Okay, obviously, the title of this post is a little tongue-in-cheek. Hopefully, it will make more sense as you read further.
This post is part of the November synchroblog on the topic “Calling Us Out of Our Numbness.” As with most of the synchroblog topics, I was intrigued by this one. However, I had almost decided not to participate. Why? Because I had already written about “spiritual numbness” and how the church often “helps” the situation. (See my post “Numbing our souls with church activities.”)
But, just before I pulled the plug on this month’s synchroblog, I read through the description again:
Richard Rohr says, “The role of the prophets is to call us out of numbness.” Since the beginning of time, prophetic voices both in and outside of scripture have been calling us to consider change of some sort. Sometimes it is spiritual change, other times it may be economic, political, or systemic change. Regardless of the emphasis, prophets challenge us to consider a better future. Right now there’s a strong sense of change brewing in the church, the world; people are rising up and calling individuals, communities, nations, and everything in between out of numbness and toward justice, mercy, equality, and love.
This month’s Synchroblog is centered on where are you being challenged by some kind of prophetic voice.
What is it stirring up in you?
What is God challenging you to consider?
How does it intersect with your faith & practical experience?
Of course, there is definitely something that I have been challenged by recently, and it fits in nicely with this synchroblog topic. In fact, I have been challenged and challenged and continually challenged with this same observation over the last few years, and it continues to rear its head.
What is the challenge? I’ve noticed the tendency in my life to listen to those who I do not know. I listen to their voices from books, articles, blog posts, lecture halls, and even pulpits. They tell me what to think, what to believe, and how to live. In many cases (perhaps even most cases), they are correct in what they tell me.
So, if these voices are correct, then what’s the problem? Well, there’s certainly nothing wrong with words of prophecy, encouragement, instruction, or even admonishment. However, the problem arises in the fact that I am listening to people that I do not KNOW.
I do not know how they live. I do not know how they treat their spouses or children. I do not know how or if they love their neighbor. I do not know when or where or if they server other people. I do not know anything about them except what they write or say. In other words, I’m listening to the voices of strangers.
Yes, for the most part, even those people who spoke to me from pulpits in church buildings or from podiums in school classrooms (even seminary classrooms) were strangers to me. I may have spoken to them a time or two outside of the lecture setting – I may have even shook their hand or hugged them – but I knew almost nothing about their lives other than what they told me.
This is not the way that prophecy, or teaching, or exhortation, or admonishment, or any other type of speaking is designed to work (or described in Scripture), especially when it comes to discipling and helping one another grow in maturity in Christ. These forms of communication do not point to strange words from strange people. Instead, they point to words from a friend – from those who have shared or are sharing their lives with us.
Paul reminds Timothy about this kind of relational speaking when he wrote him a letter:
You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings… (2 Timothy 3:10-11 ESV)
This isn’t the only passage that places speaking within the context of sharing life together. See also Philippians 4:9, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7, and Titus 2:1-15, among others. Even when Paul sent a letter to people he had never met (Colossians), he sent it via someone who planned to stay and live among the people as a living example to go along with Paul’s words. (Colossians 4:7-8)
So, what is God stirring up in me? What is he challenging me to consider? God continues to challenge me concerning the voices that I’m listening to. Do I know them? Do I know their example? Do I know how they live? Do I know how they love God? Do I know how they love others? Do I know if they are truly servants? What do I know about them?
Obviously, it’s not wrong to listen to those you do not know. But, who are my primary sources of encouragement, teaching, prophecy, etc.? If those primary sources are strangers to me – if I do not know how they are living – then, I think, there is a problem.
(Yes, I realize that my blog and this blog post can be one of those strange “voices.” If these posts provide a source of discussion among people you share your life with, then great. If, instead, my writings – and other writings – or sermons or books or whatever are your source of teaching, encouragement, prophecy, etc., then I would recommend spending less time with strangers – i.e., me – and spend more time with those who God has brought into your life.)
Here is a list of other bloggers who are taking part in November’s synchroblog on the topic “Calling Us Out of Our Numbness”:
- Joy Wilson at Solacetree – The Blessing of Losing Your Faith
- Jeremy Myers at Till He Comes – I Have a Dream
- Glenn Hager at Breathe – Uncomfortably Numb
- Linda at Kingdom Grace – On Earth as it is in Heaven
- Sally at Eternal Echoes – Where are the True Prophets?
- Tammy Carter at Blessing the Beloved – No Compromise
- Alan Knox at The Assembling of Church – My Word of Prophecy: Quit Listening to Prophetic Voices
- Liz at Gracerules – Listen
- Christine Sine at Godspace – Surrounded by Prophetic Voices: Clouds of Witnesses That Call Us Out of Numbness
- Amy Martin – The Window of Suffering, the Beginning of Hope
- Kathy Escobar at The Carnival in My Head – Rising Up From Below
- K.W. Leslie at More Christ – What is God Challenging You to Do?
- Katherine Gunn at Truth Makes Freedom – Where is Your Heart?
- Steve Hayes at Khanya – Murder of the Cathedral
- Leah Chang at desertsspiritsfire – Wall Street, Our Street