By Rev. Christopher Akinola (OlaKris)
Few months ago in Nigeria, around the time the constitutional conference was going on in Abuja, an audio message by a certain Pastor Bosun Emmanuel, who represented the Christian Association of Nigeria at the conference, began to make the rounds within and outside Nigeria. The audio message, amongst a number of things, described General Mohammadu Buhari, who was running for President, as an Islamic fundamentalist who, if elected, would Shariarize Nigeria. It also shared that, like in Turkey (ancient Ephesus), Christianity in Nigeria is on its way to obliteration through Jihad. Bosun claimed that Christians and Christianity are in trouble because Muslims are strategizing to Islamise Nigeria and that Christians should be vigilant. Bosun’s voice reverberated as the message received massive listening and distribution. The leadership of the RCCG, a mother Church to the assembly that hosted Bosun had since dissociated itself from the message. Most Christians who received the message frantically peddled it some, giving it more millage. But alas, it was a mere propaganda that ought to have been discountenanced, partly. Most people, including Church leaders who are ignorant of Church history, will tell you that this propaganda was correct. Those who know better will cry foul and correctly call it the ranting of an alarmist that it really was. History says it all. Bosun, in any case, was correct to share that the Nigerian Church, rather than focus on raising disciples, is busy raising “millionaires”. He added that the Nigerian Church needs repentance because it has gone the wrong way. Nothing can be truer. He also said that the Church in Nigeria is at war and needs to foster unity. Correct! He continued as he presented videos of some gory details of massacred Christians in the north eastern Nigeria by boko haram. This little write up is to educate and inform our people, correcting the incorrect parts of Pastor Bosun’s message and emphasising some truthful things he shared.
Indeed, a careful perusal of history reveals subtle and obvious relevance of the Nigerian Church in today’s world. The Gospel of Christ and the message of Scriptures have been considerably spread globally by Nigerians. This is hardly contestable because out of every four black Africans, one is Nigerian. Nigerians are everywhere human beings live, even in Siberia and they usually migrate with their religious beliefs handy. Most Christians become emergency missionaries, therefore. These unending emigrationsare largely due to many years of gross misgovernance and mismanagements of national resources. If properly appropriated and managed, Nigeria can comfortably fend for a large portion of Africa. But then, the opposite is the case. A large number of her citizens struggle to live on less than a couple of dollars a day. Things have been pretty bad! The process and eventual results of the just concluded presidential elections would attest to the fact that it will never again be business as usual in our Nigeria. Change is here!
Although, my people have become the scumof many societies of the world,yet millions of my people remain very proud and, if you may, arrogant Nigerian green-passport carrier for many reasons. Firstly, we are very communal. We are a warm people who welcome strangers and visitors into our space, gladly sharing our means, even our meagre means. We are never xenophobic! Even when Ghanains were sadly excused from Nigeria way back in 1983, there were no losses of lives or properties, to the best of my knowledge. Many foreign nationalshave since made Nigeria their base, expatriating proceeds of their sweats (or through connivance with our leaders) to their respective countries.Secondly, my people have contributed immensely to the GDP of societies where they live around the world.Ask around, there is always a Nigerian lecturing in some University,Technicon, High school, or doing legitimate businesses all over the world.And ofcourse, like in all societies, a lot of bad examples of our people avail.
Now, not a few Nigerians were wrongly sensitised and alarmed by Pastor Bosun’s “revelations”.You see,like hordes ofseverally mispreached sermons, majority of Christians in my country usually overlook the seven most important letters authored personally by Jesus Christ. A crash course at the feet of Bro Wole Owolabi, handed me a re-evaluation of Bosun’s message. For many reasons, these seven letters, comprising Chapters 2 and 3 of the Book of Revelation, are probably the most important part of this book for Christians.Although, there were many other Churches at that time that would seem to be more significant than the seven that Jesus addressed: the Churches at Jerusalem, Rome, Galatia, Corinth, and Antioch for example. Why did Jesus select just these seven: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea?
Investigations by Graham Brodie explain at least four levels of application to these letters: Firstly, it had a local application. These were actual, historic Churches, with valid needs corroborated by archaeological discoveries. Secondly, it was admonitory as each of the letters appears with the key phrase, “Hear what the Spirit says to the Churches”. Note the plural, Churches. Each of the letters applies to all Churches throughout history. If we understand the sevenfold internal structure, the uniquely tailored messages, and the specific admonitions in each of the letters, we discover that any Church can be “mapped” in terms of these seven composite profiles. Thirdly,homiletic: Each of the letters also contains the phrase, “He that hath an ear let him hear…” Doesn’t each of us “have an ear”? Each letter applies to each of us. There are some elements of each of these seven “Churches” in each of us. Thus, this may be the most practical application of the entire Book of Revelation. Fourthly, it was prophetic. This, by far, is the most amazing application. These letters describe, with remarkable precision, the unfolding of all subsequent Church history. If these letters were in any other order, this would not be true!It is on this historical backdrop of these letters as expounded byWole Owolabi and Graham Brodie that we must analyse the message Pastor Bosun brought to the Nigerian Christians, warning them against a Buhari presidency as conduit for Islamic agenda.
The first letter was to the Ephesus Church. This EphesianChurch (present day Turkey) is representative of the great Evangelistic Church of the first century. The word Ephesus means “The Desired One”, which aptly describes the Church as Jesus sees it. Like the early days of the Nigerian Church, the Church in Ephesus was full of spiritual vitality and strength. However by the end of the 1st century, as it could be said of the Nigerian Church of today, the people had left their first love (for Christ and each other). Self-aggrandisements and personal kingdom building had taken the driver’s seat. Jesus warns them to repent or He would remove their “candle stick” from its place. This was a threat as well as a promise from the Lord. The warning still stands today. In my opinion, this kind of caution against greed in the Church from a Pastor Bosun to the Nigerian Church would have made moreimpact, rather than raising unfounded alarm of an impeding “jihad” from a Buhari Presidency.
The second letter was to the SmyrnaChurch. This represents the persecuted Church of the second and third centuries. According to Brodie, Satan tried everything to wipe the Church out by sheer force. During this period of history, the Church was persecuted under ten different Emperors with the final ten years being the worst. Jesus says that this Church, although poor in worldly terms was rich in faith. It is of note that the word Smyrna comes from the word “Myrrh; Death” which was used as a fragrant perfume of “offering” in Old Testament times. This seems to aptly describe the Church during this time in history, as its members were being “offered” as living sacrifices. However, during this time the Gospel spread faster than at any other time in history. This is exactly the history of the Nigerian Church. In the days of yore, the Nigerian Church was not attractive, neither was it rich, but it was pure. Well, at least purer than whatever parody we see around today! Contrary to what obtains today, Nigerian Church history clearly reveals how impoverished the Church was in stuffs-material but rich in stuffs-spiritual. In those days, the vocation of the Clergy was neither attractive nor rewarding. Things have since changed since the prosperity gospel commenced in this country. Affluence of the Church and clergy has escalated while character and purity has nosedived. Bro Bosun addressed this anomaly in the Church, but missed it when hewent on a clarion call to crucify a Buhari presidency.
Even so, the letter to the Pergamos Church attracts even greater interest. After this time of persecution, Satan changed his tactics. Instead of trying to wipe out the Church, he made “Christianity” acceptable through the conversion of the Emperor Constantine around 312 AD. In gratitude for the reprieve from persecution the Church adopted many pagan rituals and feast days as its own. The Church also became centralized in Rome acting as an extension of imperial authority.How does this apply to the Nigerian Church today? The “pilgrimages” that some notable fathers of faith in Nigeria made to Aso Rock at the instance of the Jonathan administration is unprecedented. The “favours” derived thenceforth has increased the “prosperity” of the respective religious leaders.The Christian Association (CAN) and Pentecostal Fellowship (PFN) leadership became apolitical while the pulpit and pew suffered. Those without such “breakthroughs” are named as not “arrived”.Interestingly, the word Pergamos means “Mixed Marriage”, which is exactly what happened to the Church during this time. The Church got elevated out of persecution and got entangled to the political power of the State. In light of this we must remember Jesus’ words that “His kingdom was not of this world” (John 18:36). The Church, which is His Body was not meant to have political power while this world remained. So the original vision of the Church was polluted from this time forward by the work and actions of men. However, as in all cases, there have been several exceptions. Some Pastors in Nigeria just won’t stoop that low as to count it a privilege to be aguest of the President. They seek greater honours;honoursthat money, University licences, aircrafts or oil rigs can’t purchase! Again, Brother Bosun has refused to address this perfidy by the Church leaders in Nigeria, rather he calls Buhari a jihadist. Indeed! A jihadist who has had more Christians as domestic staff than Muslims!
Next was the missive to the Thyatira Church. This Church was commended by Jesus Christ for its works of faith, love and patience, but the Church had allowed itself to be corrupted by false teachings and immoral acts. Jesus refers to this as the woman “Jezebel” (See 1 Kings 16:29-33) and He is ready to act against these falsehoods. The woman is to be cast into affliction, those who are allied with her are to suffer great tribulation and her children are to be put to death. The word Thyatira means “Semiramis” or “Continual Sacrifice”. This describes the state of the Roman Church which places great emphasis on “personal sacrifice” in order to “please God”. This whole concept is quite foreign to the truth that Jesus has done all that is required for us to be free from sin. Today, almost all preachers in Nigeria teach congregants to “sow” seeds of faith in order to receive largesse from God. This error has grossly escalated at present. Giving gifts to God is admirable, but giving to God so as to retrieve favour is arrant fraud. We must sow seeds out of love and not out of greed. Unfortunately, the Nigerian Church seems to have raised more of greedy people than lovers of God. However, in this Thyatira church are those who have not accepted these false teachings. Of them Jesus Christ requires nothing, except they cling to the truth until He comes. If we look through the history of Christianity, we see many faithful Saints who clung fearlessly to the truth of Jesus Christ. Many of these lost their lives at the hands of the “Church”.The “Church” killed Christ, anyway! I would have expected a Bosun to raise alarm against this error rather than raising a battle cry against a Buhari presidency.
The next letter was to the Church in Sardis. This is the Church which was resting on its original works to gain favour with the Lord, but had fallen asleep. Jesus warns them to wake up and strengthen what remains (before it also dies). The word Sardis means “Remnant” or “Escaping Ones” and seems to refer to the Church of the reformation. But rather than continuing in the faith, the Church had stopped and fallen asleep. The reformed Churches broke away from the Church of Rome, yet in many ways they modelled themselves on the Roman example, particularly in their structure and their association with the governments of this world. They had made a start, but had not finished the work. It is no longer news that many breakaway Nigerian ministers, aside very few, have continued to perpetrate thevery things they rebelled against. If you ask me, this would have made a better focus for Pastor Bosun rather than raising angst against a Buhari presidency.
The church in Philadelphia also featured on Christ’s mailing list. This is the Church that Jesus loves. It was obedient to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), and Jesus had set an open door before them. Their motivation was their love for the Lord and their fellow man. This was the great missionary Church of 1750 to 1870. Philadelphia means “Brotherly Love”, which describes well the Church which so loved its Lord and its fellow man as to send missionaries to nearly every nation on earth within the space of 100 years. Frontline ministries in Nigeria today such as the Church of God Mission, CAC, Foursquare, CAPRO, Rhema, CCC, Deeper Life, C&S, Roman Catholic, Living Faith, RCCG, MFM and some others have sent hundreds of Missionaries across Nigeria, Africa and the globe. This is highly commendable. Jesus promised to keep them from the time of trial that was to come on all the earth. He also said He was coming quickly. The teaching that Jesus was coming back was revived during this time of Missionary sending. Not much of this has been heard of recent. Brother Bosun ought to have done better than instigating Christians against a Buhari presidency.
The LaodiceaChurch were the recipient of the last mail. This is the last Church age. It is the half-hearted Church, not recognizing how poor it really is. Jesus has nothing good to say about it. In fact He is very displeased with it. This is a very worldly, proud Church, increased in wealth and influence, but spiritually bankrupt. Again it has not separated itself from the World system. Because Jesus loves them so much He rebukes them so they will wake up to themselves. Toward the end of last century there was a great outpouring of understanding of scriptural prophecy. Earlier this century there was a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit in many parts of the world. There is also a great “expectation” about the return of Christ. One further event which has occurred during this time is the restoration of the nation of Israel.The word Laodicea means “People Rule” and it is a time of trial for the Church. The Church has been tried by the forces at work in the world and found wanting. To those who overcome Jesus will grant the right to sit on His throne and rule the nations. We are living in the Laodicean age right now. Jesus is calling us to repent of our worldly ways and return to Him. Echoing this call ought to have been the focus of Pastor Bosun’s message, but he went ahead to decry a Buhari presidency.
Back to Bosun’s reference to the Church in Turkey(ancient Ephesus). According to Wole Owolabi, the truth of the historical matter which Bosun, either evaded or is ignorant of was that God took the candlelights out of the Turkish Church by using the Ottoman Turks in order to achieve what the Lord prophesied. It has nothing to do with Islamic Jihad at all. The Church got what it deserved. It was God’s arrangement through prophecy.
Now, answer this simple question. Between Buhari and Jonathan, who has done more evil to the Nigerian Church? Certainly, Jonathan did more evil. See, the evil President Jonathan did to the Nigerian Church, a Buhari can’t even achieve anything close through Islamic Jihad. All an Islamic jihad can do is probably purify us through lots of persecutions. That’s all. We would become better. But what the other guy, Jonathan, did was worse. He went from Church to Church, politicising the Church of Christ, giving Church leaders money, bastardizing their already comatose consciences. All of them taking some money here and there and further dividing Church against one another. “You got money but I didn’t” kind of scenario. The clergy conspicuously and shamelessly campaigning, canvasingand harassing congregants to vote for Jonathan. Really? I thought ministers are to teach people to be led of the Spirit.? Hence we said it would be very unethical for Jonathan to return as President, and if he does, it would be because we didn’t pray. The Nigerian Church fathers prophesied a Jonathan victory but the ordinary people ( Muslims, Christians, traditional worshippers and atheists) prayed to God to deliver them from Jonathan and the Church leaders. We knelt down and he didn’t win. They prophesied and he lost. Jonathan was the evil that further wrecked the Church’s already dented reputation; he and all those prophets who collected money. Some of our Church leaders just played into that political ditch. The political correctness that our dear Pastor Bosun clamoured for was exactly what the Church in Turkey did. Distributing and competing amongst Bishoprics, finding relevance with and dining with the State. You see, when you politicise the Church, you take away its candlelight. So, Pastor Bosun and his camp were the ones setting the downfall of the Church. They forget that Christianity is relational. If mutual relationship is removed from Christianity, we are no longer Christians. We become club members! Whatever divides us therefore cannot be right. Ironically, Boko Haram is doing a better job in uniting the Church than Jonathan. In Boko Haram, we find a common enemy. In Jonathan, we see a divided Church.
Rather than become enemies of those who do not share our faith, Christ taught Christians to love them. There are better methods of preaching the Gospel than raising false alarms against a Buhari presidency! I am an ardent Christian, but in my view, an honest Muslim who hates graft and corruption would make a better Commander-in-Chief than a Christian who believes stealing is different from corruption. What do you think?