Based upon the lives of the Bible prophets like Samuel, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, John the Baptist, Paul, John, and of course THE Prophet, Christ Himself...a pattern emerges. It seems to me that they....
1. Were Called by God
2. Cried out during times of Compromise
3. Confronted more than Comforted
4. Were Criticized by current authority
5. Were Cared for by God
6. Had a Cross of suffering to bear
7. Cast a Vision of obedience
Just a few thoughts on these.....
Called by God (Jeremiah 1)
Every one of them got their commission directly from God. In other words, "the Word of the Lord" came to them (and in Christ's case, He IS the Word!), and despite the changes the call forced in their lives, they obeyed God. In our time, I believe the prophets that God is raising up will have a similar experience. They will get a revelation of "the Word of the Lord" in Scripture. In other words, they will see the difference between God's desire for holiness and obedience so clearly articulated in the Word and the culture in which we live...where sin is exalted, and even Christians applaud the "progressive" and hip unrighteousness of our day. And these Kingdom warriors, compelled by the Holy Spirit, will begin to cry out on God's behalf.
Cried out during times of Compromise (Isaiah 1)
This is a common theme: during times of moral decay, overt wickedness, and prideful rebellion against God, He sends a prophet. In our time, I believe we pastors should be more prophetic than we are. Compromise is all around us. Sin is everywhere. Abominations abound. Yet we are mostly silent, preferring instead to preach and promote personal success principles. And sadly, it seems like the larger the platform, the less is said about what really ails society: immorality and rebellion against God's commands.
Confronted more than Comforted (Matthew 3:1-12)
Actually, this is only true in the sense that "comfort" and "encouragement" has become a bit westernized. What I mean by that is believers should get their greatest comfort by the will of God being done; by knowing that God is pleased with the development of their hearts and the subsequent action; by striving after righteousness; by being filled with the Spirit and walking in the purity of that fullness; by fighting God's battles! But somewhere along the line "comfort" became "it's going to be ok." Sure we all want that to be so, but in Scripture, the prophetic definition of comfort was about God but the people's definition of comfort was about them.
In our attempt to attract visitors and gain positions of influence within the culture, we are leaving out large portions of God's message. In the name of "love" we are refusing to love lost people enough to tell them the truth about sin and God's wrath. As John MacArthur wrote in his book Ashamed of the Gospel, "The most prolific teacher on hell in all of Scripture was the Lord Jesus Himself. He had more to say about the subject than all the apostles, prophets, and evangelists of Scripture put together."
I think we intuitively know that many if not most will initially reject the true Gospel. By softening it, we compromise it. Salvation flows through a process of conviction and repentance by the Spirit. How can anyone be convicted if they were never told they violated God's law?
Criticized by current authority (Matthew 14:1-12)
And sometimes more than criticized! Jesus said, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing." (Luke 13:34) There is a terrible price that must be paid for telling the truth. The prophet must love both God and his listeners enough to push God's agenda. He must be so committed to obeying God that he will risk the wrath of those in power.
Cared for by God (1 Kings 17:1-6)
The prophet must be largely free from relying upon the culture in which he ministers. He cannot be beholden to the same people he must preach to. IMHO, this is a huge reason why we are losing the prophetic voice. The way most churches are run, the slightest downturn in giving risks the financial capability of the church to operate. Translation...offend some big givers and you are in trouble! And the way most churches expand, the favor of some form of government is needed. Even a church's 501 (c)3 status is granted by the Federal Government. But since Jesus and His cross are offensive (Gal 5:11, 1 Pet 2:8), what if what we must say puts those things at risk? And how can we lovingly speak truth to power if their pictures and pamphlets are all over our foyers?
The Cross of Suffering (Philippians 3:7-21)
This is the true call of the prophet (and the call of every believer as well): to suffer the loss of everything if necessary for the glory of God. How can we walk in "the power of His resurrection" if we aren't willing (or have been taught we don't have to...) participate in the "fellowship of His sufferings"?
Cast a Vision of Obedience (Revelations 2:1-7)
This is the message of the prophet: Repent! Return! Wake up! Turn back to God! Shun evil! Love what is good! Obey! Love Him! Pursue Him! Repent! This is the message that every prophet (including Jesus!) preached and everyone with a prophetic voice still preaches! Modern day prophetic ministry is less about "next Tuesday thou shalt receivest a new job" and more about "turn from the paths of unrighteousness and live hard for God!"