The following is a reproduction of the interview type conversation between Loiter Larry and Agent X.
Loiter Larry (LL): I read your series of posts where you published your study guide called “Proph-O-Drama” a few weeks ago, and I thought it was great stuff. You were biblical all through it, and really opened my mind and imagination regarding prophecy
Agent X (AX): Thank you for reading it and responding.
LL: Sure. Glad I was given the opportunity. So, anyway, your book raises some questions for me. I will probably read through it all again and ask specific questions in the comments section of the blog following each lesson. However, there are other areas I am curious about as well, and so I wanted to speak to you personally about broader things and maybe even behind-the-scenes things.
AX: Sounds good. What are you wondering about?
LL: In the book, you gave some general description about how you moved into prophetic ministry over time – how you started taking communion to the streets in a spiritual warfare type ministry and how that began moving more and more into prophetic areas, and then you ended the book describing your wedding to Mrs. Agent X. I am wondering what kinds of things you have learned from your experience with prophetic ministry. Do you have knowledge of God and of ministry now from experience that you did not gain from the Bible per se?
AX: That’s an interesting question. As you know, I strive to think biblically. That is a complex notion, actually because lots of people might use a phrase like that to mean different things. And I am not at all sure that I can say something scholarly and succinct that will fully capture my own meaning of that.
For instance: I was in a Bible study recently where the group leader used a lot of Scripture, in fact recited a lot from memory, but he was all over the place. He kept insisting that we listen to the Bible, and not just trust him, but then he snatched a verse from this book and another from that and strung them together to make his points (which to my mind remained somewhat vague). But over the course of his presentation, he must have used well over a dozen verses gathered from eight or ten books. Some of Matthew, some of Paul’s letters, and some from Old Testament prophets.
There is a very real sense in which he was being “biblical” by doing that. I would not fault the guy for being un-biblical. He used a lot of Bible alright, but he kept lifting passages out of context and plugging them into some esoteric context that he had constructed to support a point he wanted to make. This is what we normally call “proof-texting” and/or atomizing the text. For all I know, his point was valid, actually, and even the Bible itself seems to sometimes engage in this kind of thing. I think of how Mark’s Gospel opens with a mishmash of quotes from Isaiah and Malachi. But, some of us astute Bible students think we detect in those instances allusions to larger context in which those quotes are found. I got no sense our teacher was thinking of that in our small group.
But here is my point: In broad terms, I think he was being “biblical”. But not in the sense that I strive to be “biblical”. And actually, even I am learning and refining my own ideals about this all the time.
LL: Wow! That is complicated. Surely you don’t think the average Christian on the streets has that all figured out. Do you?
AX: No. Of course not. But I aim to help people learn to think more biblically all the time. Here is an example of that: I belong to yet another regular Bible study group where, again I am not the leader, but where many of us in the group present our observations, and in that setting, every time I get a turn to speak, I link the passage under consideration to other passages that help to illuminate the one we are discussing. Over time, my observations seem to have won a fair bit of respect among the others gathered to study because the find my method usually carries some weight they had not expected on their own. I seem to be afforded personal deference in the group because of this.
And I model my thinking processes for the group. They see why I say what I say when I say it, because I explain it. And… well, recently one of the gentlemen in our group made an observation that at first blush seemed disjointed except that the passage under consideration made him think of another passage where some similar wording is used in a different part of the Bible. He did not have a clear conclusion to this observation, but he sensed that with some more research and meditation, he might really be on to something. And that is largely how I do it. I praised the brother for making the connection and encouraged him to spend some time with it.
So, no, I don’t expect everyone to see the Bible in all its complexity as I do, but I do my best to share with others what I find in it, and how I found it. Sometimes others begin to catch on. And actually, my approach is not necessarily the best, but it seems to be the most fruitful I have found in many years of study.
And so, anyway, back to your original question about learning from experience, I do, actually, but I always try to filter it through this knowledge I gain from “thinking biblically” as I understand it. And, that said, I should hasten to add that I don’t always have good biblical framework for every thought. There are times when I make sense of certain theological views by way of examples outside the Bible. There are a few questions I encounter where I have a sense of the answer, but I must TRUST some teacher who had guided me at some other point in my life, or maybe it even just “feels” right based on other views I already hold. In fact there are a few times I refer to C. S. Lewis rather than Bible to explain some theological view I hold rather than Bible, not because I prefer Lewis, but because I have not found a biblical basis.
Yet. And this is very important, I hold such views rather tentatively and humbly – always searching for a Bible passage that will either confirm or challenge those more tentative views. And well, I put my knowledge of prophetic experience in that kind of a status. So anything I might say that I have learned from experience, I would seek to back it up with Bible if and where I can – or even let it go if it appears contrary to God’s Word.
LL: Okay, I think I am with you on this. It helps that I can talk this out with you face to face. I might not follow all this if I just read your blog or your book.
So what stands out in your experience?
AX: I have a much deeper appreciation for “schools” of prophets. We actually see them in the Bible, really. They follow Elijah and Elisha and others too. And in fact, I think this is what we find in Jesus and the Twelve. Yes, the Twelve represent the tribes of Israel. Absolutely. But they also follow their rabbi and see themselves as part of a group.
But of course, that is thinking biblically. From experience, I find having a group is so important for its value in fighting loneliness. I suffer terribly from loneliness. It is my Kryptonite, so to speak. And well, prophetic ministry so often means taking a lone voice. But when I sleep on the ground with fellow worshipers outside a locked up church building, I feel strong. I find Jesus in the two or three gathered together, and I take heart. That is something I learn from experience.
LL: Wow. So is prophetic loneliness a thing? I mean is that a cost of discipleship that should be counted, you think?
AX: Yeah. I think so. It may not be everyone’s Kryptonite, but there is no such thing as a “lone ranger Christian” but speaking a confrontational message to the others is a time-honored prophetic thing to do. And until the wayward flock repents, the voice calling them to repentance takes up a lonely place in the process. And since that is a weakness to me, personally, I am highly sensitive to learning it.
LL: Cool. I wonder what other things experience teaches you.
AX: Well, prophetic ministry… especially endeavors in “proph-O-drama” have me looking for substance where there is no substance. I am sure that is a confusing statement; I suppose I should unpack it.
LL: Yes. Please.
AX: Okay, so in my church heritage, we have a history of reducing faith to private personal piety and getting into heaven when you die. There is no need in concerning yourself with polluting the planet, after all (according to this view) it is all slated to burn up in Judgment fires at the Great Day of Judgment. So, why care about it?
Well, if that is your worldview, then you don’t care. And your faith only matters as far as getting your soul (whatever that is) into heaven at The End of all things. Now, of course there are a lot of competing views about what that looks like, but the broad strokes are pretty much the same for everyone who holds this type of worldview.
But here’s the thing, if you view the world as though God created it and is redeeming it in Jesus his Son, then you must factor in the dolphins and the trees and the mountain streams and so forth. And once you do that, you must work out just how it is that a crucified Jew from over 2000 years ago has anything to do with saving dolphins.
Now of course we might note the words of the Great Commission which sends us into all the world preaching the gospel to every CREATURE – which includes dolphins, but we can do that with simple proof-texting and still not have any biblical understanding beyond that. And that is fine, really, but experience in prophetic ministry pushes me into the mist of such mysteries, and I think I am finding new wind for my imagination.
When Jesus dies on that cross, it is a proph-O-drama. He is prophetically dramatizing what it looks like when the God of Israel returns to his people to be crowned King of the Jews. It looks nothing like what anyone was expecting. In fact, it looks almost completely opposed to expectation. And really, it is just a really crazy dead Jew UNLESS God really takes that execution and turns it into a coronation. And if that happens, this most ludicrous of all events, in fact this most ludicrous of all ideas, becomes the hinge point of all of history. This is confirmed if Jesus is bodily raised from the dead to new life. IF all that happens, then it impacts the very cosmos and that includes the dolphins. They too shall be renewed.
This has me thinking, as a prophetic minister, that I should be taking my bit of the world, the small bit over which I have even a particle of influence, and preaching the gospel to it. This word of faith is not just about my private personal piety or yours, but it confronts politics, imagination, even cancer and heart disease. When I take communion, that is when I eat the Jesus-meal, I am declaring a new world order of new creation over the old. I am prophetically joining the present evil age to God’s future redemption and doing it on faith. In fact, I am moving mountains!
I think it is incredibly easy to see Jesus’s death as just another tragic execution of yet another uppity Jew. And I think everyone who witnessed it, with the possible exception being the Roman Centurion confessing him as Son of God at that exact point, probably sees it as being of no real substance. Just tragic. But we Christians have dared to say otherwise. And if we really believe otherwise, then we too can and should engage in this imaginative process where we usher God’s will for his world in to it through our very lives too.
So often, we Christian types just address the world’s problems with all the usual answers. Vote for a certain candidate or raise a lot of money. But those things never really manage to deliver what they promise – not really, and they can be quite disappointing.
So I have begun confronting powers and principalities with the Word of God – enacted with the same KIND of faith that Jesus shows when he dares to prophetically dramatize what it looks like when the great God of the universe returns to his people to be crowned King there. He takes a common execution and turns it into a coronation. It don’t look like much to a scientific worldview, but to a worldview of faith engaged with the creation God made, it makes daring sense. But you really have to expand your imagination to see it. And I find that the more I engage in it, the broader my imagination expands.
LL: Yeah. Me too.