“So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members of one another. Having then gifts differing according the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophecy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:5-8)
The Lord has spoken clearly to myself, and others, over the past weeks regarding the outright rejection of, lack of interest in, understanding of, and exercising of these motivational gifts that have been given to the members of the body of Christ.
As I have stated previously, the spiritual gifts enable us to successfully fulfill the great commission. There are seven separate gifts that are described in Romans: prophecy, ministry (or serving), teaching, exhortation, giving, administration and mercy. I believe that they are all critically and equally important within the Body of Christ. Over a series of seven articles, I will discuss the role that each gift fulfills in the Church, its potential for both positive and negative manifestations and how, just like personalities and children, some gifts work and play well together, and some don’t.
This article is on the gift of prophecy, which is probably the least understood and demonstrated of all seven gifts in the day-to-day operation of our churches. Although all seven of the spiritual gifts are neglected through a lack of discussion and teaching, I personally believe that the gift of prophecy is being deliberately rejected due to the controlling spirit that affects some Pastors and Elders in our churches. Let’s face it, the main reason we don’t see support for Prophets is because most of what the Prophet has to say, and believes, is diametrically opposed to the current policies, programs, tolerance to sin and doctrine in most churches. The Prophet is real, however, and speaks God’s word.
The failure of church leadership to seek God’s direction, through the Prophets that He has provided for that specific purpose, is one of the main reasons that churches, in general, are as weak and ineffective as they are. The Prophet will always vote for the control of the Holy Spirit over any man’s flesh-driven decisions, plans or programs. The Prophet has the gift-given ability to inherently know what is Spiritually right and wrong, but few Pastors, including Evangelicals, even try to identify them, much less solicit their input.
The gift of prophecy does not provide the ability to “tell fortunes” or to see the intimate details of people’s private lives as some believe. The gift is more accurately defined as communicating the word of the Lord. The message spoken or written by the Prophet may be a direct quote of God’s word or “logos”, or it may be God speaking directly through the Prophet, in the form of a “rhema” word as a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. It may be for an individual, a church congregation, or the Church in general. It is God the Father who knows that someone is bound by a particular sin or hurting because of a specific problem, not the Prophet. He simply communicates His word for that individual through the gift of prophecy and the Prophet. He may also communicate a message for an assembled congregation or for the entire Body of Christ. It is also possible that the Lord will communicate these types of messages through others that do not have the gift. So, you might ask, if God can speak to us using anyone, why are Prophets necessary? I believe the answer to that question is that the Prophet is genetically engineered by God to communicate knowledge and truth. They are constructed in a special way so that they don’t garble His messages with their own preconceived ideas and desires. One of the reasons that they see everything in black and white is because they have been created specifically to be used as a transparent, unfiltered communications channel for the Lord. They are somewhat like a weather radio, they are designed to pick up one single frequency – God’s. And, just like a weather radio passes on information and warnings when there is danger, the Prophet informs and warns the Church when necessary. Because they are tuned to only one frequency, they are very good at rejecting the distracting garbage that others seem to pick up quite easily. Now you understand the function of the Prophet.
Often, the ones gifted in prophecy tend to appear aloof, unyielding and harsh. They may have only a few very close friends in the church. They firmly stand for absolute truth and principle and, because of this, they may be seen as agents of dissention in the church. They are as hard on themselves as they are on others, sometimes to the point of self-condemnation. They are willing to endure suffering rather than compromise the truth and they will rarely back down, even if it means hurting someone, including themselves. They are usually confrontational, brutally frank and outspoken. Outwardly, they may seem very calloused and heartless but know that, inwardly, they are heartbroken over the sins of their brothers and sisters in Christ.
The main desire of the Prophet is to see the Church immersed in God’s word, pure, principled and on fire for the Lord. They have been gifted to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and to God’s desires for His people. The true Prophet will always take a firm stand against Spiritual compromise in any form and will firmly call the Church to repentance but they must strive to encourage, not discourage.
Of all the gifts, if not understood and used properly, the gift of prophecy can hurt others and cause some of the most negative behaviors. One of the characteristics of the gift, seeing everything in black and white, with no shades of gray, can cause the Prophet to become judgmental and divisive. If they are not careful, they can become so idealistic that they become blind to the need for healing God’s children, instead hurting them further. They can become so inflexible that they become dysfunctional. The Prophet must ensure that they maintain a state of humility and brokenness, and that they remember that the source of their gift is God and not themselves. They must always submit to proper authority.
The compatibility with other gifts is very straightforward. The Prophet is most likely to be at odds with those having the gifts of mercy, giving and organization because they will be overly concerned with the legitimacy of the needs of the recipients. They will be in perfect synchronization with those that have the gift of exhortation, teaching and serving, as long as those people adhere strictly to God’s word and Spiritual truth.
Prophets must ensure that messages communicated from the Lord are delivered with His intended timing. There are instances when a word of prophecy may be received but it is not to be spoken until a later date. There are other messages that require an immediate response and delivery. It is a matter of maturity, prayer and of listening to the Lord to make sure the correct action is taken. Some messages are revelatory in nature and are specifically for the Prophet, not to be spoken to an individual or the Church at all.
The very nature of the gift of Prophecy has a tendency to isolate the one to which it has been given, and the Prophet must often resist the temptation to avoid the heartbreak that results from seeing their leaders, brothers and sisters in conflict with God’s will. Even though they would rather remove themselves from the conflict to avoid that heartbreak, nevertheless, they must jump in with both the comforting word and the word of rebuke. And, they must accomplish their task in the way the Lord intended, with love.
If you have been given the gift of Prophecy, you will have to work extra hard because it is often rejected in the church. I would suggest reading “The Elijah Task” by John and Paula Sandford. It provides tremendous insight into this gift and will help with some of the frustration that you will experience. Remember that it is your responsibility, as one of His children, as a believer in Jesus Christ, to be a good steward of the gift you have been given, and to use it in the way God intended.