The most urgent need of the modern church is for the restoration of the prophetic ministry. In recent years the gift of prophecy has been rediscovered, but there is still a desperate shortage of prophets. The church will not come to true maturity until God has raised up prophets among his people.

For nearly two millenniums the public prophetic voice has been silent. Now in our time it is being restored (Tom Marshall - The Coming of the Prophets).

Clear Vision

There is a lack of vision and direction in the modern Church. Many Christians just go from fad to fad, but nothing is followed through to completion. Many churches are weak in vision and only obtain one by copying other successful churches.

The Bible says that without a vision the people will perish (Prov 29:18). A dearth of prophets has caused a lack of vision in the church. Paul says,

If the trumpet does not give a clear
call, who will get ready for battle (1 Cor 14:8).

The Church needs prophets who can give this clear call to battle. At present it is losing the battle because it has no clear goal. We are surrounded by a great babble of voices all claiming to have the truth and many Christians are tossed around by every new wave that comes along. A clear prophetic word is needed to prepare the church for victory.

Prophets bring the guidance of the Lord to the church. Christians can get so caught up in the events of the world that they do not see what God is doing. This is particularly true in tumultuous times, when it can be very hard to see the hand of God at work. Prophets will give direction and vision in these situations, so that God's people know what is happening, and what they should do. For example, the prophet Gad provided guidance to David and showed him how to avoid trouble.

But the prophet Gad said to David, "Do not stay in the stronghold. Go into the land of Judah." So David left and went to the forest of Hereth (1 Sam 22:5).

For a people or nation to be without prophets is a sign that they are under a curse.

We are given no miraculous signs; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be (Ps 74:9).

We presently have little or no understanding of the ultimate and full purposes of God in and through His people. The church is bored stiff, lacking an orbit, a line of thought and a direction because it lacks this understanding. We condemn ourselves, therefore, to programs and services whose forms are unhappily predictable (Art Katz - What is the Prophetic Church).

In both the church and in the world, there is a new hunger for the prophetic. This hunger stems from an increasing desire for guidance in order to survive the rampant confusion of our times (Rick Joyner - The Prophetic Ministry).

A striking feature of our time is that so few of the voices have a distinctive message. There is a painful lack of a clear word of authority for the times. While there are many good preachers of the Gospel, and while we are not without champions of the vital verities of the Faith, we are sadly in need of the Prophet with his "Thus saith the Lord", which he has received in a commission born of a peculiarly chastened fellowship with God. There is a growing concern to know, as distinct from the generalisations of truth and service, what is the Lord's word for now, where we are, and what in the Divine purpose belongs to this present hour (T. Austin-Sparks).

The prophet sees the sweep and the purpose of God, the larger picture, the panoramic view. He is not one for the 'nuts and bolts', for the details: 'how do you do this and that'. He sees the arching overview, and that is what the church needs to see if that is the framework of its life. Without that overview, fellowships will be fixed entirely in the present moment. They will remain in the things that are really so narrow and so petty because they cannot see what they are doing and what they are about in this moment in the context of something much larger of which they are in connection and moving toward. Without the prophetic overview, they are caught up in the immediate program, which very likely has been birthed out of their flesh or out of a necessity to 'do something', and is not consciously in the continuum of things apostolic and prophetic. (T. Austin-Sparks - What is Prophetic Ultimacy?).

At times we need the voice of the seer- the prophet- to help us see beyond the obvious and to recognize the hand of God in our providential circumstances (Iverna Tompkins - Advancing in the Prophetic, p.14).

God requires men with a vision. To do a great work only requires one man with a vision who is prepared to burn himself out for it. God takes a man and burns a vision onto his heart. To be a disciple means that God has to take everything that person has. If a vision is to be fulfilled we must give everything for it (Clark Taylor on Prov 29:18).

Restoration of the Prophetic

The most urgent need of the modern church is for the restoration of the prophetic ministry. In recent years the gift of prophecy has been rediscovered, but there is still a desperate shortage of prophets. The church will not come to true maturity until God has raised up prophets among his people.

For nearly two millenniums the public prophetic voice has been silent. Now in our time it is being restored (Tom Marshall - The Coming of the Prophets).

Unfortunately, the purpose of the prophetic ministry has caused a great deal of disagreement in the church. Some writers have suggested that the role of the OT prophets ended with the cross. They suggest that the New Testament prophets are limited to encouragement and exhortation. This view turns prophets into Good News Guys

Many church leaders fear the prophetic. They are happy for prophetic people to give personal words to people during church services, but want the leadership of the church to be immune from any prophetic challenge. This has truncated an important ministry and weakened the church. The quality of the prophets is critical for building the church on a solid foundation (Eph 2:20), so we need to understand how the ministry of Jesus changed the role of the prophets.

Old Testament Prophets

The common view of Old Testament prophets is that they were old men with beards, who went around speaking doom and gloom, but his is a misleading caricature.

The main role of the prophets was to speak for God. In Old Testament times, the Holy Spirit had not been poured out on God's people, so only a few people operated under the anointing of the Spirit. Most people could not hear the Spirit speaking, so they needed someone to tell them what God was saying. The prophets spoke about all aspects of life. Moses was a prophet, because he gave Israel the law (Deut 34:10). Samuel told Saul where to find his donkeys (1 Sam 9:8). Nathan challenged David, when he covered up his sin (1 Sam 12:1).

A key aspect of the prophetic role was to watch over the covenant. Whenever, Israel broke the covenant, the prophets would challenge them and warn of the consequence. Israel broke the covenant over and over again, which is why the prophets seemed to be full of doom and gloom. Israel was mostly in disobedience, so the prophets spent most of their time warning of the consequence of this disobedience. They could not be nice, because the prognosis for Israel was usually nasty.

A minor role of the more mature prophets was to speak to the nations around Israel. God raises them up and brings them down to accomplish his purposes. Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesied to nations like Egypt and Babylon. They did not speak to these nations in terms of the covenant, because they were not under it. However, because these nations were created by God, they are accountable to him. The prophets warned that if they slipped too far into evil, God would have to bring them down. However, speaking to the other nations was a minor part of the prophet's role.

Christians often assume that words of the OT prophets were perfect and had to be obeyed without question. This is not true. The scriptures contain the prophet's best words. They were preserved, because the community assessed these words to be true and reliable. Those that were a mixture or wrong were quickly forgotten, so we do not have access to them. The Old Testament prophets could make mistakes. Samuel was wrong in some of the things he did. Elisha got things wrong too. One prophet deliberately lied (1 Kings 13:18). Obedience to prophecy was not mandatory. Every word had to be tested, although this was hard, for those without the anointing of the Spirit. They often had no choice but to wait and see if the word was fulfilled.

New Covenant

The cross and resurrection of Jesus did not cause the role of the prophet to cease. Agabus, Judas and Silas are referred to as a prophets, so the ministry continued (Acts 11:28; Acts 15:31). There is nothing in the New Testament to say that any aspect of the role has ceased.

Several things have changed. In Old Testament times, Israel was the people of the covenant. In New Testament times, the church is the people of the new covenant. The prophetic role of watching over the covenant continues, but their focus shifted to the new covenant and the church. The prophets are still responsible for watching over the church and warning if it breaks the covenant of Jesus. This is not a doom and gloom ministry, because in contrast to OT Israel, the victory of the cross and the spirit means that the church mostly walks in blessing. However, there will be times when a church leaves God's path and needs to be challenged by a prophet. John's letters to the seven churches are examples of a prophetic challenge to a church that has lost the plot. Giving warnings to the church is still the responsibility of the prophets, but it should not be required too often, if it is walking in the Spirit and seeking to serve Jesus.

One of the greatest threats to the New Testament church is persecution. The role of the New Testament prophets includes responsibility for encouraging the church through times of persecution and suffering. John's letters to the seven churches are an example of this (Rev 3:21).

The role of prophesying to the people of the old covenant has been curtailed by the cross. Jesus himself gave the final prophesy to Israel warning of the destruction of Jerusalem (Matt 23:33-24:2). He warned that Israel would not get a prophetic word again for a long, long time.

Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord (Matt 23:38-39).

Being left without prophets is part of their desolation. All future prophets will be Christians, so if the Jews will not accept those who come in the name of Jesus, they will have no prophets (Micah 3:6). New Testament prophets will only get to speak freely to Israel when the Times of the Gentiles are coming to an end.

The role of prophesying to the other nations continues in New Testament times. God continues to determine the rising and falling of the nations.

He made all the nations; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands (Acts 17:26).

When nations go sour, God often lets them collapse and die. Rome is an example. It eventually collapsed and disappeared. God's role in this is clearer, if there are prophets explain to the collapsing nation why things are falling apart. This role has been lacking for much of the New Testament age, so it needs to be restored.

Prophetic proclamation is the best way to remove a bad government. The Old Testament prophets brought downs kings and rulers who had lost the plot. For example, Elijah's prophetic work led to the destruction of Ahab. Daniel prophesied the fall of Belshazzar of Babylon. John continued this role in the New Testament with his prophecy of the fall of Babylon the Great. We need to see more of the ministry from prophets in the New Testament age. If a Christian prophet had pronounced judgement against Saddam Hussein, releasing the power of God to remove him from office, his fall would have been far less painful for the Iraqi people than a ten year war.

Speaking to the nations is only a minor aspect of the prophetic role, so only a few of the more mature prophets will be called to the role of prophet to the nations. Most New Testament prophets will function within the church. Some will grow to be a prophet to their own nation, and a few of these will emerge as prophets to the nations.

Everyone can Prophecy

The cross and resurrection brought another major change. On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was poured on everyone who believes. This changed everything, because now every Christian can hear the Holy Spirit speak. We no longer need a special group of people to tell us what God is saying. This shrinks the role of the prophets, because I do not need a prophet to tell me where to find my donkeys. If I need guidance about what to do, I should be able to hear the voice of the Spirit myself.

The other effect of the outpouring of the Spirit is that every Christian can prophesy. Peter explained this on the day of Pentecost.

I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy (Acts 2:17).

This general ability to prophesy manifests in the gift of prophecy (1 Cor 12:10). With prophecy becoming more prevalent and widespread, the risk of poor quality prophecy is increased. This is why Paul gave clear guidance to the Corinthians about how this gift can be managed in a way that minimises harm. 1 Corinthians 14 is not a re-definition of the role of the prophet as some writers have claimed. It provides guidelines on how prophecy should be managed in a situation where everyone, including young people, can prophesy. He suggests that people should take turns in prophesying to keep the process orderly. He also encourages the church to test all prophecies, and discard those that are faulty (1 Thes 5:19-22).

Paul's letters focus on testing prophecies, not testing people. There is no test that has to be met before someone can exercise the gift of prophecy, because this gift is available to everyone. On the other hand, because the gift is so open, it is necessary to test the prophetic words that are spoken to sort the chaff from the wheat.

The gift of prophecy is for edification and encouragement to build up the church (1 Cor 14:3). The gift of prophecy is not for admonition and correction. This responsibility is kept for the prophets, because it is harder to speak challenging words without being harsh or proud.

Only those who have the appropriate character should be recognised in the ministry of the prophet. Prophets are subject a tough character test, because they are in a role that can do great harm, if they are insecure or weak. Jesus said that we would know the true prophets by the fruit of their service in their church. It takes time for fruit to emerge (Matt 7:15-20).

Every church will need admonition and correction from time to time. Therefore every church should have at least one person who is recognized and established in this role. These prophets must not be constrained to comfort prophecies by 1 Corinthians 14:3. They must be free to say whatever God wants said to the church, with the only constraint being to speak the truth in love.

Gift of Prophecy and the Ministry of the Prophet

In recent years we have seen an increase in the manifestation of the gift of prophecy in the church. This gift is given by the Spirit for the encouragement and edification of believers. It is a gift that is available to all believers and any believer can experience it. In fact we are told that we should all earnestly seek the gift of prophecy (1 Cor 14:1,3). However, not everyone who prophesies is a prophet.

An Exhortation is when someone senses in their spirit that something needs to be said. It's a sermonette. The temptation to add 'Saith the Lord' must be avoided. Exhortation is easier to correct than prophecy. The aim in Prophecy is quality and purity rather than quantity (Peake -Jeremiah).

It takes humility to know the difference between prophecy and exhortation. Exhortation is not prophecy (Mario Murillo- Prophecy).

You can have spiritual gifting and insight, but that does not mean God has set you in a position of governing authority. God gives gifts to men by His Spirit, but the governing offices are established by the Lord Jesus. We get into trouble when we mistake gifts for offices (John Bevere Thus Saith the Lord p.131).

There is a difference between the gift of prophecy, and the ministry of a prophet. Being a prophet is a eldership ministry and a calling from God. A prophet is an elder called to speak the word of God. He is a spokesman for God. Whereas the gift of prophecy can be given to any believer as the Spirit wills, the ministry of the prophet is a calling on a person's life. It is this ministry that the church really needs.

In practice, there will be a continuum of gifting. Some people will give an occasional prophecy (this is where most prophets begin). Others may prophesy more frequently. Some people who are appointed as elders may be just beginning in the prophetic. Others elders may have developed into a fuller prophetic ministry. The main goal is for all Christians to develop into their ministry. We should not constrain people by trying to put precise labels on them. They should be free to be what God has called and equipped them to be.

When surveying the landscape of the prophetic movement today, often humility, holiness, and spiritual maturity are lacking in those who claim to be voices for God. Sadly, pride, presumption, and a lack of spiritual maturity are far more visible in their lives.

Titles, in and of themselves, are not bad. But our flesh being what it is, we tend to love self-glorification and human applause. By giving ourselves the title of "prophet," we are yearning for distinction and recognition. But we need to beware, doing so is giving in to the subtle, religiously acceptable means of calling attention to our gift.

For those of us who still feel entitled to use the title "prophet" should note that Scripture only records two instances where people identified themselves as prophets. The first is in 1 Kings 13:18 where the old prophet meets a younger prophet and says, "I am a prophet just like you" and so convinces him to go home with him. But listening to the old prophet cost the younger prophet his life. The second instance occurs in the Book of Revelation and refers to Jezebel, "...who calls herself a prophetess" (Revelation 2:20) (John Paul Jackson).

Robust Prophets

The gift of prophecy has been a great blessing to the church, but much of the prophecy that is given is rather tame. This is not the way it should be. Paul said:

if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you! (1 Cor 14:24,25).

Prophecy with this power is not common in the church. Jeremiah said that the word of the Lord is like fire, or like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces (Jer 23:29). The church will only experience powerful prophesying, when prophets are taking their proper place in the church.

The restoration of the prophetic ministry is essential for the vitality of the church. Whereas the gift of prophecy can be given to any believer as the Spirit wills, the ministry of the prophet is a calling on a person's life. The church urgently needs this ministry

May the Lord send us prophetic preaching that searches and scorches! Send us a race of martyr preachers - men of burdened, bent, bowed and broken under the vision of impending judgement and the doom of unending hell of the impenitent (L Ravenhill - Why Revival Tarries).

And it's my contention this morning that this pulpit is no place for puppets In this day in which we live it's prophets that we need (Leonard Ravenhill - Weeping Between The Porch And The Altar).

There is a power in prophecy, which nothing can stand against (Anne Van Niekerk).

Prophets in the Church

Most prophets will function in the context of the church. A prophet is just an elder who sees things in black and whites. They will ask the tough questions and challenge Church members with besetting sins. A prophet is really an elder, who has a passion for truth and righteousness.

Each church will be led by a team of elders (Acts 14:23). The minimum number of elders would be three or four. A church should be led by a group of elders working together (Acts 13:1). The circles in the diagram below represent the elders of a church. The lines represent their commitment to each other and the relationships between them. The strength of these links between the elders is the source of the strength of the church. (For more on how this works, refer to radical leadership model).

Paul describes the role of elders in his letter to the Ephesians. Their role is to build up the body of Christ to maturity. There are four different functions that are necessary for this to happen.

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ (Eph 4:11-15).

Building up the body of Christ is the responsibility of the elders, so these gifts represent different tasks that an elder may do. An elder can be an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, or a pastor and teacher. Each elder will fulfil one of these functions, according to the gifts that Christ has given him. All of these ministries should be represented in the church eldership. One or two of these elders will be a prophet (R). One will be an evangelist (V). Several will be pastors (P).

Prophets, evangelists and pastors are just elders. Having all these ministries present in the eldership gives balance to the church. Without this balance the church will not grow to maturity and unity. The prophet (R) will provide vision for the church and keep it on the right track. He will ensure that there is an emphasis on holiness. A prophet is really an elder, who challenges church members with besetting sins and specialises in getting vision for the church.

The Role of Prophets in the Church is fully decribed in a new book from Kingwatch Books. It also explains the relationship of the Prophet to other Ministries. Ephesians 4 is described in detail.

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Strong Foundation

The prophetic ministry is a fundamental aspect of the eldership. Without a prophet, a church will be weak in vision and at risk of sinfulness. The pastor will have to copy other successful churches to obtain a vision. The reason that we have so many immature and weak churches is prophets are missing from the leadership of the church. (Likewise, without an evangelist the church will not grow.)

The main reason that the prophetic ministry is not functioning correctly in the modern church is that the leadership is not functioning correctly. Most churches are led by a pastor-leader, so many prophets have become pastors to find a place of ministry. This is not a solution, because but the church operates best when elders are functioning in their true ministry and not trying to be something they are not.

All of the ascension ministries of leadership are needed for a local church to grow to maturity. The prophetic ministry must be part of the foundation of the church.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues (1 Cor 12:27,28).

Without a prophet, a Church will be prone to sin. One reason that we have so many immature and weak churches is prophets are missing from the leadership of the church.

A strong Church needs the righteousness that only comes when prophets are present. The modern church has millions of pastors, but only a few prophets. This serious imbalance has severely weakened the church.

A prophet must be part of the foundation of every Church.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit (Eph 2:19-22).

The Church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. A building with a faulty foundation will not be able to stand, and will eventually collapse.

Until the relationship between leaders and watchmen is restabilised properly, the watchmen cannot function and the leader will continue to be needlessly blind-sided by the enemy (Rick Joyner - The Prophetic Ministry).

Assured Prophets

Every Church needs at least one assured prophet. Sometimes it can be difficult to test a prophecy, because the message given is rather general. The prophecy may be biblically correct, but it may not be what God is actually saying at the time. It is more fruitful to test prophets. They can be watched over a period of time to see if their lives bear fruit. Jesus said that this is the best test of a prophet. A false prophet will soon become obvious through the damage that is done by their ministry (Matt 7:15-20). Every Church needs a prophet, who is known to have a true ministry, and can be relied upon to speak the word of the Lord when it is needed.

The church of God is in need of prophets who stand in the council of the Lord, to bring forth his word so that it will burn as a fire and strike as a hammer. Men like Elijah, Amos, Joel and John the Baptist who can declare Gods unadulterable truth, spoken with divine authority to meet the need of the hour, both to the church and the world. Men who will come forth from Gods presence, filled with his holy jealousy and consumed with a divine passion (Milton Smith).

The prophet bears a responsibility to place himself continually in the presence of God seeking to hear the word of the Lord and asking the Lord for guidance and direction, for encouragement or rebuke. When the Christian community needs guidance, it can rightly look to its prophets for a word from the Lord (Bruce Yocum - Prophecy p.51).

Many of the spiritual gifts required can be manifested in other Church members, but the ascension gifts must be manifested in the eldership of a Church. One person cannot exercise all these ministries. A Church needs all the gifts of eldership, especially prophets.

Apostles and Prophets

An apostle is an elder who is sent out to establish a new church. The Greek word "apostlos" literally means one who is sent. It is applied to a messenger who is sent on a mission. In the New Testament, it is used to describe a person who is sent out to establish a new church.

When starting a new church, apostles will normally move into the next neighbourhood or village. Often they will go to a place where someone has just been converted (Acts 16:11-15). They will go where the Spirit is moving, so hearing God's voice will be important in knowing where to go.

An apostle must always be accompanied by a prophet. Barnabas (Acts 4:36) and Silas (Acts 15:32) were prophets who accompanied Paul. When Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement, Paul was not prepared to go out till he had found another prophet (Silas) to go with him.

The most experienced prophet should be sent out with the apostle, because starting the new church is the most demanding task. Good prophetic insight must be part of the church from the beginning, so it will be built on a foundation of righteousness and holiness. Every new work must be based on a clear vision. Many new works founder, because they have inadequate or confused vision.

The apostle and the prophet complement each other. This is why a church is said to be "built on the foundation of apostles and prophets" (Eph 2:20). The apostle will use his pastoral experience to draw a group of believers together and build then into a unit. The prophet will impart vision and zeal into the new church. He will give encouragement to the apostle and watch over the church to see that it is built according to God's plan.

The apostolic team should also include an evangelist. Timothy (2 Tim 4:5) and Mark (he wrote a gospel) were evangelists who accompanied Paul. The evangelist would have specific responsibility for sharing the gospel.

There are three reasons for a prophet and apostle working together.

  • The prophet gives vision and direction.

  • The prophet challenges the apostle if they take a wrong turn or go in the wrong direction.

  • The prophets must protect the people from the apostle.

Apostles can be dangerous. Most of the people around them have blessed by them or discipled by them, so they tend to look up to the apostle. This means that an apostle is often surrounded by "Yes men", not because they are devious, but because they love and respect the apostle. An apostle needs someone bold enough to challenge them if they are mistaken. That task will usually fall to a prophet. Nathan took this role for David. Barnabas for Paul.

When a prophet colludes with the apostle to attack some of the people, it gets dangerous. When a prophet starts firing the apostle's bullets, he becomes a pet prophet. This is a risk that all prophets working with an apostle need to guard against.

Travelling Prophets

When pastors are sent out to establish a beachhead in the enemies territory, they become apostles. The church needs apostles and pastors.

Pastors are local

Apostles are mobile.

Apostles and pastors both need prophets alongside them. Pastors of local churches need prophets to feed holiness into their church. Apostles need prophets to ensure their new work is built on a solid foundation.

Some prophets will be local, working with a pastor.

Other prophets will be mobile, working with an apostle.

There does not seem to be a role for independent mobile prophets. In the early church, groups of travelling prophets lost the plot and became a burden on the church.

No Prophetic Heroes

We must avoid the common error of making the ministry of the "prophet" too big. This happens when we model the prophetic ministry on the Old Testament. The problem is that these men were called to the role of Prophet to the Nation (described in the next chapter). To fulfil this calling they stood apart from the priests and kings. Only a few heroes had the necessary anointing of the Spirit.

The New Testament has not changed the role of the prophet, but it has changed the place where they function. A prophet is still a spokesperson for God, but the context in which they function has changed. Instead of standing apart, prophets should be an integral part of the leadership of the church.

Since the coming of the Spirit, a person does not need to be an Elijah or Jeremiah, to be a prophet or a spokesperson for God. In the same way you don't, need to be a Billy Graham to be an evangelist. A prophet is just an elder who fulfils the prophetic role in the leadership of the church.

In the Old Testament the prophetic ministry was limited to a few heroes. With the coming of the Spirit this calling will be much more widespread. Prophets should be everywhere. The intensity of their gifting may not always be as strong as Elijah or Jeremiah, but their prophetic ministry is just as real. Every church should have a prophet.

Personal Prophecy

Most prophets will begin by giving prophecies for individuals in their church. Personal prophecy will be mostly encouragement. Most Christians lack confidence in themselves and their abilities, so they need encouragement. The gift of prophecy is for strengthening, encouragement and comfort (1 Cor 14:3), because most Christians need building up in their faith.

Personal prophecy will often be quite vague. However, Christians should not be living their lives in detailed obedience to the prophetic, so it does not matter if the words are fuzzy. We should be walking in obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit and just getting confirmation, illumination or encouragement from personal prophecies. Therefore these prophetic words do not need to be absolutely precise.

Most personal prophecy conveys a standard message.

God is pleased with you.

Keep on doing what you are doing.

God has a million ways of saying these words, but each one is perfect for the person who receives it. The important thing is that the word of prophecy is accompanied by the Holy Spirit moving in the heart of the hearer, so that the encouragement digs deep down into their soul and changes their attitude to life.

Some people are full of encouragement. They are great to be around. People with a pastoral calling should be full of encouragement, so they need to be fluent in the gift of prophecy. The irony is that regular anointing in the gift of prophecy may be a sign of a pastoral calling and not a sign of a prophetic calling.

Sometimes a warning will be needed. If a Christian is going the wrong way, they are unlikely to be turned round by the gift of prophecy. A warning is more likely received, if it comes from a trusted elder or friend with a prophetic gifting (Gal 6:1). David accepted correction from Nathan, because Nathan was his friend and a proven prophet (2 Sam 12).

Prophecy to the Church

A problem occurs when a person who is fluent with the gift of prophecy and experienced with personal prophecy moves up to the role of bringing prophecy to a church. If a church is growing in the obedience to the Holy Spirit, it will be filled with such a buzz that it does need much encouragement. If a church is wandering away from the path, it will need correction. An example of this is the seven letters to the churches in Revelation 2,3.

I remember one incident when a prophetic word was spoken during the meeting of a church and all who were present fell on their knees and wept. believe that we need to see this more often.

The problem is that most prophecies to churches are brought by pastors who are skilled in bringing encouragement to people through personal prophecy. These pastoral people carry over the same method and standard and proclaim encouragement to the church, so they struggle to bring a word of correction.

People with a pastoral calling should be full of encouragement, so they need to be fluent in the gift of prophecy. The irony is that regular anointing in the gift of prophecy may be a sign of a pastoral calling and not a sign of a prophetic calling.

Men and Women

The ministry of the prophet is not limited to men. A woman can also be prophet (prophetess).

Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days and they will prophesy (Acts 2:18).

Miriam was a prophetess (Num 12:6). So were the daughters of Philip the evangelist.

He had four virgin daughters who were prophetesses (Acts 21:8,9 NASB)

Other examples of prophetesses are Deborah and Anna.

Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites came to her to have their disputes decided (Jud 4:4,5).

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:36-38).

In these notes I often refer to a prophet as "he" or "him". This is for simplicity of language. Everything I say about prophets also applies to prophetesses.

Preachers

Some preachers are prophets, but not all preachers are prophets. Apostles, evangelists and pastors can all preach. However, there is something different about the preaching of a prophet.

Mere preachers may help anybody and hurt nobody: but prophets will stir everybody and madden somebody. The preacher goes with the crowd; the prophet goes against it. A man freed, fired, and filled with God will be branded unpatriotic because he speaks against his nations sins; unkind because his tongue is a two edged sword, unbalanced because the weight of preaching opinion is against him. The preacher will be heralded, the prophet will be hounded (L Ravenhill- Why Revival Tarries.).

God has always had His specialists whose chief concern has been the moral breakdown the decline in the spiritual health of the nation or the church. Such men were Elijah, Jeremiah, Malachi and others of their kind who appeared at critical moments in history to reprove, rebuke, and exhort in the name of God and righteousness. Such a man was likely to be drastic, radical, possibly at times violent, and the curious crowd that gathered to watch him work soon branded him as extreme, fanatical, negative. And in a sense they were right. He was single-minded, severe, fearless, and these were the qualities the circumstances demanded. He shocked some, frightened others and alienated not a few, but he knew who had called him and what he was sent to do. His ministry was geared to the emergency, and that fact marked him out as different, a man apart (A W Tozer).

Great Divide

Prophets are the people most like to get a revelation of God's purposes and plans, but most pastors do not have relationship with a reliable prophet who can shed light in the darkness. We have a huge divide between the prophetic and the pastoral that prevents the church from functioning at full capacity.

Most churches are led by pastors who see intercessors and prophetic people as a problem and not a blessing that will do more harm than good, if given too much freedom. Pastors prefer to limit the prophetic to encouraging personal words to individual believers given in a church meeting where the process can be controlled.

This truncation of the prophetic role means that church leaders do not know how to handle a prophetic warning to a church, a city or a nation. When prophecy goes beyond the personal, they want to control the process. Some leaders have suggested that all words should be submitted to them for testing before they are released.

Yet, the same leaders say that they tend to ignore most of the prophecies given to them, because they are rubbish. That might be true, but it is hard to see how the prophetic role can emerge when the process is controlled by people who are ambivalent about prophecy.

The other side of this problem is that people with a prophetic calling have mostly been squeezed out of the centre of church life and tend to live on the fringes where the battle is tougher and isolation leaves them vulnerable to deception. Many have experienced rejection, leaving a residue of frustration and bitterness. When prophetic people gather together without a pastoral influence, they tend to become hard and judgmental, which tinges their words with a harshness which grates on everyone. This isolation and neglect leaves the church without a clear prophetic voice.

The biblical model for the leadership of the church is diversity of ministries submitted to each other. When evangelists gain control, a church becomes a revolving door. When prophets gain control, the church skinks to a rigid righteous remnant. When pastors gain control, the church become soft and flabby. A healthy church needs each of these ministries operating in unity, by submitting to each other in love.

Because the prophets are largely missing from the church, it gets clatter and confusion. Every church needs both pastors and prophets to function effectively. Until the prophetic role is integrated into the church, and the pastors and prophets come to unity, through submission to each other, confusions will continue to occur.

Urgent

Prophets are absolutely essential for the purification of his church. The most urgent need in the church today, is the restoration of the prophetic ministry. God cannot complete his work until the prophetic ministry is restored. God promised that he would never leave his people without prophets who could speak his word. In Deuteronomy 18:18, God promises his people that he will always provide them with a prophet who will speak his word.

I will raise up for them a prophet like you (Moses) from among their brothers. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything that I command him.

This promise had an ultimate fulfilment in Jesus, but it is also a promise that we should claim for our time.

Prophetic Excellence

The widespread acceptance of the prophetic ministry that emerged out of the Charismatic Renewal during the 1970s was a huge step forward for the church, but there is still a long way to go. An emphasis on quantity, rather than quality, was okay while the gifting was re-emerging, but now that it is well established, we should be focussing more on quality.

Daniel and his mates did not just make a splash on Jewish bulletin boards, their insight and ability were recognised by a tough anti-god king.

The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king's service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom (Dan 1:19-20).

Daniel was recognised by worldly leaders as being ten times as good as the other wise men of his times. That is why he was asked to serve three different kings in two world empires.

That is what the Christian prophetic ministry should be aspiring to. Where are the Christian prophets who are recognised by the world as being ten times as discerning as Thomas Friedman or Paul Krugman. If we do not become complacent about the quality of prophecy, that level of gifting could emerge.

God has much more to give than we have seen so far. In the future we will see much more tactical and strategic guidance coming from clear prophetic voices. The Old Testament prophets did not just predict calamities. They gave tactical advise to local and national leaders (1 Chron 20:13-30). They also revealed God's long-term plans and strategy and what his people should be doing to participate with God in his work. Moses was a great prophet. He announced God's plan and timing for establishing his people in the promised land. He also explained what Israel must do to enter in the land.

We have the fullness of the Holy Spirit, whereas in Old Testament times, the activity of the Holy Spirit was intermittent. Therefore, Christian prophets should be much more effective than the Old Testament prophets.

We have a long way to go. We must not be satisfied with what we have now, but press in to receive all that God has for us through the prophetic ministry.

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