Within every civilization, men arise who crave power and a certain glory. A major arena this is seen is politics. Mere men claim to possess a peculiar ability to be able to administer the affairs of society. Diverse views on the best means of running society are sold usually. The crux of political opinions from all angles is the promise of a utopian society. These multiple political views lead to the emergence of manifold political identities, hence multiple political caucuses. If the republic is allowed, it would have an unending number of political parties. The consequence of this is that the republic has to grabble with highly conflicting ideas towards the utopia so promised. Countrymen in their craze over popular votes adopt rather unscrupulous means to winning the masses. The society they vow to make ideal is torn asunder. He who is willing to judge aright would soon discover the real intention of those who hunt for political power. Our very short reflection will call the righteous into government; cajole the republic from drawing the name of God into the mud; rebuke the political campaigns of fallacy, and point out the futility of the power and glory so desired by the architects of bad politics.
“Under the Government of Worse men”
Many a citizen who looks upon the society that is drained by the deeds of the leaders within the state deems the court of government as the place for foul players. The upright man flees from having a say within the polity. The decadence within the state is made worse for the reason that, those who are burnt on depriving society of its wealth never get enough. Have we become the richer or the poorer because of our abstinence from the affairs of the state? To all who are righteous, must we not give ears to the sermon of Plato? In his iconic dictum, he asserts that “The punishment which the wise suffer who refuse to take part in the government, is to live under the government of worse men.”
Society is threatened by bad governance so he who thinks well of humanity is weary of getting involved in public discussion towards the presumable well-being of society. Though there is the problem of bad politics, the citizens of right morals, right motives, right philosophies; the wise citizen must engage in the democracy. Indeed the sin that plagues the republic gives upright men and women more reason to contribute to the democracy. This platonic counsel, if accepted with the expected attitude, will hew from the mountain of dirty politics, a stone of hygienic politics, to adopt a statement of Martin Luther King.
On the Politicization of the Oracles of God in the Secular Polity
One thing is popular within democracies; this is the invocation of the name of God. Citizens go beyond political debate into a spiritual dimension by confessing that God is in favour of their political opinion. The politics of prophecy is becoming an institutionalised means of political debates. Persons seeking political power go to do special divinatory consultation on their fortunes in political elections. The awareness that people of the republic are influenced by what seers say concerning political elections, causes seekers of power to make bad use of prophets. Interestingly, oracles from one God can speak of victory in the same elections for more than one party. Bad politics claims God said something, meanwhile he has not.
Though there are several types of governments today, theocracy remains the mother of them all. In those days, society is ruled by ecclesiastical leaders. Many thinkers on politics in the modern world are of the view that today’s government is to be secular. In any case, we see pockets of theocracy in modern governments. In the democratic regime, theocracy is almost rampant. Indeed states that define themselves as secular cannot deny the hand of the Almighty God in their polity. Sadly, the name of God is largely used in vain in the republic. Selling to the masses what God has not said as if he has said it is nothing less than suffocation of society. It thwarts critical thinking and may get worse men into ruling the affairs of the state. The so-called prophets of God in their quest to receive favour, power, and glory have become a thorn in the flesh of good politics in the republic. They claim divine ability and many citizens rally after them no matter their manner of life. They dare to poke a finger at divinity under the cloak of liars. Professor Christian G. Baëta was right when he indicated that men would emerge in society periodically claiming to possess a certain divine power and would get large following despite their blatant crooked life. Is this a pathologic vestige of theocracy within the democracy? Is it that members of the republic are attempting to contextualize theocracy into the democracy? These may be so to some extent but largely this is a mark of foul politics. Thou shall not profane the name of God in the name of politics.
True Political Campaign stands Diametrically Opposed to Ad hominem
Politics is supposed to be a competition of ideas. However, the scene within democracies shows otherwise. Politics of ideas has become politics of insult. It is expected of the good politician to deal with the real issues at hand for the betterment of the republic but to a very large extent, the power-drunk and glory-smitten politician swerves the real issues and devotes his debate to attacking opponents. This is bad politics.
What end does this bring to society? In their resolve to lay hands on glory, the bad politician proceeds in his political discourse to denigrate the glory of the person of opponents. The personality of political opponents is slurred bitterly. At the end of the day, nothing good comes out of the political debates within the democracy. In this vein, horrible politicians fallaciously appeal to the masses of the people at the emotional level. Their thinking is clouded by the wrong debate that is presented to them. The citizens and hence participants of the democracy who are supposed to be the adjudicators of the political debate must be wise if not the dust of bad politics would be perpetually thrown into their eyes and society suffers. Citizens display their folly every now and then by supporting the evil of their leaders. Many are ready to die and kill to support the political ideology they consider as true. Our engagement in democracy must be based on intellect and not on fables. Instead of exchanging ideas for the good of all, they exchange blows, stones, clubs, bullets, and all that maims and destroys. This is unequivocally folly.
It is quite fascinating that people praise the politics of fallacy. Many reckon politics as synonymous with lies thus bad politics that uses ad hominem is held as smart politics. It is not hard to hear within the democracy that a person is a good politician for the reason that he based his politics on fibs. He who wants to be a good politician for the love of society must abstain from falsehood. This good politician must place himself above the low level politics of insult and seek the mandate of society to genuinely seek the welfare of the people. The campaigns of this politician need to deal with the actual issues that confront the republic.
To Conclude: The Verity of the Vanity of Power
But to what extent does the power wrestle for by those who are consumed by it rest with them? Soon the days go by and the reality of human life becomes apparent. Those who maltreat society by their bad politics; stealing from the poor to enrich themselves, denying the innocent people of even their peace and security, and making a fool of the people, will soon be faced with the truth of life. The power and glory will soon come falling and how great is that fall. Failure to learn from history has disadvantaged society greatly. Nevertheless, the lessons are there. Many within civilizations who think they are invincible by their bad politics within a democracy have been mocked by history. Let it be known to all who desired the good of society that democracy encourages them to contribute to the well-being of life and by their hygienic politics society can be spared of bad politics. Civil obedience must be held in high esteem by them. They must exult peace within the democracy and be ruled by the fear of God.
The world today is not like the one that God created in Genesis 1:31. Adam’s disobedience toward God brought about damning changes that affected not only each one of us but also creation itself.
From a garden of tranquillity where humans and animals coexisted in harmony, we were transitioned into a new world where we prey on each other. Furthermore, there is an increase in earthquakes and other natural disasters that continuously threaten life and property. But worst of it all is the animosity fueled by the differences in the cultures among the people of the world, which traces back to the story of the Tower of Babel in the Bible (Genesis 11:1-9).
This incredible story involves the people of Babel attempting to build a tower that would reach to heaven in direct contradiction to the command of God for them to multiply and fill the whole earth. To forestall this rebellion, God brought into existence multiple languages, thus, dividing humans into various linguistic groups that were unable to understand one another.
This is one of the saddest and yet most significant stories in the Bible. It is sad because it reveals the widespread rebellion in the human heart which resulted from the introduction of sin into our world. On the other hand, it also brought about the reshaping and development of all the cultures that highlights the differences among all the people of the world. Peace is, therefore, essential because it is the only means by which such different groups of people can coexist or cohabit in this world.
The question then becomes, how do you obtain peace in a world that is more opposed to good than evil, more divided than united, and more imperfect than perfect? It would, therefore, require a conscious effort of its inhabitants to pursue what is in the best interest of all. After all, we cannot do much about our differences, but we can make an effort to live in peace with each other when we value and appreciate our diversity.
In this regard, Ghana, a country that boasts more than seventy different ethnic groups, each with its own distinct language, has been a shining example since its independence in 1957. Aside from the many blessings of natural resources and vast arable lands, Ghana is generally blessed with peace-loving people. For many years now, we have rallied around our Ghana flag and remained a united nation earning us the enviable accolade as the beacon of democracy on the African continent.
However, this has not come on a silver platter, rather, by a conscious effort by all and sundry to commit to maintaining peace, especially during the past seven presidential and parliamentary elections, which we have successfully organised in a peaceful, fair, and free manner with very minor security concerns.
As we head to the December 7 polls, we must not rest on our oars, but continue to remind ourselves of the need to maintain the peace in the country and consolidate the gains made so far in our young democracy.
As a very religious country, with Christians forming the majority of her population, the leadership of the various religious bodies ought to preach peace to their followers and insist on it. This, among other reasons, led The Church of Pentecost to introduce the “Agent of Peace” campaign in 2016 to drum home the need for the citizenry to be agents of peace before, during, and after the elections. This year, the second edition of the campaign was launched at the Burma Camp Worship Centre to raise more awareness on the need for peaceful general elections in order to maintain the tranquillity and stability of the country.
In her address, the referee for the electoral process, Mrs. Jean Mensa (Electoral Commissioner), who was the Special Guest of Honour for the event, assured the citizenry of her commitment to presiding over a free and fair election and also called on the Christian community to continue bearing her up in prayer for the enormous task ahead.
The “Agent of Peace” campaign is under the theme: “Seek Peace and Pursue It” (Psalm 34:17) and has since been replicated at the various areas and districts of the church.
The Christian population must therefore not relent but continue to pray into the general elections; consistently calling on our Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, to look favourably towards our nation during this sensitive period.
The electorates, especially the youth, are also advised to pursue peace and not to allow ourselves to be used to disturb the peace of the nation. We are all entitled to one vote and so let’s be content with it.
We must not forget that, in the end, it is only one candidate among the lot who would emerge victorious. This means that the likelihood that many would be disappointed after the results is a reality, however, it is important to stress that, it is not so much about having our preferred political party or candidate in power, but accepting the choice and will of God for our country.
In a nutshell, a peaceful general election requires all stakeholders – religious bodies, security agencies, political parties, the Electoral Commission, and the citizenry – contributing their quota towards the electoral process.
So, let us seek peace and pursue it, because a victory for Ghana, is a victory for all.
The call for peace and tranquility during general elections is a responsibility of all peace-loving persons and civil society organizations because peace is invaluable while violence is very expensive in its destruction. The negative effect of violence has no particular formula and it is not also a respecter of persons – anyone can be a victim in violent situations. This is why a peaceful society/environment is a very significant factor in every democracy and it must be jealously guarded by all parties involved in any electoral process.
Praying for and promoting peace in the nation is the divine responsibility of every peace-loving person as indicated in Jeremiah 29:7, “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (NIV). As our nation heads for general elections on December 7, 2020, the church as a prophetic voice in society considers herself as an agent of peace with a responsibility to preach, exhibit, and model peace and harmony in the Ghanaian society. This is because peace in the nation is peace for our very existence and development as people.
As a nation, there is every cause to thank God for His sustenance of the Ghanaian democratic system since the adoption of the 1992 constitution that ushered us into the fourth Republic. We have had six general elections with the forthcoming polls on December 7, 2020 being the seventh in the series. However, all the previous elections conducted in Ghana were not without some kind of troubles or violence. There are still hotspots and flashpoints in the nation which have always been characterized by violence-related elections. Over the years, reports by the media have also indicated some acts of vigilantism and extreme political activism that infuriate passion during general elections.
It is against this backdrop that peace campaigns have become a critical factor in the preparations towards general elections in Ghana. The ultimate goal is to ensure “peaceful and orderly” balloting and that is why The Church of Pentecost (CoP) and some other agencies are spearheading a nationwide peace campaign ahead of the December 7, 2020 elections. The CoP, for example, with her membership close to three million in Ghana, seeks to add her voice to the ongoing education among the Ghanaian populace by governmental and civil society organizations on the need for another peaceful elections this year.
Activities towards the elections call for other peace-loving institutions to emulate the move by the CoP and to join the peace campaign trail to drive the message of peace across all spheres of the Ghanaian society. The CoP, in particular, successfully embarked on a similar peace campaign during the 2016 general elections as its social contribution towards the peace-building process of the Ghanaian democracy. This year’s peace campaign of the Church was launched on Sunday, 27th September, 2020 and it was attended by the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Ghana, Mrs. Jean Mensa, the Chairpersons of the political parties contesting for the elections, security services, religious leaders, and civil society organizations. The message of all the stakeholders was to send a very strong signal to the general public that every Ghanaian citizen has the responsibility towards peaceful balloting on the December 7, 2020 polls.
The Nature of the Situation
The situation of Ghana’s political system, at times, causes unnecessary tension during general elections in the country. Although the Ghanaian democratic system may be considered a “multi-party” system, partisan politics in the country appears to be operating on a dualistic political system that tends to divide the nation behind two major parties – the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC). This development appears to affect the social cohesion of the people of Ghana with the tendency to create tensions during general elections in the country.
The cause of the tensions may be attributed to the approach initiated by the political parties and their followers to deal with what they perceive to be “inappropriate conduct or actions” by either their political opponents or other agencies involved in the electoral process. Sadly, in some instances, their approaches rather turn out to be problematic and that affirms Albert Einstein’s assertion that “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” The import of this statement is that peace must be sought before it is attained; it is neither commanded nor enforced without recourse to a due process. When peace is enforced without a thorough understanding of stakeholders, the seed is inadvertently sown for societal crises or rancour. How then do we act as agents of peace in all aspects of our activities in the run-up to this year’s general elections? Obviously, each of the following groups of people has a critical role to play in ensuring the attainment of peaceful elections this year:
The Electoral Commission (EC)
The unbiased role of the EC as the main umpire in the electoral process is cardinal in safeguarding the peace and stability of the nation. Prudence in ensuring free and fair elections, as the tenets of its constitutional mandate, has a far-reaching, positive impact on the entire electoral process to avoid violence-related elections. Free and fair elections help to avoid rigging and malpractices that may result in a dispute during or after the elections. For us to achieve our aim of free and fair elections or avoid post-election disputes that could trigger a conflict situation, the EC, as the principal actor and arbiter of the general elections must be seen to be markedly fair.
If the EC excels in its constitutional mandate with transparency as expected, the kind of unnecessary apprehensions and contentions that had characterized our previous elections may become minimal in this year’s balloting. Ghanaians look forward to seeing remarkable progress in our electoral process this year as against those of previous years because we have come far as a nation. The clock must not be rewound backwards – and the EC’s positive role is crucial if we are to progress with our expectation of free and fair elections.
During the launch of the second edition of the agent of Peace Campaign organized by the CoP at its auditorium at Burma Camp, Accra, the EC Chair, Mrs. Jean Mensa assured that Ghanaians, thus: “I must work and undertake all my duties to ensure that it is the will of the people, which is the will of God, that stands. As an Agent of Peace, I should be truthful and not seek to alter the will of God. The Onus is on me to abide by this principle. God being my guide and helper I am confident that I will not let Him and the people of Ghana down; in Jesus name” (Pentecost News, 2020). This statement is very reassuring and Ghanaians are looking forward for the practicability of it in the way the EC will conduct the elections this year.
The Political Parties
Our political parties have the responsibility to maintain the peace and harmony of the Ghanaian society. To achieve this, we urge them to desist from any attitude, action and inaction that may incite the general public to violence during the electioneering campaigns. Whether one likes it or not, our politicians and their political parties might have invested heavily in their preparations towards these elections. The energy and resources they invest in elections may sometimes make a politician develop an audacious passion that he or she must be the only winner of the elections without considering anything otherwise. Their investments notwithstanding, they should also learn about how they must conduct themselves in the event of winning or losing the elections. The principle of “learning to lose” election applies in this context because the elections being entered by two or more contestants may not tie.
Generally, when two or more politicians enter for the polls, one is finally declared a winner of the total votes cast and that calls for political candidates to adopt the principle of “learning to lose,” or “losing honourably”, long before they cast their vote. It is when politicians are adequately prepared to handle losses in an election that they will not hesitate to accept the outcome of the electoral result. The readiness to accept losses, if they happen, must always be at the back of the mind of every mature politician as long as we take into consideration that it is not likely for the election to tie. It is also not likely that the party which is audaciously passionate about winning the elections must, by all means, be declared a winner.
Politicians should understand that the energy invested in preparing their acceptance speech when they win an election, the same energy must also be used to concede defeat because there will definitely be a loser after the polls. It could be Mr “A” or Mr “B”, but the bottom line is that only one person or political party will be declared a winner of the polls in a constituency while the rest will join the losing trail. On the flip side, winners must also be gracious and magnanimous in their celebrations, taking the emotions of losers into consideration; we must do unto others just as we may expect them to do unto us because with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you (see Matt. 7:2). For instance, if you are the loser, how would you have expected your opponent to treat you? This is a food-for-thought for all of us!
The verdict of the ballot is more powerful than the emotional sentiments attached to the energy and resources invested into the electoral process. Therefore, the verdict of the ballot in the light of free and fair elections must have a bearing on the desire of all stakeholders because it is the will of the people; the electorate. It is the verdict of the ballot that determines the result of the poll; not the wishes and the passion of an individual about the polls. The verdict of the ballot may not compliment with the effort of the huge resources invested into the electioneering process. Whenever the verdict is pronounced after the polls, the next expectation of all peace-loving people of losing political actors, or better still, politicians, is to concede defeat (something that all contestants of the polls should have prepared along with their victory speeches long before the elections), congratulate their political opponents for their success in a battle well-fought, and move on with their lives.
Naturally, any person contesting an election must bear in mind that there are “two six o’clocks” in a day – one in the morning and another in the evening. If one misses the morning six o’clock, one is likely to catch up in the evening one. Politics is a dynamic and progressive process; the loss today can be the win tomorrow. With time, the destiny and the political ambition of every person will be determined by the ballot, so there is no need to resort to violence or utter misconduct when one loses an election. For example, there are politicians in this world who have lost elections on several occasions, but with patience and re-strategizing with a progressive pursuit of peace and development, have won in their subsequent attempts. The antidote to failure, is patience and repeated and consistent attempts. If one is consistent, resolute, and progressive with one’s strategy as one continues to keep faith in God victory will surely be on their side.
The media owe us the responsibility to promote peace across the various political spectrum and social groups in the country. Religious organizations and civil society organizations may always talk about the need for peace and national cohesion, but the input of the media is crucial for the sustenance of peace and harmony in the nation. Arguably, some of the keys to peace in the country are in the hands of the media and the Ghanaian media is lauded for using these keys creditably and responsibly over the years towards ensuring the peace and tranquility of the nation. They have demonstrated over the years that preserving the peace and harmony that have existed in Ghana for years is a collective responsibility of us all, regardless of our political affiliations. This is highly commendable and we are proud of them!
Nevertheless, much as the media in Ghana have a very good record, there is the need to be consistent and progressive with their achievement considering the fact that every general election presents itself with its peculiar challenges. Yesterday’s approach may not work properly today – depending on the dynamics on the ground in terms of the political situation in the country so the model of this year’s peace campaign must address the real issues pertaining to the context of the elections. It needs a pragmatic approach and innovations for packaging the ongoing peace campaign. The media, therefore, have a huge responsibility to sincerely be in the forefront of the various peace campaigns launched across the country ahead of the elections. Their involvement in the peace campaigns as agents of peace in Ghana can be a good starting point for the discourse about the role of the media towards the peace-building process in the country. The peace campaign agents need their proactiveness, innovations, and robust approaches to addressing peculiar challenges for this year’s elections.
As has been stated earlier, the whole process of electioneering campaigns is very expensive in terms of investments made and the resources invested. However, much as we exhort our politicians to conduct themselves in a peaceful manner during the elections, the media must also help us to achieve this objective. The media should acknowledge the fact that losing an election is a very disheartening and soul-wrenching experience which, therefore, calls for circumspection in reporting election-related news, particularly during and after the elections. Any distortion of information about a particular political candidate or party may evoke tension.
The onus, therefore, lies on the media to be cautious in exercising their editorial rights during elections. The way the media conduct political interviews, documentaries, or debates must be shorn of all contents that could instigate their readers and audience towards violence. The overriding point here is that the media is a crucial actor in the country’s democratic dispensation, just as elections are vital for every democracy to thrive. Persons on any media platform making wild and unsubstantiated claims or allegations must be asked to prove their allegations beyond reasonable doubt to avoid creating chaos in the nation. It is, thus, a divine call for the media as agents of peace to exercise restraint in reporting anything that is tantamount to causing mayhem in the society.
In the democratic system, leaders do not impose themselves on their people; they are elected and those who have the constitutional powers to elect leaders through the ballot are the electorate. The electorate in this sense are all the citizens whose names are properly captured in the voters’ register compiled by the EC and have satisfied “all righteousness” to vote in any election in Ghana as per the electoral regulations of the Commission. They are eligible voters because their voting rights have not been disputed by any person while their conduct during the electoral process resonates with the laws of the land. They are law-abiding in their actions towards the elections. The conduct of the electorate is summarized in 1 Peter 2:17, “Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king” (NLT). Equal respect for all, including the rules set by the state for its citizen to be law-abiding, is the recipe for good conduct in all activities relating to the general elections.
With this insight, it is permissible to say that the electorates are the most significant segment of the electoral process. Without them, no political candidate will be declared a winner during general elections in Ghana. Thus, the responsibility of the electorate in ensuring and maintaining peaceful elections is as crucial as that of the political parties, EC, and civil society organizations. While it is the civic right of every Ghanaian citizen to exercise their franchise through the ballot, it is equally their civic responsibility to be agents of peace – that is, to safeguard the peace and harmony being enjoyed in the nation.
There is no dichotomy between the rights that quality someone to exercise their franchise through the ballot and the responsibility on the individual to promote peace in the country – both are legitimate “Rs” that must be pursued by the electorate. If we cannot predict the magnitude of violence, then we must all understand that the best alternative for every Ghanaian in this our peaceful state is to be an ambassador for peace. We must preach peace and talk peace before, during, and after this year’s elections. This means the electorate should go to the poll with two responsibilities – the first reason is to vote to elect their preferred leaders and the second reason is to ensure that the peaceful atmosphere in the nation is protected against disturbance. How can they achieve these two objectives?
There are good procedures put in place by the EC for the electorate in Ghana to follow and every Ghanaian must be well informed on those procedures. The electorate need to understand that at the end of the entire process, the good news expected by every patriotic citizen is the counting of the total ballot cast and the peaceful declaration of the winners of the elections by the EC, and not necessarily the number of violent situations recorded during the process. The electoral process is not the platform for a person to unleash terror against their fellow compatriots; it is rather the opportunity given by law for citizens to choose the leader(s) after their own heart and desire.
It must be reiterated that no matter how disgruntled one may be, violence is not an option of every democratic system. Violence-related election is an unfortunate incident in the electoral process because it is not expected to occur in any civilized society. We should all bear in mind that violence-related election is not part of anybody’s budgetary allocations or planning activities towards the electoral process and it must be renounced in no uncertain terms during any election. It unleashes havoc on humanity and it is counter-productive with an unpredictable devastation on lives and properties. Thus, it must not be entertained in society, no matter how miffed any misconduct in the elections might have caused a particular individual.
Any person who subtly beats war drums must understand the fact that violence has never been a solution to any legitimate concern. There is nowhere in our constitution that recommends the use of violence to solve a legitimate concern. Violence rather aggravates the situation of people and makes life unbearable to the extent that sometimes even the initiators of any kind of violence tend to regret their actions because in violence situation any person can be a potential victim. There are legitimate procedures prescribed by the legal systems of Ghana to address election disputes and as we prepare for the polls, this must be at the back of our minds.
The NCCE, Civil Society Organizations, and Religious Institutions
Usually, during campaigns in this country, the focus has always been on the politicians and their political parties preparing for the polls, but less attention is paid in educating the general public about some implications in the electoral process. A thorough understanding by the electorate is vital and that can mostly be championed by the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) and its related organizations. Of all the various areas of educating the public about general elections, one of the things the NCCE ought to consider is to prepare their mind about the outcome of the ballot. The electorate needs to be adequately prepared ahead of time to be aware of the possibility of their candidates losing the elections.
We should not only talk about conducting a peaceful election when some people have not envisaged that losing an election is also part of the electoral process. Those who have not considered this fact may react with shock and frustration when their candidates fail to win the elections, but with an adequate education of the NCCE, and other organizations the electorate will be ready for whatever may be the outcome of the polls. Therefore, every person or social group needs an equal proportion of education about the nature of the electoral process and the need to accept in good faith the verdict of the ballot box. This is important because peace-building during elections is a collective responsibility by all well-meaning people in society. Another area the education process of the NCCE should focus on is capacity building of civil society and religious organizations in the country.
In the run-up to general elections, these organizations (from the grassroots to the top) would also have to learn much about the procedures for mediating conflict-related elections in the country. The bottom line, however, is that we want to have incident-free elections and every person or social group has a stake in the process which needs an adequate preparation for the process by all.
Consequences of Violence-Related Election
It must be thoroughly understood that violence-related election is not a respecter of a person or the cherished heritage of any society, nor does it have regard for their property acquired over the years. It ought to be reiterated that whenever violence strikes, it has no restriction in terms of its sphere of destruction and that is why every good citizen must sacrifice their resources to promote peace and harmony in society. When we consider the countries that have experienced violence-related elections, it can be noticed that the experience is one of the worse situations to happen to any civilized society.
Victor Frankl is reported to have said that, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” If we all have the “power to choose our response,” as is evident in this popular quote of Frankl, then let us all use the power at our disposal, including our political and religious impulse, to once again promote peace and harmony before, during, and after this year’s general elections as we have done in the past. Until the December 7, 2020 polls end, we should not rest on our oars – we must pray for the nation and promote peace in every corner we find ourselves in. The Psalmist says, “The LORD gives his people strength. The LORD blesses them with peace” (Ps. 29:11, NLT). This passage evinces peace as a blessing of God and we must all tap into it as a nation. Wherever there is peace and harmony, the people abound in God’s blessings.
There is no doubt that Ghana is a beacon of contemporary democracy in Africa in terms of the free and fair elections the nation has had during this Fourth Republic, freedom of expression, and, above all, the general governance system of the nation. It is important for every peace-loving person to understand that the peace and harmony enjoyed by Ghanaians need to be consciously guarded as we approach the December 7, 2020 polls. This presentation has demonstrated that the peacefulness and orderliness that is expected to be recorded in the elections would be consequential to our existence and safety as a people. Having seen the need for a peaceful election through this presentation, it is felicitous for me to opine that we must all exercise our religious virtues of peace and love as a people in the face of threats, acrimony, and wickedness. The time to put into practice the inherent peace espoused in our various religious organizations is now. When that happens, triumph will be celebrated in the light of God’s will for our nation.
Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. Why do the nations say, “Where is their God?” Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. (Psalm 115:1-3 NIV)
On 12th March 2020, the Minister of Health in Ghana, Dr. Kwaku Agyemang Manu announced to the Ghanaian public of the first cases of the novel corona virus infection recorded in the country. This was after weeks of uncertainty among Ghanaians regarding the spread of the virus in neighbouring countries. This was due to the devastating effects Covid-19 has had on superpowers like China and Italy. In the minds of most Ghanaians, countries with excellent medical facilities and emergency response systems were being “humbled” by the novel virus and thus, Ghana “stood no chance” in dealing with the situation if a case was recorded in the country. The government of Ghana initially banned travels to Ghana from countries with more than 200 cases of the coronavirus. In a press conference, the Minister of Information, Mr. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah stated, “All travel to Ghana is strongly discouraged”. Citizens and resident-permit holders were required to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival. This did not stop the importation of the virus. After recording 137 cases, the president declared a partial lockdown of the Greater Accra and Greater Kumasi Metropolis to help curb the spread. This did not however stop the spread as more cases were reported through routine surveillance and contact tracing embarked on by health professionals.
A post supposedly attributed to the Italian Prime Minister, Minister Giuseppe Conte reads; “We have lost control, we have killed the epidemic physically and mentally. Can’t understand what more we can do, all solutions are exhausted on ground. Our only hope remains up in the Sky, God rescue your people.” The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a global pandemic at a news briefing on March 11, 2020.
On 19th March 2020, President Nana Akufo-Addo called on Christian leaders to seek the face of God amid the spread of the coronavirus pandemic across the country. He again declared 25th March 2020 a National Day of Prayer and Fasting against coronavirus. He also re-echoed the words of King Jehoshaphat when he was overawed by the enemies, “We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12). This was greeted with mixed sentiments among the populace. Some Ghanaians made mockery of the declarations. In the comments section of a popular news portal in the country, one poster said; “Ghanaians need economic stimulus package to save businesses and lessen the burden on our livelihood. Not fasting and praying at this time. We need to be Serious. Selfish and Greedy Leaders”. Yet another posted, “We need to change our attitude. We don’t need prayers but need to care for humanity”. Another posted, “Mr President, we are very pleased with your words but let us face the fact with honesty, prayers we know won’t do anything…”. A popular musician in Ghana, in an interview during the lockdown said, “It is now time for pastors and Christians to show that indeed their God is real by calling on Him (God) to heal just ten of the infected people.” The naysayers increased by the day.
But the church did not relent. Most church leaders declared fasting and prayers for their members. The Church of Pentecost in particular declared Friday as a day of fasting and prayers to call on God to intervene. After one such prayer sessions, the Chairman of The Church of Pentecost, Apostle Eric Nyamekye declared, “The roots of the virus have been uprooted and burnt.” This was also greeted with mockery when the cases kept going up each day.
Fast forward to 28th September 2020, Ghana had recorded 46,444 cases, 299 deaths and 45,646 recoveries with an active case count of 499. In percentage terms, only 0.15% of the population have been infected with the virus. 0.6% of those infected passed away while 98.3% have been clinically discharged. Only thirteen (13) countries in the world have better recovery rates than Ghana. In Africa, only Djibouti has a better recovery rate (98.7%). Djibouti however has 0.55% of its populace infected with the virus with 1.1% of those infected passing away. The total cases worldwide stand at 33,585,750 with 24,903,199 recoveries (74%) and 1,007,196 deaths (3%). In as much as we praise the government for its interventions, we cannot deny the hand of God in the impressive statistics stated above. Indeed, H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in a recent address to the nations bemoaned the fact that most Ghanaians were not adhering to the safety protocols put in place to help curb the spread such as the wearing of nose masks and social distancing. However, the number of active cases keep reducing although testing is still being carried out.
This might be an indication that the fewer active cases is not entirely the work of government and its agencies but something else is involved. That “something else” is God in action. Contrary to the mockery and doubts, God has shown again that “…the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16b). This should increase our faith in Him and increase our appetite for prayer in our personal circumstances and also intercede for others. People will not stop ridiculing the church but the church (you and I) should stand strong, “so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10).
And so it has been today through the pandemic. When sceptics ridiculed and scorned at Christian leaders and the church saying, “Where is your so-called God who heals?” The answer is and has always been this: He is always with us and answers our cry anytime we call. We are His witnesses to the world. And we join voices with the Psalmist to sing;
The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice. Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire goes before him and consumes his foes on every side. His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all peoples see his glory. (Psalm 97:1-6 NIV)
Our Lord Jesus Christ planted on earth the most powerful “institution”, the Church. His departure speech which seems to premise the fact that the Church will prevail come what may states, “I am with you always even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). It comes to fore that never will it be said of the Church that the people who God has called from the world to form a community of Christ have succumbed to the storms of life and retreated to become a ghetto movement. Pursuance of this hangs very much on the kind of ecclesiology (understanding of the nature, structure and purpose of the Church) that is presented to the people of this community of Christ. I discuss here that Apostle Eric Nyamekye, the Chairman of The Church of Pentecost has caused a shift in the understanding of the Church and this emboldens the church to face the storm of the present global pandemic. This is done with special reference to The Church of Pentecost (hereafter CoP). For the sake brevity, I shall limit myself in my exploration of the cases I reckon as given place to this homiletic treatise.
Apostle Eric Nyamekye comes into the scene as chairman of a classical Pentecostal church that has arguably translated into a global Christian denomination in the last decade. This era of the CoP is very critical. One reason is its presence in over 100 nations. Making incursion into over 100 nations within 67 years of its establishment is a great missionary feat. A graphical representation of the growth pattern will show that per its numerical growth the curve is still peaking. The CoP has enormous human resource at its disposal to live a great mark on world Christianity. The CoP is a leader in current world Christianity. One implication of this is that the kind of “doctrine of the Church” the CoP upholds, which would ipso facto inform its approach to Christian ministry is to be considered critically. Apostle Eric Nyamekye took this up and shaped the CoP’s understanding of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. He caused a sharp shift in the ecclesiology of the CoP that could make the CoP strive even within the present global pandemic. This shows a maturing CoP.
The Ecclesiology of the CoP
The CoP understanding of the nature of the Church follows the general classical Pentecostal tradition to a large extent. I shall touch on only two aspects relevant here. First, events surrounding the formative years of modern Pentecostalism play key role in the classical Pentecostal understanding of the nature, structure and role of the Church. The Church is seen by Pentecostals as “Pentecostal churches.” This is to the extent that non-Pentecostals are comfortably regarded by Pentecostals as being lost due in part to what they regard as over laxity in other Christian traditions. This understanding of the nature of the Church makes classical Pentecostals inward-looking and they will usually not associate with other Christians. To them, association with other professing Christians will “spoil the church.” Professor Allan Anderson, a renowned scholar of global Pentecostalism who visited Pentecost University in August of 2018, explains the reason behind the attitude of self-isolation of Pentecostals thus, “The older churches viewed them [Pentecostals] with various degrees of disdain, amusement and opposition because Pentecostalism attracted only the economically and culturally deprived classes – or so they thought.” This disposition poses a challenge for people who may want to adopt a Christian ecumenical approach to ministry in the CoP. This has been the orientation of the CoP. Despite the progress of Pentecostal missionary enterprise, this mindset lives many places of the larger society that could have been taken by Pentecostals unconquered with the Gospel.
Second, to the CoP, the Church is structured such that it will have nothing to do with the secular. To them, the Church must be completely “separated” from the world and must have no dealings at all with things outside the Church. The Church must be conservative enough to not engage itself in anything not sacred. Its ministry becomes reduced to proclaiming the Gospel, getting people baptized and translated into full fellowship of the church, gathering constantly for public worship and forming a community only of themselves. This creates the picture of the life within the first-century Christian community prior to the ministry of Apostle Paul which saw a new understanding that the ministry of the Church is not limited to gathering for public worship and promoting only the welfare of believers. Things are getting better in recent times.
“We need to stop thinking church”: The 43rd Council Meetings
Christian history has shown that council meetings have the knack of causing cosmic changes in Christianity. I deem the 43rd general council meetings as one of the most remarkable ones in the CoP. It is a remarkable event as its repercussion is the ushering of one of the largest Pentecostal denominations in the world into rigorous ministry “outside the church.” This statement would be one of the statements that would undoubtedly engage the thoughts of councillors and the members of the CoP at the close of the meetings. The statement is contained in the acceptance speech of Apostle Eric Nyamekye after his election as chairman. I find the backdrop to this statement as a response to the pervasive ecclesiology in the CoP. Having been in the full ministry in the CoP for 27 years prior to his chairmanship, Apostle Nyamekye is well aware of the widespread understanding of the nature, structure and role of the church in the CoP. He was speaking to such a perception. This insight was to inform the vision 2023 of the CoP. The statement has set a new tone and presents a sharp shift in the Pentecostal idea of the church. It’s arguably a thought-provoking highlight of the 43rd general meeting of the leaders of the CoP.
The Dual Identity of the Church
One focus of the “vision 2023” of the CoP is to teach its members “the dual identity of the church.” This has been very much discussed by Apostle Nyamekye. This nature of the church presented by the Apostle is directly a complex of Christian thought on salvation, church, and missions. The references given as biblical foundation for the “vision 2023”: Psalm 22:27-28; 76:1-2, 4; Revelation 11:15; Ephesians 3:7-11; and 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 carry these senses. The dual identity of the church is defined like this, “the church is called out of the world to belong to God and sent back to the world to witness and serve.” In his expose of the 2019 theme of the CoP during the November 2018 meeting of the heads of the CoP, Apostle Nyamekye reveals that the motivation behind the theme, “I will build my church” is to bring to bear the twofold identity of the church. He holds that the Bible bears witness to this identity.
With this focus, he questions the social segregation of the church from the world. Meanwhile, he charges Christians not to sacrifice the standard of the Christian faith. His clarion is for Christians to venture into the systems of the world and confront them with the principles of Christ. This is in sharp confluence with a staunch position of his predecessor, Apostle Opoku Onyinah who is of the view that Christians need to speak to contemporary issues emerging in the world. This is summarized in a statement he (Apostle Opoku Onyinah) made in May 2017 during the 15th extraordinary council meetings of the CoP thus, “don’t put church on one side and the world on the other side. The church must move into the world. You must move in with the language that they will understand.”
Apostle Eric Nyamekye in many instances points to the brevity of church public worship in contrast to the many hours Christians spend outside church meetings. He uses an interesting analogy to demonstrate this along this line. He presents that the Christian life is like a football match. Meeting for church service is like a half-time break where players come for refreshment and comments on their performance thus far. After the short break, the players go back to continue the football match. He maintains that the real influence of Christians is in the public space outside church meetings. This hangs on the double purpose of the church he posits. With this ministerial ethos of the church, no threat to public gathering will negatively impact the influence of the church for the Christians become aware that church life goes beyond church auditoriums.
Solving the Paradox of African Christian Spirituality: The Sacred and the Secular in Continuity
One of the staunch positions of Apostle Nyamekye which is a path towards solving the rather paradoxical phenomenon within Christianity in Africa is how he sees the interplay between the sacred and the secular (an in-depth consideration of this is being done in another work). African religious spirituality sees that religious beliefs and practices are intertwined in the everyday life of people. The whole of life in African is seen as sacred. Religious beliefs are not expressed only during public gatherings for religious reasons. Nuances of African primal religion is seen within Christianity in Africa. In this respect, to enhance effective penetrance of the Christian faith into African societies and in fact into other cultures, Christian thinkers have been calling for contextualization of the Gospel. Considering the fact the religious orientation in Africa is that religious beliefs and practices are inseparable from everyday life, it is quite puzzling that when the Africans became Christians they could not see their Christian religious beliefs, principles and practices as part of their everyday life. They struggle to bring their Christianity to bear in their public life. This is a paradox! An indicator of this is the soaring rate of social injustice amidst an increasing number of Christians in Africa.
Apostle Nyamekye is grappling with the issue of the huge percentage of Christians in Ghana not being in commensurate with the impact of Christianity in the public space. He incessantly refers to this situation in the last two years. He pins this on the gab Christians have created between the “sacred” and the “secular.” He builds a case from God’s nature of being spirit. Like Paul to the Athenians, Apostle Nyamekye presents that the Lord God does not dwell in mere temples. He posits that God can not be confined to one place. Thus Christians must worship in temples without boundaries. This translates Christian worship beyond church auditoriums. For the reason that God cannot be confined, Apostle Nyamekye asserts that whatever you do in whatever place you find yourself becomes your worship. The Christian engagement in the secular means that their worship extends to the public space. We see here a position that Christian spirituality finds continuity with the secular. He stated during a session of his series of extended sermons on Living a Victorious Christian Life that “There should be no dichotomy between the sacred and the secular; whatever you do is your act of worship.” This same position was presented earlier on February 29, 2020. Whilst speaking on Ghana’s national television, GTV, Apostle Nyamekye explains that humankind is a tripartite being. He endorsed the trichotomy school that holds that humankind is a spirit, have a soul and lives in the body. He indicated from this backdrop that, “you don’t see the spirit. What you see is the physical. If you are spiritual then show it by the way it is manifested. It is manifested in the day-to-day kind of life. So there should be no dichotomy between the secular and the spiritual.” As an example, he adds that when Christians serve in their workplace it is also worship.
This steadfast position of the apostle speaks to the age-old problem of African Christians inability to bring their Christian principles to bear in the public space. Such teaching that the worship of the Church extends to the secular space preaches the active presence of the Church even without gathering for joint worship as a community.
In Lieu of Conclusion: Rethinking Ecclesiology amidst the Present Pandemic
Whilst a global pandemic may not primarily be the underpinning of Apostle Eric Nyamekye’s paradigm of the church, it prepares the church to face and survives any threat to their gathering together in public worship. Such threat may not be limited to a pandemic like the present COVID-19 pandemic. It could be various persecutions, war, national injunctions or migrations of Christians. I dare say that any Christian denomination that hangs its survival only on public worship in this postmodern world is treading dangerously. Being an Apostle, Chairman Eric Nyamekye spoke to the times. I deem this a providence of God. The Lord God has shown forth himself once again as omniscient. He sends forth his servants in due season to prepare his people for work of service.
Whilst it is of utmost importance that Christians do not forsake meeting together (Hebrews 10:25), Christians in general and Pentecostals, in particular, must embrace the model of the Church being pursued by the chairman of the CoP. There are spiritual dimensions to the church that would not be explored here but indeed the marks and role of the Church go beyond gathering in an auditorium for public worship as Apostle Nyamekye is discussing. The Christian must look beyond the walls of the church. This puts on the cutting edge the profound charge of the Master to his disciples to “occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13, KJV). Whilst meeting together, proclaiming the Gospel, promoting koinonia, encouraging worship and upholding the welfare of the Christian community must be pursued with diligence, its incumbent on Christians to embrace this shift in the understanding of the nature of the Church. The Church would be toughened to stand tall in all circumstances and Christ would be glorified.
On July 23, 2020, Ghana succumbed to the traumatic news of a 90-year old woman who was stoned to death because she was accused of possessing witchcraft. Through the mediation of the new media, the video footage of the lynching of the woman received global attention.
The response was sporadic. Condemnation came from virtually everyone who had the chance of watching the video. For a while, we were shocked because we never thought such a barbaric act could happen in twenty-first century Ghana. Many of us had assumed that the “modern” world had no space for “superstition” and such a grotesque act.
It is, however, important to mention that our surprise was precisely because we thought that the pervasiveness of Christianity and the “modern” mechanisms of investigating the “mysteries” of life would dispel witchcraft and push it to the backwaters of history.
During the nineteenth century, the missionaries were intentional about suppressing any beliefs in the existence of powerful malevolent spirits. But as Birgit Meyer, a religious anthropologist who has written extensively on Pentecostal Christianity in Ghana, has observed the translation of the Bible into the various languages of the colonised people reinforced beliefs in the metaphysical world.
Instead of Christians dismissing or severing relationship with their ancestral past, the presentation of the spiritual forces in the indigenous world as the demons of the Bible became the aporia of mission work. This is because it revitalised the existential realities of the spiritual world of indigenous religion.
The missionaries emphasised a fusion of rationality and faith in Christ as the way of salvation. This led them to build schools, hospitals and founding of vocational schools, hoping that it would dissuade the indigenous people from making recourse to the religious functionaries of the indigenous religions.
But this approach towards mission work, framed as the 3Hs – Head (rational education), Heart (Gospel) and Hand (vocation) – did not appear to have made any significant impact.
This is to the extent that writing in the 1960s, K.A. Busia, Ghanaian academic and former Prime Minister of Ghana, after he assessed the impact of Christianity among the Akan he remarked that the religion was either superficial, alien or both. In sum, he said Christianity was like a thin veneer that did not interact well with Akan traditional religion.
Be as it may, just before the moratorium that marked the end of missionary activities in Ghana in postcolonial Africa in the 1960s, the rise of the African independent churches, including the Mosama Disco Christo Church (founded by Jemisimiham Jehu Appiah) and the Twelve Apostles (founded by Maame Harris Grace Tani and Papa Kwesi John Nackabah), responded the “impotence” of rationality in dealing with the African indigenous worldviews.
These figures incorporated practices such as exorcism and deliverance to deal with the malevolent spirits in the indigenous religions. They also sacralised the Bible as a living text that could ward off evil spirit. But in all of this, witchcraft was the main target of exorcistic exercise.
The rise of the Pentecostal movement in the early twentieth century through the instrumental role played by Peter Anim, regarded as the Father of Ghanaian Pentecostalism, and James McKeown, an Irish missionary who was in the Gold Coast in 1937, did not dispel the belief in witchcraft.
If for any reason at all, the Pentecostal movement reinforced the belief in witchcraft, except that it offered new approaches. The new approach discounted the use of religious items like Florida water, incense, and candles in exorcistic exercise.
Apostle Prof. Opoku Onyinah, the immediate chairman of the Church of Pentecost (2008-2018), Ghana’s largest protestant church, wrote his doctoral dissertation, submitted to the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom, on the preponderance of witchcraft in Ghana.
In his book, Pentecostal exorcism: Witchcraft and demonology in Ghana, he perceptively argued that in indigenous worldviews, “the principal evil is attributed to witchcraft since it is held that all evil forces can be in league with witches to effect an evil act” (Onyinah, 2012:1).
To corroborate Onyinah, in The Encyclopedia of witches, witchcraft & wicca, Rosemary Ellen Guiley, observed that “witches have never enjoyed a good reputation. Almost universally since ancient times, witchcraft has been associated with malevolence and evil. Witches are thought to be up to no good, interested in wreaking havoc and bringing misery to others” (Guiley, 2008: xi).
These observations are based on the non-binaries between the material and the immaterial worlds in most indigenous worlds. In many of the indigenous religions in Ghana and across the world, there is a fluid relationship between the physical and the metaphysical worlds. Spirits interpenetrate the two worlds and can impact on both worlds.
The fusion of the material and immaterial worlds leads to what is generally referred to as mystical causality in explaining an event. This means that nothing happens by accident. Everything must have a cause. Even if doctors provide a post-mortem report on the cause of death of a deceased person, most people will still probe to know the “why” of the death of the deceased.
For example, science was able to explain the cause of my father’s death that occurred on December 13, 2008. But because he was not visibly ill and died peacefully at home at the age of 65 years, some of my paternal relatives were not convinced about the outcome of the post-mortem that was done at the Ghana Police Hospital, Accra. They felt a witch had terminated my father’s life.
This belief in mystical causality is so strong because the work of a pathologist that uses a scientific approach to ascertain the cause of a person’s death answers the “how” questions and not the “why” questions.
It is this fixation for answers to the “why” questions that led Edward Evans Evans-Pritchard (an English anthropologist who studied the phenomenon of witchcraft among the Azande in Congo) to conclude that witchcraft has a certain logic, as it answers what is rationally or logically inexplicable.
The answer to the “why” questions is invested in the activities of witches. Witches are individuals who are able to utilise the powers invested in nature to exert impact on the material world. In some stories, witches are said to have the power to suck the blood of their victims. They are accused of causing all the sickness and evil in the world. Witches are believed to cause their victims to suffer mental psychosis.
Growing up in Maamobi, an urban slum in Accra, some of the religious functionaries told us that there was a tree at the what used to be called Montreal Park, where the Turkish government has sponsored the construction of the largest mosque in Ghana. As children, we were warned not to go near the huge baobab (known as “goji mayu” “witches’ tree) since it was believed to be the epicentre of witches in the community.
In the 1980s, words went around that the witches were responsible for frequent cases of convulsion among children in the community. Incidentally, just under the baobab tree was the place where some young men produced “ganda” (in Hausa) or “wele” (in other languages, including Twi). As children, playing under the baobab tree in the evening was not just fun, after the sun had set, but it was an adventure to get “ganda”.
Sadly, many children, including myself, suffered convulsion. Those days, partly because of the removal of subsidies on health, as a result of conditionalities of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, cash-and-carry (pay-as-you-go to receive healthcare) made it difficult for many people to access healthcare at the hospital.
And given that Maamobi is a low-income community, many people resorted to alternative forms of medication in the event of illness.
With the huge cost of receiving healthcare, children who suffered from convulsion were taken to religious functionaries (mallams – from mualim ‘teacher’) who had built speciality and reputation for treating convulsion.
So, when I suffered a convulsion, believed to have been caused by witches, I was taken to one such mallams, who made multiple incisions (three each) on some parts of my body, including the temples of my forehead, instep, knee, and breast and applied a black powder on them.
In the end, I was resuscitated, as my mother who then (in the early 1990s) belonged to one of the local African Independent churches, Prince of Peace, had prayed the mallam to keep making the incision.
According to my mother, I died, because the mallam almost gave up when I was not responding to the incision and the medicine that was applied. My late father concluded that I should just be given a simple burial. But as a mother, my mother felt more could be done to resuscitate me. Indeed, I survived the convulsion to write about witchcraft today.
In the 1960s, a major variety of secularization happened in history. This was the secularization of moral values. Instead of people turning to God through religious text as the source of moral values, the Bible, in particular, was trashed. Morality was relativized and at the behest of individuals.
People were free to determine their own version of moral values. So long as they did not interfere in the life of others, they were good to go. It was this period that witnessed the era of the sexual revolution, giving rise to all forms of sexual practices, including homosexuality.
Reflecting the moral climate in the 1960s, many scholars anticipated that the secularization of morality would consequently lead to the marginalization of institutional religion. Consequently, the popular scholarship, including the works of Peter Berger and Harvey Cox, at that time was that religion would run into recession as science and technology advanced.
It was also believed that superstitious beliefs, including the belief in witchcraft, would fade away. If religion was to survive at all, it was expected to be liberal and not emphasising fundamentalism or evangelicalism.
The predictions of these secularization scholars did not materialise especially following the Iranian revolution in 1979. The Iranian revolution, staged by Shia cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini did not only affect the political temperature of the Arab world, especially with the overthrow of the liberal Shah government, led by Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. It led to the resurgence of religion that spread to the Middle East and other parts of the world, including Africa.
Consequently, by the end of the 1970s, many of the scholars who predicted the demise of religion had recanted. Peter Berger wrote an important article on de-secularization. While Harvey Cox admitted that he was wrong. The resurgence of religion led to a renewed interest in investigating religion.
The 9/11 attack on the United States further recuperated religion in the world. As the world witnessed the near-collapse of America, the acclaimed superpower, following the terrorist attack, believed to have been led by Usama bin Ladin (founder of the pan-Islamic militant organization al-Qaeda), many turned to religion for hope.
The aftermath of the attack on the United States led to a revitalization of religious practices and scholarship.
A book that I enjoyed reading about the resurgence force of religion in the recent world was co-authored by an atheist and a Catholic (Adrian Wooldridge and John Micklethwait). The title of the book is: God is back: How the global rise of faith is changing the world. when I read the book, the questions I asked was: did God actually go anywhere? Do we determine when He is present or absent?
Notwithstanding these questions, the revitalization of religion did not affect only Christianity and Islam. It impacted on neo-traditionalization. In the 1980s in Ghana, Dr Ɔsɔfo Ɔkɔmfo Damuah Vincent Kwabena Damuah, a former Roman Catholic priest, founded the Afrikania Mission. His goal was to revitalize indigenous religions in Ghana.
Given that he was a member of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) government, headed by chairman J.J. Rawlings, he had a near-monopoly over the state media to advance his religion.
The interesting aspect of the resurgence of religion globally is that it increased atavism for merging the spiritual and material worlds. It brought back witchcraft in the western world as a craft to study and practice as a profession, not an evil to exorcise.
Similarly, in 2019, there was a news item about the process of “de-sacralization” and “de-mystification” of witchcraft as a subject of study at the Venda University in South Africa.
But in all of this, there is no uniform and stable definition of witchcraft or who a witch is. Probably because it is an esoteric practice, much of what is known about it is speculative and the occasional, hysterical confessions of alleged witches.
In many cases, the confessions of alleged witches tend to confirm the beliefs built around the practice. More importantly, it helps Pentecostals and neo-Pentecostals to affirm and denounce the spiritual forces of indigenous religions.
It also brings the practices of the Pentecostals closer to indigenous religions. Professor Birgit Meyer in her article, “Make a complete break with the past”, has, for instance, observed that:
The proponents of Pentecostalization stood much closer to traditional worship than they themselves were prepared to acknowledge. Exactly because they regarded the local gods and spirits as really existing agents of Satan, they strove to exclude them with so much vigour, thereby placing themselves in the tradition of ‘Africanization from below’ which was developed by the first Ewe converts and which had much in common with African cults propagating radical cleansing (Meyer, 1998:319).
Among some of the Twi-speaking people, the word for a witch is “Obeifoɔ” which is believed to be a contraction of “ɔbre yie die ase fo” to wit, “someone or a group of people whose actions undermine progress.”
This definition leaves the reasons for witchcraft open and fluid. For example, anyone who may not possess witchcraft, but engages in anti-social activities could be labelled as a witch. In the same way, anyone who really possesses some form of spirit and is believed to be causing havoc is also considered a witch.
But sometimes the index used to identify a witch is so nebulous that anyone who performs incredibly in a particular profession could be termed a witch. For example, European inventors are considered to be witches.
Great footballers are said to be witches. Professor Onyinah gave an example of Opoku-Afriyie, a Ghanaian footballer, who was nickname “bayie” for his agility in scoring goals. A brilliant student, usually females, are easily tagged as witches.
Other anti-social practices may also lead to a person being classified as a witch. For example, someone who is stingy could be referred to as a witch. A person who is always alone could also be called a witch.
A person who sleeps late and wakes up late also qualifies to be called a witch. Other qualities like “excessive” “beauty” or “ugly” could qualify one as a witch. Excessive wealth and poverty are also marks of witchcraft. Given this, G.K. Nukunya, a Ghanaian professor of sociology, argued that the belief in witchcraft can socially function to ensure order in society.
Unfortunately, the category of witches has been extended to include the aged. So, in the last few decades in Ghana, older women are easily tagged as witches. This could be because life expectancy is expected to be short in Ghana and so, if a woman crosses 70 years and starts to develop facial wrinkles, she is likely to be tagged as a witch. This is especially when her grandchildren begin to die while she is alive.
The other reason for branding and killing old women/men as witches/wizards may be explained by the lack of knowledge that as some individuals age, they experience some form of mental and physical degeneration.
A co-tenant of my family in Maamobi was so old that (probably over 90 years) that she was dried in the early mornings before 10 am. She forgot the names of her own children. She called them based on where one of them stayed. One of her children stayed at Kawokudi, also in Maamobi. So, she called her “Kawokudi”. And even when she had eaten, she would say she had eaten nothing and was starving.
It is partly because of the above that old women are lynched on the accusation of witchcraft. In November 2010, a 72-year-old Ghanaian woman, Ama Hemmah, was burned to death on suspicion of being a witch.
The killing of such vulnerable women may be daily occurrences, except that they are not reported. It is so sad that at a time when everyone expected to cherish old age as a signifier of wisdom, some inane individuals would kill the aged.
It was the supposed danger posed by alleged witches that camps have been created for them in some parts of Ghana. They are usually hedged from society. Their influence on their communities is allegedly curtailed as they stay in the camp under the leadership of a “witchdoctor” who is expected to exorcise them. As the alleged witches suffer social death and ostracization, they form a fictive family at the camps.
In 2011, I visited one of the so-named witch camps in Ngani in the eastern part of Yendi in the northern region of Ghana. I could not believe that women and a few men and children could be ostracized and labelled as witches. The camp was very deprived in many ways. No regular supply of water, no electricity and befitting sanitary facilities. I could not help but walk with a few of them to their small farms.
I joined them in their recreational activities, which included singing and dancing. At least, I could tell that even as encamped people, they could still find time to pursue recreation activities. I also realized that the camp was politically structured with leadership well laid out.
Some of them felt they were more at home in the camps than the villages where they had come from. Majority of the members of the camp were from the Northern Regions. But I found a few Akan women there, as well.
In all of this discussion, the other issue about witchcraft is the fact of modernity paradox. While modernity is tipped to end superstition, it appears to indirectly enforce it. In the world of social media, facilitated by speed internet connection, many of the youths of Ghana cherish more online activities than offline activities.
They prefer to have virtual friends, some of whom they would hardly meet for face-to-face conversation. For example, on July 16, I celebrated my birthday. I had over a hundred people writing to express their best wishes for me. But not a single one of them called me.
More dangerous with social media is the fact that most of us have become virtual beings. Our sociality and quest for offline social activities appear to be dwindling. Information is also freely shared on the internet. Most of the youths are more likely to ask for information from their peers on social media than their parents or grandparents.
We live in a time where parents and grandparents, especially those born before the advent of the internet (known as BBC – Born Before Computer) are forced to learn from their children. There is an inverse of the flow of education – most parents and grandparents now rely on their children and grandchildren for current information. The situation is perhaps worse for “illiterate” parents and grandparents.
Some social practices that invested the material for marriage (bridewealth) in the hands of the older generation, giving them control over the younger generation, has also almost disappeared. Through western education, most of the young men and women tend to secure jobs that empower them economically more than their parents and grandparents.
The implications of the above are very troubling for the future of older women and men in Ghana and elsewhere in the world. This is because we now live at a time where the inherent dignity of man (in the generic sense) has largely been substituted to “acquired dignity”.
This means that instead of human beings having inherent dignity because they are made in the image of God and needed to be treated with respect, we now see them based on their “utilitarian value”. We are defined by our functionality in society.
This also implies that if a woman cannot perform any role considered economically and politically significant, she is written off. The sanctity of human beings, conferred on them by God has been questioned. In the end, we “liquidate” people who we perceive do not contribute to productivity.
The future of old women and men and children with some form of physical or mental disability is very precarious. They do not only risk being branded and killed as “witches”, but they also risk being neglected. Most of them risk being socially ostracized.
The challenge pose by modernity is also such that as people get frustrated as they pursue the illusions of materialism that is displayed on social media and online outlets and suffer alienation in a fast-tract world, they are likely to vent their anger on the older generation.
As I conclude, I firmly believe that the Christian concept of God and man has the key to resolving the “liquidating” of people. The Biblical theology of God as the sovereign creator of the world implies that He is in charge of everything that happens.
This means that when we feel threatened by a malevolent spirit, we can trust Him for our ultimate protection. Second, as sovereign God, He determines the beginning and termination points of our earthly lives (Matthew 10:29). We don’t die until He wills it. So, Christians do not need to fear.
Third, the belief that man created in the image of God has important implications for protecting the “vulnerable” members of our society (Genesis 1:26). This is because the Bible categorically enforces the inherent value and dignity of every human being.
Every human being, therefore, has an inalienable right to life, happiness, protection, and prosperity (Genesis 9:6). The Bible holds that we are in the image of God, not in the image of production.
Let us all join hands to protect the vulnerable in society.
Visions are crucial to the survival of every forward-looking organisation. It directs the course of the organisation and ensures that all decisions, actions and policies are aligned towards achieving the overall objectives of the organisation.
The Church of Pentecost as a religious organisation has a Vision Statement. Our Vision Statement is “to become a global Pentecostal church that is culturally relevant in vibrant evangelism, church planting, discipleship and holistic ministry.”
How then would the church become a leading global church and still maintain its unique Pentecostal identity and at the same time raise members to affect their world positively with godly values?
This indeed calls for visionary leadership and committed followers. This is what has guided the church over the years. Every leader (Chairman) of the church comes out with strategic vision that seeks to drive the ultimate goal or agenda of the church – to propagate the Good News to all people groups on the face of the earth and to equip them with godly values and principles that would help them to live transformational lives to influence their societies positively.
Roy T. Bennett, a renowned American politician, once said: “Good leaders have vision and inspire others to help them turn vision into reality. Great leaders create more leaders, not followers. Great leaders have vision, share vision, and inspire others to create their own.”
Sharing in the assertions of Bennett, we can attest to the fact that The Church of Pentecost has over the years produced good leaders who have come out with great visions. We know that the faithful God who has a covenant with the church will continue to nurture visionary and sacrificial leaders for the church at all levels in the years to come so that the church will continue to soar higher and higher and from grace to grace.
Upon assumption of office in 2018, the Chairman, Apostle Eric Nyamekye, in collaboration with the Executive Council came out with a 5-year strategic vision, dubbed ‘Vision 2023.’ The overarching theme of the vision is: “Possessing the Nations: Equipping the Church to transform every sphere of society with the values and principles of the Kingdom of God.”
The leadership of the church will in the next five years come out with annual themes in consonance with the vision. It was in this direction that the first of the five prospective annual themes, “I Will Build My Church” was chosen in 2019. It sought among others to concentrate on equipping ministers, officers and members of the church to transform every sphere of society with the values and principles of the Kingdom of God and thereby turn many people to Christ.
The intention of leadership was to bring to fore the dual purpose of the Church; that is the church is called by God to Himself and sent back into the world as salt and light to serve God’s purpose and to transform it with the values and principles of the Kingdom of God. It is believed that having put all these measures in place to equip the members to be agents of Christ in their spheres of lives, we would have built a glorious Church.
To the glory of God, a second theme has been drawn out of the vision for next year, thus the year 2020. The 2020 theme of the church is: “A Glorious Church To Possess The Nations” – Ephesians 3:21; Ephesians 5:27. The slogan still remains, “Possessing the Nations, I am an Agent of Transformation.”
From all indications, the Holy Spirit is at the centre of the affairs of the church. One can see a direct linkage between the first and the second annual themes. Indeed, God is progressively preparing His church to become a glorious one poised to fulfilling His purpose on earth for humanity.
The 2020 theme attempts to raise a glorious body of Christians with the ultimate goal of becoming a beautiful bride prepared for the Bridegroom, which is Jesus Christ.
Launching the theme at the 2019 Heads’ Prayer Meeting held at the Pentecost Convention Centre (PCC), Gomoa Fetteh from November 11 to 15, 2019, the Chairman, Apostle Eric Nyamekye, intimated that God is always working in His church to prepare her as a glorious bride for Himself and to make her credible before the watching world, in order to make her witness to the nations easy and effective.
“To make the church’s witness credible and easy, we intend to focus on the goal of the church in the coming year. We will be looking into the church and focus a lot more on the goal of becoming the glorious bride of Christ, well adorned for the Bridegroom without spot or wrinkle or any of such things,” said the Chairman.
What seems to have necessitated this theme is the clarion call for Christians to take their rightful position in society as Salt of the Earth and Light of the World (Matthew 5:13-16). There is no better time to do this than now. We as Christians cannot salvage the fast-depraving world with our wrinkled bodies. We have soiled our garments with bribery and corruption, nepotism, backbiting, self-aggrandisement, selfishness, immorality, debauchery and what have you.
It is absurd, however, to note that the Church rather appears to have failed society in correcting the wrongs. As a nation that boasts to have over 70% of its nationals professing to be Christians, Ghana should have been the shining star that shows the way to righteousness and a citadel of godly people. However, the contrary is what prevails in the country. Indeed, Churches do not build nations but righteousness does. As a result, the Church has lost its influence in the world and has been branded by the watching world as a “bunch of hypocrites who preach virtue but practice vice.”
That notwithstanding, the Church remains the only hope of the world and we cannot afford to fail God in rescuing the dying world for Christ.
We must, therefore, not be satisfied with just holding church meetings and assembling sizeable congregations, but rather be committed to practicing what we preach and upholding righteousness in all our dealings so that the Church would become spiritually potent and more attractive to the watching world.
In so doing, we would be realising the ultimate goal of becoming “a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish,” a “holy and blameless” bride to be presented to Christ, the bridegroom (Romans. 7:4; 2 Corinthians 11:1-2; Revelation 21:2 & 9, Revelation 19:6-9) on His glorious return.
The year 2020 was greeted with much excitement and expectations because of its uniqueness. Not only because it was a leap year but also because it marked the start of a new decade. These excitements and expectations were however short-lived due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus in the nations of the world, which has marred a huge part of the year.
By 11th March, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a global pandemic. The pandemic has taken a significant toll on people and economies all across the world. As of June, over 8 million people had been infected, with the death toll reaching over 390,000. Educational systems, freedom of movement and social gatherings have also had their share of the impact. And the Church has not been spared either.
That notwithstanding, The Church of Pentecost has chalked some unforgettable milestones that give us the cause to celebrate the faithfulness of God despite the prevalent sense of pessimism. One of such historic milestones took place on Thursday, May 28, 2020, at the Jubilee House when the President of the Republic of Ghana, H.E Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo presented the Charter Certificate to Pentecost University College making it a full-fledged university.
This 48-year dream of the institution was realised after Pentecost University met the stringent requirements under regulation 20, clause 2, of the Tertiary Institutions regulations, 2010, Legislative Instrument (LI) 1984, which enjoins the National Accreditation Board (NAB) to consider the length of the period (not less than 10 years) within which the university has successfully operated under the supervision of a mentoring institution, the governance structure of the university, as well as the quality of teaching, research, academic staff and work of the university.
Other key points of consideration before the charter was granted to the university were the financial, material and teaching facilities and resources at the disposal of or owned by the university and any other factors that the NAB deemed appropriate.
That is to say that, in Ghana, the university charter is granted when there is enough evidence that the institution has satisfied all the requirements of academic excellence set out by the National Accreditation Board (NAB), together with related institutions under the Ministry of Education. No wonder that out of the 91 accredited private tertiary institutions in Ghana, only 7 of them, including the Pentecost University, have merited the presidential charter. Therefore, once the charter is granted, the university is transitioned into an autonomous institution with the capacity to award its own degrees in conformity with the laws of Ghana.
As we count our blessings, we must not forget to give God the glory due to His name for His abounding grace and blessings upon His church. He has been and continues to be faithful to The Church of Pentecost. May His Great Name be praised from generation to generation.
Apostle Dr Daniel Okyere Walker, the Rector of Pentecost University, under whose tenure this momentous milestone was realised, and his team and the students deserve commendation for the great work done.
All past Chairmen of The Church of Pentecost, past rectors, as well as past staff and students of the university whose diverse contributions has helped to propel the institution to such a commendable height also ought to be acknowledged.
It is worth noting that a lot of factors and decisive interventions made by the leadership of the church also contributed massively to what has been achieved. Prominent amongst them were the integration of the then Pentecost University College and the erstwhile Pentecost Theological Seminary (now School of Theology, Leadership and Missions) and the directive by leadership encouraging the various Assemblies, Districts and Areas to provide educational sponsorship for members to pursue higher learning at the university.
As a result, out of the 876 students admitted for the 2019/2020 academic year, 392 students were sponsored by the various Areas and Districts to the university. This upsurge in student enrolment went a long way to boost the financial strength of the university in an era when most private tertiary institutions are struggling financially.
We thank God for the wisdom He continues to grant the leadership of the church to navigate difficult situations. However, as we bask in the glory of attaining the Presidential charter, we must not forget the all-important advice President Akufo-Addo gave to the university at the charter presentation event.
The President urged Pentecost University to justify its new status as a full-fledged university by continuing to improve and introduce more innovative programmes and courses that will equip students with the requisite skills and competencies needed to impact the country and transform the economy. He also cautioned that the NAB will closely monitor the university especially in the areas of concern as prescribed by law.
In other words, a clarion call was issued to Pentecost University, and to a large extent The Church of Pentecost, not to rest on our oars but to continue to pursue excellence in order to realise the university’s vision of becoming the Number One faith-based university in Africa. This, however, demands a concerted effort by all stakeholders – the Church, Staff and Students.
The Church of Pentecost must lead this effort because of the instrumental role she has played in the attainment of this Presidential Charter. Now more than ever, the church must continue to provide the needed support, both advisory and financial, to the university to be able to live up to its new status.
The leadership of the church has already taken a bold and concrete step in this regard with the launch of The Church of Pentecost Chairman’s Education Foundation (COPCEF). The foundation is targeting to raise $100 million in 10years to provide scholarship opportunities to deserving students in need and also contribute massively to the infrastructural development of the university. So far, COPCEF has been able to realise about GH¢1.5million. Members of the church of good financial standing, as well as the general public, are encouraged to support this laudable cause.
The various Areas and Districts who sponsored members to the university are commended for their great effort and encouraged to continue to provide such interventions to support the youth of the church while helping to ensure that Pentecost University remains financially robust.
Church leaders must also create awareness at the various levels of the church and encourage their members to make Pentecost University the tertiary institution of choice for their wards. Church members must also turn up in their numbers to support the university during PU Offering days. The PU Offering day is an annual event dedicated to raising funds to support the operations of Pentecost University (PU) at the various levels. Church leaders are, thereby, encouraged to take this very seriously.
Staff and Students of the university, on their part, must continue to pursue excellence in all facets. Indeed, the exceptional performances of the students and staff helped the university to win several coveted awards in the preceding year. Among them were: The Most Outstanding and Overall Best Private University; Best Private University for Communication Studies; Best Nursing and Midwifery Institution in Ghana and the largest Association of Business Executives (ABE) centre in West Africa and one of the top 40 ABE centres globally.
The outgoing Rector, Apostle Dr Walker, for instance, was awarded Most Respected CEO and Most Outstanding CEO of Private Universities by the Ghana Industry CEOs Awards and the Universal Merchant Bank (UMB) Ghana Tertiary Awards respectively. The Vice-Rector, Elder Prof. Omane Atwi, was also honoured for his outstanding contribution to the Accountancy Sector and for serving as a pioneer president of the Ghana Institute of Directors.
With God on our side, when the Church continues to do her part and Staff and Students of Pentecost University continue to do exploits, then certainly the vision to become the Number One faith-based university in Africa will take less than 48 years to achieve.
Webster’s unabridged dictionary defines wisdom as “knowledge and its capacity to make due use of it.” It can also be explained as the quality of having experience and good judgment. How Prophet Nathan exposed King David’s infamous murder of Uriah, together with how he relayed God’s ruling on the matter, has been touted by many as one of the most fantastic displays of wisdom in human history. Exposing the secret act known to only the celebrated King of Israel then, and his loyal army commander who also happened to be his nephew, was a herculean task.
David, Israel’s greatest warrior of all time, who happened to be their King strangely declined to join the military campaign against the Ammonites at the time Kings go to war (2 Samuel 11:1). Strolling around his rooftop, he chanced upon a lady, by name Bathsheba, taking her bath. He sent for this lady, who was Uriah’s wife, and impregnated her. In his attempt to conceal this sinful act, he disingenuously called Uriah from the brazing battlefield and lured him to spend some days with his wife. David sought to push the responsibility of that pregnancy to Uriah. Tried as he did, his plan was unsuccessful. Therefore, he conspired with Joab, Israel’s army commander then, to have Uriah killed, so he can cover up and marry Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:6-27). After the assassination of Uriah, who also happened to be among David’s thirty mightiest warriors, God vehemently expressed His displeasure at what David had done (2 Samuel 11:27).
He sent His rebuke and ruling on the matter through Nathan to David. Nathan’s mission was primarily to bring to light what David had done in secret, express God’s displeasure about it, and inform him of the consequences of his action on his household. The socio-political stature of David and Joab made the revelation a sensitive task, although it was a God-sent mission. Even more complex about this mission was the tendency of the news to rip apart the entire nation.
Best practices required the provision of tight security and safety measures in such sensitive reproach, and the announcement of such verdicts. Nathan had none of these at his disposal, but he was required to go to the King’s palace and point out his secret act to him. The period before, during, and after this, was very crucial for both parties. Every minute of his posture, composure, and demeanor during the period was going to be critical. Unarmed Nathan was solely going to act as the bailiff, lawyer, cross-examiner, special prosecutor, the ruling judge, and a prophet within that short time. Any indiscretion on his part, by way of his presentation would have spelled doom for the whole nation – with himself as the possible first casualty. Such was the enormity of the task that confronted Nathan the Prophet.
It is, therefore, never out of place to attribute the success of that tough assignment to the display of Nathan’s wisdom. It was wisdom, because he could have chosen to share the content of the message with some of his trusted friends, which would have led to the leakage of the secret before meeting David himself. He could also have called a press conference or premiered the reproach for some financial gains. Nathan could have spoken anyhow to King, with the excuse of having lost the respect he had for him. Nathan, however, maintained his composure until he met his revered King and the Lord’s anointed. At the palace, he started with a parable that got David to appreciate the gravity of his offense before delivering God’s ruling to him (2 Samuel 12:1-6).
This approach by Nathan has been cited by many, during Christian leadership training and mentorship programs, as exemplary. It has to do with how he organized his presentation. It was a dossier mixed with the needed decorum, God’s fairness and love, but not without the accompanying punches (2 Samuel 12:1-14). It took courage to point out to the King, “You are the man…you killed Uriah with the sword of the Ammonites and took his wife to be your own wife” (verse 7, 9). Per the definition of wisdom, Nathan used the knowledge God had given him about what David had done in secret wisely. It was, therefore, undoubtedly wisdom at play.
The natural response from people of that stature in society in the caliber of King David would have been to deny any knowledge of the act. After all, at the time, the only person besides him who knew about the conspiracy was Joab, his nephew. David could also have retaliated against the Prophet and had him executed because he was one of the most powerful kings of the world then. Contrary to expectation, he admitted and said, “I have sinned against God.” (2 Samuel 12:13). David didn’t call it a weakness, short-coming, mistake, misstep, miscalculation, or indiscretion on his part. This was a king who, in another instance, openly admitted to God and prophet Gad in 1 Chronicles 21:8 that, “I have sinned greatly… and done a foolish thing” after he counted Israel’s fighting men.
Humility is what caused David to complement Nathan’s mission and made it successful, no matter the consequences that stared at him and his household. Humility is not showing a quiet, or timid or weak personality. It is also not the ability to construct sentences before revered and respected personalities carefully. It is neither specializing in singing the praise of people when they are around. Ironically, it is the only fruit of the Spirit whose counterfeit is quite challenging to detect but in mass circulation. The dictionary defines humility as the quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance. It is one priceless virtue that makes people admit their wrongs unconditionally. When was the last time you frankly admitted your sins before your fellow men or people you wronged?
The respect accorded to the prophets of God in those days couldn’t have been the only reason David accepted and confessed his sin before Nathan. Prophet Micaiah got a haughty slap in the face, imprisoned, and fed with the bread or food of affliction when he told King Ahab what was going to happen to Israel in one of their military campaigns (1 Kings 22:24-27). In another instance, God sent a prophet to ask King Amaziah why he imported idols from the people of Seir after his victorious military campaign against them. In 2 Chronicles 25:14-16, the King interrupted the prophet and said, “Since when have I made you the king’s counsellor? Be quiet now before I have you killed!”
The usual backlashes of people of authority, when faced with God’s word against their expectation, is why Elisha instructed the Prophet who he sent to anoint Jehu as Israel’s new King to run away without delaying afterward (2 Kings 9:3). John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded by King Herod, the tetrarch, when he pointed out his immoral act to him (Matthew 14:1-11). I beg to differ with the school of thought that John could have lived a little longer had he been a little wiser in his presentation on the King’s conduct. At nowhere did the Bible say John took a microphone to announce to the hearing of all Israel of Herod’s immoral behavior. According to Matthew 14:3, he went to discuss the issue with him. Even when John told soldiers to stop taking bribes and warned the crowd following him to bear fruits worthy of repentance, the Bible says, they still run to him asking; what they must do to be saved (Luke 3:9-14). If Herod had humbly accepted John’s reprimand, I believe there would also have been expression such as “John’s wisdom or approach.”
Similarly, if Ahab had taken Micaiah’s warning to him, a phrase such as “Micaiah’s wisdom” would have also been cited, during leadership training sessions. In John 18:20-22, the Lord Jesus was slapped in front of the high priests, when he told them a simple undeniable truth concerning his teachings. Deacon Stephen had his share, when he was stoned to death after his response to the members of the Sanhedrin and telling them what the Holy Spirit had for them (Acts 7). It suffices to say from the few Biblical illustrations given above that no matter how the word of God is sugar-coated, it will still hurt, discomfort, and irritate a proud heart.
The pride in many people shows up in times of reprimand, correcting, or disciplining. Whereas some repent for their wrongs when rebuked, others show rebellion in return. Proverbs 15:10 says, “Stern discipline awaits anyone who leaves the path; the one who hates correction will die.” In 2 Chronicles 15:7-19, Prophet Oded’s words of encouragement from God, inspired and encouraged King Asa to continue the good works he had started as a king. Unfortunately, during his last days when he erred, and God reprimanded him through Prophet Hanani, he became angry and so enraged that he imprisoned the prophet. He became afflicted with a disease in his feet. In 2 Chronicles 16:12, the Bible says, “…Though his disease was severe, even in his illness, he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians.” He died two years later as a result. Similarly, when the priests of God confronted King Uzziah to reprimand him for burning incense to the Lord, he became furious and started raging at them right in temple until leprosy suddenly broke out on his forehead (2 Chronicles 26:16-19). The canon of scriptures had this to say about him, “But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall.” (2 Chronicles 26:16).
On the other hand, King David’s humility became evident when he went to God in fasting and prayers for seven days pleading for the life of his son. Although Nathan had told him the child was going to die, he laid down every ego, and before his servants, cried unto God for His merciful intervention when the child was taken ill (2 Samuel 12:15-18). No wonder David became the only Biblical character to have won the accolade, “a person after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22).
Interestingly, it was the same Prophet Nathan God sent to name David’s second child with Bathsheba after he rightfully married her (2 Samuel 12:25). The name given by God was Jedidah, which meant “loved by the Lord.” When David became old and could not keep warm, it was Nathan who God used to foil the palace coup that was staged by Adonijah (1 Kings 1:11-40). If David had killed Nathan or maltreated him, would he have continued to benefit from his ministry? Many people, out of sheer pride, have maimed the “Nathans” God sent on their way to correct and straighten them and have thus suffered needless ordeals as a result. From the above discussions, I can safely conclude that King David’s display of humility largely contributed to what has become known as “Nathan’s wise approach.” The successful outcome was, therefore, not as the result of Nathan nor David but the right proportional mix of the former’s wise approach and the latter’s humility.
As relational beings, it is undoubtedly one of the main desires of every person to be connected with others by whatever means possible, regardless of their location, social status or religious beliefs. This is why Social Media has become a platform of choice for most people in the world today to satisfy this longing desire to stay connected.
The global persecution of Christians and the various plagues that continue to ravage the world, including the latest COVID-19 pandemic, affirms the view of many notable theological scholars and religious leaders that we are edging closer and closer towards the final days of the earth’s history. This, therefore, calls for an urgent response by Christians to prioritize the sacred duty of evangelism, as the signs of Christ’s imminent arrival draws closer than ever. For this reason, concerted efforts should be targeted to reaching out to as many people as possible wherever they can be found.
Social Media, in this case, ticks the box perfectly as an avenue for reaching out to people in these times because of its increasing rate of engagement. Social Media is no more seen as an entertainment platform for young people, but as a place, where they practically live their lives. All kinds of people, both adults and the young, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, now patronise the various platforms to express their opinions and to pursue other endeavours in business, education, health, etc.
Statistics on Social Media activity in contemporary times show that, usage has reached unprecedented levels. The Global Social Media Research Summary released by Smartinsights.com in 2020 revealed that more than 4.5 billion people are said to be active internet users within every hour of the day. The year 2020 alone has recorded 321 million new internet users. The findings also reveal that more than half (60%) of the total global population are active Social Media users!.
Social Media is gradually taking over as the number one form of communication. Newspapers which used to be the number one form of communication are gradually losing their relevance due to Social Media. When one looks around, the average youth is an active user of one or more of the social media platforms like, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, WeChat, SnapChat, Skype, YouTube, 2go, Ayoba, Telegram, etc.
Now, the world is fast shrinking into a global village through the Internet, and the outreach strategies used by the Biblical Apostle Paul can now be achieved through effective use of the worldwide web.
To capitalise on the potential of the Internet in evangelism, Christians and churches must learn to use the power of these new Information and Communication Technologies to propagate the eternal gospel.
For centuries, various forms of technology have been employed by early believers to disseminate the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Even in the days of Paul the Apostle, his use of the ink and the scroll was seen as high-end technology at the time. This proves that Technology has always been with us, and has helped with the dissemination of the Gospel. In this dispensation, Social Media is the technology which the Lord has provided for Christians to aid our evangelistic efforts.
The Great Commission of Jesus Christ is that, the gospel should be taken to the ends of the earth through various evangelistic activities (Matthew 28: 19 – 20, c.f. 24:14). Today, Social Media has emerged as a utility tool that can be tapped into to provide a method of communication that is fast, far-reaching and interactive. Social Media can, therefore, be used in many ways to spread information in and outside the church.
Social Media evangelism is a form of evangelism where the gospel is presented on the internet via media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, WeChat, SnapChat, Skype, YouTube, GodTube, Telegram and so on. Activities on these platforms may include Christian apologetics, church services, Bible studies, Cell meetings, evangelical messages, etc.
We have seen in recent years an emphasis on the friendship and networks (or community) approach to evangelism. In one of the earliest books on the internet and evangelism, Careaga states, “Electronic evangelism is friendship evangelism via the internet.” This was written way before the likes of Facebook and Twitter, which take the concept of friendship even further. We are now networked with thousands of people like never before. According to internet tool Tweet Reach, you can reach 34,877 people with one tweet (given that I have 3,086 followers). Compare this with the numbers one might reach through an average Sunday service in a church, or even the conventional crusade or rally! This kind of reach in networking was unimaginable even just ten years ago.
Some Christians and churches who have identified Social Media as a ripe missions field have taken up the conscious practice of posting Christ-centered content and inspirational messages with the hope of reaching out to unbelievers on the digital space. Although the initiative of flooding the internet with Jesus-related content is applauded, Social Media evangelism would be more effective when a one-on-one approach is adopted. That is to say, just as personal evangelism is touted as the most effective means of winning souls for Christ, the same approach should be adopted when evangelising to people in the digital space. This is because people would find it easier and more comfortable to ask questions about faith in a private space online.
Building quality friendship is a very key aspect of evangelism, since it breeds trust between the believer and the one being evangelized. This also enables the unbeliever to freely open up and share his or her opinions about Christianity for redress. Such personal conversations cannot be done publicly, but privately. As in the case of Nicodemus, who visited Jesus in the night to seek clarifications on the Christian faith, we must engage unbelievers through private chats so that we can provide effective assistance for them.
Another issue of importance, when it comes to online evangelism, is Follow-up. There are a lot of things which seek the attention of people on the internet. It is worth noting that, the devil is also employing Social Media to lead souls astray. We must, therefore, not leave anything to chance, but continue to engage the people we evangelise to, especially those who have responded or seem to be responding to the gospel message. This means that, the more we follow up on people we share the gospel to online, the higher our chances of winning them for Christ.
Social Media is ripe for a massive harvest of souls for Christ. This is because the online environment has made us more available and accessible than ever. People are looking for answers – answers that they are not likely to get on Google but from the believer; and if they get it from someone they know and trust, then all the better!
Social Media is a big pie which we must do everything possible as a Church to get a piece of, and not wait for crumbs or leftovers. We must employ all tools available to us to ensure that we augment The Church of Pentecost’s efforts in realizing the vision of “Possessing the Nations.” Now is the time to invade the media space with the unadulterated word of God. We already have the message; we only need the channels or medium to reach our target audiences. Social Media and the Internet, in general, are here is provide us with a way to permeate the toughest parts and people of the world, wherever and whenever.
The Church must rise to the task. After all, she exists for nothing else but to draw people to Christ and to make them like Him. Let us, therefore, go out with creativity, boldness and these amazing new tools in our hands to share the best news in the world with more people than ever before. As Jesus did, let us pursue people with the Gospel wherever they are.
Between 2 to 7 BC, the Word became flesh and dwelt among men; in the 21st Century, the Word has become Digital and made its Dwelling among men on the Digital space.