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2019: When the Church united to pull back denominational barriers

For many Christians in Nigeria, especially Lagos, the year 2019 will no doubt go down in history as one that brought the entire body of Christ together. 2019 is arguable that year when the Church in Nigeria united to pull back the denominational barriers that had somehow limited the spread of the gospel. SEYI JOHN SALAU chronicles happenings as they relate to the church in 2019.

The year 2019 started on a promising note for the church in Lagos. Led by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the umbrella body for the church in Lagos as the first quarter of the year witnessed what was tagged, the Ministers’ Development and Networking Summit convened by the General Superintendent of the Deeper Life Bible Church, William F. Kumuyi, aimed at equipping church leaders for kingdom expansion.

The summit presented a new wave of spiritual awakening and revival to empower church leaders for end-time challenges. “It is such a revival that will spour us to effectively fulfill Christ’s mandate of world evangelisation and get believers ready for heaven. We must arise, set aside all denominational divide and inhibition in response to the spirit’s call for this crisis hour, and really it is a crisis hour,” said Alexander Bamgbola, the chairman of CAN, Lagos State chapter.

According to Bamgbola, the summit brought together about 20, 000 ministers from all denominations in Lagos for edification, equipping and empowerment of church leaders. “The summit delivered on its promise as it is already yielding positive results – to sustain this momentum, we have decided to leverage this positive development by putting in place networking support programmes that aim at further integrating and empowering the body of Christ,” he said.

Expectedly, the empowerment summit resulted in a weekly networking support programme, which is the first phase of the church-based networking support programme designed to stimulate genuine revival and growth among the clergy, laity and across churches.

The programme, which started in July, was held every Wednesday at 6pm, while every edition was hosted by different churches across the LGAs in Lagos and transmitted in real time to all connected churches across the country. “It is a golden opportunity that the Lord has dropped on our laps at this auspicious time in our generation. We can use them to attain personal and church growth; it is time to awake to the challenges of the hour, it is time to provoke unto love and to good works,” Bamgbola said.

Similarly, the directorate of Social Security Outreach/ Inter-Governmental Relations (SSO/IGR) of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN),  organised a one-day summit on ‘National Unity and Development’ in June at the Vineyard Christian Centre, Isolo, Lagos.

The consensus was that the church must never be allowed to look like a political association if it does not want to lose the whole essence of unity in the diversity of the body of Christ. “Our nation needs a church that is spiritually alert, socially responsible and politically neutral. It needs a church that does not seek any form of gratification from civil authorities but a church that is independent, loves the nation and all its component parts, speaks the truth to all the populace,” said Pastor Toju Bolujoko.

Ladi Peter Thompson, a reverend and guest speaker at the summit, opined that the church has the answer to the challenges bedeviling the nation. “What worked for June 12 is not going to work for the present challenges that we are facing in this country, the church has the answer. The church must not get involved in retaliation. The greatest mistake this generation can make is to allow religious war to erupt in Nigeria,” said Thompson.

In the third quarter of the year, precisely in September, in continuation of the Ministers’ Development and Networking Summit, held at the African Bethel Cathedral, Ikorodu and tagged ‘Growing your Church.’ It was another opportunity for the church leaders to strategise on uniting the church.

According to Kumuyi, the church in Nigeria is being weakened by denominational barriers that have rendered it unproductive to deliver the heavenly divine mandate of winning the world to Christ. “Instead of fighting a common enemy, the devil; we are fighting each other. We are looking down on each other; we are pushing each other away until the church is not even sure on which ground do I stand,” he said.

Akin Ajayi, bishop of the Lagos West missionary diocese of the African Church, Bethel Cathedral, Ikorodu said the summit provides an opportunity for ministers to train themselves, stating it is a divine blessing for the ministers to develop and grow their local church. “For Pastor Kumuyi to have come to Ikorodu; that means he has humbled himself and we should all learn from him. I believe there is nobody God cannot use. If you allow God to take charge of your life, he will definitely deliver you and grant you whatever you think is impossible in your life,” Ajayi said.

As a true testament to breaking the denominational barrier facing the church, Israel Akinadewo, the secretary of CAN, Lagos State said the programme is just the beginning of ending denominational barrier in Christendom. “You can see me in my full attire and you will be surprised Baba Kumuyi is also coming to my church in Ibeju; so, what we are telling the public is what the scriptures told us to do – there is no Catholic, Anglican or white garment in heaven, but only the true children of Christ,” he said.

According to the Lagos CAN secretary, ‘Night of Glory’ with Pastor Kumuyi is the realisation of what Christ actually expected of Christians, which is only starting in Lagos. He further said that it was aimed at putting an end to all forms denominational differences in the church. “This is just the beginning of ending denominational barrier in the Christendom,” said Akinadewo.

In November, the Ikeja province of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) organised a crusade tagged, ‘Divine Liberation.’ The crusade captured the collective expectation of Christian faithful in Lagos as to what God is going to do in Christendom.

The crusade, which was used to usher 10,000 souls to Christ, provided a rare platform for the demonstration of God’s love and power to save and set free. “We are all aware of the state of affairs, not only in our country but all over the world. There is preponderance of evil in the land and this has given rise to untold insecurity, starvation, misery and hopelessness. But God, in his infinite love and mercy is not only able but willing to deliver those who look up to him,” said Tope Ilesanmi, the chairman of PFN, Ikeja province.

In December, the church in Lagos all gathered at different points for one programme or another celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Notable among them was the gathering at TBS for the annual gospel concert, ‘The Experience’. The Experience 2019 was the 14th edition of the gospel music concert, themed, ‘Let’s Worship Jesus’ usually held on the first Friday of December and streamed live via satellite to about 46 countries in Africa, making it the biggest gospel concert on the continent.

However, The Experience 2019 was not only used as a gospel concert; as it was leveraged by the state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu to reach out to Lagosians in seeking God’s direction in the affairs of the state.

Sanwo-Olu in his goodwill message said his administration was bringing righteousness to governance. According to him, Lagos will experience phenomenal growth like never before under his leadership.

He also stated that the state wwould collaborate with forward-looking organisations and all faith-based organisations to deepen infrastructure and build capacity of Lagosians. Furthermore, the state government in collaboration with House on the Rock initiated a pilot scheme to empower some of the ‘area boys’ on the Island who have now been christened ‘Good boys’ with tricycles ‘Keke’.

To crown the year as one that saw the church come together to preach unity, Emmanuel Adegoke, the CAN coordinator in Ikorodu central and chairman CAN coordinators in Ikorodu division, said: “We are united by the cross; we are united by that message and divine commission, ‘go ye into the world’ and that is our unity. That is what we should be preaching; we should forget about church traditions and other things, and stand for the gospel.”

Adegoke opined that the ministers’ summit is a divine initiative of CAN, aimed at deepening unity and strengthening the body of Christ in Lagos and beyond. “I see it as a divine plan of God for the Church itself and I think we are opportune to share in the grace that the man of God comes here, and we are following up with the programme”.

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