Nigeria: Branches for Sale – Reforming Nigerian Church Planting Strategies (1), By Ayo Akerele

You have to read the scripture to understand that the leader takes responsibility for the evil practices of his appointees.

My goal is that we will all have sober reflections and think through our church planting strategies to align to what glorifies God. Also, I am trusting God to spring up revival in our hearts in a way that will help our church planting efforts to lead to the production of genuine disciples of Christ in our churches, rather than mere members and denominational addicts whose lifestyles have no resemblance to Christ’s.

His call came in at around 10.30 a.m. Eastern Time, when I rarely like to talk on the phone, being the busiest period of my day. But he is one of the highly respected fathers in the Nigerian Pentecostal circles, one of the pioneers of the current Pentecostal movement in Nigeria. I jumped up when I saw his call. While it is true that I am in a great “father to son” relationship with this highly respected man of God, getting him to talk to you on the phone is an achievement worth celebrating. Interestingly, for the next one hour, 45 minutes, he was pouring out his displeasure about what is going on in the Nigerian church, particularly with the ways church branches are being indiscriminately spread across our cities and around the world, regardless of the quality of those branches.

He took me down the memory lane of the history of the Nigerian church, informing me of the history and foundation of almost every notable church leader in Nigeria today, including himself. He told me of their encounters at different levels. He told me of the warnings handed over to them by some of their mentors and fathers in the 1970s and in the early 1980s. Then, he began to tell me about his latest revelations from God, warning him about the coming judgment on the bad eggs in the Nigerian church, who have turned God’s church into personal businesses, spreading churches around like business franchises. He ended the call by warning me to be careful, so that I don’t fall into the same errors and traps some of these elders have fallen into.

At the end of our conversation, I appreciated him for giving me the huge honour of the call, but for the next few days, the burden I had been carrying on this particular issue came to the fore once again — “why are we planting churches like McDonald’s franchise with little or no societal influence?” “Why are we not producing disciples, despite the large numbers of church branches we have in our cities and across the globe?” “Why are many of those pastoring some of these branches increasingly making a mess of God’s people under their care?”

This second man of God shared his burden with me. According to him, he had just discovered that some branch pastors of a particular church in Nigeria are deeply occultic, while many of them are very corrupt and materialistic to a fault. He told me of so many heart-breaking experiences. He went further to tell me that some of these pastors in a particular denomination that he’s met are textbook examples of sexual immorality.

For many years, I have been heavily burdened and puzzled by the ways and manners in which our churches are being found and spread. But given the sensitivity of this subject, I have always refrained from talking about it for one important reason – to avoid tension and controversy in the body of Christ. But of recent, the Holy Spirit began to inspire me to address this matter that remains one of the most significant causes of corruption in the body of Christ. It is a major root cause of the current evil practices in the church. Things have now become so bad that on a single street in a typical Nigerian neighbourhood, you would find churches of different denominations competing for space and members to the point of fighting dirty, with any possible tool of domination at their disposal. Some have even taken it to another level. In a storey building of four floors, you would find four different church denominations occupying each of the floors of the building. And sadly, it is the same experience in the developed countries. It is now a badge of honour in ministry: “You have not yet succeeded as a pastor until you start the Rome branch or the Jerusalem branch of your church.”

Similarly, a few days back, another man of God contacted me, requesting to speak to me about an issue that was bothering him. Don’t be surprised that I get contacted by many people on various issues in the church. With the nature of my ministry and calling, I gain access to so many valuable and sensitive information and insights at all levels for one main reason — to pray and to stand as a teacher in the body of Christ. God has called me to straighten out errors in love and to teach men to walk in the integrity of the gospel. Put in simple words, “I am called as a Watchman in the body of Christ”. I am not the only one. God has multitudes of Watchmen across the globe and in every country of the world. It is not a position of pride. It is a very difficult work to do, because people could easily brand you as critical. But back to my story.

This second man of God shared his burden with me. According to him, he had just discovered that some branch pastors of a particular church in Nigeria are deeply occultic, while many of them are very corrupt and materialistic to a fault. He told me of so many heart-breaking experiences. He went further to tell me that some of these pastors in a particular denomination that he’s met are textbook examples of sexual immorality.

If you know that you can’t develop an efficient system to monitor the activities of your pastors, don’t spread churches around with every Tom, Dick and Harry as pastors. It is your responsibility as a leader to develop quality management systems to ensure that the right people become pastors and the right information about their practices get to you on time before they destroy the sheep.

He concluded by saying, “I know that our father in the Lord, the founder of this church is not aware of the evil of these branch pastors, but what can he do?” At that moment, I interrupted him. I told him clearly that he was wrong about the role of the founders. How pathetic will it be to stand before God on the day of judgement to tell Him that you are not aware that the pastors you ordained and appointed to head branches of your ministry are sexually immoral and occultic? How pathetic before God does that sound?

You have to read the scripture to understand that the leader takes responsibility for the evil practices of his appointees. Eli did not commit adultery. Eli did not steal. There was no record of sin against Eli in the Bible. What did he do to warrant such a serious judgement from God? God told him, “You did not restrain your children from their evil”. “I did not know”, is not an excuse. If you know that you can’t develop an efficient system to monitor the activities of your pastors, don’t spread churches around with every Tom, Dick and Harry as pastors. It is your responsibility as a leader to develop quality management systems to ensure that the right people become pastors and the right information about their practices get to you on time before they destroy the sheep.

Ayo Akerele, a leadership and system development strategist, and minister of the word, writes from Canada and can be reached through ayoakerele2012@gmail.com.

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