Doing Personal Prophecy Right in Church
By Craig von Buseck
CBN.com Contributing Writer
Writing to the Church in Corinth, the apostle Paul made this important declaration:
Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. (1 Cor. 14:1).
In that same chapter, Paul explains:
For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. (1 Cor. 14:31, NKJV)
Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (1 Cor. 14:26, NKJV)
So personal prophecy is not only encouraged by Paul, he teaches that it is a gift that all can participate in, and that it should be eagerly desired.
Why? Because God wants to speak to the lost through His people -- which may be the only way that they will hear His voice. And he wants His Church to be strengthend through edification, exhortation, and comfort (1 Cor. 14:3) so that they can become mature in their relationship with God.
So if we are to allow personal prophecy in the Church, encouraging people to be zealous to prophesy and move in the other gifts of the Spirit, it is wise and biblical to have some guidelines in place to all "all things to be done -- decently and in order."
Here are some guidelines that many churches and ministries have found to be helpful in encouraging believers to move in the gift of prophecy -- including prophecy, word of knowledge, word of wisdom, discerning of spirits, and tongues and interpretation of tongues -- in local fellowships.
The following principles for delivering and responding to personal prophecy in the local church have been adopted by many Bible believing Christian fellowships and ministries worldwide. These guidelines are merely suggestions for the operation of prophetic ministry within a local church or ministry, and should be weighed against Scripture.
With all we know from the Scripture about the Gifts of the Spirit, we have to keep in mind that no prophetic utterance takes priority over the ministry of the Word of God itself. Prophecy must not displace preaching. People cannot live by “inspirationalisms,” but only by the bread of God, the Word.
God has given to the church apostles, teachers, pastors, and evangelists -- as well as prophets -- to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Ephesians 4:11-13). The gifts of the Spirit are complementary to the Word.
Excel in Gifts that Edify, Exhort and Comfort
Perhaps the biggest misconception regarding personal prophetic ministry is that it should be spoken in judgmental, condemning, or rebuking ways. New Testament personal prophecy is always to be given for the purpose of edification, exhortation and comfort.
3 But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. 4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied. (1 Cor. 14:3-5a, NKJV)
While prophets may occasionally -- and I stress the word occasionally -- speak of judgment, that ministry is reserved for the mature Christian who functions in the Office of the Prophet and who is recognized as an elder in the Body of Christ, under the oversight of the local pastor.
II Samuel 12:1 illustrates how “the Lord sent Nathan to David” to confront David with his sin. Nathan was a recognized prophet and a ministerial peer of David’s, not a novice or a “son of the prophet.” David received the word and repented of his sin. His response led to his restoration with God.
Likewise, New Testament saints should seek to restore the Body of Christ through congregational prophecy that edifies and encourages. Harshly spoken and condemning prophecies do not meet the biblical criteria of speaking (prophesying) the truth in Love (Ephesians 4:15) and generally prove to be unfruitful. Neither do they manifest the attributes of the wisdom from above (James 3:17).
Saints should be eager to prophesy according to 1 Corinthians 14:39, for the church to be strengthened, encouraged and comforted.
Confine Personal Prophesy to Designated Times and Areas
Various opportunities to minister prophetically to individuals or to activate saints in the Gifts of the Spirit may be given in a home cell group, a special Holy Spirit meeting, or in prophetic seminars or conferences. Under the guidance of the local church or conference leadership, these opportunities should be made in these types of settings. These are the only times people should share a personal word with another believer, unless they have been recognized by the leadership of the local or regional church.
So called “parking lot prophecies,” or words spoken outside of proper spiritual oversight, do not allow the person sharing, or the person being ministered to, proper covering and discernment in this important area. For the safety of the person receiving a personal word, and the person giving that word, it is recommended that if a believer has a word from the Lord and senses that it is imperative that they give it, it should be written down or recorded on a tape and submitted to proper leadership before it is given.
There are two reasons for this caution. First, this policy allows all prophetic utterances to be recorded so that the person receiving the word can take a tape home so that they can prayerfully consider what the Lord may be saying to them. After weighing the word against the Scripture, it is advisable for them to transcribe the word for both meditation and preservation.
Second, the pastoral leadership of the local church, the 5-fold minister, or the leadership of a para-church ministry are responsible to the person, their pastor and to God for the prophetic ministry which takes place. It is wise for these leaders to evaluate and bear witness to all personal prophetic ministry to ensure that people are not misled, and through biblical counsel to properly guide the individual's response to a personal prophetic word.
Flow with the Order of the Service
The Apostle Paul exhorts the Corinthian Church to:
…desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues. 40 Let all things be done decently and in order. (1 Cor. 14:39b-40, NKJV)
Often the time to flow in the Gifts of the Spirit in a service is during the worship as the Holy Spirit moves in a congregational service. But many churches also offer prophetic ministry during altar calls or after a service in designated areas. Prophetic ministry is most often not appropriate during the preaching or announcements.
When individual believers minister during the right time of the service, their ministry complements the flow of the service – it does not contradict and change its order.
If a congregation is involved in the high exuberant praises of God with demonstration, a word to be silent and still would be inappropriate. While God may have a key word of an individual saint, and that word could change the order of the service, the pastor or appropriate leader should be the one to make the decision on that change. If the pastor or leader is readily accessible during the worship service, the saint should share the revelation privately with them and allow them to determine if the timing is right to share it.
Each congregation will have its' own guidelines and rules for the service and ministry functions. The elders or pastor should be consulted before a person moves out in public prophetic ministry in a local congregation or fellowship.
Speak Personal Prophetic Words Only Under Pastoral Leadership Supervision
By giving personal prophetic words under the supervision of the pastoral leadership, a witness can be given by those who are spiritually mature. Again, Paul gives instruction in this area to the church at Corinth:
29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. 30 But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. (1 Cor. 14:29-31, NKJV)
A recognized leader in the church or ministry should be present during any personal prophetic ministry to judge and to give input into the word. If this type of leader is not present it is advisable to have the believer write out the prophetic word give it to such a leader for input before it is given to the recipient.
If a pastor or mature leader asks someone to refrain from prophesying for whatever reason, that request should be honored. The spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet (1 Cor. 14:32), and all things should be done decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:40).
What do you think about personal prophecy in the Church. Give your feedback.
More on The Holy Spirit
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Read Craig's ChurchWatch Blog
Order Craig's book, Seven Keys to Hearing God's Voice on Shop CBN
Other articles and
interviews by Craig von Buseck
Clayton, C. 1992. Faith and the Prophetic. Hagerstown, MD: Covenant Printing.
Basham, D. 1971. A Handbook on Tongues, Interpretation and Prophecy. Springdale, PA: Whitaker House.
Bickle, M and Michale Sullivant. 1995. Growing in the Prophetic. Eastobourne, England: Kingsway Publications Ltd.
Bonnke, R. 1994. Mighty Manifestations. Orlando, FL: Creation House.
Gundry, R. 1994. A Survey of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
Harper, M. 1964. Prophecy, A Gift for the Body of Christ. London: The Fountain Trust.
Hamon, B. 1992. Prophets and Personal Prophecy Teacher’s Guide. Santa Rosa Beach, FL: Christian International Publishers.
__________. 1987. Prophets and Personal Prophecy. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image.
__________. 1991. Manual for Ministering Spiritual Gifts. Santa Rosa Beach, FL: Christian International Publishing.
__________. 1990. Prophets and the Prophetic Movement. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image.
Lewis, C. S. 1943. Mere Christianity. New York: Touchstone.
Nuber, K. 1992. Proper Prophetic Procedures. Erie, PA: Grace Fellowship Church.
__________. 1992. Principles and Practices for Fulfilling Personal Prophecy. Erie, PA: Grace Fellowship Church.
Robertson, P. 1984. Answers to 200 of Life’s Most Probing Questions. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Schultz, S. 1990. Restoration of the Modern-Day Prophet. Santa Rosa Beach, FL: Steve and Eileen Schultz.
Yocum, B. 1976. Prophecy, Exercising the Prophetic Gifts of the Spirit in the Church Today. Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Books.
Williams, J.R. 1988. Renewal Theology: God, the World, and Redemption. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
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Craig von Buseck is Ministries Director
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