Raymond L. Wheeler, DMin

Musings about leadership


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Prophets? Part 1


If you are unfamiliar with the current “prophetic” trends in Charismatic/Pentecostal churches and nonprofit organizations, this article may not register as relevant. Thank you for checking in, and please watch for future articles about leadership if that is the case.

However, if you are part of the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement, I’d like to observe the work of Biblical prophets as a model for seeking the well-being of our cities. Suppose you have been troubled by prophets in the news, predicting, prognosticating, backtracking, and doubling down about the last presidential election. In that case, I may confirm your concerns and offer a practical model to serve our broken world. This article may not sit well if you follow the latest “prophetic” assertions. But, I ask that you give me a chance to spell out valid and reliable prophetic ministry characteristics.

My thesis is that the work of Elisha the prophet provides a compelling and holistic compendium of a valid and reliable prophetic ministry. Elisha’s ministry focused on the well-being of others and reconciliation with God. He functioned within the covenant community of Israel and operated in what Ralph Winter called a centripetal mission focus, meaning God drew the nations to Israel to encounter God. In contrast, our centrifugal mission is sent to the nations to bring an encounter with the redeeming work of God. So, the holistic approach of Elisha is all the more significant as we move into new contexts.

Corollary 1, Jesus and the New Testament define their relationship to the world around metaphorically them from the context of the exilic period using descriptors such as pilgrims and strangers (cf., Jeremiah 29:7 and Hebrews 11:13 and 1 Peter 2:11).[1] Jesus never assumes a socially dominant strategy. He employs a servant strategy rooted in seeking the welfare of others. He talks about dominion applied to exercising authority over the demonic and disease (cf., Luke 10:19). In contrast, today’s “prophetic movement” among Pentecostals/Charismatics found their definitions of social interaction on the word “dominion” from the context of Genesis 1:27. Their metaphorical imagery draws from Israel’s kingdom period. In the context of Israel’s kingdom period, dominion equates to subjugating those outside the “kingdom” and inviting them to conform to godliness.   

Corollary 2, using imagery from Israel’s exilic period, focuses on the city’s welfare (Jeremiah 29:7), resulting in a definitively different agenda for action than seeking to control (dominate) the city and its systems of religion, governance, education, media and entertainment, healthcare, family, and business.[2] The focus on the city’s welfare is an extrapolation of the Abrahamic covenant of blessing.

Because in today’s Charismatic/Pentecostal movement it is vogue to talk about dominion theology, I feel compelled to set out my contrary assumptions.[3] Dominion theology undergirds the suppositions of some individuals covered in the media. “Seven Mountains of Influence” also undergird the assumptions of some individuals covered in the media. The two perspectives sometimes conflate into one frame of reference. What are they?

Dominion theology asserts that the first coming of Christ has restored dominion over every area of life. Therefore it is the task of the church to reclaim the rule of Christ on planet earth.  For the Reconstructionist branch of dominion theology, this is accomplished through the ethical means of obeying the Word (Biblical law). The Charismatic branch teaches that dominion is achieved through the metaphysical means of confessing the Word. Thomas D. Ice of Liberty University notes that both branches believe that Christians take dominion over all humanity before Christ physically returns to planet earth.[4]

Dominion theology founds its views the commission God gave Adam and Eve in Genesis (Genesis 1:27). However, Dominion theology misstates the Genesis commission in its focus on dominion over people and their systems—Genesis limited human dominion to the planet and animal kingdoms as stewardship of care. In what is the most overt twist of the meaning of dominion, George Grant (1987) wrote in Changing the Guard,

Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ-to have dominion in the civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.
But it is dominion that we are after. Not just a voice.
It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
It is dominion we are after.[5]
World conquest. That’s what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish. We must win the world with the power of the Gospel. And we must never settle for anything less.
If Jesus Christ is indeed Lord, as the Bible says, and if our commission is to bring the land into subjection to His Lordship, as the Bible says, then all our activities, all our witnessing, all our preaching, all our craftsmanship, all our stewardship, and all our political action will aim at nothing short of that sacred purpose.

Grant’s assertions are inaccurate. Our obligation is not dominion over people or the public square through the force of asserted prominence. Our obligation is to love others and to be the metaphorical salt that influences others. Jesus was clear in his discussion with Pilot that political dominance fell far short of the work he initiated – Jesus did not initiate a revolutionary political action in his death and resurrection but something far more reaching, cf., John 18:36. In advancing Jesus’ mission, Peter was clear that leaders must serve not to dominate, cf., 1 Peter 5:3. We possess authority and power over the demonic and diseases, cf., Luke 9:1.  Our task is not conquest; our task is to deliver people from sin’s grasp and make disciples.

The concept of Seven Mountains or Spheres of social influence was framed in 1975 when Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade and Loren Cunningham, founder of Youth With a Mission(YWAM), developed a strategy to reach the world for Christ. Their mandate: Bring Godly change to a nation by reaching its seven spheres, or mountains, of societal influence. They concluded that to transform any nation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, these seven facets of society must be reached: Religion, Family, Education, Government, Media, Arts & Entertainment, and Business.[6] On its own, the Seven Mountain perspectives recognize those centers of influence in which the love of Christ makes a difference. It is an inspiring recognition that the church exists in and is called from every aspect of society.

However, popular practitioners of Seven Mountain thinking vilify their target audience and reframe shaping these centers of influence to dominating them. For example, one group writes,

The Christian Church is described in the Greek language as the ecclesia. Literally translated, the word ecclesia means “governing body.” Although we don’t condone theocracies, this translation suggests that the church should have great influence in all other spheres that make up a society.[7]

Here too, I take issue with definitions. The rendering of the Greek word ecclesia above is suspect. The lexicon definition isn’t governance; instead, it is a gathering of citizens to deliberate. Deliberation denotes thinking about or discussing something very carefully to make a decision. Discussions are a discovery process, not an imposition process. Specifically, it is used in the New Testament to denote a meeting of Christians for worship. To infer governance stretches the definition to fit a dominionist perspective.

On its own, the observations of Bright and Cunningham can help Christians get out of the bubble of their Sunday services to see the work God is doing in the lives of people around them at work. But when the Seven Mountain perspective marries Dominion Theology, the message of good news about God’s love for humankind devolves to ugly sectarianism that is indistinguishable from any other form of sectarianism.

Christians who promote domination need to hear themselves. They decry the existence of dissenting voices. Decrying diversity isn’t limited to just other religious agents but every voice that doesn’t align with the speaker’s assumptions. It is impossible to differentiate Christian dominionist or fundamentalist speech from any other type of toxic fundamentalist speech that aims to conform society to sectarian norms.

Using the Seven Mountain perspective constructively recognizes that Christians already work in these areas and can use their social networks as a platform to share and demonstrate the love and power of God. Even seemingly inconsequential voices in these seven areas can make a significant and long-lasting change, as is illustrated in the impact a little girl enslaved in the house of Naaman had when she told him of the prophet in Israel who could heal his leprosy. (2 Kings 5:1-14)

Here again, I refer us back to the starting assumptions. Suppose the model of prophetic ministry frames its metaphors from Israel’s kingdom period. In that case, one’s language and demeanor may trend to dominionist illustrations and proclamations.  Conversely, suppose prophetic ministry starts from the premise of being aliens and strangers. In that case, it tends to use differences as a starting point for dialogue and the demonstration of God’s intervening love.  In Part 2, I discuss the significance of Elisha’s holistic ministry and what it may mean for prophets in the church today.


[1] Jeremiah’s strategy for survival and influence is surprisingly useful for the majority of Christians in the world who are minority populations, “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jer. 29:7 ESV)

[2] For more on Seven Mountains of influence see, https://www.generals.org/the-seven-mountains; Accessed 13 Dec 2021.

[3] For a full study of Dominion Theology see, https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1073&context=pretrib_arch.

[4] Ice, Thomas D., “What is Dominion Theology?” (2009). Article Archives. 74. https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/pretrib_arch/74

[5] Source: https://www.wthrockmorton.com/2011/08/26/it-is-dominion-we-are-after/; Accessed 13 Dec 2021.

[6] Source: https://www.wthrockmorton.com/2011/08/26/it-is-dominion-we-are-after/; Accessed 13 Dec 2021.

[7] Source: https://www.generals.org/the-seven-mountains; Accessed 14 Dec 2021.


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Growing Capacity: leadership development


Leaders who face and embrace challenges grow in their capacity to handle complexity. Conversely, leaders who avoid challenges tend to become cynical power mongers.

I met with a couple of younger leaders the other day whose presence on the Zoom call was stunningly different than it was at the beginning of the COVID pandemic. I’d characterized their presence as tentative at best two years ago. They had just bought a successful but stagnant insurance agency and stepped into the challenges of owning a business. In the transition, employees challenged their authority, questioned their decisions, and tempted themselves to second guess. The pandemic blew up their sales, threw them into a tailspin trying to figure out how to keep serving clients and engaging new clients.

Last week’s meeting was different. We scheduled the most recent session to go over their Q3 performance. When they logged on, I noticed a new sense of calm, not rooted in naivete but a growing experience. They defined the challenges in front of them and reflected on accomplished goals. They were ready to engage in a creative exercise of future perfect thinking rather than handwringing anxiety about an uncertain future.

Leaders who embrace the challenges of their context grow their capacity. But challenges don’t automatically develop leadership capacity. One of my graduate professors was fond of saying that development as a leader depended on several variables, one of which was the leader’s response. How a leader responds to pressure determines whether that pressure shapes additional skill and capacity or warps the leader’s assumptions and perception. One question that helps reframe a leader’s perspective from panic to learning is, what assumptions do I need to let go of to grow rather than rage?

When I hear a leader rage about their challenges (including blaming others and self-pity), I anticipate a failed learning opportunity. Anger covers the fear of failure and exposes the leader’s unspoken (and frequently unrealistic) expectations of others. Rage blinds a leader to the possibilities of challenge. Seething anger bends the leader toward a reliance on power and threats and essentially turns a leader into a complete ass.

So, I encourage leaders who sense a loss of control to ask the reframing question. How do you handle the challenges of your role? Do you rage or reframe?