What Is a Forerunner?

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A forerunner is somebody who goes before someone or something else, but within the context of Scripture, a forerunner is a cultural influencer who serves an essential role in God’s redemptive purposes. Perhaps the most renown forerunner is John the Baptist, whose ministry was foretold by a angel: He will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. And it is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers back to their children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:16–17, NASB). John’s forerunner calling was centered on influencing culture by seeing lives and families changed to be prepared to meet their Messiah.

The Bible is filled with exemplary forerunners. As a preacher of righteousness, Noah became the Bible’s first forerunner when he saw what was coming, built an ark, and “warned the world of God’s righteous judgment” (2 Pet. 2:5, NLT). Moses, having received a “now” message from God for the Hebrews (Deut. 31:16–19), understood the hearts of the people, saw what was coming, and composed a song of warning as his final testament to the nation of Israel (Deut. 32). Likewise, Jeremiah proclaimed God’s message of warning and His call to repentance before the arrival of devastating national judgment (Jer. 3:11–14; 11:1–17). The apostle Peter warned the people and preached repentance, “strongly urging all his listeners, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation!’” (Acts 2:40, NLT). Even Jesus was a forerunner who served as the ultimate example of one who prepared people to stand before a holy God (Heb. 6:19–20). Each of these people confronted the culture and influenced multitudes through their lives and message.

As representatives of God, every one of us is called to be a forerunner who is willing to publicly share God’s heart for people and for nations. Moreover, the message of a forerunner is inextricably linked with our commission from Jesus to make disciples of all nations and to teach them to obey His instructions (Matt. 28:19–20). However, “forerunner” is not a synonym for “Christian.” Not every Christian identifies as a forerunner. What distinguishes a forerunner from other gospel-minded Christians is an awareness of the role that nations play in God’s redemptive plan to draw the hearts of people to Himself and a burden to warn others about God’s judgment upon rebellious nations that push people away from God. A forerunner emphasizes the importance of not only individual righteousness, but also of collective righteousness.

Simply put, a forerunner is a cultural influencer who delivers God’s warning of national judgment with the goal of eliciting a spirit of repentance that will ripple into cultural change among both individuals and their communities. At the heart of this appeal is the transformative power of the gospel. A forerunner hopes for the blessings associated with repentance, but like the prophet Amos, a forerunner also fearlessly warns the rebellious, “Prepare to meet your God in judgment” (Amos 4:12b, NLT).

This article comes from Heart of a Forerunner: How to Be a Relevant and Influential Voice in a Wayward Nation

Heart of a Forerunner

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Timothy Zebell

As a former missionary to Asia for twelve years and the author of several books, Timothy is passionate about helping people understand the relevancy of God's Word in today's world. His goals are to help Christians discern truth from error, empower Christians to speak into cultural matters with relevancy, and to help Christians capitalize on the opportunities that these matters provide for sharing the truth about God and His gospel message.
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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. Biblegateway.com.