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Whilst I checked for the origin of the Bible, I also checked online to see what had been written by other christians on the subject of Gender Equality. I read many, many articles, journals, and academic essays written by theologians etc. I saw that this conversation had been ongoing in Christian circles—the academia, that is—for years. I also noticed that in all these articles and essays, the arguments for or against Egalitarianism took reference, not from the vernacular versions of the Bible which most christians carry around (i.e English, French, Spanish etc), but from the Biblical text in the original languages.

I saw that when scholars argued about the correct interpretations of  scriptures, they did not focus on the interpretation/revelation of some English word. Instead they talked about how the original text may (or may not) have been properly translated. Things like, is the translation of the Hebrew phrase ʻê-zer kə-neḡ-dōw’ to the English phrase ‘help meet’ accurate? Is the translation of the Greek word ‘ecclesia’ to the English word ‘church’ accurate? Should ‘ecclesia’ have been left as ‘gathering’?

I also noticed that in other to translate a word or sentence, scholars did not just look up the meaning of one isolated word as we Pentecostal christians/pastors are wont to do when ‘referencing’ the Greek or Hebrew. They do not do that thing that Pentecostals are known for, whereby all the use they have for Biblical languages is to throw around some Greek or Hebrew words in random conversations as show off of so called spirituality or superior Bible knowledge. Instead, in employing original languages in Bible study, scholars would check such things as the tense, the mood, the voice, the context of usage…before determining the possible meaning of the word.

Why do they want to know if one translation is accurate or not? Because it is these translations that churches eventually build doctrine upon.

For example, the English translation of the Hebrew phrase ‘ê-zer kə-neḡ-dōw’ to ‘help meet’ has a lot of connotations that has impacted upon the way generations of people have lived life.  Religion has formed the culture of most, if not all, the nations of the world; what proceeds from the pulpit often translates to what obtains in culture and society. Therefore, if peradventure, the guys who translated the original copies of the Biblical text to vernacular made any mistakes, we would all have believed a lie.

Theologians understand that even though the Bible is a divine book, humans have handled it from when it was first written and there is likelihood that some mistakes occurred in its transmission. That is, they see it that the Hebrew and Greek texts are, in actual fact, what is written, while the translated versions are not, a hundred percent, what is written. Maybe ninety-nine percent correct, but the remaining one percent might cause us untold damage if not looked into.

The underlying principle in all this is simple. A serious student must always confirm. That is what the Berean Christians did, they always confirmed. It is not rebellion to confirm; it’s nobility, it’s diligence. That is why, every other year, revised versions of the Bible are published.

I thought to myself, so this has been happening since?

I immediately went to Google Play store and downloaded the Hebrew/Greek Interlinear Bible app. I wanted to look up some words myself. I began by checking 1 Corinthians 11. I noticed that where two different Greek words with two different connotations were in use in the original text, the translators put in the translated English version just one word that has only one connotation. In the Greek text, 1 Corinthians 11 contains two different words–aner and andros– which both denote ‘man’, but have two different connotations. That is, ‘aner’ usually connotes man as in a male, while andros is often used as a collective noun to mean a group of people that consist both male and female. But in the English Bible, translators put ‘man’,  as in male,  in both places and that gives the passage a very different meaning from what the original writer (Paul) actually wrote.

I checked some other scriptures; same thing.

I began to wonder what I had been doing all this while as a Bible teacher reading only the English Bible, thinking myself to to be someone who was knowledgeable. I started to panic, thinking, “what if many of the words I had built revelation on had been wrong?” I began to see the futility of many so-called revelations that Pentecostals derive from mis/translated words.

And then I thought, “But when I taught, people were getting blessed? How could an erroneous teaching have been blessing people?”

Answer; “Yes, people were being blessed. There is an explanation for that.”

One; Not everything in the English Bible is inaccurate translation. For the most part the vernacular Bibles are accurate in the readings.
Two; When the preacher/teacher is sincere, even though ignorant and unskilled,  the hearers will be blessedApollos was blessing people, even though his theology was not quite accurate. That is the power of love.

But….

Sincerity and zeal can only take you so far without the required knowledge. There is a limit to which love, without adequate skill and knowledge, can go in solving problems. For example, no matter how well meaning I am and no matter the level of my concern, I cannot perform a surgery on a sick person. Only a doctor can do that. I do not have that knowledge. That is why Paul could understand more of the Law and articulate it as the New Testament in his epistles. He could write more epistles than the others because he understood more of the mysteries hidden in the Law. Peter and the other disciples could not do this, even though they were anointed and sincere. They were illiterate men, Paul was educated.

Something vital that Pentecostal christians need to understand–particularly those of the grace and word of faith movement– is that knowledge is good,  and intellectualism is priceless.  Why? God is an intelligent being. Intellectualism does not impede divine revelation; it facilitates it. Yes, it does! When you engage both your mind and your spirit in the enquiry of knowledge, it opens you up to a whole new level of communication with your world and with the Lord. That is why Apollos needed to be taught more by Aquilla and Priscilla. And thank God he re-calibrated. Thank God, he did not say because he was already blessing people it also meant that his teaching was completely right. Notice that in later years, his name was mentioned alongside Paul’s.

Humility is good. To unlearn and relearn is good.

So, having seen all that, I put aside everything I had known and started over. I got resources online and started to learn Hebrew and Greek Grammar, how to parse (words and sentences) and then translate from the Hebrew and the Greek to English. I also learnt new guidelines on how to study the Bible. I learnt how to deconstruct a text; split it into all its elements and see all the possible ways it could be understood.

Then finally, in the light of what prompted this reawakening to begin with (the quest to dis/prove Gender Equality from scriptures), starting from Genesis and working my way all through the Law, the Prophets and the Epistles, I re-translated all the readings (not isolated verses, but whole chapters) that reference the status of the female, and I deconstructed all of them, searching for answers.

It took me about two years, but I did it. You also can…as I share my  journey with you.

Art  by Lain

In my enquiry of the origin of the Bible I made two major observations that changed the game for me.
One; The Bible is a social construct. The book is man-made. It was people that said, “let us compile many books into one  Book that will be common law(s) for christians”. After this, it was people also that christened it ‘Bible’.

I did not find this fact funny at all.

It knocked the wind out of my sails, leading to a flood of questions on my mind. If the book is man-made, how could it also be divine like I had always thought? Now, this is a valid questions to have and ask. Except, of course, you want to be in denial. It is a question on the mind of many religious skeptics and agnostics. I have to say, I walked in the shoes of agnosticism, if only for a moment. I got to know firsthand why some people who used to be believers ended up being non-believers. They encountered valid questions that they could find no sufficient answers for. This made me less judgmental and more understanding of skeptics, because I realized that I was  no different from them when I found out  the history of my religion. I only came back into faith because  God showed me kindness and gave me understanding. I did not realize the truths that got me back into faith by my own search. No. God just showed me mercy and gave me answers; I cannot take credit for any of it.

For this singular reason I want to help as many who face doubt in their faith, because I know that God took me through that process and helped me so that I could help others.

These were the simple, but profound answers that God gave me;
1.God has to use people to reach people. Something does not have to have dropped straight out of the heavenlies for it to be divine. For divinity to be revealed on earth, it will have to be contained in a human vessel. That is, divinity has to coexist with humanity; the two have to be in partnership.
2.The Book will only be as divine as the user believes it to be; the just has to live by faith. The letter kills, but the spirit gives life. The potency of the Bible is subjective. To a non-adherent of the christian faith, it is a book of historical tales. Some may see it as credible history, while others may see it as fictitious. To them it is all letter and no life. To a christian, however, because s/he believes in the book, it is life.

Now here is the twist; a christian who has not experienced the life in the letter, if they come in contact with such credible facts as these that the Bible is a man-made idea, will most likely be thrown off balance in their faith, because The Book will become no different from any other random book. And rightly so.

And that leads to something else that set me back on my feet, and a very important one. I remembered that I had in times past experienced the life of the Bible. I had seen miracles. Thanks to Pentecostalism. So my reasoning was, “Even if some things do not add up in the letter of this Book, I will not despise it. Instead I will see how I can get to the bottom of all the controversy.” That is, I decided to acknowledge the controversy, but I also did not allow my acknowledgement of it rob me of my faith. I got back into faith but not back into it the same way that I used to believe. I stopped being in denial. I stopped being naive.

This is key, because that is where it all gets interesting—and gravely so, because by this phenomenon of acknowledging or not acknowledging controversies in Christian canon, we have two extremes of imbalance;

One extreme; christians turned agnostics and/atheist; they used to believe the Bible as a strictly divine book. One day, however, they came in contact with the (seeming) inconsistencies in the letter of the Bible and because they could find no answers to, they denied its corresponding divinity altogether. They could not continue believing. The logic they follow is that once it is imperfect, it cannot also be good and/reliable. They do not see how perfect divinity and imperfect humanity can coexist in one phenomenon and still maintain authenticity.

On the other extreme we have christians who are very naive, because they seek only signs, but no wisdom. Miracles and breakthrough, but not knowledge. Christians who forget that Christ is both the power and the wisdom of God. By ‘wisdom’ I mean spirited debates/arguments of truth like Paul did in his day (Acts 17:17, 19:8-10). Many christians, today, are in denial. We ignore controversies on the pages of the Bible, even when our attention is called to them, because, “as long as I have my miracle, I am fine.”

No, we are not fine. All is not well. There is a war brewing, and it is a warfare of knowledge. It is already at our doorsteps. ‘Gay Jesus’ was merely an appetizer of the darkness to come. The enemy wants to confuse many.  Oftentimes, when christians avoid controversy/questions, it is because they themselves do not know, so they try to cover up their ignorance with the ‘this is rebellion’ chant. This attitude is more common in Pentecostal settings. The orthodox, old timers usually know why they do what they are doing. Ask orthodox folk who believe women should cover their heads in prayer and they will at least show you a scripture; they will present some defense. But ask a Pentecostal about controversial doctrinal stuff that they practise and they have nothing. Ask why women put on trousers, no answer. Or ask why women preach, despite the fact that the Bible forbids it, in not one, but two scriptural verses; nothing.

The habit of ignoring due process is rife; I guess, because of the teaching of Grace and Faith. It has brought upon us the spirit of ‘anyhowness’; quick fix, quick revelations. Because the assumption is that if it is God, it must be fast and easy. If it is taking long and is not immediate, then faith and/or anointing is not working. Pentecostals do this in all aspects of life, but more alarmingly, in the study of the Bible. There is also a lot of proof texting, cherry picking, and double standards.
On the one hand everything written in some parts of the Bible is taken in in its raw form like one would crude oil taken straight from the depths of the ground without any refinement prior to use; on the other hand, some parts are ignored completely and we do as we like. And then we come out and say, “The Bible is very clear.”

No, the Bible is NOT clear just like that.

There are many complexities involved in gaining accurate understanding and interpretation of the scriptures. Theologians try to acknowledge these nuances, but Pentecostals say they are being academic with something that should be strictly spiritual; we say all one needs to understand the Bible is the anointing. Well, the Bible is a piece of literature, and its study should be academic before it is spiritual. Call it spiritual literature if you will, but it is still a piece of literature and it deserves to be handled as such. That is what it means to be diligent as a learner. Understanding the Book requires more than anointing. It is information that has first been accurately derived that one could hope to draw any corresponding accurate revelation from.

It is because of this omission that many grossly inaccurate revelations fly around in Pentecostal settings. We apply the Book without any separation of wheat from chaff, separation of methods from principles, of temporary/adhoc measures from universal standards. We often do not consider context (historical context especially), language, grammar, syntax etc. in the formulation of doctrine. This explains the mystery of how a person will work miracles and yet be exhibiting character flaws that even irreligious people won’t. The anointing causes the miracles, but the lack of accurate knowledge cannot be hidden. It is why some people who have been devout believers for so long still fall away. They never learnt how to use the law lawfully. The law is a two-edged sword which on the one hand when used lawfully would make alive, but on the other hand when used naïvely, OR with the cloak of youthful exuberance, would destroy.

I’m afraid many christians are being destroyed today as they read their Bibles. What should minister life is ministering condemnation (for the naïve) and destruction (for the exuberant youth), because the users are not applying it as they should. This was what happened to me in the narratives I shared here, here and here. The way to eternal life is indeed narrow. It takes painstaking study to understand the Bible and rightly divide its truths. The freedom we seek usually lies in the truth we have been too lazy to search out.

And that brings me to the second observation I made while studying the origin of the Bible; THE BIBLE WAS NOT WRITTEN IN ENGLISH. The letter of the Book came not in English, but in Hebrew and Greek. I cannot overstate the significance of this detail. I’ll use this analogy: just as any serious muslim scholar, irrespective of the availability of vernacular translations of the Quran, realizes the need to acquire a working knowledge of the Arabic language, so also any christian who hopes to be a diligent scholar should have the same level of commitment to the Biblical languages.

And truly, it was after I started to study the Biblical text in its original languages that I found clarity and the answers to all my questions, not only about Gender Equality, but many other doctrinal matters.

That was when my theology changed.

There is a saying that you cannot stop an idea whose time has come. I guess that would explain how I started to, all of a sudden, have counter thoughts against my own beliefs. Instead of finding, in my study of the Bible, arsenals to counter the gender equality movement, I found grave inconsistencies in my own belief system. I saw cracks in the system. Many cracks. I began to get very confused.

Examples;
One; GENESIS 1&2; chapter 1 says man and woman were created at the same time, chapter 2 says that they were made on two different occasions. In Genesis 1 animals were made before man and woman on the same day, in Genesis 2 animals were made after the man but before the woman.
In the beginning God created the man and told him to work in the Garden of Eden which He (God) had planted. Then God decided to make for him a helpmeet. By this the God-given role of the female was defined; to help the man and be his associate for life and destiny.

Counter thoughts; do Genesis 1 and 2 talk about the same day? Does ‘helpmeet’ mean that girls may not dream too much or dream at all, and only boys get that privilege? Does a female have no real God given purpose of her own design outside of that of the male that she would eventually marry?
But what about women who do not marry? Will they be purposeless in life?

Two; 1 CORINTHIANS 11:1-16, EPHESIANS 5:22-24; I knew this scripture to be showing a divine hierarchical structure. The Father-God over Christ, Christ over man, and man over woman. Each person has his/her place.
The man is the head of his wife, his head is Christ. He is her authority while Christ is his authority. She may take instructions and directives from him, while he is not expected to take directives from her, as that would be akin to usurping his authority, which by the way was what, supposedly, led to the first sin; Eve usurped Adam’s authority.
The obedience of a wife to her husband is therefore her way of submitting to him. He is led by Christ, and she is led by him. But if she sees him deviate from the Lord, she may not follow him into error. In that case she is allowed to…unfollow.

Counter thoughts; But why follow him to begin with when she can know enough to recognise a deviation? How can she even know his deviation, since by his headship he should know more? But then again, how can she even know? If she can know, what then is the point of headship?

********************

It started to become apparent to me that the acclaimed superiority of the male might be pseudo. Believe me, that was a scary thought to conceive, but the truth was that fact was staring me very hard in the face. I could not sincerely deny it. I started to see that in many cases the only reality of the headship of the man was the dumbing down of the woman. Half the time he assumes ‘head/leader’ not because he actually excels her, but because she consciously hides her own excellence.
Also, the hierarchical structure depicted in 1 Cor. 11, seems to suggest that the kind of access that a man has to God is not the same that a woman has. Like the man is a go-between the woman and God.

But… GALATIANS 3:28 says there is no male or female in Christ.  HEBREWS 4:16, says we all may come to God, 1TIMOTHY.2:5 says Christ is the only mediator between God and people.

The traditional interpretation of 1 CORINTHIANS 11 also suggests that single ladies have a more direct access to God than married women have, because they (single ladies) are without a ‘head’.

Another twist; On the one hand 1 CORINTHIANS 11 talks about a physical head covering (in orthodox churches like my parents’), on the other hand, my fellow Pentecostals say it talks about a ‘spiritual covering’ and some sort of supernatural protection of the woman by her man. Which brings another question to the fore: if this is true, is every single lady then without spiritual covering/protection?

There was more. In the new testament scriptures women leadership in church settings is forbidden, at least three times. So, how come Pentecostal churches allow women teach? Why would God give me a gift (the teaching anointing) I am not supposed to use?

It was all beginning to sound ridiculous. And murky.

********************

I was making no headway in this study, and was very discouraged. There were too many difficult-to-comprehend, self-contradictory and woman-side-lining passages in the Bible. In the wake of this, more frightening questions started to flood my mind; maybe God is not the One who even wrote the Bible? Or did God author some parts and some people wrote other parts? Maybe in some passages it is not God, but the men who wrote that are speaking.
So, to answer all these questions, I decided on another research. Questions to be answered were; How did the Bible come to be? Why did it come to be? What makes it credible, what makes it divine and authoritative? Why should I care? Why should I regard it as more than a self-help book or a book of fancy stories?

Art by Miamoto

Being a wife came with a lot of pressure. It seemed more like a job than an intimate relationship. Whenever I heard it said that ‘marriage is an institution’, it scared me because it felt like something I would never excel in no matter how much I tried. A fight I could never win. As a married woman I lived with a lot of guilt. I felt there was something wrong with me as a person. Just by being, I seemed to fault what God required of a woman/wife. Everything natural to me seemed non-conforming to the requirements of a godly wife (taught both explicitly and implicitly in church).

I experienced guilt over the most basic things. If I asked my husband to do anything for me or I allowed him do some things for me, maybe pick up something or any kind of errand, I would feel guilty. If I did not, for legitimate reasons, leave everything I was doing just to attend to him or herald his presence, I felt ungodly. Eph. 5:24 would taunt me; I was not being submissive. I would pray about matters that should ordinarily be solved by having a candid conversation with my husband, because the law was that a godly woman should not be forceful and too assertive with her opinions. Thus, even when you see something he does not see, something that will be beneficial to the two of you, you may only make suggestions, you may not insist, because that would be ‘unsubmissive’. So, prayer it was all of the time.

That approach, my friends, proved to be…not as efficacious as preached. We (my husband and I) suffered problems that would have been avoided if only I had put my foot down. But godly, submissive wives do not ‘put their foot down’, instead they pray to God to change their husbands’ minds.

It also looked like the supposed biblically assigned gender roles for men and women were switched between me and my husband. He did not present as the typical male, and I did not present as the typical female. He is not a forceful person, and mostly non-confrontational. He was not even the typical patriarchal guy; not given to control, at all. I came with knowledge and passion to know. I was not that girl that her husband had to teach her everything she knows or had to encourage her to know. He is also a bible teacher, so our union was teacher-meets-teacher.

With marriage I felt the pressure to dumb down. Pressure not from him. NEVER from him, but from life, and Church especially. Instead of complementing with my knowledge, I would dumb down. Thinking about it now, it makes no sense. Two good heads should conspire to do great things, right? The rationalization of the dumbing down was inconsistent. You dumb down when you both know, so as not to come across as usurping his role, and then you also dumb down not to make him look bad when you know something he does not know.

Then there was also the fact that my husband was a pastor… in a church that I did not particularly fit in. Amongst many other things that did not work for me there, I did not see myself fitting in into the typical female pastor and pastor’s-wife image. We both did not fit in anyway. But hubby’s own personality is such that he can hide his true feelings with a smile and endure discomfort for ages. I, on the other hand, am the exact opposite. When I am unhappy or not feeling something, it shows. It’s very difficult for me to hide my feelings about things that really matter to me. And I like to confront issues, I don’t just endure, and watch and wait.
So, I appeared to be the difficult one. I stood out like a sore thumb. Like some kind of black sheep.

This one affected me the most. I was very, very unhappy. Church, that used to be my most favourite thing to do, now became a nightmare. As a coping strategy I blanked out. I figured that the only way to remain physically present and not go crazy was to be emotionally absent. So, I was always absent minded. So much so that people would greet me and I would not hear. Also, I lost all inspiration and stopped writing. And singing. For about four years.

Eventually, for my sake—and his too—hubby decided that we should move churches. My spirit and emotions revived and I started writing again. As I began writing and started getting acquainted with social media, I got wind of the Gender Equality movement. I had never heard of it before. One would have expected that with all my experiences prior, I would be at least tolerant towards it, but I found the whole thing ridiculous and… ungodly. All of them heathens!, I thought.
So, I decided to do a post to show my angst. It was a Sunday afternoon in July 2017.

As I made to type on my phone, very clearly, a thought came into my heart, saying “Write a book instead”.
I thought, “Oh…a book. Okay.”
I started out.
Now…writing a book about a subject would also mean studying in-depth about it. But when I started to study the Bible, what I began to find was not what I expected. At all.

Art by Blackcatshooter

My sisters stopped. But I continued to sneak off with my brother. I would sneak out before my parents woke up around 6.AM, and then return home to fearfully await my parents’ return from church and the impending wrath of my dad.
Funny, he never beat me for this, and he never laid curses on me. But He would rage very fiercely. And that was enough to get to me. It got to me because his wrath brought to the fore a nagging guilt I felt inside every time I defied him.

“Obey your parents…honour your father and your mother…that it may be well with you” (Eph. 6:1-3)

This verse of scripture would always come to my mind, and I would feel like such a sinner. I would be afraid of God’s judgement. So, one day I gave in to the guilt and stopped going. For months.

Contrary to my expectation, however, I began to see myself spiral down a dark hole of dryness. I literally felt life draining out of my spirit. I could not understand how this would be happening. I thought, “was God not supposed to compensate me?” How could I be suffering for something that was beyond my control? How could I even still be suffering after obeying God?

I began to have an inkling that there might be something not quite right with what I was doing. I could not explain it, but I knew there had to be another way to reconcile those verses of scriptures with my experience at the time. I began to question the status quo of scriptural application and interpretation. And that was when I heard thoughts bubble up in my heart. As at the time, I thought they were just my own thoughts borne out of my desperation for a way out of a dilemma. Today, however, I know for a fact that it was God that gave me wisdom. I know it was God, because now I can teach the credibility of those thoughts with scriptures; Gen. 2:25, Eph. 5:1 all the way to 6:10, and also Prov.22:6.

The thoughts were;
“You will approach your dad and speak with him calmly. Do not beg, just speak calmly”
“Tell him that you have obeyed him and stopped going to that church, but you have seen the outcome and you know that you cannot continue like this.
“Tell him that you have to return because you see now that your life depends on it”
“Recognize that he has fears about your safety, especially at night when you attend midweek service. So, tell him that he should not worry that you will be fine; that God will take care of you”
“Be prepared for consequences. That is the price you will have to pay for your freedom if you must have it”

And finally…

“This is how you will honour him; when he starts to vent after you have told him your intentions; do not talk back or shout. It is the talking-back that the devil has used to accuse you and make you feel guilty; your attempt at independence is a legitimate one, do not give that up for anything”

All this was strange to me, but that afternoon, I sat opposite my dad across the table in my mum’s store, and I carried it out.
He looked at me strangely. But said nothing. Later on, he raged as I thought he would, but I returned to church. Then one day the raging stopped. But he would not answer my greeting whenever I returned from church. I did not let that bother me. I also made sure not to ask him for anything.

Then one day…he offered to drop me off at church. Not on a Sunday. But for a midweek service!

What??? I could not believe that the tide would eventually turn. Icing on the cake; my sisters returned to the church as well. And then some years later, early 2007, I went through the same process concerning being able to put on earrings and trousers. I fought alone, again, for women’s rights in the Thomas’ household, and I did not even know it. This time it was my first year in university, second semester. The cost for that one was that I went to school without any pocket money.
I said what I was going to do. I told my dad that I now saw some doctrinal things differently. I also told him I was not asking his permission, but I honoured him enough to inform him prior to making such a bold move.
When I got to school, I did not call him for the slightest reason that would even suggest a sucking up. And nobody in school knew that I was broke. I owned my decision.
And again, as if by magic, after about a month, he capitulated and sent me some money.

After those experiences, I saw a pattern and I knew, by revelation, that I had found my destiny. But I only saw the trail blazing and freedom fighting part, I did not see the doctrines or women-advocacy part.

Where was my mum in all this by the way? She is more strong-willed than my dad by the way; but also, a highly introspective person. She never picked a side. I think she decided to allow me to do this on my own.

But there was more hurdle of learning to cross…I got married.

Art by Lain

The first time I was ever aware that I was experiencing a doctrinal conflict in my faith was sometime in July/August 2017. That was when I started to actively re-study the Bible and reexamine my theology. However, that was only a climax of a series of events that had occurred in my life way before then, events that the knowledge of them will eventually prove useful as we go on in the coming days.

So, we will trace this all the way back to the early 2000s.

I had four years between when I finished secondary and when I finally got admission to a university. For a long time, I saw those years as a huge loss of in my life. But now I see things differently, knowing that those years actually defined me.
I grew up in a Christian family, and as most families of my generation at the time, we attended an orthodox church; Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) to be precise. Everything was dandy. No complaints.

Then while I was in secondary school, my two eldest siblings who were already in university–a sister and a brother– started to attend campus fellowships that were non- CAC affiliates. I never really knew the name of the one my eldest sister attended, but my brother attended Redeemed Christian Fellowship. That began the slow gravitation of the Thomas children away from our parents’ church. I and my immediate sister also started to attend a RCCG church nearby. The shift never really posed that much of a problem at home, because my Dad was a fan of Pastor Adeboye and RCCG did not appear to be so different from CAC. For the most part, the doctrines were similar; head-covering and no trousers for females, etc. Also, the church was not too far from home. So, no worries.

Then one day, my brother came and started to chat excitedly with the rest of us about a new church he had just discovered. He had many things to say about this church that fascinated him; the ambience, the fact that the services started early in the morning and were short. They kept to time, the watchnight service was not overnight and the music was superb.

Of all he said, it was the music that got my attention.

I remember he specifically talked about the music this way(in Yoruba), and I quote,

“Omo!! If you hear the choir; when they sing a MaryMary song, you’ll think it’s the tape that’s being played”

Ehn!!!, I thought. In this Nigeria?

I have always been looking for a certain quality of music all my life. I grew up listening to Bob Fitts and Ron Kenoly. Bob Fitts provided the solemn worship and Ron Kenoly provided a semblance of the added funk I craved. But then I still wanted more. I wondered why christians had no music as great sounding as the secular ones. So, the day my eldest sister brought a MaryMary CD back home from Uni, I was ecstatic. Now here was my brother saying that a church choir exists in this Lagos that will offer such delight every Sunday.

I thought to myself, “I must see this!”

So, we all went with him for the watchnight service.
But it did not end there for me. I had to keep going back. It was no more just about the music. The first Sunday I attended, the pastor talked about the power of vision. He was also someone who encouraged the habit of reading. Both christian literature and secular. Whatever impacted him, he came and shared with church members. So, my library expanded. I had always loved to read, but prior to that time I had read only novels. Now I was reading books like Cashflow Quadrant by Robert Kiyosaki and Awaken the Giant by Tony Robbins. Life became a delight! Oh, those books were pricy. And I was always broke. So, I would save for months to be able to buy. And I also borrowed. I just made sure I read. I was hooked forever. Kia kia, I went through foundation school and started serving.

Then…in this church I contacted the teaching anointing!

It happened as I read a book that pastor Sam recommended; The Principles and Power of vision by Myles Munroe. I could not buy it, so I borrowed from a friend and read it. I discovered another aspect of me apart from music. Bible Teaching. I started to know things both by study and by inspiration. This was when I started to recognize my gift to write. My writing became the vehicle of my gift. My music side took the back burner; I did not join the choir, I joined the bible study group instead and I started to teach small groups in church. I was a wonder to myself. I was a teenager teaching, not in the teens church, but adults. It was awesome.
This went on for about a year. And then one day, as if suddenly awakened out of a trance, my dad said we had to stop going to this church.

But why?

“Ehn”, he said, “the women don’t cover their head, and they put on trousers.”

Art by Arteet

In the past when I read the Bible story of Eli the priest, I saw a man who was complacent and failed in his ministry and his family. Whenever I thought of Eli, the only image in my mind was an overweight man whose sons were corrupt, mainly because he did not restrain them. There was nothing worth emulating in him, I thought. But now, I see somethings differently.

For one, I see a man who succeeded as a mentor. And in such a way that is not largely represented in the Church today.

Eli was the mentor to Samuel. We could say that it was with him and through him that Samuel cut his ‘prophet’s tooth’. He taught the lad everything he knew about ministry. I find Eli’s mentorship to be exemplary because of a couple of things that the Lord recently opened my eyes to see about how he related with Samuel. He was definitely not a perfect man, but there was a lot of good that he did, which we need to learn today. He may have failed with his biological children, but I think he got it right with his protegee (or spiritual son, if you want to use that terminology).

One, Eli helped Samuel excel in an area where he himself was supposed to still be excelling but was failing woefully. Eli had stopped hearing from God. What good is a prophet who is not prophesying? Now, this was bad enough. Then he sees that God has shifted base to someone else. In other words, it is not that God is not speaking anymore, he has just decided not to speak with him in particular. And of all the persons that God could have chosen, He chose his own protegee. God was passing by and Eli got skipped.

The man must have been sad.

But even at that–and this is most admirable–Eli did not hoard the wisdom gotten from his wealth of experience in ministry from Samuel. He knew that God had chosen the lad, and he could see the lad’s struggle to fit into his new role. But he did not let himself get carried away because of any hurt there probably was in his feelings. He separated his issues with God from the boy. He helped him.

Two, Eli did not stifle Samuel’s voice, even though the message he (Samuel) was bearing took the glory and shine off him (Eli). He did not make the boy feel bad for seeing what he saw, instead he encouraged him to speak. Eli did not treat the poor boy as if his controversial vision was a personal vendetta against his ministry. He seemed to understand that Samuel had not planned to see what he saw; it just happened.

It was about the truth and not at all about Eli. It was not about ego or tradition. He surrendered to God’s plan.

********************

It appears that mentorship in the Church has really gone off course. There is a kind of mentorship that goes on in church now where the unique voice of the persons in followership are constantly stifled under the guise of loyalty and ‘committment to the vision’. Sometimes subtly, other times quite explicitly. It has become all about the leader, and not necessarily about God’s own agenda in individuals.

True followership is (erroneously) taught in the Church today as perfect alignment with the status quo as it is defined by the mentor. We now have this trend where like Jesse attempted to do with Eliab, it is the person whom the senior pastor loves and approves of that gets ‘put forward before God’ to be blessed. Of course, God’s hands cannot be forced to bless someone, but there is an ongoing charade in the church today where people are being mistaken for God. Thus, the favour of mankind has become the favour of ‘God’, so much so that people do not even care to see God anymore. Premium now is placed on beggarly things such as titles and positions and platforms; because, really, that is what being put forward by the senior pastor gets you. The one who conforms, as against following God’s plan for their own lives, is the one who gets ordained; the one who gets invited to preach; the one whom church members carry their bags and courtesy to greet.

Beggarly aspirations!

Therefore, as a follower you cannot afford to see things differently from your ment. If God speaks to you a new thing, you immediately discard it as a lie, just because it is not exactly what your pastor or mentor is saying. So, people keep tweaking their convictions and perceptions, just so they do not offend. Just so they fit in with the group. So that they can be ‘blessed’. Because if you were to see things differently, it would also mean that you are not following, and if you are not following, you will fall out of favour with the pastor, your spiritual parent, whom is projected as the sole, ultimate channel through whom God will get your blessings across to you. To this end Christians (mis)quote 2 Chr. 20:20.

That is not followership, it is fear; the fear of mankind. And it is a trap.

Pro 29:25  The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe. 

Conform to the group only as much as it aligns with God’s plan for your life. By that kind of followership where people are too hung up on conformity, unique destinies of individuals have been tweaked. People have gained positions in exchange for their souls. People have pleased man–men and women of God, especially–instead of pleasing God.

I put these things to you today;

Your blessing is not in anybody’s hands, but only in the Hand of God.

No parent-biological or spiritual–holds some veto power over your life.

Your purpose is above any person or institution.

You don’t have to be liked by the powers that be to fulfill your destiny.

Yes, God will use people to get His blessings across to you. But never let anyone take His place in your life. Yes, parental blessing is the ideal, but the human soul is flawed and people get out of line. God’s plan, however, cannot be stopped.

Hear this; Abraham blessed his son Isaac. Isaac blessed his son Jacob. Jesse, however, did not favour his son David. He did not ‘put him forward to be blessed’ by Pastor Samuel. So, God overrode the natural inclination of Samuel and made sure David got what was his. Paul, also, was not part of the popular-jingo twelve apostles. So, God arranged a disciple named Ananias to anoint him. Christians did not approve of him initially. Later, those who initially rejected him had to accept him because his calling and anointing could not be denied… or ignored.