Fruits bearing: Why there is less to harvest in today’s church?
With innumerable churches springing up in all the nooks and crannies of the country, evangelising to win souls for Christ and preparing members for heaven, one would have thought society would be the better for it, through the exemplary living of Christians. However, this appears not to be the case, as the society is pervaded with so much decadence. Wherever one turns, all that assails the senses is sheer ugliness and many Christians simply cannot be bothered. They put up devil-may-care attitude, doing those things their pastors preach against on Sundays. So, why are the churches’ efforts not bearing good fruits? Why are Christians finding it hard to practise what the Bible says in Galatian 5:22-23? OMIKO AWA and ISAAC TAIWO probe clerics on this.
‘Messages Should Be Centred On The Truth, Christ And Good Behaviours’
(Archbishop Magnus Atilade is of the Gospel Baptist Conference of Nigeria and Overseas and President, Christian Welfare Initiative (CWI).
One can hear and listen to sermons and teachings in the church and yet, not be transformed, if the messages are not based on the truth. So, to have a better society, church messages should be based on the truth, centred on the teachings of Christ and good behaviours. Members can bear good fruits, if there is an umbrella Christian body that monitors churches and the type of doctrines they teach. This would also help the members to be established in the truth and transform the society for good.
Churches that do not preach the true gospel should be blamed for these woes and Christians, who though go to church, but refuse to be born again should also be blamed for camouflaging as Christians, while refusing to live the spirit-filled lifestyle expected of them.
‘Human Heart Is A Battleground For Devil, Who Comes To Steal, To Kill And Destroy’
(Bishop Praises Omole is the Dean, St. Francis of Assisi Theological College, Wusasa, Zaria).
The impression being created is that because people bear Christian names, then they are presumed to be churchgoers, who have been listening to sermons and teachings over and over again and as such, much is expected from them. But this is quite ironical; for it is not everyone that attends church service that is a Christian. There is an adage that says: ‘The hood does not make a monk,’ which implies that not all that are wearing the hood can be call monks. In the same vein, it is not all that go to church or bear Christian names that can be called Christians.
Ideally, the main reason for going to church is to live a transformed life after listening to sermons and teachings, but this is not so, because some people go to church to socialise and discuss business. Therefore, when sermons and teachings are going on, their minds are not there!
Transformation that would make people behave well in the society can only take place in the lives of those that are born again, those that really go to church and serve God in truth. The human heart is a battleground for the devil, who comes to steal, kill and destroy. The parable of the Sower tells us what takes place in the heart of man, as he listens to the sermons and teachings. There are hearts where the devil immediately removes the Words, as they hear them. The devil erases all the Words from the hearts of some immediately after service, as they begin to discuss business. There are some that the Words do not find any place to grow and germinate at all. Only a negligible number live the sermons and teachings they hear.
The truth is that all these people bear Christian names and one would expect them to behave like Christians, but the reverse is the case. However, the Church can help them to bear good fruits by continually preaching the truth. Another problem can be traced to what they hear. If they are not hearing true Words of God as sermons, they cannot give what they do not have to the society. Complete Words of God that would reflect Christ in them must be taught. Another important factor is for the leaders or pastors to live by example. The teachings should be ‘do’ what I do and not do what I say.
Members should be able to emulate their leaders, who are expected to be role models. Jesus Christ is our Role Model and every pastor should also live up to the same standard. Also, the Church must make disciples of the flock. There should be mentorship of members. The Church should be ready to help the weak, and be prepared to nurture them in the right way to live as Christians. This should, however, not be limited to spirituality alone. Rather, it should be reflected in all other areas, including connecting them with those that could help them in the Church, when they need employment.
Churches that are not preaching the totality of the Word of God and those that are going to Church not for the purpose of listening to the Word of God and be born again should be held accountable for all these bad behaviours in the society.
‘Many Preachers Now Focus On Superficial Messages At The Expense Of Sound Christian Living’
(Pastor Johnson Odesola is the Assistant General Overseer, The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Administration and Personnel).
Only hearing sermons and teachings of the Word of God does not make people to behave well in the society or have good character, if they are not living by what they hear. It can also be said that these days, many preachers focus on the superficial messages of prosperity and all that, which do not teach sound Christian living and morals. These preachers preach on what to eat, how to live well and not the life changing Word of God that makes the people get born again.
This is falsehood. Little wonder then that people go to Church and with all they hear, they still steal, cheat, fight and perpetrate those behaviours that are inconsistent with true Christian living.
We should, however, not limit these un-Christian habits to the Church alone, as training begins from home, the school, workplaces and others. The greatest point is how prepared is the individual ready to yield to all the training.
Many parents do not have time to lay the foundation of a good life for their children. They leave the responsibility to teachers in the school. Parents are the first teachers and it is on the foundation parents have laid that the school and the church build upon. Then the church is expected to teach balanced word of God. The basic teaching of the Church should begin with the individual getting born again, which should be followed by teachings on how to be a good citizen and good neighbour.
In many churches, sermons on prosperity, healing and deliverance are the main focus, while those that appeal to morals are sidelined.
‘Many Pastors Are Operating Populist Agenda’
(Pastor Bunmi Idowu is the Presiding Pastor, Shining Family Church, Ota).
The issue is not just attending church services or listening to sermons and other teachings or messages, but how the word is impacting on the listeners. The Bible says a good tree cannot bear bad or evil fruits; neither can a bad tree bear good fruits. An average tree is known by the kind of fruits it bears. Fundamentally, what a man does not have, he cannot give. Those people out there in the society that are known to be attending churches can only manifest what they have on the inside of them, which would show whether they attend churches to be transformed or for other purposes. However, the church has to intensify the preaching of the message of salvation, laying emphasis on Christian virtues.
Today, many churches are operating populist agenda, as many pastors want to be popular and as such, are preaching prosperity messages that interest members. Churches have to lay emphasis on disciplining members, who must be taught to be like Christ, the Head of the Church. While it is good to be successful, which most Churches emphasise, it is more important to be like Jesus Christ, such that others would see them in the society and identify them as Jesus disciples. There are a lot of false pastors, who are only out to make money and not to make saints. This is a vital area, where the problem lies. Definitely, these so-called pastors are not after improving the society in any way.
‘Messages And Teachings Are Not Enough, Members Should Also Be Prayed For’
(Rev. Ayomide Abraham is the Senior Pastor of Foursquare Gospel Church, and the District Overseer and Axis Coordinator of the Church in Sango Ota).
Manifesting good behaviour in the society has to do with ‘redemption,’ which is personal. Positive transformation of life translates to positive attitude in the society. The extent to which a Christian would reflect Christ in his/her character has to do with how far he/she is genuinely born again. The Bible says that people in Antioch behaved like Christ; hence, they were first called Christians. Certainly, a change has occurred in their inner lives, which reflected on the outside.
If people attend Church services, listen to sermons and teachings, as well as, messages and these have no root in them, then something must be wrong somewhere. On the other hand, if people attend Church services, listen to sermons and others, which do not have any impact on lives, one should not expect any good fruit from such people. Apparently, the lifestyle of those that are born again would reflect that they tremble at the word of God and the fruits of changed life will be very conspicuous with them.
The issue of mentorship also becomes of paramount importance. There is need to continue to mentor members till they become matured in the Lord and start bearing expected fruits in the society. There are some people, who, when rebuked or disciplined, will simply change church. Members should be trained to know that discipline is part of the trainings they are in the church to pass through.
Messages and teachings are not enough, members should be prayed for. There is need for continual intercession for them to be strong and bring forth fruits that show they have truly repented. The Church should also pray for backsliders among them; that these may be restored and manifest fruits that would portray them as Christ followers.
‘The Church Is Still In the Business Of Moulding Members To Produce Godly Fruits’
(Prophet Chukwuemeka Samuel Odigbo, General Overseer, Land of Grace Ministry, Lagos).
The church is the gathering of people of diverse tribes and status, who may not want to give up their cultural beliefs, but the church has to patiently deal with them to submit to Christ. The church moulds them to fit-in into the Calvary journey by ways of teaching, seminars and sermons. Within this period, most of them still behave in a worldly manner. But those that have accepted the teachings change for the better, and even impact others with their good behaviours.
Though, the church is a place of mixed multitude, it cannot deny the fact that it is still in the business of moulding people to bear godly fruits in the society, apart from preparing great minds for the coming of the second coming of Christ. There are cases of Christians returning stolen items, not breaking rules in workplaces and living a godly lifestyle in the midst of corrupt people.
And just because some pastors have diluted the word of God, we cannot say the church has totally failed. The church, as we see it today, is like a lame person amid wolves, but despite this, it is working to make members bear godly fruits in their public and private lives.
‘It’s Part Of The Signs Of End Time’
(Apostle Joel Olasunkanmi Iyiola is of The Bible based Church, Ibadan).
It is part of the signs of the end time, when the word of God is not having any positive impact on the hearer. Jesus emphatically said, “Not everybody calling me Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of God, but those that do the will of my Father in heaven.” Preachers not living according to the Words they preach could be some of the causes. The situation has gone so bad that those that are supposed to be builders are themselves robbers in the Church. And when this happens, what then do you expect from their followers in the society?
Ministers should preach and live according to the Word of God. They should also preach to their members to know and believe that the God’s Word is not like newspapers, but the true Word of God.
Many so-called pastors are not born again and one wonders what they teach their members. They deviate from the truth and teach philosophies and norms that the people want to hear.
‘Pastors Now Preach Prosperity And Cannot Give What They Do Not Have’
(Pastor Olusegun Daodu is of Christ Reigns International Church, Ibadan).
Christianity is life and not a religion. It is not limited to hearing messages, listening to sermons and teachings that make one to live Christ-like in the society. The individual must have Christ in the inside of him and it is not about bearing a Christian name either. The life of a Christian is a personal relationship with God. The person expected to manifest good moral in the society must be part of the new creatures, with old things passing away and all things becoming new.
The Church can only help members to manifest fruits by returning to the kingdom message, which teaches and emphasises how to be ‘born again.’ The Church should ensure that solid foundation is built for the life of every believer with the body dead to sin. The Bible says, “Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin.” This means that those that are truly regenerated cannot bear such vices as malice, anger and backbiting, among others.
We can now see the reason the Church should return to the old time message that has to do with laying solid foundation for a Christian life. This kind of message can only be preached by Pastors, who themselves are living the life. But the unfortunate thing is that many so-called pastors are themselves not born again. All they preach is prosperity and motivational messages and, of course, they cannot give what they do not have.
On the part of many members, many of them are looking for material blessings and messages that would make them rich. Many are not truly looking for God. They are not seeking salvation; they have forgotten the message: ‘What shall it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul.’