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[Here at Bridgeway Church we highly value prophetic ministry, but only to the degree that it is pursued and practiced in accordance with Scripture. People often ask me how we handle prophetic “words” on a Sunday morning, in a large gathering. It’s one thing to facilitate this spiritual gift in a small group (which I outlined in an earlier post), but when several hundred people are present it poses an entirely unique set of challenges. So here are the guidelines we’ve put in place to help us effectively utilize this gift in what we believe is a biblical fashion.]

The Apostle Paul issued two commands concerning the spiritual gift of prophecy that we at Bridgeway Church take very seriously: “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:1), and “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22).

In view of Paul’s instruction, we want to be diligent in facilitating the exercise of this gift. The following is designed to provide guidelines on how we respond to the gift of prophecy, primarily in our corporate celebrations on Sunday.

The first thing to know about our approach to prophecy is our belief that the ideal and preferred context for the exercise of this gift is in our community groups. We strongly encourage our small group leaders to provide instruction on the nature and function of prophecy and to make each gathering a safe and encouraging place for the exercise of this spiritual gift.

We also believe that opportunity should exist for the use of this spiritual gift in our corporate celebrations. However, because of the size of our gatherings and the time limitations we regularly face, the following guidelines will be observed.

First, the Scriptures are clear that both men and women can prophesy (Acts 2:17-18; 21:9; 1 Cor. 11:2-16).

Second, at each celebration there will be a designated point person who has the responsibility and authority to make the final decision on how prophetic ministry is to be facilitated. This will usually be either myself, one of our Pastors, one of the Elders, or a member of the Prophetic Team.

Third, if you believe the Lord has revealed something to you, you should share this with the appointed individual. We prefer that you put it in writing, but if that is not possible simply go to them and communicate what you believe the Lord is saying.

Fourth, this person will make an immediate judgment as to whether you have indeed heard from God. Please understand that we are not infallible in this judgment and errors can be made. We ask that you not be offended or take it as a personal rejection if we determine that you have not heard from the Lord.

Fifth, if it is determined that the Lord has truly spoken to you, our first task will be to decide whether or not the revelation is for you personally or is designed for the church corporately. Often times what you hear from God is intended for your personal edification or should become a focus of your own personal prayer life. If it is determined that your word is suitable for the whole body, several other decisions have to be made.

Sixth, at this time a judgment will be made as to when the word should be shared with the entire body. That is to say, should it be shared now or perhaps next week (or sometime thereafter), once additional time is given to prayer and discussion among the staff, Elders, and Prophetic Team?

Seventh, assuming that the word is appropriate for the entire church at the time you received it, a judgment will be made as to the most fitting time during the service. Should it be shared immediately or should we wait until after worship, or perhaps after the sermon?

Eighth, once it is decided when the word is to be shared, the final decision concerns who should speak it forth. On occasion we will permit the individual who received the word to share it publicly. This will often depend on how well we know the person and if they have a demonstrated history of accuracy and maturity in the exercise of their spiritual gift. At other times, the point person will assume responsibility for communicating the word to the body as a whole.

Ninth, every believer in the congregation has a personal responsibility to pay close attention to the prophetic word and to judge or evaluate the biblical validity of its content (cf. 1 Cor. 14:29; 1 Thess. 5:19-22). However, only men are permitted to articulate publicly this evaluation or judgment in the corporate gathering (1 Timothy 2:11-15; 1 Cor. 14:33-35).

Tenth, the Scriptures are clear that, at most, “two or three prophets” should speak during the course of any one corporate gathering (1 Cor. 14:29). We ask that everyone abide by this rule.

We hope that these guidelines will serve us all well in the exercise of this vitally important spiritual gift and that the Lord Jesus Christ will be honored and his people edified by its proper exercise.


Prophecy is no longer an "utterance" if it has to go through a network of rules, guidelines and a predetermined interpretation. It becomes a statement judged and controlled within the constraints of the present preestablished church program and its time restraints. The Biblical text states that 2 or 3 are to prophecy and the others are then to judge what is said. If man subjects the prophecy to scrutiny before it is spoken, it ceases to be inspired because the wind has not been allowed to blow where it may. This is a serious example of control beyond the freedom of simple church order powered by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Allow the pretenders to speak out and the Holy Spirit to expose them in the assembly. Let the true prophets refute the false prophets and their prophecies as it is outlined in the Bible. The pretenders will eventually be weeded out and you are then left with the pure. In this way, man no longer rules church out of fear, but by trusting the Spirit of God will lead the order of things. As you yourself have stated, Paul did not restrain the Corinthians from exercising the gifts, he allowed them to be played out, offering insight into attaining their Spiritual maturity. Nothing is ever taught by knowledge alone. Everything in the flesh must be exposed and experienced in the Spirit realm.
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)
Sam, while you have pursued Biblical purity in the working out of your assembly, even at the expense of reputation, there is still one major set-back that continues to choke the true working out of the other gifts. It is the presence of controlling and oppressive leadership that comes from over qualifying your own gift. Your predominant gift is teaching and I have learned so much from what the Holy Spirit has revealed through you. However, your gift stops there. Your eldership should not be dominating over the other gifts. The human spirit of intelligent leadership usurps the authority and the pure work of the Holy Spirit. Strong-minded leaders prevent themselves from being challenged or corrected by others in the body until their mental knowledge of Spiritual matters has surrendered its own understanding, thus allowing the full authority of Jesus and not man to lead the Body and Bride of Christ.

Thank you for your post, Pastor Sam! That sounds very wise to me.

Dwayne, yes we do, when the Bible and pastoral wisdom dictate.

Do you also publish your set of restrictions for the other spiritual gifts such as healing, tongues, etc?

I don't want to sound simplistic, but when you ask what "benefit" there is in this sort of prophetic ministry, you should take it up with God and your Bible. He's the one who commanded us to "judge" and "test" prophetic utterances. Evidently he thought it carried great benefit! As for the second question, the answer is: pastoral wisdom.

What benefit is prophecy if sometimes it is judged by a morally spiritual person to be valid and sometimes not valid? Sounds like a guess instead of a prophecy. Why the limit on subject matter for prophecies in the small groups? Again, sounds like control instead of freedom of the Spirit.

Yes, the Spirit provides the gift and then commands us to "judge" (1 Cor. 14) and to "test" (1 Thess. 5) prophetic utterances. And yes, the nature of the NT gift is in many ways significantly different from the way prophecy functioned in the OT.

So the Holy Spirit sovereignly gives the gift but men are to determine when it is valid. Sure hope the gift didn't cease. Quite different from the prophecies in the Hebrew scriptures and the penalty for disobeying these rules is.................?

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