Stereotypes regarding prophetic ministry have existed for centuries. For some, prophets have been dispensationally deleted from church existence, allegedly “passing away” with the death of the last apostle or the closing of the canon. Others may not be dispensationally inclined in their thinking and beliefs, but they have had either no experience, or some very bad experiences, with those who claim to be modern era prophets. Yet others have had full-on, cultic experiences with those who have claimed to be prophets. Can any path out of this mess be found? I’d like to offer a suggested road map.
Like virtually everything . . . it’s all in the definition of terms.
Prophets, “prophetic people,” or people labelled by others as “being prophetic” are often erroneously characterized as being severe, ungovernable, frenetic, specially gifted, loners, emotional, mystic, unpredictable, weird, flaky, spooky, confrontational, impractical, intuitive not rational, “spirit” over “mind” people, and more generalizations along this line, all of which are very unfortunate and inaccurate stereotypes.
The tendency to determine what is or is not prophetic, or who is or is not a prophet by the mere presence or absence of a charismatic endowment, rather than inner alignment to kingdom truth, is unfortunate. It often carries tragic results.
The simplest definition of being prophetic is: hearing God and doing what He says!
Here are some qualities of bona fide new testament prophetic ministry from a new covenant and Christ-centered perspective.
1. BEYOND GIFTEDNESS
Being able to accurately predict the future, deliver an accurate word of knowledge, or personal prophecy does not make someone a prophet. It might make him/her a gifted crook, new age psychic, or occultist. Delivering an accurate personal word (the normal expectation in prophetic-apostolic circles) is a legitimate, but minor facet of what it means to be a prophet. It’s a wholly inadequate definition. Genuineness and spiritual authenticity from a Christian ministry perspective is determined by: character, message content, and gift operation. All three must be present to validate a ministry. Balaam gave an accurate prophecy, but he was not God’s prophet. John the Baptist did no miracles, predicted nothing, and he was the greatest prophet born of woman of that era. There is more to being God’s prophet than exercise of a gift.
A prophet has a unique, God-given ability to bring forth a clear unveiling of the Person of Christ, and His current purposes in the cosmos, through the opening of the Word of God, by the Spirit of God. John the Baptist, the greatest prophet of the old order, did not predict future events, nor did he do any miracles. He made Christ known. His message was not “this or that is going to happen,” but “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
Prophets have the divine ability to tear down inner obstacles and outer systems that prevent the apprehension of Christ. Because of this ability, prophets are often unwelcome in the prevailing Christian culture. They do not preach a feel good, personal enrichment, life enhancement, false gospel. They are a threat to all systems that are not wholly Christ-centered and of kingdom ethos.
4. CONFORMING EMPOWERMENT
A prophet calls God’s people to conformity to those functions of sight through transformation and empowerment. It’s not enough to point out deficiency in individuals, systems, and structures. To do so is not a spiritual function. Critics point out deficiency. Prophets point out what is wrong and provide a path and means for remediation through grace empowerment.
Grace and a broken heart, not legalities and judgments of surface issues motivate a prophet. God has no dry-eyed prophets. Prophets live in, and minister from, the realities of the New Covenant, not the blessings and curses; fear and dread of the Old Covenant. Prophets build from a platform of internal ethics and accuracy of their lives, not from the exercise of their gift.
Contrary to stereotypes, a prophet is relational. One of the signs of a dysfunctional prophet is an inability to functionally relate interpersonally and socially.
To be prophetic is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception that is alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us (Robert Wilson, Prophecy and Society in Ancient Israel). NT prophets primarily evoke, or awaken, a Christ-consciousness in believers (Heb. 10:1-10), not awareness of future events.
8. BUILDERS NOT BLESSERS
Prophets are by nature primarily builders, not blessers. They’re concerned with strategic and long-term change–lasting internal configuration to Truth–not short-term emotional charge. Prophets are sent to a church to elicit obedience and conformity to divine Truth, not to bless people by telling them how wonderful they are, how rich they’re going to be, and how they’re going change the world. The notion that as a believer I can hear God, not obey Him, and still be “blessed,” is crazy. Godly understanding, plus conformity to the understanding, is the essence of being prophetic.
Part of John the Baptist’s ministry was the filling of valleys and the bringing down of mountains. Prophets are concerned about equalization in all relationships, systems, and structures. In the new covenant era, being prophetic is for everyone (Joel 2, Acts 3, Num. 11), not just a few gifted specialists. True prophets have the ability to bring prophetic equalization to people, not just merely display their gift before people.
Copyright 2012 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby www.swordofthekingdom.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references. For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact email@example.com.