Christianity in Nigeria is facing an existential crisis that demands a review of the policies of the Church. When situations like the one confronting Nigerian Christians occur in any community, the prudent step is to review the source of the confusion and defeat. Based on knowledge and truth, men of noble birth would propose and implement remedial measures.
The crisis facing Christians in Nigeria should not have gotten to this terrible state but for a fundamental error by some prominent Christians in applying the wrong therapy to a serious disease. When it was clear that the Church was drifting off course, God raised a group of Christian Elders to warn Christians, particularly, the leadership of the Church. The Elders advised the Christian Leaders to be circumspect and handle the affairs of Christianity with truth. Unfortunately, that Godly counsel was ignored.
To worsen matters, some undiscerning people in the Church arose campaigning that “Christians should love” one another as solution to terrible misconducts in the Christian fold. Most of us failed to realize that while “love” is the nature of God and it is a Christian virtue, “love” does not set free from bondage. Only the truth sets free. Love will satisfy you at its own expense, show you compassion and even empathy, but it will not set you free. Love will visit you in prison and sit with you in the dungeon, but it will not set you free. Only the truth sets free.
Instead of applying truth to critical problems in the Church, the Christian leadership applied “love”. Until the Nigerian Church returns to the truth, it will neither solve the problems of Christians, nor provide help for Nigeria to chart a course of safety out of its present storm. Only the truth sets free. Whether it is an individual, a family, a Church, or a nation, the only solution to any problem is the truth. Only the truth sets free. If someone lies to himself or listens to people who lie to him, he will continue to suffer. The day he is tired of suffering, he will go to the truth.
At the onset, let us make this point clear that the problem in Nigeria is primarily not with the jihadists or the Islamists. They are not the crux of the problem. The basic problem is with the Church that is mightily endowed by God but fails to maximize its potential to defend and secure itself. I have often said in many presentations that “Islam is a threat, but the Church is the problem.” The Church became a problem because if failed to do what it ought to do. Darkness only thrives when light is not shining.
In this exhortation, titled “PARADOX OF THE MIGHTY”, we shall learn a lesson from Israel in Egypt and, from it, draw guidance for Nigerian Christians. Pharaoh made a paradoxical statement in Exodus 1: 9 when he said,
“Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we:”
Please wait a minute, Pharaoh. By your own admission, the children of Israel were “more and mightier” than you and your people.
“How come then that it was the people who were more, and mightier, that became slaves, to people who were lesser and weaker than they were?”
“How did the people who were more and mightier become slaves to those that were fewer and weaker?”
This is the paradox; the paradox of the mighty. Those who were more and mightier were naturally expected to enslave those who were lesser and weaker. That is the natural order. However, something unnatural had happened and the greater became slaves to their lesser opponents.
This is the paradox of Christianity in Nigeria. Christians are indisputably the largest demographic group in Nigeria being the majority in four out of the six geo-political zones. They constitute the largest educated group in the country, the most enlightened, the most civilized, and the largest group of professionals, skilled workers, technologists and scientists. Even the wealth of Nigeria: be it gas, oil, seaports and the bulk of the arable land are all on Christian lands.
Why are the “more and mightier” in Nigeria enslaved, marginalized, oppressed and facing extermination from those who are lesser and evidently weaker than the Christian demographic group? We may discover some factors responsible for this anomaly by considering the story of the Israelites in Egypt and quickly applying corrective measures to our situation. Nigeria is just sixty years old as a country. I am certain no Nigerian wants to wait 400 years for Moses to arrive.
I remember a story I read about three animals that went on a hunt; a bear, a wolf and a fox. During the hunt, they each caught a deer. The bear turned to both the wolf and the fox and asked, “How do you think we should divide these animals?”
The wolf spoke and said, “I think each person should keep what he killed.”
Suddenly, the bear pounced on the wolf, killed him and ate him. After eating the wolf, the bear turned to the fox and repeated the question.
The fox answered, “I think you should keep what you killed, and take mine, too. For good measure, you should also take what the wolf left behind.”
The bear smiled and asked the fox, “Where did you learn such wisdom?’
The fox answered, “From the wolf.”
Don’t wait until you learn from your own experience, you can learn from the experience of another person. Experience has no copyright. If you don’t have it, use the experience of someone who has gone through it before. We don’t have to spend 400 years in bondage before we learn how to get out of it.
I am certain some of my discerning brethren would say, “But God had told Abraham the Israelites would spend 400 years in bondage.”
That is correct. But they left after 430 years. They spent 30 years extra. Why? Moses arose at 390 years to provide leadership and they rejected him. He returned after 40 years. If they hadn’t rejected him, they probably would have left after 400 years as God told Abraham. Besides, I am certain God never said we would spend 400 years in this crisis. Therefore, we must end it now!
Lesson number one: the children of Israel eventually spent 430 years in Egypt and they never prepared to defend themselves. They entered Egypt with privilege and failed to realize that the seasons had changed after Joseph. Most Nigerian Christians still relish the memories of the 60s and the 70s when Christian influence was propelling Nigeria to greatness. Most Christian elites are still carrying on with the Christian mindset of the 60s and 70s. The seasons have changed. To mention but a few, Awolowo is no longer a political leader, he is dead. Gowon is no longer in power, Chief Simeon Adebo is no longer in the Civil Service, Philip Ayida is no longer a super Permanent Secretary. The seasons have changed. When seasons change, engagements should change.
Secondly: the children of Israel lived most of 430 years in Egypt without a leader. After Joseph died, there was no record of another leader that could be the rallying point. They were so used to living without leadership, that when Moses arose, they rejected him. They were not used to having a leader. This same crisis is in the Nigerian Church. If you don’t believe me, open a WhatsApp group platform and invite some Nigerian Christians and proceed to tell them what to post and what not to post. The inability to have a God appointed leader is one of the consequences of competition and rivalry amongst the Denominations.
Thirdly, the Egyptians were fewer and weaker than the Israelites, but they had a strong leader – Pharaoh. He gave the strategy in Ex. 1: 10 when Pharaoh said, “let us deal wisely” with them. That is, let us outsmart them. Oftentimes, one hears of Christians lament that divide and rule is used on them. How come it is only the Christians that are always divided and ruled? Can’t they also divide and rule their adversaries? Or would they say it is not scriptural? When Paul stood before Claudius Lysias in Acts 23: 6-10 and turned the Pharisees against the Sadducees, wasn’t his divide and rule? He confused their tongues.
The implication is this: lesser and weaker people with a strong leader will defeat more and mightier people without a leader. A flock of lambs led by a lion will defeat a pride of lions led by a lamb. Leadership is the key.
When God was going to help the children of Israel out of bondage, He raised a leader for them.
Lesson number four: They had no leader to harmonize their potentials. Their enemies recognised their potentials but due to lack of strong leadership, the Israelites developed a weak mindset and easily became slaves. Even after God got them out of Egypt and to the border of Promised Land, their self-esteem and national psyche had been battered and they only saw themselves as “grasshoppers.”
Finally, because they lived many years without Godly and visionary leadership, they developed a culture of disobedience and indiscipline. Even in the wilderness, they rebelled against God repeatedly because they were not used to receiving instructions or following orders.
GOD’S INTERVENTION IN A NATION
Whenever God wants to help a people, He gives them a gift. The gift is neither natural resources nor a good climate. The gift of God to Israel, in reality, was not the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey. The gifts of God to Israel were men, Godly leaders like Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Barak, Mordecai and Nehemiah, amongst many others. So long as those men were in power, the land produced milk and honey. Without them, it produced thorns and thistles. The Godly leaders were the gift.
Natural resources do not make nations great. Consider Japan, Taiwan and Germany. These three countries have little or nothing when it comes to natural resources yet, they are rated amongst the great nations on earth. By contrast, look at Nigeria, filled to overflowing with abundant natural resources and a good climate yet, it is becoming the poverty capital of the world. Leadership is the missing key.
Golda Meir, a former Israeli Prime Minister said concerning Moses,
“… He took us 40 years through the desert in order to bring us to the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil!”
Israel is without crude oil, yet, how many nations in the Middle East, with their oil wealth, could stand beside Israel today? That is the power of leadership. Natural resources do not make nations great leadership produces greatness.
Nigerian Christians should focus prayers on raising Godly and competent leaders and reduce emphasis on titles and positions in the Church. Please, permit me to stress that is not a blanket condemnation of all title holders and positions in the Church. Undoubtedly, there are many Christians occupying positions and bearing titles and they are doing very well. What one is drawing attention to is corporate Christian leadership to resolve corporate crisis. Please let us bear this in mind. What we need right now, is a corporate spiritual leader appointed by God for this season.
There is a difference between a corporate spiritual leader and a title holder. Eli carried the title and sat in the office but little Samuel was the national spiritual leader. None of his words fell to the ground. At a point, God reported Eli to Samuel.
Eliashib was the High Priest but Nehemiah was the national leader. When Nehemiah took a break from the land of Judah and returned to king Artaxerxes, the people went into disarray and the temple was desecrated. It was only after Nehemiah returned that order was restored, the priests were fed and Tobiah (the arch enemy of the Jews) was thrown out of the chamber inside the temple of God. Who could have imagined that it was the High Priest, Eliashib that would accommodate Tobiah inside the temple? Eliashib was not a leader, but he was the High Priest. Leadership is not about the title and position. Leadership is the ability to maintain order and provide direction to achieve corporate goals and objectives. See what is happening in Nigeria. Islamic insurgents have been ravaging Christianity since 2009! This has been going on for 11 years; not months, not weeks, but years. Now, the attacks have assumed dimensions of genocide. Where is the corporate spiritual leader for Nigerian Christians?
Each season has its own God appointed leader. We must go to God in fervent prayer for Him to reveal the leader that He, the Most High, has prepared for this season. In doing so, we should not look for title and position. There were many priests, Levites and prophets in Israel when God raised men like Gideon, Barak, Jephtah, and Othniel to deliver His people.
It is evident that those who currently occupy leadership positions in the Church have proven, by their actions and inactions, that they are not God’s appointed leaders for this season. Let us weigh issues based on truth and not on sentiment. Let us not deceive ourselves. Remember, we are engaging the truth. A Christian leadership that condones electoral malpractice in the Church and the bribing of delegates, with money collected from the enemies of Jesus Christ, cannot be God’s appointed spiritual leadership. Those who rig elections cannot claim they were ordained by God. You don’t have credible corporate spiritual leader. What you have is counterfeit spiritual authority. Such leaders will only draw wrath from God – not grace.
The Church of Jesus Christ runs on strict spiritual principles. Once those spiritual principles are violated, there is an immediate severance from the Lord of grace. Nigerian Christians must be diligent to ensure that counterfeit spiritual authority does not stand to represent them before God. When the person occupying corporate leadership position sins, it is the followers that get punished. It’s a spiritual principle. God proved it in Shiloh and He proved it again when David conducted a census. That was why God spoke to Israel in Jeremiah 7:12:
“But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel.”
Nigerian Christians go to Shiloh and see what God did to it because of counterfeit spiritual authority in Israel and learn some experience. You cannot collect money from Baal-Berith to make Abimelech king and expect peace in the land. What you will get is bloodshed and oppression.
The calamity that is befalling Christians in Nigeria is evident confirmation of corporate leadership crisis in the Church. Before the CAN election in 2019, I posted the following comment on a WhatsApp platform of some eminent Christians:
“If the Nigerian Church is not suicidal, it would resolve its leadership crisis at the next election of CAN; but if it is a suicidal Church, it would not.”
The wanton murder of Christians, the marginalization and oppression of believers, the hopelessness, the despair, the lack of clear direction on what to do, the gross disunity in the face of corporate danger, the inability of Christians to maximize their enormous potentials to defend and protect themselves, are all indications that there is no credible spiritual leader from God. A set of corporate leaders that openly compromise and fraternize with the enemies of Jesus Christ and is openly corrupt and treacherous cannot claim to represent God. Men can confer titles and positions but only God raises credible spiritual leaders.
Men cannot raise counterfeit spiritual leadership and expect God to stamp him with divine approval. Once the process of raising leaders violates God’s moral and spiritual standard, God will not give grace to such leaders. God stated in Hos. 8: 4,
“They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off.”
Nigerian Christians let us engage the truth, so that we can be set free from bondage and oppression. Return to the truth. The events unfolding in the country and in the Church confirm that we lack God appointed leadership for this season. This is where we should focus prayers and efforts. Before we are destroyed, let us find our God appointed leader.
The problem in Nigeria is not simply the Islamists bringing darkness upon the land but the Christians who fail to shine as the light of the world. “Don’t curse the darkness; light a candle.”
Go to the truth. Only the truth sets free.
This is the paradox of the mighty.
God bless you.
7th August, 2020