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  • Carol Barron

Social Prophets & Sufficiency

This article was first published in eMessenger in April 2021.

The Not for Profit Sector

Our Methodist Missions work in the not for profit sector – a sector which is defined by what is not. It is very unusual for anything to be described in the negative, let alone a whole sector. “Not for Profit” makes it clear that the primary purpose of these organisations is NOT to make money. The organisation exists to serve others rather than to earn profits for its owners.


In the capitalist society that we live in, where the accumulation of wealth and possession is paramount, it is understandable that organisations that are not aligned with these priorities stand out and are therefore described in the negative.


Language is so important, as it communicates values, beliefs and is an expression of our culture. What would happen if we were to start calling the not for profit sector the social impact sector?


The Social Impact Sector

This label would reflect the impact that the “Not for Profit” sector has on individuals, communities, society and the environment. It would acknowledge the significant and important work that this sector does to affect positive change in society.


But what if we took it another step further and called the not for profit sector the social prophet sector?

The Social Prophet Sector

Lynne Twist,[1] considers the people who work in the not for profit sector as “social prophets” because they are “visionary, committed and stand up for a new future and live and work in a way that brings that future forward.”[2] She refers to people that work in the social prophet sector as being “called” to this work.


The people that work for our Methodist Missions are our social prophets and they have a calling. Our social prophets are certainly not motivated by money. They are motivated by their hearts, their minds and their souls. This means they are able to create interactions and have conversations that generate possibilities. Possibilities of a better life for the people they are working with and for. Possibilities for everyone, for society as a whole, and this is what fills up their cup – this is what inspires and fulfils them.


Whether they know it or not, they are mirroring Jesus, another social prophet. This man that lived and died thousands of years ago is still having a social impact today. We are following in his footsteps. We are standing with him and believing in transformational change for individuals, for our whānau, for our communities, and for our society.


Our social prophets are courageous enough to take a stand. When they take a stand, it is more about a vision rather than a point of view or a position. They are able to hear, see and respect all positions and honour them without judgement. They create possibilities when resources are scarce; the situation appears hopeless and overwhelming. They have a strongly held belief that people and society can change for the better.


These workers, our social prophets, aim to do more than just righting a wrong or fixing a problem – they are aiming for transformational change. They are aiming for transformational change in individuals, whānau, communities and society in general. If they did not think this transformative change was possible, they would not be working in this sector.


Our social prophets are giving a voice to those without a voice, a home to those without a home, hope where it seems impossible, listening without interruption so they can truly hear.


And what would happen if we also changed the way we viewed the world and look through a sufficiency lens rather than a scarcity lens? With a scarcity lens assumes there is never enough, more is always better and accepts things just the way they are. If we viewed the world through a sufficiency lens, we would assume and accept that there is enough for everyone, and that everyone can prosper if we share resources. Perhaps this could be the cure for affluenza that we have been searching for?


I challenge you to consider how we view the world and the language we use as this shapes our society. I challenge you to believe that there is enough for everyone and that we can all be social prophets to bring about a just and inclusive society in which all people flourish.


Carol Barron, National Coordinator

03 375 0512 | 027 561 9164 | Carol@MethodistAlliance.org.nz

[1] Lynne Twist is the founder of The Soul of Money Institute and she is committed to ending world hunger, alleviating poverty, and supporting social justice and environmental sustainability. [2] http://archive.skoll.org/2011/04/06/social-prophets/

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