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Understanding the purpose of the Church

A cross-section of people praying during a church programme (Photo Credit: OnlineNigeria News)

By Nwafor Chuku Chima & Etiowo Obangham

A critical look at the nature and operation of different Churches in Africa, especially in Nigeria today reveals that the present Christianity differs greatly from the early Church. Each denomination seems to have found an individual God they serve. Some “men of God” now assume the position of the supreme God.

In his work “Beyond Good and Evil, Friedrich Nietzsche observed that there are two forms of morality: Slave morality and Mast morality. He explains that for the slave to be obedient to the laws confining him as a slave, the master must be alive and around to watch over him. But at the absence or death of the master, the slave assumes the position of the master.

Before God, the so-called worshippers, somewhat, ought to maintain the first kind of morality (slave morality), having the fear that the master is around to sanction at any point of disobedience and misconduct. But the case is different in today’s Christianity practice. We, followers of Christ, now behave in a way that shows our spectators that our master is dead and we have become masters of ourselves over-night.

Should I blame this on the observation and celebration of the birth of Christ at Christmas and that of his death at Easter? Since he was buried on the eve of Good Friday, immoralities have been on the increase because we assume the master is no more, thus we behave the way we like. We forget in a moment that He resurrected after three days of his death and ascended into heaven where he oversees all our affairs today.

The assumption of the death of God in the heart of man is the cause of the problems the present Church has been identified with-the Master Morality Church, where the ‘men of God’ are now God themselves.

No wonder, survival in Nigeria has taken many varied guises and mannerisms. Many of the youths have moved to the flourishing music and movie industries, some to the field of sports which is another area where money is made quickly if connected. There are some who turn to crime, be it cyber or otherwise.

However, majority others prefer a rather “holier” emerging lucrative business-Church business. This set of people uses the opportunity of the religious gullibility of many Nigerians and make it a point of departure from financial self-dependence. Hence, they cash in on the desperation, ignorance and fanatical dispositions of their adherents converting them into money making machines.

Since people are bound to face different challenges most times, they often resort to God for solution. Unfortunately, these merchants of miracles rather than provide them their needed succor turn them into veritable wares in their malls of commercialized miracles, signs and wonders.

Rev. Fr. Osita T. Asogwa in his work, “These ‘Men Of God’ and their Survival Antics”, calls this situation “Exploitation in ‘Jesus Name’, a scenario in which some men of God have turn exploiters to their adherents, rather than help givers.

There are as many Churches as there are uncompleted buildings and makeshifts at all corners across the country. Yet the Christian faith and charity have not got any better

The continual fragmentation of Christianity into questionable groups could be traced to certain number of factors. One is the aversion of authority, a factor that explains why two pastors cannot minister in the same Church especially if the junior feels he is more gifted than his senior. This leads to the quest for self gratification as everyone wants to own their own congregation and be able to command a sense of self-worth and fame.

Similarly, some in protest for certain doctrinal specifications find incomprehensive or unacceptable doctrines and hence, pull out of the Christian group they belong to and thus form theirs.

According to Karl Marx, economy lies behind every human endeavour, including religion. From this thought, therefore, opening a Church in the world of today is just like opening a private school, where profit is made at will. People open miracle centres today in the name of Church and charge miracle seekers money at will in order to give them the desired miracle. What a deceit?!

Evangelism has turned from winning souls for Christ to doing signs and wonders. There are independent prayers and miracle centres here and there with lots of prophecies and prayers for people who need solutions to one problem or the other.  Some of the so called men of God have turned robbers in disguise, forgetting what the Scripture holds:

“If he has not oppressed anyone, but has restored to the debtor his pledge; has robbed no one by violence, but has given his bread to the hungry and covered the naked with clothing; If he has not exacted usury nor taken any increase, but has withdrawn his hand from iniquity and executed true judgment between man and man; If he has walked in My statutes and kept  My judgments faithfully—He is just; He shall surely live! Says the Lord God” (Ezekiel 18:7-9).

It is therefore important to note that any “man of God” who instead of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc, turns to exploiting them is not of the Lord. If Jesus were to come in flesh and blood and enter into the Christian Church today, he will definitely not recognize His gospel in most of them. In fact, majority of the miracle merchants have compromised the gospel in a bid to make themselves attractive to their victims as they sell Jesus at all cost. It is a pity that materialism has taken over spirituality. Please God! Have mercy on your people.

We should understand that being like Christ is carrying our own cross and following Him. Christianity does not guarantee the end of suffering. It is the coming of Christ that guarantees the end of suffering to those who do the will of “His Father”.

However, the wicked ones will suffer everlasting destruction.  Therefore, any religious group that promises to end suffering, to make all men rich, and to take all to heaven both the just and the unjust, without preaching repentance, the coming of Christ and the kingdom thereafter, I think, is not of God. “We shall know them by their fruit”.