Prophecy & Accountability in a Social Media Age
In recent weeks I have fielded more questions about failed predictive prophecies than the last 15 years of ministry combined. Believers consistently point to three public prophecies concerning 2020 that garnered widespread consensus among many popular prophets:
- 2020 will be a year of stadiums and revival/"Stadium Christianity."
- The COVID-19 "plague" will end by Passover.
- President Trump will win reelection.
One clear reason for the unusual spike in these conversations is our social media culture. The very nature of our dynamically connected age means that these predictive words are shared far and wide, leaving many with an unavoidable sense that these are "thus saith the Lord" situations. There was also no indication in these predictions of the various ways prophetic pronouncements function in Scripture. This left the public to conclude these words must be decrees from God that guaranteed the outcomes the prophecies specified. Yet this is actually one of the least frequent functions of prophecy in Scripture.
As the epic narrative of 2020 comes to a close, we are confronted by the hard fact that these predictions have not yet been fulfilled. Not only have stadiums been closed throughout this year but churches have, too, forcing Christian gatherings online or into much smaller groups than many North American churchgoers are accustomed. Stadium gatherings have not remotely been part of the 2020 Christian landscape. As for the COVID-19 prediction, Passover passed us by eight months ago, and now a second wave has hit much of the Western world, bringing the death count from the virus to over 300,000 in the United States alone. Lastly, we need to see supernatural intervention for President Trump to be elected to a second term.
This about-face moment is causing many who follow prophetic ministries to appropriately question the overall health of the prophetic movement—especially in light of our dynamically connected context.
Are the prophets providing follow-up to predictions?
Who is holding these influencers accountable for their words?
What is the testimony we are giving the world in all of this?
These are some of the questions that I have fielded in this season.
On a positive note, I see two distinct benefits of the popularity of these 2020 prophecies. First, it has given us a unique opportunity to corporately test predictions with a simple question: did the words come to pass? I noted this in March when the Passover prediction widely circulated. Secondly, many are now eager to think more critically about how we can develop healthier prophetic culture in a social media age.
It is in this spirit that I write this article.
In what follows, I provide five steps that we who follow prophetic ministries can take to foster greater accuracy and integrity in the prophetic in our social media age.
- Comment or direct message leaders asking them to provide follow-up for their predictive words.
The challenge we face in our social media age is the unprecedented autonomy with which prophets are able to operate. The follower culture of “likes” and “shares” is vastly different than anything we see in the communal cultures of scripture. It is also unlike the accountability structures wisely mapped out in most churches and denominations. There are no elderships or bishops on social media. This authority deficit means the prophets themselves and their followers—you and me—are the only persons who can insure accountability when faced with failed prophecies. We ought to take this responsibility seriously in the fear of the Lord (cf. Prov. 27:5-6; Matt. 18:15; Lk. 17:3; Gal. 6:1).
Public predictive prophecies need public follow-up, particularly in cases when they do not come to pass. In the event that prophets do not follow-up on failed prophecies after you ask them to do so, it's important to move on to Step 2.
- Pray for these leaders. Meanwhile, consider seeking out other proven voices.
When influencers do not follow-up on failed predictions, it is a breach of character. It tells us they do not understand the significance of their responsibility to accurately bear witness to Jesus (cf. Rev. 19:10). When praying for these individuals, we can honor the Lord for the ways He has worked through them in the past and then petition the Lord for their course-correction and development. Remember, their gift is important to the kingdom and our prayers serve not only to bless their future, but the people to whom they will one day minister as well.
Should you seek out other proven voices, remember that everyone makes mistakes (cf. Deut. 18:22; 1 Cor. 13:9-12; 1 Thess. 5:20-21); look not for perfection but for leaders who admit when they're wrong.
While praying for these leaders, make sure to take Step 3.
- Give your disappointments to God, and forgive leaders who've missed it.
It's not uncommon to feel hurt, confused or angry when people you admire fail and do not confess their mistakes. When this occurs in the arena of prophecy, it can be especially challenging because our hearts are engaged at a deeper and more fundamental level. We must carefully and continually offer our hearts to God, waiting on Him to restore us and realign our thinking to truth (See 1 Pt. 5:7).
We cannot afford to walk down a road of resentment or bitterness toward leaders and neither can we allow our hearts to despise God's gift of prophecy (cf. 1 Thess. 5:19-21; Jas. 1:17). Both of these are snares of the evil one we must guard against.
As you walk out of disappointment, Step 4 is a must.
- Engage community where you can hash-out healthy spirituality because that’s where Jesus is!
Left unchecked, our disappointments can lead to disengagement--a spirituality killer. Instead of pulling back from community with God's people, make it a point to dive in. Know that God wants to restore your heart and reward your hunger with more of Himself (cf. Heb. 11:6; Lk. 11:13), including authentic experiences of the Spirit in a community context. Jesus declared a special promise of His presence for even our simplest gatherings (Matt. 18:20).
Step 5 will help you build a better future in the prophetic.
- Get in the Bible—God’s ultimate and trustworthy prophetic word to us!
Scripture is a sure prophetic word (2 Pt. 1:19-21). It gives us clear insight into the character and nature of God, exposes our error(s), realigns us to God's way and equips us for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). It never fails nor disappoints and can always be trusted. As such, it remains the primary way we know God and understand His will.
A consistent diet of Transformational Bible Reading positions us for a more pure and robust experiences with the prophetic. This comes many ways, but here are a few. First, transformational Bible reading helps us more accurately interpret and apply revelation from the Spirit--a practice that feels more and more intuitive when we are consistently interpreting and applying scripture correctly. It also separates our biases from God's ways. This develops our capacity to discern human error and falsehood (cf. Heb. 4:12); this ability to separate God's voice from that of another is crucial in the work of a healthy prophetic culture.
As we allow the Spirit of God to shape our hearts and minds through consistent scripture intake, our minds are renewed. This transformation is a work of the Spirit that helps us discern God's will more clearly (Rom. 12:2), and isn’t this our great need in handling prophetic revelation?
A FINAL WORD
The age of social media creates dynamics for prophecy and accountability that are far different than any context in Church history. These dynamics are unique to our cultural moment and require heavenly wisdom for growing a more pure and responsible prophetic culture. You and I play a critical role toward progress in this regard. The New Covenant ministry of the Spirit insures that we are all blessed as recipients of prophetic grace (Acts 2:17-18; 1 Cor. 14:31). We also share the responsibility of stewarding this grace in the fear of the Lord. So this is not a moment to disengage, but one to rise up with the Spirit of God.
May these five steps help us as we play our part in today’s Jesus-movement.
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Adam Narciso is the visionary and pioneer of Catalyst Ministries, a training and global outreach mission for the next generation. Since 2009 Adam has trained and mobilized over 40 international evangelism teams and has equipped thousands in the areas of identity, hearing God and evangelism via seminars around the world. Adam has preached the gospel in city campaigns, universities, high schools and bamboo huts in remote villages, all with supernatural effect. Communicating with humor and fresh biblical insight, Adam is a unique prophetic evangelist who equips everyday Jesus-followers to live authentic, New Testament Christianity, discovering their highest joy in the Great Commandment and their unique assignment in the Great Commission.
Adam is author of New Identity: 30 Days of Prayer for Spiritual Transformation and producer of multiple e-courses and the Jesus Movement Now Podcast. He and his wife, Jenny, have four children and reside in Franklin, TN.
Adam is ordained through Messenger Fellowship, an international community of leaders, churches and ministries committed to the glory of God.