Remembrance III: Terms Of Payment

There’s a measured feeling inside of me, like a tape-measured nudge to share a few reminiscences. These are bits and pieces of biographical sketch. I want to give you an aperture into the past. Perhaps we can see the future from the past.

It all began in church on Sunday. As the preacher exhorted I was transported to a thought island. On that island I saw that people had abdicated responsibility for the preaching of the gospel to pastors. This is of course the opposite of what the Bible teaches. We the congregants are supposed to do the work of the ministry. We’re the ministers. The pastor is a human resource development executive, though he’s also enjoined to evangelise. Ephesians 4:11-12.
That thought synthesis brought back memories, took me back to university. We preached the gospel in those days, we didn’t depend on ministers. We preached to our classmates, knocking door to door. We preached to the man on the street, to the policeman, to anyone who gave us audience. It wasn’t easy preaching to our classmates. It was socially tough. Born-againism was viewed in derogatory terms. In those days born again Christians were seen as religious extremists who renounced fashion and integration with society. It didn’t help that in the quest for holiness the “born agains” began to prescribe obtuse fashion rules. Jeans were considered worldly. Women could not wear trousers. Scarf was regimen. There wasn’t much knowledge of scriptures in those days, but there was zeal for the Lord. The only problem is, zeal without knowledge is bad. Proverbs 19:2. Since born again Christians were considered antisocial, when a “happening guy” became born again the only explanation was he was making a play for a “good girl.” Or why else would a guy who seemed to have everything become “SU”? “SU” was the derisive term for Christians in those days. It’s derived from Scripture Union, the primary fellowship on most campuses. It was also believed that a pretty young girl who gave her life to Christ must have had a major crisis – may be her boyfriend dumped her. Remember it was anathema for “sisters” to wear jewellery, make up or trousers. Why would a pretty girl subject herself to that!
The story of how I got born again is for another day. Quite interesting and transcendent. Don’t have the liberty to share that yet. May be someday. And no, I didn’t have a crisis. If at all I was doing great in school. My grades were tops. I won a scholarship based on academic performance. To my friends therefore the only rational explanation for my becoming “SU” was babes. Had to be babes. Of course that wasn’t true but when people can’t face the truth about the human condition they invent fables. But here’s where it gets interesting. When I got born again I had this deep sense of gratitude. It was a gratitude I couldn’t explain but I did feel very grateful to God. I was very young at this time – I was a teenager, in my first year in university. In order to express my gratitude I decided to have an art exhibition, just to tell people about God. I’m a very good graphic artist. I also cartoon. I was known for my cartoons in school, especially my political satires. I wanted to tell everyone about Jesus using my talents. But there were a few hurdles. One, I had never held an art exhibition before. Not sure I had been to one before then either, though I had senior artist friends. Two, I was a law student. Three, no student had held a solo art exhibition before.
There is something about youth. There’s the confidence of ignorance. It’s actually faith, but we don’t view it as such. I applied to the university admin to grant me use of the hall used by the art department for their annual exhibition. The response was predictable. I could not be granted use of the hall. I was a law student not an art student. But the real reason was perhaps, what effrontery! When I explained it was a religious art exhibition I was directed to apply through the vicar of the university church. That was a bureaucratic cul de sac. I didn’t even attend that church. But a friend I’d invited to join me in organising the exhibition mentioned it to a lecturer in the department of engineering. He was born again. To my surprise he decided to pay for an exhibition space. I didn’t know him from Adam. We would later become close as I worked with him on his annual Christian music festival project. I designed the marketing and communication materials, as well as other collaterals for the project – banners, stickers, posters, etc.
And so it was that in the first week of my second year in the university that while my classmates were learning law I was holding an art exhibition. But what an exhibition it was. Two thousand people came (I have the register). That was multiples of what the art department attracted to their exhibition. That exhibition would go on to define many things in my life. It was reported in the Guardian newspaper. One of my political satire cartoons was published. My dad was evidently surprised. Here was his bespectacled young son in Sunday newspaper. How did the Guardian learn about the exhibition? I simply walked into the newspaper office and demanded to see the editor. I was referred to the art and culture editor and I told him my story, showed him some of the cartoons. Confidence of ignorance is blind to intimidation. It’s God’s gift to youth.
Now, why did I tell you this story? Many reasons. First, to shatter the notion only pastors are supposed to preach the gospel. That’s not in the gospel. The commission to preach the gospel was given to every Christian. I do not pastor but I preach the gospel. There’s a standing commission. Mark 16:15. Second, it is to show you, you can use your talent to serve God. Third, is to show you don’t have to have huge resources to accomplish great things. Your number one resource is faith – that confident belief things will happen as envisaged. Sometimes all you need do is ask. You’ll be shocked how many things you’ll get by just asking. If you don’t knock the door will not be answered. Fourth, it’s to make you believe in yourself. Stop censoring yourself, let the market determine your fate. Put your ideas out in the open.
But the greater mystery is that I would go on to found a successful brand development consultancy. I ended up a brand strategist despite my law degree. Did that exhibition have anything to do with what I eventually became? Did advertising Jesus give me a marketing career? Did presenting Jesus in contemporary dialect lead to a career in brand management? I don’t know, can’t know. There may be no causal link between that exhibition and my professional career. There may just be relational link. But I had this consistent urge throughout my stay on campus to present the gospel in contemporary idiom, to make God relatable. I wanted people to know Jesus. That the scriptures might be fulfilled: “I will proclaim your greatness through the coming years, then the nations will praise you forever.” Psalm 45:17 NET.
I would design 16ft banners and display at critical junctures on campus. These were precise hand painted stuff. There was no vinyl in those days, no computer aided design. There was that banner that looked like a Coca-Cola ad. It read, “Things go better with Jesus Christ.” It was a play on the popular Coke ad, Things go better with Coca-Cola. Those banners cost me my pocket money but I never lacked. You can use your talents and resources to serve God. You can use your talent to preach the gospel.
The scriptures say when you do things for God he repays you: “God has declared one principle; two principles have I heard: God is strong, and you, O Lord, demonstrate loyal love. For you repay men for what they do.” Psalm 62:11-12. Now, that’s something to ponder.
If you’ll like to receive Jesus into your life please pray this prayer: “Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Father please forgive me. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.”
© Leke Alder |