Follow-up to “Pied Piper Prophets”
The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less. Jn 3:29f
One of the great difficulties for truly prophetic people is when they hear from the Lord and are called to deliver a message, if the church leadership doesn't receive the word or respond in the way that the prophet sees fit. In those moments, it can feel like the church is rejecting the word, rejecting the prophet and rejecting the Lord's will. And this may even be true.
It is especially hard when one perceives the consequences of ignoring the word. Yet every prophet eventually needs to learn how to release a word to the leadership ... I mean really release it. That is, once you've shared it, it's no longer your word. It now becomes the property of the leadership or the community. Now they are accountable to the Lord, not to the prophet, to see it through. Their obedience or disobedience is to God, not to the prophets. The prophets are not responsible for their leaders’ response--it IS for the shepherds to weigh and test. If, having weighed and tested a message, they don't act on it, that really is their call. God has given our leaders that authority and responsibility.
The negative feelings that we feel about that are natural -- in two ways: natural because it is normal but also natural because it shows that our flesh has an emotional attachment to the word. That attachment can actually sabotage the leadership's ability to receive the word because they subtly feel and must resist the control therein. That attachment will also exaggerate the urgency and the gravity of obeying the word in our minds such that we feel and communicate fleshly pressure, adding an element of threat that falls short of God’s grace.
My belief is that God will allow this to happen with every true prophet because he wants to crucify the prophetic ego. This process can hurt but is required for us to move deeper into the mysteries of God. God cannot allow his prophets to use the trump card that says, "God told me that you need to..." Even strong exhortations are best issued as heartfelt invitations rather than ultimatums that reek of control.
The bad news is that many prophets never go deeper because, once
offended, if they leave a community their ego goes with them. Leaving
communities can become an ever-increasing habit until finally, they lose their
voice altogether and become lone and lonely rangers. Now don't get me wrong: it is God's prerogative to send his prophets where he wills. But let's not project our own sense of being jilted when we are resisted into God's mouth as "we're outa here!"
The good news is that when a prophet demonstrates the ability to let go of a word, the church leadership grows in their trust. The shepherds themselves begin to learn how to submit to God's voice through the prophets... that takes time and requires great trust. But as you see it unfold, the relational investment leads to great freedom for the prophets and mutual submission in the pastor-prophet relationship. I'm seeing growth in that relationship in many churches, so I hope my readers will double-check with the Lord before moving on.
Remember, history's greatest prophetic intercessors endured rejection even to the point of martyrdom without abandoning the communities they were in. The greatest ones even followed their people into exile. In fact, the incarnation was nothing less than prophetic identification with an entire fallen species.
When you hear from God but you are not heard, know that God is for you, he believes in you, and you are his friend. Remember too that he is the Bridegroom and the Bride belongs to him. One way or another, we must decrease and he must increase… that needs to be okay with us.