Reality. Grief. Hope. These are the three tasks of a prophet, according to Walter Brueggemann.
Naming reality and exposing myths that we use to disguise reality is the first task. It is often a thankless task, rejected by those who hear it. Usually faced with denial, the prophet needs to look for new and creative ways to break through our perception of reality to see truth.
Grief is next, in which we grieve losing our romanticized version of reality in order to grasp the reality that we actually have. Grief is the antidote to denial. Grief slows us down and reminds us to respond to the “who” before we respond to the “why.” It challenges our impulse to hurry up and “fix things” by being realistic about our humanity, disappointment and loss.
But then comes hope. An alternative consciousness is presented with new forms of faithfulness and vitality. The prophetic task, Brueggemann reminds us, is to “declare and enact hope for a buoyant future that is securely in the purview of God” (Brueggemann, Reality, Grief, Hope, p. 101).
Last week, I was privileged to attend the Global Alliance for Church Multiplication conference, in which 100+ church-planting organizations from around the world gathered to look at the state of the church and where it is going.
There is a need for a reality check. The Global Church continues to undergo difficult times in a changing world. There must be a paradigm shift in the way we see the church – moving from the building to the people. Moving from the church having one parish (where the building is) to having many parishes (where the people of God are). Moving from a professional pastorate to the priesthood of all believers.
There is a need for grief. There is a need for lament. There is a need to slow down. To remember the who and not just focus on the why. There are hidden people groups in our cities and towns, in our workplaces, who need to see Christians live out their faith through fulfilling the Great Commitment (Genesis 1:28 and 2:15), the Great Commandment, and the Great Commission. We need to grieve the missed opportunities in those places over the years. We need to grieve our lack of focus on the restoration through Jesus of our broken relationship with work and creation.
And then there is hope. Hope that the church continues to be the bride of Christ. Hope that God is in control, and that there are many good people doing many good things in many good places. There are new opportunities for faithfulness. There is vitality coming in shapes and forms that show new creativity and innovation.
Discipling Marketplace Leaders takes a tiny role in offering a piece of reality, grief and hope for the global church. It’s not a word that is always welcome or well-received. It’s not a word that offers a quick fix or move to action. It is a word that needs to pause with some grief and refocus.
But we are seeing and hearing more organizations saying “Yes” and “Amen” and for that we give thanks to God.
And for those of you who continue to support and encourage this work, we thank you as well!