How the Kingdom actually “Rained” today at the special service I attended in Oke-Aro

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Today’s church service was a mixed experience that began with indifference, and more of it, just before some projection into some near-climax and then some time-checking and there was all of the up-jumping, hands-clapping, hands-holding, hands-shaking, waist-rolling and in a twist of fate, some wanting to go grab the mic from a chorister and declare service closed.

Before I closed the lid of my PC and slept off yesterday, I looked forward to a service that my host had invited me to with an irresistible “our service runs from 7am to 8.30am. Very short”. I already had the analysis of how my Sunday would go. By 9am I would be back home and a full day would still be ahead of me, sort of. This would turn out to be the biggest deception of 2017 — so much for a Sunday service invitation. Apparently this was not my host’s intention. I didn’t have to ask at the eventual end of the service when he explained that he had forgotten this was a special service and was not as the usual brief services.

“Yeah… okay I get. It was great experience actually”. There goes my biggest lie of the year. Or maybe not.

Service began with a worship and praise session that looked normal until it turned out to be the first of 3 batches of same. Same worship leader, who sang well though but easily got my eyes bored with his repeated failing attempts to own the stage and pretend to be a great worship leader act. Thanks to exemplary acts from my left and right, I was quick to sit down when I lost energy for whatever we were on our feet for. I couldn’t do that often though as my host seems to be an Elder and coincidentally sat at a position where he could, without trying see every bit of my dance, prayer and well, sleep. I couldn’t care less at some points.

This article does not reliably report the entire service because apart from the fact that all I did wasn’t just sit on some corner and took notes, I slept through a big part of the initial 2 hours. Apparently 6am was too early for me for a Sunday. I always chose Daystar’s fourth service for 1pm every time a Sunday met me in Lagos and I decide to attend. Well, thanks to some unusually early warfare song tempo and I was ‘awake’ for the service till sometime around 9am, when under normal conditions we should be headed back home.

The fast drums and leg-ground-pounding activity wasn’t all that got me fully up and conscious. One other thing had caught my fascination. There was an insight I suddenly had on the relevance of photography, although on the comic side as you would find out shortly. There it goes. 4 out of every 5 women held some sheets in their hands. At first it looked like hand-fans, or program booklets. Brownish-white card-like and waved frantically in the air — as it turns out, pictures of their children at home and as usual, abroad.

Of the typical prayer-warring woman in the congregation my mind ran through the analysis of a possible selection. The first and oldest pic which is the brownest of all and with some peeling off almost half of the print was that of Donald who is with his family in America (you don’t say US in this kind of spiritual communication. No time for errors or assumptions). The last time she heard from him was two Sundays ago. Not bad for “America”. Next was Bola who got married two years ago before leaving her husband and heading for Libya, followed by John’s picture — the guy who never really took church serious before he left for the university. She is bothered about his affinity for cultism. Tayo just got admitted and has travelled to faraway Calabar to see his father with hopes of raising some funds. She forgot the father’s — her husband’s pic which would have been the sixth in the air, in her handbag. Its children first and sometimes only for Nigerian women. Lastly there is Funke, a pic of her Valedictory service from St. Johns, here in Oke-Aro, this part of ‘Lagos’ that is officially Ogun state.

I joined in the body language of prayer, of frantic joint movements and neck-jerking motions that looked like you needed to convince angels around on the importance of your need. However as I always did when I found myself in anything that is some semblance that this is, of a CAC or MFM, I replaced the prayer points and as the people around me bound “the enemies situated in their father’s house, I simply asked that we achieve more successful and deadline-beating projects delivery at the FourthCanvas office this week — something that we will work towards tomorrow as if prayers did not exist. Although I just shook my head now as I recollected and put this down, that was not my reaction in church. I really just respected their point of views and understood that it was clearly not mine.

My issue with repeated prayers binding forces and enemies is how it gets your mind set on an abundance of evil targeted at you. You are binding enemies you can’t name and soon you are wondering how your Aunt looked at you the other day, because it is established in church that there is a host of evil forces from your father’s house. Hence even though everyone seems to smile and be good persons in your family you are on the auto-look-out for the people behind your problems. That’s too much business for your mind for it to innovate or actually make headway in your life.

The other question I ask in my mind when I attend churches like this is “Pastor, if we bound the enemies of my father’s house throughout January and that of my mother’s house in February and at the end of each service we thanked God for answered prayers, how come we are recognizing them in March and raising the same prayer points in April?

There is the sad way this type of prayer life and mentality then robs people of their need to take responsibility. One woman attends to people in her business as if they are unwanted Syrian refugees in a Trump’s America but her business is not moving because of the forces. The other man repeatedly delivers the Frank Donga kind of job interviews but because he attends 3 every week and gets turned down all the time despite “all my qualifications”, the host of darkness needs to be bound in heaven, on earth and beneath the seas of his in-law’s fishing pond. Yes that’s where they buried it. It’s not about his unique attributes which is nothing beyond “God-fearing and fast learner”. Don’t edit it, I proof-read this and that was intended.

Enough of the rants though, as this is more about the fascination of things. One beautiful thing about the leadership of the prayer “warfare” was the way the prayers were intermittently broken with interludes of brief worship songs. It had this “electrical” vibe and the charisma of the pastor was quite infectious and the whole church caught on. I did. I jumped too and sang as though I had some forces of darkness that I felt all the RCCG Congresses I had attended since 1999 had not yet sent packing. You know, the supposed spiritual tenants that would refuse to pay rents and still won’t pack out. I really didn’t have those kind of guys in my destiny wardrobe but the festival ambience was too ‘grabbing’ to be resisted. Maybe it was the Holy Spirit, you never can tell.

One the highlight of the service was when the whole church, led by the worship leader and motivated by this same pastor up-jumping, chorused in unison with the large congregation, chorused the famous Sinach’s rhymes of who God was in the Waymaker song. Ha! Sinach. Only if you guys knew that Pastor Chris, the hair-melting hip pastor was the leader and mentor of the singer who owned the song. Her picture alone would be enough to have this song banned from filtering through the church’s speakers and sound engines. But I loved it. There are those parallel lines of the leftists and rightists in Nigeria’s Christianity that will meet one day so soon and realizing these long-embraced ‘shocks’ would help the arbitration and compromise. Not too say this church was of the extreme ‘deeper-life’ ideology. It was that type still conservative enough to marshal verses of the bible that asked women to be modest in their dressing and avoid gold jewelry. Most hip churches of Lagos already removed those parts from the Bible as far back as 2001. I am with the Lekkites on this, sorry.

First-timers were called and my host looked towards where I sat with a full smile. Of course the next place I was after some handshakes from left and right was in one of the offices behind the altar. We filled the slips, had some joint welcome talk and prayer and the most important part please, we had the paper bags. I just had the BIG “Coke” brand for the first time this year. For a Coke addict like me, it had to be free, cold and post- a tiring 5-hour service for me to put that in my mouth. Wasn’t that bad. The biscuit was okay too. Thank you Welfare Board. Rice would have been preferred but the good side of this is I am sure the water used was clean, and not just sanctified. Give me the former abeg, when it’s not an emergency or I was dying and would take just anything.

If you thought service was over at this point, thank you for being like minds. But be thou shocked and made whole. There was still to be a long list of Communion, the 3rd ‘Praise Hour’, Group prayer session (like panel sessions from say, the Africa Business Conference) and a prophetic benediction. The bread and wine came and it got me really thinking about the actual Last Supper. We all saw the paintings. It was like a feast. There was real bread and ‘good red wine’, not this disappearing flake and wine that tastes like expired. But yes I get you before you object, it is meant to be symbolic but as a logo designer, I know that symbols are meant to be a good representation. I have always felt Holy Communion were too far from what we were supposed to be taking “in remembrance of Me”. Note to all churches: Sometimes let this bread be small but have some weight and please always buy good wine even if still served in those small quantities.

Talking about representation and logos, I should also mention the how the church’s logo had a pair of chained hands stretched forward to what looks like an approaching ray of breakthrough light but as at the time the designer exported the ‘identity’ he did put together with the Google bitmap images, the hands were still chained. After all, I think this explains the continued praying and re-praying on chains, stronghold and dominions. If you think FourthCanvas will submit a rebranding proposal, err no thanks, we currently choose the cash payment option over ‘declarations’.

The third worship session looked like it intentionally lasted that long because the rain poured heavy and there was no point bringing the service to a close. “Let your kingdom reign” was the main song but it kind of felt like he was saying “rained”. I would never know. Next came the Announcement minister who asked if there were new babies or any special thanksgiving from anyone. 12.40pm for the sake of everything I could be doing at home if we had closed. *deep sigh*. No babies. I love babies but thank God.

At the very end we went out to help dedicate the pastor’s new car. It was a Porsche — hardly the type of car people own by praying and receiving an unexpected car gift. This one was bought from the pastor’s dedicated commitment and hard-work at whatever his job was. This article is not about what that full-time job most probably is but I agree that churches should pay taxes.

At the end of it all I should mention that I think my host was intentionally prudent with the truth because really, how on earth does a 1hr 30mins service become a 5-hour marathon?

Well, special service.

(I wrote this article on June 4, 2017).

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