Few would argue that we are living in a post-Christian America. There is anger, envy, lust, pride, and greed on all sides. Like most previous generations, we look around at the dismal state of affairs in and out of the church and say, “Come, Lord Jesus, Come.” Unlike most previous generations, very few prophets are emerging calling out our sin, directing us back to Jesus and toward the way of holiness.
Where are all the prophets?
My cynical view:
Truth telling is costly. Prophets and their families like to eat. Isaiah may have been an aristocrat. Amos wasn’t a prophet or the son of a prophet, his income probably came from sheep and figs. The Apostle Paul was a tent maker. Are modern would-be prophets silenced because they know where their paychecks are coming from and speaking out could jeopardize their livelihood? Have prophets been influenced by profits and loss?
Churches have enough trouble these days keeping members even without the preacher/prophet upsetting half the crowd. With less people attending, pastors feel pressured to keep all the folks they can. Has fear of emptying pews toned down the prophetic or controversial (yet Biblical) topics? There is no need for the devil’s temptations to be silent in the face of blatant sin when the prophetic voices are silenced by fear.
Do our preachers/prophets lack backbone?
It seems the few modern-day prophets (who are not afraid to speak truth) fall into one of these categories:
1) Retired Leaders. New-found boldness comes in direct proportion to their retirement from Big Wig status. With a secure retirement and no longer the subject of church votes, the formerly silent leaders can now utter all sorts of platitudes. Maybe the point is: Better late than never.
2) Pastors who are no longer pastoring. Disillusioned by the state of the politicized church, they have left the pulpit for another gig or have a spouse that makes a living wage. This newly voiced prophet (again unhindered by salary) will occasionally tweet or blog prophetic-like truths, but they have lost their pulpit, platform and much of their voice.
3) Pastors (usually from smaller churches) whose congregants have determined no matter what is said or written by the pulpit resident– they aren’t going anywhere. It was their church before the pot stirring pastor arrived and it will be their church after the pot stirring pastor leaves. Agree or disagree, they will wait him/her out. They’ll keep coming to church when the doors are open because that’s what they do. Of course, these small church truth tellers have a limited crowd.
That’s your list of modern day prophets. Prophets who need no money or prophets who have no audience.
Your cynical view:
“I don’t see you speaking up. I don’t see you calling out hypocrisy in the church, in politics and in our lives. I don’t hear your prophetic utterances that shake the rafters and cause a stir. You, sir, are the proverbial pot calling the kettle black.”
I know. God help me, I know. I want to think that I am not afraid of half the congregation walking out following a biblical but unpopular message, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a concern. Pastors and would-be prophets (myself included) remember the words from Joshua: Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
My fellow boomer and X-gen pastors, let’s not wait for someone else to pick up the prophetic torch in the days ahead (I’m looking at you, millennial pastors, and I believe in you!). Today. all pastors/prophets must follow Jesus’ example and boldly speak full of grace and truth (see John 1:14)! Pray for wisdom, strength and courage and go forth proclaiming the Gospel! This generation desperately needs us to regain our prophetic voice and proclaim the powerful message of Jesus. Don’t be quiet. Be brave! Be bold… and God will be with you wherever you go!