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A MUST READ :Making Jokes about the Church 

The latest pastime, on social media is church bashing. Apart from posts on sex and the female anatomy, scoffing updates about the Church or her leaders, attracts the most likes and comments. Except of course, it is something positive, evangelical or moralizing. Then, it will hardly receive a look. 
Is it the rumours of alleged infidelity against Apostle Suleiman, or the collapse of the tragic  Reigners Bible Church on December 10, 2016, during the Bishopric enthronement of Apostle Akan Weeks, check out how Christian folk and brethren slay and ridicule the church and kingdom affairs. Any scandal in the church gets all and sundry hover, swoop on and make feast of the carcass .

I know that,  stuff does happen in the church(es) and strange  things  have infiltrated christiandom.  But hear me folks,  we have to be careful how we fight the rise of false religion. 

Fact is,  because, unlike Islam,  we do not slaughter people on the least charge of Blasphemy,  the church and it’s Head,  Jesus Christ, have become the butt of abominable comedies and graffiti. Some film makers have portrayed Jesus as gay. Others teach that He had amorous affairs with women, such as The sisters of Lazarus and Mary Magdalene. There are no reprisal consequences for such profane acts. Life just goes on. The Muslims won’t tolerate that and one dare not try it. Those who did are beheaded and never lived to tell the story. 

The only time Christians scramble to type ‘Amen’, is when a post claims that, typing Amen,  will attract financial bounty. Especially,  if the post has the portrait of the likes of Bishop T. D Jakes or Pastor Adeboye for instance. 

Trending currently on social media is an outrage on a flyer that advertises a church programme with the theme, ‘BetNaija Must favour me’. I am not surprised that,  this theme has stirred a bedlam, not just among professing Christians, but even non adherents of the faith, are having a field day taking a dig at the church. Folks’ I dare argue,  hypocrisy is a Nigerian. 

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The same folk who fall over themselves to type ‘Amen’,  to those floating post’s with promise of instant financial miracles are the ones leading the onslaught on the BetNaija gamble of the minister. Truth is,  in a bid  to attract people to church to hear the Gospel of salvation , the church has adopted several ‘baits’, strategies and methods, to lure targeted populations to the church. 

We have heard of,  Picnics,  Beach retreats, Suya Night, Jeans carnivals,  Traditional Attire Sunday’s,  breakfast seminars,  football tourneys,  Award  Dinners, Bazzars and Promo’s, all in a bid to incentivise attendance of church programmes. 

And friends,  these are not altogether sinister. 

Rather, it is consistent with what Jesus said to Peter and others by the Sea of Galilee ,  “Follow me, and I will make you fishers  of men” Matthew 4:19. The very concept of likening soul winning to fishing, pre-suggests that, evangelism will need skill,  and  strategy, as fishing surely does. To catch a monkey, our people say, you act like a monkey. 
I argue that,  the initiator of the ‘Naijabet must favour me’, theme, may have been considering the sheer millions of youths and people addicted and hooked to football betting and other games of chance. To reach that critical population, the ‘guile’ could pay off to appeal to what captures their imagination. Bring them to the church and then, the reform can start. This is also reason, I suppose, some churches bring in, Stand-up Comedy, drama and choreography  to programmes to arrest the interest of Nigerians whose appetite for these socials is amazing. 

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Again, Jesus did give the parable of a celebrator who invited guests for a feast.  When the invities failed to turn up,  he ordered that, the so-called dregs of the society, the lame, blind, sick and what have you, be ushered in for the feast(see Luke 14). 
Folks’, the church is not a home of Saints, it is an asylum for sinners. Can you imagine that, of late, even girls are now patronising betting in growing numbers. Just as the picture of a masquerade who went to check his betting results went viral on the internet. 

Sometimes to win a lost soul,  you need not go condemning them. That’s what Apostle Paul did in Athens when he saw their pantheon of god’s and Altars erected in their veneration at the Aeropagus. In Acts 17, the 23rd verse, Paul said to them, without condemning their religious error, ” For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship–and this is what I am going to preach to you. ” 

He even earlier on, with tact, cheered their zeal in verse  22, saying,  “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.” Truth be told,  any other rash approach could have possibly earned him a death penalty or expulsion from the city. But with such courtesy,  Paul won the city over for God.  Little wonder he said, of his life and ministry, ”

To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22.
Folks’, let me tell you why I won’t stone those who deploy unconventional strategies to spread the goodnews . Like Paul wrote to the church in Phillipi, and averred, “…But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice…,” 

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I also rejoice when I see the explosion of churches and denominations in preference to the multiplication of night clubs and cult groups. Sure!  I know there abounds charlatans, false prophets and impostors whose practice of  religious syncretism , sorcery, enchantments and other oddities in God’s name. However, we need be careful how we ridicule the church because of this scourge. 

At best, I recommend the counsel of Gamaliel to the council, which was hell bent on cracking down on the church, when he said, “In the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

Folks’, let the chaff and grain of christiandom thrive together. The Lord of the harvest will do the separating. Can we abhor this trend and stop this culture of abusing and abasing the Church?

By Osondu Ahirika

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