Sunday, 8 March 2009

What do I mean by prophetic?

In response to yesterday's entry That Hideous Man asked exactly what I meant by prophetic. It's a good question, and I thought that rather than post a long, rambling comment in response, I'd post a long, rambling entry in response.

I suppose that what I had in mind was John Stott's 'double listening':

"... we are to listen carefully (although of course with differing degrees of respect) both to the ancient Word and to the modern world, in order to relate the one to the other with a combination of fidelity and sensitivity... It is my firm conviction that, only if we can develop our capacity for double listening, will we avoid the opposite pitfalls of unfaithfulness and irrelevance, and be able to speak God's word to God's world with effectiveness today."
(emphasis mine)

The Tearfund prayer diary for this week talks about keeping 'one eye on the newspaper and another on the Bible'.

But to be prophetic we have to go beyond an awareness of the issues to a position where we speak out about them and challenge others to think about them too. We may propose a course of action, or we may simply indicate that we are prepared to join in a dialogue about the issues. In many ways, I think it's more about raising the right questions rather than having all the answers.

Other factors that are relevant to the prophetic role include the willingness to:
  • speak for those who have no voice (or, at least, their voice isn't listened to);
  • provide an honest critique of the issue in the light of God's teaching and love for us;
  • set the agenda proactively, rather than simply responding to the prompting of others;
  • combine a concern for justice with a call for responsibility and accountability;
  • follow through to service as appropriate.
To use a phrase that I first heard from Stuart Blyth - it's also about being relevant not trendy.

Those are my thoughts, I'd love to hear what others think!


That Hideous Man said...

Wow - good response, thanks! Hopefuly I'll get a chance over the next few days to add a long rambling comment!

KJ said...

i facilitate all of the youth ministry @ my church. I have a great group of very insightful, savvy teenagers. i love it. We're discussing topics of social justice right now, including trafficking and poverty. Your thoughts and ideas here are really helpful to me. they will be useful for helping me have conversations with them about wuch important issues of our time. thx!