The ground has tilted; the Church is in turmoil all over the world. It is caught up in divergence views, competing voices; both theological and humanistic debates that have increasingly left it at crossroads. The liberals and conservatives theologians are battling it out in the board rooms, leaving each other wounded both at heart and emotions. And yet the most affected people are the faithful, either become disillusioned about Christian faith, or migrating to other Church or finding comfort in other forms of spiritualties. There are billions of people in the world today though “Christians” no longer find a reason to attend Church or being associated with Christianity.
What are the big issues?
What am I hearing everyone concerned with is? I hear the outcry of lack of authentic Christ centred gospel proclamation in pulpits, lack of manifestation of God’s power at work in believers’ lives. I hear lack of refresher courses for clergy, thus subjecting them one school of thought, untrained lay church leadership on matters of church polity, thus lapsing into religiosity and routine. I hear the outcry low church attendance, concern for professionals who have lost interest in Church, financial instability in churches, migration of youth to secularism. I hear lack of clear discipleship strategy for children, teenagers and youth, lack of budgets to invest in the children and youth workers in the Church, lack of unity among pastors and Church elders, and poverty among church members, thus affecting Church’s Mission. I hear sharp doctrinal divisions in the Church, strange emerging theologies denying the authenticity of Christ. I hear clergy complain of untimely transfers from one parish station to another that has led to demotivation and poor fore planning for meaningful parish ministry. I hear tolerance of syncretism, witchcraft and fetish practices among church members. I hear neo-Pentecostals emphasising on property gospel that has left many around the world impoverished and with unfulfilled expectations. I hear relentless power struggle in the Church in terms of clannism, tribalism, racism, and neo-colonial undertones. These are but a few of many concerns expressed by both the ordained and Lay ministers.
I hear the concern about growing nominalism among church gores. Those attending Church, the majority are nominal Christians living a sacralised life, a life fused with secularism and humanistic, behavioral characteristics that have rendered Christian faith irrelevant and powerless. Money has become the god of the modern human race, and Christian faith sacrificed at the altar of corruption, tribalism, and cultural beliefs.
They have put on a form of godliness but denying transforming power there-in. (2nd Timothy 3: 5) It is essential to observe that the trend is the same all over the world.
It is an irony that the majority of countries that embraced Christianity are also associated with deep-seated human selfishness. Practices such as the same secular approach to spiritual matters, sex marriage, polygamy, gender-based violence, corruption, bribery, tribalism, racism, civil wars, inter-tribal conflicts, poverty, and witchcraft among many social vices. Believe you these are significant issues confronting the Church today.
Spiral growth of historical Church
There is a general argument that Christianity emerged from Israel as a Faith in Jesus Christ and spread to Asia Minor (Antioch) as a Missionary Movement winning souls and planting Churches in new grounds. It settled in Europe both as a Power and Civilization, getting consolidated, and developing structures and systems. Embraced in America as a Democracy for Liberation, seeking justice for all and equality of human rights and exported on Africa as a Trade and Commerce, a product for business by promoting Mission on the wings of social development.
What are the issues of concern?
As it spread to Asia via Antioch as a missionary movement, it never took root among the Jews who viewed it as a cult, an interference to their Jewish faith and beliefs. Spreading in Asia like wildfire, it was short lived as Islam swept over the land due to lack of discipleship and enculturation of the gospel and left hallmarks of ahistorical tell. It entered Europe through Rome as power and civilization and was, reduced to an academic exercise, thus becoming a head knowledge that never transformed Barbaric culture and traditional beliefs. In America, it was translated to democracy and rights for all that laid a foundation and laid the egg for the downfall of the authentic Christian faith (Liberalism). The current confusion negatively influencing the Church is a result of a wrong approach to Christian faith.
In Africa, Christianity was associated with colonial civilization. It was intertwined with specifically British culture. Converting to Christianity meant a change of name to adopt either Jewish or English names. The converted were physically separated from their communities and given preference services such as Education, Employment, etc. Both colonial and Missionary masters painted a picture of superior culture over the Africans that created an imbedded attitude of overdependence on them. That caused a lack of self-esteem and innovation among the Africa people (Church). In an attempt to address the situation, the Church in Africa has gradually turned Christianity into trade and commerce, thus eroding Christian values and reducing it to material wellbeing as an indicator of stability.
The missionary miss-match:
Missionary churches are busy setting up huge business enterprises to make profits while congregations are dwindling. Is this not a contradiction? The effort of investing infrastructures with anticipation of making the Church economically viable in the future is suffocating the very essence why the Church exists today (Winning souls and discipling them for Christian Mission). If you think this is just a make-up, the Church in Europe is suffering from the same Miss-match. Having huge church buildings without people.
On the extreme end, Pentecostals and Charismatics are immersed into prosperity gospel, selling of miracles, hawking holy waters, etc. for selfish gains. The devastating situation is that majority of Christians are left bewildered and disillusioned about faith and realism.
What is at stake?
The Church in Africa, just like the rest of the world, is rapidly degenerating into a religious outfit that has the only form of godliness but without transformative spiritual power. Pastors/priests have lapsed into professional religious leaders, most of them now interested in money and comfort at the expense of the Great Commission and, more importantly, little discipleship. It is the situation explained above that has triggered the question, is the Church healthy?
This course has been developed out of many years of ministry practice, reflecting both on historical and emerging trends that have, over the years, negatively affected Christian Mission worldwide. Christianity is on the decline. A reality that many church leaders struggle to come to terms with. Drawing our theology from 1st Corinthians 12, 13, and fourteen, it is clear that the church-being the body of Christ with many parts need to re-examine herself and rediscover her primary calling. Chapter 12: 26, Paul concludes that if one part of the body is paining, the whole body pains.
The thrust of the course is to equip mostly the Lay Leadership of the Church to acquire both knowledge and skills on how to nurture a healthy and sustainable church amidst the above mentioned contradicting voices.
Philosophy: Building a healthy church
Vision: Nurturing a healthy and sustainable church in Africa.
The Mission: Equip, Empower and Release Christian leaders as agents of both spiritual and social change within their context and sphere of influence
It presupposes that, if the Church leadership (The ordained) in Africa re-examines herself-understanding and intentionally invests her resources towards fulfilling God’s Mission by training and mentoring local church leadership (The Laity), then it will cause spiritual, socio-economic and political transformation. (Stewardship). The strategy is anchored on the understanding that the Church-the People of God, are central to the realization of God’s purposes in the world, and as His instrument, have the responsibility of presenting Christ to the world through their lives and actions in ways that portray Christ as the only viable option. (Discipleship). It is in this breath that Equipping of Church Leaders (The laity) at the local church level becomes a foundational and appropriate vehicle for mobilizing communities in Africa to reflect God’s kingdom values, experiencing church growth, peace, tranquillity and harmony in every village and community in Africa. The core objective is to raise well trained and equipped men and women, both clergy and lay leaders rooted in the theology and practice of Healthy Church across Africa seeking to impact all centres of influence in society.