By Femi Fani-Kayode
The Lord Himself said ”I shall build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail”. Nothing gives the believer greater strength and comfort than these beautiful and prophetic words. It speaks of our ultimate victory over satan and the inevitable triumph of light over darkness. Whatever may be happening in our lives or in our nation the Church is constant and true and she is always there for us. And what a joy it is to know this and to appreciate the fact that in the Lord and in His bride, we have a blessed assurance of salvation, deliverance, peace, joy and fullness of life. I love the Church. Yet the truth must be told. That truth is unpleasant and bitter and it is as follows.
The Church in Nigeria today is like the Laodicean Church as described by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Himself in the Book of Revelations, ”they are rich, they are wealthy but they have nothing” and ”they blow neither hot nor cold”. They are weak and they are afflicted with a love for money and material things. The bible tells us that when God’s judgement falls upon a nation it falls on the church leadership of that country before anyone else. The leadership of the Church in Nigeria is in danger of facing God’s judgement and wrath because they have failed the followership and membership woefully. There are a few noble and identifiable exceptions but most of these leaders are self-seeking, self-serving, judgemental and timid. They remind me of the Pharisees and Sadducees of the old testament- always judging others and never resisting evil but rather espousing and encouraging it. They are also mainly worshippers of mammon and not of God.
If we had a truly strong, bold, disciplined and dedicated church leadership in our country today we would not be in the mess that we are in and the horrendous demons that hold sway in our land would have been prayed out long ago. The leadership of the Church did that successfully in numerous other countries through the ages and consequently God cleansed the land but it has never happened here. Where are our own Thomas Moore’s, Martin Luther’s, Thomas Beckett’s, John Knox’s, Thomas Cranmer’s, Ian Paisly’s and Smith Wiggleworth’s? Why do our church leaders find it so difficult to stand up against tyranny and ”fight the power” as others from other countries and continents have done throughout the last 2000 years of church history? Why do most church leaders in our country find it so easy to collude and collaborate with wicked, incompetent and tyrranical rulers that are feeding fat off the blood of the people rather than bravely confront them with the bitter truth?
Why are they so reluctant to sacrifice their lives, or even the size of their offerings, for the propagation of the gospel and in defence of their flock? Was the Church of Christ not spread by the blood of the martyrs? Has the fear of death and persecution reduced them to a shell of what they were meant to be? Is the first calling of every man and woman of God not to spread the gospel, show love to all, defend and protect the weak and vulnerable and to ”resist evil” as the bible says? Have the Church leaders in Nigeria resisted the evil that exists at the highest level of governance in our country enough today? Why do they find it so easy to turn a blind eye to the injustice in our land and to collaborate or, at the very least, maintain a conspiratorial silence with governments and Presidents that are cold, uncaring, unfeeling, vicious, ungodly, incompetent and corrupt. Where and when did the Nigerian Church go so badly wrong? It has not always been like this but sadly today most of our ”men and women of God” are more interested in the size of the church offering than they are in the number of souls that they are bringing into God’s Kingdom. Their ambition is to own a private jet or to own the largest and most luxurious church-building in the land and not the propagation of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet it is not for us to reprimand or scrutinise them. God alone can judge them and He surely will. It is just a matter of time.
Many church leaders have committed all manner of atrocities and abuse as a consequence of the deep reverence that we give to them but God is not mocked. He sees their hearts and knows their deeds. Remember what happened to the sons of Eli? Whatever they reap, they shall surely sow. I wager that if our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ were to secretly appear in Nigeria today as an ordinary man and if he went to one of our numerous churches on a sunday morning he may not even be allowed to sit anywhere near the front row simply because he would have arrived on foot, without a long convoy of flashy cars and without an escort of black-suited armed bodyguards. The ushers would have regarded Him as being ”nothing” because He would not have worn fine clothes, the most expensive shoes and the most extravagant watch. That is how misguided and degenerate some within the leadership of the Nigerian church have now become today.
Yet the madness and sheer greed is not limited to Nigerian pastors. Permit me to share a shocking story about a ”great” man of God who is based in Ghana and who is reverred and loved by many. As a matter of fact some regard him as the ”father of the Pentecostal Church” in Ghana because he was one of the first to establish an evangelical church in that country. His congregation is huge and he has branches of his church spread all over Ghana, the west African sub-region and indeed all over the world. He is flamboyant, wealthy, outspoken, gifted and loved by millions all over the world and he often appears on the American-based international Trinity Broadcasting Network television show.
The man is a Bishop, he is very powerful and in his country he has immense influence in the political arena and in the world of commerce by virtue of having so many sons and daughters in high places. Each of them are, of course, expected to make hefty ”returns” to him on a regular basis for the rest of their lives on account of the prayers that he offers to God on their behalf. If they refuse to do so he threatens them with the ugly prospect of raining curses on their head and causing them to lose ”everything that they hold dear”. I shall not name this man here but I will do so at the appropiate time. I will also send him a copy of this essay immediately after it is published and I hope and pray that he will learn a few lessons from it before it is too late.
The story is as follows- a prominent member of the Bishop’s church, who was not a Ghanaian and who was a very vocal and powerful member of government in another African country, was arrested and detained on a set of spurious and baseless allegations and charges by the new in-coming government after he left office. The man’s wife, who was a Ghanaian, went running to the Bishop for help and told him that her husband had done nothing wrong and that the charges that were preffered against him were politically-motivated. She also reminded him that she and her husband had not only regularly paid their tithe to the church but that they had also ”blessed” him and his entire church and family members on numerous occasions over the years.
She made it clear that this was their time of need and that she expected the Bishop to do all he could by raising a team of powerful prayer warriors and praying to God for help on their behalf and to use his proximity to God and his ”special grace” and ”anointing” to help them move God’s heart and get the man freed from detention and delivered from the hands of his tormentors and persecutors. The Bishop listened in complete silence and after a few minutes he first asked her exactly how much she was prepared to pay for this great service. He also made the following proposition to the wife of the detained church member. He told her to go and find a way of gaining access to all the husbands bank accounts and money and that she should empty the accounts and send ALL the money that she found in them to him.
He also suggested that she should sell all her husbands properties and cars and again bring all the money to him. He said that he would ”invest the money” wisely in numerous business ventures in Ghana and abroad for her and that since ”God had told” him that the man would never make bail and that he would stay in jail for many years thereafter that the woman should divorce him and just forget about him. It did not stop there. He also told her to call him for prayers at midnight every night for the next seven days whilst she was lying down on the bed in the nude with her legs wide open and that he would then tell her exactly where she should ”apply” the anointing oil on her body as he prayed for her over over the phone.
He said that they would do this for seven nights after which she should leave Nigeria and fly back to Ghana and then they could do the same thing all over again in the flesh. Finally he told her that under no circumstances should she tell anyone what he had said or about the course of action that he was proposing. He said that it all had to be done under the cover of secrecy otherwise the prayers would not work. The woman was utterly shocked by all this but said nothing. She went back to her husband, who was still in prison, and reported the whole thing to him. He was broken hearted because he loved and trusted the ”man of God” and in fact often referred to him as his ”father”. Yet he remained strong and told his wife not to give up but rather to pray to God for him and their entire family. He also told her not to tell anyone else about what he had said so as not to bring ”shame and ridicule” to the church of God. He believed that their prayers alone would get him out of detention and that his innocence would keep him out of prison. And that is exactly what happened.
Despite the fact that the so-called ”man of God” had said that the man would ”never make bail” and that he would ”stay in prison for the rest of his life”, the man was not only granted bail but God also raised people that he had never met or spoken to before in his life to raise the bail bond of 200 million naira for him and to put down the title deeds of their homes on his behalf as security to the court. The man has not been jailed and it is clear to all that his innocence is not only speaking for him but that God is, and has been, fighting for him ever since as all manner of terrible misfortunes have stalked all those that had a hand in his persecution. Some have died, others have been jailed themselves and others were retired without notice and publically humiliated and thrown out of their powerful jobs in government in disgraceful circumstances. All this without the prayers or support of the so-called ”Bishop”.
The morale of the tale is simple- we must not rely on a man or a woman for anything, even if that man is a ”man of God”. We must rely on God and on His Holy Spirit alone. Not only was this Bishop desperately wicked but he was also prepared to destroy the family of a loyal member of his congregation and an adoring ”spiritual son” whom he had benefitted from immesnsly, in order to feed his greed and to satisfy his insatiable love and lust for money. This is surely not a man of God but rather the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. This is a monster that hides behind the gospel and feeds on the misery and misfortune of his flock. This is not one of God’s generals but a son of Eli. This is not a shepherd but a heartless and callous butcher that slaughters, carves up, roasts and eats the flesh of his sheep. He set himself up as god and sought to use the name of the one true and Living God to accumulate the hard earned wealth of others. Worse still he sought to take advantage of an innocent man’s ugly plight and to steal his money and his wife. What an utter shame and one wonders just how widespread this type of abuse of power is within the church.
Yet let me make this clear- it is not every man of God that behaves in this way. As a matter of fact the likelihood is that very few have degenerated to that level. But the point is that it happens and that even worse has happened. It is also important to note that I do not seek to in any way bring the church or it’s leaders into disrepute by sharing my views here or by bringing some of these matters to the public realm. As a matter of fact the contrary is the case- my intention is to strengthen the church by exposing the charlatans within her ranks that breach the trust given to them by genuine and committed church members, that seek to take advantage of the ignorance, frustrations and naivety of others and that thrive and flourish from the misery and misfortunes of members of their congregation.
If necessary I would lay my very life down in defence of the gospel of Jesus, for the Church of God and for the Bride Christ but I would also resist and fight, with every fibre of my being, the abuse of power, the shameless corruption and the breach of trust that some pastors regularly indulge in. I am a christian fundamentalist and for the last twenty three years of my life I have lived for Christ and by His grace and power alone. I love God deeply and I owe Him everything that I am today. Without Him and without His Church I would have been dead long ago or, at the very least, my numerous detractors would have had their wicked way with me.
Yet the truth must be spoken- within the ranks of the leadership of the Nigerian Church since the amalglamation of 1914, great and courageuos men and women of God with a genuine calling and a heart for God like Archbishop Samuel Ajayi-Crowther, Archbishop Benson Idahosa, Archbishop Jasper Akinola, Prophet T.O. Obadare, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adegboye, Dr. Daniel Olukoya, Bishop David Oyedepo, Bishop Mike Okonkwo, Dr. B.O.Ezekiel, Dr. I.K.U Ibeneme, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Dr. W.F. Kumuyi, Bishop Fred Addo, Pastor Emmanuel Kure, Pastor Sam Adeyemi, Pastor Wale Adefarasin, Dr. Tony Rapu, Pastor Ituah Ighodalo, Pastor Paul Adefarasin, Bishop Elkanah Hanson, Pastor Sarah Omakwu, Pastor Bimbo Odukoya, Prophet Abiara and a handful of others are few and far between. Truly annointed, disciplined, committed and respected ”end-time” generals of that sort, some of whom are still with us and some of whom have passed on to eternity, are not many in our clime.
I have nothing but contempt for those that call themselves Church leaders but who use the gospel to line their own pockets and who manipulate the elect by indulging in charissmatic witchcraft, deceit, hypocrisy and profiteering. The truth is that God is love and His grace abounds and extends to all. No man or woman is free of sin and the sooner we appreciate the fact that we christians are no better than anyone else when it comes to misbehaving, the better. I have been a Pentecostal christian for 23 years, I attended the Bible Seminary for two hard years and I know the Word of God and the Church inside out. As individuals the most important thing that we can do is to maintain a personal relationship with God Himself through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Chist and the Holy Spirit and to read the scriptures morning, day and night ourselves.
We must not rely on the pastor for absolutely everything because, like us, he or she is human and the bible says ”cursed is he who relies on the arm of flesh”. As things stand today, the Nigerian Church needs plenty of prayers and we as a people need a few more of those that I would describe as God’s ”end-time” generals to lead it. And when we find those ”generals” we must encourage, bless and support them in their work and ministry. Let those that have ears hear what the Spirit of God is saying. Shalom.