The Church is a collective noun for the people of God. This clarification is important for two reasons. The first reason is because people often consider the building place of worship as the Church. The second and more important reason is the undue relevance the Church places on building places of worship to the detriment of building one another. In Bible days, the distinction between the Church and the place of worship was very clear as the latter was referred to as a synagogue.
When the Scripture says, “I will build my Church and the gate of hell shall not prevail”, it’s referring to a people, not a building.
People have always objected to the affluent living of some men of God while majority of their congregation struggle to make a living. Without a doubt, the current global economic crisis has further worsened the situation as more and more people are finding things really difficult. In Nigeria, the acquisition of private jets by some men of God is causing a lot of negative feelings and some people are even calling for the entrenchment of corporate governance in the administration of worship centres!
I decided to write this article with the aim of shedding some light on the place of the Church vis-à-vis the prevailing crisis of confidence and what is expected of you and me as the days go by.
The Church is prone to being misunderstood
From time, the Church is prone to being misunderstood. A lot of people struggle with the belief the Church has in the existence of the Trinity: God, the father; God, the son and God, the Holy Spirit. When you add the above to the claim of the people of God (terrestrial beings) to having the Spirit of God, the basis for misunderstanding becomes profound.
The Scripture makes it clear that the carnal (fleshly) man can’t understand the things of the spirit because they are spiritually discerned. Jesus Christ while explaining the idea of being born-again to Nicodemus in the Book of John chapter 3, He likened the man of the Spirit to the wind. This means that, like the wind, the only thing people will be able to see or comprehend is the impact of the Church on the society; the source of her (the Church) strength will remain a mystery.
The question then is to ask if the (positive) impact of the Church is being felt in the society. This is debatable depending on what you consider the impact of the Church should be. The positive impact the Church is to make is what the Scripture refers to as fruits.
The main attribute of the Church
When you read / hear about biblical characters like David, Joshua and Samson, one thing that readily comes to mind is power. I’ve taken time to reflect on the people God used in the Bible days and the common attribute of these people is power.
Most of them performed incredible feats that readily put them at the extreme end of the power spectrum.
Historical perspective on the power of the Church – Old Testament
The father of faith, Abraham, was an embodiment of power; only a powerful person could have accomplished everything he did. He had inner strength in that he held on to the promise of God for 25 years without wavering! Abraham was the general of an army of c.300 soldiers. He once deployed this troop on a rescue mission to save his nephew – Lot.
What will you say about Moses, a man that led the people of God out of Egypt and from the grips of a notorious king – Pharaoh? It obviously took a lot of strength to have led an estimated 3 million people through the wilderness for 40 years!
About Joshua, it was said that there was a time he was in a battle with the enemies of Israel and the enemies fled. While Joshua was pursuing them, it got to a point that it seemed he was going to lose the battle because it was getting dark, Joshua commanded the sun and the moon to stand still (Joshua 10:1-14). The elements obeyed him and he was able to discomfit the enemies!
The judges that led the Israelites also recorded amazing accomplishments. One of them was Samson. On many occasions, he routed the Philistines. It was recorded that he killed more men at the point of his death than he killed in his entire life!
The story of David is one known to many people even little children. Before he killed a giant called Goliath, his track record included killing a lion and a bear. I revere David more for his leadership qualities. A group of disgruntled and discontented men came to him with the request that he should be their master. These were obviously not the kind of people he needed at the lowest moment of his life (he had run away from Saul). Nonetheless, David accepted them and when he was through with these men, they became great men. One of them, a man simply referred to as Dodo, killed hundreds of men with the jawbone of an ass! David wasn’t just a man of power; he transformed men of low esteem into powerful men.
Elijah ran on his feet and overtook the chariots of a king! After Elisha died and was buried, his bones touched the body of a dead man that was buried close to his burial site and the dead man rose up!
Historical perspective on the power of the Church – New Testament
The power of the Church didn’t change in the New Testament, what changed was the approach to the use of the power. Whereas the chant in the Old Testament was “an eye for an eye”, in the New Testament it became “love your enemies!” Whereas vengeance resided with the person wronged in the Old Testament, in the New Testament vengeance resides with God. God says, “Vengeance is mine, I will recompense.”
The potency of the power hasn’t reduced with the change in the approach to the use of the power. If anything, the potency has become supercharged; you can’t repay your enemies better than God can. The Scripture says that when you repay your enemies with good for the evil they do to you, you’re simply pouring coals of fire on them! You say that doesn’t make sense! Well, when it’s God, you don’t do what He says because it makes sense, you do it because He commanded it – that’s what it means to trust Him.
The personality at the centre of the power available to the people of God is the Holy Spirit. Jesus received the Holy Spirit at the commencement of His ministry (after being baptized at the River Jordan by John the Baptist) so that He could access the power He needed for the accomplishment of the work assigned to Him.
The point worth emphasizing is that the power Jesus received was for one thing – to do good for people. Hear Him, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel (good news) to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18). This verse of Scripture is corroborated by Acts 10:38, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil…”
From the above scriptural references, it is clear that the power of the Holy Spirit is available to the people of God for good only! When you truly receive the person of the Holy Spirit, you receive power to do good for people.
There are different kinds of power but the ultimate power is the power of the Holy Spirit. This power is available to anyone who is willing to pay the price (accept Jesus as his or her Lord and Saviour, obey the word of God and live righteously).
Beside the ultimate power of the Holy Spirit, other powers are: evil power (power from the devil) and money power (power of mammon). The power from the devil accomplishes evil deeds even though it may be coated with the semblance of good deeds. Powerful as evil powers are, the Scripture makes it clear that they are to be discountenanced by the people of God because the devil is a defeated foe.
Mammon power, on the other hand, is formidable. It is the only thing the Bible recognizes as competing with the worship of God in the hearts of men. Money is powerful for the reason that it is the medium of exchange of goods and services with which man provides for his bodily needs. Without money, it’s tough, humanly speaking, to meet your basic needs (food, clothing and shelter). The key attribute of the human basic needs is that they are involuntary in nature, meaning you don’t control them as it were. For instance, you don’t invite hunger, it just comes. The climatic conditions on the other hand make your need for clothing and shelter imperative.
It’s the imperativeness of basic needs that makes them a veritable tool in the hands of these other powers to exercise undue influence over men thereby making it easy for them to do anything that the possessor of these powers ask them to do.
When you juxtapose the accomplishments of the people of God of the Old and the New Testaments with the current realities, the conclusion you’re likely to come up with is that there are gaps. Given the power available to the Church, people naturally have certain expectations, and rightly so, from professed people of God especially men of God.
The confidence crisis has arisen largely because a lot of these expectations are not being met. It’s a case of the people looking up to the people of power to perform miracles but these men are failing. That a lot of people are finding it difficult to meet their basic needs makes things a lot worse.
For real men of God, hard times are opportunities for the demonstration of the power of God. It was written about Elisha that he prophesied in the City of Samaria at a time the city experienced tough economic condition of hyperinflation interspersed with acute shortage of food that the situation will reverse within 24 hours from the time he spoke and it happened!
Jesus Christ once fed over five thousand people by multiplying two fishes and five loaves of bread. Since God is the same yesterday, today and forever, it’s not out of place for the people to expect professed men of God to do seemingly impossible things.
Were Jesus’ disciples any better?
I reflected on the lives of the closest people to Jesus (His disciples) during His ministry and what I realized is that, like most of the people of God today, they didn’t fare any better! They too were selfish. Many times, Jesus referred to them as men of little faith because they were often overwhelmed with fear (preoccupation with self).
The Bible has an account of the time Jesus was teaching a large crowd and the session took such a long time that it was apparent that the people were hungry. What did the disciples say? They told Jesus to send the people to their homes so that they could go and find something to eat! I would have thought that having witnessed the miracles Jesus performed in the past; they would have at least asked Him if there was anything He could do for the people. The Scripture says, “Jesus had compassion on the people…” He didn’t yield to the disciples’ attempt to save face, instead He asked for what they had available – giving them a clue to the possibilities. Unfortunately, the disciples didn’t read the signal; they said nothing was available. Since that didn’t sound good enough, they looked for a better excuse and said, “…only two fishes and five loaves of bread…” belonging to a little boy. They must have thought, “The boy’s food is of no use anyway.” When Jesus told them to bring the boy’s food, the disciples must have thought, “You wouldn’t deprive this boy of his food, Jesus!” Jesus went ahead to perform one of the most amazing miracles recorded in the Bible by feeding thousands of people and having leftovers that filled 12 baskets!
There was rivalry between the disciples. After Jesus had told Peter what will happen to him later in life, Peter sought to know what will be John’s lot because he wasn’t happy with what he heard. Peter must have been waiting to hear something probably worse than his so that he would feel better. All Jesus did was to shut Peter up by asking him what knowing John’s lot was to him. In other words, Jesus told Peter to mind his own business.
There was a time the disciples asked Jesus who the greatest person in the Kingdom of God would be. This was probably one of the most self-serving questions recorded in the Bible. They were probably expecting Jesus to say to them, “Who else would that be but you, my disciples?” Jesus told them that the greatest in the Kingdom will be the person that served the most! What they heard must have been displeasing because it clearly didn’t align with what they wanted to hear.
In all their failings, Jesus didn’t give up on the disciples rather He kept teaching them what He wanted them to know. The Books of Acts revealed the rationale for Jesus’ action toward the poor attitude of the disciples. In Acts 1:8, we read, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” Jesus knew it was impossible for them to overcome selfishness without the power of the Holy Spirit. As they say, the rest is history. When the Holy Spirit did come upon the disciples, they did all manner of good as encapsulated in the Books of Activities Acts.
What’s the way forward?
You’re probably ahead of me now. The way out of the confidence crisis for you and me is in the deal. The deal is contained in Matthew 6:33, “…Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” This means that the solution to everything you need is in seeking God not the people or men of God.
When it comes to seeking God, it’s a personal responsibility. The Scripture admonishes everyone to taste and see that the Lord is good. You can’t possibly taste the goodness of God with somebody else’s taste buds!
The Scripture is replete with injunctions that the race to enter the kingdom of God is an individual race. There is simply no group invitation to Heaven! The most notable scripture in this regard says, “Everyone must work out his salvation with fear and trembling.” You will stand alone before the throne of God to give account of your stewardship while you lived here on earth. It will be impossible to say that the reason you didn’t do what you should have done was because a man of God misled you.
What’s more? You and I have been given all that we need for the life we are to live. They are: the word of God (the Bible) and the Holy Spirit. Someone said, “God doesn’t have grandchildren. We’re all children of God!” That’s so true. If you ignore these nuggets of truth, you have nobody to blame but yourself.
The final point is that the current unimpressive situation will not change, rather they will get worse. The Scripture says, “In the end time, men shall become lovers of self…” The other word for pervasive ‘unenlightened self-interest’ is ‘confusion’. The Book of Revelation makes it clear that things will get so bad that God would have to shorten the time for the sake of the elect (those that are Heaven bound) so that they (the elect) don’t lose out.