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 The Prophetic Role
Howard A. Snyder

     "How is the church prophetic as well as evangelistic? The church fulfills its prophetic calling in at least the following four ways:

1. The church is prophetic when it creates and sustains a reconciled and reconciling community of believers (2 Cor 5:16-21; Eph 2; Phil 2:1-11; Col 1:21-23). When this happens, evangelism takes on prophetic dimensions. Reconciliation with God is demonstrated by genuine reconciliation within the Christian community and by a continuing ministry of healing reconciliation in the world.
     This means that in each local Christian assembly, reconciliation must be more than a theory and more than an invisible spiritual transaction. It must be visible and social. Racial, gender and economic exploitation and all forms of elitism (including that of a professionalized clergy) must be challenged biblically. ... In much of the world the church is moving into an era when it must increasingly take on the marks of a counterculture.

2. The church is prophetic when it recognizes and identifies the true enemy (Mt 10:28; Lk 12:4-5; Rom 8:38-39; 1 Cor 15:26; eph 6:12; Rev 12:9; 20:2, 14). Satan's trick is to point to false enemies and pose false alternatives. ... the true enemy of humankind is Satan and the 'principalities' and 'powers' under his control (Eph 6:12). 
      The temptation to accept substitute gods and counterfeit satans is always before the church. At various periods in history the church has been deceived into warring against false archenemies: Turks, Saracens, insubordination to the hierarhcy, rebaptism, Indians, Jews, Negroes, whites, Nazism, communism, socialism, the bourgeoisie, capitalism, imperialism, terrorism. ... Too often the church has let the world define the nature of the battle. If the foe is seen as communism or socialism, Christians are tempted to commit themselves uncritically to free enterprise. 

3. The church is prophetic when it renounces the world's definition and practice of power (Mt 20:20-28; 23:1-12; Mk 9:35-37; Lk 9:46-48; 22:24-27; Jn 13:12-17; 1 Cor 1:18-31; Phil 2:1-11). Jesus talked about power, but he insisted that his followers see and use power differently from the way the world does. ...
     In place of justice or righteousness, the world substitutes  violence and oppression - and calls them justic! In war, righteousness is a victim in almost every sense. Faithful churches pursue justice defined in biblical terms and steadfastly reject all violence, manipulation and injustice. ...

4. The church is prophetic when it works for justice in society (Ps 82:1-4; Amos 5:21-24; Mt 11:4-6; Lk 3:10-14; 4:18-21; Eph 5:11). Christians bear a particular responsibility to the poor and oppressed. God's people are called to defend the cause of the poor and needy within each nation and world wide. The treatment of the poor, the needy and 'those who have no social power' becomes a test of the justness of any society or political system. When the church works on behalf of the poor, it is meeting specific human need and is making a politically significant contribution, practicing 'the politics of Jesus.'

The prophetic and evangelistic dimensions of the gospel are totally interwoven in the life and witness of the community of the king, as they were in Jesus' own life."

Excerpts from  THE COMMUNITY OF THE KING by Howard A. Snyder (InterVarsity Press, 2004) p. 125-137.

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