Published by: Izobofolo Evangelical Ministry
HOW TO HANDLE DOCTRINAL AND CONDUCT ERRORS- Part III
(9) Concluding thoughts
It is self-deceit that made us to think that non-Christians don’t know the truth. God has given every man conscience to discern what is right or wrong. They see through our covetousness and insincerity whether we admit or not. They see through our hypocrisy as we freely criticize the corrupt politicians but resist the criticism of our erring members who are also public figures.
“For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?” (Rom 2:25-27)
The usual saying, “Don’t let us wash our dirty linen in the public,” does not fit here. The dirty linen is already being washed in the public by the persons amongst us who have been consistently violating biblical and moral principles without scruples. This began since we started preaching covetousness instead of contentment and godliness, since we started selling the greatest scam ever invented in human history to our people- the promise of prosperity that is not associated with productivity, since some amidst us started violating the basic principle of social justice- amassing humongous wealth with the attendant opulent lifestyle in the midst of pervasive abject poverty in the land, since we started preaching ‘another gospel’ that emphasizes the physical wants of man above his spiritual needs (I call it “the gospel of want”), since our attention shifted from the cross and the risen Lord to ourselves, since we started hobnobbing with the corrupt politicians and look the other way as if nothing is wrong with our nation because of filthy lucre, since we started tolerating and defending sexual impurity in our camp………..
Our primary concern ought to be to uphold the truth and prevent others from falling into error but by asking people to keep quiet whenever some of us cross the line, we have invariably become complicit in their errors. We have been called to “contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints”. Can we say in all honesty that we are doing exactly that?
To my mind, this deviation from the true Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to ‘another gospel’ is the greatest threat to Christianity in Nigeria and not some external force as some would have us believe.
Have we ever bothered to ask why the Gospel seems to be so ineffective in curbing the social ills of our country, Nigeria? Have we ever asked why Nigeria is one of the most corrupt countries in the world despite the tens of millions of people that go to our sanctuaries on weekly basis?
Why is there no genuine revival in the land like in the days of old? Why are we not having the “Great Awakenings” in the land like it happened in Europe and America when their preachers focused on the cross and the risen Lord? Where are our signs? Don’t we think it’s time to examine our message and attitude? Isn’t it about time we went back to the Lord for clarity? The Gospel of our Lord Jesus is still as potent as it used to be. We only need to preach it as He says to do.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” (Rom 1:16-17)
The fact remains- the blessed Holy Spirit can only bear witness to what Jesus accomplished through His death and resurrection. So long as we continue preaching ‘another gospel’, He will not be able to bear witness.
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” (John 15:26)
A friend of mine related an encounter he had with a white woman in one of the European countries sometimes ago. The woman asked about the size of the Nigerian Church. My friend told her that Nigeria is home to the largest single Church building in the world so as to give an idea of the population of Christians in Nigeria. The woman retorted: “Why then is Nigeria so poor?” I believe this is instructive enough.
Have we bothered to ask why we often fail to attract and convert the native Europeans whenever we send our indigenous missionaries to them? It is common knowledge that our Churches in the West attract mostly Nigerians and other Afro-Caribbeans. Though we often attribute this phenomenon to racism, it may not be unconnected to our message and attitude. A Nigerian minister of the Gospel who is currently living in Europe said he observed this same trend in his ministry at an early stage and decided to hand over the church to his co-founders and stopped pastoring altogether. He did this because he believed God couldn’t have sent him to Europe all the way from Nigeria to gather only Nigerians and other black people who are a minority in that country. After prayers, thorough soul searching and association with the people of that country, he discovered that the problem was with his attitude. He changed. Today, he is the pastor of the largest Church in Europe with a congregation that is made up of 99% Caucasians!
Pray, what kind of message have we been preaching that has not been able to build men who could build us a nation after more than fifty-five years of independence? How do we measure the effectiveness of our message? How do we measure success in ministry- changed lives or money in bank accounts?
It is my prayer that the fate of the Western European Church will not befall the Nigerian Church and the African Church by extension. For a long time, the leaders of the European Church collaborated with their Kings and secular authorities, in general, to exploit and subjugate their people. We see the result today: the people have abandoned the faith and the Church en masse for atheism, secularism and free-thinking. I am afraid this will eventually happen down here unless we change our message back to the message of the cross and the risen Lord.
The people can see through our hypocrisy. They can see that we are often more interested in their money than their souls. Our primary concerns are the projects and not the people. We must build that empire by all means. The scam we have sold to the people will no longer sell in the next 20 to 30 years when our nation becomes more literate, enlightened and economically prosperous. What will be the point of attraction to the Church then if we do not change now?
I believe these criticisms we are getting are from the Lord. He is warning us to change our ways before it is too late. I am afraid we are not responding appropriately. Instead of going back to the Lord in repentance, we are telling people to stop pointing out our errors to us. Some are even issuing threats! Isn’t that incredible? Why have we become so stiff-necked? If God can use a donkey to correct a derailing prophet, how much more humans?
“Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet.” (2Pet 2:15-16)
“And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.” (Heb 12:6-13)
To my mind, this unhealthy defensive posture of ours is an extension of the general culture of impunity in our nation, Nigeria, where people feel too big to take responsibility for their negative actions and admit wrong doing. This is completely unchristian and totally unacceptable. Even, people who have no knowledge of Christ in other climes easily admit wrongdoing whenever they are caught. They are quick to apologize and move on. How much more those who call themselves by the name of the Lord?
The beginning of progress is positive self-criticism. Without self-criticism, progress is almost impossible. If we must make progress, we have to stop pretending to be who we are not, we have to stop running away from ourselves, we have to be truthful and courageous enough to look ourselves in the ‘mirror’ and make amends.
“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” (Rev 3:14-19)
The Nigeria Church needs to go back to the Lord in repentance. Obviously, God has a plan He wants to execute through the African Church and the Nigerian Church in particular. Would we allow Him?
I have written this piece with all sense of responsibility. I never knew it will be this long. This wound has festered too long. We have played the ostrich game for too long.
I have said what I believe God put in my heart. Let he that has ear hear.
I remain yours in Him.
Reference: Dr. Abiodun Jemilohun