Evangelizing with the Gift of Prophecy
“But God, that’s just NOT fair!” What I had just seen made me angry.
While flicking through the channels, I’d come across a psychic show. Being a good Christian, I quickly flicked onto something more edifying when the Holy Spirit urged me to go back and check out the program.
I could not believe what I was seeing! With a high degree of accuracy, the psychics were telling people in the live audience precise details about their personal lives. I wondered why couldn’t do the same. I had recently been appointed Pastor of the Prophetic at TACF, and now I was facing my competition.
“I’m a Christian and I have the Holy Spirit in me, God. I should be able to hear You for other people much better than can a psychic who’s consulting evil spirits. No wonder people are turning to psychics for help and comfort and not to the church.”
The Lord replied, “Sharpen the sword, Lynley. It’s time to hone the gift.” Little did I know that this was just the start of a journey which in the last six months has radically changed my view of gifts of prophecy and taught me how to reach unbelievers. That day in front of the TV, the Lord began to download a strategy for the church and for me to take the gospel outside church walls using the prophetic gifts.
SHARPENING THE SWORD
In 1 Corinthians 14: 1-3 Paul tells us to “pursue love, yet earnestly desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.” Translated literally, it means that we should “lust” after prophecy. But why is prophecy so important that we should all pursue it?
And later in the chapter, the Apostle Paul answers that very question. In 1 Corinthians 14, verses 24-25, he commends prophecy as being useful to edify the believers within a church gathering but also to show the power of God to unbelievers.
He calls prophecy a sign to unbelievers, to cause them to see the reality of God.
Personally I have loved to see prophecy in operation for many years and have practiced it myself within the bounds of the church quite regularly. I have prophesied at our regular church prophetic presbyteries, in front of congregations and from the platform at TACF conferences. I have taught about the prophetic gifts in churches here and abroad. But until six months ago, I had never asked God for a prophetic word for an unbeliever.
Of course, I have been secretly convinced for most of my life that I am the world’s worst evangelist. If you had asked me just 6 months ago to “do” evangelism you would have seen me dissolve into a quivering heap of Jell-o. I fervently believed that I was called to minister to the church whereas lots of other wonderful people were called to minister to unbelievers. Then along came Stacey Campbell.
I was sitting at the front of her seminar on “Prophetic Evangelism” at the 2003 Catch the Fire conference here in Toronto. Little did I know I was about to be hijacked by the Holy Spirit. Stacey started to tell us about how God has been calling her and her church in Kelowna, BC, to use the gift of prophecy to take the gospel to the malls and to the psychic fairs to win the lost.
I began to weep, and to weep and to weep some more. There on the front row, God was giving me, the world’s worst evangelist, a heart for the lost. An hour later there I was with a little bundled heap of crumpled tissues and mascara running down my face now with a burning desire to take God’s heart and his ‘rhema’ prophetic word to a lost and dying world.
A PROPHETIC EXPERIMENT
The message was definitely getting through: prophecy needs to touch people outside the church where they are. Now I just needed to try it! The spirit was willing, but the flesh was still weak, so I decided to send my cell group to do it. As they turned up for cell group and started to nestle into my sofa with their coffee in hand, I announced that we were doing something “different,” and that we were all going to a local bookstore to prophetically evangelize perfect strangers.
After they finished choking on their coffee, we headed off and on arrival at the store, we split into pairs. There we were, nervous as kittens, loitering around the bookstore asking God for a word for someone. Two of the girls felt that God was drawing their attention to a middle-aged gentleman who was seated in one of the sections. On asking God for some insight, they felt God was showing them there was a problem with his legs.
They approached the man gently, explained that they were Christians who believe that God speaks to them, and then they asked about his legs. It turned out he had been in a very serious motorcycle accident about a year previously and still had considerable pain in his legs. They ended up praying for his healing and prophesying to him right in the middle of the bookstore!
We spoke to quite a few people that night and prayed for some of them, and I discovered something. People want you to pray for them. People are absolutely thrilled to find out that God is interested in them and wants to speak to them. I’m not sure that all our words of knowledge were 100% accurate that night, but we spoke to them with love, offered to pray and the result was that some people felt God loved them!
This isn’t exactly new.
Jesus was doing “prophetic evangelism” over 2000 years ago. Just think about when he met the Samaritan woman at the well. (John 4) One brief conversation at the water cooler and she opened up her life to him. Jesus used a word of knowledge, a weapon from the prophetic armory, to show her that God was interested in her. He told her some information about her life that God could only have known by supernatural means, and as a result she and her village came to faith in Jesus.
I was getting pretty excited about taking the prophetic to the streets and so were John and Carol. So John suggested that I go to Bethel Church in Redding, California to learn more. Bethel Church is well known for making and impact on the city of Redding with supernatural signs and wonders. I was pretty excited because I wanted to teach prophetic evangelism to TACF and Redding would be just the place to get equipped. Or so I thought.
But when I talked to Bill Johnson and other people he had trained, they all said the same thing. “There is no formula.” “The only way to learn is by trying it. Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you don’t, but it’s all good.” Bill Johnson explained it like this, “We have a church climate where we expect to see the supernatural in our everyday lives. We expect people to get healed in Starbucks; we ask God to give us a word of knowledge for someone standing in the line at the grocery store. We expect miracles. And we ask for miracles.”
With that remark, another piece of the puzzle fell into place. As we pursue sharpening our prophetic gifts, I realized we need to see these gifts as a tool that will help us live as Jesus lived. He walked through life doing signs and wonders and miracles. We are called to do the same, drawing people to the Father via the supernatural. And we are all gifted to do this, because we all have the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 2.17, Peter explained the day of Pentecost by quoting the prophet Joel, “I will pour out my spirit on all people and your sons and daughters will prophesy; your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams.” When God gave you and me the Holy Spirit, He gave us the power to witness about Jesus. Jesus said, “And you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will tell people about me everywhere....” (Acts 1:8) The Holy Spirit’s gift of prophecy is a great tool for bringing people closer to Jesus and into the kingdom.
I am committed to raising the level of prophetic accuracy in my own life and in the body of Christ, so that it will not be the psychics who are the most accurate people out there. It will be ordinary Christians. In the last few months I have been running an Advanced Prophetic Class at TACF, and we are all learning together. I have realized that we must practice and keep pressing in.
If you want a deeper level of revelation, you must be faithful to the level of insight you have now. Apply the parable of the talents to your own life. Don’t bury your gift but multiply your prophetic “talents” asking for words of knowledge, words of wisdom and all of the revelatory gifts to operate through you.
JUST DO IT
Our advanced prophetic classes include exercises that help us improve our ability to flow with the Holy Spirit in a safe environment of love and grace, under spiritual authority. Even the prophets of old practiced with each other (see 1 Samuel 19:20) and Elisha had a school of prophets. The church should also be a school of prophets.
The two most important elements necessary in taking the supernatural to the marketplace are LOVE and RISK. Everything we do must be done with the motivation of love and in a spirit of humility.
Let’s not be weird.
I’ve been around too many Christians who are just plain weird when it comes to evangelizing. Instead of putting people off, use normal language, smile and be prepared to admit it when you get it wrong. And in order to see God move in Starbucks and Chapters and at the grocery store, we need to allow him to speak through us. That feels risky, but like the Nike slogan, there’s no other way than “Just do it.”
A couple of weekends ago, my brave Advanced Prophetic Class and I “just did it.” We went out to the malls and coffee houses and asked God for words of knowledge and prophetic insight to share with people. It was amazing! People came back buzzing with excitement, and one person received Jesus on the day of our first attempt.
So get going and sharpen your gift. Practice with a friend. Ask the Lord to give you a word of knowledge about them, and then test it to see if it is right. Next time you’re at a restaurant or coffee house or even the bank, ask God for some information about the one serving you. You can find out in conversation with them whether you are hearing right, “Hey, I don’t suppose you have a brother named James do you?” It’s fun and powerful.
Now when I remember that psychic TV show, I feel passion rise up in me to equip and release an army of people to go out and bring Jesus to people who are hungry for spiritual things. So many people are troubled and confused, searching for answers but currently have nowhere to go but to the psychics. We don’t need to lag behind in spiritual things since we have the Holy Spirit.
We have words of hope, life and encouragement; we have the truth.
Why should the police go to psychics for help in solving crimes? What if they came to Christians instead? Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and saved the nation. Isn’t it time for the people of God to rise up and be the ones influencing nations as we hear from the Holy Spirit? I want to be one of those people.