A set of cassette tapes reveals an issue in church leadership. But there is hope when we rediscover the purpose of prophecy.
I recently discussed 3 issues with the gift of prophecy (and other spiritual gifts) in the church today.
This time, I will follow on from there and answer this question:
What is the purpose of prophecy and how can it benefit you and your church?
First, I want to go a little deeper into the issues, then we’ll talk about the solutions.
And at the end, I’ll let you know how you can get involved.
Purpose Of Prophecy: Power In The Church
I used to have a set of cassette tapes by Ken Blue, teaching on the subject of power in the Christian life.
Inside, he argued that the power of God in the life of every believer was the prime difference between Christianity and every other faith or belief system.
Ken was once an associate of John Wimber and as far as I know, is still part of the Vineyard movement in the USA. He’s also the author of several books, including Authority to Heal.
I listened to those tapes again and again. I just couldn’t get enough of their life-changing message and I still talk about them regularly to everyone I know.
However, in the midst of his message, he said this:
“Churches are primarily about control and about manipulation”.
What did he mean by that?
Misunderstanding The Purpose Of Prophecy
When it comes to the spiritual gifts, pastors can become fearful of losing control or of people in their congregation being hurt.
However, the New Covenant gospel is not about a few appointed ministers representing God to the people: it’s about empowering all followers of Jesus to be the saints that they were always called to be.
What happens in some quarters is that the spiritual gifts and prophecy, in particular, are quashed. And this takes place due to a misunderstanding of the purpose of prophecy.
There is, of course, a fine balance to be had. There is wisdom in having the right structures in church and the Bible speaks of order in worship.
Leaders have authority for a reason and they should use it, but authority is for people, not over them. It’s about serving, rather than being served.
Fear In The Congregation
The issues we’re discussing are not always the result of a failure of leadership.
To be sure, much of what I write here is addressed to the official church leaders, but we are all leaders and influencers in the places God has put us.
Sometimes, it’s congregational members that are fearful of what might happen, of being judged, or who worry that their “dirty secrets” might be revealed by a local prophet.
However, this is usually the result of either:
- bad experiences (which are the fault of the prophet, not God) or
- poor teaching (which may not be the fault of the current pastor, but of previous leaders)
As I said before, I’m not pointing the finger at any specific group of Christians or a particular denomination. I’m merely establishing a truth about how we can react to gifts of the spirit within our leadership structures and in our personal lives.
What Is The Purpose Of Prophecy?
Prophecy is a message from God, but it’s more than that. It says something of God’s heart for a person, group or situation.
As I have written elsewhere it’s also:
- foretelling or prediction.
- divinely inspired.
- cooperation with God.
- God’s word for today.
We also need to remember that:
- prophecy is both given and received.
- it has multiple purposes.
- it points to God.
Purpose Of Prophecy: What Are The Benefits?
If you’ve been following this blog for any period of time, I would hope that you already have a good understanding of all the above.
But where does this lead us? What is the actual purpose of prophecy in our churches?
In other words, what are the benefits of this form of communication with God?
As far as I understand it, there are four main benefits of the gift of prophecy when it’s exercised effectively in your church.
1. Jesus Is Glorified
Whenever and wherever prophecy is shared in a culture of love, the name of Jesus is lifted up.
Since prophecy points to God, it always reveals something about his character, including his great love for us and for those around us.
That’s one reason why I believe prophecy should be a natural part of our worship.
But there’s more.
As people receive prophetic words, it changes their attitudes and how they view their situation.
When prophecy becomes a first-class citizen in the spiritual life of your church, it won’t be long before testimonies begin to flood in, proclaiming what God has done.
When that happens, make sure to get those testimonies shared publicly in your worship meetings.
2. People Are Encouraged
When you start hearing public testimonies of God’s goodness in your church meetings, I promise you that people will be encouraged.
And in case you’re worrying that it might make things less “seeker-friendly”, in reality, this will become the very thing that will make non-church people curious about the Gospel.
In our church, we try to incorporate testimonies into our Sunday meeting whenever we can. And these are the kind of comments we sometimes get:
- “You mean this bible stuff actually changes how you live your life?”
- “Wow, you got healed?”
- “How can I have that for myself?”
That’s because they heard stories of how God broke through in power in someone’s life.
And you know what? You’ll be encouraged too.
3. We Learn That God Cares
Continuing on this theme, when God does amazing things in people’s lives we not only get encouraged, we learn that God really does care.
There’s no truer demonstration of God’s love than difficulties overcome or comfort received at the perfect time and place.
Of course, the greatest demonstration of his love centres on the cross. The changes that come through a well given and timely prophecy show:
- how God is applying that love
- the benefits of all that he achieved there
- how he breaks through in power into individual circumstances.
If we think about the divine exchange that happened on the cross, we hand over all the hidden crud in our lives, place it at the foot of the cross and receive all of God’s riches instead.
In brief summary, Jesus was:
- punished that we might be forgiven.
- wounded that we might be healed.
- made sin that we might be made righteous.
He also died our death that we might receive his life.
The key thing that I want to emphasise here is that prophecy is an important spiritual gift that enables that exchange to happen.
Yes, the exchange also comes in other ways too, but prophecy often releases breakthroughs that don’t come by other means.
4. Breakthrough And Healing Takes Place (AKA Situations Change)
When I talk about prophecy, particularly that shared in our church meetings, it doesn’t take long before I share some of the breakthroughs we have seen.
Those breakthrough stories include times where the power of God has:
- healed people, physically or emotionally.
- enabled people to share the gospel with a stranger, perhaps for the first time.
- given them the confidence to face a challenge in their workplace.
- brought financial breakthroughs to get them out of debt.
…and all manner of other blessings.
Sometimes, the sharing of a prophecy that involves breakthroughs like healing becomes a further breakthrough in itself:
The testimony becomes a faith booster for someone who hears it and they immediately want to appropriate the same blessing for themselves.
One way we’ve learned to respond to this as a leadership team is to offer opportunities for people to receive prayer from those who share the testimony.
After all, they have just come fresh from their own breakthrough, so their faith is already at a high point and they are ready to pray.
It’s like “compound interest” for the church’s spiritual life!
Note: The faith of the person who prays has more influence with the Lord than the faith of the one prayed for.
When the disciples failed to deliver a boy of an evil spirit, Jesus only disciplined them, not the boy or his father (Matthew 17:20).
Purpose Of Prophecy: The Benefits To Individuals
It doesn’t take long for anyone reading an article to think, “what’s in it for me?”
I’m not blaming anyone for this, we all do it, it’s how we’re built and I do it all the time.
Suffice it to say that despite the fact that I have pitched part of this article towards the leaders and pastors, I hope you have seen that you too can benefit from the gift of prophecy.
Whether you are the one sharing a prophecy or receiving it, Jesus will be glorified, you’ll both be encouraged, and you’ll learn about God’s great love and care for you.
And maybe, just maybe, the person to get that big breakthrough will be you.
Purpose Of Prophecy: How You Can Get Involved
You have two ways forward from here, depending on whether you’re a member or a leader in your church:
If you’re part of a church congregation (if you’re not, then you need to give your life to Jesus!):
- Start by checking out the definitive guide.
- Register for the 4 Steps Prophecy School to go deeper.
- Point your pastor in the direction of this article.
If you’re a church leader:
- Teach people how to use and mature in the use of spiritual gifts (if you’re not sure, learn how to do it yourself first).
- Point your congregation to this website and the free resources.
- Contact me to speak at your church, run a prophecy workshop or lead the 4 Steps Prophecy School!
Until next time, may you be blessed richly through the gift of prophecy in your church!