[20 November 2016]
“A Church should be a church and not just one place to hire for any purpose"
The above quotation is an extract from a piece written by Ben Agande, a well researched journalist.
In the article below, he took a swipe at some questionable issues in Religious worship and critically evaluated such issues as the incessant proliferation of Churches and Religious centres with careless abandon, in virtually all nook and cranny including those places where "Angel fear to Tread" such as Disco Halls, Hotels, mushroom and rat holes- all in the name of seeking to worship God!
In this piece therefore, Agande's exact words are expressed, see details:
'LODGING GOD’ IN HOTELS
– Ben Agande
The image of the Church as a hallowed building where Christians meet regularly to worship God is assuming a new meaning, especially in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
The Church, as many of us know it then, is no longer, strictly speaking, what it is in the FCT. What may be a watering hole for Abuja revellers from Monday to Saturday may turn out to be a serious Church on Sunday.
And the trend, which has been on for a while now, is assuming more acceptability, especially with the proliferation of churches in the country, and the high cost of acquiring land in Abuja.
According to a long-time resident of the FCT, the practice of holding Church services in hotels in Abuja started more than 15 years ago but it assumed greater practice during the tenure of Nasir El-Rufai as FCT Minister when illegal structures were indiscriminately pulled down to restore the Abuja master plan.
The resident, John Nwachukwu, said, in the mid-nineties, few churches held their services in hotels, especially five-star hotels as a mark of prestige and to draw a particular class of people.
“It started with the Family Worship Centre then founded and headed by the flamboyant pastor, the late Ina Omaku, who had returned to Nigeria from America and was making waves with the young men and women of the city. Since he had no permanent structure to conduct service, he used to hold service at the Congress Hall of the prestigious Hilton Hotel.
It was a huge attraction to young men and the women of Abuja then until the Church moved to its headquarters in Wuse District.
So, in a way, it can be said that the Family Worship Centre pioneered worshiping in hotels in this city and other churches followed suit”, the resident who did not want to be named said.
At that time, several churches, especially the burgeoning Pentecostal churches that had no resources to buy land for new structures, resorted to converting whatever available spaces they found, especially those areas that were designated green area where buildings are not meant to be constructed on, to building makeshift structures to serve their purpose.
With the coming of El-Rufai as Minister, however, the story changed. With a clear mandate from then President Olusegun Obasanjo that the Abuja master plan must be restored, El-Rufai set about bringing down all those structures that were built in contravention of the master plan, both in terms of location and design.
Sadly, churches constituted the highest numbers of structures that were pulled down by the FCT administration then. That particular incidence marked the beginning of the influx of churches into hotels to hold services.
But the destruction of structures in places designated as green areas also brought another dimension to how such areas would be put to use. The administration then created parks and gardens in such areas.
Most of these parks and gardens became ready watering holes for Abuja residents. But while it serves this purpose from Mondays to Saturdays, many of them have become worship places on Sundays.
It is the contradiction inherent in using a venue not meant for worshiping God in the first place that has raised the concern of some persons.
According to a client of one of the hotels in Central Area where one of the new generation churches uses its halls on Sundays for service, “the whole arrangement does not look real to me”.
He continued: “A Church should be a church and not just one place to hire for any purpose. The ambience of a Church should uplift one’s spirituality; a feeling that you are in the presence of God.
Conducting services in hotels gives the impression that God is being lodged in a hotel for the period that the Church service lasts.
Meanwhile, a pastor, whose Church premises was one of those destroyed during the El-Rufai administration, told Abuja Bulletin that if there are clear option, “using hotel (as a place of worship) may not be the best option considering the obnoxious events hotels are used for, but if it is a case of being left without a choice, in such a circumstance there is nothing wrong with it.
He said that several reasons inform the decision for pastors using hotels or even gardens to hold services.
“Some use hotel because government legislations prevent them from acquiring property for church purposes, and, or when they do, lands are located out skirts of the town, which makes it difficult for people to attend or open them up for attacks, particularly in most core northern states”, he stated.
“Others meet in hotel for security reasons; the security provided by the hotel makes it accessible to some class of people.
The other reasons may range from the high taste of flamboyant preachers who are not committed to real evangelistic work, but choose to use hotel to attract patronage from high societal persons as status symbol.
This last group hardly ever leaves hotel.
They are the ones I am not comfortable with their activities. Others only use hotel as launch pad, because of difficulty in securing property for church use and usually move as soon as they secure their own accommodation”.
Providing further justification on why the attention should not be focused on the physical structure of a Church, he argued:
“The Church is not a building, but a body of believers with a specific nature and purpose. These biblical roles or ministries of the Church are foundational to it. What are these roles?
They are many, but key to any Church are foundations in worship, edification and evangelism.
“Worship is God-centered and Christ-centered. It is not about entertaining Christians with flashy displays or presentations, but about expressing our love by worshiping our Creator.
We are to praise and glorify God in worship” and if this can be done anywhere, then there should not be an issue”.
For as long as the price of properties in the FCT remains beyond the reach of many churches, using hotels and other premises as places of worship and service may continue for a while.
What is important is that, if in doing so, it will hinder some people from seeking salvation, then the decision should be reconsidered by those who use hotels and other watering holes as places of worship on Sundays.
Is a Blogger & the Associate Editor of Negroidhaven.org