“A prophet,” said Jesus of Nazareth, after a not-too-encouraging trip to his old stomping grounds, “is not welcome in his hometown.”
So we should heed his lesson and maintain our prophetic edge by speaking into new communities from a fresh, outsiders’ perspective. Right?
Well, John’s gospel also says that he came to Israel, and, for that matter, to the big bad world, and was met with plenty of incredulous dishonor in both.
I think that most home town folks actually do want an indigenous prophet. They want someone who is, as someone once said, in that place, but not of that place, so they could be for that place.
The longer I am in Rock Hill, SC, the less attracted I am to the missiological draw of global cities and their cosmic influence. But I am also less and less persuaded that philosophies and practices of ministry that are being adopted in other Charlotte-region ‘ring cities’ like Gastonia, Mooresville, Concord, or Monroe can ‘obviously’ be adopted in our context. And there are, in fact, ‘missional’ churches a stone’s throw from where ours meets that embody a ‘habitus’ significantly different than that which instinctively feels right for our church.
This is not to say that I am growing arrogant. I would hope that my most arrogant days are actually behind me. My wife would say that they are. Maybe my mom too!
But in 5 years of habituating myself to the particular subculture in which I live and move here in my adopted hometown, I have grown to trust my local missiological and prophetic instincts more and more.
It is actually more arrogant to barge into a new community and claim that you can make it come alive through methods and models that you’ve only read about in books or blogs. We must be always learning how the church finds fresh expression and prompts community flourishing in other contexts. But we must never become the false prophet who claims that God will move if we mimic the conditions and adaptations of another ecclesial context.
As Warren Wiersbe has said, “the blessing of God can never be franchised.”
Indigenize yourself. Then speak from your gut in the prophetic voice.
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