We all have a sphere of influence. As Christians we each have the ability to bring a Christ-like influence to wherever God has placed us. One helpful way to reflect on this is to use the framework of the fivefold ministries in Ephesians 4.
Each of the fivefold roles has the potential to shape culture in a unique way, whether that is the culture of our household, our church, our team or our workplace. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers all have a particular way of inspiring and challenging the people around them. Each of the five roles has the potential to build a special type of intelligence, consciousness and ethic in whatever group they are part of. If we are at all interested in the church’s ability to become healthy, united and mature; if we long to see our neighbourhoods impacted for the kingdom, then we would do well to consider how best to release this culture-shaping potential.
So how do fivefold prophets shape culture?
I love working with prophets and helping them navigate a path towards a mature, Jesus-shaped expression of the role. There is so much potential for good contained within this particular aspect of the fivefold ministry. But far too many churches have struggled with their prophets over the years and failed to welcome their influence. And let’s be honest – prophets don’t always have a great reputation for being easy to work with. Their tendencies to
• see everything in black and white,
• call out sin and compromise when they see it,
• love the prayer closet more than the party,
• question everything,
• and be a little weird at times
…don’t win them many popularity contests.
But we really need them. Prophets bring something unique and vital to the church and the world, something we can’t get anywhere else. We need their wisdom, experience, unique perspective and their passion.
In considering how mature prophets shape the culture around them, we can look at two areas of life:
Church – There is much more to being a prophet than just bringing prophecies. Mature prophets are very good at shaping the culture of the church by:
• Keeping everyone’s attention on God.
• Helping to maintain the spiritual health of the body.
• Speaking covenant identity into people’s lives.
• Strengthening a culture of worship and prayer.
• Developing a growing community awareness of God’s presence and voice.
• Listening to God on behalf of the community so that we can all keep aligned with God’s heart and purposes.
• Making sure that the downtrodden are protected.
• Protecting the community from encroaching evil.
• Cultivating an alternative consciousness.
• Preparing the church for what God is about to do.
Most of us will know individuals in our local churches who are passionate about prayer and worship, those who are most likely to bring the subject of a conversation back to God, those who have a tendency to challenge a lack of holy desire for more of God. It’s these people who are likely to be fivefold prophets, even if they would not describe themselves as such, and we need to be welcoming their influence.
Workplace – Prophetic consciousness and influence are equally relevant in the corporate world as they are in the church, and understanding how the prophetic function contributes to the health and productivity of the non-church organisation will enable us to properly support our fivefold prophets in their place of work.
Mature prophets will shape the culture of any workplace by:
• Prioritising values and integrity, ensuring that things are done right and in line with the vision of the organisation.
• Questioning policy and decisions when they become self-protective or oppressive.
• Bringing strategic and critical insight that enables people to understand their current reality.
• Being creative, forward-looking visionaries, pointing people to future possibilities.
• Questioning the status quo in a way that enables the organisation to reform, grow and develop.
• Advocating for the less-heard and marginalised members of the organisation.
• Standing up for truth and justice.
Many of us will know people in our workplaces who are prepared to speak truth to power and bring necessary critique, who provoke for change when it is needed, and who are able to bring creative solutions to problems. This is the prophetic wiring being expressed.
Mature prophets shape the culture around them, both inside and outside the church. We can watch how they provide vision, nurture hope, bring discernment, and prioritise authentic spirituality to create a culture that is ethical, radical and prefigurative.
The next step is to work out the how: how to enable our prophets to do this well. That’s what we’ll look at in the next blog.