I have spent two full days with over 100 grass roots frontline church planters in the city of Patna in Bihar. They came from five regions of the State and radius of about 300 Kilometers from the rural areas where they are ministering. Bihar has been historically known as the Graveyard of Missionaries where many have sacrificed their lives for the cause of the Kingdom without a lot of success. There have been people movements to the Christian Faith in the past but none compares to what is experienced now.
The growing Indigenous Church poses several challenges to Christian leadership in this context. First, equipping the growing church for a contextually relevant and strong witness in the community. And secondly, providing the Church the right direction in the light of the external influences and impact of globalization, capitalism and free market. Thirdly, creating a strong awareness of the call and mission of its members as the Ekklesia ( called out people) and as the Apostles (sent ones) into the world to continue and carry out the ‘Misseo Dei’ (the Mission of God) and influence society as the ‘salt’ and the ‘light’ and live out the incarnational presence of God as the ‘Body of Christ’.
Several of my current ministry experiences in these new regions where the Church is taking roots for the first time in history are somewhat similar to the historic times of the Reformation, The Industrial Revolution and the growth of Protestantism. Therefore my recent readings have been quite challenging and thought provoking. Polanyi concludes his book THE GREAT TRANSFORMATION- The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time with the following words: ”As long as he (man) is true to his task of creating more abundant freedom for all, he need not fear that either power or planning will turn against him and destroy the freedom he is building by their instrumentality. This is the meaning of freedom in a complex society; It gives us all the certainty that we need” CITATION
Pol l 1033 (Polanyi n.d.). These words pose an incredible challenge to the Church and Christian leadership at the present time. The ‘freedom’ that Polanyi puts forward is the outwardly focused, self-giving ‘freedom’ the true liberation which is made possible through Christ. It is not the freedom to do what one pleases but the considerate freedom to do what is right, what is just and what benefits all. It is the freedom that stands on the firm pillars of Justice, love and peace.
Polanyi points out that politics, religion and social norms were the forces that governed society before the rise of “the market’. Land, labour and money itself were not seen as commodities to be bought and sold but they were ‘embedded’ in social relationships. It was moral considerations that ruled and guided the market. When the great transformation took place, Polanyi says that markets became an autonomous force. It was presumed that market forces would organize all of society. In reality, that did not happen. We are now facing the consequences. The question that begs attention now is whether it is market forces that organize society or an organized society that controls and guides market forces? Something much stronger and more deeply anchored in the human heart than mere social structures or market forces is required to create and hold in place the moral and ethical values that are necessary to organize society. Religious beliefs and religious faith becomes that anchor and mooring.
My contention is that the Church as a religious establishment lost its relevance to daily life of its members and gradually its influence on societal affairs weakened and waned. It is my submission that the waywardness of society is a manifestation of the dichotomy between religion and everyday life and the increasing separation between the sacred and secular. It was not the market forces whether regulated or free that have caused the breakdown of society, but the failure of the religious establishment, and in this case the Church.
Now, observing the present, the Church generally tends to stay away and isolate itself from political and economic matters taking the stand that its main and only concern is with issues pertaining to religion alone. Seeing religion as a separate branch of life, it operates on the premise that laying down principles for other departments as inappropriate. It is time for the Church to review this stance, with the firm conviction that religion and Faith envelops, cuts across and underlies every other branch of life.
This is best summarized in Vaclav Ravel’s words from prison before he was president of the Czech republic:
“I am persuaded that [the present global crisis] … is directly related to the spiritual condition of modern civilization. This condition is characterized by loss: the loss of metaphysical certainties, of an experience of the transcendental, of any super-personal moral authority, and of any kind of higher horizon. It is strange but ultimately quite logical: as soon as man began considering himself the source of the highest meaning in the world and the measure of everything, the world began to lose its human dimension and man began to lose control of it.” CITATION Kam11 l 1033 (Mofid n.d.)
BIBLIOGRAPHY l 1033 Mofid, Kamran. Ideals Into Practice: Reuniting Economics and Theology. http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=3144 (accessed February 7, 2011).
Polanyi, Karl. THE GREAT TRANSFORMATION: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time. 2nd[Beacon paperback ed. Boston: Beacon Press, 2001