•Pentecostal Christianity seems to have lost its spiritual relevance to the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic; this may be the time to rethink its concept and essence!
By UCHE CHRIS
In the 1980s, a budding banker turned crooner, Mr Peterside Otong released a music album with the above titled. It was in the heady days of the IBB regime with its SAP economic policy, and convoluted, twisted and tortuous political transition; when most of the social and economic challenges facing the country today were in their formative and embryonic gestation.
After a perfunctory survey of the national landscape, which provided little hope and consolation for a confident future, with all the promises of a new dawn in jeopardy, he, in exasperation, wondered from where the solutions to the myriad of problems of the nation would come. Then, the question was directed at the political prophets of the day, who promised heaven on earth but delivered hell.
This time around we are asking the real so-called prophets of God whose business it is to provide prognostic insight into the future to prepare and acquaint ordinary mortals about divine mandate and plans.
At a time like this when the entire mankind lies prostrate before a virulent pestilence, no word of warning, caution and admonition came from the spiritual shepherds of the people. Like their political counterparts, they had promised us prosperity and health, but we reap hunger and disease. Where are the prophets?
For that is their spiritual duty: To receive divine intelligence and report to the people to forewarn them about such divine indignation and judgment. Coming very early in the year after they had regaled us with their prophecies for the year and predictions about peace and prosperity, here we face the real Armageddon. Both in Nigeria, the citadel of Pentecostalism, and all the world, pastors and prophets were fast sleep, while divine judgment was coming upon mankind.
It is either the word of God is wrong and ineffectual, which is unlikely or there are no true prophets on the earth because the word of God is so clear: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealed his secret unto his servants the prophets”. So where were the prophets when this was coming? Before the famine that ravaged the ancient world, God revealed it to
Pharoah, a heathen king; similarly, he revealed his divine plan against Babylon to King Nebuchadnezzar, another heathen. This is the purpose for which prophets are raised; where are they?
We know nothing happens without his knowledge and if he knew about it, then the prophets ought to have known also if they were in touch. The obvious conclusion from this is that most of the prophecies and predictions we hear every New Year are concocted fabrications of fertile minds. So when next you hear them, you are at risk to believe it.
Ezekiel 13:2-7 says: “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who are now prophesying. Say to those who prophesy out of their imagination: ‘Hear the word of the Lord! Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their spirit and have seen nothing! Your prophets, O Israel, are like jackals among ruins.
“You have not gone up to the breaks in the wall to repair it for the house of Israel so that it will stand firm in the battle on the day of the Lord. Their visions are false and their divinations a lie. They say, “The Lord declares,” when the Lord has not sent them; yet they expect their words to be fulfilled. Have you not seen false visions and uttered lying divinations when you say, “The Lord declares,” though I have not spoken?
President Buhari was spot on when he alluded to the fact in his last nationwide broadcast that this pandemic will redefine the ways we conduct our business and social life. The role of religion and its stranglehold of the minds of the people will likely be one of the major areas to be affected. Most Christians have had their beliefs questioned, expectations eroded and respect for preachers undermined given the scandalous and ungodly conduct of many churches and their leaders in this trying time.
Apart from failing the people spiritually – to forewarn them of the pestilence that was upon the world and to raise a prayer cover to avert it – most churches failed the people who provide for the resources for grandeur and aggrandizement amongst the pastors in their greatest time of need. Most of the enthusiastic Sunday congregants are bearing the brunt of the lockdown and all its consequences and feeling abandoned by their Christian community. Everybody is looking unto the government to meet their needs; so it should be. But what about the churches where they are also stakeholders and contribute more to than to the government?
In 1981, the British coal miners embarked on an 18-month industrial action, one of the longest in modern history over government privatization policy. It was the union that took care of the upkeep of the miners while the strike lasted. Yet churches in the time of desperate need failed to respond to the people. Does the church not have a responsibility to its members as founded in its tradition? Where are the resources which sustain their lavish lifestyle coming from? Since they failed the people spiritually, the least they could have done is succour them materially.
What happened suggests that the churches no longer understand the reason for their existence; that God-focus is for them anymore, and all those massive building projects and flamboyant lifestyles are simply personal passions and ambitions, forgetting that we cannot take anything out of this world: That it is all vanity. Their main calling, which is equipping the people, who are the church in the real sense, they have abandoned, is now preoccupied with worldly fame and glory.
Jeremiah 23:1-4 says: Woe be unto the pastors (shepherds) that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the Lord. Therefore …the Lord God of Israel is against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the Lord.
“…And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the Lord. (NIV)
Pastors, listen: we will all give an account of our stewardship, and whatever a man sows he will also reap. We must search our souls if we still are in Christ. It is evil and wickedness to always compel people to give without us also giving back to them especially in their critical time. That is not the biblical contemplation of the church.
Let us return to God and do what is right and befitting of our calling as Christians because the kingdom is being taken away from us and given to those who hate us; maybe, God will have mercy.