am probably the least qualified to speak about the sins of God's people. My own righteousness does not exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees, and it is not even as good as the filthy rags mentioned in the scripture. It would be easier to sit in the comfort of my home, watch and read about these characters, and either shake my head or just laugh about it since it is none of my business. But I also recognize that an individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of his nation or indeed of all humanity. No nation has ever achieved greatness without being called to greatness by its leaders. The Military who led us before have failed us. The politicians have failed us, and now, it appears that many of our spiritual leaders are failing us. I would even go one step further to declare that some of the shortcomings of our nation are no more than a magnified reflection of the sins of God's people.
I have not met any people who are more religious than Nigerians. Every Sunday all the churches are packed to the brink; from Catholic to Anglican, from Redeem to Winners, from Celestial to Cherubim, etc. There are more churches in Nigeria than there are in any other country. The Redeem Church alone has now overtaken the Catholic, the Anglican, the Methodist, the Baptist, the Episcopal, and all the other echetaram and echetaram as the church with the most number of branches in the world. I'm not surprised; they have 3 churches on my street alone. On any Friday night in Nigeria, there are millions of young men and women (mostly women) who no longer sleep at home. You could find a handful of them in nightclubs, but the vast majority are at an all-night vigil at one church or another, praying for God's favour. It is no secret that most women/girls pray for true love, husband, no, a rich husband, for a child/children if they don't have any yet. And, of course, everybody else, including the men, women, and even the pastors pray for wealth. Nsogbu!
Have you attempted to leave Lagos by road on any morning after an all night program by any of the mega churches along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. It is not uncommon to be held in traffic for upwards of six hours until millions of their flocks have successfully cleared the vast, endless compounds. Yes, I paid the price twice when Enugu airport was closed for repairs/upgrade a couple of years ago, and now I'd rather fly to Lagos even if I have to go to Owerri or Asaba to catch my flight. There is nothing wrong with people flocking to God's house; if anything it should be encouraged. My only problem is that the vast majority of these Christian flocks in Nigeria may not be absolutely committed to their faith in Christ Jesus. I am not one who parades myself out there for my faith. I have confessed my inadequacies at the beginning of this piece, and if anything, I'm rather like the tax collector mentioned in Luke 18 vs 13. But I cannot imagine myself seeking for power or wealth from any juju, oracle, cult, or secret society. This is not just a product of my faith; an enlightened mind knows that all these are nothing but sinking sand. However, I am certain that most people, who attend churches and vigils regularly in Nigeria, when their desires are not met, would easily agree to detour to places like Okija and Ogbomosho to appease any power that could solve their problem or grant their wishes.
No wonder God is not answering our prayers in this country as we would like. We have repeatedly asked for the impossible, trying to force God's hand because many pastors have assured us that whatever we desire from God we can claim. It is not entirely true. How can we claim whatever we desire when our hearts are not totally with God, when we don't trust God enough to say "not my will but thine" or to understand that His grace is sufficient for us. They have erroneously coached us to pray among other things that "I must be the head and not the tail." No thanks! I'm the last born in my family and I'm quite content with it if God in His infinite wisdom has placed me to be last among my siblings. At places like 'Mountain of fire' they repeatedly call for fire to come down and kill or wipe out all our enemies and anybody who has done wrong to us, but they forget that we must have done wrong to others. Since our hands are not all clean, supposing this fire comes and wipes us all out. What about the teachings of Jesus Christ, for us to forgive and even pray for our enemies, that they may come to repentance. They tell us that whatever we desire, that God will grant us, but they conveniently leave out that section of the scripture that says that God will grant our desires if they are in line with His wishes for us. Many of these pastors, it seems, have no interest in teaching the Christian Doctrine anymore. They just want to paint a pretty picture to make you happy and in the process collect your tithe and any other possible donation you can make to their church. They are now all trying to outdo each other, holding one crusade after another with catchy phrases like BREAKTHROUGH, MIRACLES, ABUNDANCE, while they laugh their way to the banks. They are now comparing jets, my private jet is bigger than yours. Some now have two private jets, yet others with three, all in the name of God. Jesus of Nazareth, poor thing! He has only 3 wise men, now some people in this country have 5 wise men, wow! That is 2 more than Christ, and some have even done more miracles on television alone than was recorded of Jesus Christ in the Bible. Unfortunately I cannot mention his name because my mother who watches this man on television 24/7 would disown me.
We have seen all these before, from the days of Jim Baker to that of Jimmy Swaggart. And for centuries before them, we've seen several Popes whose deeds were not worth the title they bear, and some who are downright barbaric. One thing was however clear through all these, the Rock upon which Christ built His Church has prevailed, and no matter what these people do the churches will prevail in this country. Just last month, I read from the maharaja in Ibadan, telling us that many of these so called men of God do source power from some of the more powerful native doctors. How many times have I opened a Nigerian newspaper and read of some human body parts discovered at some church in Lagos, or Ile Ife, or Umuahia. We call His name and represent Him on earth but we don't even believe in Him.
On October 14, 2012 I sat in the front row in a service at House on the Rock in Abuja to mark Alex Ekwueme's 80th birthday. The pastor of the church, Pastor Goodheart, is Ekwueme's first son. While many now see church as a profiting business, here is a young man who walked away from everything, wealth and fortune, good name, political opportunities, and relevance in the landscape of Igboland, just to pursue and be faithful to his calling. Anyway, it was a wonderful and an uplifting service. The visiting preacher that day was Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, the President of CAN. The church was packed, and the first three rows were occupied by the who is who in Nigeria politics, from governors to ministers to senators and above. There were just too many of these big boys and big madams that I felt there must have been a security breach to allow me a seat anywhere in the front row where I clearly do not belong. Oritsejafor did not fail; he mesmerized us all with a commanding knowledge of the scripture. He must have quoted no less than 20 passages in the Bible without looking at any paper. And above all, he spoke the truth directly to the conscience of those political big wigs and heavy business moguls that sat around me. I have never met him before; have only read about him in passing, and on articles relating to the Christian Association of Nigeria. But on that first encounter I fell in love with him. He had preached common sense and the doctrine of humility which our Lord Jesus ascribes. Truly, I said to myself, if there is anything like a man of God, here he is. Well, not all Nollywood stories come with a happy ending. Needless to say that a few weeks later I was considerably quenched in spirit when I read in the newspaper that this man of God had just acquired a private jet like the rest of them. That alone did not make me mad, after all, a few dozen other men of God like him in Nigeria have already owned private jets, some even own two or three, and their preferred choice is the high end Gulfstream at between 40-50 million dollars. I only went crazy when the man now told us that he did not buy any private jet, that an unknown member or members of his church bought a customized private jet and surreptitiously donated it to him. Haba! My brother, since you are from Warri and I was born in Warri, make I speak the language wey you fit sabi. Even Nollywood no fit write this kind tory. You won tell me say Naija man go fit spend billions of naira to buy you gift for this country and him no even want make you no sey na him give am to you. Ah, that one no dey possible for Naija, may be na for yonda wey dis kind thing fit happen, like Burkina Faso, but nobi for Sapele, Efurun, or for Warri.
Anyway, I'm only critical because I had fallen madly in love with this man. He has made such and everlasting first impression on me and as they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Many of these high flyer priests have told us that their vast and busy ministry necessitates a private jet or two. Well, no one has preached the world more in the past hundred years than Billy Graham. He had ministered to all US presidents from Eisenhower, had travelled all over the world and preached to millions, he has also ministered to so many kings and queens worldwide but he never owned a private jet. Pastor Rick Warren commands more church members and more followers than any of you. Instead of taking from the church to fund his lifestyle he gives back over 90% of his own generated personal wealth to the church and the poor just like Christ commanded. And by the way, he does not own any private jet even though the proceeds of his "Purpose Driven Life" alone could have paid for several jets.
Many of you began with a zeal for the work of Christ, many of you have very humble backgrounds. Several years later when the money of the house of the Lord has piled up, now you just can't help yourself. I do not expect any of you to be perfect, but you must be extra careful when dealing with things that belong to God. For the sake of that poor widow who had sent in a tithe of even 500 naira to your church, you have an obligation not to wallow in the luxury of private jets on the back of such widows. Our Lord Jesus, the most successful of all preachers, didn't even own a colt. He had to borrow one for His triumphant entry into the City of Jerusalem. Pastors like Tunde Bakare have spoken out against the excesses and unbecoming practices of fellow pastors, rather reminiscent of Jeremiah's warnings shortly before the captivity and mass enslavement of the Jews to Babylon.
Many of you can fool members of your church, you can fool me, you can even fool all Nigerians. But what will it profit you if on that last day, after so much labouring, and sleepless nights, and name-callings, you find yourself before God. And you will come boldly prepared to talk about your achievements, all the miracles, crusades, vigils, empowerment of some church members, etc. Perhaps I should not paraphrase but should just go ahead and quote the scripture in Mathew 7 vs 22-23; Many will say to me in that day, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name?"And then I will declare to them, "I never knew you....