The Tragedy of the Church, By Bisi Daniels

In the Bible, God instructs us to be holy. And according to Bible scholars and preachers, it is a command repeated throughout both the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Hebrew word translated “holy” – ‘qadash’ and its derivatives – carries the meaning of “set apart” — sanctified, consecrated, hallowed.

Some churches and many Christians are busy changing the terms of the relationship with God. Dr. Okey Onuzo, a pastor from who I have taken this title, is blunt about it in his description: the tragedy of the church! But I must say upfront that I do not claim perfection.

Dr. Onuzo’s ministration on the urgency of a revival for people to worship or serve God on His terms, and not theirs, reminded me of this piece I had been planning to write.

Last month, a pastor friend of mine was invited as a guest preacher for two days in a church in a Lagos suburb. On the first day, his theme was holiness: the need for people to be holy to make heaven.

In the Bible, God instructs us to be holy. And according to Bible scholars and preachers, it is a command repeated throughout both the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Hebrew word translated “holy” – ‘qadash’ and its derivatives – carries the meaning of “set apart” — sanctified, consecrated, hallowed.

And the Greek word translated “holy” – ‘hagios’ and its derivatives – implies an absence of fault or impurity. To be holy, therefore, means to be cleansed of faults and set apart by God, who is Himself faultless and pure.

It therefore follows that any true and rewarding relationship with God must be based on holiness. No half measures! My pastor friend harped on this throughout his sermon on the first day.

The Shocker

The following morning, my friend said he was shocked to the marrow when the pastor of the church visited him in the room he had been provided to advise him against dwelling on holiness.

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Reason? The pastor said people do not want to hear about holiness these days, so some pastors avoid the subject in order not to drive church members away or stop new comers.

So what did my friend do on the second day? He said he ignored the advice and was handsomely rewarded when the fire fell during the second sermon, with many people falling and confessing during an anointing session to betray evil powers that inhabited them. When the news spread, the whole neighbourhood, and beyond, poured into the venue.

Dr. Okey Onuzo

The growing tendency to relegate holiness to show that unrighteousness pays is the point Dr. Onuzo was making. Despite the increasing number of Christians, with millions of people attending church every Sunday, many people relate to God on their own terms. Holiness has taken the backstage.

Dr. Okey is not a jeun jeun pastor (a hungry or greedy pastor looking for money). A consultant nephrologist and the pioneer physician at the first private dialysis centre in Nigeria, for the treatment of patients with kidney failure and related conditions, he could live comfortably on his medical practice. Life Support Medical Centre was opened as far back as October 4, 1986.

Dr. Onuzo received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour in 1970 at an invitational service; and in 1973 at an anointing service at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, he received an apostolic calling with emphasis on the teaching and the prophetic ministries. Over the years, the Holy Spirit has exposed and expanded these callings to touch several lives in different parts of the world.

Dr. Onuzo is an acknowledged conference and seminar speaker in different parts of the world. He continues to be available for the work of the ministry despite his busy clinical work. For several years, he has circulated a monthly meditation to various parts of the world.

Praying for the Holy Spirit to intervene, Dr. Onuzo warned against “romanticising Christianity,” saying emphatically “There is no excuse for unholiness.”

Pastor E.A. Adeboye

Even the critics of Pastor E. A. Adeboye acknowledge his position on holiness, which he always underscores in the Redeemed Christ Christian Church of God (RCCG) and anywhere he preaches or speaks.

In fact, the first mission/vision of the church is to make heaven, and it goes on to say, “To accomplish No. 1 above, holiness will become our lifestyle.”

He has never deviated from that, not even when, years ago, the church was struggling for membership.

In the book, Stories of Pastor E. A. Adeboye, he recounts how a fellow pastor tried to discourage him from preaching holiness: “Years back, a friend came to me and alleged that instead of the church growing we were just going round in circles. He advised that I change the theme of my preaching. He said, “Everybody is talking about prosperity and other sweet things, but you keep hammering on about holiness. Change and go the way the world is going.”

“But I said, “No, no, no, I’m sure I got to where I am because I’m committed to a God who is a holy God. You wait and see, sooner or later, the balloon will burst and those who want to go to Heaven will come because they will look and say this fellow has remained steadfast. This is what he was preaching at the beginning, this is what he is still preaching now. He must know something that others don’t know.”

“If you do your business the way it has to be done, the Divine Partner will play His own part. Things might be slow to start with but it will pick up. There were times when my wife and I couldn’t go to Lagos from the Camp because we didn’t have just one naira to pay the toll gate fee. There was no money. Today, by the Grace of God we can afford to go to Lagos from the Camp by helicopter when we are in a hurry. I have enough children now who would say, “Just tell us what you want.”

“Glory be to God. When you are in active partnership with the Almighty God, you will begin to have unusual victories.”

In the United States, Joel Scandrett, observes that, “We act as if holiness were either outdated or something that characterises only a small (if important) part of our lives.”

According to him, “This is partly due to our quest for cultural relevance, which is defended in the name of winning others to Christ. If we talk about holiness with unbelievers, won’t that present just another hurdle for them to overcome on their way to Christ? For this and other reasons, we are rapidly forsaking our historic commitment to holiness. Recent polls show that many self-described evangelicals march in moral lockstep with mainstream American culture in practices of divorce, spousal abuse, extramarital sex, pornography consumption, materialism, and racism, just to name a few.”

He says, like the others above, holiness stands at the beginning and centre of God’s call on all of our lives.

The conclusion: God says in the Bible “Be holy, because I am holy!”

Bisi Daniels is the author of Stories of Pastor Adeboye.

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2 Comments

  1. Your stories and examples of holiness and teachers of holy living are incomplete, without reference to pastor Kumuyi of Deeper life church.

  2. “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you…” 2Peter 2:3 (KJV)
    Unthinkable to question motives of the pastor, the demagogues turn human judgments into divine commands.
    These wolves in sheep clothing peddle The Holy word for profit at the expense of gullible worshippers, whose existential anxieties they exploit the feeder their nests.
    Gone are the days when sign posts of churches had just a cross and the name of the ministry. The trend nowadays is for them to bear vivid pictures of the pastor-in-charge, often with his wife beside him – a conspicuous indication of private ownership.
    As bona fide owners of churches, in their ministries they’re heads of trustees. With family members as co-trustees, there’s no marked difference between assets of churches and those of pastors.
    In their abuse of gospel grace, these men of crafty pretense in religious garments have brought a stigma of infamy to the venerated character of God’s church.
    They have turned vineyard of the Lord into gold mine.
    Shame on to them!

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