By Omoruyi Uwuigiaren

On a wet Sunday morning, I strolled by a church. Service was in full swing and it was a full house. There was hardly any space left for anyone to sit. It’s the culture in this part of the world for church service to be packed with humans seeking the face of God for solution to their problems. The days are evil, things are hard and many people are disgruntled. So they are constantly on the lookout for any resemblance of Jesus Christ walking on water. 

In these dark times, the church is where some people unwind or find succor. Armed with dangerous prayer points, members could imagine themselves beating Satan to death. It’s almost a free world. Everyone is encouraged to engage in mental and spiritual exercise to stay alive. With the exercise comes the right to cry their hearts out and then walk back home either to face the mountain killing them or be liberated. It is hard to be in this system and not get drawn into the emotional hole. It is a nightmare. Not throwing your weight behind this could make any overzealous soul target you Satan. Anyone riding on the wings of righteousness is not far away from redemption. 

Some are fortunate to overcome it after the marathon prayer exercise. Others stay the same and may need to look elsewhere for a solution. In reality, not every nightmare requires some spiritual exercise to overcome. Some problems require strict adherence to physical solutions before they can go away. So don’t approach physical problems with spiritual solutions. It’s like a Carmel trying to go through the eyes of a needle. 

The world is not some distant country that must require a local travel guide in that country to show you the way round. Life is tough and it is far more complex than mere praying every now and then. Some people have died trying to figure out their problems. In clear terms, not all problems require you to fast and pray before they can be solved.  

Back to my story. The pastor was preaching about beer and beer parlour. He was spitting venom from the altar and the microphone was going to go up in flames. Words that could set a thousand feet on the run were dropping from his mouth like the night rain. It was his turn to sound like John the Baptist! 

Break the camel’s back and get his pound of flesh. Whether his utterances were going to mislead the sheep was not the question. His neck was stretched like the peacock. His eyes crimson red. And his broad shoulders were almost competing with the skull that sat on his poor neck. Today was his day. Perhaps, the best day of his life. People will have much to worry. He was desperate to leave an impression that he was the next best thing. 

The pulpit should be his stomping ground. He needs the space to pass his message. He has come of age. His type should never be in the background doing all the dirty work for the General Overseer. They should share the responsibility at the very top. Eat from the same table and if possible share the proceeds from the church equally. He needed to drill home his point before the time keeper took the microphone from him and dispense him like a piece of trash. The work of God is not bread and butter. It is not an avenue to escape from the cruel hands of hell, escape problems caused by your poor judgment. It is a battlefield where God’s generals are born and made. As hard as it may seem, God does not discriminate against anyone. 

Mega churches like the Living Faith Tabernacle aka Winners Chapel are notoriously time cautious. It is understandable why they are so. Most of the time, they have three or more Sunday services to complete before the setting sun. It’s a marathon. The race never ends until the sun goes down. The setting sun is the target. Once the services are done, they can go home. So anything that will hinder the church from meeting this target is considered satanic and is easily dispensed. 

On a good day, a pastor hardly exceeds an hour preaching on the pulpit. It is no news that people from all occupations attend church service. The pastor could run into trouble trying to impress people who are even more educated than himself. To be safe, be as simple as possible and as quickly as you can. 

The pastor is expected to consistently put the devil to the sword or his employers will look elsewhere. It’s a rat race. Every preacher should know it’s a thin line between love and hate. Night and day. Winning and losing. Once you are at your wits end, the church wields the big stick and the culprit is tossed out of the window. You cannot last in the defense of evil. It’s a pain in the ass and there’s nothing you can do about it. 

Preaching about beer and beer parlour is an interesting topic. But it could get some members agitated, especially men with protruding bellies who can hardly do without tasting a bottle of beer. You are expected to choose your strength over your weakness anytime you are asked to preach. The areas that attract people positively to you are your strength. Give it everything you have got to drive home your point. It is easy for anyone to preach about holiness, salvation and the love of Jesus Christ. If any preacher finds himself struggling to do these things, then he should leave the stage and find another job. 

If a bottle of beer belongs to Caesar, don’t kill yourself trying to remind the people how it looks like.  They already have an idea about it. Preach the love of Jesus Christ. There is no end to what the power of Jesus Christ can do. If a man cannot elevate himself above mediocrity, he is finished. 

So I slowed down to listen to the preacher. It was necessary. I could learn a thing or two from him. I wanted to know the category that the preacher belongs. Many are too quick to judge and they end up making terrible mistakes. I don’t want to fall into this hole. I stood in a corner, leaned against the wall and faced the church. Heaven may have recognized my presence as one of the many people that attended church service that day. That cannot be said of the church. I am not sure anyone knew that a poor creature like me was outside the church listening to their pastor. 

I wanted to be sure if he was educated or not. Most times, education plays an important role in how people approach situations. This is so about preachers too. The level of education of a preacher reflects in the way he or she understands the Bible and explains it. They are going to act along this line. If the preacher is educated, it is going to be his strength and advantage. If he could barely read and write, he will rely heavily on “hear say” and the level of his own understanding of the Bible to teach. In some cases, they may frown at the idea of doing research, studying to improve because they feel the Holy Spirit will always guide them. This could be calamitous if such a person is allowed to handle sensitive matters.  Often than not, they will preach from this weak point of view and poor knowledge base. 

If he was a mature pastor, it would show in his utterance. He will not sound stupid to everyone listening to him. He was either going to win me over to his church or lose me. One thing is surely going to happen. 

Pastors are advised to preach from their strength and not from their weakness. Trying to impress people could backfire. Trying to teach on topics that are not familiar could put the pastor in the spotlight. Nowadays, nobody wants to listen to a fool, especially when he calls himself a man of God. You are easily scrutinized and slaughtered. Your chance of making is so slim that you need to be at your best. To do this, preach from your strength. If teaching solely about holiness is what gets people attracted to your church, stay on it. Preach holiness for as long as you can. Weave your stories around it. When you try to stray and talk about issues that you know nothing about, you will ruin everything. 

Preaching from your strength gives vigour, power and zest. You are easily released to the supernatural and the members are easily touched and carried along. Doing it the other way, will only make you struggle and in the long run, you will sound stupid. 

As I listened, I noticed the pastor was struggling to choose his words. It was as if he was made to eat hot yam porridge against his wish. His maturity was called into question. His weakness was glaring for all eyes to see. He was boring and cold. 

Why is this fellow talking about beer on a wet Sunday morning? I wondered as I waited for him to maneuver through the problems he had created for himself and drop the main crust of the message. 

Then he cleared his throat and said it was sin to be seen in a beer parlour. I was not inside the church but I could imagine how uncomfortable some of the members could have been. He argued that people who see you in the beer parlour will think you are a sinner. 

The moment he made the point, it was like he had won a lottery. Or perhaps, he had finally found his voice and was going to break the head of Satan. Things are suddenly falling into place for him. The frog that was in his throat had disappeared and heaven will fall. 

The reward for his comment was a deafening silence in the church. I guess the members were not comfortable. This type of message is going to affect his rating going forward. 

Many people still do not understand that we are in the 21st century. Telling people who know that there are many activities that go on in a bar that it is sin to be there is evil enough. It is poor on the path of the preacher. You shouldn’t make statements that will warrant people to doubt your calling. 

His argument did not go down well with me too. First, why do people worry about how people view them? Is that not a sign of weakness? Why do I have to worry about what people say about me? Even Jesus Christ ate with a sinner like Zachaeus. 

The preacher forgot that almost all beer parlours in Lagos sell pepper soup, fried meat, soft drinks and lots more. It is called beer parlour does not mean only beer is sold there. He should know that not everyone that goes into a beer parlour to drink. Some people go there to eat and have meetings. God’s work is more than a beer. 

Omoruyi Uwuigiaren is a former cartoonist turned writer. When he was a kid, he loved music and composed songs for his high school band. After school, he wanted to pursue a career in music. Instead he embraced writing and studied Mass Communications. His literary works and books have appeared in Moronic Ox Literary and Cultural Journal, Qwenu, Open Books, Urban News Express Online and many more. He’s the owner of Ruyi’s World of Books and Stories.  

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