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11.07.2004 Feature Article

The Church And Violence: Case of Winners chapel church

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“Christianity has (by certain people) been used throughout history as an excuse for some of the most brutal, heartless and senseless atrocities known to man. The historical examples are not difficult to recall: the Crusades; the Inquisitions; the witch-burnings; the Holocaust….I did not see much in Christianity that I considered to be worth the having.” -Ken Schei, atheist “Christianity has been a boon to mankind…(and) has had a beneficent effect upon the human race…Most people today who live in an ostensibly Christian environment with Christian ethics do not realize how much we owe Jesus of Nazareth….What goodness and mercy there is in this world has come in large measure from him.” -D. James Kennedy, Christian Credit: THE CASE FOR CHRIST by Lee Strobel As one who professes to be an unabashed, unrepentant and committed adherent of the Christian faith, I worry (a lot) when I read -on a daily basis -news stories that really portray the Body of Christ-the Church in a bad light. A lot of very negative stories about goings-on in the church have made the front pages of news organizations the world over and sad to relate it doesn't appear there would be a letting up soon. Instead of doing some introspection and soul-searching in order to correct this unfortunate situation it appears the church rather loves to wear controversy as a badge of honor.

It is worrying to read stories about so-called men of the cloth defiling little children, defrauding people, dealing in visas, and working in cahoots with known criminals and characters of the underworld working deals that make the devil look like an angel.

Two recent phenomena in the many ills that confronts the church are the high octane issue of church break-ups (the mate me ho syndrome) which has been diagnosed in the Bible as a product of dissensions and contentions and the use of violence in the way the church resolves issues concerning it. The issue of contention and dissensions most times is a result of misplaced ambition on the part of young pastors and the insensitivity of the senior pastors especially in their dealings with these young pastors. Some refuse to give their young pastors who have been blessed with gifts they (senior pastors) don't have the opportunity and the platform to develop and grow because they feel threatened by the gifts.

As a result a young Pastor, endowed in a certain area of the spiritual gifts (I Corinthians chapter 12) mostly prophecy or healing breaks away from the main church to found his own church. He doesn't go alone. He takes some members of the church along with him to start a (Reformed) branch of the main church. He leaves because he feels he is being frustrated. Now who says feeling frustrated and embittered as a result of the way your senior pastor is treating you or has treated you is a legitimate, bible-inspired reason to found a church? I am yet to read in the bible where it is written that one has to leave their home church over disagreements with their church leaders to found another church.

Whatever one sows, one would reap so says the Bible.

The church's association with violence is a new low in the history of the church in Ghana. This sad spectacle played out almost three years ago during the annual monthly ban on drumming and dancing imposed by the traditional authorities in Accra. For years the ban on drumming and dancing has been a thorn in the flesh of the mainly charismatic and Pentecostal churches whose services lend themselves to the use of musical instruments.

This time the incident turned into a full scale battle between members of the Christ Apostolic church (CAC) and some people in the area.

This is disgraceful and unacceptable. Christ never drew blood in his years of public ministry and so should people who claim to profess the faith he lived and died for. THE CHURCH AND VIOLENCE II

The death and resurrection of Christ placed the church in a very unique and hallowed position. The caboodle of disciples made up of simple, run-of-the-mill guys like Simon Peter, his brother Andrew and the Zebedee brothers together with a smidgen of intellectuals personalized by Matthew and Luke the Physician (He was originally not part of the original twelve) suddenly were thrust unto the centre stage of world history.

They had become the cynosure of all eyes in the world. Their mission was simple- spread the message of reconciliation, salvation by grace and not works, forgiveness and above all the love, mercy and judgement of God.

It seemed like a tall order for these men and women of no consequence. Heaven waited with bated breath as the appointed ones struggled and strived to run with the mission assigned to them by Christ before he left the world. That was a little more than 2000 years ago. Today the non-violent message of Christ has run a long, hard, harsh and above all a rewarding course. Historians unanimously acclaim Christ as the one person who has influenced the world the most. ET TU WINNERS CHAPEL The emotional flare up at the headquarters of the Winners chapel church in Accra is an incident which together with a host of others continues to chip away at the base of the church and only re-enforces the negative image people have about the church.

One incident apart from the reported schism and break-up was the disturbing report of the firing of a pistol at the one of the meetings organized to resolve the misunderstanding.

Why somebody who claims to be filled with the spirit of Christ would attend a peace-making program with a concealed weapon and even go the extra mile of firing the weapon is a frightening reality I cannot deal with.

Incidents like these become fodder for criticism, destroy the credibility of the church in the eyes of a gazing world and undermine the great work the church had performed over the years. HISTORY OF VIOLENCE Renowned journalist Lee Strobel asked the following question in one of his interviews in his best-selling book, THE CASE FOR CHRIST”:

“As far back as 1994, Pope John Paul II called upon the church to acknowledge the dark side of its history and said: “how can one remain silent about the many forms of violence perpetrated in the name of the faith-wars of religion, tribunals of the Inquisition and other forms of violations of the rights of persons?” Isn't it true that the church through the centuries has intentionally glossed over these instances of abuse?”

Many have also accused the church of spewing revisionist theories when it comes to dealing with this very most fundamental challenge it has had to deal with in its many years of existence.

For the informed, the church is a living organism that receives its life, sense of meaning and purpose from Christ who is the head of the church rather than an organization that is mechanical and operates and functions on legalisms, systems etc. Christ was love personified. His preoccupation with peace was and still is infectious.

Christ radiated and reflected goodness, showed humility and admonished his followers to make every effort to live at peace with all people. Christ was a leader and a perfect one at that. He led by example. Leaders in the church today unashamedly tell their congregation not to do what “I do but to listen to what I say.”

Conversely, Jesus told his examples to learn from him and to follow his example. He spoke about righteousness and exemplified righteousness as a lifestyle. He preached about forgiveness and showed forgiveness. Later Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans, admonished them to “imitate me even as I imitate Christ”.

We who claim to belong to Christ have no excuse to live a life diametrically opposed to the wonderful he lived and left as an endearing and enduring example. Answering the above poser from Strobel, John D. Woodbridge, PH.D said: “I would quickly add, though, that we should be careful in using the expression, “the church,” because that gives the impression that there has only been one representative institution of Christianity. I would make a clear line of demarcation between people who are part of 'the church'-people who are the sheep who hear the shepherd's voice and would be true Christians – and the institutional churches.

Adding he said; “there are many, many true Christians who are in the visible churches, but just because a person is part of a church doesn't necessarily mean he or she is a follower if Jesus. Some people are cultural Christians but not authentic Christians.”

FINALLY

The Gospel of Matthew perfectly substantiates the position of Dr. Woodbridge with respect to the point he made about cultural Christians and authentic Christians.

“Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heave, but only he who does the will of my father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform miracles?'

Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” Doesn't it? Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Paa Kwesi Plange
Paa Kwesi Plange, © 2004

The author has 46 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: PaaKwesiPlange

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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