ESTABLISHING WISE PROPHETIC PROTOCOLS
by Lyn Packer
The Lord is calling us to step into a new level of maturity in using the gift of prophecy. We are entering a time of great prophetic release and power and, in order for us to minister wisely in that release of power, the Lord is giving us understanding of what is needed at a foundational level for this next season of ministry – prophetic alignment, structure, and protocols.
A little background – The prophetic gift was largely lost to the church for hundreds of years and it is only since the Charismatic movement of the late 1960’s - early 1970’s that people have an understanding that the gift of prophecy is for using today. In the timeline of history that’s not a long time and during that time we have had to relearn how to use the gift. Up until now there have been some attempts at giving widespread understanding and setting protocols around the use of the gift, but in God’s timing we are coming into a season where it is now important to do so.
As leaders we will need to do establish protocols with grace and love and as prophetic ministers we will need to receive those protocols with love and grace. We also need to understand that these protocols are not established in order to hem us in and stifle our use of the gift, but to establish safe boundaries for us and those we minister to and allow for a greater release of power to flow through the prophetic gift. Up until now we have had little structure and protocols established for prophetic ministry, but for the release of power that is coming to the prophetic gift we will need some. We are being called to greater maturity in function and with that comes the need to take greater responsibility for how we function.
The Lord is bringing His prophetic ministers into right alignment in some areas. He is making, as it were, a chiropractic adjustment so that we can function better with the rest of the body in the use of the prophetic gift. Where we have been out of right alignment with the Body of Christ He is bringing us back into right alignment.
He is also calling prophetic ministers to a new season of being aligned with apostles, teachers, pastors, and evangelists; particularly with apostles and pastors. We will see apostles and prophets, in particular, begin to move in tandem like never before. Both of these are powerful ministries and the synergistic release that will come when they function together will take their ministry to a whole different level of power.
Establishing structure and protocols
Structure and protocols are important for several reasons, as we’ll see throughout this article. Alignment, structure, and protocols are positive, not negative, when established and used properly. They restrict chaos and the misuse of a gift and release greater safety and freedom within which to minister and receive ministry.
Protocols are “the accepted or established code of procedure or behaviour in any group, organization or situation” (computer dictionary definition).
Scripture establishes and places structure and protocols around the use of the spiritual gifts. There are protocols in regards to how we use our gifts individually and when we gather together, and these are found scattered throughout Scripture. The following are some of the protocols Scripture establishes around spiritual gifts and their use.
The foundation of love – 1 Cor 13 is the main foundation on which all spiritual gifts are released and operated in. It is primarily a spiritual gift protocol passage and a call to maturity because it’s shared in the context of speaking about the use of spiritual gifts. Yes, this passage of Scripture also has wider implications for lifestyle, marriage etc but its main purpose is in reference to using spiritual gifts. Have a fresh look at it with that perspective. It even mentions specific gifts as examples (tongues, prophecy, supernatural knowledge, faith, and giving).
“If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
The common good – The gifts are given for the common good (1 Cor 12:7). They are given to bless us and others. What does that mean in relation to how the gifts are used? What protocols does that suggest we need?
Prophecy must encourage, edify and comfort (1 Cor 14:3) That’s a protocol statement that establishes procedure and behaviour. So we need to ask ourselves, “What needs to be in place to ensure that outcome when we minister?”
We are told that “everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (1 Cor 14:40). This verse is the last verse in a whole chapter devoted to explaining protocols for corporate gatherings.
We are told to weigh prophecy and test the words spoken. 1 John 4:1 and 1 Thess 5:19-22 tell us to “test everything, hold fast to what is good.” 1 Cor 14:29 talks about prophetic words given in a church setting.
Prophecy should reveal Jesus or His work. Rev 19:10 says prophecy should give testimony to, or point us to, the work of Jesus.
The Bible is the absolute standard for weighing and assessing all revelation (2 Tim 3:16; Col 2:18-19; John 1:14). While we treasure spiritual experiences from the Holy Spirit we are not to place subjective experiences (supernatural manifestations, the seeking of angels, angelic activity, or other supernatural manifestations), and discernment above the Bible (Rev 19:10; Col 2:18-19).
Prophetic words are an expression of God. God places great value on His words, His promises – they are an expression of His name and nature (Psa 138:2). We are not only to speak truth but to speak prophetic words in a way that reflects the loving heart of God.
Some things are not to be shared – Scripture gives us the understanding that some things should not be shared with others. Paul had experiences in the third heaven and some of what he saw he was not permitted to share (2 Cor 12:4). Daniel and John both had experiences that weren’t able to be shared and were sealed up until a later time (Rev 1:1; 22:10, Dan 8:26; 12:4,9). We should always check with Holy Spirit as to whether we can share an experience or not. Many people don’t realize that this is part of the scriptural protocol surrounding revelation and experiences and they share things that they shouldn’t.
Good protocols –
Create safe boundaries within which we function – for ourselves and for those we minister to.
Create quality controls and consistency – having protocols means that we can check things like, “Is this gift being used with wisdom, in love, with impartiality, etc.?” “Is it being used for personal gain – such as to gain acceptance, to feed ego, to prove a person’s worth and value, to establish someone’s sense of identity etc.?”
Create and establish Kingdom culture – if we don’t establish Kingdom culture we will establish some other culture; we cannot help but do that. Culture has a profound effect on people and transforms people and societies.
Establish and build trust – a leader must know that you are trustworthy. Trust is earned, it cannot be demanded! Having a gift does not equate to being trustworthy!
Test and prove our character and integrity. They show our maturity or lack of it, our knowledge of our gift and how it functions, and more.
When practised become good ministry habits; that in turn helps prophetic ministers grow in favour and open doorways for effective service.
Create a structure that makes it safe to give feedback and to lovingly ask challenging questions of one another.
We already have some protocols in place
We each already have protocols around the use of our gifts, although we may not recognise that that’s what they actually are. Another term for the protocols we already have established in our lives is – ministry habits. These can be positive or negative and they may have positive outcomes or negative ones.
Sometimes our protocols (established ministry habits and behaviours) are based on good practices and sometimes they’re based on negative things like ignorance, wrong foundational understanding, feeding our sense of importance, our need to be appreciated, or other things like that.
For example, being respectful and using language that is easily understood are positive ministry protocols, as are things like asking permission before laying hands on someone, asking if we can do a certain prophetic action over them etc.
Having no boundaries, checks and balances is a negative protocol or ministry habit that a person may have established in their ministry life. Letting your gift rule you is a negative protocol that may have been established in your life so that it’s become your accepted code of behaviour.
What type of protocols may be helpful -
Personal protocols – These come from the standards and values you personally hold to when using your gifts. When we prophesy we represent the Lord so things like body language, touching, tone of voice, look on our face, etc. all count. Your gift doesn’t always give you automatic right to minister to someone; sometimes you need to ask their permission first.
Corporate or church protocols – Churches may need to establish protocols for their meetings – for example in a meeting there may be a ‘point person’ that you are asked to share your revelation with so that the sharing of it publically can be facilitated with wisdom. Make use of the scriptural protocols around order – In a public meeting one person speaks at a time, and people take turns to speak; no talking over each other and no hogging the lime-light (1 Cor 14:29-36). You may have, or need, different protocols in place for main church services than you use for your prophetic training times.
Specific occasion protocols – For example when I hold a training day I have specific protocols to provide a safe place to learn and grow in. Conferences may be another occasion that you need protocols established for. I’ve listed the training protocols I use for my training schools at the end of this article so that you can see which ones I use.
Language protocols – Protocols can relate to what sort of language is appropriate to communicate in certain situations. For example, a certain word that is acceptable in one situation may not be acceptable in another situation, culture or nation. Look at your language – do you use terms that others don’t understand, or that make you appear spiritual?
Use understandable language – People aren’t necessarily going to understand terms like, “I felt moved by the Spirit”, or, “I saw an open eye spiritual vision”. Using super-spiritual, or hard to understand, language may reduce your effectiveness, acceptability, and credibility with some people. You can be spiritual without being weird or speaking untranslatable Christianese. Jesus used language and examples from everyday life that were understood by the people He was ministering to.
Honouring of others – One important protocol to establish in ministry practice is that of treating all people with dignity and respect. Everyone you minister to – Christian, non-Christian, nice or bad mannered, well-dressed, or dirty – they are all made in the image of God, and that fact alone endows them with a dignity and honour that is priceless.
Accountability, humility and teachability – We may need to submit revelation to others for assessment before sharing it. We see in part and prophecy in part (1 Cor 13:9) so we must be open to learning and growing, and being corrected when necessary.
Feedback from others – We must be open to receiving feedback from others on what we’ve said. We are not always 100% correct – we are learning to hear and interpret correctly, we know in part and we prophesy in part. We must be open to discussing the prophetic words that we receive and give, and also to checking the interpretations of those words with appropriate leaders.
There may also be protocols around different situations outside church – Protocols around the use of our gifts will differ in different places or situations. For example, they may very well be different in the business arena than in a church home group. Have a think about whether you’ve just assumed that you can function in your gift outside the church in the same way that you do inside it. Work out what the appropriate protocols would be in certain situations.
Protocols for weighing or testing prophecies – We need to know how to weigh prophetic words spoken over us personally, and corporate words as well. As churches we also need to train people how to weigh and steward prophetic words.
Protocols for dealing with wrong prophecies – Consider whether you need a protocol in place as a church for processing wrong prophecies with the church, and with those who gave them.
Protocols in churches
Pastors do not create boundaries around people’s ministries to hem them in and restrict them, but rather to create a safe place for everyone within which body ministry can happen. However, if you can’t monitor and regulate your attitude and behaviour well, a pastor may have to put boundaries in place around your ministry!
My training protocols for schools that I run.
In our training times together these are the protocols that I’ve established for the safety of all involved –
All prophecies must be given in an attitude and demeanour that represents God well – they must be given with love and they need to edify, encourage, or comfort.
No prophesying mates/marriages, dates, babies, or geographical shifts in our training times.
The person being prophesied over is told by Scripture to weigh and test the word to see if it is from the Lord. All prophecies will be tested and weighed according to these things
Does it line up with God’s nature and character as revealed in Scripture?
Does it line up with God’s heart and plans for mankind as revealed in Scripture?
Does it reveal Christ and bring glory to Him?
What sort of fruit will this word release if this word comes to pass?
Does it resonate and witness with your heart and spirit that this is a word from God?
Give, and ask for, feedback after each prophecy. The feedback questions we use in our training times are –
Was there anything in that word that resonated with you in particular; can you share with me what that was? (This question, and the discussion that follows, allows you to ascertain whether you gave a word that ministered life to them, and also possibly will allow for you to clarify any misunderstanding in their understanding when receiving the word. For example, most people who get a prophetic word spoken over them apply it to the situation that is uppermost on their heart at the time, but the word may not be about that thing. You’ll never find that out if you don’t discuss it with them)
Was there anything I said that you didn’t understand – such as words or terms I used? (Often as prophetic ministers we use terms or words that we are comfortable with, but the person listening may not know what they mean, or may think they mean something else. This question helps clear those things up.)
If you disagree with a word you can, and should, say something, but do it with love and in a way that treats the person with dignity. Remember, it takes courage to step out and share something that you believe God is saying; honour them for that.
You can say something like, “Thank you for sharing that with me. That word doesn’t resonate with me at this moment, but I’ll go away and ask the Lord about it.” Then make sure that you do ask the Lord about it.
Or, if it seems like it is a wrong word and out of line with God’s heart or nature and His plans for mankind in general, then ask them for clarification before you dismiss the word altogether. You can say something like, “Thank you for sharing that with me; it seems like you were saying…. Is that right?”
If after getting clarity you still believe that it is a wrong word then tell them something like this, “Thank you for sharing that with me. At the moment it doesn’t resonate with me, but I will take it to the Lord and process it through with Him.”
Wrong words are often great training moments, so do make sure that you ask the Lord about them later because there will be things that He wants you to learn from them! Never rubbish someone or belittle a person in your heart and mind who gives you a wrong word – it’s rude and dishonouring. They are human and they are learning, just like you.
Lyn is recognised as a Prophet within New Zealand and other nations she’s ministered in. Her ministry is revelatory and catalytic, propelling people into encounter with God. The governmental prophetic gift she carries is expressed through prophetic, revelatory insight and strategy, prophetic words (personal, corporate and national), teaching, art, and writing. Click here for more info...