Is Your Faith Prophetic or Pathetic?

May 1, 2014

Many people mistakenly assume that Christianity is primarily a mystical faith; centered on having transcendent experiences which allow an individual to escape their present reality, even if only for an hour on Sunday.  We find ourselves longing for a new ‘experience’ that deliver some sort mild euphoria, or a distraction from the mundane or discouraging, events of our week.  Christianity in America, therefore, has become event-centered and individualistic.  The outcome, unfortunately, is an anemic faith that makes little difference in either our personal lives, or the world in which we live.

Changing this reality can happen when we understand the meaning of one simple word: Prophetic. 

Most people have a very limited view or understanding of what ‘prophetic’ means. Our knowledge is usually limited to vague biblical references combined with a smattering of scenes from various movies or television. For some, it’s a Nostradamus-like ability to predict future events. For others, the idea centers on truth-telling, or informing individuals of something they didn’t know about themselves.  Amazingly, the full definition of this word actually de-mystifies our faith, and makes it more practical and powerful.

When reading the Old Testament Scriptures, you begin to recognize a theme.  Individuals ascend the mountain and receive revelation, and then return, to not only deliver that message, but also the substantive change that it promises.  Did you catch that?  We ascend the mountain and ‘hear from God’ and what we hear from God is always about a preferred future for humanity or ourselves.  We ‘return’ from that ascent and engage in making whatever that preferred future was, a reality.  Moses went up the mountain and caught a vision from God regarding a new humanity.  He returned with the hope and vision of seeing that vision made a reality. That whole process of ascending and returning is what “prophetic” is all about.  In the words of Miroslav Volf, "The Christian faith malfunctions when it is practiced as a mystical religion in which ascent is followed by a barren, rather than creative return, a return that has no positive purpose." In other words, the mountain top experience isn’t the point.  It’s the message that we hear from God, and the action that we will take as a result.  Prophetic is practical. 

We experience this each week on a microscopic level.  When we gather as a community in any size group, or when you spend time in prayer or study, the challenge is to not simply search for a mountain top experience.  We need to being looking and listening for the ‘prophetic’ or the ‘preferred future’ that God desires and then work to see it made a reality.  When we begin to live toward that future, our faith becomes powerful and impactful. 

So the next time you gather to worship, to pray, to study, ask yourself, “God, what are you telling me through this?”  Remind yourself that you’re not doing this just to check a box or have powerful experience on the mountaintop. God wants to speak to you, and he wants what he speaks to you to be put into action. Do that, and your faith will never be pathetic.

Article by Brad Williams 

 Volf, Miroslav, A Public Faith: How Christ followers should serve the common good (Grand Rapids: Brazzos Press, 2011)