Surprised When “Doctrine” Isn’t Enough

surpBeing a life-long (now semi-lapsed) charismatic believer, I have seen a lot of things: some wonderful; some horrid. Many years ago I was imprinted by a powerful lesson about kingdom life beyond the boundaries of doctrinal understanding.

When I was pastoring in a traditional setting, someone came highly recommended to me as a “prophet.” Well, even in those days, I had already seen and experienced enough garbage to be wary, but based on the trust I had for the person making the recommendation, I took a chance and invited the brother to minister at the local assembly.

I was delighted.

The brother was the proverbial real-deal, a blessing: a staggering level of love-saturated, objective, non-manipulative, non-hyped, non-generic, accurate ministry in personal prophecy and the laying on of hands. Yes, the Gnostic, phony-baloney, controlling, witchcraft, new-age, and personality-cult stuff is out there in abundance and should be avoided like a bad case of the shingles. However,  just because there are rotten apples in the apple barrel, doesn’t mean I swear off eating apples.

When the gift (any gift) is the real deal, it’s the real deal! It is just a shame that the real deal can be so rare, but then, that is the definition of treasure, isn’t it? We are going to have to shovel a lot of dirt to find it. A treasure buried in a pile of manure is still a treasure–just got to get past the manure. If we have no appetite for shoveling s______t, it is unlikely we will ever experience the treasure. (Proverbs 14:4).

Well, he comes to my wife and lays hands on her. He had been flowing along quite effortlessly up to that point, and then he stopped. I could see he was struggling, trying to process something. Then he says something like this:

“Well, I have a dilemma. The Spirit of the Lord is telling me to prophesy something to you that I do not believe is biblically accurate. I don’t believe in what I am about to prophesy.”

You see, in this brother’s “theological construct,” women in leadership or “governmental” ministry was forbidden. Yet he couldn’t deny what the Spirit was telling him about Rita. He then proceeded to prophesy a spot-on, accurate, word about my wife’s gifts and callings as a leader in the ekklesia.

Well, my respect for him, which was already pretty good based on the little I had seen,  shot through the roof. I don’t know if I had ever seen such a high level of “prophetic integrity” in operation, in this sense: He submitted his mind, intellectual constructs, and understandings of “the Bible,” to the administration of the Spirit. The Spirit of the Lord IS the Spirit who is Lord OF, and OVER the Bible.  Not in contradiction to the Bible, but bigger than my understanding of the Bible!

This is the way it is supposed to be. God has the right to be bigger than my understanding of Him at any particular moment in time. I have found Him to be precisely so, my entire life. My mind can be used to engage God and His ways, but my mind is not my God. The difference is subtle, and important. If, in our pursuit of “truth,” there is no allowance for God to function outside of our mental understanding of Him, we have a very small God.

This is an example of stepping outside the limitations of one’s own understanding of what one thinks one understands, “from the Bible.” God is not subordinate to my mind. My mind submits to His Word, and His Spirit.


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15 comments on “Surprised When “Doctrine” Isn’t Enough

  1. Wow, Stephen. As an ex-Charismatic who has had more than his fill of crazy stuff, I simply would have refused to believe this story if someone told me on hearsay. The fact that you are sharing it really bugs me, for then I have to accept that it’s true (That’s a compliment, btw!). I say “bug” because I’ve had a blissful ecclesiastical and ministerial experience since turning my back on all of that stuff, and I frankly do not want to believe any of it. It’s simpler, you see. Much, much simpler. But I guess God has agents like you in the field to keep hardened cynics like me from becoming completely fossilized. Bless you, brother, and keep up the good work.

    • Thanks Tobie, trust me, I am sympathetic, brother . . . I am so done with the gnostic BS from my tribe . . . but, then the Lord comes along and drops a diamond in the toilet bowl . . . and it challenges me. I readily admit, the good stuff is rare . . .

      thank you for such a candid self-assessment, that too is a great thing, and gives hope to all of us battle scarred and generally disilluioned ex-charismatics.

  2. Good post, Steve! Our doctrinal understanding of the Bible and the way God works most of the time needs to be left open to the possibility that we could bewrong. I am reminded of several examples of when God’s Spirit moved historically. Most of the time, when God really moves, our doctrinal biases come in conflict with what he is doing and speaking. It usually isn’t neat and orderly, and able to fit into our box.

    I also, like Tobie and yourself, am an ex-charismatic. I totally understand. I do keep my heart and spirit open to the gems of real, authentic miracles and gifts. Stories like this are a great encouragement to me as well.

  3. Thank you for the article and I second Tobie’s remark ” to keep hardened cynics like me from becoming completely fossilized.” Due to enormous amount of s–t that was shoveled I decided the safest thing was to avoid this like a plague. All of it, and trust only the character I see being displayed. Perhaps I’ll keep a pinhole open if I hear someone prophesy and not run away or shut them off 🙂 but then again, this person first and foremost must display all the characteristics of a normal person like this prophet did.

    • Hi Dmitri, I totally get it . . . when we have been burned, it is right that we should have a high “skepticism” filter. We just don’t want to be ruled by it. I agree, a person’s gift, means nothing by itself. We want to evaluate the vessel, the message, the ministry, the gift, the morals, the marriage . . . etc. . . . all of it. Superstar wonder-worker means nothing to me. Absolutely nothing.

    • PS – Yeah, I am done with these “anointed ministers” who can’t even be real people. All this super-duper stuff and can’t even function in normal human relationships . . . too mystical and too spiritual to contaminate themselves with the unwashed masses. Done with it . . . .

      • A million yeses to that. Done with all that superficial, official, title driven, super spiritual, holy anointed made for “ministry” artificial so called relationship, did it years ago, burnt all the bridges in my heart never ever to return. I have only real friends, real life and I truly ENJOY the FREEDOOOOOOM! 🙂

  4. I never was a part of the “charismatic” movement but I’ve practiced laying on of hands, tongues, interpretation and prophecy for over 50 years. The minister who guided me often said that true prophecy would never contradict the inspired Word of God but it would sometimes challenge our comprehension of it. By our understanding of the letter, we could be wrong but by the love in the spirit, never. (I Cor. 13)

    I never had the “women in leadership” hangup. I always understood that Paul just didn’t want gentile Christians groups mistaken for the female cult of Aritmus (Diana) hence instructions about how to avoid the perception. Otherwise, more women are mentioned and honored than men in the New Testament. Paul had no hangups or attitudes about women’s role in the church (Galatians 3:28) beyond cultural perceptions.

    It is not by our “correct doctrine” nor adherance to a belief system that we are known as followers of the Master but by our love for the Father and each other. (John 13:34-35 et. al.). How often believers forget that!

    Stay lovingly inspired my brothers.

  5. I have experienced another side of this issue: as someone who has functioned in a prophetic capacity from time to time, I have found myself feeling somewhat “smothered” (for lack of a better term) by ‘prophetic ministry’ that I find questionable but which is loud and fast and confident-sounding and enthusiastically delivered.

  6. Stephen, your posts are surfacing a lot of things in me.

    I am finding that I am not alone with my “rogue” thoughts (as one brother who is a church leader recently called them). I so appreciate the insights and thoughts from my brothers responding here.

    I hope what follows can be helpful to others as well in light of this post:

    I went from being a person who did not have one waking thought about God, having utter disdain for anything “religious”, to becoming a devoted follower of Jesus over a period of about six months. I came to be fully persuaded that Jesus is the Son of God and is alive right now, seated at the right hand of God, not because someone came to me with a bible, but because God was pleased to reveal the glory of His Son to a bunch of kids he loved (I was 18 years old at the time) through the signs and wonders we read about in the Gospels and Acts. The people through whom God was pleased to both help us and glorify Jesus included young people with no seminary degrees and a pastor of a local “charismatic” church. This included both physical healings and the casting out of demons. God was confirming to us the message they were telling – the good news about Jesus death and resurrection – and what that means for us today. I believe the bible is the inspired word of God today because of my faith in Jesus. Explaining the objective and observable phenomenon of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit to those who were present – as they tried to understand it through the grid of their experience/reason/tradition/etc… (some forming the logical conclusion that they were drunk!) – Peter said THIS is THAT which was spoken by the prophet. I have struggled to live in “churches” that have more of THIS than THAT, and others that have more of THAT than THIS. I have spent decades of my life in both kinds of “churches”. I have concluded that men love to build things for God (e.g. Peter’s response to the vision of Jesus’ transfiguration) for many reasons – many of which would have a common theme of pride, ego, and insecurity buried underneath the good intentions) rather than embrace the humility of the role each is given by Jesus as He builds His church. “I will build my church…” said Jesus. Recalling the transfiguration story, the Father spoke directly from heaven: “This is my Son, listen to Him.” I have a growing anticipation in my heart regarding the church Jesus is building. The Father is teaching us to listen…to His Son, and to our brothers and sisters. What we hear will lead to acts of obedience in the love of Jesus and the power of His Spirit. We will find ourselves working with Him and each other as He builds His church, as the gospel of the kingdom is demonstrated and proclaimed to the ends of the earth (including the people in our spheres of influence!), until His kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven.

    Time to take the trash out now and be a good husband! 🙂

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