The Prophetic Call

From Brueggemann, _The Prophetic Imagination_:

“The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us.”


A brief reflection on Brueggemann, FWIW (stipulating that Brueggemann is right, for argument’s sake). Let’s see where it leads.

In the midst of institutional church leadership drunk with the promises of self-consolidating, self-validating, self-perpetuating power, how does a prophet arise? Where does he gain his legitimacy, his voice?

Brueggemann’s infinitives are telling: the prophet is to nurture, to nourish and to evoke. The prophet does not impose himself. His legitimacy is not a matter of [carnal] power but of [spiritual] substance. He accepts that few will listen, and it saddens him, but it dims neither his hope in Christ, his faith in God nor his love for God’s people. With both rod and staff, he shepherds those who will listen toward “a new consciousness and a new perception” that stand over against the tacit norms and the spoken imperatives of a fatally enculturated church. His prophecy is content to begin with a whispered riddle among those whose ears are tuned.

But Brueggemann’s picture begs the question: whence arises the prophet’s claim to divine favor? Among the shrill competition for an audience by a horde of would-be prophets armed with proof-texts, reams of demographic survey data and intimidating stacks of case studies, what form does the hand of God’s favor take? How does the modern Amos know when it is time to thunder forth, and how does Ezekiel know when simply to mime his message in some cryptic, enigmatic way?

There are so many more questions to raise, but this bite is big enough for now.


2 thoughts on “The Prophetic Call

  1. You raise a very interesting question – one that is very important for clergy whether official or unofficial.

    In short, I think we can only look within ourselves to discern the proper mood for the moment. What I’ve discovered in my limited ministry experience is that the subtle word is most effective. Rarely have I witnessed moments when “street corner/end of the world” prophecy was necessary and effective (there are times when this is appropriate, no doubt).

    Those that are attuned to the greater message of the Kingdom, who have an open mind willing to accept instruction, and who are accustomed to making important judgments regarding who is and who isn’t worth hearing, will turn their attention quickly to the humble, prophetic word spoken in calm reflection.

    In other words, our culture has grown tired, in my opinion, of the blow-hard screaming for a hearing and is instead open to calm, thoughtful reflection respectful of all in the room.

    Therefore, I would submit that today’s prophet implore the Spirit for discernment as to the proper moment AND appropriate terminology when the time for such is most needed.

    How does this strike you?

  2. I agree with that (, Ben?). And it now appears that he must first be a man of deeply Christlike character, in general, before he takes upon himself the prophetic mantle. Surely Christ’s gentle, forbearing nature – which admittedly gives way in some cases to a violent expression of righteous indignation – calls for just what you are proposing here.


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