What has been described as a book of Acts-like move of God is sweeping Nigeria - and spreading overseas. Huge crowds and reported healings are commonplace in the West African nation, while some of the largest churches elsewhere in the world are pas
The world's largest church building - seating some 50,000 - is located 30 miles west of the capital, Lagos, and stadium-sized sanctuaries are springing up around the country. German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke attracts upwards of 1 million when he holds open-air crusades. The Redeemed Church of God's annual Holy Ghost Congress is the largest Christian gathering on earth - last year's three-day event drew between 2 million and 4 million attendees.
"There is a prophetic mandate on Nigerian Christians,' says Matthew Ashimolowo, a former Muslim who now leads the largest church in England, Kingsway International Christian Centre in east London. "God has given us a word that our ministers will go out and shake the world." Ukraine's largest congregation, the 15,000-member Word of Faith Bible Church in Kiev, was founded by Sunday Adelaja, a Nigerian student. Nigerians also pastor the largest churches in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Jamaica.
The Nigerian growth continues despite fierce opposition from Islam. Several Muslim-controlled states in the country have introduced strict Islamic law, and scores of churches have been burned down. "Whatever it is about Nigeria, it must be special because the devil fights it," says Ashimolowo. Yet missiologists say that the country is now 45 percent Christian.
"God has visited us in the same way He did in the book of Acts," says Enoch Adeboye, general overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, the country's largest and fastest-growing denomination. Founded 50 years ago, it had only a few dozen churches in 1980 - but since then has exploded to 5,000 congregations and an estimated 3 million adherents.
Many leaders point to 1998 as the turning point - the year when Muslim dictator Sani Abacha died, to be succeeded the following year in a free election by Olusegun Obasanjo, a born-again military leader. "The amount of prayer going up for Nigeria was unprecedented," says Yemi Osinbajo, a Pentecostal who is attorney general in Lagos state.
Christians across the denominations have embraced a theology that leaves room for miracles, speaking in tongues and noisy worship. But a growing number of young leaders are concerned that the revival is fraught with problems.
They say that most Pentecostal churches are mired in legalism. Many pastors, they say, have adopted an American model of "celebrity Christianity," which has been eagerly embraced by a patriarchal African culture that struggles with hero worship. And they are concerned that a version of the "prosperity gospel" message has been welcomed by preachers using it to enrich themselves.
Such issues invite heresy, spiritual abuse and a faith that is too irrelevant to address complex social issues such as social justice, AIDS and hunger. "If revival stops with jumping and clapping and speaking in tongues, then we have wasted the grace of God," says David Oyedepo, founder of Winner's Chapel. "This move of God is not to redecorate the church. It is to redecorate the world."
Source: Charisma News Service