I have always been an advocate of the Pentecostal church and even when I migrated to the US, I continued attending a Nigerian Pentecostal church. However, a couple of years later, I am certain that you will not catch me dead in any predominantly Nigerian church again. My preferred choice is now multicultural Pentecostal churches, please see my reasons:
We carry our fractionalization and tribalism to the church
In the church I was in, we were split along ethnic lines with the Yorubas only listening to the senior pastor who was Yoruba and the Igbos listening to the assistant pastor who was Igbo. The other tribes chose any side that favours them based on the issue at hand. The funny things is that my friend who attends an Igbo Anglican church in New York said their own church was split along town and state lines – Nowa people fighting the Mbaise people, Anambra people fighting the Imo people and so on. That is when I realized that we really have not left Kansas.
Our favourite past-time in church is gossiping about ourselves. The Nigerians not in the church and even the ones “jejelii” living their lives in Nigeria. Every once in a while, the gossip makes the church so toxic and threatens to tear it apart that a reconciliation meeting will be called, backed with prayer and fasting. This will result in some peace and quiet, after which the cycle of gossiping commences again. Sometimes these gossips emanate from things heard during prayer meetings and testimonies. My confusion is that, if one cannot find sanctuary in the church, where else can you find it?
I have seen people I know who are pulling multiple shifts at multiple jobs neglecting their health and their family, so as to carry the latest Gucci bag to church. Sometimes, these same people need us to raise money for them or ailing family members. Every church service is like a fashion show with members trying to outdo each other at wearing the most expensive clothing. I am not against dressing it up to come to church, but do that if you can afford the clothes on your back… and not wearing it now and spending the next 30 years paying for it.
The lack of accountability
Just like churches in Nigeria, those in America do not render accounts to its members. I am sure they are rendering to IRS, but as a tithe paying and offering giving member of the church, don’t you think it is fair that I know what the money that I put in is being used for? Don’t tell me, “Don’t worry, you have given it to God and God will judge them if they misuse it” as that doesn’t mean anything. There are churches out there that are getting it right and are not waiting for God’s judgement day.
The church I currently attend is an example. Every 2 years, regular members are elected to the church board to assist the pastor in steering the affairs of the church. Once a year, a general meeting is called and all the church members are encouraged to attend and the financial account for the previous year is rendered. The plan for the coming year is shared. I have never been on the board, but knowing that regular members are part of the decision making gives me peace.
The funny thing is that for all the years that I have attended the board meeting, nobody has ever objected to how the monies were spent. That is what transparency and accountability does. Note that this church is multicultural, but has more blacks than whites in it… so I don’t think it is a black problem, but a Nigerian problem.
You will wonder why I put so many exclamation marks? But it is because there are some songs we sing that are not spiritual, musical or anything, in fact.
Listen and sing along if you know it – “Jesus na big man, Jesus na big man, who no know am call am small man, Jesus big man, who no know am call am small man”. Nuff Said, you be the judge!
The time we spend there
I am a stickler for time and living abroad and not having support, means that my time is very treasured and precious to me. It is not amusing to go to church at 9 am and remain there till 2pm because the pastor is moved by the spirit and is preaching the “never ending sermon”. The church I go to now is exactly 2 hours from start to finish and I still leave spiritually satisfied.
There is something about how we Nigerians worship in churches, we immerse ourselves in the Lord, trusting him solely for our sustenance and this is not a bad thing. My relationship though with the Nigerian churches here in America is like a case of loving chocolates, but it wreaks havoc on your weight; so while I am still living here, like chocolate, I will only have it in small doses and only on special occasions.
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Story written by Kiki Daniel.