Joining us for another week, our Guest Blogger, Tim Catchim, completes his exploration of the character, function and nature of prophets in the second part of The Prophetic Ministry. You can read part one here and you can follow the whole APEST series by checking out the Teacher, the Shepherd and the Evangelist.
Today, let's look at four types of Prophet:
Because prophets are God-centered, they are the primal theologians. Kevin VanHoozer while in his own mind he is describing the modern-day theologian, in his book The Drama of Doctrine, he unknowingly describes the prophetic vocation when he casts the role of the theologian as dramaturge.
“No model better approximates the theologian, however, than that of the dramaturge, whose task is to study the play script and prepare it for performances that truthfully realize its truth. Dramaturgy approximates both the nature of theology’s subject matter (the speech and action of God) and theology’s function (interpreting and performing a script/Scripture). The theologian as dramaturge is the artistic and, more important, the theological conscience of the church, whose main job is to keep asking not only “Why does God say and do that?” but “How can we fit into the theo-dramatic action?” The theologian is an advocate both of the script and of the performing company, with a dual responsibility to understand the play and to make it intelligible to a contemporary audience.”
The Auditor is kind of like a dramaturge, whose task is to study a script for a play or movie, and audit the performance of the script to ensure the intended meaning of the movie/theater script is accurately communicated. This includes the role of the actors, but also reaches into tone, posture, the back drop, the lighting, mood; all the elements of sensory perception. They are the ones who step in to the middle of a theatrical production and say “This is not what the author of this script intended to be conveyed in this scene.”
The Auditor is a good metaphor for prophets who primarily incorporate the criticizing with verbalizing aspects of prophetic ministry because they are the ones who feel passionate about making sure the Scriptures are lived out in ways that represent the heart of God. The Auditor, like the dramaturge, naturally detects when the church have gotten ‘off-script’ and feels obligated to call the church back to how the author originally intended the Scriptures to be lived out. The Auditor primarily uses speech and language to do this, but that form of communication can also include poetry, singing, preaching, teaching etc. A modern day Auditor would be people like Brian Zahnd or Stanley Hauerwas.
While every prophetic person is naturally aware of God’s presence, the Awakener has a way of making others aware of this presence in ways that energize and inspire. Their sensitivity to God’s presence and power leads them to see potential for God’s will to be fulfilled in almost every situation. The Awakener truly believes God is with us, and that he wants to break through into the present and show himself faithful. Their confidence in God’s presence and power, and their ability to arrange an encounter with this present and powerful God infuses people with hope and inspiration. It lifts people out of their self-referential cycles and points them to the possibilities of a new reality. A modern day Awakener would be someone like Francis Chan or Michael Frost.
The performer is perhaps the exception to the rule when it comes to the prophet’s somewhat “allergic reaction” to planning and strategy. John Chapman – otherwise known as Johnny Appleseed - is perhaps a good historical example of a prophetic figure in the West who had a ministry characterized by adamant convictions about God, the stewardship of creation, and justice for the poor and disadvantaged. He cleverly devised agricultural strategies to address the pressing needs of pioneering populations, while at the same time generating support for his wandering, nomadic lifestyle. His planting of apple orchards (and providing occasional tutorial’s on how to make hard apple cider) in areas soon to be settled in the westward expansion demonstrate a unique combination of prophetic intelligence and pragmatic implementation. Despite the folklore surrounding his life “Johnny Appleseed” is an iconic prophetic performer who took his vision of an alternative reality and demonstrated that vision in practical ways that brought vitality and sustenance to families and settlements across the Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois regions.
Needless to say, you don’t have to be into agriculture to function prophetically. The point here is that some prophetic people channel their prophetic sensibilities in more entrepreneurial ways. Out of all the prophetic types, this is the one most likely to initiate efforts of closing the gap in practical ways. They are restless till they see a visual representation of God’s will in the present, and their more entrepreneurial capacities allow them the ability to lead and create significant momentum of ‘closing the gap.’
This kind of prophetic ministry is potentially energizing because it provides the church with a tangible, visual illustration of God’s presence and activity “among us.” The Performer demonstrates that God can, and is, breaking in and radically altering the present state of reality. Their lives and ministry reinforce our faith that another world is possible, that the present order of things is not hopelessly irreversible. That God is present, and accessible to the world, if we will only allow Him to work through us. The Performers recognize the gap, but their distinct contribution is that they actively “stand in the gap” as visual displays of what it can look like for the church to “incarnate” God’s values in a particular context. Modern day Performers would be people like John Perkins, founder of CCDA.
The lives and ministry of the prophet/performer reinforce our faith that another world is possible, that the present order of things is not hopelessly irreversible, that God is present and accessible to the world. Click To Tweet
*For an interesting look into the life of John “Appleseed” Chapman, see Robert Price, Johnny Appleseed: Man & Myth
When criticizing and visualizing come together a unique prophetic function emerges that we describe as The Protestor. Unlike their more vocal counterpart, The Auditor, the protestor uses symbolic actions to critique the present order of things. We see this clearly modeled for us in Jesus’ ministry on multiple occasions; specifically his pattern of healing people (1) on the Sabbath, (2) in front of the Pharisees, and (3) during synagogue gatherings. Jesus cared deeply for those he healed, but his prophetic impulse led him to heal people in ways that confronted the absurdity of tradition within the current religious system. Protestors call attention to the gap, but they do it by subversive actions that call into question the current scenarios. They are the provocateurs who devise clever, sometimes perplexing ways of turning the spotlight towards the darker areas of the world.
By providing an alternative point of reference, a visible deviation from the norm, they challenge our imaginations and question the legitimacy of the status quo. This is, in part, why some prophets can have a bohemian, socially deviant look about them. They opt out of the mainstream and subvert the dominant culture through visible protests, whether it be fashion, eccentric lifestyles, or just plain eccentric behavior. Refusal to “buy in” to the dominant culture helps them stay connected to an alternative outlook on life but it also shows up as a form of protest. Granted, not all Protestors dress like John the Baptist, but they do re-arrange external facets of reality in order to disrupt and dissent those realities. Modern day Protestors would be people like Shane Claiborne.
Hopefully, this has given us a wider view of what prophetic ministry can look like. We desperately need space for the gift to function in the body of Christ today. Do you know any Auditors, Awakeners, Performers, or Protestors? If so, share this post with them.