Tuesday, April 4, 2017

You Are a Prophetic Leader

The following is an article written by Earth Ministry's Senior Outreach Coordinator, Jessica Zimmerle, for our Spring 2017 Earth Letter:

Early last year I found myself overwhelmed at a conference for young adults in ministry. You know the feeling – that creeping realization that one person can only do so much. A mentor noticed my discomfort and sat down for a conversation that would completely shift my perspective.

He listed five types of leaders: apostles, shepherds, evangelists, teachers, and prophets; then asked which I think I am. Without enthusiasm I guessed the shepherd.  

“Interesting,” he said, “I’d rank shepherd low for you. I think you’re a prophetic leader.”
My initial reaction was, “WHOA don’t put that on me!” In my mind, being a prophet meant being the next Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I could easily brush that notion aside with degrading self-talk. I’m not that kind of leader.

With a smile, my mentor encouraged me to consider the prophet differently. Instead of the person whom everyone looks to for inspiration, what about the prophet who creates inclusive spaces to uplift voices that aren’t being heard? How about the prophet with heightened awareness of our interdependence, called to heal where we are broken and celebrate where we’re not? Now that’s more like it!

Nearly one year later I was in a seminary classroom engaged in conversation about prophets. The professor described the prophet as one who sees or hears the present reality compassionately with critical eyes and ears tuned in on a Gospel vision. 

Let’s break that down. Prophets are aware of where we are, but know we have a long way yet to go. So they respond, not react, so as to balance criticism with compassion. This approach, one that requires both creativity and collaboration, is encompassed in religious values of justice and peace. 

After the class I approached another student and thanked her for being a prophet. Similar to my initial response, she denied her prophetic qualities by saying she wasn’t doing enough activism because she’s a busy mother who is also in school. I encouraged her otherwise, sharing how I am inspired by the beautiful insights and challenging questions she brings to our cohort. She began to cry in gratitude, I hugged her, and we both left the room feeling more resilient. 

Can you recall a time when you’ve been the prophet? Instead of downplaying this role, can you claim your prophetic qualities as God-given gifts? How would doing so strengthen your community?

Earth Ministry certainly believes in your prophetic abilities, and we’re happy to remind you that you are making a difference. As members of the Earth Ministry community, you are spreading the prophetic message of creation care, you are implementing creative solutions in your congregations, and you are working together to advocate for policy reform. Even on days when you don’t have capacity for any of that, you are supporting an organization that reflects your values and puts your faith into action. 

So, my friends, let’s walk boldly through the world as prophets. Let’s respond with loving criticism and take steps to build a brighter future for all of God’s children. And let’s find strength in knowing we are not alone on this journey.

-Jessica Zimmerle 
Earth Ministry’s Senior Outreach Coordinator.

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