It’s not lost on anyone that the Western Church is in a state of upheaval right now with the spread of the novel coronavirus. People are losing their jobs, bills are piling up, church buildings remain empty and church finances are already beginning to creak.
Largely, the church’s response has been to pause all in-person programming and quickly innovate through taking everything online, using tools like Facebook Live, Zoom rooms, livestreaming and a whole host of other digital options.
In the last few weeks, along with some friends of mine across various organizations, we’ve been able to cobble together a network of coaches around the country and have started dozens of temporary coaching groups to help them create a custom church response plan; to date, more than 800 churches are in an ongoing group.
What’s become glaringly clear to most everyone is churches were largely unprepared for such an immediate shift. Most churches struggled (and many continue to struggle) to move online. Many small group leaders have no idea how to lead the people entrusted to their care. Many pastors and church leaders are realizing how so much of their church expression was based on the two “Big P’s” of Western Church life: Personalities and Programming.
So what happens when you largely unplug access to those two things in the way we’re accustomed to?
My friend Rob Wegner has a really interesting metaphor for this. He says what’s happened is akin to a string of old-school Christmas lights. When you pull just one bulb out, the whole thing goes dark. There’s been a centralization to our church expression that relies so heavily on Personalities and Programming that many churches are reeling as a result. Do the people of God know how to be the church and not simply go to church?
In the midst of this, a number of prophetic voices have been stepping up (and quite loudly so) with a kind of “I told you so” message and tone.
And it’s this response that’s been troubling to me.
Right now, the Western Church is under tremendous pressure, not unlike a thirteen year old who was playing with firecrackers and blew his hand off. The most important thing for a parent to do is to get the bleeding under control and make sure the child doesn’t go into catatonic shock and bleed out. They need to calm down the terror the child is feeling and get them to the hospital as quickly as possible.
In this scenario, the worst thing the parent could do is decide to focus their energy on saying things like, “See! I told you so! I told you not to play with firecrackers! What were you thinking?!”
The rightness or wrongness of where the church finds itself at this exact moment in time is beside the point. We have to triage the place we find ourselves in and care for those right in front of us.
What this highlights is a shift that prophetic voices need to make in this current climate. (And a shift that many are having a hard time making.)
I was talking about this shift with a close pastor friend of mine and member of the Catapult team, Andy Graham, who himself is deeply prophetic. I thought he made a really astute observation about the prophetic voice:
“In a time of plenty, the prophetic voice should bring challenge. But in a time of great crisis, the prophetic voice should bring great hope for the future.”
What I’m hearing is a great lack of those prophetic voices bringing hope for the future. We need prophetic voices more than ever, but we need them to shift to the moment we find ourselves in.
There are prophetic voices we need more of right now, and prophetic voices we need far less of. The thing I’ve been reflecting on, praying through in my own life and leadership and having discussions with quite a few leaders about is that clarion call of hope right now. It isn’t that we won’t have a different conversation in one month, three months or whenever it’s the wise time to do so. In the same way that eventually that parent will have a conversation about playing with firecrackers.
But when surrounded in darkness, we need to point to that glimmer of light and say, “There. That light? That one flicker? More of that is coming.”
Why? For “that light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.”
Hi! I appreciate what you wrote here. I think the challenge for many prophetic voices is that there are often marginalized & not welcomed in our churches especially when our churches look as if things are going well because of personality & programming. It is no surprise that some may have the attitude of I told you so. Not helpful but they do need to be welcomed back to the church. I get that we are in triage at the moment but there does need to be healing between Ape & pastoral leaders at some point. I don’t think your critique is completely fair of the prophet. Yet I get that we all need to move in love with our gifts. I believe that this is a tremendous opportunity to get back to a more Biblical expression of church & to welcome many into the Kingdom who don’t know Jesus. To get there is going to require a great deal of dying to ourselves, humility, repentance, courage, & new wineskins (forgotten ways really). To get there we need to create environments where all gifts are welcome to function including the prophet. We need them now more then ever and we truly need to welcome them & listen.
The very mark of a prophetic voice is to accurately relay The Word of The Lord without compromising the accuracy, integrity, essence, tone, or intention of that Message. There is no room for people-pleasing or message changing in true prophetic ministry. This simple truth precludes a true prophetic voice from having any say whatsoever about the content involved in much the same way that a postman has no say whatsoever as to the content of the mail he delivers.
What is being addressed here as prophetic is, and only can be, something other than God Inspired prophetic ministry. Such messages originate in the imaginations, passions, ambitions, and prides of those involved. Far too often there is a strong demonic presence involved as well. Clearly, God is not, and never will be, okay with anyone ‘adjusting’ His Message…
Those who are themselves in error will only add falsehood to error with every attempt to engage in prophetic ministry. Purity precedes prophecy people..
Spiritual Maturity with discernment does as well…
And True Christian Humility must also be present…
Please forgive me for pointing this out so bluntly, but those involved need to check their doctrines, theology, and practices..
This is an excellent & timely summation, Doug ~ thanks for being an encouraging prophetic voice in this time!
What this highlights is a shift that prophetic voices need to make in this current climate. (And a shift that many are having a hard time making.)
How do you “shift” what God is speaking through you? What if Jeremiah, Isaiah, Paul in Revelation, All the major and minor prophets “shifted” to please man instead of God?
I agree up to a point. I certainly agree that, “I told you so,” isn’t helpful. But it seems that there is a need for the prophetic also to highlight the warning as well as the hope. If people cannot discern that they are in danger, they are not going to be disposed to an offer of help. The Old Testament prophets by and large issued warnings of the impending peril for persistent sin and disobedience, with the judgement that was likely to fall, as well as the hope of forgiveness and healing if there was repentance. The hope of full restoration downstream was usually a distant one for future generations. The judgement we are currently facing has to be diagnosed for people to understand and that is a prophetic role; and historically not a popular one either.
You are right on brother! I agree. keep our folks calm and give the word of hope and grace.
Thanks for this exceptional article giving direction to those of us who have a prophetic voice.
It is sad, but has to be said that for far too long, far too many church leaders and the Body of Christ, have refused to listen to the prophets bringing hope. Unfortunately, the Church of England has been guilty of this on far too many occasions, and also ‘stolen’ the prophetic words, and then sought to take the glory for the prophetic word. God has given so many churches with a small ‘c’ long enough to repent and ask for his forgiveness. Sadly, far too many ignored what God was saying through the prophets. The good news, and hope, is that now God is releasing finally the CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST & the ‘CHURCH WITHOUT WALLS’.
My prayer is “Forgive them lord for they know not what they do”.
The church cannot blame God any longer for shutting down the church buildings, but to draw wisdom and hope in how they can now take the walls of the church down and be where Jesus has always wanted his church to be.
God has spoken prophetically in the last 3 weeks through Ezekiel Chapters 5-7. Sadly the Holy Spirit has walked on past far too many churches that He did not recognise as a Church of Jesus Christ.
There has been as much sin and self seeking going on inside the walls of the church, far too much focus on money, greed, idolatry, sexual immorality, gay pastors, gay bishops etc’. God has been very angry with the church, and so his wrath and judgement is now being poured out. But, many prophets have been telling leaders and churches about this for a very long time, me included, yet our voices were ignored. Enough said I think. The truth hurts, but it sets us free.
Leaders are now having to learn a whole new way of doing Church, but they now need to look to Jesus who said “I did not say you would build my church, nor did I say I will build your church, but what I said was I would build my Church and the Gates of Hades will not prevail”.
If leaders had sought the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and allowed Jesus as their teacher to show them how he wanted His Church to be, then leaders would not have a problem in now how to do church. It is not rocket science. The Model of the Church has been around for over 2,000 years now. It is called The Church of Jesus Christ. Jesus never had a problem doing ‘CHURCH’, so why is the church now struggling to do Church outside of the church walls. The answer prophetically is that flesh and blood has failed to learn from the greatest teacher of how church should be done.
God is now speaking through Ezekiel Chapters 5-7 and 2 Chronicles 7:14 to the church and every leader of every church across the nations “REPENT AND ASK FOR FORGIVENESS”. This needs to be done whilst there is time before the Tribulation, the Rapture and Armageddon, but all this is prophesied in the Bible, especially through His Prophets.
But build His Church He will.
Your article is so incredibly vague as to be worthless. What is a voice that is saying, “I told you so?” What I’m hearing is a lot of people in the church lifting up the hope of Christ. I’ve heard some doctors, nurses, government officials say the Federal government dropped the ball and basically has provided a complete lack of leadership. I can’t say I disagree with that…looks like the facts point that way pretty clearly. Are you trying to protect an inept leader or are you interested in lifting up Jesus in this time of crisis? I don’t know because you were to afraid to write it out clearly. I’m not sure why. I’m keeping my mouth shut about Trump but not Jesus. Next time just say what you mean.
Quite so. There is great hope and excitement for what God is doing and going to do through this period. Thank you for sharing.
this image could be the exhilarating! https://thoughtbeauty.com/johnny-cash-top-60-quotes/
I second the message. I find it very helpful for sure
I see SO many “points of light” as you say. Families are getting re-acquainted with each other. I predict a Corona baby “boomlet” by the end of the year! Churches, get your nurseries ready! Parents are embracing their roles of parent, teacher and discipler of their children. With so many churches going on line for the first time, those “faithful few” worship attenders now number well into the hundreds as sermons are listened to as never before. Through the blessing of Zoom, our average Sunday School class of 8 faithful attenders now has 25 tuning in each week. My mid-week Bible study with faculty/staff at the local community college (now closed) has expanded with more people and now we no longer have to end in “45 minutes max!” People are looking for answers to life’s big questions–“Will I die if I get the Corona virus? Am I prepared to die? Is my family? Is my job the most important thing to me? What about quality of life? What about my work/life balance? Have I put too much of myself in my work and neglected my family as a result?” All of these are excellent questions and lead to very natural and welcomed spiritual conversations! MANY people are making professions of faith as a result these days!
I appreciate these words as a Pastor! Thinking outside the box in times such as these to bring messages of hope is so important for all , . . both clergy and laity!
Thank you for reminding me of that LIGHT. . . AND that’s its going to get brighter!
Over the years,I’ve seen and heard how churches are now failing because the senior staff didn’t know how to hand the ministry off to the younger generation, who has the creativity and the know how to carry the Gospel into their generation!
The fly in the ointment of this message is the assumption that a genuinely prophetic voice — presumably a Judeo-Christian voice — must be “bringing hope for the future.”
The truth and reality is that there IS NO NOPE for the future in this life on this planet. COVID-19 is a walk in the park for what’s already unfolding in the 6th Mass Extinction we’ve brought upon ourselves. This is NOT tinfoil-hat conspiracism — we have now reached a 99.999 … % scientific consensus on the truth and reality of the climate and ecosystems crises we’re in, and we’ve already passed the 1.5C threshold the UN’s IPCC set as a 2030 target for net-zero carbon emissions — a decade too soon. Meanwhile, governments and corporations worldwide have turned blind eyes and deaf ears to that truth and reality.
When ‘the church’ has ears to hear and eyes to see the truth and reality of THAT prophetic message, then perhaps the church will awaken from the dogmatic comatose slumbers of our churchianity to lead ourselves and a lost world to the only genuine hope to be found — in following Jesus through this life and into the next.
The task of the prophet is firstly to call God’s people to attention on where they are not obedient to God’s Word. The second is to ensure society as a whole understands God’s requirements of them. The third is to bring hope in dark days; days of despair or discouragement for whatever reason despair and discouragement have arisen. In the West, we are missing the authentic voice of the prophet.