One of the questions/comments following Saturday’s teaching in the just concluded Emerging Leaders’ Congress was this: how practical is the collapsing of all fellowships on campus into one central fellowship? In the opinion of the commentator, this is impractical; a more likely possibility is the natural death of denominational systems, as more and more people hear and subscribe to the Kingdom message.
What led us into this talk?
We had earlier seen how the Lord chose to utilise the campus to spearhead the revival of the 70’s. We discovered that one of the qualities of the campus which made it a breeding ground for revival is the fact that it was a melting pot of denominational affiliations. Denominationalism has been the largest killer of revivals; no wonder genuine revivals have never been spearheaded by denominations but interdenominational movements. God saw the orthodox systems with their collars, their titles and their structures but preferred to use those who had no structure, no resource, no institution, only faith and yieldedness. Unfortunately, that quality that characterised the campus have been altogether destroyed by the insatiable greed of those who were products of the campus revival. That is why the campus as it is today cannot produce any revival anymore.
So what is the solution? One of the comments that came suggested the centralisation of worship on the campus. This comment derived from an aspect of the message which emphasised repentance as crucial to the return of the glory; identifying those little foxes and dealing consciously with them. We saw during the course of the message that the encroachment of denominational structures found in the larger society into the campus overtly did more harm than good – and that practice (of fragmenting the campuses by churches in town) should be discouraged and discontinued.
Talking about repentance, we saw that until repentance gets to the level of actually turning away from certain practices/customs, it is just a mockery. Most times, our repentance only gets to the level of confession – but we continue in the same structures nonetheless. So repenting from the fragmentation of the Christian fellowship on campus will certainly mean resisting every attempt by G.O’s to conscript their young members into “starting their own” – for it would mean leaving their various current fellowships and encouraging close friends to leave with them in order to start this new fellowship.
A quick reminder: that was how Deeper Life Campus Fellowship started in the very early eighties. Their pioneers were mostly from the IVCU, and some were even executive members. At the mandate given by their G.O, they all left en masse to start DLCF, disregarding all entreaties. Even, Dr. Kumuyi refused to grant audience to emissaries that came seeking his mediation into the matter, so we gathered. I’m not sure that is a Christian spirit; it certainly does not agree with I Cor. 1:10-13 – but that is what we have left to sprawl in the body without restrain. And see the chaos that has ensued from it.
So like we said earlier, repentance involves refusing any vision to start the campus arm of the church. Now back to the comment, repentance should go as far as those who hold executive positions in denominational fellowships to resign and tell their G.O. that they want to identify with the central fellowship on campus; once out of campus, they can then return to their various churches – and this action is because they wish to preserve the oneness of the Christian community on campus.
That was the background. In retrospect, I consider that my response to that question was too incomplete and I personally feel I’ve done the audience a great disservice by holding back some aspect of the solution because I felt we didn’t have enough time to deal with it. I later regretted this because I felt that leaving the people to go home with such open-ended approach to such a sensitive question was clearly not the best. I then thought this avenue would be a great way to remedy he error.
First of all, it must be made explicitly clear that denominationalism remains the greatest challenge posed at the very essence of the Church of Christ. In fact, every problem of the church today is directly/indirectly connected to denominationalism. Ironically, while so many people agree that denominationalism is not of God, nobody is willing to do anything about it, because it seems that there is really no other option. So we go on fortifying our denominations and starting new ones. But the unpleasant consequences of denominationalism is there for all to see: defragmentation of the body (thereby making the church vulnerable and impotent, for the church’s greatest strength lies in her unity), lowering of the high standards of the faith (in other words, turning the church into a soft-sell; making the church to be consumer-oriented instead of Kingdom purpose oriented), diversities of doctrines, personal interpretation of scripture, all making even some of the fundamental pillars of our faith such as new birth, the hope of our calling, the Kingdom of God, eternal judgement, his second coming etc, a free-for-all – and so on and so forth.
When the Pentecostals also started their own church brands in the eighties, they never knew that they would eventually start multiple branches; and they certainly never knew that the ugly trend would find its way into the campuses. I remember one of our fathers in the land talking to his members in the universities about two decades ago, “When you get to your various school, don’t look for a “so and so” fellowship (mentioning the name of his own church), because you won’t find any. Go into the Christian Union and make your impact there.” About 10years later, the song changed, he called all his children in the campuses and encouraged them to pull out of where they were and start the church campus fellowship, promising them money, fellowship bus and so on.
So the ugly trend is now fully entrenched in the campuses such that today, fellowship presidents on campus are now also papas and mamas. Some of them even get salaries and more and more fellowships are being born every day. Yet what is the impact on the campus and what has been the impact of our several churches on society? The point here is that we are yet to see the end of this ugly trend, unless a generation arises to say, enough.
Now, back to the question/response which I want to properly respond to: how practical is it to ask people in denominational fellowships on campus to collapse their structures and subscribe to the central fellowship (in most cases, the Christian Union)? Are the CU’s even ready to absorb/contain /manage that possibility? Isn’t it more realistic to believe for the natural death of denominational systems over time? Well, this is my response:
I agree that at the present moment, it is impractical. Even the so-called central fellowships themselves have become denominationised. Fellowships like CU, SCM, SU and a very few others are already denominational because they have national bodies that have a level of regulatory hold over member bodies in different institutions and ensure some level of conformity. How else is a denomination better defined? So this talk is not to make CU members happy and assume they’re the ones to take it all – no. They will also have to go through a total overhaul to be relevant to this projection.
But those to whom the Lord is speaking do not wait for practicality or otherwise. They simply obey when the Spirit of God nudges their hearts. Just like the Lord said regarding the doctrine of celibacy, this word is not for everybody; if you are not persuaded, please go on serving the lord faithfully in your various groups and keep opening your window towards Jerusalem in the hope of when eventually, the abnormal will be laid aside and divine order will prevail. But if you feel strongly impressed that you are called into this, then do not observe the wind. Don’t ask questions like where will I fellowship? How will I serve God? God told Abram, Go, just go. And as he obeyed, specific details began to come as at when due. I myself had an experience similar to this in my campus days.
Let me state emphatically that the ideal we are believing God for will not happen automatically by itself. It takes one person and another person and yet another person in different times and circumstances to yield to the Lord for a quorum, a critical mass to be formed. Anybody waiting for the truth to become widespread and established certainly is not a pioneer and cannot be part of the critical mass. So if God is speaking to your heart, please respond, even if you are the only one. It is the Lord’s arrangement that you have been called in the first hour. Some of your other brethren will later be called in subsequent hours. And let me encourage you with this: don’t be surprised; you are not the only one God is speaking to. But it takes you responding in simple child-like faith for you to discover your other brethren for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord builds again Zion.
Those of us who are thus persuaded of this truth must make it a point of duty to shout this from the housetops. I can’t forget a prayer somebody prayed when he read one of my articles some time ago: may we NOT speak the truth AS IF IT IS A LIE. Those of us speaking the truth have somewhat been intimidated by the lie that we are cowardly and apologetic about it when sharing it. No, refuse the intimidation of satan and the babylonish systems that have been raised in the church: denominationalism was never God’s and never will be. If He never started it, if it was never His original invention or idea, He cannot be pressured into accepting it. Like someone said, God is too old, too ancient to change because of certain conditions in time/society. He has seen ages and has remained constant. I choose to be on the side of this ageless, changeless, ancient God.
Denominationalism only pretends to provide a platform for church expression and ministry expansion but in the final analysis opposes the ultimate purpose of God for His church which is producing one indivisible, glorious church that has come into the full measure of the stature of Christ on the earth, fully representing divine interest on the earth. Denomination is a gate of hell and it is one of those things that Jesus declared will not prevail against the Church he is building. It was the very reason He prayed in John 17 for the church to be one. Denomination is a tool in the hands of satan to prevent the prayer of Jesus from being answered. Let those who are like-minded continue to declare this in our fellowships, our churches, our meetings, our publications, our home videos and our song lyrics, our prayers. Let it be practically impossible for Tobiah to be able to find accommodation in the temple of our God. Let denominations no longer be seen as normal. No, it is poison; it is an enemy of the purpose of Christ. Many of the fathers I know: Dr. Mike Oye, Pst. Austen Ukachi, Dr. Kole Akinboboye, Dr. Moses Aransiola, Prof. Fred Adegoke, just to mention a few, have all spoken against denominationalism on the campus.
But may I say what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. How can you prevent denominationalism on the campus when it holds sway in the larger society? Is the campus not a microcosm of society? Are the young people on campus not the children of the denominational church groups in the larger society? That means (1) you cannot oppose denominationalism on the campus while you permit it in the larger society – that’s double standard. (2) you cannot expect denominationlism to die a natural death on the campus when it continues to be fuelled and strengthen and fed by/from the main denominations in town.
This second point is worthy of serious consideration and should further make those who are being stirred by the Lord to respond and not wait for a futuristic event when suddenly majority will change their minds. The truth is denominationalism WILL NOT die a natural death. Despite the ferocity of Luther’s reformation, the Catholic Church did not collapse. It survived the 16th century cataclysm that befell it and today is still standing tall. The tsunami that hit the orthodox churches in the 70’s and 80’s in this country did not make them to collapse. Today, they’re standing tall. Even Jesus with all His messianic anointing and grace did not succeed in obliterating Judaism. There is something about man: he has creative ability and once he sets up an institution, that institution can become a living entity that will outlive him for several generations. That is what we have inadvertently created: a gargantuan, a monster whose sporadic growth cannot be restrained, a system that has spurned out of control. No, it is not likely that these systems will die a natural death; what has been the repeated trend throughout history is for those who have heard the sound of the trumpet to come out of such structures.
If denominationalism is not the way to go, how then is our Christian fellowship and service to be structured? Well, assuming our fathers did not yield to the temptation of encroaching the campuses with their church brands, what then would have happened? With one central fellowship that unites all the Christians on campus, faculty fellowships, departmental fellowships, level fellowships, hall fellowships even block fellowships would have ensued and would have been very strong and formidable. Today, they are hardly reckoned with whereas they are the structures that can more effectively engage falsehood, unrighteousness, injustice and evil in our institutions. They will best shine as light and be a Kingdom standard in their respective domains. It is very difficult if not outrightly impossible to denominationalise those fellowships. This is the way to go.
In the larger society, returning to the model of the early church is the way to go: neighbourhood fellowships (comprising of families in that immediate neighbourhood) and workplace fellowships (comprising of Christians in that department or ministry or agency or company etc). This is the church of the future. And that future starts when some of us begin to believe it, declare it and work towards its implementation.
Finally, the joint campus Christian fellowships (JCCF) can play a very critical role in bringing about this vision, if not for the fact that most of them are more like trade groups and political associations rather than bodies working to unite the saints. Many of their leaders do not even have the vision of unity so how can they promote unity? They see their work as protecting the interests and promoting the welfare of member fellowships. If the JCCFs can catch this vision of unity, they can serve as the central fellowship that will meet perhaps twice in a month: one general fellowship and one general prayer meeting while departmental fellowships et al will meet weekly, fortnightly etc.
May God in our day raise up apostles daring enough to confront this ancient leviathan and cause it to bite the dust. May the prayer of the Lord Jesus be literally answered in our day. May we have a church generation that is truly non-denominational in its expression and function, amen.