Saturday, October 30, 2010

Beware Gypsy Presbyteries

“Beware gypsy presbyteries!”

It has been fifty years since the warning was prophesied to the church in that city. It was one of the larger cities of the greater Pacific Northwest region, and the prophet declaring the word was known by the church of that city, and was respected. “Beware gypsy presbyteries!” he declared.

I’ve been thinking about that word, and I’m hearing God breathing on it for my region. In fact, I believe God is re-breathing that word to the entire Pacific Northwest. He’s probably saying it to more than just our region, but I have confidence that this is the season for the Northwest to hear it. Fifty years ago, the church didn’t hear, or they didn’t understand, and there was a price that was paid for their failure, but that’s not the story I’m telling here.

But before I tell the story, I need to be clear about the position that I tell it from. I am not opposed to traveling ministries; I am not opposed to prophetic ministries. In fact, I have good friends in both camps, and I serve ministries that are in both camps. What I am about to say is not a declaration that such ministries are in error. That would be an untrue accusation. In fact, the very prophecy we’re discussing here was delivered by a traveling prophetic minister.

Think with me about that simple sentence: Beware gypsy presbyteries:

· Beware: watch out. There’s danger here. Be careful here; don’t get caught in it.
· Gypsy: in the less-politically-correct times of a half century ago, a gypsy was “a member of a people with dark skin and hair who speak Romany and who traditionally live by seasonal work and fortunetelling.” They traveled from place to place, with no roots in the places they visited, and no accountability in those places.
· Presbyteries: Bill Hamon defines a prophetic presbytery: when two or more prophets and/or prophetic ministers lay hands on and prophesy over an individual, a body, or a region, to minister a prophetic word, to identify gifts and placement in the Body or in leadership, to impart gifts and callings, or for ordaining to an office of ministry.

It’s probably worth mentioning that this a metaphor: I am not suggesting that there are either individual prophets or groups of prophets wandering from town to town performing fortune telling under the guise of prophetic ministry just to make a living. I’m sure that does occasionally happen, but again: that’s not the primary warning here.

These days, we have a large number of traveling prophets, visiting town after town, prophesying. I would expect that, like the gypsies of old, they were tempted to declare what people wanted to hear in order to generate better offerings, but again, that’s not the primary warning here.

The warning is to guard against depending on prophetic words from traveling prophetic ministries who have no root, no stake in this region. There is good that can come from visiting prophetic ministries, even from ministries that we don’t well know; the warning is against depending on those.

And this is a warning to the church; I am confident that this is a warning to the church in my region; I suggest you ask the Holy Spirit if it’s a warning to the church in your region as well. Fundamentally, this is a warning that the primary prophetic voice in our region must not be from traveling ministries. Our primary prophetic voice needs to come from the prophetic people of our own region.

Thirty years ago, there were a relatively large number of traveling evangelists. They’d come into town, hold a week or two worth of meetings, collect that many offerings, and move on to the next town. A few people came to Christ, more folks renewed forgotten vows, and some of the saints were encouraged. Sometimes.
But it was not an uncommon occurrence that the evangelist would say some things that confused some of the sheep. In my community, the departure of an evangelist would leave uncertain saints worrying about “Can a Christian really have a demon?” or “Can I really lose my salvation?” “Am I really in danger of hell after all these years?”

Pastors would talk with respect about some of the evangelists; others, they said, would “Blow in, blow up, and blow out!” and the pastors would be left to clean up the messes, soothe their worried sheep and answer their difficult and sometimes unnecessary questions.

In our generation, we have more prophets than evangelists blowing into town, declaring a prophetic sermon, prophesying with varying degrees of accuracy over several people in the audience, collecting the requisite number of offerings, and blowing on to the next town. Again, the pastors are left to clean up the messes, soothe their worried sheep and answer their difficult and sometimes unnecessary questions. These days, the questions include, “The prophet said this would happen; why isn’t it happening?” and “Why won’t the pastor recognize me in the role the prophet said I am called to?”

In other words, there are a number of pastoral problems with the church depending on traveling prophetic ministers. In order to deal with the pastoral questions, there is a temptation to reject the traveling prophetic ministry; I’m not sure that’s the right solution.

But there are also significant apostolic problems when the church depends heavily on traveling prophetic ministers, particularly when she depends on un-connected gypsy presbyteries. Some examples:

· If we don’t stand up and take responsibility for hearing what God has to say for our region, then why should we expect people who have no investment in the region to labor to hear God’s heart for our region?
· Prophetic words often don’t come to pass by themselves; we need to labor with them: fighting for the promises, fighting with the promises. Prophets who blow into town, declare a word (even a good word) and then are gone to the next town cannot labor to birth the word that’s been declared.
· If we depend on guest speakers for our prophetic declarations, then what happens when we need to hear from God and there is no guest speaker in town this weekend?
· When a church, a region, depends on others to bring the word of the Lord for them, then they have no motivation, no reason to raise up their own prophetic community. The church is justly famous for teaching on the gift of encouragement, the gift of giving and others; recently, the church has begun teaching on the gift of prophecy and how to hear God’s voice, but how often has either a congregation or the church of a region taught the people of their own region about how to walk in the difficult office of a prophet?
· If there are no prophets raised up and recognized in the region, then how will the church of the region recognize and stand up to the agenda of darkness and declare, “You shall not pass!” As a result, the region stands with weakened defenses.

If we are to be a healthy people, we need to develop a measure of strength in all of the gifts in our region. We will do well to welcome traveling prophetic ministries, but we need to develop lasting relationships with them; fortunately, in this generation, it’s very possible to build lasting, distant relationships.

I believe the Spirit of God is calling for maturity in the prophetic (in all of the gifts, really). It’s time to raise up mature prophetic communities in our region, communities that have the maturity to declare the word of God to our region, both to the church and to the “secular” community, communities that are self-replicating, raising up their replacements, communities that can discern and judge the declarations of the gypsy presbyteries.

From Northwest Prophetic.


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