Nigerian Pastors and the burden of history
Moses Oludele Idowu
“Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?”
– ( John 3:10. )
” Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”
– George Orwell (1984)
I saw a video posted by a member of our Platform, APOSTOLIC CHRISTIANITY NETWORK regarding a famous pastor making what seems a confession about COVID- 19 and the footage that I saw troubled me.
Soon you will know why I was troubled.
In the brief that was shown Sam Adeyemi, Pastor of Daystar Christian Centre explained how he decided to go on the internet to do a research to find out whether something like what is happening now in the world had happened before. He wanted to know whether at any point in Nigerian history there was a point when churches were closed.
He found a research paper on the internet written by a scholar from Birnin Kebbi which he purchased and read. Then, he discovered that in 1918 there was also an epidemic, the Spanish Influenza and churches and public schools were locked…
So, in essence our esteemed pastor was saying that it is not just Antichrist that is shutting the churches, it has happened before.
In the video i think someone that looks like Poju Oyemade was in the background while Sam spoke.
Hearing this confession from Sam troubled me. It also amused me too. Somehow it confirms what I have known over the years about the ahistorical tendency of Nigerian pastors.
It is in a period of pain that the thoughts of many hearts and secrets of many lives are revealed. Simon was right when he told Mary at the Christening of Baby Jesus: “A sword will pierce thy heart also that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
This is a time of revelation, personal revelation and after all this crisis things will no longer be the same.
I must congratulate Pastor Sam, my old colleague ( yes, we were colleagues: he was President of Kwara Tech Students Fellowship when I was also Vice President, University of Ilorin Christian Union) for at least making the attempt to investigate and do a personal research before making an illiterate statement like some pastors have done.
The other day I heard a pastor saying that God told him the reason He allowed the corona virus and all churches to be shut “which has never happened in history” was because the churches left the Gospel.
Now a little research and a little knowledge of history would have shown that pastor that it has happened before. Churches have been shut before. But being ignorant of history he does not know this. From here I knew that it could not possibly be God speaking to him or he has added a bit of his own information to the original message because God who knows the future better than even we know the past would not have given him an information that was not historically accurate.
Back to Sam.
Why am I troubled, about Sam and others. The reason is that it has to take this pandemic for him to discover a piece of information which is very common and prominent in Nigerian christian historiography. I mean you cannot read Aladura History, Faith Tabernacle History, Apostolic Church history etc and not come about this piece of information.
It is basic and fundamental to the history of the Group that was the precursor and forerunners of modern day Pentecostal Movement. My book “The Great Revival of 1930” stated this fact. Another one, “A Woman Like No Other: The Untold Story of Sophie Ajayi, Nigeria’s First Prophetess” also contains this information and a whole chapter on the epidemic’s quoting several scholars as to details of mortality per state and how Christians combated this epidemic and triumphed.
Obviously, our pastors who shaped the minds of most of our youths have not read these. Obviously most Nigerian pastors don’t even know their own history, Nigerian Church history.
Thus our senior pastor had to go to Sokoto for what is available in his “sokoto” – to use a popular pun of the Yorubas.
If you were not aware that churches have been closed before then obviously you have not read John Peel, Robert Mitchell, Harold Turner, G.O.M. Tasie, Ogbu Kalu, Ade Ajayi, E.A. Ayandele, Akinyele Omoyajowo, etc. Then how can you claim you know Nigerian Church History without these names?
This is one big trouble facing our churches today. Our leaders who shape the minds of the youths, the future Christian leaders, do not even know the History of what they are trying to shape. If you do not know the history how do you know where the founding fathers erred and what to correct or add; what to delete or append? The church did not begin today, the Nigerian Church did not begin with Asuza. How many of those who call themselves Pentecostals know that Nigerian Pentecostalism did not begin or originate from Asuza, from Archbishop Benson Idahosa or even S G.Elton – illustrious as these names may be?
Broad reading will show you that. And a host of scholars and authors have written extensively along this line. But do we have the humility to read them?
I have seen statements made by prominent Nigerian pastors and even written that are scandalous in their ignorance and naivety.
History is not theology or the doctrine of your church that you can pronounce and others would keep quiet because you are General Overseer or Superintendent. Here you are talking about facts and realities and lessons which affect everyone and people will challenge you if you miss it.
You can’t frighten or threaten anyone on this because it has to do with Knowledge systems which you cannot fashion in your own way or own image.
Years ago a religious magazine quoted an extensive interview of Pastor E. A. Adeboye where the highly revered pastor made some comments on Joseph Babalola based on what he deduced from Elton. And when i read it I was shocked at the distortion and historical inaccuracy. I refer to this in my book “Acts of Power: The Spread of the Great Revival and Birth of Apostolic Christianity in Nigeria”
The events pastor Adeboye was referring to largely occurred in Ilesha in 1930, the very area of his birth and education and more than anyone he was the one who should be giving us the accurate facts of this event. All it requires is just a little investigation and history.
I have heard many prominent pastors, leaders trained by S.G.Elton propound the asinine view that it was Elton who first preached the Holy Ghost in Nigeria; that he was the one who first taught about the Gifts of the Spirit, that – in fact – it was he who taught Babalola about this and that.
And to think that university graduates, PhD s, even professors can say that make you worry that black man has left something vital about education behind. Even if Elton had told you that as educated people shouldn’t you have done your own investigations to know the Truth. Paul would have done that. Luther and Wesley would have done that.
Somehow it did not occur to these people that it is illogical and patently unsound that a man who came to Nigeria in 1937 for the first time could not have taught and raised a man who was already at the centre of a mighty Holy Ghost Revival as far back as 1930 – the very reason why Elton’s Church decided to send him to Nigeria.
Just a little voyage into History would show you that and spare you of error.
Nigerian pastors should study history
Nigerian pastors need to study history as a duty. Those who shape the minds of people especially the youths must be sound – and sound in all things. History is crucial because if your history is wrong your theology too will not be right.
To the Christian, history matters. Truth did not just come to us in a disembodied form; Truth came within a particular historical epoch and a definite and specific cultural milieu. The Germans talk of “Salvation- history’ and they are right because there is a specific historical frame through which God’s Plan of Salvation for His people was mediated. Knowing theology is not enough, you must know the History of how even the theology came. Then you will appreciate and understand theology better.
This knowledge will not come to you, you will go after it and pursue it.
As leaders it is crucial because the hands that set the standard must be precise.
Students of Seminaries and Bible Schools who have read my books have written me before telling me what their teachers said which they know is not true having read my books. This kind of things must be averted. There is nothing so bad as if a teacher should change places with his students.
You cannot understand God’s Purpose and Plans on earth without a knowledge of History. That is another fact. If we do not even know Local History how about the Global Church History? Of Catholicism, Reformers, Mystics, Shakers, Quakers, Mennonites, Anabaptists, etc
History is only one, we should also aspire to master key areas of basic knowledge.
The other day Olatunji Dare, arguably Nigeria’s best satirist wrote a piece about Buhari at the height of the controversy over Buhari’ supposed death and the making of a body double” called Jubrilla. Bishop Oyedepo read this and took it literally and made comment even to his congregation on what is evidently a satire. For that reason Seun Kuti, Fela’s son took to his Twitter handle to ridicule the bishop: “You have money but you don’t understand satire.”
This is the kind of insult Nigerian pastors must avoid and the only way they will avoid them is to brace up in a Knowledge- driven Age.
Read also: Of Antichrist and hypochrists:https://churchtimesnigeria.net/antichrist-hypochrist-endtime/
Jesus Christ, lest we forget, was also a scholar. He was ahead. The Pharisees could not silence Him; because He was far ahead of them. He was a rabbi who knew the whole corpus of the Mosaic Order and at home with Jewish Historiography. All the people and experts they sent against Him to trap Him became convinced that indeed this is the Ultimate Rabbi – the One to beat. ” Never man spake like this man,” they confessed. He was in a class by Himself. The Sadducees could not stand before Him.
At 12 He took on the lawyers and doctors of the Law and “they were amazed at his understanding and answers.”
Jesus did not do anything we cannot do. He knew because He studied, learnt, sat and listened. We can do the same. It takes only humility.
As we follow Him in performing miracles, preaching and healing let us also follow Him in this too, by studying, researching, reading and knowing.
Wisdom is justified of His children; so if we claim to be His children and ambassadors we should display that wisdom with knowledge not ignorance. Ignorance does not represent Him, the One Who is called the Wisdom of God.
There is now a view now dominant that evangelicals, especially Pentecostals don’t read or think except peripheral things. That they find the life of the mind difficult. Mark Noll, one of the best evangelical scholars in the world at the present moment himself admitted this fact in his celebrated book ‘The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind’
As the heirs of Luther, Wesley, Edwards, Augustine, Paul and even of the Greatest of them All, Christ, we do not fairly represent these illustrious forerunners when we show even a lack of basic and rudimentary knowledge of History and even of Knowledge in general. It is good to know the Bible, to be familiar with the Bible. But that is not enough in our day. Luther too was familiar with the Bible. Wesley and Finney were familiar with it. So was Jonathan Edwards. But these did not stop at that level. Today America’s social history consider Edward as one of the 10 greatest brains of America of all time. Yet he was also a preacher and revivalist.
We have great and illustrious forebears as evangelicals and we have a duty not to betray them with ignorance.
“And Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master in Israel and knowest not these things”
© Moses Oludele Idowu
April 11, 2020
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