True ministry is like that of the apostles and primitive church.
This is how Robert Barclay sums up his view of Quaker ministry:
The sum then of what is said is that the ministry that we have pleaded for, and which also the Lord hath raised up among us, is in all its parts like the true ministry of the apostles and primitive Church.
This sets a very high standard for ministry within the Society of Friends, a standard that has not been uniformly attained or maintained. Barclay starts out with the audacious claim that the ministry raised up among the Quakers is equivalent to the ministry of the apostles and the primitive Christian church. A look at the history of the Valiant Sixty (the term used for the first set of people who undertook to preach Quakerism to the world at the beginning of the Quaker movement.) shows that the claim is perhaps not unjustified.
So why is it that we do not see that level of ministry being raised up among Friends today? Sometimes I have thought that somehow we are not faithful enough. If only we did something different, better or were in some way more like early Friends, we would find a radically powerful ministry being raised up among us. But when I stopped and thought about this, I realized that this is, as Barclay says in another place, “a horrid blasphemy against the power of God.” Do we really think that we are so powerful in our unbelief that we can prevent God from raising up the ministry God needs?
So does that mean that God does not need or want to raise up a vibrant prophetic ministry? God has been willing and able to do so in other times and places. It doesn't seem that that the world has reached such a state of blessedness that such a ministry is unneeded.
So maybe we are just looking in the wrong places. God usually raises up prophets from among the marginalized and downtrodden. Have we became so complacent that we are unwilling to admit that we might need to live transformed lives? Do we value our privileges so much that we have become afraid of the ability of the Inner Light to show us our faults and then transform us? Are we afraid that, like the young man who came to Jesus to find out what he must do for eternal life, we will be asked to sell everything and give it to the poor? Instead of raising up Quaker ministers, God turned to the drunks and the addicts to preach a message of a Higher Power, available to everyone, who can do what we cannot do by ourselves, which is to restore us to sanity and transform our lives. God raised up Mohandas Gandhi from out of South Africa to bring a message of peace and freedom to India. God raised up Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King to lead their people to freedom. God raised up Friends in Rwanda and Burundi and the Congo to show that the Peace Testimony means forgiving those who had massacred your family and neighbors. God is even now raising up ministers of peace in Kenya to heal and comfort the people there and to show that there is a different way.
God's prophets, including the Valiant Sixty, have come from unexpected places. Moses was a fugitive murderer with a speech impediment. David was a shepherd, Jesus a carpenter. His disciples were fishermen. George Fox was apprenticed to be a shoemaker. Mary Fisher who went and preached to the Sultan of Turkey was a serving maid. God is always raising prophets, just not from the ranks of the comfortable and privileged.
We need to be careful what we ask for. If we want God to raise a prophetic ministry among us and God raises prophets from the downtrodden, what is it that has to happen to us before such a ministry can arise? Who are the marginalized already among us who may be trying to speak to us? Before we get prophetic voices do we need prophetic ears?