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Clerics tackle Okogie on proliferation of churches

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Anthony Cardinal Okogie

The Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos, Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, recently stirred the hornet’s nest by his statement that church proliferation and Pastor Enoch Adeboye’s decision to set up churches at walking distance is not making any positive impact on members and society. In Okogie’s view, those churches are mere business centres. What do other clerics feel about this? Do they agree with the Cardinal? CHRIS IREKAMBA reports.

• Say Churches Are Not Business Centres, But A Noble Vision Coming From God
• The Roman Catholic Church Started Church Business In Nigeria

‘Churches Are Not Business Centres But Gospel Centres’
(Dr. Cosmas Ilechukwu, General Overseer, Charismatic Renewal Ministries/National Vice President PFN)

A key part of Christian life is the opportunity to belong to and share in fellowship with other believers in a local church family, where individuals are taught and nurtured in the living word of God. Churches are not business centres but gospel centres. They are oases of life in the desert of dry religiosity and hellish nominalism, the subsisting legacies of grace-merchandising papism.

Having a church within a walking distance to every person on earth is a noble vision, which could have only come from God, Whose heart pulsates with the desire to see all come to knowledge of truth of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone. Since God intends the church to serve as His instrument to redeem fallen humans into eternal relationship with Him, no effort should be spared in making sure that every human being on earth has unhindered access to a local church. Locating churches within walking distances to the people is what is known in missiology as saturation church planting. It implies filling the earth with the greatest possible amount of churches.

Saturation church planting is premised on the argument that, if God truly wants all to be saved, then every person, without distinction, should be given a valid opportunity not only to hear the gospel of Christ and be saved, but to also be nurtured in a community of faith to become a living witness of Christ’s saving grace. The Biblical underpinning for saturation church planting is the declaration of our Lord Jesus, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17).

The ultimate end God has in view for everyone is salvation in Christ. The Apostle Peter corroborating this explained: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Speaking in affirmation to this truth, Apostle Paul said, “This is good and pleases God our Saviour; who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4). It is very clear from the Holy Scripture that God wants “everyone,” to be saved. The most effective way to give people opportunity to hear the gospel and be saved is to plant a gospel believing church among them.

Therefore, locating the greatest possible number of local assemblies of believers in Jesus in every city, town or village is an end to which every church leader is called to invest his time and resources.

‘Is There Any Aspect Of Our Socio-economic Life That Has Not Been Proliferated?’
(Archbishop Joseph Ojo, Presiding Bishop of Calvary Kingdom Church, Lagos-Badagry Expressway)

The comment by the respected elder statesman should not give the church or any right thinking person sleepless night. We are in a free world and every person is entitled to freedom of speech. On the issue of turning churches into business centres, we should reflect that from the very beginning, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ referred to the Church as His Father’s Business … “And he said unto them, how is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my father’s business? Luke 2:49).

The Roman Catholic Church started Church business in Nigeria, which to me is to God’s glory. They are known to have companies and shares in many multinationals. They have schools, hospitals, hotels and bookshops. They have universities and seminaries. I say again, all to the glory of God. “Whether therefore you eat, or drink, do all to the glory of God. (1Corinthians 10:31)

If you had had the opportunity to ask Jesus our Lord this question, I guess His reply would have been: ‘First remove the log that is in your eyes before you try to remove the speck that is in another person’s eye.’ “Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then thou shall thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of the brother’s eye.” (Matt 7:4-5)

This principle guides even my comments here. I think this is not the time in Nigeria for Christians of the various denominations to cast aspersions or throw stones. It should be a time of absolute unity. Why are people so concerned about proliferation of churches? Is there any aspect of our social and economic life that has not been proliferated? Media houses, both print and electronic, have been proliferated.

In the 60s, just after independence, we had Daily Times, Morning Post, Daily Sketch, New Nigeria and The Nigerian Observer. TV houses were also not more than three or four. Universities were just Ahmadu Bello University, University of Ibadan, University of Nigeria and University of Ife. The late respected S. O Ogbemudia started University of Benin. But today, there are nearly two hundred institutions, both private and public. It is time people focused on the things that will get this country out of the many issues that are tearing us apart.

Such issues include, fairness, resource control, restructuring, merit and corruption. God’s Word says whatsoever you do, do it to the glory of God. So, if someone has a vision of establishing parishes of his church everywhere, he should not be crucified for it.

My counsel is that trained men and women, who are of good report, should pastor those churches. For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea. “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Isa.11: 9).

‘Proliferation Of Churches Is A Call For Revival, Spiritual Reawakening’
(Rt. Rev. Johnson C. Onuoha, Bishop, Diocese of Arochukwu/Ohafia, Anglican Communion, Abia State)

I don’t really share the same view with the Cardinal, because everybody is entitled to his or her opinion. However, one thing I know is that God moves in mysterious ways to perform His wonders, and we cannot call these new generation churches as business centres. In every good thing, there could be some bad, but inasmuch as God has allowed it, it means that it is for good.

Personally, I believe strongly that it’s a call for reawakening. There are certain things we as orthodox churches are not doing right, which by the grace of God, some of the new generation churches have opened our eyes to see that some of the things we are doing may not be right before God. So, it cannot be a business centre, even though some of these churches have abused such privileges.

As far as I’m concerned, God allowed proliferation of churches, and it is for good; it is a call for revival and spiritual reawakening and it depends on the definition that people or individuals give to it.

As far as I’m concerned, when somebody is not doing something right, others don’t have to remain there and swallow hook, line and sinker everything the person is doing. If somebody is not satisfied with what another person is doing, of course, he or she can look elsewhere. And whatever we are doing, we should do it with caution, as well as the fear of God.

Proliferation has impacted positively in people’s lives, because when the church comes closer to people, the fear of God also comes closer to them. Initially, people used to spend a lot of money and time trekking distances to attend church. But presently, the church has been brought close to them. The church has, thereby, helped in checkmating the evil within that community and society, which is why I said the church has affected lives positively. What people fail to understand is that, no matter how much we preach and teach God’s word, the word of God made it clear that in the latter days, the love of many will wax cold. This is just the point I want to make. The fact that evil is on the increase does not mean it is because the church has been brought closer to the people. No! Evil is increasing because the rate of immorality and wickedness has grown, and the more the church grows, the more wickedness grows as well. Though good things and bad things will grow together, but in the end, the good things will be harvested to the kingdom of God, while the bad will be harvested and thrown into hell fire.



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