Sunday, 9 October 2016
THE CHURCH AND THE STATE OF THE NATION
While I agree and respect Peter Obi’s views on governance recently at the Platform, most especially because he has been a part of the system, I would like to categorically state that we do not need him to tell us of the waste in the system; because if that should be the case, then we all need to go back to school.
For instance, Presidential lodges at least, are buildings which could be put to other productive uses. But stolen money stashed away in foreign banks and real estate, do you need anyone to explain that racket to you?
$27 billion disappeared under IBB. More billions disappeared under Abdulsalami. $20 billion under GEJ, and many more billions of dollars under OBJ. Do you need lectures?
In the case of budget padding under the National Assembly, are you defending Saraki against Jibrin? Do you need lectures on your victim-hood?
The Kuti family fought impunity and stealing in government, to the point that their matriarch was thrown down from the heights and broke her neck. What did we do?
Fela sang about ITT (International Thief Thief) and BONN. He was called an “Amugbo” that must be ostracized!
Gani Fawehinmi pointed out waste in government, fought impunity, went to jail on our behalf, came out and found a political party. Yet we failed to give his party even one Local Government in the election!
However, my major concern (which is the reason for this write-up) is that while Peter Obi was busy talking about the corruption, wastage and excesses in government, there was no mention of the excesses, wastages, corruption, and extreme malpractices in the church, perpetrated by some of the very pastors that also spoke at that forum.
The church itself should be the first port of call on this matter because we are the custodians of the laws of God. In fact, the problem of the State is a reflection of the church, of which we servants of God are largely to be blamed. The following illustrations will explain further.
All ‘Christian’ politicians are members of one church or the other and regularly visit these places for pastoral consultation and approval. If the church had played its spiritual role properly, instead of practising spiritual 419, these politicians would have a different mindset today. Rather than counsel them according to the word of God which is clearly against any and every form of corruption, servants of God under the spiritual 419, prayed for them instead and encouraged them to continue with their corrupt ways, with an unwritten understanding that they would come back to show ‘appreciation’ to them (them being the servants of God).
The so called servants of God are rather the ones now struggling to get into self-serving relationships with these criminals parading as politicians and government officials, all in the bid to get money from them and have connections to big men in power. It is very sad and disturbing that servants of God have turned themselves into attention seekers, living large at the expense of their exploited members and political patrons.
Is it not shameful that these top pastors have all turned spiritual coaches for the politicians, senior government officials, heads of parastatals, etc?
There was a time when true servants of God ‘stayed’ in their churches and were not seen visiting or gallivanting across the globe with people who everyone knew to be corrupt. There was a time that it was the so called powerful people who would run after the servants of God, not like some of the servants of God today, who go out of their way, to be associated with openly corrupt people; the more corrupt they are, the richer they are and the more the servants of God want to be associated with them.
Consider what happened during the Sanusi purge of defaulting Nigerian banks a few years ago; we all remember the alleged involvement of some of the top directors of some of the now defunct banks (several of whom were also functional leaders of a mega church and very close to its head) with massive fraud and falsification. Where was Jesus in all their spurious dealings even while under the spiritual guidance of their renowned church leader?
The Bible says that God’s judgment will start from the Church and the altar, so why should we not address our matter even before addressing the politicians, government officials and the general ills of the nation?
Peter Obi lived a simple and disciplined life as a governor while the present day pastors live exalted lives.
A church founder, general overseer, president, etc, now needs armed bodyguards around him, even to take a walk within a secure housing estate! How many of them would have attended that same function (where Peter Obi spoke) in their exotic cars with their convoy of escorts, army of protocol officers and armed security details? How would they have felt when he spoke about wastage? Did they feel guilty or sad for themselves?
What is the image a servant of God is trying to project when he has armed security personnel positioned around the altar while he is preaching? How does he expect his congregation to feel? How does he expect people to see him and what does he want them to think? How does he expect Jesus, who he is preaching about, to see him? The same Jesus who went about on foot, looking and dressing like his disciples? The same Jesus who sat amongst the people and walked through the crowd, not minding who would touch Him?
Servants of God who have policemen protecting them really need to think. Do they stop to think of how those same policemen think of them? Do they really see them as real servants of God or just people parading themselves around exploiting money in the name of God and church? Is it because these policemen just collect their money and say nothing? Are we as servants of God, not the last set of people that should be seen with police protection? Do
Today, to see the head of a church, requires one to go through some major protocol - fill forms, meet with a series of junior pastors and if they are lucky, they can ‘qualify’ to eventually meet with the head of their church. This process can take months and in some cases over a year.
How can a member of a church say that they have to wait for months to be able to see the head of their church – who is living a lavish and ostentatious life as a result of the offerings, contributions, etc, of that same member?
Rather than influencing the world and effecting positive changes in society, the church today has allowed the world to influence it, as worldly ideas and ways have now become part of the church.
We were all witnesses to the low moral level sunk by the then CAN President, while Goodluck Jonathan was still the nation’s president - to the point that his private jet was involved in illegal arms dealing!
A CAN President?
A lot of us would have felt disgusted and ashamed at the spiritual 419 displayed when a retinue of servants of God, led by the same CAN president and then president Jonathan went on pilgrimage to Israel, crying and wailing that, “we have sinned…we have sinned Lord…forgive us…forgive us”! Meanwhile, they are busy planning on how to scheme more money, favours, contracts and even oil wells from the government.
Are we so spiritually ignorant that we don’t consult the Bible anymore? Why are the spiritual leaders fooling the people and the congregation?
Until the Church gets back to its original role, which is to maintain the spiritual and moral uprightness of the nation, there is no hope for this nation.
The change must start with the Church. The present era of private jets and bullet-proof cars for men of God, unreasonably sized travelling entourages, accommodation in the most expensive hotels and ‘presidential’ lodges, endless extortion of members in the guise of financial ‘partnerships’ must all come to an end!
Government must put an immediate stop to the use of policemen by servants of God and other private individuals! It is not only an abuse of the police, but also sending the wrong impression to society.
A number of years ago, I was invited to a meeting or conference of servants of God and decided to attend. After driving into the premises where the conference was being held, I came out of my car and noticed some vehicles speeding and recklessly driving into the premises. I saw some men who looked like thugs in a bus, a couple of other cars and a vehicle with siren. They even almost ran over my leg. I then saw one servant of God come out of one of the cars; all these for just one man! In the same conference, I saw servants of God reveling in their various titles, bishop, archbishop, apostle, etc. I think I was the only one with the title of ‘pastor’, to which some of them that had known me asked why I was still ‘stuck’ with that title and wondered why I had not upgraded. That was the last time I attended such meeting!
I too know what I can say to people and to my congregation if I want to exploit them for money, but I cannot even consider doing such, knowing full well that it is wrong and that is not the errand or assignment that God sent me on!
Churches and servants of God today, are all about money and how much they can get from people. They have marketers, who can teach some of the marketers in our banks a thing or two about aggressive marketing. Servants of God today are not only all about preaching prosperity messages, but are also in the business of selling anointed water, anointed oil, anointed handkerchiefs, etc, all in the name of getting as much money as possible from people. Church goers and other victims need to check their bible, to search if Jesus ever sold any healings, miracles or blessings – he did not!
How could the church keep demanding endless financial contributions from members most of whom are living in abject poverty?
The word of God, God’s expectations of us, morals and good righteous living, are no longer emphasized in churches. The church is now no different from entertainment clubs where performing artists and comedians perform regularly in the church’s bid to retain their members.
You see church billboards advertising upcoming Sunday services, promising people that a popular comedian or performing artist will be performing in that service.
Is it any wonder then that carnality, rather than spirituality, is now openly advertised in these venues?
The priority of the church leaders should not be the same as the world or its politicians. This is why power has left the church. One wonders what the fate of the church will be in the coming years at this rate of decadence. What church will Jesus come to meet when He returns? A church which cares not how money is made and brought to its altar? A church which has no more place for the poor man?
Unfortunately today, when a rich man informs the servant of God that he is no longer coming to church, the servant of God will not be able to sleep or eat and can even going into fasting. Whereas, if a poor man does the makes a similar decision, the same servant of God will not even think twice about it.
What a shame!
Peter Obi spoke positively about the schools which have been returned to the old missions. What are the Pentecostal churches presently doing with their own schools? The fees of these Pentecostal schools, set up entirely from proceeds of the unending contributions of members, are now beyond the members’ financial reach, such that the same politicians openly patronized by the church leaders are the ones whose children attend the church schools.
What a shame!
The church, more than the government and certainly much more than private businesses, should be in a position to offer free books and decent classrooms to their students, including members and non members, regardless of religion and social status.
Some people reading this may think that I am jealous of some of these servants of God, but that is not the case, as I can easily afford everything that they lust for. I rather choose to use money for more constructive things that will positively affect individual lives and society in general.
If my own church (as small as it is) can do this, then I see no reason why other churches, especially the big ones, cannot do at least the same. Since 2011, we have operated a school which not only offers absolutely free education, with free books and stationary, but also in an environment that is conducive, with air conditioned classrooms, a dedicated generator, etc. It is not just a makeshift school, but one with well-paid, qualified teachers and a high standard, as we use the same books as Corona Schools. We currently have over one hundred children, with a number of them coming from the Motherless Babies Home (who are supposed to be cared for by the State government) and other churches.
The church should give back to the society, instead of trying so hard to make money from everything it gets involved in. Where is Jesus in all of this?
Until these problems are addressed, there is no hope for the nation since the church is made up of the citizens. Our leaders are a product of the society, and society is the product of the church, simply put.
Christ says in the Bible, that on that day many people (pastors, evangelists, deacons, born-again Christians, etc) will say that they did great things for the gospel of the Lord. He will however say to them; “I know you not”!
This might be the fate of many of our church pastors now wearing diamond to the pulpit.
Churches now believe that projecting success in their environment amounts to being right before God, and the pastors’ wives going on overseas shopping sprees (at the expense of hapless members) signifies God’s showers of prosperity.
It is so bad that a very senior female pastor of a mega church once claimed to her congregation that her dressing in diamond encrusted cloths and other expensive jewelry during all her church appearances, was ‘in their interest’. Every one attending the church for the first time, according to her, would not fail to be impressed by the ‘blessings of God’ upon the church, as symbolized by the pastor’s appearance.
No wonder that these pastors have become nothing more than ‘Motivational Speakers’ who have taken detailed lessons in the art of public speaking.
Therefore, for every believer who has listened to Peter Obi, they should also examine the church and consider their respective pastor’s way of life in light of Peter Obi’s standards.
They need to study their bibles and ask themselves if the church (their servant of God) is operating in accordance to what they see in their bibles.
They need to ask themselves if their church is effectively helping those who really need help in the society.
They need to ensure that their churches positively influence members in the society, so that our future leaders will be God fearing and will desire to govern as God intends them to govern.
As I write this, let the Holy Spirit and my congregation judge me!
Pastor Seyi Ogunorunyinka