It is now time for us to wake up, stand up and pray up. The destiny of two hundred million people is at stake. This is Nigeria’s last chance at salvaging the nation’s political destiny that is presently in ruins. A nation with some of the most brilliant minds cannot continue to trail the rest of world in development and competitiveness. The church cannot exercise any considerable influence when we are this divided.
Fellow Nigerians and dear servants of God, please understand that the perennial challenges of disunity in the Nigerian church are not peculiar to Nigeria. It is a global phenomenon whose consequences are only much worse in our clime. Read with me Dr Tony Evan’s recent heart-cry about the American church:
“How else can we have all these churches on all of these corners in America with all of these preachers running all of these programs with all of these members using all of these resources and still have all of this mess. I would like to suggest that the church, while building great ministries and great buildings, has missed the kingdom.”
Interestingly, not even the notorious tyrant, “Adolf Hitler” could succeed in his destruction of the German church, without the dismantling of the church’s fabric of unity. Repeatedly, Hitler leveraged on “disunity” as his preferred weapon of mass destruction against the German church. He wrote in his book, Mein Kampf, that, “the best way to conquer your enemy is to divide them”. Powerful states have always leveraged on “disunity” to conquer “known” or “perceived enemies.” The world’s leading entrepreneur of colonialism, the British empire, which exercised extraordinarily strong hegemonic influences on many African nations, used the weapon of “divide and rule” to champion its imperialist agenda across the length and breadth of Africa. And that was Hitler’s main dagger to the heart of the German Church. According to the detailed account of the events that led to the collapse of the German Church prior to World War II, as given by Erwin Lutzer, Hitler once said, “when you want to tear down a world and build another in its place, you must first of all separate the supporters and the members.”
In exactly the same way, the Nigerian church is on the verge of another sinister, “divide, and, conquer” agenda by powerful demonic forces within the Nigerian socio-political space. By targeting the church, which is widely divided along the lines of doctrinal differences and political interests, Satan and his agents within the Nigeria political space, have begun to tweak their strategies to weaponise this current division as a precursor to capturing the nation’s political climate, just like they did prior to the 2014/2015 elections. To all General Overseers and church leaders in Nigeria, I write this message with a very heavy heart. I have seen nothing more lethal than the force of disunity in dampening the spiritual influence of the Nigerian church within the current Nigerian state. We are so divided that the very thought of establishing widespread synergy across different streams of denominations, or even among the “Pentecostals”, is a dream waiting to happen after the rapture. Historically, successive leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria have found this matter daunting, herculean, and too high a mountain to climb.
This article is not, and will never be, a holistic, one-cap-fits-all attempt at solving the decades-old problem of disunity in the Nigerian Church.
However, it presents a little attempt at identifying an existential threat to the spiritual influence of the Nigerian church in establishing a united spiritual front for the emergence of God’s sovereign will for Nigeria in the 2023 presidential election. The problem statement is this: “How do we bring together the leadership of the Orthodox Churches as well as those of the Pentecostals, such as the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Winners’ Chapel, Deeper Life, Christ Embassy, Citadel Global Community Church (former Latter Rain Assembly), Sword of the Spirit Ministries, Mountain of Fire Ministries, Christ Apostolic Church, Dunamis Church, Salvation Ministries, Day Star Christian Centre and hundreds, if not thousands of streams of other denominations, for the sole purpose of enforcing the political will of God on Nigeria? These are denominations with highly diverse biblical doctrines, practices, and values. It is for this same reason I have been an advocate of far-reaching changes and reforms in the Nigerian church — such that in the wake of a defining moment like this, the church would have been spiritually prepared to build a very robust and formidable united force that can weather all demonic storms against the emergence of God’s best will for Nigeria as president in 2023.
When the forces of political exigencies stretched forth their hands against a section of the evangelicals in America — in a bid to use the forces of socialism within the marriage institution to divide the them, they repelled this attack with a common voice, displaying the spirit of unity with the following signed document, “The Manhattan Declaration”, which states that:
“We will not bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.
The role of the church is to pioneer the predominance of the kingdom of God and its values in the land. The role of the church is to perpetuate the spread of truth, honesty, and integrity, among others, in a nation. The role of the church is to enforce the will of God on the nation in the place of prayer. The role of the church is to leverage on unity to bring about a wave of value system transformation in the land; a development that will then pave the way for the emergence of upright and credible political candidates at all levels.
Following this declaration, Dr Tony Evans, one of the most outspoken American preachers, published a book that addressed this subject of “division” in the American church. He has the following to say to us, “When the church fails to act in concert with God’s prescribed agenda, then God often chooses to postpone His active involvement until His people are prepared to respond.”
Also, let me take you back to a more recent history. In the heat of the preparations for the 2014/2015 presidential election, a section of the Pentecostal movement in Nigeria favoured the candidacy of Dr Goodluck Jonathan, the incumbent president at that time, while another sectionr ooted for the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari, the present Nigerian leader. The divisions and many heated debates and arguments among leaders of various denominations led to several contentions and spiritual cracks in the walls of the church, leading to the emergence of a new wave of church politics and cliques that have, for the most part, done more damages than good to the unity and progress of Nigeria as a nation. Things went so bad in 2014 that many clandestine meetings were held by various segments of the Nigerian church leadership to force and foist their choices on other segments of the church leadership, a development that further widened the cracks of disunity in the church. The ultimate consequence of this crisis was the labelling of the Nigerian church by many onlookers and political gladiators as “corrupt”, given some rumoured exchanges of money between sections of the church leadership and certain political parties. Labels like this, whether true or false, are the bi-products of disunity in the church, and they do no good to its image.
The role of the church is to pioneer the predominance of the kingdom of God and its values in the land. The role of the church is to perpetuate the spread of truth, honesty, and integrity, among others, in a nation. The role of the church is to enforce the will of God on the nation in the place of prayer. The role of the church is to leverage on unity to bring about a wave of value system transformation in the land; a development that will then pave the way for the emergence of upright and credible political candidates at all levels. This must be done through a concerted mental and spiritual synergy among all members of the body of Christ, or at least among most leadership of the church, in manners consistent with biblical standards. It is an open secret that the current church structure and system in Nigeria is fraught with enormous contradictions and widespread corruption, most of which are deeply rooted in the departure of many church leaders from sound biblical values of accountability, transparency, integrity, and truth.
However, there are still remnants of contrite and credible churches and ministries in Nigeria that are still doing the work of the kingdom with sincerity and truth. Thus, while trusting God for a thorough cleansing and purging of our churches, it is still crucial to our long-term survival that we begin to push for an upgrade in our present level of unity.
Where this unity is lacking, at least to a considerable extent, the propensity for the emergence of wrong leaders in a nation becomes very high. This was Adolf Hitler’s Christmas gift to the German Church, which paved the way for his transformation into a full-blown dictator in the 1940s. According to J.S Conway, “Under a barrage of accusations and vilifications, the German church grew more and more confused between their political and their theological loyalties. Poised between two choices, divided by compromise, and weakened through internal theological differences, the German Church lost its collective influence”.
And when they lost it, Hitler took over and the nation sank into the abyss — becoming the geographical trigger for the second World War. Thus, of all the forces confronting the Nigerian church, disunity remains a lethal weapon in the hands of the enemy.
I, therefore, suggest with utmost humility of heart and soul, and with due respect and honour to church leaders and fathers in the faith in Nigeria, that for the sake of posterity, they should endeavour to shun their differences and come together to establish some forms of synergy.
First, the leaders of our various churches need to congregate a round table conference. Differences must be ironed out in the spirit of love. Compromises must be established. My church is ten million in membership; your church is five hundred thousand in membership; I am a billionaire; you are a millionaire, must all be thrown into the sea of forgetting. I am talking about fathers here, many of who are now in their 60s, 70s and 80s. Posterity must dominate their minds. Without fostering any preferred political candidate on anyone, I believe that our father in the Lord, Pastor E.A Adeboye, one of the most respected church leaders in Nigeria, and some highly respected fathers and elders in the Orthodox cycle, have enough influence and weight to plan and execute this kind of meeting.
…a united prayer front for the emergence of God’s perfect will for Nigeria must be established. The church must not be apolitical. Similarly, we must not be partisan. It is about the will of God. This united prayer front should mirror a situation where leaders in the orthodox segment, as well as those from the Pentecostals, such as RCCG, Winners’ Chapel…and others will come together for a joint prayer movement, executed online and in various national locations to pray for the local, state and federal elections of 2023.
It is a meeting to broker peace and unity, and to establish a working document and an actionable spiritual direction that all church leaders, or most church leaders, must commit to; something similar to the “The Manhattan Declaration” by the Evangelicals in America. We must also be careful with our approach at creating “mechanisms” that will create the perception that a preferred candidate is being promoted by the church above others or even more qualified candidates, Christians or non-Christians.
Second, a united prayer front for the emergence of God’s perfect will for Nigeria must be established. The church must not be apolitical. Similarly, we must not be partisan. It is about the will of God. This united prayer front should mirror a situation where leaders in the orthodox segment, as well as those from the Pentecostals, such as RCCG, Winners’ Chapel, Deeper Life, Christ Embassy, Sword of the Spirit Ministries, Mountain of Fire Ministries, COZA, Citadel Global Community Church (former Latter Rain Assembly), Christ Apostolic Church, Dunamis Church, Salvation Ministries, Daystar Christian Centre and others will come together for a joint prayer movement, executed online and in various national locations to pray for the local, state and federal elections of 2023. This prayer movement must be inter-denominational and must run for an extended period of time under the joint leadership of all the heads of Pentecostal denominations in the country, prior to the coming together of other non-Pentecostal denominations.
Thirdly, I like to bring to our attention that the RCCG’s recent establishment of a directorate of governance is highly commendable. If run properly, it should create a strong platform to support home-grown Christian politicians in their quest to strengthen Nigeria’s democracy. However, the church must not be partisan. That is where the problem lies. Such a directorate should be inclusive to support the entire body of Christ, if truly we do not have any preferred candidate in view. Any perception of the church by other religious movements in Nigeria, as being partisan towards a Christian candidate will tarnish its image and, without doubt, create needless anarchy and confusion in the polity. I will advise that any directorate of governance or any of such initiative by the RCCG or by any other church, must provide a level playing field for all and sundry in the body of Christ. And ministers and church leaders must distance themselves from using their exalted altars for political campaigns or for promoting the interests of politicians, Christians or non-Christians.
In conclusion, it is important to note that we have, for the most part, concentrated on the successes of our personal ministries, rather than operating from a “kingdom perspective”, which is also one of the critical challenges confronting the Nigerian church. Personal ministry orientation is antithetical to Jesus’s kingdom-driven orientation that sees every Christian faithful as a member of the same body to which all churches must collaboratively commit to developing and supporting. This is not the time for individual and segregated efforts towards personal ministry successes, at the expense of a collaborative national transformation orientation.
This was exactly what the majority of the German church leadership were doing in the 1940s; they threw caution to the wind by ignoring all calls to unite and save Germany from the claws of Hitler. They all focused on the success of their individual ministries, damning the consequences until Hitler tightened his grip on the nation and sent most of the church leaders in Germany at that time into concentration camps. In the words of Helmut Thielicke, a German theologian who witnessed the collapse of Germany during the second World War, “…many of the German Church leaders were fixated on their personal ministry successes, but they failed to realize that the worship of success is generally the form of idol worship the devil cultivates most assiduously. Success is the greatest narcotic of all”.
Over-the-counter human remedies will not fix Nigeria; they will only mask the real symptoms for a season. It is now time for us to wake up, stand up and pray up. The destiny of two hundred million people is at stake. This is Nigeria’s last chance at salvaging the nation’s political destiny that is presently in ruins. A nation with some of the most brilliant minds cannot continue to trail the rest of world in development and competitiveness. The church cannot exercise any considerable influence when we are this divided.
Let me leave you with this wonderful message by Dr Erwin Lutzer, the pastor of Moody Bible Church in America: “When Muslim armies swept across North Africa in the seventh century, effectively wiping out Christianity, the church was so identified by its edifices, its priestly rituals, and leadership hierarchy that when the armies destroyed these symbols of Christianity, those few Christians who were left found themselves unable to survive. The church disappeared without a trace. The true church can survive without buildings, but not without united saints.”
Ayo Akerele, a leadership and system development strategist, and minister of the word, writes from Canada and can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org.