We live in a time when the standard for somebody being called a “prophet” is very low and may be getting lower.
Reading the Book of Amos, you can’t help noting the clear statement of the “prophet.”
“I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet; for I am a herdsman and a grower of sycamore figs. But the Lord took me from following the flock and the Lord said to me, ‘Go prophesy to My people Israel.’
Now hear the word of the Lord: you are saying, ‘You shall not prophesy against Israel nor shall you speak against the house of Isaac.’ Therefore, thus says the Lord…” (Amos 7:14-15).
Here is a man of God with the word of the Lord, speaking up, acting like a prophet, boldly declaring God’s mind, but he’s “not a prophet.”
Just because somebody has a prophecy and prophesies does not mean that person is a prophet. Was King Saul a prophet because of the one time he prophesied?
It came about, when all who knew him previously saw that he prophesied now with the prophets, that the people said to one another, “What has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” A man there said, “Now, who is their father?” Therefore it became a proverb: “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Sam. 10:11-12)
Anyone with the gift of prophecy (1 Corinthians 13:2) you could be tempted to call a prophet. Is everyone who has the gift of prophecy or everyone who prophesies a “prophet”?
The Open Bible (NASB) has comments preceding the text of the Book of Amos introducing the book where the editor calls him a prophet. Even if it is technically incorrect to call Amos a prophet after his denial, it is not such a great mistake because the Book of Amos is in the Bible along with prophets and his words were divinely inspired. There is no harm done.
The problem nowadays with calling anyone a prophet is it proliferates deception. You deceive somebody into thinking somebody else is a prophet, you deceive them into believing their false prophecies. Because many people in circles where they want prophecy who are told somebody is a prophet are more likely to believe what is prophesied. You lower the standard of acceptance and you raise the frequency of deception.
The risk of onus shifting is this: whereas the onus was on the one prophesying to convince the hearer that a prophecy is true, the onus shifts to the hearer to convince the prophecy is false. You assume “the prophet” is speaking the truth and a true word. This shift making it more likely you give a “prophet” the benefit of the doubt is unjustified and it happens significantly because of the label.
One of the most offensive things to God is idolatry. The First Commandment of The Ten Commandments is: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exod. 2:3). Prophets throughout the Old Testament spoke out as directed by God against idolatry and God’s judgment fell for those who didn’t repent.
Ironically “prophets” today are leading people into exactly what prophets “yesterday” were trying to lead people away from! They are inadvertently directing people to trust in them more than God, to go to them for a word from God instead of going directly to God to get a word directly from God. True dead prophets must be turning in their graves!
Interestingly in the biblical story about the old prophet at Bethel who lied to the man who prophesied and saw God perform a miracle, the person demonstrating God’s power was not called a prophet.
Now behold, there came a man of God from Judah to Bethel by the word of the Lord, while Jeroboam was standing by the altar to burn incense. He cried against the altar by the word of the Lord, and said, “O altar, altar, thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.’”
Then he gave a sign the same day, saying, “This is the sign which the Lord has spoken, ‘Behold, the altar shall be split apart and the ashes which are on it shall be poured out.’” (1 Kings 13:1-3)
The person who didn’t have the word of the Lord and didn’t do a miracle was called: “an old prophet” (1 Kings 13:11).
Don’t call yourself a “prophet” or “prophetess.” Be humble. Use the phrase “man of God” or “woman of God,” or just the word “minister.” Or, like Amos, “herdsman” (or whatever your vocation is). “Christian” is not bad, either.