THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF PROPHETIC OPERATION AND CALLING
by Lyn Packer
Scripture shows us that there are different callings and gifts and that we each have been given gifts for the good of the Church and society in general. In this article we’ll look at the prophetic gift and its operation and calling.
1 Cor 12:4-11 tells us that there are varieties of gifts – to each is given the manifestation for the common good.
1 Cor 12:28-31 says God has appointed in the church apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, gifts of healing, helps, administrations, tongues…but not all are apostles, or prophets etc.
Eph 4:11-13 He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers for the perfecting (maturing) of the saints, for equipping the saints for the work of ministry, so that the Body of Christ may be built up.
1 Cor 14:1-3 …but one who prophesies speaks to men for their up-building and constructive spiritual progress, encouragement and comfort (consolation).
Rom 12:6-8 We have gifts that differ according to the grace given us, we are to exercise them accordingly…
1 Thess 5:19-21 Don’t quench the Holy Spirit, don’t scoff at prophecies but test everything that is said and hold fast to what is good.
All prophetic words, at whatever level, and no matter who they are given by, are subject to being weighed and tested. You can see the protocol we use at the New Zealand Prophetic Network for testing prophetic words here.
New Covenant prophecy is always redemptive in purpose and expression; in other words it is always to bring people into a revelation of God’s love and care for them, to encourage and build them up, and to help bring them into God’s good plans for them.
Different types of gift function and calling
Within the gift of prophecy there are several types of prophetic gifting, calling and expression that happen. Not everyone who can prophesy is called to operate in the governmental role of Prophet. The calling to be a Prophet is not something you can earn or work your way into; it is a calling from God, and that calling will be recognized and confirmed by others in governmental leadership positions in the Body of Christ. Someone with the calling to be a Prophet will still have to learn and grow in his or her gift and character in order to fulfill that calling; it is not automatic. People can be called and yet may disqualify themselves from walking in the fullness of their calling because of character and humility issues, even though they may still prophecy accurately. Gift on its own is not all it takes to function correctly as a Prophet.
Spirit of Prophecy
The first type of prophetic expression is when Holy Spirit releases a spirit of prophecy in a meeting and people feel moved to prophesy. Generally what happens in this type of prophetic expression is that people have been worshipping and they feel a change in the atmosphere as a prophetic unction is released. Suddenly people who may have never prophesied before will feel prompted to speak out what they perceive from the Lord. In this situation people are open to the Lord and some of them will receive a word from God to share. This is sovereignly initiated and we respond to it and move in it by faith.
Scripture encourages us all to prophesy under inspiration from the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 14:1), and the realm of revelation is open twenty-four hours a day for the New Covenant believer. Some people learn that they can reach out and ask for a prophetic word and when they do the Lord generally gives them something. These people will operate in the prophetic gifting more than others, simply because they’ve learnt how to access revelation from the Lord by faith.
A person prophesying under the spirit of prophecy prophesies a forth-telling word to build up, encourage and comfort the body as 1 Cor 14 tells us. Forth-telling is a prophetic word about something that the Lord wants to do, or is doing now; it is present oriented not future oriented.
A person who operates under the general spirit of prophecy may or may not prophecy on a regular basis; it depends on their level of desire to function in that gift. Someone who is moved to prophesy by the spirit of prophecy does not generally have the authority to, and should not include, correction, new direction or predictive elements in their prophetic words.
The Gift of Prophecy
The second type of operation is the gift of prophecy.
The person who is called to operate in the gift of prophecy is usually someone who has first learnt to function under the spirit of prophecy. As they use that gift they feel a drawing toward it and begin to practice more, and then they are recognized by leaders as someone within whom a gift of prophecy is developing. It’s important to understand that the prophetic gift is developing. No gift comes fully formed within us, and our growth in the gift and calling is dependent on many things, including practice, humility, character development and more.
Those who function regularly in the gift of prophecy can become more accurate in their hearing and expression. They may become recognised, nurtured and sometimes even commissioned for regular ministry in the local church.
At this level of function the gift is still very much for building up people in their faith and walk in Christ, for encouragement and comfort. Those functioning at this level should not automatically think they can include correction, new direction or predictive elements in their prophetic words, and should never do so without submitting what they sense for testing by others. Even those functioning in the office of Prophet still have to have their words tested.
The gift of prophecy is available to all to function in, but not everyone who prophesies is called to be a Prophet. If they aren’t it doesn’t mean that their gift is second rate; it is just a difference in function and calling.
The Office of Prophet
The third type of prophetic calling and operation is the office of the Prophet. Not all people who move in the prophetic gift are called to this function and operation of the gift.
The call to function in the office of Prophet is a call from God ( 1 Cor 12:28; Eph 1:1; Eph 2:20; Eph 4:11).
The call is simply the first step. It will be followed by a time of preparation and equipping that is often many years in length. It also requires an anointing to function in the gift and office, and then a commissioning or releasing to function in that office.
Someone who is called to the office of Prophet generally has the following aspects operating alongside the gift of prophecy in their life – the gifts of discernment, the spirit of wisdom and revelation, as well as strategic leadership skills. While the initial call comes from God, the recognition of that call to function in the office of Prophet is usually confirmed and recognized by those around you as they see all these things in operation in your life (Prov 18:16, Acts 1:23).
Accuracy in prophecy alone is not necessarily an indicator of a call to walk in the office of Prophet. Some people are incredibly accurate in their knowledge of details about a person's life, and that usually comes about as a result of two things - a combined functioning of two gifts, the gift of prophecy and the ‘word of knowledge’, and practice. Most people can grow in their accuracy by following the promptings of Holy Spirit and asking Him questions about what he or she is perceiving, hearing or seeing.
The ‘office’ gifts and callings are for particular purposes, as shown in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. The five-fold gifts outlined in those verses are a specific call from God to operate in a servant governmental function. They are given to help bring the Body of Christ to a place of maturity, to train them for their work of ministry so that the Church might be built up and operate properly within the church itself and out in the community. They are not about hierarchy, as in bosses and lording it over people, even though they are governmental callings, but they are about supplying correct foundations for the Church to build on. They are a call to serve and lay their lives down for the Body of Christ.
The person called to function in the ministry office of Prophet works with the apostolic and other five-fold ministries to strategically bring the Church into a place of maturity and right functioning. They get, and give, strategic insight into where the Church is headed and, along with the other five fold gifts, can work on the strategy for moving the Church forward into maturity in character, gifts and function. Part of that calling for a Prophet is in training the church to hear God’s voice clearly, to interpret what they hear accurately, and to mentor and train emerging prophets.
Another aspect or ability of the Prophet is to impart gifts - 1 Timothy 4:14: “Use the gift you were given when the prophets spoke and the group of church leaders blessed you by placing their hands on you.” There are times when the Lord reveals to the Prophets that He wants to give specific gifts to a person. That word is imparted through the prophetic words and confirmed by the blessing of the elders. That gift may be one of the spiritual gifts or a natural gift. There are people who have received the gift of a previously unlearned language, the gift of musicianship or art, or other gifts, in this way.
A person moving in the office of a Prophet still prophesies to build up, encourage and comfort the body as 1 Cor 14 tells us, but they may include correction, new direction or predictive elements in their prophetic words. However these should always be presented in a redemptive, loving manner, not a judgmental or punitive manner. Even a mature Prophet’s words are still subject to testing; none of us are infallible, and we can all make mistakes.
When someone in the office of a Prophet speaks, his or her words carry spiritual weight and power and will release the power of God in tangible ways upon the person or group they are ministering to. The ability to understand and to hear God more clearly will be one of the results of sitting under a Prophet's ministry.
Signs and wonders may accompany their ministry. Their words will be very accurate, and often detailed, with things they could not know in the natural, like names, addresses etc. This doesn't mean they are infallible, but their words are to be taken seriously. Their credibility has been clearly established by their proven track record of not only accurate prophecies but upright character and proper gift use.
For more teaching
I hope this article has given you some clarity in differentiating between the types of prophetic function. There is far more that could be said, of course, but it’s impossible to put everything into one article. If you want to learn more about prophecy and functioning in that gift, there are plenty of training articles on our website here, as well as out there in the shops, and online. However, please do be discerning in what you watch and read, especially online, and don’t just accept everything as being accurate or the whole truth on the subject. Unfortunately there are people who have their own agendas in drawing you into their sphere of influence, so be wise and check the teaching you receive against scripture, and also against other mature leaders' teachings.
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...