“The big question remains, are you truly a believer in Christ Jesus, or are you merely a Church goer?”Tweet
I laugh when I see some Pastors subtly loathe Christians and Reverends who are members of some mainline denominations.
What do some of these folks think and how do they think? That wearing suit and tie makes one more knowledgeable than some “cassock-wearing” preachers? Or that being a member of a “noisy” assembly makes you more vibrant than members of a “quiet” Church?
I once read Chinwoke Mbadinuju’s book many years ago where he argued that the Anglican Church is a dead Church. I don’t know if the book succeeded in the market because I worked in the press where it was printed and had the opportunity to read it. What he shared wasn’t just his opinion but the sentiments of many “Pentecostal and Charismatic” denomination Christians.
If we should judge by training, I can argue that the mainline Church clergies go through more rigorous training than most of these “modern” Churches. And don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that going to a seminary school for several years is enough, but we can’t take away the importance of the systematic training that these clergymen go through. No, it’s not a three-month Bible course that anyone could attend online; sometimes, it is about four years of study and other training that they continue undergoing even after ordination.
Years back as a practicing Anglican, I had been approached several times by some believers in the Pentecostal Churches who would ask “are you born again?” And my answer was always an emphatic yes! Then they go ahead and ask, “do you belong to any assembly?” And my answer was always a resounding yes. Some would go further to ask which denomination I belonged to. Whenever I tell them that I was an Anglican, they make some disparaging remarks.
I remember as a YAC member and later a leader, we would have some Pentecostal brethren who encounter us act very surprised that we pray in tongues, work miracles, and express unmatched vibrancy. We had been invited in several Pentecostal Churches at that time to minister especially in songs and when folks hear “Young Anglican Crusaders” in the introductory remark, they’d all act surprised that we are all able to express the gift of the Holy Spirit.
I remember a Pentecostal Pastor I once worked for. He met me one time after he stopped seeing me in Church. When he asked why I wasn’t showing up like before, I explained to him that I had some new roles in the assembly I belonged to. And when he realized it was an Anglican Church, he expressed this same sentiment that was not new to me. He was like “Anglican? Don’t you think you need a place where you can learn God’s word?” I smiled. What he didn’t know then was that some members of his Church were members of the YAC ministry which I was leading at that time.
I also remember a time we were returning from a program very early in the morning. While on the road, we had an urge to pray, and we pulled to one side and started praying in unknown tongues. Another set of people returning from a program met us and joined us. It was an amazing meeting that early morning on the road. They were members of a popular Church and they had felt we were also returning from their Church because of how we were praying in tongues.
After the brief emergency prayer meeting, we exchanged pleasantries and when we introduced ourselves as members of the Young Anglican Crusaders, Amazing Grace Chapter, they were shocked. They couldn’t hide their surprise. I didn’t blame them; they are simply victims of misinformation. Many people who have never been to an Anglican Church, Methodist Church, or some mainline denominations may think that these Churches sit on the floor and bow heads like Muslims because of the perceptions shaped into their consciousness by stereotypes.
We forget a lot. These Orthodox Churches brought the gospel to Africa, they brought education, and healthcare and solved a lot of puzzles that confused our fathers. These Orthodox Churches didn’t only come with these welfare supports; they brought it at no cost. Some sacrificed their lives for the gospel to bring what they knew as light to Africa! Isn’t that miracle? They were given lands that had been forsaken because of fear that some strange spirits were active in those lands, and the Church transformed communities.
Before the independence of Nigeria, Southern Nigeria was considered more developed than Northern Nigeria, it is still so today. These developments were credited to the activities of the Churches in Southern Nigeria. So many of our fathers were able to enjoy free education, free healthcare, and other benefits courtesy of the Church missionary societies.
Yet, many believers of newer and modern denominations see members of mainline denominations as people bereft of knowledge. They should rather be learning from these Orthodox Churches, they should be learning how these Churches were able to break through into remote areas that had never heard the gospel, and they should learn about the selfless sacrifices of these missionaries. They didn’t come to take tithes, they didn’t come to impose “first fruit” offerings on people, they simply came with a burden, to see the light of the gospel shine in Africa.
I owe my growth to the experiences and opportunities I had in the Anglican Church. One truth is that the Orthodox Churches give you more room to express your gifting than many of these newer Churches that are run like a “private business”. So many global ministers today owe their growth to the opportunities that the structures of these Orthodox Churches provided for them.
While I may not speak so much for other mainline Churches because I didn’t experience what membership there looks like, let me give you some insight into Anglicanism which I grew up in.
#1. What metamorphosed into the Anglican Church didn’t begin as an offshoot of Roman Catholicism. It began in the 3rd century with its uniqueness and was independent of Roman Catholicism until the 7th century when the Roman Catholic primate established authority over Christianity in Britain. However, this authority was frequently opposed. When you read the history of Britain, you’d see that even before King Henry VIII, the British Church had always had reasons to oppose the authority of the Roman Catholic Pope over Christianity in Britain.
#2. The Anglican Church you know today is not some tool of a political rift that Henry VIII had with the Pope of Rome. Since its break from the Papal authority, the Church of England which is the mother Church of Anglican Churches worldwide has since become highly and uniquely evangelical. The Anglican Church in many nations of the world is as very sound in an evangelical sense as any other evangelical Churches you can find elsewhere.
#3. While Anglicanism leans towards Calvinism a bit, it is not Calvinist, Lutheran, or Baptist. Anglican is both Orthodox and reformed. The Book of Common Prayer, Homilies, and 39 Articles of Faith shows how reformed Anglicanism is.
#4. Anglican is spiritual and scriptural. In Anglicanism, scripture is the HIGHEST and SUPREME authority. Anglicanism teaches that: “Holy Scriptures containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” However, Anglicanism also teaches that reason and tradition have a place but must be subject to the scripture. Anglicans also express the gifts of the spirit in diverse ways. By God’s grace, I began teaching the Bible as an Anglican, I prayed for the sick and preached God’s saving grace to people.
#5. Anglican teaches the doctrine of justification by faith alone. I didn’t listen to any teaching outside the Anglican Church to grasp the message of Grace. Although there are many Anglican parishes led by priests who have been influenced by “other gospel” like the prosperity gospel, charismatic and Pentecostal ministries, the Anglican article of Faith and homilies makes it clear that justification is by faith alone. Salvation is only in Christ Jesus. Because the Anglican Church encourages people to study the Bible for themselves, there are higher tendencies for one to grow tremendously in knowledge as an Anglican beyond what is being taught in Church.
#6. Anglican today although with historical ties to England is not dependent on England. There are more Anglicans in the Global South than there are in the Western world. Nigeria is one of the big players in Anglicanism. However, Nigeria has to be more proactive in defending the faith. Today, so many Nigerian Priests just like Pastors of other denominations have copied trends from external sources. While there could be ongoing doctrinal issues in some Anglican provinces in the Western world, it is not limited to Anglican alone and it does not represent the Global Anglican communion.
#7. While Anglican Communion is a Christian denomination, it is one of the most committed denominations that is facilitating ecumenism. In fact, as a chapter President of Young Anglican Crusaders, I was able to have members of other denominations embrace the YAC ministry. Before handing over, 70% of YAC members in Amazing Grace Anglican Church, Obosi where I led were not members of the Anglican Church, but they found a home in YAC while retaining their membership and participation in their various Churches.
God is interested in you, not merely in your denomination. God is not dependent on your denomination to wrought great things through you. The big question remain, are you truly a believer in Christ Jesus, or are you merely a Church goer? John 3:16 remains remarkable. God gave Jesus because He loved the world, and He still does. WHOSOEVER believes in him SHALL NOT perish but have eternal life.
So, whether you are Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Charismatic, or Pentecostal. If you are a believer in Christ Jesus, you are a Child of God and by extension, the other folk from the other denomination is your brother, united by the same Spirit of God.