I remember when I attended church one day and then the pastor said “During worker’s meeting this morning, a phone was stolen. I have warned everyone not to take any thing that isn’t theirs, but it is obvious no one listens.”
“I want us all to join hands and pray. Let us call on God and tell him that the person who stole the phone should run mad before seven days.”
The congregation obeyed and in less than three minutes, the whole church was rent with the chorus “run mad! Run mad!”
I couldn’t pray. I opened my eyes and looked around me, I stared at the faces closed earnestly in prayer and wondered at the sense in their actions. Of course, the next Sunday, the pastor announced to the congregation that the thief had been found, he had confessed after running mad.
My stay in that church was cut short after a while. I kept remembering that incident and it took away any attachment I had ever developed for the church. I ran, I couldn’t let myself be spiritually truamatized all over again.
Don’t judge me too harshly, I have a past with churches, particularly Pentecostal ones.
I grew up practically in churches. I went to too many vigils to count. I still remember vividly the drowsy feeling, going home from church every morning after each vigil and knowing that the process would be repeated the next day till the twenty first day, which would mark the end of the vigil. As young as I was, I was a worker. From washing toilets, to cleaning chairs or sweeping the floors. We all did something; that was how mama raised us, to be God-conscious and dedicated.
I learnt how to pray very young too. The vigils were always from 10pm till 5am. I came to love prayers and believe in its powers. I loved God too. I guess that was why I was always eager to memorise Bible chapters which I would recite in front of the entire congregation. I remember Psalm 91 was the first one I learnt, after then it was psalm 81. The hardest for me was when I memorised Isaiah 43. That was how much I loved the church then.
Asides service, we were taught to give. God! My pops was a giver. Nothing was too expensive or special for him to give. He sowed into so many many lives that; it was part of a life of service. You couldn’t serve without giving. And so, I would also look forward to giving a few of my dresses to someone who needed them. We were brought up that way.
It was disheartening and painful when we found out that our pastor had ventured into diabolical means to keep his church full and thriving. I believe the mistake we made was believing so much in a prophet, but whose fault? Weren’t we taught to believe “his” prophet and do them no harm?
This man raged battles, both physical and spiritual against whoever he thought was trying to destroy the dynasty he was building. My family knew and so we were not spared. He “visited” us and we had tales to tell for years. Oh, we bore the brunt of our discovery. No, what you see in movies aren’t lies, they do happen! Spiritual wars are actually waged!
That was where my dislike for the church begun.
It was traumatic. It is not something that can be explained. It was a kind of betrayal, a kind of heartbreak. For a long time I expected God to strike the pastor dead and when he didn’t, I was wraught with anger. “How can God sit on his throne, the earth his foot stool and watch such madness happen”. I would ask myself over and over. “Was God really just?” Of course, I thought he wasn’t.
As an undergraduate, I would visit different churches, there was practically no church I did not attend in the city of Ibadan. I would go for a Sunday or two and then never return. Most times it was because of something I thought the pastor had said wrong, other times it was because I felt the church lacked love. Another time, I left a church because I felt they did not pray enough and ‘Americanism’ had taken over. I became a church whore, jumping from one to another, looking for that which had the highest benefits.
My friends would ask me why I stayed home every Sunday but I would look at them and smile. How was I to explain to them that in church, I was “God” , presiding silently over the affairs of the congregation, condemning and silently accusing those I thought to be sinners. How could I explain to them that staying home was probably best for me. How?
I do not know if I got so bad because I majored in arts; and in literature, you had to be a critic, turning page after page, reading article after article trying to analyse and find flaws whilst appreciating the work of art. It was like that for me. Immediately I got home from any service, I would replay everything that had been said or done in church, picking through it all in my head and trying to find out if there was anything strange about it.
There were times when I went for months without attending a church. I would worship, praise and pray in the comforts of my room and I was sure God heard me. However, I couldn’t stop asking myself if I was missing something not going to church and then I would get up on a Sunday morning, dress up and walk into any church, attend the service and then leave with no intention of ever going back.
Nowadays though, I tell myself not to bother. I go to church, take what is for me and leave the rest to God. I have refused to be a judge, I have refused to pick faults or poke fingers at any one in a church. I go to church now to connect to God, build up my faith and connect to the Holy Spirit. I have realised that it is not in my place to act as God over man, I have come to know that I should let God be God.
P. S- The aforementioned pastor isn’t dead, neither is he ailing. His church is now one of the biggest and profitable ones in the area in which it is located. His congregation keeps growing. But, I know that soon…
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