by Canon Mark A. Pearson
Renowned pastor David Wilkerson, founder of the “Teen Challenge” ministry, said he recently felt compelled by the Spirit to send out an urgent message about an imminent and “earth shattering calamity.” Quoting from his blog:
AN EARTH SHATTERING CALAMITY IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN. IT IS GOING TO BE SO FRIGHTENING, WE ARE ALL GOING TO TREMBLE – EVEN THE GODLIEST AMONG US. (His exact words, his capital letters.)
He continues, “There will be riots and fires in cities worldwide. There will be looting — including Times Square, New York City. What we are experiencing now is not a recession, not even a depression. We are under God’s wrath.”
He says that while he does not know when these things take place, “I know it is not far off.” (See his message at http://davidwilkersontoday. blogspot.com).
Since Wilkerson’s blog is read by a lot of people — who usually derive spiritual blessing from it — numbers of people have emailed me about what he just wrote. One wrote me, “What do you find in your prayer /deliberations?”
First, some positives about David Wilkerson and about predictive prophecy.
David Wilkerson is an incredible man of God. Many of us who have been in charismatic renewal for many years (my involvement dates to 1973) cut our teeth on the incredible book The Cross and the Switchblade written in 1963. It tells the true story of Wilkerson’s hearing the call of God to move from his comfortable Assembly of God pastorate in small town Pennsylvania to the slums of New York City where he ministered to disillusioned youth, en-couraging them to turn from the drugs and gang violence in which they were involved and turn to Christ. (It was ghost written by John and Elizabeth Sherrill who were the editors for my second book Why Can’t I Be Me? later republished as Free to Be Me.)
Many of us in the 1960s, „70s, and „80s were encouraged to get radical for God by the example of David Wilkerson.
Prophecy is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:10, 14:1-5). While prophecy usually has to do with speaking God‟s word into a present situation, sometimes it has to do with telling us what God is going to do in the future — this is called “predictive prophecy.” Since it’s wise to prepare what’s going to happen so we can both prepare and start doing our part, predictive prophecy can be quite important, provided the so-called prophecy is correct.
What Should We Do about Such “Prophecies” as That of David Wilkerson?
First, weigh the “prophet.” Does a particular prophet have a good track record in giving prophecies? David Wilkerson has a distinctly mixed record. In 1992, for example, he said, “I have had recurring visions of over one thousand fires burning at one time here in New York City. I am convinced race riots will soon explode!” He said this would happen “next year” (1993) but it did not. In 1994 he said, “Right now I sense in my spirit that in less than five years there will be no more so-called gospel television networks. They will all fall into bankruptcy and absolute ruin.” Needless to say, this did not come true either. David has been giving alarmist prophecies (usually with a prediction of immediate fulfillment) for years. While I thank God for his work in Teen Challenge, I take any “prophetic statements” he makes with a truckload of salt.
Second, weigh the “prophecies.”
Do you remember various “prophetic words” surrounding Y2K? We were told that “God has made it clear” that airplanes would fall from the sky, that the entire infrastructure of the world would collapse, and so on. These “prophecies” were clearly wrong. We weigh prophecies in two ways: (a) by listening to a consensus of mature Christians with proven track records and (b) by utilizing a variety of ways of discerning the things of God in addition to prophecy.
(a) I find it incredible that some non-Roman Catholic Christians who vehe-mently deny the idea of papal infallibility (“because no one on earth is infallible!”) are so quick to grant such infallibility to their favorite television preacher or Christian author. We should not accept something just because someone we revere says so. We need to see if there is wide agreement from a number of Godly people.
(b) Plus, prophetic words are but one way of discerning the mind of God. Also important are the clear teaching of Scripture (which trumps all other ways of knowing), God-ordained circumstances too numerous and too powerful to be mere coincidences; guidance from several wise, godly fellow believers; and a steady, growing deep peace within oneself as one prays. Don’t just run with a prophetic word because it is exciting or else short-circuits the need to spend time in careful discernment.
Third, do not panic. I advised my con-gregation a decade ago not to panic over the alarmist predictions about Y2K but instead to prepare wisely. Wise New Englanders do not have to make panic runs to the grocery store when the weatherman forecasts a blizzard because we know enough to lay in a supply of food, water, batteries and firewood before the winter starts. And even if things go badly wrong, panic evidences lack of trust that God has a plan for His people no matter what. If we panic we cannot hear His voice and we cannot help others. Do your responsible part, trust God and have no fear. God will not abandon you.
Last, don’t give up on prophecy just because some have misspoken or naively centered on the latest dramatic prediction. For centuries God’s people have been helped by a directive prophecy. Weigh the “prophet,” weigh the “prophecy,” listen to the community not just the “superstar,” keep your focus on God and do not lose your peace. +