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
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
If the church has a healthy future then I believe that reclaiming its
prophetic voice is an important step.