The Prophetic Office As Paradigm For Pastoral Ministry -- By: John E. Johnson
TrinJ 21:1 (Spring 2000) p. 61
The Prophetic Office As Paradigm For Pastoral Ministry
John E. Johnson is Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. He previously pastored an international church near The Hague in The Netherlands.
In The Netherlands, most villages are graced with churches, with one dominating the center of town. Towering over neighboring buildings, many of their spires suggest a religious presence. But the sad reality is that many have become empty shells. They are cavernous monuments of another era, when the church was the center of life and God’s Word was declared from its pulpits. Today, many of these hollowed-out edifices have been converted into everything from carpet warehouses to discotheques. One can only lament the lost voice, one that called people back to God.
That voice is absent in most of Western Europe. To a lesser extent, this is also true in the United States. It is rare to find a platform where a passionate voice declares, “Thus saith the Lord.” There are plenty of pulpits, but few preachers are up to filling them. As a result, our vacuous faith is robbing the postmodern world of what it needs most, a word from God.1
I. The Need For Prophetic Ministry
My argument in this article is that pastors must once again engage in a prophetic role. The times require that they stand and speak with divine authority, with a passion and a conviction that God has revealed his will to them. This is not to suggest that the Canon is still open, nor that every word preached from the pulpit should be viewed as divinely inspired. But it is to say that God remains committed to revealing himself through faithful preaching. Few congregations are leaving Sunday morning services with the impression that divine revelation has taken place.
Much of today’s preaching seems calibrated to attract the hearers, satisfy the attendees, and avoid offence. It is delivered with the assumption that people want comfort rather than confrontation. This is, in part, a result of the direction pastoral theology has taken in recent years. It is also a consequence of ministry reoriented towards the unchurched, with a view to satisfying the consumer. In
TrinJ 21:1 (Spring 2000) p. 62
the process, sentiment is growing that preaching has been hijacked by another language. We’re in danger of losing our mother tongue. Psychology has commandeered theology; psychobabble has replaced repentance; motivational talks have shoved aside exegesis; and theology proper has been overtaken by therapy.2 It is time to get back to our proph...
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