By: Rev. Fr. George EHUSANI Lux Terra Leadership Foundation
At a time when people imagine that I should be very proud of, and be fulfilled in my priestly ministry; when everywhere I turn people run over to meet me, and tell me that they watch my programs regularly on TV; at a time when I have become some sort of petty celebrity; it is at this time that I find myself becoming discouraged, disillusioned, distressed and feeling like giving it all up, abandoning this whole enterprise, and going to some monastery – away from all these distractions, and rather investing in my inner growth and the much-desired communion with God, through contemplative prayer and the practice of solitude.
The truth is that I have been going through some crisis on account of which I have been asking myself whether all my teaching, preaching, writing and social advocacy engagements amount to anything at all in the Nigerian setting. I observe that the Nigerian society is not changing for the better, and people are not being radically transformed in our Churches. Though we claim to be very religious, though our Churches are crowded and we host noisy worship sessions, though some of us can quote passages of the Scripture effortlessly from Genesis to Revelations, and though we host numerous night vigils and deliverance sessions, Nigerian Christians are not being transformed in any significant way, and consequently we are not equipped to transform our society for God.
The spiritual formation of most of us Christians has often left large areas of our lives more or less untouched and unredeemed. Like the iceberg which has only about 10% of its dimensions above the waters, and the remaining 90% underneath the surface, there are layers and layers of the life of the average Nigerian Christian that seems unreached by the Gospel of Christ. Like other Nigerians out there, who have never encountered Jesus Christ, and who have never benefited from the grace of baptism and confirmation, or the sustaining power of the Sacraments, Nigerian Christians live with anger and bitterness, fear and anxiety, wickedness and hatred, resentment and un-forgiveness, self-indulgence and addiction to the pleasures of the flesh, selfishness and greed, vanity and vain-glory, and we are stuck in fetishism, occultism, and primitive superstition.
Jesus says in Matthew 7:20 that “By their fruits, you shall know them.” But Christianity as a mass movement in Nigeria is not working. Popular Christianity in Nigeria which features mega Churches and a huge gathering of thousands of people, is not working. That religion characterized by the noise-making enterprise which we call prayer; the one that features regular deliverance services, multiple healing miracle crusades, so-called “powerful men of God,” dashing celebrity preachers, swaggering motivational speakers, flamboyant Gucci pastors, designer suit evangelists, jerry coil prophets, private jet owning overseers, fashionable Church choirs and trendy Gospel singers, etc.,
– that religion is not working!
Let us be honest with ourselves: Nigerians are not being transformed for Christ in any significant way. We Nigerian Christians cannot show that we are better than our forebears who never heard about Jesus Christ. With all our feverish activism and massive Churches everywhere, we cannot demonstrate that we are better than people of other religions in godliness and holiness, in love and unity, in mercy and forgiveness, in gentleness and patience, in civic discipline and social morality, and in the practice of justice and the promotion of peace. Our marriage and family lives are often not better than the marriage and family lives of others in our environment who have never heard about Jesus Christ. There is nothing to show that the rate of marital infidelity and general promiscuity among Christians is any less than what obtains in the secular society. The young people in our Churches often do not behave better than other young people in their towns and villages or in their schools and colleges.
Though we profess Christianity and are sometimes ready to go to war in “defense” of our religion, we have often remained greedy, avaricious, corrupt, undisciplined, fraudulent, adulterous, fetish, superstitious, exploitative and oppressive of the poor in our midst.
The majority of us Church-goers do not demonstrate any serious commitment to the Kingdom values and the eternal salvation that Jesus came to inaugurate with his life, death, and resurrection. Not at all. Nigerians seem to have settled for a brand of Christianity that the Apostles Peter and Paul will not recognize. We seem to be stuck with the material world and are pursuing all that promotes our physical existence with consummate passion. We seem to devote all our energies to the pursuit of this-worldly ultimate goals, and as such transcendental goals and values have little consideration in the daily choices we make in our private and public lives.
I sense that in the eyes of many who attend liturgical services at Lux Terra Chaplaincy, and in the eyes of some others who watch our programmes on television, I am often no more than an entertainer whom they watch every Sunday, as a number of my so-called fans are often not prepared to open themselves up to the transforming influence of the Gospel of Christ which I attempt to preach. True, we are not making any significant progress by way of individual or group transformation in Christ. All we seem to be doing is simply moving chairs around in a Titanic. We must come to recognise that Christianity as a mass movement has failed to make any significant impact in Nigeria and among Nigerians
In recent times I started becoming discouraged and distressed about this embarrassing reality and asking myself serious questions bordering on the purpose and meaning of my own numerous activities in the face of this sobering reality. And this is one reason why I went away on a 21-day retreat. And in the course of the retreat, I sought the face of God, trying to discern his will in my confusion. I came back from the retreat determined not to spend the rest of my active life simply oiling the wheel or servicing structures that may not deliver any goods. Yes, I came back determined not to spend the rest of my life along the path of such shallow, hollow and mediocre religiosity.
I came back convinced perhaps more than ever before that the Gospel of Christ is the most potent force for individual and social transformation. I have taken a close look at the Acts of Apostles, and seen once again how the early Christians gave loud, courageous and radical witness to the life of Jesus Christ, and I am convinced that (even in the Nigerian environment of today) with the power of the Holy Spirit poured out to the Church on Pentecost day, we can submit ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, and He will set us on the path of authentic Christian discipleship. We must start thinking of doing a few things differently. It was Albert Einstein who said that you cannot solve a problem with the same level of consciousness that created the problem. And in education, I learned that if one has been teaching a class for a long time and they keep failing, it is either that all the students are idiots, or the teacher needs to re-examine his methodology. So we need to stop for a moment and ask ourselves what this whole enterprise of going to Church in Nigeria is all about.
On my part, I want to begin to do something different. I want to commit my life anew to the Lord and to the mission of the Gospel and request those who want to journey with me to re-commit themselves and their families anew to the Lord. Yes, as Amos 3:3 says, “Do two people travel together on a journey without first agreeing?” I would like to set in motion soon some modalities and processes aimed at achieving this “agreement” among those who worship with me, to travel together along the path of a more authentic Christian life. I would like to explore the building of new Christian communities in the form of the household Churches of the New Testament times. This means that large numbers are not of primary importance in this new approach. Perhaps we could end up with no more than 20 or 30 families at the Lux Terra Chaplaincy. And that would be okay. I urge those who are interested in this enterprise to start reading something about “Christian Covenant Communities.” Perhaps a discussion on this concept will be the starting point…
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