Our lives in Nagaland are strongly centred round society - the way it thinks, behaves, and functions. Besides our distinct tradition and culture, for many, the church is one of the institutions that plays a major role in creating the ideal society we wish to live in. We take a moment this week to reflect on the kind of society we have created for ourselves as the Church. What are the existing problems, how can we improve and what are our roles to be a positive change maker in our society?
The Church, the Change Maker
Many churches: small, big, and mega churches, have been sprouting up in Nagaland. Most of these mega churches are led by missionaries and charismatic leaders and usually have a large number of people attending services that makes one feel good. The church is the lifeline of any society. It is a unique place that should instil a change in people’s lives. To understand why we gather each week, it is pertinent to ask what purposes and functions the churches have. How far are churches and religious organisations maintaining a positive social influence?
In the world today more and more children are growing up in broken homes. Life is hard for single mothers. Alcoholics and drug-users are seen with prejudiced. Corruption and crimes are on the rise. Human rights are being denied and there’s no justice for the poor. Many church goers are struggling to make ends meet in their everyday lives, and we feel the pang of reality just like everyone else. Does the church have any role to play at these drastic times?
I remember a sermon conveyed by a pastor in a Sunday service. It was about demonstrating the greatest lesson of meeting the people’s needs when the Messiah fed the 4000 gathered to hear Him speak. Jesus showed by his deeds the church’s purpose and function. He gave us the blueprint for successfully meeting the needs of the people. Jesus did not just preach, he fed those who were hungry. Both the physical food and the spiritual food was imparted. Both their physical and spiritual needs were met. It is important to show by action rather than by empty words. Every community has its lost sinners who need to be recovered, has it’s downtrodden who need to be lifted up, and has its poor who need to be helped. The church is here to offer help and service, and to change the community. Our service is our action, and our actions form our service. Thus, the church has an active role to play in the community, lifting Christ up to a lost and dying world, preach His word, and most importantly, demonstrate true Christianity through their service to the needy. The church is responsible for the community’s welfare. Churches are a public service to surrounding communities. I am not advocating that each church should have the expertise and know how to deal with all kinds of situations. However, the church should have access to resources needful to guide an individual in the proper direction. It should be able to meet the needs of the community because let’s face it, the church is truly about people. The problem for the church today is just what it has always been - reconciling the just aspect of Christian duty with a sense of evangelistic mission. Typically, churches are reluctant towards involvement in civic affairs and are timid regarding issues of societal change. While religion makes a much-needed contribution to society, sometimes it focuses on benefits towards the advantaged or the ’haves’ and against the oppressed or the ’have-nots’. This I believe is contrary to the Biblical examples. The church should not discriminate. The Bible does not provide us a choice between offering the gospel, and lifting the burden of oppression, as if the two activities have a separate agenda.
Are we attempting to reach out to the world while ignoring our own people and community? Are we genuinely concerned for humanity? Let’s open the doors of our hearts to those around us so that others may see through our deeds the love of Jesus Christ, and glorify God. This should be the primary role of the church in our society- helping without discrimination.
In the world, many people are seeking the truth, love and integrity. They do not know where to find it. They have not been able to find truth and love in the church as expected, in the representatives of Christianity, and in the parts of the community where they lived. The church must distance itself from the social system which harbours injustice and prejudice if it expects to hold on to the vitality, power of Christ, and the gospel He preached. The church began with an active role which should not die out today. It is inconceivable that any institution as financially strong as the church should exist without some role to play, some duties to perform, and some mission to accomplish.