The Church Has Failed Ghana!

 

Ghana flag

Till date I find myself telling my non-Ghanaian friends that Ghana is a Christian nation. With seven out of ten people professing to be Christians, it is easy to slip into such a hasty conclusion. A typical Sunday in Ghana is one where the streets are empty, with more than 50% of the population in a church service.

However, as excited as I am in making that bold assertion, I have also had to scratch my head a few times looking for answers to the obvious question that comes with it. If more than half of the population, i.e. more than 12 million people are Christians, how do you explain the lawlessness and corruption so prevalent in the country?

This is a genuine question considering the various claims of Christianity, not the least those made by Jesus Himself concerning His followers. In Mathew 5:13-14, He said “you are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the earth.” Paul picking up the same theme said, “…we are Ambassadors for Christ…” (Corinthians 5:20).

Ever since its first usage (Acts 11:26), the name Christian has always conjured an image of a people whose lives are positively different from the prevailing culture. Therefore, regardless of who I speak to about Ghana, the question is always the same, “how do you reconcile the beliefs of the nation with its present state of affairs?” I have agonised over this question for years, and the more I think about it the more the spot light falls on the church.

The church is tasked to be a lighthouse; providing guidance to its people as they navigate the turbulent waters of life, and equipping them to be the true light and salt Jesus intended them to be. However, the Church in Ghana has in my assertion failed in this mandate. As I look back on my time in several churches, it is sad to say there are five significant areas where the church has failed in its role as a lighthouse.

The Church Assumes People are Saved

The church is to be made up of people who have repented of their sins and received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Admitting a person into church membership is a seal of approval, announcing to the world that we have examined the profession and evidence of this person’s life and we can confidently say he/she is a believer. It is sad to say this careful and sober consideration of would be members does not happen. In most cases it is assumed once a person shows up and gets involved in the activities of the church they are saved. In other cases prospective members are taken through new membership classes, which is more of an administrative exercise than a genuine desire to evaluate their spiritual state.

The danger is that neither the church nor the prospective members examine themselves to see if they are truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). As a result many churches have given false assurance to attendees that they are Christians, when they are not. I preached my first sermon when I was 19 years old; prior to that no leader of the church had ever spoken to me about salvation nor examined what I believed. The fact that I had grown up there and was heavily involved in its activities was enough. I have had the opportunity of interacting with many church-goers, and it is sad to admit that many so called Christians cannot even explain what the gospel is or what it means to be saved. Yet seven out of ten in Ghana profess to be Christians.

The Church Has not Taught the Complete Bible

The church should be a place where Christians are taught the word of God, for the purpose of godly living. Luke records of the first Christians, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching…” (Acts 2:42). A church which does not preach the complete counsel of God cannot call itself a church. Unfortunately, that is the state of our churches in Ghana.

We have denied the truth that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2Timothy 3:16-17). We have cherry picked aspects of the bible which sound good to our ears and rejected those aspects that calls for self-denial, repentance from sin and godly living. There is a new breed of Christians who see wealth and health in every verse of the bible, and the church is to be blamed for it.

In Colossians 1:28-29, Paul tells us what kept him awake at night as a pastor. He said “Him [Jesus] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”

Sadly this has not been the heart cry of many churches in Ghana, we have been more concerned with shoring up our attendance than teaching the word of God. The church has preached what people want to hear, and not what God wants them to hear. The result is what we see in our country, a nation that professes to know God and yet we deny his power by our works (Titus 1:16).

The Church Has Failed In Calling Out Sin

The church is made up of sinners saved by grace, but it is also true Christians are people who are continuously being sanctified and transformed into the image and likeness of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). Therefore though we stumble into sin, we do not revel in it. We must quickly repent and rely on God’s grace to continue our pursuit of holiness.

The church should be a model of this, by calling sin what it is, and calling on its people to repent. The apostle Peter says, “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God…” (1 Peter 4:17). If the church is going to be effective in calling out sin in our society, it must start judgement within itself.

The church in Ghana has lost its moral authority because it has condoned sin in itself. We have turned a blind eye to sinful behaviour in our midst, and have elevated our own reputation above that of Christ. We have accepted proceeds of corrupt practices as kind gifts to the church without questioning the sources of such sudden and windfall wealth. If there are five million Christians in the labour force, how do we explain the widespread corruption in the country, unless for the fact that the church has failed to challenge its people to live above reproach.

There are men and women who profess to be Christians but are living lives that are visibly against scripture, yet the church has kept silent over it. There are many who dishonour their marriage covenant, yet they are held out as leaders of the church because of their generous and supposed gifting. We have done considerable damage to the image of Christ as a result.

The Church has Become Worldly

The world and its systems are anti-Christ, therefore in all His teachings Jesus taught His disciples not to live like the world does. The apostle John said, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” (1 John 2:15-16)

When we live a life that is visibly different from the world, we expose its evil deeds and through that call it to repentance. Sadly, the church has become bedfellows with the world. We measure success by the same yardstick as the world. The world measures success by the job, the house and the car a person drives. The church in the same way, measures blessings by the job, the house and the car a Christian drives. No wonder the church has become so ineffective and in some cases been ridiculed. We are playing the world’s game, and there is no way we can impact our nation for Christ.

The church in Ghana has failed to live a countercultural life, and the effect is so clear across the nation. Christians are preoccupied with accumulating material wealth than tending to the state of their souls. The church has become an auction house where blessings goes to the highest bidder.

The Church Has Lost Its Vision of Eternity.

Lastly, the church has failed to give its people an eternal view of Christianity. Throughout the history of the church, genuine Christians have seen themselves as pilgrims and strangers in this fallen world. The writer of Hebrews had this to say about Abraham, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:8-10).

Prosperity preachers have always used Abraham as an example of why Christians should be rich and prosperous; but here the bible tells us that Abraham lived in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the promise because they knew that their true inheritance was in heaven. They were looking for the heavenly city whose architect is God. It is very hard to find Christians today who truly believe their inheritance is in heaven. The church is teaching them that they can have their best life now. But the question is, if I can have my best life now, why go to heaven?

Part of the reason why corruption and the ‘winner takes it all’ mindset is so endemic in our country, even within the church is that, many of us believe this world is the end of it. Regardless of what we profess as Christians, our actions scream with the belief that there is no life after this one. We cheat, we take advantage, we manipulate, we steal, and we step on others, all because for many this is all the inheritance there is. Genuine Christians have always believed that our best life is yet to come.

The church has presumed on the grace and mercy of God, and has continued in its carnal ways. We seem to have a form of godliness but deny the power in it (2 Timothy 3:5). The words of Jesus to the church in Sardis should be a frightening warning to the Church in Ghana;

And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.” (Revelation 3:1-2).

5 thoughts on “The Church Has Failed Ghana!

  1. Great Piece!

    However, I am of the view that the Church has not failed, it is we ‘THE SO CALLED CHRISTIANS’ who have failed in our God given mandate. We have failed to live as Light and to behave as Salt. Look at how the Message Bible translators put Matthew 5:13-16: 13 “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

    14-16 “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.

    The God-flavors that are desired in our homes, our work places/office and neighborhood, our marriages and relationships have been exchanged with society-mediated and dictated lifestyle which is usually contrary to the decrees of God. The God-colors that are required to shine in the political landscape and business ethics have been exchanged with political ideologies that are conceived out of selfishness and agrarianism. Today political figures have become ‘gods’ both to the session of the clergy and the laity. Materialism and popularity has so much taken over our stage that Ministers who are required to be stewards of the graces of God are now adulterating the giftings of God with dilutions and charms received, borrowed and/or purchased by dubious means sacrifices and practices all in the name of church. Excuse me, the Body of Christ cannot be accursed and for sure God knows those who are His.

    I tell people everywhere I go, our mistake is as a result of perceptions that we carry when we talk about the Church. The Corinthian church for instance was not wholly made of righteous people and nobody can point to any single church that existed at the time…The church IS NOT supposed to comprise of saints alone but also evil doers who run to the church to find Mercy and Love from this great God. I used to see this sign post around an Adventist church some years back..’Enter to worship, DEPART TO SERVE!’.

    That should be our attitude and perception when we talk about the Church. We enter with our filthiness and ragged clothing with the hope that Christ who is the embodiment of the church will take us up and clean us so that after we have departed we can become agents that minister grace unto the environment we find ourselves in. May God give us the grace to rise up to the challenge and redeem our lost image and identity. Oh how I pray and hope the Methodist Church Ghana will do justice to the theme selected for the year 2016…WITNESSING TO CHRIST: THE METHODIST IDENTITY AND SOCIAL IMPACT.

    If members of the Church would desire and commit to knowing our identity and our purpose, Ghana would be a place of bliss. God bless you my brother for creating the platform to talk about this.

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    • Jerome I don’t see a dichotomy between the church and its membership; Christians. It is individual Christians who make up the Church and rightly so, the failure of Christians is the failure of the Church.

      The growth and maturity of believers is largely the responsibility of the church through sound teaching. The mandate to preserve and pass on truth is a mandate given to the church as an institution through its leadership especially Pastors. In Ephesians 4:11-14, Paul informs us Pastors/teachers/elders were gifted to the body of Christ for the sole purpose of

      (i) Equipping the saints for the work of ministry,
      (ii) Building up the body of Christ(church)
      (iii) maturity, growth and stability in the faith.

      Where the church fails to discharge its mandate of discipling believers to be Christ-like and impact the society, then the church has failed. Indeed we all have a personal responsibility to be discerning, however, the depth of our growth and maturity is commensurate to what the church feeds us.

      Now the idea behind the church comprising of saints only is that, by description, the church is a community of sinners who have been purchased by the blood of Christ and joined together as a community of worshippers. It doesn’t mean our doors are closed to unbelievers or evil-doers as you put it. They can join in our services but we shouldn’t at any point make the mistake of equating joining a local church with becoming a member of the body of Christ. Attending a church service doesn’t necessarily mean we belong to the body of Christ. People come for all reasons that might not necessarily be seeking Christ. And In so far as sinners have not repented of their sins and placed their trust in Christ for the saving of their souls, they are not members of the body of Christ though they may attend church a thousand times.

      That is not to say the church is a perfect place made up of perfect people. But the church as the body of Christ indeed comprises only of saints, in relation to their position in Christ: a new creation.

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      • Great discussion! Thx Jerome for sharing your thoughts. I get where you are coming from, but as Enoch rightly pointed out, the Church = 1. the local gathering of Believers, (the called out, or ecclesia) and 2. All of God’s people of all time – the mystical, invisible, and spiritual body of Christ (Eph4:4) . By the first meaning alone – the called out, ecclesia – our lives as a Church (made up of individual Christians) are to stand out, apart from the world, and distinct, like that of Our Lord. As Enoch alluded to, one can be a ‘member’ of the local assembly of believers (Church attendee) and not be a member of the true, mystical body of Christ, if they are not genuinely converted. Hence the verse you quoted from 2Tim 2:19- The lord knows them that are (truly His). John Stotts put it this way – that here on earth there may be many pretenders who will claim membership of the local assembly but the true members of His Body (The true Church) only God knows.
        However as Kwesi alluded to in his article, the Church is too quick to admit anyone who lays claim to faith into our membership – but the early Church carefully examined such claims before adding to its membership. Look at Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch for instance – when the Eunuch requested baptism, Phillip’s response was – if you truly believe with all your heart (Acts8:37,KJV) – he hesistated to baptise the Eunuch unless he had truly repented and believed with all of his heart. Jesus did same, almost discouraging those who wanted to follow him, probing their profession of faith to be sure it was genuine. As it turned out most of them turned back at such close examination. Contrast that with the situation today. The church of today comes accross as merely interested in numbers, hasty to even ordain novices into pastoral positions, hence the failure that is expressed in the article.

        You asserted that Christ is the embodiment of His Church, here I will admonish you to check the biblical doctrine of the Church again – Christ is the the head of the Church (Eph4:15-16) and it is God’s design (expectation) that His body will “…grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16). A body with a disproportionate head is an anomaly physically speaking. Hence the call by the Holy Spirit through Paul for the body to grow up in all things to be like it’s Head, Christ. This is maturity – and it is the role of the local assembly to teach it’s membership soundly to be able to attain to this as already mentioned – with ref to Eph 4:11 onwards.

        I echo your prayer – for the entire body of Christ – that we will “walk worthy of the calling with which we were called…(Eph4:1), especially at this present time. Amen.

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