Derek Prince died on September 24, 2003. He left this life in a year some have marked as “The Passing of the Fathers.” In the same year Derek went to be with his God, Bill Bright and Kenneth Hagin, both leaders of major Christian movements, died as well. It is fitting that this should be so, for it signifies not only that the pioneering fathers are passing away, but also that the passionate sons should take up their torch.
But what was the core message of Derek Prince, why has his message outlived him, and what can we learn from the man who so diligently combined a passion for the maturity of the believer's mind and the sensitivity of the believer's spirit?
Derek's chief theme in his latter years was love for Israel. He believed that the church failed to understand the meaning of the return of the Jews to Israel and that this was largely due to what he saw as replacement theology in the body of Christ. For centuries, most Christians believed that while the Israel of the Old Testament was the chosen people of God, the ministry of Jesus signaled a change: the church is Israel now. In Derek's view, this false doctrine gave rise to much of the anti-Semitism in world history.
Instead, he taught that Christians ought to recognize their debt to Israel, understand that the birth of the nation of Israel in 1948 was of huge biblical significance, and do all in their power to bless the Jews and aid them in returning to their land. Derek understood the whole of his life in terms of Israel. He was baptized in the land, was witness to the creation of modern Israel, adopted Jewish daughters and felt a call to turn the Christian church to her Jewish roots.
Having been baptized in the Jordan River in 1942, he saw it as deeply prophetic that life in Jerusalem should mark both the beginning and the end of his ministry. This was more than just an accident of geography: it was the fulfillment of the purpose for his life. Asked on his deathbed what his last commission from God was, he said hoarsely, “To pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”
Derek's second major theme was the truth and power of God's Word, the Bible. At a time when charismatics often left being biblical in order to be spiritual, when experience ruled over thought, Derek helped draw the movement back into biblical boundaries. He was as devoted to spiritual experience as any charismatic could be, but he understood that Christian spirituality should grow organically from Scripture.
Rather than simply viewing the Bible as a collection of inspiring statements, as many charismatics did, Derek understood it as a tapestry of truth woven over centuries and a revelation of God through the record of human experience. He called charismatics to a passion for the Bible, right methods of interpreting Scripture and sound doctrine as the path to spiritual power.
Yet, as certainly as he demanded a scholarly approach to Scripture, he also understood that the words of the Bible are filled with Spirit and life. He believed that Scripture ought to be stored up in the heart, proclaimed in power over the circumstances of life and held before God as the spiritual language of prayer.
He and his wife, Ruth, often made “proclamations,” both in private and with their audiences, in which they spoke aloud scriptures that pertained to health, mental acuity, salvation for the lost, God's will for nations, the restoration of Israel, defeat of the devil and strengthening of marriages, to name a few. This practice was the outworking of Derek's belief that the Bible, once properly understood, could be applied in faith to the real world to produce change.
Indeed, this was the foundational belief of much else that he taught. He urged the confrontation of demons because he found it first in the Bible and then his experience confirmed it. But he would go no further in driving off the demonic than the Bible allowed, and he urged others to do the same.
He taught about the power of curses, the grace of God to heal, the spiritual power of human words, the value of intercessory prayer and the spiritual life of nations-all because he saw it first in Scripture and then applied it in faith to change human lives. This was the keystone of his ministry: He was biblical in order to be spiritual and spiritual because he was biblical.
It is not going too far to contend that his theology may well have been in part, a positive stamp of his Platonist beginnings during his education in philosophy at the University of Cambridge. He loved the ideas of Plato, he said, because they taught of a perfect world beyond the natural. Yet, to understand these ideas, Derek had to do the hard work of classical scholarship. Once he became a Christian, he brought both the scholar's skill and the Platonist's mysticism, perhaps even dualism, to his understanding of Scripture.
Thus, he loved language but kept his eye on its spiritual power. He understood sickness as something real but always believed there was a spirituality to illness that held the key to its cure. He believed in good government, but he understood that the course of nations is shaped in a spiritual realm.
By the time Derek came into his latter years, these perspectives became mainline in the charismatic movement. Indeed, some spoke of a neo-charismatic movement: the portion that embraced spiritual experience but was as much given to sound teaching and doctrine as any Presbyterian or Baptist could be.
Derek gave birth to this movement, and many hundreds of thousands knew it by the late 1990s. It is a pleasant thought that Derek was honored as the father he wanted to be well before his death. One pastor who introduced him said: “Surely Derek's presence with us tonight is a victory lap. May he have many more before he goes to be with the Lord.”
Stephen Mansfield is a best-selling author, the director of a research and publishing firm and a former pastor.
Derek Prince: A Biography paints an inspiring-and poignantly vivid-picture of the life of one of the foremost leaders in the charismatic movement. For more information or for a copy of the book, visit www.charismahouse.com.
A Lion in Winter
In one of his last interviews, Derek Prince shares regrets, concerns and his hope for the next generation.
Stephen Mansfield: Derek, how would you like to be remembered?
Derek Prince: As a teacher in the body of Christ and a father to a movement that survives me. I want Derek Prince Ministries to last until Jesus returns, always seeking out new ways to penetrate the nations with God's Word.
Mansfield: What is the most important truth you have learned about life?
Prince: God is faithful. He keeps His word. He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. I cannot emphasize this enough. It is the greatest truth of my life: God is faithful.
Mansfield: What is your greatest regret?
Prince: That I did not forgive more quickly. I have had long seasons of wrestling with unforgiveness in my life.
Mansfield: Can you name one of them?
Prince: When Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship came out against deliverance and then rejected me for discipleship, that hurt. I felt it was personal, and more about control and competition than it was about truth. I seethed over that for a long time, and it damaged me. I wish I had been a better man.
Mansfield: What is your biggest concern for the church today?
Prince: The church should not be part of the world. When the church is not part of the world, what the Holy Spirit does is good, but when we ask the Holy Spirit to bless what is carnal or a mixture, it is not good. I'm concerned the carnality in the church and the worldliness are going to grieve the Spirit and hinder what God wants to do in the last days.
Mansfield: Do you have specific concerns for America?
Prince: In America, the most necessary message is separation from the world, of which there is very little. Americans are a nation of businessmen. I don't see this in any other nation. This is not a criticism. Sometimes it is a necessity. But if business doesn't follow biblical principle, then it is unfortunate, and the American church is veering that way.
Mansfield: What about England?
Prince: I believe that England may be the first Western nation to fall to Islam. It is already happening. This is due to the loss of true Christianity and a lifting of God's grace because of how Britain treated the Jews. I'm afraid I do not have much hope for England unless she undergoes total, national repentance. One of the things that has led me to this state is the British passion for niceness. If you want to be “good” in the United Kingdom, you never say anything bad about other people. But often that means you're not acknowledging the truth. Britain desperately needs the truth, but some who love her will have to be very un-British to give her the truth she needs.
Mansfield: Do you have anything to say to the next generation?
Prince: I have said it with my life. I will tell you this, though: Each new generation must be very careful about what it accepts from their parents' time. It is true that we want to receive good from those who have come before us, but we must also understand the difference between living truth and ensnaring tradition. I have a great deal of hope for the youth I see today. They truly are young lions who roar after their prey. They are hungry for the truth and willing to pay the price: in fasting, in prayer, in labor and in devotion to the Word of God. It gives me great joy to pass what God has done through me to such willing vessels.
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