Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Step out!

When it comes to prophecy, we’ve got to have relationship and support people and allow mistakes from time to time! We had someone prophesy once at King’s. They got half way through and stopped and said “I’ve completely lost it. Honestly. I thought God was saying it. I got to delivering it and …” I walked over to the person and said “That’s just really fine. Don’t worry about it”. So take responsibility. Take a risk and let others do the same. Do it in relationship and let’s eagerly desire spiritual gifts and especially the gift of prophecy.

There will be a number reading this that need to step up to contributing in prophecy for the first time. Others have done this in the past but have now become passive. You need to come to God and say “I’m going to be really open again to prophesying and making a first step. I want to be someone that brings encouragement and comfort and correction”. Or maybe you want to grow in the prophetic. Press on! We need prophetic words to direct us and lead us, don’t we? They have shaped us and our churches and we continue to need the same!

Responsibility, risk and relationship! Taking them in reverse order – since you are built into relationship with your church and its other leaders you can be secure in taking a risk and stepping out in prophecy. Then you can be responsible for increasing the blessing to your church as you bring strength, comfort, encouragement – and perhaps eventually, direction! Wait on God and see!

Friday, 22 October 2010

The three 'Rs'

How do we grow in the prophetic? How do we know if God is speaking to (and through) us? Sometimes we just have to have a go!

I’ll give you three R’s. You’ve got to take responsibility, take a risk and be in relationship! Some of you have never brought anything of this kind in a meeting, not even ‘I’ve got a sense that God might be saying this...maybe!”. Take responsibility! You’ve got to believe what scripture teaches about God speaking to His people and you’ve got to take a risk. Ask God to give you something and then bring it in humility and accept guidance from other leaders.

I’ve told this story before, but it highlights the process well. I once was in a meeting with about 150 Newfrontiers’ leaders and I felt God said to me ‘start a song’ - “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” When I started this song I thought - it’s a well known song and I’ve got my youth team with me so as I sing it they’ll join in. “...Worship the Lord and give Him praise.” At this point they had not joined in. I’m not feeling good at this moment. I’m annoyed they haven’t joined in because I have the first line of the song but I can’t remember the second line - at all. But I thought that if I started it other people would join in and together we would get away with it. So I carried on. “Worship the Lord in the beauty of dah dah dah…with dah dah dah and we sing Your praise.”

I took responsibility. I took a risk - and died. I stood there and thought, ‘I’m never going to be invited back to anything to do with Newfrontiers!’ Then a guy called Colin Baron, one of the senior leaders within the movement we’re a part of, walked across the room to me and he said “Great prophetic song, Steve” and walked off. It’s amazing how quickly the Holy Spirit can come back in the room!

To be concluded...

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Cornered by God

Another major prophetic word for King’s Church came when the church at South Lee joined us in 2002. Timing was the important thing here. On the Sunday evening we had a prayer meeting. On the Wednesday I met with one of the leaders from South Lee - Simon Linley - who’s now in the church here and we talked about the possibility of working together.

Then on the Thursday, Annie Twort walked into my office and said, “I’ve got a word for you... While everyone was praying together for you I was praying specifically about your role outside King‘s in the wider London Newfrontiers sphere. In my mind I saw a picture of a deeply planted forest”. So here comes some revelation here. “Someone was going in amongst the trees and removing a tree here and there to allow more light into the forest as a whole. The forest had been too densely planted. Some trees, just a few here and there, need to be cut down. This will bring health and stronger growth to all the other trees”.

Now at this point I’m cornered by God. I’m aware that to close the South Lee church - not everyone is going to be happy with that. They’ve invested too much in it. But God had spoken. Revelation - trees. Interpretation - you’ve got to cut a tree down for the overall health of all the trees. Application - we’ve got a church joining us, a church you need to close.

I’m encouraged today because we can honestly say that what we did those years ago has really borne fruit and many churches have been planted in London as a result. King’s Church particularly has grown in strength through our friends from South Lee who came and joined us here.

To be continued...

Friday, 15 October 2010

How do we administer prophecy at King's Church

We aim to follow the pattern of Acts - Revelation, Interpretation, Application! You know the story of Cornelius in Acts 10. Peter is a Jew. Christianity at this point had been a Jewish sect. It hadn’t gone beyond Jews. Peter was troubled as to whether the gospel was also for God-fearers and Greeks - then he has a strange vision of a sheet coming down with different animals in it. Revelation.
Then in Acts 10:17 Peter starts wondering about the meaning of the vision. So when anyone brings any prophetic word where I’m in the room I’m thinking ‘What does this mean?’ Sometimes it’s crystal clear but sometimes it isn’t - especially when you get funny pictures about monks’ cloaks!

Acts 10:19 carries on... ‘While Peter was still thinking about the vision.’ In a context of prayer you weigh the word/picture when it’s given, or over a long period of time, praying back to God what God has said, seeing if it resonates with you.

The interpretation (‘What does it mean?’) is followed by the application - what you should do. Who? What? When? and Where? are the questions to ask. Peter’s response in :34 is - “I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts men from every nation”. So he preaches the gospel, explains what Jesus has done. The Holy Spirit falls on the hearers. They get baptised in the Holy Spirit and Peter follows this by baptising them in water... All because of a vision of a sheet with animals. Revelation, interpretation, application.

To be continued...

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Testing prophecy

When we weigh and test personal prophecies - when someone comes up to us and says ‘I’ve got a word for you’, we generally receive it graciously but we don’t necessarily act on it. We make sure that we get other guidance and confirmation first. In that way we test everything and hold on to the good.

These are the questions I ask when I test prophecy – and this would apply to prophetic words brought to the church in open worship. Does it glorify Christ? Does it build up the body? Is it in accordance with the written word? Is the word given in love? Is Jesus Lord of the speaker’s life?

It’s very important that you actually know the prophet as well as the prophecy. Does the speaker submit to the leaders of the church? From time to time we have had a ‘roving prophet’ attend on a Sunday. For some reason they find me and say things like “there’s a curse on the church”, or things like that. I look at them and say “Do you come to this church?”, “No”, “Do you go to any church?”, “No”. I say “Goodbye.” I do. I actually say “I don’t want you to prophecy and I want you to go somewhere else”. I will do that.

I have done that because it is very important that any gift is in submission to the leadership of a church. Does the speaker allow other prophets or leaders to assess their contributions and their life? Sometimes what happens is that in the middle of worship someone brings something and as you weigh it in your own spirit you either go ‘Yes God’, or you go ‘Uh umm! OK, maybe it’s me, maybe it’s them - but it just didn’t kind of connect with me’. Other times you hear a word brought and you can feel faith rise within you. It points people to God. It doesn’t point it to the man or woman who brings the word - it’s God. And, of course, the ultimate test of prophecy is to ask – is it fulfilled?

Friday, 8 October 2010

Encouraging stepping out

There are measures of gifting. It’s a bit like Romans 12 when it says, when talking about prophecy and other spiritual gifts: ‘Do it in measure of your faith.’

Most of us operate at the end of the range where ‘simple’ prophecy lies. Weighing the words and the gift of discernment become critically important. That’s why 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 is vital: ‘Do not put out the spirit’s fire and do not treat prophecies with contempt.' If you have been in a meeting where some strange picture has been given and you’re leading the meeting - what do you do?

I normally just let things keep going unless it’s dubious. The danger is that it is very easy to get cynical about some prophecy but if you close it down too soon, people won‘t take the risk of contributing. They won’t step out in faith because they’re worried about getting ‘jumped on’ and so you have to live with that level of contribution. You live with it to have the moment when you get something that really redirects your life or the life of a community. Even a prophet starts with ‘simple’ prophecy, so there needs to be space for people to grow in bringing prophecy and as leaders we need to actively encourage prophetic contributions. But it’s important you test everything and hold on to the good.

To be continued...

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Prophetic 'bombs' in meetings

We prepare our meetings. It's important to prepare. I prepare at length to preach. The worship band will meet before to pray and practice but of course we don’t know what the contributions ‘from the body’ are going to be. I actually had someone come to me once and say ‘It’s just all stage managed, it’s coordinated’ - as if I’d gone round and given cards out and said ‘Look, you speak then and then give it a moment, we’ll sing a song and then you say that’... We know that’s not true! Anyone can contribute, pray out, read a scripture.

Now occasionally, very rarely, someone speaks out in a way that is not edifying and has content that is against what we know from Scripture. It happens in most of our churches from time to time. If that happens at King’s one of the elders will step in and say something firm but gracious. We wouldn’t want to expose the contributor to censure but we would want to refocus on Jesus.

I did have one occasion when someone came to the front during worship and said to me “I’ve got a prophetic word. God has told me that Saddam Hussein is going to drop an atomic bomb on the church” and gave me the date. I prayed quickly and then said “I don’t think we’ll go there today” and declined to let them contribute. I didn’t think that word would build up or bring comfort to the church! So it’s all done with order and with leadership. This gives security.

To be continued...

Friday, 1 October 2010

That nugget of gold...

Strengthening and encouragement come first - a prophet also reminds you that God is there and is interested in us. I find this helpful! To be used prophetically is just to say, ‘God wants to speak to me and He wants to use me - and use me in a spiritual gift to encourage and comfort others.’ That’s a good place to start, rather than coming out with ‘The Lord says...’ We don’t do that at King’s. ‘The Lord says that the church should do this and this...’ Christians aren’t generally given a big directional word for their church to start with. It’s likely to be a word of encouragement first.

We probably have one or two people at King’s that we would recognise as having prophetic gifting. We haven’t got anyone in our church that has a prophetic ministry or prophetic office at the moment. It would be great to have someone - but at this time we haven’t.

Another way of looking at this is when you’re at the end of the spectrum where we are dealing with what are mainly words of exhortation and encouragement, then there are likely to be more of man’s words than God’s word! It says in 1 Corinthians 13 that ‘we prophesy in part’ and that means, in my experience, when people prophesy, most of the time the word is, at the very least, for them.

What I look for when anyone brings a prophetic ‘word’ is the little nugget of gold that makes me think ‘Ah! That leads me towards God’. This is a useful check and it’s helpful because sometimes strange things happen to people when they contribute in this way... you know, their voice changes – that dreaded ‘prophetic’ tone of voice! Sometimes this makes it difficult to weigh what is being said and probably within it there is something of us and something of God together.

To be continued...