Thursday, August 11, 2022

A reflection on the celebration of 150 years of Christianity

Since the inception of Christianity, establishment of the first church and mission field in Nagaland, we have seen overwhelming growth and planting of churches over the last 150 years. These are wonderful significances revealing the workings of God through the missionaries and the acceptance of Christ by the Nagas. Nagaland has a proud heritage of pioneer missionaries and evangelists. We continue seeing many committed men and women of God in His service. However, in the context of celebrating its 150 years of Christianity, Naga Christians can pause and critically reflect upon some models of giving and mission within Nagaland and our churches.
When the state government implemented the 7th Pay Commission (ROP) in Nagaland, there was relief and excitement. Many families must have given thanks to God for the good initiative taken by the government. In recent years, we have seen growth and development in the funds and facilities of many churches and associations. Big offerings are made through Sunday devotional worships alone. In the act of sanctifying and thanksgiving for the great offerings, the Pastor uses the help of a table/stand to place the offering basket, as the weight becomes heavy to bear and pray. Despite the offerings and blessings within the churches, there are still feelings of worry and uncertainty amongst the full-time church workers!
Truth be told, every household experience its sets of responsibility, expenses, and obligations in terms of monthly mess, clothing, medical and children’s educational needs. The commitment and dedication of these full-time church workers of bearing the cross and burdens of the worldly needs in the service of the Lord, however, gives them a sense of persistence to overcome their material deficits. A majority of the public and lay people recognise these needs and challenges faced by the full-time church workers. Yet, their inability and helplessness make them mere spectators of such problems. The time-to-time raise in the salary of the full-time church workers may seem convenient to assume that we are doing something beneficial. Every time there is a revision in the pay scale of the government employees, the market increases the price of all essential commodities in the blink of an eye. This in return increasing the woes and plights of those whose salaries remain unchanged by such revised pay appraisal.
Dear fellow Naga Christians, do we not agree that it is time that all our full-time mission workers also need to be provided salaries at par with the government employee? Do we not see it as the will of God that we provide sufficient and proper benefits, so our full-time church workers do not suffer in the plight and worries of their material or basic needs for their families? When we are celebrating 150 years of Christianity in Nagaland, it is only fitting that we reflect and plan such noble act for the good welfare of those in the service of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul’s letter in 1 Timothy 5:17 speaks loud and clear on giving worthy double honor and deserving wages to those who direct the affairs of the church.
Almost all churches in the towns of Nagaland are grown, matured and self-sufficient. Then, what role do such churches plan to initiate and fulfil in doing God’s holistic ministry? Indeed, there are some small, slow growing churches that are being supported by other churches and their associations in terms of salary and mission. These are prime models and inspirations for many Christians.
Most of the churches in the first world countries have very good package for their full-time church leaders in terms of both salary and facilities. For such a model, we can learn from our close neighbouring state of the Mizoram Presbyterian church where they provide salaries with very good pay scale in addition to offering support for the education of their children.
How do these churches flourish? The offerings are contributed as a means of righteous and uncorrupted earnings which is acceptable before God and before people too. When Naga Christians also realises and learn to earn and give to the church through honest and uncorrupted ways, our God’s favour and blessings will be upon the individuals, families, and churches too.
How did we allow our promise of sending forth 10,000 missionaries from Nagaland become stunted! It is the right time for every Naga Christian, young and old alike to take upon this renewed commitment in fulfilling this promise. We have allowed God’s great Commission to become narrow and compromised its true nature. Every Naga Christian has to carry forward this obligation and fulfil in our own ability and potential. As we prepare for the celebration of this Sesquicentennial, we can take this as a God-given privilege to contribute according to our means. A revival in the nature of our Christian commitment and in the nature of our Christian giving is the need of the hour. This revival can open the floodgates of heaven with God’s favour and bestow blessings upon Nagaland with a revived generation of God fearing, passionate men and women of God.
This remains another ardent and sincere prayer of the Naga church elders and believers. Praise God!
Y. Imsu Imchen, Social activist

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