If salvation will take us to heaven, most Nigerians are sure of tickets to this celestial final home. Christians among us are heaven-friendly, Christ-friendly, holiness-friendly so much that sinners are becoming rare commodity in a country of over 60 million Christ followers. In spite of our abject poverty, shocking penury, blindness of our leaders, erosion of hope, mindless purposelessness of our politicians and the permanent exile of social justice, we still read our Bibles, pay our tithes, fellowship with the brethren, do community services and endlessly praise our God, the father.
The mosaic and intricate complexity of our pastors is a testimony to the awesome majesty and wait for it, irony, of our Lord of lords. A candid and panoramic view of our pastors gives a portrait of infinite joy, sadness and helpless amazement. What does the image of a pastor connote?
For real, he is a man of God! Further, a pastor is that triune figure of peace, authority and holiness. He may also be highly educated; a school dropout, ex-armed robber, ex-prostitute, former politician, illiterate ‘okrika’ seller in Oshodi, unemployed graduate, university professor, carpenter, bus driver, entrepreneur and Bible scholar. These technicolour aggregations of various human beings from different backgrounds and vocations underpin the truth behind God’s timeless wisdom to use the foolish things of this sinful world to confound the wise.
I was born a Muslim in Lagos. Had all my education in Lagos and later UI. As a converted Christian and of the warrior variant, I wear my born-again badge with fierce pride, dignity and honour. I have humbly etched on my mind a settled conviction of eternal afterlife primarily due to my wholesale and unquestioning acceptance of Jesus Christ as my Lord and saviour. To God be the glory!
The Christian revival that has engulfed Nigeria these few years has not brought in its awesome wake that visible change in our politics and politicians. As the soul of this paralysed nation is being purified daily from a divine oil of gladness which flows from heaven, so is the shameless silence of our pastors, majority of whom are prosperity charlatans and crowd pleasers that shy away from speaking the truth. Churches are now being advertised as a banking hall where worshippers could withdraw money by sheer mournful praises and diligent rendering of tithes and offerings. In other words, Pentecostalism is in danger of self-immolation through blatant and unrelenting prattle on materialism.
Pulpit homiletics, praise songs, magazines, tapes, CD, DVD and text messages are draped with irritating money-chasing innuendoes you begin to wonder where are the Lord’s Army in the mould of zealous John, Paul, Peter, Simon, Luther, Zwingle, Calvin, Spurgeon and Steven some of whom were willing martyr for the universal revolution of the Great Commission.
Dapper televangelists control the airwaves and pollute the minds of their viewers with persuasive appeal to support, donate and buy commercial gibberish in the form of books, anointed handkerchiefs, sanctified plates, CDs and DVDs. The themes of hell and damnation, sin and iniquity, judgment, poverty of Christians in Nigeria are rarely touched. One in ten preachers in America says the concept of sin is outdated. Liberal and post-modern pastors are becoming after dinner speakers with awesome knowledge of plagiarised wealth generating ideas, self-management bugaboo and vision-building boring narratives.
Christianity is not about comfort but the rejection of comfort for the emancipation of the poor from the ignorance of salvation and the joy of the Lord. Pastors in Nigeria are yet to see that the deliverance of Nigeria from recurring underdevelopment, political backwardness, social paralysis, economic stagnation and moral decadence are their immediate Great Commission. Pastors in Nigeria should be unsatisfied, uncomfortable, uncompromising and unhappy until every dark demons feeding on poor Nigerians are exorcised. The argument that politics and religion should not mix is a cliché pouted by oppressors of bygone eras. Pastors are Nigerians and therefore they must have passionate interests in the development and progress of their weakened nation. Due to their high calling as men of God and the awe and respect we give them, their voices should be more strident and unruly against government bereft of vision.
Pentecostal pastors in Nigeria need to borrow a leaf from Desmond Tutu of South Africa. This is a man of God who challenges injustice at the behest of his own safety and life. He is the biblical saint in the wilderness with sad news to the rich and wealthy to repent and come to the aid of poor South Africans. The plenteous harvest of pastors in Nigeria should be the foundation for a coalition of militant voices demanding a change in the body of our democratic mess. The hard won gains of Pentecostalism in Nigeria would remain a Pyrrhic victory until a forward trajectory is enthroned which will force a new paradigm shift away from harassing worshippers with tithe-guilt to one of liberating them from the demon of oppression and man-made poverty.
. Deacon Oladeji writes from [email protected]