By Bayo Oluwasanmi
The most critical problem facing the Nigerian church today is leadership vacuum. The Nigerian church lacks both vision and true leadership.
Nigerian church is dying every day due to lack of strong leadership at this time when a once great nation tethers on the ebb.
The Bible is very clear and concise in the call to leadership and discipleship. When God decided to build a nation of his own, he didn’t enlist the masses. He called on one man – Abraham.
When it was time to deliver the Israelites out of Egyptian oppression, he didn’t need an army of people. He raised up one leader – Moses- to do the job.
When the Israelites needed someone to lead them to the Promised Land, Joshua was chosen.
Nigerian Christians especially the Pentecostal breed suffering from overdose of religious opium; many a times misunderstood the true nature of leadership.
They believe they must be sheepish, quiet, passive, aloof, and withdrawn to follow Christ. Their biggest problem is that they confused meekness with weakness.
One of the central teachings of Christ is that whoever is going to follow him must be a leader, meaning serving others.
Leadership is influence. If the General Overseers (GOs), the Bishops, the Pastors, the Shepherds were to demonstrate that they’re the salt and light as Jesus commanded, then they have to obey Christ’s call to leadership and discipleship.
And there is no more practical and meaningful way to show this than to be imitators of Christ as Paul was.
The unexplainable frenzy of material acquisition by Nigerian pastors has dominated the headlines for quite some time now.
The worst offenders in the wealth building schemes and scams, raids and robberies in God’s name are the fiery, fire brim and stone, repent or be damned Pentecostal preachers.
The appetites of “men of God” like sharks and whales have been enlarged and elongated devouring their flocks at every turn. Their new toys are jet airplanes for the new heavens – the skies.
Most of history is the conflict among people trying to lead and rule one another.
Human arrogance, pride, greed, and lack of contentment are asterisks on the footnotes of corrupt and insensitive leadership. No group of Christians that best fit this perfect example than the gospel preachers of Theology of Prosperity – the more you sow, the more you reap.
The newest club member of Jet Pastors is the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and founder of Warri based Word of Life Bible Church, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor.
We’re told that the $4.9m Bombardier/Challenger 601 10-seater jet was a birthday token from Pastor Oritsejafor’s congregation to mark his 40 years of service in the Vineyard of God.
We may never know the nameless and faceless church members who bought the birthday gift!
To win trust, leaders must exhibit both character and competence. The bar becomes sky-high especially for those who claimed they’re “men of God.”
If leadership and discipleship crystallized in sacrifice, suffering, sharing, kindness, love, and endurance, as Christ and the early Apostles demonstrated; then which Christ are these peddlers of false gospel following?
My favorite Apostle Brother Paul, I’m talking of Paul of Tarsus, provides enduring lesson in discipleship and leadership. Paul’s life demonstrates that in the most trying circumstances, the faithful minister of God can enjoy daily strength and victory not for the purpose of being comfortable, but in order to be a comforter.
The Jet Pastors should be motivated by Christ’s example of love, living daily in the fear of the Lord. The faithful minister can rejoice in the opportunity to be an ambassador for Christ by proclaiming reconciliation and restoration for estranged sinners.
How many of the sky-bound pastors are as bold and squeaky-clean like Paul to effectively neutralize the trumped up charges by the church in Corinth against Paul?
The severity of charges by the church in Corinth against Paul read like indictment of a grand jury: fickleness (1:17-23), pride (3:1), weakness (10:10), unskilled speech (11:6), severity (7:8-10), dishonesty (12:16-19), and mental instability (5:13).
Listen to Paul’s airtight defense: “For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort trough Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation!”
“We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it,” argued Paul. “In fact, we expected to die,” Paul continued, “But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely on God, who raises the dead.”
As dogged and unrepentant as ever, Paul dared his accusers: “We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings.”
Paul couldn’t help boasting of what he endured: “…been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again.”
Paul confronts the Church at Corinth with proofs: “Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes.” “Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and day adrift at sea.”
“…I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.”
Summing up his defense, Paul said “We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world, and especially toward you.”
People always need a leader. People are like sheep without a shepherd. Today, Nigeria is without a leader. At a time when the Jet Pastors should fill the leadership vacuum, the “men of God” are literally AWOL. They’re busy evangelizing in the skies!
Nigerians’ immediate felt needs are many and varied. They’re in secure. They worry without abundant signs of hope. If there is anything in short supply in Nigeria today, it is hope.
How many of the sky-roving pastors can boast like Paul that their lives mirror God-given holiness and sincerity in all they do? How many times have they been whipped for the sake of the gospel? How many times have they been imprisoned for fighting on the side of the oppressed?
How many times have they starved for their congregation to eat? How many times have they been arrested or jailed in the name of the gospel?
What role have these pastors played to alleviate the sufferings of the poor in a country where half of their congregation are jobless, homeless, sick, diseased, hungry, depressed, tormented, tortured, and seemingly lost among the madding crowd?
What social programs have they initiated to supplement the income of their congregants most of whom like majority of poor Nigerians live on $1 a day – below the poverty line.
Most of the congregants and assistant pastors of these Jet Pastors cannot even afford the tuition fees for their children in colleges and universities owned by the Prosperity Pastors.
It is evident from the flamboyant, ostentatious, and reckless life styles of these pastors that they’re not true Disciples of Christ. It’s no wonder why Mahatma Gandhi condemned the hypocrites of the religion with a stinking rebuke: “I hate you Christians, but I love your Jesus.”
These apostles of greed, material wealth, exploitation, rip-off, rake-off, all in the name of Theology of Prosperity as opposed to Theology of Liberation; are the gods to blame for the increased misery and poverty of poor and the gullible Nigerians.
Three New Testament pictures of a pastor as a leader stand out:
Shepherd and Sheep: The pastor guides and protects his sheep. “I am the good shepherd. The shepherd gives his life for the sheep” (John 10:10).
Captain and Army: The pastor prepares the troops for battle. “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life (2 Tim. 2:3, 4).
Head and Body: This is a picture of the governing, protecting relationship in which the leader gives direction. “Speaking the truth in love…” (Eph. 4:15, 16).
The three pictures were adopted and applied successfully by activist clergymen of our time to confront tyrannical governments, and socio-economic problems facing their people.
The role of Bishop Desmond Tutu and other clergymen in the demise of Apartheid South Africa is still fresh in our memory. They served as buffer against the hostile forces and policies of President P.W. Botha.
Who could ever forget the revolutionary impact of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) on the Civil Rights Movement in the US?
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African American Civil Rights Movement helped found the SCLC in 1957.
Best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience, led the 1963 March on Washington where he delivered his “I have a Dream” speech.
He led protests against poverty – Poor People’s Campaign – and the Vietnam War with a speech “Beyond Vietnam.”
Reverend Abernathy, Reverend Jesse Jackson and other Baptist Evangelists joined Dr. King in the Civil Rights Movement that liberated African Americans from oppressive white America.
Reverend Leon Sullivan aka the Lion of Philadelphia single handedly wrote the “Sullivan Principles” that divorced corporate America from Apartheid South Africa.
Reverend Sullivan’s vocational school-Opportunity Industrialization Center (OIC) – for high school graduates and drop outs are scattered throughout the world. Today, this program has turned around lives that would have been stunted, snuffed, or stranded.
The Jet Pastors have failed both in their prophetic role and humanitarian mission. Where is their venom against injustice? economic inequality? poverty? corruption? homelessness? joblessness? and other maladies that afflict the multitude of the poor.
The cruel complicity of the Jet pastors in the plundering of our nation is antithetical to the teachings of the gospel.
Their cozying up to Aso Rock and state governments is a coalition between missionary and mercenary. It’s a gospel of suicide mission. And the medicine is killing the patients!
Given the crises faced by Nigerians, the Jet Pastors have a choice: give up, back up, or stand up.
Imagine the scenario with our Jet Pastors leading a march on Abuja demanding that the looters be brought to justice, that a new Constitution Drafting Committee be convened, that federal and state governments reduce the wasteful bloated bureaucracy, that state police be introduced, that all the basic necessities of life be provided for the poor.
We’ll have successfully replicated a bloodless Arab Springs in Nigeria and things would have changed for the better.
These pastors have yet to discover the Biblical timeless principle: The Lord is with you when you are with him. The pastors are to lead the people, protect the people, fight on their behalf, and make sure the resources of the nation are judiciously managed to the benefit of all.
The Jet Pastors could be categorized into four groups: The drop outs – Those who give up and fail responsibility. The cop-outs- Those who make excuses for why they aren’t responsible. The hold-outs – Those who waiver too long to take responsibility. And lastly, the all-outs – Those who own the responsibility and take action.
Their connivance with the native oppressors to further deepen the misery and torment of the poor put the pastors squarely in the first three groups of the four categories.
Jesus we know, Paul we know, Bishop Tutu we know, Dr. King we know, Reverend Sullivan we know, and Mother Theresa we know. But who are these Jet Pastors?
The Jet Pastors should not for a moment think that because they’re in fortified, gated mansions and bullet proof jets that they’ll escape when the wrath of the oppressed comes knocking.
If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for Nigerians will come from other place. Who knows if perhaps your discipleship is for such a time as this?
All we can really take with us is what we have given away.