I came across a title to a talk that jumped out at me because it seemed to address some of the angst we face in the church. The title was, "From Moral Majority to Prophetic Minority." Maybe that seems too cryptic a phrase and some explanation might help.
If we view the history of the church from a thousand miles away (not concerning ourselves so much with the exact dates of councils or which church leaders came when) there are a few events that stand out.
The Early Church
The first movement you might look at is the early church. That was a time when the church and those converts that made up the church were a "prophetic minority." This church brought the message of God's saving love revealed in Christ through his death and resurrection and called people into a relationship with the God of creation. If you called yourself a Christian during the early part of the Church's history you must have been very brave. There were times when, to call yourself a Christian, persecution and even death would have been your fate. These Christians were called treasonous because they called Christ (and not the emperor) their king. It was a time when to be a Christian was to be very counter-cultural.
Amazingly, the church didn't die because of this persecution. In fact, it was these Christian's profound displays of love that wooed others into the fold. These Christians were known to rescue babies destined for death. They were known for a sexual ethic that made them strange to the world around them. These early Christians had a bond of fellowship that was a testimony to those who didn't know about this God who showed up in the form of a man named Jesus and whose love was so abundant that he was willing to die for the sins of the world. They were a prophetic minority.
The Revolution of Constantine
Historians mark a clear break where the church went from being the prophetic minority to being the moral majority. The revolution of Constantine is the point that historians will highlight as marking this transition. In clear contrast to that period of the church where to be a Christian placed you in the minority, there were times and places where Christianity was not just the dominant religion in terms of numbers it was the religion of the state. To have a dissenting voice from the voice of the church would have made you very brave.
What a reversal of positions! As the major movers and shapers of culture, the church had a privileged position to propel its agenda forward. Sabbath keeping laws are one example of the church being in that privileged position to have its agenda implemented by the broader culture. Looking back over history we see some amazing things being done in the name of Christ by Christ's church. But admittedly we also see some terrible abuses. The church doesn't do very well when it tries to shape the world from a position of power. We do much better when we serve and love freely.
Back to the Beginning
Where are we at today? The title seems to suggest that the church has moved from that position of moral majority back to its old position as the prophetic minority. Some lament this change while others see this change as a great opportunity for the voice of the church to be very clearly heard as one that is counter-cultural.
This church, which is a part of the reformed tradition, seeks to be faithful to the call of God to be a church that seeks both the righteousness and justice of God. We long for God's grace and truth to be evident in our lives as individuals and our life together as the community of God's people. We pray that we would allow the grace and truth of God to continue to shape us as we take the ancient text of the Bible and apply to modern life. Just like the ancient prophets called the people of Israel to be different than the nations around them, we long to be people who live in the world as a people that are not worldly. We seek to be different in a way that reflects that God is at work in our hearts and lives.
Let me close off with a question that you can either ponder or respond to. What would a counter-cultural church that speaks as a prophetic minority look like? How can we be a prophetic minority that calls people into relationship with the King of creation? I don't have a great deal of space in this article but I would love to have your input into how you see the churches new place within culture as either a good thing or a bad thing. Please write me and your ideas will help spur the next article. Please send your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org