By Gbenga Osinaike
As a young boy I remember with dislike the sight of the Ogun shrine in the village. I can still imagine the iron, the leaves and other items that form the Ogun altar etched by the wall of a dilapidated structure on a dingy road. On a typical worship day, the Ogun priest comes to pay homage to these items. A dog or fowl is killed and the blood is spilled on the items to appease Ogun, the god of iron.
We used to stumble on these items in the country side and wondered at the import. Some notorious young lads were audacious enough to encroach on the sacrifices made to Ogun. Indeed, some of the sacrifices carried with it one or two kobo coins which could readily procure for them a baba dudu known as goodie goodie or kulikuli the snack made from groundnut.
In those days especially in villages, idolatry was rife. Even now, it is still around with us. Many villages still harbour shrines and there are people who are still sold to these practices out of ignorance. But generally speaking, worshipping Ogun or any other god for that matter is not done with the gusto of old. People are no longer audacious about idolatrous practices for obvious reasons that that they would be tagged outdated or out of tune with what is going on in town. And even now the population of herbalists has dwindled.
And truly, humans seem to walk in calculated wave. There is always a trend, a mass mentality that compels people to walk in the same direction even when they are oblivious of what they do. I imagine a woman telling another of her colleague, “friend, this is what is happening now. This is the church that is reigning. This is where to go. This is how they do it now.”
Sadly, the church has become victim of a mass mentality. Being born again is more like a fad than a reality. It is seen more in the light of what is reigning and not what is essential. So, the people will not worship any visible idol again. But the invasion of all manner of personal values into the born again assemblage has produced new forms of idolatry and lifestyles that look good from outside but when viewed critically are in contrast to the will and purpose of God.
So the church is caught in the web of subtle idolatry. People will not worship any other god in the sense of an inanimate object but they would rather now worship their priests and pastors. Many church gatherings have raised the bar of the pastor or the General Overseer to a disturbing height. It is easier to quote “my pastor” and not the scripture.
Consciously or unconsciously, the pastor is enjoying it. Attention is more on him. His members call him up all day and even in the dead of the night. At every instance that such member wants to make a decision he does not feel comfortable without the input of his pastor. The pastor is happy and he thinks the more his members consult him the better. He feels he is making impact while not knowing he is helping to destroy the very foundation of the Christian faith in their lives.
*Please note, there is nothing wrong in seeking counsel from our pastors. It is advisable we consult them and get their input on issues and also ask for their prayers and blessings. But they are not the ultimate. We should not make it look as if heaven will fall if they are not around us. We should grow our faith to be able to hear God. )
The book of Hebrew admonishes us to look up to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. But church leaders want their members to look up to them. At the close of a major evangelical service, members are given objects or substances such as olive oil. Some are asked to bring those substances. It is this olive oil that the member has to put in the corner of his room and use to ward off any evil that threatens him. When the oil is finished, he becomes jittery. His pastor is even quick to warn him, “don’t you dare allow the oil to finish, make sure you top it”.
This is celebrated because they get result. There have been countless testimonies in that direction. One man drank the oil and he was healed, another dipped the mantle on a sore and the sore dried up. But who says result will not come. If I dedicate a stone and pay homage to the stone result will come. That there is result does not make it of God. Moses struck the rock he was to speak to and water gushed out. That was result.
*Now the question is: What are we building in the new believers. Where is our hope? In the pastor, in the substance they hand over to, or in the Word and the name of Jesus?
Do not get me wrong. Using these things is not bad in themselves. I am just troubled that attention on these things is getting to an increasingly embarrassing level. Our faith is now in the oil, it is in the mantle, it is in the object that the pastor gives us and tells us to wake up in the night and bathe with. Gradually we are beginning to serve another god.
There is nothing wrong in anointing the sick with oil. As a matter of fact oil is therapeutic. But notice in that scripture, (James 2v14-16) James says the prayer of faith will heal the sick. It is not the oil that does the healing in the ultimate sense. The case of Paul and the apron was a case of special miracles being wrought through the hand of Paul. It was a one off case. There are no other scriptures where the experience of the apron repeated itself. This doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit could not have moved other people to use it at that time, but there was not much emphasis on it in scriptures.
The simple explanation is that the act is not expected to be a canon. I do not have problem if one is led to apply a particular approach through the leading of the Holy Spirit in the process of making request from God. Jesus carried out healing using several means. There were times he used mud, he simply gave instructions at other times. But in this age, we have turned mantle and oil to a canon. It is now a regimen. There are church altars where the oil is conspicuously placed looking like one mystery object.
The question is: If we are quick to make Bible references to oil and mantle why are church leaders not using their shadow to heal the way Peter did? Why are they not using mud? That is the issue. These items are not to be a doctrine. The danger of placing undue emphasis on these items is that with time worshippers will turn their attention to objects and not on the name of Jesus. That is the beginning of idolatry.
The very idea that these items are commercialized in some churches is even worrisome. There are gatherings the pastors declare that the oil had been specially prepared and he goes ahead to extract money from his members. Now, the herbalists don’t need to go far. He has a captive audience. Start a church and introduce the oil. Give special instructions and create fear in the minds of *people. Not long he will become a centre of attraction.
The gospel is simple but we make it complex. People even want it hard. They want instructions and want to carry out certain rituals. That is what is leading us to idolatry. But that is just the starting point for the new age idolatry. There are *more interesting twists in the church that makes the heart of one seeking fellowship with God and not just seeking to obtain things from God to be weary. (To be continued)