Saturday, 7 December 2013
The Nigerian Church Is Losing It's Purpose By Ayobami Oyalowo
There has been a lot of tittle-tattle lately as well as so many discordant tunes on the propriety or otherwise of jets and gifts to pastors and men of God. The debates have been loud and raucous with so many people speaking from a position of little or no information. A lot of emotive vibes and outrage, for or against the perceived or real manipulations by men who supposedly have been given charge over the souls of millions, has become public fodder. Everyone appears to be venting their spleen wherever you turn.
New King James Version (NKJV)
“The more they increased,
The more they sinned against Me;
I will change their glory into shame.
They eat up the sin of My people;
They set their heart on their iniquity.
And it shall be: like people, like priest.
So I will punish them for their ways,
And reward them for their deeds.
But what exactly should we do or say? Supporters of ostentatious and obviously manipulative men of the cloak are quick to put the critics in check by quoting “touch not mine anointed” lines ostensibly to show that men of “God” are above reproach and as such “lesser” men have no right whatsoever to criticize or condemn perceived wrong doings of these high men of “God.” But is this the case? Are these men truly above reproach? Is it biblical for the “under shepherd” to feed fat on the flock while the flock groans and hopes for a better day? All these we shall examine in this piece. Let me appeal that this treatise may exceed the usual length allowed for articles on this blog as it comes laden with supporting Bible passages, but I assure you, it will be worth your while. Take a sip of water and follow me patiently.
And plead with your boss at work to learn from it as well if he frowns at you. Who knows, your boss may have unwittingly contributed to purchasing a Limo, Hummer or Private Jet for his Pastor lately.
Christianity was first brought to the shores of Nigeria by the European missionaries in the early 1800s. When they came, they built hospitals and schools. In fact, many Nigerians aged late thirties and above, were products of missionary schools, which were either free or came with negligible or paltry school fees. The early missionaries and churches in Nigeria were predicated on love and social services to their immediate communities. Many people in the age range I quoted above got quality education and even health care, courtesy of missionaries and churches.
But fast forward to the present day. Church members are coerced to part with money they barely have, with either a promise of God blessing them in return or with stern warnings of perpetual poverty or even threatened with the danger of hell if they refuse to give “cheerfully”. God’s blessing in church today is now for sale and even your offering must be spoken to, so that it can bring forth plenty harvest.
(remember our local priests “babalawo” have a culture of asking clients to rub their bodies with monies and ask for whatever they wish for).
As a matter of fact, a particular church I know, a few years ago had a special offering called ‘dominion jet offering’, where adherents were made to donate towards the “ministry’s” jet only for the jet to be converted for the use of the self styled Bishop later. *My lips are sealed*
In the course of my research, I discovered that a teacher’s son in a secondary school of one of these various prosperity promising centers, who lives in the church enclave, could not afford to send his son to the school, as a teacher and also amember of the church. His son was rather sent to school in a nearby town.
The modern Nigerian church tasks it’s members to donate towards various projects such as universities and elitist secondary schools, but curiously, the poorer members of such prosperity centers can neither send their wards or kids to such schools, neither do the churches have a program to cater for the poor amongst their flock.
Unlike the early missionaries who accommodated both the rich and poor in their schools, it is no longer business as usual for the poor. You either sow and get rich so that your children can also benefit from the schools built by the church you attend or find a lesser alternative, while hoping for a better day! The Church has become a class conscious body.
The passage in Act 4:34-35 which Reads: “(34) Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, (35) and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.” has been totally ignored. In Nigeria’s contrivances of prosperity churches, it is survival of the fittest, elimination of the “poor” or unfit. How wonderful, won’t you say? No longer are we our brother’s keeper. Like 50 Cent, we have resolved in churches to get rich or die trying.
We have been told that prosperity is a sign of God’s favor to his own people, but after reading and studying the lives of great men of God– men who brought great revivals in their time– I had to ask if Jonathan Edwards, a man who preached and thousands wept to the altar in one day, yet he wasn’t rich, or Smith Wiggleswort, a plumber whom God used to heal many sick and raised a lot of dead men, yet wasn’t stupendously rich, were missing a trick. Tozer, John Wesley etc were great men of God, who neither built castles nor owned the choicest properties in their time, but they made such differences in the body of Christ so much so that till this day, their works still speak for them. Unlike our spirito-christian magicians, these men lived simple lives, but turned many around towards righteous and holy living. Their time was termed the period of the great revival in history.
Severally we have been reprimanded to “touch not mine anointed” but is this the correct application of this scripture? In which context was this phrase used? It is found in Psalm 105:15 and was repeated in 1Chronicles 16:22. That passage was written to praise the works of God when he took out Israel out of Egypt and saved them from harm, even though they were few. It was never about a pastor or a leader, it was written to praise God in taking care of a called out people. Anointed vessels are men who allow God to do his bidding through them.
Note that those people who must do his bidding must be “called out” and what is the “church”? It simply means “the called out ones”. Therefore that Passage can also mean “touch not the church”. Do NOT be deceived, it was never written to protect or immune “penterascality” or ‘pastopreneurs’ from criticism. It was written as a mark or seal of God’s protection upon his chosen ones.
The concept of giving and speaking to your money to work for you is another strange doctrine that has been introduced to make unsuspecting and unlearned Christians to part with their money without question.
Several times they have called this subtle extortion mechanism: ‘seed’, claiming the passage of seed time and harvest in Genesis 8:22. But God was not using seed figuratively. It was a definite and correct use. In fact he said; the summer, winter etc shall not cease. You don’t pay for God’s blessings. Obed edom was blessed in 2 Samuel 6:10-12 not because he paid God aspecial seed but because the presence of God dwelt within him and his household.
Unlike the short-cut pay and receive theology of our modern day pastors, God’s blessings dwell securely in his presence. It is better to live holy and have God on your side, than give plenty, while continuing in sin.
There is nothing wrong in showering your pastors with gifts, but let’s look at some biblical examples of men that God used mightily. Were they louts, who busied themselves with soliciting gifts or were they men who had reasonable sources of income? Amos was a great prophet but hear him in Amos 7:14-15:
14 Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdman, and agatherer of sycomore fruit:
15 And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, ‘Go, prophesy unto my people Israel’.
And let’s look at Paul, one of the greatest apostles who ever lived. Acts 18:1-3:
18 After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth;
2 And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them.
3 And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.
He was a tent maker. He HAD A JOB. He was no lout neither was he a beggar or a manipulator. His hands provided for his needs.
I wish to bring a few scriptures to light in Philippians 3:18-19 18
(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
and 2 Timothy 3:1-2 3:
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
It is very clear that we are approaching the last days and like Jesus said, “shall I find faith on earth”? It a question we all should ponder on. Ask yourself, what is the purpose of your Christian faith? Is it to serve God or marmon? Is amassing worldly cash and acquiring worldly goods the reason Christ died on the cross? Do not get me wrong, being prosperous in not a sin, but it is written in 2Timothy 2:4:
No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
And in Colosians 2:9, we read:
For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead, bodily.
If God is genuinely sought, he will be found. Having the presence of God dwelling in you is a guarantee of his fulness. The rate at which wrong doctrines are taught and imbibed is alarming and this is a pointer to alarming biblical illiteracy levels among Christians. As God said, ‘like people like priests’.
1Peter 4:17 17:
“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begins with us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?”.
What is the gospel of God? I doubt if it means amassing wealth or accumulating worldly goods. Pastors must be careful in fleecing the flock as it is written that The souls of those in their care will be required of them.
Our peculiar situation shows clearly that there are fundamental flaws in the teachings of the church as written in our opening scripture. Hosea, as quoted above, suggests that as the priests (pastors, bishops, archbishops, General overseers etc) are increasing, so is iniquity and sin on the rise. Looking at Nigeria today, we have a church in almost every corner, yet the crime and immorality rates are rising exponentially.
It is time for the men of GOD to face their true calling which is preaching the gospel. But if they persist in milking the flock, God said he will use even stones, to achieve his aims, if men refuse to do his bidding.
Study the scriptures and be diligent. Do not let a man created in ‘like-passions’ pull a wool over your eyes in the name of God.
A lie can travel very fast in time, but in one swift moment, the truth will pursue, overtake and annihilate it. There is too much hot air emanating from our pulpits, but where is the fire of revival?
I can be engaged on twitter @Ayourb