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Have you ever been in a worship service where the worship leader or singer went off script and started singing their own words to a song? Often, the singer will repeat a spontaneous phrase many times or sing devotionally to the Lord. If it is the right thing at the right time, it can be very powerful; but I've witnessed many times when this spontaneous singing lacked direction or went too long resulting in the congregation disengaging and even sitting down.
Why didn't people engage? Was it a prophetic song? If so, was the lack of congregational engagement an example of people despising prophecy?
Prophetic Songs vs Spiritual Songs
To answer these questions, we must first answer a bigger question: "What is prophetic worship?" There are certainly many misconceptions in the Church today about what prophetic worship is or isn't. In my opinion, the greatest error today is in mistaking a spiritual song for a prophetic song. Spiritual song is singing a wordless melody, words from your own understanding, or words in an unknown tongue. Spiritual songs build up our inner man and are an important part of our spiritual diet. However, a spiritual song is not always a prophetic song.
The easiest way to define the difference between spiritual and prophetic songs is by the direction they are flowing to and from. A spiritual song is the overflow of one's mind, heart, or spirit to God. It is from Earth to Heaven. Picture it as a big arrow going up. (Photo via The Noun Project)
A prophetic song is the overflow of God's mind, heart, or Spirit to man. The song originates with God and flows from Heaven to Earth. Picture this as a giant arrow coming down.
Another difference between spiritual song and prophetic song is seen in the song's impact. While spiritual songs build up the individual singer or musician, they are not necessarily edifying the Body. Prophetic worship, like prophecy itself, edifies and builds up others. Also, because prophecy must always be judged, prophetic worship should be measurable. It should contain a specific message or atmosphere that can be measured, tested, or judged. There are no such limits on the spiritual song. (Photo via The Noun Project)
Back to our beginning thought—was it a spiritual song or a prophetic song? Most likely when the congregation disengages from a spontaneous song it is because it is a spiritual song rather than prophetic. Remember that spiritual songs are the overflow of a person's heart, mind, and spirit to God. It is a very personal act of worship.
Often, the congregation senses the personal nature of this worship even though they are not consciously aware of what is happening. To the congregation, it can feel like someone was speaking to and leading the crowd and then suddenly turned to a private conversation with just one person; everyone else intuitively disengages. That is not the case with a prophetic song. The prophetic song is from God toward man. It is to us and for us, so intuitively, a congregation will stay more engaged.
The spiritual song can still be appropriate in a corporate setting. All the worship leader must do is invite the people to join in with each one's own spiritual song, or the leader can make the spiritual song going forth accessible enough or compelling enough for others to stay engaged. Because we were all created to worship, the intuitive and subconscious side of our worship is very sensitive. Informed worship leaders know how to use both the spiritual song and the prophetic song to maximize moments for the greatest God encounters.
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The Prophetic Company Global
Dan McCollam travels internationally as a prophetic speaker and trainer. One of his great passions is to create prophetic cultures where everyone can prophesy, activate their spiritual gifts, mobilize their prophetic words, and discover their unique purpose in life. Dan is co-founder of the Bethel School of the Prophets in Redding, California and The Prophetic Company Global group of activation-based trainers. He has authored over 25 books, manuals, and resources on supernatural life, prophetic gifts, and worship.
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