By ABIODUN KOMOLAFE
_(Published in THE NATION on Saturday, January 13, 2024)_
Sometime in 1989, a friend told a story of how he was in dire need of sponsorship for his university education.
When all things proved difficult, he approached one of the presbyters in a church in Ibadan, Oyo State who eventually advised that his impressive General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level (GCE O-Level) results be announced to the congregation during a Sunday service with a view to wooing Good Samaritans.
Though that was done, help did not come!
The presbyter’s wife pleaded with his husband to rerun the announcement. _‘Who knows, help might come!’_ But _‘Iya Yard’_ (preacher’s wife) was shouted down. _‘We have more important things to do in the church’,_ he was quoted as saying.
Then he turned to the help-seeker: _“young man, go back to your village and start farming. By the time you do that for three to four years, you’ll have saved enough money to fund your university education.”_
Well, my friend’s experience brought to the fore a statement credited to Pastor W. F. Kumuyi, the Founder and General Superintendent of the Deeper Christian Life Ministry, recently.
Kumuyi reportedly urged the Church to stop devoting all its money to church building but start committing parts to feeding the poor and clothing the naked. According to him, _“all the offerings are not just for the Church.
There are poor people around. It makes no sense to give to a church building when the people inside are hungry.”_
It is interesting to note that good things are coming from Nazareth even as there might be priests who didn’t share Kumuyi’s lines of thought and are likely to take him up on this.
Meanwhile, looking around, one sees many beautiful edifices, built with the people’s contributions, with the pastors cruising around in exotic cars and private jets. They live in opulence while the contributors suffer hunger and deprivation.
These days, the common trend within the House of God can only be referred to as Building Competition: _‘if you build a 50,000-seater Auditorium, I will surprise you with a 120,000-seater Basilica, complete with infrastructural and cultural significance and hi-tech facilities’,_ not even minding whether or not _“those who do not have anything to feed”_ are there, dying.
To state the obvious, the new trend in the Church calls for concern. ‘Prophetic utterances’ a la miracles and prosperity are now gushing out like erosion while nobody cares about the Balanced Theology any longer.
Apostle James said in the Holy Book that, if someone comes unto you without food and all you have to tell him or her is ‘go in peace’, what kind of peace would that be without first giving him what the body needs? Same goes for the Sheikhood system where the Sheikh lives large only for the followers to go home poor and hungry.
In an article, _‘Of miracle workers, receivers and critics’,_ (published on September 8, 2002), yours sincerely commented on how the now-late Prophet T.B. Joshua went about, feeding the poor and clothing the unclothed, yet, what was of paramount interest to his colleagues in the faith was his having ‘evil spirit’ without doing something spectacular with their ‘holy spirit.’
Now that Joshua is dead, the world is free to accuse him of whatever it feels befits him but the truth is: those souls _‘Emmanuel’_ fed while alive would not forget his good deeds in a hurry.
Take it or leave it, the Church of Christ in the hands of men is practically stinking. From Lagos to Abuja, and from Adamawa to Owerri, the present-day Church is filled with various forms of sinful and shameful acts of many shades and shapes being perpetrated by its leaders, better referred to as merchants on the altar of God.
There is no distinction, be they mainline or the known privately-owned churches. The mainline churches are out of their conscience and are in business mainly for the interest of their Bishops, Archbishops and Primates.
This is why one cannot find any of their children or loved ones in the country and their target among other things is to buy property abroad and dot every choice location locally with choice cars. No wonder the Holy Book says: _“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begins at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?”_
The Church in Nigeria is bleeding from the wound of financial impropriety inflicted on it by its leaders. Accounts are not being well-kept and promotions and preferments are being stylishly sold under different names and guises.
Emergency jobs are being created for the boys in the Departments, Areas, Zones, Dioceses and Provinces. Monies are being collected arbitrarily and parishes are being taxed just to satisfy the taste of the leaders.
Is it any wonder then that we have more ‘healers’ than the healed and more ‘perfect masters’ on earth than the One who has the ultimate power to give and take away? Indeed, that’s why the North-South dichotomy has only succeeded in dividing us instead of uniting us and why the cankerworms of religious ethnicism and doctrinal fanaticism have eaten deep into our fabric.
It is also the reason our society comprises liars whose tokens are frustrated and wise diviners whose knowledge are made foolish.
As it is in the Church, so it is in the political-cum-secular world. Things and times have become so troubling that, if a politician decides to build his house on a river, our religious leaders will build a canoe to the place.
If they can’t build it, they will go as far as contracting experts from Ilaje in Ondo State to help construct a road to get there. As it is, there are millions of Nigerians who will follow their religious leaders into the lagoon. Anyway, that’s a topic for another day!
The political class who use our commonwealth to sponsor would-be pilgrims to Mecca and Jerusalem is not helping matters. Of course, that’s why so many people have kowtowed, because, when a man makes it a point of duty to slash a tenth of his hard-earned salary and decides to give it to the Church, what’s wrong with such a soul is that he is still believing in the religious institution or the commandment of God that he should do so with his money.
However, the unfortunate part of it is that other corresponding acts are observed in the breach by the Church.
During his time, former President Goodluck Jonathan established schools, complete with incentives, for the Almajiris. Jonathan knew that, without these in place, Nigeria was sitting on a keg of gunpowder and that it was only a matter of time before it’d explode.
Unfortunately, March 28, 2015 came and the election Tsunami swept Jonathan back to Otuoke. What happened afterwards was nothing compared to forgotten ideas!
Let’s make this perfectly clear, the Church carries with it the totality of the responsibility of man. In the early days, the Church was supposed to be getting its directive directly from God. If its directives were from God, then, no one could query the Church.
But, is the definition of religion sacrosanct and where lies the space of God in the hearts of men or his place in the affairs of his elect? Why have religious institutions in Nigeria become mere commercial organizations, toying with the people’s emotions and destinies through selfish prayers and very weird ideas of blessings and healing?
Over and above all, why have institutional silliness, deliberate blindness and fake confidence robbed us of all the benefits of those prayers that have already been answered?
Why? For God’s sake, why?
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!
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