THE NIGERIAN CHURCH AS I REMEMBER IT AS A BOY GROWING UP IN THE 70’s, 80’s and 90’s… ( AND HOW I SEE IT NOW)

 

You know, now that I think about it, the “Nigerian Church” moved through a rather curious phasing between the late 70’s through the 80’s to the early 90’s.

In the 70s, there was an emphasis on “Holiness” and “Separation”, men and women were taught that there is a “second work of grace” (regeneration being the first) by the Holy Spirit which is “entire sanctification.” Christians were shunned and mocked as they turned their back on the world and eagerly awaited the return of Christ etc.

Then there was a shift into Spiritual Warfare consciousness with books like “Grand Occult Master, Now in Christ” and the other one by “Emmanuel Eni,  (About the Queen of the Coast), Spiritual warfare became popular, the kingdom of darkness (it seemed) was being decimated and “The Church was marching on!”.

I remember, as a young boy (my early teens) in the late 80s that there was an ultimatum given by the Late Bishop Idahosa to witches in Benin”; I also recall the time that “witches and wizards” took a full page advert in the newspaper to announce some international conference of Witches in Nigeria (during the 80’s).

I also recall (though not so sure) that Idahosa “warned” them (witches and wizards) that Nigeria was out of bounds.

Coming alongside the Holiness Movement but less popular then was the Pentecostal Movement.

Pentecostals like the Holiness movement also believe in a second work of grace except that theirs is the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit with evidence of speaking in Tongues”

Of course, there was still some “getting used to” that was required the suddenly BAM!!! Word Of Faith movement became full blown.

It started with men like Idahosa and Adeboye who consider Kenneth Hagin as their mentor/ friend (not so sure which) and it started rather innocuously as the “recovering of the lost truth of the power of faith”.

While the Holiness movement had focused on “entire sanctification” and the Pentecostal Movement on the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” (as on the day of Pentecost), the appeal of the Word Of Faith movement was in its promise of the rewards and benefits of heaven NOW!!!

Suddenly people realized (at least so they thought) that they had unfettered access to the “Riches of God in Christ” and that the access code was “faith”

One after the other, churches were swept off their feet by this new and curiously effective doctrine (effective in its appeal of course). And since there is no stopping the greed of the human mind, coupled with the lack of safeguards against charlatans who were not shy to say “Thus saith the Lord” even when GOD had not spoken; false doctrine after false doctrine was spun out in rapid succession. The syncretistic nature of the WOF doctrine didn’t help either as it made it easy for every Jannes, Jambres and Hymaneus to identify with it and be welcomed as a brother; so that you had all sort of men calling themselves Pastors yet doing things even unbelievers would blush at.

Some men who grew up (became “born again”) during the holiness movement of the 70s were obviously miffed about the goings on in the Nigerian Church especially the Pentecostal movement and they decided to speak up against the mess that the Church had become and sought to distinguish themselves from the rot and corruption the purveyors of the WOF movement had wreaked on the Nigerian Church.

It was from one of such men I first heard the term “Penterascals” (a term he used to disparage the WOF fraudsters).

Anyway, these group of men had as their goal a return to “Apostolic Christianity” that is “Christianity as practiced by the Apostles.” This emphasis is very much like Peter Wagner’s “New Apostolic Reformation” which fundamental thesis is that God is currently restoring the lost offices of church governance, namely the offices of Prophet and Apostle.

Termed as the Prophetic and Apostolic Movement, this movement has Pentecostal and charismatic origins, with those traditions’ interpretations of the nature of the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit within each believer – these include the direct revelation of Christ to each believer, prophecy, and the performance of miracles such as healing.

The following are what members of this movement believe:

  1.  Apostolic governance. Members of this movement believe that some of their leaders are apostles, in the same sense that the original Twelve Apostles were.
  2. The office of the prophet. Similarly, other leaders of the church are present-day prophets.
  3. Dominionism. “When Jesus came, He brought the kingdom of God and He expects His kingdom-minded people to take whatever action is needed to push back the long-standing kingdom of Satan and bring the peace and prosperity of His kingdom here on earth.”
  4. Theocracy. “The way to achieve dominion is … to have kingdom-minded people in every one of the Seven Mountains:
    1. Religion,
    2. Family,
    3. Education,
    4. Government
    5. Media
    6. Arts & Entertainment, and
    7. Business
  5. Extra-biblical revelation. There is present-day revelation. “The one major rule governing any new revelation from God is that it cannot contradict what has already been written in the Bible. It may supplement it, however.”
  6. Supernatural signs and wonders. This appears to concern mainly the present-day casting out of demons.

Of course, as with any movement that is “loosely systematic”, soon enough, you had the charlatans joining the fold and everywhere you go in Nigeria, another Prophet or Apostle has just come on the scene.

Men who were formerly content with being addressed as “Pastor” who then changed their titles to “Bishop” and then “Archbishop” suddenly got weary of such titles and are now being referred to “Apostles.”

I did not say anything about the “Spiritual/ White Garment Churches” like Cherubim and Seraphim, Celestial Church of Christ and Aladura Churches because these are mainly fringe elements in the story of the Nigerian Church. The appeal of these churches to the less sophisticated folks come from their deep roots in African “spiritism.” Their theological framework is really unsophisticated but their stranglehold on the minds of their adherents is strangely effective.

I have also not mentioned (until now of course) the churches we Nigerians refer to as “Orthodox Churches” (the moniker “Orthodox Church” is actually used as a denigration; as these Churches are viewed by Nigerians as “dead churches”).

Dead because their services are mostly “boring” emphasis is on a “formal structure” to the study of Scripture which leaves out the possibility of a “rhema word from the Lord”; the structure of the liturgy is formal and “uninspiring”, manifestations of the Holy Spirit are absent.

There was a mass migration from these churches in the 70’s and 80’s and to stem the tide, many decided to liven up the service by introducing “Praise and Worship” to the regular hymn singing. Sermons became more “Charismatic” and alliances between the Clergy of the “orthodox churches” and the “Pentecostal” churches were common.

On a final note: The Nigerian Church is primarily Semi-Pelagian (Armininian) in its understanding of Salvation and emphasis is placed on means (to encourage the sinner) to repent. Loud, expressive music (especially that of the emotional variety) is very popular in praise and worship; sermons are not necessarily expository in nature; and very few pastors spend reasonable time on their sermon preparation. In fact, a large number wait till they stand on the pulpit before they “receive” an “unction.” and say whatever comes to their minds. The interpretative grid for scripture is very “anthropocentric” (man centered) and the hermeneutics is mostly approached allegorically rather than literally 

Reformed Theology is still being viewed with suspicion in Nigeria (many people think I am in a cult [hahahahahaha!!!]) but there is a growing (albeit very slow) awareness among the young population of what it is.

(I had never heard of Reformed Theology until 2008!!!) and it was quite by “accident” (at least so I thought)

Young people are however beginning to ask questions that are becoming more and more difficult to answer from a non-biblical or “theologically sound” framework.

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