Let’s Reclassify Nigerian Churches

In the past 15 years as a writer and consultant, I’ve worked with a number of private university graduates. The best ones are from Covenant and Babcock. Enterprising, entrepreneurial, high capacity to think fast, creative. You know what their schools have in common? They are owned by churches.

Churches, especially the successful ones with tens of thousands of members, seem to be unable to spare any expense as they build their facilities and hire faculty. 

Some churches also run comprehensive charities—a-ha; churches themselves are incorporated as charities—but the programmes some of them, like Daystar Christian Centre, have created to feed the poor and clothe the destitute are not only elaborate; they’ve been sustained for decades. 

Now, speaking of the reach that Nigerian pentecostal churches have, you cannot beat The Redeemed Christian Church of God, The Living Faith Church (aka Winners Chapel), Christ Embassy, KICC (aka Kingsway International Christian Centre), and The Synagogue Church of All Nations. And I’m not even talking about local spread.

It has been said that some famous American televangelists wonder how Nigerian pastors have been able to build 50,000-capacity worship halls in a country where over 50% of the population live in extreme poverty.

They also want to know how these churches are able to expand their outreaches in developed countries such as the USA while reconverting white people back to christianity. 

I believe this takes a special skill. Nigerian pastors have the scarce talent and capacity to connect with human emotion at a visceral depth. They know what to say to calm a horde of angsty people, and they know how to say it. 

These pastors, they’re not different from your psychologist, the only difference being that the preachers do not consult the same texts as  your local shrink for diagnoses.

It takes some genius to attract followers on Twitter, let alone IRL. So, to thrive, a church leader knows it has to say what its audience wants to hear.

Which is also why churches, as Donald Trump declared in 2020, must be seen as essential service providers. Not different from your hospital. 

Churches are also well organised. 

These men of God, whose big-picture acumen often overshadows the intellectual abilities of constitutional leaders such as governors and presidents, should be regarded as brilliant CEOs with astounding abilities to collect, deploy, and manage human and material capital.

This is why also we should rethink our disposition towards big Nigerian churches and their leaders.

As they legally export their brand of therapy from Nigeria to the rest of the world, “educated” Nigerians must stop thumbing their noses at the churches, stop castigating them for embarrassing our country with vacuous motivational remedies when all pastors they do is help equip humans all around the world with the tools to cope with problems of the times. 

Now, if we’re frustrated because their therapy often fails and their teachings haven’t moulded the majority of us into superstar successes, before you blame the doctor who prescribed an ineffective treatment regime, have you looked at the patient whose laziness and lack of commitment may have truncated the healing process?

Today, our chief cultural exports include Afrobeat, Afrobeats, footballers, fashion, and movies. It’s time we added churches to that list. Churches bring in foreign exchange, too, don’t they? 

The government must find a way to collaborate with churches to overhaul the infrastructure of our country. Perhaps begin by setting up an independent commission that will regulate, advise, and help the churches earn returns for Nigeria.

You cannot criticise churches into oblivion. It’s time you put them to a greater use. For the common good.

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