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This study was set to investigate the understanding of God’s dealings and the role of Church leaders in accomplishing God’s plan in the 21st century church: using Assemblies of God Eleme/Tai District as a case study. The primary focus of the research is to understand God’s pattern and contributions of church leaders in sustaining God’s plan and growth in the 21st century era, the study made use of primary data from the information obtained from the distribution of research questionnaire to members of the selected denominations. The research design adopted for this study is cross –sectional survey and descriptive analysis on a randomly selected sample of the different categories of respondents (Men, Women and Church Leaders). The study made use of a total population of 100. The sample of 40 was considered for the study, the data hypothesis was analyzed using the chi-square method. The study concluded that there must be some kind of Godly ordinance and leadership style in the church or else there will be anarchy and confusion. The study recommends that church leaders should leads by examples, rather than acting or playing Christianity just to justify righteousness.
1.1 Background of the Study
Understanding God’s dealing is having a Godly mentality or mindset in an era of drastic change which is the 21st century era. Understanding God’s dealings does not just points to the door of righteousness, but also provides the key, helps Christians open it and prepares them for a life after death which is eternal life. Recently, studies on understanding God’s dealings have raised a lot of controversies in the ﬁeld of Practical Theology, pastoral leadership, leadership style, missiology, religion, and psychology (Counted 2015; Davis 2010; Janssen, De Hart & Gerardts 1994; Janssen & Prins 2000; Knight 2011).
God applies the right kind of pressure to bring out the best possible yield. He does this in every Christians’ lives because God wants to bring out the very best in them. Threshing brings out true character. The object of threshing some crops is not to destroy the harvest, but to preserve it, to separate it, to keep it pure, and to protect it. Paul said, “We glory in tribulations” (Romans 5:3, KJV). “I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation” (2 Corinthians 7:4). In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, Paul writes, “The outward man does indeed suffer wear and tear, but everyday the inward man receives fresh strength. These little troubles (which are really so transitory), are winning for us a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to our pain. For we are looking all the time not at the visible things but at the invisible. The visible things are transitory: it is the invisible things that are really permanent” (Phillips). Quoting Romans 12:1(KJV): “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service”.
One of the ways we get hungry and thirsty for God is through God’s dealings. God deals with his children to create a hunger in them for Him and through that hunger they can know Him. ‘He did it to teach us that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord’. God sometimes takes us through difficult periods for us to realize our hunger for what He has to say. Yet some of Christians are not sensitive enough and because of that when God begins to deal with them they don’t discern what God is saying on time. ‘Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna… He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord’ (Deut.8:3).
The 21st century Church has experienced many ethical scandals in recent years especially in Nigeria. Many orthodox denominations including the Assemblies of God Church have experienced series of scandals and moral deterioration throughout the years, leaving members in the quest for leaders in whom they can place their trust. Therefore, there is a dire need for church leaders who are fully aware of God’s dealing to help accomplish Christ’s mission on earth.
The major role of a church leader is to be a ‘bridge builder’; reaching out to all kinds of people in the Christendom through relationships. Leadership is indeed a dynamic reciprocal process of personal influence by which a manager or a leader shapes the attitudes and activities of others towards the achievement or attainment of organizational objectives (Abogunrin, 1986). Even before the modern concepts of leadership came into being, the apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul in the Pastorals lists the qualifications for church leaders to ensure sustainable growth and survival (Dairo, 2007). These have remained the model for ages. For any church leader to steer the ship of the church successfully, these qualities must be imbibed. But contemporary experience in Nigeria has shown a marked departure from this God’s pattern of church leadership which has really affected growth and survival of churches in the 21st century.
Leadership is nothing if not linked to collective purpose; and the effectiveness of leaders must be judged not by press clippings but by actual social change, measured by intent and by satisfaction of human needs and expectations which on the long term will be visible on the church growth and development.
Leadership could also be defined as the relationship in which one person or the leader influences others to work together willingly on related tasks to attain that which the leader desires. It is a means of direction. Leadership is the ability of management to induce the subordinates to work towards a group’s goals with confidence and keenness. It implies that the leader accepts responsibility for the achievement of the group objectives and it is, therefore, essential for the trust and cooperation from both sides to be evidence all the time (Oluwasegun, 2005). Leadership is an art of getting things done. It can be learnt, improved, developed and perfected. It is the key process of influence and the process always includes a number of key components such as leader and followers, they interact in situations and means of influence which emerge from the leader and from the followers, based on their value system and goals which the leader and the followers seek to achieve (Dairo, 2004).
With respect to church leadership, it implies that the church leader gives direction, motivates, reprimands and develops a set objective along with his group and resolves individual or group needs within the church. This is perceived as the only way towards the church growth and survival. In the New Testament it was more often used as Christological title for the exalted Jesus. The results of semasiological and lexicographical investigation of secular Greek indicate an extremely polyvalent spectrum of meaning for the word “church leader”, the basis being he who is the first, who stands at the head of, who leads.
According to the New Testament, the terms “bishop,” “pastor,” and “elder” are synonymous. Bishop means “overseer,” and the elders had the responsibility of overseeing the work of the church (Acts 20:17,28; 1Pet 5:1-3). “Elder” is the translation of the Greek word presbytes, which means “an old man.” Paul used the word presbytery in (1Tim 4:14), referring not to a denomination, but to the “eldership” of the assembly that ordained Timothy. Elders and bishops (two names for the same office, (Titus 1:5,7) were mature people with spiritual wisdom and experience to ensure the survival of the church of God. Also, “pastor” means “shepherd,” one who leads and cares for the flock of God (Vine, 1996:67). The leader should understand the people in terms of their attitudes, interests and their needs. This factor emphasizes the importance of communication skills of the leader to the subordinates, understanding who they are, their position on the issues, and how best to communicate with and influence them (Pfeffer, 1981; 1992; 1993).
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The level of understanding God’s dealings expected from both the pastors and church leaders is missing in the Nigerian context of Christianity. Which often results in crises within “the body of Christ”, different doctrines and teachings deviating from the true teachings of Christ. Lack of proper and efficient leadership seems to have resulted in many crises, especially in the northern and southern part of Nigeria. According to Dairo (2008), many Churches in Nigeria are characterized with false teaching, preconceived ideas and human-formed regulations which have too often undermined the Holy Spirit’s specification and has militated greatly against church growth and survival. According to Apostle Paul, church leader must be a man of integrity that can carry the followers along. All church leaders may not possess these qualities in the same measure but a leader must have these quality attributes to a degree that is noticeable in his life to ensure sustainable growth. If a man is known to be harsh instead of being gentle, intemperate instead of being temperate, disgraceful instead of being respectable, he has disqualified himself from leadership (Bible Org. 2004). The work of church leadership is a noble task. Such an office needs the right kind of people to serve. Accumulation of material wealth, by capitalizing on the “gross ignorance” of the people about the teaching of the Bible on wealth by church leaders has also limited growth and survival of many churches because of the increased awareness of these dubious strategies. However, this present study is examining understanding of God’s dealings and the role of Church leaders in accomplishing God’s plan in the 21st century church.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The primary objective of this study is to examine understanding of God’s dealings and the role of Church leaders in accomplishing God’s plan in the 21st century church. The researcher intends to discuss the following sub objectives;
- To examine the role of church leaders in understanding God’s dealings in the 21st century church.
- To identify the functions and duties of church leaders in accordance to God’s plan.
- To identify the other factors militating against God’s plan in the 21st century church.
1.5 Research Questions
The following research questions were formulated by the researcher to guide the study;
- Do church leaders fully understand God’s dealing?
- Are church leaders capable of spreading God’s plan to the 21st century church?
- Is there any significant relationship between understanding God’s dealings and accomplishing God’s plan?
1.5 Significance of the Study
The following are the significance of this study:
Findings from this study will educate the church authorities and the general public in Nigeria on what the church leaders need to do or incorporate into the system to ensure that God’s plan for the church is fully achieved. It will provide valuable insights into existing relationship between the church leaders and understanding God’s dealing in the 21st century church. 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.
1.6 Scope/Limitations of the Study
This study will cover the activities associated with God’s plan for the Church in Nigeria with special focus on the roles and duties of the church leaders in ensuring God’s plan comes to reality in Kaduna State. There were some constraint that tends to hinder the flow of this study, such limitations include:
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).
Members Reluctance: In most cases the members of the selected churches often feels reluctance over providing required information required by the researcher. This result in finding information where the structured questionnaires could not point out.
Researcher’s Commitment: The researcher, being of full time student spent most of her time on other academic activities such as test, class work, assignment, examination etc which takes average focus from this study.
Inadequate Materials: Scarcity of material is also a major hindrance. The researcher finds it difficult to lay hands on several required material which could contribute immensely to the success of this research work.
1.7 Definition of Terms
Leaders: Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right.
Leadership: Leadership is both a research area and a practical skill encompassing the ability of an individual or organization to “lead” or guide other individuals, teams, or entire organizations.
Church leaders: Church leaders include the following set of leaders in church: Senior Pastors, Worship Leaders, Youth Leaders, Outreach Leaders, and Children’s Ministry Leaders, Small Group Leaders.
Growth: growth is defined as the process of increasing in size or something that has grown or is growing.
Christian: Christianity is a religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, as described in the New Testament. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and savior of all people, who’s coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Old Testament.
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