Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure
Psalm122:6 – The Bible NLT Version
Hello folks, today is another Friday, and it is time to share my opinion piece for the week with you all once again. The piece today is a third in the series of posts I started last year on tithing and a church that has lost its way. Here are the first and the second posts in the series, in case you missed them. and here is the third post in the series for you to read and enjoy.
In the very first edition of this series, I talked about how the general disposition of “men of God” in Nigeria towards the healthcare system has made working in the healthcare industry a thankless job for Nigerian healthcare professionals. I mentioned how this has led to the aforementioned professionals leaving the country in droves to places where they can be appreciated for their work. Today’s edition is going to be a little about the subject of migration and how “men of God” are using their influence to plant the seeds of the lack of patriotism that, whether we like it or not, is at the root of Nigeria’s problems.
While personally, I don’t see myself emigrating out of Nigeria to live anywhere else, I also don’t have anything against moving out of Nigeria to “greener pastures”. I am more of a “do whatever makes you happy” kind of guy. But if you ask for my candid advice, I’d say that if you really believe in God as you claim, then you should stay in Nigeria, because God did not make a mistake by creating you in Nigeria. I am sure he made you a Nigerian because he has something for you to do for your fatherland. Perhaps this mindset is why I have problems with the teachings of Nigerian shepherds and men of God. Just be patient with me, I will explain what I am on about.
If you have ever been in a Nigeria church, the odds are high that you have either heard the pastor pray for those who “have been chasing visas for a long time” or a church member share a testimony of how God did it that the immigrant visa, that they had been chasing for a long time, became theirs. If you are lucky (or shall I say unlucky) you may even find one where the “pastor” will order a “special anointing service for people who are looking for visas”. Whether you like it or not,you cannot but admit that praying for immigrant visas is the third most popular prayer point in Nigerian churches, the only prayer points that are patronized more, are people praying for healing, and Nigerian mothers praying for men to marry their daughters. But is that really what God commands us to do?
My mom often tells of the major crisis of faith she suffered when she went to Israel for the first time in 2011. The aforementioned crisis started when she noticed just how much of an arid, inhospitable hellhole the country was. She said she could not help but wonder why a “merciful” God would “promise” a people such a sandy and hot patch of desert, and even tell them it is “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Forget milk, they barely even have water) to boot. She doesn’t say it but anybody who listens to her can see her palpable disappointment with the people who wrote such glowing reviews about such a hellhole in the Bible. What really got me thinking, however, is not how different from the biblical description of Israel the real Israel is (anybody with the teensiest bit of interest in Middle East politics would find that fact in mere seconds), It was the kind of nationalism and patriotism that the Jews had to have to keep wanting to go back to that piece of scorched, arid, hellscape after the several attempts by different world powers to force them out. The running theme of the bible is literally how God keeps promising the Israelites that he will bring them back to the land “he had promised their fathers” (of course the question of whether the land is theirs in the first place is up for debate, and not the subject of this piece). It is this divinely ordained nationalism that has turned the country of Israel from the barren hellscape that it is, into one of the most self-reliant and self-sustaining nations on earth. So if God keeps telling his Jewish prophets that he will always bring his people home from the ends of the earth whenever they get scattered, why does he keep telling our Nigerian pastors to tell their congregation that it is “the will of God” to emigrate to a foreign land?
Now I am not arguing that God does not support emigrating abroad, because there are several examples of places where God commanded people to leave their homes, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his sons were all commanded to go live in foreign lands for a while, even leaders like Moses, David and, Elijah had to go live outside of their Israeli kin for a while when they were being hunted as enemies of the state. Even Jesus Christ spent a few years outside Israel as he grew up. The common thing to all of these people however, is that the same God who told them to leave, brought them back home in the end. Paul knew that lf he went back home to Jerusalem, he was literally going there to die, yet he went anyway. If we, Nigerians, are indeed “a chosen generation” as our men of God claim, then our shepherds should not praying that “the whitemen will favour you with visa this week or this month or whenever”. A “child of God” literally slaving his or her life away in a foreign land is not the “will of God.”
“But these men of God you are attacking didn’t cause Nigeria’s problems, so why should they make the members of their flock suffer the trauma of a nation that is not working?” In the book of Nehemiah, the Israelites had to start building their country from scratch. This is not a matter of a country being a shithole, it is a matter of it not even existing at all. But build it they did, even in the face of external threats. And their men of God played a major role in encouraging them and reassuring that they were doing God’s work. Of course if our own pastors decide to use a quarter of the energy that they use in threatening members of their congregation to pay tithes, to encourage the members of said congregation to stay and build the country, Nigeria will be better than this. But then the sweet tithe dollars and tithe euros and tithe pounds are not going to contribute themselves to the church, are they?
As a pastor, you don’t have to tell people that going abroad is bad, but there are ways you can exert your influence and plenty of examples with which you can convince them that God has a purpose for them in Nigeria, and that while God is still happy with them in the foreign land they live in, he can even be happier with them if they stay home and build a nation fit to house him among their own people. If you keep tacitly (or even actively) encouraging members of your congregation to go abroad, you are literally passing the message that Nigeria has no hope, even if you are not saying so with your mouth. So the message today is this. Dear Pastor, God wants to use members of your congregation (especially the young people) to build a Nigeria where he will live. Stop telling them (or conveying to them with your actions that God wants them to “get out of this shithole if and when they can.” He doesn’t. Nuff said.