Reflection on Two Pastors
By: Deji Yesufu
I am a product of my environment and I have been very fortunate to have listened to many seasoned ministers of the gospel throughout my life. These men, and women, have helped shape my thinking and form the foundation on which my Christian walk is built on today. Today, I wish to write about two men who have greatly influenced my Christian thinking but because I would be painting one of them in a negative light, I would not be mentioning either of their names. Instead I would call them my former pastor and my latter pastor – the latter pastor having influenced my thinking after my association with the former pastor.
It was Hank Hanegraaf that wrote the book “Christianity in Crisis”. It is a book that critically analyses the modern Prosperity Gospel and its effect on mainstream Christianity. The fact however is this: the title of that book describes the state of the whole professing Christianity worldwide today. Somebody was telling us on a Whatsapp group chat the other day that a friend was seeking a good church to go to in an area in Ghana and because she did not find one, she had to resort to going to a Jehovah Witnesses meeting. That was the only organized and sane assembly she could identify with – despite its heretic and unorthodox beliefs. That is just an example of the chaotic state Christianity is in the world today. Despite the gloom, however, these two men whom I would be reflecting on today still standout in contrast to the decadence around us.
I learnt discipline and organization from my former pastor. I use to worry over the fact that some pastors I knew in the past spent too much of their time counseling members of their congregation. Others spent most of their morning hours sleeping. They resume at work and do almost nothing till the close of the day. My former Pastor would resume at his office at 8am and would be in devotion, study and prayers till 1pm, before opening his door for counselling and other church matters. I loved the fact that he never joined the horde of “mighty ministers”. He maintained a simplicity that made him very approachable. All of these coupled with the fact that he studied well enough to deliver original sermons, and not something he heard from somebody else. I have always said to myself that if God grants for me to lead a church, I would imitate this style to the letter. Unfortunately, I do not know my latter pastor well enough to be able to say categorically how he spends his mornings. But coming from a rich Christian tradition like those of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who in his book Preaching and Preachers, a sermon of admonition to young ministers, one can be sure that my latter Pastor also does not “waste his mornings”, as Lloyd-Jones admonished in his book.
I have long discovered that the main trust in the messages of my former and latter pastors are categorically different. My latter pastor has two things he pursues in all his preaching: he wants those who are not Christians to come to saving faith in Christ and he wishes for Christians to continue faithful in Jesus Christ. My latter pastor is thoroughly convinced that false religion abounds in the world and that the greatest problem in the church today are unconverted persons professing to be Christians. My latter pastor labors on gospel themes in all his messages, with the hope that the Holy Spirit may convert the unsaved. My latter Pastor does not work miracles, he does not speak in tongues, and he does not give words of knowledge or wisdom. In fact, my latter pastor is not Pentecostal.
My former pastor, on the other hand, wishes that all Christians would have the good life. That is the main thrust of his messages. He is also concerned that people would be born again but it does not reflect much in his messages. The reason is because my former pastor holds to an erroneous belief that anyone who has said the sinners’ prayer at the altar of a church, is already a Christian – a kind of easy believism that pervades much of Christianity today. Therefore he holds to the notion that anyone who professes to be a Christian is already a Christian. His ministry therefore only builds on these existing facts. In my experience in his church, there have been rude moments when my former pastor had learnt that people who claimed they were Christians were actually not Christians. My former pastor holds to the Pentecostal Arminian belief that Christians can lose their salvation; so that much of the post converted life is spent teaching Christians how to “make heaven”.
My former pastor is the founder and General Overseer of the church he pastors. My latter pastor is an employee of the church he now pastors. Both of them have built the churches they lead to the present status that they presently are – a period that spans more than twenty five year for each of them. Because one is a founder and the other is an employee, their manner of governing the church is different. My former pastor is the chairman of the council of elders in the church. My latter pastor is not even a member of the council of elders. He is answerable to a crop of men that lead the church where he pastors. This allows for my latter pastor to be quite accountable to how he uses his time and church resources, while my former pastor has a lot of liberty in these areas.
My former and latter pastors have two different concepts of what Christian faith is. My former pastor believes that faith is a means to getting whatever you want from God – this comes from his strong Word of Faith background, and as a student of Kenneth Hagin, he has remained faithful to preaching faith in this manner. He believes that with faith you can get riches and find health for your sick bodies. He credit all the progress he has made in life to his faith. My latter pastor does not teach that faith is a means to get things from God. My latter pastor holds that true Christian faith justifies sinners before a holy God. He believes that true saving faith would makes a person holy and calls him to a lifelong walk of sanctification. My latter pastor is heavily critical of the Word of Faith movement. He does not think that all Pentecostals are heretics; he however holds that a lot of false Christianity flourishes in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. My latter pastor credits his progress in life to God and his wonderful sovereignty, and not merely to his faith.
Despite his faulty soteriology, I still think that my former Pastor is a genuine Christian. I have seen him under pressure and I have seen him depend on God and not idols like many Pentecostals do. He may be part of the last bastion of genuine Christians that proceeded out of the Pentecostal movement of the 1980s. Nonetheless, his ministry would be a lot better if he has the grace of mind to hear my latter pastor out and imitate his faith. I consider myself really fortunate to have been under the ministry of these two men. The Bible says: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith” (Hebrew 13:7).
I have the liberty today to consider the outcome of the lives of these two men and whom I should imitate is abundantly clear to me. I hope it is clear to you too.
Deji Yesufu is the author of the book Victor Banjo. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org
First published this day a year ago on mouthpiece.com.ng