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The Church as a Prophetic Voice

by Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr.

I am often asked why I spend so much time engaging in the moral battles of our day. My critics see my work outside the pulpit as crass political pandering or fleshly power grabs.

They often are joined by a host of folks in our culture who want to renounce the religious right. These peace-loving believers have not been able to identify with angry, self-appointed spokespersons who have historically dominated the media.

Despite the excesses of some of our forerunners, the church dare not withdraw in monklike fashion from the public square.

Christians are called to perform a "prophetic" role in modern-day culture. What does that mean? In both the Old Testament and New Testament, prophets were charged by God to deliver important messages to their contemporaries. They served as God's conscience to those they were sent to.

In addition to speaking their messages, these prophets often demonstrated them to the culture in which they lived. They were like walking, talking billboards placed at key intersections in their nation to relay God's messages.

It wasn't always a comfortable lifestyle. Isaiah went around naked. John the Baptist wore the most unusual clothes.

I'm not calling for bizarre or spooky behavior, but I am asking Christians to recognize that we all have prophetic assignments. We have been called to speak and live out the truths of God—right where we live and work.

We cannot sit by idly and watch the nation roll over a cliff. We must cry out a warning and model the Lord's priorities.

The best scriptural example of the folly of noninvolvement is seen in the book of Ezekiel. The majority of the prophets of Ezekiel's day did not get involved in the major social problems of the nation. The Lord figuratively referred to Israel's cultural problems in Ezekiel's day as "breaches in the wall."

Ezekiel 13:4-5 reveals the problem: "O Israel, your prophets are like foxes in the deserts. You have not gone up into the gaps to build a wall for the house of Israel to stand in battle on the day of the Lord" (NKJV).

According to these verses, the spiritual protection of Jerusalem was not the responsibility of armies, presidents or governments alone. The Lord made it clear that prophetic voices, then and now, must "stand in the gap" before Him to protect their land.

In our book Personal Faith, Public Policy, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, and I list the five things the church must do correctly to fulfill its prophetic role in our day:

1. Live right. The church needs to meet the standard of Scripture before it attempts to talk to the culture. We must have strong, individual, personal testimonies of victory in the areas in which we want to offer help to others. It isn't enough just to "speak" the way—we must lead the way.

2. Do right. The Christian community has a responsibility to serve the nation before it can credibly confront the nation. We must become not just advocates for the poor, the homeless, the widows and those who are being treated unjustly, but we must also serve their needs personally and corporately.

3. Move right. We must make sure that we consider how the nation views what we do. Romans 14:16 makes an amazing declaration that applies to our service to the community. It says, "Do not let your good be spoken of as evil." Moving right means developing campaigns to overcome the stereotypes that our opposition uses to divide us.

4. Pray right. We must learn how to pray and forgive our enemies. The greatest example of this in the last century was the way Martin Luther King Jr. and others demonstrating for civil rights marched boldly into situations in which state troopers, police officers with dogs and angry mobs all were arrayed against them. If they had allowed bitterness to take hold in their lives, they never would have been used by God to bring the conviction of the Holy Spirit on all of America.

5. Speak right. We must succeed in speaking the truth in love. Our words to the culture must not be judgmental. They must be helpful and redemptive. This means our hearts must be filled with the desire to reach the lost and heal both the hearts of individuals and the collective soul of the nation.

Finally, let me speak to you in the spirit of Dr. King, who often drew upon either the Constitution or the Bible as an objective framework from which he took action. The Bible reminds us that we are to pray for those who are in government (see 1 Tim. 2:1-2). In addition, we must remember that the Constitution begins with the phrase, "We the people."

The ultimate authority in the U.S. is not a king or monarchy. The collective will of the people is supposed to be the final bastion of power. Therefore, Christians will have to answer to God for the decisions made by our secular society because self-identified believers are still the numeric majority of the U.S. In this democratic context our right to vote is a sacred trust.

If we all voted with focused, strategic unity we could turn America around in just a few years. Are you ready to make history?

Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr. is the senior pastor of Hope Christian Church, a 3,000-member congregation in the Washington, D.C., area. He also serves as a regional bishop for the Fellowship of International Churches. Additionally, Bishop Jackson is the founder and president of High Impact Leadership Coalition, which seeks to protect the moral compass of the nation by educating and empowering churches, as well as community and political leaders. He also recently formed the International Communion of Evangelical Churches, a church network that currently oversees more than 1,000 congregations around the world. Bishop Jackson has authored numerous books, including In-laws, Outlaws and the Functional Family; The Warrior's Heart; The Way of the Warrior; High Impact African-American Churches, Personal Faith, Public Policy; and The Truth In Black & White.

Bishop Jackson is the guest editor of the January-February 2012 issue of Ministry Today.

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