Attention crazy evangelists and “demon hunter” preachers. Could you do me a favor and please stop preaching your message to kids who are too young to understand? Did that sound harsh? I’m sorry, I just had an experience last night that frustrated me to no end. I’ve had all night and morning to think about it and I came to a couple of conclusions. Let me begin with a bit of the story. The names have been changed to keep me from getting into trouble.
Last night after a wonderful service featuring John Jacobs, formerly of the Power Team and now traveling with “The Next Generation Power Force,” I went into the student center with about fifty who had made decisions for Christ. We proceeded to tell them that their decision was the beginning of something awesome and gave them some ideas for steps to further their relationship with God. It was awesome. We had a widespread group full of kids, teens, and adults. Overall it was an amazing service and prayer time. The trouble started after we had dismissed everyone and our worship pastor brought a teen over to me who was struggling with nightmares and feeling like He was being tormented. My first thought was “Oh boy, this should be interesting.”
I took the boy into one of our classrooms and had him tell me the story of what he’d been experiencing and why he thought it was happening. From the beginning of his story I was frustrated. Not with him at all, but with the circumstances leading up to his struggles. He was explaining to me that some “evangelist” had come and “prophesied” over him that he was a warrior for God and spiritual warfare was taking place all around him and in his life. He then told me that that very night he began to have nightmares and feel like something was watching him and following him around. As I said, I was frustrated, but obviously I wasn’t surprised at all. I told the student that God was stronger than anything he could be afraid of and that he needs to try not to focus on what one “prophet” said and instead focus on God’s word and let it show him that he has no reason to fear. I explained that God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7) I told him that God is greater than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:4) This poor kid was 14 years old. He had been spoken over by someone claiming to be a prophet of God and all that word did was cause him fear, confusion, and a pain. Now do you see why I’m frustrated.
Here are a couple of conclusions I came to after that experience.
1. The term prophet is tossed around way too willy-nilly these days.
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13
God’s Word tells us what the purpose is for every gift the church has been given. It’s the same purpose, to edify and equip God’s people. Someone who share’s what they think God is saying to someone must come under some checks and balances. The first of which being the question “Does what I’m about to say edify and equip? Or does it confuse and cause fear?” I’ve seen too many people fearful of the things of God because of an irresponsible use of the term prophet.
If you give someone the label of prophet, immediately people hear from them as they would hear from God. Whether it’s right to put people on a pedestal or not, it happens. When someone takes a title, they must be ready to live on that pedestal. They should be willing to be taken seriously when they “speak for God.” How frightening are those three words? “Speak. For. God.” Oh man! That is a loaded phrase. It’s something that too many Pentecostal, charismatic, or just spirit filled believers take too lightly. We forget the gravity of what it means to speak for God. We lose sight of the fact that those in the Bible who were prophets often lived lives that were real life examples of the message they were giving. Some of them were even destroyed by the very people they were sent to prophecy to.
This 14 year old boy didn’t walk away from this meeting with the “prophet” feeling edified, equipped, or anything but fearful and confused. It’s sad really.
2. Spiritual warfare is real, but is not OUR fight.
9 But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels,[d] did not dare accuse the devil of blasphemy, but simply said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (This took place when Michael was arguing with the devil about Moses’ body.) Jude 1:9
The battle against evil has been won. We have the victory and authority over all of it. God’s Word tells us to RESIST the devil. (James 4:7) We’re told to put on the armor of God and to PRAY and STAND. (Ephesians 6:10-18) Rebuking is God’s job and the battle is His. We are protected by his love and grace and therefore should have no fear but why must we feel like it’s our battle to fight? As the saying goes “I’ve read the end of the book, we win.”
3. Our messages need to be age appropriate.
Some things are just too deep to share with our young ones. There is something to be said for discipleship and maturity.
14 Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong. Hebrews 5:14
There are messages that, while they may be true, (and I’m not saying the one this “prophet” said was) are too mature for some believers. Whether we’re talking about spiritual maturity or age it is wise for us to consider our crowd before we begin to speak. Whether prophet, teacher, or preacher it’s a good idea to let the Holy Spirit help us with our message but also use the common sense that God has given us. When you feel like you should share with a 14 year old boy that God wants to use him in a mighty way, maybe it would be wise to leave out the deep spiritual concepts like spiritual warfare and battles in his life. Sure, tell him to be in prayer and not give in to temptation but the terminoligy this guy used for this young man was just in poor taste in my opinion.
More than a rant.
Hopefully any readers of this will take this as more than a rant. I sure have. It’s a wake up call to me and to any other Pentecostal believers that our message has been tainted enough with the negatively fanatical demon hunters and over spiritualization of the things of God. It’s time for us to stand up and say the Holy Spirit is real and His gifts are real and appropriate for such a time as this but there is a way God has intended for these things to be used. Let’s do what His Word says and not just get carried away with the excitement of His Power.
Have you experienced fear because of someones irresponsible use of one of the Holy Spirit’s gifts?
How can we protect our students, as youth ministers, against the fear and confusion these things cause?
Discuss in the comments please.
Author: Michael Prince
Michael Prince co-authored “What’s in Your Pocket? A parent’s guide to protecting your children online.” with his wife Melinda. They have four kids and live in an RV anywhere in the USA they see the need for an internet safety expert. Michael is leading the conversation in the American Church about family online security. He and Melinda founded BecauseFamily, a ministry that exists to inspire and equip parents to be the first influence in the lives of their children, in 2013. Michael is also a geek and loves Star Wars, Doctor Who, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and strategy board games.