Tribalism and why it thrives in God’s house
As a spiritual institution, the church is supposed to cater to souls and minister to all people, irrespective of their race, tribe or age. The goal is to ensure that as many as desire it, make it into God’s Kingdom. However, the happenings and practices in some churches are negating this commandment of the Lord Jesus, Who urged that the church must be one; just as He and God the Father are one. In some churches, everything is done on tribal basis. What are the effects of tribalism in the church? Should this be happening in church? CHRIS IREKAMBA reports.
‘God Has Made Us One But The Policy And Wickedness In Man Brought Tribalism’
‘Church Is Not A Political Setting Where Things Are Done Through Ethnic Balancing’
(His Eminence Rev. Dr. Samson Olasupo A. Ayokunle, President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN)
First of all, tribalism is not supposed to surface in church, because in Christ Jesus, there should be no Greek, Jew or Gentile. There should be no slave or master, as all are supposed to be one (Galatians 3: 28.)
One of the major acts of the flesh that wanted to destroy the Early Church in the Bible, Acts of the Apostles 6:1ff was tribalism. Murmuring started in the church and it would have consumed the church then because relief distribution was not done according to people’s needs but through tribalism.
The Hebraic widows were given relief materials by their Hebrew brothers, while non-Jews were neglected, as if they were not part of the church or in need!
Tribalism is partiality pure and simple. It is a breeding ground for divisions, contentions and hatred. The church is not a political setting where things are to be done through ethnic balancing, or where any competent person should be neglected because of ethnic origin.
The church must behave as a place for spirit-filled people, by embracing all without excluding anyone on basis of ethnicity.
‘It’s In The Church Even At High Level, But It’s So Sad’
(Apostle Anselm Madubuko, General Overseer of Revival Assembly Church, Ikeja, Lagos)
Tribalism is an effect of a mind that has not been renewed. When your mind is not renewed, then you look at the tribe. But when Christ has come into your life and has access into your heart, tribalism dies. The last thing I look at in a person is where he/she comes from; rather, I look at the heart. If your heart is right I will go with you. If we return to God, tribalism will die. It thrives because we’ve decided not to renew our minds and study God’s Word and understand that all of us are one.
Whether Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa, the same red blood runs in our vein. The same thing goes for the White man and Black man. God has made all of us one, but it is the policy and wickedness in man and the fact that we Christians have refused to allow the Holy Sprit change our hearts. That is why it has stayed on. The evil is in the church, even at high level, and it’s so sad. It shouldn’t be.
The effect is that things are crippled, because people are not being just in whatever they do, when such is based on tribalism. There simply can’t be excellence. For example, if the best hand is an Igbo man, but I insist I want a Yoruba man, I will not get the best person to do the job of the ministry. People suffer because of this, as there are many repercussions. Anything evil is evil. So, tribalism is something we must destroy in the church. Tribalism shouldn’t reign in the Church, only Jesus.
‘If We Don’t Kill Tribalism, Tribalism Will Kill The Church’
(Rt. Rev. Dr. James Olusola Odedeji, Diocesan Bishop, Lagos West, Anglican Communion)
It’s unfortunate and I see it as one of the devil’s devices to cripple the church of the living God from moving forward. Church leaders should resist it with all they have. As far as I’m concerned, nobody has a say as to where he/she is born. God decides where people are going to be born.
When I see anyone that is tribalistic, what I always tell myself is that as an individual, you didn’t apply to be created or born as a Yoruba man or Igbo man or Hausa man. God did it and you should not be at a disadvantage or be inferior to other people, especially those who are of the same faith with you.
I always tell people anywhere I go to that if we don’t kill tribalism, tribalism will kill the church. We’ve allowed it to thrive for so long, and it can be corrected in like manner. All we need is look for what is responsible and end it. We should also query the genuineness of our faith in Christ Jesus.
As a genuine Christian, you are not expected to favour only those from your tribe. We should begin to see the church as God’s church, not tribe or ethnicity. Where you come from doesn’t matter. What matters is that we are from one Source. I didn’t know how I became a Yoruba man; likewise you as an Igbo man. God did it without consulting anyone of us. Why then should we allow what God never intended for the church to divide us.
For me, tribalism will stop the Holy Spirit from doing His work in the House of God. Those who have allowed tribalism to subsist in their church should call themselves to order and repent and allow love to be the overriding principle meant to guide the church of God and not tribalism.
When people don’t see the church as the House of God; that is when you see all manner of things including tribalism, because what you focus on is what you get. So, in the church of God, there shouldn’t be any form of tribalism, because when we eventually get to heaven, there is no Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa or Niger Delta man. It is a serious problem. For us leaders, we have a big role to play to ensure that we nip it in the bud, which is why I will continue to stress the need for reformation in God’s House. Everyone should be treated equally in the Church.
‘Tribalism In God’s House Is Anathema’
(Pastor Femi Onasanwo, The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Living Spring, Bayo Adeyemo Street, Ogba, Ikeja, Lagos)
Jesus did not plan for things to be that way. God’s plan for mankind is for us to be one and that is the family of God. And as long as you are in the family of God, I know that you come from somewhere, but the major thing is that we belong to one big family, where tribalism must not be allowed to operate. God is not going to look at where you come from; rather He looks at you as His child. But if you are a child of God, every other thing must not matter so much. You must see your brother or sister as one in Christ and there’s no attachment.
The love of God covers you and it doesn’t matter where you come from. What is important is that everyone in the Church is serving God, and you belong to the same kingdom. So, I think tribalism in God’s House is anathema, which should not be seen or heard that it exists there.
Tribalism is evil and destroys the body of Christ. Once tribalism exists, that bond will not be there any longer and if unity is not there, what then is the purpose? Secondly, a pastor that practices tribalism may not know he/she is diving the body of Christ. But that is not God’s way.
The solution is that anyone that God has put in authority over others must have it at the back of his mind that what he’s doing is God’s work. As such, you must get direction from the Master Himself, the One Who has called you and whatever you want to do, you don’t think of any other thing other than the person that God wants you to put in that position.
‘Some Have Tribalism In Their Blood But It Shouldn’t Be Allowed In God’s Church’
(Pastor Jacob E. Umoru, President of Seventh Day Adventist, Lagos Atlantic Conference)
Tribalism is not something that should be allowed to dwell among God’s people, as it creates discrimination and people are treated based on where they come from and are not given fair treatment. This can easily lead to division. If there is tribalism in God’s church, you can be sure that the church will not be able to fulfil her role in the society.
Indeed, if tribalism is allowed, the church’s mission will not be carried out. Jesus Christ told us that He wants unity among us in John chapter 17. He prayed that we be one, just as He and His father are one. And so, if we are going to be one, then tribalism must not be there. Indeed, we are saved by one blood — the blood of Jesus Christ. In Christ, there is no east, west, south or north.
The Bible says the wall of partition that separates us from God has been broken down by the blood of Jesus through His sacrifice. If that is so, it means that tribalism should not be allowed at all. God sees all of us as equal and one in Him, there’s no male, female or tribal sentiment. Wherever tribalism exists, it creates a lot of problems to the extent that people are not given fair opportunity to do things in the House of God.
Even when it comes to election and promotion, people only consider where you come from, and not what Christ has done in your life as a Christian. So, for you to be allowed to hold any office in the church becomes difficult, and yet we call ourselves children of God. When that happens, we cannot agree to do the work that we are called to do. That is how bad it is.
Again, the Bible says we should be our brother’s keeper, but with tribalism, it means that I will only help or love the person who is from my tribe, who speaks same language with me and so on. This is not how it should be among heaven-conscious believers.
For me, tribalism is a sin. I believe anyone that treats his fellow brother or sister based on where they come from needs conversion as well as deliverance. He’s not yet a Christian, who should take people as they are. A Christian should value people, based on what Jesus has done for all of us. In Christ, we’re on the same level, and no one is higher than the other.
Sometimes, we see traces of tribalism in the church, but as a body of Christ we have not allowed it to divide us. In our church, we have decided that anybody can work anywhere; they should be allowed to do what needs to be done, so that we can fulfil the church’s mission. Some individuals may have it in their blood, but it should not be allowed to thrive.