The Church came under scrutiny on Wednesday December 20 at the 10th anniversary of Church Times Nigeria as top church leaders x-rayed developments in the church while also proffering a direction for it.
Present at the event were Professor Duro Adegboye who was the guest speaker, Dr. Gary Maxey and Rev Ladi Thompson who supported Adegboye after his delivery.
Many other church leaders were in attendance including the Chairman of the Lagos branch of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Bishop Sola Ore and Rev. Toyin Kehinde who represented the Chairman of Lagos Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria.
In his presentation, Adegboye took a cursory look at the church pointing out that there is a need for the Church especially the church in Nigeria to go back to the book of Acts and look at how the church was run and then compare it to what we are doing today in the name of Church.
While noting that the church in the book of Acts is a far cry from what we have today, he said, “I pray that there will be nothing like welfare for Nigerians where everybody will be given monthly stipends even though I want Nigeria to prosper and get to that point. I am saying that because if there is a strong welfare in Nigeria and the needs of the average Nigerian is being met, many of our churches will be empty.”
He explained that many of the programmes and revival meetings that a lot of the churches have are targeted at meeting needs and not at getting people to come to know the Lord and have a personal relationship with him. “We hold vigils but our vigils are about needs and not about souls. We are so engrossed about our needs that we have totally lost sight of the need for us to reach out to the loss around us. I wish that our vigils will be for interceding and praying for the souls in the vicinity of our churches. If we refocus our prayers and aim at winning souls and praying for souls to be grounded in the Lord, then the country will be a better place because the people will have genuine conversion experience.”
Adegboye a former dean of the Faculty of Science, Ahmadu Bello University who has been in ministry for about 54 years also noted for his passion for missions; observed that many churches lack focus and purpose. “The only business of the church is to win souls and bring people to the knowledge of Jesus. Any other thing is needless. If our meetings are not leading people to Christ we are wasting our time. Many of our meetings and gatherings are not purposeful. They are not about souls they are about ceremonies. From Monday to Sunday many assemblies don’t have a set time for soul winning. This is sad.”
He noted that Jesus had a purpose when he called the disciples. “First the disciples were brought to the Lord, they needed first to know Him, have relationship with him and then win souls for him. He told Peter he would make him fishers of men.”
He stated further that a church that has vision will be focused and will not be entangled with the affairs of the world to the detriment of soul winning. “We are not just to win souls we are to make them abide and trust God to lead them to the part of righteousness.”
He regretted that the relationship that many church leaders have with their members is tithe and offering. “I have had to attend some annual conventions or Synod as it may be for orthodox churches and I am really sad that the emphasis in many cases is on financial returns. While this is okay because the church needs money. I feel strongly that the issue of money should not be played up the way we play it. The concern should be how many disciples have we been able to make in the year. How many people came to know the Lord through us. If we are not doing that we are just playing and not doing God’s purpose’
He emphasized that the church is not the building but the people. “it is instructive to note that there was no church building in the first 300 years of the church. Jesus’ disciples were meeting in existing synagogues, homes and arenas that were available. So, church is not the building but the person. Placing undue emphasis on structures to the detriment of reaching out to the lost souls is not of God.”
He then called on the church to begin to de-emphasize the craze for buildings and choose instead to build the individuals in the Lord. “My understanding is that God is a God of relationship. He relates with us on personal levels and not on congregational levels. We must have that personal relationship devoid of the congregational chaos that blurs the understanding of many.”
Also at the meeting, the founder of West Africa Theological Seminary, Dr. Gary Maxey observed that the trend in the church in Nigeria is worrisome noting that when he came into Nigeria about 35 years ago, the situation was not this bad.
He cautioned against the use of the word crusade to represent our evangelical efforts. “The crusaders that we know in history were violent people killing for God. That is not what we do when we go out to preach the gospel. It is a misuse of term.”
He then pleaded with Church leaders to make discipleship a priority. “Jesus instruction to the apostles was that they should go and make disciples of all nations. Our job is not complete if we don’t make disciples. It is not about gathering people it is about establishing them in the faith. When I came to Nigeria about 35 years ago what was emphasized then is not what we are emphasizing now. We need to go back to the Bible and look at issues from the bible standpoint.”
Also contributing at the event which spanned four hours, Rev Ladi Thompson, Senior Pastor, Living Waters Unlimited explained that the root of the problem of the church is the absence of the mind of Christ. “We have a foundational problem which is the absence of the mind of Christ and if that is not addressed we will be going in circles. We will just be bringing people to our churches to repeat the same problem that we are experiencing. The mind of Christ is more superior that any academic or social attainment. If we have the mind of Christ the issue of inferiority complex which is bedeviling Africa will be a thing of the past. The mind of Christ is a productive mind. When God created Adam and Eve, he gave them a productive mind. That was what the devil corrupted when he led them to sin. But Jesus came to restore that mind. It is a mind that sees things the way Christ would see it. If we have the mind of Christ, many of the things we argue about will not even come up.”
At the event, Mr. Femi Adesina spokesman of President Mohammadu Buhari noted that the publication has come a long way praying that it will survival many more years.
Adesina who was represented by Mr. Femi Babafemi, Editor Saturday Sun recalled that how the publication started 10 years ago noting that the publisher left a well paying job in Punch Newspapers for the uncertain terrain of publishing. He then called on the Church to rally round the publication so that the vision will continue to live.
Note: This is just an abridged version of the one-day conference. We are working on a proper documentation that will be published later