One of my questions or concerns with the language of prophets/prophesy among scripture, especially in the New Testament, is how this plays out in the local church. The writings of the New Testament were all written with a local community of Christians in mind. That seems to get lost in our growing culture of Christianity led by celebrity pastors. As such, we also seem to look for prophetic ministries among those well known to the national and international community of Christians. I’m thinking of people like the twentieth-century men like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as well as present day people like Shane Claiborne, Bono, Rachel Held Evans, and so on (whether we call these people “prophets” or not, there work has certainly taken on some prophetic aspects).
Don’t get me wrong here. I have nothing against those whom God has raised up to a celebrity status. Whether we agree with them on every issue or not, they serve the universal body of Christ by challenging us all to think more critically and engage our communities more creatively with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Having said that, we cannot forget what ought to be happening in churches at the local level. Here I want to focus on the prophetic ministry.
In his famous sermon preached on the Day of Pentecost, part of the eschatological promise was that “sons and daughters” and “men and women” will prophesy (cf. Acts 2.17-18, 39). It seems rather inconsistent and incoherent that we would read v. 39 to say that it renders the commands of repentance and baptism as universally valid while denying the universal application of vv. 17-18.
When we turn to the rest of the New Testament we not only discover that the prophetic ministry is something God has given to the church (1 Cor 12.28-29, Eph 4.11) but that this was a gift being exercised in the local church, hence the need for the local church to (1 Cor 14.29-30; 1 Thess 5.20-21).
So here is my question. Where are those gifted with the ministry of prophesy among our local church? Have we silenced them? And if so, would this not be to our own peril since this ministry if a gift from God given to the church?
I’m thinking out loud with this series. I have as many questions as I have answers, which space and time will not permit. But I raise this issue because it seems that just as God raised prophets to address his people throughout scripture, God is doing so today. If that is so, then our failure to recognize such prophets today, especially in the local church as the New Testament seems to be indicative of, is to our detriment.
What do you think?