In this riveting interview with Stanley Ugagbe of The News Chronicle, the Preacher in-charge of Church of Christ, Jikwoyi, shared insight on certain doctrines and beliefs that are peculiar to the Church.
TNC: Thank you for accepting our interview invitation. Congratulations on your new appointment as the Preacher in-charge of Church of Christ, Jikwoyi. Can you please share with us how you were called by God into Ministry?
Pst Esu: You are welcome. God bless you my brother. My calling to become the Minister of the gospel of Christ did not take any “special’ form like many would claim today. It simply followed the Bible example in 2Thess. 2:13-14. God chose me to be His servant through my faith in the gospel of Christ. Simply put, I was called through obedient faith in the Truth. Remember, the Bible says in John 8:32 “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”
TNC: Being a preacher is not an easy task especially in this dispensation that people tend to want to do things their own way. Can you please share with us some of the challenges you have encountered in the course of your ministry and how you were able to surmount them?
Pst Esu: Yes, being a servant of God or preacher of the gospel of Christ has never been an easy responsibility. Right from the days of the prophets, through John the Baptist and the apostles of Christ in the New Testament it has never been an easy task but God has always been with his chosen ones. ….. ‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’ Matt.28:20. You see every challenge that a servant of God faces, there is always a solution. Of course God Himself has given us that assurance that he will always provide a way out of any temptation that comes our way (1Cor. 10:13). On our part as ministers of the gospel, we set forth the truth plainly even when people may seem not to believe, we make sure we preach Christ and His church (2Cor.4:1-3). Irrespective of the challenge of this present age, God has continued to show me His mercies.
Of course right from time, people had always resisted the truth but in the course of time the same Truth had always prevailed. Even in this era of materialism we preach the truth because it is only the truth that can save.
TNC: The Christian Association of Nigeria was founded in 1976 to unify the body of Christ in Nigeria but the Church of Christ does not identify with it. Why is this so? What is your view of the Christian Association of Nigeria and its activities in relation to the church, the government and the masses?
Pst Esu: Christian Association of Nigeria according to your information was founded in 1976 to “unify the body of Christ” in Nigeria. The point is there is no human institution that can unite the church other than the plan which the owner of the church, Jesus Christ had already put in place (Matt. 16:18). So when human beings establish their own churches, they will definitely look for human ways of uniting what they have set up. But as for the church of Christ, Christ the founder and the savior has not left us in the dark regarding how to safe guard the unity of the church (Eph. 5:23)”Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.” (Matt 15:13).
Christ prayed for the unity of the church even before it was physically established (John 17). He prayed specifically for those who believed him and those who will also believe in him through the preaching of the gospel (John 17 vs. 9, 16, 17, 20-21).
The Bible teaches us to pray for our leaders across board and the government in general. Christians are equally enjoined to obey the law of the land (1 Tim. 2:1-3; Rom. 13:1-2). This is our divine mandate to the state and our leaders. The church of Christ as a body is apolitical. Every member is a brother or sister irrespective of social or cultural background. She cannot align herself with any group that is directly or indirectly political. The church of Christ is equally not a pressure group or a trade union. But members can exercise their franchise as individual in accordance with the law of the land. Inspite of these, the church of Christ holds the Word of God as her final authority and the New Testament in her doctrine (Rom.12:1; Acts 17:3031). Our responsibility to the mass is to preach to them to live upright and Christ like in everything.
TNC: There are certain beliefs in the Church of Christ which some members of the public consider alien. For instance, dancing, praying in tongues and use of instrument are considered as taboo. However, the Church allows its members to make use of musical instruments, and they can also dance outside the church. Is this not hypocritical?
Pst Esu: In John 4:23 “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him.” Worshiping God must be in spirit and in truth, not by our human feelings or emotion. What many fail to understand is that in this Christian era, Christ is the sole authority (Matt.28:18). So the New Testament is our guide when it comes to worship. We have no example of dancing as part of worship in the New Testament rather the Bible enjoins us to sing and make melody in our heart to God (Col.3:16) “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”Heb. 13:15 “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” In the New Testament, no example of dancing or using musical instrument in worship so we must not ‘go beyond what is written’ 1Cor.4:6. As for speaking or praying in tongues, apostle Paul through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.(1 Cor. 13:8-10). Tongue was for a purpose; to enable the gospel to be preached to other nationalities apart from the Jews and Greeks Acts 2:1-11. If you read the above passage you would see that the tongues here were intelligible/understandable languages (vs 8-11). This was to enable the Disciples of Christ proclaim the gospel to all who were gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. So anywhere they went, God will empower them to speak the language of the people thereby preaching the gospel freely. This continued till when the New Testament was put into written form, hence Paul says “when the perfect comes, the imperfect will vanish” 1Cor. 13:10. So what you see people doing today is a deception, a very great one at that. No wonder the Bible says by their fruits we shall know them Matt.7:20-23.
Meanwhile there are things we do as human when we are in our personal closet and not as a church; listening to secular music, dancing, dress code etc. Such actions or activities are not done as acts of worship. Even at that a Christian is advised to be moderate in such regard knowing fully well that even his body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1Cor.6:19-20).
TNC: The Church of Christ also believes that anyone who is not its member is not born again and stands condemned. Is salvation exclusive to the Church of Christ as a denomination? Let me also add that in the New Testament, Scriptures stated that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for the edification of the body of Christ. However, the present day Church of Christ does not believe that these gifts are still available to believers, how did you come to this conclusion?
Pst Esu: First of all, the church of Christ is not a denomination. In religious context, a denomination is a sect or religious subgroup. So the church of Christ is not a religious sect or a subgroup of any church. The church of Christ is the body of Christ (Col. 1:18), He is the Saviour of the church (Eph. 5:25). The church of Christ is not a denomination.
The church of Christ does not just believe that anyone who is not in the body is outside the body, but this is the doctrine (teaching) of Christ 2John 9. The New Testament is the Doctrine of Christ. So if you are in Christ, you are a new creature 2Cor.5:17. By the way what does it take to be in Christ? First, you must hear the gospel preach to you; ….faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God Rom.10:7. Secondly, you must believe what you have heard preach to you Rom.10:10. The next step is that you must repent of your sins. Confess your faith in Jesus as the Son of God. The fifth step is to be baptized Acts 2:38, after which one continues steadfastly in the doctrine of Christ, working out his salvation with fear and trembling Acts 2:42; Phil.2:12. The above steps are scriptural examples of how people were added to the body of Christ, the church even in the 1st century; on the Pentecost (Acts 2), the Ethiopian eunuch Acts 8:27-39), Cornelius and his family (Acts 10), the jailers (Acts 16:25-33) etc.
My dear, salvation is for all who believe in Christ Jesus and his doctrine.
As for the spiritual gifts, God distributed these gifts for the edification of the body of Christ. Having read 1Cor.13:8-10, you can now consider Rom. 12: 5-8 “so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his bfaith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” You can see that every member of the church has spiritual gifts all for the edification of the body of Christ.
TNC: Leadership, whether in the Church or in the circular world requires the fear of God. The masses have continued to bemoan the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government over its abysmal performance and many people believe that Nigerian leaders don’t have the fear of God. The Church of Christ has continued to dissuade its members from joining politics on the ground that it’s a dirty game. On the other hand, scriptures said when the righteous rule, the people rejoice and when the wicked rule, the people perish. If the Church is the light, why is it afraid of being drowned by darkness, thereby leaving bad eggs to continue to lead the nation?
Pst Esu: The Bible tells us that every leader is ordained by God. What we owe our leaders is prayers. We pray and asked for the will of God to prevail in their lives.
Of course the church of Christ does not dissuade her members from participating in active politics. Of course there are members of the church who are actively in politics in Nigeria today. The counsel of the church has always been for them to be godly in their conducts as politicians.
TNC: Churches are now springing up in every nook and crannies of the nation and many people are wondering if this is the will of God. And to exacerbate issues, these Church have different beliefs, preaching different doctrines about just one God – The Most High. In your opinion, what are the requirements before one can go into ministry? Does your church have training for people intending to go into ministry? If yes, what are the requirements and procedures?
Pst Esu: Proliferation of denominational churches everywhere is actually the fulfillment of the scripture Matt.24:24; 1Tim.4:1; 2Tim.3:1-5. What you see everywhere today are business centres….. “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame — who set their mind on earthly things.” That is why the church of Christ continues to preach Christ and warn men to beware of false teachings and doctrine of men Col.2:8-9.
You asked how one can go into the ministry of preaching Christ! Like I said earlier, you have to obey the gospel and be baptized into Christ, by immersion. You can as well, if you so desire, to attend any of our Bible institutions to gain more knowledge of the scripture. There are many Bible colleges in Nigeria run by the church of Christ. These institutions offer Certificate, Diploma and Degree programmes up to PhD level.
TNC: Tithing has been a burning issue and different people have different views about it. In Matthew 23:23, Jesus was also not clear on his stand about tithing. What are your views on tithing? Let me also ask that there has been a recent wave of normalization of homosexuality in churches abroad, what is your take on this as it concerns the church in Nigeria, especially considering the affiliation it has with the universal church of Christ.
Pst Esu: On the issue of tithe, yes people must have different opinion because money is involved, isn’t it? But this is wrong. Tithe is never a New Testament teaching. Simply put, tithe was an Old Testament practice; a one tenth that has to be given to the priests because they do not have a share in communal entitlement. But come to think of it, today every Christian is a priest and Christ our High Priest 1Pet.2:9. The work of a priest is to offer sacrifices to God on behalf of the people Rom.12:1. So as Christians and priests of God, who should pay tithe to who? So my dear if you are a Christian, you are not in the era of tithe. In the New Testament, Christians are taught to give cheerfully, willingly, bountifully and as one purposes in his heart 1Cor.16:1-2; 2Cor.9:6-8. Let no one deceive you by telling you that your blessing is tied to your level of tithing. Giving and the blessing therein is a natural phenomenon. “He who sows bountifully shall reap bountifully and those who sow sparingly will also reap sparingly. For God loves a cheerful giver”.If you also consider Jesus Christ’s message in Matt. 5:20, you will agree with me that our righteousness in terms of giving must be more than one tenth.
On the issue of homosexuality, it is rather unfortunate that man now wants to tell God what is right and wrong. When God has spoken, men must hear and obey. It doesn’t matter how/what you think. Homosexual is one of those sins God speaks against; ……“9Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.”1Cor.6:9-10 (NLT). From the above passages of the Holy Scripture, homosexuality is a sin and no man or institution can say otherwise. Let me clear a point here, the church of Christ has nothing to do with homosexuality. She stands against and will continue to uphold the doctrine of Christ in all ages till the second coming of Christ.
TNC: Insecurity in Nigeria has diversified to a point where we now have bandits, killer-herdsmen, Boko Haram, unknown gunmen, kidnappers. How is the Church of Christ helping in the fight against insecurity and what can the government do differently to ensure that the grown monster is tamed?
Pst Esu: The issue of terrorism whether you call it insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, killer herdsmen, unknown gunmen and so on has dealt a great blow on the integrity of our nation Nigeria. The church has continued to pray for God to have mercy on our land. We will not relent in praying for God to turn things around for the betterment of the citizens of this country. My advice is for the government to be sincere in handling the issue of terrorism in the country. For a very long time, we’ve not had news of prosecution of those arrested on terrorism. We hear people boldly making statements that threaten the unity/integrity of the country but nothing is done about it. Imagine students have been kidnapped for ransome, kept for weeks, and even months by the kidnappers and relevant government agencies cannot track where the kidnappers are! Things have really gone bad in terms of security of lives and property in Nigeria. In 2Chron.7:14, the Bible says, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”Our country needs the mercy of God at this time. Our leaders must repent and go to God with sincere heart and resolve to make amend. God is merciful and if we repent and forsake our sinful ways, He will forgive us and heal our land.