When I was a cessationist, I assumed that supernatural ministry in the New Testament was orderly. I did not understand the implications of the universality of spiritual gifts. God intended for every Christian to be a minister because the Holy Spirit had given a spiritual gift to every born-again person to serve the family of God (1 Corinthians12:11; 1 Peter 4:10). These gifts made the church a powerful family. It also made the church a messy family that required frequent correction. How could it not be messy? No one learns how to use their spiritual gift without making a mess. The New Testament Epistles were basically written to correct messes in the church.
I was given the gifts of evangelism and teaching when I was born again, even before I knew there were spiritual gifts. I drove unbelieving friends away from God by trying to bully them into the kingdom. The Holy Spirit raised up wise spiritual fathers and mothers to gently correct my mistakes and messes. A growing church will always be a messy church. But somewhere along the way, we let the bureaucrats clean up the mess and take over the church. We traded a powerful church for a predictable church. Eventually the house of prayer became a house of lecture. Even though it was reduced in power, it was still a great church. It saved me and my family, and it gave me a spiritual father to disciple me, to teach me how to love the things that Jesus loves.
Another false assumption I had about supernatural ministry was that it could not be taught. I assumed that prophets automatically heard God perfectly. “Prophets” meant to me the great writing prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. I did not think about the group of anonymous prophets that Samuel commanded (1 Samuel 19:20). Since Samuel led the group, he must have taught or coached the group of prophets in receiving and delivering messages.
The fact that a ministry is supernatural does not mean it can’t be taught. Jesus taught his disciples how to teach, heal, prophesy, and do miracles. All the gifts of the Spirit are supernatural. The power for their use comes from the Holy Spirit, not from human brilliance. This does not negate the fact that people need to be taught how to discover their gift and how to use it. The gift of teaching is supernatural. Teaching is not explaining the Scripture; it is revealing the excellencies of the Trinity and the kingdom of God by the power of the Holy Spirit so that the revelation changes lives. All ministry is meant to lead human hearts to worship God, and that can only be accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit.
When I’m pastoring a church, I typically devote one night a week to training in the spiritual gifts. I use Scripture to teach what prophecy is, and then I demonstrate the gift by prophesying over people in the meeting. Then I use exercises that allow the participants to practice prophesying over one another. After a while, I can hand off that meeting to young people who have gifts of teaching, prophecy, and healing.
I never use the Sunday morning service to allow beginners to practice their gifts. One of the quickest ways to teach church members to despise prophecy is to let beginning prophets—or, worse, those who don’t even have a prophetic gift—hurl empty or hurtful words at the Sunday morning crowd. We would never come to the worship service and say, “Okay, who would like to give the sermon this morning?” The Sunday morning service is a time for the mature expression of the gifts.
However, there is no one right way to use prophecy in the church. The Lord will guide the elders to discern the best way for that particular church, and that way can change over time. The key is to always listen to the Lord to guide us in how to use his gifts.
Are you interested in learning how to hear the voice of God in your life? This is an excerpt from Jack Deere’s new book, Why I Am Still Surprised by the Voice of God. This is the story of how Jack Deere learned to hear the voice of God and, in doing so, became a friend of Jesus. Now a modern classic, Jack wrote Surprised by the Voice of God over twenty-five years ago. Based on that first book, Why I Am Still Surprised by the Voice of God has been entirely rewritten and includes additional thoughts and insights from a lifetime of hearing God speak. Deere guides you through the Bible to discover the variety of creative, deeply personal ways God still communicates with us today. You’ll learn how God speaks with people apart from the Bible, though never in contradiction to it.
- Groups desiring to learn more about how prophecies, dreams, and visions function
- Individuals wanting to study the biblical foundations for hearing the voice of God
- Churches ready to embrace and experience God speaking in community
In these pages you will:
- Learn through Bible study, compelling first-hand stories, and sound arguments
- Witness the way God carries forth the biblical pattern for speaking to us in contemporary ways
- Be trained to hear and recognize the voice of God in your life