Gary Burge – Do Evangelicals Have Room for Prophets?

Gary Burge

This is an important topic for today’s evangelicalism. here are a few quotes from Dr. Gary Burge‘s article in Christianity Today:

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We need risk-takers. Sometimes they’re called prophets.

It seems most organizations have a variety of leaders who serve somewhere along a continuum between what I call “custodians” and “prophets.”

Let’s be clear: Prophets can be annoying. They look at the status quo and wonder why it can’t be different. They are impatient for change and are driven by a vision for something better, something clearer, than the rest of us normally see. Perhaps like the biblical prophets, they are driven by a vision for justice or compassion or righteousness that compels them to take risks in order to sound the alarm or heighten the community’s consciousness. They like change. And they work even subversively in order to enact it. Some of our greatest social reformers—Wilberforce, say, or King—were prophets. The same is true within the church. In their day Luther and Wesley were nothing less than prophetic.

Prophets at the extreme end of the continuum can be unhelpful, even destructive. Custodians at the other extreme will easily fossilize an organization. Healthy organizations need both. They need the stability, restraint, and caution of the custodians, as well as the vision, risk-taking, and energy of the prophets.

However, when prophets and custodians work within the same organization, they have to figure out how to forge a constructive, helpful relationship.

Prophets, on the other hand, push. They make proclamations. And quite often they are right. But quite often the vessel they sail in cannot handle how they’d like the boat to change course. Custodians need to avoid silencing their prophets. Prophets need to keep from subverting their custodians.

Evangelicals are excellent institution builders. We can look back at our history and point to risk-takers and claim them in our heritage. And there have been moments when we have truly moved our society into better places, particularly in the past 20 years. But this is probably less common than we like to admit. We have tended to shy away from the prophetic voice for reasons I have never understood. It’s rare that we take risks that raise social concerns or justice issues or put our supporters in an uncomfortable place.

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Gary M. Burge is professor of New Testament at Wheaton College. He is the author of numerous books on the New Testament and the Middle East, and is a regular speaker at churches and conferences. Only his dean knows how he should be located on the custodial/prophetic continuum.

You may read HERE the entire article.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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