When I was younger I remember being taught about the office of the prophet. Basically the way it came off to me was something like this:
- Everyone can get a word from God
- Prophetically gifted people: have the ability to get more specificity or detail on a regular basis
- The Prophetic Office. Someone who has received a special calling over their life to be a prophet permanently. These people are mostly famous.
After a while of seeing people going around calling themselves “prophet,” the luster started to fade off of the whole thing for me. First of all, I started to believe that everyone could prophesy (including myself) and that while some people do have a special gift, the more important thing is to believe in what you have an use it. Thinking too much about “gifts” causes you to think you don’t have something you need. Secondly, the idea of the “office” of prophet was overawing, like if you meet this guy, he probably has breakfast with Elijah and you could never do that.
Over the course of my life, I’ve grown from not being able to hear God or speak for Him at all to the place where I can confidently pray for people I don’t know and get information about their lives that I don’t know. This has been an exciting journey, but more recently God has starting to use my prophetic capacity in a new way: the office of prophet. I went through a long period where I felt like my friends did not believe in my prophetic capacity even though God was using it to bless others. I didn’t realize until after the fact, how hard that was on me. After making a life transition, however, I suddenly found myself in a place where, what I thought was a very average prophetic capacity was recognized as being something significant. My new pastor believed in me much more than I did myself!
After about a year I felt like I heard God say to be very strongly “You are the Prophet.” Normally, I would block this kind of information out because it sounds egotistical, but I had been practicing recently believing more in what God was telling me so I went with it for the moment. An hour later, I walked into a meeting with my pastor and he said to me, out of nowhere, “You are the dean of the prophetic at this church,” confirming what I heard God say. My pastor was confirming that he recognizes me as the prophetic authority for our church. As I have been walking this out, I have come to understand this as the “Office of the Prophet.” I have an office, or a function with a governmental system (my church). It doesn’t mean anything in particular about my life calling or identity. It is one of my functions within the body.
A little bit after that experience, we had a lady visit our church who moved very strongly in the prophetic. None of us knew her, and so this kind of thing can obviously put a little stress on everyone. I ran into her and she gave me a very accurate word and I thought that was the end of it… Until I saw her a few minutes later standing next to the pastor. Knowing my pastor, I walked over to spiritually guard him. If she was going to speak something, I wanted to be there so I could weigh it with him, as I knew he would depend on me for that. When I walked over, she immediately sensed a change in the atmosphere and began to prophesy to the pastor. She said that the atmosphere had opened up when I walked over. I believe that is because of the prophetic “office” I hold in our church, at the commission of the pastor. He has recognized me as prophetic and has welcomed me to speak into the church and his life in that capacity. Because I was there, permission for the prophetic to flow was also there.
This does not mean that I am the most gifted prophetic person in our church, or particularly more gifted than others. What it means is that for a variety reasons, God has entrusted me with a government function within the body in this area. Of course a certain level of gift is needed, but something else is needed as well: a specific level of political skill, and personal courage. The reason why you need political skill is because when you are giving prophesy to a leader or “king”, you need permission to speak and the right timing in order to be heard. Just because God reveals something to you does not mean that you can or should share it right away.
Through the process, I have begun to recognize the art of timing, which is very similar to what all of us use when speaking to a boss in the rest of life. Before providing input, we need the right window to open where our boss is likely to hear the word, and the right wording to get the message across. This is the prophetic “window.” Whenever you “lead up”, you always need the prophetic window to open in order to be heard. Therefore a key art of office of the prophet is waiting for and finding the window. If you just say whatever you get whenever you get it, then your leader will either start to dismiss you or what you hear from God will start to supplant his own decision making process. That’s not God’s goal. His goal is to augment your leader’s decision making process with supernatural insight– to help keep the ship on course, not to take the ship over. This kind of political skill was demonstrated by Joseph, Daniel, and Nathan in the Bible. They knew how to relate to a king and how to bring their divine wisdom in such a way that the king could hear.
On the flip side, however, is the reality that political skill can easily slide into sycophancy. If you become too aware of what it takes to please the king, you will find that you are no longer a true prophet. It is not difficult to prophesy good things. In fact, it’s kind of fun. It is difficult, however, to prophesy bad things, because if your word is rejected, it will cost you a loss of status, even if you were dead on. A true prophet, must be ready to bring both words for encouragement and words of caution or correction, thus putting his position at the court at risk at all times. Some leaders do not welcome this kind of voice at their court. This was the case of Ahab, who did not welcome Micaiah at the court (1 King 22). Jehoshaphat, however, as a wiser king, preferred to have truth.
If I see the Lord dealing with our church in some area, it is my responsibility to begin to believe God for the prophetic window to open for me to speak to it and be ready to speak the truth through that window when he does. The Lord has been very clear with me that I stand in my position because of the authority He has given me and that if I am not faithful to use it, He will remove me from it. Not to mention the fact, that many people’s lives will be affected one way or the other. This kind of recognition brings the fear of the Lord. Honoring God has to be my first goal and I cannot allow my desire to please my leadership to prevent the truth from coming forth. You can also see how giving this kind of counsel is different than other counsel. I have many ideas of my own about how things should be run, but my responsibility is to hear what God is saying and submit that to my pastor.
My point in all of this is that the office of a prophet is a function that you perform in a specific body. I do believe that there are those who hold broader offices — such as the prophetess who visited our church. She had “delivered the mail” at over 270 churches in the last 10 years. God appointed her to this office for the region, not a pastor. And of course there are those who hold this kind of office on national level. But the point is that she still demonstrated the two skills I discussed: political skill on how to deliver her words by the rules of the house, and courage to do so.