Oftentimes the “prophet of God” is portrayed as an old, hairy man living alone in a cave on a mountaintop. Or, maybe in a van down by the river. You get the idea.
There is some merit to this portrayal. However, what we see in the Old Testament’s company/sons of prophets is different and, I believe, closer to what we see in the New Testament.
Within Samuel’s company of prophets, and Elisha’s sons of prophets, we don’t see a collection of independent prophets but a community of interdependent prophets. They ministered together (1 Samuel 10:10), ate together (2 Kings 4:38), worked together (2 Kings 6:2), and at times, even lived together (2 Kings 6:2). They were in community. There was the mutual submission to each other that makes community possible. They weren’t “just me and God” lone rangers.
I love this. Not only was their mutual submission to one another but there was also submission to leadership (1 Samuel 19:20, Samuel was “standing as head over them.”) This submission to leadership can also be seen in how the sons of the prophets dwelled “under the charge” of Elisha (2 Kings 6:1).
As seen here, I believe prophetic communities thrive when there is a culture of submission. This is not to be confused with a culture of control where instead of submission being a gift we offer each other, it’s something people are forced into. That’s yuck.
Once again, it shouldn’t surprise us to find this idea of mutual submission to each other and leadership in the New Testament. There are many verses we could look at but the ones that interest me the most are the ones that relate to the cultivation of prophetic environments.
In Ephesians 5:18-21 Paul gives instructions to the prophetic community (i.e. the church) of Ephesus about the cultivation of prophetic environments. I’m sure most of us are familiar with this passage. It’s a favorite among us worship leaders. Paul names a few of the ingredients that best cultivate and sustain a Spirit-filled environment.
He mentions singing to one another, singing to the Lord, overflowing with gratitude to the Father and lastly, submitting to one another. Mutual submission is the glue that holds a community together. In its absence, even prophetic, Spirit-filled communities do not stand a chance of surviving.
The entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 14 consists of Paul giving the prophetic community of Corinth practical instructions on how to mutually submit to one another in the context of a prophetic environment.
He teaches them how to worship and prophesy in a way that is mindful not only of one’s own preferences and desires, but of the needs of others as well (vv. 16-17).
He encourages them to “weigh what is said” (v. 29) when a prophetic word is given. The backside of this instruction is that the giver of the prophetic word needs to be “cool” with his word being weighed and possibly corrected.
And then comes his statement in v. 32, that “the spirit of prophets are subject to prophets.” Whether he’s referring to individuals controlling themselves, submitting to the community or the leadership, a submissive heart is the idea here.
Friends, a culture of honor and submission is essential to the health of prophetic communities. How can we better cultivate this in our own hearts and communities? I’m so thankful, though at times I have to choose to be so, for the blessing and safety that comes when I am submitted to my leaders, others in my community and even those I have been entrusted to lead.
God has called us, the New Covenant Church, to be a company of prophets under His leadership that cultivate Holy Spirit-filled prophetic environments in the context of community defined by mutual love and submission. Stay thirsty my friends!