Church: A Problem Or Solution?
By Ijendu Iheaka
Pastor Akah Ikenna, a Christian preacher, has gone to the law Court at Ota, Ogun State, to seek redress over what many believe should have been settled amicably between brothers of the same faith.
Some years ago, he was involved in an accident that kept him in hospital for quite a while. By the time he was discharged, he was crippled.
Ikenna says that he was a Pastor in the employment of a leading Pentecostal Church, which is believed to be one of the largest and richest in Nigeria.
He says that he joined the Church in 1996 and had served there for more than 11 years “with a clean record in a leadership position”.
His troubles began on August 6, 2005, when the Church sent him to conduct the burial service of a member resident in the outskirts of Lagos.
He was involved in an auto accident on his way back to Lagos.
As one of the serving ministers, he says he had expected the Church to assist him until he was back on his feet again.
“But to my shock, the support I expected from the Bishop was not forthcoming. I wrote to the Bishop seeking some assistance but the response I got was just devastating.”
The Pastor says that he is feeling betrayed in his moment of need even when it was the Bishop that sent him on the said errand.
While Ikenna waits his date in court, analysts say that such incidents are in sharp contrast with the Biblical injunction to love one’s brother as oneself.
“Situations like these raise lots of questions as to whether the Church
The Church, according to Christian history, was established with the idea that Christ’s followers would be separated from the world and its influences and be known by their closeness and resemblance to the Lord.
Christ was a focused Messenger of God and Saviour of mankind who was not distracted by feelings of religious teachers of his day.
He was, rather quick to move away from whatever situation tended to change his focus and call of God to the mission of salvation.
Christian history also shows that Jesus did not hesitate to face the cross — when it was time to do so — to save humanity and give hope to his followers.
It is noted that the spirit demonstrated by Jesus Christ and the early Missionaries to Nigeria, is sacrificial.
Missionaries like Henry Townsend of the Church Missionary Society (CMS); Irish missionary and the Founder of Qua Ibo Church, Samuel Alexander Bill, and the Scottish Presbyterian Missionary, Mary Slessor, showed love.
History reveals that they all left the comfort of Europe and other parts of the world to bring the good news of love and salvation to Nigerians in remote communities at the cost of their lives.
Slessor, for instance, was the only woman among the lot, but her impact was to be felt far beyond the geographical zone she served, resulting in the preservation of twins in many parts of Nigeria.
Until she intervened, twins were killed in many Nigerian societies as they were considered an abomination.
Analysts say that it was because of her undying love for Nigeria that Slessor worked among its very rural citizens in mosquito-infested environments.
Samuel Ajayi Crowther, a Nigerian, alongside James Newby, an African-American, and many others, also served as missionaries with much labour and yet they never counted the cost.
They used what they had to make life better for the people, building dispensaries and health centres to alleviate the health challenges of the people.
Some of them also ensured that schools were built to educate the people free of charge. In many cases, such education was at the expense of the Church community overseas.
She also recalls that such missionaries offered the gospel of righteous living to make the people ready for life after death and had no fear of losing their members.
Analysts, who recall such past with nostalgia, will usually contrast that scenario with the situation where Churches have become means of making money for many Nigerians who take advantage of Nigerians’ gullibility to pursue worldly gains.
Rev. Ken Luseni, the Registrar, West African Theological Seminary (WATS), says that some preachers and their worshippers have found of ther reasons for which they go to Church instead of worshipping and serving their creator which was the main reason for the Church.
“The Church of Jesus Christ has failed to live an exemplary life as expected of it,’’ he remarked recently.
Advising Christians against being materialistic, he says that the Lord blesses his people spiritually and materially.
“But when Christians concentrate on acquiring physical and earthly things, that is materialism,” he says.
“In the book of Acts, Chapter 2, verses 40-47, those who were rich, sold all their belongings and invited those in need to share with them and I think that is still the business of the Church today.
“The Church has to come on board to help people with spiritual needs after helping them meet their physical needs,’’ he says.
Luseni agrees that many Churches in the past satisfied people’s physical needs before preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom to them, but regretted that such show of love, which is the essence of the gospel, is now not a common virtue.
“So the Church has a long way to go; we need to improve on what we are doing. I strongly believe that a lot has to be done.
“We have failed our Master and we are only living by grace for which we need to reason and repent to give the word of God a place in our lives,’’ he adds.
Luseni also challenged Church leaders to live lives worthy of emulation as Jesus Christ did in order not to use their own hands to destroy what they have been building in the lives of their members.
Mr. Ikem Okudolo, a Christian and a social analyst, says: “there are so many things that are wrong about the Church that we should talk about but the most important is the gap between morality and religion.
“Religious worship is supposed to be about sacrifice but Churches show a strong gap between moral values that Churches should preach and what they are actually standing for and preaching.
“Another problem is that they emphasise affluence. Pastors ride jeeps while the mass of the worshippers are impoverished.
“It does not speak well of the Churches and their leaders when we have a situation where so many people are impoverished. Churches should help create more jobs, even if it is for their members.
“I can tell you that substantial numbers of Church members are either not employed, or are under-paid. If this money the Churches get is ploughed back to the society, then the Church would be playing its Bible-assigned rolesî.
Okudolo says the Churches are expected to make religion an instrument of social change, adding that the sermons should not just rest on what is written in the Bible, but be linked to real life experiences with the intention to advance society.
But Bishop George Amu, the Presiding Bishop of the Goodnews Church, Alasia, Oshodi, does not agree that the Church has failed.
“The Church has not failed at all. It is just that mankind is just improving in the tactics of deceit and as such, the Church can only pray that the Holy Spirit should arrest the compromisers”.
Samuel Ewuola, the Deputy General Overseer, Gospel Faith Mission International (GOFAMINT), also says that the Church has not failed, but has suffered a blow to her impact by the increasing world population.
“People do not see the effect of the Church as much as they wanted because of the increasing population, although that does not mean there are no excesses here and there in the lives of some key men of God.
“Those ones might be a disappointment, but majority of Christians are still upholding the banner of the Christian faith.’’
Bishop Mike Okonkwo, Bishop of the Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM), while speaking on the need for practical Christianity, argues that anyone who does that will feel good.
“It is a principle and way of life. It is very clear that it is a life style that everybody who imbibes will never regret,” he says.