|The Prophet: The Watchman|
In my previous posts on this subject I established the importance of Godly character and maturity in the role of Prophet. Prophets prophesy encouragement, strengthening, and comfort according to 1 Cor. 14, but their role in the church goes beyond that. Their ministry is less about personal words and more about impartation to churches, ministries, leaders and nations. I will complete this series of posts by looking at three key aspects of his/her ministry.
First there is the ministry of ‘The Watchman’: seeing beyond the horizon. Prophets watch for and hear God’s view of what is coming. They stand upon the protective wall of the church watching and listening for what cannot be seen with the natural eye. Pastors, teachers, and elders that care for and watch over the church are the gatekeepers. Watchmen inform the gatekeepers of what is coming. This is more than prophetic impressions. A pastor may have an ‘impression’ in his spirit that something is coming…an inner sense, a warning, or an impending change. The prophet can bring the Father’s perspective of that warning or change. He/she can bring clarity and more detail to the pastor. The apostle can then bring strategy and structure to handle what the watchman sees.
Then there is the ministry of ‘The Preparer’: equipping for coming events. “During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, name Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman World. (This happened during the reign of Claudius)” Acts 11:27. Agabus revealed something the Father wanted the church to know…a difficult event, a famine, was coming……they needed preparation or equipping for the famine. They responded by sending money to believers in Judea. Agabus also warned Paul of hard things that would happen if he went to Jerusalem. That warning was to prepare him, not to deter him from his destiny.
And lastly there is the ministry of ‘The Revealer’: direction and correction. A prophet may give prophetic direction to the church. Maturity is absolutely key in this regard. Church leaders and overseers do not need directive revelation on a daily or weekly basis. They have the Holy Spirit! They have a heart for the people for whom they have responsibility. They have been given a gift to lead and care for people. Paul taught, evangelized and preached for months and years before he had a prophetic vision to go to Macedonia. (Acts 16:6-10) In this case he received a vision directly, but often it is a prophet that will receive it and pass it on to a leader. His apostolic direction flowed out of his apostolic gifting……he was doing what he was called to do; to go and make disciples of all nations. However, a directive vision was necessary to move his ministry from Asia to Europe…to a new world needing the gospel. This was the same gift, same ministry, but different geographic direction for that gift and ministry.
On occasion, the prophet may bring corrective revelation to something that is not in alignment. In this case the emphasis is less about knowledge and more about Truth; correctly applying Truth. Churches, ministries and denominations can get caught up in popular tactics and teachings that SEEM to be effective in getting people into and keeping them in a church. However, what’s popular in the culture is not always productive in the Kingdom. The church must be grounded in the Word and in Truth. A prophet can reveal a corrective realignment to Truth in Grace. The heart of the Father is for us to stay aligned with the Truth of His Word and grounded in the Grace of His Kingdom.
In closing, I encourage the people of God, the leaders of the people, to receive the gift of the prophet! Matthew 10:40-41 He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. There is great reward for embracing the prophet in the church; especially the mature prophet bearing the prophetic anointing of the Father, the love for His people, and the Truth and Grace of His Kingdom.
Eph. 4:11-13 It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the son of God and become mature, attaining to the fullness of Christ.
The mature prophet has discretion and discernment. They know when, where and what to share as revelation to a person, church or nation. Some in ministry would say that if God gives a revelation or word of instruction the prophet MUST share it……must release it… immediately. This is the spontaneous view of the prophetic, i.e. a momentary immediate response to God based upon input from the Holy Spirit. Often this occurs in charismatic churches during worship in music or corporate times of prayer. Spontaneous prophetic words are the first level of learning the prophetic and a common way the gift of prophecy functions in a church gathering. It is part of developing the gift of prophecy whether a person is a prophet or simply endued with a prophetic word in accord with 1 Cor. 14:1.
However, the role of prophet in the church is much more than a spontaneous word during prayer or worship. The prophet often gets prophetic revelation, especially for ministry leaders, churches and ministries outside of regular corporate worship times. The mature prophet then considers the content, the target and the timing to share revelation. The Apostle Paul told the church in Corinth that ‘the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace’. (1 Cor. 14:32)
Herein lays a great demarcation between the character of the mature and immature prophet; discretion and discernment of time and temperature for the prophetic. To be ‘discreet’ is to ‘be wise in avoiding errors or in selecting the best means to accomplish a purpose’.
I have ministered with and received ministry from several prophets. I have also been in church services and ministry events with much prophecy from aspiring prophets. On several occasions the time and temperature for a word was off. The lack of discretion and discernment led the immature person to give a prophetic word at a time and place that was neither wise nor best to accomplish God’s purpose. At such times the word becomes background noise amidst many sounds and voices, and is not received with due weight.
The mature prophet is not driven by the emotion of the moment or the ticking of the clock to operate outside God’s wisdom for timing and temperature to accomplish His purpose. The mature prophet often keeps much to him or herself simply because it is neither timely nor necessary to cast it abroad. Because they know specifically with whom and when to share, when they do bring forth revelation or a word at the right time with the right spiritual atmosphere, people listen. The time and temperature are right.
Whether you are a prophet or someone who operates in the gift of prophecy pray and learn the character of waiting upon and discerning God’s timing for His purposes.
Eph. 4:11 -13 It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the son of God and become mature, attaining to the fullness of Christ.
The role of prophet in the church is a ministry today just as it was 2000 years ago. The prophet brings insight into living an abundant life in Christ for individuals, churches, ministries and nations. The prophet reveals the heart of God within the context of the Word of God. The character of the mature prophet contributes to effectiveness of his or her ministry. In my previous posts I spoke of two key character attributes of the mature prophet: intimacy with God and humility of heart. Today I bring a third attribute: collaboration for construction.
The mature prophet willingly collaborates with apostles, pastors, teachers, and evangelists for the building up of the church. Mature prophets not only prophesy but cooperate with the builders so that something is actually constructed. John was a classic example of a prophet who cared about building up the church……going beyond giving a ‘word’ to collaborative agreement with the Word. To collaborate is to ‘labor or cooperate with another’. It is cooperation for a greater cause than the cause of one person. We see a glimpse of this in John’s writing to Gaius in 3 John. ‘It gave me great joy to have some of the brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth’ (3 John 3, 4). John took great joy in seeing the building blocks of truth rise up in the church. John cooperated with other apostles, prophets, pastors and teacher towards that end. While John functioned in the apostolic and pastoral ministries, it was his role as prophet that stands out in his ministry. John cared about the result….the kingdom result in the body of Christ as the bride of Christ.
This contrasts with the immature prophet who often functions strictly from the perspective of ‘giving a word’. They contribute ‘a word’ but don’t collaborate with others to fulfill the word. They often operate independently of other leaders in the 5 fold ministry leaving the collaborative construction to others. This leads many immature prophets into a lone ranger mentality. However, God’s desire is not to be lone rangers but to be linked rangers….linked to the leaders of the church to bring the fullness of Christ, the maturity of the saints, and advancement of the Kingdom to the church. The mature prophet cares, contributes and collaborates to raise up the bride of Christ in these last days.