…of course God gives us personal things to desire to attain to…but it seems to me that is often mentioned in practices of the prophetic that I have seen witnessed WAY more often and given more airtime than the ‘prophet’ who has a word about the poor, oppressed, and needy, and what needs to be strategically on behalf of the heart of God for them.)
    Another question I would love to see some others comment on is not so much a questioning of the prophetic as a gift, but a disturbing tendency, which I am sure in the past I have practiced before, of looking for and heeding the words of a prophet without exercising real relationship with Jesus myself. In other words, not pressing forward with Him and letting someone else bring me magical words and me missing the whole point of what He is after: me and my life. I would bet a lot of us would have TONS less questions concerning the validity of the prophetic if we all had that one down pat, would be my guess.

  2. zoecarnate May 29, 2008 at 3:23 pm #

    Great questions and thoughts, Gunnar! Wanna join me in the Strategic Foresight Program? 🙂 You’d be able to explore such questions ’till your heart’s content, and even get a job in the field once you’re through! Which is more than you can say for seminary sometimes…

  3. natrimony May 30, 2008 at 3:17 am #

    “present-future” experiences

    Hmmm…talk of this sort reminds me of Jurgen Moltmann’s theology of hope. Relatedness out of present-future potentiality sounds suspiciously pomo. My theological spidey-sense is all a’tingle.

  4. Jason Aldridge May 30, 2008 at 4:28 am #

    Mike you ever encounter Cooke? I saw him at a conference once and had listened to his series on sonship at the same time I listened to Gene’s “Freedom from the Law” in a car ride to TACF.

    Graham has a great series of little books that are really hands on practical and fairly cheap. There’s a lot of “crafted prayer” and lectio divina in there. He had vanished from the US scene for a few years…glad to hear someone talk about him again.

    • Mike Morrell November 11, 2018 at 8:57 pm #

      Hi Jason – finally met Graham at a private gathering awhile back. Amazing brother – love his heart and ministry!

  5. cathryn thomas June 3, 2008 at 4:48 am #

    LOL… i just posted to my blog a few You Tube- on Graham… He is amazing and i love his style – i have sat under his teaching and he blesses socks off!!! And yeah…. i was at morningstar for over 9 years… and LOVE Prophetic evangelism …. when His power shows up and hearts are touched … it is amazing!!!!!!!
    Bless you… Mike.. i’ve enjoyed reading and responding today….
    Keep it up!

  6. Peter July 10, 2008 at 4:06 pm #

    This is a reply to Gunnar’s request for comments on the danger of responding to prophetic direction and information (even where this is true and real) without relating personally to Jesus in the process. Yes, Gunnar, this is a real danger, and one to watch out for! It’s the original mistake of the followers of Moses: “Let this guy hear from God for us; we don’t want to go up there ourselves–we’re too afraid”–which has been validly traced as the source of the seriously damaging two-tiered clergy/laity distinction which defies the New Testament reality of the priesthood of all of us….

    In personal practical application, the prophetic “training” we had from ‘way back strongly emphasized the CONFIRMATION aspect of prophetic information: we DO NOT get our “leadings from God” through prophetic messages, even good sound ones; these are given for encouragement and confirmation of what we in our spirit are already sensing as His direction for us. This does not mean that we never get any new information or insight or understanding through the words of the prophet; it does mean that “in the mouths of two or three witnesses shall every word be established,” and that God will faithfully confirm what He has to say to us so that we can be confident in following His word to us, free from fear as we trust Him…

    After all, the final decision process is between the believing soul and Jesus Himself; this is where our assurance comes; this is where our accountability lies; this is (in my interpretation of Kierkegaard) where the Church essentially exists anyway. I thank God for the prophetic gifts that flow freely in the assembly He has led me to belong to, but I resist the error of putting on these loving folks the responsibility for my personal communion with Jesus, the origin of my life and joy and the source of my usefulness to the rest of His Body as well…

    Peace and love in Jesus,

  7. marion September 12, 2008 at 8:41 am #

    I’ve been part of the prophetic since the 80’s -but in recent years I am convinced that we need to be speaking prophetically in ordinary words…
    so hard to explain…I don’t just mean using non-jargon or not giving long spiels beginning ”thus saith the Lord,” or ”I think the Lord is saying…”
    …but living in God and His voice speaking through us at any point about anything, to anyone…
    He doesn’t come and go and speak through us in meetings just to Christians..

    are others who have been in the prophetic for a while finding this too, and can you put words on what I am struggling to?

  8. Heather Goodman November 21, 2011 at 11:47 am #

    Wow. I have so many thoughts to say to this blog essay, and I’m not sure where to start. I’m gonna hafta take it in snippets because I have limited time to write here.

    First, I think the “prophetic” movement covers a LOT of ground. There are all sorts of different activities that this movement could describe, and some of it is truly “hearing from God” and some of it is not. So how do we navigate through all the permutations of what is occuring in the body of Christ in all this as we discuss it as a “movement?”

    I’m really into hearing voices in my head. (Actually I prefer to keep it to two voices, mine and God’s…the other voices are much less savory…) but I’ve been through 20+ years of navigating the minefield of all the stuff that is being said out there on the topic of ‘how to’ and ‘what to do’ in both the individual and corporate sense. So like I said, I’m at a bit of a loss as to where to begin to tackle this discussion!

  9. Joshua A. Humphries November 21, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    My concerns on that essay are twofold: 1. the characterization of the Quaker concept of spiritual leading and 2. an overemphasis on the future as a prophetic point.

    The first point seems to be a lack of understanding of how Quaker leadings work. A person isn’t just led on personal matters, but is also led to give vocal ministry (in unprogrammed meetings, the format of worship is an hour of silence where people minister to the group by sharing messages they feel led to speak), and guide/moderate the group’s decisions without using votes. I’ll also add that he talks about Quakerism as a thing of the past.

    The second point gets to my biggest pet peeve about “prophecy,” which is that everyone seems to see it as a forecast of what’s to come. It is the spiritually-directed leading to share a point with one or more people, period. He gets so tangled in talk about the future and the psychic-like behavior of some people that such an important point doesn’t get emphasized.

  10. Heather Goodman November 21, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

    I’m also thinking, you may want to tap Dr. Mark Chironna for a response to this. Or Lance Wallnau, or Larry Randolph. Mark in particular represents a highly intellectual arm of the prophetic movement, and the other guys are really “think-tankish” as well. Also, Arthur Burk would probably love the chance to talk about the prophetic as it relates to the business/organizational world – he does business consulting (as do some of the other guys) from a prophetic perspective. I get the impression that Jay may not be familiar with some of the breadth of this movement.


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