About a week ago, the church I am pastor at voted to become an Open and Affirming congregation, meaning it openly welcomes LGBT persons into the life of the church. I think it was a big step for the church. It might help people who were thinking of visiting the church to take a second look.
But while I think it was a good thing and while I think it helped stressed God’s love for all, I don’t think it was a prophetic move.
Do I think we were trying to witness to the world our intent to be like Jesus and seek out those on the margins? Yes. But that doesn’t mean it’s prophetic. It means we are trying to be faithful.
And therein lies a problem. These days, if a pastor says something edgy on race or sexuality, or if a congregation is exhibiting “radical hospitality,” we somehow think this is prophetic. But I wonder if at times this is a big misunderstanding. Are we giving ourselves too much credit?
For one thing, most of the prophets of Israel were chosen by God. And they were chosen by God to say hard things to people. And the thing is, they usually aren’t happy that God chose them. Read the story of Elijah or Jeremiah and you find people who don’t really want to be doing this job. When Jonah (as in Jonah and the “Whale”) was so excited to be go a preach repentance to the people of Nineveh, that he ran- in the other direction.
Prophets were sometimes called to do odd things like the prophet Hosea who was called to marry a prostitute.
What I’m trying to get at is that the people who were called to be God’s prophets were not eager to be prophets. They didn’t want to be picked.
The problem with modern Christians who want to see themselves as prophets is that they have taken the whole role of a prophet out of context. Instead of trying to understand what the role of the prophet was in ancient Israel, people just plop it into modern America without a thought.
But that’s not all. The prophet is then made to fit the person’s political ideology, so that the prophet strangely is saying all the things you would say regardless.
I think God still sends prophets. But just because you believe #blacklivesmatter doesn’t make you a prophet, no matter how worthy the cause. Theologian David Watson reminds us that prophets probably didn’t have many friends on Facebook:
The prophetic life is not an easy one. In fact, it is likely to be quite difficult, even painful, because the prophet will inevitably conflict with a world that does not acknowledge the identity and demands of the one true God. Think of Elijah despairing in the wilderness. “He asked that he might die: ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors’” (1 Kings 19:4). Think of the sad fate of John the Baptist. If you find your message lines up nicely with the values of secular culture, you’re probably not being prophetic.
I’m not a prophet. I don’t think I’ve ever been prophetic. And there is nothing wrong with that. What I am is a disciple (and a Disciple). I try to follow God, to do justice and love mercy, but I’m not Amos with a laptop.
My job as pastor is not to be a prophet, but to be a disciple that helps make other disciples for Christ. I will leave the prophet business to God, since God is the one that raises prophets anyway.