The way we do church: #4 Pastors and the prophetic voice

The way we do church: #4 Pastors and the prophetic voice May 24, 2022

I began this series by asking, “where are all the prophetic voices?”

I will grant that the prophetic voices are out there: lest anyone adhere to the Elijah syndrome—which I like to call the Tigger principle: “I’m the only one!”

One of the problems is that although the best place for the prophetic voice is inside the local church, they are unfortunately ill-designed for such.

Without communal discussion, the pulpit becomes nothing more than a bully pulpit. And the only ones who will continue to attend said churches are those who already agree with the prophetic word being spoken.

The church should be a safe space for dissent

The Word of God must indeed be central to the life of the people of God.

But that doesn’t mean that we all understand it the same way.

Sure, there are beliefs that are central, or core, to the faith.

Even still, we must recognize that not everyone is in the same place in their faith. Thus, even if we have certain convictions as to what are the central beliefs of the faith, we must allow room for someone who has not yet come to embrace those convictions to dissent and still feel welcomed.

Otherwise, they may leave. And they may never come to embrace the faith because we didn’t provide them with a safe space to process their thoughts. Nor did we welcome them and respect them for who they are.

NB: I know that some of you may be concerned because we are to “guard . . . the treasure” (2 Tim 1:14). First, I would say that Paul was writing to Timothy, who represents pastoral leadership in the church. It is their job to ensure the Gospel goes forth accurately. Secondly, this does not mean that we cannot welcome and love others into our community who may not yet embrace the Gospel, or who may have a different understanding of a particular aspect of the Gospel.

In some of our churches, it might mean that we may not grant them leadership, or possibly even membership, into the community if their beliefs are deemed outside the bounds of the group.

But they must always be welcomed and loved. They must always be allowed to hold those views.

Prophetic word

I began this series to address the fact that I am firmly convinced that the evangelical church needs prophetic voices. And, I noted, that the best place for the prophetic word to arise is in the local church. (see post #1 in this series)

I suppose I should clarify what I mean by “prophetic voices.”

I intend that a prophetic voice is one that knows the Word and recognizes when the people of God have strayed from the Word.

It is a voice that calls for the people of God to be characterized by love and that lovingly admonishes them when they are not.

And it is a voice that cries out for the oppressed and calls all of God’s people to join in that cry.

I deviated over the last three posts into a discussion of our failure to do sermons and fellowship well because this both highlights some of what is problematic in our churches and also because it hinders the ability of the prophetic word to go forth.

But there is another problem.

Pastors and the Prophetic word

To those who are pastoring on the evangelical right: you must speak up. God has called you neither to pamper the sheep nor to beat them, but to lead them well.

There is a problem, however.

Too many of our pastors are afraid to speak up.

Too many of our pastors do not have the training to speak up well.

Too many of our pastors have justifiable reasons why they shouldn’t speak up.

Too many of our pastors have too much at stake to speak up!

Too many of our pastors have been wounded.

They can’t speak up because too many will leave. They can’t speak up because they will be run out. They can’t speak up because it will cost too much.

To which I would say that speaking up requires wisdom. There are right ways to speak and there are wrong ways.

But not speaking up should not be an option.

The moment for prophetic voices to rise up is present. In fact, I fear that it may already have passed.

Yes, they may leave. Let them go.

Yes, they may run you out. Leave well.

Yes, it may cost too much. Cross-bearing love never costs too much.

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About Rob Dalrymple
Rob Dalrymple is married to his wife Toni and is the father of four fabulous children, and two grandchildren. He has been teaching and pastoring for over 32 years at colleges, seminaries, and the local church. He has a Ph.D. (Westminster Theological Seminary) in biblical interpretation. He is the author of four books (including Follow the Lamb: A Guide to Reading, Understanding, and Applying the Book of Revelation & Understanding the New Testament and the End Times: Why it Matters) as well as numerous articles and other publications.  You can read more about the author here.

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