Justin Hiebert

Catalyzing Change

APEPT Leadership – Prophets

Posted on 12 May 2014 in APEPT, Leadership, Ministry | 6 comments

We are continuing our look at the five-fold ministry of leadership that is laid out in Ephesians 4 and today we are examining the Prophets.

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The role of a prophet is largely misunderstood in our society. What we often expect, and maybe even hope for, is someone that predicts the future. Our concept of a Nostradamus like person is foreign to the biblical life of a prophet. Instead, the role of a biblical prophet is to be a truth teller. They stand as a mouthpiece of God’s desire for the church: critiquing and challenging where the church has gone astray. Their cries for justice, fairness, and equity resembles the call of the early Israelite prophets and they way the people of God neglect the poor, broken, and disenfranchised. Their call echoes the mission of Jesus as found in Luke 4, and keep the church faithful in this mission.

[pullquote]So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. – Ephesians 4:11-13[/pullquote]

Strengths:

  1. Heart and receptiveness to the hurting and marginalized.
  2. Work to keep the church sensitive to the leading of the Spirit and the mission of God.
  3. Developed prophets can both hear directly from God in special ways, and perhaps see visions about the future direction of the church.

Limitations:

  1. Easy for them to manipulate or twist the arms of others to accomplish a personal goal because, “I heard it directly from God.”
  2. Can feel like a lone voice crying out if action and change isn’t noticeable.
  3. May feel like holding the church back on decisions if they don’t feel their voice or perspective has been heard properly and sufficiently.

What the church can learn from them (What they can teach us): man holding Bible

  1. Listen to their cry for faithfulness in mission, they hear from God.
  2. Any decision made in the church affects everyone, make sure it doesn’t further marginalize the poor and hurting.
  3. It is the job of everyone to care for and uplift the poor, it is not for a special class of people or from an antiquated time.

How the church can help them (Ways to release a prophet for mission):

  1. Give them an opportunity to listen to the Spirit and seek direction from God.
  2. Place them in leadership roles that allow them the chance to speak vocally on behalf of the oppressed.
  3. Find ways for them to implement their vision and direction in a local, incarnational outworking of mission.

Scripture:

  1. Luke 4. The cry of Jesus is the cry of the prophet: loose chains, free the oppressed, give sight to the blind, proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
  2. Matthew 25. The passage of the sheep and the goats is a constant reminder for prophets to make sure that both they and the church are faithful to this pronouncement from Jesus.
  3. Acts 10. This is an interesting passage, and the more I read it, the more I’m convinced that Cornelius is a prophet. Why? We know three things about him: he was a soldier, he cared for the poor, he prayed everyday. The last two items in this list are so important that they are listed twice, once from the the narrator and once from an angel of God. These two characteristics are defining traits of a prophet.

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Want to read the whole series? Here’s what’s been published so far:

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Justin Hiebert

Leadership Catalyst - Entrepreneur - Coach at JSHiebert Leadership Coaching
I am a Business and Life Coach in both non-profit and for profit settings. I coach leaders, executives, and pastors in areas of vision, clarity, and values. In relationship coaching I focus on healthy and sustainable relationships, and in leadership development roles I catalyze change for individuals and groups to thrive. I also consult churches and organizations on how to train new leaders and create a healthy culture. In addition to that, I am an Anabaptist pastor in the Denver metro area. I specialize on topics that include: missional theology, discipleship, culture and the church in today’s society. I am married to my wonderful wife Elise and we have three kids. I grew up and now work in the United States Mennonite Brethren Church (USMB) and love the people and history of the Mennonite Brethren faith. I am a graduate of Tabor College with a dual degree in Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership, a graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary with a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctoral Student and Bethel Seminary. I also teach college classes in areas of Bible, Communication, and Business.

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  • Thanks for the series, Justin. The work of the Holy Spirit is powerful in the lives of prophets and the future seems to be a part. John 16:13 and 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 are good reminders of this. The prophets in the Old Testament are bold in their confrontations. Does this carry over to New Testament prophets?

    • Dave, thanks for your contributions and thoughts, a few quick thoughts:

      1) To your last question: yes, I think this means that (sometimes) prophets needs to be bold in their confrontations. Whenever they see injustice occurring, a prophet will be bold in proclaiming that it stop.

      2) The two passages that you raise are interesting ones, and certainly deserve more space than I have here, perhaps some a good topic for the next time we are together, but my quick thoughts. On the John passage, I suppose the first question that needs to be asked is: was Jesus speaking to every follower for all time or to his disciples at that moment in time (meaning that post-resurrection giving of the Spirit they would be enlightened as to what to do next)? I’m inclined to read it in the latter sense, he seems to be addressing them specifically in the larger section, and not everyone for all time. The passage from 1 Thessalonians shows perhaps the some of the frustration in language translation. It just as likely (and appears in certain translations) to read that passage as, “Do not despise the words of the prophets.” If they are truth-tellers (primarily), then what we may see is that the early church struggled with the call to look outside it’s walls/groups, and to continue to evangelize and live justly, which has loads of implications for today’s church (and prophets).

      Anyway, my thoughts however briefly. Thanks for contributing and hope to hear more of your thoughts.

      • It would be great to have some more discussion on this. The experience of the believers in Samaria (Acts 8) is one that has me thinking as of late. Another is Agabus in the book of Acts, who is a striking example of future-telling. Are you headed to conference in California?

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