Here is a link that is probably going to disturb many readers. Don’t worry, there is nothing here of a salacious or immoral nature. The real problem is what this article implies and what it may mean for followers of Christ in the years to come.
The article is written by Annika Mongan, who describes herself as a born-again witch. She admits to growing up in an evangelical, charismatic church background. She attended a Christian college and while there became doubtful about her faith. Without re-telling all her story, she discovered nature-based paganism and witchcraft. She is one of only a handful of pagans who have an evangelical background. I’m not going to speculate on why she left or what contributes to anyone making the switch she did, but I accept it is her choice and she is being honest and forthcoming about her own struggles in the process.
This is her background and it flavors the article. In this story, she tells about going to Bethel Church in Redding, California. She writes several articles about her experiences there, but this particular one focuses on two women having prophetic words for her. Here is how she describes the event:
After a while two women approached us and asked if they could prophesy over us…. Then they moved over to me and asked to lay hands on me. Just a few years ago I would have replied with a categorical “no” (I have a Christian friend who still, all these years later, holds a grudge against me for refusing prayer from her). This time, however, I took a big gulp of the stale air, and nodded consent.
One of the women prays prophetically over Annika. In the article, Annika analyzes each of four prophetic messages this first woman prays over her. She concludes that three of the messages are profoundly accurate. She even relates this observation about these prophetic words:
I had come with no expectations, except to remember, to maybe integrate some parts of my past, or to distance myself even further from Christianity. Maybe I came for all of those reasons, but I didn’t expect to receive any spiritual gifts. Certainly not a three-out-of-four accurate and deeply meaningful prophecy. –
Annika receives accurate and helpful messages through this woman. Later, another woman steps up and gives her a painting she drew during the worship part of the service. It is a beautiful message that confirms one aspect of the prophetic word the other person gave Annika.
So where is the problem? These messages the women gave to her were plainly affirming her position and place in the world of witchcraft. Annika interprets them according to their most obvious meaning: That God is approving of her choice to live as a Pagan. Here is one of the prophecies:
Yes, I feel Jesus saying that you have been a part of many communities. So many! Different churches and ministries. But none of them really felt like home, did they? You never felt like you fit in or that you belonged. God wants to tell you that this has changed. I see a community that you are in now and it is different. It is really different from any of the churches you have known. It’s like… It’s not at all like the ministries… I don’t know how to say this. I just know that it is really different but in some ways it isn’t. Oh, I’m sorry, I don’t know how to put this into words. It is confusing. Does this make any sense to you?
This prophetic word says that the community she is now part of is the place she fits in and belongs. The other prophetic words affirmed her musical gift and her place in the current ministry. The prophetic woman told her that she should utilize her spiritual gifts to serve her new community.
Of course, the prophetic person didn’t know she was a pagan witch. Should she have? It is not always obvious and she probably wasn’t wearing any symbols of that belief system. And the gift of Discerning of Spirits is not a common gift and it is obvious this prophetic woman didn’t have that gift. But that still brings us back to the difficulty of the “accurate” prophecy.
Theologically, the easy way out is to follow the reasoning of John McArthur and others who claim that all modern attempts at prophecy are a work of demons. In his book “Strange Fire”, McArthur claims that all supernatural gifts ceased when the Bible was completed. Any supposed miracles of action or speech are demonic misrepresentations and should be shunned and avoided. He would conclude a demon inspired this woman to speak what she did.
I don’t have the time or inclination in this article to refute that silly notion. I believe the Bible is quite clear–as is Church History, both ancient and contemporary–that God still works miraculously through his people today. If that is true, how did this prophetic person get this so wrong?
There are three possibilities and I think all of them have a ring of truth. Let me just touch on the two most common reasons and then the one I think applies the most here.
The prophetic person might just pray this over everyone. This has been one of the criticisms of the so-called Prophetic Movement: That certain people have the same half dozen prophesies that they mix and match for the occasion. These prophetic words are generic enough that they can be interpreted any number of ways to fit the situation for the person receiving them. In this sense, they are like horoscopes.
Second, the recounting of the witch in the article might not be accurate. As in, she may have heard what she wanted to hear. We all do that when receiving any kind of news. We pick out the parts we like and the parts that apply to us and we turn a deaf ear to the parts that we don’t like. There may have been some of this happening.
But, I think there is another factor here. Assuming that the woman was praying something specific over Annika–and not generalized horoscope stuff–and assuming that Annika remembered it correctly, the problem may be with where the prophetic person was picking up the message.
Steve Thompson, in his book “You May All Prophesy” cautions about one sort of error regarding prophetic hearing:
“It is always possible to ‘read’ what the person wants you to pray instead of receiving a message from the Holy Spirit. We might pray for someone who wants a husband badly, and if we have a sensitive soul, we may hear the thought ‘pray for a husband’. This comes not from God in those moments but from the recipient’s wishful thinking.”
I have seen this in groups I have ministered with. The most sensitive of prophetic people do not always discern the difference between what the Spirit is showing them and what the person receiving prayer wants.
I believe this is what happened in the Bethel encounter. This is not to say this happens all the time at Bethel or that the other options are not also possible. But I think any of us who are prophetic need to look at this soberly and learn from it. Learning to hear God and speak that over other people means we must wade through our own thoughts, temptations from malevolent spirits and even the heart-wishes of another person.
This is why there were “schools of the Prophets” in the Bible. This is not an easy gift to use and we need to be mentored in it. I post this article as a caution to all of us who are occasionally prophetic. Do it right and if you don’t know how to do it right, get some training.