And He (Jesus) Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, (Eph 4:11-12 NKJ)
Where are the prophets, and I don’t mean those people that are as flaky as all get out and want to bring a meaningless message or want to exercise control over another person or people? The problem is, I believe that Pentecostalism, in general, has adopted as the norm, a celebratory, victoriolic, and triumphal genre of ministry. It would seem that we have no time to share in a persons, pain, suffering or abuse. In fact to declare such problems is seen by some as a lack of faith.
For the past forty years of pastoral ministry, including the thirteen years working for Home Depot, I have found myself burdened by the plight of people around me. Families that were dysfunctional, with teenagers on drugs or daughters with children and no sign of the father. Working at Home Depot with people that had been abused in life, had abusive partners, had health issues or needed to work extra jobs to make ends meet. All that and we haven’t even begun to deal with national and international issues of hunger, poverty, war and oppression. I prayed, asking the Lord that I might feel the heart of God. There are times, more often than not, when tears stream down my face. Sobs, groans, and pain as I see and feel what God sees and feels.
I would suggest that the prophetic ministry is two-fold. First, the prophet is the prayer person who laments over what he or she sees and hears. Second, they are the activist who puts actions to their lament.
lament is lost. Not just lost in the Pentecostal church, but it would seem that lament has been lost in most of the Christian denominations. Could this be because we have become so middle class and no longer see ourselves as being in need of deliverance? Such a stance is strange when you consider that the majority of Psalms carry a lament. Lament recognizes the struggles of life and cries out for justice against existing injustices. When we no longer care for the needs of others such as the hungry, poor, homeless, sick or imprisoned, our theology becomes distorted. A lamenting community such as found in the Book of Acts is simply branded as Communist.
One-third of the Psalms contain a lamentation. Psalm 10 is a great example:
Why do You stand afar off, O LORD? Why do You hide in times of trouble?(Address)
(Complaint) The wicked in his pride persecutes the poor; Let them be caught in the plots which they have devised. For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire; He blesses the greedy and renounces the LORD. The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts. His ways are always prospering; Your judgments are far above, out of his sight; As for all his enemies, he sneers at them. He has said in his heart, “I shall not be moved; I shall never be in adversity.” His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and oppression; Under his tongue is trouble and iniquity. He sits in the lurking places of the villages; In the secret places he murders the innocent; His eyes are secretly fixed on the helpless. He lies in wait secretly, as a lion in his den; He lies in wait to catch the poor; He catches the poor when he draws him into his net. So he crouches, he lies low, That the helpless may fall by his strength. He has said in his heart, “God has forgotten; He hides His face; He will never see.”
(Request) Arise, O LORD! O God, lift up Your hand! Do not forget the humble. Why do the wicked renounce God? He has said in his heart, “You will not require an account.” But You have seen, for You observe trouble and grief, To repay it by Your hand. The helpless commits himself to You; You are the helper of the fatherless. Break the arm of the wicked and the evil man; Seek out his wickedness until You find none.
(Expression of trust) The LORD is King forever and ever; The nations have perished out of His land. LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear, To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, That the man of the earth may oppress no more. (Psa 10:1-11:1 NKJ)
Lament then is not an opportunity to grumble and complain, but a chance to bring before God the needs of the oppressed, know that God and God alone can move on their behalf and rejoice in the fact that you can trust God.
In the next four years, more than ever, we are going to need the prophet prayer/activist. Let us bring lament back into our theology and lay out the needs of the oppressed before God.