The Nigerian Church is dying before our very eyes

Recently I attended a prayer meeting. Ninety percent of their prayer points were merely about church growth and members leaving the church. At a point, I stopped praying, left the church auditorium and decided to take a walk round the church vicinity.

 It sounds like I just gave myself a job that never concerned me. I was pissed by the heavy curses led by the Man of God on the witches not allowing the church to grow. Really, I am trying to control myself not mentioning names. At least I am also a member of a certain denomination with a similar challenge.

Over the years, I have observed a whole lot and even researched on this issue. Honestly, you will agree with me that seventy percent of our churches in Nigeria are going through this challenge. At a point in my life, each time I hear church leaders leading members to pray for the church growth and increased membership, I usually close my ears. Don’t judge me! I just get tired of that ‘shit’. Yeah, it can be annoying. And these church folks can argue the hell out of something.

What exactly makes a one-time vibrant church start losing its people and suddenly become obsolete? Young people grew up in a certain church and abruptly realize that they are no longer fit to be in the same place they were built, nurtured and fed with God’s word. Something certainly is wrong aside from the spiritual angle to it. I am not disputing the fact that there are no forces, but please let stop arguing blindly and face the fact. I am writing this based on my research and longtime observation.

 A congregation of over a thousand now proud of having just a hundred members. Something definitely is wrong! My pain is the way people argue and give excuses, especially church folks for their flaws and insensitivity. Here are some of the things I observed.
The church is no longer community based: These days what I see are people locked up in their own shell without even acknowledging that there are people living around them. 

They are just in a world of their own, it’s like ‘We are here, we can see you but stay on your own’ kind of life. No attempt or desire from church members to reach the new residents. Go to some of these ‘dying’ churches, same faces you saw in the 60s are the same faces you see today and they only attend because of ‘Brand loyalty’. When you get used to something, it is not easy to leave it.

The world is becoming crazier every day with a lot of pressure, tension and stress everywhere. People need to have their spiritual, emotional and physical needs met. 

This is when the church needs to step in. More and more children are growing up in broken homes, unemployment is on the rise and Christians are sinking deeper into debt like never before. Churchgoers are struggling to make ends meet in their everyday lives, and we feel the pinch of reality just like everyone else. Whether you are a Believer or non-believer, you are not exempted from the trials of the world. For this reason I will say, drastic times call for drastic measures.

Irrespective of church size, each church can provide effective small group ministries and outreach services. This momentum can then spread out beyond the walls of the church and be incorporated into the community where the church serves. To the best of its ability, the church can provide services, counseling and advice to those in need.

No community focused ministries: There are no creative reach out programmes or events. It is not just organizing programmes, but programmes based on community needs and creatively put together. This is a digital generation; people are more exposed than we think. In the last few years, how many of these churches had gone round the community they are based to ask questions. 

You hear about cult clashes in certain communities and I ask myself, ‘are there no churches around these places?’ It reminds me of late Bishop Benson Idahosa, how one man singlehandedly stood against forces. Part of what he did is what some churches enjoy today.

Creativity is dead: So painful that when people mention the church or a Christian, ‘creativity’ probably is not the first word that comes to mind. This sad truth is not the result of a lack of creative Christians, but rather, Christians who do not know what to do with their creativity. At times, when you suggest ideas they tag it as a sign of the end time.

Many churches struggle to balance art and faith. They believe that if what you are doing is not littered with obvious spirituality, it cannot glorify God. I have been to some churches, and there is no difference between what I saw when I was a kid than and I am seeing now. Smelling environment, broken pews, leaking toilet sink, cobwebs everywhere, rats and cats struggling with members of the church and you keep praying against witches??? Haba!!!

Prayer scarcity: During the fuel scarcity, people went through hell. A whole nation was shut down for weeks. Same way it is when a church refuse to pray. Prayers should not always be limited to members, their friends and families, prosperity and their physical needs. Corporate prayer meetings bring togetherness and not just a ten-minute prayer during the Sunday worship service. The church that prays together, win together.

No clear purpose: Some churches do not even know why they exist; they majorly exist for evangelistic purposes. When a church loses its passion to reach the lost, the congregation begins to die. No vision, no mission and no purpose.

Killer tongues: I call some members of the church ‘Forces’. The only job they know how to do best is gossip. They go about talking about one sister and brother playing together, husband and wife fighting, fowl and cat quarreling. At times, church folks need to mind their business. This is when the church leader needs to be sensitive enough to know how his flocks are faring. Talk with them. Feel what they feel!

Dead facilities: Imagine getting to a church where all their facilities are deteriorated. No sign post outside to show the church exists, even if there is one it has changed colour. The gates are broken down. The security person look unkempt, flood everywhere during rainy season, and there is cattle rearing at the entrance of the church. Mostly, it is not a financial issue. Instead, the church fails to see the continuous deterioration of the church building as a major thing that can influence people.

All these can be discouraging. We must learn as many as churches in Nigeria are dying very fast. Their time is short, perhaps less than a decade if careful attention is not taken. 
At present, Shoprite is one of the leading retail stores in Nigeria or Africa at large and it keeps opening stores across the country.

At these stores, you can purchase anything; I mean anything from cooking oil to car oil and from pet food to fresh produce. The convenience of having everything located under one roof is a multi-billion dollar secret. This is the true meaning of a convenience store. The customers are truly in love with this concept of everything under one roof. I think the church must be that type of store.

Why do you think the people kept coming back to Jesus? Jesus showed by His deeds the church’s purpose and function. He gave us the blueprint for successfully meeting the needs of the hearers. Before Jesus gave His sermon, He fed the “church comers.” They came to hear the Messiah, and after feeding them with physical food, He then gave them spiritual food for the soul. Both their physical and spiritual needs were met. This is the classical Jesus!

Godwin Okhawere,

Culled from Ynaija

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