Some basic definitions:
By “Church” I mean to imply those who self identify as the people of God by their attendance and giving at a local congregation.
Prophetic, as I understand it is to be a message from God to the intended audience of God’s choosing. The message comes to warn, convict, encourage to choose faithfulness to God. Though our pop culture has relegated prophecy to predicting the future, that is not what I am addressing in this post.
This may seem like a odd topic for a blog on discipleship. However, the subjects of obedience and responding to the call of God is a matter oft discussed in discipleship circles.
A prophetic voice is so valuable. It is one of God’s ways for us to hear a message that is different from the “me” centered message that we receive from the world every day.
A prophetic voice in a local congregation can come from anyone. God frequently uses the least likely person from the world’s point of view. Prophetic voices can come from scripture, movies, TV, musicians, other Godly people. God uses those who are open to hearing Him. God uses those who are already striving at faithful living with God.
Prophetic voices are usually irritating. They remind us of what we are not doing. Prophetic voices call us to accountability. They beckon us to return to our first love, God/Jesus/Holy Spirit. A prophetic voice is going to sound discordant with the status quo.
This voice will also be condemned. The prophetic voice is many times shouted down. It is on the receiving end of anger, jealousy, and accusations from laziness to ineffective. The saddest condition for the church is that most often the prophetic voice is forced out because for the prophetic voice to remain is a constant reminder to the church of what it is not doing.
This is a generalization, but most churches seek comfort. They want to exist in their bubble of “being saved” however reality rejects them not looking any different from the world. A casual perusal of the parking lot, the amount of debt, the number of smart phones, the amount of make up and “toys” is a strong indication that not much is different here in this building than down the street at the local mall.
God has something to say about all of this. His Son came and lived and died and rose again so that the way of the world would not be our way. Matthew 7:13-14 grates against our comfort driven lifestyle… “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Jesus’ prayer for His disciples in John 17:14-16 is yet another reminder that we are in the world but we are not of the world. Disciples are to be different. It’s simply part of who we are. We do what is not comfortable. We go where others think we shouldn’t. We create relationships with people any way we can, so as to have the opportunity to live out the Gospel in the context of that relationship.
So when the disciples within the church cease listening to the prophetic voices, we cave to the current of our existing world, tossed about as any rubbish would be in the wake of a flood. In short, without a prophetic voice, disciples cease to be disciples, the church desists being a church, and they look no different than the rest of the world. No better, no worse than a private club or a charitable organization.
In a church culture that chases after business models, success strategies, and strategic goals, what is really needed is a humble heart to listen to the prophetic voices that God lovingly sends. God asks us to care for the widow, provide for the orphan, lift up the downtrodden, bind the wounded, mourn with those that mourn…
Eugene Petterson says in The Message, in Micah 6:8
But he’s [God] already made it plain how to live, what to do,
what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously––take God seriously.
This is the part of the prophetic voice that we find incongruent with the message that we have adopted from the world. “It’s quite plain how we are to live and what we are to do, do what is fair and right for yourself, cutting yourself plenty of slack. Expect compassion and loyalty from those that you love, but for you it is nice suggestion. And take yourself very seriously, and give a general nod toward religion.”
May you and I tune into the prophetic voices in our lives, they are calling us to discipleship, calling us to faithfulness.