I was contemplating what has come to be referred to as the “Fivefold” ministries in Ephesians recently. I found myself troubled as we generally only see three of the five represented, especially in the news.
We hear a lot about Pastors and Teachers, particularly when they make changes to their standpoints on controversial issues like Tony Campolo did this week. I respect and admire Dr Campolo’s work, and have done for over 20 years since I first came across him at a conference in England. Much of my current belief system was shaped by listening to his teaching and reading his books, and I stand by the foundation they gave me.
Similarly we hear a lot about evangelists. These days to be described as “Evangelical” has become something of an insult bandied about by the loony left who embrace panantheistic ideologies as being in line with Christ’s teachings and suggest we say “Our Mother” at the start of the Lord’s Prayer – for the record, Jesus never once uses the word “Amma” to describe God, where the personal pronoun is used it is, without exception, “Abba”.
On the other side we have the right-wing extremists who seek to beat the Gospel into people. These religious zealots hold the same mindset as those who burned the “witches” in Salem or condemned producing the Bible in the language of the common man, whether it be English, German, French or whichever country they resided in. It was a weapon to be used to subjugate the masses and keep people in place.
Evangelists have got a bad name because of these extremes, and we see televangelists as the worst of them all. Flashy cars, expensive suits, private jets are standard equipment for many of these people we regard with disdain.
Of course, behind the glamour and glitz there is often a humble man who gives abundantly of his time and money to help those less fortunate. But we only see the half-hour or one hour show once a week. We don’t see the other six days and 23 hours. We choose too often to ignore it and condemn the excesses of their assumed lifestyle.
I had the privilege of meeting a well known evangelist some years ago at a conference. I “knew” him through his TV show, and went with my own anger ready to jump on him for his greed and excessive lifestyle. But the man I met that day was very different from what I imagined from the TV show. He had the same passion and vigour as we saw on the screen, but it was tempered with a humility that caught me completely off guard. As I spoke to him, he asked my opinion on what he had been speaking about. The sincerity of our conversation was totally opposite from what I’d expected.
He introduced me to some of his colleagues from behind the scenes who travelled with him. He chose his crew carefully and was quick to introduce me to one specific member. He described him as the conscience of the group. A man who was gifted in Prophecy.
This mighty giant of TV made sure he had someone with him at all times to keep him grounded and keep him cognisant of his humanity. He made a point of stating his ministry would fall apart without this input.
Too often we think of prophets as fortune tellers who predict the future. It’s a common misconception. The Prophets of the Old Covenant predicted Jesus after all.
But they were so much more than that. Jeremiah was an advisor to kings. Daniel and his friends became the conscience of their captors, and Joseph became de-facto leader of Egypt through the wisdom gained by prophecy.
We forget too easily how we reached the place we are now. America was founded in part because of religious persecution and a desire to worship God in a particular way, and for that way to be handed down. Fast forward a couple of centuries and the America of 2015 bans teaching the Bible in its schools, and under no circumstances should there be a mention of intelligent design when dealing with creation in public schools.
At the other extreme again, there are the so-called “Creationist” private schools that teach the planet is only 6000 years old (approximately) based on the genealogies in the books comprising the Old Testament.
Both sides need to be tempered with true Prophecy. An understanding of the meaning of the Bible beyond the simple grammar and verse to the Spirit behind it. By cutting true prophecy out of the equation as both extremes do we change the picture completely. When King David rode into battle he carried a bronze sword, not an iron one. In the New Testament, the soldiers used iron and steel to nail Jesus to the Cross and pierce His side.
Prophecy interprets and allows us to understand that the technology had changed and life had changed with it. David was a great military leader because he relied on prophets to guide his battle plans and he listened for God’s voice. He never imagined atomic bombs capable of destroying a city with a single strike as the Allies did with Hiroshima in 1945. His tactics were guided by wisdom through prophets guiding him how God would use the methods available to him.
Churches today often abandon the idea of prophecy. Many think it ended when the last of the 12 disciples died. Understandings of modern times are spoken through the eyes of modern society and sociologists rather than sages of Spiritual leadership.
In the last hundred years we have seen two global wars that wiped out the majority of a generation each, leaving young men with no fathers. The result is what we refer to as the second half of the 20th century. Generation X – my own generation – who wander lost much of the time because our fathers had no fathers to guide them so often. Generation Y – my generation’s children – are now growing into the age of adults with the guidance of children.
Where are the prophets for today?
Where are the voices who will stand up and say we need Jesus. Who will say amid the jeering and embracing of false teachings and idolatry that we need to change how we live?
Churches in many countries are considered non-profit organisations.
Let’s stop be non-prophet as well.