1.1 Background of the Study
There is a direct link between the church and the society as the church operates within the heart of the society. Christ pointed out that the church and the world will always be linked as the church comes from the world, and they influence each other continually. He said “you are in the world but not of the world”. The “called out ones”, the church, are in the world but not of it. They live in the world though governed by rules of “another world”. The church and the world represent two systems calling for a relationship as in any systems theory. In this regards, it is said that “all elements of all systems are connected to each other in an infinitely complex web of life. When there is change in one, the other has to adapt, which in turn impacts on the source of the change”
The Nigerian society has been faced with series of challenges ranging from social, political and religious crisis from independent. Since 1999 when Nigeria transited into civilian rule, the country has witnessed a rapid increase in the number of conflicts. The reoccurring crisis between Christians and Muslims in the northern Nigeria calls for interventions from both national and international bodies.
A high level of corruption and the looting of state resources is another serious and ‘pandemic’ (Dike 2005) problem that makes all forms of conflict and trouble worse in Nigeria. The country is ‘richly endowed with natural resources and high quality human capital’ (Ogbeidi 2012), but corruption is one of the main reasons that affect the development of the country in a negative way. The appropriation of state resources by certain hands makes poverty and bitter anger inevitable aspects of daily socio-economic and political routine. In this sense, though corruption is not peculiar to Nigeria, many sources call it the ‘bane of the country’ (Dike 2005; Ogbeidi 2012). And of course, corruption is considered to be one of the main causes of ethno-religious conflicts (Nwankwo 2015). Poverty and injustice caused by corruption weaken any sense of mutual tolerance, social solidarity or coexistence, while reawakening social hatred, radicalism and violence. For this reason, the church is seen as a major catalyst of peace and conflict resolution in the Nigerian society.
Christianity as a word means followers of Christ or Christ like. Christians therefore are those who follow and act the teaching of Christ in all ways of life. One of the climaxes of Christianity or Christian virtue is peace. Christians are enjoined in the Bible to embrace and live peacefully with their neighbors’. The following scriptures confirm this: Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it (Psalm 34 vs 14). Blessed are the Peace makers for they shall be called the children of God Matthew 5 vs 9). Let him eschew evil and do well; let him seek peace and ensue it (1 Peter 3 vs 11). Follow peace with all men and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord (Hebrews 12 vs 14). If it be possible, as much as it lieth in you, live peaceably with all men (Rom 12 vs 18)
The word Peace in Christianity is translated from the Hebrew word ‘Shalom’, which is a key word in the Bible and it’s at the center of how God wants us to live on earth. One of the key things Jesus came to give humanity is Peace and expects us to live in peace as cited in the scriptural verses above. Peace was not only what Jesus taught but He also lived it, this in most cases is what scholars call pacifism, as Jesus never taught violence, even at his arrest by the Pharisees and one of his disciples struck the ears of the priest, Jesus rebuked the disciple and said that “those who live by the sword shall die by the sword” (Mathew 26:52, NKJV). In another place Jesus taught the people not to retaliate any evil done to them as it used to be, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, if one should strike you on the right cheek, turn the left cheek (Mathew 5:38-39, NKJV) but now to always forgive those that offend them and he charged them to forgive their neighbors even seventy times seven (Matthew 18:22, KJV). With all these scriptural teachings of the church, Christians are supposed to live in peace and harmony in the society.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
According to (II Timothy 3:1), “but know this, that in the last days perilous times will come.” I’ll take the liberty to say that perilous times are here. More and more children are growing up in broken homes, unemployment is on the rise and Christians are sinking deeper into debt like never before. Communities in Nigeria have been bedeviled by numerous development challenges which include: severe economic, political and social crises, decline in the standard of education, moral and infrastructural decay, cultural crisis predicated on the fact that traditional values in the people’s cultures have been heavily impacted by materialism, science and technology and ideologies. Health facilities are in total decay.
All these problems call to question the role of the Church in still contributing to the provision of needed succor in these problem areas. In view of these problems and issues, the big question is the relevance of the Church in the present situation. Since relevance is an important feature of any meaningful phenomenon, event or institution, especially in the sphere of human life, the Church’s role in the solution of problems in the 21st century Nigerian society may be definitive in the justification of its existence among the Nigerian people. This study is set to examine the role of the Church in Nigeria today and set how it can help address itself to several problems of poverty and other social problems facing the people and see how it can further join the government and other stakeholders in bringing sustainable development and survival of the society.