I have stalled and dawdled as long as I can on writing this blog post because I know I'm going to step on some toes. Stepping on toes is so not high on my "things I want to do in life" list. Yeah....here goes....
Let's start with 1 Chronicles 25 which involves the selection of "worship leaders" during the time of King David. To put it in modern day parlance, you have Asaph who "spoke for God backed up by the king's authority," (The Message paraphrase) or in other words his duties might be described in terms of a Bishop's duties. Then you have Jeduthun who preached and was responsible for leading the thanks and praise to God, or in other words, a modern day minister. Heman was in charge of leading the singing and providing musical accompaniment in the work of worship in the sanctuary of God. Heman is also noted as being the king's "seer" or prophet in modern day terms. Asaph coordinated and led the activities at the temple, like a Bishop. Jeduthun coordinated, taught and led the service, like a minister and Heman was the prophet and led the worship team. It goes on further to say that Heman was assisted by his sons in his "divinely appointed work."
Interesting. In 1 Corinthians 12 "prophet" shows up right after "apostle" on the list of spiritual offices.
So if prophets existed in old testament times and prophets existed in new testament times, where are the prophets today? Why are we not hearing their voice?
I have no doubt that prophets exist today. Real prophets, not like what we saw a few months ago with the "world is going to end at such and such a time" chatter, but real, genuine bonafide prophets who have a message for the church and for believers. I don't think the problem lies in having a lack of prophets, I think the problem lies in the fact that the church would prefer that they not be heard! (See I told you I was going to step on toes!)
The church would prefer that we believe that our leaders are our modern day prophets and visionaries. In their way of thinking it is much easier if we accept that the Bishops are our prophets, or, the ministers are our prophets. They're not, they are never going to be and the reason is really simple-they were never called to be prophets! Their job is to coordinate, to lead and to teach. That is what they are gifted to do and that is exactly what they should be doing.
So you may conclude from the example I gave that the worship leader should be considered the modern day prophet. Not so fast! Prophets are called, sometimes rather reluctantly, and an underlying characteristic of a true prophet is as a defender of God. They tend to call out groups and individuals (leaders in particular) who either abandon their religious faith or attempt to adopt practices that are not compatible with their faith. In other words, they are not exactly popular and they tend to call you on the carpet for something that you already know you're doing wrong, you just don't want to hear about it! Ideally, the worship leader as prophet would be nice because they are responsible for "right worship" but that doesn't necessarily hold true today. I have seen some people leading worship who are very technically gifted but not necessarily spiritually gifted. (Again, toe stepping-I'm going to tick folks off across the board.)
The General Board of Church and Society says that the Social Principles are the prophetic voice of the church. Paul, felt that prophecy needed to be discerned-it needed to be looked at closely and it had to line up with what the church believes AND it had to be backed up in scripture. If you read my earlier post about Social Principles and Theology then you know that I don't feel that some aspects of the Social Principles meet this criteria. So, no, one board is not the prophetic voice of the church. (There goes another set of toes.)
Bottom line to all of this-I think the church needs to bring back the voices of the prophets. I think we need to listen to what they have to say, look at it closely, see if it lines up with church beliefs and scripture and, if so, act upon their messages. But will the church as a whole be willing to make room for a modern day prophet? I'm not so sure. Doing our own thing is very comfortable and we have been doing it for a long time so it would be a hard habit to break! They may say something we don't like. They may call us on the carpet for doing something that we have gotten very comfortable doing. They may remind us of what we are expected to do as a church. I doubt they would be very popular. Maybe, just maybe, we need to be confronted. We all say we want to see the church reach out to the world more, to grow and to be a blessing. Yet, everything we try seems to fail. Why? Let's find a prophet and see if we can get an answer! Let's hear the message from the Lord!
Meanwhile, I'm going to go duck and cover...