Rev. Neal Presa, current Moderator of the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) posted the below tweet a couple months ago.
I found it to be pretty interesting and timely, as our church had been going through some changes (youth ministry, worship schedules and more) since I arrived about a year ago. Change is never something easy, but I am drawn to Neal’s sentiment, which leans more into risk than playing things safe.
I have also been thinking about the question of being prophetic in ministry since I went to the Open Seattle youth ministry event back in early October. During the event, there was a panel that Dr. Jeff Keuss (professor at Seattle Pacific University and a PC(USA) teaching elder) was on. He said something about being prophetic that really struck me.
During the panel, he made a comment about how we talk with our congregations about certain issues (whether they’re social justice issues, or other hot-button issues) and then he asked us to imagine Scrooge McDuck handing us all the money we could ever need or want and a pension that would take care of us and our family forever…and if that happened…would we talk about the issue in the same way with our congregations?
When I followed up with Jeff on Twitter to make sure I had remembered his statement correctly, this is how he phrased the same sentiment: “My two cents: prophetic witness is often left impotent due to fear of loss of power. Our jobs, titles and paychecks are evidence of that.”
I wonder what you think about that. Are those of us who are in ministry (ordained or not) held captive by the very jobs and paychecks that provide food and shelter for us and our families? Are we able to speak freely, truthfully and prophetically in our positions, or are we afraid of what would happen if we did? Would we upset people in our congregations? Would the truth that we have heard from God tick off the biggest giving units in our churches?
- “The most courageous pastors are prophets. But most congregations don’t want their spiritual leaders to be prophets… Nevertheless God has called those of us in professional ministry to be brave – even if it ticks people off and threatens our personal and professional lives.”
- “It’s not easy being a courageous pastor especially if: We are dependent on the paycheck we receive from the very congregation we risk offending when we proclaim the Word of God in love.”
- “Being courageous is dangerous. But courageous congregations are lead by courageous leaders, and they are the ones who will actually transform the world in the name of Jesus.”
We’ve all heard stories about the pastors who left churches or who finally retired and then said something like, “Finally, I can be honest about what I think theologically…” or “Now I can finally speak out about X …” As I see it, that’s a shame and doesn’t allow pastors to be truly who they feel called to be and care about the things God has placed on their hearts while faithfully serving the congregations they have been called to.
Do you feel like you can be truly prophetic in your ministry? Do you feel you have the strength and freedom to be a courageous pastor, and lead courageous congregations? Or do you feel that you aren’t really saying what you think, what you feel God wants you to say, because you know that in doing so, you might be putting your paycheck and pension in jeopardy? What do you think it means to have a prophetic ministry?
My hope is that more and more of us would be striking out, rather than playing it safe and walking to base.