The Cautionary Tale of John Rockycana

With a name like Rockycana (pronounced Rockitsanna) you have to be destined for greatness. Had competivie bobsledding or battle rapping been invented by 1448 perhaps John Rockycana would be a name that more people would know. But as it stands he’ll have to settle for having been a 15th century Archbishop-elect of Prague.

Rockycana was a fiery preacher. In a time when the Bohemian peoples were experiencing great civil unrest Rockycana’s voice cried out against the injustices and hypocrisy of the Catholic priests in his day. He was carrying on the mantle left by John Hus. Many considered the stirring preacher to be a second Hus.

The only problem, though, is that “for all his fire in the pulpit, he was only a [coward] at heart.” (Hutton, 44) He built an entire ministry on railing against priests. And it worked. His congregation took his word to heart and desired to escape these wicked priests by leaving Catholicism. But Rockycana folded. He responded by saying, “I know you are right, but if I joined your ranks I should be reviled on every hand.” (44)

His ministry of the Word was only words.

There isn’t a ton of material on the life of Rockycana. But we do know that his growing ministry was soon gutted as several of those members went to follow a man who wasn’t just talk (Gregory the Patriarch). Rockycana continued to use his political influence to assist these Christ followers—even rescuing Gregory from the rack at one point. But it appears that his assistance eventually died down and Rockycana remained an establishment man all the days of his life.

It’s a sad tale. It’s also one of which I can partially identify. I’m familiar with some of the temptations that he must have faced. It’s easy to reason with yourself that not taking a stance on certain issues is living to fight another day. It’s easy to convince yourself that the greatest part of your ministry of the Word is on Sunday morning and not putting those fiery words in action on Monday morning.

What I’m attempting to say is that it is impossible to sustain a prophetic ministry that only happens on Sunday morning. If we take up the voice of a prophet on Sunday morning we can’t become a coward on Monday. Eventually our people will discover that we are all bark and no bite. As the apostle Paul said, “The kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.”

We must be like John Hus, who willingly put his life behind his words. Following a crucified Messiah will always take us from the sermons on the mount to the hill of Calvary. We cannot be in love with our life or our ministry. If we aren’t willing to lay down both, then our fiery messages are just words without power.

You might even get by with a powerless ministry of words for all of your life. There will always be people who happily live their whole life under a ministry of words. The preacher can gain quite a following with words. He can make a living for himself and set up a comfortable existence. He can get plaques and recognition and not be reviled by a single soul. But will such a ministry not be licked up by the flames?

Some days I’m afraid my heart desires the varnished plaque more than the Father’s pleasure. God help me…

from SBC Voices


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