Call Us: +233-0266-839961 | 0503 030999

The Christian Theological Discourse: A Tool for National Development


A speech delivered on Sunday, November 6, 2011 by Rev. Prof. Emmanuel K. Larbi, President/CEO, on the  occasion of the first anniversary of ‘Christianity Today,’ a current affairs programme on TV3, held at the Royal House Chapel, Abossey Okai, Accra.

 

The Apostle General of the Royal House Chapel (Represented by Rev. John Appiah Korang
Members of the Clergy
Niimei ke Naamei
Distinguished Invited Guests
The Press
Ladies and Gentlemen:

I will want to thank the organisers of this event for inviting me to be the Guest Speaker for this very important occasion.

I am asked to speak to the topic: “The Christian Theological Discourse: A Tool for National Development.”  I consider this topic very significant because of the important role the Church and the Christian faith play in the lives of the majority of the people living in sub-Saharan Africa, a territory that span beneath the Sahara Desert down to the Cape of Good Hope.

According to the World Religion Database, in 1900 there was approximately 7 (seven) million Christians living in sub-Saharan Africa. The number has risen to 470 million Christians in 2010. This amounts to about 60 percent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa.  Some commentators have observed that this growth in historical comparison is one of the most important rapid religious transformations in the history of Christianity in the last 2000 years.  So sub-Saharan Africa now has about 21 percent of the world’s Christians. That is to say, one-in-five of all the Christians in the world live in sub-Saharan Africa.

It is also important to note that within the same period, the Moslem population in sub-Saharan Africa, which was 11 million in 1900, reached 234 million in 2010. 

A comprehensive research conducted by the prestigious Pew Research Centre (Forum on Religion & Public Life), between December 2008 and April 2009 in 19 sub-Saharan African countries, revealed some very startling information. Among other things, the researchers discovered that: 

  • Africa is the most religious place on earth;
  • People in sub-Saharan Africa are seeking after God more than any other place in the world, including Europe and the United States of America;
  • The overwhelming majority of the people in this region say religion is very important to them;
  • When it comes to matters like the importance of religion in a people’s life, attendance at religious services, prayer, and belief in God, the researchers found out that Africa ranks highest in global comparison;
  • That in spite of the crushing levels of poverty, disease, hunger, and the other debilitating conditions in Africa, people in sub-Saharan Africa rank highest in the world in terms of their optimistic outlook.
  • Additionally, the researchers also found that many people believe that the Bible is the literal word of God, and that the Second Coming of Jesus will happen in their life time.  Interestingly, the researchers also discovered that Traditional African beliefs and practices have not diminished, especially in the rural areas.

Almost two decades ago, Professor Andrew Walls, one of the foremost church historians in our world today, had observed that the centre of gravity of Christianity has shifted from the western world to the non-western world, particularly Africa. 

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is also of great interest to note that,

  • The largest single auditorium in the world is in Africa;
  • The largest Church in Europe is in Ukraine, headed by an African;
  • The Anglican Church has its headquarters in Britain, and yet the largest concentration of the Anglican Communion is in Nigeria/Africa.

 In our own nation, every important segment of our society is dominated by Christians. If this is the case, then we can say without any contradiction that Christians or the Christian Church has a dominant role to play in the development of Ghana. The same can be said of almost all the countries in sub-Saharan Africa. 

In this regard I dare say that the Church in Ghana must be seen as a defining catalyst for both the good and the ill of society.   It is in this context that we must see the significance of our topic, “The Christian Theological Discourse: A tool for national development.”

The Context of the Discourse
TheChurch in Ghana today is operating within particular social, economic, political and cultural contexts. The context is a very difficult one. In spite of the abundance of human and natural resources providence bas bestowed on our country and continent, we rely on donor support to balance our budget.  It is within this context that the Church is to carry out its mission and mandate. The Christian discourse is not complete unless the Church is able to relate God’s Word to God’s world.  The world belongs to God.

The discourse of the Church must speak to the challenges of poverty, illiteracy, disease, and environmental degradation. The bulk of our people live in abject poverty. They cannot afford the basic necessities of life (clothing, shelter, food, access to quality medical care, and education, etc). Some live in very unclean environments. Some die without fulfilling their destinies. Though we don’t have very reliable statistics, it is estimated that over 40 percent of our population are not in any gainful employment. We also have a sizable number of our people who are underemployed.  Productivity level is very low for various reasons. The bulk of the population is unskilled principally because they do not get access to proper education.  We have school children in our country today who go to school with empty stomach. This is our context.

The Christian discourse need to contend with the problem of corruption, ineptitude in high places and poor exploitation and management of our resources. It must speak to the non-delivery or poor delivery of social services. The discourse must speak to structures and institutions. In Ghana, most of the structures required for effective governance do not work effectively and efficiently. Our police men and women are ill-equipped, so the enforcement of law and order becomes very difficult. No wonder, in an effort to arrest a recalcitrant drivers, some policemen are forced to jump and lie on top of the bonnet of a moving vehicle!

In our context, utility services like water, electricity, and sanitation are sometimes non-existent, poorly managed, or disproportionately distributed. It is very common to see traffic lights not functioning for weeks at very important intersections. In our context, a lot of things are done inefficiently. Broken down vehicles could be abandoned in the middle of major roads, sometimes for days and weeks. In our context, we have very little concern for maintenance. For example, the street lights on the beautiful Ayi-Mensah-Peduase-Aburi Road, if I am not mistaken, have not been functioning for over a year now. The amazing thing is that nobody is telling us why this is the case. The Christian discourse must address the issue of poor planning habits. We wait until there is a problem before we begin to look for solutions. The Christian discourse must also address our disrespect for time. Examples:  a government appointee and a traditional ruler attend a traditional function very late, and yet they all insist that they be allowed to go round a whole football pitch to greet everyone on the dais. Time is money.

Culturally, as a people, we put a lot of emphasis on the positions we occupy, the titles we carry, the qualifications we have, at the expense of performance. Leaders are more interested in the positions they occupy than the responsibilities of the office they occupy. We attach more importance to the benefits and advantages associated with the positions we occupy rather than the work we have been appointed to do. Resources are not equitably distributed; people appointed to leadership positions seem to be interested only in what they get. Because of this, they do everything possible to entrench their positions not because they are rendering good services to the people, but because it is a job which they must fight to protect so that they could continue to enjoy the advantages associated with it.  This is the context which must inform the Christian theological discourse.

The Mandate for the Discourse
As we consider this subject, I would want us to refer to three very important texts of the Christian Bible (Gen. 1:26-28; Matt. 5:13-14, Ac. 17:26-27):

God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image; make them reflect our nature so they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air; the cattle. And Yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.” God created human beings; he created them godlike, Reflecting God’s nature.  He created them male and female. God blessed them (and said): “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill the Earth! Take Charge! Be responsible for the fishes in the sea, the birds in the air, (and) for everything that moves on the face of Earth” (Gen. 1:26-28). The Message Translation).

Acts 17: 26, 27
From one man He (God) made every nation of men that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men will seek Him and, perhaps, reach out for Him and find him, though He is not far from each one of us (Ac. 17:26-27, NIV).

From these two texts, we can deduce that every human being is mandated to be ‘Productive,’ to be ‘Responsible,’ and to ‘take Charge’ of creation. Wherever our individually-ordained locations are, we are mandated to carry out this mandate. It is in this context that we are called upon to be the salt and the light of the world (Matt. 5:13-14).

The believer is therefore a citizen of the earth and a citizen of heaven. His ethics and morality must therefore be guided by two time frames (‘the yet’ and ‘the not yet;’ the here-and-now, and the hereafter.

IMPLICATIONS
For the Christian discourse to serve as a tool for national development,

  • It must address both the yet and the-not-yet dimensions of life. The Christian message must not be skewed.
  • The Church must constantly remind itself of its mandate to be productive, to be responsible, and to take charge in whatever context it sees itself. This must be seen as its public role, in contemporary Ghana and Africa.
  • The discourse must address the difficult issue of nominalism within her fold. Unless the Church is made up of strong, responsible Christians, numerical growth alone will not enable it to fulfil its full mandate. Its members, whether engaged in politics, business, education, law-enforcement, etc., must be constantly told to serve as change agents in a corrupt society.
  • The Christian discourse must insist on responsible, ethical, and visionary leadership; it must insist that the wealth of our nation must be equitably distributed; it must demand accountability as itself is held accountable. It must teach its members and everyone else that those who are seeking leadership positions must do so because they have something to offer not because of what they will get.
  • Now that a lot of things are done in the name of the Church, and the church at large is blamed for it, the church must work for a legislation that will bring some controls in the establishment and operation of churches. Now because of lack of proper controls, an armed robber can decide to establish a church tomorrow, and all that he will need is a certificate of registration and a certificate of commencement of business, and he will be in business within days. Because of lack of proper controls, anyone at all can establish a church today, and call himself a bishop or a Revd Dr tomorrow.  To protect the image of the Christian Church, and her true servant of Christ, it will be in the interest of the true church in Ghana to work with the government to bring in some controls as it is found in other countries.  It is when the church carries a moral authority that its discourse could serve as a tool for development.

Thank you very much, I wish you a happy anniversary. And may our good Lord bless us all.