By Akinyele Abiodun James
The revival of the 1960/70s and 80s came with a lot of positive impacts, especially on the church. Beginning mostly in the universities, the revival , characterized with passionate and long prayers sessions, intensive evangelism (both one on one and public ‘crusade’), praise and worship sessions with series of spontaneous songs( as against liturgical and more orderly service with hymns in the mainline( usually referred to as ‘orthodox’ ) churches, bible teaching and study sessions.
With the emphasis on ‘ baptism in the Holy Ghost with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues,’ the mostly youthful believers from the main churches went about with incurable enthusiasm to villages, towns, hospitals preaching ‘ repentance and the imminent coming of Christ! The popular messages were ‘repent!, tomorrow may be too late’, You must be born again,” etc.
These brethren would later return home and to their various home churches with this zeal determined to ‘preach the message of salvation’ to their unconverted parents and family members to ‘repent or perish’! Considering that several of these new disciples could now boast of an experience of a transformed character, they expected that their parents (mostly professing Christians and leaders) would embrace their newfound faith.
For various reasons, that was not to be, and perhaps for different reasons, the leading evangelical churches were skeptical of this new ‘Pentecostal’ or ‘charismatic’ activities, primarily because of their extreme manifestations. Some of these included their ‘rowdy’ and noisy meetings, aggressive behavior, especially towards those who did not ‘get born again.’ The message then became ‘get out from among them, touch nothing unclean’ referring to their family members now labeled ‘unbelievers’ or shortened’ ‘unbels.’
In earnest expectation of rapture, many disciples(‘Bro’and Sis’) abandoned their college studies, and some resigned from gainful employment to ‘ rescue the perishing.’ Many left their families to live with ‘ brethren’ ( why pursue worldly knowledge when souls are perishing?). In Ibadan city, some Western Pentecostal preachers even came to teach some disciples how to practice the rapture experience with several climbing walls and trees and jumping down while flapping their arms like flying birds. Actions like these further triggered displeasure from parents and family members, and many who claimed to have received a call into ‘fulltime’ ministry was disowned.
The majority of the clergies who pastored these main churches were products of theological institutions that sympathized more with those considered as ‘unbelievers’ and ‘persecutors’ who were members of their churches. Sometimes resorting to the extreme measure of expelling, excommunicating members, and banning them from meeting within the church facilities (in severe cases handed over to the police and detained’, the new movement revolted against any form theological institutions or education. Seminaries were called ‘cemeteries where the anointing was buried.’
Members were encouraged to know that ‘you do not need anyone to teach you because the unction which is upon you shall teach you all things’ referencing to John’s epistle (1 John 2:20).
Although the occurrences of miracles, healing, and conversion of some fetish people, including some church members, were undeniable, there was no serious effort made to understand this ‘new phenomenal.’ The church was too’ backslidden’ to be willing or ready to consider such an option.
Several church officers and clergies openly professed their membership of various occult groups. An Anglican Archdeacon with others modified an aborigine, and dreaded occult (Ogboni) to form another one and named it the Reformed Ogboni Confraternity with large followership where initiation sometimes took in the church vestry.
With time, the expelled ‘born again Pentecostals’ eventually left the mainline churches to meet in various homes and public schools. As the membership increased, larger facilities were located and later from the voluntary contributions of members. More permanent structures emerged, and leadership systems and bible schools started appearing, It was these ‘Fellowships’ that grew to become ‘New Generation Pentecostal churches’ in addition to the first generation Pentecostal churches.
While many of these churches have now embraced moderate ways, a measure of these Pentecostal practices embraced theological education and more organized forms of worship, and the age-long suspicion and distrust have not been addressed.
Hopefully, the activities and consultations going through alliances like Nigeria Evangelical Fellowship (NEF) and other similar bodies would help in strengthening the relationship among churches across both divides.
Pastor Akinyele Abiodun James.
Nigeria Evangelical Fellowship( NEF)
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article belong to the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the South African Theological Seminary.