I have had the absolute joy of delving into a topic that I love so much this week: the prophetic. I’m not talking about the gift of prophecy or even the office of prophet, although they definitely are part of it. ‘The prophetic’ is more of an umbrella term for seeing the world through Jesus’ eyes. It’s a gift of sight we get when we see our faith as a profound love relationship; one where we get to know we are loved and begin to see the world as it is loved by God. It’s the gift of faith, and a life lived in the Spirit, understanding spiritual matters (1 Corinthians 2:12), and living our lives in a manner that releases the oppressed and sets the captives free (Luke 4:16-21).
But how does this relate to mission? Livesey has argued that an “authentic prophetic lifestyle” is also “an authentic missional lifestyle because it’s all about keeping in step with the Spirit, surrendering to him, choosing to be led by him.” (Cath Livesey in the podcast Everyday Mission, episode 17.) A prophetic church is one where the culture of discerning the missional Spirit and following his lead is right at the centre. As such, prayer is central to ‘the prophetic’, as this is where we learn to hear God’s voice, where we commune with him and catch his heart for those around us. As our God is a missional God, listening in prayer will lead us out to love and serve our world; to be prophetic in our actions. Missional listening is part of our DNA at Rural Ministries. In mission theology you’ll find something similar to it called ‘prophetic dialogue’. This is a posture of listening and conversation with the context and culture, and a prophetic process of bringing that into conversation with God to discover his missional heart for a particular location or issue. One without the other is dangerous. Dialogue without the prophetic leads to good works and the prophetic without dialogue often creates a holy huddle void of genuine love for the world. We need both. I feel that the church needs to grasp ‘the prophetic’ in all its fullness to reconcile the world to God. I turn to John V. Taylor to help me make my point. Writing about prayer, social justice and mission he calls us to “engage in the mission of the Holy Spirit by being rather than doing. To realize that the heart of mission is communion with God in the midst of the world’s life will save us from the demented activism of these days.” (John V. Taylor, The Go Between God, p.277)
How do we do that?
Here are some thoughts from what I have experienced of how to release ‘the prophetic’ in your churches:
Change your busy calendar to include both some listening prayer time and time with those who are oppressed.
Make listening part of the churches public prayer life by adding some silence or introducing creative responses during prayer times together.
Encourage creativity. Much of the prophetic is expressed through art, dance and music. Releasing creative gifts in your church will release more of ‘the prophetic’.
Dwelling in the word. This is a process where scripture is read and the listeners are asked to ponder silently on what stands out to them. The process is repeated and then what people have noticed is shared with the wider group.
Actively pray for each other, asking for words from God – this was my training ground for years.
As a leader be open to someone bringing a prophetic word. Discern together what God may be saying.
When making missional plans, spend time discerning together as a church asking if this is what God is wanting you to join in with, and then prioritising what God has called you to do together in your context.
Give grace when people get it wrong, so that they have the freedom to continue to grow.
The prophetic, including the gift of prophecy and the office of prophet, needs to be released in our churches, and given time in our lives if we want to see people come to know Jesus. Are we able to encourage the prophetic in our churches? Can you be a permission giver either for yourself, for someone else, or even the wider culture of your church? .
Jo Allen Director, South West