The people bigger than you have paid for that branch. Name your price and we will pay you off. I sat down before this man of God in utter disbelief of what he was narrating to me. Why? He had just been schemed out of a “juicy” branch. He screamed, shouted and threatened to go to court, but I pleaded with him to give his fight over to God. But in the quietness of my heart, I said to myself, “is this a church or a car dealership center?”
Philip Jenkens, renowned “History and Religious Scholar” published a book that every church leader in Nigeria must read. It is titled, “The Lost History of Christianity”. If this book does not break anyone, I wonder what else will do. This book documents all the activities and strategies of the Islamic world to take over christian buildings and convert them to Mosques. Don’t say, “God forbid, it can’t happen”. It has already happened as more than 1,700 church denominations in the UK and their properties have already been taken over, and many more are still be taken over. Here in Canada, many churches have been taken over and converted to Mosques. See, rather than focusing on quality, our energy has for the most part been focused on, “quantity”. We derive satisfaction in numbers but fail to realize that the church of Christ has always advanced through the furnace of persecutions.
In other parts of Europe, it’s also been reported that Islam is now the fastest growing religion in post-Christian Europe. In the US, legislations have been pushed and promoted to weaken the church, many of which have passed their readings. And sadly, there are plans underway to replicate this in other continents of the world. Our Muslim friends are very strategic. They don’t create branches of their Mosques like Pizza franchises. But, trust me, they are now having more societal impact than us in manners that will daze many of us if I begin to uncover some of the statistics at my disposal. These are documented research findings that I have laid my hands on, and sadly, there is nothing like, “God forbid”. They are already succeeding in this venture. The fault is not God’s but ours. Joseph Myer, one of the scholars working on this trend once said, “The Muslim community and its many offspring organizations are committed to achieving increased influence through immigration, education, political legitimacy and the creation of gigantic Mosques in major cities”.
But the question is this: Should a church expand their network to other locations? Why not, if there is a need for it as led by God? But the question here is this: “How do we start a new branch of our churches?” Who should pastor the church? Here is the truth. The current process in many Nigerian churches—particularly in the Pentecostal fold—is extremely flawed and corrupt and God is calling us to repent and reform the process. It was Dr Erwin Lutzer the Senior Pastor of the Moody Church who once said, “The rot within a church cannot withstand the storms outside of a church”. Sadly, a lot of church leaders who plant churches use it as a weapon of victimization, punishment, and money laundering—a situation that is often disguised to the public as God’s will for expanding the kingdom. There have been numerous cases of branch pastors rebelling against their founders by converting these branches to their own ministries as their own pay back strategy.
In the US alone, many lawsuits have been filed by branch pastors of many of our churches against the founders of their churches to settle economic and ownership scores. There have been numerous cases of church leaders moving pastors that don’t play ball with them from a supposedly juicy branch to a very difficult location. This is not just a remote case, but a very widespread experience in the body of Christ that almost every truthful person reading this article will agree to. You have to understand that there are many things I can’t share in a public space like this to avert crisis in the body of Christ, and to prevent the weakening of the faith of younger believers—many of whom are now leaving the faith. But the Lord told me clearly to write on this subject from a heart of love. I had written this article, but could not publish it for many days, given that I needed to pray over it and think through its attendant reactions. But the Holy Spirit pricked me heart again—to speak as I was instructed.
Really, I am not sent to the elders in the body of Christ. Who are mine to correct an elder? But the time of reckoning for everyone is coming, whether you are an elder or a baby. When your time is up on earth, which is a certainty, you, just like me too, will stand before God to take responsibility over your actions and inactions on earth. But I am sent to the younger generation, to warn them never to toe the path of merchandising the spread of church branches. Focus your attention on building strong and healthy churches, pastored by sound disciples of Christ. Here is the truth: There is enormous corruption in many of our current church planting strategies. The scale and scope of bribery and corruption; vindictiveness, competition, contentions, fights, and acrimony in our church planting activities is the highest in the history of the church of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Historically, it has been proven many times that the influence of the church is not largely driven by quantity but by quality—the quality of the Christians in our churches. Nations are not impacted by quantities of churches but by the quality of the local assembly in every society. Yes, the Lord mandated us in the great commission to take the gospel to the nations of the world, but not by setting up branches as franchises—purely for status and financial benefit purposes—and appointing pastors—whether called or not—to manage the destinies of God’s people in those branches.
It was only twelve apostles that turned the world upside down. I can tell you stories upon stories of pastors who never left their countries, but whose ministries reached the ends of the world with unbelievable impact. It is not the quantity of church members that solely determines the spread of the gospel and the growth of God’s kingdom. We can still reach the whole world from a single location, leveraging on technology without necessarily planting churches in every location. But for those that are called to spread out, things must be done in a very prudent and disciplined manner to avoid the “delusion of grandeur”—a case where we mistake size for impact. This is what is happening at the moment with a lot of younger pastors working towards starting churches in every corner of their cities just to create that sense of, “belonginess to the club of the big pastors”. This is not the kingdom model that will produce disciples. Our church planting efforts must be strategic, spiritual and surgical. We must put square pegs in square holes. We must see every local church as an opportunity to disciple the nation. Join me tomorrow for the last part of this subject matter.
Ayo Akerele, a leadership and system development strategist, and minister of the word, writes from Canada and can be reached through [email protected]