Churches Are Empty in Nigeria, What Do We Do?
By Ibrahim Lapinni
The word “church” is a translation of the Greek word ‘Ekklesia,’ which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” The “called-out ones” in this instance are the believers, the true worshipers of the living God.
The early Christian church began in Jerusalem. The surrounding area grew out of the Jewish tradition along with its adherents. Jesus and His disciples were all Jews. The first Christians therefore did not meet in separate churches but continued to meet in the local Jewish synagogues, a clear evidence of an untainted unity of the body of Christ.
Today, the early church has evolved and transformed to a modern church, a charitable society that promotes liberal Christian theologies and defends liberal positions on a wide range of issues which includes: gender, sexuality, religion interfaith relations, science, and biblical scholarship. In church affairs it supports the role of laity and women ministers.
Christianity came to Nigeria in the 15th century through the Portuguese colonial masters. It receded a while before a resurgence in the 18th century, that witnessed the emergence of mega churches.
The first wave of tsunamic revival in Nigeria’s Christendom started in the 1930’s under the Faith Tabernacle of Reverend Apostle Joseph Babalola. Many souls were converted culminating into the founding of the independent Christ Apostolic Church in Nigeria.
At the start of the 1950s, Pentecostalism did spread out in Nigeria. The expansion in the years that followed was unprecedented. In the 1960s and 1970s, a wave of Pentecostal expansion was experienced by the country’s youth population, mainly students on campus leading to student revivals. Churches aren’t just a place of worship for attendees, but the backbone of their communities with due sense of responsibility to it.
Many churches were built across the country, boosted by the ceaseless inflow of petrodollars from the emerging middle class. Church attendance soared, as well as the numbers of pastors and priests.
A business dimension was infused into the church, yet the attendance increased glaringly and enviously. Now, the post millennium and here we have the tragic happenstance to the church, many of them have dwindled in attendance.
Today, a sad trend is worrisomely noticeable across Nigerian churches located in the states or communities. Several churches are witnessing a decline in attendance and a potential threat of fusing into vacuum, which nature abhors. Where the church still maintains an encouraging church member’s attendance, its population are predominantly women, children and the aged with the productive men lost to the cares of this world and ignoble rat race.
What do we attribute this trend to? Is it the lack of interest in traditional religions or the shortage of ministers? The reality is the crass neglect of the essence of human spirituality.
The look on a worrisome pastor’s face clearly signals unease. “Where did we as a people get it wrong”? He mutters to himself. Sundays used to be set aside for church, for many this is no more. It has become a time to watch movies or go for volleyball, football matches or dances. It has become a time to log in and join an online church in a digital era, alone in the comfort of the home.
The early Christians had no elaborate buildings, yet their communities were alive and faithful to Christ’s teachings, much the same as the present modern churches but with some dilution of materialism that weakens spiritual quests.
Harsh economic realities coupled with insecurities have forcefully reprioritized many Christians goal to the basest Maslow’s hierarchy to seek for food, clothing, housing and survival generally before any consideration for the spiritual. This may account for the low attendance of men in churches, yet it’s never a tenable excuse, as we are admonished to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
The church attendance is on the decline because evangelism, soul winning and follow up has relegated to the background.
The church attendance is dwindling because some of the people who grew up in the church are treated with contempt and insolence by the very church they thought would love and care for them. Owing to this, they leave the church with deep hurt and unmitigated betrayal, probably never to return to that denomination.
The church attendance is on the decline because the welfare and other service-oriented departments are not functional or insensitively weak.
It is on a decline because the ministers of God are seen living lavishly and flamboyantly, preaching a message that does not conform to how an average person should live, not based on biblical precepts which in turn leads to disillusionment of many members.
The church attendance is waning because prayers are ignored, eventually the church gangs up against the pastor and forces him out, against his or her will. The churches are failing because we place our needs and desires over the Lord’s. It is His Church and we are His people.
Today, some occultic wealthy men have reserved seats in front of the church! The pastors are constantly warned to desist from preaching messages of salvation, holiness, restitution and brokenness.
Pastors are surviving and growing churches at the mercy and behest of some members who are of questionable characters. If you are worried about the dwindling church attendance, then opportunity avails you to be a chosen vessel.
We must strive daily to be on guard against the erosion of biblical values and damage to our beliefs and biblical mindset (Psalm 123:3; Mark 4:19)! We must strive to offer real and true Christian service to the sheep. Real Christian service comes from a heartfelt response to God’s work in us. This backed up by solid and undiluted biblical instructions, making it practical and understandable to people.
We must and need to change our focus to the right target, that is, His and not ours! We are called to a higher purpose. We are not called to ourselves. We must constantly lift our eyes up to the hills from where our help comes from.
For each and every one of us, the new revival must come from you and I. We must regularly be ‘word-soaked,’ so we can teach God’s Word with power, conviction, clarity and truth, as long as we do it in love and make it applicable and understandable. The true Christianity is not on the wane but the laborers are getting fewer daily.
Reform in the areas of worship and outreach is good and cool; but the areas of greatest concern is our spiritual well-being. Our soul and spirit is the ultimate connector to the omnipotent and the greatest enabler to win and retain souls in God’s kingdom.
Picture Source- Daily Mail, Dialog International, Charisma News