By Dike Jonas, Onyekaozuru Florence & Uduma Mary
The fundamental objective of Christianity like every other religion is to make its believers as pious, upright and moral in their dealings as possible, thereby, preparing them for the hereafter. In order to achieve this noble objective, churches the world over undertake to set up ministries where the word of God will be preached and souls won for the kingdom.
In their bid to spread the word of God to the hinterlands for instance, believers in the church of old went as far as embarking on missionary activities, denying themselves of the pleasures of life. They placed much priority to winning souls to the kingdom of God.
Sadly, for us in this part of the world, the obverse is the case. Every nook and cranny of the country- big cities, street corners, towns and villages today, boasts of one worship centre or another. Sunday services are filled to the brim, with some running four or even more sessions. Companies, warehouses as well as private buildings are being converted to prayer centres. Our sports stadiums are not spared the mess as they are being used more for religious crusades than for sporting events.
With the proliferation of “worship centres” in the country, one would be quick to conclude that the citizens will be among the most God- fearing, just and caring people in the world. The reverse is however the case as there has been persistent upsurge in the rate of such heinous crimes as: corruption, kidnapping, ritual killings, human trafficking, prostitution, armed robbery and fraud. We can go on and on. The list is just endless. The proliferation of churches has simply translated into the proliferation of moral decadence- churches have deferred from their original roles in morality.
In addition to widespread moral decay heightened by the increasing number of churches is the lack of unity, personality clashes, unhealthy competition for convert via homiletical propaganda, monetary crises, heresies, fanatism and bickering.
Most leaders who own these ministries have failed in their task of bringing the people closer to God and instilling in them the right attitudes towards one another and have rather gone after their members pocket to fill their stomach
With the preponderance of social vices, one is compelled to wonder what kind of messages these churches preach during their gatherings- why they are not able to positively affect the lives of their adherents.
Baring his mind on the issue, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Oyo, Emmanuel Adetoyese remarked that there is hardly any standard left for determining what is really a church.
In his words “ it is just a about any gathering of people under any kind of guise or authority, sometimes lacking any rules, direction or even doctrine. They just gather around a banner, signboard or in any building. In itself, this fact poses a huge problem”
In Nigeria, we have a situation where people set up churches for commercial purposes making merchandise of gullible worshipers. The Archbishop of the Eccelsiasical province of Enugu, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma rightly observed that unemployment has made so many people open churches mostly Pentecostal.
He rightly captured the situation when he opined thus “what we see today are churches that have no link with any sort of apostolic succession. Some of these boys have turned the churches into commercialized unlimited liabilities. “First, they begin with a fellowship and from there they are pastors, bishops, apostles and archbishops in penticostal churches which never was existing with these titles. All we now see is religiosity, formalism, commercialization and extortion by these false prophets”
Today, most ministries rather choose to embarked on dissent and imbalanced preaching that overtake the pulpit in order to draw the crowd to their church, instead of attacking the greed and selfishness of the ruling class and mobilize the citizens for a good cause. The messages center on prosperity for all Christians which is the possession of materials things and neglecting the virtues of the kingdom.
The audience, owing to their endless cravings for sign and wonders, do not care two hoot about the kinds of messages they receive- Whether they are spiritually uplifting or killing.
It is important to note at this point that the whole essence of Christianity like any other religion is to ensure morality, mutual and harmonious co-existence amongst the people of the world. But in Nigeria, this is not the case as the whole fabric of the society has become corrupted. It is about time we addressed the increasing rate of moral decadence that have continued to plague our dear country even with the preponderance of worship centres.
Nearly the whole society has accepted corruption and immorality as a way of life. This has to fundamentally change. If the value system of a society is such that you cannot exhibit wealth unless you can explain where you got it from, trample on the rights of your neighbor or inconvenience him, without being apprehended or pick what does not belong to you without people asking questions, the society will become a better place for everyone. We must go back to the root and mend our value system as a nation.
A nation built on the foundation of true morals of her citizens, stands the test of time, because the fear of God and the conscience becomes the first police they ever need to think of before doing anything.