PROPHETS AND PROPHECY IN TODAY'S CHURCH
By Rev. Jim and Carolyn Murphy
PART ONE - PROPHECY
LEARNING TO PROPHESY
All too often there is a tendency in our churches to
criticize one who stumbles in some way while prophesying. But it is not
easy to learn to speak prophetically in front of others. It takes much
prayer and spiritual maturity to move with confidence in the prophetic
realm. After all, it is no easy thing to speak forth in front of
others, knowing that they will be judging your words. I know of no
short cuts or easy methods in this learning process. The more we
understand this difficulty, the more understanding and supportive we
will be of those who prophesy.
When I teach church leaders about how hard it is to
learn to prophesy correctly I use the following illustration. Usually I
have a table in front of me. I ask the audience to use their
imagination for a few minutes. I have them imagine that I have two men
bring a large log into the room and lay it on the table. Then I tell
them to imagine a small boy, six or seven years old, standing next to
me. I reach into an imaginary toolbox, get a saw, and hand it to the
boy. I tell him, “Son, take this saw and cut this log into two pieces.”
Then I leave the room. I gave him no instructions--not even so much as
how to hold the saw!
I ask the pastors, “How long is it going to take
this child to cut the log?” They laugh and say, “A very long time.”
Then I tell them, “I now have a 28 year old carpenter next to me. I
give him the saw and say, `Sir, please cut the log into two pieces' and
leave the room. How long is it going to take him to cut the log?”
Nodding their heads, “Yes,” they smile and tell me, “Very quickly!”
Why was the 28 year old carpenter able to cut the
log more quickly than the six year old boy? The answer is obvious.
First, the carpenter was trained in the proper use of the saw, and
second, he had superior strength by virtue of his age, exercise, and
If we don't expect a small boy to be proficient with
a saw, why should we expect a Christian to prophesy expertly the first
time he or she prophesies? One must learn to use the gifts of the Holy
Spirit. Yes, the gifts are supernatural, but the learning to use them
is a process which takes time and patience on everyone's part.
Continuing my illustration, I use a chalkboard and I
draw a stick figure of a man with a toolbox in his hand as shown on the
opposite page. I tell the students that the man is a carpenter. Then I
describe the various tools that are found in the carpenter's tool box.
He has a saw, a hammer, a wood plane, a level, and so on. It is the
matured craftsman who can best use the proper tools to accomplish the
task at hand. Immediately I draw a parallel between the carpenter and
his toolbox and ministries and gifts of the Holy Spirit.
God uses people who are called and prepared by the
Spirit to accomplish His work. They serve the church, the body of
Christ. I believe that every believer has a ministry call for Paul
tells us, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a
part of it.” (I Cor 12:27 NIV). Here is a list of ministries as I see
them in Scripture:
The above list was taken from I Corinthians 12:28,
Ephesians 4:11 and Romans 12:6-8. I believe every member of the body of
Christ has a ministry call of at least one of the above ministries.
For simplicity of illustration, I have divided the
nine gifts of the Holy Spirit into three categories in Figure 6-3.
Remember, they are the minister's “tools” as listed in the King James
Bible in I Corinthians 12:8-10:
Each minister has the tools in his toolbox that are
necessary to perform his or her ministry. To go back to our analogy of
the carpenter, an auto mechanic has different tools in his toolbox than
a carpenter. So also each of the ministers in the body of Christ will
have different gifts of the Spirit in order to be able to fulfill his
or her ministry.
The prophetic ministry is a public speaking
ministry. Thus, the prophet often operates all the verbal gifts:
different kinds of tongues, the interpretation of tongues, and the gift
of prophecy. The prophet may also operate the revelation gifts: the
word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, and the discerning of spirits.
Finally, on a limited basis, some prophets will operate the power
gifts: faith, the gifts of healing, and the working of miracles.
In Part 2 of this book, I examine in detail the
difference between a called prophet and one who operates the gift of
prophecy. However, for purposes of this chapter, let me say that one
who prophesies but who is not a called prophet may have the gifts of
different kinds of tongues, and interpretation of tongues, as well as
the gift of prophecy. However this person will generally not operate
these gifts with the same degree of power as does a called prophet. And
remember, the one who operates in the gift of prophecy, but is not a
called prophet, may also have another ministry call as well. Thus, this
person will have additional gifts or “tools” to fulfill that call also.
Once we come to understand the difficulties for those just learning to prophesy, we can be more patient and encouraging. As church leaders we can also be somewhat directive in our teaching and advice so as to help shorten the maturing process. After all, all of us are still, to some degree, learning to use our “tools”!