KEY NOTE ADDRESS BY THE MOST REVD HUMPHREY BAMISEBI OLUMAKAIYE PhD ( Ibadan).
Archbishop, Ecclesiastical Province of Lagos. Diocesan Bishop of Lagos and Missioner.
The divine construct and engine through which the Church is meant to run and operate smoothly is that of empowerment. Evidences abound in the gospel that the Church of Christ cannot function either in matter of doctrine and ministerial work or service without a divine enablement or empowerment. The matter of empowerment is so fundamental and non-negotiable that even Christ Jesus, the very foundation of the Church, had to be empowered with the Holy Spirit’s Power before starting his ministry. In Acts 10: 38, Peter while preaching in the house of Cornelius declared that “How God anointed Jesus Christ with the Holy Ghost and with Power, who went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil; for God was with him.” In this text, the protocol and procedure of Christ’s anointing is the divine empowerment that facilitated the success of Charismatic and healing ministry of Jesus. We also know that at that time Christ was about to leave the world after his resurrection he reiterated the necessity of divine empowerment as seen in Luke 24: 48-49 and Acts 1: 7-8. The result of this empowerment culminated the incredible records enshrined in the Acts of the Apostles.
One incredible aspect of this empowerment, as seen in the pages of the scriptures and annals of the Church, was that it affected every product of the Church. Chief among the tools of the Church, through which she has been expanding the frontier of the Kingdom of God on earth is her theology. The subject of theology has to do with systematic reflection of the nature, attributes and workings or operations of the Triune God on earth as seen in the pages of Scriptures, nature and traditions. For the Church, Christ laid a marker of what her theology is to be: empowering theology. In Luke 4: 18, he stated the constituent of the spirit-empowering theology that his ministry was built upon and subsequently what the Church is expected to use at any ages regardless of the socio-cultural trends or changes. However, it can be seen that the understanding and practices of empowering theology is grossly missing in today’s Church. Church in our days is border with other aspects of theology that are mainly discussed in classes and academic circles without any tangible effects on the outside world. But the destiny of the Church is not meant to be confined to classroom and the manifestation of the light that the Church, inherently possess is to be in the world. Our Lord Jesus aptly noted in Matthew 5:13 -15 that the Church is the salt and the light of the world. By implication, Church as the salt should through her theological products heal the corruptions in the world and through her light dispel the darkness in the world. One of the means through this can be done is through theology that empowers or empowering theology. It is therefore our collective interest in this place at such auspicious time to consider the topic “Empowering Theology: An Urgent Need of the Church Today.”
The Concept of Empowerment
The word “empowerment” is ubiquitous, and it is given drastically different meanings from different contexts. In spite of the plethora understanding of the concept of empowerment in various field of studies. There is somewhat a consensus that empowerment involves both a process and a goal whereby people gain mastery and control over their lives to the intent that they become active participants in efforts to influence or change their environments (Rappaport, 1987). To be empowered therefore suggests infusion with ability and power to overcome certain imposed socio-cultural limitation. In sociological terms, empowerment is often related to the problem of marginalization. It is a common knowledge that marginalized people often lose their self-worth and self-confidence because they cannot be fully self-supporting. However, by the means of empowerment these set of people is challenged to take an active part in their own life project and not be treated as an object of oppression. Therefore, we may conceptualize empowerment in this regard as “the process by which marginalized people have become aware of the reality in which they are living and have entered into activities to change or overcome the oppressive situations they encounter” (Aarhus, 2012).
From spiritual perspective, to be empowered is to endued with power from on High (Luke 24: 49). It is to received power of the Spirit to become effective witness of the resurrection of Christ. Being empowered as enshrined in Jesus’ mission statement of Luke 4:18 is bring healing to the brokenhearted, liberty and deliverance to those who captives and enlightenment to those who are blind. The whole process of the gospel is geared towards empowerment of humanity with the intent of transformation, in which human race will truly enter into their destiny here on earth. There is a certain destiny of human race and it is that of being “fruitful, multiply, filling the earth, and having dominion on earth” (Genesis 1: 28). The destiny of human race is realized in being stewards and viceroys of God on earth. The concept of empowerment in scriptural context ensures that human race fulfil this destiny. Therefore, let’s us define empowerment in the context of this paper as the infusion of divine energy and power to bring about liberation from every socio-cultural limitation and ensures active participation of influencing and changing the environment.
The Nature of Empowering Theology
Having established that at the core of the concept of empowerment is the notion of power (Aarhus, 2012), it is important to understand the nature of empowering theology. In nutshell, empowering theology is the theology that empowers. Empowering theology is not just a mere reflection and systematic study of the nature and attributes of Triune God. It is a critical study and way of understanding the declaration of Christ as enshrined in Luke 4: 18. Empowering theology focuses fundamentally on the theology and practicality of power as depicted in the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. This kind of theology as well focuses on the understanding of Jesus’s interaction with socially marginalized and oppressed people. This sort of theology seeks means through which socially marginalized and oppressed people are socially and spiritually empowered for holistic prosperity. Empowering theology also is the studies of the miracles and charismatic ministry of Jesus. It seeks to understand the divine and scriptural pattern for discipleship and mission. The purpose of empowering theology is to ensure that we have divine enablement to fulfil our destiny on earth.
At the core of empowering theology is the notion of power. For us to understand the notion of power, the report published by The Institute of Development Studies in Brighton, Bridge entitled “Gender and Empowerment: definitions, approaches and implication for policy” comes handy. That report points out that the idea of power lies at the root of empowerment. Power can be understood to operate in different ways, namely:
✓ Power over: This power involves an either/or relationship of domination and subordination. It is that which based on socially sanctioned threats of violence and intimidation.
✓ Power to: this power relates to having decision-making authority. It is the power to solve problems. It is a kind of creative and enabling power.
✓ Power with: this power involves power organizing with a common purpose or common understanding to achieve collective goals.
✓ Power within: This sort of power points to self-confidence, self-awareness and assertiveness. It relates to how individuals can recognize through analyzing their experiences how power operates in their lives, and gain the confidence to act to influence and change this. This power that brings inner transformation (Aarhus, 2012; Gender and Empowerment, 1997).
Within the praxis of biblical theology, power is treated as an ambiguous concept. Power can be seen as a positive thing, as a tool to enhance the goodness of life, but it can also be seen as a negative thing; it often leads to the use of force and violence (Aarhus, 2012). However, the study of empowering theology is that which focuses on power as positive thing. In its umbrella, it gives critical considerations and relations on the dimension of power as relates to “power to”, “power with” and “power within.” In order words, empowering theology considers the power to do good (Acts 10:38; Deut. 8:18), power with God (Genesis 32:48) and transformative power within (2 Timothy 1:7; Col. 1:11; Ephesians 3:20).
The Necessity of Empowering Theology
It is of utmost importance that the Church preaches and practices empowering theology. The reason for this may be based on two factors: the assignment and destiny of the Church. It can be deduced from the kerygmatic activities of Jesus as enshrined in the gospel that the assignment of the Church is to enforce and expand the Kingdom of God on earth. The social depiction of the condition of earth in the scriptures reveals that the whole world lies in darkness and under the grips of the Prince of the air (1 John 5: 19; Eph.2: 1-3). There is an existing kingdom of darkness in spiritual world that control the socio-political trends of our world. It is against the wish and will of this nefarious kingdom that the Church seeks to enforce and expand the Kingdom of God. The enforcement and expansion of the Kingdom of God on earth is a matter of power. For church, therefore, to fulfil this divine assignment it needs theology that empowers.
Also, the destiny of the Church is to be a vessel of power through which streams of healing and lights of deliverance flows to all the world. The Church is divinely positioned as beacon of hope and light to bring succor and deliverance to the oppressed, sick and those in jail of darkness and death. The church, in fulfilling this destiny, does not have the luxury of peddling a cheap theology such as queer theology and other theology from the margin that cannot bring deliverance to the spirit and soul of men. The Church, thus, must be a threshold of theology that empowers humanity to discover themselves and be active participants of socio-cultural and eco-transformation in a world that is desperately in need. Our theology as the Church of God must be that which bring earth-shattering, radical social changes and bring the Kingdom of God to human race. Away! Brethren with theologies that have no impart on soul of men. Away! with books published by feeble -minded men riddled with liberative thoughts from the pit of hell. We must storm the throne of grace and obtain necessary grace and mercy to preach and teach theology that empowers and bring humanity to be true disciples of Christ Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20).
The Pedagogical Protocol and Procedure of Empowering Theology
The need to teach and preach theology that empowers begin with our seminaries. The Anglican Seminaries are to be ground in which men are trained for the work of the ministry with the right tools and procedure. We are at a time that we do not have luxury to be careless or carefree about the happenings in our world. The world is under siege of darkness and there is an intent from hell to infiltrate our churches and seminaries and make us all to be at ease with queer theology that glorifies lesbianism and homosexuality even in the Church God. This demonic intent is bent on making the Church to be at home with overbearing prosperity theology at the expense of Charismatic theology that focuses on salvation of spirit, soul and body of men. The church and seminaries therefore must move to halt this advancement from hell. How do we do this?
First, the seminaries have to do a review of their curriculum and educational tools. The review must be done in light or context empowering theology. The question must be asked; does this course of study bring empowers to those about to go into the ministry? How impactful can this course of study be to the immediate environment. Second, they must put in place curriculum that enable theology that empowers. Focus must be on restructuring the curriculum to reflect the need of the hour: empowering theology. Third, books that champion the course of empowering theology must be used. Any books that advances the agenda of revisionist, homosexuals and liberals must not be allowed. Fourth, tutors that have definite encounter with the Christ must be admitted and allowed to train the future priests. Their goal must be to pass on the very core of empowering theology to their students with the hope that they will ignites the feeble altar of their churches with divine fire.
For the Church, the need to shift the pedagogical and kerygmatic programme of the Church. The teaching and preaching content must focuses on that which empowers men and women towards destiny discovery, recovery and actualization. Our Priests must peddle theology that empowers. The core of the message must have its root in Luke 4: 18. We must follow the pathway of our Lord Jesus Christ and preach the theology of Jesus. The empowering theology is the theology of Jesus. The year ahead of us is not the year to do ministry in the way which it has been done. We must relearn ministerial assignment in the pathway of Jesus. There is no shadow of doubt in my mind that if we preach and teach theology of Jesus which is empowering theology; we will have the results of Jesus.
The Practicality of Empowering Theology
The practicality of empowering theology is all encompassing and far-reaching. The fact is that empowering theology can work and it is indeed the answer to the world’s woes. Jesus Christ our Lord came with theology that empowers and we are the products of that theology. Empowering theology therefore has implication for social, political, economic, environmental changes. I want to draw our attention as we draw to a close that empowering theology has the capacity to transform the soul and spirit of men. It has enough firepower to bring about reality of new creation and spiritual formation. Second, it is social justice powered. This theology can bring genuine liberation to the oppressed and marginalized. In the book of Luke, we see Jesus using the template of this theology to speak to women and the oppressed groups of His days. With the power inherent therein, many women found their places in life and destiny. The oppressed were liberated and the blind enlightens. That is, this theology allows the Church to come up with brand of education that provides level-ground for humans regardless of gender. Also, empowering theology is holistic in that that potential to address all social woes and problems of human. Manus noted that
…Biblical exegesis in Africa must be made to respond to the “bread and butter” issues, the socio-economic and political ugliness in the African world. Thus, it must be allowed to address the African hunger situation, international food aid and charity, healthcare problems, the ravage of AIDS…the plight of African rural women, the cry for justice, human dignity and the ethical dimensions of Africa’s indebtedness to world powers (Manus, 2002).
In my view, the kind of biblical exegesis that brings such results is empowering theology. It has all the component of black and liberation theology, even that of feminist theology. In every ramification, it is therefore practical and must be adopted. It is the urgent need for Christian Church today.
The need for empowerment is more intense than ever. I fervently believe that there is need for a paradigm shift in the use of the Bible and the tools inherent in Christianity as resource bank for social transformation and development (Dada, 2010). I agree with the thought that…
The Bible (and theology that we teach and preach) can be used to engage holistic development. In undertaking holistic development theology, one does not only point out the spiritual content of Bible, but one sees this in the light of social analysis. Social analysis has always been concerned with the Bible. All the stories we read from the scriptures derive from a social context. Although all the narratives cannot be read into our context, any relevant social analysis, however, assists us to read “the signs of the times.” In order to hear what God is saying to us today, it is not sufficient to know the facts, or to know what is happening in our world today. It is also necessary to know why particular phenomena are taking place and to become cognizant of the root causes of such events. Our present experience of faith, our praxis, can throw light upon the meaning of the Bible, while at the same time the Bible can throw light upon our experiences (Dada, 2010; italics mine).
Therefore, it is time to arise to the occasion and meet the enemy headlong with fiery message and mission of theology that empowers. The tide must be turn against the hordes of darkness and our world must be rehabilitated in such a way social justice, truth and righteousness reign supreme. The onus is on us and we must not fail. We shall not fail. Amen.
Adekunle Dada (2010) Repositioning Contextual Biblical Hermeneutics in Africa Towards Holistic Empowerment, Black Theology, 8:2, 160-174
Aarhus, Johannes Nissen (2012), “Towards a transformation of power: New Testament perspectives on diaconia and empowerment” Diaconia, vol. 3, pp. 26–43, ISSN 1869-3261
Manus, C. U (2002). “Towards an African Methodology for Biblical Research,” Journal of Religious Studies xvii, no. 1: 67
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