Darin Slack. Reclaiming Prophecy: Encouraging Church Leaders to Rethink Prophetic Ministry. Apopka, FL: Certa, 2015. See here to buy the book.
More than one person has said that prophets can be a destabilizing presence. A person can enter a congregation with a “Thus saith the LORD” and end up destabilizing the church. Not only can that happen, but it also has happened. The apostle Paul himself dealt with the issue of prophesying in the Corinthian congregation, and Paul in I Corinthians 14 gives the church instructions on how to preserve prophecy in its midst, while also regulating it for the sake of order and the edification of the church.
Darin Slack’s goal is similar. He wants for prophets to be part of prophetic teams that are accepted and integrated within the larger church body. That can allow prophets to mature, lessen any arrogance or alienation on their part, and remind them of their mission to love and edify the church. Meanwhile, the church can be edified by prophets and reminded of the presence of God within its midst.
The book can be repetitive, at times. Moreover, I sometimes wondered if there was a cost to lessening the spontaneity of prophecy and subordinating it to an institution, though I can understand the rationale for doing so.
There were things that I appreciated about the book. Slack is honest about his vulnerabilities and areas in which he needed to grow. He tells good stories: one story was about a time when he prophesied to a waitress and then a guy on the street, who (unknown to him at the time) turned out to be the waitress’ boyfriend; the other story was about when he worked well with a prophetic partner who was unlike him in so many respects.
Slack states that prophecy is intended to encourage and not to condemn, and that made me wonder about the Old Testament prophets who rebuked rather harshly. Slack states that, after the death of Christ, God does not condemn his church, for Christ paid the penalty for people’s sins. I did not find that entirely convincing as an explanation for why Old Testament prophets rebuked whereas Christian prophets are supposed to encourage, for it seems to imply that God arbitrarily changed his character in the transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament (not that Slack would say that, but I do wonder if that could be an unintended implication of his argument). Slack also says that prophecies, even ones that correct, are supposed to offer hope, and I would say that even many of the harsh Old Testament prophecies do that, in the end. While I did not entirely agree with Slack’s discussion here, I do respect him for addressing the question.
Another question that was in my mind as I read Slack’s book concerned the nature of prophecy. Prophecy, from what Slack said, is not necessarily a clear “Thus saith the Lord.” It can require some interpretation, and there is the possibility that prophets can misinterpret the message that they receive. Slack states that prophets need each other and the church because no single prophet sees the whole story. Slack often advises prophets to say that they believe that God is impressing a certain message on them, as opposed to being dogmatic. Slack states that there are different levels of prophetic anointing, and that (to Slack) may explain why prophets today are not as authoritative as the prophets who wrote Scripture. In Numbers 12, Slack notes, God distinguishes God’s revelation to Moses from God’s interaction with other prophets. I appreciate Slack’s wrestling with these issues.
There was one place in which Slack was not particularly clear, and this is on pages 211-213. In I Corinthians 14, Paul says that tongues should be interpreted for the edification of the body, since people cannot understand tongues. Slack is wrestling with the question of how to distinguish an interpreted tongue from a prophecy that was inspired by hearing the tongue but is not an attempt to interpret it. I was unclear about whether Slack believed that the tongue needed to be interpreted, and what his Scriptural basis for his position was.
Overall, I found this book to be a reasonable and judicious discussion of prophecy.
I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher through Bookcrash in exchange for an honest review.