Remembrance VIII: Back To Basics

Even if we can’t agree on many things about God one thing we can all agree on is, and this from the evidence before us, God is super intelligent. In acknowledgement of God’s intelligence, John declared him the Logos. John 1:1. Logos is the principle of divine reason and creative order. It’s the code running the universe. It’s otherwise known as WORD. Hebrews 1:3. Logos means “word.”

Here’s the thing about God though – he doesn’t do random. Everything he does is strategic. His intents are goal-oriented. And he seems fond of intricate plans. That’s probably because he cannot be God if he can’t forecast far into the future, or even create the future. So God’s plans tend to be multi-layered and span millennia. Take the plan of salvation for humans. Just the approach took four millennia. The planning was so intricate it even incorporated predictive algorithm. That plan would wind its way through time and history. The rise of several rulers and several empires was preconfigured. The Egyptian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Persian and Greek empires were all envisaged. There were so many moving parts. Golgotha was the culmination of the interaction of histories and civilisations with God’s strategic plan. It was after Golgotha that the story began. Every other thing was a prelude. When someone is that good and intelligent the only response ought to be respect. If for nothing at all God’s intelligence earns him the right to worship. Twale Baba!
God designed the system called “the church.” The church was designed to be a self-replicating organ deriving her impetus from the efforts of empowered individuals. But here’s the challenge: Christianity in Nigeria and many African countries doesn’t always align with the blueprint. The concept of the African “big man” is a major challenge. Because of the African “big man” challenge everything is centred around the pastor. And since his operational base is the church everything must take place in church. And so if you want baptism in the Holy Spirit as evidenced by speaking in tongues you’ll have to go to church. If you want deliverance from demons you’ll have to go to church. If you want to get people born again you’ll have to take them to church. It’s an over-centralised centripetal system and it’s generating massive inefficiencies. The pastor invariably becomes a bottleneck. It’s the type of system a brilliant mind like God will never design. Not even the Trinity functions that way. There’s a federalism of roles and specialties in the Trinity, and there are different theatres of operation, so many theatres.
The problem with the distortion of God’s blueprint is that it creates anomalies. Those anomalies are evident in the Pentecostal system. The anomalies have led to the phenomenon of spiritual agency – the pastor taking on the role of an agent and running a spiritual consultancy akin to what we have in African traditional religion. It’s why African Christians go to their pastor for divination on whom to marry. They can’t take moral and spiritual responsibility. The consultancy concept emanates from African traditional religion. In the African traditional religion system, individuals consult the priest on everything from marriage to business venture, to extermination of enemies. When things go wrong they go for spiritual diagnosis. Whereupon the priest recommends a means of assuaging the demons causing the problem. Those demons in effect do shake downs like Mafia thugs. They demand blood sacrifices. Blood is spiritual currency.
Most regrettably some African Christians willy-nilly imported these practices into Christianity. The pastor is now the equivalence of a juju priest. He’s a diviner. This of course gives a sense of importance to the pastor as he exercises his gifts, but it’s a dangerous spiritual culture, a dependency system that does not serve the purpose of Christ. It does not empower the individual Christian, does not afford him opportunity to grow spiritually. It doesn’t make him study his Bible, doesn’t give him opportunity to know God intimately. He has an agent who takes care of all the technicalities. He’s hardly familiarised with the Holy Spirit. The result is a lacklustre faith that depends more on the pronouncements of pastors rather than the pronouncements of the word of God. And when the two clash the pastor’s words supercede. It’s lazy Christianity. It produces a people with inexact knowledge of scriptures, people who seek to fudge issues when challenged to cite scriptural authority for indefensible spiritual practices.
One such aberrant spirituality is the ritual of stripping naked to pray, believing such prayers carry spiritual potency. It’s not found in scriptures. The provenance is African traditional religion. Devotees of African traditional faith system are known to strip naked in rituals. Some dance naked at roundabouts in the middle of the night as they bring oblation to contumacious demons. These practices are alien to Christianity. It’s the syncretisation of African traditional religion with Christianity. Those who practice this naked rite say it’s a graphic expression of submission and utter sincerity before God. But they seem to forget God looks at the heart and not naked bodies for discernment of intent and forthrightness. 1 Samuel 16:7. They don’t know righteousness supplants all those rites, that they can come BOLDLY to the throne of grace to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16. They don’t know they are already righteous, that their righteousness is a gift from God. They don’t know they can’t earn righteousness. Neither do they know the quality of their righteousness is God’s, and indeed they’re God’s righteousness. Romans 5:17, 2 Corinthians 5:21. They don’t know Jesus is their righteousness, holiness and redemption. 1 Corinthians 1:30. They constrain God to outer visuals, impose the limitations of demons on him.
This is not saying one can’t pray in a naked state, like praying while in the bathroom. But the idea of a RITUAL of stripping naked to make prayers potent is NOT Christianity. Our faith is all God requires. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Hebrews 11:6.
There are other dangers associated with this wrong-headed approach to Christianity. The pastor becomes deified based on the exercise of his gifts, the congregants become reliant on phenomena. Satan will of course cash in on the situation. He’ll start producing phenomena with a view to mislead. He’ll programme fearful dreams. There’ll be random but accurate prophetic insights from priests of different faiths. Bondage inducing instructional warnings will accompany those prophecies. Warnings like, “Don’t eat okra!” It’s always okra. But the Bible says food is sanctified by prayer. 1 Timothy 4:4,5. Please whack the okra!
Because the young Christian is not adept at his theology his life becomes denominated in fear – fear of witches, fear of death, fear of eating in a dream, fear of ancestral demons, fear of mother-in-law, fear of prophecies, fear of hell, fear of fear… He can’t process spirituality intelligently. The system that bred him is disdainful of biblical exegesis. He soon descends into vigorous works, begins to rely on tokens of divination and points of contact. He will embark on an unhealthy regime of fasting, anoint everything with “anointing oil,” including car engines, shoes and office desks. He will cook his food with “anointing oil” to forestall poisoning. He’s in bondage to fear.
Things weren’t always so. The African “big man” pastor is a recent phenomenon. Back in the 1980s teenagers on university campuses took on the ministry of the word of God ferociously and fearlessly. The Word of Faith movement was in ascendance. That movement gave primacy to the word of God. There was a clear articulation of the covenant of atonement. Prominent ministers of the Word of Faith movement included Kenneth Hagin, Lester Sumrall, Frederick K.C. Price, Kenneth Copeland, Bill Winston, John Osteen, Derek Prince, Oral Roberts… They were presaged by the likes of E.W. Kenyon, John G. Lake, Aimee Semple Mcpherson, Kathryn Kuhlman, A.A. Allen. The word of God saturated campuses. It was not uncommon to hear “the Word” being blasted from several speakers in student hostels. Christ Chapel and Scripture Pasture are two notable ministries that emerged from this faith movement.
Kenneth Hagin’s books were particularly helpful in grounding Christians in the fundamentals of faith. This is a course sorely lacking in many Pentecostal churches. It’s why the church is one inch deep but ten miles wide. Empowered by knowledge from God’s word, students ROUTINELY laid hands on people to receive baptism of the Holy Spirit. These were teenagers. We cast out demons experimentally. We gave prophecies at meetings, saw visions, and healed the sick. The Book of Acts was real to us. We don’t see these things again. What happened to Pentecostalism in Africa?
Knowing we’re in search of sensationalism rather than the word of God Satan raised caricature “ministers” who rubbish the gifts of the Spirit. We see clips on social media every day. Then there are those funny billboards. These are not men of God. They’re counterintelligence agents. Unfortunately the public can’t tell the difference. We blunted the difference.
Today the African Christian has so elevated demons he’s more fearful of demons than his God. He can’t escape his cultural roots. And yet Jesus said, “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons.” Mark 16:17‭-‬18 NKJV. “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth.” Philippians 2:9‭-‬10 NKJV‬‬‬‬‬‬. God democratised his Spirit. Because of that Christianity spread in the first century. The power of God wasn’t exclusive to the apostles. Philip was an ordinary deacon in Acts 6 but two chapters down the line he was doing miracles in Samaria, casting out demons, healing the sick. Acts 8:5-8. In that same chapter Phillip experienced teleportation like in Star Trek. Acts 8:39. By Acts 21 he had become an evangelist. And we see generational transference. Philip had four daughters who prophesied. Acts 21:9.‬‬‬‬
A brilliant God designed an efficient propagation system for his gospel. Stands to reason an empowered congregational mass will spread the gospel faster than a lone ecclesiastical actor. Pastors must empower the people to do the work of the ministry. It’s not about the pastor it’s about Christ.
We need to go back to fundamentals. We need to do things according to God’s order. The job of the pastor is to train the people to go into the nooks and crannies of society with the message of deliverance, salvation and hope. It is God’s desire that as you get people born again you lay hands on them and baptise them in the Holy Spirit. You’re supposed to lay hands on the sick and the sick will recover. You’re supposed to cast out demons. Let’s go back to fundamentals.
If you’ll like to receive Jesus, 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 |