I’m going to kick this blog off with a question: If the Israelites in the Old Testament would have decided that warring and violence wasn’t the answer to their problems, and that they were going to approach their enemies with love and passive resistance, how do you think God would have responded?
This past weekend, I went to a church to see a 20-year-old prophet named Manasseh Jordan. This guy has been gaining some huge momentum in his ministry and apparently he draws some pretty big crowds. It was kinda cool that he was coming to a small church in the tiny town of Glen Carbon, IL. Now, I’ve probably already made half of you readers tense up as blogging about modern day prophets is one topic guaranteed to get people defensive and offended. Don’t worry, this is not what this blog really is about.
If you’ve never seen one of these prophets or don’t know what they’re all about, I’ll give a quick synopsis. Basically, they spend a lot of the service calling out people whom they’ve never met, and they’ll tell people things that God wants them to hear. Usually the prophecies are all positive and encouraging. For instance, if I lost my job and I was really torn up about it, and a prophet tells me, “God says to not worry. A new job is coming soon and it will be better than your old one.” This would be a good prophecy. Now, no matter what you believe about modern day prophets, if you were there, you couldn’t deny the fact that this guy was scary accurate. He was telling people things down to the tiniest detail that would have been virtually impossible for him to know otherwise.
But things got ugly for a brief moment. The prophet transitioned to a time to take the offering, but it wasn’t the typical method where ushers pass around offering plates while some bad singer performs a song off a soundtrack. The prophet had a different method that apparently, at least for one indignant man, didn’t sit well in the stomach.
Without going into too much detail, the prophet was saying things like, “God wants you to sew into this ministry by giving a seed of $1,000.” If people in the congregation raised their hand and agreed to the amount, he would typically prophecy over them. There were even a few people that he pre-emptively went over to and said, “God wants you to give $1,000 because…” and then would tell them something good.
On this particular night, the prophet said that there were 5 people in the audience that God wants them to give double; a $2,000 offering because God wanted to doubly bless them. Four people raised their hand and the prophet prayed over each of them. When the fifth person raised his hand, the prophet went over to him and that’s when things got ugly.
The man stood up, and tried to give the prophet a few (I think they were) twenty-dollar bills. The prophet said, “Put that away, I want to pray for you”.
The man shoved the bills into the inside of the prophet’s suit and said, “This is my birthday money. Take it. I’m tired of you making my father’s house a den of thieves.” And then we walked out.
Quiet gasps could be heard all over the sanctuary after the shock of what had just happened. Sure, people disagree in churches all the time, but I’ve never seen someone express their disdain in such a publically confrontational and aggressive way like this before.
After the service, conversations all over the church were buzzing with what had happened. I got to listen to several of these conversations. Not that these words were actually spoken, but it seemed like a lot of people believed the man who had the outburst was deceived or not of God. A few had looks on their faces like they thought this man was sent by the Devil himself to ruin the prophet’s ministry. Even the prophet mentioned something about the enemy hindering the work of God and how it “attracts attack.”
The man who had the outburst didn’t stick around for an interview but judging by the look on his face, I’m guessing that he thought Manasseh Jordan was a false prophet and the audience was deceived. He clearly didn’t think this prophet was of God.
This blog isn’t really about methods of taking offering, although this was a good example. This blog is about the fact that in this example, we have two sides who are convinced that their belief is of God, while the other belief is sin.
And we see these fissures all over Christianity.
Now, I don’t want to just single out Christianity, because there’s differing opinion, facts, interpretations in just about everything. Antimony is everywhere. Even in science, where some have turned it into a religion of stability and pure objective truths are failing to see its fissures.
And differing beliefs aren’t really a bad thing. But sometimes, when we defend our beliefs in the name of God, differences get defined as things like heresy, deception and sin. And yes, I fully believe that heresy, deception and sin do exist. But when two sides of a much smaller subject are calling each other heretics, and they both have scripture to back up their beliefs, is one side god-fully right and the other side sinfully wrong?
Let me explain it this way and use the example of the offering. In regards to the man who had the outburst towards the prophet, his way of expressing his objection was wrong, but I can’t help siding with him in what he believes. I just don’t feel that encouraging people to give money by telling them they’ll be blessed is appropriate and biblical. It makes people give for the wrong reasons. We, as Christians should take Christ’s example and sacrificially give because it is our duty as children of God and as ambassadors to his kingdom. I feel like I have slightly more resolve than the average person and even I was tempted to reach for my checkbook; but not because I wanted to give, but because I wanted to receive a blessing. I’m not saying that this is for everyone, but for me, I would have been doing wrong if I would have given to that prophet’s ministry. Again, one man’s conviction is not universally shared and I’m sure there were many people who legitimately felt God calling them to donate to the prophet’s ministry. But for me, it wouldn’t have been offering, it would have been gambling.
I WANT TO MAKE IT VERY CLEAR that I am, in no way, condemning anyone who gave an offering to that prophet’s ministry. You may not see it the same way I do or God legitimately told you to give an offering. Besides, God gives us all different convictions sometimes. Some people are okay with drinking beer while others are convicted when eating meat. God gives the freedom for both but sometimes he prevents these things for individuals in their own personal romance with God.
But should a prophet, who stays in Ritz-Carlton hotels and wears super expensive clothes; should he be peddling offering money in exchange for prophetic blessings? My opinion is…no way, Jose! I believe it’s wrong, wrong, wrongiddy wrong!
So is this prophet a heretic? Is he a false prophet? My opinion is…no way, Jose! Opinions that he is a heretic are wrong, wrong, wrongiddy wrong!
So is this prophet a true man of God? Does God speak through his “offering prophecies?” Will the people who received an “offering prophecy” get what they were promised? My opinion is…yes, yes, yeppity, yes!
Wait, didn’t I just say the peddling was wrong and yet God still works through it? Yes, I did. And here’s where it gets tricky.
First, we have to realize, that no one, be he a pastor, prophet, or the pope himself does his ministry to the perfect will of God. Even a prophet who hears from God as much as this guy does is not infallible. He may be a fantastic prophet, but that doesn’t necessarily make him a fantastic teacher, apostle, pastor or evangelist. This idea concerning the five-fold ministry in Ephesians 4 is to the credit of my beautiful wife, Sarah. She said, “We live in a society where we want to be everything. We can’t be everything! We just can’t be a pastor AND a prophet AND an evangelist AND an apostle AND a teacher.” Just because one is a fantastic prophet doesn’t mean he’s fantastic at everything else.
Second, we have to understand that being wrong simply does not negate us from God’s work. God is not afraid of wrong. He does not shy away from wrong. God doesn’t just stop using us whenever we get it wrong. If he did, God wouldn’t use anyone! The Bible is full of people who did really dumb things, and yet, God still worked some good in them.
The following is merely my theory; a fledgling thought that has been brewing up trouble in my head. It is un-polished, un-researched and lacks enough solid backing to be labeled “my firm opinion”. But it’s mine and it’s currently how I feel and it helps me reconcile some things. Not only does God still use us while allowing use to my bad choices, he will sometimes work through the bad choices to ultimately bring good! When the Israelites wanted a king, God advised against it. The Israelites went through some pretty hard times because of the decision, but God allowed it and eventually worked it out for his glory. That’s why when I asked the hypothetical question about the Israelites deciding not go to war with their enemies, I believe God would have honored that decision. In fact, I believe that all the violence in the Old Testament wasn’t God’s perfect plan and intent. But God still worked through his people’s bad decision.
This belief does not negate God’s sovereignty. I believe it enhances it and shows just how good God is. He allows the free will of our decisions, but he’s not going to completely deny us his goodness whenever we get it wrong. He’s too good to let our finite and wisdom-less choices affect his ultimate plan of glory. Now, in the case of the prophet, I think God would bless his ministry more should he be more humble with his finances and offering methods. But that doesn’t mean that God isn’t going to work through it, because God is working through it. God is still blessing his ministry and blessing those who give to it and teaching them some practical and radical faith.
Does this mean we can blindly believe whatever makes us feel good? Absolutely not! It is imperative that we keep praying, keep searching scriptures and keep trying to understand God so one day we can get it right. But God is an unfathomable mystery. And 2,000 years of trying to crack that mystery with our finite and limited minds, we still have only scratched the surface and we still get it wrong sometimes. God understands this! The important part is that we’re honestly seeking him and exhibiting his love as best as we can.
There are a slew of ministers out there that I completely disagree with on issues and that generally irritate me to the core. But if their heart is fixed towards reaching people for God, then they are my family, my fellow soldier in the foxhole, my co-heir in Christ. I can disagree with their methods, but I can’t demonize their souls. They are sharing in the same mission of Christ.
It has long been my conviction and my dream that denominations and differing beliefs should come together and celebrate each other. How much better would the good news of Jesus be spread if we were all united? The fissures will always exist, but we should know that God is in them and he is ultimately in control.