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I'm interested in learning more about the relevance that the spiritual gifts have had for Christians over the course of history, with special emphasis on the gift of prophecy. For the apostle Paul, this was the most important gift, and it was his heart that every believer should earnestly desire the gifts of the Spirit, especially that they may prophesy:

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. [1 Corinthians 14:1, ESV]

An immediate question that arises when one looks at this matter has to do with the meaning of this gift. What does it mean to have the gift of prophecy in the first place? What kinds of spiritual experiences or abilities can a person with the gift of prophecy have, in contrast to a person who doesn't have the gift?

My personal impression on this matter is that the gift of prophecy is quite a supernatural gift indeed, and I draw this conclusion through connecting multiple dots in Scripture:

  • 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. [1 Corinthians 14:24-25, ESV]
  • 16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. [John 4:16-19, ESV]
  • 39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” [John 4:39, ESV]
  • 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. [2 Peter 1:21, ESV]
  • 6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. [Acts 19:6, ESV]
  • 10 When they came to Gibeah, behold, a group of prophets met him, and the Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied among them. [1 Samuel 10:10, ESV]

Questions: Which Christian groups/denominations in the history of the Church have encouraged their members to earnestly desire the gift of prophecy? How common is it for contemporary Christians to pursue this gift? How has the gift of prophecy been understood by Christian groups/denominations that have endorsed its practice?


Related: Do any Christian congregations follow the example of 1 Cor 14:24-25 to win unbelievers for Christ?

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  • :-) Hi SRI, please keep in mind that one of the reasons for closing a question is that it's asking more than one question. (See the explanation for "Needs More Focus.") Though related, you've technically asked three questions and each is deserving of a lengthy answer. Thanks for keeping this in mind for the future!
    – JBH
    Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 18:58
  • Not mine.
    – user46876
    Commented Jul 30, 2021 at 2:25

2 Answers 2

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Historically, one group is of particular note: Montanism, a reformist movement within the second-century church that was eventually branded as heretical. It understood itself to be a movement of the Holy Spirt centered on the prophet Montanus and two female prophets, Prisca, and Maximilla. Montanism was particularly influential in Asia Minor and North Africa, where the Church Father Tertullian was a supporter.

The declaration of Montanism as heretical marked the end of prophecy as a spiritual gift among laypeople of orthodox Christianity. A few monks and saints occasionally were credited with prophesying but these were exceptional cases. A notable phenomenon in this regard was the emergence of groups inspired by the predictions of Joachim of Fiore, especially the Spiritual Franciscans. Various others movements arose over the centuries centered on charismatic leaders who claimed to prophesy but these too were suppressed until the Protestant Reformation.

The early years of Quakerism were marked by ecstatic utterances in Quaker meetings but these were eventually suppressed internally, as Quakers sought a more respectable image. During the Second Great Awakening a number of movements developed under prophetic leaders such as Joseph Smith and (arguably) William Miller although Miller did not claim to be prophet so much as an interpreter of prophecy; and neither leader encouraged prophecy among his followers.

Recent groups

The Twentieth Century marked a resurgence in Christian prophecy through the Pentecostal movement, beginning with the Azuza Street Revivals in Los Angeles beginning in 1906. Similar phenomena may have developed elsewhere inthe world as well. Today there are many Pentecostal denominations, accounting for more than half a billion members if one includes the charismatic movement within Catholicism.

The two largest US denominations that encourage prophecy are the Assemblies of God and the Church of God in Christ, both of which have millions of members. Most churches that encourage prophecy are categorized as Pentecostal. Some of the larger Pentecostal denominations are:

  • Assemblies of God
  • Church of God in Christ
  • The Apostolic Church
  • The Pentecostal Mission
  • Church of God (Cleveland)
  • United Pentecostal Church International
  • Christ Apostolic Church
  • Christian Congregation of Brazil
  • Zion Christian Church
  • International Church of the Foursquare Gospel

Some African Initiated Churches also have prophets.

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Yes, there are several Christian denominations that encourage the use of Charismatic gifts in church life, which include the Gift of prophecy.

The Jensenites of France were charismatic, as was noted by Wesley in contra to Hume's skepticism. The Hugenots of southern France were charismatic. Closer to modern times, the Assemblies of God, which started in the early 1900s is quite charismatic!

There are the Foursquare denomination...the Apostolic Faith...the Vineyard churches...some Church of God denominations.

Along with these, there are "Fellowships of Independent Churches" who also encourage the prophetic giftings. (Groups of churches that maintain more autonomy than a denominational structure, yet have the same theology generally) Ministers Fellowship International (MFI) is one such group. Some Fellowships set aside a time each year for consecration and "prophetic ministry" in their churches!

And there are groups such as the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International (FGBMFI) that are open in their espousing the charismatic gifts, one of which is prophecy.

You ask for "denominations", but we can't leave out many, many independent churches around the world that "move in the spiritual gifts." They also hold occasional "revival meetings" where there is open display of the gifts of prophecy, etc.

Understanding All these denominations and their ministers have held that the spiritual charismatic gifts are a continuation of God's empowerment of the early disciples in the Early Church:

Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?
Then Peter said unto them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call! (Acts 2:37-39)

They contend that the Holy Spirit, nor His empowerments, did not cease to exist at the end of the Apostolic Age, as other denominations teach. A pastor raised in one of those denominations came to belief in the availability of the Holy Spirit ministries today, and wrote a book called, The God I Never Knew.

It is with this understanding that God has empowered the Church in all ages with the gift of prophecy, and other charismatic gifts (1 Corinthians 12-14). The same societal dynamics exist today that were rampant in the first century, so the need is the same...and the Holy Spirit is the same.

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    Just remember that if a "prophetic utterance" contradicts Bible prophecy, then it is not true prophecy but a false prophecy of a rabid demon.
    – Joshua B
    Commented Mar 9 at 3:23

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