Posted by Grandiose Parlor on
Missionary churches as the pioneers of Christian evangelism not only propagated their religion to many parts of Africa, they brought education, built valuable infrastructure, and generally helped developed many regions of the African hinterland. The church and its congregation, as it were in those days, fed off each other in a symbiotic manner that benefited the society as a whole. There are hardly any community or household in Africa that have not directly or indirectly benefited from those Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, et al missionary pioneers.
For instance, I attended a Catholic school for my secondary education in Nigeria just as many other non-Catholics. These missionaries built Old People’s Homes, orphanages, health care centers and hospitals all over Nigeria. Although these steps were initiated many years ago, the structures they erected are still standing, the services they provided then have not ceased, and if not for the some over zealous Nigerian second republic politicians, the humanitarian activities of these missions would have expanded ever further.
What is on ground in modern-day Nigeria is a multitude of indigenous religious outlets or enterprises, as I’d like to call them. Their doctrine seems to be primarily economics. These churches have become experts in social marketing, and it is not uncommon to see hyped-up members of the congregation strive to outshine each other in weekly contributions and pledges made to the church. Revivals on “economic breakthrough” are now the order of the day. Smooth sweet-talking and well-dressed pastors are now popular primetime characters on the mainstream media, some of these Pastors-turned-CEO have even taken their craft a step further by adding a “minimum clause” to the contributions and tithes demanded from their congregation. This is the era of the Pentecostal church- a multi billion Naira (do I hear dollars) enterprise, the bigger and fancier the church, the better. Now, CEO-Pastors often own and travel in fleet of top-of-the line jets, the era of modesty and chastity is over y’all, “bling-bling” rules among the yuppie clergy of the Pentecostal church.
It appears the Pentecostal church is less interested in the community they operate, it doesn’t matter if their evangelistic activities negatively impact the general population, the focus is the size of the church, till, and congregation. Community development or enhancement of any sort is no longer a priority it appears.
Consider this instance:
Some Pentecostal church heavyweights hold monthly revivals along the Lagos-Sagamu expressway- the only dual carriage road that connects the state of Lagos to the Nigerian hinterland. The Behemoth traffic gridlocks that always ensue anytime these revivals occur constitute significant nuisance factor and sometimes safety hazard to motorists. Do the pastors of these churches realize this?
In December of 2004, I was unfortunate to be traveling on this stretch of highway during one of those revivals- so I know what it feels like to be ensnared on this road among all sorts of contraptions called vehicles. Although it was dark, I was certain that the traffic gridlock stretched for miles in both directions because all vehicles on both sides of the highway have been stationary for hours. As fate would have it that day, a kerosene tanker, for some unknown reasons started leaking its inflammable content all over the road, just a couple of feet away. There was nowhere to run, it suddenly occurred to me that we could be roasted alive if the unthinkable happened. I and many other motorists did the most reasonable thing- we abandoned our vehicles and moved away from the tanker as far and quickly as humanly possible. I doubt if we would have survived if the tanker carried gasoline (petrol) and not kerosene. The prayers from the revival must have saved us! I still cringed anytime I remember what happened on that night.
Since the government seems unready to fix this traffic problem, it beats me why these churches haven’t designed a long lasting solution to this problem? They have sunk a lot of money into their revival grounds- so relocation is not an option. They have the means and resources to finance the construction of an overpass (flyover bridge) and the necessary frontage road network to divert traffic from this trouble spot, but they have chosen to ignore the problem in a manner typical of the Nigerian mentality.
In the days of the missionary churches, this problem would have been fixed, it may not have even occurred in the first place. The missionaries developed the community and enhanced it better than they met it. The Pentecostal churches on the other hand appear only interested in building edifices and proselytizing.
The Pentecostal church, as any other church, is non-profit and enjoys a tax-exempt status. Has the Nigerian government ever audited the financial records of these churches? I have often wondered how they make use of their funds. Are there some measurable indices that can be used to evaluate the socioeconomic impact of theses churches on Nigerians?
I would like to know the profile and socioeconomic status of students attending the few nascent Pentecostal church-owned universities. How many are from poor families? How many are on scholarships? How many are “non members” of these churches? How many students in Nigeria have benefited from grants and scholarships from these churches? How many social infrastructures these churches have built? Have Pentecostal churches positively influenced the majority of Nigerians as the missionary churches did in those days?
In their quest to save souls and spread the gospel, I hope that the indigenous Pentecostal churches also remember to reach out to underserved Nigerians and marginalized communities as the missionary churches did many years before them- in manners and ways that extend beyond proselytization.
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