Things the Church must not emphasise if it desires genuine revival (part 2)

building

This is the second and concluding part of the article; Things The Church must not emphasise if it desires genuine revival. Please kindly follow patiently. God bless. You can follow this link for part 1 of the article:https://www.churchtimesnigeria.net/revival-church-emphasise/

 

Building

This is another disturbing element in the Nigerian Church today. There is so much emphasis on building. As a matter of fact, the success of a pastor in some denominations is based on the structures and monuments he is able to put up. It is sad to hear pastors point to structures as their achievements.

Structures are wonderful. We need a good place to gather to hear teachings that will strengthen our faith. Some people may not be attracted to our places of worship if they are not conducive. But placing undue emphasis on building is anti-God. It limits God. It is putting God in a box.

We can’t put God in a building. He does not dwell in a building. The lesson in that is that if we have a choice to invest in people and building, people should take priority. We should be eager to spend money to impact lives rather than piling up structures. When lives are built, structures will come up naturally. But we should not in any way allow structures take the lead in our cash flow.

Some churches collect a special offering for church building but no special offering for the welfare of members. Ironically, we are now in a wall-less society. We now live in the cloud. There is no longer boundary for humans. The covid-19 season should put enough sense in us. So, putting too much funds into a physical structure is a misuse of God’s money

Many pastors are now slaves to these buildings because of the maintenance cost. There are churches with air conditioners and all kinds of gadgets. These are good. But in the long run, these gadgets take a toll on church funds especially when circumstances affect church attendance.

In Europe today, some of the cathedrals are empty. Some have been turned to pub houses. It is sad that some are even being bought by people of other faith. When those structures were constructed, they were the cynosure of all eyes. Today, they are like dunghills in some cases. The tragedy about spending so much on building is that we live in an evolving world. The building you take so much pride in today soon becomes a scum.

Unfortunately, we don’t learn from history. We keep competing with different sizes of buildings. It has become an irresistible CV for some church leaders. Oh, we just put up our 200,000-seater auditorium. Good news. But in practical terms that is a huge waste of God’s resources.

The only people that will benefit from the project are the labourers who work on the site. From that perspective, we can say we are contributing to the economy. But in the long run, the building will become a huge waste. Alexander Dowie in the US had such a mindset.

He built Zion City. Following tumultuous succession after his death, the structures became irrelevant. In Nigeria, there are too many church structures begging for attention. The Pentecostals should learn from the Orthodox churches. Many of our villages are littered with cathedrals with low church attendance because those in the village have moved to the cities.  The buildings would have been great if they are put to some other uses apart from Sunday worship.

Usually, that is not what we have. It’s often under lock and opened only on Sundays. If God must revive His church, we must remove our attention from these buildings and begin to focus on people. Let us go meet them where they are. One of the greatest revivals in history took place in a factory. Charles Finney only walked into a factory, looked at some of the workers and they broke down in tears.

The factory was closed down for three days so the people could listen to him. God has no respect for our buildings. We need to focus our attention on him. The energy and resources we commit to these buildings are unnecessary. Would you rather put money to save a dying soul than a building project in the city? We need to wake up.

Position and title

What does it matter if a man is addressed just by his name? In our churches today, we place so much premium on the title we carry. We place a premium on position and title. Nothing is wrong with all the titles as long as they don’t distract us from our calling. But to pick up a fight over how we are being addressed only shows how low we have sunk. The anointing of God has no regard for the title. We have missed out on the best from God because we are looking for titles. There are many laymen in the church today who are so gifted and so graced of God. But we will never invite them to our gatherings because they bear no title.

It is an irony that we find it easy to address Paul as Brother Paul, we call Jesus by His name. Unfortunately, we become agitated whenever we are not properly addressed with all our titles. How did we get to this point? Is it that we are having some new revelations about these titles? As far as I could remember, nobody cares about titles in the 80s. The big pastors we have today were titleless.  As I said, there is nothing wrong with the titles

Let’s get all the titles we can get, but let it not be an issue. Let us not flare up if we are not recognised by the titles. We don’t need the recognition of men. Stephen was a table server. But he was so full of God’s power that the people could not stand the unction coming from him. Our title should be that we have been with the Lord. The apostles were respected not because of any other thing but because they had been with Jesus.

To pursue this matter further, we don’t need to be head of a department in church before we are being used of God. We don’t need positions. We can lead from behind. We don’t need to be pastor of a parish. The work of God is more outside the church wall. The work is in our offices, the marketplace, our neighbourhood and not the church building. The work is also in our closet.

We may be titleless but when we tarry before God in prayers interceding for the lost, we would have gained heaven’s acclaim. Jesus made the matter simple. He told his disciples those who want to be leaders let them be servants. Servanthood is the real deal. Unfortunately, we have promoted people into irrelevance in the name of making them relevant.

Person

Respect for person is good. But sadly, we have turned many servants of God to idols. It is so bad that some literally worship their pastors and General Overseers. And the pastors don’t object to it. There are churches where seeing the pastor is a huge project. It is so bad that there are now middlemen for these pastors. If you followed the Apostle Johnson Suleman saga when he had issues with a couple, Mike and Faith recently, you will weep for the church.

Apostle Psalm Okpe who is the Senior Pastor of Fresh Oil Ministry based in Egbeda, Lagos said the couple once met brick walls in trying to make up with Apostle Suleman because according to him, “Pastors who promised to help them reconcile with Apostle Suleman were charging them N1 million, some N1.5million.”

He said he had to step into their matter because of their experience with these pastors to help them speak with Apostle Suleman whom he described as his “friend and brother,”

Do you see what respect for person has turned us to? We now make merchandise of men because they want to see some “big” men of God. While Apostle Suleman may not be aware of these deals, it is a reflection of the rottenness in the church. Pray, how can we experience revival with this mindset? Beyond that, there are pastors who have become principalities and powers in their assemblies.

Their members can’t look them in the face. They are terror. I once went to see a General Overseer. I was waiting alongside some others in the lobby of his office. As soon as this man appeared, everybody went on their knees. I was taken aback and just wondering what was going on. Since I did not understand, I had to join in the charade until I saw the man coming and walking right through the kneeling folks to his office.

I know of people standing to honour a “big man” when the man comes around. But I was seeing the kneeling version that day.

The elevation of people has become so perverse that it is what the G.Os say that has become the gospel for many. Some prayers are no longer complete without the mention of the G.Os name. The attention of the average worshiper in Nigeria and indeed in Africa has become people focus rather than God focus. While I am not advocating disrespect for authority, I think there is a limit to which we can give attention to people. If whenever we have a challenge what first crosses our mind is our pastor and not God, then we really have a challenge.

If God will move once again and revive his church, we must repent of this undue honour we give to men. The apostles did not accept the honour of men. Angels in fact refused to accept the honour of men. In the book of revelation, the Angel told John not to bow for him because he too was a fellow servant. Cornelius was to bow for Peter, but Peter refused. So, where did we get our own theology from?

 Mountains

One of the things robbing us of revival is this mindset that we can only meet God in a designated place. That is reinventing the Old Testament system where altars are erected for people to come and worship God. God is not restricted to a place. He is everywhere and can be worshipped anywhere even inside a hole. There is no boundary for him. So, we don’t need to promote a particular place and make people begin to have the mindset that their prayers will not be answered until they get to that place.

Some churches are having these messianic structures that make their members find them irresistible. There is nothing wrong with going to mountains or camps to pray. But it should never be an issue. Individuals should be allowed to make up their minds on where they want to pray or hold retreat. Praying at the mountain top is good and should be encouraged because of the privacy it affords not because it is a criterium for answered prayers.

The God of the mountain is the also the God of the valley. Jesus has come to simplify worship by telling us that those who worship God must worship Him in truth and spirit. He said to that woman by the well that the hour has come that people don’t need to go to the mountain. Anywhere could be our mountain. During covid-19 when we were all locked down, we still met with God. That should teach us enough lesson that going up and down in the name of looking for God is absurd.

 

Crowd.

There is perhaps no greater sickness troubling the Church than the crowdinomian sickness. First is the obsession for a big building and then for the crowd that will fill it. Our crusades and programmes are geared primarily to fill the pews not to save men and bring them to the kingdom. We do all kinds of things to bring men to church. We treat first-timers as kings.

They collect gifts and packs. Nothing really wrong with that. But do you know that some people come out repeatedly as first-timers because of what they will get? In fact, there are people who move from church to church because they now understand the mindset of churches. They know what we are looking for, is the crowd. So, they come hoping to get something from us on the first day of their coming and repeat the same appearance in another church.

But Jesus commanded us to go into the world to preach the gospel. Unfortunately, what we do is to draw attention to our gatherings, not to Christ. We don’t have a sense of urgency in leading people to Jesus. We would rather force them or entice them to come to our church and hope that they will get converted when they come.

Rather than lead people to Christ when we have the opportunity of meeting them, we tell them to come to our church. When they are sick, rather than pray for them, we tell them to come to our church. When they are challenged, rather than counsel them and share scriptures with them, we tell them to come to our church. Our church has now become saviour, not Christ. This is the delusion of the modern age.

The ultimate goal for us is to get the crowd. The Pastor is also encouraged when he sees the crowd. There is a feeling of superpower that comes with addressing the crowd. Jesus ministered to the crowd, but he did not make a monument out of them. As a matter of fact, he had to leave them sometimes and go to the wilderness to pray. If Jesus were to keep the crowd in a place for the whole of his ministry life, no building would have been able to contain them.

Yet, that is what we are doing. We love the sense of the crowd. There is a place for the crowd. But it should not be a goal. I think churches should even discourage large gatherings and encourage small gatherings for effectiveness. The crowd can gather once in a while but real fellowship happens where two or three are gathered. It is not the fault of a church if people throng there to worship. But having a large crowd is not synonymous with church growth. Entertainers also draw large crowds.

Some of these oriental religions also draw large crowds. But then, the point is, we should not lose our sense of purpose in the name of getting a large crowd. I was pained in my heart when one of the big churches I know had to close down one of its branches because the pastor was not getting enough people to worship there.

We forget that Jesus at the end of his earthly ministry had just about 120 people from what we have in the upper room. That is Jesus with all the miracles and anointing. The mentality of a large single congregation which many denominations boast of should be obliterated. In this age of technology, the largest church does not have to have large meeting points.

The fastest-growing churches in the world today are in Iran and they meet in cells. The churches in Iran are mostly led by women and they are without structures. They don’t have church buildings because it is even risky to have such. But thousands are turning to Jesus. We can have a million-member church and yet they don’t have to gather in one place. It is even a sign that your church is not growing if you insist in having a large congregation. Real growth can’t be contained in a building. Let’s perish the thought of mega size auditorium. It is parade of ego.

 

Programmes

This may sound controversial. Programmes can be idolatrous and be self-motivated. When a church holds programmes for the whole of the week for instance and also ensures that all the holidays are choked with one programme or the other, there is a tendency that such church may be building church dependent members and not God-dependent members. I am not averse to programmes if possibly everyday. But let us look at the model of the early church. They gathered daily in homes not that they have to set out to go to a place. Their homes were worship points. Did we not achieve that during Covid-19? Many homes became house fellowship centres and people had no choice but to meet hold daily fellowship in their homes.

Programmes are good if there are no ulterior motives. But that is not the case with us. Our goal is to use the programmes to raise offerings. We are not really concerned about the growth of the people, what motivates us is the growth of our finance. The other issue is that too many church programmes in the church deny the people of their private worship life. The church is only meant to be a training ground. The real-life is outside the church. So, when a man goes to church every day of his life, when is he expected to demonstrate all he has learnt? It is also not too good for the pastor to spend all his life attending to people. The ministry of the pastor to God is more important than his ministry to the people.

 

EndNote

 

The issues raised in these two-part articles are strictly personal and as being led. The Church needs revival more than ever before. But we can’t attract the grace and power of God if we continue with the way church is being run and if we emphasise the wrong thing. May God revival His Church.

 

By Gbenga Osinaike

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