One of the worse things that has ever happened to the Body of Christ in the recent times in Nigeria is the gradual erosion of Christian values and the insidious infiltration of the Pentecostal movement by some dark forces.
Though the Pentecostal movement has a history of over 100 years in Nigeria as attested by Dr. Peter Ozodo in an interview, drawing from the revival in the Niger Delta region almost the same time the Azusa Street revival in the US in 1915 broke out, there are clear evidence that the revival in the case of Nigeria was short-lived.
But God revived the move again shortly after the civil war in Nigeria. Those who were around in the 70s, who saw the state of the Church and the surge in Pentecostalism would agree that the Pentecostal fold as of today has been greatly infiltrated by charlatans, magicians and herbalists. The elects are being deceived. Those who used to hold the Christian faith so dearly are being carried away by the success syndrome that seem to accompany what is called church in many assemblies.
It is believed that if it is working then it must be of God. Some go as far as saying only fools doubt proofs. This is without prejudice to the fact that the devil also has something to show for his operations in the lives of people. The devil pulls crowds. As a matter of fact, the devil attracts more crowd than any church gathering we could think about. Or how do we explain the thousands of people that throng worldly musical shows? With all the buildings and craze for crowd, worldly artistes have more followership than all the Nigerian pastors put together.
The devil also operates in wonders though what is called wonders could be magic. But the truth is that the devil has the capacity to produce a semblance of miracles being experienced in the church. The clear example of the encounter of Moses with the Egyptian magicians is a proof that there are miracles that come in the form of magic.
Indeed, the devil does not give good things. At best, whatever he gives are taken back through the back door. But the fact remains that the wealth and wonders we hold endless vigil for and almost want to tear ourselves apart in the place of prayers are what are also obtainable in the kingdom of darkness.
This brings to reality the fact that God is beyond the physical signs that we dissipate so much energy to get. Jesus had declared in the Book of Mathew 16v4 that only an evil and idolatrous generation seek after signs. The bottom line is that signs and wonders are meant only for the unbelievers. They are not supposed to be what drives the person who has experienced Christ. While we need Christ in our daily lives to help solve our day to day problem, going to God with a problem mentality robs us of the father-son relationship and makes us look more like an infidel rather than somebody who has been bought by the precious blood of the lamb.
But the real issue is that the Pentecostal movement has been infiltrated by some folks who think gain is godliness. These folks see the gospel as a means to an end rather than an end in itself. They see coming to Jesus as a passport to a trouble-free and licentious life. They quote “they overcame him by the blood and word of their testimony” but they omit the aspect that says “and they did not love their life unto death” (Rev12v11) They are quick to quote “I can do all things” but they carefully avoid the preceding scriptures where Paul talked about being able to cope when he has and when he does not have. (Phil 4v10-17)
The understanding of these folks is being configured in such a way that they see God as their errand boy who dances to their whims and caprice. And when it appears God is delaying they blow their top and sometimes resort to beggarly elements to attain their desires.
Today, it is difficult to know what it truly means to be saved especially for some of those who came to know God as from the 90s. Such people may not understand when they are told the spirit of mammon has taken over many assemblies as we experience today. They won’t understand If they are told believers used to relate as one. There was no entitlement mentality. They had mutual respect for one another and nobody sees what he had as his own.
The life in the Acts of Apostles was literally played out in the 70s to the point that many could not understand the sacrificial lives of those who became born again. Then the prefixes to believers’ names were bro and sis. Nothing more. Today, if you call an assembly leader pastor instead of Bishop he takes offence.
The challenge is that what is known as the real gospel has been subsumed in what can be termed another gospel. It is indeed another gospel if mammon determines what we preach, who we relate with, where we go and our understanding of God. If the church must go back, then it must begin to examine the premium it places on money. Should money form the bedrock of our relationship with God. Does God spend money in heaven? While daily activities can’t go on without money, as much as possible the church should begin to deemphasize money, bearing in mind that God owns the earth and all that is therein. Whether we like it or not the work of God cannot suffer. God will not allow his work to suffer. But then we have a role to play in ensuring that we don’t now begin to place so much premium on money to the point of turning it to another god.
One other factor that should be looked into in the church is the place of the pastor. What kind of attitude do we have to our leaders? Is it an attitude of worship or of mutual respect? There is so much idolization going on now especially in the Pentecostal fold. The pictures of G.Os are being worn as insignia while they are being viewed from the prism of gods. Their words hold more power to some folks than the words of the Bible. There are some believers who are so spiritually empty that they find it difficult to take any decision without the input of their pastors. This has to change.
The time we are in calls for sober reflection. Pastors are mortals and should be seen as that. They, and their congregation are equal before God. While no man should disrespect his pastor, there must be a clear line of demarcation between respect and worship. The idea of invoking the names of pastors in the place of prayers should as much as possible be discouraged. It is indeed subtle idolatry each time a believer has to invoke the name of his pastor in the place of prayers. And the quick reference for those who do it is that God in the Old Testament was also being referred to as the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob. The question they should ask is; Did any of the disciples invoke the names of Peter who was the leader of the church in the place of prayers?
Neatly tied to this is the undue emphasis on elements in the place of prayers. While it is not a sin to enhance one’s faith by deploying water, oil or mantle it is worrisome that these elements have taken the place of Jesus in the lives of many believers. People no longer feel comfortable if they go to prayers without the oil or water. And it is made worse by the supposed testimonies that come from the elements. It is common to hear believers say, When I applied the oil daddy G.O gave me my problems disappeared. The sure tendency for many is to begin to see those elements as the real deal. So, when they have crisis and can’t quickly lay their hands on one of the elements they become jittery.
And then we must stem the empire building spirit that have ravaged our leaders. This desire to outdo ourselves in the magnitude of our buildings is just following in the step of the Americans in the 70s. The American pastors were said to have been so much in competition that if one pastor built a 10,000-seater auditorium another would build a 10,200-seater auditorium just to be seen to be better than the other.
There is also a present craze for universities. No church wants to be left out. While credit must be given to missions’ universities for helping to stem the erosion of our educational values there is need for caution in the undue quest to set up universities by churches. Many of these universities have become albatross on the neck of the churches. Must we all build universities? Why are churches not content with investing heavily in primary, secondary and technical education and leave the universities to government or churches that really have the financial muzzle to pull through? Why do we allow our ego for position and fame to drive us? Certainly, Jesus can’t be in the equation where self is a driving force.
From all indications the church is moving into a new era. God is stirring up people who are beginning to read between the lines and beginning to see that for long we have veered off the track. It is hoped that those who have discernment would appreciate the new awakening and take correction. We certainly can’t continue with what we are doing if we are going to get the best from God. The day of the Lord is drawing near. Maranatha!