In an effort to affirm the prophetic movement while correcting abuses occurring within it, dozens of Christian leaders recently released a “Prophetic Standards” document. The standards, posted in full at PropheticStandards.com, come at an “opportune moment,” according to the preamble because “there are many questions in the Body concerning the gift of prophecy and the ministry of the prophet.” Many of those questions were sparked by false prophecies about President Trump’s re-election and the refusal of some prophets to apologize when that didn’t happen.
As ChurchLeaders has reported, several prominent ministry leaders did issue apologies after Joe Biden was declared the winner of last November’s presidential election. And the new Prophetic Standards emphasize that a public mea culpa is essential for maintaining integrity and accountability. The document states that if a detailed prophecy doesn’t “come to pass as prophesied, then the one who delivered the word must be willing to take full responsibility, demonstrating genuine contrition before God and people.”
Issuing an “apology and/or explanation/clarification” isn’t “meant to be a punishment,” the document notes, “but rather a mature act of love to protect the honor of the Lord, the integrity of prophetic ministry, and the faith of those to whom the word was given.”
Michael Brown: ‘How Do We Clean Up This Mess?’
Michael Brown, president of Ask Dr. Brown Ministries, and Bishop Joseph Mattera, convenor of the U.S. Coalition of Apostolic Leaders, started drafting the standards in February. Numerous other contributors helped revise and fine-tune the document, ensuring it wouldn’t “quench the spirit of prophesy,” says Mattera.
“Prophecy is perhaps the greatest gift to the whole church to build up the body, to encourage and to build faith,” Mattera adds. “Our purpose is for the gift of prophecy to flourish. And we did our best to come up with that with the input from many national leaders, including some prophetic leaders, so that the general body of Christ could have a statement to give them discernment protocols and guidelines, so that they could operate in the gift without abuse.”
The document is the result of ministry leaders asking for guidance as well as outside criticism of the prophetic movement, says Brown. “We’ve heard from many pastors saying, ‘How do we clean up this mess?’ ” he tells Religion Unplugged. “It also gives guidelines for all believers to test what they’re hearing on the internet and TV. Hopefully, if the body of Christ can be more discerning, there can be less of a market for error.”
The hope, Brown adds, is that the document serves as “a corrective to error and an encouragement to positive expression” within the Pentecostal subset of prophecy ministry.
Walking a Diplomatic Fine Line
The “Prophetic Standards” document doesn’t name specific prophets, which researcher James Beverley calls both diplomatic and risky. Beverley, who has collected hundreds of prophecies about Trump alone, says this approach “is commendable since it provides an opportunity for various prophets to improve without being named,” yet “it runs the risk of not bringing to light those prophets who bring dishonor to the Christian world through reckless statements and false prophecies.”
The group least likely to be affected by the standards, Beverley says, are the “so-called prophets who continue to venerate Trump without limit and show no regret for false prophecies and ridiculous claims about January 6, January 20 and the future of Trump.”
Although more than 300 ministry leaders have already signed the document, most of the movement’s prophets have not. “If the chief offenders have not publicly repented, why would they sign something like this?” asks Brown.
The absence of certain names speaks loudly, he adds. In an op-ed for The Christian Post, Brown writes, “We encourage believers to send the statement to prophetic ministers whom they follow, asking for their affirmation as well.”
Restoring Prophesy’s Name
Prophecy was key throughout the Bible, Brown says, but believers also are told to test prophecies to discern falsehoods. “Today, in light of the failed Trump prophecies, which received widespread media attention and which followed on the heels of the failed end-of-Covid prophecies, prophetic ministry has a bad name,” Brown says. “Let us use this unique moment in history to cultivate sound prophetic ministry” which is “a great gift to the Church” that “should neither be neglected or abused.”
Charisma Media founder Steve Strang, who signed the document, says he doubts it will appease the movement’s critics, “some of whom have made a small industry of blasting not only the gift of prophecy but all spiritual gifts and often all Pentecostal doctrine.”
Another signer, James Goll, points to two current trouble spots within the prophetic movement: a lack of “doctrinal authority” as well as a lack of accountability, especially on social media. He tells Religion Unplugged that all Spirit-filled churches end up being lumped into “one giant pot.” And in today’s digital age, almost anyone can self-promote as a prophet, and many people end up “saying too much on the wrong platform.”
The need for guidelines had been discussed before, Goll notes, and the Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders formed in 1999, but the movement still lacks a “central hierarchy.”
What Prophecy Is—And Isn’t
According to the standards, “prophets do not serve as spiritual fortune tellers or prognosticators, nor is their role to satisfy our curiosity about the future or reveal abstract information.” Instead, “God’s purpose in prophecy is redemptive, calling for repentance, giving supernatural guidance, bringing comfort, deliverance, restoration, and glorifying Jesus as Lord.”
To encourage accountability, the document urges “all believers to check the lives and fruit of [prophets] they follow online and also see if they are part of a local church body and have true accountability for their public ministries and personal lives.” And it urges “prophetic ministers posting unfiltered and untested words purportedly from the Lord to first submit those words to peer leaders for evaluation.”
Because of prophecy’s nature, the document acknowledges that evaluation sometimes can’t occur until after the words are delivered. “But in all situations,” it notes, people “claiming to speak for God should welcome the godly evaluation of their prophecies.”