Where Are the Prophets?

In my church tribe, the Churches of Christ, you won’t here much talk about present day church prophets.  I’m not sure why but it seems rather strange considering that throughout scripture God has raised up prophets to speak to his people.  In fact the largest section of the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible is the “Prophets”.  While the New Testament has more to say about the past prophets of Israel than prophets in the church, the New Testament clearly understands that God is still raising up prophets from among his people (cf. 1 Cor 12.28-29; Eph 4.11).

While I do know that there are some Christian traditions who recognizes the role of prophets among then, it seems as though this is more of an exception to the norm.  Of course, just because churches don’t name prophets among them, does not mean that they are without them.

If prophets do indeed exist, as I am inclined to believe, who are they?  The answer to that question depends on what is meant by “prophet.”  I used to think that prophets did nothing but tell the future.  While they certainly make statements about the future, they do so much more.

A major aspect of the prophet’s task is to call God’s people to return which actually makes the prophet more “traditionalists than innovators” (Willimon, Preaching the Eighth Century Prophets, 18).  This assumes that God’s people have strayed from their own calling and are in need of repentance.  Thus, the task of the prophet involves telling the truth…sometimes, perhaps most of the time, an unwanted truth.

However, this truth telling which prophets are called to is not to be confused with sounding off on some hobby-horse tangent.  Instead, the truth telling ministry of the prophet is to bring about an alternative community with a counter conscious to the dominant culture of the day (Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, 2d ed., 3).  While this may involve candid speech that rebukes, it is done so from a redemptive perspective.

Here I am thinking about preaching, whether on a street corner and in the worship assembly, that speaks abusively in order to vent a personal frustration or use the laters natural disaster to pronounce doom and gloom.  This is not being a prophet, it is just being any number of things…cantankerous, disparaging, a  boisterous cynic, and perhaps even a misanthrope.

So where are these prophets of God among us?  I suppose they are right where they have always been and that we just need to recognize them.  That is, we need an expectation of hearing their voice among us as we listen to them.

Stay tuned for a few more posts this week about the subject of prophets and prophesy.  Thanks for reading!

13 responses to “Where Are the Prophets?

  1. benjamin philip marston

    The Starets of Russia, now they are prophets….
    But the Church is the Body of Christ and because of the Resurrection, prophets will be found in It, or related to It.

    • What are “The Starets of Russia”? Any ways, Will Willimon (in the same citation as above) points out that Prophets derived their message from their intimate communion with God which presumes their living in the presence of God.

  2. I have an email from my spiritual father that I have carried around in my bible for two years. The last line says, “Really what and why does God still raise up prophets Julia? Because men still depart from His ways and do not listen to the Holy Spirit.” That pretty much sums it up for me.

  3. I’m with Brueggemann entirely on prophets. This ministry still exists. It’s distinct from the work of evangelists and elders. It’s not about “new revelation” but a call to renewed commitment to the God who is sovereign and free, a call that creates the alternative community.

    • Adam, I agree with Bueggemann’s definition but I believe the prophets God is raising up today could also be serving in the church as the preacher/pastor, as an elder, or even just a “lay” person.

  4. In Acts 7, Steven makes it clear that throughout history, God’s Elect collectively function prophetically. 
    Here we are on Sunday morning, a gathered people from all walks of life, sharing a Meal in which there is no hatred; no contention; no slavery; no strife. No one is trying to get ahead of anyone else. We’re all equal and equally important. There is plenty to go around. I love you and you love me. We all love each other. Etc, etc…In the eating of a meal, we tell of a Day…
    We are a Nation of prophets.  Wouldn’t it be something if we saw ourselves like that?

  5. Pingback: Why Does the Church Need Prophets? | Kingdom Seeking

  6. A true prophet of God will prophesy but not all who prophesy are prophets. Surely you have heard it spoken: “For I am the Lord, I do not change;” Who chooses a prophet? Doesn’t the selection come from Him and not man? Surely you have heard it spoken: “Then He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream.”
    So the Lord:
    1) makes Himself known to a prophet in a vision; and
    2) speaks to a prophet in dreams.
    This criteria will eliminate many self-appointed prophets!

    I say to you that the children of today are no different than their forefathers of yesterday when it comes to receiving or accepting a true prophet. They want to hear sweet words of deceit and not bitter words of truth. Surely you have heard it spoken, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt.”

    The children have not changed but neither has the LORD. Why would the LORD our God suddenly change after all these ages? Again, surely you have heard it spoken: “For I am the Lord, I do not change;” AND “Surely the Lord God does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” AND “You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you.” It would be perfect timing for Elijah to return! Knowing the pride of Americans who have lost their fear of the Almighty God, they would say, “’I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn.” Surely they have heard it spoken: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

    I am John.

  7. Times have not changed and neither have the children who are as stiff-necked as ever thinking themselves above reproach or discipline. What message does a prophet bring? The message divides and unites, scatters and gathers, and is both bitter and sweet depending on whose ears the message falls and the hearts that receive it.

    I am John.

  8. “My patience has died, and the children are far away. Time to gather the grapes for the winepress; time is up. I will not tarry much longer!”, thus saith the LORD.

    O’America, you are filled with the spirit of Babylon. JUDGMENT IS COMING FOR YOU AS SPOKEN BY JEREMIAH (rumor starts as of January 2012)!

    O’Church of America, you are filled with the spirit of the Laodecians. REPENT OR BE REBUKED AND DISCIPLINED!

    O’Children of God, turn back to the Father with all your heart and devotion. Do not forsake Him or His wise counsel.

    It is time for my Father to gather the grapes of wickedness for the winepress of His wrath. He will not tarry much longer. Therefore, O’mankind, time to choose! Choose the Lord Jesus who is the risen and victorious One who offers redemption and eternal life — or — choose Lucifer who is the fallen and defeated one who offers destruction and eternal damnation. Choose O’man for the end of the age draws near. Come, Lord Jesus.

    The Lord Jesus appeared to me in a night vision, said to me “You have eternal life.”, showed me the scar on His left hand, and said to me “Arise!”. I am John, messenger of the LORD, born of a Gentile Elizabeth. First Jew then Gentile, both part of the same olive tree. Let the wise hear what I say!

  9. Let your faith not be a glowing ember but let it be a raging fire to consume souls for the Almighty God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Behold, He comes quickly!

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