You might have to be charismatic or post-charismatic to really want to dig in on this one, but a budding discussion at Emerging Grace has me thinking about this question. The comment I just posted there says in part,
…I still believe in the prophetic… largely because I’ve seen the fruit. But right now I’m more than happy to keep quiet about it and be in a quiet season (I used to call that a desert, now it’s just a quiet purging). These days I feel more like living prophetically than speaking prophetically. In this regard, I kinda feel like I prophetically left my church… maybe in 2 years they’ll understand that.
I’m somewhat of the opinion that the emerging church is a prophetic movement, but not one filled with prophetic words. This is a good thing, because words are, at the end of the day, just words. Living your message is being prophetic, and it opens the door to slip in the odd word here and there anyway ;^)
I recall the quote attributed to St. Francis: “Preach the gospel. If necessary, use words.” (Or as I’ve said, “Live your faith. Share your life.”) I wonder though if this isn’t simply one of the ways of the emerging church… just as the missional lifestyle is one of the core values, with actions are prized above words…. in the same way, perhaps the prophetic voice to the church in these days is not a “voice” at all, but a way of life. The missional life speaking to the institutional church of another way of “doing life.” Come to think of it, that was how Jesus lived prophetically as well… but look where it got him, the old guard didn’t take too kindly to his way of living or his message.
i think we are at a point where we have to use words, because unlike the culture of st francis, there is no cultural tie to demonstration and proclamation…
people may notice prophetic actions, but without the verbal connectors they won’t ever see the reason behind them.
When in the midst of my studies on idolatry, I was “called” by God to share some words with my CLB (I’m in another C now). I didn’t want to do it. I knew how it would be taken (I was right), and I pleaded with God to leave me alone about it. Eventually I did it- not because it was the right thing to do, but because I wanted to get God off my back. I took all the proper channels- did it with the (extrememly reluctant) permission of the pastor in the venue that he suggested (administrative board meeting, yikes.) Immediately after, God released us from that church. WHEW. We’d been waiting for 2 years for the sense of His time and permission to leave – and we were REALLY ready to go. Anyway- my point is- that was 9 years ago. That church has been in continual decline, and I still have people coming up to me saying they remember what I said, and the church should have listened way back then. Of course I knew they wouldn’t, and God knew they wouldn’t. I just had to do what I had to do. I even was told that a man(whom I barely knew)just a few years ago still carried a copy of a letter I wrote around in his wallet. Twilight zone.
But, like you were saying, I haven’t been compelled to do much “speaking” of the prophetic type words (which incidentally for me are usually just reminders of Biblical prophecies applied to the day). At this point I’m not sure the institutional church can hear either spoken prophetic words or observed prophetic living… I tried to talk with our new pastor about some of my concerns about idolatry (surface stuff) not long ago. He’s a great guy, but he just didn’t get it.
Interestingly, St. Francis never actually said this quote so often attributed to him. It is close to what he said in other situations, but in Chapter XVII of his Rule of 1221, Francis told the friars not to preach unless they had received the proper permission to do so. Then he added, â€œLet all the brothers, however, preach by their deeds.â€?
N.T. Wright says that it is the role of the Church to make articulate the inarticulate worship of God in Creation. Walter Brueggeman also affirms that the God seems to place highest value on the verbal/linguistic expression of faith (though not exclusively).
That being said, in a world that has over emphasized a cognitive faith, I believe that prophetic living is a necessity to lend authority to the words we must speak.
I remember Gordon Cosby asking this question, and it does beg the relationship between action and words.
“What is it about the way we live that causes the world to sit back in wonder?”
And if we aren’t living in such a way as to raise questions, we are probably better not saying anything. Too many believers are busy answering questions no one is asking.
These final thoughts of yours are pretty important to be lost down here in the comments. I may quote you at my place.
We saw the same abuses with the ear-tickling nature of prophetic ministry and peoples’ desire for word after word, especially from the big name prophets.
As to your question, it is interesting because there is such a wide variety of backgrounds involved in the emerging conversation. I believe those with a charismatic background will probably express themselves differently than those with a baptist or orthodox background.
The beauty of the emerging church is that we can learn from one another and embrace the differences.
Spot-on, Grace. Perhaps I’ll elevate some of this to a post of its own, we’ll see.
Some of us find a home in the EC because we’re used to be contrarian. I remember some years ago, a fellow in the church (an up-and-coming leader) left his wife and basically left the faith everyone prayed and prayed and prophesied to her about his return. People had dreams and visions and wild impressions and “encouraged” her with them. My gut reaction was to want to look her in the eye and say, “I’m sorry, he’s not coming back. You need to do your grieving and move on with your life.” I didn’t do that, but whenever she brought me examples of these dreams and visions to ask me about them, I always told her what else they could mean and cautioned her about how people will often prophesy their own emotions and desires as being God. She’s happily remarried now and moved away, but I’m still rather sick about what all these admittedly well-meaning people put her through. (Missional Chickie you’ll correctly recognize this situation straight off.)
Buuuuut, I guess we’re not supposed to delve into all the horror-stories. I do wonder though and perhaps Eric you might comment on this if some of us who have been through these horror-stories are able to offer our perspective from having been through it on the “other” side, i.e., we were part of the overall prophetic ministry and not the victim, if this might help provide some insight into how these very things make us (a) sick of the prophetic label and (b) long to find some healthy guidelines for a proper praxis. On that last one, perhaps a few of the “success” stories might help with balance and provide the added perspective of why we keep believing in the stuff and want to see it functioning properly rather than permenantly shelved. I’m leery of success stories though, it always feels like people are looking at you and it takes careful effort to tell it so that people don’t notice the prophetic person and only see what Jesus is doing.
btw, I forgot to mention in my prior comment about another part of our conversation last evening, that of the true prophetic voices running into the caves — ultimately even Elijah did this. I do wonder if those aren’t the days the prophetic ministry is in once again… not that people are silent, just that the ones you’d trust and want to hear are out in a cave someplace. Just a thought.
Smart a**? Smart A**?!? Well, I never…
Sorry to be the one to post it, just thought it was significant. I’d want to be quoted correctly if I were a dead saint who had a propensity for public nudity and talking to birds.
Jamie- somehow I’ve missed the stories of Francis’ “propensity for public nudity”! But the talking to birds I can totally relate to. At my house, I once had quite an interesting conversation with a deer– who continued to munch on my flowers while I was talking to her. I’ve had similar talks with squirrels who were eating MY HOUSE, but, those tended to cross closer to the realm of Dan’s recent post about bad language, plus I was more screaming than chatting…
And on the subject of coming from differing perspectives, I’ve never been in a charismatic community, which probably has something to do with why nobody listened, and instead just stared bug-eyed at me!
I do think it’s so beneficial that we can come together from various vantage points and find the common ground Christ is calling us to. Certainly creates a richer and more colorful tapestry doesn’t it?
Cindy, has anyone else told you you’re a bit “squirrely” before?
Jamie, I think it’s significant as well, and I’d try hard to quote you correctly if you were a dead saint in fact if you were either of those…. <GR&D>
Bro., Considering all the things I’ve been called, squirrely isn’t so bad. I personally like “wonky” these days. Besides, you’re the one who wrote, “spot-on.” Is that a Canadian version of “right on”?
Jamie- I remembered the story about Francis giving his clothes back to his dad. And I’m glad you’re not a dead saint.