Prophetic Ministry Training 101
-How to Grow in the Gift of Prophecy-
One of the main questions I am continually asked regarding the prophetic is, “how can someone grow or mature in this gift.” This is a great question and the answer(s) is actually quite practical. But before I address the specifics of how to grow in the prophetic let me address the underlying cause of why this question is so often asked. One of the primary reasons for the frequency of this question is that the vast majority of the Church today handles the prophetic gifts quite differently than we do other spiritual gifts. What I mean by this is that most churches have tracks for leadership development, administration, and even mercy ministries but when it comes to the prophetic most churches do not have in place practical prophetic ministry training. Because of the lack of training for the gift of prophecy people are expected to immediately walk in spiritual maturity having all of the answers regarding this spiritual gift without having any space to ask questions or make mistakes. Couple the lack of prophetic ministry training with the faulted belief that one wrong prophecy makes someone a false prophet and no wonder the prophetic ministry is in the state that it is today. Something needs to change.
As you study 1 Corinthians it is clear that people who are gifted prophetically did not have all the answers and were far from spiritually mature. No one wakes up one morning with having all the answers and understanding how to use their spiritual gift with mastery. Even Paul told his son in the faith Timothy on two separate occasions to not neglect the spiritual gift that God that had placed within him.
1 Timothy 4:14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.
2 Timothy 1:6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
Maturity in all spiritual gifts takes time and intentionality so lets look at four practical ways to develop the spiritual gift of prophecy.
Desire to grow in the prophetic
When Adam and Eve sinned against God in the garden mankind’s spiritual capacity to know and fellowship with God died. Though they were still made in the image of God they lost their unique place of fellowship and communion and were cut off from personally knowing and walking with God.
1 Corinthians 15:22a For as in Adam all die…
Praise God the story does not end here. The Gospel of Jesus Christ tells us that when we experience salvation our spirit-man that died with Adam is now resurrected with Christ.
1Corinthians 15:22b So also in Christ shall all be made alive.
At salvation our spiritual life is reborn, and as John 3:3 says we are given the capacity to “see the kingdom.” Like Adam before the fall we now have capacity to know and walk with God. Now through prayer, studying the scripture, and the common means of grace we can continually grow and mature as we seek the Lord with our whole heart. If you have a desire to grow in the prophetic you are on the right track because only living things have longings. Desire is the most integral part of all spiritual growth and our capacity to grow in the prophetic is no different. We must never assume that because God knows where we live that if he wants to use us he will show up at our door and demand our attention. The Scriptures teach us that the impartation of spiritual gifts has as much to do with God’s sovereignty as it does our active pursuit. Notice the mystery and tension between these two truths.
1 Corinthians 12:11 All these (spiritual gifts) are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
1 Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.
The apostle Paul shows us that it is both the sovereignty of God “as he wills” and our responsibility “earnestly desire” that work together to manifest the gifts of the Spirit in our life. In fact the phrase “earnestly desire” in this passage literally means to jealously pursue! It is fascinating to mediate on this passage and realize that our passion to be used by the Lord is the very thing that God uses to water the gifts that he has placed inside of us. The writer of Hebrews reminds us:
Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
This seeking is not from a posture of negotiating with God or an attempt to overcome his reluctance but is actually the laying hold of God’s willingness and desire to meet with us.
2. Prophetic ministry flows from relationship
Not long ago while listening to the radio I began to think about how unique each persons voice is. I asked myself the simple question if I would be able to pick out the singers voice out of a large crowd without being able to see their face. Without any hesitation I knew that the answer was no, because I had not spent enough time listening to the singer to truly know his voice. It is not that I had not heard the singer’s voice it is that I did not know his voice. On the other hand, the reason I can distinguish my father’s voice is that I have an established relationship with him. The singers voice on the radio was something that I had heard many times before (past tense), but my Dad’s voice is one that I know (present tense). This truth is exemplified in John 10 when Jesus describes how his disciples know his voice.
John 10:3-5 “To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
Like all spiritual gifts the prophetic is intended to come from the overflow of our relationship with God it is not to be our only connection point of relationship. It was to this concern that Jesus spoke this stern warning:
Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Some people have attempted to use this verse as a proof text that people who pursue spiritual gifts are off track but this could not be further from the truth. Yes, there are people who operate in the miraculous and do not have relationship with God and this verse is a stern reminder that we can never find security in the gifts we have, for they are truly gifts, we must find security in Jesus. With that said, I would like to challenge you and say that if people can perform miracles without being in right relationship with God how much more should we when know our Father and ask him to move in our lives.
Luke 11:11-13 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
3. Stewardship of the prophetic gift
When Paul urged Timothy to fan into flame the gift of God that resided inside of him he was not reaching for an endearing analogy. He was reminding him of the powerful truth that when you start a fire you do not need a lot of wood but just a few sparks and some kindling. In reality if you start with too many logs the fire may never catch. This command to fan into flame the gift of God not only applies to Timothy but to our lives as well. We need not be discouraged if we feel that we do not possess a spectacular gift. God is more concerned with our stewardship than showmanship. Take encouragement from the words of Jesus:
Mark 4:24-25 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
As we come to the conclusion of this section I want to encourage you that no prophetic ministry training can ever replace the need for you to encounter God in prayer. I am reminded of Jesus’ first miracle in John chapter 2 at the wedding at Cana. The story tells us that after three days of the wedding festivities the bride and groom ran out of wine. As the wedding was about to come to a crashing halt Jesus’ mother asked him to perform a miracle Jesus agreed with his mother’s request and commanded the servants of the wedding feast to fill six large with water. The story goes on to tells us that Jesus turned this water into the most amazing wine thrilling the guests at the party. This story is a wonderful parallel of how God supernaturally blesses our stewardship and obedience. If we are honest with ourselves all we can bring to God is the water of our lives. There is nothing supernatural about ourselves and we do not have the ability to do miraculous things in our own power. But if we present ourselves to the Lord he can transform the tasteless water of our lives into a wine that brings God glory and points people to the beauty of God. As we come to a close with this brief discussion on prophetic ministry training let me encourage you that there is no formula to the miraculous only the humble path of presenting ourselves before God as an instrument available to bring him Glory.