Dear Friends and Family,
My meeting with the ITEM team was a treat for me and I think for them also. I have not been with these men for at least 18 months. It’s been a long time. As I walked into the room, Benjamin greeted me with a smile, hugged me, and exclaimed, “Grandpa!” He’s older than that but has affectionately called me “Grandpa” ever since he learned I am a 6-time grandfather.
It was a blessing being with these men after being away for such a long time!
We got reacquainted, reviewed ITEM’s vision and mission, rushed through 50 pages of ITEM’s Mentoring Syllabus, talked strategy, had lunch together, took some pictures, and headed out.
Nigeria’s challenge is continuing to grow along with Nigeria’s significance in the evangelical world.
(I REALIZE THERE IS A LOT OF INFORMATION BELOW. THERE ARE SEVERAL LINKS. IGNORE ANY OF IT. FOR YOU WHO ARE INTERESTED IN DIGGING DEEPER INTO THE CHALLENGES HERE IN NIGERIA, THERE ARE LINKS TO HELP.)
As we got reacquainted, Benjamin and Elisha made a point of how ITEM’s training and emphasis on expository preaching had benefited them. Benjamin continues to use ITEM notes in his ministry as a pastor. Elisha told a story about the impact expository preaching is having in his ministry.
VISION AND MISSION
Over the years we’ve learned that the church (in general) in Africa remains “an inch deep” spiritually because God’s Word has not taken root. Why? It’s not being taught (only casually referred to an isolated verse or two at a time). Why is it not taught? It’s not known. Why? Because 90% of the pastors are untrained.
We’ve also learned that seminars, no matter how good they might be, generally do not change the ministry practices of the pastors attending the seminars. Why? They do not have good examples to observe and emulate. This is why we’ve developed the E-4 (Eph 4:11-14) Church Strategy, which includes long term follow up and mentoring.
ITEM’s vision? Be used of God to see churches transformed one pastor at a time. If ITEM was a business (which we are not) our product would NOT be a trained pastor but a transformed church. It starts with a trained, coached, and mentored pastor.
(DETAILS BEGIN HERE)
THE CHURCH ENVIRONMENT IN NIGERIA
Perhaps the major challenge in Nigeria is the rapidly spreading “health and wealth” gospel and the corresponding movement claiming signs, miracles, and wonders. Those claiming to be apostles, prophets, and even super apostles are everywhere…both men and women are fanning these dangerous flames.
NIGERIAN HEADLINE CHURCHES
I did a quick internet search on the spread of Christianity in Nigeria and here is the list of churches that popped up first. I asked Nathan, a Nigerian, for help and he added his comments where needed.
From the internet article:
From the 1990s to the 2000s, there was significant growth in Protestant churches, including the:
. . . .Winners’ Chapel
COMMENT: These two denominations are exploding in membership and exporting their unbiblical doctrine all over Africa and the world. The pastor of Winner’s Chapel is worth upwards of $200,000,000
. . . .Christ Apostolic Church
COMMENT FROM NATHAN: It is a very strong movement. They are famous for not going to hospital and taking any conventional medicine but rather a member can take water to church and the pastor prays over the water and they drink for the healing of any ailment
COMMENT FROM NATHAN: Deeper life is an extreme Pentecostal denomination. The leader is a professor of mathematics at the university of Lagos. When they started members were not even allowed to watch nor own a TV.
COMMENT: This is Nathan’s denomination and makes up the bulk of ITEM’s team. This denomination is a light in the darkness. I will be speaking to a group of their pastors next week in Jos.
COMMENT: This is another Pentecostal group with some strange teachings. I’ve been told they literally pray for the death of their adversaries. I’ve also heard of some very strange practices that take place in their “worship” services. I browsed through their bookstore at one of the international airports. Their founder, D.K. Olukoya, has written over 100 small pamphlets covering many strange things including how to interpret dreams and how to get wealth transferred to you.
Here are two other titles:
- Deliverance from Spirit Husband and Spirit Wife
- Overpowering Witchcraft
. . . .Christ Embassy
COMMENT FROM NATHAN: This church is run by Chris Oyakilome who I tagged as the Benny Hinn of Africa. He also stages healings and testimonies. (Currently, he is getting backlash by saying women were not in God’s original plan and they need to keep quiet and obey their husband.)
. . . The Synagogue Church Of All Nations
COMMENT: This is the ministry of the Prophet TB Joshua who travels the world holding miracle and deliverance crusades. Pastors come from all over Africa to learn his “secrets.”
. . . .The Common Wealth of Zion Assembly (COZA)
COMMENT FROM NATHAN: It is a church started by a young person I think he is under 30. It grew very popular among the youth. The founder has been on the media this month for an accusation of rape and he has stepped down to allow for investigation. The church actually shares money with young people to enable them start businesses
. . . .the Aladura Church
COMMENT FROM NATHAN: These are indigenous churches. Aladura was started primarily on the teachings of Moses. They mostly have their churches by river sides and they do very strange things, they believe more on angels than Christ.
This article didn’t even mention “Dunamis.” I was shown their new home church which is the size of a football field:
Out of the ten churches mentioned (I added an 11th) in the internet article that is speaking of the of Christianity in Nigeria, only one (ECWA) would be considered to be a fundamental, conservative, evangelical denomination.
This illustrates the primary challenge in Nigeria.
Another new challenge is getting a visa. They now require anyone traveling to Nigeria to appear in person. No longer can one just end in an application, a couple of pictures, an itinerary, a letter from a Nigerian. You must appear in person. An exception is made for “senior citizens.”
Tomorrow, Saturday, I’ll be taken to Jos, a 5 hour trip. I’ll preach at an ECWA church on Sunday. Relax on Monday and start a two and a half day conference on Tuesday before coming back here next Thursday.
Main prayer request: A safe trip tomorrow, Saturday.
By His grace,