I had a dream in which I was standing among mountains, waiting to catch a plane out of the area. I saw a small jet plane come in and try to land, but the wind was so rough that it got blown off course and had to go round and try again.

When the plane came in for the second attempt, it was hit by an enormous gust of wind that flipped it around, so it was flying the opposite way. As it was being tossed around, the fuselage twisted and seemed to bend. It dropped from sight behind the mountain and I thought it was a goner. However it came back into sight again and flew in from the opposite direction and landed safely on a runway further away from the mountain ridge.

In my dream, I then saw a crowd sitting on wooden tiered seating (bleachers). They had gathered to watch the plane land, but they saw nothing from where they were sitting.

The crowd in the dream reminded me of the church. Important changes are taking place all around, but the church is sitting on the side-lines irrelevant, waiting to see what will happen.

Plenty of prophets are warning of difficult times ahead, but you do not have to be a prophet to do that. Anyone with their eyes open can see that the world faces many problems.

Warning of trouble is only a minor part of the prophetic role. The more important and difficult role of the prophet is to prepare God's people to remain strong through the times of distress and to be victorious out the other side.

Prophets should be telling God's people what to do, so they will be ready when troubles come. They should be explaining how Christians can remain strong while the world is crumbling and weak. They should explain how Christians will be able to reach out to the people of the world who are struggling and draw them into a place of safety. They should be telling them how to start building the new thing that God wants to establish in the middle of the world's troubles.

We do not need more prophets warning of political and economic disasters. We need prophets who can prepare God's people how to survive through the difficult times and deliver a new thing after the times of distress have run their course.

The Bible describes "men from Issachar who understood the times and knew what Israel should do" (1 Chron 12:32). Every society needs prophets who understand the times and know what God's people should do. Most of the time this gift has been lacking from the church.

When Rome fell, Christians were shocked. The Roman Empire had been around for 500 years, so they assumed that it would be around forever. Christians believed that it was part of God's plan for expanding his Kingdom. They were so used to it being there, that they could not imagine life without it. Worse still, church structures had aligned with imperial power structures, so Christians found it hard to cope without the order of the empire.

No prophets prepared Christians for the collapse of Rome. They had not warned Christians how to live in a world without an empire, so they struggled to cope, and enormous opportunity was lost. It took the church a 1000 years to regain the ground that was lost.

Murray Rothbard observed ruefully after 1991 that nobody in the libertarian movement had ever sat down and developed a transition program for the Soviet Union, on the assumption that Soviet communism would collapse and need to transition to a free market economy. No one saw the need, so the Russian economy was taken over by the oligarchs, with the assistance of the big American banks.

In the same way, Christian prophets did not see the collapse of the Soviet Union coming, so they did not teach Russian Christians how to be prepared to take advantage of the opportunity. Instead, American Christians tried to plant an inappropriate megachurch model in the foreign soil of Russia, so political and economic powers remained strong and the church remains weak and irrelevant.

We have the same problem in the modern world. Democratic political power and the nation state have dominated life in the West so long that we find it hard to imagine life without them. However, they are not part of God's plan of salvation, so they will not last forever. When the western political system collapses, will Christians be ready to take advantage of the opportunity, or will we be stunned and confused like the Christians in the Roman Empire. Unless the quality of our prophetic ministry improves, we will be stuck in the headlights of disaster, just like them.

We do not need more prophets warning of political and economic disasters. We need prophets who can prepare God's people to survive through difficult times and deliver a new thing after the times of distress have run their course.

Return to Role of a Prophet.