Time for the Church to Embrace an Expanded and Harmonized Narrative
By Olugu Olugu Orji Mnia
I was born and baptized as an infant under the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria. I made a formal profession of faith under the ministry of the Fellowship of Christian Students with additional influences from the Deeper Christian Life Ministry. As a university student, I was a part of the Nigerian Fellowship of Evangelical Students: a relationship that dovetailed into my robust liaison with the Scripture Union. I am currently a member of a Pentecostal assembly with a reputation for vibrant, noisy liturgy and woolly hermeneutics.
If you describe me as Orthodox, you’d be correct: my feet are planted firmly in the rich, stable soil of orthodoxy. If I am accused of being an Evangelical, I would have no basis to counter it: I cut my teeth in the simmering crucible of militant evangelicalism. If I am bundled together with Pentecostals/Charismatics, I won’t feel out of place: I can be quite noisy and I know a thing or two about expelling devious demons. Embracing Christians of differing doctrinal persuasions is therefore something that comes quite naturally for me. But in over three decades of active Christian service, I have come face-to-face with some of the near interminable cleavages within the ranks and leadership of the global Church. This scenario should bother anyone who retains a modicum of appreciation for the will of God.
The motto of the Christian Association of Nigeria is, “That all may be one.” It might as well be the rallying cry of the whole Church, and why not? It was the subject of the fervent supplication of Jesus Christ to the Father as he readied himself to face crude, cruel crucifixion. “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” John 17:11. Unity is not only a cardinal, divine imperative for the Church, it is sine qua non for her survival. Only a Church operating as one impregnably bonded unit can defeat the rising onslaught of destructive forces menacingly arrayed against her.
Jews are probably the most persecuted people in the convoluted history of human existence. As a student of the Jewish odyssey, I have come to the painful conclusion that their enemies have never cared for the sometimes sharp distinctions that exist among Jewry. Whether Ashkenazim or Sephardim; ultra-orthodox or liberal; practising or non-practising; the battle cry of their foes is always, “Death to the Jew!” Adolf Hitler, the patron saint of masochistic murderers, set an almost unassailable record with 6 million Jews. There are many presently who are aching to best that diabolical record. The Jews have survived – and will survive – because they strive to stay united; something their enemies are congenitally incapable of.
Since the onset of Nigeria’s murderous insurgency, the Church has remained an unmistakable target of those who see her as a potent threat to their quest for absolute domination. In the execution of their heinous enterprise, they have shown no respect for the boundaries we have so meticulously erected and maintained. They despise Roman Catholics as well as Anglicans, and one Presbyterian dead is just as good as a decapitated Lutheran. Whether Living Faith, Deeper Life, COCIN, HEKAN, EYN, Baptist, Cherubim and Seraphim, Methodist, Qua Iboe or Redeemed, their mission is unwavering: to kill, to steal and to destroy. They will just as gleefully slaughter an ‘orthodox’ Christian as they will a Pentecostal. If those who seek our annihilation ignore our petty differences, isn’t it a token of our stupidity that we celebrate them?
The time is ripe for every branch and every doctrinal emphasis in the Church to forge a spiritual coalition on the foundation of the person and purpose of Christ. We may see ourselves theologically as Armenians, Calvinists, Dispensationalists or Supersessionists but the fury of our common foes makes no such distinctions. This is the time to expand and harmonize our narrative to confront the exigencies that loom before us. The process of consolidation should have started yesterday – no – the day before yesterday. Either we do it willingly or it will be forced on us. We must embrace the former – expeditiously.
I used to have a beef with the peddling of the prosperity gospel because of its inherent tendency to promote naked materialism. I have since modified my stance. The message of God’s willingness and ability to enable his own attain wealth must now be vigorously propagated. This is certainly not to promote any individual’s self-aggrandizing agenda. In the days ahead, the enemies of the Church will seek to strangulate her, and no more effective tactic exists than financial. The Church must have men and women of vast means who are sworn servants of the kingdom. I believe those who mean her harm are intent on much worse.
Because of what I perceive will be the all-encompassing stranglehold of the enemy, the Church must be prepared to run her parallel system distinct from those of a world that will become increasingly hostile. I was once of the opinion that pastors owning airplanes was superfluous. Well, not anymore. The Church is going to need unfettered access to every imaginable means of transportation, and every other asset that can enable a harassed and endangered people live through an emergency. That is why the unity of the Church is non-negotiable. Every spiritual gift, every ministry office and every talent must be identified and harnessed for the common good. Every individual Christian, every household, every congregation, all denominations must be enlightened on the urgent imperative of embracing the concept of one Church family. Our survival and destined triumph is tied to this.
You believe Jesus will return before, midway or at the end of the 7-year Great Tribulation? No matter your conviction, I urge you to be alert while doing the needful. It is better to be prepared for a catastrophe that never happens than to run headlong into one ill prepared.
A final but most critical element of the expanded narrative: Israel. From Abraham through David to Jesus and Paul, the story of the Church is a compendium of Jewish faith, obedience and sacrifice. They gave us the Patriarchs and the Apostles. They are the original olive tree into which we as Gentiles were grafted. We owe them much more than we realize. As Paul eloquently asserts in Romans 11:28, “…as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.” Though they were cast off temporarily because of unbelief (the very same sin that had initially excluded us from the covenant), God intends to graft them back in. I have a hunch that process is already in top gear. There is no better time for the Church to offer uncompromising and overt support to Israel.
And it so happens that those who wish death to Israel are the self-same that trouble the Church. The battle line is clearly drawn and the Church cannot afford to waste time and resources fighting wrong causes. Daniel 9:27 speaks prophetically of “the consummation.” God is now consolidating his investments over the ages into one formidable entity that includes Israel and the Church. This is the time to give Israel all the spiritual, moral, financial and physical support as she battles the descendants of him who had despised the inheritor of the covenant, Patriarch Yitzhak.
“For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?”
Olugu Olugu Orji mnia