By Alexander Ogheneruemu
First, let’s be clear: “I am not writing, merely to seek attention”. It goes beyond that. Rather, I write this as inspired. My heart overflows with a goodly theme…my tongue is like the pen of a ready writer (Psalm 45:1)
Among contemporary ministers of God, Pastor Williams Kumuyi is one I hold in very high esteem. Let’s get it straight: “It’s not because I attend Deeper Life Bible Church”. It goes deeper to something like a kindred bond sealed on a metaphysical level.
So many things about this man resonate with me.
His disciplined personality, his unique ministry, his overwhelming unction, a nonplussed bearing coupled with disciplined methods, his measured elocution, and even something as simple as his unassuming gait… (I remember one time I practiced the Kumuyi gait to diffuse a tense situation and obtain a special favor. Another time, I mimicked his drawled enunciation for the desired effect). To cap it, I get good kicks from knowing his first name and mine bear a similar root: “Defender”. William “defender of the faith”, Alexander “defender of men”.
In fact, I do not recall being so enamored (on such a sublime level) by a mortal, dead, or living. Mind you, I’m not alone in this. The man Kumuyi is mostly spoken of in glowing terms – by both admirers and haters. He is a living inspiration.
The other day, I wrote a few words about him in a group, and an older acquaintance remarked that I seem obsessed with Kumuyi. I will admit that for a given. But then, I always tell myself that I’m Alex and not Kumuyi. Yes, I hold this great man of God in the highest esteem but I’m not trying to be a copy of him. Also, I’m not trying to make God of a man. Kumuyi is human too – beset by human weakness and imperfections.
However, the sublime influence of his person and ministry in my space and thousand others across the globe can never be discountenanced in a hurry.
The preceding statement forms the crux of my glowing tribute.
Even so, a salient question arises. Could not this ministry be more efficient by calling attention to some blind spots in its dispensation? Galatians 6:6 reads: Let him that is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.
I just hinted at the grand end of this epistle.
It’s my earnest hope and prayer that this write-up lives up to that design. I hope this piece, like Marc Bratcher’s “Disability and the Divine” sparks a new conversation – one that steadily throws light on a “dark subject” intricately intertwined with the grand thrust – not only of Kumuyi’s ministry but of the church universal.
My heart overflows with a goodly theme…my tongue is like the pen of a ready writer
July 10, 2023: One remarkable Monday morning
I was having personal devotion in the wee hours of that morning when a strong urge came to sing unto the Lord. Promptly, I complied, picked up my hymn book, and, with spirit-filled gusto, sang a number of the old church hymns.
It was a rapturous moment – I was in the spirit, as contemporary charismatics would say.
Wanting to capture some of the moment’s magic, I did an audio recording of a stanza that particularly resonated and posted it on a few online groups I belonged. Two of these are Deeper life groups:
Confide in His Word
His promises so sure
In Christ, they are ‘Yea and Amen’
Though Earth pass away
They ever shall endure
Tis’ written o’er and o’er again.
Listening again and again to that recording (Okay, I’m deaf but still manage with some residual hearing), I think it was a beautiful rendition.
Someone from the church group, Bro Anyam (I didn’t know, and neither did he know me), obviously fascinated by the solo performance addressed one of the admins, (Bro Zeal, a district pastor) in a comment that flattered:
“…the singer here deserves an award via the admins of the platform. It isn’t easy to come out and perform for everyone. I, therefore, suggest a one-million-man march for him/her this Saturday at the National Stadium, Surulere…”
Was I flattered? You can bet I was. Was this a sincere compliment? Again, you can bet it was – as the ensuing responses prove. This responder had no idea who and what was behind the rendition.
The reply from Pastor Zeal who knew me well (we are in the same district) came stinging: “Well, my brother, if it is the fellow that sang ‘Rejoice in the Lord’, give glory to God, he is a deaf and dumb brother in…our church…one day, his vocal and hearing organs will be loosed and he will speak and hear in Jesus name. Amen”.
Read also: Kumuyi chides church workers who impose head covering rules on ladies: https://churchtimesnigeria.net/kumuyi-head-covering-ladies/
I was stung but still managed to be politically correct, you know challenging your spiritual leaders openly isn’t in good taste (more so by Deeper Life standard). Gathering all the tact I could muster, I replied:
“Respectfully, sir, I’m deaf, yes. But dumb, no”. I would go on to hint at my stance in the matter: ‘The church needs serious enlightenment on this issue’.
But rather than try to see the logic in my response, the conversation took on a completely different direction.
Pastor Zeal stuck to his guns with an unspoken verdict: “You will receive a miraculous healing, brother”. Bro. Anyam would take a similar stance. Tagging my reply, he declared:
“Whatever it is, my beloved brother, the mighty hand of the Lord is already upon you for signs and wonders in your life in Jesus’ glorious name.”
Pastor Zeal would continue by asking every member of the platform to pray for Bro Alexander that Almighty God would perfect His glorious work in His life…
The ‘amens’ followed.
In the meantime, I was burning inside with righteous indignation. The thoughts raced in my mind.
What was my pastor thinking when he used the word “deaf and dumb”?
Actually, he would repeat the term two or three times – much to my mortification.
Deaf, I had no issue with but adding dumb was another thing, entirely.
This is someone who knew me well enough to do better. Someone I have on occasions talked with in intelligible speech. So why the dumb label? And we haven’t even talked of how rules of polite interaction frown at the term “deaf and dumb”, even for a deaf person who has no speech.
And even more important, must everything about a disability and persons with disabilities in the church be about praying for and receiving miracles of healing? I’m afraid of how narrow-minded our profession of faith can sometimes make us. It hurts that our leaders are often so gullible in this regard.
At this point, I found myself managing a wistful smile while boiling inside with a determination to latch on to this encounter to start a topic that’s been stirring in my heart for a long… Contemplate the words of Elihu, in Job 32: 2-22.
Later the same day I posted a published piece meant for enlightenment on the subject of ‘disability and the church’ on the group. Did I get a response? Sadly, no.
Fortunately, amidst the internal conundrums, my better judgment rose to the occasion. In hindsight, I realized how this is yet another instance of one of those things persons with disabilities have had to contend with in almost every setting. More so in the African situation characterized by poor enlightenment. It wasn’t my first experience being mortified over my disability by the remarks of supposedly knowledgeable church leaders. And I’m not alone in this.
One sober question: How many times have embarrassing situations like this (hinged on narrow-mindedness and poor enlightenment) led to people pulling out of the church?
I myself almost quit.
But something kept me going – the Kumuyi factor, I call it. I’d return to that shortly.
Clearly, there’s a need to wean both the pulpit and pew of the fanatical kind of faith that stifle enlightened views and sound judgment… 2 Tim 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power…and a sound mind.
I believe in healing and miracles, but I also make room for engaging the finer attributes of the soul – intuition, rational thinking, existentialism, etc.
I understand from the Bible that not every prayer for healing will be granted in the form of blind eyes opening, deaf ears hearing, mute speech released, or lame legs receiving strength. See Paul in 2 Cor. 12: 7-10. See Moses in Exodus 4: 10 -16.
While on the home run in this subject of disability and the church, there’s a need for the constant reminder that Providence, in its mysterious workings, often accomplishes greater feats by allowing seemingly unsavory circumstances – a disability is one of these. “…My grace is sufficient…My power is made perfect in weakness”2Cor 12:9
It is a thing of concern that too many professing believers (leaders and laity) have been misled into the fallacy: “if someone has a disability, the miracle of healing is the best solution”. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are My ways your ways… Isaiah 55:8.
The Kumuyi Factor
It is true that organizations often take on the character and philosophy of founders. The Deeper Christian Life Ministry is no exception. By and large, the ministry reflects the man, Kumuyi. But there have been controversies – most times centering on overbearing attitudes, narrow-mindedness, and micromanaging tendencies of leadership hierarchy. Often, there are merits to the dissenting voices.
Yet from where I stand, I think the response of the man entrusted with the ministry has been exemplary. Without compromising core scriptural standards, it is remarkable how the General Superintendent has evolved (mellowed) from certain extremes of the ministry’s younger days to become more accommodating of current realities.
The older Kumuyi is a testimony to the verity of the saying: “Wine improves with age, old wine tastes better”. And the ministry is stronger and better for it. Talk about broadminded and enlightened leadership.
In the wake of certain controversies, Kumuyi called attention to the need for uniformity in the essentials, and in the non-essentials, liberty.
His lieutenants would do well to imbibe the same gracefulness in their handling of every aspect of the ministry’s affairs. Disability inclusion is one of these.
The disability campaign is gaining traction and the church must feature it in its affairs, too.
In this first piece, I have started a new conversation that will be running in a series. There’s so much to talk about, and a wide range of perspectives from which this subject of “Disability and the church” will be approached. The door is open to join the conversation.
Alexander Ogheneruemu blogs extensively on the subject of Disability. He can be reached on +2348062397128 (Whatsapp)