By Olawale Opayinka
If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14).
This is God speaking to the children of Israel, HIS chosen people. And He was talking of healing the place they occupied not the world that included the ones He had not called HIS own. Today, the children of God through the death of our Lord Jesus Christ include the Gentiles; the Gentiles being the modern-day church outside Israel.
The Church today has lost its way and it is time to turn back from its wicked ways so the Lord can heal our land. The Church is our land as Colossians 1:18 puts it – And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the pre-eminence.
Our Lord Jesus Christ remains the head of the Church, what we have on earth is the body of Christ. The abnormality we now have in the Nigerian-styled Pentecostal Church today is that the Pastor is the Head of the Church and when the Pastor is kind, he adopts his wife as the co-Pastor. They are the de-facto owners of the church. Whoever else they bring along is serving their ministry.
However, the template for the body of Christ as it operated in the early church is the operation of the five-fold ministries as explained in Ephesians Chapter 4 – And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the [a]edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head —Christ (vs 11-15).
Our Lord Jesus Christ knowing what was required for the Church, His body, to thrive, gave the five-fold ministries. Nowhere in God’s word does it lay claim that the Pastor was the higher ranked gift. All the five-fold giftings of Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers are to work together for a unified purpose. Infact, if you ranked the giftings just by the listing alone, Apostles came first and rightly so as they are the strategists; the ones who know the direction in which the Church is heading and are meant to serve as custodians of the vision. The Prophets come second speaking of things to come; then Evangelists to show the demonstrative power of God to save. The Pastors are there to look after the day to day needs of members within the Church as administrators of the faith; while the Teachers break down the Word of God. Each representative body of Christ must have all five-fold giftings in play without the Pastor and his wife running the errant role of being superior.
Today the situation we have with the abuse in the church by self-styled Pastors would have been better managed if those churches operated with a body of leaders who are co-administrators as Apostles, Evangelists etc. Then, if one member of the body of elders errs, like a pastor for example, it is dealt with objectively and appropriately. It will save the situation that exists with the rape allegation against the Pastor of COZA who unilaterally decided when to take a leave of absence and when to return to the pulpit. The optics would have brought more healing. The scandal would have been better managed without the body of Christ, the Church, being brought into disrepute. The body of elders, which includes all the five-fold giftings, would have decided the fate of the Pastor without the church worrying, or the society feeling that the church is complicit in the abuse of the vulnerable saints.
The Nigerian-styled Pentecostal Church is incessantly becoming a scourge instead of a comfort to many societies across many nations around the world where it is fast spreading in its unregulated and risk-centred operating structures. It is time for it to find its way. It needs to humble itself and turn from its wicked ways. If it does not, God himself will judge it before the society does. When there was a similar chaos of abuse within the Catholic Church, the Pope and its Cardinals at the Vatican were held responsible and they were forced to deal with errant Vicars and Bishops. Today, if there is a similar indiscriminate abuse as we have across many Pentecostal churches – where does society go? In Nigeria, even the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), at a crucial moment, claimed the errant church was not under its purview. A classic comfortable posture of kicking the can down the road.
The case with COZA is a shot across the bowels of the Pentecostal movement in Nigeria. It is however not the first of such abuses that have come to the fore in other churches and or indeed about self-styled pastors or church owners without the needful being done. Unfortunately, the society has nowhere to go. Church members continue to seek their blessing from the same polluted altars!
These types of churches need to repent as there is no place for a one-man led church with his wife or husband as the case maybe. The Head of the Church is our Lord Jesus Christ. When a church is established, the men and women with the five-fold giftings should form the Elders of the Church. The other members of the church who are not Elders but whose wealth sustain the church have a big say in how the church is run. The failure to start dealing with this scourge is delaying the day of reckoning which even if it tarries in mercy, will surely come. Our Lord Jesus Christ paid the price for the Church. While the Pentecostal church movement as a great role to play in the society; however, as salt, it is losing its flavour. And when salt loses its flavour, it is thrown out as Matthew reminds us in Chapter 5 – You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavour, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men (vs 13).
There can be no halfway house in the journey to a restoration of grace and power in the Pentecostal Church movement. The society needs that demonstrative transformative power of healing. The one man and his spouse led church is evidently today devoid of that power. That power which captures the man or woman, leads to salvation and warms the heart of the new born-again Christian to seek God is fast becoming a thing of the past. Lets not forget Paul’s warning – For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God (Romans 8:19).
This necessary redemption of the Pentecostal Church in question is not only needed in the Nigerian marketplace where it operates but in other nations of the world where the church has been exported. The church with its fervency of prayer is needed amongst the nations but a new cistern is required.
If the self-styled Pentecostal Church movements as it operates in Nigeria, and it does in the United States of America (USA), where the worst part of it has been imported, the Lord will do the needful however delayed. The Word of God refers:
And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and [a]cruelty you have ruled them (Ezekiel 34:1-4).
It is time for the Church to turn around from its wicked ways so that the Lord can heal their Land and the power of God can be restored. The world needs the church and its incredible networks flowing with that power.
A word is enough for the Wise.