(Remembering) John Chau’s Death and Paul Enenche’s Dome
By: Deji Yesufu
(First published on mouthpiece.com.ng in November 29, 2018)
This past week, the Christian world witnessed two phenomena that would cause one to wonder whether we really have gotten our priorities right as Christians in the 21st century. The first is the plethora of critical remarks that has followed the death of John Allen Chau, the missionary killed on an island off the shore of India. The other incidence is the commissioning of a 100,000 capacity church auditorium by Paul Enenche in the capital city of Nigeria, Abuja.
John Chau, an American, was a twenty six year old graduate of Oral Roberts University. He felt a great burden for unreached people around the world and thought that he could direct his missionary effort at the Sentinelese people on an Island near India. The Sentinelese are a tribe of people living on an Island but who have expressed a desire not to be reached by the outside world. Without any direct communication with them, but having expressed continual hostilities to visitors, India authorities have made it illegal for anyone to reach these people. The foremost reason being that since they are an isolated people, their immunity would be low and so no one should go close to the island and infect them with diseases.
John Chau had other plans. Chau understood the gospel enough to realize that a people like these also need to hear the Christian message. In the cover of darkness, and with the aid of local fishermen, Chau reached the island on November 15th, in a boat he paddled onshore himself. He called out to the locals, telling them that Jesus loved them. They were hostile; they shot at him with arrows, one of it even pierced his Bible. He returned to the local fishermen that brought him that night and left a detailed account of his experience in a diary. The next day he returned to the Island and made more daring efforts to approach the locals. The fishermen who took him there watched as the locals attacked him, killed him and buried him in a shallow grave. John had written in his diary that if he ever was killed, no one should come to retrieve his body.
The death of this young American missionary has shocked the world. Leading world news outlets, like Cable Network News (CNN), have been reporting the story. The Indian government has arrested the local fishermen that took Chau to the Island; claiming that they broke the law in going there. Last of all, a lot of people, including Christians, have been calling Mr. Chau a fool and a man who took his missionary zeal to extremes and thus earned for himself an early death.
In another part of the world, this time closer home; in the capital city of Nigeria – Abuja, a Pentecostal Pastor, Mr. Paul Enenche, has built the largest church auditorium in the world. The church, that was commissioned with fan fare on Saturday, 24th November, with dignitaries that include former President Goodluck Jonathan, Aminu Dogara – Speaker of the House of Representatives, E. A. Adeboye, David Oyedepo, and not a few pastors and politicians, including the aje ku iya music maestro, Dino Melaye, is a 100,000 capacity church auditorium, built on the outskirt of the city of Abuja. It is reported that a whooping $3 billion was spent in building the auditorium (that would amount to about N1 trillion). It is the talk of the town and many are praising the feat of Enenche, who has broken the record of David Oyedepo, in building an auditorium that is much larger than the one Oyedepo has at the Canaan Land, Otta, Ogun State.
As a Christian commentator, permit me to draw the attention of my readers to some things the Bible says. The Bible makes it clear that it is the duty of Christians to preach the gospel everywhere (Matthew 28:19). In fact our Lord Jesus Christ says he would not return until the whole earth is filled with his message (Matthew 24:14). In the process of reaching the nations with the gospel, our scripture tells us that our lives are not safe; that we are like sheep among wolves (Matthew 10:16). That the spirit we must have as missionaries is one in which we must not be self preserving: we must not save our lives, for if we do it, we would loose true life (Matthew 10:39). Now, if we believe the Bible and the various accounts in it, we see that John Chau has been faithful to his calling as a Christian. He has lived out the tenets of the faith like the apostles of Christ, the early Christians and like Christ himself. Chau, rather than be criticized, should be praised for doing something that most of us would not do. His life is both a rebuke and a challenge to our laid back kind of Christianity today.
On the other hand, when we come to the New Testament, we do not have one building Jesus and his apostles built as a place of worship. There is no church auditorium in the whole of the Bible! Yes, there were Jewish temples/synagogues but there certainly were no church buildings. In the book of Acts, it is clear that the Jewish people accommodated the early church for a while in the temple but as time went on, and the discrepancies between Christianity and Judaism became clearer, the Christians were sent out of the synagogues, even as Christ had predicted (John 16:2), and they met in each other’s homes. Home churches were the prevailing churches in the New Testament, and those who know a thing about early Jewish home architecture, say that these houses could not accommodate more than a dozen persons at a time. I have written all these to say that the concept of a building, where thousands of people congregate to worship God, is foreign to the New Testament. I am saying in effect that while the world may condemn John Chau for his actions that led to his death, the Bible praises his courage. And while the world praises Enenche for his feat, the scripture has no such example in them. I dare say there is nothing Christian about building large auditoriums in Christendom.
Sometimes in 2013, when Enoch Adeboye began to build his 3km by 3km church auditorium within the Redeemed Camp on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, I made it clear that the whole project was a manifestation of a lack of Christian vision on the part of the Redeemed Church that Adeboye leads (http://yesufu.blogspot.com/2013/08/my-position-on-rccgs-3-km-by-3km-church.html). I also warned that this quest to build larger and larger buildings, would become an example to younger pastors in Nigeria and they would begin to fall over each other to build. Alas, we have a Paul Enenche and the church he has built today.
The real trouble with these pastors competing to outdo each other in building larger and larger buildings is not in the building itself, but in the fact that their actions are not inspired by the Holy Spirit of Christ. I would explain.
When the Holy Spirit possesses a man he comes into him as a result of his hearing the Christian message of the death and resurrection of Christ. He changes the man’s heart and mind, and leads him on a path of continual renewal of mind. Whatever else that man does, missions remains the driving motives behind his actions. A true Christian wants others to be like him; he wants men to be saved. A true Christian pursues to make the human body the temple of the Holy Spirit. This is what happened to John Chau, regardless of the outcome of his life. For those who think that Chau wasted his life, they should remember that liberal and godless TV stations like CNN, do not mention “God” in their broadcasts. But to report Chau, they needed to tell the world his message, which is: “Jesus loves you”. Chau’s death has brought more attention to Christ and his message in one week than we have had in many years. Not only this, the Christian’s blood is seed and with the shedding of this young man’s blood on that island, greater attention would be placed on unreached nations for Christ’s sake. Chau’s death is an eye opener and a challenge to all Christians that the world needs to hear the gospel.
On the other hand, when a false spirit, that arises from a false Christian message, particularly the pervasive prosperity gospel of our time, possesses a people, the people would think they are Christians and would embark on numerous activities that they think has God’s pleasure in it. One of them would be the building of large church auditorium. Because they lack discernment, they would not see that what is at the heart of their actions is vain glory rather than the glory of Jesus Christ. They have amassed a following of false Christians, who have been taught that their calling in life is to live healthy and wealthy, and their means to secure this is to give to the these churches. They give tithes, prophetic offering, building offering, along with the compulsory sacrificial giving. It is the pastors who smile to the bank in the process. And since they have nothing else to use money for, they embark on white elephant projects like the building of larger and larger church auditorium. False Christians pursues to make brick moulding the temple of God.
In a nation where people are living in abject poverty, these pastors flaunt their wealth and show the world their achievement like the building of a 100,000 capacity church auditorium.
While the church was being dedicated in Abuja, reports was reaching Nigerians that one hundred and fifteen soldiers, waging war against the Islamic terrorists in North Eastern Nigeria, had been killed by the insurgents. While Christians fiddle with things that are not essential, Nigeria burns from the attacks of terrorists on her sovereignty. Yet we remember that if Nigerian Christians had possessed a fraction of the missionary zeal that John Chau had, that led him to that remote island close to India, perhaps we would have invaded northern Nigeria in the 1980/90s with the gospel and converted the young boys who are today leading commanders in the Boko Haram insurgency.
It is however not too late. Christians need to realize our calling and do it. Our calling is to preach the gospel, especially in unreached areas of the world, while trusting God to convert the men who hear us. As we do this, Christian missionary activities will bring light and development to places in the world that do not have them. Prosperity would come to nations and men would generally be blessed. This is the testimony that the missionaries of yore had. This can be our testimony too today.
Deji Yesufu is the author of the book Victor Banjo. He may be reached on email@example.com