Making Room For The Gift Of Prophecy
By John Fergusson (Ramarama, South Auckland, New Zealand)
“When you come together…”
Paul is writing to the Corinthians (14:26). He continues, ‘everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.’ And in verse 31 he adds, ‘For you can all prophesy in turn…’
But when WE come together, what do we do? We chat and drink coffee. We sing songs that others have practiced. We listen to prepared messages. Depending on our denomination we might read liturgy and some Scripture, say prayers, have a children’s ‘slot’, take up an offering, or break bread (take communion).
I sometimes wonder whether Paul would actually recognize what we call a church service! Most of what we do is us talking to God. Which is fine, but relationships cannot survive for long on one-way conversations! We need to hear from God too, and there is nothing in the world more encouraging thanknowing that God has just spoken to you personally. Of course He can and does speak through our sermons, songs and Scriptures, but why do we confine Him to those? Is it because they require little faith? In the same chapter, Paul says, But 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 Corinthians 14:24-5 ). If our churches are not growing, is it perhaps because we are NOT prophesying, and our visitors are therefore NOT being challenged and convinced?
God exhorts us to ‘eagerly desire the greater gifts,’ and to ‘be eager to prophesy’.
And when we DO receive them, are we like a young child who pesters his parents for a new toy, then plays with it for awhile, but soon leaves it to rust at the back of the garden shed? But they are not given to us for us, they are given to us for others, ‘for the common good’. They are His, not ours.
‘Ah well, you see, prophecy doesn’t fit terribly well into our service programme.’ Hmm. I wonder therefore whether we have our priorities right? Shouldn’t it rather be the other way round?Many of us have moments in our services when we speak in tongues. So did the Corinthians. But Paul says, ‘I would rather have you prophesy’ (1 Corinthians 14:5 ). Shouldn’t we rather be focusing on learning and practicing that gift, so that everyone may be strengthened, encouraged and comforted, and not just ourselves? If you doubt me, re-read the chapter again. What is it saying?
‘Yes, but then there are the oddballs and false prophets who will scare away any newcomer.’ Sure there are. That’s why the enemy puts them there, so that we are too scared to allow the Lord to speak through his people. Spiritual gifts require faith, and faith is edgy, uncomfortable stuff. However, ‘the spirits of the prophets are subject to the control of the prophets’ (1 Corinthians 14:32 ). We are given the gift of discernment precisely so that we should know where these people are coming from, and can exercise proper control over their utterances. But where are our real prophets? At a recent conference in Auckland with well-known American preacher, Bill Johnson, the church recognized and anointed one of their number in the office of ‘prophetess’, an event that is much rarer than it should be. ‘The office of prophet is missing from our churches today,’ they pointed out. Pastors, teachers and evangelists we recognize. Apostles we do more reluctantly. But we seem to be terrified of prophets, somehow expecting them to call down fire and brimstone, eat locusts and honey, or strip naked! If we encouraged and trained more real prophets, we would have fewer false ones.
Over the last few years I have had the privilege of sharing conference platforms with Rodney Francis, who has been instrumental in opening many doors for our ministry here in New Zealand. His own ministry, The Gospel Faith Messenger, reaches and encourages tens of thousands around the world. He is a greatly gifted prophet and apostle, though would not claim titles – he is not that sort of guy. He is unassuming, laid-back, and ‘ordinary’. But he has given me a new respect for prophecy, and a new understanding of how to bring it back into our churches. Like all things of God, it is very simple, but requires faith. He believes in recording any words given ‘in the Lord’s Name’ to provide accountability, but also to honour the Lord’s word, which deserves better than our limited memories! So he carries small portable recorders and tapes any prophetic messages given.
One simple but hugely successful method is to prophesy over each other in small groups (a congregation can be divided into groups of ten or so). The group prophesies over each other in turn, whatever Scriptures, pictures, words or songs they feel the Lord gives them for that person, speaking into the recorder. The date, place and person’s name (both the giver and receiver) are also recorded. Each person then returns home, bearing with them a tape with messages of personal encouragement, some of which will be truly from the Lord. The words spoken over me recently have been enormously encouraging, and I now have several tapes that I shall listen to again and again. Some words will, apparently, become clearer in months or even years to come.
John Fergusson can be contacted through his Web Page: www.jfministries.org.uk