The church cannot survive and grow to
maturity without the prophetic and the prophetic ministry. It is
not an optional extra. The Bible is clear about the importance of
brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in
tongues (1 Cor 14:39).
Just as each of us has
one body with many members, and these members do not all have
the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body,
and each member belongs to all the others. We have different
gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is
prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith (Rom
After we had been
there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from
Judea (Acts 21:10).
Follow the way of love
and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of
prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to
men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters
mysteries with his spirit. But everyone who prophesies speaks
to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. He
who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies
edifies the church. I would like every one of you to speak in
tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who
prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless
he interprets, so that the church may be edified (1 Cor
prophetic through and through. When the prophets are silent
and the word of God is in short supply, the church withers and
dies. If there are prophets today, their hands are tied and
their mouths gagged by the clumsy democratic processes of
church institutions. Prophecy is seldom heard within this
establishment. For prophecy comes by the spirit of God and not
by consensus or debate (Michael Harper).
For our society to be
renewed, it is necessary for the church, and by that I mean
individual Christians together, to become a prophetic voice to
our land. We must remember the price of being a prophet. If
people were given the choice of straightening the wall or
killing the prophet, they will usually kill the Prophet
instead of straightening the wall (Bob Mumford).
A successful church will
be one that appreciates the prophetic and is a place where
prophets can develop in their ministry.
Many people, churches
and movements have entirely rejected the prophetic, because they
were wounded by false prophets or their mistakes. However, the
Scriptures clearly show that God almost never raises up a great
leader who does not make serious mistakes. Some of the greatest
leaders made some of the greatest mistakes but they did not let
that stop them. Many Christians have a genuine prophetic gift or
call to prophetic ministry, yet have been discouraged from
pursuing their calling because of past mistakes (Rick Joyner -
The Prophetic Ministry).
The church is called to be
prophetic towards the world. This role requires the development of
the prophetic ministry.
Even if we are not
called to the office of a prophet, we need to understand this
ministry. The entire church is called as a prophetic voice to
the nations. Together we are to serve as the Lord’s
spokesmen to the world (Rick Joyner - The Prophetic Ministry).
The New Testament
prophet’s primary function is to open the church to the
ministry of Jesus the Prophet so that he can flow freely among
his people. Everyone is not called to the office of a prophet,
but the whole church as a unit is called to be a prophet to
the world, manifesting Christ’s ministry as the spokesman
for God (Rick Joyner - The Prophetic Ministry).
Prophets can be
uncomfortable people to have around. They can often be hard to
take. We must avoid taking offence at their style and manner and
missing what God is doing through them.
The prophet discerns
the state of the human heart. The prophetic insight exposes
things that are hidden (1 Cor 14:25). Prophets are never
popular people. They are not comfortable to have around, if
there is a prophet around we will be aware of our sins in a
new way (Tom Marshall- The Coming of the Prophets).
the Body of Christ is so ignorant of the prophetic word, it
stumbles over the messenger and ignores the message (Chip
Brogden - Overcoming Prophetic Offence).
No Bible prophet ever
had the same delivery or style, from David to John the
Beloved. But you must learn to receive from them and most of
all love them. Or you may watch them being led down a road of
destruction that will lead too much confusion and defeat for
the kingdom. This has already happened! And many are wounded
and dying because of this very thing (Kris Couchey - Bitter
create tension. When God intervenes into our orderly, calm
lives, this creates a tension. We need to know how to deal
with that and how to fellowship it through. Otherwise
prophetic ministry can be an open door for the demonic to
enter our churches. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to
dismiss the prophecy and cast the prophet in the role of
troublemaker (Graham Cooke - Developing Your Prophetic Gifting
The prophet is
violated during his ministry, but he is vindicated by history
(Leonard Ravenhill - Picture of a Prophet).
Vision was like a
flame with the prophets. You have to recognise that about
them, at any rate - that these men were flames of fire. There
was nothing neutral about them; they were aggressive, never
passive. Vision has that effect. If you have really seen what
the Lord is after, you cannot be half-hearted. You cannot be
passive if you see. Find the person who has seen, and you find
a positive life (T. Austin-Sparks - Prophetic
The New Testament teaches
a positive approach to prophecy.
Do not put out the
Spirit’s fire. Do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test
everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil
1 Thessalonians 3:19-20
Christians must be careful
not to quench the spirit of prophecy. The words of all prophets
should be weighed carefully. The Scriptures give clear guidelines
for testing prophecies. Anything that is good should be received;
the rest should be discarded.
Prophets and Pastors
Every church needs both
prophets and pastor-teachers. The two ministries are
complementary, but they have not always fitted together well.
Pastors tend to be warm loving people. This is the strength of
their ministry, but it means that they can sometimes find it hard
to confront evil. They love to see people grow and to see the
church united, so they can be tempted to compromise for the sake
of peace and unity.
A prophet would act as a
balance to this tendency. Prophets tend to see things in black and
white. They have a zeal for holiness and truth. Their main concern
is to see the church functioning according to the Word of God, but
their zeal for purity and truth can make them appear to be hard
and harsh. The pastors will temper their strictness and zeal with
love and grace. And whereas pastors tend to concentrate on the
present, the prophets can give vision for the future.
Prophets have a way of
ploughing up the ground and causing disturbance. Sometimes
this is sorely needed. I know many pastors who, when
encountering hard ground, simply lay a patio and cover
everything up! Prophecy is attacking, stimulating and
provoking by definition. Pastoring is about restoring calm and
order. Prophets challenge, pastors soothe (Graham Cooke –
Developing Your Prophetic Gifting).
This explains why there is
such a shortage of prophets in the church. Most modern churches
are controlled by pastors and the bluntness of the prophet does
not sit easily with them. If the pastor is insecure, he can be
hurt by the prophet’s words. The prophet seems to be a nuisance
and life is easier if they leave.
The third truth is
that pastoral compassion and prophetic purpose will sometimes
be at odds, causing friction and even conflict within the
local church between pastor and prophet. So a willingness to
humbly seek God together to determine His desire for
congregation is critical for maintaining unity in the local
church leadership (Dr Bill Hamon - Prophets Pitfalls and
Principles p. 35).
The church needs pastors
and prophets to fully represent Christ. It must exhibit both the
love and the holiness of God. Love without holiness is compromise.
Holiness without love is harshness. If both ministries are present
in a Church then holiness and love will both be evident. The
Church will then be a true reflection of the character of God.
perspective is radically different from that of the pastor. He
hears from God and quite mercilessly questions everything,
including the pastor, from God’s perspective. That, however,
is his healthy and God-given duty. For that reason, there is
also a historical tension between the pastor and the prophet:
one is the defender of the status quo who wants to maintain
the community; the other questions everything and is seen
(rightly) by many others as a threat, because he disrupts
things and wants ‘movement now’ (Wolfgang Simson - Houses
That Changed the World, p.114).
Pastors and prophets have
very different perspectives on the church.
usually have a very keen sense of being answerable to God.
Pastors have that sense to, but they are also very aware of
being answerable to people. A pastor probably feels both
concerns different from the typical pastor figures (Mike
Bickle – How Pastors Relate to Prophets).
often sensitive to things happening beyond what is of the Holy
Spirit. They would rather be safe by cutting things off a
little before getting in the danger zone. Their boundaries
tend to be on the conservative side. On the other hand,
prophets tend to be boundary stretchers. They are almost
always willing to go a little bit farther than the danger zone
to make sure that we do everything that might be of the Lord.
Notice that both prophets and pastors have the same
motivation. They are afraid of missing God. But they are each
proceeding from different point s of view (Mike Bickle – How
Pastors Relate to Prophets).
the gift of revelation a prophet may have the tendency to see
things very black and white, whereas a pastor, with mercy and
wisdom will often see things in shades of grey. The prophet
many time may view the pastor as compromising and people
pleasing, while the pastor may see the prophet as unwise and
unyielding. These differences in perception can become a
deficit in their working relationships, if not understood as
strengths that God has given to aid one another in being more
effective in ministry. Otherwise the prophet will always try
to straighten out the pastor and the pastor will always strive
to balance out the prophet, when more often their differences,
when appreciated, are actually their strengths (Tom Hamon –
The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation).
Both pastors and prophets
must understand that they need each other.
Challenge to Pastors
The modern church is
dominated by pastors. The prophetic ministry can only be restored
to the church, if pastors allow it. I believe that many pastors
have (sometimes unwittingly) obstructed the restoration of the
prophetic ministry in the church. This has prevented God from
doing all that he wants to do. Sometimes pastors are hostile or
fearful of the prophetic due to bad experiences, but this is not
an excuse for robbing their people of what the prophetic ministry
can bring to their church. This is stated clearly by Tom Hamon (a
pastor, not a prophet).
many reasons for an attitude of indifference or even
antagonism toward prophetic ministry by pastors. Some reasons
have to do with ignorance… or with perceived abuse of those
who have called themselves prophets within the body. However,
I do not believe these are valid excuses today. Never in
Scripture does God sanction forbidding the pure and good
because there have been bad representations (Tom Hamon – The
Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation).
While some prophets have
hurt people, the reality is that controlling pastors and
inadequate pastoring have done far more damage to far more
Christians. In numerous situations, a whole church has fallen when
their pastor has lost the plot. Pastors have far more power over
people’s lives than prophets. A pastor who gets lost can do far
more damage than an over-zealous prophet. Where prophets have
become unruly or controlling, the reason is usually inadequate or
insecure leadership. Moreover, mature pastors have no reason to
fear the prophetic. A wise and God-fearing pastor, who is loved by
his flock, can never be overcome or pushed aside by a prophet.
Despite these facts, the bar of acceptance is set much higher for
The questions is, why
do we accept every other gift and calling among men with great
failure and weakness? And yet, the ministry of the prophet who
speaks hard truth is discounted with every excuse in the book!
Not only is the Word given rejected, but the prophet in
particular is personally rejected. This is the great test of a
prophet of high calling. I am not talking about people who
prophesy. I am talking about people who have been called to
the office of a prophet, which are rarer then we would like to
think. The burden of words that "leadership" and
"friends" will not accept can be a great one if not
received and released in great brokenness. The grace to walk
such a narrow path is only given to the humble, who are
willing to be broken and considered radicals, renegades, and
rebels. The danger for this person is becoming like Elijah in
an isolation that sees himself alone as having the truth. The
answer is the cross of Jesus Christ that allows no man to
glory in self or the "gifts" and
"callings" God has given (Kris Couchey - Bitter
Some pastors may need to
be more honest about the real reason for their indifference to
prophetic ministry. The problem may be something in their own
heart, rather than the prophet.
many times prophet ministry can understandably make us feel
uncomfortable, so we don’t give place for it to function.
However, often that is exactly what God has intended, because
we have become stuck in a rut in our predictable, comfortable
routines. There are times when God wants to break in on the
scene, but we are too protective of our time or our people, or
our comfort zones to allow God to really do what he wants.
Prophets just seem to have a way of messing up our plans….
Instead of resenting this, fellow pastor, let’s appreciate
it, because the good news is that when God leads prophets,
they bring a powerful spirit of breakthrough with them (Tom
Hamon – The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation).
established the prophetic in your movement? Yes, the prophetic
should operate in the back rooms and in the marketplace of
everyday life, but seasoned prophetic voices should also be
given a platform in the church to help establish and put into
place the mandates of the Lord.
Where is the
clarion call of the prophetic that is sounding forth with
cutting-edge accuracy? Could they be sitting in your pews
waiting to be released? The way to break judgements off the
prophetic and unlock them is to establish them.
Do you have
prophetic voices giving divine strategies for your church? Do
they give confirmation and clarity? Does the government of God
back them up? If so, are they backed up by you?
Are you more
afraid of a few "flakes" than you are of barrenness?
Have you judged the entire prophetic movement by one or two
voices that fell into sin? Wisdom is needed and it is
important that character and humility has been worked into
their lives. I'm not talking about budding voices that have
not spent their time in the wilderness of training and
equipping, but rather mature, proven vessels.
mantle of government that rests on you as apostolic leaders
must be used to recognise and establish the seasoned, mature
prophetic voices in your midst while allowing the young
eaglets to be raised up under their wings. God wants the
into a season of release for some of the hidden Josephs. The
apostolic and prophetic are going to be taken out of their
old, tattered garments and adorned with new mantles of
government-- wrought in the fires of affliction. They will be
clothed in humility and intimacy. Are you ready?
apostolic gatekeepers embrace and welcome the prophetic, it
establishes them so they can unfurl their mantles and release
their anointing. (Jill Austin - http://www.jillaustin.org).
I am right behind any
Pastor who acts to protect the sheep from such people. That is
the shepherd's job, after all. (But if all they are doing is
protecting their own hide, and squashing the prophetic word -
then judgement will surely follow the prophet's words - as
sure as day). Prophets, let God vindicate you. Make no attempt
to vindicate yourself (Andrew Strom).
Pastors are often
concerned about the damage that prophets can do. They should be
more concerned about the effect of the lack of the prophetic in
their church. Pastors have a key role in encouraging the
development of the prophetic ministry.
The issue cannot be
avoided. If they want to fully serve God, pastors will have to
deal with the prophetic (and its problems). The church will never
reach its full potential without the ministry of the prophet, but
the prophetic ministry will only be restored in God’s fullness
if there is a radical commitment from pastors to make it happen.
prophets need to purpose to develop the wisdom of how to
rightly minister their revelation, so pastors need to stretch
themselves to believe to minister by supernatural and
revelation and not just rely upon their developed areas of
wisdom and counsel…. Churches can survive without prophetic
ministry, but they cannot be as healthy as they would without
it (Tom Hamon – The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation).
Establishing Prophets in
Most churches have no
prophet to establish holiness and righteousness. They do not have
a mature prophet to disciple young prophets, so God has had no
choice but to develop young prophets in the wilderness. This is a
second best option that produces lots of problems, but is the only
way until the prophetic ministry is fully restored to the church.
This problem will have to
be resolved by pastors. There is a surplus of pastors and a
shortage of evangelists and prophets, which severely weakens the
church. To correct the balance, pastors will have to take the
initiative to restore prophets to the church. A pastor who has no
prophet in his church should look in the wilderness for a growing
prophet and seek to establish him in his church. Obadiah
protected, fed and sheltered the prophets when Jezebel was trying
to destroy them (I Kings 18:3,4). There is an urgent need for
Obadiahs in the modern church.
Many apostles and
prophets today are not in church at all, because there is
little room for them in traditional pastor centered churches.
They have been pushed to the side; they are often feared
because they seem so strong, radical and different. Many have
been not only marginalised but rejected, and as a result have
given up on church almost completely, maybe with a last
flicker and a spark of hope still burning in them (Wolfgang
Simson - Houses That Changed the World, p.125).
Restoring prophets to the
church will not work if the pastor attempts to control the
prophet. The challenge to the pastor is to say to the prophet,
"I will submit to you, if you will submit to me". They
will have to trust each other by submitting to each other. This
will be risky for the pastor (and the prophet), but if they commit
to it out of love for Jesus, great blessing will follow. A good
example of this is Paul, who was started in his ministry when
Barnabas found him and brought him to Antioch (Acts 11:25,26).
Barnabas demonstrated great courage, because Paul was a high risk
person, but his trust brought out the best in Paul. His commitment
to Paul brought enormous blessing to the church.
Trust produces trust and
responsibility. The pastor will generally be surprised at how
responsible prophets will be, if they are just trusted. Prophets
will be surprised at how open a pastor will be, if the prophet is
willing to submit to him.
Those parts of the
body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts
that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.
And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special
modesty, while our presentable parts need no special
treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and
has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that
there should be no division in the body, but that its parts
should have equal concern for each other (1 Cor 12:22-25).
Christians are often
embarrassed by God's watchmen, as they can be intense,
opinionated or scruffy. Watchmen maybe the eyes of the body, but
they are also the bums that get rid of the "crap". If
God's watchmen are not functioning effectively in a church, it
will full of crap and become contaminated. So while the watchmen
has an unseemly task, they are important for the functioning of
the body and deserve equal concern and respect.
By exercising discernment
a pastor can help prophets to hear the word of the Lord. They
should encourage the prophets to grow in this ministry. This
should be done with care. Because a prophet is sometimes negative
and hard in his words, pastors often assume that he must be dealt
with severely. They do not realise that under their brusque
exterior, most prophets have a very sensitive spirit, which can
easily be broken. They need a great deal of encouragement if they
are to develop into their full ministry.
Pastors should encourage
those in their church with prophetic gifts, even if they are a
nuisance at times. They will eventually have prophets in their
midst who can be trusted to speak the Lord’s word.
What makes me
prophetic? The fact that I hear God speak. What is the most
personal attack that anyone can make upon my Christian walk?
It is to say, "We don't believe that you heard God!"
Why is this so painful? Because it goes to the heart of my
call - if they are correct then I "missed it"
completely - perhaps I am not prophetic... and if I am not -
who am I? Very few Pastors understand the depth of this crisis
for prophetic people - and as a result are very ready to say,
"that wasn't God!" when we speak what we honestly
believe to be the Word of the Lord. Probably they have no
conception of the depth of the pain they liberate
The more that pastors
encourage the prophets, the better they will perform. Prophets
respond to listeners.
I now embrace the
theory of prophecy, which holds that prophetic voices of great
clarity, and with a quality of insight equal to that of any
age, are speaking cogently all of the time. Men and women of a
stature equal to the greatest of the past are with us now
addressing the problems of the day and pointing to a better
way…. in these times. It is seekers, then, who make
prophets, and the initiative of any one of us in searching for
and responding to the voice of contemporary prophets may mark
the turning point in their growth and service (The Servant as
The variable that
marks some periods as barren and some as rich in prophetic
vision is in the interest, the level of seeking and the
responsiveness of the hearers. The variable is not in the
presence or absence or the relative quality and force of the
prophetic voices. Prophets grow in stature as people respond
to their message. If their early attempts are ignored or
spurned, their talent may wither away (Author Unknown).
Any prophetic word
given within a church context is spoken into a relationship.
No one can assess the state of a relationship at a distance,
so the person who gives the word probably needs to be
constantly assessing and building their relationships in the
church. If a church rejects a word from a member the rejection
says more about the state of the relationship than it does
about the veracity of the word. In other words - the
relationships you build with people will often pre-determine
whether or not they will accept the word of the Lord through
Developing Young Prophets
To a pastor, a young
prophet can appear to be a particular nuisance. When first
starting their ministry, prophets seem to be negative and over
critical. And because they are human they often make mistakes. The
trouble is that their intolerance and insensitivity can irritate
the pastor. This causes the pastor to jump on the prophet, the
first time that he makes a mistake. The young prophet is often so
crushed that he does not dare to prophesy again. The pastor is
relieved because what appeared to be a problem is gone. What he
does not realise is that he has squashed a ministry that his
church really needs. Because this has happened so often, there is
a shortage of prophets in the church.
At the same time, young
prophets must learn to be patient, and allow God to develop their
ministry. This will take time. Daniel was just a young man when he
arrived in Babylon. He was middle aged when he received his first
vision, and quite old when he received his greatest visions.
Jeremiah was still prophesying when he was an old man. A young
prophet will only have a partial vision. There will be times when
he speaks the Lord’s word in the wrong spirit. God will have to
allow him to make mistakes if he is to grow to maturity. He should
not grasp at ministry, but wait on God to raise him up in due
time. Those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Young prophets cannot
emerge properly in a church that is led by a pastor alone. (The
same applies to evangelists). Pastors cannot disciple budding
prophets effectively. The young prophet will either start
challenging the pastor and become a nuisance, or he will be
stifled by the pastor and lose his cutting edge. A young prophet
will develop best in a church where the pastors and a prophet are
in submission to each other. He will be drawn to the prophet and
will learn how to function in the prophetic from him. He will also
learn how to relate to a pastor.
When he needs correction,
he will generally receive it better from the prophet. A young
prophet will need frequent correction and he will sometimes need
to be corrected very firmly. This is best done by a more mature
prophet whom he respects. When he is treated harshly by the senior
prophet or becomes discouraged as often happens, he will need and
appreciate the comfort and encouragement of the pastor. The young
prophet will develop a healthy relationship with both pastors and
prophets. If he can grow within these relationships, he will be
less likely to wander off into bitterness and isolation.
We should not just be
looking for a few heroic prophets like the men of the Old
Testament. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit means that this gift
has been distributed far more widely.
In the last days, God
says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and
daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your
old men will dream dreams; Even on my servants, both men and
women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and you will
prophesy (Acts 2:17,18).
In many countries, there
are only a few men and women with a prophetic voice. People throughout
the land have looked to these few, which places them under unfair
pressure. We should be praying that God would raise up numerous
prophets. There should be at least one in every Christian
fellowship. Then God would really be able to bring his word to the
nation and the church, and all people would hear.
Persecution of Prophets
Prophets in the New
Testament age will sometimes experience the persecution and
suffering faced by the Old Testament prophets. This happens when
their message is not received, or when the church is not
functioning correctly. This is often the situation today. Most
prophets are on the edge, because there is no place for them in
the centre of the church.
Prophetic people also
have difficulties that are sometimes leadership induced, as
they were in our case, because we as a church didn’t know
how to nurture and administrate prophetic ministry (Mike
Bickle - Growing in the Prophetic p.130).
Many leaders are so
wounded and weary from the ministries of those who presumed to
be watchmen or prophets, that they do not want anything to do
with this ministry today. Likewise, many watchmen have been so
wounded by pastors that they have lost their trust in the
leadership of the church. There is usually a lot to overcome
on both sides, but those who are true on both sides will
overcome this barrier. We have no choice if we are going to
walk in the unity that both the Lord and the times we live in
require (Rick Joyner - The Ministry of a Watchman).
pastor may truly be a shepherd of the flock, but he is first
and foremost the manager of a religious organisation. Either
he is hired by the owners of the organisation or is the
owner/operator of a work he created. Prophets and apostles do
not so much find themselves in conflict with spiritual pastors
as they do with church managers (even though both those roles
may reside in the same man). This is an important distinction
However, when the church
is functioning correctly, the prophet will be at peace with the
church and just another ministry within it. The treatment of
prophets is a good test of the maturity of a church. When the
church moves into apostasy, the prophets become more radical and
drastic. In a mature church, prophets will be an integral part of
In the New Testament
prophetic activity is concerned with building a community,
rather than standing against the community (David Hill).
Prophecy and the
office of Prophecy, however were not often fully developed,
but central to the Lord’s plan. In and through His prophets
He warned, scolded, blessed and healed, taught, foretold,
called Israel to repentance, subdued kings, laid down
revelation for doctrine, chastised and rescued. Every book
from Isaiah to Malachi is written by or about a prophet.
God did not do away
with Prophets and prophecy when Jesus came and the Church was
born. Instead He expanded their function and power by virtue
of the cross and resurrection. So the prophet ceased to be a
lonely watchman who was often put to death by his own people,
and became an integral part of the church which, by the
guidance of the Holy Spirit, learns to protect and cherish it’s
prophets (John and Paula Sanford - The Elijah Task).
Exalting the Prophet
The opposite problem is
when prophets are exalted to a position above other ministries. A
prophet dominated church is dangerous.
When a prophet is
accepted and deified his message is lost. The prophet is
useful only so long as he is stoned as a public nuisance,
calling us to repentance, disturbing our comfortable routines,
breaking our respectable idols, shattering our sacred
conventions (AG Gardiner).
There are prophets and
teachers who hold words from God in higher esteem than the God
who speaks the words they attribute as being from Him. People
seek these words and teachings. The more they receive, the
more they want. Before one word is digested they are craving
another. They are seeking "things" - words,
prophecies, teachings, visions, dreams - but they are not
seeking the Lord Himself. (Chip Brogden, www.watchman.net)
Most prophetic people
don’t have the gift of leadership that is essential for a
church to be healthy, balanced and safe. A church led only by
prophets is not a safe environment for God’s people (Mike
Bickle - Growing in the Prophetic p.57).
The prophets were not
leaders of men. They carried no responsibility for the Temple,
for worship, for the institutional side of religion. They had
no political power, no party following, no organisation, no
priestly or pastoral function. They were not involved in the
commercial life of the nation, neither were they rulers of
men. They were simply servants of the living god whose task
was to declare what he was saying to the people (Clifford Hill
- Prophecy, Past and Present p.60).
The liberating gospel
of one generation becomes its law of the next (Ian Breward).
If every prophet spoke
only absolute truth, who would the people follow? Not the
Lord, but the prophets. To prevent that, God uses cracked and
foolish vessels. Every man must therefore check his own
spirit, heart, and mind according to the word, whenever a
prophet speaks to him in the name of the Lord. God uses
cracked vessels for this very reason (John and Paula Sanford -
The Elijah Task p.101).
Theology of Privilege
A theology of prophetic
privilege is dangerous. God has promised to protect his prophets, but he will
protect his word. Jesus warned that prophets would be persecuted. He did not say
they should be protected.
Prophets are often mistreated
and mistrusted by the church. That has to change. But the solution is not for
prophets to be put on a pedestal immune from challenge. We need an environment
where prophets are welcomed and prophecy is respected, but where prophetic
ministries are rigorously assessed and prophecies are vigorously tested.
The idea that any ministry,
whether pastor or prophet must be blindly submitted to is wrong and dangerous.
Far too many Christians have been lead off the right path, because they have
followed their pastor without questioning his decisions. We do not want
Christians to start doing the same with prophets.
The idea that prophets are
subject only prophets is wrong and dangerous. Prophets do have a special role in
testing judging prophecy (1 Cor 15), but that does not mean that others do not.
Anyone who is prophesied to has responsibility to test the prophecy and assess
the prophet. The problem with prophets is that they can stir each other up into
error. This happened in 1Kings 22. Jehoshaphat was not a prophet, but he tested
the court prophets word and rejected their ministry.
When a person acts as a prophet
to a nation, the nation has to decide, if the person is a prophet to the nation.
It is recognition by the nation that ultimately establishes a person as prophet
to the nation.
When a prophet speaks publicly,
the public have the right and responsibility to assess whether the word is right
and relevant to them. They should not blindly follow it. I think that we need
more rigorous debate about some of the words that are spoken by modern prophets.
I have publically suggested that a couple of big name prophets have actually
interpreted their dreams incorrectly. I think we need more of that kind of
discussion. It would be dangerous, if Christians felt that they must shut up, no
matter what they think about a word or a prophet.
On the other hand, Christians
should be very careful about attacking a prophet (or any other Christian) in the
wrong spirit. These attacks are usually a way of rejecting the words the prophet
has spoken. If the word is true, they are putting themselves in a dangerous
position. Rejecting God’s word, whether prophetic or scriptural is risky,
because it weakens our spiritual protection.
The person critiquing a
prophecy must keep their heart right. They must not speak out of envy or
jealousy. (That is where Miriam went wrong. They must not impugn the character
of a prophet, if they do not know them. )They should be careful, that they are
not rejecting a prophecy that God is speaking to them. They should remain
humble. They should speak with the courtesy that should apply to all Christian
interactions with other people. However, if people keep their heart right, there
is nothing wrong with questioning the role of a person that other people have
put up as a prophet, or a word that a prophet has put out.
There is an awful lot of
prophetic junk out there. There are many prophets who have stepped up to the
next level, before they are ready. We actually need more testing of prophecies
and prophets not less.
The best antidote for the
heroic is a prophetic community. The full revelation of God will
only be received by a group of people seeking him together. The
Holy Spirit likes to give different parts of the revelation to
different people. The full picture can often only be obtained by
pooling all the information received.
God is wanting to
raise up prophetic communities. Individual prophets are not
capable of hearing Gods word for our complex world (Tom
Marshall- The Coming of the Prophets).
In Samuel's time,
schools of the prophets were established, by which prophecy
was dignified and provision made for a succession of prophets;
for it would seem that in their colleges hopeful young men
were bred up in devotion in a constant attention upon the
instruction the prophets gave from God, and under strict
discipline, as candidates or probationers for prophecy, who
were called the son of the prophets; and their religious
exercises of prayer, and conference especially, are called
prophesying; and their prefect or president is called their
Father (1 Sam 10:12). Out of these God ordinarily chose the
prophets he sent. It is one of the great favours of God to
Israel that he raised up some of their sons for prophets. Amos
2:11 (Matthew Henry).
Because this is so, we all need to build relationship and credibility that will be the foundation for the acceptance of the word of the Lord when we speak on His behalf. That takes time. It takes risk. It costs. It takes effort. Many prophetic people are so caught up with introspection that they don't take time to serve others and develop good relationships - sometimes not even in their own homes! As a result their word is most unlikely to be accepted in their local church. If it is not accepted there it is highly unlikely that it will be accepted anywhere for long.
Building relationships does not guarantee that your word will be respected. It only gives it a chance of being accepted. But without relationships there is no chance it will be accepted (African Prophecy
Who is in Charge?
There is a serious argument going on
about authority in the church. Some people say that prophets do not need to
submit to anyone, but God himself. Others say that everyone including the
prophets must submit to a pastor. Still others say that apostles will govern the
church and that pastors and prophets will both submit to the apostles. All these
views are wrong. The Bible is quite clear.
Submit to one another out of reverence
for Christ Eph 5:21
Apostles, pastors, prophets and
evangelists are not above this command. They are required to submit to each
other out of reverence for Jesus; just like all other Christians.
Instead of asking who is to govern and
who is to submit to them, we should be looking for a model of church government
that allows all the ministries to submit to each other, as required by
Ephesians. Arguing about who should be in control will only result in division
Restoring prophets to the church will
not work, if pastors attempt to control the prophet. The challenge to the
pastors is to say to the prophet, “We will submit to you, if you will submit
to us”. They will both have to trust each other by submitting to each other.
This will be risky for both the pastors and the prophet, but if they commit to
it out of love for Jesus, great blessing will follow.
Trust produces trust and responsibility.
Pastors will be surprised at how responsible prophets can be, if they are just
trusted. Prophets will be surprised at how open pastors can be, if the prophet
is willing to submit to them.
Paul was started in his ministry when
Barnabas found him and brought him to Antioch (Acts 11:25,26). Barnabas
demonstrated great courage, because Paul was a high-risk person, but his trust
brought out the best in Paul. His commitment to Paul released enormous blessing
into the church.
A church needs several pastors, at least
one prophet and at least one evangelist to function effectively. There will only
be unity if they are all submitted to each other. The prophet should submit to
the pastors, but the pastors should also submit to the prophet. This will not be
Pastors, prophets and evangelists are
very different from each other and are likely to have strong views about how
things should be done. A great deal of love and trust will be required for them
to submit to each other; but this should be normal for mature ministries. If the
cross of Jesus is at work in their lives, it will be possible for these
ministries to submit to each other.
Mutual submission among pastors,
prophets and evangelists will be good for both them and the church. Their unity
will provide balance and safety for the church. It would also be a marvellous
testimony to the power of the gospel. On the other hand, if pastors and prophets
cannot submit to each other, then there is something wrong with our gospel.
Many church leaders are concerned about
their members lack of submission, yet they are unwilling to submit to others
themselves. If the leaders of the church cannot submit to each other, then we
should not be surprised if there is a lack of submission among less mature
Protocols for Prophecy
Each church must establish
protocols for prophesying during it’s meetings. Graham Cooke
(Developing your Prophetic Gifting) outlines some good guidelines
for developing protocols for handling prophecy. Two basic
- Spontaneous prophecy
should be encouraging and edifying
- Correction or
directional prophecy should be checked with elders first.
loyalty to God must take priority over his loyalty to the Church.
While being sufficiently involved to know what is going on, he
must be detached enough to be objective. This means that a prophet
should not be a paid officer of the church. It is
interesting that Paul says that gifts of money should only be
given to those elders who work hard at teaching or preaching (1
Timothy 5:17). That is, only pastor- teachers and evangelists
should receive financial support. Prophets are not included
because being a prophet is not a full time work. They can work
part time to support themselves. An example of this is Amos, who
earned his living as a shepherd. If a prophet is financially
independent he will not be tempted to compromise.