Genesis 11:1-9New International Version (NIV)
3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel[c]—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth. Gen 11v1-9 (NIV)
Cast your mind back to Genesis 11; there the Bible devotes space to the story of a generation; the descendants of Noah, who had become self-conceited; who took pride in their ability and wanted to construct a tower to meet God in heaven.
They wanted to compete with God and question His supremacy. The conviction was strong. The determination among them was unparalleled. The implication of their action was that they would no longer need God. They went about their decision with some audacity that had not been known in human history. They began the tower and it was actually moving towards the heavens.
God would not be caught unawares. He knew if he did not step in, they would succeed in their evil enterprise. The solution was to scatter their language. If they do not understand themselves they would no longer agree on how to continue the tower. They would turn to Him. In most cases when human beings are self-sufficient they tend to forget God. But God wants the individual to relate with him rather than a situation in our lives that encourages a dissident mindset.
It is instructive to note that Genesis 11 is not primarily about the force of unity as it is being used on many pulpits but about a recalcitrant generation who had devised ways of circumventing God’s original purpose. The instruction He gave man from day one was that they should dominate the face of the earth and multiply. But that generation wanted a monument that would reach to the heavens. They wanted to show the pride of their heart.
So, anytime human beings try to build a monument; God steps in and sometimes uses unlikely forces to scatter such evil enterprise. The same scenario repeated itself in the New Testament. The apostles were staying too long in Jerusalem. The Lord was working in their midst and things were looking up. But the truth is that though the mission work was to start in Jerusalem they were not to remain in Jerusalem. They were saved to go to the ends of the earth. So, persecution drove many of them out of Jerusalem.
The scattering of the believers in the first century was so intriguing that even those who were assigned to serve tables became instant evangelists proclaiming the good news of the kingdom. Anytime the church stays too long in a place, God usually allows a scattering so it could fulfil purpose.
Today, our churches have become so institutionalized that rather than embark on the primary duty of going to where the sinners are, it is busy building monuments and calling the world to come and be part of such monument. Thus, the average mindset in the church today is: What can we do to bring them to the building we call church not how do we reach them with the good news of the kingdom. If the instruction was to go into the world, why is it our pastime to ask the unsaved world to come to us?
Is it not instructive that Jesus was going about while he was here on earth? If Jesus had built a cathedral it would certainly dwarf many of the cathedrals and worship grounds we pride ourselves in today. But He knew that would defeat His purpose. He knew it would send a wrong signal to a dying world. So rather than stay in a place for people to come to him, he went to meet the people. He was always on the streets where the people are; teaching and healing them.
Jesus came to destroy the very foundation of religion when he said to the woman by the well in John 4v21-24 ““Believe Me, woman,” Jesus replied, “a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. But a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such as these to worship Him.
The implication of that is that God is not in our buildings but in our hearts. And if He is in our hearts He expects us to carry Him everywhere we go.
Rather than carry Him everywhere, we are busy perfecting ways and means of attracting the world to our individual empires and not to Christ. If our goal is to bring people to the saving knowledge of Jesus our primary drive should be to meet them where they are; first with our exemplary lifestyle as a witness of the saving power of the cross; and then with the good news. It is very possible for our lives to speak louder than our voice.
Pastor Johnson Kalejaiye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in an interview shared the story of a thief who came to know the Lord by the love of a pastor. Kalejaiye said the man and his gang went to rob the pastor.
After committing the crime, they wanted to take the backdoor of the house to escape. But the pastor was kind enough to tell them not to follow the backdoor because there was a deep pit there and since there was no light at the back they could fall into it. They confirmed what the pastor was saying and escaped through the front door.
But their conscience would not let them rest. They could not share the loot from the operation. They were taken aback; that a man that was robbed at gun point was still loving to the point of shielding them from destruction. So, they all went back to the pastor and asked for his prayers and forgiveness. It was at that point that they were led to Christ.
This testimony is a clear demonstration of how the love of Christ can work wonders. Unfortunately, the present-day church has been saddled with the spirit of vengeance and a world-centric philosophy that pursues the allures of the world with unrepentant zeal. That is the reason why our pulpits have been designed to appeal to our needs rather than to draw us closer to Christ. To many of us think God is like a Panadol that is readily available to cure our headache.
In our present tower, we would rather use God than God use us. He is at our beck and call. We give him orders and determine when and how he should answer our prayers. We have been enamored with the belief that somebody must die, something must give if we must succeed without necessarily knowing the mind of God on the matters facing us.
We are indeed saddled with a present tower of babel that is injurious to the health of the church. God did not scatter the generation of Noah because he wanted them to disagree among themselves in the sense of not agreeing on some basics. But he did that because he wanted them to fulfil purpose. What we have today is that the division in the church has been such that every man is law to himself. The thread that binds us together is now gradually being annihilated by many respected clergies.
Mammon is now a big force in the church. It seems to be the driving force for many of the things we do. The church has come to a time of looking at souls from the money perspective. Is it not strange that programmes are denominated in terms of the financial returns and not in terms of the souls won?
The truth is that if the church can not agree on the basics, which is the centrality of Christ, if we cannot agree on putting away mammon and placing it where it belongs, if we cannot agree on the ultimate purpose of man; which is doing the will of God here on earth and representing His kingdom then we might as well be no basis for unity.
Our heart cry should be for unity not uniformity. It is for us to agree on what is needful and playdown the mundane and administrative cobwebs that represent our different groupings. It is for us to agree that we are here to serve kingdom purpose and not build personal empires in the ilk of Babylon.
As the church enters a new era, it is our prayers that this present tower that represents strong division in church, that promotes individual empire rather than the kingdom will be consigned to history.
By Gbenga Osinaike