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Prophecy in the Church: Pathway to Revival

Accessing the rich discernment tradition of the Church is invaluable aid to every Spirit-filled pastor and leader. Let me cite a personal example. I was raised in a devote Roman Catholic home in the 1940s to the 1960s. I was educated in Catholic Schools all through to a history degree from Fordham University. But this was pre-Charismatic Catholicism, and I never saw a miracle or miraculous healing. Like many in my generation, I grew suspicious of the “rumors” of miracles via the pious saint’s tales of old and eventually drifted into atheism. After almost a decade of atheism I fell into the New Age movement and discovered the spiritual world was real and phenomenon rich.

However, I remembered from my Catholic education that spiritual experiences and phenomenon can come from either the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Satan. I began asking questions about the nature of the New Age spiritual phenomenon I was experiencing and seeing. Then I began reading the Catholic literature of discernment. I quickly realized that New Age spirituality was demonically laced.[14] I returned to the Church via a Catholic Charismatic prayer group which initiated my life as a charismatic Christian (1975). I did however notice that in many of the meetings there was a lack a discernment in regard to prophecies and revelations – almost all were accepted. The lay leadership had been baptized in the Spirit, but not educated or read in the discernment tradition available, but mostly unknown, to them. I had a better grasp of discernment than many who were senior to me in experience and maturity simple because I was well read on the issue. I say this not for self-glorification, but specifically to point out that the literature of discernment is invaluable for every pastor who wishes to effectively lead a Spirit-filled congregation. That literature places the pastor or leader in contact with the riches and experiences of Spirit-filled believers from all of Church history.

My personal recommendation would be that pastors and church leaders read at least Edwards’s Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God, and then one work from both the Catholic and Pentecostal/charismatic authors. (Hint: seminarians and student of religious studies could write a great paper or an MA thesis comparing the Catholic and Pentecostal literature on discernment.)


Preparing the congregation

My experience is that a congregation should be taught about the prophetic and the word gifts of the Spirit, such as tongues and words of wisdom, before such utterances become widespread. This helps ensure that false prophecies are reduced to a minimum. Stress should be placed on the fact that in New Testament prophecy in the worship service is mostly about encouragement, not correction (1 Cor 14:26). Negative prophecies are possibly valid, but very often reflect the venting and opinions of the person rather than the true voice of the Holy Spirit. I insisted in my congregation that any negative prophetic utterance be cleared by the leadership for extra discernment. Further, I taught that Paul indicated that we prophecy “in part” (1 Cor 13:9) and therefore imperfectly, so that a discerning correction should not be taken as rejection.

The length of prophetic utterances is also a concern. Many persons who rightly sense a word from the Spirit do not know how to end it and go on, often presuming to sanctify what are their opinions or prejudices. I stressed that prophecy is related to the gift of “word of the wisdom” which comes often unexpectedly upon a believer, and invariably short. Thus the lay persons in the congregation knew that their contribution and participation in the service (1 Cor 14: 26) in prophecy, shared psalms, songs and prayers would have to be brief. I made a joke of it (with a serious purpose) by using football signs for “time out,” etc. No one was offended by this and all understood the need for it. I found during my first attempts at this years earlier that there was invariably a well-intentioned “prayer hog” who wanted to publicly pray over every situation, and at great length. Everyone in my congregation knew that had to be brief as a courtesy to others, and the Holy Spirit could give a complete message with great brevity.

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Category: Spirit, Winter 2016

About the Author: William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include Quenching the Spirit: Discover the Real Spirit Behind the Charismatic Controversy (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015), and The Public Prayer Station: Taking Healing Prayer to the Streets and Evangelizing the Nones (Emeth Press, 2018). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He continues in his healing, teaching and writing ministry and is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook

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