First Corinthians 14:31 says, "For you can all prophesy one by one." This verse is one of the clearest verses in the entire Bible. It says that all the believers have the capacity to prophesy. Capacity denotes an ability by birth. Dogs do not have the capacity to speak human language; they have the capacity only to bark. Human beings, however, have the capacity to speak. We, members of the Body of Christ, all can prophesy one by one. Romans 12:6-8 mentions seven gifts, including prophecy, and says that these gifts differ according to the grace given to each member. These verses, however, refer to the exercise of the gifts outside the meetings. In the Body of Christ, we have different gifts and functions outside the meetings. The gifts in Romans 12 are not the gifts exercised in the meetings. In the meetings all the members can prophesy (1 Cor. 14:24, 31).
Many saints among us may feel that all can prophesy except them. However, there are no exceptions. We may not be eloquent, but we can still prophesy. Verse 31 does not say, "You can all prophesy eloquently." There is no such adverb in this verse. It simply says, "You can all prophesy." It does not matter how we speak; it is sufficient simply to speak. The Lord wants all of us to speak. For over five years we have been ministering on the new way to meet and to serve, but our progress in the new way has been very slow because we do not all speak. If we all would speak, immediately the practice of the new way would be among us.
To my observation, only a small percentage of the saints regularly speak forth Christ. In each Lord’s Day morning meeting, many saints do not speak, but after the meeting they have much to say. We do not need to be concerned with how well we speak; we simply need to speak. Even if our grammar is poor, people will understand us. Many times we like to "save our face." If we do speak, we desire to be the top speaker. However, we do not need top speakers; we simply need speakers. We all can prophesy one by one.
It is not difficult to practice the new way. If we go to visit people for the gospel and are not able to speak well, we can simply say, "I love Jesus because He is so good. Jesus is also good for you, so I have come to pass Him on to you." Everyone can at least say this. If we go to people and give them a five-minute message, they may not listen to us, but if we go with a simple word like this, they may receive our speaking. We all can go to speak to people. First, we all need to go in order to gain people; then, we all should go in order to feed those whom we gain. Third, we all must bring our new ones together to form a group for fellowship, mutual care, shepherding, and mutual teaching. When one person in such a group does not understand something, all the others will teach him by speaking to him. Almost fifty times a year all the members of that group will come to listen to each other’s fellowship. Each one will be taught, and all will learn how to rise up to prophesy. If we go to people in this way, we will be carrying out the new way.
Verses 23-24 say, "If therefore the whole church comes together...if all prophesy..." The phrase "if all prophesy" indicates that all the believers have not only the capacity but also the obligation to prophesy. We owe something to the Lord, to God’s grace, and to the saints. For many years the ministry has spoken to the saints, but many saints have not responded to the speaking. We receive the benefit of others’ speaking, but we often forget that we also are obliged to speak for others’ benefit. We all owe much. We have the gospel and salvation, and there are many sinners around us, but we still may not go to them. We also owe something to them (Rom. 1:14-15). We owe something to Christ, to God, to the Lord’s servants, and even to the sinners.
(The Practice of Prophesying, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)