Do modern pulpit politicians and money-raisers really resemble Amos or Jeremiah, John the Baptist or the apostle Paul?

The Church of today urgently needs to be more prophetic. As Robert B. McNeill declares in his book, Prophet, Speak Now, the contemporary Church is “an institution bent on saving itself—complacent, seeking to keep everything quiet and comfortable and denying the prophetic mission.”

The Church denies its prophetic mission in many ways, but particularly in its obsession with material things and visible success. Someone has aptly remarked that much of contemporary preaching is geared to the mortgage on the building. The “coming of the Kingdom” seems to be considered a matter of successful church building programs, membership increases, and larger budgets. Most church people are so caught up in this success spiral that they dare not face up to the fact that authentic Christianity too often runs in inverse ratio to successful churchianity. Today the prophet seems to be an encumbrance to the Church. We find the same incrustations of organized religion that Jesus encountered in his time, and there is no room for the prophet in his own country or in any other.

Lacking the prophetic voice, many a church has become dormant, or, to use the term popular today, “irrelevant.” Its influence in the affairs of men is negligible. It is out of touch with reality; it is shrinking back, narrowing its sympathy. No wonder that someone has suggested this epitaph: “The living faith of the dead has become the dead faith of the living.”

But in saying that the Church is denying the prophetic mission, we are pointing an accusing finger at ourselves—its ministers. If the Church is not prophetic, the reason is that those who stand in its pulpits ...

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