CHURCH PLANTING IN NIGERIA: ISSUES AND PROSPECTS
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Christianity in Nigeria which has led to planting of churches dates back to the 16th century when the Portuguese introduced Latin Christianity in Benin and Warri. Looking at Christianity from that early beginning to the present time, many stages of development had taken place resulting to the planting and growth of churches. Several Christian churches abound here and there. However, the researcher will examine issues and prospects of church planting in Nigeria.
Church planting is a process that results in a new (local) Christian church being established. It should be distinguished from church development, where a new service, new worship center or fresh expression is created that is integrated into an already established congregation. For a local church to be planted, it must eventually have a separate life of its own and be able to function without its parent body, even if it continues to stay in relationship denominationally or through being part of a network (Wikipedia, 2015).
Christians especially the missionary and clergy men have always believed that the most effective way to reach the world for Christ is by starting new churches. This is why every people group and community needs a church. According to many scholars, the church is the hope of the world which is why they are committed to building missionally-minded, transformational churches among every people group and community in the world.
Our global society today is undergoing significant constant proliferation and planting of churches which have brought not only changing values, but also greater source of solutions to people’s problems. This rapid multiplication of churches is borne out of the understanding that in Nigeria, there is freedom of religious worship. Central to the constant planting and proliferation of churches is the issues of its environmental effects on the people in the society and the prospects as it’s provide solution to peoples problems which this research is out to address. To an observant mind, the pace at which churches are spreading like a wildfire in Nigeria is alarming. In the country, there is freedom of worship, places of worship are full, pilgrimages are over-booked and there is evidence of religious expansion all over the places.
Many people were cashing in on the situation of massive church planting, as they launch new religious organizations and societies. There is evidence that many are just charlatans looking for a means of livelihood. Many are perhaps genuinely religious. But it is obvious that our society has not become upright. It certainly has not become peaceful. There have been and still many hot and cold wars in the name of religion (Fayomi, 1993). Churches are noted to be springing up at an alarming and unprecedented rate in all available spaces, shops and uncompleted buildings. Worship come up in warehouses, hotels, abandoned cinema buildings, studios and other public places. It is a common sight to see a minimum of fifty different churches on a street of four kilometres long. This may paint a terrible picture, but such is the present spate of church proliferation and planting in the country.
In a statement made by Ogidi (1997), he categorically asserts that, “Nigeria is a country with easily the largest number of churches per capital in the world.”(Ogidi, 1997).Fayomi (1993) also described Nigeria as “a fertile soil for the growth of independent churches.”(Fayomi 1993). In urban cities and even rural areas, for lack of space and accommodation, six or more different churches could make do with a storey building. Such is the present state of events all over Nigeria. For example, in Ekiti State, as rightly observed by Tokunbo (2007), there are well above One hundred and fifty-seven Pentecostal denominations alone between 1970 and 2004 (Tokunbo, 2007). More parishes and new religious movements continue to be springing up each passing day. The spiritual discernment reportedly used by the Pastors and leaders planting churches in Nigeria is, “We prayed about it, and God said go and establish your own church.” Very often, one cannot compete with the self-proclaimed revelations and answers to prayers received by leaders looking to baptize their whims in God-talk. The phrase is usually evoked to silent objections and avoids careful teaching and accountability. And apparently, its use is on the rise, “God told me so” is now perhaps the dangerous four-word-sentence uttered by church leaders and planters. Several factors have been found to be responsible for this massive church planting. They include economic recession, rapid evangelization, beliefs and practices, unhealthy rivalry, genuine thirst for spiritual nourishment, theological issues, fanaticism, leadership tussle and the likes (Falayi, 1998).
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The phenomenon of church planting has its merits and demerits. The merits include, rapid evangelization, development of new leadership, provision of checks and balances to orthodox churches, promotes specialization in ministry and enhances the provision of an atmosphere in which human problems are at times solved (Adesanya, 2004). On the other hand, the demerits include, personality clashes, unhealthy competition for convert via homiletical propaganda, lack of unity, monetary crises, heresies, fanaticism and bickering (Tokunbo, 2007). Although, massive church planting has certain demerits as noted above, but they are not strong enough for total condemnation of the phenomenon. This is because Jesus was reported in the Bible to have said that, the Gospel should be preached to all nations (Mk. 16:15). Then, Paul in Philippians 1:15-18, supports church planting and proliferation for the expansion of the kingdom of God. This is because religion is not fossil, but a living and dynamic phenomenon. It will surely continue to increase. However, the researcher is out to examine the issues and prospects of church planting in Nigeria.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The following are the objectives of this study:
- To examine the issues and prospects of church planting in Nigeria.
- To determine the merits and demerits of massive church planting in Nigeria.
- To examine the factors encouraging the proliferation of churches in Nigeria.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
- What are the issues and prospects of church planting in Nigeria?
- What are the merits and demerits of massive church planting in Nigeria?
- What are the factors encouraging the proliferation of churches in Nigeria?
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The following are the significance of this study:
- Findings from this study will educate the church administrators and the general public in Nigeria on the merits and demerits of massive church planting in Nigeria.
- This research will also serve as a resource base to other scholars and researchers interested in carrying out further research in this field subsequently, if applied will go to an extent to provide new explanation to the topic.