Dr. Samson Ayokunle, CAN President

By UCHE CHRIS

The sad news in this nation since Sunday, 20 March 2020, was not the accelerating rate of spread of the Covid 19, as heart-wrenching as it is; but the provocative and unwarranted blame and reproach Pentecostal churches brought on the body of Christ over the Covid 19 pandemic crisis facing not only the nation but the entire world. It is ordinarily inconceivable that any church leader would contemplate holding a mass service with the raging human wildfire threatening to engulf the nation which the Lagos state governor, Babajide Sanwo Olu is grappling strenuously to contend.

Apart from the Catholic Church and Mountain of Fire Ministries, MFM, which ordered a complete lockdown, virtually every other denomination opened, whether in the church premises or at house fellowship centres. In any humanitarian situation like this, the church is expected to play a leading role to ensure the safety of lives; unfortunately, the reverse seems to be the case here.

All over the world businesses and social services are being shut down to stop the spread of the virus; major conferences such as the Spring IMF/World Bank meeting, as well as all major sporting activities including the July Tokyo Olympics Games, have been suspended; even here in Lagos and Nigeria, schools have been shut, airports and land borders closed, and markets on lockdown. What major proof does anybody need to know that this is a serious global threat?

Nigeria was a late arrival in adopting stringent measures to curb its spread because of some of these attenuating circumstances, such as considerations for religious worship and personal inconveniences of those in authority; now we are the worse for it. However, it is still better late than never, but the actions of the Pentecostals undermined further government ability to safeguard the lives of Nigerians.

The nagging question is, why did the churches open despite government order to refrain from doing so? In my local church, we held service at cell fellowship centres. It can be argued that since Sunday is a service day to God, we should meet. But such ignorant position flies in the face of history and the word of God. The New Testament church was not built on a particular day of worship; that was part of the Old Testament law of the Sabbath which Jesus said was meant for man and not man for it.

Sunday as a day of worship was not adopted until the time of Emperor Theodosius in 380 AD when belief in Christianity became a matter of imperial command; it was originally the Day of the Sun and was adopted to end that pagan worship. So the day is not original to Christianity. Paul rebuked the Galatians for their observance of days, months, years and time of worship. (Gal.4.10)

Secondly, the bibles teach that every day is of the Lord; the idea of a particular day of worship is the bane of the church, where we remember God only once in a week. Therefore, it is very clear in the scripture that nowhere did God say we should worship Him on Sunday or any particular day for that matter.

Again, it is disobedience to the authority of government and the law of the state, both of which the Bible condemns unequivocally. Now, how can we disobey government in the guise of serving God when the bible says we should obey the government in all things? This is part of the hypocrisy and deceit in the present church.

My former Pastor, Tunde Bakare, used to warn years ago of a time like this when mass congregation meetings may be inconvenient or prohibited; and the futility of worshipping at particular locations like camps, which was the sin of the Jews over the temple of Solomon. Because most church leaders have been enslaved to their doctrine of worship, it was difficult for them to accept reality.

But it goes deeper than that; what happened on Sunday was the unravelling of the materialistic propensity of the Pentecostal church. As the bible puts it, a tree is known by its fruits…; and out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Pastors calling on their members to par their tithes and offerings from their home only tell where their heart is.

There is one reason and one reason only for the outrage and infamy of the Pentecostals on Sunday: Greed for money. As a minister of the gospel, I say this with every sense of responsibility, and my experience on Sunday bears it out. My family hosted the Sunday fellowship service and there was nothing to convince me otherwise of this conclusion because the entire purpose and motive were to collect tithe and offering.

Nobody would have lost or missed anything except the money. Officials were assigned to ensure that the service held. Why is that so? Has the church ceased from being a voluntary choice and a community of believers? That gave me another reason.

But first about the money: Most churches are run as businesses; they have made all their financial projections and the attendant projects and programmes, but never anticipated a Covid 19 situation that could topple their calculations. Churches are now run on plans and programmes and no longer on prayer and the Holy Spirit.

The other reason, which is fear, is that churches – Pentecostals – have become human zoos, and the members in cages, who must be protected and shepherded from external influences. In order word, most preachers and leaders are afraid of losing their members and are prepared to keep them within control. The implications of this are twofold:

First, it portrays the selfish nature which the church has assumed, as it is now the proprietary prerogative of the founders; and his/her net-worth depends on its continuing function and profitability. For them, God has ceased building the church; they are the ones in charge. Secondly, it also shows that they have failed so woefully to mature their members to stand strong in times of adversity; they have created a dependent Christian church and culture where the pastor perpetually bears the burdens of the congregation as the only person who can solve their problems.

This is the reason for manipulations and deceptions in the church because the people remain ever babies in Christ: “ever learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth of Christ”, as Paul put it to Timothy.

People have said that it was arrogance and pride that made them open: That begs the issue; should such be mentioned of church leaders? Paul wrote: “Give no offence in anything that the ministry or gospel be not blamed or blasphemed”, (2Cor. 6.3). It does not matter the reason, their actions blasphemed the gospel and stand condemned.

Ultimately, those leaders are not true shepherds of the flock; Jesus said, a true shepherd, who he was, lays down his life for the sheep, (John 10). Instead, those leaders, like true hirelings, which their actions make them, actually endangered the lives of their people, because of material benefits. It is assumed, – although we pray, not expected – that some infections would have taken place during these congregating; whether 20,000 or 50: there is only one verdict for the action: greed and inordinate ambition.

They should remember that there is a day of reckoning for everyone, especially the preachers. They will answer to God for any soul that perishes on account of their selfishness and bad judgment. The government should be uncompromising on their resolve; any church leader who disobeys its order is a child of the devil dealt with. What is wrong is wrong!