WHICH CHURCH WILL SURVIVE?
A surviving church will speak a surviving
The language of the future will demand new ways
of saying what we say—meaning what we mean—and signifying what’s
significant. Or—put another way—a new language will transcend our
tunnel vision self-interests—sidestep our knee-jerk environment—and
rise above our "well-intentioned efforts . . . to ‘get it all
together’ for God."1
In short, this new language will get beyond the
god-awful shadows that follow the cultic lovers of the literal, the
collusions of turned-in communities, and the trackers of vacuous
This language will no longer describe "what is."
Instead, it will describe "what is coming to be!" It will no longer
"supervene" in life—that is, merely "add to life." Instead, it will
"intervene" in life—it will actually "change" life.
Few church leaders have explored this new
language, and still fewer claim any fluency in it.
Surprisingly, the language of the future was also
the language of the ancient past. We’ve simply lost it! Hosea
confirms that God speaks to us through damah—or "prophetic
metaphor." That’s the reason inspired prophets were creators of
comparison and contrast—artists of analogy and affinity—virtuosos of
similarity and similitude. . . .
And that’s the reason Jesus announced His
transcendent truth through transparent metaphor. It’s also the
reason Jesus, Himself, was the greatest metaphor of all time. This
God/man said, "Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father."2
His ministry, in other words, was transparent! We see now why both
Scripture and ancient history embraced prophetic metaphor as the
very language of God!
Today, once again, damah is transcending all the
failed language of the past. For we are returning to the prophetic
metaphor of an oral culture—or, often, an "electronic" oral culture.
The oral tradition of the ancient Hebrews—where sensory images point
out of the power to which they point—"is still the most powerful
code . . . and will remain the principal one for the foreseeable
And, once again, prophetic metaphor also
transcends all studies of meaning. For we are returning to the
wisdom of damah—only this time, it’s a "virtual reality" damah.
Though not reality itself, Virtual Reality is becoming the most
profound medium of reality. Its fiction is proving more powerful
than "fact," and its vision is proving more factual than "fiction."
In the words of biblical mystics, it will speak
"of nonexistent things . . . as if they [already] existed." It will
declare "the end and the result from the beginning."4 Or,
in the words of a modern mystic, Virtual Reality will prove "the
most fertile power possessed by man."5
So emerging leaders must learn to speak this new
language. That means putting things side by side that don’t go
together, holding the tension between the known and the unknown—the
prudent and the prophetic—the predictable and the unpredictable—the
credible and the incredible. . . .
In fact, the spiritual linguists of the future
must become "virtual" themselves! They must become "conservative
daredevils" and "cautious prophets"—speaking with "concise
ambiguity". . . .
. . . and "vivid transparency."
© 2010 Thomas Hohstadt
1. Eugene H. Peterson, The Message//Remix: The
Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs: NavPress,
2003) p. 2183.
2. John 14:9, The Amplified Bible.
3. Derrick de Kerckhove, The Skin of Culture
(Toronto: Somerville House Publishing, 1995) p. 193.
4. Romans 4:17, Isaiah 46:10; The Amplified
Ortega y Gasset (in his description of metaphor).