The first people in Africa that must be attacked are the presidents and government officials, and then the bankers, and then the pastors and imams, in that order -Mfon Amun Ptah (Facebook update @2:51pm on May 23, 2014)
Within a week I have read two apologetic articles bordering on squashing the criticism directed to some of our religious leaders (especially Pentecostal pastors). One of such articles cautioned the public bashing of their character, the other defended their, (for lack of a better word) reckless and ostentatious spending.
I barely share my opinions on religious matters, because I happen to be part of the insider community of the church. Thus I have always voiced my reservations subtly. However this is the first time I am going to openly come out strong, I hope it is the last.
Let history be the judge
In works of Irenaeus and Tertullian, the church was a haven blinded to class and open to alleviating the sufferings of the poor. Christians were known to be people with a unique capacity to accommodate the poor and alleviate their sufferings. In fact their openness to men of lowly status made them seem to be the religion of the poor, even though most of their humanitarian efforts were funded by the rich brethren amongst the fold. Their superiority did not just come in their proclamation of hope, rather it came in the dispensing of hope (the very acts of kindness). When a village was attacked by a plague, Christians would run in to cater for the dieing, bringing hope, comfort and warmth. The kindness shown was without ostentation, it was a humbling experience that always commanded respect. Meetings were held in homes and in make shift gatherings. But their impact was felt in communities. To be a Christian meant to represent God…
If we fast forward to the 19th century, Christians were helpful tool in modern colonization. Especially with the white man’s invasion of Africa, the church was a soothing balm for the imperialist’s government. While he came with his politics, he also landed with his God. Missionaries came to Africa especially Nigeria, far away from their land. They came in with the notion of spreading the gospel, didn’t think of building mega churches that will later build mega schools. Rather they planted hospitals (missionary hospital Eku Baptist hospital) that addressed the ailing health of the masses, built (schools e.g st Gregory’s college) that offered first class education to the poor. They also helped in social justice like the abolishment of the killing of twins etc. you could almost say therefore that development was almost non existent without the church. Many missionaries died in their country of mission.
Parodox of the present Church
Today’s fastest growing churches have certain things one finds impressively disturbing. The pastors/ministers are usually highly intelligent people so much so it is difficult to say they do not know what they are doing. These churches, especially the ones in Nigeria have ostentation spelt all over it. The ministers usually have occult following. With a ministry typified by an intelligent and charismatic leader, and a kowtowing following, it is difficult for one not to see a mega church, without a congregation of highly manipulated individuals -mega ignoramus… Worthy of note with mega churches is the value of property (real estate, assets) they command. Some churches have worship centers/state of the art auditorium that would cost a fortune in American dollars to build and maintain. If you see the multi million dollar facility built by the conservative Deeper Life church, you will know that our ministerial leaders seem to place a high premium on temples than souls.
I do not think it would be out of place to categorize Nigeria as a country of failing or failed social and government systems. The optimism of the people have grown jaundiced by the inability of politicians to fulfill their mandate. The elite are paralyzed by greed and unholy entitlement thinking… A nation characterized by hardship is drawn to either depression or delusional hope. Going by the law of capitalism, when there is a need there is an opportunity and where there is opportunity, wealth is created especially by the group of people (organization) that ceases this opportunity! So we see today that the church is the greatest marketer of hope not really the demonstrators of hope, and in this endeavor, it has profited immensely. This is revealed in the fleets of private jets owned and controlled by their principals. So when the senate tries to probe the Minister of Petroleum, they should also make a quick stop to some of our ministers of God!
If one does a side by side analysis of the character of the Nigerian political class and church leaders, you will be amazed to discover how much similarity you will find. This goes to show that the leaders we have whether political or epicospal are all from the same society. There is something fundamentally wrong with our society. The disparity between the average wealth and opportunity controlled by the secular ministers and ministers of the gospel compared to their followers is amazingly high. The church and the government gets it financial flow from the public. While the government depends on taxes and royalties, the church depends on tithes and offerings (to put it mildly, the church has other streams of income I only summarized them as tithe and offering). So just as a government leader should be or is responsible for public funds so are our church leaders expected to be financially responsible and transparent to the people they lead. Afterall the offerings came from the pockets of people (the public).
Now we are faced with a terrible security crisis as a nation. Though the effect of this national mayhem is yet to rock southern Nigeria, the north resonating with tremors of fear. What is the church, the constitution I belong to doing? We are only praying! Well some of our leaders are tweeting #BringBackOurGirls. Others are organizing celebrity walks. I marvel at the sheer hypocrisy in all this. I don’t know, but even from the scriptures, prayers alone didn’t do much. Ezra and Nehemiah didn’t rebuild the city walls of Jerusalem neither did they rebuild the temple in Isreal by just praying! The temple and the city walls were built by warfare, and a physical one at that! Men were inspired to build the temple and defend their work by taking up arms to dissuade any detractor. I am not saying Christians should pick up arms, far from it, but I doubt if the Chibok community people see our solidarity on twitter. I doubt if they know and appreciate our walks. Why has the Christian heavy weights like Pastors Kumuyi and Adeboye, Bishop David Oyedepoh not even so much as sent aid or even consolatory missionaries to these communities. I would think these anti Christian tribulation is the greatest time to take Chibok for Christ. Why can’t we hold the next Shiloh or open heavens in Chibok. We expect the President to go to Chibok and show presidential sympathy and hope to the parents of the kidnapped girls yet all we do is watch and pray and criticize and moan and complain. What makes us feel Mr. President is not supposed to pray like us? What impetus do we have to ask him to take that risk while all we do is say a word of prayer in our air conditioned auditorium!
I write to the big organizers of crusades, Pastor Paul Adefarasi, Pastor Poju, Bishop Oyedepoh, Dr. Olukoyah, Pastors Kumuyi and Adeboye. I write to the host of PFN and CAN, it is time to use our offerings for real kingdom business. I think the choicest place for a crusade or a praying camp is Chibok. We have seen enough of the designer suits and flashy cars. We have seen enough of the private jets and private universities, we have seen enough of the TV stations and the endless feat of exorcism they air. Let us unite with one voice for the love of God and Country, let us send relief to Chibok. The only way to fight evil is overwhelm it with good. Let us use our offerings, tithes and seed to build up any school that has been bombed! Let us pay any teacher willing to sacrifice and teach in Chibok double. Let us use our seeds and harvests collection to double the pay of any military personnel, vigilante or police officer willing to bring back the peace in Chibok. Let us use our offering to rebuild all the churches that theses forces of evil have burnt down… Afterwards sirs, you can fly in your jets and sail in your yacht if you so choose. But for now there are souls that desperately need saving and a country to build.