‘Understanding the place of the Church in Nigeria’s transformation journey’
In 2021, Dapo Asaju, a theologian and academic, in a lecture titled, ‘The Imperative of Integrity: Transparency and Trust in Leadership,’ said that it was high time Nigerians returned to discipline.
During the public presentation of the book titled, ‘Kumuyi: Defender of the Faith,’ the first official biography of Pastor William F. Kumuyi, the general superintendent of the Deeper Christian Life Ministry.
Asaju, a former vice chancellor of Ajayi Crowther University, noted that Kumuyi, and Enoch Adeboye, General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) were exceptionally revered voices that none can ignore in Nigeria.
And, in trying to proffer pragmatic solutions to Nigeria’s multiple challenges, urged both men to convene a round table meeting with the nation’s leaders in bringing urgent solutions to Nigeria’s problems, before things finally get out of hand.
Now, fast forward to January 2023, and you can understand the choice of Asaju as one of the speakers at a breakfast and interdenominational Christian discussion on, ‘How to address the challenges facing Christianity in contemporary Nigeria,’ organised by the Cathedral Touch Bearers of the Cathedral Church, Marina, on Saturday 7 January.
It was the 80th anniversary of the Cathedral Torch Bearers, the foremost male society in the Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina, Lagos. The society was founded in 1942 to carry the torch of the visionary founding fathers of the Cathedral Church of Christ.
In leading the conversations on pragmatic solutions to Nigeria’s socio economic challenges, Asaju called on the Church and its leadership to build synergy with current and retired military personnel on preventive measures to curb incessant attacks on the Church and Christians in general.
“We need an alternative form of defense. To give us the idea, we need the military and the paramilitary for preventive measures in the face of attacks,” he said.
According to Asaju, who is also the bishop of Ilesha, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, the Church and by extension Christians need to build conviction by producing a blueprint that can get Nigeria out of the woods.
Speaking on ‘Responsible reactions and strategies to deal with attacks, and killings of Christians in the Homestead and Places of worship, Asaju said that the Church and Nigeria by extension can effect change in non-violence ways.
Asaju in calling for unity in Christendom, urged Christians to speak with one voice.
“We need to see this as a Nigerian problem, not just a Christian problem.” According to him, Christianity and governance are symbiotic; hence the Church must collectively take actions that will deliberately build up leaders. “Nigeria died a long time ago; our hopes are very dim,” he said.
Speaking on ‘Internal decay in several churches and denominations, particularly relating to financial accountability and commercialisation of church activities? Saving Christianity from charlatans, false prophets, and prophetesses, as well as dubious pastors and apostles,’ Ituah Ighodalo, the Senior Pastor of Trinity House, said many of the Church leaders and preachers are self-serving and lack compassion for the poor.
He noted that the Nigerian Church had become weak and powerless because of the many divisions that now characterised it, noting that some church leaders also lacked integrity. Accordingly, he said that there is currently a lot of internal decay in the church.
Ighodalo highlighted some of the doctrinal problems with the Church where people build empires instead of the people of God. According to him, the Church is utterly fragmented and disoriented. “Christianity is under siege. The Nigerian Church is deeply at stake.”
According to him, there is a need for the Church to set standard and self-regulate. “There is a need for church formation, standards of the church on internally regulating ourselves”. However, on the back of setting standards, he implored the Church to put in place an agenda for Christians in Nigeria.
“We must protect and encourage one another and have a pure church. The world needs the church. Nigeria needs Christianity. The whole world is waiting for Nigeria,” he said.
Ighodalo also called for strategic thinking on the part of the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the umbrella body for the Church in Nigeria. According to him, there is a need for the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion in conjunction with CAN to take up the charge of leading the country out of its present predicament.
“What is CAN doing? How can we make this association more relevant? We need to sit and have an all-Christian congress to meet minds on what we want to do to come up with standards for self-regulation.
“We must unite against a common enemy of hunger, bad governance and lack of evangelism, LQGTB, and others,” Ighodalo said.
Gbolahan Ayodele, chairman, Cathedral Touch Bearers, said the society is raising funds for its primary project and thought it wise to deliberate on a topic that will be generally acceptable to all.
“It’s a topic that we know everybody will be interested in. Everybody knows the challenges on the political terrain; the social terrain; we complain about this, we complain about that.
“So, we thought that if you have a forum to be able to discuss it, that will proffer and give us the solution and the way forward on how to resolve the issues that are bothering us as a nation, because people never talk about it,” said Ayodele.
According to him, beyond raising funds and bringing national issues to the consciousness of the people, Ayodele said that the Cathedral Touch Bearers as a society in the Cathedral Church of Christ will be able to collect different views on the topic and make recommendations to the appropriate quarters.
“Over the past 80 years, the visions of our founding fathers has not changed considerably, but has been expanded and deepened to include providing exceptional spiritual value through bible based means to the people of God.
“This profound vision has been enabled and facilitated and strengthened by our mission to provide a center for spiritual, social and intellectual intercourse among students by encouraging them to take keen interest in all matters affecting the welfare of the people of God and promoting the ability to fellowship and the spirit of sincere cooperation amongst our members.”
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The event was an interdenominational Christian discussion that addressed the challenges facing the Church in contemporary Nigeria. However, some on the frontier are yet to come to terms that Christian practices and manners have undergone some transformation over the years.
This is one of the many reasons why it has become very important to educate Christians about the role the Church must play in transformational change of the country beyond the spirituality of the leaders and their followers.
The discussion also looked at the Christian faith in general with regards to how several churches and denominations are being managed; particularly related to their financial accountability and professionalisation of Church activities.