COUNTERPOINT By Femi Akintunde-Johnson
We have now come to the third and final leg of what we may call religious serenade – in unconscious deference to one or two of our final entries who sometimes shovel us with arcane grammatical flourishes that only a robust engagement with a formidable dictionary can unfold. This also serves as the termination of our near three-month incursions into spaces not violated by the damning and distressing Nigerian realities, worsened by the scurrilous devastation, in human toll and turmoil, being wreaked by the fast mutating pandemic.
Now that the time is spent dealing with issues closer home and near skin, we hope these ‘diversions’ have served some useful purposes amidst the current chaos and canker-worm. Here are the final trio of men of God (MOG) whose idiosyncrasies fascinated one so much that one was moved to profile the following sentiments as early as a decade ago. And then this: these three men have one thing, at the very least, in common – controversy!
PASTOR TUNDE BAKARE:
This man has a lot going for him; I like the fact that he has a very solid knowledge of the Bible, and he is not afraid to state it as he understands it, even if oxen are gored and writhing on the grass. Remarkably, he is not afraid, or too embarrassed to come out with an “Error Regretted” disclaimer when he’s been corrected by higher authority. I really respect him for that. I also appreciate that he has the guts to challenge anyone who has a dusty corner on him to sweep out the dung – as he has no compromising secrets that anyone could climb on to pepper him with. That feels surreal. Because I don’t know anyone who can do that – and that includes me. Well, that is not saying he’s superhuman, because with him there’s no middle ground; you either like him or hate him. Each part, I’m afraid to say, has strong followership.
Of great interest to me is his insistence that every member of his church should be able to stand alone, and in tune, with God; that you don’t need a medium (either as pastor, evangelist, bishop, spiritualist or prayer warrior) to mediate between you and God. You are the driver of your own vehicle to heaven or hell – no conductor needed. It engenders a striving for maturity, a strong element in his desire to impact the world and implant His Word. As a journalist, I love reasoned arguments; and I for long had lived with the fear that the Bible was a poor tool in the hand of a victim of the polemicist, of any shade. But the lawyer-turned-preacher has wiped away that apprehension with his fierce and forthright distillation of age-worn scriptural truths in melodious easy-to-understand delivery. Though you may defer with some of his elucidations, you hardly can dispute his lucidity. I like that very much.
Then, he appears strong-willed and even fearless in pursuit of what he deems right; in repudiation of what he purports to be wrong. It is a minor miracle to me that his tirade against the wrongheaded politics and policies of the day is somehow tied to the Word of the Lord. He thunders fire and brimstone on peerlessly corrupt politicians and indolent public officials as well as on dim-witted purveyors of new-age spiritual slavery and their docile yes-men congregations. All in the name of the Lord.
Interestingly, he is not taller than 5ft 7in in height, and maximum 70kg in weight, yet his verbal projection, dramatic interlocutions and spitfire declamations can combine to make a giant break out in cold sweat. His frame belies a gigantic confidence in his infectious faith and trust in the outward manifestations of every word of God revealed to him…this thread runs through the spines of his congregation and admirers – both on ground and on-line.
CHRIS OKOTIE & CHRIS OYAKHILOME:
Interestingly, the two Chrises are so dissimilar, yet have many common grounds apart from sharing the same corridor in Oregun area of Lagos. I will therefore juxtapose their variables. As they are both Chris O, when you see ‘Kris’, tick that for Okotie; the regular ‘Chris’ stays with Oyakhilome.
The two pastors have compelling physical features that attract the youth; making it easy to populate the body of Christ. Before we can disciple a nation, you’ll expect the most vigorous swathe of any population demographics to be tuned to the gospel – the youth. The duo’s dashing visage and knock-down-the-devil sartorial elegance is a magnet that drags the Nigerian youth to the Church. With the right teachings and principles, great revivals can break out across the land from those vineyards.
I love Kris’ command of the stage: he dominates his cute, post-modernist platform to mesmerize his audience – both in the auditorium and in front of the screens. He can frolic from the Bible to the guitar, down to the keyboards, up to the dance floor… and God is still glorified. A wonderful creative colossus in full-bloom flight for God. Oh, Kris enjoys a good laugh… his surrounding is swanky clean with a certain feel-good ambience – in his office, home and even the innards of his several gleaming automobiles. He’s tolerably good natured and a conscious gentleman of style and panache. He’s also an interviewer’s delight. His economic reaches are indeterminate, but he doesn’t boast about his obvious success – though he can’t help it if his situation shouts it.
He has an air of joie de vivre (the joy of life) about him, trans-pollinating such light-heartedness to all who mill around him. In his presence, laughter takes wing and fills the atmosphere … and in such felicity, it is easy to praise and worship God (an irreducible criterion to invoke the presence of the Most High). Another thing about Pastor Kris, the fighter of the anti-christ, is his courage in the face of fire. When most pastoral leaders could only warn their congregations in hushed alarm during the 2001 apostasy saga in the Nigerian churches, Kris led the way, by standing on the rooftop to rail and condemn. Even, if he turns out to be wrong or baseless in his condemnation, no one can blame him for lack of bravado and bravura, in a period that was in dire need of it.
Though Pastor Chris doesn’t have the lyrical background of his name-sake, he also bestrides his huge be-flowered platform like an Olympian fencing champion. His joyful and tension-less control of the elevated stage belies his experience and age in the work of ministry. I also love his strong will and the tenacity of his conviction. In spite of the hues and cries that followed his relationship with a pastoral colleague generally vilified by most; the man-in-white stood resolutely on the correctness of his actions, and would not be intimidated. I like that very much.
For me, packaging the gospel to suit the times was one of the main highpoints of the founding Apostles’ evangelistic ardour – that was how the gospel took over the world. Pastor Chris’ greatest strength is warehousing and mastering this strategy. He appears to be in total agreement with Paul in 1Corinthian 9:20-23: “And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; (21) to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; (22) to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. (23) Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.” (NKJV).
His arsenal include being web savvy, cable and terrestrial television acquisitions, regular and online publishing, radio and wireless communications – all the gamut of mass communication – are corralled for the relentless dissemination of the Good News across the globe. Everybody shout 2,020 Hallelujahs!!