As the Bolsheviks rose to power during the Russian Revolution of 1917, Vladimir Lenin led the new country leadership to look for a nationalist strength throughout every segment of the post-Czarist society. In long conversations with older Russian men whose parents and grandparents lived during that time, I came to understand that Baptists in Russia were offered an opportunity to speak into the changing tides of public sentiment.
Yet, rather than offer a bold word from God, Baptists at the time began to fight among themselves about what the correct public response should be. Arguments about pacifism and an unequal yoke with the government led the Baptist Union into deep division. I was told that there are even letters from Lenin to the Baptists wherein he inquired about the involvement of highly moral people in the newly forming republic. However, their response was both delayed and divided, pointing instead to the by-and-by of eternity rather than the now-and-now of the human condition.
When that nation desperately needed a prophet, there was none to be found. Instead, a few preachers shared their timid opinions, and their prophetic silence deterred Lenin from future collaboration. Within a decade the Russian Baptist Union was forced into secret meetings as the country was ushered into a long generation of religious oppression.
I do not want to cast any blame or ridicule toward those Russian Christians at that time. Few of us have ever faced ominous political pressures to that degree. But a disturbingly similar pattern has emerged within our current American culture. Because of our failure to teach the whole counsel of God in a timely fashion, or because of our tendency to jump on bandwagons with the loudest sound system, or because of our callous hearts, we have become preachers of the day rather than prophets of the hour. Perhaps even more tragic is the appearance of fluctuation in doctrine when political winds blow the Christian flag in a new direction.
A preacher of the day bases his sermons on whatever current issue occupies the headlines. He thinks it wise to craft a hopefully biblical response to breaking news, thus insuring an interested listener. But just as there are news updates that shift conversations, the narratives that the media craft can turn the tides of public sentiment. And whatever stance the sermon of the day took, it has to be edited and updated for the interruption to our regularly scheduled program. The preacher of the day is popular for the day.
The prophet of the hour is different. He looks beyond the corruption and vice that has captivated the hearts of this week’s media darlings. Instead, he preaches truth that supersedes what we only now know. He tells the truth from God’s perspective. And though he may be ridiculed for silence or labeled a hater for speaking the uncomfortable, he stays the course in forthtelling the inerrant word of God.
The prophet of the hour may not enjoy the microphone of the local news station, but his sermon will be shared in ways that outlast his own glory. It will truly be the Holy Spirit who delivers the word that is needed for that moment.
People always want to know what the Bible says on an issue. Too often, they demand a pat answer to what Jesus would say specifically to a given political problem. In truth, the Bible speaks to every situation, but it also sometimes demands that we change the questions from the way the culture has posed them. And truly we must be dependent upon the way the Holy Spirit wants the answers to be voiced.
In Matt 10:19-20, Jesus promised a timely spiritual response from within the one whose dependence is on the Lord. He even promised that the words we say would be under the control of the Holy Spirit.
My desire is to be relevant, but only as the Holy Spirit makes the application of His word to the hearts of men. My desire for all of us is to be both timely and influential. We’ve seen literally thousands of preachers of the day; they’ve come, and they’ve gone. What we really need are prophets in such times as these.