6 Ways to Vet a ‘Word from the Lord’

Prophetic words about a Christian’s calling should be subject to biblical discernment.

It has always been popular in Christian circles to claim God’s leading when it comes to one’s personal and professional decisions. But in the past few years, a few high-profile figures made the news for claiming to hear from the Lord in their predictions about the last presidential election and their choices to switch or leave their denominations.

Is there any pastor in America who has not, at one time or another, been told that the reason a church member is doing something is because “God is leading” him or her? That phrase tends to be a conversation stopper for most Christian leaders. After all, if God Almighty, the Creator and Lord of the universe, has spoken, who are we to object?

The truth is, God does speak today. He created the universe by speaking. “Thus says the Lord” is the repeated refrain of Israel’s prophets. The distinction between the God of Israel and every other god in the ancient world was that he speaks—while idols cannot (Ps. 115:4–5). And it’s a sign of God’s judgment throughout Scripture whenever he stops speaking (1 Sam. 3:1).

Unlike the God of deism, the God of the Bible is personally involved in the affairs of earth, leading his church and caring for his children. One major way he leads is by speaking. Our job is to learn to recognize his voice, listen well, and wisely discern how to obey what he is saying.

But those of us in church leadership are often left wondering what accountability looks like in this area. That is, how can we assess whether a word is from God or not—and what vetting criteria should we consider when the Lord seems to speak to us or someone under our care?

I know personally that God speaks. …

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