Reopening of churches: Task before the Church

Reopening of churches: Task before the Church

By Ladi Thompson

THE COVID-19 pandemic and the disruptions in its wake have thrown up many questions and there is no single institution that has remained untouched. The global lockdown and isolation strategies have been hard on Nigerians because our financial institutions lack the sophistication required to absorb the punches unleashed by the pandemic.

Knowing what the results will bring the Nigerian government has succumbed to pressures and eased the lockdown for a season in many sectors. Some of the religious leaders who felt cheated mounted pressure to re-open houses of worship and succeeded.

On a good day the bridges built by Christian philosophers like St. Augustine between faith and logic, religion and science would have been enough to promote understanding between the Nigerian State and the Church but other factors had to be considered. After much agitation and arguments churches were finally given the green light to reopen with certain restrictions for compliance.

Given that religious houses are re-opening, the question on all lips is now “What next?” The Church has to tread carefully because the pandemic has encouraged a soul search in the ranks and the long absence from their worship centers has promoted a degree of religious independence.

With conspiracy theories still raging, the death of eminent Nigerians as a result of the pandemic has cast a dark shadow on the church entrance door. Christian faithful will need assurances and would want to know what the pulpit now has to offer that is different. Bringing comedians or other distractions back to the pulpit would be a grave mistake because Christians are not in that mood.

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Financial prosperity messages carry a hollow ring and motivational theatrics won’t cut it against the palpable fear of death. Believers now want the God that heals, protects and delivers indeed, so the children of God are longing for the God of the Bible who heals incurable diseases without charging fees under the guise of tithes and offerings!

The market for household wickedness, wicked enemies and witchcraft scare tactic preachers are not selling either because many indabostic champions melted away when the 19-foot tall COVID goliath started roaring in the field.

Many, however, believe that these developments are good because the stage is now set for true revival. It had been long coming as the pulpit had literally gone to the dogs. Like a thief in the night the COVID-19 pandemic caught everyone unawares even though some very enterprising fellows tried to persuade the nation otherwise.

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The pandemic has proven that the pulpit was never meant for comedians and that Jesus Christ was right when he said that the things that were born of the flesh could not be substituted for the things born of the spirit. In a nutshell, it is now evident that the gospels that could not tame COVID-19 should not be relied upon to assure anyone a place in the Kingdom of Heaven. As it would take a fool to continue trusting a flashlight that darkness does not respect.

We might even consider ourselves fortunate that God permitted this pandemic as a dress rehearsal so that many would not perish for eternity. The last thing any supposed believer wants to entertain is the thought that Jesus Christ might one day deny ever knowing them.

Pa Josiah Akindayomi, founding apostle of RCCG, gave copious warnings on this, quoting Matthew 7:20-22. Perhaps what wisdom should direct us to do is to go back in church history to locate where we left Jesus Christ behind to re-open on that note.

Now we, at least, have an idea of how things were in the days of Noah because the failure of both the old and modern gospels we preach today cannot be more glaring.

Prayerful research will point us to the everlasting or eternal gospel that was last sighted in the pandemic of the early 1900s.

John G. Lake was able to produce proof of the living Jesus recorded in the Bible. Tracking backwards in church history we soon observe that all the authenticated eternal gospels converge at the 312, Azusa Street Church Mission where the Pentecostal explosion started in 1906.

With due diligence done, it will come as a shock that the modern Pentecostal gospel has very little semblance to the gospel of the Kingdom of God preached by William J. Seymour.

There is incontrovertible evidence that God’s mighty revival in Azusa was polluted at the source by the racist objections of Charles Fox Parham. The disagreement that seemed insignificant then has spread all over the world to produce the polished but empty gospels of the modern day.

William J. Seymour believed that the Holy Ghost baptism was indeed the final installment of God’s promise of redemption to the believer and he said the evidence of the Pentecostal experience was best evidenced by an increase in divine ‘agape’ love.

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This African-American stated that any claim to the Pentecostal experience that did not manifest the increase of agape love must be a counterfeit.

Charles F. Parham, on the other hand, tried to hijack the revival claiming that “speaking in tongues” was the evidence of the Pentecostal experience. William Seymour argued that “speaking in tongues” was just a sign while divine love was the evidence.

Using the advantages of segregation and superior administrative skills, Charles Fox Parham the White man standardised his version. One hundred plus years onward we have now discovered that William J. Seymour was right since agape love is eternal while tongues are temporal.

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With all due respect, we can say that the clamour of the Pentecostal churches for the reopening was the loudest and most aggressive of all.

Now that the pulpits are reopening it would be interesting to see whether our ministers will continue to preach the triumph of tongues over agape love or whether the everlasting gospel will be reinstated by the restoration of divine love as the evidence of the Pentecostal experience.

If we really want to serve God and Country, the Nigerian Church must step up because our national healthcare system cannot be relied upon and it is divine health and divine healing that will be the game changer in the days ahead.

It is common knowledge that the government eased the lockdown because we did not have the resources to cope with the financial and security demands. It’s inevitable that the pandemic will surely spread faster and many more lives will be on the line in the days ahead.

If we can return the leadership of the Nigerian Church to Jesus Christ before the spike becomes dangerous surely there shall be a greater revival today than the Azusa explosion. Right now the Church has to move beyond hand sanitizers and hand washing to show Nigeria that there will be difficult days ahead if our counsel is rejected.

We must remind our political leaders that the COVID-19 pandemic is a global affair. Beyond all the posturing of the leading nations a global financial meltdown is approaching. If permitted it will trickle down to Nigeria, and our currency will be affected.

The desperation of frustrated youth energy, a surge in violent crimes, tenants mobbing landlords and other spirals could accompany the spike and the Church has to make good on the promises of God to avoid an unpleasant situation.

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Opportunistic threats like the Boko Haram, militants and irredentist agitations could further complicate matters. All said and done the re-opening of churches is a good thing because God will do a new thing. The real good news is that we have as a nation reached the much-awaited turning point and we need to reappraise our national narrative in a new light.

Between the prophecies of Pa Josiah Akindayomi and Pa S. G. Elton, the Church was forewarned that these days would come.

In 1986 for example, S. G. Elton warned that Nigeria’s name would be stink for corruption all over the world but a drastic change would come and we would be regarded as one of the best and righteous nations of the world.

A revival is coming but we have some house cleaning to do. We have to refresh the memories of the righteous that the realistic history of our nation did not start with the agitations of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Tafawa Balewa or Obafemi Awolowo but a long line of believers who gave their all to vanquish human sacrifices, infanticide, fetishism, killing of twins and other horrific practices. We paved the way by civilising territories until many cultural nations became more accommodating and open-minded for statehood.

We must expunge all predatory practices to revive the true apostolic spirit and sacrificial love. God’s love must spread from the churches into the streets of our nation till every citizen whether from the North, South, East or West is given the value that God put on each and every one of us.

Pa S. G. Elton prophesied it and the time is now. On a final note we must not forget the words of the humble African-American selected by Jesus Christ to stir the move of the Holy Spirit in our days. William J. Seymour insisted that if it does not increase the agape love of God, it cannot be a Pentecostal experience but a counterfeit it is.

We no longer need superstars to wow us from the pulpit but the chosen who will stir us to embrace and manifest the divine love of God with the eternal gospel.

*Thompson, a strategic thinker and security consultant, is the pastor of Living Waters Unlimited Church, Anthony Village, Lagos.

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