As a young child, I once made a request in church after pledging some money. I wanted to be a pastor. I didn't know much. I was admiring a dedicated, charismatic man of God named Pastor Tony (surname concealed of a very popular ministry in Ibadan, Oyo State then. I found peace in the house of God and to a large extent, I lived my life like I was under the constant surveillance of God. For years, I was a drama minister using entertainment to draw people to God. I felt at peace with myself even though I hardly made money being a drama minister. I had a reason to live for the next day and I sensed God was happy with me.
In a nutshell, I later moved to Lagos State where the practice of Christianity seems different or maybe I should say I became too aware of little things around me.
I realized the financial part of Christianity was taken too seriously. Due to the high cost of living, churches just needed too much money to pay rents and fix other areas to make members comfortable. I soon realized that the church needed more money than a fresh hustler like me with a transitional job trying to create a path in life. The topic of giving was just given too much attention and emphasis. At some point, it seemed like I was either being harassed or cajoled into dipping my hands in my pockets. While the pastors had too many funds rocking the best of everything, clothes, shoes, perfumes and the latest cars, some members had belongings that were severely pleading for retirement. I feel most Christian clerics venture into the ministry from a business point of view. They see it as a plum job that only takes patience and endurance to fully materialize.
As I silently expressed my concerns about the church's pressure on members to contribute financially to the church through tithes, offerings, pledges, first fruits and other means, I came across the teachings of Daddy Freeze. I think this man needs no introduction. It's hard to admit this but he made so much sense even though his approach was highly questionable. He emboldened me to ask critical questions and develop a mind of my own.
Another observation is that the church over here looks like a big family but it's not really one in the real sense of it. It's just a mere agent of socialization and a body that mostly gathers people weekly. Most of the new generation churches have this interesting technique that works. They physically beautify the church and make it so attractive to young people who predominantly join for many reasons other than holiness and redemption. It's all about fashion, socializing, romance, networking and entertainment. Most of these churches in this category have adopted entertainment programmes from the secular class to attract young people and it works. These churches have become top picture locations for young folks disturbing social media with their Sunday outfits.
Another thing is the style of preaching is which is tailored towards telling people what they want to hear as politicians do. It's not all about holiness anymore. Nobody really talks about the rapture or the second coming of Jesus Christ simply because it's not a popular topic. The message you hear in churches today are similar to motivational speaking and contents from musical artistes. They are more of gathering treasures on earth and living life to the fullest. Although, this isn't wrong but as Christians, we should always bear at the backs of our minds that we are in this world but we are not of this world. Our focus should be more about making heaven. Our essence in this life which is to preach the gospel of Christ and expand the kingdom of God have been modified to cater to selfish expansionist reasons by the church. When churches go for evangelism, their focus isn't totally about getting converts but also 'stealing' the members of other ministries. The truth is bitter but it's the only way out. Every church wants to do great numbers and it's fast becoming a competition in Christendom. The implication of it is that most churches have gathered huge followers who don't understand the essence of followership and Christianity. This is why Nigeria still remains one of the most corrupt countries in the world despite being one of the religious countries around. What a contrast!
Lastly, I will talk about spirituality. If you look deeply, religion has divided us both consciously and unconsciously. I am not talking about your relationship with the Muslims, traditional worshippers or pagans. There are some churches you will attend that will give you the impression that your neighbours or 'village people' want you dead or useless in life. I am not oblivious of the wickedness and diabolism that exist in this world. It's a cold place. When questionable prayer points are raised, we close our eyes and send spiritual 'fire' to these people who might be virtually innocent of any atrocities against us. Trust me, as you are suspecting them about being diabolical, they might also be thinking the same way of you. If God mistakenly gives us the raw power to deal with our enemies, we will become savages; blood will flow endlessly as we see in abbatoirs.
In essence, religion in Africa breeds distrust and division. This is one of the reasons why politicians also use it as a tool to get desired results.
Additionally, the church has made us too spiritual and our views don't connect with reality anymore. For several years, we have been battling the Boko Haram sect with prayers without doing the needful militarily, the end result is obvious. We have also used prayers in fixing infrastructural facilities and the local economy and the 'good results' are there. Health care is so poor that when someone dies, we blame it on the fictitious 'world people'. The examples are too much. It must have been on this note that the President of China, Xi Jinping advocated for utmost focus on science and education rather than religion.
In conclusion, I always feel disconnected from the church. I am of the strong opinion that there is a need for concrete reforms but where will it start from? I think the mental process of consciousness should go first. I still love the church. I am always reluctant to attend church services but I wish to change. It's a place of peace and we owe our existence to God. I hope to be fully back someday to make a change.