Pastors vs. Prophets:
An Answer To A Frustrated Pastor
[The following article was written in response to a post on the ANZAC list from a pastor frustrated with the attitudes of prophets in his church. Pastor Philip Steppe’s original post appears at the bottom of this article. It is profitable to read his post first to get the full background behind this response.]
I was fascinated by the outpouring of heart in Philip Steppe's letter (“A Pastor Speaks Out”), and agree it was a well-written plea from a pastor's perspective concerning the prophetic role in the body of Christ. What made his plea seem especially credible and sincere was his own expressed openness and desire for "the fruit of prophetic and apostolic restoration."
Philip's plea brings into focus what I think many already recognize as a difficult divide between prophetic and pastoral ministries. We still await a healing to that divide and to see the real integration of the prophetic and pastoral natures into one cohesive unified body. To that end, I wish to submit the following observations.
These observations will not resolve the situation. Only the Spirit can do that. But the Spirit may use them to bring the issue into a greater focus and so help lead to effecting that integration.
Observation I: Cross-Directional Vision in God - the Crux of the Divide
Both the prophetic and pastoral natures represent valid streams of God's vision and heart. But the streams are cross-directional. The pastoral nature bears God's vision toward His people and toward man as a whole in the earth. The prophetic/apostolic bears the vision of the Lord from the earth toward His transcendence (ie His eternal holiness). Where the pastor looks earthward with God's heart to see "sheep without a shepherd," the prophet/apostle looks heavenward to behold "the Lord high and lifted up."
This cross-directional vision puts a strain between these two dominant spiritual natures. The pastor's heart in God is to build and preserve a certain harmonious corporate dynamic in the Lord with continual deference to human frailty. Thus the pastor's reference point is always: "What effect does this have on the present corporate harmony?" This is his standard for measuring the validity of any other ministry.
The prophet's heart is to move people from wherever they are in God to somewhere closer to the vision of the eternal throne. His reference point is the final eternal goal, not the present corporate dynamic. The prophet's burden therefore is not how well are things functioning corporately now, but what does a church or individual need to change to keep moving toward the eternal standard—without regard to corporate preservation. Proof of change toward the eternal perfect standard is the prophetic measuring stick of all other ministerial validity.
These cross-directions of vision are fully harmonious within God's own heart. But they are not within us. The best illustration for grasping this is to recognize that, when it came to creating His image through mankind, the Lord was unable to do so with a single gender.
To represent Himself creationally, the Lord had to use two genders, male and female, the sum of which He called "Man." In Himself eternally, there is "neither male nor female." But creationally, male and female was the only way to completely and adequately reflect His glory. And we experience a natural tension that exists between these genders.
As the creational Body of Christ, this same "dual genderality" exists in us spiritually. It is no better represented than in the prophetic and pastoral natures with their tension. The apostolic/prophetic represents the Fathering nature in God which calls us individually to a standard, while the pastoral represents a "Mothering" nature in God which preserves and nurtures her young.
In the Lord's eternal perfection, there is neither "prophet nor pastor" just as there is neither male nor female. And some day when we enter our perfection with Him, these offices will be "done away" as will male and female, and we will not struggle any more with this tension.
But for now we do struggle. And the first thing we must do to overcome this tension on our way to eternity is to recognize the validity of each other's nature! We must get beyond the measuring stick of our own calling and recognize spiritual legitimacy in both the prophetic and pastoral natures as they are without seeking to conform or redefine one in terms of the other.
Observation II: The Issue of Authority: Who is the Foundation of the Church?
Philip raises the issue of prophetic authority and accountability. From the pastoral point of view, prophets do not submit to spiritual authority in the church. This is a common pastoral complaint against prophets. But from the prophetic viewpoint, the exact opposite is true. Among those who bear the prophetic nature, the common complaint is that pastors do not submit to divine authority! So an exchange exists between these natures something like this:
Pastor to Prophet: "You submit to the church and the leadership that God has put over this body (ie, me)."
Prophet to Pastor: "No, you submit to God and the leadership (namely, me) He has brought you for perfecting your direction."
To the pastor, spiritual authority is represented through the leadership of a body of people. To gain authority and be recognized, one must first demonstrate submission to that leadership. One must "come up through the ranks," be recognized, then affirmed.
To the prophet, spiritual authority is represented through the power of one's independent access to the Lord's heart, and it is up to those in church leadership to recognize that inherent inner authority on its own merits and submit to it upon recognition.
Which view of spiritual authority is right? Or, which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Falling back on our man/woman analogy, we can find that both complaints are legitimate. But there is a discerning of stages here that must be perceived.
In the largest picture of the church, the greatest fault is not that prophets are not submitted to pastors, but that pastors—ie, the entire pastoral nature in the body of Christ—have never come into submission to the apostolic/prophetic nature. We know this is the greater problem simply because Scripture has declared that the apostles and prophets are to be the foundation of the church. Foundation means government, and government means authority!
This fits very well with the analogy of "spiritual gender." If the prophetic represents the Fathering/Husbandry ministry to the church, and the pastoral represents the Mothering/Wifely ministry, then clearly the prophetic is intended to govern the pastoral. For that is the creational arrangement ordained by God.
Today one can look far and wide, but there is hardly anywhere on earth where the apostolic/prophetic is functioning in government over the pastoral office. And where it is functioning in government, it is doing so only because it has agreed to re-mold itself after the pastoral image. The "Mothering prophetic" is allowed. Fathering prophetic is generally not. In reality, the church basically functions throughout the world as a "single-mother spiritual family."
Before there can ever be a marriage between the prophetic and pastoral ministries in the body of Christ, the worldwide pastoral ministry will have to come to a monumental change of heart to desire the authority of apostolic/prophetic government in the local church with its ultimate reference point of eternal vision.
Observation III: Boys Do Not Make Husbands!
But does this mean Philip's complaints about prophetic self-proclamations of authority are all off the mark? No. Not at all. For the truth is, even though the would-be "wifely" pastoral ministry has not opened itself to desire true submission to the governmental authority of the apostolic / prophetic, most prophetic ministry has proven it is not mature enough to handle marriage to the pastoral!
Although the masculine spiritual elements of the divine nature have been committed to the apostolic/prophetic, most prophetic ministry today that "proclaims its own authority" is at best adolescent! It loves the screech of the tires and the blaring of the horn and the daredevil showing off to make an impression.
Much apostolic / prophetic ministry in the deserts boasts and brags about how tough it is, and makes big threats—like teenagers do. Yet in this condition, it is in no wise fit for marriage and no woman in her right mind would ever turn her life over to such a boy! And it is from this perspective that much of what Philip complains about in the prophetic is right.
One thing boys must do if they are ever to grow into adult manhood fit to marry a woman is learn submission to their own mother. Here again is where the pastoral perspective scores a point. Yes, it is wrong for the pastoral to ultimately expect that it will only submit to the prophetic that conforms to its own nature or that comes up through its own ranks. God will have to deal with that attitude.
However, the pastoral does have the right to expect the fledgling prophetic within her own midst to show respect for her current pastoral leadership and submit to her authority until it becomes a man in its own right.
Before Jesus was old enough to court Israel independently of His mother, Mary, he learned and practiced submission to His mother. There is a strategic lesson here that the prophetic must learn if it truly wants to claim to be "following only Jesus." And there is a severe outworking God must work in the church as He chastens the adolescent prophetic into submission "to mother," but then brings the submissive prophetic out from under pastoral nurture to the place it may marry the pastoral from the same standpoint of Father-led authority that Jesus claimed for Himself.
Personally, I am convinced that, as bad as the situation is with the "single-mother" pastor-governed church paradigm, the Lord is not going to allow the eyes of the pastoral ministry to become opened to its need to marry the Father-directed prophetic until there is a prophetic ministry in the earth proven able to responsibly handle such a marriage.
Observation IV: Marriage By Appointment: The Right Man for the Right Woman
There is one other observation we should make about the ability of the Prophetic to become integrated in authority over the Pastoral. It is that just because the Lord has in principle ordained the Apostolic/Prophetic to govern the Pastoral, does not mean any prophet holds government over any pastor.
In the same way that the Lord appoints marriages between particular men and women, He also has appointed in the days ahead specific apostles and prophets to become husbands to specific churches and their pastoral leadership. In some cases these "marriages" may come into being suddenly as the eyes of both simultaneously open to one another. In most cases, one will recognize that which is to be before the other and may even proclaim it so in faith.
I remember how I told my wife three years before she believed me that I felt the Lord had called us to marry. And most everyone on the church staff at that time thought me to be presumptuous about it. But it did turn out to be true. However, before all this there were others to whom I had called out, believing each to be "the one." For whatever reasons known to the Lord, none of them turned out to be "the one."
This situation can be precariously true between the prophetic and the pastoral. No prophet should believe he has a right to automatically speak into the pastoral government of a church simply because one is a prophet—any more than any man has a right to call for obedience of any woman. Again, Philip has a point from this perspective.
But, in the tricky arena of spiritual courtship, a prophet may indeed by the Spirit’s illumination believe the Lord has destined him to provide married government for a pastorally governed church. It may not finally happen. The church may balk and call such a one presumptuous. But then again, it might happen after all! The Lord may finally prove to have appointed the marriage!
The foregoing observations I believe will play a key role in the coming alignment between the prophetic and pastoral ministries in the earth. If we can get hold of their truth, I believe it can help the mutually wounded natures of prophet and pastor to come to a healing throughout the church as we all learn to discern from which side we are approaching this relationship and at what stage of our own personal development, openness and "courtship" of the Lord we have arrived.
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A Pastor Speaks Out
----- Original Message -----
From: ANZAC Prophetic List
To: ANZAC Prophetic List
Sent: Saturday, May 25, 2002 12:35 AM
Subject: A PASTOR SPEAKS OUT
MODERATOR: Philip Steppe makes some excellent points in his letter below. Some we have looked at before on this List, but I don't think we have ever heard this viewpoint so well expressed.
A PASTOR SPEAKS OUT
- Philip Steppe
I am a non-traditional pastor of a Non-Denominational Church that is dedicated to functioning in the prophetic stream of The Spirit. I am convinced that all the gifts of The Spirit are for today, and I long to see the fruit of prophetic and apostolic restoration. The Church has attracted many of like mind who has suffered much at the various houses of God from which they came (or were chased). I am beat up, banged up, and wounded.
Over the years I have received many disciplinary stripes from God that were well deserved. My aggressive personality, coupled with lapses of stupidity or outright disobedience brought about corrective actions by My Father which in hindsight I greatly appreciate. Over the last 25 years of active ministry (I am 50); I have come to know the loving, but strict voice and hand of My Father's correction.
The wounds I refer to here are not from the Father! My most serious wounds have not been suffered directly at the hands of the enemy! The dead religious organization falsely called church has not been to blame. No, my most serious set backs have been at the hands of sincere, dedicated, zealous brothers and sisters who had heard the Lord and had to straighten out me and/or the church I pastor! An appeal to facts, Godly counsel (never sought when one has heard God), love or patience has not prevailed. We are not talking about serious accusations of immorality or heresy - but such things as differences over the church's location during the tribulation, all paid pastors being hirelings, dreams and prophecies which were factually incorrect, etc., etc.
There have been approximately a dozen individuals pass through our church whose voice, though sometimes at least partially accurate, has sounded more like the accuser than My Father. They are not all false prophets; I'm not sure any of them were truly false, at least at the beginning. The factor consistent with each of them was their superior knowledge, advanced ability to hear God, and rejection of all authority! They each came, stayed a little while - took issue with something that in leadership's opinion was not the most critical and highest priority of the moment - created a controversy - and left. Of course most had to justify their actions by telling people the reasons for their displeasure.
I know that Jezebel hates the prophetic voice, and I refuse to let her win in my life; but I can honestly say that the biggest enemy of the prophetic movement is themselves. Immature prophets (?), driven by pride, arrogance, and self-centeredness have hurt my flock. Many, if not all were probably just people who prophesy occasionally, and whose desire to serve God were inflamed with vain imaginings, and did not deserve the title of prophet. In not a single instance was their self-proclaimed authority as prophet officially recognized by our church. In most of the instances, I saw tremendous potential for the Kingdom, and wanting desperately for them to succeed gave them initially the benefit of the doubt, thereby bearing a portion of their blame.
Authority is a protection! Romans 13:1-2 says "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and those who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves." And does not Hebrews 13:17 say "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your soul as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you."
I can honestly testify that my involvement with the ones I am referring to has brought me much grief - even to the point that if I was absolutely sure of my call - I would have considered quitting. Who the demonic forces cannot seduce, or defeat by fear will often cause to flee because of discouragement. Which side wants me to quit? Should the prophets not be coming against the enemy rather than their own side? Should the prophets of Jehovah take sides with the Jezebel's false prophets?..
Did Jesus not warn of uprooting the wheat while attempting to discard tares?..
Unless one is an authority recognized by both God and The Church, our responsibility ends with a persuasive defense of what we believe to be "Truth". Individual members of the body are not at liberty to proclaim themselves as "authority", and then feel the obligation to wound the shepherds and the sheep by forcing conformity to their own standards.
Please consider the following questions:
-Who is the authority for those who believe they are prophets?
-How should the prophetic call be confirmed?
-Where does the local pastor, elders, and body fit in?
-Who recognizes people as prophets? Are they self-proclaimed?
-How are differences with "prophets" resolved? (I have been told by several prophets that prophets are not in subjection to pastors or elders. I have also found that they do not listen to other prophets unless they agree with them!)
-Why is it that in our small county of about 43,000 people we have at least a dozen full blown prophets, and not a single church pure enough for their involvement?
-Should those who say they hear God be reasonably expected to produce a track record of success?
-Should their home life and ministry experience demonstrate mature Godliness?
-Should not those who say they have a gift of healing be able to point to some who have been healed? In like manner shouldn't those who prophesy be held accountable for the accuracy of what they say?
-If they will not listen - how will they be held accountable? (When you disagree you are "Ichobod" and they invariably leave, demonstrating division rather than unity.)
-Is there not a time to suffer with the brothers when they have missed the Lord?
-Can we help pick them up if we have moved on in search of the perfect church?
-Is independence Godly, or does God want us to be (has declared us to be) inter-dependent? Is it generally God who separates believer from believer, or the enemy?
I could go on, but I am running out of space. I hope that my heart comes through in this impromptu e-mail (composed on the fly as I type). I am deeply concerned that the enemy has managed to emphasize ugliness in something God intends to use, and I pray will use as a thing of great profit for the Kingdom.
Shouldn't prophets be profitable servants? I need to see more demonstrated holiness, commitment, and faithfulness from those who want to tell everyone else what is wrong. Show me how to do better! God knows, and I know we are not doing a very good job as the representatives of Christ in the World. I include me and my ministry in that group - but sad to say those who I know who have called themselves prophets are included also. I pray that it will change!
-Pastor Philip Steppe,
New Covenant Church,
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