The New Testament Church was set up in a way so that everyone has a unique function, gift, or special anointing which is expressed through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In Ephesians 4:11-13 we find a listing of five types of leadership functions, commonly called the Fivefold Ministry. This includes the Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, and Teacher. These functions of the Apostle and Prophet did not end in the first century as some have taught. Often, of these five, the most difficult to understand is the Prophet. There truly are Prophets of God functioning in the 21st century Body of Christ. A man that many will remember is the late David Wilkerson. Many questioned his ministry and he was heavily criticized and attacked, but he was a true prophet of God. Those that criticized the most, knew the man the least, nor did they understand the very difficult calling upon his life.
An excerpt was sent in my email from a book written by Art Katz. It is well worth reading and may help to understand this difficult call upon a man life, a man who is after all, is no less human than any of the rest of us.
When the prophet, whom God has raised up early and sent often, is not heard and the word is rejected, then the next and last thing is judgment. It is, therefore, no wonder that there is an urgency in the speaking and that his words are designed to shock rather than edify. The prophet is, therefore, often seen as being horrid, slashing and shocking. The most common accusation is ‘unloving’, which he just has to bear. That is the way it sounds and appears, but how many of us can see that the harsh word is uttermost love? For a prophet not to have spoken it would have been unloving–if that is what the urgency of the moment required. That is not justification to be in that mode continually. In the moment that God calls for it, then it must not be withheld. I would say that other than the Lord’s prophetic use, such a man at other times would just be in neutral. He is not required to perform and to be in that mode, and that is what is surprising. He looks so unimpressive except for the time of use.
The prophet’s mood is often in violent opposition to the mood that has already been established in the congregation, especially by the ‘worship team’. I have had more conflict with worship teams and worship leaders than I can tell you. They seem to have an independent purpose for their own being, no matter what, and establish some kind of mood, however contrary to God it is. Instead of working in conjunction with the word that is to come, or sensing the mood and heart of God, they have already got their choruses numbered and what they are going to sing and do. They have their musical virtuoso, talent and amplifiers, and they are going to ‘do their thing’, and leave you to make the best of it afterwards as well as you can. I have had many messages dulled and the power of it lost, because of that unspoken opposition and tension where worship ministry is celebrated as a thing in itself. If I could, I would pull the plug out of every overhead projector and every amplifier. Let us rather just splutter and choke along, and miss a word here and there, and come into the spirit of God’s worship, than that we should be led with choruses and more choruses. What they are really often trying to do is to effect an atmosphere for a service, rather than touch the heart of God, let alone prepare for the receiving of a holy word for those assembled.
There is a struggle going on right within the church and no man feels it more acutely than the ‘freak’ who is bearing a strange word with a strange mood and that is contrary to and other than that which prevails, where everybody wants to go home feeling good, and nobody wants to go home in tension.
A prophet will often send people home jarred and unhappy with many unanswered questions. He has not that mentality that wants everything to be wrapped up in one package with a ribbon on it, in one service, and send people home happy. He will let the people go home jarred, pained, and even agonizing. He will cause questions that he himself has not adequately answered, and they themselves have got to wrestle and fight their way through to a place in God. There are very few pastors, maybe one in a hundred, who would be willing to allow his congregation to suffer that kind of stress and tension. “Send them home happy” is the unspoken premise of contemporary religion to which we as prophets do not subscribe. We are not in the mood of sending people home happy. We are of a kind to send them home agitated with questions that they are compelled to consider and that cannot be answered in one service. If we were given three days, we might be able to bring the listeners all the way through. How many churches, however, are willing to submit to such a man for that length of time? One service at best and, “Get him away!”
My suspicions are alerted if there is any bombast or ‘hype’, any exaggeration or sensationalism that conjures up a manner or a mode of excitement that the ear loves to hear, that would draw out those who are bored and want some kind of alternative to their boredom. Those who speak of coming judgment should not invest it with anything more than the word itself. He does not have to bring to it an additional quality so as to make it compelling to the hearer. The word itself speaks for itself. Anyone who would seek to bring an extraneous element through his own personality or manner of speaking is likely false. The prophet, therefore, does not have great latitude in how he deports himself. If we are highly individualistic and want to cut a swath for ourselves, or do our own thing in our own way, then we are disqualified. “I will put My word in your mouth and that is what you will speak and you will speak it in the manner that I want it spoken.” For as much as the prophet’s life is wholly given over to God, there is not a surrender of identity, but in fact it establishes it. He loses his life but he has found it.
Prophets are distinct, flesh and blood men with formidable personalities. They are not automations that bear the word of God as a mechanical contrivance. They are formed in the womb, and that forming is God’s.
I will enter a congregation and they are having a ball and worshipping up a storm–and everything seems to be right–yet I am grieving. I am almost doubled over and knotted in the inner man. I am anguishing in my soul, while everybody else is having a good time. How many people have been in such functions where they are the only freak? Everyone else seems to be ‘moved by God’, and there is all kinds of talk about ‘the presence of God’, yet you feel no presence at all. You are not conscious of any anointing. You do not see any blessing. All you see is a sea of carnality and self-deluded people priming and pumping themselves up, and your one presence in that room is a disjuncture with and a contradiction to all that is going on. To top it all, you are not there as an observer, but not you are going to speak. What will you speak? Will you speak so as to confirm what people think is the spiritual reality that they are celebrating, or do you take your whistle out of your pocket and blow it, and cry out, “Phony! Pretense! False! Self-effected! Hyped up production! Emotional! Sensual!?
The prophet is required to speak on the basis of one of two things, either what the natural eye sees as being impressively spiritual, or what his inner man is groaning about that is contrary. When you speak on that basis, you are challenging everything to which men have given their endorsement. Either your word is God’s, or you are some wild freak who is “doing damage to the Body of Christ.” That tension is with you always.
There is a weight of responsibility on God’s people to correctly identify whom God has set before them, and there is a choosing. In making that decision and choice, something is struck that will profoundly affect that believing life for the rest of its days. Just the presence of the man, let alone the redicalness of his word, puts a premium of requirement upon the hearer like none other requirement that perhaps the church has got to face.
What do you do with this man and this word? In fact, I almost invariably tell churches, “You have a responsibility in my coming and the hearing of this word more than you know. You will either go on in a qualitatively new way from this point forth, but one thing I will assure you, you will not go on as you were before. Something has come in a moment of time that requires something from you, and if you will not recognize it and give it, then you are not just going to go on, you are going to fall back. Something incisive has come and your response to that will affect your whole continuance and future in God.”
The prophet’s function is so absolutely life and earth, more than can be said for other callings. If it is a false word, then it could be death. If it does not bring a warning, then it could also be death–literally, physical death.
If it does not indicate the issues that are eternal, then it could be robbing the hearer. It is not an exaggeration to say that the rejection of the prophets was the death of Israel. How can one say more for something that is life or death for a people, and yet God invests that in flesh and blood, in mere man, who is subject to every frailty and weakness of humanity! It is an enormous weight of responsibility that he can say, “Thus says the Lord”, or even if he does not intone that inscription, it is implied, and that the weight of that has to be borne on the faintness and weakness of his mere humanity.
–from “The Prophetic Call” by Art Katz–