The voice still cries from the wilderness.

October 23, 2007 at 6:52 am 1 comment

I think (but I am not certain) it was Oswald Chambers in his classic book on leadership who said: If a pastor seeks to be both a pastor and a prophet he will fail at both. Pastors face a pretty difficult choice these days between being a popular leader as well as a popular prophet.  Is it any wonder that the prophetic voice is almost completely gone from the evangelical church?

Most of evangelicalism has taken the gifts given to the church, lopped off the gifts of apostle and prophet, made the evangelist a crusade director and focused almost all the credibility on the gifts of pastor and teacher.  In my seminary days I don’t remember one lecture, one conversation or even one reading assignment on the role of the prophet, let alone the apostole in all my years of graduate school education.  I often wondered what Paul had in mind in Ephesians when he writes about the five gifts for the church, but questioning those things was not the fast track to graduation or placement.

But being here at Trinity has allowed me to see the prophetic gift in action (as well as the other 4 gifts to the church) and I wonder if its absence from most of the evangelical church is the reason why it is floundering so badly.  Without the prophetic there is no corrective voice, no one to call the church in a new direction and no one to question or challenge the popular or “newest thing” direction so many churches gravitate towards.

The prophets of the Old Testament served as the voice of correction, the voice of conscience, the voice of God Himself.  There is little doubt the church today would be more effective if all three of these voices were speaking into it.

So where has the prophetic voice gone?  Three things come to mind.  First, it has been driven out by bad theology.  What kind of theological gymnastics does it take to relegate 2/5 of church leadership to an age long past because it is deemed by theology as no longer needed for this age.  Since the theology of gift exclusion is practiced in most seminaries and Bible Schools, as it relates to the five-fold gifts to the church (true for the sign gifts as well), they are not training apostles and prophets and doing a poor job of training Biblical evangelists, because in this age all that is needed is sound Bible teaching and innovative pastors.  Until theological education sees the value of these gifted individuals to the church, much of the church will continue to muddle along.

Secondly, the prophet by definition, is going to disturb the status quo and make people uncomfortable and that leads directly to job insecurity.  The lack of a true prophetic voice in a congregation leads to institutionalism and institutionalised churches will never tolerate the voice of correction or conscience, because it often means a disruption of the very things the institution needs to continue to function.  Most pastors who have a prophetic voice, stifle it for fear of losing their income and give in to maintaining the institution.  It is a vicious circle. 

A third reason why the prophetic voice is almost entirely gone from the evangelical church is what Dallas Willard refers to as the ABC’s of ministry.  Attendance, buildings and cash.  These three are the measuring sticks for effective ministry.  A leader who can increase these three elements will assure himself of the continuing mantle of leadership.  But the prophetic voice is often heard speaking against these three evaluative tools, so when these are the evaluators of ministry success the church is not going to tolerate a voice that says otherwise.

Every pastor who has ever attempted to speak prophetically has had a visit from the chairman of the board, or some other influential member who puts his or her arm around their shoulder and quietly whispers in their ear “that kind of talk is not going to work here”.  “Of course you are right, son, but look at what the cost will be if you continue to say those things”. If the prophetic voice continues the whisper will become an outright shout for a vote of no-confidence.

It is no wonder John the Baptizer was called the “voice crying in the wilderness.”  They would have crucified him if he had tried to say those things in the synagogue. Little has changed.

The five-fold ministry gifts given to the Family when functioning as intended work and work well.  The  2.5-fold ministry of most evangelicalism works about half as well. 


Entry filed under: Authority, Belief, Charismatic, Christianity, Church, Culture, Faith, Holy Spirit, Institutional church, Jesus, Kingdom, Revelation, The Father, Thoughts.

Monday morning meanderings. Vol.17 29.

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. I.F.  |  October 24, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    Very good Greg!

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