Prophetic Ministry

On Monday, I had the opportunity to attend a one-day conference at The Methodist Theological Seminary in Ohio that was focused on how people of faith can engage in prophetic ministry through organizing and preaching for social justice.  This broad topic was explored in many different and helpful ways throughout the day, and all of these helped me to reimagine and stretch my ideas about what it means to be prophetic.  When the culture of the Church seems more often to value the status quo, middle-of-the-road, non-confrontational, privatized way of living out its faith, what does it mean to be prophetic? 

There is no one way to answer this question, but a story shared during the conference helped me see one important way of thinking about how to answer this question.  One of the activist-scholars was talking about how her own understanding of prophetic ministry has been shaped throughout her life, and she recalled a story from when she was in elementary school.  At this young age, she helped organize her fellow students to protest the proposed name change that would honor a white male for the predominantly Black school.  She recounted the way they organized and protested and walked-out of the school to show their disapproval.  For myself sitting there listening it was very inspiring to think about elementary students being so engaged in the world around them and joining together for things they cared deeply about. 

The point of her story and the point that has stuck with me, however, was that after all of this, they still changed the name of the school.  The end of this inspiring story was not a celebration or victory in any sense that I was expecting.  The point she wanted to get across was that if our attempts at prophetic ministry and activism are dependent on results, they miss the heart of what it means to be prophetic.  If a “defeat” on this or that specific agenda item means we go home and stop engaging, we have missed the mark on being prophetic.  For that matter, if a “victory” on this or that issue means we go home and stop engaging, we have also missed the mark. 

Prophetic ministry is about embodying the faith and convictions we carry with us not as a way of marking something off a list, but because we can do no other and still be faithful to who God is creating us to be. 

How will you be prophetic this week?