It was Pope John XXIII that once theorized, “every Christian must be convinced of his fundamental and vital duty of bearing witness to the truth in which he believes and the grace that has transformed him.” On this note, we shall continue our discourse on the above topic, having started with reasons why worshippers leave the church.
But, why worshippers leave the Church?
Surprisingly, some may leave the church because it has moved to a new location, or a new building, which does not accommodate their convenience, means or sentiments attached to the old building and location. Some leave when a leader, Priest or Pastor they regard as their light and Counselor is transferred. Some leave when a new Priest comes in and desires to change the existing order of things. They say, “oh, this is not how it has been. I don’t like his ways”.
Yet, some leave because instead of being ministered unto as they expect, they are forced to be part of the ministry. They thus suffered a disconnect with the church. Some leave because the church could not satisfy their personal and family material needs. Yet, others leave the Catholic church for the more vibrant, screaming, dancing Pentecostal churches, because they complain the service in the Catholic church is too dull, uninspiring and spiritually unhelpful.
Fortunately, the attitude of many Nigerians towards Churches is not as critical as those mentioned above. The Church still plays a tremendous influence on the lives of majority in our countrymen and women. Nevertheless, there are still some worrisome concerns in certain quarters.
What are conditions like in your church? Do you receive sound, Bible-based counsel that builds spirituality? Or, are you among the hundreds of thousands that have been disappointed when hearing repeated pleas for money, discussions of politics and approval from the pulpit of moral laxity? Truth be told, there is a growing dissatisfaction by many on the role of the church in nation building. Some leave the Church because of perceived or blatant double standards. Many churches, especially of the Pentecostal genre, preach prosperity. The richer you, are, the more God is considered to be in your life. Lies. Even armed robbers, prostitutes, kidnappers, ritualists (otokotos), murderers, cultists, etc, are also rich. The hood certainly does not make the monk. Do these clerics ever read Matthew 6:33, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you”?
Nation building: The foundations
There are three key foundations for nation-building – Family, Faith and Education. Without these three, it is practically impossible for any country to attain First World status and it is through these three that First World nations sustain their status.
In my view, the church, appears to be the biggest influencer in Nigeria. In fact, the church would be the best group to accelerate nation-building in these twisted and crooked times.
Why the Church?
Religion is considered an important aspect of society, especially in Africa where people are deeply religious. All the major faith traditions like Christianity and Islamic traditions have core principles that can motivate bonding and bridging social capital through community service, corporation, peace-making, pursuit of social justice and the possibility of respect and tolerance for others. According to Nicholas Wade, religion expresses a society’s collective wisdom, past and present as to how its members should best behave in order to enhance the society’s survival.
The church played an important role in the politics of the later Roman Empire. The church preserved Western civilization through the Dark ages and was in the forefront of European politics until the 17th century and beyond. According to Wade, it was when people turned to secular states and some premises and modern knowledge that religion was no longer appreciated. Religion goes further and beyond its role in strengthening the social fabric. Religion exerts a cultural influence so deep that it has in effect become a defining factor of the world’s major civilisations. Even in the most secular countries religion strongly influences the way people identify themselves.
As a religion, and social organization, Christianity proposes that she is capable of transforming any society positively. According to O’Donnell, what Christianity offers is an interpretation of social reality. He continues that by the teaching of personal responsibility and accountability, the Church provides restraint to those under her influence. This assertion of O’Donnell is true of what Christianity is able to offer but whether the adherents of Christianity allow these teachings to reflect in their lives is something that must be critically examined.
Furthermore, there is the assumption that if Christianity dominates a community and overrules the traditional laws, ethics and norms with her model principles of life, such community will be transparent in politics, policy formulation and implementation of public programmes and projects. In other words, in a community where there is a considerable influence of Christianity, there should be less of social vices because Christian teachings and doctrines are aimed at transforming individual lives, re-branding the society, such that there will be political stability, economic prosperity, social and moral sanity, a reduced rate of corruption and mutual cooperation among individuals and groups, including religions.
In addition, it is also assumed that if Christian principles and teachings are faithfully adopted and properly inculcated into the people, the societal value system will be fine-tuned such that the people’s attitude to life will be positive and well informed towards an effective social transformation of a
The church is the oldest and most resilient institution in the world, and in Africa, Christian congregations are generally expected to serve their community and deal with the social needs of their community. The Church has the ability to foster group cohesion, nurture and sustain reciprocity among members of any community.
As Coleman points out ‘churches provide our society with a more participatory, more egalitarian and more communitarian ethos that would be evident in our society without them’.
You cannot detach the Church from the society. It’s not enough to criticize the government, the Church must contribute its quarter to better the society.
Given these immense growth rates and the crucial relevance of Churches in Africa, we have more than one reason to emphasize the strategic relevance of African Churches for social and political development, good governance and human rights on the African continent. African churches play a significant role in civil society, for services in the area of peace and conflict solution, for the protection of human rights as well as for the role of women and children in society. In the 21st century African churches have increasingly become subjects of important transformation processes for justice, education and human rights.
Are the Churches living up to the expectations and yearnings of the Nation?
Signs of end times
People need to have their spiritual, emotional and physical needs met. We are living in a crazy world today. II Timothy 3:1 helps me put this in perspective, “but know this, that in the last days perilous times will come.” I will take the liberty to say that perilous times are already here. More and more children are growing up in broken homes; unemployment is on the rise and Christians are sinking deeper into debt like never before. Many church goers are struggling to make ends meet in their everyday lives, and we feel the pinch of reality just like everyone else. Believers are not exempt from trials of the world. We are living in perilous and drastic times. Drastic times call for drastic measures. The end times appear here when women marry women; men marry men; women wed dogs in the church, etc. Wars, conflicts, abominations, famine, wickedness, anti-christs, etc. See Matthew 24: 15-16; Daniel 7:12; Ezekiel 37; 1Thess 4; 2 Thess 2; 1Peter 4; 2Peter 2; etc.
But are the churches living up to its role in nation building?
A critical appraisal of the activities of the church in Nigeria vividly reveals that the number of believers and local assemblies we have in the country do not reflect the situation in which we find ourselves. Frankly speaking, what is common in Nigeria is a religious expression of Christianity and not the true church. The term “Christianity” appears to be a misnomer. The quality of believers the church has produced is a far cry from the model set by Christ Jesus and the first century Christians. How do you explain a nation that records millions of people flocking annual religious gatherings and yet, ills such as greed, corruption, nepotism, injustice, impunity etc. are rife both in high and low places?
How disheartening, and discouraging it is, to note that those who perpetrate these acts or under whom these acts are perpetrated are the very ones who parade themselves as saints, who even claim to be holier than the pope! We see most times, corrupt elements in the society being given undeserved recognition in church; some of them are even singled out for prayer (for God’s blessings and not of repentance). These are people who should be chastised, reprimanded and disciplined by the Church, so that they could see the need to repent from their evil ways. The knowledge that some of our church leaders influence cabinet appointments, which explains the level of influence they exert on the political leadership, also makes the whole situation appalling.
With respect, I feel dissatisfied with the manner the church has been lackadaisical and the lackluster in attitude displayed by Church leaders in rebuking what is bad, and in defending the poor and downtrodden. In the Bible book of Proverbs 31:8, we are admonished as Christians, to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed… Speak up for the poor and helpless and see that they get justice’’
With the increasing rate of oppression and violation of human rights in Nigeria today, more is expected from our Church leaders than the prolonged mum. It is time for our Church Leaders to bolding declare the message of vengeance and retribution against oppressive leaders. It is time for Church Leaders to condemn illegal and malicious detention of suspects in flout disregard to Court orders.
I also believe that the Church has a role to play in promoting the rule of law, by joining voices with the traumatised citizens to protest illegal and unconstitutional acts of the Executive. For instance, when the Executive arbitrarily and unconstitutionally removed the Chief Justice of Nigeria earlier this year without recourse to the Senate, I expected Church Leaders who are also citizens of this country to also lend a voice in condemning this illegal act. (To be continued).
Thought for the week
“Sir, there is no Christian nation, thus free to choose as we are, which would establish slavery.” (William H. Seward).