Prophets both see the present world from a different perspective and see a world that differs from the one in which we live at present. They are often concerned with social justice; often involved in the creative arts; and may bring these two strands together as a way of fostering the imagination of others.
Few prophets are able, on their own, to galvanise a community for the change they envisage: their role needs to combine with that of evangelists, who will carry their message, and apostles, who are better equipped to make concrete the steps a community needs to take from where we currently are into the new ordering of our lives. It was prophetic imagination that sowed the seeds of a community post-segregation and post-apartheid, but it took the involvement of others to work that process through.
This prophetic inability to galvanise a community plays out in the particular potential pitfalls of both not waiting and waiting. Where the prophet fails to wait, they are likely to end up merely grinding their own axe, rather than proclaiming God’s hopes and dreams for our experience of life; and resenting the lack of uptake. But for many of us who are created primarily as prophets – that is, as a share in Jesus, who was the only human to hold apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher in perfect harmony in one life – we need far more time waiting than others: we are wired for it, drawn to it, refreshed in it. The key lesson is to learn the distinction between solitude and isolation. Solitude is space alone with God, on the edge of community; isolation is dislocation from community. The inability to galvanise community can be exploited by the accuser to foster a false sense of isolation, along with the temptation to actually withdraw into genuine isolation. And so the prophet must wait in a particular way: seeking the balance between hours of solitude and searching out apostles and evangelists in particular in the community to which the prophet is sent, in order to invest in those relationships.