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Reader Mail: ‘Is this my fault?’

e-mailI received a question from a reader who has been troubled by a popular NAR teaching. I share her question here, along with my reply, because I know other readers may be struggling with the same question.

Here’s her question.

I attended a prophetic activation workshop. After about 15 minutes we were sent out to prophesy to each other. I could not do it and felt like a failure. That is still affecting me. Is this my fault? Every one else seemed to be doing fine.

Here’s my reply.

No, it’s not your fault. Leaders in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) teach that supernatural powers, such as prophesying, can be “activated” in any person who desires them. In other words, you can learn to prophesy. The way you learn to prophesy is by attending training sessions at “prophetic activation workshops.” Or you could enroll in one of the “supernatural schools of ministry”–popularized by Bethel Church in Redding, California–that have popped up in churches throughout the United States. At these schools, people are taught to engage in exercises that are supposed to “activate” a prophetic gift in themselves–exercises that involve such practices as speaking in tongues, journaling, and visualization techniques.

The problem with this teaching is that it cannot be supported in Scripture. The apostle Paul taught that the miraculous gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12 are gifts. They’re not powers that can be activated. And they’re distributed by the Holy Spirit as he alone decides (1 Corinthians 12:11). They cannot be acquired by individuals at will. Furthermore, Paul makes it very clear that not all can have each of these gifts. He does this by asking a set of rhetorical questions: Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?”  (1 Corinthians 12:29-30). The intended answer is no.

NAR teaching on the activation of supernatural powers has more in common with New Age teachings than biblical Christianity. New Agers believe that everyone is born with supernatural abilities they can “activate” by engaging in various New Age exercises–exercises that share striking similarities with activation exercises being promoted in the NAR. This concept of activating the gifts is foreign to the New Testament. You definitely should not feel like a failure for being unable to prophesy on demand.

My reply included material excerpted from my co-authored book A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement. See this book to learn more about NAR teaching on activating supernatural powers, including responses to common NAR defenses of this teaching. Or, for a beginner’s introduction to NAR teachings, see my other co-authored book God’s Super-Apostles.

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14 Responses to “Reader Mail: ‘Is this my fault?’”

  1. Lance Wonders Says:

    I haven’t always agreed with you 100% — but this was a very good — and very important, both pastorally and theologically — critique.  God’s best to you, Holly.  Have a blessed Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.

  2. Holly Says:

    Thank you, Lance. May you also have a blessed Easter!

  3. kadri liisa Says:

    But at same time two chapters later in 1.Cor 14 this same apostle Paul encourages his readers to pursue prophetic gift. It is listed also in Rom 12:6-8 where is listed some gifts including prophetic gift. 
    I believe that everyone can make it but at same time it might take time to understand the inward messages God may give.

  4. John Says:

    Before I realised that John Paul Jackson was into all sorts of weird stuff I attended one of the prophetic workshops run by his ministry. Lots of what was presented appeared sound but a few things seemed odd, one of which was the idea of practicing prophecy. At the time I figured that if God wants to speak he will speak and if he doesn’t speak then nothing I do will help me hear him if he isn’t speaking to me.

    A lot of what people said at that event was surprisingly accurate. A lot of it was little more than nice sounding words that were pretty generic. Two people presented me with words about wild bears, which was curious given the shirt I was wearing had a bear motif on it.

    I believe in the gift of prophecy, my gifting appears to be prophetic, but there’s so much garbage out there dressed up as prophecy that it’s critical to be careful. If your gifting isn’t prophetic then you can seek the gift, you can ask for the gift, but if God doesn’t give you that gift you can’t use it. It’s sad when some ministries encourage such intense focus on one thing they can cause people to miss something else that God might have for them.

    Another problem with “prophets” in the modern church is when they expect to speak with the authority of God but don’t expect to be held accountable for mistakes. In the OT a prophet spoke with authority but if they got things wrong they were executed. In the NT we see a different approach – in 1Co 14:29 we see Paul saying that two or three prophets should speak and the others should judge. Clearly there’s the chance that a prophet might speak something that wasn’t from God. At the same time Paul doesn’t demand that the prophet whose words are judged and found to be wanting should be executed.

    It’s very easy to spout a load of fine-sounding twaddle and prefix it with “Thus saith the Lord”, especially if you’re a visiting speaker who can “prophesy” over people and never have to see them again if they act on your words and it ruins their life. It’s very different when everything is local and you can’t escape the person who was damaged by your words.

  5. Lance Wonders Says:

    Well said — so important.

  6. Arnold Smith Says:

    That was a well said answer. I would like to say I’ve been involved with the NAR movement and attended numerous prophetic conferences with these workshops. I even attended a ministry school. They teach you comtemplative prayers skills, also known as soaking, to help get your prophetic gift going. I have learned that these practices are actually eastern meditation and new age practises for seeing visions of the spirit realm. What the NAR folks have done is taken from the dark occultic practices and gave them Christian terminology. And they do work but you are not hearing from God. I have had numerous visions that I know were demonic in nature. I had to repent and get away from this.  It doesn’t come blatantly demonic as I am making it sound. It took awhile for me to discern this thing in my life. These experiences tend to get stranger the longer one practices them. While I believe in the gifts of the Spirit we sure shouldn’t be trying to CONJURE them up. The Holy Spirit will bring them forth at HIS WILL! Just as you have already stated.

    Some think a born again Christian can’t have this happen to them like I just mentioned but I tell you it can happen. God is forgiving and knows our heart. If we’ve been deceived and have our eyes opened and repent He will forgive us and get us on the right track. It sure took me awhile to get out of this as the NAR movement seems to instill a “pridefulness” in you when you listen to their teachings.

    I would like to finish with this scripture: 2 Corinthians 11:3-4:” For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him,” The applies to the NAR!


  7. Lance Wonders Says:

    I am so weary of us so quickly calling Christians whose views go astray as “false”.  Whatever happened to the word “mistaken”?  Whatever happened to treating our brothers and sisters in the way that we ourselves desire to be treated?  A person can be misled and yet, in the main, be following the “true Jesus” and embracing the true Gospel of justification by faith alone (Romans 3-5, etc.)  Confusion in understanding, so long as it is not deliberate, does not damn us: one of Jesus’ implicit points in the story of the Good Samaritan was that, though his “orthodoxy” was “off” by biblical, Jewish standards, he “got” the “essence” of God’s moral law of love, practiced it, and thereby demonstrated that he was indeed “one of the true people of God”.  This holds true for Rick Joyner, Mike Bickle, and many others rightly or wrongly labeled as “New Apsostolic Reformation” heretics.  Some are heterodox, but NOT heretical.  Jesus stands at the center in most of these peopel’s lives.  As Paul said in I Corinthians 4, “I have decided not to judge things before the proper time.”  May the Lord underscore that word for us “critics” as well: we can criticize teaqchings, but we need to be extremely careful not to pretend that we are in a position to rightly “judge” people, as to whether they truly “belong” to Christ or not.

  8. rick Says:

    Q. Is an impartation any different then a new age initiation?

  9. Byron Says:

    I used to be caught up in all of the NAR Junk myself and it took a while but I got out of it.
      Lance, Its clearly Biblical to name Names of false teachers and what they Teach.  some of those people have led innocent people astray and cast major Stumbling Blocks to some people’s faith..
    Any View that goes Astray is False…and that therein is the problem. People wanting to be Prophets have the tendency to want control over Others and don’t have accountability to what they say.
    I had to swallow my Pride when Two Friends of mine who did not Know each other warned me About Todd Bentley when He first came on the scene in Lake-land going BAM! and FIRE!
    And then shutting down Three weeks later and leaving his wife and all those So called Prophets that Made Fools of them selves endorsing Todd Bentley…Let Me say it again! I was Almost Sucked in But a couple of People NAMED NAMES!!!!!!!

  10. Lance Wonders Says:

    I’m not against what you call “naming names” — teachers should obviously take responsibility for the things that they teach, and be willing to accept criticism where and when it is deserved — but it borders on unbiblical slander if and when we over-characterize people by one or two areas of imbalance or outright error that they purvey, while ignoring their devotion to Christ, upholding generally the Word of God, etc.  I disagree with some Pentecostals on the nature and purpose of speaking in tongues — but I do not reject them because of that, I see them, per Scripture, as proper brothers and sisters in Christ.  Likewise I have “issues” with many (most!) “classic” Dispensationalists, Calvinists, and Roman Catholics over their theological “systems” — yet, if they uphold Christ and walk with Him as their Lord and Savior, I still count them as brothers and sisters in the Lord.  When James 5 warns about teachers being “judged more strictly” it is talking about placement and future function in the coming Kingdom, not primarily saying that “because of an error or falsehood, one will be cast into hell as reprobate, forfeiting their salvation because of lacking perfect orthodoxy”.  I know that anti-NAR people don’t quite say that, but it often seems to be implied in both their tone and “rejecting everything” kind of approach.  Wagner is horrendous in his commitment to Open Theism and his false understanding of modern-day “apostleship” as “foundational” (no, the ORIGINAL Apostles are!) — yet he has much good to say about missions, the gifts of the Spirit, and practical focus on unity in the Lord.  Rick Joyner is wrong in his book “The Harvest”, unless, like Robert Saucy (now deceased), the “great harvest” is attributed to the coming Millennial Kingdom AFTER our Lord’s return, rather than before it.  Etc. We ALL are saved by Christ and our trusting in Him, not by our unblemished doctrinal stances.  Name for me JUST ONE Church father or Reformer or modern-day Evangelical teacher whose orthodoxy is “perfect” —  JUST ONE!!  And if you cannot, then let’s stop putting people into “good guy” and “bad guy” camps, and just keep on sifting DOCTRINE ITSELF in accordance with Scripture.  Otherwise, we sin by wrongly dividing the Body, by trying to “cut off” many who ARE INDEED “part of our Lord’s people”, even if they need to do better homework before they teach….

  11. curt bond Says:

    There will always be false Prophets, but that doesn’t mean that there is no true one, Elijha said to God that he was the last prophet, but God told him that he had 4,000 others in reserve, that had not bowed to baal!


  12. Jeff Says:

    I experienced the very same thing while attending Fire School of Ministry. Their bad theology presumes the Spiritual gifts can be flicked on and off like a light-switch. It’s uncomfortable to know this, and then respond to someone insisting we all “prophesy” over one another. One time I just said whatever popped into my head. The other time, knowing the first time was not Biblical or accurate, I simply prayed for the person.

    People need to understand how these ministries, and their teams of intercessors, pray (prey) over the hearts and minds of all who submit to them. That’s a really powerful tool to manipulate others and keep them confused and submissive. It’s basically witchcraft.

  13. Sue B. Says:

    Although the bible says there will be many false prophets,
    it never says there will be NO prophets at all….consider 
    the many times God speaks of prophets and prophesies,
    in both the OT and the NT….He says He won’t do anything
    on the earth without first revealing it through His servants,
    the PROPHETS.  He says in the last days, after He pours out
    His Spirit, sons and daughters will PROPHESY! I believe a
    TRUE prophet will be humble and open to correction. And 
    although the bible says to seek the gift of prophesy, it doesn’t
    say to try to “learn it” from someone else…so I don’t believe
    in ministries that “teach” how to prophesy. I think
    the bible is saying to seek the GIFT which means God ALONE
    decides,and deposits the gift in the vessel HE chooses.
    A true prophet will not be afraid to have a prophesy
    judged by other prophets or those in leadership.
    A true prophet will always get the “big picture”
    right, even if the smallest details are not
    completely pin-point accurate.
    Remember the scripture that says “we prophesy in part….” and
    “we see through a glass darkly…” I believe God
    is acknowledging that even true
    prophets can miss minor details and still deliver a word from God. 
    After all, prophesy is spoken through human vessels,
    and no human being is perfect.

  14. Lynn Says:

    Matthew 7:21-23 NLT says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord! Lord! will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter, On judgement day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name. But I will reply, ‘I ever knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ ” Think about it. These are people who are deceived. They believe they are doing all these things in the name of the Lord. They seem surprised that God will not let them enter heaven. And yet God says He never knew them. This is sobering. There are MANY in this category.

    Another thought…these people do the things in the name of the Lord, but it’s not the same Lord. They have a different Jesus and an unholy spirit, but it masquerades as the real thing. How can this be? My church has some NAR influence, and I have been around some unholy things at conferences outside the church, but endorsed by them. I trusted my leaders and that made me more vulnerable and less likely to test what I heard against the Word of God. Of course, Scripture is used so you automatically think it has to right. Scripture twisting is sometimes hard to detect.

    Currently we are in a 9 month Ellel course at our church. It’s about inner healing and deliverance ministry. I’m almost certain inner healing has it’s roots in New Age if my research is right. Does anyone have any experience with Ellel?

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