Unidimensional Prophets Need Not Apply – Don’t Criticize the Church Without Offering Solutions

In the Old Testament God would often raise up prophets in order to communicate God’s will to the people. Sometimes people think of prophets as people who tell the future. They did do that but more often than not prophets communicated two things: the people’s need to repent/change in various areas of their life and society & the positive alternative God had in mind for his people. Read Isaiah 1 for a good example of this (notice the turn in 1:16)

While I don’t think we have people today who are telling the future through direct means of inspiration like they had in the Old and New Testaments, I do believe we still have those prophetic voices among us. What troubles me though is it seems the prophetic voice that is present today is unidimensional. There are a ton of voices calling for change but are missing the rest of the message…communicating what the positive alternative God has for his people. In other words, we hear all kinds of sharp criticism of the church but few people are offering solutions.

Bottom line…if you are going to be a voice calling for change please come with some solutions in hand and don’t just shout angrily from the internet mountaintop at anyone who happens to be passing by. It just doesn’t fit very well with the M.O. of God’s prophets in scripture and can turn into something that is more unhealthy than the things they are railing against in the first place. There are too many guys who know how to poke holes and too few who know how to solve anything. Let’s have more of the second and fewer of the first.

Addendum:
From my comment to Christine below that lays out more of my train of thought on why complaining isn’t enough,

Here is my problem with it – we all know what the problems are. They have been discussed ad nauseum. It is no mystery. There have been hundreds of blog posts on it, books written laying out what the issues are. Fewer people have been pioneering on the front lines trying to turn the ship and then take part in the conversation of offering solutions. Too often even the solutions that are offered are by people who haven’t even tried them out in their own context. It is easier to snipe at problems from afar than it is to get in the trenches and bring about actual change. So I don’t really need more people pointing me toward the discussion that might or might not bring about solutions. If I hear criticism from someone I want that to be followed up with “and here is what we are doing about it.” If something is really that troublesome that someone would publicly write about it, isn’t it reasonable to think they would have been moved to action already?

About mattdabbs
I am a minister, husband, and father. My wife and I live and minister in Saint Petersburg, Florida. My primary ministry responsibilities include: small groups, 20s and 30s, involvement, and adult education.

19 Responses to Unidimensional Prophets Need Not Apply – Don’t Criticize the Church Without Offering Solutions

  1. Mark says:

    You rock, Matt!

  2. I appreciate your thoughts here, Matt. There is plenty of unidimensional criticism of the church out there.

    But I’m also hearing a prophetic voice similar to the ancient calls for repentance and a turning back to God.

    I don’t think the absence of specific solutions, renders true prophetic voices unidimensional. Rather, they point to real problems and open discussions that will, hopefully, lead us to God’s solutions as He reveals them through community.

    • mattdabbs says:

      Here is my problem with it – we all know what the problems are. They have been discussed ad nauseum. It is no mystery. There have been hundreds of blog posts on it, books written laying out what the issues are. Fewer people have been pioneering on the front lines trying to turn the ship and then take part in the conversation of offering solutions. Too often even the solutions that are offered are by people who haven’t even tried them out in their own context. It is easier to snipe at problems from afar than it is to get in the trenches and bring about actual change. So I don’t really need more people pointing me toward the discussion that might or might not bring about solutions. If I hear criticism from someone I want that to be followed up with “and here is what we are doing about it.” If something is really that troublesome that someone would publicly write about it, isn’t it reasonable to think they would have been moved to action already?

      • Mark says:

        Who is “we” that understands all the problems? The bloggers know. Many well-trained ministers know. Some elders know. Some folks in the pew know. Within this subset, yes, the discussion has gone on ad nauseum. And we do need to put up and shut up (you said it kinder!). Until this discussion gets out of the blogosphere, it won’t be able to generate any soulutions at all. Until congregations are tired enough of problems to move toward change, there cannot be growth beyond Internet chatter. (Did I just gripe without giving a solution? Sorry!)

      • You are so incredibly correct on this:

        “There have been hundreds of blog posts on it, books written laying out what the issues are. Fewer people have been pioneering on the front lines trying to turn the ship and then take part in the conversation of offering solutions.”

        Sadly, I don’t think everyone does know what the real problems are. Some do. But not all.

        I too am ready for change; I’m chomping at the bit for it. But the only solution for us I can see so far is to learn to listen, to truly hear one another. The generations are not doing that in widespread fashion yet. Young people are being called excuse-makers, and they in turn look at the elders as legalists.

        The ship may not turn far no matter how hard we try until we begin to listen and seek to listen to and truly understand one another.

        And I’m not talking about some namby-pamby sit around the campfire singing Kumbayah feel good fest! I’m talking about really hashing out–in loving and godly fashion–our differences and misunderstandings.

        Yeah, we’ve got to stop useless complaining. I just don’t want to see honest and sincere dialogue lumped into the complaint pile because of the readiness of some of us to move on from talking to doing; especially since talking and doing are not mutually exclusive.

      • James Wood says:

        To paraphrase the book of James: conversation without action is dead.

        I’ll say it again, it’s not either/or, but both/and. We need both conversation and change.

      • James, you are preaching to the choir here. A both/and perspective is exactly what I’m talking about. Talking and doing are not mutually exclusive.

    • mattdabbs says:

      Let me also say that I agree with you in principle that God can use a word of rebuke or criticism effectively without always having to give the other side. I just think we have gotten disproportionately overweight on the complaint side.

  3. kurt bennett says:

    Amen Matt! It reminds me of the story about D.L. Moody:

    One day a lady criticized D. L. Moody for his methods of evangelism in attempting to win people to the Lord. Moody’s reply was “I agree with you. I don’t like the way I do it either. Tell me, how do you do it?” The lady replied, “I don’t do it.” Moody retorted, “Then I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it.”

    Great post.

  4. James Wood says:

    Yes! YES!!!

    Thank you for saying this.

    In our sound-bite culture, we’re tempted to reduce every issue to an either/or proposition. The prophetic voices juxtapose their message against the mainstream. Differentiation is a powerful marketing tool.

    The problem is that Jesus and the rest of God’s prophets taught a both/and life. We ought to be both merciful and obedient. Both holy and welcoming to the stranger. Both in the world and not of the world.

    We need to move toward both/and teaching rather than either/or teaching.

  5. Doug says:

    Am reading “History of the Church” for the 2nd time. Sometimes we just get too PC. Eusebius recounts an incident in which John the apostle ran from a bath house to escape a known heretic. The coC used to be known for a love of debate. Yet as many of us raised in such, the stance has on too many points been found to be in error. Yet too many of us have allowed the world to creep in. We have time for sports, TV, Family night , etc. , but no time for the necessary discussion. That and for many there is an irreverent reverence of our ancestry. Eusebius mentions a heresy which was taught in his time that Christ was without compassion. I don’t see Him as without compassion, but I don’t see him as the milktoast He is too often seen as today.
    He was pretty “rough” on His mom and family when He says those who do His will are His family. He was tough on the apostles. Yet He still showed compassion. Too often we who were raised not too question still have that mentality. It’s hard too tell those who raised you,”You’re wrong” ,but Christ did and He promises help to do so.
    There’s also the anger factor. Been there, done that. Lied to for years. Know you need to deal with the problem, but not sure how. James 1: 4-5 comes to mind a lot, now for the courage to do so.
    There is also God’s part in the work on the heart and mind which many of us were not taught. I may be wrong, but I still see Christ at work and some folks are just spiritually blind. A misunderstanding of Mark 16 and an almost non-existent teaching on God’s part of our conversion has left many with “good intentions”.
    I saw someone mention praying for the salvation of others. Paul placed the “monkey” on God’s back also in asking for prayers that God would open hearts of those to whom he was teaching. Yet it is hard for those who are hard-core “tradition” oriented to understand it is not really their job to save others or themselves. That and the reality that Christ, not ourselves, is the author and finisher of our faith.
    Years ago I had a discussion with a minister who preached at a congregation I attended in my younger days. I hadn’t seen him for years, and the discussion at the service one morning was on some of the newer trends. His family had become a mess, as sadly have many in what I see as a fulfillment of Col 2. He no longer preached, but was gratified to see open discussion and honesty. There was a mist in his eyes as he recounted that for all the sermons he had taught for years, he was now unsure that he had really taught sound doctrine. But at least he was willing to be open. So there is hope.

    • mattdabbs says:

      Doug,

      I think there is a ton of hope left. God is still on the throne. What have we to fear? Men? Even ourselves and our own misgivings? God will work it out…we just need to make sure we are on the right team!

  6. Doug says:

    Mark,
    4:46pm. Some of our churches need to read “The Emperor’s new Clothes”. The problem with the man thrown out of the banquet wasn’t that he was naked, but he didn’t ask for the customary, complimentary wedding garb. But he couldn’t or didn’t want to see. For most of us raised in the coC, we see the dirty robes as use of instruments, non-weekly communion, etc. Yet ” if” Christ is talking to the Pharisees, it is exactly their made up traditions that are the offending garb. It is sad though that reality in some congregations has reached the point of not casting pearls before swine. It’s even harder when it is your home congregation. But Christ also said that our family would become our enemy. Again in the past many of us have seen that applied to those coming into the coC from another denomination. The Word is still true, “Not by might, by blood or by power, but by My Spirit”, says the Lord.

  7. Doug says:

    By the way, I’ve tried in many of the congregations I was raised in. Wish I could say the results were always positive. Yet as the Spirit is still alive and well, I at times see congregations close as they have left their first love of Christ and Him crucified to a new love of man-made tradition. If they refuse to repent, the inevitible happens. Those labeled as trouble makers meet closed minds. Many know their Bible but they don’t really know Christ. Those of a younger generation don’t study and those who do often leave, I’m convinced some are “told” to leave. A vine producing no good fruit dies. Paul says it is God working through us, we have to make that real. It has to be understood. Some get it some don’t.

  8. Love this post, Matthew

  9. Jonathan Umana (JP) says:

    mattdabbs, since we’ve rejected your prophetic voice,i hope we will have a POPE one day that will give us a final say on spiritual matters?

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