I asked my friend Julian Adams to write something on developing a prophetic culture in a church. Here it is for your enjoyment!
‘What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up’ 1 Corinthians 14:26 (NIV)
In 1 Corinthians 12-14, the Apostle Paul is talking to the local church about the use of prophetic gifts. It is a beautiful book, not just because of the power of Holy Spirit charisms on display, but because we get a glimpse into a local church that is messy. Very messy. It is raw, authentic, full of pastoral issues and some incredible moments of power. It’s into this context that Paul gives instructions on how to ‘do the stuff’ when it comes to the prophetic in a local church.
For those of us who feel called to lead in the church, we have to keep these things in mind as we begin to develop a prophetic culture within our congregations. Here are ten thoughts I have on further observations of this gloriously messy church and how they did Holy Spirit ministry:
1. Prophetic Culture involves everyone
No one is disqualified from participating. There is this little phrase Paul uses in the scripture: ‘each of you.’ His expectation is that everyone who has been called out of this world and has become part of the body of Christ is now a participator of the life and gifts that Jesus gives to the church. Irrespective of race, socio-economic background, gender or status, everyone in the church gets to demonstrate the gifts of the Spirit.
2. Prophetic Culture partners with all other gifts
Every gift matters – Paul’s understanding of how the grace of God works itself out in a community is that all gifts have a purpose and are interconnected with each other. Paul tells us that ‘each joint supplies’ grace. In other words, we are not going after a prophetic church or an evangelistic church, we are looking for an apostolic church in which all gifts are faithfully stewarded. Those who bring prophetic words work together with all the other gifts to reveal the heart of God.
3. Prophetic Culture requires risk
Risk taking in the kingdom is not based on a success or fail mentality. Risk taking is connected to faith – faith that God is the one who catches us irrespective of the outcome or result of the risk. It produces a healthy culture in which we step out for the sake of building the church up.
4. Prophetic Culture requires evaluation
The process of spiritual formation means that we evaluate how we bring our gift and the fruit of it. We get to learn how to bring what God is saying in order to build the church up. This becomes the evaluating scale of prophetic contribution.
5. Prophetic Culture is Jesus-centered
We prophesy from the perspective of the finished work of Jesus. No judgmental words, please! Paul’s argument is fully immersed in an understanding of ‘Christ Crucified’. He starts the Corinthian letter off with incredible dialogue about the power of the gospel being expressed in the glory found on the cross. Jesus on the cross is God’s wisdom to the world. We must make sure we prophesy from the place of his kindness displayed in Christ dying on the cross.
6. Prophetic Culture is honouring
Honour is the currency of Heaven. What we honour, we get to receive and participate in. The Bible tells us that when we honour a prophet (incidentally this works for all gifts), we will get a prophetic reward. Honour places value on someone because of their intrinsic worth, not based on their performance. As we do that it calls the best out of them and we get to partner with the good stuff they carry.
7. Prophetic Culture is grounded
Avoid using religious language. Paul wants us to make it easy for the uninitiated and unbeliever to engage with God’s Spirit moving in and through individuals. What he does not want us to do is check our brains at the door. Just because it’s spiritual does not mean it needs to be weird. Creating a culture of explanation invites people into a learning experience so that they to get to encounter God. Sometimes the inexplicable will happen in your meetings. What we simply do then is point them to Jesus and allow the Spirit of God to lead people. Often offence to the mind is a great way to help people see what’s in their heart, so that they can engage with the gospel. Don’t be weird for offensive sake, be normal and allow the extraordinary to break in.
8. Prophetic Culture brings energy
Order in our meetings does not look like a ritual. It is often that the Holy Spirit is described as the ‘dancing hand of God’. He seems to interrupt our ‘way of doing things’ in order to engage our hearts and minds. A graveyard looks very orderly but has no life. A maternity ward is busy and messy but is full of new life.
9. Prophetic Culture is worshipful
Worship is an incubator of prophecy. John the Revelator says in Revelation 19:10 that we are to ‘worship God, for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy’. We all know that worship happens in our daily life. However, when we come together, we are to expect the manifestation of God’s presence in our worship. Gifts of the Holy Spirit makes the presence of God known so that ‘people would fall down and say “God is in this place.”’
10. Prophetic Culture is joyful
Joy is the best expression of a prophetic culture. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached on 1 Corinthians 14 in Westminster Chapel London in November 1959:
I see very little in common between what the Apostle describes and what we are so familiar with. No, the whole thing is different. Let us remember that the contrast in his mind is that old type of jollification under the influence of drink. The kind of service, the kind of meeting Paul is describing is something which has got, at any rate, something of that element in it. There is joy, there is freedom, there is happiness, there is inspiration, and we must not shut that out.
He goes on to say,
That, then, is the sort of thing that you and I have got to bear in mind as we try to understand this particular statement. Here is a gathering of men and women who are filled with the Spirit of God, and each one of them has got something, one a psalm, one a doctrine, one revelation, one an interpretation, one a tongue. Here they are overfull with this, as it were, and wanting to say it. And as each one gave his contribution the others rejoiced and they praised God together, and they were all in a state of great joy and glory and of happiness.
Julian Adams is a co-director of Frequentsee. He is an author, spiritual advisor, revelatory teacher and leadership consultant in political, business and creative spheres. An internationally recognised prophet, Julian has a proven track record in the fulfilment of words released over individuals, communities and nations. He is a director for NEWDAY United, a charity based in South Africa and England that serves the poor and vulnerable in Southern Africa. Julian loves rough-and-tumble with his kids, cooking, jazz and date nights with his wife.
For further reading on this subject, check out Hearing the Heart of Heaven: Developing a Personal Prophetic Culture.