How to bridge the sacred-secular divide: A lesson from Ghana

By March 1, 2019

Ghana (MNN) — It’s no secret that being a Christian in a restricted nation is challenging, to say the least. If your faith is discovered, you may be attacked, imprisoned, or even killed.

On the other hand, Christians in countries with freedom of religion are blessed with the ability to live out and share their faith without many repercussions. But with that freedom comes another kind of spiritual challenge — complacency.

Femi Adeleye, Director of the Institute for Christian Impact (Photo courtesy of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship)

For example, Christians in Ghana comprise just over 70 percent of the population and generally have a lot of freedom to practice their faith. However, Femi Adeleye sees Ghanaian believers struggle with complacency.

Adeleye is the Director of the Institute for Christian Impact, an initiative seeking to nurture a new generation in Africa to make advances for the Gospel. He also serves as the Africa Director for Langham Preaching and recently spoke at Urbana 18, a student missions conference hosted by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

Adeleye says, “In Ghana, we do not have the separation of religion and state so there is liberty to share your faith with literally anyone. You go to a marketplace in Ghana and you find people openly and publicly sharing their faith. You go into some industry, even some banks and staff arrive like half an hour before opening hours to have a Bible study or a devotional. So there is that level of freedom.

“I think the challenge you have is beyond the preaching. How do people live out their faith in a way that bears witness to what the Gospel is?… In my part of the world, people have this secular-sacred divide and think what you do in church or in Christian circles is ‘ministry,’ but what you do in your profession is ‘secular.’ So it doesn’t really matter how you do it.”

This mindset in Ghana is familiar to many Christians in unrestricted nations. The irony is the more freedom we have to live out our faith, the more tempting it is to compartmentalize our faith for the sake of comfort. It’s all too easy to “check our faith at the door” when we go to work, school, or anywhere else outside the church building.

How can believers combat this mindset? Adeleye suggests, “We go back in Scripture with them to have them appreciate that the Lordship of Christ is not to be limited to so-called sacred or spiritual contexts…. We find that even in the Old Testament, God is interested in all aspects of life — not just in temple worship, but even in how people did agriculture, in how architecture was done, [and] in how relationships function between natives and visitors or strangers.”

There are many examples in Scripture of people in the Bible who integrated the sacred and the secular well.

“Think of people in the public sphere like Daniel. We often think of Daniel as a prophet, but Daniel was a politician. He was an administrator. We think of Nehemiah. Sometimes people think he was just a prophetic person God used to rebuild. He was a governor! In Acts of the Apostles, there are businesswomen. We think of Dorcas. We think of Lydia. There are people in everyday-ness of life in what they do [who can] still be a witness by their lifestyle and by their words.”

Adeleye and the ministries he works with seek to make disciples in Ghana who will have a profound Kingdom impact. Please pray for this Kingdom impact and that Ghanaian Christians will live as ambassadors for Christ in all areas of life.

“If God is interested not just in the sacred space but in all aspects of life, it is important that in our discipleship strategies, we have Christians appreciate the need to see their professional callings as ‘ministry,’” says Adeleye. “Those in business, those in politics [need] to know that in and through their professions, they can be a witness to God’s saving grace.”



Header photo courtesy of Riley Kaminer via Flickr.

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