By: Rev. Steven Onwu
My reading of the Holy Scriptures, at different times has intimated me with a dozen clues about the signs of end times. Our Lord and personal Saviour Jesus Christ Himself, foresighted this era and reeled out series of signs or symptoms of end times in prophecies at different intervals.
Nigeria is profoundly a religious country, at least on the outward costume. And in the last 20 years of my existence, I have been thoroughly embarrassed by the multiplicity of preachers of the gospel or “Men of God,” (both men and women) some of whom are breakaway factions or rightly, rebels of their former denominations who pinned the splinter on account of reasons, a yawning distance from religion or Christianity.
Looking at these developments and incidents in the Body of Christ in Nigeria, I am not only terrified, but visibly consumed by the fear of what next would happen. They arrest my sensibilities and strike me like the warning of Jesus Christ about the sprouting of many fake prophets, who claim to be Almighty God’s messengers, but churn out deceitful prophecies and sermons, as one of the signs of end times.
Our Lord Jesus Christ spoke about many of these signs, but advised that these fake prophets, who are cast in the mould of the ancient Prophets of Baal should be ignored, as the time might not even be near. They are the anti-Christ and ungodly.
But I fear so much that the church in Nigeria appears to be exuding these signs so competitively; to the extent self-acclaimed or anointed messengers of God hardly strike a balance between the power of God and worldly pleasures or excitements.
Some verses in the Holy Bible, precisely in 2 Timothy Chapter .3: 1-5 assail me graphically with the experience in the Nigerian church, with some ministers of the gospel today.
It proclaimed; “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”
The Federal Republic of Nigeria has permitted its citizens unfettered liberty and inalienable right to freedom of expression, religion and association through its laws. In the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, these liberties are encased under fundamental human rights of all citizens, which the state must safeguard from reckless breach. Unfortunately, it is the foundation of the multiplicity of religious groups or denominations within major religious sects in Nigeria.
At a rough guess, Christianity has over 3,000 denominations in Nigeria. And the size and strength of some churches is not beyond family membership. As earlier stated, the trend has been consolidated because some jobless Nigerians, spurred by the devil wake up any day and claim to be Ministers of the Gospel, on the simple account of being summoned to the service of God Almighty through a vision. They claim power to solve every human problem; the power to heal, perform miracles, break barrenness; cause prosperity, cast out demons and witches and a lot more.
I have realized that since Nigeria is a country whose people are afflicted in too many ways, when this obviously fake powers from the so called messengers of God are publicized to vulnerable Nigerians, who easily embrace it, a reason to establish a church is secured. And a church sprouts and the founder and owner starts his anti-Christ activities.
What we are reaping today from this looseness is the stampeding of the land with multiple fake messengers of God, Pastors, false prophets, evangelists and Apostles. Added to it, they practice and impart Christian or religious doctrines which are bizarre, unbiblical, irreligious and ungodly to unsuspecting congregants who throng to such worship centers en masse in search of miracles, healing, deliverance and prosperity.
The Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in Nigeria has been inundated with registration of Christian religious groups. CAC has had difficult times trying to register churches which should not share similarity in at least, its identifiable name.
To my amazement, decent or traditional nomenclatures of churches and places of worship such as the Roman Catholic Church, The Anglican Communion, The RCCG, The Methodists Church of Nigeria, The Apostolic Church of God and so forth have been exhausted. In their place, Nigerians are now stampeded with phrases, which pass as names of churches and worship centers.
One hear names like The Living Seed Ministries Inc; The End Time And Apostolic Ministries; Lovers of God Church, Omega Ministries, Real Blessings of God Church Intn’l, Mountain of Liberation, Anointment and Miracle Ministries, the Fire of Fire Oracle Church and so on.
This phenomenon has hit Pentecostal churches in Nigeria so hard to the extent it is easier to believe some ministers of the gospel are ordained or summoned to evangelism by the devil than Almighty God. They execute their brand of evangelism indecorously and the focus is from start to the end, on the Pastor and how to quench his zeal for money.
The focus of sermons is usually centered on prosperity, healings, and miracles. Ownership and membership of Board of Trustees is sourced within family circles. And until October 2016, when Financial Reporting Council (FRC) in Nigeria, invoked its Section 9:3 Governance Code to guarantee financial accountability for leaders or founders of non-profit organizations, which also included churches and ministries; the leadership succession line of these Pentecostal churches in Nigeria is usually erected and restricted to family members. Large portraits and billboards of husband and wife, (not Jesus Christ), adore the entrance of the churches and everywhere in the premises.
Thus, the perception and appreciation of the church in Nigeria as business has created dupes and cheats, who hide under the Constitutional liberty of freedom of religion to abuse the very essence of God Almighty and the religion they have subscribed. These “Messengers” of God are barren of the basic tenets of religion, which is peace, love and the quest for salvation. They are probably the early manifestation of anti-Christ.
And their character is detectable. In these churches, the owners or Pastors are after money; they are proud, arrogant, abusive and disobedient. They are ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, treacherous, and reckless and self- conceited. They are epicureans at the expense of God and His people, by feigning the outward appearance of godliness, yet deny the power and spirit of Gbokood in their works of evangelism.
My country Nigeria is badly hit be this generation of “messengers” of the gospel. They anchor fake sermons just to earn money; organize miracle crusades, but the focus is on how much money it would fetch; they assemble unemployed youth for job night vigil prayers for a fee and exploit childless women looking for the fruit of the womb. Some even charge consultation fees like medical doctors or Lawyers and every counsel they extend to worshippers attracts a fee. The tricks are multiple. Some of them have become divinators and forecasters of the future just to confer an aura of reverence on themselves, but their predictions occur in reverse mode.
Now, their endless appetite for money has expanded tentacles and these “messengers” of God posture more as paid agents for masked forces in stimulating religious crisis in Nigeria. They damn all religious decorum, mount the pulpit and haul out hate and inciting sermons. They freely ask their congregants to go out and kill, against every injunction of God and the Holy Scriptures.
They cause inter-faith hatred and divisions among Nigerians and smile to the bank in self- delusion of serving God. Nothing which streams from this category of “messengers” of God has any semblance of truth or about salvation. It is all about lust for material possessions and how to get richer with their families.
But I am convinced that the Almighty God which Nigerians serve and Who keeps vigil over the country has kept a dossier on these fake pastors and prophets. And it appears their cup is already full. It is therefore, wiser for them to repent and genuinely turn to God for forgiveness, before He unleashes his wrath on them. Christianity is not a profession, but a vocation. So, those who are not divinely inspired should quit the stage and the inglorious acts before the hour of tribulation berths.
If the push for this widespread fakery in the guise of Christianity is a consequence of lack of jobs, the Federal Government under President Muhammedu Buhari is advancing loans to farmers even for this cropping season. They can approach the banks and get themselves busy on farms to be part of the national campaigns for food security in Nigeria and stop the spreading of anti-Christ messages and duping of people in the guise Christianity.
Rev. Onwu is Executive Secretary, New Initiative for Credible Leadership and writes from Abuja.