For some time now the Church of God in Nigeria has been under assault. There are internal adversaries as there have been many foes from outside the Church. From within the Church is periled by impostors who have blended with the flock in our meeting places but whose works expose them as having a mindset that is strange to our common faith in Jesus Christ. Mingling among the faithful members is now a growing number of those that Jesus called tares (Matt. 13:24-30). They neither are born again nor do they appreciate the common tenets of our faith in Christ. With their projecting thorns and thistles they hurt members, deride pastors and make ministers of the gospel the butt of their dirty and silly jokes; they just don’t feel any qualms about the pains of the Church.
Then from outside, with what is now obvious as a well orchestrated impunity, the enemies of the Church have found renewed pleasure in the killing of many Christians, the recent massacre of Christians in southern Kaduna being a sign. The cries of dying Christians across the country has fallen on deaf ears; and buoyed by the official silence, even denial, and obvious inaction of the statutory security agencies of the day, the enemies of our faith have found delight in burning of churches across different parts of northern Nigeria. The persecution against the Church is rife, no thanks to official negligence and the deliberate rebuff by officials of both state and the federal government, of the sound reasoning of well meaning people.
THE BURNING BUSH
But the Church of God is like the Old Testament Burning Bush. Though aflame with the fire of persecution, the bush or the Church is not being consumed (Exodus 3:2). The immediate fulfilment of that scripture was the nation of Israel which, against all odds, has continued to survive and triumph. Just as the Church, which through all times down the ages, has come to equally typify that same burning bush. It has survived and continued to outlive all her persecutors. Amen, Hallelujah!
So, persecution has not particularly been alien to Christians or the Church; from the very beginning it has been so, and expected too, because, as Paul writes in 2 Tim. 3:12, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” The more that Christians have been persecuted down the ages the greater and stronger the Church has grown and expanded. It confirms what Jesus predicted in Matthew 16:18, “And I say also unto thee… upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The persecution of the Church forms my perspective of recent happenings in Nigeria, which have not come to me as a surprise anyway; only that the impact of the singular code from the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRC) has left many people wondering as to: 1) the source of that code, 2) its real intentions, and 3) what the reaction of Christians and the Church should be.
A CALL FROM THE DARK
The extension of the authority of the FRC to include, essentially, the ouster of the apostolic leadership of the Church in Nigeria, asking founders and general overseers of churches to abdicate, retire, relinquish and step down from their positions at a particular age, even if this is against their own wish, not even minding if this is against the call of God upon their lives, leaves a lot of questions in the minds of the people.
Needless I say that all that is happening today – and I feel strongly about this – is a result of our past nonchalance, docility, and the fact that over the years the apostolic leadership of Christendom in Nigeria has not managed the affairs of the Church well enough as it should. Many have stayed aloof, satisfied with just the growth of their own denominations, churches and ministries. It had not bothered many leaders whether the entire body of Christ was well and growing so long as their own fiefdoms appear safe; they just couldn’t be bothered!
Yes, there have been pockets of successes of individuals and ministries. Yes, we have seen certain appearances of those successes, like the possession of material wealth: buildings, cars; like the acquisition of resources and assets: schools; printing and media facilities; like the building of massive cathedrals, and the popularity of a few individuals at home and abroad and we are grateful to God for all that. But with recent and unfolding events in the country, we now can see that personal successes and growth of individual churches and denominations are fast eroding the essence of our common faith and union in Christ.
We ought to see that facing the challenges of our common faith can no longer be an individual game, but something we are to collectively tackle. Gone should be the days when we lived for none other but ourselves and the concerns of our enclosed ministries and churches. It should be obvious to well-thinking Christians across the land that we all need one another. I need you as you need me; we all need the other members of the Body of Christ. This is why the matter of the unity of the Church is very important.
VOICES FROM BELOW
I recall that in recent times a few sincere voices have raised serious concerns on the failings of the Church and began to challenge our apostolic leaders to begin to look beyond their denominations, churches and ministries, but others tried to discourage them and even accused them of being too forward, as if they were being disrespectful.
With no one listening, for some time now, everyone went into our respective cocoons and, as it were, continued to build our respective kingdoms. Sadly, but instructively, with just one code of the federal government via the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, our long cherished kingdoms are already beginning to come crashing down; because, first of all, many of those things we were building were not consistent with God’s Kingdom principles, standards or values and have nothing to do with God’s Kingdom agenda.
Recall how Paul, in Philippians 1:27-29, says in the Good News Translation, “Now, the important thing is that your way of life should be as the gospel of Christ requires, so that, whether or not I am able to go and see you, I will hear that you are standing firm with one common purpose and that with only one desire you are fighting together for the faith of the gospel. Don’t be afraid of your enemies; always be courageous, and this will prove to them that they will lose and that you will win, because it is God who gives you the victory. For you have been given the privilege of serving Christ, not only by believing in him, but also by suffering for him.”
Notice how Paul emphasises our need to stand firm with one common purpose and with only one desire to fight together for the faith of the gospel, not to prove a point or impress the world; not so we would be recognized as the mega church or the bishop of a mega church. We are not called to fight for our individual selves to be hailed as the most influential figure in town. No one of us has any point to prove to anyone as the most holy, a Mr Integrity, and none other is like us! That’s not what is important. We are to stand together and fight for our common faith and be defenders of the gospel of Christ as builders of the Kingdom of God. And it doesn’t really matter whether your church has 200,000 members or one million members or just 10 or 20 or 100 members. We need each other.
As we have noticed recently, and whether we like it or not, the arrowheads of the Church in Nigeria are either being sacked or threatened to leave their positions of leadership, leaving them suddenly so helpless and powerless. It is now Christians and Ministers with little or no recognition that are rising up for their defence. It shows that even the high and mighty will need ‘the little ones’. In actual fact, in the eyes of God, there are no little individuals or ministries. It is in our human eyes that we talk of big, large and mega ministries. In the eyes of God, there is no one called of God whose ministry is considered small.
Truth is, God deals with us in generations and leads one generation at a time! I know my generation! There are generations ahead of mine. Now, with many of the apostolic leaders in their late 60s and 70s or 80s, their time and season are gradually passing away. Expectedly, it is the new generation of Apostles that shall step onto the stage when the present crop of apostolic fathers exit the stage. Hmmn! How time flies! We pray that God spares their lives and leave them still with us for many more years. But even if they lived for 10, 20, 30 or 40 more years, we all know the majority of the present crop of Apostolic Fathers are past prime and time is not on their side. For history to judge them well, these apostolic fathers must now accept responsibility on behalf of the entire body of Christ in Nigeria and work hard to fix the present mess in the church before they exit the stage. Considering the enormity of the challenges facing the church and our country today, these fathers have very little time on their side. If the fathers don’t unite now on behalf of the body of Christ in Nigeria then when will they? If apostolic fathers won’t take responsibility on behalf of the body of Christ then who will? How would our fathers like their generation to be remembered? That’s why I pray that the Church of God in Nigeria will not ‘collapse’ as it is threatening to under the watch of the present apostolic fathers.
I shall soon return with Stronger Together – Part II: FAITH OF OUR FATHERS! Until then, let’s keep up the conversation on this blog. I look forward to your views and comments. Do please be polite and discreet. Do not insult or abuse any personality. God bless you!
Copyright © January 2017 Emma Omon. All rights reserved.
Published online on Wednesday, 18th January 2017 by emmaomonblog.com