I’ve met many prominent African ministers while attending the Global Proclamation Congress in Thailand (see photo in this blog I got from the congress Facebook page). These people are in charge of congregation of thousands. The mega church in the US would be considered “normal” for them. Naturally, many politicians attend their churches. This lesson coincides with the news that Donald Trump has enlisted many evangelical leaders to be his spiritual counsel. How do my African friends handle the situation?
- The politicians only attend as a regular member. If they come to the minister, they come to the minister as church members in need of pastoral counsel, not as politicians in need of publicity.
- The pastor doesn’t allow the church to be a political platform for any party. The pulpit isn’t a place for politicians to make their political speeches in order to gain support.
- The pastor freely speaks about social justice even before officials because that’s his pastoral charge. He doesn’t take sides in terms of political parties, but he does speak on issues clearly, loudly and boldly.
Compare just what I described to many Hong Kong churches. We possess the opposite traits. Many don’t have enough integrity to practice this healthy separation between church and state as my African brothers and sisters do. As a result, we repeatedly allow politicians to use the pulpit or pulpit endorsement to get votes. Others don’t want their preachers to preach on sensitive issues in fear of 1) losing their own financial interests locally with China 2) offending someone who may be pro-government. I’ve heard one assistant minister getting a good “talking to” by his seniors for seeking justice for the victims of Tiananmen massacre in his pastoral prayer. Apparently, God doesn’t care much about justice for victims or families of mass murders. Others fail to understand their role in the church by naively participating in a hopelessly fraudulent system not by changing it (because so far, nothing has changed for the best) but by being complicit in its crimes. At the end of the day, we’re left with three questions. First, what God do we serve? Second, what should be the duties of a pastor? If preaching the gospel doesn’t include the justice of God and His love for those who’re in need, then what kind of gospel are we preaching?
I think this comparison shows why so many African churches are growing and making impact in their societies, even under oppressive conditions and why the name of Jesus is often reviled in Hong Kong. Others’ hatred of Christians has nothing to do with persecution. I hope one day the right people (e.g. those who represent oppressive evil forces) will hate us for the right reasons (e.g. social conscience) because our present immaturity, cowardice and greed have murdered our reputation.