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Ministers must be prophetic, Southern trustee chair insists

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Every Christian, especially those in the ministry, must be a prophet of God, Jerry Johnson said April 21 at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Rather than those who predict the future, the chairman of the Southern trustee board suggested as models the ministry of Old Testament prophets who told the truth about God’s will and man’s sinfulness. Johnson spoke in conjunction with the Louisville, Ky., seminary’s semiannual board meeting.
Noting three “essentials” for prophetic ministry, Johnson asserted, “We need to be ready to say something that is on the edge, maybe something that goes against the flow. … Ezekiel had that kind of ministry.”
The first “indispensable” characteristic of prophetic ministers are those who are captivated by a vision of God, Johnson said, noting God’s transcendence and his imminence are equally important parts in such a vision.
“Many of the church marketing gurus write about vision today. … But they’re talking about a vision for your strategy and your leadership style and your program,” he said. “Very few of them are writing about a vision of God and what that could do for our ministries.”
A proper vision of God will not be obscured by a focus on man, Johnson insisted.
“A lot of what masquerades as theology is merely anthropology. A lot of what masquerades as worship is merely group therapy. And if we’re going to be prophetic today, perhaps the most prophetic thing we could do is preach God-centered sermons and sing God-centered songs in our worship services,” he said.
Rather than agreeing with theologians who limit the knowledge, power and presence of God by suggesting “God does the best he can,” Johnson said a true vision of God’s omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence will help people who are dealing with catastrophes in their lives.
“We need to speak a prophetic word today to people who are hurting and in need — God is able!” Johnson declared.
Unlike some Old Testament prophets who received their vision directly from God, today’s ministers should turn to the Bible to discover God’s vision, Johnson said in noting the second essential of prophetic ministry.
“We live in a culture where truth is defined by just passing the microphone around on ‘Oprah’ and seeing what everyone thinks,” Johnson said. “To be prophetic today will mean that you stand up and say, ‘This is what God’s Word says.'”
He added, “Instead of pandering to the changing trends which rule this world,” the job of the prophet is to “proclaim the changeless truth of God’s Word.”
The third essential of prophetic ministry is characterized by the “hand of God,” Johnson said, noting the close connection between God’s hand and the movement of the Holy Spirit in Ezekiel’s ministry.
“He was a man seized by God, meaning he was absolutely controlled by God … he was anointed by God,” Johnson said.
Johnson told a story about British seminary students who decided to go hear two prominent preachers in 19th-century London, one named Joseph Parker and the other Charles Spurgeon. After listening to the sermon of the theatrical and eloquent Parker, Johnson said the students declared him to be a great preacher. But following Spurgeon’s sermon, later the same day, the seminarians’ response was, “God is a great God,” Johnson said.
“I want to have that kind of prophetic ministry,” he said. “I pray for every trustee, student and professor here that when people hear persons who have been connected with Southern Seminary, they will not say what a great preacher, a great singer, a great administrator, but they will say, ‘Our God is great,’ and worship him. That would be prophetic ministry, and I pray God would grant it to us all.”

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  • James A. Smith
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