The State of the Church

“He (Luther) distinguished between what he called theologies of glory and theologies of the cross. A theologian of glory was self-serving and self-aggrandizing, whereas a theologian of the cross followed Christ’s path of self-denial. Christ’s true church must be a suffering, persecuted church, constantly assaulted by the devil. If a church was at peace, rich and powerful, that alone proved it was already securely in Satan’s bondage, even before it proceeded to attack the true, persecuted believers.”

The above is a quote about Martin Luther from the book, ‘Protestants: The Faith That Made the Modern World’ by Alex Ryrie. I highly recommend this book.

When I read that quote, I couldn’t move forward but stayed at that same spot for some time to deliberate extensively on how that applies to the state of the church today in my beloved Nigeria.

In a season when many Christians are feeling despondent with the state of the church and many non-Christians are bashing the church for her lack of social impact on a deteriorating society, it really has to be said that the church is at peace, rich and powerful, as stated in the quote above.

While there is some persecution of the church in some Northern parts of our country, we can’t deny the fact that the church has become a powerful establishment. The church has huge investments, incredible amount of property across the nation, massive cash reserve in banks, influential members in key positions of government and industry, etc. When the umbrella body, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) or many of her leaders speak, the nation shakes. Such is her influence in Nigeria.

Like in 2015, the 2019 elections is already seeing the church take political sides, feeding into the already well oiled religious and ethnic agenda. She has chosen to weigh her influence in deciding the outcome of the forthcoming general elections.

There is no doubt, ours is not a persecuted church and that being the case, it means we are actively under the theology of glory (self-serving and self-aggrandising) rather than the theology of the cross (self-denial), as seen in the quote above.

This is more evident in the lack of willingness of the church to use her enormous influence  (finances and influential members) to address the issues of poor governance, fight against corruption, the high maternal deaths, high number of orphans and the aged abandoned on the streets, support of people with disabilities, poor judicial system, huge number of citizens in prisons awaiting trial for years (and many are innocent), communal crises, reforms in education and healthcare, better policies and programmes from the Executive, better laws by the National Assembly, etc. The list is just endless.

If you think this is too much a task for such a powerful establishment, visit churches on Sunday to see the influential Nigerians who are Pastors, Deacons and Elders. These are the same citizens who run our executive and legislative arms of government, the judiciary, the Police, the Military, our Banks, our government schools and hospitals and many other critical sectors.

No, they will not upset the status quo but instead, many of her leaders use the pulpit to rain curses on Nigerians such as the Fulani herdsmen. If some herdsmen are said to have undertaken some gruesome killings, does it mean all Fulani herdsmen should be cursed? As it is the case with any modelling, members have taken the same model from their leaders by raining abuse on all real and imagined opponents, especially on Social Media.
It is a church that believes she is powerful that will use of power of cursing and it is a clear example of self-aggrandising (exaggerating her importance or power). She will dare not be cautioned as James and John were cautioned by our Lord Jesus Christ in Luke 9:54. As far as the Nigerian church is concerned, “You persecute us, we call down fire to burn you. We are that powerful and shouldn’t be messed with.”

How did we get here?
The glory has departed and with it went the presence of our Lord in our midst. The love of God went with the glory and what we have become is a noisy gong – much noise and no real power (love). This is what Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 13:1, “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”

What must we do?
If we put down our pride and accept that all our riches, supposed peace and power is just a reflection of Satan’s bondage, we will come to the realisation that the glory has departed. I admit that this will be difficult for the church establishment but the remnants are taking this on board and they are the ones who are repenting and seeking for the restoration of His glory in our midst.

When the altar of genuine worship is built and our lives offered as a living sacrifice to God on that altar, He will return to cleanse us, renew our minds, put His fire in us and use us to transform our nation for His glory.
Only then would we become a persecuted church, preaching the Cross of Jesus Christ in our words and in our deeds. Only then would we see Christians love the Fulani herdsmen, pray for their salvation, witness to them, minister to their needs and give practical support to help them modernize their cattle rearing for their benefit and that of farmers from the North to the South of Nigeria.

Only then would we see collaboration between churches (the remnants) to address social issues on a national scale. We will also witness members of the remnant go into politics to serve and shine the light of God in the marketplace.

A persecuted church loves even her real and perceived enemies because the love of God fills their heart. They also have the teaching of Jesus who instructed us to love our enemies, and His modelling like when He spent time with a Samaritan woman breaking down gender, religious, social and ethnic barriers.

The Church establishment is not likely to change and will turn out to become the main persecutor of the remnant church. It is good because the remnants will be constantly reminded that they are called to follow Christ’s path of self-denial.

The question for you, Christian, is: are you happy to remain part of the establishment or be part of the persecuted church where the presence of God dwells but life is one of a living sacrifice (a self-denial)?

This is the question for the season. Choose this day who you will serve. As for me and my house, we will become a living sacrifice.