If you have existed in the right circles long enough, a cold sweat may come over you when you read 1 Corinthians 14:1. Surely Paul didn’t mean everyone in the church should eagerly desire the spiritual gift of prophecy. Surely he didn’t mean the ones who are a bother to the pastor. Surely he didn’t mean the ones who are irritating. Surely he didn’t mean the ones who constantly get it wrong.

Be honest: you’ve thought that before. Maybe you’re not a pastor—you’ve still thought things like that. We all have. We all have those who irritate us, those who bother us. We’d be lying if we said we’d be sad if God chose not to speak to them. If for no other reason than so we wouldn’t have to listen to them tell us about it.

But it’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? I have never met a person who isn’t a bother to someone. I’ve never met the person who isn’t irritating to someone else. The question is, are you a member of such a homogenous group that you never irritate each other? Because if you are, you aren’t fellowshipping with a diverse group of God’s children. You are fellowshipping with those you can tolerate. Plus that one guy who doesn’t fit but keeps coming anyway. They’re always there.

Real People Are Messy

No, Paul meant what he said. Encourage everyone to hear from God. Encourage the ones you like and the ones who bother you with every word that comes from their mouth. The fact that they irritate you is often not their problem, but yours.

Yes, if you encourage everyone to eagerly desire prophecy you will have a serious mess on your hands. But such is life. If you want a church without mess, then you really desire a church of death. People are messy from start to finish. We come into life pooping on ourselves and most of us go out the same way. In between we learn to make it look clean, but it’s only for show. We’re still messy all over, if not just on the inside.

Solomon said it like this:

Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.

Proverbs 14:4 NLT

In ancient days, if you owned an ox, it meant you were going to have to shovel manure, but without one, your harvest was going to be meager. We shouldn’t fear the mess that encouraging everyone to prophesy will surely make. Let me say it again: it will be messy!

What Do We Gain?

But what do we gain if we truly encouraged everyone to hear from the Lord prophetically?

  • Clarity
  • Direction
  • Purpose
  • Vision
  • Intimacy

Does your church already have all of these? I didn’t think so. What do you think would change if your church had, like the men of Issachar, “men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do?”

Our churches lack much power today because we are afraid to set them free to be messy. Prophecy is messy, but with patience, perseverance and love, the church will grow in such a way that the lost will flock to it.

The early church in Jerusalem didn’t grow because they engaged in the right strategies. It grew because it engaged in listening to the right source. Read Acts. God’s voice was there. Often. Powerfully.

Wherever God’s voice is, revival is not far behind.

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