I read with sorrow but not particular surprise a report in Newswatch this week which centred on a clearly political contention within a supposedly Christian body.
The report, titled ‘CAN’s Divided House’ unearthed the conflict between Christian Association of Nigeria President Ayo Oritsejafor and Pastor Samuel Kujiyat, the head of CAN’s Kaduna State Chapter, stemming from supposed irregularities of the latter’s election to his post some three years ago. The tension culminated in Kujiyat’s boycotting of CAN’s annual presidential breakfast last month on the premise that his secretary’s name had been substituted at the last moment.
If truth be told, such news does not really astonish me. The attitude and characteristics of many prominent Nigerian pastors today bear increasingly alarming semblance to that of politicians, with selfish interests playing a greater role than the message of salvation. Playing to the whims of the populace in a bid for fame and finance, the lust for materialism has sent the moral compass of many pastors uncannily askew, resulting in a hypocritical divergence of words and deeds. In their striving to be rich at all costs so as to appear as the specially-favoured of a material-minded God, the society remains ethically bankrupt and unscriptural tensions arise between fellow workers in the vineyard.
Just yesterday, I heard Oritsejafor speak on AIT at a meeting in Akwa-Ibom, harping on the importance of unity within the church, a stark contrast to the report I just mentioned! “The time has come for the church to begin to understand that in Heaven, God does not see us as Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Pentecostals or whatever group you belong to – God sees the church as the church,” he said. “The church can be one; the church should be one; the church must be one. I want to encourage us to be our brother’s keeper. The God whom we serve is a God that releases blessing where there is unity. We believe this nation can change; we believe corruption can end. The church united is a catalyst for the end of evil in Nigeria.”
Although a message commendable in nature, the actions of its bearer seem to contravene the principles of which he so passionately preaches. Perhaps Ayo is right. God has not released blessing within Nigeria because the church is not one! The church is not a catalyst for change because division still reigns! The church does not stand as one because we are not our brothers’ keepers!
When the pulpit becomes a podium for condescension and condemnation of other ministries, and political playmakers sit in church pews placing fat offerings while consulting spiritualists and perpetrating corruption, can such be qualified as unity of purpose? When pastors today are embroiled in controversies of financial mismanagement, marital unfaithfulness and attract a reputation for politically-charged statements and sentiments, can they really stand as one body? Ayo has deviated from the Scriptural paths and is only paying lip service to the true essence of Christianity.
Take for instance his open and active condemnation of Pastor T.B. Joshua, a rare gem in the murky waters of Nigerian Christianity. Aside from Oritsejafor’s declaration that Joshua is not even a Christian and mentorship is a prerequisite for apostleship, Pastor Okotie revealed that, as PFN President, Ayo petitioned the Christian bodies within Nigeria to write to TBN to solicit the suspension of his television broadcasts. Perhaps because these broadcasts show outstanding charitable acts to the less privileged which make Oritsejafor and his cohorts shift uneasily in their pulpits as their congregations begin to recognise their fallacies and abuse of position! While Joshua is reconciling broken homes, housing the homeless and reaching out to the deprived and neglected, Ayo is playing politics in the church while parading himself in opulence as his members struggle for their daily bread!
While Ayo is praying for God to kill corrupt politicians in order for Nigeria to progress, what signal is he sending by his own governance within CAN? Hypocrisy, no matter how cleverly managed, will ultimately be exposed, resulting in the declarations of the individual’s concerned losing gravity and value in the eyes and minds of the people. As for me, I have lost whatever regard I had for Ayo and his ilk. Only a genuine alignment of lips and life will make me take their message seriously again.