The first article on the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ encapsulates the essence of Christmas and the personality behind it. In the article, this author demystified and demythologized the deity of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and God-incarnate by employing what he calls “Functional and Ontological Models” to elucidate his position. However, in this second article, the author mirrors the practice of the contemporary African Christian churches during the yuletide vis-à-vis the epiphany of the African church attitude towards the Great Commission which the season hinges on. The author discovers that the aura that churches create during this period is antithetical to the great mystery of the epiphany or theophany – the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The main purpose of the birth of Jesus Christ is the salvation of humanity (Mtt.1:21). He came to fulfill this divine purpose. He (Jesus) also commanded us, as His disciples, to do the same through Him by making disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). Our call to discipleship has taken the backseat to skepticism, and it causes others to doubt or discredit the importance of salvation. The pictures of our churches today are indubitably condensed below:
We have become a church that focuses on theatrics and choreography rather than theology and Christology; we have become a church that’s more concerned about democracy than theocracy and theology; we have become a church that’s more concerned about position than consecration; we have become a church that is more conscious about the title than the mantle; we have become a church that is more concerned about certification or degrees than anointing and the grace of God; we have more concerns about how much money we’ve raised as opposed to how many souls are being saved; we have become a church that is concerned about fundraising rather than soul-winning; preachers have replaced altar calls for salvation with fundraising for competition: for example, the first twenty people who can give so and so amount; our altars have become rostrums for political campaigns and beauty pageant; a lot of preachers are more profit-driven than focus on soul winning.
Today, our attention has been completely shifted from the primary purpose of our calling as Christians – the Great Commission (Matt.28:19-20). Our focus as a Church at large has watered down our responsibilities to help fulfill this godly mission—the Great Commission. As a church, the called-out ones, the believers in Christ Jesus, we are commanded by Jesus Christ to engage in discipleship with a strong focus to bring the nations of the world to Christ. Jesus commanded:
Go ye therefore, and teach (make disciples of) all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matt.28:19-20)
In fact, in the words of Ramon L. Jones, ‘we have lost some of the fundamentals of our core values, and we are marching to a different cadence that’s diametrically opposed to winning the least, lost, left out, and the overlooked’. Without mincing words, we are in a perilous time. At the moment, the church is practicing what is diametrically antithetical to the urgent need of God. Indeed, the church has lost some of her core values of love, soul-winning, holiness, faithfulness, cares, etc. All this is a church disease that must be addressed and treated urgently. The present church is focusing on one thing: prosperity, which God had ab initio made available for His children (3John 2). In Matthew 6:33, Jesus says ‘But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.’ We can glaringly see that we are putting cart before the horse. It is a big problem. The contemporary preachers do not have other messages than that of prosperity, no altar call than that of fundraising. This is a big problem in the church today. It should be noted here that there is nothing wrong with fundraising. We need money in the church – no doubt about that – but that should not be our major message all the time or whenever we organise programmes. Some preachers have no other message than fundraising again. One may ask: how do we know that this is a big problem or disease? Ramon L. Jones has an answer to this:
One of the ways you know you’re making progress is you stop having the same discussion over and over again. If you’re discussing the same issues on your team or at home year after year, you’re probably stuck.
The kind of salvific experience that people are getting today is a watered-down version: there is no transformation because the truth has been compromised on the altar of salvation for the sake of our pockets. Christmas messages and programmes should centre on the person of Christ who, out of love and humility, surrendered His life for the salvation of humanity(John 10:17-10; 15:13; Phil. 2:8) But we focus our messages and programmes on how to have a better life in the New Year without connecting people to the person who will give them a better life. In this case, prayer becomes ineffective and the people’s life remains unchanged, or rather worse in the New Year after siphoning their pockets.
I think every Christian desires a barcode that heaven can scan once he/she has expired from this life. Definitely, everyone carries an invisible barcode, and indeed, there is a barcode scanner in heaven. This will show our daily, monthly, quarterly, or annual profile that gives evidence of our contribution to making disciples and helping to build the kingdom of God as expected of us.
Today, it seems the Great Commission has been demoted to the very least position of conviction. Our teaching or making of disciples or soul-winning programmes has become otiose. The present church embarks on monthly, quarterly, or yearly evangelism, crusade, in a perfunctory manner with no deep conviction for soul-winning but with much concern for the pockets of the people. From December 15 to January 15 of every year, different Christian programmes are organised to keep people ‘busy or active spiritually’ without spiritual transformation. Some of these programmes have been turned to avenues to raise money, not to win souls. The DCC Superintendent of Christ Apostolic Church, Ikorodu Districts Coordinating Council, Nigeria, Pastor Lawrence Oladele Akinloye’s statements encapsulate the current reality and practices of the contemporary African churches:
“Soul winning should be the main reason for organizing programmes. Programmes should be organized in order for people to move closer to God, particular early in the year like we are. What is in the mind of God is to draw men to Himself and that is why Jesus Christ said come to me, all you who labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. What should be the desire of ministers who organize programmes should be to make the heavy load of people light, but rather they are raising money. Self-glorification and advertisement for the purpose of fund raising is what is everywhere today. It is very bad when you invite different kinds of people to a programme and instead of dishing them the undiluted raw word of God, you are extorting them. It simply means what you need from them is not for them to repent from their sins and be saved, but their monies.
He explains further that:
According to what we read and heard about the founding fathers of our church, it is Jesus that comes first in every of their decision or programme they organized, not money. They never glorified themselves and they didn’t organize programmes for the purpose of fund raising. They showed Jesus Christ to the sinners, not themselves and as a result of that people repented and surrendered their idols and fetish powers to follow Jesus Christ. In how many programmes today do idol worshippers repent and come with their idols? We need to learn that there is a need for us to show Jesus Christ to the sinners
Most of the churches do not centre their messages on the salvific purpose of Jesus’ birth but on the prosperity of the people which, of course, is imbedded in the salvifical nature of Jesus’ birth and death. This starts with us as Christian leaders. But, in his view, Ramon L. Jones concludes thus:
Because preacher/pastor messages are not designed to make disciples, we don’t see disciples being made. Furthermore, the members are not living their life well enough that they might duplicate who they are. I often say, “If you cannot duplicate who you are, you are not who you think or say you are.”
If the congregation can admire our skills through the text, can they also admire our skills in the streets or to the unsaved around us?
Effective discipleship is not about a curriculum; it’s about one person learning from another person what it looks like to follow Jesus. If you know how to love and walk with Jesus, you can disciple someone else—even if your life is far from perfect. Any sincere believer can teach another how to seek God, repent, read the Bible, pray, and share with others.
All of us need to heed the Scripture; God employs all that will sign their name on the dotted line. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will use those who give themselves to ministry. You’re never lacking when you are promoting kingdom work and making disciples.
Dele A Ilesanmi observes thus:
What I observe now is that the “Five-Fold Ministry” of the church has now become “Five-Fold Mystery” of the church. Some Pastors are hirelings: they teach and preach things that are in their financial favour or they device a means of siphoning money from their poor congregation. The Teachers of the Word are heretical in their teaching to the advantage of the devil. The Evangelists are not more concerned about the perishing souls but craving for popularity and pleasure. The Prophets are sanctimonious and prophetically fallacious to their innocent clients in order to deplete their pockets to their advantage. The Apostles are now the advocates of secular governments for popularity and financial gain. Teaching of morality has now become anachronistic in some Christian environments and gatherings world over, whereas religion without morality is ungodliness. Since the “milky” members of the congregation could not differentiate between ministry and mystery, they prefer magic to miracle; mountain to God’s house (church); “fired prayers” to salvation messages. Now, pastors turned motivational speakers are more in the church today than the true holiness preachers. They send people from pulpits to hell. They preach what people want not what God wants for His people. The world is gradually folding up!
Again, let us have a sober reflection on the essence of Christmas and devote more time to discipleship, soul-winning, and love to draw more people to God than other things that draw them away from Him.
HAPPY CHRISMAS CELEBRATION
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