Valuing prophecy in the normal life of a missionary
Biblical Mission has often been initiated by prophetic statements and events. For example, the announcement of Jesus' mission in Luke 4: 16 - 21; the gospel going to the Gentiles in Acts 10: and Paul's Macedonian call (Acts 16: 6 - 10). This should not surprise us, as the pouring out of the Spirit in Acts 2 is to be evidenced by the Prophetic (Acts 2: 17).
However, the examples above of direction changing prophecy are not meant to be a daily occurrence. If it was mission it would be like a revolving door, always spinning in a new direction. While the Church should especially follow the early Church's example of fasting and praying to know the guidance of the Holy Spirit when it needs fresh direction (Acts 13: 1-2), this is not the type of prophecy that is needed on a daily basis. Once direction has been given by God, the expected response is obedience to that calling. Paul had seasons of stability and ordinary days as do we all. What role is there for prophecy in the normal life of the missionary?
What role is there for prophecy in the normal life of the missionary?
More generally prophecy is edification, encouragement and comfort (1 Cor:14:13). Every Christian needs this ministry. Proverbs 13:12 says 'Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life'. Also Proverbs 15:23 says 'A man has joy in an apt answer, And how delightful is a timely word!' Isaiah knew what it was to have 'an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary'.
The prophetic ministry is largely a ministry of encouragement from God and it can come in various ways. It could be people giving us a scripture verse at just the right moment. This is probably the most common experience. Or it could be someone having a dream, a vision, or some words from God for us. This type of general prophecy may have nothing particularly new in it, but it brings exhortation, encouragement or comfort just when we need it most.
From where can we receive these prophetic words? Occasionally prophets such as Agabus arrive with a striking word (Acts 11:28, 21:10). However, these more specific words are rather unusual examples of prophecy. Perhaps they should be less so. Nevertheless, it will always be the case that more general prophecy should be the natural domain of the body of Christ. Paul highly valued prophecy in the body and he expected that when the church gathers there would be a release of gifts for everyone's edification (1 Cor. 14:6, 26).
However, this leads to a key question; are we part of a church or group that practices prophecy? Sometimes as missionaries this may be elusive. Missionaries may be involved in pioneer work of various kinds where such edification is an unlikely dream. However, despite the limitations of the mission field, there are ways in which prophetic encouragement can be received.
Ways to find prophetic encouragement when ministering overseas:
Although overseas workers often serve in limited or challenging church environments, they are normally in some type of fellowship, however small. Here are some practical examples of ways you can benefit from the prophetic in your life in your group and even without it:
- When you meet socially or in 'business meetings', encourage each other to share scriptures and other prophetic encouragements together. It is surprising how often this is not done, even amongst mature Christians.
- Share words yourself; the Lord will repay you.
- Encourage prayer supporters to send you encouragements from the scripture and prophetic words.
- Download sermon and worship media that you find edifying from the internet or get CDs posted out to you by friends.
- Go where it happens. This might require you to make an effort or to travel a long distance when you are tired.
- Invite teams to visit you on site that can contribute in this way.
- When you are back in your home country, make it a priority to find space and time to go on a retreat.
All of these examples are possible wherever you are in the world. However, they require initiative on our part. Realising the truth of the words 'Man cannot leave by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God' (Matt. 4:4) should motivate us to value and practice prophecy in our normal life as a missionary.