Dale Stephens is a former missionary with Chi Alpha for 13 years (9 in Atlanta, GA) and currently serves as Pastor of Riverside Church in NW Atlanta. He and Andrea have three daughters, two goddaughters, and a dog.
I was torn with emotions of awe and frustration as I watched Macklemore perform the closing song at the MTV Awards a few years ago. I was in awe as I watched him declare a passionate appeal of a prophetic type. He proclaimed in front of a large audience what he believes to be true, while also preaching a kind of vision of tomorrow for the world to believe in. For me, it was reminiscent of Martin Luther King Jr’s. “I Have A Dream” speech. I was torn with frustration as I empathetically knew he is proclaiming what millions resonated with, yet it was far from true peace and harmony. I couldn’t help but wonder who are the prophetic voices of the American church today for a Biblical vision of tomorrow. Was MLK an anomaly -- a once in a lifetime voice? Is God still prophetically proclaiming a gospel message for us all?
I was taught in my undergrad that prophecy operates in two possible definitions:
1. Forth-telling: proclamation of truth
2. Fore-telling: proclamation of future events
For many of us, the term “prophecy” or “prophet” transports our minds to Old Testament passages. We unknowingly take a dispensational stance toward the terms. We mostly consider them for the ancient world. Prophets were those crazy types that seemingly ended with John the Baptist or Jesus. Prophets were the standouts who spoke against current culture. They were outsiders and rebels who had a streak of non-conformity.
As a Pentecostal, there is a place for prophecy in our movement today. We acknowledge that God can use men and women to speak both fore-telling and forth-telling. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul seems to gives a prioritization for prophecy. In the early days of the Pentecostal American experience, there was a strong emphasis on prophetic utterances. I have even seen a couple of prophets in my time. They too had a flare of “uniqueness”.
The prophets and prophecy I have experienced have generally spoken to either individuals or churches. I wonder, why do we stop there?
From Urgency to Emergency
While in college, I worked at Bradley Memorial Hospital in the ER. In the ER, patients had to be identified as urgent or emergent. The label of “urgent” dictated the speed and effort by which a patient was received. “Emergent” received the highest level of effort, speediness, and care. As ministers, we have to see our world as emergent. Our communities and the individuals within, need life holistically today, tomorrow, and metaphysically.
We live in a world of tension.
We are progressing in our local society in many ways along racial needs. We see greater numbers of diversity all around us. Our country has progressed from recognizing individual human dignity to having key roles in government and society. Yet, entrenching along racial lines is happening. There are systemic and situational problems happening across our country. These are acts of injustice. As Christian Leaders, we have a responsibility to stand for justice. What will you do?
The situation is emergent locally, nationally, and globally. We, as ministers, must proclaim prophetic truth. When I envision this kind of proclamation, I am envisioning modern day Moses, Isaiah, John, Jesus, and MLK. I picture men and women standing up for Biblically based truth, which will resonate and capture the world. I see pastors and missionaries leading the charge for the fullness of salvation rooted in eternal and earthly freedom.
I am talking about being standouts not for the sake of self identifying with John the Baptist, but the kind of radical obedient Christ followers who recognize the time is now. Today, we must proclaim the fore-telling Truths of Scripture. We shall proclaim this Truth with a promise of a better life, community, and eternity for us all. Reconciliation is about Salvation...that all men, women, and children be found in shalom with God and His people. Prophetically Preach Preacher!
In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the heart of Egypt, and a monument to the Lord at its border. It will be a sign and witness to the Lord Almighty in the land of Egypt. When they cry out to the Lord because of their oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and he will rescue them. So the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and in that day they will acknowledge the Lord. They will worship with sacrifices and grain offerings; they will make vows to the Lord and keep them. The Lord will strike Egypt with a plague; he will strike them and heal them. They will turn to the Lord, and he will respond to their pleas and heal them.
In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.”
Follow Dale @atldrev or contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.