The Prophetic Church

If I had to sum up the one thing I have been sensing from God over the last

8 weeks it would be that the prophetic identity of the church must increase.

I have been feeling this with a growing intensity so I share it here for

your reflection.

To clarify, by ‘prophetic identity’ I don’t mean the giving and receiving of

prophecy but I am referring to the need for the church to be both able to

reflect on its own nature as well as the nature of the society of which it

is a part.

I am increasingly convinced that our ‘missional’ voice is tied to our

prophetic voice and if we can’t live significantly different lives and

reflect the kingdom in the things we do, then chances are people will not be

the least bit interested in our words. By the same token part of the

church’s role in society is to critique the ways we seek meaning and

fulfillment and to boldly point people back to Jesus – knowing that many

will still regard this as folly.

This quote from Segunda has resonated deeply with me over the last few


“We believe it is appropriate to the religious life to call into question or

even protest against church and society; against the church to the extent

that it is decadent or ambiguous, or has lost its radical dynamism; against

society to the extent that it has become dehumanized or dechristianised and

thus the source of oppression and injustice” p.82 Following Jesus

Newbiggin has said that the ‘church is the hermeneutic of the gospel’, or in

laymans terms ‘the way the local church expresses itself communicates

clearly the nature of our gospel’.

I find that at times my life seems to look like nothing more than a

religious version of ordinary suburban existence as I fall into line with

everyone else, but I desire much more than this.

Our Upstream Communities identity was birthed in the midst of studying the

sermon on the mount, one of the most confronting and disturbing parts of

scripture you will ever read. It continues to challenge and inspire me to

live differently even if I do it somewhat poorly at times. My mate Jarrod

Mckenna reminds me that these are not a collection of ‘ideals’ that Jesus

presents here, but that they are his instructions for how we are to live. He

wants us to read it and do it…

I don’t think it would be any trouble to invert the beatitudes and observe

much of contemporary western culture – yet our challenge is to somehow live

in them and call others both within and outside the church to embrace them


I find this concept of being ‘prophetic’ disturbing because it involves

critiquing and disturbing both within and without, a practice that rarely

makes you lots of friends. I have done a fair bit of critique over the last

few years as we have asked questions of mission and church, but I don’t feel

that time has come to an end. In fact if anything I feel it stirring

strongly again.

If the church has a healthy future then I believe that reclaiming its

prophetic voice is an important step.

4 thoughts on “The Prophetic Church

  1. I totally agree with you Hamo.

    i think the church needs to be more prophetic the same way Leunig and Orwell are prophetic. I feel that these two ‘non-Christians’ do a better job than some of the ‘Christian’ prophets I’ve heard.

  2. Hamo,

    great thoughts my friend. really got me thinking. I sure wish i could chat with you over some coffee about this. I think you’re onto something here and would love to hear how you see this playing out.


  3. G’day Waz – I am guessing this is Alison’s bro?

    As far as practical examples go I guess I would like to see us as churches explore the stuff Jesus teaches in the sermon on the mount as practice rather than ideals.

    Eg choosing to intentionally live more simply – buying a smaller house and giving the remainder to someone who has no house at all

    – sharing our homes with those in need

    – pursuing reconciliation at every turn rather than allowing relationshuips to fail

    – not buying the toys we are told we have to have

    I guess I could go on and on, but we only need to see wherer society is sick and then respond as need be.

    As far as within the church goes I believe there is much need for a prophetic voice also to remind us of when we get caught up in the pursuit of the wrong things eg big auditoriums, corporate mindsets etc

    I don’t claim to be a prophet or to be nailing all this stuff myself, but I do believe that if we want to challenge people then we need to live differently.

    To abstain from alcohol for the reasons mentioned in the post above would also be a powerful prophetic statement.

    Does that make sense?

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