Our present generation is confronted to an unprecedented era, a century that more and more witnesses new challenges, new crisis, but also new actors that could bring about solutions.
One unanimous observation that is been made is that today’s world is globalized. Consequently, countries are interdependent, every member of a society is connected to one another, in other words, and there is an international network that renders isolation difficult, if not impossible.
Therefore, this observation is of a great concern for the Church, in the sense that it questions its role in the society. If we are been sent to be the light and salt of the world, a world that today is characterized by globalization and interconnection, can we remain on the bench and be isolated?
Is it possible to influence a world we do not know without even taking into consideration its parameters?
That is actually the subject matter of today’s article. This issue been raised is to give a clear direction to the Church in its implication in what we call temporal affairs. To make it clear, temporal affairs are the set of policies that ensure the welfare of society in the social, economic and political arena.
To go further, are isolationism (the policy or doctrine of isolating one’s country from the affairs of other nations) and Great Commission (the divine mandate given by Jesus to the Church to reach the world with the Gospel) really compatible? Can we really envisage a winning soul Church that is disconnected from the society?
As part of the Church but also broadly of our society, I think that it is vital to raise such a question and give the appropriate answer for the welfare of our society.
I) All in one same world, All faced to the same crisis: The Church, member of the civil society.
When in the book of Jeremiah God demanded that the children of Israel would get involve in Babylonia despite the fact they were in exile, he meant that they had an inevitable role to play due to their unquestionable position in the civil society: «Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon; Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.”
In this light, it is clear that the Church is part of the civil society; it is member of a body and is therefore affected anytime an infection or disease occurs. The Church and the society are both facing severe spiritual, socio-economic and political crisis.
Talking about the church is more or less referring to the local church that embodies a leader with a vision, filled with the Holy Spirit and the members of the assembly.
Refering to Numbers 11:17
17 Then I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit who is upon you, and will put Him upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you will not bear it all alone.
This is a fact that cannot be denied and that reminds us all that although we are only passengers in this world, we nevertheless are subjected to anything that happens in it. The rain falls on non-Christians and Christians.
Economic or political crisis that can give way to a war affect non-Christians and Christians. Therefore we are not to ask ourselves if we part of the civil society, but rather what can we do.
A human society is considered to be a group of people, from a family, community from a nation, all related to each other through interpersonal relationship sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations.
Too many time the church has overlooked its position in society when it is an integral part of it. This notion of civil of society is essential for us to realize that we have something to give to our society.
On the 14th July 1998 in Sao Paulo, Kofi Annan gave his view on “the emergence of a new world era where the civil society would play an increasing role besides the public institutions”. This statement has to be taken very seriously in the sense that this new era gives more space for the Church which is with no doubt part of the civil society.
It is in this respect that I advocated greater implication in social affairs regarding the Church; a Church that would be united and determined to lift up its ideals in one common vision and voice.
II) A call for one people, one language, one vision.
There is a rapid growth of Evangelical, Pentecostal and Charismatic churches in our current generation. This trend can take two opposite paths. On one hand, all these growing churches can go on their way and work on their own, or on the other hand, can decide to unite for one same cause.
If the Church wants to win souls and influence the current affairs, it has to speak with one voice. This is an inevitable condition that we must fulfil. If all Churches can move within the Spirit of the people of Babel, then we can play a very determinant role in the socio economic and political affairs of our society.
I am always inspired by the events that took place in the book of Genesis chapter 11 from verses one to five. According to the biblical account, people of the same family, the same community, the same nation and of the same generations following the Great Flood, speaking a single language and migrating from the east, came to the land of Shinar, where they resolved to build a city with a tower “with its top in the heavens…lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the Earth.” God came down to see what they did and said: “They are one people and have one language, and nothing will be withholding from them which they purpose to do.”
The declaration from God is a great divine exhortation with regards to unity in mind and in spirit to members of a society or the Church.
All things are possible together.
This inviting position leads me to primarily call out the attention of the body of Christ, but also the entire world to the extent that we have here a group of people who besides our traditional and secular institutions such as the State or International Organizations, have solutions to bring forth to the present issues of society. Therefore if I had to give an answer to this question:
Can the Church isolate itself from society and still fulfill the Great Commission? I would clearly and sharply answer no.
III) Our obligation to activism and militancy in the society.
Kwame N’Krumah once said that “the independence of Ghana is meaningless until it is linked with total liberation of the African continent”. I would slightly modify the statement of our former and first President and say that “our salvation is not complete until it is linked with total deliverance of all people in the society by playing a determinant role with regards to temporal affairs”. There is here an emphasis in both statement on opening to others and influencing them as well.
In view of these points, and with regards to the church and the society, can the Church isolate itself from temporal affairs? I would therefore answer no, because a society, or a human society, is considered to be a group of people, a family, a community or a nation, all related to each other through interpersonal relationship, sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations. Human societies are characterized by patterns of relationships (social relations) between individuals who share a distinctive culture and institutions.
There is a need to awaken the consciences of the Evangelical, Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches with regards to the social doctrine of the body of Christ. The church needs to learn and understand the principles of temporal affairs that deal with, economics, science, politics, sociology or international relations. The church’s role in all temporal matters relates to all effort that can contribute to the welfare of the society.
This stance of mine is done to prevent the Church from misconceiving the mandate given by Jesus Christ. In order to refocus things to their initial places, I would remind that the mission of the Church is to preach the Gospel of Salvation, to prepare souls to enter into the Kingdom of God but also of socio-economic and political matters by giving unto the world its wisdom, its morals and principles, and also its social hand; feeding the poor for example.
As a conclusion, it is urgent in the way things move very rapidly in our current society to consider this role that has been given unto the Church. If yesterday the traditional churches such as the Catholic church were involved in society, today it is the growing charismatic churches to also accept the mission and bring double impact: spiritual, by preaching the gospel and making disciples, and last but not least, socio-economic and political. To those who would undermine the role of the Church, I would once again say no; for the world needs us, our society needs our way of dealing matters, our families need our salt, our friends and neighbours need our light.
I therefore call upon the entire body of Christ, most notably the Church leaders, to unite, and make all efforts to build our tower of Babel made of solutions and reforms in social, economic and political affairs.
God Bless you all,
Pastor Joejo Dadzie, Founder of Christ Reformed Evangelical Church Strasbourg, France