I have a friend and colleague called Mike. He’s the oldest member of our firm. He has a balding pate but his daughters insist on buying him very tight fitting stretch jeans. A good natured and young-hearted 50-something year old, Mike dutifully wears those jeans and very proudly too!
Mike has been in Lagos for well over 40 years now but he remains Yoruba language challenged. He’s just not been able to pick up the language despite his best efforts.
One day Mike walks up to me and confidently announces he has mastered Yoruba language! Of course I was skeptical. But then I remembered the God of Pentecost! From the New Testament my memory raced back into the Old Testament, dredging up the phenomenon of the glossolalia of Balaam’s donkey. If God can gift a 7th century donkey with spontaneous language capability, why can’t He work a language proficiency miracle on Mike in the 21st century, afterall He is the same yesterday, today and forever!
And so I became a believer of modern language spontaneity.
My friend thereupon proceeded to speak to me in Yoruba, and this is what he said:
“To ba consider gbogbo circumstances to surround situation, toripe situation owa complex, wariwipe things o easy!
That is my friend’s entire Yoruba language vocabulary till this day, and the foreseeable ages to come!
Well, my homily this evening will be very short but short as it may seem, you will discover that moti consider gbogbo circumstances!
Pastor Tony Rapu is an ecclesiastical entrepreneur. In the days of Paul they called such people Apostles. Now he doesn’t like church titles but the fact is, his ecclesiastical career is characterised by rapid, rabid planting of churches, making him not just an ecclesiastical entrepreneur but a serial one at that. He’s probably planted more churches than any man in his generation, as far as the eyes can see. The man is on a mission.
That mission focus is what marks the churches he plants. He creatively responds to societal needs with an eco-system of institutions that are interdependent yet attend to those needs with specialisations.
The Church being a concentrate of materials, human, physical and spiritual, it has proved an effective weapon of choice. And because the church is a living, breathing organism made up of coordinated independent thinking parts, it is a veritable instrument of intervention. It can respond quickly to circumstances, adapt its methodologies and grow organically with the momentum of needs and opportunities.
These churches have a generational mandate and will be meaningless without a dedicated mission. This for the simple reason that they arose because of identified needs. Without a native mission, the churches will just be churches for church’s sake, and we know the danger of that.
Talking about creativity, the man Tony Rapu has a penchant for unusual monikers. Who names a church God Bless Nigeria?! It is to be noted that none of the churches he planted in recent times, save God Bless Nigeria Church has a “church” suffix. This Present House, The Waterbrook, The Underground…none has the word “church” attached. The man doesn’t want to create churches. He’s more interested in non-churches. These non-churches are supposed to function as out-of-the-box entities. His nomenclatural approach to church baptism is actually borne of a fundamentalist understanding of the personage of God even when it all seems fun. The man fights human convention with modernist spiritualism.
Now, I’m a brand strategy specialist. My technical knowledge tells me the man is running what we refer to as a “house of brands”, just like Time Warner Corporation or any such corporation. A parent company owns many brands with different identities, logos and functions.
But the marketing costs for such a system can be high for the simple reason that so many brands are being pushed at once. Headquarters deploys human and material resources as it deems fit.
What PT has done is to create a school of pastors and ministers. These executives are deployed to the different church missions depending on personality, temperament, capacity, capability, gifting and background. You have to be made of the sterner stuff to function at God Bless Nigeria for example! And you cannot be a cultural illiterate to function effectively at The Waterbrook. The people in that non-church have a certain affectation and see themselves in a particular light. If you send some of them to God Bless Nigeria, know clearly that they’re only going there to undertake cultural studies!
This Present House is the more conventional of the non-churches. It is essentially a middleclass establishment but also caters in taste to the uppercrust of society. These people tend to want a spiritual base having accomplished in society. The middle class indices are obvious: earning per effective member is above average; members own private houses or live in high brow sections of town; they have a high car registration per individual ratio; use of internet is high and kids have access to multimedia platforms like Blackberry; there are one or two travels abroad for vacation per year, not counting travels related to kids in secondary schools abroad; there’s spending on luxury goods and high patronage of designer stores and brands. These are the indices of effective members. Like any such organization though, it will cater to the aspiring as well. The temperament of This Present House is balanced and well nuanced. It is a mature and responsible institution. It is best positioned as one focused on national, policy, political and societal issues. Without this, it stands in danger of slipping into mere liturgy or even mission irrelevance.
The most experimental of the non-churches is the evolving God Bless Nigeria establishment. I know we like to imagine it for those living on the fringes of society – the exiles and the forgotten, but those are just the mission subjects of the church. We must not confuse the church for the mission. Personality wise, it is aggressive, demonstrative, real, down to earth, unpretentious, energetic, exuberant, raw, extremely confident, and spiced with eclectic sartorial tastes as exemplified by the fashion deployments of Pastor Akpororo. My God! God has children and God Bless Nigeria is where he domiciled his more exotic creatures. The Sunshine Choir is part Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, part Kirk Franklin, part Steve Rhodes Voices!
The Waterbrook is of course cool, just cool. It is generational, fun, exciting, stylish and young. If we’re looking for the generation that will turn Nigeria into Dubai we should look no further than The Waterbrook. The church has to maintain its design and technological flair. It must organize programs that broaden the intellectual and cultural horizons of the members, while drilling down the spiritual capacitation.
Properly mentored, these kids will take Nigeria into the 21st century.
The Underground is of course the seed nursery for the entire system.
And so we see these churches differentiated by focus, personality, demographics and culture.
A minister in these missions will experience consequences and challenges. The greatest challenge is of course elastic adaptability – being open to constant changes and tweakings, and taking them all in stride. There’s nothing PT can do about these tweakings. That’s the nature of the missions. These are uniquely creative concepts, much like the buildings of the great American architect Frank Ghery. He designed the Disney concert hall in Los Angeles as well as other iconic buildings. His designs are major engineering feats so much so that his firm had to develop a software for the development of his concepts.
It must be said that his buildings sometimes leak when it rains.
PT’s leadings in his second era of church planting are fully experimental in dimension. I speak as a man who has considered gbogbo circumstances. The nature of his commission is a constant work in progress. He is brimming with ideas, is in a hurry, yet cannot see too far into the future… He is a man afterall. He is limited by the dimensions of space and time. To expect a perfect plan from him will amount to a lack of understanding of the nature of the calling and the missions. I advise you to hang on for dear life. These ministries are adventures in faith.
And sometimes it will rain, and the roof will leak, just like in Frank Ghery’s buildings. We just tweak and repair and plug and move on! One must be battle hardy. It’s a constant battle out there. Those in the God Bless Nigeria mission are dealing with problems of neural agitation. These are the toughest problems to combat. Some funny chemistry is going on in the brains of your patients, producing unpredictable outcomes. Satan has devoted considerable resources to his chemistry lab. It is full of technicians and program managers. Diseases of the nervous system are tough to battle. Sometimes it’s one step forward and two steps backwards. That can be discouraging. But it is discouraging because of our concept of progress. We’re linear in approach but God is holistic. Just declaring a man politically free in the natural realm can have such reverberations in the spirit realm and send signals to corners unfathomable and depths unknown, even when the man is obviously not cured. You can’t be discouraged. God knows your works.
As ministers of the gospel you will have nutrition crisis. Who feeds the minister? This can create a sense of despondency and lead to what I term the orphan syndrome. You see when a congregant has problems he goes to the minister. When a minister has problems, whom does he go to?
There’s also the sheer physical and emotional drain. You know you’re within purpose yet you don’t have a sense of purpose. You’re unfulfilled and you wonder what you’re doing. There’s loss of orientation, lack of connectedness, despondency and sometimes despair. Some suffer battle fatigue. After ministration you are emotionally tired and terribly exhausted.
These are very real issues for those at the forefront of battle. You are soldiers. And the reward for service and bravery is military promotion, not civilian reward, even if the perks look civilian!
The simple truth is that leadership is not a role. It is a state and God knows why you were singled out for this work.
But I do know that God rewards faithfulness. I know that God rewards loyalty. He rewards dedication. Not even Paul with all his revelation could have guessed what God would do with his letters! Today we name our children after Paul and other great men of God, men like you who served God in pioneering roles and experimental capacities. You are pioneers of the 6th wave of the move of God in Nigeria. Who knows what God is planning for you and your generations!
But this one thing we know: “I know what I’m doing” says God. “I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” There is an expected end!
Thank you and God bless!
Delivered at This Present House Workers’ Awards Night at Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos
Sunday, March 11, 2012
© Leke Alder | firstname.lastname@example.org