Do Prophets Have Authority Over Pastors?
I. Difference Between Pastors and Prophets
II. Do Pastors Have Authority Over Prophets
III. Should Prophets Exercise Authority Over Pastors
Difference Between Pastors and Prophets
The difference between a Pastor and Prophet are numerous but let’s begin with the basics. The call of a Prophet vs. Pastor are distinct in several ways:
1. Unique Purpose and Timing: Prophets are called to bring God's message in a specific time and place. They are often called to warn of impending judgment and to exhort people back to Holiness. On the other hand, Pastors are shepherds of the flock of God on a continual basis. They teach (feed) and equip the Saints for ministry. In the Old Testament, there are distinct differences in the ministries of Prophets like Elijah and Jeremiah versus in the New Testament. In the New, we see Pastors like Timothy and Titus called to shepherd local churches on a long-term basis. Ultimately, Pastoring requires a “gentleness” real Prophets simply do not have. Prophets are assigned to “call for judgment” while Pastors call for “grace”.
2. Different Gifts and exercising “fruits” of the Spirit: Prophets and Pastors also have different spiritual gifts. Let’s be clear: whatever one’s “call”, “fruits of the Spirit” are the expectation. Prophets are often gifted in prophecy, discernment, and revelation. Pastors are gifted in teaching, exhortation, and shepherding. In 1st Corinthians 12, Paul speaks of the diversity of gifts within the body of Christ. He emphasizes that each gift is given by the Spirit for the common good, and no one gift is more important than another.
3. Varying Methods of Executing the Office: The methods by which each carries out their calls are also different. Prophets use dramatic actions and pronouncements to convey God's message. Pastors, on the other hand, rely on “subtly” most often. I am not saying this because I read it somewhere either! I have known hundreds of these men, personally, and “being direct” to a point of “confrontation” is not in their ”tool bags”. Sure, every once in a while they will (see John McArthur), but on the whole, gentleness is their creed.
In summary, both the call of a Prophet and Pastor, are necessary for the Body of Christ. While they have some similarities, they also have distinct differences in purpose and methods. This too often creates unnecessary friction when it is meant to create unity.
Do Pastors Have Authority Over Prophets
No, Pastors do not have authority over mature Prophets. I use “mature” because the reality is no “prophetic training academies” exist in the western world. However, there exists numerous institutions to train future “Pastors”. This necessitates some form of guidance early in a Prophets development, by Pastors.
However, when the fulness of time arrives, Prophets must remove themselves from the authority of a Pastor. Too many who God created to “cry aloud and spare not” (Prophets) have stayed too long and had their “sword of truth” dulled by unequipped pastoral leadership. Although for these gifts have same purpose (edifying the church), they cannot co-exist in a small space over the long term.
Here are four (4) reasons why:
1. Ephesians 4 teaches proper church governance: There was a reason the Apostle Paul outlined the order of church authority in Ephesians 4 (Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers). That is God's order of church governance. In most churches, the only offices which matter are those of the Pastor and Deacon. That is FALSE DOCTRINE.
2. Only Apostles or other Prophets can subjugate a Prophet: Paul wrote: "the Spirit of a Prophet is subject unto PROPHET". (1st Corinthians 14:29-33). Even Jesus subjected His baptism to a Prophet (John the Baptist). We are “wild men” (in the Spirit) and gentle shepherds do not have the gifting or biblical authority to “bridle” us!
3. Most Pastors do not believe Prophets exist anymore: The key purveyor of this nonsensical doctrine is John McArthur. Although a few acknowledge Prophets, in practice, even these few find no use for them in church building. My experience has shown this is because a Prophet has a level of authority (over Pastors) which they refuse to acknowledge. This authority is not to manage, direct, and supervise local shepherds, but is to "point them back to Jesus". In the most literal sense: “Prophets watch Sheep Watchers (Pastors)”.
4. Prophets see the world (and Word) more clearly: This is the primary reason a Prophet has a magnitudes larger level of intensity and sense of urgency in ministry. With real Prophets, everything seems so urgent in their warnings. Pastors have an “urgency” for church growth, but by and large, that is where it ends (in my experience anyway). In fairness, however, real God called Pastors have a clearer sense of “wisdom” of the Word. This is essential for sheep building (discipleship).
In summary, Pastors are not called to lead or otherwise guide Prophets. They have neither the wisdom, gifting, or quite frankly, personal strength to “bridle” these wild stallions. They only frustrate themselves, their callings, and ultimately bring confusion to the Body of Christ. As one (1) of these “voices”, I am submitted to another Prophet and those with the Apostolic anointing. Nevertheless, I will never again be submitted to a church Pastor as it is unbiblical and will only cause tension.
Should Prophets Exercise Authority Over Pastors
No, Prophets should not exercise authority over a Pastor in the same way Pastors lead God’s people. Put more simply – we are not a local shepherd’s “supervisor”. However, we watch these sheep watchers. That does not mean that the Prophets have no authority, at all, in a local body whether Pastor acknowledge it or not. As said earlier, Ephesians 4 outlines church governance. Prophets are listed “above” Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers. This must be viewed in conjunction with 1st Corinthians 14:29-33.
This text further sheds light on who prophetic authority is submitted to: “the Spirit of the Prophet is subject unto the Prophet”. My calling, even though I lead a church, will not allow me to be subject to a Pastor. This does not mean any of us cannot learn something, or even accept rebuke from our brethren when earned!
Early in my calling, the Spirit understood that even my Pastor would not be adequate to lead me at some point. He was soft spoken, slothful, had no sense of urgency, and could not resist trying to “make me into his image”. All these traits, while required for “sheep leading”, are simply inappropriate to lead those with my calling. My struggles with Pastors always revolved around two (2) things: their penchant for subtly and lack of boldness. Theirs’, with me, revolved around my gifting of “confrontation” and “direct communication.
However, God never commissioned us to “lead” Pastors either. We are simply, as was stated before, to point them back to Jesus when they falter. These gifts are often rejected by a “Pastor centric” church structure.
Here are examples of Prophets pointing leaders back to God (Old Testament):
Elijah (1st Kings 16:29-33, 1st Kings 17-19): Elijah was a prophet in Israel during the reign of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Ahab and Jezebel had led the Israelites astray by worshipping false gods. Elijah was called by God to confront them and call the people back to worshipping Him alone.
Isaiah (Book of Isaiah 1-39): Isaiah prophesied to Judah during a time of spiritual and political decline. The kings of Judah had turned away from God and were practicing idolatry, injustice, and causing social and economic turmoil. Isaiah spoke out against these sins and called the people to repentance while reminding them of God's holiness and mercy.
Jeremiah (Book of Jeremiah 1-52): Jeremiah was a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah. During this time, there was an impending invasion by the Babylonians. He warned the people of the consequences of their sin and called them to turn back to God before it was too late.
In summary, these Prophets preached against the sins of leaders and the people. However, there is never a time when a King was “subservient” to a Prophet, per se. They were expected to heed the Word of God, spoken through the Prophet. More simply – Prophets “pointed these leaders to God” and this Spiritual imperative has never changed.
Here are biblical examples of Prophets/Apostles pointing leaders back to God (New Testament):
John the Baptist (Mark 6:17-18): the Baptist confronted Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, about his sinful actions. Herod had taken his brother's wife, Herodias, as his own wife, which was considered unlawful according to Jewish law. John spoke out against this sin, and it ultimately led to his arrest and execution.
Apostle Paul (Acts 9:1-22, Galatians 1-6): although not traditionally thought of as a Prophet, Paul was called to be an Apostle, which brought authority over Prophets, and was gifted with prophetic insight. He preached a message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and urged believers to turn away from sin. Paul also rebuked leaders who were teaching false doctrines and called them to repent and return to the truth of the gospel.
Agabus (Acts 11:27-30): Agabus was a Prophet in the early Christian church who had the gift of prophecy. He prophesied to both early church leaders and the people about the coming famine in Judea. His prophecies were fulfilled, and they served to strengthen the faith of the believers and to remind them of the power and sovereignty of God.
In summary, the authority of a Prophet is to simply provide information to both the willing (hearer) and unwilling. This authority is not to, long term, lead God’s Leaders but to point them back to God.
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