What does it mean to be a prophetic church, a prophetic body of people?
To fully answer this question we need to see the big picture of exactly what Jesus has called his church to be. As much as I love prophetic ministry and mentoring prophetic people, there is more to an holistic prophetic culture than just activity and experience: we need a broader paradigm than is currently found in many charismatic churches. If all we focus on is giving people prophecies, we miss out on the breadth and depth of prophetic spirituality. If all we focus on is prophets, we miss out on seeing the way the church itself can be prophetic in its very nature.
So to understand the prophetic function of the church we have to step back a little bit from prophetic ministries and individual callings, and begin to view the church in terms of who we are called to be as the Body of Christ. The prophetic function is part of the church’s intrinsic identity and purpose: how we are shaped and defined. We are called to be a prophetic community, and this community needs to look like Jesus.
As I said in my last blog, our number one goal as the Body of Christ should be to imitate Jesus as closely as we possibly can. The church is defined by Jesus: it is Jesus who shows us who we are and what we are called to do. All authentic Christian ministry is based on him. The church, by its very nature, is called to be Jesus-shaped, and the fivefold ministries from Ephesians give us a clear perspective on what a Christ-like church should look like. Jesus has given these five identities to the church so that we can be all that he has called us to be, fully representing him in the world.
So as we consider how the church in its very nature can be prophetic – embodying the prophetic function – we need to embrace the prophetic pattern we see in the life of Jesus. Our life as a prophetic people must be directly formed around the life, ministry and teaching of Jesus. We can only define a prophetic church according to Jesus’ ministry as the true and perfect prophet.
When we look at Jesus’ life and ministry we see that he is uncompromisingly prophetic in a whole host of ways:
- He is the revelation of the Father: he perfectly shows us what God is like.
- He is the Word of God in flesh.
- He is the mediator of the New Covenant between God and people.
- He confronts evil and breaks the power of sin.
- He calls people to return to God and live righteously.
- He speaks truth to power (both religious and secular).
- He only does what he sees the Father doing.
- He is led by the Spirit and ministers in the power of the Spirit.
- He prioritises prayer and worship.
- He speaks prophetically of the future.
- He discerns the hearts and minds of people.
- He challenges injustice and unrighteousness.
Jesus is the perfect expression of the prophet and so gives us the blueprint for a mature, holistic, multi-faceted way of being the prophetic church. We need to be prophetic in the way that Jesus was prophetic. Not just as individuals but as a Body with a collective prophetic consciousness.
The really good news is that as we choose to emulate Jesus’ prophetic role in our churches we get to participate in his very work and ministry as the greatest prophet there has ever been. The prophetic function is deeply rooted in the person of Jesus. In building a mature, holistic prophetic culture in our churches we are continuing his work, not having to manufacture something new. And as we do this, Jesus will be more present in our midst as his perfect prophetic identity gets expressed through his people.
So what does a prophetic church look like? Here I’m using the 3-dimensional pattern of Jesus’ life as a framework for casting a vision for what the mature Jesus-shaped prophetic community can look like:
Upwards to God: Deep spirituality
As a prophetic church we have a passion for the heart of God, desiring to feel what God feels.
We prioritise worship, prayer, and the presence of God.
We are prepared to challenge idolatry and cultivate a hunger for holiness and obedience.
We create a culture of intentional and expectant listening, making space for this in all parts of church life.
The presence and holiness of God is tangible and accessible.
Our church is a place where people’s personal covenantal relationship with God is encouraged and enhanced.
We are developing a culture where individuals have confidence they can hear God for themselves.
Inwards to each other: Thriving prophetic ministry & community
We prophetically reveal the Father’s heart in the way we love each other.
We help each other connect with God’s heart so that together we are strengthened, encouraged and comforted.
The Spirit’s presence is manifested through his revelatory gifts as we meet together.
We demonstrate prefigurative community – radical, holy, covenantal – witnessing to God’s presence and power.
We embrace a prophetic ministry that is servant-hearted, inter-generational and inclusive.
Out to the World: Bringing transformation
We rejoice in revealing the true nature of God to the world around us.
We are connecting with God’s heart for the neighbourhood, city and nation.
We are walking in the power of the Spirit as we serve our communities.
We take a stand against injustice and unrighteousness and share God’s concern for the poor and oppressed.
We confront powers and principalities.
We are not afraid to speak truth to power.
This is the prophetic function alive and well in the church of Jesus. This is the prophetic ministry of Jesus reflected in his people. This is the big picture of the prophetic church. And be encouraged: it’s not too difficult to get there!