I want to begin the new year with a series of posts on the implications of our Advent series on our lives as men and women made in the image of the One who is our great prophet, priest, and king. In other words, if Jesus is the image of God (Colossians 1.15-20) and we are made in the image of God, then we must bear some prophet-ness, priest-ness, and kingliness, right? Right. We do.
John Frame has coined the term triperspectivalism to describe this reality. Many are now using these three categories to helpfully describe and analyze human personality, gifting, and weaknesses in both individual and corporate settings. For example, in a gift assessment to see if someone is a good fit for a future hire, one would ask the question: what kind of person do we want for this role and does person X have that gift set? Do we need a priest, a prophet, maybe both? Or, perhaps a church leans too heavily into one category and needs more of the other two, then that church could helpfully use this tripartite means of categorizing in its self evaluation.
Warning: like any syntax or taxonomy one can stereotype or over-simplify. One cannot be reduced to a label. What I am offering here is not that. I want to simply guide our thinking in terms of these three aspects of the human person as God has made us so that we healthily and yet strategically think through our personhood, or relationship to others, and what it means to be a balanced church God has called us to be.
Two big and important points. One, though God has made us to be wired the way we are wired, we are called to live with and complement others. So, you might be a priest, with negligible strengths in the prophetic or kingliness. But, you are called to use your strengths to complement the other. American culture tends to value the prophet-king the most, but that does not make that person any better or more important. So, neither superiority or inferiority are appropriate responses. Two, being aware of yourself and others will only help you with point one.
So, what does it mean to be priestly, prophetic, and kingly? Let’s begin with the priest.
If you are a strong priest, then you are all about relationships. You think a lot about emotions, the heart, the inner life.
You like the questions:
How is your heart? What are your motives? What is God doing to shape your feelings and heart? Is this decision loving and loyal to the people involved?
You tend to feel threatened by:
Kings who lack priestliness. Decisions made by the mind and principle alone. Hierarchy. Bluntness. Vision honed by abstract truth and data alone. Taxonomies like this (in fact, you are a classic label hater).
You respond well to:
Stories. Aesthetics. Presence more than principles. Invitation to relationship not simply membership. Loyalty. Time spent, not task done. Process not product.
You are all about relationships and the heart. Can you be a priest and also a king? You bet. You can be a prophetic priest, too. Sometimes, once in a blue moon, you can be strong in all three. We’ll talk about the next two traits, and how they commingle, and what that means for community, organizational logic, and how to poise yourself well to serve Jesus in community in our next posts.
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