For two days, September 30 and October 1, pastors from across Lagos and beyond gathered at the Igando, Lagos conference centre of Bearer of Light Missions World Outreach.
They gathered to share thoughts and reflect on some of the knotty issues in the church and how to address them. It was the 6th annual minister’s conference of the ministry
President of Koinonia Ministries, Rev.Dr. Emiko Amotsuka, one of the early fathers of faith and Bible teacher was there. Pastor Olukayode Oyedepo who is a Pastor in The Miners and Pastor Dr. Dele Ajayi, Chaplain of the Lagos State Chapel of Light were the lead panelists at the event.
Also on the panel at the event were Pastor Joe Jesimiel Ogbe, Senior Pastor of Great House Mandate, Bishop Moses Adedipe who is the GS of Universal Christian International, and Pastor Ademola Adedipe. At the end of the audience were about 200 participating pastors and church leaders.
Tradition Versus Christ
The theme of the conference was Tradition Versus Christ. It was not the conventional kind of conference where the preacher talks to the rest of the audience. Everybody ministered one way or the other.
The contributions from the panelists elicited animated responses from the audience. But the truth of the scriptures was laid bare for all to examine and ponder.
The convener Dr. Sam Oyemade took the sideline; moderating and stirring up issues.
In the end, the conference demystified some of the age-long beliefs in the church. Many perhaps went home with more questions than answers. But there were concerted efforts to throw light on some of the touchy issues. The goal was to bring the church on the path of Christ.
Pastor Dele Ajayi began the discussion by giving an overview of the word tradition.”It’s the handing over or handing down of something you intentionally or unintentionally hand over from one generation to another generation. It could be a body of teaching or dogma”
He explained that “the tradition of the apostles is the faith the apostles received and consciously handed over to the people after them. That is what we call the scripture. It is the fullness of divine truth proclaimed in the scriptures and expressed in the light of the scripture.”
Some of the notable Bible traditions according to him are Baptism and Holy Communion.” he said.
He explains further, “We were born with a system. And the essence of Jesus’ coming is to bring a new system.”
He however noted that “the process of passing down the tradition was both oral and written. Because some were oral, it is difficult to track. But we thank God for the ones that are documented which have helped to guide what we do in the church today.”
Contending for the faith
Pastor Oyedepo in his views believes the transfer of culture, ideas, and belief systems from one generation to another is the only way they can be preserved.
“It becomes a problem once we don’t accurately transfer the right thing. That is why it is essential we must contend for the faith that was once delivered to us. It must be a conscious effort. Sometimes you read the Bible and wonder at what we practice. I ask myself if Apostle Peter were to come around, will he recognize the faith he delivered?
Human tradition is vile
Rev Emiko Amotsuka threw more light on the evil of human tradition. “What we know as the tradition of the human race has its root in the influence of Satan. That is why we need to talk about the kingdom’s culture or tradition. There is a need for the renewal of our minds to embrace the culture of the kingdom.
“The question is: How is our tradition interfering with our practice of pure faith.? Today we have a situation for instance, where a man from Kogi State starts a church and 98 percent of his members are from Kogi and it becomes a Kogi church. We need to address this so that we can embrace ourselves from across different cultures.” he said.
He also stated that allegiance to the Kingdom culture must be supreme in the heart and life of every believer. “As a believer, I am supposed to be committed to the culture of the kingdom of God which I believe.
“The word of God must mould my culture as a person. The implication is that if there is anything in my culture that conflicts with the Bible culture, I must hold to what the Bible says. I may face persecution but I must hold to the Bible.
“The Indians and Jews hold to their culture. That is why we can tell a Jew from an Indian. When we jettison our culture which does not contradict the word of God, we face the danger of being extinct.”
Christ breaks cultural barrier
Dr. Oyedepo asked: What are we passing down to the next generation? Is it the tradition of Christ or our own tradition? Why do we think that Christianity is the only faith that transcends races and cultures?
He explains, “Before the Christian faith, culture and religion were intertwined. Every ethnic group had its religion. The Yoruba man had his own god and he will not worship the Igbo god. The Indian man has his own god. As a matter of fact, every family in India has its own god.
The reason the Christian faith crossed boundaries is that Jesus brought a message that is common to humanity. He came to fill the deficit in the heart of all men.
He went to the root of the problem of man and addressed it. Our different ways of life are at direct loggerheads with God because of the fall of Adam.
“Though Satan is described as the prince of this world, God did not leave the world to him. Before Jesus came, man could show love but that love was not rooted in God. We could respect but it was not rooted in God.
Jesus did not come to do behavioural modification
Oyedepo said “Jesus did not come to do behavioural modifications for man but to address the root of man’s problem. You can’t tell the Greeks not to be Greeks. You can’t tell the Yoruba man not to be a Yoruba man again. So Jesus did not come to pull us out of our cultures as it were but to deliver a message that goes straight to the heart.
“The message is a message of the heart. And in that case, we all were dead in sin. When the light of the gospel came, it went straight into the heart. It brought meaning to some of the things we were doing before.
“Every righteousness that comes from our flesh is like a filthy rag. But when one embraces the gospel, one begins to do things from Christ’s perspective and not human tradition.
That is why Jesus was always attacking the Pharisees that they do things because of tradition. They never knew why they were doing them. Tradition can become routine. But when the reformation takes place in our heart what we do becomes meaningful.”
The resurgence of human tradition
Dr. Oyemade in his intervention noted that the same tradition that Christ spoke against while addressing the Pharisees and Sadduccees, is rearing itself.,
The reason this is so according to Pastor Ajayi is that the mind of man keeps interfering with the tradition of Christ. “The mind of man keeps bringing the tradition of man into the interpretation of the mind of Christ.”
He said “Martin Luther the reformer detected that in about 500 AD when he found out that the Roman tradition had infiltrated the church.
“Luther’s discovery of the word of God that the just shall live by faith and his 95 theses nailed on the Church in Rome brought about the revolution we are now enjoying.”
Satan does not fight prosperity or healing message
Pastor Oyedepo stretched it further saying, “As long as the pulpit keeps pushing another gospel the tradition of men will come in. The apostles preached Christ all their lives. Unfortunately, today, we want to make people wealthy. Anything you substitute for the place of Christ will become an idol in the hearts of men.
For instance, we have a culture of honouring men of God. Unfortunately, we have created the worship of men from that culture. And this is because some preachers attach a miracle to that practice.
“When we attach respect to financial breakthrough or healing or whatever, it becomes a problem. We tell people for instance that a certain person got his miracle because he paid us obeisance.
“We are indirectly making it a doctrine. So many people honour men of God not because it is a thing of the heart but a thing of the head. They do it because they have a motive. Their mind has been conditioned to think that doing it will bring them something. This becomes a problem.”
Oyedepo said further that preaching Christ is not bread and beans. “The only message devil is fighting is the message of Christ. He does not fight the message of healing or prosperity.
The message of the cross
But when the word of God does not govern our lives and thinking, Rev Emiko says, “there is a problem.”
What has created the problem according to him is “that we practice pick and choose. We emphasize Bible portions that please us while ignoring other portions of the Bible.”
Emiko who had been born again for over 50 years noted that many pastors no longer preach the message of the cross, of denial and personal sacrifice.
“I was speaking to some pastors and asked them, when last did you preach a message on denial? I can look back and tell you categorically when a believer does not understand the place of the cross, the believer’s life will not go the right way. It is only the cross that will make you connected to God.
“The cross strips you of everything you are or have achieved. Jesus did not insist on holding to his divine privileges. He denied himself when he came to pay the supreme sacrifice for sin. We need to also deny ourselves and strip ourselves of our ego.”
Orthodox and Pentecostal
Emiko lamented that “Pentecostals are now exporting their carnality to orthodox churches. The orthodox have seen the power dimension that Pentecostals parade and covet it. Some are trying to rewrite their constitution so they can accommodate the Pentecostal experience.
“Unfortunately they are also embracing the carnality in some Pentecostal gatherings. The cross makes you see that you are nothing. We must be able to say to God and ourselves that we are nobody. The core of our problem is that we think we are somebody.
“Unless we come back to the message of the cross we are not going to get anywhere. Many of us spend time with empty useless prophetic declarations We tell people their time of lifting has come when we should be exposing them to the word of God. It is the word of God that sanctifies the heart of man.
“The core of our problem is that I think I am somebody and you think you are somebody. We fail to look at Christ and his example of laying down his glory to come down to us. Unless we come back to the message of the cross we will keep missing it.”
Adedipe: Fathers can be wrong, but Christ can’t be wrong.
In his submission, Adedipe believes tradition is just a vehicle for the transfer of belief. “On its own tradition is not bad. It is what is contained in the tradition that is the problem. Our tradition should be Christ and Christ alone. By the time we put our personality into the kingdom culture, it becomes a problem.
“For example, if kneeling down to pray and making everybody believe until they kneel down to pray, their prayers will not be answered. It becomes a problem. Fathers can be wrong, but Christ can’t be wrong.
“No human being is the stamp. It is natural for man to gravitate towards self. There are people who have lying tongues, and there are people who have itching ears. When these two sets of people connect, it becomes easy to establish unscriptural traditions.”
The Roman influence
Adedipe said “the Roman culture influenced the church. A slight deviation from the gospel may not be noticeable in the first years but over time it becomes a problem. If Christ is not the centre we will always talk about our traditions.
“The discoloration has taken place that we now think falsehood is the truth. Where you draw your inspiration from matters. Another challenge is that we don’t have a Jerusalem Council.
“Many people have been disicipled with the tradition of men while using the Bible wrongly. If we make certain practices a ritual it becomes a problem.
“If I say God told me in the place of prayer that church members should bring their instruments of trade so I could pray on them, there may be nothing wrong with that. But rather than do it and leave it at that we make it a tradition. That is where the problem lies. It now becomes a monthly or weekly thing. Instead of allowing people to connect straight to God, we stand in their way.”
Knotty questions answered
On the first day of the conference, the panelists took time to address some of the knotty questions from the participants. One of the questions is the place of dressing in the Church. Rev Emiko Amotsuka addressed this effectively.
He said it will be wrong to legislate on the kind of cloth to wear for believers. The popular scriptures being quoted: Deut 22v5 did not spell out what constitutes a male cloth or a female cloth. He stated that cloth is culture-specific adding that what is important is that the believer must dress decently.
Pleading the blood of Jesus
Do we plead the blood of Jesus on articles and declare it always? What is the place of the blood of Jesus? Dr. Oyedepo shed light on this. He reasoned that “the blood of Jesus was shed to procure redemption for humanity. It has done its work and the work it did is eternal.
“The blood of Jesus is a purchasing substance. If I have money, I can’t say I am eating that money, I only eat what the money has bought. What the blood of Jesus has purchased for us is the authority in the name of Jesus. So we are commanded to use that name not to plead the blood of Jesus.
“There is no phrase in the Bible that tells us to plead the blood of Jesus. But over time this tradition was brought upon the church. What the blood has done for us is so precious than what we are using it for. The devil survives on lies. He wants us to focus on less important things than the important things.”
Explaining why people have testimonies from this experience, he said, “We are having testimonies out of God’s benevolence not that we are doing the right thing.
“There is nowhere in the Bible where the apostles pleaded the blood of Jesus. It is the name of Jesus that the blood of Jesus procured for us. We should use the name. That is the instruction Jesus left for us. ”
What is needful
He noted however that it is not a sin to plead the blood of Jesus, but it is a waste of our time and a distraction from the real thin. He explained further, “Many Christians are busy sharing testimonies about jobs and cars and houses.
“But we are losing fellowship with God. We are not bothered that we are unable to tarry with God in the place of prayer. We are not bothered about right living. What should be our concern is not the material things but our relationship with God.”
Day 2 of tradition versus Christ
The following day of the conference, Pastor Jesimiel Ogbe and Bishop Moses Adedipe Joined the team of panelists. They helped to shed light on the critical issue of who a Christian is in the real sense of the word.
Pastor Ogbe stated that it is important that we get out of religion to embrace Christ. He said, “the day you believe in Jesus you have become a Christian. Your faith in the person of Jesus is the qualifying factor. It is an active faith and not just a mere confession. You confess with the mouth but believe with the heart. The Christian follows the examples of Jesus. Jesus defeated the enemy through the word. So the Christian also has to engage the word of God daily.
He noted that being good is not one of the criteria to become a Christian. “The Bible already makes us know that our righteousness is like a filthy rag. It is faith in the finished work of the cross that makes us believers. My being good does not make me acceptable to God.” Ogbe stated.
He explained further that the message of repentance needs to be highlighted more in the church. ”We need to surrender the control of our heart to Jesus. People were called Christians because they saw Christ in them. It is a misnomer to say a born-again Christian. it is because of the pollution that people now talk about born-again Christians. A Christian is supposed to be a person who has been washed by the blood of the Lamb. He is the saved one. He is Christian”
Adam did not lose dominion
Giving more fillip to this point, Oyedepo stated that there is a need for people to understand that what Adam lost in the garden of Eden was not dominion. “What he lost was a relationship with God.
The Bible tells us that the gift of God is without repentance. The power God gave Adam was still with him even after the fall. But he lost his relationship with God. God told him he would die if he ate the fruit in the midst of the garden. The death he experienced was the loss of his relationship with his maker.
“In the confusion of man, he was still able to do many great things. He was able to build the tower of babel even in a fallen state. God had to personally come down to stop man from that enterprise .”
He said what should be the pursuit of the believer is a relationship with God that Christ has procured for us through his blood. “But we are supposed to grow in that grace. The whole essence of man is to continually grow in grace and have continual fellowship with God”
Pastor’s celebrity status
The panelists took time to treat some other contentious issues in the church. Rev Emiko expressed great displeasure at the parade of ego and self in the church. He warned against the celebrity status of many ministers of the gospel.
In his submission, Bishop Moses Adedipe said if the church does not change, “We are not different from the scribes. My heart cry is that we will repent. If we are not careful what is happening to the Church in Europe will happen to us.
“Many of the churches in that part of the world are now being bought. We need to make out time deliberately for our young people so that we can pass down the tradition of Christ to them effectively.
“The church is supposed to be a movement. But what we have done over the years is to build a monument which has now turned into museums in some parts of the world.”
Other pending issues
At the end of the conference, many issues were still left hanging because of the constrain of time.
But participants were implored to ponder on some of the traditions in the church and look at them vis-a-vis the Bible. They include the issue of women in ministry, covering hair, fall-and-die prayer, and allowing secular comedians on our pulpits.
The issue of pastors demanding seed offerings before seeing them and asking for offerings severally during service was also highlighted as posers. There was the request to also ponder on divorce issues in the church and how the church could be regulated.
In all, the two-day conference turned out to be an eye-opener. It also helped to drive participants back to the Bible.