Reformed biblical academics who write with a focus on preaching have been among the leading voices in the USA context urging the church to return to its prophetic witness. Pastors have been repeatedly pushed by Walter Brueggemann’s prolific writing to recapture the prophetic witness that is at the core of the Hebrew Scriptures. According to Brueggemann (2001:3), preaching the prophetic is essentially anti-cultural. To “nurture, nourish, and arouse a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the prevailing society around us” is its fundamental task (italics original). The need for preaching that revives the viva vox evangelii [the living voice of the Gospel] of our Reformation theological heritage is shared by South Africans and North Americans.
Although there is a lot of preaching in our countries, sometimes not enough emphasis is placed on preaching that is grounded in God’s Word as it has been revealed to us in and through the Scriptures and that also considers how that Word can become a living thing in the modern socio-political contexts in which we find ourselves. In other words, we need to place more emphasis on “prophetic” preaching—preaching that challenges and critiques the dominant worldviews, which all too readily cause the gospel to be domesticated or spiritualized—while also presenting a fresh understanding of what God intends for the world.
Where have all the prophets gone? wonders Marvin McMickle (2006) in a piece he wrote from the perspective of an African-American church in the United States of America (USA). Sadly, he claims, the prophetic witness has frequently been appropriated by other false gospels and emphases, including the gospel of prosperity and wealth, a focus on personal and family “moral values” that has not fully reflected the biblical call to social justice, and the rise of “patriot pastors,” who bless the country in the name of God rather than offer a prophetic critique of its practices. McMickle (2006:119–142) urges the emergence of a devoted remnant that will courageously confront contemporary prophetic concerns in the name of God.