Christianity and Culture: Enemies or Friends? A Lesson from the Church in Nigeria

“What is one thing the church in your country has learned that believers elsewhere could benefit from?” Babatomiwa Moses Owojaiye of Nigeria responded with this submission to the LittWorld writing contest.

It is no more news that the center of gravity of the contemporary world Christianity has shifted from the global North to the global South. The Nigerian Church, especially its Evangelical/Pentecostal brand, is a major contributor to this shift. Besides the will of God, scholars have argued that American evangelicalism/revival, missionary enterprise, indigenization, vernacular Bible Translation, contextualization, and globalization are some of the factors responsible for this unprecedented growth.  Post-independence cultural awakening is an additional factor to consider in the phenomenal growth of Christianity in Nigeria.

Right from its beginning, Christianity has been a faith rooted in specific cultural contexts traceable in history. That explains why Christianity and its theologies are contextual in nature. Our Lord Jesus Christ and his Apostles ministered within particular cultural contexts. A big part of Jesus’ teachings as well as those of his Apostles are responses to the cultural questions of their days.

We must always appreciate the unfathomable contributions of Western missionaries to the growth of Christianity in Nigeria. However, unlike Jesus and his Apostles, many of these missionaries failed by not taking advantage of the cultures they found on ground to transmit the gospel.

The modern Nigerian Church has learned that the gospel cannot be isolated from peoples’ cultures. People’s identities are rooted not only in their faith but also in their cultures. The late Nigerian historian Ogbu Kalu echoes similar sentiment when he said, “African Pentecostalism has grown because of its cultural fit into indigenous worldviews and its response to the questions that are raised within the interior of the worldviews.”  While it is a fact that not all aspects of any culture are good; the good parts could be a vehicle for transmitting the gospel when used complementarily.

Learn how you can submit articles and win cash in the LittWorld 2012 writing contest, “Blogging for Global Impact.”

Photo above courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

A letter to members of my body in Sierra Leone

Esme James of Sierra Leone contributed this entry to the LittWorld writing contest, answering the question, “If Jesus were to write a letter to the church in your country, what would He say?”

I am Jesus Christ, the Anointed One and your Lord and Saviour. The religion that bears my name has been in Sierra Leone for over two centuries. I know your works. Many there are who have a sincere desire to serve me and to obey my two greatest commands to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbour as yourself. Among you also are some who, despite their poverty and suffering, are rich towards me. They are despised and ignored by those who claim to know me but don’t. These persevere in prayer, interceding for the Church and the nation. They cannot tolerate wicked men and their corrupt practices. But they have forgotten their first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen as the first West African nation that embraced Christianity, and repent.

Within the household are many more that are there only for what they can get out of using my name. They’ve allowed worldly ways to creep into my household, instead of letting my ways transform the world. These are more interested in making a name for themselves than in spreading the good news about me to the nation. They are no different from carnal ones who compete for wealth, power and fame. My servants are busy building empires for themselves on the sweat of their congregations. They tell people that I will bless them as long as they give their money and possessions to the church. They do not care that people’s hearts are far from me and that people are dying in their sins. Instead of saving souls they emphasize worldly wealth and prosperity and ignore the wealth of the fruit of the Spirit which those who love me and obey my commands fully enjoy.

Learn how you can submit articles and win cash in the LittWorld 2012 writing contest, “Blogging for Global Impact.”

Filipinos, hold on!

Joanne Gonzales of the Philippines submitted this entry to the LittWorld 2012 writing contest:

Deaths, conflicts, disasters, catastrophes — all these and more have been setting a lot of us Filipinos in great uncertainty and doubt. Just within the past few months, hundreds of people were killed in unforeseen flash floods and earthquakes, while many families were left starving for food and were seen crying for survival.

Unfortunately, seeing these things happen, many of us have gone disoriented and misplaced. Many have lost their faith and some have likewise surrendered their optimisms for a better future. Many have started to doubt Christ’s existence and relinquish their hopes and dreams for recovery and healing.

But Filipinos, just like any other people in the world, are only facing challenges and hardships. If only Jesus can write a letter to the church in our country, he would tell us to hold on, keep believing, and entrust our troubles to him. He would assure us that despite all the evils and tribulations we are experiencing, there is salvation. He would soon save us and rescue us from this misery.

Surely, our people are not to be blamed for the emotions they express or with the words or reactions they convey. Nonetheless, they need to be reminded of Christ’s love and be steered towards the great things that are possible with Christ within them. Through the help of Christian writers, people in these situations can be guided. They would not only realize the power of Divine love, but they would also be reminiscent of the significance of hope, faith, and devotion in crises such as these.

Learn how you can submit articles and win cash in the LittWorld 2012 writing contest, “Blogging for Global Impact.”

Love isn’t in the details

Crystal S. of the U.S.A. submitted this entry to the LittWorld writing contest:

I’ve seen a few billboards lately advertising the non-denominational churches that seem to attract the most visitors. Get to one late and you risk missing out on a parking spot and having to stand with your back to the wall because there are no more seats.

“Jesus—Not Religion” one billboard says. People don’t seem to want the “religious” details that keep them from dancing, drinking alcohol, etc, because they’re Baptist, Methodist, or Mormon. One of my high school teachers admitted that she’d finally read through her church’s tenets and was appalled—she’d been sinning terribly. But she always had a ready smile and glowed with the love she felt for each person in her presence, even pesky students with annoying questions. How could she be so “bad”?

Sure, the introduction of big screens and performances by outstanding Christian bandsjesus_billboard don’t hurt these new churches, but as I see the older churches waste away, I look at the messages for comparison:

It’s not that different, overall.
Same Bible.
Same God.
Jesus.

We hear the same stories, though each person may interpret them differently and apply them as needed, to heal, to help, to love, hopefully without rules or human judgment. What those crammed-full non-denominational churches do that is strip away the nuances between the types of Christians so that those who never felt like they belonged with any church at all can finally find a home.

People want to learn to love without the artificial borders that subdivide a religion. Draw them in with the basic ideas of kindness and love, and offer comfort and guidance that can’t be denied or picked apart. You get a safe haven for anyone who loves or wants to know more about Christianity. You get the message.

Learn how you can submit articles and win cash in the LittWorld 2012 writing contest, “Blogging for Global Impact.”