Everything in the room is old except the visitor. Thomas is the visitor and he sits patiently in front of the owner of the old house, waiting for his attention. The old man is highly reputed for his wisdom, and people come to him from all walks of life to obtain guidance on different issues. And here he is, right in front of the sage, waiting for him to start speaking.
But the wise man doesn’t seem to be in haste to begin. He adjusts his large reading glasses slowly, leafs through the big dusty book he has been reading for a couple of minutes, and begins to trail his fingers across the letters as if he’s reading Braille. But the book is not Braille. It looks like an encyclopedia and has “The Book of the Wise” boldly printed on its front cover.
As the old man reads through, so do his lips move slightly. Though Thomas cannot hear any word coming from his mouth, he is doubly sure the man is enjoying what he’s reading. A sweet smile runs across his face like that of an inventor who has just discovered a new code.
“My dear Thomas, please accept my unreserved apologies for keeping you waiting for this long.” The old man says as he gently removes his glasses and stares at Thomas apologetically.
“I can understand, Sir.” Thomas responds. His eyes quickly run through the open pages of the old man’s book but he cannot read the letters clearly because of the short distance in-between them.
“So, what shall we talk about today, Thomas?” The old asks, focusing his attention on his young guest.
Thomas has become a regular visitor to the wise man’s house. He calls the old man “Master” because that is what everyone calls him; though some people find it hard to address this 90-year old man by that title. “Master,” they reason, should be reserved for wise men of younger ages.
“I…I…I will leave that to…” Thomas stutters. He’s not sure of what topic to ask the old man to discuss today. He just wants some nuggets of wisdom on any issue. And the Wiseman is never short of wisdom.
“Don’t worry, my son. I know you don’t have any topic on your mind for us to talk about. But I have one for you.”
Thomas’s eyes spark with expectations. Excitement envelopes his heart. He knows that the next hour or so will be a moment of realization and enjoyment.
“Oh, thank you Master. What shall it be, Sir?” He queries.
The Master lifts up his long strong frame. One can easily tell that he’s a smart old man. His figure doesn’t show any sign of old-age weakness. He walks briskly to a nearby drawer to fetch his bible and returns to his seat quickly, holding the holy book like a new mother clutching a new born baby to her chest.
“Thomas, we shall talk about The 7 Characters in Lagos Churches today.” The Wiseman announces as he slowly opens a chapter of the bible.
“The 7 Characters in Lagos Churches?” exclaims Thomas. He has never heard of that before, neither has he ever come across such in his bible.
As if reading Thomas’s mind, the Wiseman smiles and says, “I have brought the bible closer to me here in case you want to argue any of the things I want to tell you today. As I speak, you can stop me to ask questions or correct me wherever you think I’m wrong. But our authority will be the holy bible itself. At least, that is the same bible that all of us Christians read. Isn’t it?”
Thomas feels a bit relieved. Now he knows the reason for having the holy book close by.
“Yes, Master. I agree with you.” He says.
“So if the student is ready, the Master is equally prepared. Shall we go?”
“As we look at the 7 characters, Thomas, I want you to hold something so dearly to your heart. That is the only thing that can make you a true Christian in today’s world with its religious bigotry.”
“What could that be, Master?”
“As from now on, make sure you check your bible for confirmation before believing whatever anyone tells you. It doesn’t matter if the message is from your pastor, prophet, or spiritual leader. Since you can read and write you don’t have any problem.”
“Okay, Master. I understand you perfectly.”
“The preachers themselves are the first set of characters we will examine. They are the pastors, GOs, prophets, apostles, bishops etc we have in Lagos churches. In most cases, they are the sole owners or major owners of their churches. They bear different titles but I will simply call them Actors. By their deeds and sayings you shall know them as actors. When on stage, sorry pulpit; you can hardly tell whether they are preaching or acting. They are at the same time your Messi the footballer and Eddie Murphy the comedian. They play to the gallery most of the time and at the end of each message; you won’t find substance in what they have said. Unfortunately, many of the sheep don’t recognize their antics. Instead of assessing the message, they ignorantly swallow whatever they’re told. And they get lost in the process like a sheep without a shepherd. Beware of Actors, my dear Thomas. They are leading many astray in Lagos churches.”
“Hmmm, thank you Master. The other day a particular pastor kept dancing all over the stage as if he was at the National Theater. At the end of his message, I couldn’t determine what exactly he had preached about. Rather, it was self aggrandizement all through.”
“That’s the point, my son. But their church members actually made them what they have become. That’s why the remaining six characters I will talk about are actually within the congregation. Surprisingly, we usually focus attention on the ‘Actors’ without recognizing these other six characters among the church members.”
“Shall we know them, Master?”
“Good. The second set consists of those characters that yell, hail, jump, whistle, and run about the whole church assembly as their pastor acts on stage. They are the Wailers. It doesn’t matter what their pastor has just said – right or wrong – true or false – God praising or self-serving; they must just yell. Ask them what they have learnt at the church service; they won’t be able to tell you because all they have gone there to do is to hail the pastor.”
“It’s a fact, Thomas. And if you are still following me, I will like to move to the third category of characters in Lagos churches.”
“Ride on, Sir!”
“The third set is made up of those members whose stock in trade is to defend whatever the pastor says. That’s their duty in the church. Let the pastor or prophet say or do something that is unbiblical, they must defend it both within and outside the church. They are the Defenders of the cause. Call them extremists, you won’t be wrong. Label them sycophants, you won’t be far off. If you value your head, Thomas, please don’t engage them on any of their pastor’s sermons, or else you go home with some fractured bones.”
“Thomas, this set of people are paranoid believers. They are fanatics of immeasurable proportion. They hold to the belief that their ‘Man of God’ can never go wrong. The only thing that can deliver you from them is a deep understanding of your bible.”
“That’s the reality, my son. But let’s look at the fourth set of characters. The church members in this category are cunning in nature. All they want is attention. And they must get it by any means. But their common tactic is through testimony. They must come out in front of the assembly at every given opportunity to give account of ‘what God has done’ for them. While there are few genuine and undiluted testimonies in Lagos churches, I tell you Thomas, a great majority of what these people say out there in the open are blatant lies cooked up for reasons best known to them only.”
“Yes, my son. They are the Deceivers but God can never be deceived. Those people seeking attention are deceiving themselves; their fellow church members; and their pastors who delight in such.”
“But how can the pastor confirm the truth?”
“To that I equally ask, ‘Is he not supposed to be a Man of God?’”
“Yes, he should.”
“Then let the Holy Spirit guide and discern for him.”
“That’s a good reasoning, Master.”
“Alright, let’s turn to the fifth class of characters in Lagos churches. I call them the Fallers and Rollers. They are the ones who fall and roll on the floor every now and then; most especially when their pastor, prophet, bishop, or GO is leading a prayer session. The man doesn’t have to touch them before they fall yakata under what they call ‘anointing.’ Watch closely, Thomas, it is always this same set of people that continue to fall at each and every prayer session. Haven’t you ever asked why?”
“No, Master. Why?”
“Because they are characters; they are acting in a play. Just ignore them.”
“I have to disagree with you on this one, Master. The hand of God frequently moves in my church and people get healings and deliverance as they fall and roll on the floor.”
“Wonderful! Really wonderful! Well, Thomas, I’m not arguing that it can happen on certain occasions. But why must you be the only one falling and rolling every time? Shouldn’t your deliverance be once and final?”
“Well, that beats me, Sir.”
“Ask your prophet for explanations when next you see him. For now, let’s continue with our examination. We are now on the sixth group of church characters. Let’s call them the Spoilers because they are seen as such, and they do spoil things for the pastor and his church.”
“Wiseman, how can that be possible in the house of God?”
“You make me laugh, son. Spoilers are the closest people to the Man of God. Their pastor dares not do whatever they disagree with. They are the most powerful men and women in the church. They make the rules for the church members, but they are the first to break such rules. Yet, the pastor can’t correct them because they are the financial pillars of the church. Anything they say goes.”
“But, Wiseman, a Man of God shouldn’t be afraid of anybody. He should say a thing as he sees it.”
“Not in Lagos churches, Thomas. The Spoilers can close down a pastor’s church. Any wise pastor will simply murmur to himself that ‘the fear of the Spoilers is the beginning of wisdom.’ He avoids their wraths like a plague. Without them, his church cannot survive financially.”
“But Sir, that’s not what Christianity teaches.”
“Now you get my point. Can you then understand why I asked you to always allow your bible to guide you?”
“I can see clearly now, Master.”
“Let’s then talk about the last set of Lagos church characters. They are the Seekers – the miracle seekers. The one and only thing that takes them to the church is miracle. And these miracle seekers are quite diverse. They are the job seekers, husband seekers, wife seekers, healing seekers, political appointment seekers, contract seekers, counseling seekers, American visa seekers, quick-money seekers, God’s vengeance seekers etc. They are all on the neck of their church pastor, prophet, bishop, or reverend.”
“But how can only one man cope with all those?”
“Of course, he can. A Lagos Man of God is supposed to be multitasking, multi-talented, and multi-gifted. He must be a medical doctor, a marriage counselor, an educationist, a soothsayer, a visa officer, a soldier of God, and so on. That’s what his congregation expects of him, and he must not disappoint them.”
“No wonder many of them fumble.”
“And they tumble too.”
“So that’s my message for you today, Thomas. I have only spoken about seven of the numerous characters in Lagos churches. We will look at other characters at a later date. You need to release me now.”
“Thank you, Master. I hope you will talk about a particular group I have in mind when next we discuss this issue.”
“Which group is that, Thomas?”
“I will call them the Doubters, Sir. They doubt everything their leader teaches in the church.”
“Ah, you must be one of them!”
“Because your name is Thomas…you must be a doubting Thomas.”