Amidst the rising political and economic inequality, and insecurity in Nigeria, some Christian leaders in Nigeria have begun to question the status-quo and arouse the conscience of the public, becoming more vocal on political and social issues.
Few amongst the numerous Christian leaders that have spoken out in the recent times on critical national issues, include, Bishop David Oyedepo of Winners Chapel, Rev Sam Adeyemi of Daystar Christian Centre, Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, and Pastor Paul Adefarasin of House on the Rock.
One of the clerics adding to the voices of hope in the country and urge the church to do more to support justice and inclusion, is Godman Akinlabi, Lead Pastor of Lagos-based Christian ministry, The Elevation Church (TEC).n
Akinlabi has broken away from the conventional practice of Christian leaders trying to stay on the fence on matters national importance, sometimes at the risk of his personal reputation. He has spoken out vociferously against inequality and injustice in Nigeria calling on the church to speak up and hold the government and society to account.
In a recent article, titled The Church in Nigeria: Silent No More, the respected cleric said the Nigerian Church needs to draw lessons from the #BlackLivesMatter protests across the world, and particularly in the USA, as well as the core issues surrounding the recent American elections.
“The American Church did not handle the issues of racism properly and appeared to be partisan in official utterances by key church leaders in both the build up to, and in the aftermath of the elections. The Church simply did not walk in-love towards all, often attributing opposing standpoints to the influence of the devil,” he said.
According to Akinlabi, who is also a thought leader, author, teacher, public speaker, and philanthropist, the disconnect between the leaders and the youth is so glaring, that the church cannot afford to keep papering over cracks.
“The average youth is actively looking for a chance for self-realisation in other countries,” said Akinlabi, “They are looking for reasons to believe in their leaders again, to believe and hope in a future that they feature in prominently, and unfortunately the Church has not done enough to mediate in this impasse between hope and illusion – between the youth and the government.”
Akinlabi says this disconnect is made all the more obvious because the Church is not challenging the government to pay greater attention to young Nigerians, to listen, to learn and to act in the interest of Nigeria’s future. He believes the Nigerian Church should be an active participant in shaping the conscience of our nation, and thus must demand to be listened to, as the protectors and nurturers of this and future generations.
According to the cleric, the Church must rapidly transition from a position of mere rhetoric and a neutral posturing on issues of national significance, to become an obvious participant in the execution of a working social mobilisation strategy for the Nigerian youth.
Akinlabi, who was one of the most vocal clerics on the #EndSARS movement says the protests in which youths across the country rose up to protest against police brutality, in October 2020, has given the church leaders a glimpse of the readiness of the youth to embrace order, progress and social welfare. He proposes that the craving of the Nigerian youth for positive self-determination, measurable change and the consequent pride in a vibrant forward-moving nation, be slaked with a peaceful, yet firm and clearly defined strategy, executed by competent Nigerians across sectors, with the full backing of a listening and responsive government.
“The church can be the catalyst to enable this scenario, if her leaders would simply speak up clearly, strategically, knowledgeably, prayerfully and consistently, ” said the charismatic preacher, adding that, the government should begin to move beyond the seeming systemic persecution of peaceful #EndSARS protesters and sympathisers, to the expression of the sort of empathy that paves the path for healing and reconciliation, and then allows for collaboration in building a better nation for all.
Akinlabi urges the Nigerian church to prepare the Nigerian youth for personal and communal leadership, for governance and strategic sectoral empowerment, as well as for fervent and effectual participation in our electoral process.
“The Church must speak up and be the unrelenting voice for the weak, disenfranchised, overlooked and the downtrodden. This should be non-negotiable for 2021,” he added.
Known within and outside Nigeria for prioritised focus on social development, Pastor Godman Akinlabi and The Elevation Church have continued to reel-out one social development initiative to another in providing hope. The church has carried out several programmes to empower the youths.
Some of the profound initiative from the church that have touched the lives of thousands of Nigerians include the Ubomi Medical Outreach where there have been 7000 medical interventions for patients who did not have access to adequate medical services, and an extensive distribution of palliatives to the vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in Lagos.
The Elevation Church has continued to distinguish itself as catering for more than the spiritual yearnings of the people, so strong is this commitment that the church recently jettisoned its own 10th year anniversary activities to focus on lending its voice to the call for transformative change in Nigeria.
The church has also hinted of a mega hospital for the underserved, and has various programmes geared towards boosting leadership in Nigeria with the launch of its Pistis Life and Leadership Institute (PLLI), an initiative aimed at building a community of leaders to influence the world in different spheres of life including leadership development, governance & politics, enterprise development and ministry.