The self-anointed prophet.

When God makes one of his kids a prophet, he doesn’t anoint us.

Anointing, i.e. pouring oil over someone’s head to indicate leadership, is done in the bible to leaders. Not prophets. True, the LORD instructed his prophet Elijah to anoint Elisha ben Šafát, 1Ki 19.16 but that’s as his successor as leader of the בְנֵֽי־הַנְּבִיאִ֥ים/vnéi haneviím, “the sons of the prophets,” 2Ki 2.15 a prophecy guild. Elisha was already a prophet.

’Cause how God makes prophets is to simply start talking to us. Like he did with Samuel ben Elqaná when he was a kid.

1 Samuel 3.3-10 KWL
3 Samuel laid down in the LORD’s sanctuary, where God’s ark was, before God’s lamp was put out.
4 The LORD called Samuel, saying, “Look at me.”
5 Samuel ran to Eli, saying, “Look at me; you called me.”
Eli said, “I didn’t call. Go back. Lie down.” Samuel walked back and laid down.
6 The LORD called yet again: “Samuel.”
Samuel stood and walked to Eli, saying, “Look at me; you called me.”
Eli said, “I didn’t call, my son. Go back. Lie down.”
7 Samuel hadn’t yet met the LORD,
who hadn’t yet revealed the LORD’s word to him.
8 The LORD called Samuel again a third time.
Samuel stood and walked to Eli, saying, “Look at me; you called me.”
Eli realized the LORD called the boy, 9 and Eli told Samuel, “Go lie down.
If he happens to call you, say, ‘Speak, LORD: Your slave hears you.’ ”
Samuel walked back and laid down in the LORD’s room.
10 The LORD came, stood there, and did as he did before: “Samuel. Samuel.”
Samuel said, “Speak: Your slave hears you.”

There are dramatic stories in the bible of a prophet’s first God-experience—or what sounds like a prophet’s first God-experience. People like to point to when Isaiah saw the LORD in his temple, with the serafs and the burning coal and “Holy holy holy!” and all that. But that vision is recorded in Isaiah’s sixth chapter. He had five chapters of prophecy before that! And likely so did all the other prophets whose books start with profound God-experiences. I’m not knocking experiences; they’re awesome. But God doesn’t need to start with that, and usually doesn’t. More often it’s like when he first talked to Samuel.

So when someone starts referring to themselves as an anointed prophet, what we’ve got here is someone who doesn’t know how God selects prophets. Who thinks being able to hear God, automatically makes ’em some sort of leader. Following their logic, Eli should’ve just made Samuel a co-head priest, little boy or not. Jeremiah ben Hilqiyahu should’ve been made a co-regent with King Josiah ben Amon. The ability to hear God catapults you into a position of power, so back up, everyone!

Anyone can hear God. Immature Christians included.

For those churches who are into the fivefold ministry model, they certainly consider prophets to be leaders. After all, prophets can hear God and share what they heard… so maybe our churches oughta listen to what they have to say, right? And aren’t prophets equal to pastors under this model? Aren’t they listed second in Paul’s list of fivefold ministries? Ep 4.11-12 —and pastors fourth?

In my article on fivefold ministries, I’ve already stated I think the model is unbiblical rubbish. (But if you insist upon it, fine; I’ll claim the “office” of teacher, so you be quiet now and listen.) Seeing as every Christian can hear God, it means every Christian can prophesy. We may not have the knack for it; some of us are more gifted than others; it’s all part of that diversity in Christ’s body, y’know. But anyone can prophesy, and this being the case, what happens when one of these odd prophets decides they’re now equal in authority to the head pastor of their church?

To me, it sounds more like someone’s trying to stage a coup. To “usurp authority,” it’s commonly called 1Ti 2.12 —usually to discourage women from leadership, but the term rightly does apply to any prophet who imagines God anointed them to overrule their pastor.

And too often, what we see in any church with “anointed prophets” is a power struggle between them and their pastors. It might be a subtle or passive-aggressive struggle; it might be blatant and vocal and ripping the church apart. But it’s there: Pastors recognize they’re called to lead the church, self-anointed prophets think they’re called to likewise lead the church (plus they hear God), and people gotta decide who they’ll listen to more. Sometimes pastors cave. Sometimes they don’t, and drive out the prophets… and anyone who’s come under the influence of these prophets will leave right along with ’em, because “Pastor won’t listen to God”—by which they really mean the prophets.

The division they generate, should tip us off we’re dealing with rotten fruit. Namely pride.

It’s a particularly deceptive sort of pride, because it’s disguised as humility. The self-anointed prophet claims they’re just doing what God told ’em to do. Who are they to second-guess, challenge, or counter God? And for that matter, who is anyone else to push back against God? Pastors included.

But too often, self-anointed prophets confuse their message with themselves. Pushing back “against God” is really pushing back against them. Touch not the Lord’s anointed! So they resist anyone’s resistance… and that ain’t humility. We don’t force our fellow Christians to behave or obey; that’s legalism. We don’t order people to respect us and our authority; proper Christian leaders submit. We don’t try to awe the people of our churches by pointing to our Spirit-empowered superpowers, then claim they mean God endorses us: They do not. God’s spoken through donkeys before, y’know. Nu 2.28 Self-anointed prophets are proof.

How do we counter this idea?

The antidote to this type of immature prophet, is of course mature prophets, and lots of ’em. Hopefully your church has lots of people who are recognized as being able to hear God. Hopefully your pastor’s among them.

Y’see, self-anointed prophets try to demand leadership prerogatives because there’s nobody else around whom God’s granted equal prophetic ability. And there are—but in too many churches, people don’t step up and share what God told ’em. It’s not that they lack the ability: They lack the faith, or the nerve. They don’t wanna. And when crows don’t see any scarecrows standing up in the field, they’re gonna eat your corn.

So when there are many prophets in a church—and rightly, none of these other prophets demand attention, authority, obedience, or otherwise acts like a brat—there’s our defense. And our corrective, in case any self-anointed prophet tries to pull the “I speak for God, so you better heed me” stunt. They can remind this joker we’re all equal in God’s eyes, and we’re meant to be equal in the church’s eyes. And if you wanna be great in God’s kingdom, stop demanding prerogatives and start serving others. Mt 20.26

Self-anointed prophets thrive in churches where nobody else steps up to prophesy. If your church is plagued with people who won’t share what God tells ’em, you have bigger problems than self-anointed prophets.

But you can fix that problem this way: Bring in some ringers. Borrow some mature prophets from another church in your denomination. (If you’re not in a denomination, borrow prophets from a similar church.) Ask the visiting prophets to teach you about prophecy—how it really works, and how everybody can do it. ’Cause everybody can.

Yeah, it’ll make your self-anointed prophet jealous. They’ll fight it, or refuse to participate… and the rest of your church will find out this self-anointed behavior is wholly inappropriate. And who knows?—maybe your self-anointed prophet will listen, learn, and repent. Hope so.

Prophecy.