Recently, someone sent into my mail box a funny email listing the outrageous names of some churches in Nigeria. Although I do not believe that some of the names listed are real churches, I am also not without proof of they some do exist. There are a few from the list which I believe may exist, names such as:
– Strong Hand of God ministry
– Accredited Church of God
– Holyfire Overflow Ministries
– Angels on Fire Chapel of Peace
– Strong Hand of God ministry
The names that are far too ludicrous for anyone to believe include names like:
– Guided Missiles Church
– Jehovah Sharp Sharp Ministry
– Liquid Fire Ministry
– Ministry of the Naked Wire
– Trigger Happy Ministry
– Seven Thunders of Jesus
However comical and factual in existence some of these names are, it speaks to a larger concern in the religious climate in Nigeria today. I am not exactly qualified to comment on these phenomena, but I must say that the trend has become very laughable and is becoming more of a mockery to those who are walking and living in truth. I am actually more interested in another trend more worrisome to me, and that is the style of church expansion in the country and indeed around the world; it is not peculiar to Nigeria.
A church is usually started at a particular place, but then after much increase, they typically expand to other locations under the same name and form. So one starts from Lagos, then expands to Abuja, then Port Harcourt, and then maybe a site abroad will be considered. In truth, there is nothing wrong with the wish to grow and expand a particular church, but under what motive? So we now have, for instance, a Church of Heaven based in Lagos, then a Church of Heaven in Calabar, then other branches springing up in various locations under that same name. So what we see is that the church is operating a business model; opening branches or franchises all around in the name of spreading the gospel. Most times these branches are not opened because there is a need in the community, rather on the need to expand the business and increase membership. These churches are normally not autonomous units, but carefully managed from the head church as seen in most orthodox churches worldwide.
Let’s take a critical look at this for a moment. The sole reason we should want to expand the reach of the gospel is to reach more people and
makedisciples of them for God and to teach them all that Christ has taught us. At least this reason is well founded and cannot be contested by anyone who claims to know God’s mind. But what we find is that some church organization goes ahead to situation a new church branch in the same area where another church already exists, and sees nothing wrong with that. This is very typical of the Pentecostal churches. This is why you will find a Redeemed Church branch on the same street with a Christ Embassy branch, and further down the road you find a Baptist Church Branch. You can easily deduce then that the focus is not making new disciples, but expanding an existing business. Every time I see this happening, I become highly suspicious of the motive of such a church organization.
There is of course a different perspective when the need arises to set up a church branch. But this happen when there isn’t an existing church there, or a proactive church that is reaching out to the community in creative ways. Until we enter an era when churches collaborate with each other and seek to focus squarely on the common purpose of making disciples, I am sorry to say, they are mostly business men in dire competition seeking to expand their channels of profit. How many preachers lead people to the Lord and direct them to another church as members? Why would a church convince a person to travel more than 10 miles to attend their service, even though there is a living church around that person? Something else is at play as you can rightly guess.
Tunde Bakare is a popular preacher in Nigeria, and has become famous for his fiery disposition and forthrightness in addressing even issue on thechurch. A few years back, he shut down all the branches of the church he heads and when asked about it, he noted that God never instructed them to establish branches. They had only followed the man-concocted strategies for “church growth”. I wonder how many churches can make a similar decision and not stand the risk of being weakened financially. There is even a scarier dimension to this in that it is impossible for some hear God speak differently to them, since they are already set in their ways or the ways of “church”.
It is very important for disciples of Jesus to consider this carefully and be sure of what they believe in; that they are not subscribed to a manmade empire of selfishness. There is no time better than the present for those who want to walk in truth to get highly sensitive to this continuing pattern in the church. I do not claim to know much, but this one thing I know, what is happening now has brought more schisms in the family of God than unity. We have become unhealthy competitors in doctrine and vain resources. We silently identify with the accomplishments of our local assembly and love everything that speaks to a prosperous movement, other than raising more disciples for Jesus. On our own part, we have encouraged what is happening and not speak out against it. The conversation continues…