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The problem with Bethel Redding’s Firestarters ‘prophetic activation’ class, Part 2

matchI recently attended the Firestarters adult Sunday School class at Bethel Church in Redding, Calif., and was alarmed by many of the teachings, including the teaching that people should prophesy from their imaginations. Another troubling teaching is that it’s OK for people to make mistakes when they prophesy. As one of the class leaders told the students seated at the table with me, during the discussion time, “If you’re right, you’re right. If you’re wrong, who cares?”

To illustrate his point, the leader shared a story about a time when he got it wrong, giving five prophecies to a woman. All were inaccurate. Later he asked God how that could happen and he felt that God told him, “How do you know those words were for her?” In other words, the prophetic words he received were from God, but they were intended for another person. If he would have listened a little more closely he would have known they were for the person standing behind her or perhaps for the next person to walk by.

During testimony time, a woman told the entire class about an incident that had occurred the previous week. She said she had never prophesied to a stranger before, but felt prompted to tell a man seated in a car that God wanted her to encourage him. She went up to him and said, “Is your name Dan?” It was Darryn. But no matter. “It’s pretty close!” she told the other students, clearly proud of her progress in learning to prophesy. I wonder what other names she would count as close enough.

Later in the class, a young woman volunteered to take part in a “prophetic activation” exercise, in which she and three others went to the front of the room to prophesy publicly for the first time. They were told to each pick an individual to prophesy to. When her turn came, she said God gave her two pieces of information (a.k.a. “words of knowledge”) that would identify the individual in the room He wanted her to prophesy to. He gave her the name Anthony and the date July 17.

“Does that mean anything to anybody?” she said, looking around the room. Only silence.

After a few moments, a young man spoke up, “My birthday is July 17.”

From somewhere in the room someone called out the question everyone else was thinking: “Is your name Anthony?”

“No, it’s Xavier.”

His name wasn’t even close to Anthony. Yet, undaunted, the young woman said, “Let’s take July 17,” then proceeded to prophesy to him.

When people on a ship triangulate, they have three fixed points to let them know where they are. In this case, you had only two points being used to identify a particular individual in the room. The first point was a very broad indicator (a date without a year). The second point was perhaps a more specific indicator (the name) that turned up nothing. She was plain wrong.

And there were other problems with her prophecy. For example, I estimate that there were 60-70 people in the room. This means there was at least a one-in-six chance that her word of knowledge about July 17 would be accurate, if speaking about birthdays alone. But the identifier of July 17 wasn’t even specified to be a birthday. If every person in the room listed “special dates” — birthdays, birthdays of loved ones, anniversaries, special appointments, travel plans, etc. — then the odds are increased to 1 in 1, or greater, of that date indicating something to someone.

Her prophesy was also unfalsifiable. That’s to say, you could never know if it was wrong. Maybe there was an Anthony in the room with a July 17 birthday who didn’t speak up. Maybe the words of knowledge were intended for someone else — perhaps a girl sitting in the audience who prayed, “God I really want to get married — please let this prophecy be about my future husband.” In which case, she may interpret “Anthony” as being her future husband’s name and that she was going to meet or marry him on July 17.

The bottom line is the young woman’s prophecy was wrong. And you might wonder how anyone could ever trust prophecies given by people who know they could be totally mistaken. The short answer, according to God, is you can’t. That’s what He told Moses.

But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart, “How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?” —  when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18:20-22).

See Part 1 and Part 3 of this series.


Holly Pivec is the co-author of A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement and God’s Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement. She has a master’s degree in Christian apologetics from Biola University.

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5 Responses to “The problem with Bethel Redding’s Firestarters ‘prophetic activation’ class, Part 2”

  1. Richard Moore Says:

    Another great article on how challenging Prophecy (or false prophecy) can be. Word of knowledge (a.k.a. cold readings in psychic practice) are pretty simple to do as you have so thoroughly explained. The likelihood of a date meaning something to someone is pretty high. One thing that I never have seen in the Scripture is prophecy that works like this. Where a prophet calls out a date or piece of information for people to respond to to validate his prophecy. NEVER! it was most often “Thus saith the Lord!” The content of most Prophetic utterances in the Bible were also negative. For instance the message of most Old Testament prophets was “repent” and do away with your idolatry. It’s also ingenious how you point out that this type of cold reading prophecy is “unfalsifiable.” Never thought of that before. I will use that when I encounter this type of prophecy. God bless your ministry keep it up! 
    Richard Moore

  2. Rachel Says:

    What they do in Vineyards, NAR, etc churches is so unbiblical and awful.  I have heard numerous false prophecies about either myself or people I know concerning (in no particular order):
    1) wealth
    2) marriage
    3) ministry
    4) boyfriends/girlfriends
    5) children
    6) jobs

    Oddly enough ZERO about sin or anything related to what you might find that would model a biblical prophecy pointing someone to Christ.

    It usually is something along the lines of “God is going to increase and bless you, you will be married soon, you will impact people through your dream destiny ministry, your children will know God.” 

    UM what about that person’s sin and how they are really headed straight to hell? 

    Nope never!

  3. Bob Wilson Says:

    Hi Holly,
    Bill Johnson’s response to Deut. 18:20-22 is “In the Old Testament we judged the prophet, in the New Testament we judge the prophecy.” I have observed that NAR equates their “prophets” with Old Testament prophets in all categories except accuracy. I find it interesting that Jesus commends the Ephesian believers for testing those who claim to be apostles and finding them to be false, not that they brought false teachings. 

    “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.” ESV Rev. 2:2

    Likewise, we can conclude that “Prophets”, who say “Thus saith the Lord” and their “prophecies” are not true, are themselves false prophets.
    Kevin Kleint, who provided technical expertise for Steve Schultz’s Elijah List – a publication of prophecies, has stated that Steve would never permit any negative “prophetic words” to be published. Steve’s intentions, according to Kevin, were to maximize profits through the sale of merchandise sold on the website and in emails. Make people happy and in a buying mood. Many are not aware that The Elijah List is a for-profit business. 
    Richest Blessings in Christ,

  4. Tom Says:

    Would you please do everyone a favor and invest in some kind of recording devices? It’s probably not just me, but Dear anyone can write whatever they want. I never give full credibility to what I read anymore. When I hear someone accuse another person of being a false teacher I want proof, I want to see it in that person’s own writings or hear them with my own ears. Just a thought.

  5. BMO Says:

    Have you by any chance read this book?

    Wayne Grudem: The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today

    Dr. Grudem is an evangelical theologian who brings clarity and academic rigor to the discussion.  This book answers many of the objections this article raises.  For example:
    “Paul thought of prophecy at Corinth as something different than the prophecy we see, for instance, in Revelation or in many parts of the OT.  There, a divine authority of actual words is claimed by or on behalf of the prophets.  But the prophecy we find in 1 Corinthians is more like the phenomena we saw in extra-Biblical Jewish literature: it is based on some type of supernatural “revelation,” but that revelation only gives it a kind of divine authority of general content.  The prophet could err, could misinterpret, and could be questioned or challenged at any point.  He had a minor kind of “divine” authority, but it certainly was not absolute.”
    or this one:
    “…I am asking those in the cessationist camp to give serious thought to the possibility that prophecy in ordinary New Testament churches was not equal to Scripture in authority, but was simply a very human – and sometimes partially mistaken – report of something the Holy Spirit brought to someone’s mind.”

    We certainly can disagree with Dr. Grudem (and scholars as brilliant as him do), but at the least it makes sense to be forthright and say that we are disagreeing with this interpretation of prophecy rather than attacking a woman who is trying to practice what she’s been taught.

    “I recently attended the Firestarters adult Sunday School class at Bethel Church…”

    Also, you are criticizing a group of people who are trying to learn and practice their interpretation of the New Testament gift of prophecy in an equipping environment in which it is supposed to be safe to fail.  This is like going into a pre-school and criticizing the drawing techniques of children.  This doesn’t strike me as fair or charitable.

    You clearly have an issue with the accuracy of the woman’s prophecy and stress its accuracy as a measure of its validity.  Why not clearly articulate and give examples of what you consider “right” prophecy and why movements that subscribe to interpretations like Dr. Grudem’s are wrong?

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