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Opinions of Saturday, 1 September 2018

Columnist: Kwabena Agouti

Modern people, modern church

Introduction

What an issue to discuss! ... the migration or defection (change of allegiance and patronage) of youthful churchgoers from their native churches to other modern churches.

Modern here means in sync with recent ideals and trends, with limited relevance to a period of existence. The discussion of such a sensitive and borderline issue cannot be truly accomplished inside the head of Kwabena Agouti alone.

In pursuit of clarity, I asked my co-writers for today’s article “I’m curious about the way in which the youth especially are leaving their mother churches in search of newer and trendier ones; I want to seek your opinion on the issue”. The key points of the discussion unfold as follows.

Commentary

Mr John (Kumasi)

Your first church is like a family God has put you into; you don’t choose it. Yet, nowadays, many people claim to have suddenly met God and leave their old churches in the name of having met a different God (the version of God they like).

Ernestina (Kumasi)

Everyone has a specific reason. Sometimes, it is merely a case of peer influence.

Frederick (Accra)

For me, I'll always stick to my traditional church because I believe in old, longstanding institutions; but I also recognize religion as a personal experience, so I respect anyone switching churches in search of what they seek to find.

Samuel (Bolga)

The youth now seek instant miracles now than before. And these ‘one man churches’ are set up to be livelier than the traditional churches. There’s also freedom so you can wear anything to church without criticism.

Agyeman (Obuasi)

That is where you hear prosperity teaching, don't forget we have been made to believe prosperity is 'the' blessing of God.

Consciouser (Accra)

The youth of today in their search for quick and fast ways of making money are seeking spiritual efficacy from self-acclaimed men of God who promise heaven in a day.

Duke (Accra)

Everything is subject to change, even religion. My generation won’t worship the way my grandparents did. Orthodox churches need to learn to adapt to change yet retain their core values or risk creating a generational gap.

Andy (Accra)

…lack of opportunity, lack of fire or Holy Spirit action, everyday hymns, long, dragging sermons, amongst others. So just like a footballer leaves the parent club, the youth leave to get the chance to shine at other churches.

Michael (Western Region)

It’s just a matter of time for me to follow suit. …even the use of mobile devices to read the Bible and sing hymns is frowned upon. They say our phones have unholy content and can distract us. Traditional sermons focus on theology, modern sermons relate to our normal lives.

Frank (Wa)

The new churches practice ‘power preaching’ and are more creative…they have a business approach to Church.

Ferdinand (Accra)

I think it is because Christianity is losing its role and values. Christians are chasing after earthly and material things. The reason for the mushrooming of one man churches, which promotes fancy Christianity.

Elton (Accra)

The youth tend to get attracted to new churches mainly because they try to incorporate more modern approaches to the style of worship, which makes it more entertaining for them. One time I saw on a friend’s Snap, an international day at church, which was great. Ultimately, it’s all about feeling closer to God wherever you find yourself.

Julian (Kenya)

It’s normally people thirsting for something new or something that suits their need at the time. If the mother churches introduce programs that suit the youth, then they wouldn't move.

Akua (Accra)

I think most mother churches do not tolerate any form of indiscipline. The youth, unfortunately, mistake the attempt to correct as an attempt to control so they rather go to more liberal churches which only seeks numbers. That’s why they stay liberal rather than strictly tackle indiscipline.

The Ways of the Traditional Church

The traditional church was the foundation upon which everything godly was built. She is a long-standing symbol of spirituality and of God, His son and the Holy Spirit. She offers teaching, direction and guidance to many Christians and is well known for her strict and quite rigid ideals of how Christianity should be. Like the early churches (as far back as Christian history goes), the traditional church still makes use of hymns in worship.

Her high standard of morality makes her frown on pretty much anything modern that has drawn influence from secular ideals – gospel rap, skimpy or gaudy dressing, diluted sermons, focus on prosperity and the associated thought that Christianity is supposed to make one wealthy or prosperous rather than point people to the cross.

Now the youth like to stay trendy. They want the spotlight as soon as they’re able to walk and talk. They want to hear about God’s blessings to which he addeth no sorrow. They want to know their specific future, not just the prophecies in the Bible, but they want their own prophecies given by God and they must have it.

How could this generation endure the rigours of the traditional church? To them, it feels cold and unnecessarily bureaucratic and overbearing.

Not only can they not dress like they want to, they are not allowed to lead programs as often as they want. They cannot employ technology to the fullest in worship (to use hymnals and read the Bible on their phones) or snap-in church – not without harsh looks of disapproval and victimization through target sermons. Ultimately, this has amounted to the canker of generational gap in traditional churches.

While some traditional churches stay true to type, others embrace the slim, uncompromised versions of modernity and have managed to keep the attention of the youth.

The Advent of the Modern Church

As any business model would show, the existence of groups of unsatisfied, energetic, young Christians clearly show that there is a ready market for a brand of Christianity that is able to meet the needs of such youth. Why must stalwarts of Christianity stand aloof whiles there is salvation (and prosperity) to be preached? The modern church was then born – a well-oiled machine that puts the zeal of the youth to much better use and for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Not only do these churches speak the language of the youth and sing songs akin to their nature, they also give the youth prophecies, fill them with renewed fire to speak in heavenly languages, speak prosperity into their lives, encourage them to mingle – they provide a modern solution to the modern problem facing the youth, all in the church.

What is worth knowing is that most of the founders of these churches have been students of the traditional church at a stage in life. The splitting of churches, after classic examples like the Catholic-Anglican split, has taken a new trend. Nowadays, specialists, who in a bid to grow their gift(s) and impact as many lives as they ought to, have had to leave their mother churches to make that meaningful impact to the glory of God.

The founders of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, as well as the International Central Gospel Church, may have formerly been members of the Anglican Church. Similarly, the founders of Action Chapel International and Perez Church International may have formerly been members of the Church of Pentecost. The founder of Royal House Chapel International may also have been baptized at one of the branches of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana.

These are great, specialist ministries which have been established from native churches. Assuming there is a great man of God with profound understanding of the word of God, and with the ability to teach the word. This man, by the fire lit in him desires to do this every week. Yet he can’t, as other equally wonderful people must also be given the opportunity to minister.

Since this great man of God understands that he must let his light shine for all to see, he decides to make the best avenue to let the world share in his gift.

Pre-conclusion

While staunch believers in the early church may find the methods employed by some very modern churches too fancy, or too liberal, or too focused on worldly things, or founded on rapid-fire prophecy and prosperity preaching, the ‘business-oriented’ model of the institution of the modern church works for the youth of today.

The youth clearly cannot identify with the ways of the early church. Even transitioning from a very active campus service to service at home may be very difficult for graduates who soon find that their home churches offer them very limited prime time.

Dear native church, understand the youth. Modify your ways, yet do not let your core values suffer in the trade-off as you try to keep the ever-curious youth at your church. Allow them to “remember the Lord in the days of their youth”, yet in holy ways. After all, we’re not in a competition of numbers, or are we? The church is a holy institution and must seek above all else, the salvation of the individual. This is something we must not forget. And as one overzealous, young commenter put it: “Dear Sir, it’s about salvation and spreading the news of Christ.

It has nothing to do with a ‘mother church’. Perhaps you want a strategy to capture the youth for your new and fancy church; in which case you have failed. Not all of us are kids here. Thank you and God bless you when you finally decide to win souls for Christ. Luke 9:50 says; do not stop him, if he’s not against us, then he’s for us. It’s not about old or new. It’s about the message, it’s about Jesus”.

Conclusion

Trying to determine whether modern churches are rightfully executing the mandate of Christ is another angle to be discussed in future editions. Remember, you may be doing the right thing but in the wrong company. Then you may begin to accept some of the wrong things being done because there are some right things being done as well.

Teaser to Next Article

Believe you me, not every modern church is borne of a desire to help secure the salvation of the churchgoer. Some of these one-man-churches mean business so much so that they, without dignity, carry your unaccounted tithes and offerings in the boots of their cars and lavish themselves with a kind of luxury, not even Christ himself would gift for doing his work – for greater people handpicked by Christ himself have fought the good fight and have had to die miserable deaths so that you and I can talk freely about God today.

Those who always hum prosperity in the ears of their flock and find new ways of extracting not just their daily bread but their decennial bread from the churchgoer every other day; those are the type I wish to speak of next…in my next piece, should the spirit move me.