Me Versus We: Part 5, Prophetic Words

This will be the last post in this series, and I wanted to end with a comment about prophetic words.

One of my worries in pentecostal and charismatic communities is the practice of prophecy. Specifically, in these communities people are often given (or report that they've been given) a prophetic "word from the Lord" to be shared with another person. The practice varies, but typically people approach you and say, "The Lord has given me a word that he wants me to share with you."

Now, I don't want to launch into a full scale criticism of this practice. My interests right now in this series are narrow. Specifically, my concern about getting and giving a "word from the Lord" is that these words tend to be for individuals. The Lord has a word for you, the Lord has a word for me.

Once again, the focus is on me.

But when you look at the prophetic tradition, the focus isn't on me, it's on we. Look at the books of prophecy in the Old Testament. The prophet is speaking a word to a people, a group, a community. Israel and Judah. The same goes for the New Testament when we look at the prophetic words of Jesus and John the Baptist. This is not to say that there aren't examples of prophetic words spoken to individuals in the Bible. But the vast majority of those words are from prophets to kings. Moses to Pharaoh. Samuel to Saul. Elijah to Ahab. John the Baptist to Herod. The context here is still communal as the king is misruling a people.

In short, "words from the Lord" are better suited for we rather than me. Prophecy isn't about getting specific, divine guidance for my life. Prophecy isn't a self-help tool. A "word from the Lord" shouldn't be the Christian version of a fortune cookie.

Prophecy finds its proper home in a community, in a word for us.

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