- Category: GENERAL
- Published on Monday, 06 August 2012 12:53
- Written by John Okiyi Kalu
It is estimated that between two and four billion naira are contributed in pentecostal churches in the east and "exported" to Lagos-Ogun every sunday. The major recipients of these scarce resources from Igboland are Redeemed Church, Winners Chapel, Deeper Life and Mountain of Fire. My personal investigation confirm that
branches of these churches in Eastern Nigeria are obligated to repatriate their sunday collection including tithes and offerings. It is from these and others that wonderful edifices are constructed along the Lagos-Ibadan Highway and Ota In Ogun state. Other dividend of Igbo sunday-sunday offerings include state of the technology aircrafts, high priced Universities, secondary schools etc with little or no benefit to Ndigbo.
The Redeemed Church Congress Dec 2011, Lagos, Nigeria
So what has Assemblies of God Church got to do with it?
Assemblies of God church led the pentecostal revolution in Nigeria and Africa. Go round Nigeria and you will see an Assemblies church in far and near places like Zungeru, Birnin Kebbi Utonkon, Umunede, Ijebu-Ijesha etc. Deeper life ministries tapped into this pioneering work and built another strong ministry. But it was Assemblies that led the way for others to follow.
Problem is that the leadership was too rigid and resistant to change. When Church of God mission and Idahosa came through with prosperity ministry, the leaders of AGM called them names. Even their use of drums and music instruments were seen as deviation from the scripture. "Aka mara nma k'anyi ga akuru chineke" was the battle cry while conveniently forgetting that David made music with instruments on his way to becoming a man after God's heart. Deeper life stayed with same convictions as Assemblies. But others like Redeemed, Winners, Christ Embassy etc took a cue from Idahosa and joined the modern prosperity or faith based "funkyfied" ministries.
Overnight, RCCG that was founded as a white garment church transformed into a pentecostal church with a mathematics teacher in charge. Winners moved from its Kaduna founding base towards the more secured home axis of Lagos/Ogun. An architect in charge.
It didn't take long for all the new pentecostals to take members from Assemblies and Deeper life. They appealed to a market segment that didn't care so much about going to heaven as in having the "good life" here on earth.
Young people were allowed to dress anyhow and come. With time they will be converted. But for the purpose of expansion and multiplication, they can wear tight or non tight jean trousers, hot micro mini skirts and three quarters breast showing tops. Who cares? The new young "modern" pastors matched the members in sophistication. State of design suits, exotic cars, pretty serpentine wives, posh houses etc. And the modern church exploded right before Assemblies eyes. Members left in droves to join the modern order whereas Assemblies pastors continued to advertise poverty as a mark of piety and further dug deep into dogmas to "protect the members from earthly influences". Nobody noted that Assemblies of God mother churches in America have long joined the modern era.
Well, I was a victim of this failure of Assemblies to modernize. Like all my mother's children, I was born and bred in Assemblies of God Church. I attended sunday school from infancy and that accounts for why I've read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation at least 10 times in my life. Of course I will most likely die knowing and believing that Jesus is Lord. Like my mother and grand mother.
But as I moved up in life, I started questioning most of the things we did at Assemblies.
1. Why must we be in church from 8am to 2pm every sunday?
2. Why can't we praise God with modern musical instruments?
3. Why is it that non of my sisters have her ears pierced? Is wearing of ear rings really a sin?
4. Why is the church not welcoming "sinners" (those who wear trousers and ear rings) but rather treat them as pariah and unwelcome in the congregation of saints? Is the church for saints or sinners?
5. Why should I sit under a minister whose life experience is distinctively different from mine? How will a pastor who has never experienced or read about my situation be able to counsel me?
6. Why are our church buildings old and fading while others have modern edifices? Are we serving a poor God while they rich God? Even air conditioning of churches was a sin? Haba!
7. Does it still serve me to sit in a church where preaching must be translated real time from Igbo to English or vice versa? I can hear both languages, read and write in them too. Why distract myself with the interpreter?
8. Why must the pastor shout and jumb to deliver the word of God to me? Are we at war?
These and many other issues led me to Wordbase Assembly in Lagos. That was actually my first time of joining any church other than Assemblies. The secret is that the founder of the ministry, like me, was a product of Assemblies sunday school. He was always going to be different because of his modern savviness, great mastery of english language and natural brilliance. Those who know Humphrey Erumaka will tell you he's one of the most brilliant young ministers in the world. He knows the word and can tie bits and pieces of the scripture together to make historical sense. If you are in Lagos, visit his Church around Fredrick Faseun setreet at Okota and be convinced.
But by 1999, he lost me. His decision to contest for LG chairmanship under APP was something I couldn't live with. Personally, I saw him as bigger than the President of Nigeria. Again, apart from David, no other person ever combined the kingship and the priesthood successfully. Infact, the worst political leaders are pastors, reverends and sundry religious leaders who crossed carpet. In between I attended CPM but the prominence of the founder's wife in the ministry was something I couldn't deal with. I still don't believe women should be priests and find it tough to be led by a female minister. Am sorry about that.
Finally, in the midst of a major personal adversity and spiritual confusion, I accidentally ended up at Redeemed. I was recovering from a major motor accident in the year 2001 and needed a church close home to worship every sunday. Redeem was the closest to me, as seems the case to most of us. It will be difficult to drive within 5kms or walk 10 minutes without a Redeemed parish in view. Immediately, I found a church that answered all my worries about Assemblies. Church closes at 11am, pastor is a master degree holding staff of Chevron, modern music making instruments etc. Since then, I've not turned back from Redeemed. In the process I've learned Yoruba songs, hip-based dance steps, dressence and most importantly, contributed to the building of the biggest and most modern church infrastructure in the world called Redeemed camp. I also contributed to establishing a University and modern infrastructure that my children might in future need visa to use or see.
Redeem will never build a university in the east. They won't build hospitals. All the redeemed schools in the east were built by eastern parishes for revenue generation purposes. We still repatriate all our cash receipts to Lagos thereby ensuring that the economy of Igboland is further messed up. Even the top echelon of the church in the east will still have Yoruba as pastors in charge. It doesn't matter if they know how to minister the word or not. It doesn't matter if there is an Igbo man that is better qualified. The truth is that the Yoruba leadership of Redeemed don't trust the Igbo man enough to entrust money in his care. All redeemed properties are registered in their names. If you ask me, the only business our yoruba brothers have developed in the south east is church business. If you don't like redeemed, move over to Winners. Same policies. If you want to pray till thy Kingdom come, there is a mountain of fire near you, if you can't identify Depper life easily. The cumulative effect is that as much as N4b leaves the economy of the SE every sunday to the SW. There is no Igbo man in the governing council of Redeemed or Winners. Correct me if am wrong please.
What should we do to reverse this ugly trend?
1. Assemblies of God Church must modernize and lead the charge on our behalf. Recently, the General Supritendency changed hands from Rev Osueke to Prof Paul Emeka. That's a great move. But does the new man understand the place of youths in church building? At the moment, old men and women populate most of AGM churches. Like me, most have abandoned their parents and moved to modern pentecostal churches. If we don't come back, there is no future for Assemblies. Modernization includes abolishing those doctines that keep away sinners from coming to church. Wearing of trousers, piercing of ears, half naked top etc. Their must be a way to welcome them and gradually convert them. Treating them like dogs have not and will not help. Jesus didn't treat sinners like dogs, he spent most of his life with them.
2. Retire all the pastors who have no university degree or at best post them away from cities. There are other roles that can be found for the pastors left behind by education. They must be taken good care of with generous retirement packages. Our churches in the cities are crying for more of Rev Ogboso Ejindu and Humphrey Erumaka. Make minimum entry to pastoral school BSC/HND.
3. Build ultra modern worship houses that will dwarf others. The money is surely available with high profile members like the Secretary to Federal Government Anyim Pius Anyim, Ex-Gov and Ex-Minister Sam Egwu etc. With these and many more great men and women raised by AGM, we can build modern camps at Enugu, Umuahia and Ebonyi. We can also upgrade our existing pastoral schools to universities. Again, the Americans can also help by establishing some form of education exchange and sponsorship for interested members.
4. Ensure that no Assemblies of God church is still in service after 11.30am. Enforcing this will return more than 40% of our old members.
5. Improve the remuneration and welfare packages of pastors to attract and retain the right caliber of ministers. It won't be difficult to see what others are doing and improve on it.
6. Get the governors of the SE states buy into your program and support it as a veritable investment in social engineering. By using Pastor Adeboye to advertise income tax in Lagos, the government is effectively employing the church in social engineering. Same is possible in Alaigbo. Dr Uma Ukpai's voice is certainly stronger than that of all the SE governors combined. Why are the states not using his voice to fight social ills like kidnapping, armed robbery, prostitution, rape, cheating at exams, cheating at markets etc? In helping the govt, the church will benefit from generous land allocations and support for its expansion programs.
7. Assemblies of God Church leadership should as a matter of urgency establish Igbo only churches in towns like Aba, Umuahia, Owerri, Enugu, Abakaliki, Lagos etc to rival English only parishes of Assemblies in same towns. This will end translation in AGM while keeping the core aging membership. Even at major crusades and programs a special sitting arrangement can be made so that the core Igbo only members will have an interpreter with them. By the way what happened to the educational programs of yore? My grand mother learned to read and write in English from Assemblies of God, 7 Ozuitem street, Umuahia.
In conclusion, permit me to use this opportunity to thank and congratulate Pastor Laz of Chosen Ministries. You are representing very well and our last man standing. But as a matter of urgency, relocate your headquarters to Enugu. Lagos state govt will force you out of Oshodi-Apapa highway and the Lagos-Ibadan media will be used to destroy you. Whereas the same media is being used to protect Adeboye, Oyedepo and Kumuyi, you won't get the same benefit. Me and you know why so no need elaborating. Suffice it to say that no newspaper remembers that Erastus Akingbola is actually Pastor Erastus Akingbola of Redeemed Christian Church of God. Your own will be different sir. Do what Oyedepo did when he moved from Kaduna to Lagos. The same advice goes for the leaders of CPM, TREM etc. If church business is the biggest business in Nigeria, then Ndigbo should be in that business.
The govt of Abia state must help Pastor Emma Okorie to get at least 400 plots of land along the Aba-PH highway. They should also give the man necessary support and protection so we can have Rhema compete with Covenant and Redeemers universities. The earlier the better.