Where Have All The Prophets Gone? -- By: Marvin A. McMickle
ATJ 37 (2005) p. 7
Where Have All The Prophets Gone?
Marvin McMickle (Ph.D., Case Western Reserve University) is Professor of Homiletics at ATS. This paper was originally presented before the Narrative and Imagination Group of the Academy of Homiletics in Memphis, TN at their 2004 Annual Meeting.
One of the essential needs in every congregation of believers is an occasional sermon rooted in the words and witness of the Old Testament prophets. Preachers need to play a role within the life of their congregation and their community similar to the role that such people as Amos, Jeremiah and Micah played within the life of the nations of Israel and Judah. James Ward and Christine Ward begin their important book on this subject of prophetic preaching by writing:
The natural inclination of the Christian community, like all religious communities, is to adapt its witness of faith to its most immediate human needs. In doing this the community always runs the risk of obscuring the wider dimensions of the gospel, particularly the wider implications of God’s demand for righteousness and justice. What is needed, therefore, is preaching that recovers these wider dimensions and illuminates the ways in which the community obscures them.1
Those who preach must appreciate the need to let their sermons play this role in the life of their church, their surrounding community and the wider society of which the preacher is a member.
There is a tendency within congregational for the preacher to become preoccupied with such pressing matters as new members’ or confirmation classes, the maintenance or renovation of the church building, whether or not the annual budget will be met and how to maintain a feeling of intimacy in the face of a rapidly growing or shifting membership. What may be lost in the rush to respond to these issues is that congregation’s responsibility to respond to an escalating problem of homelessness in the community, or overcrowding in the jails, or the abuse of drugs and alcohol by youngsters in the local school district. It is the preacher’s job to remain watchful, to use the image of Ezekiel 3 and 33, and to sound the alarm about the injuries that are being inflicted upon people as well as about the injustices that are taking place.
Prophetic preaching shifts the focus of a congregation from what is happening to them as a local church to what is happening to us as a society. Prophetic preaching then asks the question, “What is the role or the appropriate response of our congregation, our association and our denomination to the events that are occurring within our ...
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