Dear men & women of God in the Nigerian Christian community,
I am writing this article from a place of deep respect, love and concern, and as a Bible-believing Christian. For a few weeks, I have felt a strong urge to share an important message with you as we all prepare for 2017 and work towards building a better Nigeria.
I have noticed two trends.
First, we are overscheduling the faithful and negating their critical roles in the marketplace!
Every Monday, employees start off the week exhausted and through the week struggle to give their best as “apostles in the marketplace. “ When asked how they spend their weekend, they often state that they went for Friday night vigil, workers meeting on Saturday, and Church on Sunday. If they are “workers” they often attend more than one service and cell group meetings or evangelism on Sunday evenings. During the week, they attend morning prayer sessions from 6 to 7 a.m. and mid-week service on Tuesday or Wednesday night. Many of them also commute to work listening to sermons from other churches, and hours at work online following their favourite pastors. For example, one born-again Christian – Aisha, a banker, recently mentioned that she struggles with severe guilt when she misses a single church activity. A doctor – Ade – disclosed that his pastor often counsels that anyone who spends more time working, instead of praying or serving in the church, is making work and money his idol.
While I recognize the importance of fellowship among the brethren, communal prayer and worship, I am increasingly worried that the churches are compelling their members to treat their “day” jobs as mere sources of income – instead of recognizing that the “world of work” is also a mission field. Today, we desperately need Christians to start work early, work late on weekdays and even on weekends in order to transform our nation and heal our land! We cannot afford to continue to live in a decaying society, as mediocre contributors and to be mocked for a declining economy, where the only thriving industry is religion.
Second, we are competing, instead of collaborating!
I have noted increasing competition between churches, within and across denominations, with marketing campaigns that rival the fast moving consumer goods industry, selling a worship experience or a special event! The use of comedians, concerts, cooking and fashion competitions to draw converts, who often Church hop or switch from one congregation to another – all in search of the next trend, or the snazziest experience (looking to be entertained) – is comparable to the search for the “most-happening” spot in town! This in itself is a dangerous trend.
As depicted in the picture below which was shared recently on social media, something is not right!
I strongly believe that Nigerians have common sense. However, we need to wake up to our responsibilities as Christians and leaders in the faith and as citizens of this nation. We urgently need to rebuild and expand our primary healthcare systems and our hospitals and ensure that there are capable doctors and nurses who work diligently to provide care with compassion. We need committed and skilled teachers and world-class schools to train our children and profitable businesses to employ our youth. We need effective social services, infrastructure and safe communities. Indeed, change is required in every sector and at every level of society, and we as Christians must step up to change our societies, provide solutions to our most pressing problems and heal our land.
Men and women of God, as we enter 2017, I have five simple requests:
- Continue to encourage members of your congregation to discover their life’s purpose. If they are called to become full time workers in the Church, encourage them to do so and maximize their potential as co-laborers. If they are called to be “Apostles in the Marketplace,” encourage them to give their best in that mission field. Accept the fact that this means they will miss many of the weekly and weekend activities and may not be able to serve as traditional church workers, but ensure that they never feel guilty or ostracized for their personal decisions. In fact, recognize and applaud their service as Christians in difficult industries and sectors – as teachers, doctors, construction or factory workers, farmers, entrepreneurs, civil servants etc.
- Recruit the large numbers of unemployed youth in the communities in which you operate – estimated at about 45% of the youth population. These individuals should become active volunteers in the Church. This practical work experience will equip them with critical life and leadership skills which will position them to start businesses or obtain jobs in future.
- Utilize your church buildings and compounds to fill critical gaps in the social fabrics of our society – free schools, health centers, literacy and vocational training centers for the unemployed, recreation centers for the elderly and homeless shelters for victims of abuse and neglect. Engage your youth volunteers in these social initiatives and you will be amazed at how the light of this good work will so shine before men and women, that they will seek God and find Him.
- Ensure that every encounter that the faithful have in the House of God is authentically rooted in holiness, righteous doctrine, where they are given the unique opportunity to eat spiritual food! Resist the temptation to dwell on the prosperity gospel, and the message of instant miracles without hard work and persistence. Work diligently to prepare for and deliver spirit-filled and divinely inspired teachings, rooted in the Bible. Through your words, actions and support, equip each believer for the work ahead, enabling them to be people of integrity, battle-ready to overcome all the obstacles that they confront and conquer new territory to ensure that we can collectively change our communities, states and country.
- Finally, stop competing and start collaborating! There is so much work to-do, and we can only do it if we work together, leaving our egos and logos at the door, and committing to join efforts with humility and a shared vision for transforming our land! Men and women of God – reach out across the divides, instead of waiting for politicians to bring you together, and pray for each other and for our nation. Jointly organize health and education outreach events. Share resources! Share knowledge! In doing so, you will not only achieve more, but you will serve as excellent earthly demonstrations of what the Body of Christ really represents!
I wish you all a fantastic 2017, filled with more love, peace and joy!