As we look out across the activity of the church in the 21st century, we find ourselves in an era reverberating with both the ancient echoes of prophecy from the 1950’s and the unmistakable sense of a fresh outpouring slowly, hesitantly emerging today. The church in many areas, is witnessing a prophetic reawakening, and for those with ears to hear, the resonating heartbeat of God’s design for His Church is evident.
A Spirit-Led Approach to Ministry
It’s not a new breed (as it was once called) or new approach, but it is a godly, Spirit-led and scripture-honouring approach to prophetic ministry that is not intimidated or silenced if you are a cessationalist. It cares about being obedient to the leading of the Spirit, which includes honouring the Word of God, being accountable to leadership and walking in godliness, being friendly, and being, well, nice.
The Foundation and Edification of the Church
Ephesians 4:11-12 announces, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” The listing of apostles and prophets at the outset underscores their crucial role in the foundation and edification of the early Church. He gave them – and He is still giving them, because we need them.
A New Prophetic Vision
In the last few years, prominent figures in the charismatic movement such as Bob Jones, John Paul Jackson, and Paul Cain have passed away. These individuals were widely regarded as prophets and were influential due to their distinctive spiritual gifts and reputations. They were among several who shaped the perception of prophetic ministry, which often cantered on words of knowledge. However, there has been considerable debate within charismatic communities regarding the legitimacy and significance of contemporary prophetic practices, including issues amplified through social media and individuals making vague, purposeless forecasts. Paul Cain, noted for his remarkable insights, was an example of the old guard; he was not tech-savvy, preferring to type his emails in all caps, despite his profound spiritual influence.
The Continual Work of Prophets
Contrastingly, apostolic churches have now come to the fore, adopting a nuanced stance towards prophetic ministry. While still valuing words of knowledge and the element of prediction, these churches have placed a stronger emphasis on preparing the church for service, collaborating closely with church leaders, and integrating with the broader apostolic mission.
While we have championed the prophetic gift, even dabbling in so called ‘activation’, we must remember that mere human endeavours cannot birth prophets, no matter how loudly or enthusiastically we proclaim it. It’s great to have so many that following the apostle Paul’s encouragement to eagerly desire the gifts, especially prophecy but it’s very clear only God can call, commission, and send prophets.
When the lights and the microphones have been turned off, prophets still have work to do, much of it unseen, unrewarded or acknowledged. The gift of prophecy comes with little responsibility other than integrity and submission to leadership so it is worth everyone putting their hand to it. Prophets on the other hand can be like the knight on the chessboard, turning up in the most unexpected places and at times which are either inconvenient or a surprise.
Prophetic Voices in Troubled Times
You are aware of the days in which we live, as we stand amidst global upheavals – with wars, rumours of wars, frequent earthquakes, famines, pandemics, financial instabilities, political upheavals, and the palpable pain of human suffering – it feels like the foreboding calm before an imminent storm. It is in this pivotal juncture, the voice of the prophets emerges with renewed urgency. We are concerned about the Word of God, but in these troubled times that is exactly what the prophets will bring, along with considerable encouragement, comfort and great exhortation. Their conviction about the providence, sovereignty, power and closeness of the Lord to the Church is a reassuring one to all that they minister to.
Discernment and Humility in the Prophetic Ministry
Our world’s challenges underline the prophetic ministry’s vital role. Prophets carry the mantle of declaring God’s truth in contexts often riddled with ambiguity, beckoning the Church back to her foundational love and herald the unfolding Kingdom in all its glory. Pastors might be hesitant to tell a church that they have left their first love, but prophets certainly will.
History teaches us that it can be challenging to discern where heavenly inspiration ends and our own understanding begins. To find our way through this delicate balance, it’s important as the church, to anchor ourselves in the teachings of Scripture, embrace humility, and strive for togetherness, while being mindful of the pitfalls of division or tribalism.
The Call of Prophets for Our Generation
The renewed attention to prophecy isn’t just a regular pattern we see; it feels like a heartfelt call for our generation. There’s truth in the words of Amos: “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).
It’s my hope that God will empower those He has chosen, those who listen closely to His voice, to share His vision in a world that’s searching for hope and guidance. May they be equipped with everything they need to spark a passion in the Church, with a prophetic ministry that honours the scriptures, lifts up Christ, and renews hope within the hearts of believers.
These are exciting times…