Oh, no! Not her again." Or ... "Yeah, yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah." Or ... "Wow. Thank you, Jesus!"
The responses are varied. To some, it's a conundrum. To some, an occasional annoyance. To others, an incomparable and sought-after blessing.
I am speaking of prophecy. Long dormant in the church, it returned like a wave in the 1980s and continues to sweep the body in various forms. Yes, there are the quirky deliveries. Yes, there are the strange messengers and those who speak from a wounded heart or judgment. But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Scripture records some pretty strange things. I'm not sure I would have recognized or welcomed some man (Ezekiel) lying outside my building for 390 days demonstrating an important message from God. Most likely, I would have struggled with a fur-clothed, fiery-eyed John the Baptist, too. Elijah surely would have been on my "watch out for them" list. We've all had some of each in our congregation. Yet, Revelation 19:10 says, "... the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (NKJV).
Think how we revere the testimony of a new believer or that of any great man or woman of God. Yet this verse exhorts us that Jesus' very truth to us today is often expressed in His revelation of forthcoming things through prophecy. As Jesus said in John 5:19, "He can only do what He sees His Father doing." This means He was in constant, daily communication with His Father to know what to do, where to go and to whom to minister. Every direction was freshly and personally received.
I am not speaking of going to extremes such as not choosing a restaurant until we have "heard the Lord." But, I am speaking of a great truth, mystery and mandate from the Word: "'Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God' " (Matt. 4:4). The word rhema is used in this verse. Rhema means "every current thing uttered from God's mouth." That is foundation for our life in Christ—especially those in leadership. Certainly a rhema word must never contradict the written word. Yet, the written word alone must be interpreted to us by the Holy Spirit lest we go around "cutting off our hands if they offend us."
Too often, we rush to make our plans—and then ask God to bless them. We wonder why we are burned out, short-funded, frustrated and disappointed.
Perhaps God did not initiate the idea.
" 'You search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life. … But you are not willing to come to Me that you my have life' " (John 5:39,40). Listening is just as valid a truth as our study. It can save us from ruin, error and heartache. Prophecy can certainly direct us to that end.
When I made one of my first major decisions to expand our church, it involved leasing a 3,000-seat auditorium. My fellow staff pastor and prophet, Lou Engle, firmly believed he heard God tell us to do it, but it was a huge commitment to me at the time. I needed confirmation. The name of the building was Mott Auditorium in Pasadena. A wonderful friend and true prophetic voice to the body, Jim Goll, called me from across the country.
"Ché, I had the strangest dream about you last night. I saw you holding a bottle of Mott's applesauce. Does that mean anything to you?" he asked.
Did it ever! His obedience and our willingness to step out helped open a facility for revival that lasted more than three years, five nights a week.
The same thing happened when God led me to begin an apostolic network. I was already scheduled for ordination with another ministry and content to follow their lead. Cindy Jacobs (not yet a close acquaintance) phoned me with a word of the Lord. She prophesied that it was God's desire for me to father a movement, and that I was not to join another work. With trepidation and faith, I accepted that challenge. In just a handful of years, the fruit of Harvest International Ministry is now more than 4,000 churches in 32 countries.
I'm not saying that we don't "test every word" or that incorrect words are never given. Yet, every part of our Christian lives is to involve an element of faith, without which we cannot please Him. The prophets seem to be the only servants whom we are scripturally exhorted to "do ... no harm" (see 1 Chr. 16:22). Perhaps it's because we sometimes want to because of what is said. Yet obedience to God is always the safest and most satisfying place to be, no matter what the cost.
These are just brief examples of prophetic leadings that have changed the course of my life and ministry. Others have led me to write books, enter nations, speak to international leaders and reach out to Hollywood. If Paul himself said, "I wish … even more that you prophesied" (1 Cor. 14:5), maybe there is a good reason why.
Ché Ahn and his wife, Sue, are senior pastors of Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, California, and the author of several books, including Fire Evangelism: Reaching the Lost Through Love and Power. For more information, please visit harvestrockchurch.org.