The latest and greatest fad in Charismatic Christianity is something called The Courts of Heaven. The craze seems to have started off largely from some teachings by a man named Robert Henderson who has written a book on the subject. While he cannot solely be credited with the topic, he is a known proponent of the subject and a vocal supporter. There are a growing number of other ministers who teach and mentor on this subject, a few of the more notable ones being Mike Parsons and Ian Clayton. While I have given this subject some time and attention in the past, it is no longer something I am willing to pursue with any depth at this point–mainly because I find the Courts of Heaven teaching annoying.
For those who are unfamiliar with this concept, it basically involves going in the spirit to a heavenly courtroom, presenting one’s case before the heavenly judge (who may be God, an angel, an Elder, or other nondescript heavenly being depending on the situation), letting Satan accuse you, getting Jesus to overthrow the accusation, and then getting a ruling from heaven in one’s favor. The essence of this is as a new method of spiritual warfare that doesn’t take place on a battlefield, but is a bit more of a genteel way to do war through the spiritual legal system of the universe. Some people find this as having no scriptural basis, but if you actually sit down and go through the teachings, at least the ones I have heard are somewhat well-reasoned, scripturally backed, and seem pretty sensible. So what’s so bothersome about it?
Honestly, what I think bothers me is the intense faddishness with which the teaching has garnered in the past few years. Entire ministries are blooming overnight with the express purpose of teaching what essentially is just a new visualization of old methods of prayer. In reality there is nothing inherently wrong with ministries being centered around this, as if we are honest, all ministries are centered around some aspect or aspects of the Christian faith–no one could possibly cover them all. What I find frustrating about the fad is mostly the attitudes and the language.
There are entire new sets of verbiage that people in these groups (many of whom I am close friends with) use that are really just new terms to describe some of the same things we have been doing and saying for years. “If it is in your scroll” is just another way of saying “If it’s your destiny, or fate, or whatever” or “If God wills it.” It’s just as fatalistic but with a verbal twist. Sitting on a “bench” is something one does with their bottom. Giving a special name to some spiritual legislative body should at LEAST have some imagination to it–is “Bench” the best we can do? Why not call it the Galactic Council of the Seventeen Elders of the Great Key or the Great Gate of the Firewind Saints, or legislating on the Elemental Council of the Fifth Spire. Oh, wait–some of the names of the various heavenly courtrooms I have heard of are nearly as creative–and outlandish. And when I or someone else shares a prayer request, the increasingly common recommendation is “I think you need to do some court-work.” What does that even mean???
While I am poking a bit of fun at the terminology, I don’t actually disagree with the overall concept that there are spiritual legislative bodies over creation with varying levels of authority. I think the idea is valuable, but the faddishness needs to go out the window.
One of the things I have heard pointed out about this teaching is that it fosters elitism. I have personally witnessed a bit of this in some of the leaders teaching it, but I personally haven’t encountered the “only a few people are special enough to do this” that others have. I will say that there are some teachings that have to do with WHICH courts people are allowed to go in, having to do with their maturity level and level of authority in the spirit and such, and that doesn’t entirely rub me the wrong way, although it doesn’t quite sit right either. While I don’t see anything direct in scripture that states as much, there are a number of places in the Bible where it discusses the difference between mature and immature children of God and the resulting authority afforded them, so I can at least see some scriptural precedent that it could be possible. On the other hand, this elitism hides, as a friend pointed out, under the guise of “well, you need to do it THIS way”. The need for strict adherence to a particular methodology is some of what is so problematic about this teaching–because theoretically if one does it wrong, one could bring judgment upon him/herself from the very same courts that are supposedly designed to bring freedom to them and are (in theory) stacked in their favor.
The other thing I find problematic about the Courts of Heaven teaching is positional–when I am in the spirit I operate from my authority and decree things to get accomplished in the earth so they will be established, not beg God in a spiritual courtroom to do some legalese so I can have things he already accomplished. When I go into the heavens, I almost have to work at it to put myself in a subservient position instead of finding myself sitting AS the judge who is doing the legislating. After all, the Bible says that we are going to judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3), not be judged by them. My main concern, outside the faddishness, is the issue that when I ask God for permission to do stuff instead of walking in the “all authority on heaven and earth has been given . . . therefore go” (Matthew 28:18-19) then I’m not, in my opinion, walking in maturity.
Now that I have told you why I find the Courts of Heaven teaching annoying, let me bring a little balance, as I don’t believe in throwing the baby out with the bathwater. As stated before, I think there is actually a decent enough amount of scriptural principles behind it to make it at least as valuable a “thing” as the various prayer-methods that have existed prior to now. I have used it and will continue to do so to some limited extent. It is a method that works great for some, and some of those for whom who it works well and who are beginning to teach and train others to do the same are actually good friends of mine. I respect them greatly and I am well acquainted with their hearts, which are fervently after God’s. They know how to hear and be led by Holy Spirit, and I believe quite strongly they are doing just that.
I personally see this as more of a method than it is the “new life-altering transformative revelation” that it is essentially being touted by some (not in those exact words), and it’s a method that works great for some people. I find it annoying that the new “thing” comes with obnoxious super-spiritual and elitist cliquish language, but again, if it is a method working for people, then language issues aside, that’s actually a very good thing. I actually think that a lot of this court-stuff is so subjective yet with sufficient scriptural backing that even the galactic councils and such could well be true, but it’s simply not the focus to which I have been called in this hour. I hopped “on the bandwagon” a number of years ago before it really WAS a bandwagon, and eventually hopped back off after I got what I needed from it. I don’t have any draw from the Lord to continue to participate any more than I already do, but that’s just me, and may not be where the Lord is leading you.
My underlying issue with the Courts of Heaven teaching isn’t actually about the teachings for the most part. While I personally take some of the things these teachers say with a pound or two of salt (as should anyone who is listening to someone teach largely out of personal revelation), that doesn’t necessarily make the teachings untrue, nor does it mean there aren’t valuable things to learn from them. At the end of the day the teaching itself is probably more or less fine–it’s a maturity issue.
Maturity is, unfortunately, the sort of thing that one gains over time. This fad, movement, whatever one wants to call it, is simply too young to have garnered enough maturity, in my mind, and so what stick out to me like a sore thumb is the immaturity in the mix. As I mentioned before, the lingo is irritating but it’s largely how the lingo is used in context of conversations and relationships, not just the actual words themselves. At the rate we are going, I perceive that a sufficient level of “maturity” won’t be brought to this particular movement for another two to four years, and until then we are left with whatever it is that we’re seeing now, which is a mixture of legalism and revelation in many cases. And in reality, as bothersome as I find it, that’s actually okay. Absolutely no new revelation came without pioneers paving the way, and while I can recognize that I am not interested in pioneering this particular method of prayer, I support the efforts of others who are doing so–I just don’t want to be deeply involved in their process. Maybe that’s immature of me and maybe it’s not, but I have other things to pioneer that I find more pressing. That said, maybe this IS what you are meant to discover and reveal–and if that’s the case, the go for it with all you’ve got regardless of people like me who don’t like the imperfection.
At the end of the day I ultimately think that people are free to use this method or not, and whichever works for them, great. I have no desire (nor spiritual leading) to join a “bench”, but as a friend recently pointed out, he and I have mutual friends (and good ones, at that) who both have desire AND spiritual leading to do just that–and one close friend in particular recently published a book on the subject. If you have heard about the courts of heaven and are either on board, curious, or completely turned off, my encouragement is this: if you find it enriching, go for it. If you don’t then be free to not worry about it, regardless of what your friends and family may say. Whether you do or don’t, be free. After all, wasn’t that what Jesus came for–to set captives free? If you currently engage this teaching and it is creating bondage in your life, then get out. If it is creating freedom, then stay the course. Yet again (unsurprisingly) this Courts of Heaven thing, as with everything else in our Christian journey, comes down to being led by the Spirit. Again, whether you do or don’t do, be free. Blessings!
For those of you who are curious and interested in learning more on the subject, you can get started with my friend Praying Medic’s book Defeating Your Adversary In The Courts of Heaven.
You can also read Robert Henderson’s book Operating in the Courts of Heaven, although as a fair warning from friends who have read it, they claim it is informative yet extremely repetitive.
Mike Parsons free blog is here and his two-year paid mentoring program is called Engaging God which from what I understand heavily involves the Courts and Heavenly travel, but is not exclusively about it.
Ian Clayton’s site is here
You can join a 2-3 year teaching-thing called The Nest by Grant and Sam Mahoney that is in some way related to this subject as well, but also is not exclusively about it and purportedly is about bringing the Body of Christ to greater spiritual maturity.
I have listened to many of Ian’s teachings and find them as much of a mixed bag as the rest of this subject, although he does not exclusively deal with court-related things either. As I have not actually read Praying Medic’s or Henderson’s books, nor have I participated in either Mike Parson’s nor the Mahoney’s training programs I am not specifically endorsing any of the above resources, but am making those connections available if they are helpful to you.