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Prophets are misunderstood in America today. I don’t mean that what they say is confusing. I mean that our modern conception of what a prophet is and does fails to live up to the traditional definition of prophet as revealed in the Old Testament.

There are two dominant ideas about prophets today. The first sees prophets as mainly ‘future-tellers,’ mostly of scary things to come relating to Jesus. The second view prevalent today imagines prophets not as those concerned with the future, but rather ones ‘righteously indignant’ about social injustices abounding in the present.1

According to one contemporary theologian, neither of these diverging visions truly articulates the biblical conception of the prophetic role. Instead of acting as harbingers of end-times doom or conversely angry church politicos, Walter Brueggeman claims that the

[t]ask of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousess and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us.2

According to Israelite tradition, prophets were all about ‘evoking perceptions’ about reality. How did the prophets do this? In ancient Israel, they often used passionate words to convince the hearers about the way things ought to line up in God’s economy. Some prophets took action (in the case of Ezekiel very strange action) that metaphorically and tangibly conveyed an alternative perception of reality for all those who were witnesses to the prophet’s life and ministry.

If the above critique is true, who then are the ‘real’ prophets of our age? We could assume it is the religious pundits and preachers who purvey their visions of God’s reality before eager ears. This may be accurate in part. However, our world no longer deals exclusively in word-driven communication.

Technology has turned our society away from being a culture of words. Our world – now brimming with videos, sounds, pictures, computer screens, movies, the internet, and more – is not one of words alone, but of multi-media language.

I believe that today’s prophets are the ones with mastery over today’s media language, who at the same time understand God’s ‘alternative’ to the popular consciousness. These are the ones with the powerful potential to “nurture, nourish, and evoke” a new and true vision – a vision of the real kingdom of God. I am speaking of the twenty-first century artists–of-faith.

The artists-of-faith are precisely the ones in whom I am investing most of my time and energy. While continuing to ‘help churches worship better’ (since 2003) I am adding a new aspect to my ministry through Church Resource Ministries (CRM). I am gathering women and men to start Arts Collectives. These are simply groups of diversely gifted individuals who invent new and culturally saavy ways to inspire spiritual dialogue among their neighbors.

This task is significant since almost 100% of Christian artists are currently only using their skills for church services.

Instead, I am calling artists who are worshipers and leaders out of church to not just lead believers, but to lead culture.
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1 Walter Brueggeman, The Prophetic Imagination (Fortress Press, 1978), 12-13.
2 Ibid., 13.

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