Prophecy has never been more alive in the body of Christ than today!
Ben Armstrong, the Prophetic Ministry Director at Bethel Church and former BSSM Revival Group Pastor, believes that “One of the greatest challenges for a prophetic person has been to find and be connected to a healthy community.” In fact, believers can unlock the fullness of their prophetic gift and anointing when they are “rightly connected to healthy leadership, community, and training.”
To help the body of Christ become rightly connected to one another, Ben equips believers from all over the world through events at Bethel Church, such as School of Worship, School of the Prophets, and the Prophetic Conference. He also trains and activates BSSM students in the prophetic through advanced ministry training classes.
We recently had the honor of interviewing Ben. In part 1 of this blog series, we asked him to share how he has developed a community at BSSM that enhances our school’s prophetic culture. As you glean from Ben’s wisdom and experience, may you receive insight to further cultivate a thriving prophetic culture at your school!
How are you developing a healthy, prophetic culture at BSSM?
First of all, Bethel has had a prophetic culture for a long time. The thing that has been lacking that my team and I have been working to develop is connection in community. We’ve had a prophetic culture, which means everyone prophesies; everyone gets an opportunity to operate in the gift and knows it’s legal.
So you could be in the parking lot at Bethel and get a prophetic word. You could be at the grocery store and get a prophetic word. You could be anywhere in our city and get a prophetic word! However, we have had a lot of people prophesy independent of each other; they were doing the stuff without connection to community.
We have spent the past five years creating community; working on how we are relationship in a healthy way to other believers. So just like a spider web, if there was someone on the outer edge of the web prophesying, if they are connected, the people in the center are going to feel it. We create this community by both teaching and demonstrating to our students how to have accountability in our lives.
We also tell our students that if they want to be influential in the prophetic, they need to demonstrate credibility, such as showing up on time. We [prophetic people] have often used the title, “prophetic” as a license to be flakey. Perhaps we have used the excuse that God was encountering us in supernatural ways, and then we were late to a meeting. What has that done to our leaders and to people who are always on time? It made them feel like they can’t count on us. If they can’t count on us, then why should they listen to our words? We are working to create credibility amongst our students within the context of a family!
Why is it important for a prophetic culture to be supported by a strong family structure?
Experiencing thriving community looks like having fathers and mothers in our lives. It looks like getting feedback for the prophetic words we give. Paul told the Corinthian church, “Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 4:15, NIV)
In a prophetic community, it’s so important that believers are treated based on their prophetic destiny; that they are treated as sons and daughters by fathers and mothers, and not treated as brothers and sisters. This is because brothers and sisters always compete and want to beat one another. Fathers and mothers aren’t concerned about their children surpassing them. There’s a generosity in the way they treat their children, and they carry love and value for the growing process.
For example, when I see my kids going through a process, I don’t want to take them out of it because I know the process is making them powerful. Sometimes, I withhold prophetic words for them because it would take them out of the journey they’re in. The best insight and foresight you can have for someone’s life is not always prophesying their future; it’s believing in them and knowing that process is going to get them to their future.
That’s what fathers and mothers do. They have a lot of patience and won’t stunt someone’s growth. We ask our students, “Who do you submit your words to? Who in your life will tell you that a prophetic word you gave is concerning, and you will listen to them?” The culture becomes more healthy when students have this accountability in their lives.
What have you found are the best ways to teach and activate students in the prophetic?
As a leader, I think one of the most important things you can do for students is to be an example. In the past, we would teach the prophetic by giving corporate prophetic words in front of people, and never tell them how we got them. It left them thinking that it’s impossible for them to get words. When we teach groups about the prophetic now, we actually prophesy over them and then we tell them how we got the words. We tell them how we heard them, or how someone was highlighted to us, empower them to do the same thing, and give them feedback.
It’s important to first be an example to students, and then tell them the “how” and the “why” behind what you’re doing. We don’t just want to tell people what to do; we want them to know the heart behind it. It’s sometimes frustrating for our students because they want to know how to do the stuff right away. I tell them that it’s awesome they want to learn how to prophesy, but if I just empower them to do the stuff without them understanding the heart behind it, they could hurt people. It’s like giving a kid a gun who hasn’t learned how to value and respect that weapon. Again, we’re trying to give students the heart behind it by answering the why’s.
At BSSM, we believe in prophesying good news. How do you confront a student that is giving negative prophetic words?
We give our students what I call “prophetic protocol” in order to be successful in the prophetic. We always provide them with a look into what the culture looks like and our boundaries before they start using the gift. We tell them that boundaries are there to promote them; they are not there to hold them back.
Boundaries are set up so that they can be known by the environment and they get to know the environment.
Through boundaries, they get to discover the heart behind our prophetic culture and discover how to align their hearts with the culture. Once our students get the same heartbeat, those boundaries begin to disappear and they are given more space. We don’t have to give them external boundaries when those internal boundaries have been developed in their hearts. We tell them the why behind these boundaries early on so that they are not afraid of them or feel held back by them. As a result, they feel empowered by the boundaries we have put in place.
Also, because we provide protocol, our students are not caught off guard when we come to them with feedback. After going over our prophetic protocol, they know that when they step outside of boundaries that they will be approached with feedback.
When we give feedback to our students, we first seek to understand. We do this by asking them questions. This looks like us saying, “I noticed you did this. Why were you doing that? Did you do that on purpose?” Or “When you did that, it felt like this. Was that your intention?” We discover what’s really going on in their hearts before correcting them.
My job as the Prophetic Ministry Director is not to manage or police students. I am a father in their lives that instills identity and inspires them to move towards their future. It’s the community’s job to govern each other. It’s ironing sharpening iron and being one another’s keeper.
We create accountability and support for our students as they grow in the prophetic by having them prophesy in groups of two. During prophetic sessions, we tell students no directional or correctional words because we believe those types of words come from people we consider family; we only give those types of words to people with whom we have family investment. We also teach and encourage our students to have conversations that create a healthy community.
For example, there was one time when a student came to our leadership team concerned because her partner was giving a directional word. One of the leaders asked her, “What are you going to do about that?” He invited her to have a conversation with her partner about what she was experiencing. She was surprised that the leader wasn’t going to confront him. The leader said, “You are the one who experienced this and should talk to him.” She went back to her partner with feedback.
It was painful for the student’s partner to hear how she was experiencing him and it was difficult for her to share how she felt. But they were able to work through it. They communicated back and forth, prayed together, got their hearts right, went back to prophesying together, and had a great time. I believe these moments our students experience are keys to creating a healthy prophetic culture.
How do you help students that are having trouble hearing from God or are afraid to take risks to prophesy over others?
Fear is one of the biggest things that prevents us from hearing the voice of God. To help students overcome that fear, I set up an environment where it is scarier to do a “prophetic act” than it is to hear God’s voice.
When I was a BSSM Revival Group Pastor, I would help students overcome fear by creating prophecy scenarios. First, I would ask for two volunteers. Then, I would ask those volunteers to get a prophetic word for someone in the room in 30 seconds. Every time, I see them working really hard to hear from God, and perhaps even panic trying to get words so quickly. After 30 seconds, these volunteers are usually a little unsure about what they heard. Then, I tell them to take that prophetic word and dance it over that person. I ask them, “If that prophetic word was a dance, what would it look like?”
All of the sudden, what is now scary for those student volunteers is dancing in front of 60 students over a person instead of hearing from God. What happens in that moment is that they begin to realize that hearing from Him is easy. Fear is the thing that is trying to cripple them. They realize that if they can overcome that fear of dancing in front of the group, then they can get a prophetic word; they get more distracted by dancing than the pressure to hear from God.
After the volunteers dance their prophetic words, I ask the rest of the group to get an interpretation. Their interpretation is almost always the original prophetic word! Sometimes instead of a dance, I will have students speak a prophetic word in a tongue and ask the rest of the group to get an interpretation. It’s fun!
Bill Johnson has activated groups in the prophetic by saying, “If God was in the room, what would He say about this person?” Taking the pressure off getting a prophetic word reminds people that prophecy is a gift.
Gifts are an expression of love. They don’t force us to do something.
When believers are in a panic and their gift is running them, they feel like they have to minister to people; they lose sight of prophecy’s purpose. As a leader, you want to create unique ways for students to get out of the concern of hearing the voice of God. Make it simple.
To learn more from Ben Armstrong, look for Activating Students in the Prophetic (part 2 of this blog series) that will be featured next week. Also, Ben’s Advanced Prophetic Ministry Training (BSSM class) will soon be available through a new online platform for our BSSM curriculum. Stay tuned for more details!
Want access to more prophetic training? Check out the resources below:
- Prophetic Personalities by Havilah Cunnington
- Activating Students in the Prophetic with Ben Armstrong by BSSM School Planting
- Staff Resources Pick: Prophetic Training by BSSM School Planting
- 2016 Bethel Prophetic Conference
- Bethel’s Prophetic Network