To grasp a better understanding of this essay, it is necessary to set in order the definition of terms like church, 21st century, education, infrastructure, social development and the developing world.
Church is an ecclesiological term generally used by Protestants to refer to the whole group of people belonging to Christianity throughout the history of Christianity.
The 21st century is the current century of the Anno Domini era of the Common Era, in accordance with the Gregorian calendar. It began on January 1, 2001 and it will end on December 31st, 2100. It is the first century of the 3rd millennium.
According to Wikipedia, education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits. Educational methods include storytelling, discussion, teaching, training, and directed research while infrastructure is the fundamental facilities and systems serving a country, city, or other area, including the services and facilities necessary for its economy to function.
Development is defined as an event constituting a new stage in a changing situation or the process of developing or being developed while the developing world according to Wikipedia consist of countries with a less developed industrial base and a low Human Development Index relative to other countries.
During the twentieth century, missionaries who brought the gospel to the developing world provided majority of the educational institution, infrastructure, and social development. Most of the present leaders of our nation would not have been able to get to the heights they achieved if not for the effort of the church. I sometime sit down to think about Nigeria as a developing nation and envisage what would have happened if Marry Slessor never visited the country? What will be the fate of the developing world if the catholic missionaries had not come to Africa and Asia? It is difficult to go to a community in the developing world where one will not be able to find a missionary school, hospital, or church building. As the missionaries went about visiting the developing nations, they saw the physical need of the people and played their role by meeting their physical and spiritual need. This was in obedience to the message of Christ in Mathew: 28:18, where Jesus Christ mandated his followers to go into the entire world and preach the gospel. In 2019 for example, there were numerous cases of building collapse in Lagos and other part of Nigeria, but I am surprised that many buildings and infrastructure that were constructed by the missionaries and church fathers are yet to collapse. In fact, many of the facilities provided by these agents of change are still in use when one visits these communities. The bible in the book of Mathew: 16:18 says, “That upon this rock will I build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it”. The church never forgot the principle of our Lord Jesus but employed it from the time of the early apostles down to the present church era.
Having set a template on which to build this discussion, we can now move ahead to explore the role the twenty first century church plays in the educational, infrastructural and social development of the developing world.
The developing world was characterised by low education and illiteracy in the last century but there have been some tremendous positive change in this sector. In Nigeria for instance, many a youths and children who were not able to gain admission into higher institution have been able to enrol into Christian based Institutions. In 2019, over a million students sat for JAMB and the Nigerian government have stressed that the public institutions will not be able to admit all these students. This news should have caused panic in many quarters but thank God for church owned private institutions that have invested in the educational sector. Students who are not able to gain admission into the public schools will be able to enrol into schools like Covenant, Anchor, Redeemers and a host of others. This provision alone have helped to ease the burden of educating Nigerian youths on the government. I recently read an article where the estimation used to build the excellent library at Covenant University was given and someone was saying if the library was to be a government project; the construction estimation would have been inflated. This alone will help to draw the government to covenant University when she seeks to build such edifice for her public institution.
Most public institutions in developing world have been recently regarded as glorified secondary schools. This looks insulting but if one honestly meditate over this statement, he or she will see that it is actually true. Most of the public institutions in the developing world have been starved of funding. Many news outlet have reported stories of how students seat of the floor to receive lectures, laboratories lacking chemicals and equipment to conduct research, and libraries with non-updated materials. This menace would have made the systems of many nations to totally collapse but the effort of church based institutions have helped to cushion the effect. The problem of unemployment is one of the problems many developing nations of the world face. Many a person have been employed by church based organization as lecturers, cleaners, and doctors thereby, reducing unemployment scourge. The public institutions have not been able to instil discipline into the Nigerian youth. Indecent dressing, examination malpractice, cultism, drug abuse and other vices was prevalent on our streets and communities, but for the effort of church based institutions, character and morality is gradually returning to the streets of the developing world.
In the 2018 world university rankings published by Times Higher Education, Covenant University was one of the only three Nigerian Universities included among the 1258 universities shortlisted. Covenant is just a baby compared to the present public institutions in terms of age but have been able to rub shoulder with excellent institutions around the world. This is just an iceberg with regard to what she and other church based institution can achieve for the upliftment of developing nations.
Infrastructure which is the fundamental facilities and systems serving a country, city, or other area, including the services and facilities necessary for its economy to function have been greatly influenced by the church. The government on its own cannot be able to meet the infrastructural need of a nation. For instance, the recently completed Glory dome that was completed by Dunamis international Gospel centre have contributed to the infrastructural development of Nigeria. The site will serve as a tourist centre for people all over the world and entice people from developed countries to visit developing nations like Nigeria. This infrastructure has been able to open the road networks in the Gwagwalada axis of Abuja. The project was also able to provide schools and shopping malls where people can get services.
Bethany Resort which is headed by Bro Gbile Akanni and his wife have been a life saver in the North central axis of Nigeria. The resort has a hospital, primary and secondary school, bookshop and printing press. This infrastructure which attracts people from many parts of the world is helping to open up Benue state to the rest of the world. Many a sick persons have been healed of their ailment with little or no cash there.
Deeper life bible church completed her Gbagada headquarters recently in Lagos. Anyone who has visited Lagos will be quick to see that there is a problem with traffic congestion there. In the course of completing the project, the church was able to build a bridge and construct roads in Gbagada community. This has helped in reducing the problem, members of the community face in the transportation sector. Many of the infrastructural projects carried out by churches have helped to employ indigenes of developing nations.
Nkst and many a churches have established orphanage homes where the needs of children are met. A visit to these facilities reveal how the church is helping to nurture the less privilege. The church have also helped to provide basic social amenities like water supply to many communities in the developing world.
The most powerful instrument of change is the gospel. The gospel have helped in shaping the life of the citizens of developing world. It is true we have several challenges facing us presently but what would have happened if there were no gospel proclamation in Nigeria? What would have been the fate of Nigeria if Pastor Enoch Adeboye, Pastor W.F Kumuyi, Bishop David Oyedepo, Pastor Paul Enenche and a host of others never heard and responded to the gospel? What would have been the state of their million followers? Perhaps, there would have been more kidnappers, thieves and vice agents than we have in the world today. The church have used the gospel to liberate many the devil had held in sick, sickness and other captivity.
Many disaters like tsunami, earthquakes and windstorms have caused great harm to the developing world. Victims of these uncertainties would have found life extremely difficult if not for the help of the church. For example, Dunamis International gospel centre sent relief materials to the people of Agatu in Benue state that were victims of herdsmen attack. Living faith, RCCG, Mountain of fire and many other ministries have sent aids to people that have found themselves in circumstances of disaster. As a church, there are countless roles the church has played in the developing world. As a people, we avoid self-promotion that entails blowing the trumpet about our contributions. We prefer to keep mute so that Christ who sees in secrete will take the glory and reward us openly, but for the sake of the Church Gist 5th anniversary, a tip of an iceberg about the role the church plays in the educational, infrastructural and social development of developing world have been briefly discussed for the purpose of knowledge.