The Political Church

If we want to create a difference in the destiny of Nigeria the church must re-strategise. Those Elijah-ic pronouncements from pulpits are not working. At best they’re moral voices. Though needful more is required. Our cause is not helped by misconception of what Christianity is. And there are several misconceptions about Christianity out there, even by Christians.

For some, Christianity is a moral code for human regulation. That of course is a weak and misleading definition. You don’t need to be Christian to be moral, and the severity of crucifixion implies Jesus didn’t die to become a guru. The Bible does talk about expected character traits of the Christian however. The technical term used is, “fruit of the Spirit.” “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23 NLT. And yet for others Christianity is no more than a Sunday, Sunday doxological exercise, a weekly praise-worship or church attendance ablution.

We seem lost in liturgy. And our liturgy has become an end in itself, just like some of the derivatives regarding our faith. It’s why our posters on evangelism tout miracles, as if it’s some form of show business. “Come and see miracles” our banners proclaim. The miracles of Jesus were not special items on the menu. He healed the people as a matter of course. So did the apostles. Note Peter and John didn’t announce a special miracle service after healing the man at the Beautiful Gate. The healings were matter-of-factly.

We somehow imagine we’re supposed to replicate the works of the Apostles. We feel when this happens we have proof of spirituality and ministry. God had a vision for Christianity. As you study the scriptures you’ll see the progression – from the spiritual proprietorship of Jesus, to emergence of the Jerusalem crew, to going international, to interim governmental mode, to full governmental throttle. And so when we insist on replication of the works of the apostles as the be all and end all of Christianity we miss the point by a wide margin. We’re not keying into the vision. The apostles operated within a geographical, socio-cultural and political context. We are not in those contexts. The dynamics have changed. We’re not time travellers so we’re not supposed to replicate their context. Society is more complex now.

As Christians we’re supposed to respond to the imperatives of our society, just as the apostles did in their time, just as Jesus did in his. There are imperatives of growth of Christianity and imperatives of a dynamic world. As Christianity evolved its administrative structure evolved. The earliest evolution was separation of service function from core ministry. Deacons were appointed. Acts 6. The basic management structure Jesus left would not work. It’s why they appointed deacons. The word “deacon” is derived from “diakoneo,” which literally means “through the dirt.”

The earliest apostles were also mindful to answer to the charges of ethnicity and bias levelled by Hellenic Jews. And they wisely set parameters for real leaders to emerge. When Christianity went international there was a need to create a replicable organogram that could be deployed in any clime. Paul rose to the challenge magnificently. Building on the work of the Jerusalem crew, Paul identified the various specialties in core ministry – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Ephesians 4: 11-16. He grouped the support functions under a generic title, “Helpers.” 1 Corinthians 12:28.

Today, Christianity has entered a more complex phase. The world is by far more complex than at the time of the apostles. The church must respond correspondingly, just as the apostles did in their time. There was no telephone in the days of the apostles, no television, no radio, no satellites, no Facebook, You Tube, Instagram or Twitter. Certainly no Google. And no motorcars either. Information is now transmitted at the speed of light. Information is now the number one commodity in the world. Data has become a major commodity.

In addition, the church must respond to local context, just as Jesus did, just as the apostles did. In the days of Jesus the people were poor, diseased and hungry, and Jesus attended to those issues. He also engaged the political establishment. And all this without detracting from his strategic intent to save humanity. He thus had two streams of ministry – the spiritual and the socio-political. The streams often mingled. For the earliest apostles the key issue in their day was debilitating poverty. They evolved communalism in the earliest phase of Christianity to solve the problem. Acts 4: 32-37.

There are thus three key things about Christianity. It is contextual, responsive and dynamic. It tackles the core issues in a local environment. Jesus gave the hopeless and oppressed populace hope; he fed the hungry, healed the sick, confronted their oppressors. He dealt with extant local issues – non “spiritual” stuff, many times through miracles. And so there are two streams of function for the church: the preaching of salvation, and the attendance to local and contextual issues, be it social, political or economic. That’s the model from Jesus.

There are issues the church in Nigeria must tackle with the fierce urgency of the now. There’s excruciating poverty, youth unemployment, hopelessness and despair. These are policy issues. And so the church must preach the gospel, but it must also hold job fairs, train entrepreneurs. It must continue to serve as the social security agency of the state. These are imperatives. The church must also create employability schemes, helping job applicants upgrade their capacities and update their CVs. These are local imperatives for Nigeria. The church must train leaders as well, especially political leaders. And the church must interact with the state as a trustee of society. The church must submit policy documents on how to solve Nigeria’s problems. The idea of being locked up in church, singing about the sweet by and by is NOT God’s idea of Christianity. Christianity interacts with its context, solves local problems. If a miracle is needed so be it. If a hospital is needed all well and good. The Bible says medicine is good. Proverbs 17:22.

Christianity is a political reality. It’s why the terms associated with it are wholly political. It’s a kingdom not a commune. The titles of Jesus are political titles – “King of kings,” “Lord of lords.” Real kings and lords, not spiritual abstractions. The apostles were the earliest nationalists of the Christian nation. It’s why their names are engraved on the foundation stones of the New Jerusalem, just like the names of the patriarchs of Israel. They’re founding fathers. Revelation 21:10-14. If you can’t see the political dimension of Christianity you cannot fully apprehend what Christianity is. There’s a reason Christians are called citizens and national collective. Ephesians 2:19, 1 Peter 2:9.

God had a progressive vision of Christianity as a political reality. It’s contained in Paul’s writing: “God raised him – Christ, from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever.” Ephesians 1:20-21.

Here’s an interesting twist to that scripture: “At the centre of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world, the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.” Ephesians 1:20-23 MSG. If the Bible says the church is the body of Christ in which he speaks and acts in governmental capacity then the church is a governmental organ. Ephesians 1:20-23 MSG.

But what is our role as individuals? Do we have a part to play? Yes! The Bible says you should discover your place in the political scheme. Right before that verse about the church being a governmental organ Paul had written: “I ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do…” Ephesians 1:15-19 MSG.

In other words, you have to discover your role in politics and governance. That’s God’s progressive vision for the church. It’s beyond where the apostles stopped. And there are many political roles you can play. You have a list to choose from: activism, organising, communication, education, strategy, finance, policy development, mobilisation, logistics… What role do you want to play?


If you’ll like to receive Jesus into your life please pray this prayer: “Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Father please forgive me. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.”

© Leke Alder |

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