MARKETING THE CHURCH AND SYNCRETISM’S CHALLENGE

Hi Everyone,

It’s been a (mostly) relaxed weekend. Saturday was a pretty stress free travel day. Joel left, Friday, and it took him 90 minutes to get to the airport. I left for the same airport about the same time Saturday (6:45am) and it took me less than 30. That is the difference between Friday and Saturday traffic in Lagos.

I mentioned “marketing the church” Friday and want to pick up on that theme in today’s post. But I also want to circle back to Michael Omotosho’s (seminar organizer) book on spiritual warfare.

Sorry for the length of this post. Pick and choose what you are interested in. And check out the new pictures today and read the captions. There are stories told in the pictures. The link is below.

EXTRAVAGANT CHURCH NAMES

There are two things you immediately notice in Nigeria that you don’t see many other places on Africa, where I go. First, just about anywhere there is a place to put a poster (18×24 maybe 20×30), there is a poster or two or ten promoting a church or a Christian (many in name only) gathering of some kind. And sometimes 4 identical posters are next to each other. It is hard to over state it. Street after street, wall after wall, for blocks at a time, lined with these posters.

These posters are duplicated by billboards similarly promoting/advertising churches and quasi-Christian gatherings. They are EVERYWHERE you look!

The second thing you will notice is the extravagant church names and the promises they offer. The church names often include words like “miracle,” “power,” the Greek word for power, “dunamis,” “glory,” “Kingdom,” “Dominion,” “Oasis,” etc. and the church services are all named as well: “Power Hour,” “Faith Development,” “Prophecy Meeting,” “Deliverance Service,” etc. And these are just a few examples.

I will include a couple in the picture album.

The gatherings often feature 2-3 so called “powerful,” “prophetic,” “anointed” “men of God.” In the culture, “man of God” often refers to a someone closely in touch with God, who knows what you don’t know, and has power over spiritual forces that you don’t have.

Themes of these gatherings include “healing,” “prophecy,” and “breakthrough.”

It’s misleading

To look at what these churches (and business names also) are advertising, would suggest this is a deeply spiritual culture. Yes and no. Spiritual culture, yes. But true spirituality is largely non-existent.

MARKETING THE CHURCH IN NIGERIA

A few years ago, at our annual dinner, my presentation was entitled, “Marketing the Church.” The presentation came from my own observations. It appeared to me that each sign or billboard was trying to outdo the next one. I remember suggesting that I would not have been surprised to see a sign saying, “Come Sunday, but one miracle get the second miracle free.”

My premonitions were validated last week in Lagos when I asked Joel Yaji, ITEM Coord for Nigeria, about all of the extravagant names for churches and gatherings and he said, “It’s all about marketing. They have to come up with new ways to get attention, so they keep coming up with new ways to try to make themselves or their church sound distinct and unique, offering what others don’t offer.

MICHAEL’S BOOK ON SPIRITUAL WARFARE

For years I have been learning more and more about Africa’s traditional religions, referred to at ATR. Through conversations (one with a former witch doctor), questioning, and reading I’ve learned a lot.

One of the most helpful resources was Dr. Michael Fape’s book with the subtitle, “Spiritual Warfare in Pagan Cultures.” (See a picture of the books cover in the trip photo album. The link is below.) Here is how the book is presented on Amazon:

What happens when the spiritual powers of a Pagan culture come up against the power of God? Michael Fape writes with an extensive knowledge of the African context of tribal societies steeped in generations of witch doctors, shamans and animist superstition. . . This book will open your eyes to what is going on in the spiritual realm. . .

Whoever wrote that was right. My eyes were opened wide to what ATR is all about.

Fape is Nigerian and writes the book using the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria as a general example of the traditional view of spiritual warfare in the African tradition.

When I read portions of Michael’s Omotosho’s book it seemed, at first, to be mostly a Pentecostal approach which is based on the stories in the gospels and the book of Acts rather than what we learn in the epistles about the topic, while taking verses out of context in the Old Testament.

Chiroma’s insights

Nathan Chiroma, a Nigerian now living in Kenya, who I refer to as a special assistant, was a student of mine in 1999. He is now Dr. Chiroma. He was our first Nigerian Coordinator and he knows Nigerian culture.

When he looked at the book, his comment to me was, “Michael has mixed in a lot of Yoruba tradition. Even though he has a degree from a seminary, he still carries around a lot of ATR without realizing it.”

Imagine if a seminary graduate is still mixing traditional religion in with his seminary education, think of the untrained pastor or the common-man sitting in the church. The roots of ATR run as deep in the culture as the roots of a 100-year-old oak tree grow into the ground. This is why we are so insistent that pastors begin teaching the Bible systematically. Only a steady diet of God’s truth can, after a period of time, wash away the influence of ATR.

A LOOK AHEAD

From Tues to Thur, we will be conducting the same seminar as the one we did in Lagos last week. It is a follow up to the Bible/theology seminar we did here in January 2017. Nathan Chiroma will be helping with the lectures. Steven Mzungu will be handling the administration. I met him at the January 2017 seminar and is joining our team in this part of Kenya.

It is a strategic seminar for a couple of reasons. The pastors in attendance will be challenged to take more seriously than ever their call to teach and preach the Word in context, systematically.

Partnership?

But secondly, this seminar is at a leading Southern Baptist church in Nairobi. The senior pastor commented in January 2017 that our training should be given to the denominational leaders in Kenya.

Next weekend, Steven Mzungu and I will go to Mombasa, Kenya to share the vision of ITEM with the leading Southern Baptist pastor in Kenya. I am excited about sharing the vision and, hopefully, partnering with the Southern Baptist here and training their leadership. PRAY that God’s will, will be done. ASK also that this partnership would be His will.

PRAYER

. . . that God will raise up a core of pastors this week who will dedicate themselves to being systematic Bible teachers in their churches.

. . . that Nathan and I will communicate well and that the Holy Spirit will take what we say and drive it into the hearts of the men in attendance.

. . . PRAY FOR THE WEATHER. KENYA HAD YEARS OF DROUGHT NOW RAINS AND FLOODING. PRAY FOR DRY WEATHER. RAIN KEEPS PASTORS AWAY FROM THE SEMINAR.

Thanks for caring and praying.

By His grace,

Steve

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTO ALBUM and read captions for stories behind the pics.

1 thought on “MARKETING THE CHURCH AND SYNCRETISM’S CHALLENGE”

  1. It’s amazing to realize you are also still understanding ATR more deeply, even yet, P. Steve.

    We’ll be praying for your requests!

    Penny & Gary

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