Through the last few decades, the role of prophets and prophecy in the body of Christ has grown both in acceptance and significance. These days it's not unusual to hear someone give a prophetic word in a church, at a conference or during some other kind of Christian gathering.
But God's plan for prophetic ministry goes far beyond the four walls of the church. God wants us to take the prophetic to the streets!
What do I mean by "taking the prophetic to the streets"? I mean living up to our job description as God's anointed people in the world.
Isaiah 61:1-3 tells us: "The spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for all who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair" (NIV).
Perhaps you're thinking, "But I'm not a prophetic-type person. That's not my gift." Well, have you ever stepped into a house and felt an evil presence? Have you ever found yourself in a certain situation and sensed the presence of God?
Being prophetic isn't strange or unnatural. It's naturally supernatural! All it takes is childlike faith and a willingness to trust the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
Each of us is called to be a revelation of Jesus Christ to the world. That's prophetic! We're called to be willing vessels in the hands of God—not just in the church, but also in our homes, our communities, our workplaces and beyond.
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, Christians often reached unbelievers by standing on street corners, passing out evangelism tracts. God anointed little booklets, such as "The Four Spiritual Laws," and used them for His glory, drawing thousands of people to Himself.
Today, however, God doesn't want us simply to pass out printed tracts. He wants us to be living tracts.
He says, "I want to use your mouth, your hands and your feet to be carriers of My anointing. I want you to be like Olympic runners carrying My fire, setting neighborhoods, cities and nations ablaze for My glory."
Unfortunately, too many of us have not responded to this call. We've abdicated our prophetic "street" position. We've sent missionaries. We've paid pastors. We've supported evangelists. We've handed out tracts.
But the Lord says, "I want you! I want you to be My hands, My feet, My eyes and My mouth."
God isn't calling us to religious, formula-driven evangelism; He's calling us to prophetic evangelism. He wants us to tell hurting people the life-changing words that come directly from His heart.
So often, when we meet people whose lives are a mess, we assume we should pray for them. "Bless them, Lord," we whisper.
Praying a blessing under our breath is good. But prophetic evangelism requires more.
First of all, it requires that we take off our blinders. God doesn't want us only to hang around with other believers. He wants us to see the world that He sees the way that He sees it.
He wants us to see the pain of those prodigals and unbelievers who are in the midst of divorce, adultery, homosexuality and other sinful traps. Sometimes, as believers, we act as if we'll catch leprosy if we associate with such people. That's religious!
Instead, the Lord wants us to have such a love and passion for the people around us that we see someone's pain and ask, "God, what do You have for this living soul? What is Your divine strategy? Lord, give me some information. Give me some words. I'm available, Lord. I'm listening."
Remember, the Lord is the hound of heaven. He has more invested in people's souls than we do. He has a passion for the prodigals and the lost.
When we ask God to show us His desire and His plan for someone, He is more than willing to open the windows of heaven. To move from the natural to the supernatural, all we have to do is jump through.
What happens when we do? Suddenly we have a word in season that pierces an individual's heart. Scales fall off that person's eyes, and he or she is able to see that there really is a living, loving God.
Giving a prophetic word doesn't have to be difficult. I didn't understand this at first. I remember driving to a home group meeting one night and telling the Lord, "I'm available. Use me."
I didn't know what to expect. But that night, during our worship time, God showed me a flower. My heart started to beat fast, and I heard the Lord say, "Give the word."
"But God, it's only a flower!" I prayed. Then I noticed the flower was missing some of its petals.
"Give the word!" the Lord repeated.
"But God, it's just a flower with some petals missing," I protested. "Besides, I don't know how to speak King James." (I thought prophets had to speak in perfect "King James" English.)
"Give the word."
Finally, with much fear, I opened my mouth and told the group, "I see a flower, and even though some of the petals are plucked off, God still loves you."
People started weeping. The words had touched a chord in their hearts: God loved them, even though they weren't perfect.
It was so simple!
God wants each of us to be open to speaking prophetic words that touch people's hearts—not only in church groups, but also wherever we are as we go about our everyday lives.
Whether we're going to work, to the mall, to the gas station or to the dry cleaners, we need to look up from our immediate tasks and notice the people around us. Then we need to ask, "What do You have for this woman, Lord? What do You have for that man?"
Once, I went grocery shopping with a girlfriend and her children. We filled our baskets and then got into the checkout line.
While we waited, my eyes happened to connect with the eyes of the cashier. Suddenly I blurted out, "How is your adultery coming along?"
The cashier turned bright red and started to cry.
"It's not me," she cried. "It's my husband."
"Oh, that's why I saw that spirit around you," I responded.
I continued to follow the Holy Spirit's prompting. "Not only has your husband committed adultery against you, but he's living with the woman in an apartment, and he's filing for divorce," I said. "But the Lord Jesus wants me to tell you that He will never leave you or forsake you. He knows the pain you are in, and He will walk with you in the midst of this situation."
The woman started weeping again.
I only ministered to that cashier for five minutes. But right there, in the middle of a grocery store checkout line, the Lord gave a word to a woman who hadn't set foot in a church for years—and who desperately needed to hear a message of love from her God.
That's taking the prophetic to the streets. Everyone wants to know that there really is a God who loves them, who knows them intimately and who cares about the details of their lives. Prophetic ministry meets that need.
Of course, God will not always give us a "heavy" word about adultery or some other major sin in a person's life. He may give us a picture of a flower with missing petals.
Either way, the key is to have our "prophetic antenna" up as we go about our everyday business—and to be willing to speak when the Holy Spirit prompts us.
Once, when I was in New Zealand, I stopped in a manicure shop to get my nails done. I sat down, and the young manicurist took my hand.
"Hi! What do you do?" she asked pleasantly.
"I'm a minister," I said.
"Oh, I always wanted to do something like that!" she responded.
My prophetic antenna went up. "Maybe you would be a minister," I said, "if it weren't for the fact that you've been living and sleeping with your boyfriend for the last 10 years."
"You're right," the girl admitted sheepishly.
I continued to follow the Holy Spirit's prompting. "When you were a little girl, you loved the Lord with all your heart," I told her. "But when you were around 17 or 18, you started to question the church and the Lord, and you left the Lord to start living with this man. Now the Lord is saying, 'I want you to come home.'"
"But I can't," the girl said through her tears.
I didn't stop. My nails weren't finished. The Lord had a captive audience.
"You know, when you were a little girl, you were sexually abused by your father," I said. "You always told the Lord that you wouldn't have children with an abusive man. Now you are living with a man who's abusive.
"A week ago, you were weeping and crying about this very thing. The Lord wants you to know that He wants you to be married, and He wants you to have a family. But you have to leave this man so He can heal your life."
"I can't do it," she cried. "I can't. I can't leave him right now."
My nails were finished, and my time was up.
"The Lord will send another messenger," I said.
Let me ask you: Could you be that messenger? What if you were the next one to have your nails done by this young lady? Would you be the one to tell her, between the buffing and the polishing, what the Lord wants her to hear?
I want to share one more story with you. It happened about 15 years ago, and it changed my life.
I went into a print shop, and across the plastic counter from me was a man who was probably in his 70s. As we talked about my printing project, I suddenly saw a spirit on this man. Instantly I knew he was going to have a stroke on the left side of his heart.
"How many blue copies do you need? How many yellow copies?" he asked.
I gave him the numbers. I didn't say anything about the stroke.
"Come back in an hour," he said.
I left the shop, got into my van and drove to a nearby fast-food restaurant to grab lunch. Then I returned to the print shop parking lot to eat and wait.
About 10 minutes later, I heard sirens. Four emergency vehicles were speeding down the street in my direction.
Wow. I wonder where the action is, I thought. Then I realized the vehicles were pulling up to the print shop.
"Oh, no!" I cried, jumping out of the van. I found the elderly man on the floor of the shop, gasping for breath. Immediately I began to pray for him.
The paramedics came in a few moments later and saw me praying over his body.
"What happened?" they asked.
"He's having a stroke," I said.
"How do you know?"
"God told me," I responded.
The paramedics took over from there, and I went back to my van. As I drove away, I began to weep.
"Lord, I saw it!" I cried.
"That's right. You saw it," He said.
"But Lord, I missed it!"
"That's right. You missed it," He responded.
"Lord, I don't know how to do this!" I sobbed. "There will be other people on the ground dying, and I'm afraid. I don't know how to get across that stupid plastic counter and say, 'I see something. Can I pray for you?'"
"Do you love Me?" the Lord asked simply.
"That's not fair!" I cried. "You know I do."
"Then if you love Me, will you love My people?"
On that day, it was as if I built an altar. I said yes to God. I said yes to the prophetic.
I told the Lord that He would have to help me because I was clumsy. I would probably make more mistakes than other people.
But I was willing. I was willing to see people the way God saw them, to love people the way He loved them.
I was willing to say the words the Holy Spirit prompted me to say. Are you?
Prophetic ministry is not weird. It's not unnatural. It's naturally supernatural. It ministers to people right where they are by showing them there's a God who knows them, who loves them—and who goes out of His way to communicate with them in the midst of their sin and pain.
God never intended for us to keep the prophetic in a quiet, safe little box called "church." Let's love God and love people enough to speak when the Holy Spirit prompts us. Let's take the prophetic to the streets!
The late Jill Austin was the founder of Master Potter Ministries in California and the author of Master Potter and Master Potter and the Mountain of Fire (Destiny Image).