Because of the tyranny of the clock and our desire to keep our services neatly packaged,” Paul Wilbur explains, “we have relegated the prophetic voice to books, magazine articles, late-night Christian television and the ‘fringe elements’ of Pentecostal Christianity.”
Instead, he argues that the prophetic ministry must be integrated into the mainstream of the local church.
“The prophets are members of our worship team and intercessors group,” he says. “They are cleverly disguised as housewives, third-grade math teachers, executives, truck drivers, office managers and yet they are watchmen.
Wilbur’s latest worship album, The Watchman (Hosanna! Music), is an attempt to model this integration of prophetic awareness with a common element of church life—praise and worship. Recorded live on Yom Kippur at Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Wilbur calls the new album “a call to the body of Christ worldwide to take their place on the walls of their lives, congregations, cities and nations.”
A Jewish believer who accepted Yeshua (Jesus) as his Messiah in 1977, Wilbur explains his understanding of the modern-day prophet in terms of the watchman, who would guard a city in biblical times.
“Watchmen were given a strategic position and solemn responsibility. Because of their position,” he explains, “they could see what others could not see, and hear what others did not hear,” he says.
Wilbur says watchmen were to look for three things—potential danger, the dawn and the coming of the king—and then communicate what they saw to the king, the people and the gatekeepers.
When Wilbur began studying the role of watchmen and gatekeepers, he found their vivid connection to today’s worship leader.
“In John chapter 10, the watchman sees Jesus coming and opens the gate himself. Instead of simply hearing, seeing and declaring, he also opens the gate to allow the shepherd to come in and lead out his sheep.”
Wilbur believes that in the New Covenant, it is the prophetic ministry that “sees, hears, declares and opens the gates for the Good Shepherd to have access to His people.”
Yet, most believers would admit that of the five callings in Ephesians 4:11, the one that has run into the most challenges in local congregations is the prophetic—a calling that has been misunderstood, maligned and even silenced.
“Why are some pastors noticeably absent during praise and worship,” Wilbur asks, “while others prepare the way for the Lord by opening the gates for Him to come in and feed His flock? Why is the voice of the prophet not heard in our sanctuaries, declaring out loud what the Spirit of God is whispering to His church?”
Wilbur’s ministry features not only music but also mercy outreaches to the poor and sick. It has taken him to more than 30 countries, including Russia, the Philippines, Brazil, Nicaragua, Ghana, Israel, Taiwan and Singapore. He believes today’s watchmen are prophetic voices with spiritual eyes and ears to see and hear what others do not. Wilbur sees his calling to both the church and the Jewish community, and to build bridges of reconciliation between them.
“God is restoring the role of the prophet in the body of Christ,” he says, “and the church is going to hear an amplification of the voice of the Lord when it gathers for worship. We will hear Him say: ‘Make room for Me. I desire to speak to My people. Take your hands off the throat of the prophets and let them speak.’ The prophetic voice will be heard once more in the sanctuaries of the world.”
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