EXPLORING CHURCH AND SOCIETY RELATIONS: SHOULD THE CHURCH GET INVOLVED IN POLITICS AND BUSINESS? (PART ONE): BACKGROUND AND DEFINITIONS OF KEY TERMS

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In these days and age some Churches and Christian leaders are getting up to all sorts of things in the name of God, including serious politics and business. It is then of considerable interest to examine afresh the question of what Church and society relations should be. What is the role of the Church in society of every age and time? Should the Church concern itself solely with matters of prayer, fasting and salvation? Is it all right for the Church get involved in politics and if yes to what extent and what kind of politics? Should the Church concern itself with issues of liberation and empowerment? Is it all right for the Church to get into business? What does Jesus Christ mean when he says the Church or more accurately its members should the light of the world and salt of the earth? These and many more questions and issues of Church and state dynamics will be examined in this series I am proposing.

The series will proceed as follows. The introductory article will center on putting the series in context by highlighting why it is important to have some clear understanding of the main role and functions of the Christian Church in society and by defining the main terms of the series. The second article will focus on what the Bible means for Christians to be the salt of the earth and light of the world. In the third article the question of Church and politics will be explored. The thrust of the fourth article will be the question of Church and business or entrepreneurship. The fifth article will delve into the how the Church should be enabling its members make the most of the resources and opportunities available to them. And, the sixth and final article will consider the Church as a divine institution that is in the world but not of the world.

In light of the proliferation of Churches mushrooming everywhere and some of them going far beyond what in the past was considered the role and place of the Church in society, it is proper and even essential for serious minded Christians and others to reflect on what the purpose of the Church on earth is. Has the Church failed society? Is the Church being responsive to the changing circumstances and realities of the time? Both world history and Church history have proven sufficiently that the Church has influenced societies wherever it has survived and thrived. It is therefore significant that we examine its public and private influence in all of society. One such way to provide clarity on Church and state relations is to be clear about the terminologies such as Church, society, politics, and business,

What or who is the Church? The Christian Church is the people of God; the body of believers whose head is the Lord Jesus Christ; the community of the faithful committed to the discipleship of Jesus Christ; it is the community of the New Covenant described in the New Testament as “the people of God, the New Israel, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, and the pillar and ground of truth” (Ex. 19:5-6; Jer. 31:33; 1 Pt. 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:15). So the Church of God is not a building but the people. The Church building (conveniently called “the Church”) is where the Church meets and if the people of God meet on a beach or at a stadium or on a road that is where the Church is. The early Church met in homes and in catacombs (underground graves) for worship and teaching.

A society is defined by the online Encarta Dictionary as “the sum of social relationships among groups of human beings or animals.” Or, “a structured community of people bound together by common traditions, institutions, or nationality.” Simply put, a society is any group of people sharing a lot in common by way of food, language, mindset, and attitude to life as a whole. Human beings everywhere live in societies of all sorts.

Politics broadly defined is the art of living together in a community. It deals with how we manage our common life. Politics is about the society and its citizens and their responsibilities to it and one another as well as the privileges they derive from being members of the society; it is concerned with the whole of life in society. It is in this context that Aristotle said that man is a political animal. In the narrow sense politics is the science of government. It is the art of a particular government formulating and implementing specific policies to run societies.

Business in the context of this series is the art of producing, selling and supplying goods and services for money. Business is the art of engaging in commerce and trade of some sort. We shall see, in subsequent articles, how these terms play out and help us shed some light on answering the various questions posed above about the Church and its role and functions in society.

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