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The Spirit and the Prophetic Church, Part 2, by Antipas L. Harris

The power of unity was so powerful …

An authentically unified Church is more than a notion. Viewing each other as brothers and sisters is more than an exercise in intellectual discourse, integrated worship and compassionate outlook towards the variety of Christian religious traditions. It is not just about the Baptist being nice to the Methodists, the Pentecostals being nice to the Episcopalians, the Catholics being nice to the Anglicans, the Presbyterians being nice to the Lutherans and vice-versa. Ecumenical ministry must be grounded in the message and work of Christ to bring “Good News” to the spiritual and material realities of everyday life. To this end, beyond ecumenical discourse and spiritualistic ideas of the prophetic, churches must engage in ecumenical prophetic ministry in the community that overcomes denominational isolations, penetrates despair of the community’s lived realities, and mobilizes the community to realized hope as expressed in the life, teachings and ministry of Jesus Christ.

… that the actual time invested was modest compared to the impact achieved.

In conclusion, there are three suggestions to remedy the situation of neglect in urban communities: 1) Churches must care about and engage themselves in the communities surrounding them as conduits of God’s transformational love; 2) Churches must maintain a theological dialectic between lived realities and faith confession to foster ongoing ministry practices that fulfill their divine calling to bear witness of “Good News” among the hurting and broken people; and 3) Local churches must embrace ecumenical ministry for greater impact in the communities in which they are located. The summary of these points equals the incarnational, prophetic ministries that Christ intends.



35 The “Black Church” is an ecumenical concept of ecclesial ministry within the African American communities. These African American churches are noted historically to have nurtured, protected, provided hope and propelled African American communities forward from Slavery through the Civil Rights Movement and beyond. African Americans pastor these churches; their worship in an African American tradition and predominately consist of African Americans. Based on Walter Brueggemann’s definition of a “prophetic ministry,” historically the Black Church has embodied prophetic ministry. Yet, the Black Church is not restricted to a particular denomination. The concept is denominationally ecumenical.
36 Suzanne Perry, “Mission to Rebuild,” Chronicle of Philanthropy, May 3, 2007, (Vol. 19), Issue 14, 29-32.
37 Ibid.
38 Ronald E. Peters, Urban Ministry: An Introduction, (Nashville: Abingdon, 2007), Chapter 7.
39 Ibid.
40 This overview of the Evangelical approach is simplified but not oversimplified. The purpose here is to provide a vision of this approach from the perspective of people in distress and in need of a bottom up approach to theology—one for which this essay advocates.
41 Francois Bovon, Luke the Theologian: Fifty-five Years of Research (1950-2005) (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2005), 250.
42 See Amos Yong, The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh: Pentecostalism and the Possibility of Global Theology, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005)
43 Bryan P. Stone and Claire Wolfteich, Sabbath in the City: Sustaining Urban Pastoral Excellence (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), 13.
44 Ibid., xiv.
45 Ray Bakke, A Theology As Big As the City, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 137.
46 Paul Avis, Reshaping Ecumenical Theology: The Church Made Whole? (T&T Clark International, 2010), 55.
47 Harvie M. Conn and Manuel Ortiz, Urban Ministry: The Kingdom, the City and the People of God, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 123.
48 Reference, Walter Rauschenbusch, Christianity and the Social Crisis (New York: Harper & Row, 1964).
49 Vatican II: Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, “Catholic Principles on Ecumenism,” 1:4.
50 A Zenit Daily Dispatch (New York), “Father Richard Neuhaus on the Eucharist” (23 Jan. 2005), (Accessed, 16 January 2012).
51 Promeneint theologians such as Reinhold Niebuhr, Howard Thurman and others contemporaries of King also preached a message of love and unity grounded in Christ.
52 Stone and Wolfteich, Sabbath in the City, 9.
53 Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York: Continuum, 1993), 45.
54 Stone and Wolfteich, 12.
55 Nile Harper, Urban Churches, Vital Signs: Beyond Charity Towards Justice (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1999), 301.
56 Ibid.
57 “Incarnational ministry” is ministry that aims to translate the Word of God into responses to everyday issues and needs of people in communities of the world.
58 Edward Farley asserts that theological understanding in actuality is not simply a timeless instant, a structure, but an activity, a life process. Farley calls this ongoing dialectic between lived reality and faith “theologia.” When applied to ecclesiology or ministry in the church, “theologia” insures that the ministry remains connected—impacting and being shaped by the life of the community in which churches find themselves. Such dialectic approaches to theology and ecclesiology sustains the relevance of the church in light of lived reality. See, Edward Farley, Theologia: The Fragmentation and Unity of Theology Education (Wipf and Stock, 2001), 170.
59 Jenny Berrien and Christopher Winship “Should We Have Faith in the Churches? The Ten-Point Coalition’s Effect on Boston’s Youth Violence,” (July 1999), 14, 15. (Accessed, 19 January 2012).
60 Ibid., 1. Also, see Daniel Vasquez, “Statistics Buoy City, But Not Victims’ Kin,” The Boston Globe, 2 January 1999.
61 See Charles Radin. The Boston Globe, 19 February 1997, p. A1.
62 The Dream Center, “Mission,” (Accessed, 20 January 2012).
63 Vernell Hackett, “L.A.’s Dream Center: Living the Dream” (27 July 2011), (Accessed, 20 January 2012).
64 Ibid.
65 Referring to Amos Yong, “Pentecostalism and Ecumenism: Past, Present, and Future,” Pneuma Foundation: Resources for Spirit-empowered Ministry, (Accessed, 6 January 2012).
66 Amos Yong, Discerning the Spirit (s): A Pentecostal Contribution to Christian Theology of Religions, (Sheffield England: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000).


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Category: Ministry, Pneuma Review, Summer 2013

About the Author: Antipas L. Harris, D.Min. (Boston University), S.T.M. (Yale University Divinity School), M.Div. (Emory University), is the president-dean of Jakes Divinity School and associate pastor at The Potter’s House of Dallas, TX, and the founding dean of the Urban Renewal Center in Norfolk, Virginia. He is the Criminal Justice System Director for the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) and president of the Global Institute for Empowerment & Leadership Development, known as GIELD. He has additional experience as an educator, academic lecturer, itinerant preacher, pastor, youth director, motivational speaker, and Christian musician. He is the author of Is Christianity the White Man's Religion?: How the Bible Is Good News for People of Color (IVP, 2020), The Holy Spirit and Social Justice: Scripture and Theology (2019), Holy Spirit, Holy Living: A Practical Theology of Holiness for Twenty-first Century Churches (Wipf & Stock, 2013) and Unstoppable Success: 7 Ways to Flourish in Your Boundless Potential (High Bridge Books, 2014). | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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