USE YOUR TALENTS "BE CHURCH IN THE WORLD"
Auteur : Rév. Patrick Serge TENEKU
BE CHRISTIAN IN THE WORLD
The Church has a universal dimension; she is called and sent into the world to transform the world. Having a universal dimension, the Church necessarily becomes a space of public life. We were asked to speak about « being a Christian in the world”. Our first concern will be to clearly understand what is meaning of the term « world. » What is the world and how to be a Church in this world?
I. What is the world?
« What is the world? This question is very important and deserves to be taken seriously. We will first limit our study of the term « world » according to the Bible before returning to the theme « Being the Churd in the world ». In the Gospel of John 3: 16-17, we read: « For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believed in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. God did not give his son into the world to judge the world, but to save the world through him. »
In this piece known to all as the little Bible, the term ‘world’ has appeared four times. Here the world means the whole of humanity. Salvation is for individuals who express their faith to the only son of God. The world in this context means all human beings, but also refers to the earth with all it contains because salvation is not only for humanity, but for all creatures (Rom 8: 19-22 ).
But another meaning, in the Gospel of John, still gives a definition of the word world. In Jn 1: 9 it is written: « This light was the only true light, the light that comes into the world and enlightens all men. »
Here the world is the place where the light is installed. Proper examination gives rise to the identification of the world as the whole of the inhabited earth. Inhabited by men, inhabited by trees, fish, water and all that exists.
We find another meaning in the same Gospel in 8:23, where it is written: « Jesus answered them, » You are from below, but I come from above. You belong to this world; but I do not belong to this world”. The term world means all men who do not believe that Jesus is the son of God.
In the other books of the Bible, we find the three different meanings of the word world. But to this are added other definitions. In Paul’s epistles, the world also means all the systems that govern the affairs of the world, including the political, economic, social, military…
The apostle Paul goes further in speaking of the ‘heavenly world’ which is the domain of ‘the leader of the spiritual power of space’ speaking of the spirit that dominates those who oppose God (Eph 2: 2 ); he will speak later of the evil spiritual powers of the heavenly world (Eph 6:12).
In short, the world has many definitions. The world means the inhabited earth; the world refers to all human beings; it also refers to individuals who refuse to know Christ as the son of God; it then designates all the different systems and the celestial space occupied by the bad spiritual powers. It finally designates the earth. In what world does the Church have to be?
II. The Church and the world
The Church is Church on earth, it is in the world with all these different meanings. The Church can not be out of the world with all its systems. The Church is the light and salt of the earth. Jesus praying for his disciples in John 17:15 told his Father not to take them out of the world.
To be a Church in the world would be to signify the declination of one’s own identity in the space one occupies. In spite of the diversity of the members of the Church, it finds space to speak of the world. The Church, despite its diversity in terms of age, gender, race, ethnicity, education, social position … is in constant communication with the world.
The Church in the world has a visible space. It is the Church as a place of worship where one preaches, administers the sacraments and speaks of the world collectively. Being a church in the world means sharing the problems and joy of the world.
The problems of the world are of different natures, among others, war, domination, exploitation of man by man, global warming, poverty, famine, evil spirits who never stop traumatizing the world with its systems, social injustice, violence …
The Church also shares the joy of the world expressed by sport, new technologies, rapid communication by telephone, fax, in short by social networks …
* However, being in the middle of the world, the Church finds space to address the problems of the world. In East Cameroon, for example in Far North Cameroon, in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon, there are displaced people because of conflicts that take on the appearance of wars. There are several thousand displaced Nigerians and Central Africans living in Cameroon. There are more than 17,000 displaced Cameroonians because of the Anglophone crisis. It is in these crises that the Church finds the opportunity to address issues arising from the political system. In the crises that Cameroon is going through, religious communities, CEPCA member churches, the Catholic Church and the Muslim community are mobilizing to address the politics of peace. The Church is challenged to carry out action to witness its faith and love in order to give life and hope to human beings in critical situations.
* The Church is called in its preaching to heal the world in its many wounds. Being Church in the world implies dynamic actions in spaces where the well-being of all is threatened. The Church must campaign for just and common causes. According to the LWF, the Church must participate in the divine mission that brings life in abundance to all. The Church will become bland and dark if ever she isolates itself to escape the problems of the world. She is in perpetual combat since she must fight against the wiles of the Devil, the evil spiritual powers of the celestial world, the authorities, the powers, the masters of the dark world (Eph 6:12).
* One of the great concerns of the Church is that of the preservation of nature. According to Gen 2: 15, God placed the man in the garden to cultivate it and to keep it. The creation of God is under threat. The climate is hot. This global warming mainly affects poor countries, women and vulnerable children. As it is often said, global crisis, global solution. The Church has a say in this threat. Actions such as reforestation and advocacy must be undertaken to solve the threat.
* Tribalism, ethnicity, racism are not the rest. The Church has a mandate to go all over the world to make nations, disciples of Christ (Math 28: 18-20). The Church is on the road, but faces racism, tribalism and other forms of discrimination. It must still commit itself to breaking down these barriers in order to form a family where everyone has his place.
* Finally, to be a church in the world is also to take gender into account. The African has the hard way to understand this phenomenon of its kind. In traditional African society, women ranked second in a number of areas. Her main role was limited in cooking and procreation. This is why the Adamaoua Region has lagged behind the schooling of young girls. The world has changed and we must give women the rightful place. The woman too must avoid liberalism and violence to guarantee this new relationship. But how should the Church manifest itseself to the world concretely?
III. The Church and the Mobilization of Talents: Math 25: 14-31
This very famous parable of talents in Math 25: 14-31 enters into the context of the kingdom of God. It is about a man who gave his servants talents according to their capacity before going on a journey. Two put their talents in value and one buried his; on his return, he rewarded the two who valu their talents; they have been good and faithful; but he punished the one who was afraid and buried his talent. He is bad and unfaithful.
Concretely, talent was a unit of measure of money or weight in antiquity. The history of talents contains two ideas: the concrete side and the abstract side.
Concretely, the man who gave talents to the servants is Jesus. The servants are his disciples, including you and me today.
By extension, and in an abstract way, the talents designate the innate or acquired natural qualities such as the gifts, the aptitude, the skill, the competence … Further the talents can mean our properties such as our homes, our lands, our human relations, our money, and other things that need to be highlighted. It is true that some authors make the difference between talent and gift. They think that talent is a natural ability given by God to unbelievers and believers so much the spiritual gift is given by God in the name of Jesus to the children of God. In any case, for the moment we take both terms as the same thing.
On the purely spiritual level, talents are also considered as the spiritual riches that Christ has given us. Among other things, can we mention: his word in the Bible, the sacraments such as the baptism in which we are washed, justified and sanctified; the Last Supper where we are united to Christ; prayer with the example of « our Father »; evangelization which is the great commission where Christ Himself sends us to the nations …
These are the treasures that Christ has entrusted to us and asks us to act because there will be an account to be rendered. The Church is under a great mission to use its spiritual and physical abilities, to faithfully fulfill this task of being in the world. All that the Church has belongs to Christ: concretely, money, lands, houses, spiritual gifts … come from Christ. He gave them to the Church before leaving. He will return to ask for the report. Those who have put their talents in value will be called good and faithful servants. Those who have not done so will be called bad servants and infidels. But how are we going to grow our talents?
The main role of the Church in her mission in the world is to mobilize the talents of Christians in order to engage them in the service of common welfare in the world. To be Church in the world would mean to lead the actions that can transform the world. But the Church has difficulties she faces.
In his prayer for his disciples, Jesus asks his Father to « preserve his disciples from evil.” The first challenge of the Church in her mission in the world is expressed in terms of evil. The Church has to avoid the evil that can contaminate it. It must be noted that there are too many things in the world in the Church and very little of the Church in the world.
The other challenge facing the Church is religious intolerance. The Church may have the good will to lead its mission in the world for the good of all. But other religious currents can become obstacles probably because of the doctrine and other things as we live them in the Far North.
The greatest challenge of the Church in its mission in the world is the one launched against her by the different systems that regulate the affairs of humanity. We want to talk about NGO which, with their principles, limit the action spaces of the Church to the point of phagocyting it. The Church risks being reduced to an NGO.
Also the different systems with their law at the political, economic and social level can slow down the mission of the Church which recruits its adherents from these systems. The dynamic manipulation and domination of the economic system held by the ‘having’ can stifle the voice of the poor Church especially in Africa where the economic dependence is great. The poor Church sees its mission blocked by the great ideologies coming from the world.
The last challenge of the Church on mission in the world is the loss of its very essence. Rich countries have other concerns and are becoming more and more secularized. The faith of the Church is declining in favor of profanatism. To be Church in the world presents enough challenges. However, we must move forward.
The world has many faces when it comes to the Church’s being in the world. In spite of these many facets of the world, the Church exists only in the world and cannot be out of it. Its mission is to penetrate the different systems of the world to transform them into spaces where dialogue for the well being of all is a priority. The Church is challenged to respond to the humanitarian, environmental, political and economic needs of the world by mobilizing and guiding the different talents of its members. But she must remember the many challenges she faces.
Rev Esayas Emene
Synode Sud-Ouest de l’Eglise Evangélique Ethiopienne – Mekane Yesus (EEC-MY)