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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

a secular age

Written by: on February 21, 2015

Ethiopia, a nation where diversity of religions and cultures was seen as a national threat, has now ensured the equal rights of all religions before the law. As a result, Protestant Christian churches in the urban settings received acceptance, whereas in regional settings Protestant minorities are usually excluded from social and economic life. In spite of the challenges, Protestant churches have continued to grow. The challenge with Protestant churches in Ethiopia is that they can be growing, yet lack direct impact on the society. Evangelicals seek to evangelize and win souls for Christ, but they are often observed competing against one another.

Reading A Secular Age by Charles Taylor has helped me to understand the process that led the Western society to secularity. The author carefully traces the process starting from the world of 1500 where everything was told in favor of God’s presence, to the present time where the disbelief in the presence of God is not only easy, but also inescapable (p.1). Furthermore Taylor describes the shift to secularity, ” among other things, of a move from a society where belief in God is unchallenged and indeed, unproblematic, to one in which it is understood to be one option among others, and frequently not the easiest to embrace” (p.3). Thus for modern unbelievers the enchanted world of spirits, demons, and moral forces that once made undeniable the presence of God, is virtually inconceivable. On the contrary, the worlds of spirits are highly recognized in African cultures. Churches preach a message that promises healing from sickness and fear of evil spirits. There are also ample records in the gospel accounts where Jesus and His disciples freed people possessed with evil spirits.

There are incredible variations between modern believers and unbelievers in the ways they experience fullness. For instance, “For believers, often or typically, the sense is that fullness comes to them, that it is something they receive; moreover, receive in something like a personal relation, from another being capable of love and giving; approaching fullness involves among other things, practices of devotion and prayer (as well as charity, giving); and they are aware of being very far from the condition of full devotion and giving; they are aware of being self-enclosed, bound to lesser things and goals, not able to open themselves and receive/give as they would at the place of fullness,” whereas the modern unbeliever, “the power to reach fullness is within” (p.8). Taylor’s description makes sense to me because it explains Christian formation not merely as a theory in people’s mind, but rather a lived experience. So, to restate Taylor’s question, what does it mean for us to say our fullness comes from God? It starts with our realization of our call to center everything on God. Human flourishing is important but not our ultimate goal (p.18). And we are called to collaborate with God in continuing the work that Jesus and His disciples began. Thus, the challenge I observe in my Ethiopian Christianity has to do with the practical components of our love for God and our neighbors. Churches seem so committed to winning souls, yet they are passive in the social environment and renewal. The danger to evangelical churches in Ethiopia is not secularization or the rise of other religions, but our leaders’ failure to equip believers to engage with their neighbors for the common good.

About the Author

Telile Fikru Badecha

11 responses to “a secular age”

  1. Telile,

    I love learning from you. Thank for another insightful post.

    Two issues spoke to me in your post. The first is the concept of “fullness.” To be honest, although I love God and have committed my life to Him, yet there are times when I am not full. Due to many negative experiences in Christian settings, I sometimes struggle with my Christian faith. Thus, I find fullness in other places: in my teaching, in my students, in my family, in my research. I know this is not the best way, but it is the reality of my life. I so want my fullness to be in God alone, but it does not always work that way.

    The second item that stood out to me in your post was the focus of the evangelical churches in your country. Winning souls is important work, but so is loving people and caring for them. I often wonder if those who are trying to evangelize might have better results if they were lovers of people, lovers of people without conditions. I am no expert on evangelism, but I do know that God has to ultimately be the One who draws people to Himself.

    • Telile Fikru Badecha says:

      Dear Bill, Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I appreciate your honesty. I don’t think you are alone, I too pray every day for God to help me find my fullness in Him alone. The beautiful thing about our struggle is we have our Lord Christ who don’t judge us but ready to help to find fullness in God alone. I so want my fullness to be in God alone, but it does not always work that way.
      I totally agree with your second thought. The gospel is holistic, it needs to address both spiritual and physical needs. May God help us.

  2. Liz Linssen says:

    Hi Telile
    Thank you for sharing an interesting post.
    I was interested where you wrote, “The danger to evangelical churches in Ethiopia is not secularization or the rise of other religions, but our leaders’ failure to equip believers to engage with their neighbors for the common good.”
    To be honest, this is a problem in Wales, UK, too – leaders failing to equip believers to engage with the world, and also to overcome the trials of this world. The Scriptural request to “equip the saints” is not heard much here either.

  3. Hey Telile,
    You say that “Evangelicals seek to evangelize and win souls for Christ, but they are often observed competing against one another.” This is a sad situation. We all understand our competitive nature but when we bring that into the church realm it is always bad. Add to this your leader’s failure to equip believers to engage with their neighbors for the common good and you have a recipe for disaster. If churches cannot focus on the great commission and the common good they will soon slip into the secular age that Taylor delineates. Much prayer is needed for the Ethiopian church and leaders. You are a rising leader. How will you influence the church to do better than it has been doing?

    • Telile Fikru Badecha says:

      Hello Mitch, Thanks for your comments. Currently, I don’t have any leadership position in my church but I am working with two small group that meets weekly for prayer and discussion on how to share our faith others. Thank you.

  4. mm rhbaker275 says:

    Hi, Tetile,
    Great post, I really relate to what you have shared.
    You note: ” On the contrary, the worlds of spirits are highly recognized in African cultures. Churches preach a message that promises healing from sickness and fear of evil spirits.” While in Tanzania three years, I witnessed the presence of evil spirits and worshiped in many services where people were delivered from the oppression of evil spirits. Jesus said, he was anointed “to release the oppressed.” In one service where I participated, a wonderful pastor leader, Romona Mdobi, came to me afterward and told me she understood; “in America you don’t have these things, here in Africa we have evil spirits.” I assured her that I believed in the power of evil, the presence of evil spirits and shared the experience of those who had just been delivered from oppression.” I never saw this as a distraction to the missionary and witness to the gospel, quite the contrary, within the context of African culture and religion, it is very real. We did, of course, help the people see the evil of the village witch doctor, who much like the business owners of the oppressed girl in Philippi, deceive and oppress people.

    I also agree with the need to train leaders in the church. This is probably, from my perspective one of the greatest needs of the indigenous church is Africa.

  5. Richard Volzke says:

    Telile,
    You said that Protestant Churches have found acceptance in urban settings but not regional areas, even though law now protects them. Why do you think the urban areas have been willing to accept the church and the rural areas have not? I wonder why urban cultures, in general, seem more willing to accept new ways or ideas? “City people” seem to more easily embrace change. Could it be the faster pace of life in the city. In America, I find that rural cultures are often unwilling to change for a variety of reasons, like a lack of education, immature spirituality, or economical factors. How can we help rural cultures embrace new ways, and are there techniques that work best in these settings?
    Richard

  6. Telile Fikru Badecha says:

    Hi Richard, One of the reasons is most rural areas live as a communal, whereas city are very diverse and lead individual life. Also, there is more legal protection in the cities than in the rural areas. Thanks for asking.

  7. Michael Badriaki says:

    Telile, great thoughts. We have similar situations in Uganda and the church needs a full on awakening to it’s biblical mandate in culture and society. You write, “Churches seem so committed to winning souls, yet they are passive in the social environment and renewal. The danger to evangelical churches in Ethiopia is not secularization or the rise of other religions, but our leaders’ failure to equip believers to engage with their neighbors for the common good.”

    I totally agree with you and may God help the church in our countries.

    Thank you

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