Saturday, June 23, 2012

Hometown Prophet by Jeff Fulmer

Set in contemporary Nashville, Tennessee, Fulmer's novel ponders on what might happen if a prophetic gifting like that of an Amos or Micah might appear on the charismatic church scene today.

Im writing from the perspective of the UK church, so the sharp divisions that appear to exist in the American church between the Christian Right (which is here portrayed to be neither Christian nor right...) and more open evangelicals are less apparent in the church in Western Europe. Nevertheless, the attitudes towards prophetic ministry are worryingly similar, with prophecy being reduced to some encouraging "the Shepherd loves his sheep" message as opposed to the call to challenge corrupt systems and institutional wrongdoing.

So the central question -what would happen if that kind of gift were exercised? - and the responses the book suggests would come from the wider church, people of other faiths, the media, government agencies and wider society have a resonance here too.

Peter, our central character is not a flimsy carapace upon which to project the story, but realised as a person with depth, with failure as well as success, and who is, ultimately, a human, just like us.

The story does, at times, seem to rely on stereotypes and issues rise and are included seemingly aimed at irritating the section of the church the book sets out to challenge most strongly; so our hero speaks in favour of environmental protections, prophesies to bless people of another faith, and challenges issues around human sexuality. These may be seen as the big issues from some perspectives, but I wonder if God were to raise up prophets to speak into western society these would be the issues He'd address. That might just be an interesting discussion for a dinner party, and ultimately these are the issues our prophet is inspired to speak out on.

So, faced by a varied response, our prophet's influence rises, and so does resistance and rejection.

How this all works out, including a good twist, makes for great reading, and although Fulmer's no Shakespeare, the story romps along, with this reader keen to see how the hero fares in the end.

The questions behind this book and the challenge to the church that has made prophecy a comforting thing alone could have been an angry preach, or a long treatise urging reform. By presenting us with a story Fulmer invites us and involves us in a more exploratory journey, giving us space to consider issues and people, and perspectives sometimes overlooked.

I'd want to recommend this to charismatics and non-charismatics, to evangelicals and to liberals, and to those who don't know what they are. Perhaps as a result they'll join with me in a prayer for a true restoration of prophecy to the church, not the sham we often see dressed up in its clothes.

For more on this book, see:

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