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THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH IN OUR SOCIETY
This study is set to investigate the role of the church in our society today, using Assemblies of God Church, Ikwerri District as the study area. The hope of building peace in Nigeria as a divided state leveraging on the roles of the church in ensuring sustainable peace and harmony in our society. The study adopts a survey research method and the use of self-developed questionnaire for data collection. There are numerous crises in Nigeria ranging from ethnic-religious crisis to agitation for resource control/break-up of the country, but the religious crisis such as the Niger Delta militant, Herdsmen Killing and Boko Haram insurgency has attracted international attention and concern. The fallouts of these crises are threatening the country’s unity and national development. The finding shows that Nigerians have strong confidence in the efficacy of sustainable peace in solving personal problems and that churches could ensure National unity and development in Nigeria. Thus, to build a united Nigeria, the researcher recommends that churches should focus more in preaching the message of peace and harmony rather than prosperity message that is the order of the day in most churches today. Churches should also discourage violence greatly as this aids peace and harmony in the society.
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
The church which represent Christ has three major roles to play in our society which are: evangelism which is to preach Christ, edification which is to practice Christ, and Benevolence which is to personify Christ. The role of the modern church in the life of the 21st-century is critical because it fills a void only the church can. Paul the apostle said for the Christian not to be conformed to the world. The church is here to change society, it is not here to be changed by society. The Christian was to be different. The Christian was to be transformed by having the Spirit of God renewed within him in such a way that he stood above the need to identify with the society about him.
Nigeria remains handicapped by political malpractice, deep economic contradictions, social inequality and a considerable potential for violence due to the politicization of identity (International Crisis Group, 2006a) characterized by religious, ethnic and communal conflicts, insecurity, organized crime, human rights violations among others. Between 1999 till date, Nigeria experienced critical events that undermined her coexistence. The Christian tradition has made significant contributions to world peace at a number of different levels (Albert, 2011).
Violent conflict disrupts the process of production, creates conditions for pillage of the country’s resources and diverts their application from development purposes to servicing war. Violent conflict is thus responsible for perpetuating misery and under development in the country-Nigeria and the continent at large (Adetula, 2006). It is now widely accepted that violent conflict is the major hindrance to the development of the African continent and Nigeria in particular. It inflicts human sufferings through death, destruction of livelihoods, constant displacement and insecurity (Barash, 2000). In recent decades, Church leaders have frequently made statements in support of peace. In some cases these statements have been specific appeals for peace in particular circumstances, however, on other occasions they have also published more comprehensive statements on the need for peace and the means of achieving it.
The church has to present the Good News of deliverance from the powers of evil – it cannot do this if it identifies with the system incorporating them. The church has to do good to all people as seen in (Galatians 6:10) “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Christianity as in Christ is revolutionary against the injustices of society, against tyranny of the mind and soul. Or perhaps progressive (“prophetic”) is a better word than revolutionary, because it expresses a more positive quality, more representative of the general attitude of Jesus’ teachings. Christianity must dissociate itself from the social system which harbors injustice and prejudice if it expects to retain the vitality and power of Christ and the gospel he preached. The church is challenged to take upon herself a personal responsibility to live fully the ideals of Christianity (Orville Boyd Jenkins, 2008).
Christianity as a word means followers of Christ or Christ like. The will of God for the church in the 1st century is still the will of God for the Church today. The prescribed way in which the church worshipped God during the 1st century is the prescribed way for the church to worship God today. Christians therefore are those who follow and act the teaching of Christ in all ways of life. One of the climaxes of Christianity or Christian virtue is peace. Christians are enjoined in the Bible to embrace and live peacefully with their neighbors’. The following scriptures confirm this: Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it (Psalm 34 vs 14). Blessed are the Peace makers for they shall be called the children of God Matthew 5 vs 9). Let him eschew evil and do good; let him seek peace and ensue it (1 Peter 3 vs 11). Follow peace with all men and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord (Hebrews 12 vs 14). If it be possible, as much as it lieth in you, live peaceably with all men (Rom 12 vs 18)
The word Peace in Christianity is translated from the Hebrew word ‘Shalom’, which is a key word in the Bible and its at the center of how God wants us to live on earth. One of the key things Jesus came to give humanity is Peace and expects us to live in peace as cited in the scriptural verses above. Peace was not only what Jesus taught but He also lived it, this in most cases is what scholars call pacifism, as Jesus never taught violence, even at his arrest by the Pharisees and one of his disciples struck the ears of the priest, Jesus rebuked the disciple and said that “those who live by the sword shall die by the sword” (Mathew 26:52, NKJV). In another place Jesus taught the people not to retaliate any evil done to them as it used to be, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, if one should strike you on the right cheek, turn the left cheek (Mathew 5:38-39, NKJV) but now to always forgive those that offend them and he charged them to forgive their neighbors even seventy times seven (Matthew 18:22, KJV). With all these scriptural teachings of the church, Christians are supposed to be role models to the society. This led to the study on the role of the church in our society.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The Nigerian society have been bedeviled by numerous development challenges including: severe economic, political and social crises, decline in the standard of education, moral and infrastructural decay, cultural crisis predicated on the fact that traditional values in the people’s cultures have been heavily impacted by materialism, science and technology and ideologies. Health facilities are in total decay. All these problems call to question the role of the Church in still contributing to the provision of needed succor in these problem areas. In view of these problems and issues, the big question is the relevance of the Church in the present situation. The church has always taught the members on the act of non-retaliation as taught by Jesus which helps to absorb violence instead of escalating it, hence every cycle of violence provoking revenge, which in turn provokes more violence is broken by the simple act of tolerating the violence and avoiding retaliation. On the contrary, there has been increased cases of disruption to peace and harmony in the world today despite the church teachings of peace as stipulated by Jesus Christ. However, the researcher is examining the role of church in our society.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The primary objective of this study is to examine the role of church in our society. The specific objectives of the study include:
- To examine the role of church in ensuring peace and harmony in Assemblies of God Church, Ikwerri District.
- To determine to what extent the Church has been vital and relevant in maintaining peace and unity in Assemblies of God Church, Ikwerri District.
- To examine the dictates of the church as regards peace and harmony.
- To identify the factors disrupting peace and harmony of the society.
1.4 Research Questions
1. What is the role of church in ensuring peace and harmony in our society?
2. What are the dictates of the church as regards peace and harmony in our society?
3. What are the factors disrupting peace and harmony in our society?
1.5 Research Hypotheses
H0: The church plays no significant role in ensuring peace and harmony in Assemblies of God Church, Ikwerri District.
H1: The church plays a significant role in ensuring peace and harmony in Assemblies of God Church, Ikwerri District.
H0: Church has played no vital role in maintaining peace and unity in Assemblies of God Church, Ikwerri District
H2: Church has played a vital role in maintaining peace and unity in Assemblies of God Church, Ikwerri District
1.6 Significance of the Study
The following are the significance of this study: The findings of this study will be useful for the government, church leaders and the general public on the role of the church in our society. It will provide valuable insights into existing relationship between the government and the church in providing peace and unity in our rural communities. This research will also serve as a resource base to other scholars and researchers interested in carrying out further research in this field subsequently, if applied will go to an extent to provide new explanation to the topic. It will add to existing knowledge and equally serve as a benchmark for further studies.
1.7 Scope and Limitations of the Study
This study will cover the role of the church and Christianity in general as regards the issue of societal peace and harmony in Assemblies of God Church, Ikwerri District. The following constraints tend to hinder the flow of the study;
Financial constraint: Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
Time constraint: The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
1.8 Definitions of Terms
Religion: Religion is a cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations that relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, or spiritual elements. However, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion
Religious conflicts: A religious war or holy war (Latin: bellum sacrum) is a war primarily caused or justified by differences in religion. In the modern period, debates are common over the extent to which religious, economic, or ethnic aspects of a conflict predominate in a given war.
Church: A church building or church house, often simply called a church, is a building used for Christian religious activities, particularly for Christian worship services. The term is often used by Christians to refer to the physical buildings where they worship, but it is sometimes used (by analogy) to refer to buildings of other religions
Niger Delta: Delta State is an oil and agricultural producing state in Nigeria. It is situated in the region known as the South-South geo-political zone with a population of 4,112,445
Boko Haram: The Islamic State in West Africa or the Islamic State’s West Africa Province, formerly known as Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād and commonly known as Boko Haram until March 2015, is a jihadist terrorist organization based in northeastern Nigeria, also active in Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon.