Is Your Church Prophetic? Surprising Insights from the NT Church

Prophetic ChurchProphetically gifted people tend to have specific ideas of how a church that embraces prophetic ministry should operate.

At one time, I had my own list of ‘ideals.’ These included:

  • Making room for individuals to bring prophecy in the services
  • Unstructured worship that leaves room for the Holy Spirit to move in a prophetic way
  • And so on (probably prophetic painting if we had it back then!)

These days, I have thrown away my list, along with my personal preferences of what a prophetic church looks like. [1]

Some of the most prophetic churches in relationship with our ministry do not have any of the things I have mentioned above. And yet they are highly prophetic, making room for the direction and ministry of the Holy Spirit and honouring prophetic ministry.

Here is the bottom line. A prophetic church is one that:

  • Honours the ministry of the Holy Spirit and follows His leading and direction
  • Fosters a culture that encourages every individual to hear from God personally

A prophetic church will also make room for prophetic ministry—however the expression and operation of ‘prophetic ministry’ will be unique to that local church and the leaders and people, DNA, calling and gifts that make up that church.

Prophetic Ministry in New Testament Local Churches

This uniqueness of prophetic expression can be seen in churches of the New Testament. Consider the different applications of prophecy and prophetic ministry in the following list:

  • The Jerusalem church had a company of prophets, some of whom travelled, ministering prophetically. (Acts 11:27, 15:32, 21:10) The Prophet Agabus was one of this company (Acts 11:27-28)
  • In Acts 9, God gives Ananias, who is from the church in Damascus, prophetic insight into the calling on Saul (later Paul). Ananias is not a Prophet, simply a ‘disciple.’
  • In Acts 4, the Jerusalem church gathers to pray. They are united, praying the purposes of God—a prophetic prayer that God answers.
  • The church in Phillipi was birthed through prophetic guidance. God gave Paul a prophetic dream concerning his team’s immediate call to Macedonia.
  • Prophetic guidance was used of God in evangelism, missionary endeavours, and the establishment of new churches. (Acts 8:26, 10:9-23, 13:1-3, 16:9-10)
  • Prophets were included in the leadership team of the church in Antioch. (Acts 13:1)
  • Antioch church leaders received revelation from the Holy Spirit that it was time to release Paul and Barnabas into their apostolic calling. This prophetic guidance launched Paul’s Apostolic church-planting ministry. (Acts 13)
  • When Paul visited the church at Ephesus, the believers received the Holy Spirit. Each one of them prophesied as they were filled. (Acts 19:6)
  • Paul exhorts the church in Thessalonica not to quench the Spirit, and not to despise prophecy. (1 Thess 5:19-20 – check)
  • Paul encouraged the church in Colossae to include spiritual songs, or ‘songs from the Spirit’ in their gatherings. (Col 3:16)
  • Paul advises the Roman Christians to embrace and use the gifts given by God to serve the body, including the gift of prophecy (Rom 12:5-8)
  • Paul writes to the church in Corinth and instructs them in the use of spiritual gifts in their gatherings, with particular emphasis on the gift of prophecy. He encourages every member to eagerly seek the gift of prophecy. (1 Cor 14:1)
  • Paul reminds Timothy of personal prophecies received during his commissioning from the church elders. (1 Tim 4:14) This may have been at his sending church in Lystra. (Acts 16:1-2)

No ‘One Size Fits All’ Approach to Being a Prophetic Church

Some churches sent itinerant prophetic ministers; others received them. Some churches, such as in Corinth, prophetic gifts and ministry had a high profile. However, there does not seem to be a standard or uniform approach to prophetic ministry in the early church.

Leaders were open to prophetic revelation, but did not rely on it all the time. It was sovereign (initiated by God) and resulted from their relationship with the Holy Spirit.

So what does this mean for us today?

  • For those of us who are gifted in prophecy, it means not placing expectations on our local church leaders on what particular expressions of prophetic ministry should be operating in our church or meetings. Being prophetic is not about performance, but following the Holy Spirit’s unique direction for our church.
  • For those who lead ministries and churches, it encourages us to have the freedom to explore our own unique expression of prophetic ministry.

Notes:

[1] I share about my own journey of struggling with changes in church life, and repentance and restoration in my book, ‘Prophetic People in a Changing Church.’ For more information visit Enliven Blog’s e-Books page.


Related Posts:

A Vision For Prophetic Worship In Church Life

4 Ways to Safeguard A Prophetic Culture

6 Doorways to Discouragement in Church Life

Growing in Prophecy When No One is Cheering you on


What do you think is the main thing a prophetic local church should be or do? If the comments box in not visible, click on this link and scroll down.


© Helen Calder Enliven Blog – Prophetic Teaching

On team with David McCracken Ministries: Prophetic Ministry That Empowers The Church

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4 thoughts on “Is Your Church Prophetic? Surprising Insights from the NT Church

  1. David

    A good article, but we need to drop the label ‘prophetic churches’ – in the New Testament they were simply “churches”. Dropping the label enables us more easily to see beyond the prophetic and, perhaps, recognise that the prophetic has found its proper place in the church, but is no longer where the primary thrust of the Spirit is focused.

    1. Helen Calder Post author

      A very good point, David! Thank you.
      Just spotted your conversation on Facebook related to this – great to have a healthy discussion.
      Here’s what I just noted:
      I have a particular dislike for labels and ‘boxes’ (limiting definitions) and like you, David, when I spot them I have an urge to dismantle them!
      An adjective becomes a ‘label’ when it limits, downgrades or excludes. A label is negative.
      On the other hand, when an adjective describes a Godly attribute, it will invite us to be enlarged, to be more like Jesus, to be more of who God has created us to be.
      That’s how I see the use of prophetic – but the term has also been misused along the way (as has ‘Apostolic’).

  2. Ruth

    Hi Helen,
    I am part of a mainline church ‘tribe’ that doesn’t think or talk about prophetic activity much, and then it is related to pastors and Sunday messages – which to me is a narrow view. Hence I find your article very refreshing, speaking of the different way the Spirit is at work in different situations and locations. I have needed to go elsewhere to grow in this area – another reason for finding your article very encouraging. I will now take a closer look at where the Lord has placed me, available to the Holy Spirit for what he is doing right where I am. Thank you.

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