Theology of Ministry – Prophet/Peacemaker

I’m splitting this up into smaller bites so, maybe, it’ll be easier to digest. Not that it soars above an 8th grade reading level, but that was my intent.

Prophet/Peacemaker

The minister as prophet is something that we’ve heard a lot about in seminary – I have at least. There is a lot of talk of “the prophetic voice”, and courses like Prophetic Preaching. Usually, prophecy in this case isn’t predicting the future per se, but rather speaking for those who are voiceless, or calling a group to repentance, shedding light on injustice.

Insofar as prophecy is predicting the future, it is something like an early-warning system. Sometimes it’s a bit like Jonah – warning of impending destruction that will come unless we make changes. Environmental catastrophes are something we don’t have to wait for – they’re going on now. Peak oil is probably looming in our future. Global warming is no picnic either. These are things we can hopefully do something about, and sometimes it is the prophet who has to speak up first.

I think that the prophetic side of ministry comes out primarily through preaching and corporate worship. If you’re going to ask that people spend time listening to you talk, make it exciting! Challenge them! Otherwise, why should they bother coming? Also, it’s a time when you’ve got them all in one place – so it is a good time to say important things that need to be heard.

The minister as peacemaker is paired with prophet because a prophet is a troublemaker. Prophets are not soothing, or “pastoral” in the sense of offering bland platitudes in a world that is wracked with violence and suffering. I place peacemaking here partially because it helps keep in mind what the goal of being so prophetic and fiery is: to build people up and to encourage them. If there’s nothing that can be done to change a situation for the better, don’t call it prophecy when you talk about it.

I also think that ministers sometimes fall into one of two traps. The first one is to become the fire-breathing preaching juggernaut who sees their job as fire-hosing everyone with your passion and motivation. You’ve got the prophetic voice! You’re the lone one crying in the wilderness! This is exhausting and, let’s go ahead and say it, condescending. Your congregation is at least as well-informed as you, they just have different priorities sometimes. So you don’t really need to roast them all the time.

On the other hand, the view is often put forth that being “pastoral” is the same as being, frankly, a little lame. You have to be the calm and reassuring one. You have to pat backs and speak in soothing tones all the time. You can’t get angry or show genuine emotion unless the emotion is sanitized. Not only is this not really ministry, I also don’t think it is being a very interesting person.

When I say “peacemaker”, I’m thinking of Gandhi’s followers being beaten unconscious by the tens of thousands in order to visit him in prison. I’m thinking of African-American students getting dogs sicked on them and getting blasted with firehoses so that they can sit at the same lunch counter as whites in the South, or go to the same schools. If you are a peacemaker, it will involve bruises and sweat if you’re doing it right – because the world is seriously messed up, and there is a lot of violence out there, and someone has to accept the violence that is inflicted on them and not retaliate. Otherwise, it never ends. The reason that this is necessary, however, is that there is no other way to make peace. Violence only ends with non-retaliation.

3 thoughts on “Theology of Ministry – Prophet/Peacemaker

  1. Just one thought on your statement that the prophetic side of ministry is found mainly in preaching and corporate worship. Maybe — but I also think of prophets like Jeremiah, Hosea and Amos whose prophetic messages were enacted in the course of daily living (wearing a yoke; marrying a prostitute; leaving the sycamore trees behind to get in the king’s face). Perhaps the prophetic side of ministry ought to be located mostly in what we do, Monday through Saturday?I’m sure you’re not ruling out such an interpretation of “prophetic ministry,” but I do question the elevation of preaching over action in this regard.You’ve obviously given a lot of thought and prayer to your vocation. God bless you as you graduate and go forth to serve. I do hope and pray you will find it as rewarding as you anticipate! 🙂

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  2. Just to follow-up: I think your comments on “peacemaker” in the second paragraph show that we’re more on the same page than my previous comment would lead one to believe. 🙂

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  3. I agree with your comment. Part of this is the problem of needing to compartmentalize for the paper. I needed to pick particular times to talk about particular things. But I definitely agree that the real prophetic things you do are things you do, always, not merely what you say. For someone who writes so much, I don’t always put that much stock in words.

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