Acts 2:1-4, 1 Corinthians 12:1-13
“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Co 12:7). When last did you manifest the Spirit? We don’t have to think far to know what Paul was talking about here. A hundred and twenty people spoke in unlearnt languages on the day of the Pentecost – that was one kind of manifestation and Paul had seen others: healing, prophecy, messages of divine knowledge and more. These manifestations of the Holy Spirit can happen anywhere, but they are most common in church gatherings. Why? Because the church is Christ’s body united by one Spirit so when the body gathers we can expect the Spirit to be there in power. Paul did, he said “When you are assembled … and the power of our Lord Jesus is present …” (1 Co 5:4). Manifestations of the Holy Spirit should be normal in church gatherings and believers should know how to cooperate with him. Paul said “Now about the gifts (or manifestations) of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed” (1 Co 12:1). But before we can understand the gifts we need to understand the nature of the Spirit.
Jesus once likened the activity of the Spirit to wind. He said “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (Jn 3:8). In other words, you cannot see wind, but you can see its affect. We know the wind is blowing through a tree because of the way the leaves move. All the leaves move in confirmation that a gust flows through them. When the Spirit moves in a church service it is similar – manifestations of the Spirit break out across the congregation in confirmation. When the Spirit came at Pentecost all the believers spoke in tongues in confirmation of each other.
Now this tells us something important. The body of Christ is designed to feel and hear together. The days of the lone Old Testament prophet are over. Congregations in New Testament times were full of prophetic people. When the wind of the Spirit blew there were prophecies, revelations, tongues, and interpretations throughout the gathered group of believers (1 Co 14:26). God spoke to everyone together. In fact Paul said hearing together was the only way to have a complete revelation. He said “I pray that you … may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Eph 3:17-18). God has designed the church in such a way that we cannot operate on our own. We need others to confirm if we are hearing correctly and to add the rest of the picture. We should never follow one prophetic person as if they had the whole message. In fact prophetic people should only confirm what we already know. Please do not ever allow anyone to pressurise you into believing a prophetic word that you have not heard from God for yourself. If God wants you to know something he will tell you personally, and later someone may else may prophecy to confirm that you did hear God.
Worship leading is a prophetic activity. As a worship team focuses on the Spirit’s leading they also look for confirmation of what God is doing in each other. The leading of the Holy Spirit gives the team a spiritual harmony. There is no place in a worship team for individualism. When someone tries to draw attention to their self the Holy Spirit lifts. The church is a corporate thing, a unity of the Spirit. And God has set it up so that we have to work together in community.
This brings me to one final point: Prophetic gifts need to be managed. Many people don’t like this idea because it sounds like an attempt to control people or even the Holy Spirit. But Paul was very strong on prophetic management. He said “If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God. Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged” (1 Co 14:27-31). Note that Paul is not attempting to control the Spirit here; he is attempting to coach those who receive the Spirit. This is important. Prophetic people can get something from God and share it in a destructive way. In Corinth people were getting messages from God and sharing them in a way that was unloving. Fortunately Paul was on hand to correct them. He said “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Co 13:1-2). Pastors should give ample space for prophetic activity in their churches, but they should also give prophetic people clear boundaries in which to operate. The Spirit is perfect, but the church is not. Every time the wind of the Spirit blows the church has an opportunity to learn how to do it a bit better. This happened for Paul and the Corinthians and it’s still happening today.
Let’s learn to catch the wind of the Spirit in worship and corporate ministry times. The whole congregation should be experienced in hearing God and moving in the Spirit, not just the pastor and a few elders. The more space we give to the wind of the Spirit the more power we will see. If you are a pastor of a church that has not given the congregation space to minister, why not give it a go? Let your congregation lay hands and prophecy, and you coach them along the way – as Paul did.