Culture Preaching the Church

We Need a New Generation of Prophetic Preachers – Evangelicals Now

This months column in Evangelicals Now

PRAYING FOR A NEW GENERATION OF PROPHETIC PREACHERS

‘Is there any word from the Lord?’ (Jer.37:17). When King Zedekiah made a private plea to an imprisoned Jeremiah, I suspect he was not looking for the answer he got: ‘Yes, you will be delivered into the hands of the king of Babylon.’ It takes courage to be a prophet.

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Jordan Peterson

Is there a prophetic ministry today? Whilst I accept that the church’s foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph.2:20) does not need to be relaid and that we do not have prophets delivering to us the new New Testament, is there no place for the prophetic within the church and to the society? The application of Biblical principles by such as ‘the men of Issachar who understood the times and knew what Israel should do’ (1 Chron.12:32) is surely something that is directly relevant and needed today.

Men like Francis Schaeffer and C. S. Lewis had a prophetic ministry, as does Os Guinness. C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength was prescient in seeing how the regression of modern society would go. Melvin Tinker, who has recently gone to glory, used the title and message of Lewis’s book to issue a clarion call to the church. Tinker’s That Hideous Strength: a deeper look at how the West was lost is one of the few books that I believe should be on every church bookstall and in every Christian’s home. Those of us who don’t have the time or ability to read Carl Trueman’s The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self will benefit enormously from reading Tinker’s short work.

Today we have church leaders who are more political than prophetic. They either reflect the political concerns of the day (on every side), or they just engage in a culture war which uses, but is not founded upon, Biblical Christianity.

The ‘prophets’ seem to be non-Christian. At least in terms of bold analysis. People like Doug Murray, Jordan Peterson (pictured), Lionel Shriver and Neil Oliver are not afraid to call out where society is going wrong. Although they do not really have the answer – because they do not (yet) have Christ. But where is the word from the Lord?

I was sent a couple of old pastoral letters by the Revd James Phillip (late of Holyrood Abbey Church of Scotland in Edinburgh). They are Schaefferesque in the brilliance of their analysis, and prophetic in their preparing the Lord’s people for what was to, and has now, come. Was anyone listening? One dated 4 April 1971* is especially brilliant in looking at the influence of the media and where it was going: ‘It is one of the huge and pathetic ironies of our time that, in an age which prides itself on its tolerance, permissiveness and freedom, men have hardly ever been less free than they are now, and certainly never less tolerant of any challenge to their way of life and never more bitterly resentful of any who resist them in the name of honesty and integrity.’

What such men are beginning to fear – and it is a fear that Christians should be particularly aware of – is that the minds of men are becoming manipulated and indoctrinated by powers that are alien to religion and morality, that hold truth and honour at a discount, and ruthlessly and unscrupulously devalue human dignity and human values in their bid to undermine and destroy the traditional standards of our country.

Phillip cites Lord Hailsham: ‘Our country is being destroyed before our eyes by a conspiracy of intellectuals without faith, delinquents without honour, muckrakers without charity or compassion, young men who are incapable of dreaming dreams and old men who have never known what it is to see visions’.

He goes on to point out that the all-pervasiveness of media (he was speaking before the age of the Internet) means that we get so used to swimming in the muck that there comes a point where we no longer notice.

‘This is the danger we are facing today. It will not grow less, but greater, as the days go by, unless the corruption of the media is challenged and set at nought. It is as well that we should see what is happening to us.’

He was right. But we don’t need prophets who look back – or who were right in the past. We need bold, courageous, compassionate men and women who understand the Bible, grasp the culture and know how to connect the dots. Thankfully there are some – but they are few and far between and rarely to be found in the upper echelons of the denominations, or on the platforms of the major Christian media (can’t upset the sponsors!). My prayer is that the Lord will not be silent, that he will not leave us to our own devices and that he will raise up a new generation of prophetic preachers like Melvin Tinker.

David Robertson is the Director of the ASK project in Sydney and blogs at http://www.theweeflea.com

* read the full text here: https://theweeflea.com/2020/12/06/a-prophetic-letter-the-church-and-the-media-rev-james-phili

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17 comments

  1. I also saw under the sun this example of wisdom that greatly impressed me:
    There was once a small city with only a few people in it. And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it and built huge siegeworks against it.
    Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom. But nobody remembered that poor man.
    So I said, “Wisdom is better than strength.” But the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are no longer heeded.
    The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.
    Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.
    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ecc+9%3A13-18&version=NIV

    Beware of “not invented here syndrome”:
    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Judges+8%3A1-21&version=NIV

  2. I have been a licensed Minister in the Church of England for 20 years this year and the Lord has been speaking to me about the events of the world and seeking him for a new beginning. The C of E will soon embrace 2 men “marrying” and be consumed by the world. I was in York Diocese when Melvin Tinker was protesting at York Minster about clergy “blessing” the Pride March – he was a voice calling in the wilderness.
    Yesterday I attended a service at an “Alive” church. The whole focus was on Christ and forming teams or Life groups to go out
    Into the world as salt and light. The teaching was from 1 Corinthians and looking only to Christ and not men.
    Maybe I have found the beginnings of change.
    Tricia

  3. Interesting (as always). Lord Hailsham’s-‘The Door Wherein I Went’-is a fabulous presentation of the case for faith (the first third of it, I think). It can be-‘a nice little biography’-to gift a sceptic. Is the lack of holiness in the institutional Church a terrible problem? Can ‘The Spirit of Truth’ (as a counter to those who ‘hate me without reason’) look or sound hollow, if evangelicals are at each others’ throats or in perpetual conflict with many others? Should kindness always be the first calling card of the evangelist?

  4. The Rev. Ian Stackhouse is lead pastor of a prominent Baptist church in Guildford. He has recently published a short collection of essays under the title, “In Praise of Dissent – Nonconformity in a Time of Covid”. The cover page contains a quotation by Lord Sumption, “The British public has not even begun to understand the seriousness of what is happening in our country. Many people will not care what happens until it is too late. They instinctively feel that the end justifies the means – the motto of every totalitarian regime which has ever existed”. I discovered Ian’s book after writing to him (I have known him in the past) expressing my concerns about the response to Covid, climate change hysteria and the rise of “woke” in all its forms, and why the churches, and specifically church leaders, appeared to have so little to say on these matters other than reflecting the cultural zeitgeist. This has been a matter of deep frustration to me. His response was a link to his book. It is quite short but well referenced. In the introduction he states, “After all, the mission of the church was never to gain political power but to act as a prophetic challenge to power.” He admits that his stance has not always been popular, but that he hopes that the book will stimulate questioning and discussion. I believe, in response to Davis’s article, that it is, at least, a start.

  5. Dear David, thanks for such a heartfelt rallying call. I agree. Do you not see yourself as such a man? Since I first read your brave stance in the Scottish newspapers standing up for the biblical standard of marriage I have been compelled to listen to you and discern whether you are a prophet of God or not. I think you are. I hope the rest of us remember to join in your prayer for more men and women to lay their lives down and pick up their cross for Christ as prophets, teachers and leaders who bring honour to God’s name, give Him the glory and acknowledge our powerlessness in His absence. May He bless you and strengthen you and give you and your family wisdom. Amen

  6. For a long time I have prayed, on a daily basis, that the Lord would have mercy on the UK, and forgive a Church that has, for decades, failed to be “a prophetic voice” to the nation – speaking with God-given authority: “Thus saith the LORD!” This is another timely article.
    May I also make reference to Rev. James Phillip (father, btw, of Rev Dr William Phillip of “The Tron” in Glasgow, and brother of Rev. George Phillip, formerly of Sandyford-Henderson CoS). When I was a (relatively) young minister in Edinburgh in the mid-70s, I would sometimes attend Holyrood Abbey in the evening. My lasting memory is of Mr Phillip pleading in public prayer. It was as if the roof of the building was removed, and we were all (well, me!) lifted up to the very throne-room of heaven. Blessèd memories, indeed.

    1. It is only now that I have noticed a typo! The word “pleading”, in the third last line, should be “leading”. Mind you, In Mr Phillip’s prayers there was, indeed, a lot of pleading at the throne of grace.

  7. I have been praying for this as well, David. It’s very interesting that you quote Lord Hailsham, as he has a connection with my town in Tennessee, and we had his portrait, until very recently, in the library I manage. The thing about prophetic voices in our age will be that they will not be known through the internet or social media, but, I believe, will be more like Isaiah’s words on the prophet John: voices in the wilderness. Their words will be heard, not by the masses, but by the small groups of seekers or individuals who are sensing all is not right with the world and looking for answers not found in the mainstream. I’m reading Live Not by Lies by Rob Dreher, and I highly recommend it for you. Keep preaching and speaking truth, David. Do not lose heart.

  8. It is so true that as Christians we get sucked into a subculture and fail to communicate with those around us because we do not understand the fundamental difference in their misunderstanding of truth and knowledge. Without that understanding we will never be able to communicate the gospel to a lost world speaking a different language, going in a different direction.
    The only hope for the world, the Church and for you is Jesus… but who is Jesus and how do you tell them so that they can hear? We must demonstrate the impossibility of their presuppositions that God does not exist or if he does, that he has not spoken. Indeed God does exist and he has spoken and that is what changes everything.

  9. Carol mentioned Isaiah 40 – the voice crying in the wilderness. But remember later in that well known chapter the prophet says, “You who bring good tidings to Zion go up on a high mountain ….. lift up your voice with a shout …. do not be afraid.” I understand that in the original Hebrew the word “You” is in the plural, or as the Americans would say, “Yous”. That is there are to be many voices. And the reason for the high mountain and shouting is that we need to be somewhere we may be heard. The issue these days is where to go so that our voice will be heard. A website like TCW Defending Freedom (socially conservative not political) is secular but quite open to Christianity (it has regular contributions by a high church vicar who, unlike many, is not a liberal). It has a large following, many of whom are not Christians. I am sure the editor might consider some articles on current social issues, but from a clear Christian perspective. This might get a wider audience than a specifically Christian blog. Any thoughts David?

  10. Absolutely spot on David. Increasingly relevant to our days & times.
    No coincidence that Chuck Cohen has just published an article covering some aspects of this in his “Watchman from Jerusalem” message as Intercessors for Israel where he identifies much of the problem in Western Evangelical Christianity, which is either disregarding or misinterpreting the prophetic Scriptures to fit their own agenda & understanding, very little (if any) being Biblical.
    IT IS WRITTEN AND SPOKEN BY OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST WHAT WOULD HAPPEN AS “THE TIMES OF THE GENTILES COMES TO AN END”!

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