Prophets and Teachers: A Needed Balance in the Church

An article I wrote on the fivefold ministry over a year ago continues to be one of the most popular articles on my blog. There seems to be lot of interest in this subject. It is a topic that I have been chewing on for several years, and one that I have a desire for continuing revelation in.

Ephesians 4:11 lists five specific leadership callings in the body of Christ: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.  In this article I want to focus on two of these five: prophets and teachers. (Click here for a description of all five ministry gifts).

The Church at Antioch

In many ways, the church at Antioch is a model New Testament church. There are many insights we can glean from this church, but here I want to focus on the need for prophets and teachers to work together.

“Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul” (Acts 13:1). This church was functioning in a team ministry approach that is rarely seen today. Among the leadership, we see a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds as well as a diversity of giftings. Saul (later known as the Apostle Paul) and Barnabas were among this leadership team.

Prophets and teachers were working together in the same congregation. This is significant because prophets and teachers have an opposite focus and opposite giftings.

Complementary Gifts

Teachers have great love for the Scriptures and are primarily focused on grounding the church in the Word of God. They keep the church rooted in sound doctrine and weed out mixture and false teaching. They have a grasp on the whole counsel of God’s Word, and keep the church from going into extremes in different areas.

More so than teachers, prophets are attuned to the voice of the Holy Spirit. While teachers specialize in the logos, or written Word, prophets specialize in the rhema: the immediate spoken Word. Prophets hear and declare the heart and mind of God. They want to know what God is saying right now, at this time and place. They tend to have more of a supernatural paradigm and focus, having experiences like visions, dreams, angelic encounters, and words from the Lord.

A teacher says “It is written.” A prophet says “Thus says the Holy Spirit.” Teaching ministry will bring clarity. Prophetic ministry will often bring mystery. A teacher wants you to be grounded in the Word. A prophet wants you to move with the Spirit. Understand that I am speaking in generalities here; I am not implying that a teacher will never prophesy or that a prophet will not teach. But there is certainly a difference in the primary focus and ministry of each.

The differences in prophets and teachers are actually meant to complement one another. They provide a healthy tension and a needed balance in the church. It is important to see that neither the prophet nor the teacher is wrong in their focus; but they are incomplete without each other.

We Need Both

What I see happening in the body of Christ today is that prophets and teachers have become isolated from one another. We have a whole prophetic movement that is focused on current words that the Holy Spirit is speaking. But as I have been observing this movement recently, I have seen mixture, questionable practices, and error creeping in. Could this be because teachers are not in the mix to keep things grounded in the Word?

On the other hand, we have whole segments of the church that value good teaching but deny the need for prophets and prophetic ministry. In these parts of the church sound doctrine becomes an idol, and there is no room for supernatural manifestations of the Spirit. But what would happen if those who value being grounded in the Word embraced prophetic ministry and the move of the Holy Spirit?

This separation and isolation is a scheme of the enemy. Like the church at Antioch, prophets and teachers are meant to work together. Each brings a key piece to the table, needed to establish the church. Prophets must see the value in teachers and teachers must see the value in prophets. Each needs to recognize the area of their strengths and the area of their weaknesses; and how one complements the other.

When this type of honor is flowing in the church, we will see a greater release of the kingdom among us. Remember, it was in this atmosphere in the church at Antioch that Paul and Barnabas were later commissioned as apostles (see Acts 13:1-4). Prophets and teachers, gathered together in unity under the Lord Jesus, seeking the Lord in fasting and prayer, released an apostolic ministry that shook the world.

May we see this coming together of prophets and teachers today. May we see fivefold ministry teams coming together so that the body of Christ might be built up to the full measure of the stature of Christ!

Questions: Have you ever been in a setting where you saw both prophets and teachers working together as a team? Do you gravitate more towards prophetic ministry or teaching ministry?


4 Responses to “Prophets and Teachers: A Needed Balance in the Church”

  1. Thanks for an enlightening article. I recently heard a brother in his 70’s being “recommissioned” into a new season of ministry. He’s a teaching evangelist, and one of the leaders said laid hands on his wife to receive an increased measure of faith for the prophetic, which the leader said complemented the teaching ministry well. Such an interesting affirmation.

  2. Chris Kauffman says:

    Wow, I have never thought of the 2 ministries being so necessary to complement each other like that! I especially like the clarity of the Logos and mystery of the Rhema idea…would love to hear more about this topic!

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