My Definition of a Prophet
I was a Christian for over 30 years before I ever met “a Prophet.” I have met many who were referred to as prophets by their denomination, movement or stream, but none than struck me as the real thing. I was not one hundred per cent sure what I was looking for in a prophet, but I was ninety per cent certain that those whom I encountered were not what I was expecting from a New Testament prophet. They were always disappointingly falling short of, what to me, was the biblical criteria. I have met those who referred to themselves as prophets who struck me as too shallow in their prophetic words to be called such. What actually was I looking for?
I had been, at various points in my life, spoken to, addressed, prophesied to by “prophets” in public meetings. There pronouncements were so abstract and full of cryptic remarks that I honestly did not know whether what they said was past, present or future, irrelevant, important or vital, and most of all, I could not even discern if what they said was true or false. I was never impressed, yet I often felt intimidated to go along with the viewpoint of church leaders and denominational leaders who were extolling the prophetic virtues of these people and their prophetic gift. I kept my mouth shut, held on to my convictions, and went quietly with the flow. Perhaps, after all the studies, discussions and sermons I had trawled through about Prophets and prophecy had led me astray. Perhaps those “prophets” were the best western Christianity could come up with. Western culture makes it very difficult, I believe, for a wild dangerous, giant prophet to be raised up.
My eyes were lifted up gently, but significantly, by experiences from which I learnt an awful lot.
One church meeting that I was convening in the late seventies to early 1980’s had Suzette Hattingh as the speaker. It was a lovely spring Sunday morning. The building was full with around 400 people. For those that are not aquainted with the ministry of Ms Hattingh, I believe at that point of time she was the prayer organiser for Reinhard Bonnke’s ministry. I have never met her since the morning that I am referring to, although I would like very much to meet her again and pick her brains a little. During the early part of the service she very respectfully stepped up to me and whispered in my ear while I was leading the worship, asking me if I would give her the authority to move in the gifts of the Spirit. I answered, “Of course you may! Take the platform now!” I think she was surprised at my instant response, but I closed the singing and hastily handed her the microphone. For ten to fifteen minutes she spoke prophetically to six or seven members of the church of which church I was part of in aclosely knit ministry team. I was almost traumatised by the depth of detail and the accuracy of her statements, and how she had not only seen into the complexity and resolution of their issues, but either spoke their deliverance or prayed with them to be free, all at the same time. I knew each of the persons concerned. I can declare publicly that none of those people ministered to were ever the same again. They were healed, set free and delivered in the most glorious manner. However, Ms Hattingh never even suggested she was a prophetess. “Just a servant of the Lord doing whatever He asks me to do,” is what I heard her say. Mmmm! Thank you Suzette! At last I had seen the prophetic reality. At that time I did not know how to differentiate between prophecy as a gift of the Spirit dispersed within the body of the church, and a prophet as the gift of Christ. But I was astonished that this minister of the gospel, moving in the gifts of the Spirit spoke with more clarity, power and authority than those who were acknowledged to be one of the five fold ministries and a prophet. What was I to do with that experience. In my heart of hearts I had disparaging thoughts of the “prophets” I had hitherto met. The new benchmark was more like Jesus and the apostles – and she insisted she was not a “prophetess.”
I remember also in the late eighties being addressed in a meeting I was convening with several hundred in attendance by a man named Charles Slagle. He was (is) an American who addressed me over several minutes and recounted my past, some issues of what was at that time my present, and spoke of my future. I was utterly astounded. This was prophetic and profoundly personal. Everything he said about my past was absolutely true, and as for my future, thirty years later I can say that he was accurate in the predictive content also. Thank you Charles! He is now a Facebook friend of mine. I have never actually met him since that day, but I was incredibly, positively impacted by his prophetic message. He, like Ms Hattingh insisted that he was definitely not a prophet, but simply had stepped into a prophetic gift of the Spirit that he discovered, as I remember, whilst ministering in Mexico. It was a blessing to many, so he pursued that line of ministry. At that point of time I was even more perplexed. In a similar experience to my morning with Ms Hattingh, here was a man who claimed he was definitely not a prophet, yet was much more accurate, pointed and real than all the “prophets” I had listened to in their preaching and prophesying previously. What was I to do with this anomale?
There was another moment of my life in the year 2000 when I was prayed for by a man who I consider to be one of the greatest Bible teachers alive today. His name is Andrew Wommack. I stood in a prayer line and was set to ask him to pray for something – I forget what. He joined a group of ministers that were praying for a long line of people and came straight to me. I was the first person Andrew prayed for that day. He didn’t ask me what to pray for. He just ran off in prayer and started laughing while he prayed for a whole line of things that were, “about to happen to me.” I was taken aback. To cut the story short, everything he prayed about took place within the following three years, things that at the time I had no idea about, and had no intention of doing, together with places I had no intention of visiting. He prayed over plans to move to another country, and to move in the miraculous. There was much more to it than what I can here explain, but he simply prayed prophetically. There was no, “Thus says the Lord.” He did not prefix his prayer with, “I have a word from God for you!” He simply prayed in a laughing tone. It was so strange that I remember the entire thing so clearly. Later that year, I was preaching in Lagos Nigeria to several thousand people, just as Andrew had prayed that day. I must add that when he prayed for me I had never heard of TB Joshua, the Church of All Nations, or anything to do with Africa. Thank you Andrew! But I know that Andrew would never refer to himself as a prophet, but merely moving in the prophetic Spirit at certain moments. It changed my life’s course. Or was my life’s course already set? And in the prophetic spirit he simply, accurately, spoke into being what was ahead of me.
All this is to say that having experienced moments of high inspiration when I myself have prophesied as well as having received prophecy, the benchmark of a prophet that I saw in the Bible, examining both Old and New Testament was so far above the prophets I encountered around the UK, that is, the ones I was introduced to, that to me they beggared the title “prophet” to my mind. I am not a judgemental person by nature, but I am telling the world exactly where I was in all this.
There was all this preaching, teaching and writing about rediscovering the prophetic gift along with the restoration of the prophetic office, and sadly, I had filed it away in my memory banks as “General Evangelical Rhetoric,” and stamped the file with a stamp that said, “IRRELEVANT.”
A person moving in prophecy as a gift of the Spirit I could get hold of. In the context of the “gifts of the Spirit” I could perfectly grasp how one person could move with more authority and depth than another. It was received in the body of the church where there are those who are strong, and those who are weak who are moved upon. That I could file and process and say “Amen!” to.
However, for a person to be affirmed by his peers as “a Prophet,” I just felt compelled to suggest that there must be a bar of performance that one must climb above before a person could be labelled as such. I know there is deep, deeper and deepest in things of the spirit, but surely even the lowest performance of a prophet must strike the observer as speaking things that are divine. A true prophet, surely, would leave believers and non believers alike in no doubt that God was speaking through them. Was I being too pedantic – too black and white?
I believe there is a difference between somebody who occasionally prophecies as per, “the gift of the Spirit”, those who are prophetically inclined, and even those who are prophetically gifted, before we reach the level of prophet. I have heard the syndrome likened to a triangle with the apex at the top. At the bottom of the triangle is the level where people prophecy in the body of the church in the divine administration of what we refer to as “the gifts of the Spirit.” The broadness of the base of my triangle is also to suggest that the accuracy level is not always verified. But as we ascend the triangle, the level of inspiration increases by means of regular use of those who I would refer to as, “prophetically inclined.” This is still within the gifts of the Spirit. But then we go higher to those who are prophetically gifted and aspiring to become prophets. The level of inspiration should be deeper, and the vision and delivery is now getting sharper, more accurate and with less “waffle” in the midst of the prophetic word. Then we reach the apex of the triangle where the prophet dwells. He may have less to say when he prophesies, but it is accurate, life changing and faith building. I had never seen it, nor heard it, but that was my internal expectation level of a true New Testament prophet.
With the above concept, firmly fixed in my psyche, it seemed to me that more often than not in the west, the prophets were near the bottom of the triangle, and it was those moving in the gifts of the Spirit that had more prophetic weight that any prophet I had heard or met. I did not know how to biblically and consistently, before God, file this in my memory banks.
My mind was slowly opened as the years passed. On tapes, videos, DVD’s and Youtube, I was, and still am, impressed with the prophetic gift as exemplified in the likes of men like John Paul Jackson, Paul Cain, Bob Jones and one or two others. These men are much maligned and criticised by many. As a by the way, it always strikes me that most of the people that criticise and demonise prophets are those that do not believe in the gift of prophecy as a constituent part of New Testament truth for today, or people who do believe in the gift, but have no track record themselves. However, I wish to assert that these men, irrespective of the negatives that some label them with and the circumstances that one or two of them have encountered, all impress me very positively with the prophetic gift that they carried – and still do. The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy. I see it as something that should be the basic bread and butter of all New Testament ministry.
I have to add that, no matter how people shy away from discussing William Branham because of his obvious doctrinal aberrations, the prophetic gift that sat on him was as astonishing as any of the above mentioned characters. No matter how doctrinally poor his ministry (to my mind) was, the healing power and prophetic words that he invariably saw were phenomenal.
But why were (or “are”) these kind of men and gifts so rare? Why was it that in the UK, those men I encountered who were “prophets” were so much “less” than those who claimed not to be prophets? I was resounding very much with Leonard Ravenhill’s classic remark when he said, “We are so thankful when visiting evangelists and high profile ministers have colleagues with them that tell us how great these men are, because, if they hadn’t told us how great they are before they ministered, we definitely would not have known it afterwards.” In the same vein, if I hadn’t been told that brother or sister so and so was a prophet, I would not have known it after they had “prophesied”.
Oh dear! I was in thispredicament on the subject of prophets – until 2001. I was personally seeking a prophetic breakthrough. It is my strongly held conviction that a visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit should be the normal diet of all New Testament ministry. The gospel is something to see as well as something to hear. Healing, deliverance and prophetic pronouncements that break through bondages and strongholds in people’s lives have to be seen as the norm. They were clearly the norm in the New Testament narratives.
So I was gripped by a conviction of various strands of biblical teaching, the tangible substance of which I only glimpsed on few occasions. Where was I to go? What was I to do apart from pray to receive it myself?
Late in the year 2000 I was handed some videos (before DVD’s were invented). I watched and listened to TB Joshua the pastor of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in Lagos Nigeria. I was so astounded I remember crying as I watched and listened to the three hour film. I emailed Lagos immediately, saying I would like to meet the man himself. He responded by sending me around twenty video’s of the ministry in Nigeria, and an official letter of invite with the details and instructions of how to get there. I was warned off by many people not to go. Many of my, “carers,” in that regard were Nigerians I knew who had never ever met TB Joshua, or attended the congregation of many thousands that he had built. I conferred with a couple of ministers that I considered sound and stable, who had visited SCOAN who heartily endorsed my desire to go. I was financially divinely assisted in getting to Nigeria, and so I met TB Joshua himself. The reality was even more impacting than the video’s. Everything I had believed from scripture and yet had never fully seen in my life (nor anybody else’s) was fully embodied and manifested. I was pleasingly astonished. I confess that after attending the first service in Lagos, I cried with delight for over four days. It was a spiritual experience that was life changing. Truly. My travelling companions thought I was ill crying over meals, and even in happy discussions. I was crying with utter delight and freedom.
What did I see?
I saw out of a huge congregation of many thousands, a prayer line of around 500 or so people. In those days it was a service every Wednesday and every Sunday. Everybody asking for healing prayer is interviewed before the service starts. This takes many people several hours to plough through. The vetting starts 6-00am every church service day. Many people lie about their sicknesses or backgrounds. Muslims and witch doctors expect to be turned away, so they tell untruths and say they are Christians or give false “western sounding” names. Many Muslim leaders attend the services in western dress hoping that they won’t be detected. Witch doctors, manipulated by the spirits with which they ruin other people’s lives, come with their own lives ruined by those same spirits, having become ill, or even dying by their own demonic bed fellows. HIV people are not prayed for unless they have official letters that explain that they are HIV positive, or even full blown AIDS. The AIDS victims are interviewed on camera together with the letter that they bring. The integrity of the process is full proof.
The sicknesses are, by western standards, outrageous. Rashes that cover the whole body, weeping sores that create holes in the body to the point where bones are exposed, women with swollen breasts that are so enlarged it is frightening, were the norm. 500 people in a prayer line, and possibly a couple of hours to pray for every single person.
The smelly sickness and the painful ones are always prayed for first. By the stretching of the prophet’s hand the pain is relieved and the runny sores just begin to dry up. And I mean every single one. Some of the sicknesses are demonic manifestations and with the casting out of the demonic, health instantly returns. Young and old, male and female, black and white including everything in between, the rich and the poor, the Nigerians and the foreigners, all take their place in the line and wait for prayer made in the Holy Spirit. Whole families living under curses line up together, mothers with babies, pregnant women, childless couples, people with “moving objects” in their bodies -meaning demonic infestations of certain kinds, disappointments, poverty, blighted ambitions and repeated accidents.
In the end I “sold up” and moved there. My intention was to stay there for the rest of my life. But after two years my life took a turn and I left. I personally did not ever see anybody leave a prayer line unhealed. Some were healed quietly and undramatically. Some screamed as they were set free. Some fell unconscious as the sickness left their body. Some people vomited away the diseases, some even urinated their complaints out. But, with integrity, I can say that in my observations and study of the whole scenario, all went away content that they had met with God. I cannot say I talked with them all, but I know what I saw and overheard of others that spoke English. And then I heard TB Joshua say that he was a prophet and not a healer at all. I was astounded.
What about the teaching and the belief system that was and is taught at SCOAN? In the ten years that I have known TB Joshua I personally have found him to be utterly biblical, Christ centred and God glorifying. As a person he was humble, meek and amiable. I can assert that two years with him taught me more than the previous 30 years of teaching had done. My one to one’s with him, of which I had many, but not enough, I consider some of the highlights of my life, simply because of the revelation and biblical insight I gained from him. There are many web sites and people on YouTube who malign his character and his teaching who simply lie without ever having met him or attended the church where he ministers. People make criticism from things they have never properly enquired into.
I met three Nigerian pastors, once, in the UK who were attending a Bible Teaching conference that I also was attending. When they heard that I had attended the services at SCOAN and was quite free in my commendation of Prophet Joshua, they accosted me. They accused him of being a witch doctor and a muslim. I said that he teaches nothing but the Bible. They said he was trying to trick me. I said I had been with him for two years and found he knew the Bible very well and had no truck with Islam. Their remarks were ridiculous. They said he wasn’t a true Christian and that he preached error. I said over two years I don’t think I had ever sat under a more Christ centred, Holy Spirit energised teacher. “You must know what I say is true if you have ever sat under his ministry,” I countered. They replied that none of them wanted to hear false teaching. They said that the power he moves in was too much to be of God. I remember laughing and saying something like, “Oh! So you think the devil gives people more power than Jesus does? It sounds to me that you are the ones who are unsound!” At that point they revealed to me that because I was a white Englishman I would not know a demon if I met one, and that as Nigerians they were more experienced in the demonic. The discussion was closed when I suggested to them that they should be careful of being jealous of another man’s ministry, as well as being very cautious about defaming any man before they had met him. These pastor’s I have to say are similar in mind to many that I have met.
Justification by faith through the atoning work of Christ was explained, preached and taught repeatedly and consistently all the time I was there. Critics generally speak from a platform of ignorance.
Pastor Joshua has always insisted that he is not a healer (Jesus Christ is the only Healer), but a prophet. Some of the most heavenly moments of revelation in Lagos are when he points to a section of the congregation and says that, “There is somebody over there with an issue!” Sometimes he will call their name, or occasionally say something like, “You carry a gun in your red handbag” or a statement that shocks you with its clarity. Then he will recount a long story of things that the person had either perpetrated, or what had been perpetrated against them. He would then call them out for deliverance. I did not ever hear him deliver such a word where the person did not respond. He was spot on every single time. The intricacy of the stories that he saw in the Spirit were phenomenal, some of them almost too complex and bizarre to believe. Yet there was always somebody who came forward and said that it was absolutely true in every single detail.
At last I witnessed and experienced a prophetic gift that was startlingly accurate, and could be manifested to Christians and out and out sinners alike. There are literally thousands of people who are members of the Synagogue who came to Christ through jaw dropping prophetic words that revealed a persons life as God saw it.
I discovered that healing, deliverance and prophecy comprised the most comprehensive ministry that was representative of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and that all I saw in Lagos had already been matched and modelled by Paul, by Peter, and most significantly by the Master Himself in the New Testament.
From this I declare that I had at last, in 2000 met a man that ran with and exemplified all that I had come to believe, understand and expect from my reading of the New Testament. This man was, and still is, my personal definition of a New Testament prophet. I have met him, spoken with him, studied him and made copious notes of him.
I know him as a gentle, amiable, sociable man. He is quietly spoken and enjoys company. I was more than reciprocal when I discovered that he enjoyed my company as much as I enjoyed his. I watched him when he was deified, I watched when he was demonised. I have seen him emotional and near to tears, I have seen him angry like a lion when confronted by demonic forces.
The force, the accuracy, the anointing, and the release of his prophetic, deliverance and healing ministry is a phenomena. To my experience, studies, and deep thoughts and discussion over a period of forty plus years, I believe I have met a prophet.
But that is all my own testimony!
What about a more biblical statement of the definition of a prophet.
That’s for the next time.