How Do You Weigh Up What The Prophets Are Saying? Pt 1: Weighing Up The Prophetic Minister

By nature and gifting, prophetic people tend to place a high value on prophetic words. We desire to know what the Father’s plans are for our lives, as well as what is on His heart for our church, community and nation.

As a result, we are naturally curious about what prophetic voices around the world are saying.

In today’s global community, a prophet may not even visit our nation, let alone our church, and yet still influence us because of the capabilities of the Internet, email, and related media.

I believe it is vital that we exercise wisdom in discerning both the prophetic messages and the ministries that are broadcasting globally.

How do we discern what is of God, from amongst the many voices that claim to be prophetic in the world today?

The Importance of Weighing up Prophetic Ministry

The Bible teaches us that we should weigh up prophecy and prophetic ministries carefully. (1 Thess 5:21, 1 Cor 14:29, 1 John 4:1)

Jesus warned that false prophets would come on the scene and deceive ‘even the elect’ with signs and wonders. (Matt 24:24)

Even though this is the extreme scenario, Jesus’ warning is a reminder that accurate predictions, signs, miracles or spiritual experiences do not of themselves validate a prophetic word or ministry.

John wrote,

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1-2)

‘Many’ means a lot. Even so, we should not draw back in fear, but take Paul’s wise advice:

Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. (1 Thess 5:19-21)

So I believe the key question is not, ’Should we test prophetic ministries’, but ’How do we test them?’

How To Weigh Up a Prophetic Ministry

In the early days of growing in prophetic ministry, I did not exercise care in discerning the prophetic ministry that I received from or associated with.

As a result of being led along a pathway of prophetic independence, my heart, church and ministry suffered. I thank God for the gift of repentance and for the help and leadership He has given me along the way. [1]

 

Following are some characteristics that I believe are vital to exercising balanced prophetic ministry today.

(Note that I am not referring to testing a prophetic ministry in the context of church life—which is another topic, although many of the following points do apply).

A. Ministering out of a New Testament Paradigm

We can learn a lot from studying the lives and ministry of prophets in the Old Testament. However, there are some crucial differences between Old and New Testament prophetic ministry.

John The Baptist was the last prophet in the Old Testament era.

Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension ushered in a new age; the church was born. From that period on, prophetic ministry is a function of the church body.

Prophetic ministries that model their ministry on an Old Testament paradigm may miss some of the key attributes of New Testament prophetic ministry, such as:

  • Being part of the church community (Acts 13:1, 1 Cor 12:27-28)
  • Having a primary purpose of equipping, encouraging and strengthening the church (Eph 4:11-13, 1 Cor 14:3, Acts 15:32)
  • Prophecy being confirmation, or subject to being confirmed[2]
  • Accountability and the need for testing prophetic words (1 Cor 14:29, 1 Thess 5:19-21), and most importantly—
  • Revealing the heart of the Father—the grace of God—as seen in Jesus (John 14:9, Rev 19:10b)

Setting aside these characteristics of NT prophetic ministry results in abuses and extremes in the prophetic movement today. [3]

B. Accountability

Jesus commended the Centurion who recognised that the release of God’s power came from being under authority. (Matt 8:5-13)

If I don’t know ministries personally, I look to see to whom they are accountable. Are they reporting to a board or other mature apostolic oversight? Are they connected to a local church?

It is easy for ministries to have the appearance of accountability on their website. However the prophet’s testimony (life journey or ministry stories) may give more insight into whether or not true accountability exists:

  • Do they describe the importance that leaders and community have played in their journey, or do they boast of being trained directly by God?
  • Do they have accountability in place regarding spiritual insights and experiences, or do they describe supernatural encounters without reference to them being weighed up and tested?

Paul reported to church leaders both in Jerusalem and in his sending church of Antioch (Acts 14:26-28, Acts 15:2, Gal 2:1-2)

If the Apostle Paul, to whom God entrusted direct revelation and who wrote scripture, was accountable to church leaders, shouldn’t we be?

Other glimpses of accountability in the New Testament include:

  • In Acts 15:32-35, the prophets Silas and Judas were sent from the church in Jerusalem to the church in Antioch.
  • In the New Testament we see less of the individual prophet and more of prophetic teams – e.g. Acts 15:32, Acts 13:1, Acts 11:27, 1 Cor 14:29, 31-32.
  • Even Agabus a noted prophet in the New Testament, was part of a prophetic group from the church in Jerusalem. (Acts 11:27)

Demonstration of accountability also reflects an attitude of humility and teachability—two vital attributes in prophetic ministry.

C. Loving the Church

Love for people and for the church is vital in prophetic ministry (1 Cor 13:2).
How does this relate to the many prophetic ministries today who believe they have a mandate from God to address areas of weakness in the church?

Words of Correction

Two prophetic words address weakness or sin in the church. Both have the same insights. Yet one is sourced in the spirit of ‘accuser of the brethren,’ whilst the other is of the Spirit of God and expresses the Father’s heart. How can this be?

Jesus is not ‘soft on sin’ in His church. In His letters to the churches in the book of Revelation, Jesus rebukes and corrects the church (He also gives some of the most powerful promises in the Bible).

The person Jesus chose to receive and convey this prophetic revelation of warning and rebuke was the Apostle John.

 

John had not only helped build the church, but he also served and loved the church—to the point that he paid the ultimate price of laying down his own life.

Here are some questions to consider the next time you hear a prophetic ministry exposing and rebuking sin in the church:

  • Is he or she recognised and received as a builder of the church—or on the contrary, known as someone who consistently tears the church and its leaders down? (1 Cor 14:12, 2 Cor 10:8)
  • Does he or she love the church—and how has this love been demonstrated?

C. Questions to Ask

Following are some more questions that may assist in weighing up prophetic ministries (and that we need to look for in ourselves):

1. Do They Exhibit a Godly Lifestyle & Character?

An intimate relationship with God is central to prophetic ministry. However, this is not displayed in the quality of supernatural experiences a person claims to have had.

It is revealed as he or she bears the likeness of Jesus. (Acts 4:13, 2 Cor 3:18). Humility, integrity, faith, grace towards people, honour towards other Christian leaders and a moral lifestyle are all hallmarks of a life lived with God.

2. Who recognises / endorses their ministry?

  • Are respected ministries and churches receiving these prophets?
  • If they are prophesying concerning nations, do they actually have the ear of governing leaders?
  • What do other prophetic ministries say concerning their prophetic insights (1 Cor 14:29)
  • And closer to home, would my own church leaders recommend these ministries, or caution against them?

3. What is Their Fruit?

Jesus said, ‘By their fruit you shall know them.’ (Matt 7:15)

  • Is their ministry bearing fruit? If so—what? If they are calling for repentance, for example, is the Holy Spirit actually using their ministries to turn people from sin and to Jesus?

4. Are They Exalting Jesus?

Signs, wonders, angels, supernatural experiences or prophetic accuracy may draw people’s attention, but do not validate a prophetic ministry.

  • We should always be looking to see whether ministries are making Jesus the focus.
  • Is revealing the heart, mind and intention of the Father the primary mandate of this ministry?

I would love to hear what others think about this topic. To view or contribute to this discussion, leave a comment below. If the comments box is not visible, click on this link and scroll down.

Next week I will share part 2 of this series, including some thoughts about prophetic words that foretell natural disasters and world events.


Notes:

[1] I share my story in my book, ‘Prophetic People In A Changing Church.’ To learn more about my testimony, click on this link for the ‘About’ page. To find out more about the book, visit http://enlivenpublishing.com/blog/e-books/prophetic-people-e-book/

[2] In the New Testament Church, all believers have the Spirit of God and can hear God’s word and receive guidance for themselves. Christian leaders have the ability to hear from God in relation to their roles and the oversight they have been given. The prophetic voice should either bring clarity and confirmation to what is already received—or be confirmed by what others then hear.

[3] See also the following post: Differences Between Old And New Testament Prophetic Ministry.

Graham Cooke deals with this subject well in his book, ‘Developing Your Prophetic Gifting’ in the chapter ‘The Role Of The Christian Prophet.’ If you are interested in exploring this topic more, I recommend looking it up, as he covers some different points to those I have touched on above.

He notes,

‘’Sadly far too many people are displaying an Old Testament ministry and personality in a New Testament Church setting. This I believe accounts for the large number of horror stories, misunderstandings and misrepresentations which belittle the prophetic ministry and discredit the gift.’(P 201)

[Graham Cooke Developing Your Prophetic Gifting’ 1994 Sovereign World Ltd Kent England]


© Helen Calder 2011    Enliven Publishing Blog

Now on team with David McCracken Ministries

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10 thoughts on “How Do You Weigh Up What The Prophets Are Saying? Pt 1: Weighing Up The Prophetic Minister

  1. Hi Helen, well done. This is such a hard area for the church. We all love to hear a word from the Lord and there are plenty out there willing to tell you what they believe the Lord is saying. As the bible teaches, we need to weigh up the prophecy and the prophetic ministries, but does the ordinary person attending church know to do this? This is why it is vital that you make sure the person giving the prophecy is accountable to leadership or that you take the word given you and ask your leadership for their insight…At our church, a word has to pass through the leadership before given out, or needs to be delivered during a supervised meeting. We even require the word be written out in a service if the person is not an authorised leader. This may seem we are squashing the “Spirit”, but the “Spirit” himself will not mind if the word is from “Him”. One other thing I always notice, especially with world wide ministries is that there is a common thread to the prophecies, the Spirit will be telling them all basically the same thing……like you Helen, I encourage all of you to test the words you are given, look for confirmation with your own heart to what is being said, God will give it to you.

    • Thanks Sandi,
      That’s a great point about checking for consistency between what prophetic voices are saying!
      You are so right about Christians in general not having enough knowledge to exercise discernment about prophecy (or even knowing that prophecies need to be weighed up). That is why it is critical to have the kind of process in place that you are leading in the church, for protection of both the individual Christian, the person prophesying, and the integrity of the overall prophetic ministry in the church. I love what you are doing… it provides freedom, but also accountability.

  2. Very good summary Helen, just two comments, 1/ accountability to other leaders point (B) very important, but it needs to be qualified that the accountability is not always to a local church leader. Sometimes a word is given for a church that is from God and the local leadership may not like to hear it, so they then called the speaker to “submit” and in doing so squash the word from God. Accountability is a life style of being open to others, for correction and help and allowing others to speak into your life. But when we speak prophetically a word from God, we must be faithful to Him even if it does upset some others.

    2/ point 4, “exalting Jesus” must always be at the heart beat of any word. Just because a word is “correct” it does not necessarily make it of God, see Acts 16:16-18, “17 Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.” Everything she said was correct but it was not of God, she was making Paul and the others the centre of attention not Jesus.

    I don’t believe the prophetic word is functioning as much as people think, I believe many are speaking out of their own desires and what they want to see happen and even worse some well known prophets are speaking to please the people, to be popular, to have a “ministry” rather than been faithful to the Lord. I know of some who go from country to country claiming that each country they visit is the key for future revival and promising great things because that is what the people want to hear. See Jer 23:25-32

    This not all the so call prophets’ fault, Paul warns that in the last days the people will want preachers who tickle their ears.

    However there is also that which is real and God is speaking today and the church needs the discernment to discern the difference between what is false and what is real, so I think you word here is timely and important.

    • Thanks Charlie, these are great insights and each one gives me more food for thought.
      I love your observation that accountability is a lifestyle. Accountability starts from having a desire to walk with integrity before God and people and must be coupled with humility… it’s certainly not just about having external signs of accountability to point to, and as you say is not limited to local church oversight (although that is very important).
      That’s such a great thought from the story in Acts 16 (don’t be surprised if I quote you on it someday 🙂 )
      How true it is that many ministries go about prophesying revival…. many of us who love God and have a prophetic heart have a desire to see our cities and nations won to Jesus and receive prophecies about revival eagerly. We want a revival but are misguided in our belief. We have everything we need right now in the gift of the Holy Spirit to BE a people who are making a difference in a radical way, impacting our communities and cities for Jesus in the power of the Spirit.
      Charlie, I would also appreciate your thoughts on Part 2, which can be found here: http://enlivenpublishing.com/blog/2011/02/15/how-do-you-weigh-up-what-the-prophets-are-saying-pt-2/

  3. Hi Helen
    This is a very difficult area to cover. We all from time to time get driven off the beaten track looking for quick fixes and instant remedies. I find that the attention in genetral has somewhat been taken off the main prize “Jesus Christ” and that our earthbound showmanship comes through. May God forgive us.
    We should be prayerful and focus on God and His eternal kingdom, yes testing the spirit but assign those who can also follow in spirit for confirmation of what the spirit is saying and that it is truely a authentic message from God. Glorifying and in line with His word.
    I have received words of prophecy but find I have to meditate on them after the message as been given. Confidence then comes in the truth of the message when it lies easily within my spirit.
    A new convertee may not be aware of the various pitfalls and should therefore receive a word of counselling to follow the message given. Not that you want to discourage but show confidence in the word given.
    These are the last days that we are living in and many things are happening as in accordance to the word. Not all who say I am a Prophet are so.
    Glory be to God.