Dear Prophetic People, I’ve been excited to write you this post for a while but I’ve found it really difficult to finish and I think you’ll see why. I hope that from reading the last few posts you know how much I love and value you and what you bring to the Church! We’re in a time when it seems to me that we need to hear the prophetic voice consistently declaring the heart and will of God to His bride more than ever and His bride is needing to bring revelation if His heart and will to the world in the midst of loads of confusion.
My goal in this little series has been to uncover the power of the prophetic gift and the importance of prophetic people in church communities. I really believe that Paul meant it when he said that we should desire the gift of prophecy even above the other spiritual gifts because it’s such a powerful tool that build up the whole Body. (1Cor 14:1-12)
As I’ve said, there seems to be a lot of difficulty for prophetic people when it comes to integrating into church community and this post is looking at one of the biggest issues and one of the greatest and most constant sources of pain and contention in the lives and ministry of prophetic people and so I’m sorry but this one is not just written for you but also for another group of people…
Yes, you guessed it, I’m talking about Church Leaders. Yikes!
Let me start by saying I am not a church leader. At the time of writing this, I’m also 27 years old. I just want to admit that I don’t know the pressures of leading a church and caring God’s people first hand. I don’t know the tensions of trying to hear from God and lead on behalf of a whole congregation (or larger network) while while seek and remaining open to prophetic revelation coming from other people.
I’m really not speaking entirely from experience on this one but more from the experiences of others and what I’ve seen growing up in the Church. I’ve spent some time with church leaders who have shared some of their own frustrations with the prophetic gift and the hurt that has come from interactions with prophetic people. There’s actually a lot of wounds in both groups that contribute to the lack of prophetic expression in churches and they need to be brought to the surface.
I’ve spoken to a lot of prophetic people who’ve felt the sting of what seems to them to be rejection of them and their gift by senior leaders and the damage can be so brutal. In some cases it’s the fault of immature leaders, in others it’s the approach of prophetic people but a lot of the time it seems to come from miscommunication or an unbiblical understanding of New Testament prophetic ministry. Whatever the case there are many, many issues and countless complex situations.
I’m definitely not about to solve them all here. Only honest, vulnerable, Holy Spirit-led relationships saturated in the grace of the gospel can bring full restoration! But I’m hoping to share some helpful insights to try and give some perspective.
So, holding my breath and nervously closing my eyes, let’s jump in!
The prophetic gift often looks impressive and glamourous from the sidelines but it seems to create other issues in an individual’s life that others will struggle to understand or relate to. Being prophetic can actually be quite tough. It brings a lot of tension to your life that can be really challenging to live with.
When you feel deeply in touch with the plans and purposes of God for the future but have to live in the present, it can be hard to deal with the tension. When you can discern the thoughts and intentions of people’s hearts, it can be hard to engage with them superficially and not make judgements on them. This can be especially true with people in authority.
Prophetic people frequently struggle with the pace and direction of church life as discerned by church leaders in contrast to what they see. It’s usually too slow, too fast or in completely the wrong direction and 9 times out of 10 the leaders are to blame. Maybe you can relate.
Something I think helps us in this arena is the understanding that we know in part and prophesy in part and so no revelation we have is entirely sufficient in and of itself but we can always have more revelation on something God has shown us and there’s always space for others to add to what we’re hearing from Him. This is helpful for both prophetic people and church leaders to understand and Paul reminds us that the Body has many parts and each part needs the other in order to function effectively. Seeing the value in what each of us brings has a huge impact on our relationships.
Tension #2 – Who is driving?
Prophetic people look at the SatNav, leaders look at the road and drive.
My family went to Anaheim, California for a holiday several years ago and we hired a car. Now for those of you who don’t know, Americans drive on the wrong side of the road. Yup, it may be on the right but it’s still the wrong side! So it’s night time and we’re sat in the new hired car preparing to drive to our hotel so I gently remind my dad of the American error of driving on the right-hand side and not the left. As my father pulls out of the car park onto the left side of the road my whole family screams “WTONG SIDE!! WRONG SIDE!!” causing him to swerve back over to the right!
I think prophetic people can often feel like this and church leaders can often feel like my dad! My dad was the one who was insured to drive the car and it was hired in his name. When it was returned, if anything had happened to it he would have been the one held responsible. However, wherever he went and whatever he did affected all of us in the car and so even though we weren’t in the driver’s seat we could still see the road and that is a very vulnerable place to be.
Whenever we went driving for most of that holiday, my dad was in the driver’s seat but the whole family had eyes on the road and I definitely could not relax! I felt I had to constantly warn him of potential dangers and of the speed limit and of upcoming turns on the SatNav. Towards the end however as dad became more confident, we were more able to relax and let him drive but we would all be looking for signs and would work together as we approached our destination to make sure we got there.
Trust is a big part of community life, especially when it comes to leadership. My dad wasn’t the only one im the car with a driver’s license but he was the one insured to drive the car. It can be really hard to receive leadership from someone when you genuinely believe you could do a better job or to allow someone to lead when you believe can see the road better. We have to remember that leadership is given by God [reference] and leaders are accountable to Him for their leadership. That’s why Paul tells to submit to them AND pray for them.
There were times when we’d tell Dad where to turn or what to do and he would have to make a decision on whether or not to do those things. In some cases it was too dangerous and in others he thought it was the wrong way. None of us got out of the car and walked to the destination by ourselves because we had decided to go together, as a family. When he took a wrong turn it wouldn’t be long before we realised and we would then cycle back around and go again. Together. “I told you so’s” don’t help anything but our egos so those had to be kept confined.
Do you find it easy to enjoy the ride with family or are you tense the whole way through the journey? It probably depends on who’s driving right? When you know someone well and know they can drive you feel more at ease in the passenger seat. You may still disagree with the direction taken if we trust that God knew what He was doing when He appointed our leaders and we choose family over doing things our way, the Bible promises us both the blessing and anointing of God will come to us.
Leading a church is hard. The weight of responsibility to care for and guide the flock of God that you will have to give an account to Him for is just immense. Many church leaders have encountered the frustration of the prophetic people in their congregation as they have tried to share their revelations and what they believe God is saying. They may have felt ignored, misunderstood or put in a box and labelled. They may have felt harshly corrected, wrongly accused or misrepresented. They may have even let their leaders know all about it! Regularly! With relish!
Prophetic people can feel like the most delicate or volatile people to handle in the church community and church leaders may get nervous or even afraid when they need to interact with them. Maybe you can relate.
I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of the kind of wounds that can develop from this interaction between church leaders and prophetic people. I personally know far too many prophetically gifted folks who still carry wounds from their leaders that occurred several years ago and haven’t been healed. I also know church leaders who have felt the fury of immature, scorned prophetic people and so developed an aversion to the gift and its expression within the community they lead. Far too many leaders have grown callous to the gift and begun to “despise prophetic utterances” which Paul warns against.
I hope you can see and agree that this is very sad state of affairs that needs attention.
Let me just stop here and say that having complaints about your church or being able to point out things that are wrong doesn’t make you prophetic. Having an opinion of how things should be done doesn’t make you discerning either. I feel it’s important to say that because we often have a temptation to spiritualise our personal issues to find an excuse to keep them. When we live in community, we have to sacrifice the right to pursue our personal agenda and take up a corporate vision or it simply does not work.
When you believe you can see what’s coming around the corner, it can be hard to let someone else drive.
It seems to me that prophetic people often find it tough being misunderstood or ignored as they try to communicate what they’re hearing from God.
Some things may seem blindingly obvious to you about the way things are going to go but when you communicate them as obvious, it can make others feel looked down on, especially leaders. The prophetic gift enables us to see things that others can’t necessarily see. Your job is not just to tell people that they should be seeing but to help them see. The way we communicate is just as important as what we communicate. We can say the same words, in a different tone and end up with a totally different message. Jesus led by example, not just speaking what the Father gave Him but receiving how to speak it too [REFERENCE NEEDED]
• Being a leader doesn’t make you prophetic bit it does give you favour
• Being prophetic doesn’t make you a leader
• I believe these relationships are difficult because God wants to forge strong covenants in the fires of conflict where people refuse to run from relationship but pursue unity above everything else.
Dear Prophetic People, cultivate love. 1Corinthians 13. Love is the basis of New Testament prophetic ministry (and all ministry). God demonstrates His love through people who speak on His behalf whether it comes as direct encouragement or challenge or discipline. Speak the truth in love. Don’t forget to speak the truth. Don’t water words down. But be motivated by love so the truth can have its full effect and set people free. Aim to build up, encourage and console so that any tearing down you do will only be what is necessary to build up, encourage and console. If your focus is to set captives free, you’ll be at less risk of misusing your gift and harming people.
Being a prophet or being prophetic does not excuse you from manifesting the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.
Sometimes “I’m just not very pastoral” roughly translates as either “I’m just not a very nice person” “I just don’t really care about people”. Sometimes. The fruit (not fruits) of the Spirit in Galatians 5 isn’t the fruit of the pastoral gift. It’s the evidence of the presence of God in the life of a believer and its growth is essential in all of our lives.
Being offensive doesn’t legitimise your gifting or ministry. You can bring an offensive word without being an offensive person.
“I know some obnoxious individuals who make it a practice to offend people. God’s offense, on the contrary, is redemptive. He offends people’s minds in order to reveal their hearts.” – Mike Bickle, Growing in the Prophetic
“Usually the people you need most in your life, you have the most tension with.” Jenn Johnson
We need to get out of our leadership and authority issues. We need to be healed and make ourselves vulnerable to leaders. Incredible Growth comes from submission to leadership. Anointing is released from unity and submission (1Timothy submit to elders reference and psalm 133 unity reference).
“God-ordained pastors are equipped to bring leaders to the church where God has placed them. They are in a strategic position to help the church succeed in becoming more prophetic if they wisely use their gift of leadership. God’s desire is that pastors and prophetic people work together as a diversified team ministry. However, more often we see insecure pastors trying to lead rejected and pushy “prophets”in a team ministry that lacks diversity of gifting. There are real challenges in this, but they can be overcome with patience, humility, and careful attention to what the Scripture teaches about how prophetic people are to be led in relation to the larger church family.” – Mike Bickle, Growing in the Prophetic
Some things my seem blindingly obvious to you about the way things are going to go but when you communicate them as obvious, it can make others feel looked down on, especially leaders. The prophetic gift enables us to see things that others can’t necessarily see. Your job is not just to tell people that they should be seeing but to help them see it. The way we communicate is just as important as what we communicate. We can say the same words, in a different tone and end up with a totally different message. Jesus led by example, not just speaking what the Father gave Him but receiving how to speak it too [REFERENCE NEEDED]
John 5:31 – Don’t think it’s enough to testify about your own gifting. It needs confirming by God and through those who are receiving it.
“When rejected prophets clash with insecure pastors in an uninformed congregation, then so many negatives occur. The combination of this causes churches to decide that it is just easier and better to avoid the prophetic ministry altogether. However, so much of this can be changed if we all work together. If the leadership will put forth clear guidelines for the prophetic before the prophetic people make their mistakes publicly, then much unnecessary trauma can be avoided. Add to this a clear plan that is in place for correcting and healing the prophetic people with gentleness and love. Then we really can do it together long term.” – Mike Bickle, Growing in the Prophetic
Two people in a car. One person is driving but the other is able to see as well and has a different perspective that can be helpful. But decisions will always come down to the driver. If the two swap places the same issues exist except the first driver was more experienced in the act of driving i.e. leadership. Both can’t drive even though both can see. The passenger should do all they can to communicate what they see but they shouldn’t grab the wheel.