This story is not to stir up emotions, criticize a denomination or even get at people who “offended” me but to communicate a lesson I learnt during my moments of service in this denomination. If you are familiar with the happenings, please do not take this personal whether you are for or against it. I have also deliberately avoided mentioning names.
A few years back, I served in a denomination. I was born into this denomination and I grew up loving it to the extreme. I was ready to die for it and I was ready to fight for it. In my Primary and Secondary school days, I fought people who criticized the denomination. I fought Catholics and Protestants alike and I felt I was doing the work of the Lord.
I was very zealous about God, I truly loved the Lord but it was zeal without knowledge. When I got enrolled on a junior seminary school, I had the privilege of visiting the school library. As at that time, we had no much books in the library but some books caught my fancy. I laid hands on the history of this denomination, I also read the history of Christianity. I was so thrilled! The article of faith of this denomination became my anthem. Some parts of them are still my anthem to date.
After I had left the school, I didn’t stop researching. The more I research about this very denomination, the more I fell in love with Christianity and the more I realize that the denomination itself was meant to serve as a bridge uniting diverse members of the body of Christ. It actually increased my love for other denominations like Methodists, Presbyterians and Pentecostals.
I was becoming less extreme and much more welcoming and eventually, it opened me up to what I still stand on today, relationship with God without denomination. Yet, it was the study of a denomination that brought me to that point.
Many years later, I became a leader of a Youth ministry in that denomination. Because of my understanding of Christianity, I didn’t limit the ministry to members of the denomination only, no place in our constitution asked us not to anyway. I was genuinely interested in touching lives and nothing more.
We grew tremendously, 70% of the members of this ministry were not members of the denomination. Some of our members were coming from very far places. Our fellowship centre was in Obosi but we had people coming from Awka and farther parts of Onitsha.
In fact, a few Pastors who had their own denominations also identified with us. The youth ministry became a full-blown functional parachurch organisation. We had our music department, evangelism team, protocols, drama team and so on and this was a ministry of very few active members before I was appointed the leader.
We didn’t get to that point because I knew what I was doing, we got to that point because I had people who believed in me and were willing to work with me, our love was very contagious that everyone in the community tried to identify with us. I believe it was this love that grew the ministry.
While it looked like a blessing for our ministry, it became a problem for the leaders of the Church where we operated from. Other organisations were also fighting us because they believed we lured every young people into this ministry and left nothing for them, yet, this was a ministry made up of few members of the denomination and the majority of souls we reached out to on the streets.
Every member of this ministry was a “prayer warrior”, every member was a worshipper, every member was a soul winner. Sometimes, we moved into the streets en-masse winning souls, sometimes we move into the streets singing, praising God in spontaneous worship and speaking in other tongues. We were not hesitant to lay hands on the sick and pray for them. We shook the community and every tongue at that time mentioned our name for whatever reason.
At some point, we were banned from conducting our Youth Services in the Church auditorium with the reason that we were trying to build a new Church inside the Church. The leadership of the Church looked at me with so much suspicion thinking I was grooming people to begin a new Church. All forms of accusations were levelled against me and other members. Some of these accusations are not pleasant to the ear anyway. For every meeting we had, we always had to fight to secure the venue until we got banned entirely.
That Sunday, we all gathered at the Church gate to meet it locked. The caretaker told us that an instruction was given to him not to allow us anywhere near the Church. This happened for four weeks and we had no other option. A year later, this caretaker would call me to apologise, he said “they have been using me to fight you and what God has been using all of you to do”.
Someone suggested that we rent a place and start using it every Sunday. I refused because I didn’t want the allegations to turn out to be true. If I knew what I know now, I wouldn’t have refused because today I count the cost of that mistake and wave in regret. That’s a story for another day.
We found another branch of the denomination, discussed with the Pastor who wanted us to make his Church appear lively and started using the auditorium. This Pastor would fight me later after he had left that Church.
Our first service was mind-blowing and many services after it was mind-blowing too! But then, our ministry was not independent. We were part of a larger regional body. Some had reservations about us, some believed we were just zealous riff-raffs and some were envious of us.
Later on, I was appointed to lead the regional body of this ministry. I was appointed by the leaders who were about handing over because they believed I would lead the ministry better but some powerful men who although weren’t leaders were a very powerful influence in the ministry were against it.
The politics started properly. Those who didn’t like me both in the regional body of the ministry and the leaders of the denomination fought me like hell. Just like Buhari told Goodluck “I will make Nigeria ungovernable for you…” Some people swore to make the ministry ungovernable for me.
Each of my moves was attacked, each of my ideas and leadership styles was attacked, each of the programmes I started was attacked. I was genuinely concerned with uniting the leadership of the regional body, I started monthly night meetings were members are taught the word of God and where we practice and exercise the power of God. I also started a monthly leadership meeting where our leaders receive training. I wanted to see every member and leader burning for Jesus, I wanted to see men and women get passionate about Jesus and his kingdom the same way I and my members in the Chapter level were.
In two of our major conferences, I invited resource persons whom I believed had what we needed. All of these resource persons were men who passed through the denomination or men who were still part of the denomination but not necessarily ordained Pastors by the standards of the denomination. They all shared a common burden with me, to see the hearts of young people burning for Jesus in the knowledge of God’s word.
Guess what? Hell let loose! I had broken the last straw! How dare me to invite “Pentecostals!”? No wonder my unit was filled with people who are not members of the denomination! These and many more were words thrown at me. Others also began citing my writings and how my teachings are dangerous. They called it “demonic”.
What was I teaching? What was the demonic teaching as they called it? That God’s grace is sufficient. That God’s grace is enough. That we have been set free from the law of sin and death. That we are no longer under the law That Jesus finished the fight, that we have been called out of darkness into God’s marvellous light. That a believer has been sealed by the Holy Spirit.
I remember sitting in a panel, answering questions been thrown at me. I remember being told demeaning words and being made to feel terrible! I was persecuted! I was called into various offices and lambasted, there were days I would laugh it off and there were days I would cry. They said I was bringing in Pentecostals other than our denominational Pastors and that I was infiltrating our Churches with false teachers.
I remember starting a blog for the ministry, I hoped it was going to be a platform where ministry materials are made available but guess what? It was heavily criticized, some said I was running a personal vision leveraging on a platform that was given to me. After heavy criticism, that blog is what became George’s Diary today in a bid to separate it from the ministry.
During one of our conferences, after my first tenure had elapsed, new leaders were hurriedly selected without any consultation, without any proper handover and so on. It was a terrible experience for me and for the first time, I admit that while my Spirit had left there, it was a heartbreaking experience.
It didn’t end there. An instruction was passed that no one in the denomination should invite me for any program. Many lies were spread against me including lies that I was chased out of the nomination due to my various shortcomings! It’s laughable because I was in a better position to say who had shortcomings and who didn’t. Its a story for another day.
A few times, some successfully tried inviting me to speak at their programs but other times, meetings were usually cancelled because I was given an invite. It was the beginning of the countdown of my days in that denomination. Why remain in a place where I wasn’t welcomed?
This is the first time I am narrating what happened and why I left. I loved the denomination, I still do and I still identify myself as a member of this denomination to some extent. To date, I still feel bad when I see people talk badly of the denomination because I know that one or even a hundred bad apples cannot and should not be used to judge the rest of the apples.
I still have ministers from this denomination that I respect and admire on a global scale and I still watch out and pray for them even though I haven’t stepped foot into their Churches again for some years now. I am also not planning to do so anytime soon.
Today, the same ministry I once led comfortably invites ministers from other denominations including ministers whose ordinations and ministries are not recognized judging by the standards of the denomination and what they recognize as valid ordinations. I see the same people who once sat me down in a panel to judge me do the same thing I did and say the same thing I said. They do not only get away with it, they get thumbs up from the same people who looked down on me, my calling and my ministry.
Looking back, I am glad all of this happened. I am glad they technically threw me into the wild and I am grateful that God didn’t let the beasts devour me. He protected me and while I went on a hunt for a new home, he was right there directing my footsteps. This is not an old story and until I was left in the wild, I never hunted for a new home.
Today, I am willing to stay where God wants me to stay and I am willing to go where he wants me to go.
I wrote this long note to just say one thing. Sometimes, people fight against what you do and criticize all your efforts, not because you are wrong but because “YOU ARE THE ONE DOING IT…”
Secondly, I also wrote this to let you know that nothing is wrong with you for wanting to leave a place where you don’t feel welcomed, where you are constantly attacked and where you can’t fully express all that God has planted in you.
I know, that this way, some of you will stop asking me what happened and stop the speculations. One thing is certain, at the centre of it all, Jesus is all that matters and Jesus is the end of religion.