A century ago our nation was in deep darkness. Superstition ruled and Satan was worshipped. Sacrifices were offered to deities in rivers, trees and rocks. The creature was worshipped rather than the Creator.
The earliest attempts by missionaries to penetrate Nigeria soon resulted in two missionary societies withdrawing from the area, after the death of 11 and 71 missionaries respectively mainly due to mosquito-borne disease. The West African Coast had become ‘the white man’s grave’.
However, Nigeria was conquered at last largely through the work of black Jamaican missionaries, and the gospel spread like wildfire. The Acts of the Apostles repeated itself among our people.
Churches were built. There was reverent Christian worship and evidence of changed lives. Christian hospitals, schools and workshops were established.
But Judges 2 has repeated itself. As then a new generation arose who did not know the Lord, so today people care nothing for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many claim that their fathers were forced or fooled into forsaking African religions and embracing the ‘white man’s religion’.
Two practices common in our churches illustrate this declension. First, it has become fashionable for churches to hold a ‘Fund Raising Ceremony’ to finance almost any project. It may be to obtain a band-set, a pulpit, a building extension, or more pews, but never for a missionary enterprise.
Guests are invited to the ceremony from the local community. They may not be Christians, but that does not matter so long as they are rich! They are called the ‘chairman’, ‘royal father’ or ‘mother’ of the day!
At the climax of the meeting, these rich, often corrupt, men are introduced and asked to make a speech and donate money. These donors will then be careful to use pious ‘Christian language’ such as ‘I hereby donate my widow’s mite — N5,000 or N10,000’. Yet they are worth millions! There will be a big hand of applause and congratulations all round.
Drums and dancing
Secondly, many churches use the drum and dance in services. The first missionaries to Nigeria took time to study what lay behind the traditional African use of drums and dancing in religion. They discovered that they were strongly tied to idol worship. So they recommended their exclusion from God’s worship.
I know a missionary church whose Statement of Faith contains words like: ‘Since we know that traditional drums and dancing have to do with our old ways, we exclude them from the worship of Almighty God’. Yet, sadly, this same church has now introduced drums and dancing reminiscent of our pagan ancestors.
With such activities taking up most of the time in many church services, hymns are not sung, and prayers and sermons are brief. There is no place for true gospel preaching. Also, spurious spiritual gifts are on the increase, coupled with ‘the prosperity gospel’ and ‘signs and wonders’.
It seems that Ichabod is written over many churches in Nigeria. Pray for us — please pray!