Historically, in times of national tragedy or uncertainty, society tends to look to the church for comfort and answers to her deepest questions. If history is anything to go by, it seems that just like the bubbles in a boiling pot, the heat of tragedy, insecurity and uncertainty makes our belief in “a greater life force” come to the fore. In a clime as unstable as ours in Nigeria, with high rates of unemployment and all economic indices pointing to worsening situations, many tend to find solace in the church.
This is one of the lenses through which I interpret the bible in Matthew 13:25-30 where it says that while men slept the enemy came and sowed tares (injurious weeds that resemble corn when young) among the wheat that had already been sown, and the instruction was to let the wheat and the tares grow together until harvest time. By way of interpretation, I believe this means that the church (wheat) is meant to exist alongside and find relevance alongside all the uncertainty (tares) in our world today. I believe the church was almost meant to thrive amidst the trepidation, to soar through the uncertainty, to be fruitful despite the frustration.
The church also provides pastoral care largely in small groups that exist to provide encouragement and support to its members and by extension social services to its community. Some of these groups also come in the style of the well-known alcoholics anonymous; a mutual aid fellowship that helps its members recover from crippling alcohol habits. The importance of overtures such as this cannot be overemphasized in a time such as we currently exist in, where the rate of suicide appears to be shooting through the roof, expanding alarmingly; people seem to be simply giving up on themselves and when hope is lost, all is lost really. This idea is what the church stands for in our society; the city on the hill, the blooming beacon of hope beaming through the darkness, beckoning on all who are losing hope to look up and latch on.
If the church is to play and indeed plays such an important role in our society, then necessarily those at the helm of affairs in the church, those who drive the vision, direction and projects of the church should also play crucial roles in society.
Many churches, unlike widely thought, are led by visionary and charismatic leaders, as that is what it takes to handle the human “wear and tear” that many pastors are exposed to. This is indeed a great responsibility which should neither be taken lightly nor underemphasized. It is the late leadership guru Peter Drukker in a conversation with Steve Sjorgen, founding pastor of Vineyard Community Church in Ohio, and a group of pastors who said “You know Steve, over the years I have made a career out of studying the most challenging management roles out there. After all of that I have now convinced the two most difficult jobs in the world are these—one, to be President of the United States, and two, to be the leader a church like yours and Rick’s (Rick Warren) – where you start it then lead it to serve others in greatness. This week, after spending some quality time with you all, I am convinced of this—the most difficult job is being one of those kinds of pastors.”
We are living in a critical time, such as never experienced in the history of humankind, and the church must respond appropriately to man’s deepest needs.