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[Adapted from Jim Paul's recent book "Prophecy in Practice", published by Monarch Press, Crowborough, UK. This adaptation takes the form of an expanded discussion with associated questions. This is a three part series, focusing on three broad periods of Church history:
- The Early Church 100-450 AD
- The Reformers and European Revivalists 1400-1846 AD
- The American Revivalists and the Latter Rain Prophets 1801-1948 AD]
Are you seeing any common prophetic threads as we take this bird's eye view of church history? The wild eyed prophets of the 80's and 90's don't seem so strange after all when one places them against the backdrop of periods of revival in the Church.
Of course, there were other kinds of prophetic manifestations in modern church history. In the 1801 Cain Ridge Revival, there were groups of believers in their midst called "spontaneous exhorters." Literally hundreds became prophetic preachers during those days. Mark Gali in his article in the "Church History" periodical states:
"Literally hundreds of people became spontaneous exhorters, excitedly giving advise or tearful warnings. Almost anyone - women, small children, slaves, the shy, the illiterate, could exhort with great effect."This one event in American church history was the spark that "ignited the explosion of evangelical religion which soon reached into every corner of American life." The strong prophetic manifestations in their midst only spurred on revival fires in the United States.
Review some of the prophetic unctions that have come on evangelistic meetings where "spontaneous exhorters" would be heard. I believe these were valid prophetic gifts, released in the atmosphere of evangelism. Have you witnessed this?
Akin to the "spontaneous exhorters" of Cane Ridge is what the WEC missionaries called "the prompters". During the 1953 revival in the Belgian Congo they came face to face with "the prompters", inspired speakers in the congregation that would begin to preach prophetically to the unconverted and unrepentant. Those who were in great agony of soul would come through to peace with God as "the prompters" would speak out "Jesus is ready to forgive! Think back! There is still more to confess! The big sin still remains!" We could do with a few more of those in the twentieth century Church.
Would it be fair to call this prophetic preaching?
Almost during this same time in North America, there was a renewal called the Later Rain movement. In February 1948, the Holy Spirit fell on the students of Sharon Orphanage and School, a small bible school in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada. The world soon heard of the outpouring that was marked by the manifestation of prophecy and the intensity of God's presence in worship. Like prairie fire, the restoration movement swept through congregations in both Canada and the United States. Within a year, Elim Bible Institute, in Lima New York became one of the renewal centers. Their annual Spring convention in 1949 was sheer glory. Carlton Spencer, the president's son, went on to explain the marks of this Divine visitation.
"Most gracious indeed were the gifts of the Spirit in operation in the meetings: some of them entirely new, others in a greater anointing and power and others operating in new ways. In most every service a spirit of worship prevailed. At times the congregation would break forth in heavenly chorus with prophetical solos interspersed... At times during the Convention there were ministries of laying on of hands with prophecy confirming calls and gifts imparted by the Lord.
Richard Riss, has reflected on the overall effect of the movement in his book, "Latter Rain." He concludes his review of the data by saying that, "the Latter Rain movement provided a tremendous impetus to the people in many Pentecostal circles to seek to exercise the gift of prophecy... an important influence upon at least some portions of the Charismatic movement almost thirty years later."
The mid-1990's have arrived and the Church is again finding the infectious joy and power of the Holy Spirit. He is again causing the gifts to operate in "new ways", even some operations of the gifts are "entirely new" as was the case at the Elim Bible Institute. Serendipity has come and we are indeed "surprised", if not "surprised by joy". All through the ages, the Church of the Living God has come face to face with His Almightiness. He is reshaping us by the strength of His presence so that we all may become shouters of His grace! The precious Holy Spirit is even now forming God's prophetic army which will bring in the 'Harvest'.
Church history does impact on the "now" of the church. Take for instance the "Latter Rain Movement" that has just been discussed. Not only are the charismatic churches the benefactors of their "singing in the spirit" and other aspects of flowing in the gifts of the Spirit, but the whole concept of "prophetic presbytery" began here. If one looks hard enough you will always find the always the head waters of a breakthrough.
There is a 82 year old Foursquare preacher, Lloyd Kethum, that attends our church - East Gate Christian Fellowship in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He was a first hand witness to those days when the Holy Spirit fell on that little bible school in North Battleford, Sask. He told me that this new thing - "prophetic presbytery" was powerful - where a few of the teachers from the school would minister wait on God for revelation for each one that came for ministry. These prophetic words were life changing, even some 50 years latter.
Did you know that the modern day "prophetic presbytery" that we hold at our conferences and churches has it's roots in the last Canadian renewal movement? Even the form that we practice here called the IRC and AOL is an electronic rendition of the same. Have you been a benefactor of this bit of history - "prophetic presbytery"?
We have seen that God quickens (or releases) the prophetic for His kingdom purposes at various times throughout history. Is He doing that now, and if so, for what kingdom purposes?