The task of the prophet is not to smooth things over but to make things right. –Eugene Peterson
Greenleaf writes: Prophet, seeker, and leader are inextricably linked. The ‘prophet’ brings vision and penetrating insight. The ‘seeker’ brings openness, aggressive searching, and good critical judgment – all within the context of the deeply felt attitude, ‘I have not found it yet.’ The ‘leader’ adds the art of persuasion backed by persistence, determination, and the courage to venture and risk… Both prophet and leader are seekers first.
I continue to find Greenleaf’s ‘Prophet, seeker, and leader’ definitions to be stimulating, challenging and intellectually stretching. They are also affirming (we all like to have our views of the world affirmed). I have known folks who have integrated all three and I have known folks who have integrated two (seeker and prophet or seeker and leader). I have known ‘seekers’ who were neither prophets nor leaders; I have never met a leader or prophet who was not also a seeker (what they ‘sought’ varied greatly).
How do leaders nurture seekers? There are intended and unintended consequences of nurturing others to be seekers. There are some who do not want to become ‘seekers’ – ‘Just tell me what to do and I will do it!’ is their mantra. Folks who are developing as ‘seekers’ need to have their ‘spirit’ sustained; it is too easy to become ‘ends’ focused and, as we know, folks who are ‘ends’ focused tend to give up when the ‘ends’ are not achieved. We also know that folks who are committed to a process over time – such as the process of developing one’s ‘seeking’ capacities – that ‘ends’ are more likely to be achieved (they often emerge as a by-product). The ‘means’ do determine the ‘ends.’
How many of us truly believe that prophets exist today? How many of us truly believe that we need them today? How many of us are seeking them? How many of us are holding an intention so that a prophet will ‘show him/herself’?
The great Chinese sage thousands of years ago noted that ‘When the student is ready the teacher will appear.’ So it is with the prophet. How many of us are ‘ready’ for the prophet to appear?
It is also important to remember what the great Rabbi, Abraham Joshua Heschel, noted: ‘We cannot always tell the true prophet from the false prophet.’ Only time will reveal one or the other. Perhaps this idea alone hinders one from becoming a seeker of prophets. Perhaps we are not open to Prophets because we are fear-full of what they will call us to or remind us of; we might be full of fear because the Prophet will challenge our thinking, beliefs, or assumptions.
A prophet is someone blind to most of what others see. –Nassim Taleb