By Rotimi Adedayo
‘Bless them which persecute you: bless and curse not’. Romans 12:14
It is no longer news that Bishop David Oyedepo of the Living Faith Church has declared a ‘fatwa’ (that’s the Islamic word for a death sentence!) on anyone that would oppose the opening of Churches.
No doubt, COVID-19 has thrown up a lot of issues hitherto taken for granted in our polity, ranging from personal hygiene to social interactions, as well as the issue of religion.
COVID-19 has, and will reset many things to knock some senses into our consciousness, and things may never be the same again.
A true Christian should not be surprised at the events of these days, especially if you have painstakingly read through Matthew 24.
Now what is the argument of Bishop Oyedepo? That the closure of Churches (worship centers really) is a plot by the devil to hinder the gospel.
Yes, he is right in a way, but wrong as well! Truly the devil has tried, over the ages, to stop the spread of the gospel, but has failed woefully.
But Oyedepo is wrong to assume or conclude that the closure of worship centers amounts to a closure of the Church. Perhaps, erstwhile general assumption that places of worship are called ‘churches’ has made many to forget the true meaning and definition of a church.
In John 4:20-24, Jesus corrected the wrong impression of the Samaritan woman He met at the well on true worship that is not premised on a particular location.
Stephen buttressed this truth in the Acts of the Apostles 7:48, that the Most High dwells not in temples made with hands, it doesn’t matter if it sits 50,000 people at a time!
We are the temple of God as the Holy Spirit lives in us.
But what exactly is Oyedepo’s grouse? That the 50,000 members of the Winners’ Chapel can no longer congregate in Ota every Sunday? What happens to the numerous home/fellowship centers of the ministry? Can’t they gather to worship God there?
But here is the real issue, and Oyedepo’s fear. Firstly, many of the so-called Christians thronging churches every Sunday are merely church goers, who attend services for different motives, largely selfish; such ones have stopped coming because of COVID-19.
Many of them would rather come to church to show off their wealth, or come to seek business connections, but scoff at going to a smaller gathering for service.
In the early Church, most of the churches met in private homes. Read Romans 16:3-5 and Philemon 2.
This COVID-19 cannot, and should not stop any Christian fellowship even if worship centers are closed for a season and a reason. Of course, one is not in support of this closure, but it doesn’t warrant the hoopla it has raised if truly the gospel is the motive.
When the persecution of the saints began in Jerusalem, the Church scattered to different places, giving birth to church in private homes. Persecution of the Church has not ceased, let the Church be wise as serpent but gentle as a dove.
Secondly, the dwindling fortunes of his ministry may be another fear of Oyedepo, knowing tithe and offerings have been adversely affected, but that should not pose any problem, if those at the home fellowship centers are faithful in little things.
But why the curse? Only David Oyedepo can advance reasons for that; but the scripture quoted above should be instructive, anything outside that is not the mind of Christ.
We must keep learning and keep growing until we attain the fullness of Christ.
•Adedayo, a public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos.