This is sad, very sad: The ‘church’ has become unimaginably too worldly today; and the world has become unthinkably too churchy today. The ‘church’ has given the world mere religion as against Christianity. The ‘church’ and the world today are become like one stream flowing with same source and apparently heading the same way. Few men and women, however, cannot be blinded to the fact that true Christianity (The Church) is a stream with a different source, different path and heading different way from that of the world. The church (now, the real church, that is) never meets with the world. Yes, it is in the world but not of it. It is in the world as light to drive away its thick darkness and not to borrow it. It is in the world to point captives of its darkness to the Bright and Morning Star and not to embrace the darkness and its depth, which is hell.
DEFINING CHRISTIANITY AGAIN
It was C. T. Studd (1862-1931) the famous England cricketer (and of the Cambridge Seven fame) and who later founded World Evangelism Crusade (WEC) International with missions in America, Asia and Africa who once wrote, and very instructively too: “Christ’s call was not to ‘scoffers’, but sinners to repentance… to raise living churches of souls among the destitute, to capture men from the Devil’s clutches and snatch them from the very jaws of hell, to enlist and train them for Jesus, and make them an almighty army of God. But this can only be accomplished by red-hot, unconventional, unfettered Holy Spirit religion … and by reckless sacrifice and heroism in the foremost trenches”. O that every pastor could take the first part of our quote as his functional definition of Christianity in our day; and the second part as the solution-way, or the way out!
THE SURE FOUNDATION
I believe in the faith of our fathers. I believe in the old landmarks. I believe in the foundation laid by the apostles of our glorious Saviour and Lord. I have Peter, John, Paul, James, Barnabas et al in mind. I believe in the New Testament Church.
The Saviour and Lord of all, even the Man Jesus said: “And why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to Me, and heareth My sayings, and doeth them I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great” (Luke 6: 46-49). It seems to me that one wind of the weakest persecution could make much of what we today parade as Christianity especially in the southern part of Nigeria (and which is essentially ‘American Christianity’) go under. For: “If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan” (Jeremiah 12: 15)?
Paul wrote with a serious note of command: “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. BUT LET EVERY MAN TAKE HEED HOW HE BUILDETH THEREUPON” (1 Corinthians 3: 10). Good Christians over the years have taken that holy command seriously.
And indeed, The New Testament Church has always been the standard of Christianity. That is the foundation, the tradition and pattern. That is The Gospel. We alter that standard to our destruction; we lay another foundation to our peril; we preach another gospel to our damnation and we canvass and promote another pattern to the confusion of our faces. All these human traditions from Rome and America that have entrenched themselves here and there must be seriously questioned in the light of scriptures and uprooted as the Pages of Hope and Life (The Holy Bible) demands. And we have examples in the faithful before us.
YESTERDAY’S GODLY BUILDERS
Christianity has come of age; it did not start with Nigerians, and not even with the Americans! AND CERTAINLY, TOO, NOT IN ROME! Over the years whether with the Apostolic Fathers, The Reformers, Mennonites, Puritans, Quakers, early Methodists, early Pentecostals or other serious minded groups, very serious holy attempts were made to approximate the hallowed pages of The Book of Life where it all started.
Those people operated on the very sure foundation and were able to lighten-up and brighten the world around them; and salt and put taste to their earth. The world around them indeed saw a chosen generation, a holy nation, a royal priesthood and a peculiar people. The world saw very clearly a baffling difference between them and them: for some it was an irresistible and very inviting difference and for others a threatening difference. The result was that it was either they became genuinely converted and added to the Church Spiritual (Church of the Firstborn) or they were all out persecuting the faithful, many unto death. That was true Christianity! The modern church-world common stream does not do that.
The Apostolic Fathers most of whom had direct contact and good acquaintance with the first apostles of Our Lord never ‘detoured’ from the vision of the foundation and of the required materials needed to build thereupon. Yes, I believe in the building blocks of the likes of Ignatius of Antioch (c.35-107), Polycarp of Smyrna (c.69-c.155) and Polycarp’s disciple: Irenaeus of Lyon (c.140-202). These and other faithful of their days tried to lay on this foundation with fear and trembling even when martyrdom looms. Incidentally, all three: Ignatius, Polycarp and Irenaeus were martyred. Very many too escaped death by martyrdom. Whichever way; they all died the death of the righteous. The Church of the Apostolic Fathers knew the definition of Christianity and Christ call.
I believe also in the building blocks John Wycliffe (1330-1384), Thomas a Kempis, real name: Thomas Hemerken (1379-1471), Martin Luther (1483-1546), Huldreich Zwingli (1484 - 1531), Menno Simon (1496 - 1561), John Calvin (1509-1564), John Knox (1513-1572), Richard Baxter (1615-1691), George Fox (1624-1691), John Bunyan (1628-1688), John Wesley (1703-1791) George Whitefield (1714-1770) et al tried hazardously to erect on that foundation in their respectively days. And I believe in the serious reverence and attention people like Charles G. Finney, Dwight L. Moody, John Ryle, William and Catherine Booth, Matthew Henry, Watchman Nee, Finis Dake, Kathryn Kuhlman, Oswald J. Smith et al accorded and gave both foundation and structure. We thank our God for Billy Graham as well as the John Haggis, and our own William F. Kumuyis, Gbile Akannis et al that are still with us today.
The lives and exploits of these faithful over the years which I believe approximates scriptures should represent the compass we seriously need in our day and not some mundane, flesh-inspired, pride-spurred, titles-saturated (like their equivalents in the world), demon-exalting, emotion-driven, or mammon-promoting life and ministry we present as Christianity today. The Scriptures and the lives and ministries of holy, consecrated, self-denying and fruitful men of God should be our only definition of Christianity and ready compass we need as time draws to a close and the Risen and Glorious Lord comes rewarding everyman according to his works.
We are in the age where we need, more than any other age, men and ministers who can say in truth and in spirit like Paul: “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11: 1). Believers indeed, must henceforth follow, just as of old, after men who have apprehended that for which also they are apprehended of Christ Jesus; and men who are pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3: 12, 14). That is what we need now for ministers of the Gospel! For: a church that thinks it is called to butter, milk, honey and mirth is not properly informed about hell.