While none of us would have ever chosen what 2020 has brought us, the massive upheaval has created a unique opportunity to re-evaluate what is working and what is biblical in our lives, churches, and businesses. The Lord has been using Covid to give us an opportunity to pause and reboot, clearing out the unnecessary, even unbiblical, practices that have been creating a drag on our walk with God, like when your smartphone bogs down and you realize you have 20 open apps all running in the background, sapping bandwidth and power.
I believe that one of those places that the Lord is inviting us to "reboot" is how we pursue and function in the prophetic.
I realize that as soon as I say this, it can trigger many strong reactions, both negative and positive. For some in the prophetic movement, these words stir up defensiveness because, in the past, opponents of the prophetic have used similar soft introductions, but then gone on to mock and attack prophets. Be assured, that is not where we are going.
Do not despise prophecies 1 Thes 5:20
Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. 1 Cor 14:5
Others perhaps, who have been personally wounded or had their churches suffer because of immature prophetic function, might be hoping that I would come down hard on the use of this gift, exposing all the ways that it’s been inappropriately used.
I agree (changing metaphors), that there’s a need to “change the bathwater”, but let’s nurture and treasure the baby in the process!
Let me first give you a few of my “credentials”, why I feel I have some authority to speak into this topic: I’ve spent 20 years leading national prophetic prayer ministries, I’ve served on the advisory team for the Canadian Prophetic Council, as well as been a member of that body since its inception, and I’ve chaired the Ears to Hear Network of Canadian prayer ministries, which discerns and weighs prophetic revelation coming from the prayer movement since 2007. I’ve fasted and prayed extensively for prophets and for the increase and maturing of the gift of prophecy. I have seen prophecy in its glory, radically shifting lives and situations, bringing forth the kingdom of God— and I unashamedly, regularly, prophesy.
AN AHA MOMENT
A year and a half ago, I was in a prophetic gathering with about 30 prophets. We were all sharing visions, dreams, and words that the Lord had given us, but I didn’t have much to contribute, so was mostly taking it all in. In this setting I suddenly noticed something. Every biblical reference or image was from the Old Testament— Elijah, David, and Moses were the heroes of the story — Jesus was barely mentioned. I wondered about that, and thinking back, realized that this was pretty standard in prophetic settings. I then started to wonder what it would look like if we modelled our prophetic after the way Jesus prophesied, rather than Elijah. I thought about Jesus, with Moses and Elijah on the Mt of Transfiguration, and the final scene being, Jesus standing alone with the Father’s voice ringing out: “This is my Son- hear him” (Mk 9:7,8). With that in mind, and the gnawing conviction that we were missing something, I began a long study of New Testament prophecy.
Now, the God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New, God doesn’t change, but Jesus coming changed everything, so prophecy between the Old and New Testaments is the same in some ways, but because of Jesus, it’s different.
It seems like now is the time to share some of what I’ve learnt, so over the next few months I’m going to be writing on this idea of rebooting, or perhaps “refreshing” (a gentler term) the prophetic. This will involve identifying non-biblical assumptions we’ve made which have weighed down our ability to prophesy in the fullness of the Spirit, in the same way that all those open background apps hinder your smartphone’s ability to respond to your requests. They are hidden but they slow things down, creating glitches, and dysfunctions. I realize this isn’t a perfect metaphor, but it’s enough to catch the heart of what I’m getting at. This won’t be all I write on in this season but I’ll try to be diligent to address it thoroughly, as I believe it’s time to have this kind of honest conversation. Perhaps like you, I’m jealous for the prophetic gift to be loosed to function in the Canadian Church in all that God intended it to be!
With that as an intro, let’s open up the conversation with a really important consideration.
LEARNING FROM 1 CORINTHIANS
The most extensive teaching on the prophetic is in 1 Corinthians. Chapter 12 lists a number of the revelatory gifts (which we lump together under the term “the prophetic”) and then goes on to talk about how the spiritual gifts are meant to serve the Body of Christ by uniting and building us up. Chapter 14 is the fuller unpacking of how the prophetic is to function.
But sandwiched between these chapters is “The Love Chapter”.
Why, in Paul’s train of thought did he shift— pausing what he was saying about spiritual gifts and pivoting to release this extraordinary teaching about love?
In the words of Tina Turner, “what’s love got to do with it?!” Does love have any real bearing on prophecy? Aren’t those that prophecy just being a voice; communicating the words of God, the more anointed and more broadly heard the better?
Actually no. Love has everything to do with it.
This chapter is perfectly positioned, right in the middle of this foundational teaching on spiritual gifts and prophesy. The great message of God is Jesus, full of God’s love, so anything coming from a different spirit cannot accurately speak for God, cannot accurately carry his heart. In Paul’s words, “without love, I am nothing”. Those who prophesy must be functioning out of love to be in alignment with God.
However, it’s not just loving those that we prophesy to.
Remember the first and second commandments. The first commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mk 12:30), so first and foremost, our prophesying must be motivated by our love for God. Loving him matters more than anything, and only with this priority settled, will we be courageous enough to:
Loving God first when we function prophetically means also that we “rejoice with the truth”(1 Cor 13:6), we don’t play fast and loose with the prophetic, we do all we can to serve him well by speaking out the words that represent him carefully, reverently, truthfully.
For the prophet then, it’s about loving God and loving others as a foundation for prophesying biblically, yet our need for love doesn’t stop here.
The Church also needs to love the prophets.
This involves caring for them as people and helping them to find healthy and biblical ways to serve and grow in their gifts, gently providing them with the safety of biblical discernment so they mature rather than become entrenched in prophesying soulishly (ie: from our opinions or emotions rather than from the Spirit). Prophets, like everyone, come alive in wonderful ways when they are loved. It takes courage to prophesy, and rejection should not be the “expected lot” of the prophet, prophetic people shouldn’t have to be defensive or keep one foot out of the local church, in case for them, once again —it goes badly.
We can’t cooperate with God’s reboot/refresh of the prophetic if we look at prophetic people or the prophetic gift with a critical eye. There has been a great deal of wounding in the prophetic stream, but that’s not Jesus’s way of love. A bruised reed Jesus will not break, no, his way is to rebuild and restore. Let’s join him.
IN CLOSING, LET'S EARNESTLY PRAY:
by Sara Maynard
NEXT TIME: REFRESHING THE PROPHETIC PT 2 - DISCERNMENT ISN'T CRITICISM