For many years the orthodox churches and lately the Pentecostal churches have elaborately and ornately designed and decorated beautiful, awe-inspiring buildings. In some cases these buildings called churches have themselves become objects of worship. Millions of Naira has been dedicated to building and erecting and maintaining these “sacred” buildings. Huge sums of money are spent to furnish and decorate the inside of some of these church buildings. In the early church, buildings were unimportant. The early church did not have any buildings during their greatest period of advance. In fact, church buildings did not appear until the year 232 AD. The most explosive period of church growth in history took place during those early years when there were no church buildings. But what do we find today buildings and structures have become the yardstick for measuring the hardest working man of God. Servants of God have been driven by great obsession for buildings. Tens of millions of naira have been expended on buildings to the detriment of church members. There is a mad rush and a terrible competition among our Ministers today to build the largest and most beautiful church building in town. But the truth must be declared; God has not called us to build buildings – He has sent us out to build men. Ministers are concentrating on buildings while they care less about building men. The truth is that most men die spiritually as soon as they get caught in that compulsive obsession to build. Once you get involved in the rat race to build, you never will stop building. After building one, you will soon find a need to build another and you get killed spiritually in the process. These are many men in contemporary times who have completely lost their bearing and who are finding it difficult to recover from a state of spiritual stupor because they left what God called them to do to erect buildings. Some of them have built gigantic edifices, great hospitals, universities and crystal cathedrals etc. some of them have put their hands into terrible compromises to complete their buildings. Most men who embark on building die spiritually in the process. This is a hard saying but it is true. A good example in the Bible is Cain. The first thing that Cain did after he departed from the presence of the Lord was that he went and built a City. Genesis 4:16-17 “And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden; and Cain knew his wife: and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son Enoch”.
It is a sign of compromise in a man’s life when he desires to build for God at all cost. Most of the men of God who build claim to be building for God. They all claim God spoke to them in a vision to build. However let us hear what the Lord himself said: “But Solomon built him an house, howbeit the most high dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? Saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest” Acts 7:47-49. When most Ministers set out to build great buildings and great centres for God it is evident that they are building for themselves and not for God. Hebrew 3:3”…..He who builds the house hath more honour than the house”. The desire to build is simply an ego trip. It is self centred, and it honours man rather than God.
We believe that Christendom must repent of the over-emphasis that has been placed on church buildings in past years. God is calling us to get rid of all barriers in the church. One of our primary hindrances, in many cases, is the buildings we call “the church”. In the first place the enormous money spent on buildings and furnishings our church buildings today in Nigeria can be better utilized in evangelizing and meeting the needs of millions of needy Nigerians being oppressed by the devil in rural areas. Like the big multi-Nationals and big companies, all the churches must build a befitting headquarters in Lagos or in Abuja. Is that what the church has been called to do? Do we have to take our cue from the world? All the new churches springing up today are based in the cities; nobody cares about the needy, poor Nigerians in the rural areas.
Serious minded Christians must know that churches can surely function without the aid of specially constructed buildings. This has been proven in church history throughout the ages. In fact, history shows that the church will actually grow faster and be healthier without church buildings than with them.
God is raising a people in this last days who will return to the bible and to divine order; a people who will return to the simplicity that is in the Gospel; a people who will move away from institutionalized, politicized and organized Christianity and worship God in spirit and truth and follow only the leading of the Holy Spirit. When the early church switched from living rooms and homes of the brethren to church buildings with professional staff, they lost the momentum, and the local church became weak, cold and dead.
Are Denominations Really God’s Will?
The most life giving thing a church can do is to have a baby and let that baby grow under God without tying that baby to the mother church which in many cases is referred to as the headquarters. What we find in Christendom today is a situation where all the baby churches are closely tied to, and dependent upon, the mother church. These baby churches or branches as they are called are seen as extensions, of the mother church.
Pastors are hired, fired from or transferred to these branches according to the whims of the presidents and founders who in most cases are Bishops or Arch Bishops etc. Many of these churches have died spiritually because of a spirit of possessiveness in the leadership of such groups. In most cases the leaders are extremely powerful and no one can question them. They run the church like their personal property. These leaders judge for reward and they preach for hire, and they prophesy for money. (Micah 3:9-12). “And the word of the Lord came unto me saying: Son of man prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them. Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds, woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves: should not the shepherds feed the flocks. Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye built up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost, but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them” Ezekiel 34:1-4.
God is going to move by his spirit to judge this greedy, kingdom builders who are nothing but little Popes building another Roman Catholic Church. This is a denominational spirit that will divide the body and hinder the work of God in the long run.
Nowhere in the scripture shall we find that any of the churches that Paul founded in all his missionary journeys bore his name or the name of his ministry. The churches were not wearing any name or tag given to them by Paul. When the church at Corinth attempted to take on a label after Paul, he rebuked them and discouraged kingdom building around his name or person. “For ye are yet Carnal.. for while one saith I am of Paul, and another, saith I am of Apollos, are ye not Carnal? Who is Paul and who is Apollos, but minister by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man. So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase …. For we are Labourers together with God. Yea are God’s husbandry, Yea are God’s building … For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” I Corinthians 3:3-11. Our denominations as they are today is never God’s perfect will. What the denominations have done is breed strife and division in God’s house. What we see in the New Testament is a united church within each city held together by “the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3). Paul the apostle never wrote to churches of any city. He always addressed his letters to “the church” of that particular city. There was only one church in each city, or locality. He writes to “the church” in Rome, Corinth, Ephesus and so forth.
However, he writes to “the churches” in Galatia, “the churches in Asia” and so forth. This is because these were provinces and not cities. There may be scores or even hundreds of gatherings that meet in Jesus’ name within a given city. However, there is really only one church in that locality. This one church consists of the many smaller Christian gatherings in that city. Just as all the churches in all the cities in the world make up the Body of Christ, the churches (congregations) within a locality make up the church in that city.
A situation where a man sets up branches of his church all over, and all the branches carry the same name and tag, and their members will not fellowship with Christians from other groups just because they do not carry the same tag or identity as themselves is evil in the sight of the Lord.
The church belongs to Christ not to any man. Paul’s example is what we must follow:- “And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Corinth, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. And when they had ordained the elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord on whom they believed”. Acts 14:21-23. after appointing the elders they left the churches to the Lord; they did not make the churches branches or appendages in order to swell their central purse or to boost the ego of the man at the centre as the man who owns the largest and fastest growing church. Something is definitely wrong with our church planting strategies in Christendom today. The New Testament must be our guide for faith and practice in all things. Let it be our guide in this matter of denominations as well. Let it guide our understanding of church life and pattern.
There was no structure, or organization built around our Lord Jesus. He was able to reach out to the needy as a great leader without any blocks. There were no organizational walls, there were no protocol between him and the people. He came into this world to serve the people. His dressing and appearance was like those of his twelve disciples. He wore no special cassock or uniform, He wore no special rank or title different from those of the disciples. Yet there was no question whatsoever in the minds of his disciples as to the fact that Jesus was their leader. It took a Judas to betray Jesus by kissing him so that his enemies will be able to pick him out of the twelve. This meant that outwardly there was no way an outsider could tell who Jesus was among the twelve. The whole thing was so simple, there was no air around him, no structures built around him, you didn’t need to fill a piece of paper to see Jesus. He was out where the sinners were. He could discuss freely with the woman of Samaria by the well, there were no protocol involved. He could without any ceremony visit and eat in the house of Zacheaus the chief Publican, the weak woman with the issue of blood could have free access to Jesus. There were no walls built around Jesus.
The reverse is the situation when we look around and see what is happening around us particularly among the Pentecostals who should know better. One is utterly shocked and bewildered at the reckless manner in which pride, ego, and heartlessness is being demonstrated by our so called Bishops, Arch-Bishops and Revered who have turned their denominations into their personal kingdoms. In the name of counting Ministers worthy of “double honour” many of them have built an almost impregnable barrier of protocols around themselves with their retinue of personal aids, and paid staff making it a real Herculean task to see the man of God. This type of thing cannot be God. A servant certainly cannot be greater than his master. Excessive structure and organization at best can only stifle the life of the church. This is the result of denominationalism. The Lord is building in these last days a city without walls “Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein, For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her” Zechariah 2:4-5. There is going to be a mighty move of the spirit that will pull down all the artificial walls erected by man in the body of Christ, this include denominational walls, doctrinal walls, walls built around personalities.
The Place of House Fellowship in God’s Plan
In most cases, even the word “Church has changed its meaning. It no longer means a company of people, as it did in the New Testament times. These days “Church” incorrectly often means a building. It is very clear that the early church met in houses. Rom. 16:3-5; I Cor. 16:19; Philemon 1:2; Col. 14:15. During the life time of Jesus, common ordinary dwelling places were used for spreading the gospel and for discipling new converts. This was also true during the expansion of the church in the Book of Acts. The following example in the scriptures demonstrate this fact very clearly:-
1. The very first time a group gathered to worship Jesus and offer Him gifts was in a house. This was the house of Mary and Joseph. (Matthew 2:11)
2. In the early days of His Ministry, Jesus used the house of Peter to conduct preaching, healing and deliverance meetings (Matthew 8:14-16)
3. Our Lord could have chosen to celebrate the first Communion with His disciples in a synagogue, in the temple or in some other place of religious importance. However, He chose to celebrate it in a common, ordinary house (Matthew 26:18).
4. Jesus preached to crowds assembled in houses. He did the same things in houses that we do in our church buildings today. (Matthew 2:1)
5. Pentecost came to a house church. Acts 2:1-2. Many of us have never considered the number of foundational, biblical events that took place in people’s homes or houses. The first instance of the preaching of the gospel to the gentiles came about in the house of Cornelius. Acts 10.
6. Lydia’s house was the first church in Europe Acts 16:40. The final words in the book of acts revealed that in Rome Paul used his rented apartment to teach and preach the Gospel of the Kingdom Act 28:30-31.
Pastor S. G. Elton A white Missionary who served in Nigeria for over 50 years said several years before he passed on to glory that “the church began in houses and the church is going to end in houses.” He said further that the greatest miracles and signs and wonders will happen in. informal, unceremonious, unadvertised meetings in the homes of sincere believers in this last days. The advantages of house fellowships far outweighs the big denominational church building. Let me outline just a few of this advantages:-
1. House churches or House fellowships are easy to start. You do not need to buy property or building: You won’t need a pulpit, pews, hymn books, a piano or band sets. You don’t have to belong to a denomination or be incorporated, You won’t have a need for a signboard with the name of your church on it. It won’t even need a name. many of our modern churches have lost the simplicity of the New Testament and have added many extras, which are really not needed.
2. House church is relaxed and informal. Many people today do not come to certain churches today because those churches have set the standard of dressing too high. They have made church a formal event. Many people who will not attend a formal type of church will attend a house church because it is more relaxed. It has a casual, family atmosphere.
3. House churches can be very great evangelistic tools. Whole neighborhoods can be reached with the message of the gospel through house churches.
4. House Churches help to build relationships. The forming of relationships, sharing and caring occurs much more easily in house churches. A small house church encourages body ministry. 1 Corinthians 14:26.
5. House churches can easily be disbanded if for example, a group of people deviates from the truth or if there is an occasion of moral failure among leaders or members with little or no damage done to the work of God in an area. There is really no structure to want to hold on to. Nothing to defend. It is easier for people to repent in this type of forum.
The point that is being made here must not be confused with the practice of home cell groups that is currently being introduced into many churches. The house churches that we are describing here is drastically different from the home cell units. The home cells are seen as part of a mother church. In most cases the activities of such home cells are dictated by the mother churches, whereas the house church is a church in itself and functions under God as such. The developments of the home cells in many churches today is an indication that the undue emphasis on big buildings, big meeting is not meeting the inner yearnings of the people. However what the Lord is doing at the moment is beyond home cell groups that are primarily tied to, and dependent upon, the mother church. God is raising a people that will serve him in spirit and in truth.
Inspite of all that we have said about the place of house fellowships or house churches in God’s plan, they must be operated by broken men and women who understand that we are not setting forth a doctrine here but we are talking about Christ reigning and ruling in His church, otherwise house fellowships can be as cold and dead as the denominational churches.
In conclusion, we believe that God is stirring and shaking our present church structures and bringing us back to the basics. Many of these big institutionalized structures that look more like corporations rather than churches with their huge network of branches are monsters that will turn around and devour the men that are building them if care is not taken. The Pentecostal churches of today are probably the greatest culprits. Many of the leaders of this massive churches are beginning to have very big crises of money, power and women in their hands.
Except we repent and turn to God for mercy the judgment of God is likely to descend mightily on these wealth seeking churches in this country. Thousands are flocking to these “Messiahs” swelling their church membership and their collections, but the truth is that immeasurable grief and division is being inflicted on the body of Christ in this nation by this denominations and kingdom builders. May the Lord have mercy on us? “Turn us again, O Lord of hosts cause thy face to shine on us and we shall be saved. Psalm 80:19
These Messages to the church are the result of several years, of traveling in prayers for the church. We share these messages with humility, love, broken hearts and a burning desire to see the recovery and the restoration of the church of our Lord. Please feel free to write us if you have any questions or if you desire to be on our mailing list. May God Bless you richly.
PROF. FRED ADEGOKE
Ilorin , NIGERIA.