Unless you walk into a crisis that threatens the very life of the church, the wise prophet spends the first year getting acquainted, sensing the dynamics of the church family, identifying the movers and shakers and praying for the sanctified obstructionists. During that year, you make a list of the things that must be done, arrange those items in order of importance and turn the list into a daily prayer guide, asking God for His help. When the Lord directs you to deal with some critical matter in a sermon, you pray that you might “speak the truth in love’ (Eph. 4:15). It has well been said that truth without love is brutality and love without truth is hypocrisy, and we want to avoid both extremes.
It’s also important that we have accurate information about the matter and that the text we have selected really deals with the root of the problem. A friend of mine used to say, “The heart of every problem is the problem in the heart,” and only God can change the heart. Whether we are dealing with a problem in the church, the community or the country at large, we must know what we’re talking about and be able to apply God’s eternal truth as a solution.
The “prophetic message” should include the following elements.
Remind. When you read the sermons of the prophets, you find yourself taking a review course in Jewish history. From the addresses of Moses in Deuteronomy to the rebukes of Malachi in his brief book, the prophets reminded Israel where they came from, who they were and whose they were. In the epistles to the churches, the apostles followed a similar pattern and gave great emphasis to the theology of the church. When God’s people lose their identity and drift into religious amnesia, the lose their purpose and power in this world. Like Eutychus, they fall asleep in church, and it takes a life-imparting pastor to solve the problem (Acts 20:7-23). Duty must be based on doctrine and obligation on relvelation. Many saved people sitting in the congregation have no idea what a church really is and what God wants them to do as members. I recommend that every church plan an annual “anniversary Sunday” to help everybody catch up on the past. How soon people forget! A. T. Pierson said, “History is His story,” and it’s a story we must not ignore or forget.
Reveal. We move here from the past to the present and allow the light of the Word to shine on the people and program of the church. The preacher must not be a prosecuting attorney, but rather a loving witness to the grace of God adn the possibilities He has set before the church. The prominent pronouns are not “you” and “me” but “we” and “us,” for the minister is a part of the church body. We should deeply regret our failures, but we plan to do something about them! Unless the Spirit moves hearts, nothing will be accomplished.
Repent. The prophets often called Israel to repent, confess their sins and return to the Lord, and the church today needs to follow this example. I like the title of Vance Havner’s devotional commentary on the letters to the seven churches, Repent–or Else. It may help to schedule a “solemn assembly” when member individually and the congregation collectively can deal with their sins and seek the face of the Lord.
Remove. It’s one thing to admit our needs and quite something else to take steps to perform surgery. A worldly church member always closed his public prayers with, “And Lord, take the cobwebs out of my life.” One of the elders got tired of hearing this empty prayer, so one Sunday he called out, “And while you’re at it, Lord, kill the spider!” The godly kings of Israel destroyed the pagan altars and idols and turned their shrines into garbage dumps.
Renew. Jacob went back to Bethel and renewed his devotion to the Lord (Gen. 35), because our Father welcomes us when we turn from sin and return home. After we receive forgiveness for our sins, we must renew our personal devotional life and spend time daily meditating on the Word of God and praying to the God of the Word. New life comes into the church when individuals get right with God and one another. It’s not by starting new things that we receive this life but by asking the Spirit to breathe on the old things until they glow with life. Then we can pray about innovations and see the Lord work.
Rejoice. “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Ps. 85:6). A joyful congregation is a witness that Satan hates and attacks. The absence of joy is one of the first indications of unconfessed sin in our lives. “Let me hear joy and gladness,” prayed King David. “Restore to me the joy of your salvation” (Ps. 51:8, 12).
Jeremiah was a faithful servant whose prophetic ministry seems like a failure. For forty years he wept, prayed, preached, suffered, and was opposed and even attacked; yet he did not save the nation from invasion nor the temple from destruction. The apostate Jews dragged him down to Egypt where he died and was buried without honor or a monument on his grave.
Was it worth it all?
The answer is in Matthew 16:13-14. Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of man is?” They answered, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
Jeremiah! Can you think of a higher honor than to be compared with Jesus? Jeremiah never married, nor did Jesus. Jeremiah was a man of prayer and so was Jesus. Jeremiah wept openly and so did Jesus. Jeremiah lovingly proclaimed God’s Word and used many metaphors and pictures, and so did Jesus. Jeremiah was lied about, arrested illegally, imprisoned, abused and rejected, and so was Jesus. Jeremiah was faithful to finish his work, and so was Jesus!
Jesus can help us have a prophetic ministry, and we too can become more like Him.
(copyright 2009, Warren Wiersbe, all rights reserved, not to be reprinted)
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).