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.
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. 
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
- 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. 
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.
 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/
 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.
 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.
‘’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