“Describe the overall condition of the church in Nigeria. Be honest without sounding overly critical.”
I read these words a few weeks ago and haven’t been able to forget them. This is because it is normal to depict the state of Christianity in Nigeria in a bad light (especially if one says one is Reformed). Nigerian religious junk, a phrase coined by Pastor Conrad Mbewe, is how many “Reformed folks” now like to describe whatever comes out of the church in Nigeria. But this past week, I was forced to have a rethink about the church in Nigeria. And if you asked me to honestly describe the condition of the church in Nigeria, I would have some positive things to say.
I believe that the inclination of man is to bemoan his lot in life. Our natural bent is to grumble about the bad things that come our way. But God’s people should not be known for their complaining and dissatisfaction. We should never get to the point where we forget or fail to acknowledge God’s goodness to us. It is a most miserable thing for a Christian to visit the cave of despondency so often that he fails to appreciate the sun of God’s faithfulness.
In Nigeria, we often start by complaining about the ineptitude and incompetence of our political leaders. We never get tired of expressing our dissatisfaction at their disastrous policies—policies that have crippled the economy and left many homeless and jobless. And that’s besides the tribalistic and ethnic sentiments that often influence their policies and actions.
And if you are a Christian in Nigeria, who isn’t a part of the Charismatic movement, you have much to keep your mind busy. There are endless scandals in the news involving some of the big men of God in the country. There is the steady stream of false doctrine that flows freely on social media. There are yearly congresses and conferences, held in camps and cities, with catchy themes that really makes no sense when held up to scriptural scrutiny. Deceit in broad daylight is the norm in many churches. How terrible things are in Nigeria!
There are days when the average Nigerian finds nothing good in our country. Things are quite bad. Some say that they have never been this bad. Our troubles are real, and our dissatisfaction at the state of our nation is not unwarranted.
But God is working in Nigeria, and that should give us hope and cause us to rejoice. On the first Sunday of February, my church welcomed 15 congregants into membership. And we had two visiting pastors from a thriving church in Lagos officiating the induction service. You may think that 15 isn’t 1500, or that two local churches aren’t two thousand. But aren’t you adopting the same mindset that characterizes much of the prosperity gospel movement when you think that way? Are you not judging God’s work by numbers, adopting the thinking that numerical growth is what indicates true growth or God’s working?
Let me share with you what I see happening. I see God working in the hearts of men by his Holy Spirit. I see professing Christians realizing their lostness and seeking the right Christ. I see fervent members (and even church leaders) abandoning their previous churches because they have been convinced from Scripture that certain things weren’t right. I see little children being catechized and some of them even asking for the way of salvation. I see inquirers and seekers who are asking, “What can we do to be saved?” I may not be able to tell you that I have seen this happening on a large scale, but I can say that I have witnessed it happening.
God is opening blind eyes and changing hearts. He is raising men and women and boys and girls from their state of spiritual death and giving them life. God is building his church, calling able men into leadership and enabling them to shepherd his flock in Nigeria. While I may not be able to see much good happening in my country, I thank God that I can see his hand working in his church. And, today, I will rather thank God for his work in Nigeria than bemoan the countless other things that are wrong, and, perhaps, urge you to do the same.