The church will come out stronger after the pandemic – Oluwagbemiga
Reverend Apostle Ngozi Oluwagbemiga, associate pastor with Famous Gospel Proclaimers Church, Lagos, called to ministry in 1988, has been actively into liberation activities that have delivered many souls through the church’s regular faith clinic programme. In this interview with SEYI JOHN SALAU, she speaks on the current lockdown, social distancing and expresses the optimism that the Church will emerge as a stronger entity after the pandemic. Excerpts:
Could you tell us your impression on the lockdown and its impact on the church?
My experience has been consistent on the path we have chosen to be close to God. The lockdown has been necessary for us to join in the fight against COVID-19; the church is never against it and as a matter of fact, it is the church’s responsibility to ensure that healing and wellness is attained. Here we are talking about a pandemic and it is not that it is targeted at the church in particular, neither is it an intentional act to get at the church. Another thing is that this has come as a divine agenda of God because the church is not disintegrated; the church is not the physical building we see; we, the church, because the bible in Corinth told us ‘I will build my church,’ God was the one building the church by dwelling in the heart of humans. So, allowing our heart to be his dwelling place is the church. Within the period of this fight – global battle against the virus, it has helped a lot of our congregants to know that they can find God on their own; except the ones that are not saved. They can find God because God is with them and God is with the church, and by the time we come out of this fight, the church will come out stronger because when you face your battle all by yourself with your Creator; you will come out as a collaborative body, you will come out with principles – now we know that except God keeps us together, build the house; the builders labour in vain. Times have changed; some are saying medicals – but I want to see it as a motive of the Lord because we the church pray more against this disease and I believe he will hear the cries of the righteous in their various temples. Another thing is that church begins at home. My family is a church; so, I do not see any negative effect on the church because as a church we have to bring in the God dimension to the fight against COVID-19; we also have to bring in Christ; we have to bring in power to curtail another power.
The lockdown no doubt has brought about some disruption in service and mode of worship; what is your view on this?
To you looking at us from the outside, yes, there is going to be disruption; but one of the things brought about by this pandemic is the distancing of the gathering of the people. But, God is raising pastors everywhere in many homes. So, I see no disruption; it may look like that but soon by the grace of God – every day by day we are bounding that strong hold; releasing those that are under captive; curtailing the spread by abiding to stay at home and praying spiritually because the spiritual controls the physical. So, I do not see any disruption and you will see by yourself that the church will come out a bigger family. Now, we are fellowshipping at the family unit, but we will come out as a bigger group.
What is your opinion on the palliative measures taken so far by the church?
I think at this point I will air my personal opinion. First and foremost, I am one of those who condemn our bigger churches’ leaderships who were the first to start donating to the Federal Government. Am not saying that was bad, but before alms started coming to a bigger body like the Nigerian government, they should allow the government to at least run with what it has before giving backup; by allowing the situation to saturate, then study the situation on ground. But, we really do not study things – we rush to taking actions; nobody knows when this lockdown is going to end; in fact, some Nigerians still don’t believe this virus is in Nigeria. A lot of people believe we have handkerchiefs, we are in a special zone, we have special God – Ebola came, we fought it. So, our people must learn to hold-back, study situations and the unfolding events. It would have been nice all those support given to the Federal Government, were given to charitable organisations; it would have been helpful at this point because such NGOs such as the church and others would have augmented whatever the government is doing, get everything saturated, touch everybody and get to everywhere. So, I don’t support the idea of donating to government. But, what is done is done – I still believe that what would have been done was to digitally identify people that should benefit from the palliatives. Human beings are supposed to naturally help – we don’t have to wait for government because we know our system in Nigeria. Palliatives or no palliatives, we have seen how the whole thing is going because there are some greedy people that even though they have, they want to have more. They want to get for their family members, village people and like that.
In other words, are you saying the initiative was abused?
So, churches should not say they have given and withhold the hand of fellowship to their members. Because if you put a scanner in the groups that are demanding for palliative, you will find church members there – so we can still do more as a society by giving support to the less-privileged. If you have two bags of garri, share one; we can do little by little; we do not have to give everything at a go because human beings are good at collecting. So, the church has done a lot, but can still do more by the grace of God.
Critical times demand critical solutions; should the church come together to pray as one entity against the pandemic?
The church has been praying, even if we do not come physically together; we are spiritually together. I belong to the branch of Ikeja PFN – every night 10 to 11pm, we come together online on Facebook and other social media platform, and anybody willing to join is welcomed. We come together to pray, interceding for the nation. Every Christian body has been saddled with this task; our leaders have enjoined us to pray, and every moment we are praying. The world may not see us come together, but we are together praying because when you stay alone to pray in your confine, you don’t receive auction. So, we are praying and very soon the world will see the outcome of our prayers.