Guidelines for the Public Expression of Prophecy8
[Here at Bridgeway Church we highly value prophetic ministry, but only to the degree that it is pursued and practiced in accordance with Scripture. People often ask me how we handle prophetic “words” on a Sunday morning, in a large gathering. It’s one thing to facilitate this spiritual gift in a small group (which I outlined in an earlier post), but when several hundred people are present it poses an entirely unique set of challenges. So here are the guidelines we’ve put in place to help us effectively utilize this gift in what we believe is a biblical fashion.]
The Apostle Paul issued two commands concerning the spiritual gift of prophecy that we at Bridgeway Church take very seriously: “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:1), and “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22).
In view of Paul’s instruction, we want to be diligent in facilitating the exercise of this gift. The following is designed to provide guidelines on how we respond to the gift of prophecy, primarily in our corporate celebrations on Sunday.
The first thing to know about our approach to prophecy is our belief that the ideal and preferred context for the exercise of this gift is in our community groups. We strongly encourage our small group leaders to provide instruction on the nature and function of prophecy and to make each gathering a safe and encouraging place for the exercise of this spiritual gift.
We also believe that opportunity should exist for the use of this spiritual gift in our corporate celebrations. However, because of the size of our gatherings and the time limitations we regularly face, the following guidelines will be observed.
First, the Scriptures are clear that both men and women can prophesy (Acts 2:17-18; 21:9; 1 Cor. 11:2-16).
Second, at each celebration there will be a designated point person who has the responsibility and authority to make the final decision on how prophetic ministry is to be facilitated. This will usually be either myself, one of our Pastors, one of the Elders, or a member of the Prophetic Team.
Third, if you believe the Lord has revealed something to you, you should share this with the appointed individual. We prefer that you put it in writing, but if that is not possible simply go to them and communicate what you believe the Lord is saying.
Fourth, this person will make an immediate judgment as to whether you have indeed heard from God. Please understand that we are not infallible in this judgment and errors can be made. We ask that you not be offended or take it as a personal rejection if we determine that you have not heard from the Lord.
Fifth, if it is determined that the Lord has truly spoken to you, our first task will be to decide whether or not the revelation is for you personally or is designed for the church corporately. Often times what you hear from God is intended for your personal edification or should become a focus of your own personal prayer life. If it is determined that your word is suitable for the whole body, several other decisions have to be made.
Sixth, at this time a judgment will be made as to when the word should be shared with the entire body. That is to say, should it be shared now or perhaps next week (or sometime thereafter), once additional time is given to prayer and discussion among the staff, Elders, and Prophetic Team?
Seventh, assuming that the word is appropriate for the entire church at the time you received it, a judgment will be made as to the most fitting time during the service. Should it be shared immediately or should we wait until after worship, or perhaps after the sermon?
Eighth, once it is decided when the word is to be shared, the final decision concerns who should speak it forth. On occasion we will permit the individual who received the word to share it publicly. This will often depend on how well we know the person and if they have a demonstrated history of accuracy and maturity in the exercise of their spiritual gift. At other times, the point person will assume responsibility for communicating the word to the body as a whole.
Ninth, every believer in the congregation has a personal responsibility to pay close attention to the prophetic word and to judge or evaluate the biblical validity of its content (cf. 1 Cor. 14:29; 1 Thess. 5:19-22). However, only men are permitted to articulate publicly this evaluation or judgment in the corporate gathering (1 Timothy 2:11-15; 1 Cor. 14:33-35).
Tenth, the Scriptures are clear that, at most, “two or three prophets” should speak during the course of any one corporate gathering (1 Cor. 14:29). We ask that everyone abide by this rule.
We hope that these guidelines will serve us all well in the exercise of this vitally important spiritual gift and that the Lord Jesus Christ will be honored and his people edified by its proper exercise.