Are You *Prophetic* or *Pathetic* in Christian Witness? (in less than 300 words)

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There are good ways and bad ways to go about making change happen in the church. Some opt toward some approaches that humbly push the people of God to become more like Jesus in our 21st century context. These are the prophets of our day.

Some are known through books and speaking engagements and several others make change happen every day as they quietly “seek first the kingdom of God.” These folks dream together of how to create a better future by living as followers of Jesus in the present.

Prophetic types draw from their values to create good for our world and honor the tradition that reared them (even when disagreements are present).

A temptation for those forced to the margins of evangelicalism is to react inconsistently to the way of Christ. These people think that they have the “right answers” and that they must aggressively and obnoxiously make sure everyone in their church knows about it. And after being asked to leave, they then badmouth the church and create further dissension.

People like this care about their particular cause, which might actually be quite important, but they don’t know how to manage their passion appropriately. They have chosen a pathetic approach. Pathetic because their cause eventually becomes centered around their wounded ego instead of the values they wish to express.

My conviction is that we need to honor churches and those part of the broader evangelical culture while also offering an alternative to the status quo. Any strategy that looks more pathetic than engaging in Jesus-centered prophetic (truth telling) witness only damages the cause that many of us hope to push forward.

What other marks distinguish prophets from pathetic types? Be kind.

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  • Pat68

    I think it’s a pretty pathetic RESPONSE when people lash out at those who are prophetic  and rather than listening and considering the prophet, they would rather punish, slander and banish the prophet.  I think our response to the prophetic shows where we are in our own faith life.  

  • http://twitter.com/breinholz Brian Reinholz

    I think there’s a lot of wisdom in the priest/prophet/king distinctions. We need all of them in the church. Prophet types tend to be more black and white, and tend to be very stern, uncompromising about theology (whatever that might be: creationism, homosexuality, predestination).

    To priest types, these prophets often seem rude, judgmental, legalistic, etc. And sometimes they are. But prophets are so important to the church…they keep the church in line, call out falsehood, etc.

    Prophets need to learn to temper their convictions, to act with grace, and to understand that being right isn’t everything, or even most of the piece. Prophets have to be able to “tolerate” sin and pick their battles.

    But none of these things means that a prophet type is bad, or what they have to say is wrong. So I will respectfully disagree Kurt…I think you’re elevating the power of relational, priestly ministry (which is SUPER important) but looking at the prophet-type witness as all-together bad (which it isn’t, if properly tempered with wisdom, love, and the Spirit’s leading). Don’t think we disagree that much just some subtle distinctions.

    (Oh, and I should mention that I’m a priest-type, so I’m no stranger to being frustrated with prophet types.)

    Interested to see what others think. Lots of ways of looking at this one.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

       To be clear… I consider myself a prophet type. so i’d say that I’m saying that being prophetic doesn’t have to be pathetic. thats my main point.

  • Evelyn

    One type stands where they are and hollers at everyone else to come and join them, the other goes to where everyone else is and coaxes them along gently to a new place. One is quick to speak, the other quick to listen. One assumes persecution necessarily demonstrates the rightness of their position, the other is open to being wrong, while understanding that getting in to trouble is always possible when one engages in holy mischief and/or being that voice on the margins.

  • Shelly

    I think someone who is truly acting prophetically is someone who is NOT speaking until they are quite certain that what they are speaking into the lives of their church is truly from God- and can be said in a loving, uplifting way. Part of the aim is to not expose people’s nakedness. I think people, prophets many times (which is why they get a bad reputation), sometimes say things that God intended for their knowledge alone- for the purpose of praying into that topic not exposing it. We all mess up and say the wrong thing. It is part of learning and growth. God gives His children His heart for certain things so that they can pray with passion, embracing the heart of the Father for that topic. It is not always for more than this. 

  • nathanjeffers

    It comes down to whether you are self-centered or others-centered. You made a good point that we can be doing the right things for selfish reasons. We need to constantly be honest with ourselves about why we are doing what we are doing. Is it truly for others or is it for our own ego?

  • Tom

    A simple witnessing conversation starter at break time at work could just be owning a coffe mug that has John 3:16 on it. Wear a shirt with that verse on it. It is also a good way to confess Christ before men. Get simple witnessing tools like these at:
    http://www.cafepress.com/bibleverseshirtsandgifts


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