Let me start by saying that over the last couple of months, it appears I've been lazy with my blogging, but truth be told, I've been going through an immensely difficult time privately and I sort of lost my love for story telling. But in all things, I know God is love and He loves me, so I soldier on in faith.
That being said, let me tell you a story.
I've never categorically said it on this blog before (Atilola made a comment regarding it on one of my posts) that my father is a man of the cloth. Yes, people, my father is a Reverend gentle man of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). My parents attend the Anglican church but I attend a pentecostal church. As may be obvious, my parents are not too pleased about this, owing to stories about all sorts of goings on in the Pentecostal arm of the body. But, my father's biggest gripe with pentecostal churches is that they are what he calls "flock poachers" i.e. unlike the Catholic, Anglican, Methodist and Baptist missionaries of old, who actually introduced the concept of Christ to people who had no foreknowledge at all of Jesus, pentecostal churches swoop in on ready-made Christians with their promises of miracles and wealth. He argues that pentecostal churches these days are too lazy to do their own heavy duty evangelizing and instead will do half hearted ministering using gimmicks, promises and bill boards.
I have always argued that I don't believe in the flock poaching concept. My opinion is that the early generation churches have failed to advance with our times and address issues that plague us now. Pentecostal churches have in essence, noticed and filled this void and the result is what we see today: a mass exodus of the early generation churches' youths to these places. If you are not being fed, you leave where you are to where you will find food. Of course, I'm not naive enough to believe that all the churches have the mind of Christ or all the youths going there are seeking the mind of Christ. People have their own agendas and to each their own. Plus, the flock poaching concept is a 'divisionist' concept if we all claim to be one body.
But, something happened to me in April to make me believe that perhaps, there is some truth to the flock poaching concept expounded by my dad. I actually tweeted about it but for those that don't follow me (wait...why don't you follow me? Abeg, do so sharp-sharp @CherryWine26) I will repeat it here.
I had gone to Area 1 in Abuja to buy Kilishi (cured and dried meat, reminiscent of beef jerky (for my yankee readers) yum!) and I had just completed transaction and was crossing over to my car, when this woman sprinted across the road after me. As we are on high-alert these days, I had noticed her from the corner of my eyes earlier, pulling up by the Kilishi sellers. She sat in her car with someone in the passenger seat. Beyond the passing knowledge that she had parked her car beside the kilishi sellers, I didn't pay her any mind. So when she dashed across the road to my side, talmabout "I was waiting for you to come back to the car" I was taken a bit aback. I took her in: ankara dress with head tie, a bunch of papers that later turned out to be tracts in her fist. She looked harmless enough, so I gave her audience.
The following was the conversation that ensued:
Woman: our God is good
Me: All the time ( you must say that in Christian solidarity, abi?)
Woman: Please have this tract and daily guide. Can you give me your number so I will be contacting you from time to time?
Me: *mouth agape and narrowly missed by an opportunistic housefly*
I fished around in my purse and gave her an old business card with a disused number on it. She promptly turned and walked away. I could not believe that was the end of that. Really lady? Really??
My problem with that encounter are many-fold:
I attend a popular church in Abuja and proudly display my sticker on the back of my car which she could see from her vantage stalking point. She also attends a very popular church in Abuja. There was no question as to whether I was born-again, what church I attended, just to at least get the conversation flowing between us. There was no pre or follow up questions about my Christian life. NONE at all. This woman just wanted to share her tracts. This is how pricing ashewo must feel like.
In the midst of Kilishi sellers, who could no doubt benefit from the good news of the Gospel, she approached me, a fellow church goer like herself, because I was the least threatening option I guess. And to compound matters, I had worn a mini-skirt, so she must have summed up that SURELY, my soul needed saving from the damnation of hell.
This is a combination of the flock poaching and lazy-ass evangelism my father detests. To me, it felt like she had a tract-handing out-target and she was just just doing the most (or as it were, the VERY least) to meet up with her target. She handed me that tract, but she didn't make an additional gain for the Kingdom because I can't even remember now what I did with it. She was a tract lighter but there was no impact.
I commented on twitter how I was sure she would sit coyly in the midst of family and friends, regaling them with tales of how she spends her free time tirelessly working for the Lord and the Kingdom and none would be the wiser about how this entails sitting in her car and looking for the most approachable person to witness to. It is disconcerting that these people sign up for these evangelisms and don't take it serious or are too scared to actually do the work. Because, thinking about it later, I surmised that it must have been partly fear. The fear to walk up to those guys with their sharpened knives and say "Can I talk to you about Jesus?". But as a child of God, I believe that if the Lord sends you, then He emboldens you. Christianity and ministering is CERTAINLY not clutching the sides of cars, flinging tracts at people and scampering away. If I were actually an unbeliever, her approach would have completely put me off and I would have said "ki lo ti e ma n she awon SU yi gaan?" and moved on with my life.
In conclusion; I guess it is easier to talk to someone who already has an inkling about what you are presenting and who maybe disillusioned with their church. But attracting souls to the Kingdom is more than attracting people to your church. The same way you get them would be the same way you lose them if you are not careful. I guess my dad is not entirely wrong about flock poaching though I still maintain that no one would be poached if they are spiritually fed and filled in their home churches. (However, I do not speak for the people that do 'agbere church' ie church prostitution ie running from pillar to post.)
So this is a charge to us all as Christians and for life generally: For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind- 2 Tim 1:7.