My Photo

My Online Status

Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 08/2003

Technorati

« Worship and Therapy | Main | Cross-Growth? »

January 09, 2004

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

A number of years ago, I remember asking God for the gift of prophecy. I had been raised in a church that thought prophecy was dead. In college, I found myself in a church that wasn't fully charismatic, but was at least open to such things. I had made a decision to serve God and knew that service was something pastoral, but didn't hear a clear, specific call. So I asked to be a prophet.

God said yes. I really had no idea what a prophet was, though. Rather, I thought I did, but quickly learned what I thought of as a prophet (a spiritualized fortune-teller) was way off the mark. Over the past 10 years, I have been slowly learning what it means. Today, I have a better clue than 10 years ago, but by no means think I have any great, clear answers.

I do think part of the answer lies in the role of the prophet. I believe a big role of the prophet is to speak to the body of believers. And by "speak", I mean "communicate" - speach is just one medium. I think the content is more important than the vehicle here. While the shepherd's role is to establish status quo and bring a sort of security, the prophet has a complimentary role of shaking things up and lighting fires under the feet of the sheep.

Some prophecy will be clear and obvious. Some will be hidden. That's the fun. That little child who cries during silent prayer might just be making a prophetic utterance. That guy who stinks and slurs his speech might have a word from God. Or, he might just be delusional. It won't always be easy to see the difference.

I'm not sure if this is a step down the path you've chosen today, Chris, or merely some packing for the trip, but I think the difference between charism-driven prophecy and more mundane teaching and preaching is compulsion. I enjoy teaching, and I believe the Spirit has grace-gifted me to teach. But I am compelled to preach...I must preach. I can relate to what Jeremiah said: "His word is like a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot" (20:9). Furthermore, when I preach some message that has its source in my own being rather than God's (as I would assume most preachers ministering in modern church settings do occasionally), I don't feel the same compulsion. And the church notices.

That leads me to my first response to your question: I'm not sure what new expressions prophecy will take as we move through this revolution, but I believe I'll know true prophecy when I see it. The Spirit of the prophecy resonates with the Spirit within me...the two waves constructively interfere and together become something greater in me than was there before. I am changed. (Is this perhaps the mechanics behind Jesus' teaching about the post-resurrection prophets, "By their fruits you will know them?")

I think that one of the roles of the modern prophet is discernment. The ability to see and point out divergence of proper direction in the body, distortion of the Gospel, false teaching, complacency. When the entire community is sharpening one another, this doesn't seem strange at all. But our model has become one in which the community encourages one another and the pastor is the moral and theological thermometer. We're discouraged from "discouraging" by saying what I believe we've been given by God to say. We don't say it to discourage, but to encourage by correction. (and not really individuals, but the body) Artists are urged to run their work through a pastoral filter that catches and casts aside much of what we as the body need to hear. We're left with a bunch of poet-prophets speaking their filtered, censored, white-washed quasi-messages to a growing complacent body. And feeling duly submissive.
DP, I'm moved that you've "received" from poets-prophets. It exemplifies a humility in you that will make us all stronger.

Rod pointed out the important role that "discernment" plays/will play. Having the mind of Christ, the sensitivity to "hear" when the Holy Spirit is speaking through someone is important. I like what Kevin said:

Some prophecy will be clear and obvious. Some will be hidden. That's the fun. That little child who cries during silent prayer might just be making a prophetic utterance. That guy who stinks and slurs his speech might have a word from God. Or, he might just be delusional. It won't always be easy to see the difference.

I've certainly discerned the "word of the Lord" in some unexpected situations before (like during a church board meeting. Imagine that!?!) Maybe some of our energy and effort should be focused on helping people to "hear" more easily and accurately. Hmmm. As I typed that, I began remembering how the gift of healing is often given in two ways: given to the person praying, and given to the person receiving. I wonder if other grace-gifts may be like that? Perhaps at times the Holy Spirit gives us a grace-gift which "enables" us to hear what the Lord is saying.

Daniel -- I'm still thinking about your thoughts concerning "compulsion". I tend to see compulsion as a confirmation-of-sorts, rather than the "stuff" that characterizes the prophetic (although I may be misunderstanding...HA! I just had a root canal!)

In my own experience, I've felt that compulsion. But I've also been hounded by the Holy Spirit to deliver a word that I, in the natural, did not want to give. Have you ever experienced that side of the coin?

QUOTE
"But I've also been hounded by the Holy Spirit to deliver a word that I, in the natural, did not want to give. Have you ever experienced that side of the coin?"
QUOTE

Absolutely! What has frequently kept me from giving into that "hounding" immediately has been fear of what the response to the message might be. Occasionally I fear a negative response (O to have none of the clutching tendrils of my ego wrapped around my service to the Master!) and occasionally I've felt that the message I was being compelled to deliver wasn't astringent enough for the issue it seemed meant to address. But universally, when I've given in and bowed the knee, the response has been redemptive. Notice that I didn't say "positive..." =)

But the compulsion I'm describing isn't associated with one particular message or another; it's a compulsion to be something, to give something away to God. It's hard to describe, but I think it's what Paul was talking about when he wrote, "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel" (1Co 9:16b). Reading over that passage, the context seems so important that I'll include it below. It's certainly more important that any more of my ruminations on the matter at this point:

"When I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me." (1Co 9:16-17)

~~~We're discouraged from "discouraging" ...

Rod -

i'm thinking about this. i understand your point. however, it unsettles me because i see that the church needs someone to monitor the prophetic, because so many in the prophetic can be insensitive to people.

so what's this all about? am i of the pastoral spirit, and i'm just bringing balance to your view of the prophet? or am i a quencher of what God wants to say?

hm-m-m-m ...

oh no Tammy. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to suggest that. Truth is, I'm still trying to figure out "my view" of the prophet. Two years ago I took on an assignment that I fought for 6 months before getting on board. During those sixth months, I focussed a lot of things that had been formulating in my head and heart for several years. I was ready to step into this thing and change the world. "Come with me or else..." During my first week I had a conversation with Matt Redman who said, "You've got to temper your prophet passion with a pastor's heart". My first reaction was, We've got a pastor, we need a prophet. Glad I didn't go with my first reaction. I completely changed my heart and approach.
I put "discouraging" in quotes because discouraging is not what's meant. But part of the make up of a prophet poet is passion for the message over protection of the body who needs to hear it. But it seems so often that we're asked to refrain from anything that doesn't just stroke the status quo. Most pastors are preachers and several in this discussion have alluded to the tension between the "hounding" of the message and its reception.
So once again, I'm not defending here my position or views, I'm really still asking questions and tossing these things out for help in developing a view.
So I guess for right now, I'd say, yes, we need balance between the prophet and pastor, but probably that balance has to be in each of us.
Your balance seems to be evidenced in your desire to dialoque and unpack all these things. I guess I'm not making much sense hear. I just want to say I'm sorry that it sounded like I was suggesting that pastors squelch what God wants to say. I don't think that.

understood. you explained yourself well.

maybe all we need is a balance of the leadership gifts within leadership. you're right that most preachers are gifted as a pastor or teacher, rather than a prophet.

The comments to this entry are closed.