Episode VI: Return of the Prophet

tribesBy Nathan Taylor, a student at Union Presbyterian Seminary.

The pastor’s position is eroding in the empire.  Churches are in decline and pastors aren’t the important person in a community they once were.  The world is changing and established denominations are trying to stop the arterial hemorrhaging.

Quick everybody scramble to save the empire and build a new and bigger Death Star!

That will save us!!!  We just need a new and bigger church, or a big event to save us!!!

Maybe the empire doesn’t need to be saved.

Maybe Jesus doesn’t need your church to exist.

Maybe your church is standing in the way of a new creation.

Maybe it is just you!

I was working at a church and as part of my sermon I took off my robe to recreate the illustration of the balance beam by Francis Chan.  Under the robe I was wearing a button up shirt and shorts so I could move.  The shorts didn’t sit well with some…

About a week later I was pulled into the office and told I need to start wearing pants.  I was baffled: were we really talking about shorts?

Jesus talks about this exact same thing.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” (Matthew 23:25, NRSV)

We are so concerned with keeping the status quo and keeping up appearances that we lose sight of the gospel.

The senior pastor did me the great honor of calling me a prophet but she informed me that prophets don’t get paychecks.

Not too long after, I was informed my position at the church was being eliminated due to a budget shortfall.

I should have seen it coming.

I am passionate about the gospel.  And the good news is freedom has no regard for the superficial and shallow status quo.

I think my pastor was right; I don’t fit into the box expected of parish ministers.  But maybe I should rejoice because all the data shows that the ship that the box is on is sinking.

Parish ministry is in serious decline.

Maybe what we need is the end of the religious elite priesthood, gatekeepers to faith.  Maybe the shrinking church is God moving.

Maybe its time for the return of prophets.

In the book Tribes, Seth Godin uses the terms leaders and managers.  Leaders work with tribes forming movements and change.  They do things that are worth talking about, things that are remarkable.  Managers work in factories and produce products.  “Leaders have followers, managers have employees.” (14)

I have worked for managers and I have worked for leaders.  Working for managers was focused on cutting costs but working for leaders was focused on the passion of what God was doing in that place.

So what is the future of spiritual leadership in post-Christendom where churches are shrinking?  I think it’s an incredibly bright future.  Just like Godin points out, the housing bubble bursting had different effects on realtors.  Some saw it as a terrible thing that happened to them.  Others saw it as an opportunity for change that pushed out some people who were in it for the wrong reasons.  Godin also points out that a smaller classroom means more attention for each student.

The rules are changing.  This isn’t the time to hold a wake. It’s time to embrace the endless possibilities coming!  This isn’t the death of the faith it’s an invitation to change.

The empire is crumbling but that doesn’t mean there isn’t opportunity to change for churches.  We can still change sides.  We can stand up for the prophets in our communities and stop doing the bidding of others.  You can redeem yourself Anakin.  You can help restore freedom and hope to the faith.  But it may require you to stand up against the emperor…or maybe even the big donors…

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