Foreign flags in churches: What is the spiritual significance?
‘I Have Been In Churches, Where The Flags Of Different Nations Are Conspicuously Displayed On The Altar And Have Often Wondered Why That Should Be’
A flag as an emblem of a country is significant, but when it is hoisted in any particular church it gives concern as to its spiritual connotation. Be that as it may, this has been the situation right now in some churches, where churches hoist flags of other countries. Members of the church, while praying display some of these flags and the question is: hoisting of flags of other countries what is the need for it? Is there any spiritual benefit attached hoisting of flags? CHRIS IREKAMBA reports.
‘It Is Not A Necessity’
(Rev. Dr. Samson Olasupo .A. Ayokunle, President, Christian Association of Nigeria/ President, Nigerian Baptist Convention)
HOISTING of the flag of one’s nation by the church is not against any biblical injunction once it is not an object of worship. It is rather a sign of patriotism. We are supposed to love our nation and be loyal to her authorities.
Of course, in several places in the Bible we are enjoined to pray for our nation and the leadership thereof. It is in the prosperity of our nation that the church as well would prosper. However, it is a matter of choice for any church since the Constitution of our country does not make it compulsory for any place of worship to hoist it.
Regarding the hoisting of the flag of another nation permanently in the church, I do not see the necessity, except we want to pray for them on their national day or a day the church has chosen to specifically pray for nations of the world.
On going to pray with a flag or bowing in prayer before a flag, I do not believe in that. That appears like veneration of the flag, which is idolatry. Only God deserves veneration. He is the object of worship not any image or emblem. No matter how good the explanation for kneeling down to pray before a flag might be, if care is not taken, over a period of time, the flag would become an idol! We should run away from the appearances of evil. God is and must always be the object of worship, not any other thing.
‘The Only Flag Church Should Fly Is The Cross Of Christ’
(Dr. Cosmas Ilechukwu, General Overseer, Charismatic Renewal Ministries)
SHOULD national flags be on display in churches? I have been in churches, where the flags of different nations are conspicuously displayed on the altar and have often wondered why that should be. Before we consider the main question about the appropriateness or otherwise of hoisting flags in churches, let us first consider the importance of flags and their symbolism. A flag is an emblem of national identity. Hoisting a flag is a way of declaring territorial ownership of any piece of real estate. It symbolises national sovereignty. Prior to Nigerian independence in 1960, the flag that adorned our firmament and government buildings was the British national flag, the Union Jack.
At Independence Day celebration, the Union Jack was lowered and the flag of Nigeria was hoisted in its place, signifying that Nigeria had become an independent country and no longer a colony of Great Britain. When a nation conquers another nation, the conquering nation will hoist its flag in the conquered land as a symbol of its conquest.
When individuals or organisations other than the government and its agencies fly the national flag, it usually signifies a sense of patriotism and pride towards the country in question. This is one of the reasons some churches display their national flag in their buildings. In cases where the flags of foreign nations are displayed, it could be to indicate the different countries, where the particular church denomination has branches. In some cases, the flags are used as tokens for praying for the countries to which they belong.
God did not express any clear opinion on the question of flags in the places of worship, but I am of the opinion that flags of nations should not be displayed in churches, at least, not on the altar. My first reason for opposing the display of flags in churches is that the church transcends national boundaries, with the entire world as its parish. Secondly, the church on earth is a colony of the Kingdom of Heaven; therefore, the only flag it should fly is that of the kingdom of heaven, this to my mind would be the Cross of Christ. The Bible calls the church a Holy Nation (1 Peter 2:9), because it is preoccupied with the Holy intents of the kingdom of heaven. Such national symbols as the flag would actually bring distraction to worshippers and should, therefore, not be allowed in the sacred worship.
‘It Is Difficult To Establish This Practice Scripturally’
(The Most Rev. (Dr.) Michael Olusina Fape, Archbishop, Ecclesiastical Province of Lagos/Bishop of Remo, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Sagamu, Ogun State)
HOISTING of Nigerian flag or those of other nations is a common sight in the new generation Churches, which is an attempt to call attention of the public to the fact of how many countries in which they have their branches.
The practice is not uniform among these churches. On the one hand, there are those who will hoist such flags during their yearly conventions, showing the presence of the countries represented; while on the other hand it is a permanent feature at the headquarters of some churches.
I believe the hoisting of nations’ flags by any church at their yearly convention could be spiritually enriching if it encourages participants to pray for each other, instead of being the sign of self-advertisement of how much of the world they have conquered.
It is very difficult to establish this practice scripturally. But one could only conjecture if the yearly gathering of the Jews in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost as shown in Acts 2:1-11 offers any explanation. While the names of the countries present were mentioned, nothing was said about their national flags. The only record we have is that of their various languages.
Thus, while there is nothing bad in hoisting national flags in churches, it will be more spiritually rewarding if the authorities of the churches with this practice focus the eyes of their members more on God, rather than taking pride in the flags of the countries of their members.”
‘Could Be A Sign Of Welcome To All’
(Very Rev. Msgr. Gabriel Osu, Director, Social Communications, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos)
THE use of flags by countries and groups goes way back. Flags are often used as a symbol of a country’s sovereignty and a sign of patriotism. They were used as a method of claiming land for your country and a symbol of authority. I also know that in times of war, national flags are often used as a beacon of hope and means of tracking different armies on the battlefield.
The white flag, for instance, is an internationally recognised protective sign of truce or ceasefire, and request for negotiation. It is also used to symbolise surrender, since it is often the weaker party which requests negotiation. A white flag signifies to all that an approaching negotiator is unarmed, with an intent to surrender or a desire to communicate. Flags can fly at half mast to indicate mourning and other things. There are also etiquettes that guide the way and manner they should be hoisted. That is a subject for another discussion.
On the use of flags by Churches, I know from history that it is a common practice in the Church of England to place decommissioned military and other flags or standards in cathedrals, churches and chapels. The technical term for this is laying up. I am also aware that United States Navy maintains several church pennants. During the Dutch Wars in the seventeenth century, flags were hoisted when services were held in ships of both sides before battle. In order that these services should not be interrupted, a pennant, composed of the St. George’s Cross and the Dutch tricolour sewn together, was hoisted in all ships; it was not until it had been hauled down in all ships that the battle would commence. They are usually holstered at ships to indicate that prayer or church service was going on. It was not until it had been hauled down in all ships that the battle would commence.
In recent times, many Churches, especially the Pentecostals, do hoist flags at their vicinities. I cannot speak for them. The Catholic Church does not practice such, so I may not be in the best position to speak about the purpose why other churches make use of flags. But I may deduce a guess, not far from the historic perspective, which is to indicate that prayer is always going on in the vicinity. It may as well mean that the church in question is open to people from all nations of the world, without discrimination.
‘It’s Symbolic, Nothing Wrong With It’
(Apostle Anselm Madubuko, General Overseer, Revival Assembly, Ogba, Ikeja, Lagos)
THE church is a worldwide thing. The church represents the world, to me, there is nothing wrong. Remember the Bible says we should go into all the world and preach the gospel. The flags represent the world. The churches pray for the nations of the world and flags represent the nations and so there is nothing wrong about it. It’s symbolic.
If I want Kenya to be displayed, for instance, I have the right to hoist the flag of Kenya in my church or any part of the world I like.
There is no spiritual connotation and as I said the flag represents the country. Hoisting of flags of any nation depends on the country you are attracted to. There is no spiritual connotation, the church represents the country. If you have people who are from a certain country in a church and you want them to feel at home, you could hoist their flag.
‘It’s A Symbol Of Ownership, Association And Relationship’
(Bishop Moses Adedipe, General Superintendent, The Universal Christian Missions International)
A FLAG is used in the Holy Bible as banner (3), Ensign (8), or standard (18). It is often used as a symbol of indicating presence, ownership, association and relationship. It could be national, organisational, religious, professional, etc. The key thing here is connection. These terms are used interchangeably in this submission.
Interestingly, the Almighty God was referred to as Jehovah Nissi – The Lord Our Banner in Exodus 17:15. Here Israel lifted up the name of the Lord as a Banner, Ensign and Standard against the Amalekites whom they defeated.
Coming to our modern day and time, hoisting of flags could mean many things. It could simply mean all the countries the leader of the denomination has physically touched with the gospel message, or he’s mapping to touch or has relationship with at certain levels. It could also mean countries the denomination is having apostolic, prophetic or intercessory assignment about. Hence, it is not out of line to place national flags in the place of worship, so far they don’t become the object of worship.
Without trying to stretch interpretations, the aspect of praying with flags also has a bearing even in the New Testament in Matthew 18:18-19. “Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching (physical or spiritual) anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father, which is in heaven.”
Jesus has been raised as the Highest Flag, Banner, Ensign and Standard for our redemption, any other flag being raised is unto him in submission and not as a sign of our achievements. I submit thus, that hoisting of flags in the place of worship is not a problem, neither is praying as touching these flags for apostolic, prophetic or intercessory assignments. However, we should ensure that these flags don’t become objects of worship or segregation. The Church of God is one but we have diversity of nations.
‘I Have Flags Of 22 Nations In My Parish As Means Of Identifying With Members’
(Pastor Mike Chuks Nwanegbo, Provincial Pastor/Coordinator, The Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, Belgium Mission)
THE flag of a nation is the identity of the nation both spiritually and physically. The flag of a nation tells a lot about the nation. Sometimes, they carry the story of the nation. In war, hoisting the flag of nation over a territory is an indication of victory or possession of the said territory. To show the importance of the flag, men give their lives to protect the flag of their nation. When people are angry with a nation, they burn the flag of the nation and when they are pleased with the nation they fly the flag.
It means that the flag is a strong point of contact for a nation. Churches hoist the flag of nations in their churches as a point of contact to pray for that nation.
Secondly, churches hoist the flags of different nations as a means of identifying with their members. I have flags of 22 nations in my Parish a means of identifying with members and also praying for their nations.
If you are a member of a church, and other nations have their flags, while yours is omitted, the tendency is to ask why or feel not accepted. We must note that this is a spiritual thing and a social thing, but does not determine whether a church is walking with the Lord or not. What matters in a church is the true word that is preached and the lifestyle of its members.
I wouldn’t make the hoisting of a flag an issue, except to pray for the nation and to appreciate the members of that nation in your church. It can also be a means of making a statement to say that your church is planted in those nations.
‘Let It Not Become By Competition Or Trend’
(Pastor Ezekiel Joel, General Overseer, Full Salvation Believers’ Assembly Int’l, Nnewi, Anambra State)
ORDINARILY, there is nothing untoward, or ungodly, if a church chooses to identify with the nation in which she is operating. The Bible expects the believers, and, by extension, the Church to identify in a godly way with, as well as, respect the governing authorities, as long as doing so will not subvert the Supreme and superior authority of God, who is the Creator and highest authority over humanity. Once an action by the Church will not amount to idolatry or outright compromise, it is in order, if by such an action, no Bible injunctions are violated.
We have such scriptures as 1Peter 2:23-17, to support such godly actions. If, for instance, the Headquarters of a Church is holding an International convention or conference, and there are participants from several countries, there is nothing wrong with hoisting the flags of the countries whose citizens are represented in the programme. In a way, it helps to remind all and sundry of the international nature of such a special convention or conference. It rekindles the urge to pray for such nations, even as it refreshes the spirit of nationalism in the participants. And, in the spirit of Romans 14:1-5, whatever are the good reasons why some churches may hoist the Nigerian flag or the flag of other countries, where they have planted their branches, it is a welcome idea. But, there arises a problem when something is done just for the sake of competition, or in order to do something because others are doing it, and without being led of the Holy Spirit, to do such things.
Real Men of God, who are at the helm of affairs in the Church of Christ do not just follow the trend, or do something because it is in vogue. The desire to be “trendy” was the undoing of the nation of Israel, during the days of Samuel, when they wanted to be “like the other nations.” God interpreted their desire to mean a rejection of Himself by the whole nation (1 Sam.8:1, 4-7). It is so sad to discover that Israel never recovered from the results of that monumental error.
It will be outlandish and outright ungodly, however, if flags are turned into objects of prayer. God has never glossed over the sin of idolatry and that of syncretism, in whatever form or shape it may take. It is sad that today’s church is moving on the fast lane of degradation and “wanting to be like all the other nations.” It’s amazing how things, which were considered to be worldly and ungodly in the early 70’s or late 60’s are now being gleefully introduced into the Church. Sadly, in many places, such questionable things are being accepted as the norm, without anyone raising eyebrows! Methinks, if there is a time when the Church needs a sweeping revival of piety, holiness, and walking in a narrow way, it is now!
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