National Association Of Gospel Ministers: How Scriptural?
Osamagbe Lesley EGHAREVBA | Lagos, Nigeria
On August 1st, 2022, a letter was in circulation among brethren in Nigeria, inviting preachers in the churches of Christ in Nigeria to the 12th Annual National Conference of the Church of Christ – Nigeria National Association of Gospel Ministers. It was stated in the letter that the conference would be held from 15th to 18th November, 2022 at the meeting place of the church of Christ, Use Ndon, Akwa Ibom state. The letter requested that each congregation should encourage and support their preacher to attend the conference at Akwa Ibom. Exactly a month after that, another letter was written on September 1st, 2022 by this same association requesting for financial assistance to host the 12th Annual National Conference in Akwa Ibom. The total estimate cost of 3.7 million Naira was said to be required to successfully host the programme. On September 21, 2022, another letter was written by this same association, and this time, they were calling for advertisements in their proposed souvenir programme. The cost implications for anyone who wishes to place an advertisement in the souvenir were included.
On each of the letters, it is interesting to note that the letterhead reads “Church of Christ – Nigeria” with its head office in Abuja and a branch office in Akwa Ibom. Furthermore, there were various offices and officers mentioned therein including National President, Vice President, Secretary General, Assistant Secretary General, Financial Secretary, Treasurer, PRO, Welfare Officer, Legal Adviser, etc.
When the first and second letters were being circulated, I and two other brethren took it upon ourselves to write to the organizers of this conference, expressing our shock at the letters and requesting for scriptural explanation for that. We wrote the letter on September 1, 2022 and sent to them asking for explanation. On September 3, 2022, I called the National President on phone and asked if he saw our letter, he acknowledged receipt of the letter and promised to respond but we never got any response. Two months later on November 3, 2022, we decided to write a letter of reminder to these brethren and requested that they respond to us before the event takes place on the 15th of that same month. Sadly, this is September 2023 and we have not heard from them.
On September 10, 2023, this association wrote another letter addressed to “the ministers, churches of Christ – Nigeria,” informing them of the postponement of their 13th Annual National Conference that was scheduled to hold from 1st to 4th November, 2023 at the meeting place of the church of Christ, Lawanson, Lagos. They have postponed it till November, 2024 due to economic and security issues in Nigeria. It is strange that these men would not offer a scriptural defense for their practice but would continue in propagating this error. But what exactly is wrong with this arrangement?
Errors of the Association
First, it is an error to have a body known as “Church of Christ – Nigeria.” In the Bible, local congregations of the Lord’s church in a region are not grouped as one single church. It is often the churches of Christ (Romans 16:16; Galatians 1:2, 22; II Corinthians 8:1). In Nigeria, there are several congregations of the Lord’s church. So, the name “Church of Christ – Nigeria” is simply another denomination and not a congregation of the Lord’s church that meets regularly upon the first day of the week for the purpose of worship and work of the Lord.
Second, the association has an head office in Abuja and a branch office in Akwa Ibom. But we know that the church of Christ does not have an head office on this earth nor is there “a branch” of the church anywhere (cf. Phil. 3:20). This association is simply another denomination without scriptural authority!
Third, scriptural officers in the Bible church are elders and deacons (Ephesians 4:11-12; I Timothy 3:1-13) but we find that the officers in the “Church of Christ – Nigeria National Ministers Conference are all officers that are not found in the Bible. Where is the authority for this?
Fourth, there’s no single authority in God’s word for the existence of a National Ministers Conference. This is an idea that cannot be traced to the scriptures. In the Bible, preachers were sent out by a congregation for the purpose of preaching and teaching the Word (Acts 13:1-3; Acts 15:1-3). We have no record of a National Preacher’s Association of any kind. If a National Ministers Conference is scriptural, what would be wrong if we have something like a “Church of Christ – Nigeria Elders’ Wives Association” as well as “COC-Nigeria International Youths conference,” etc. The existence of the National Ministers Conference is a floodgate to apostasy and any association of Christians may imitate such and create their own institution and generate funds by perpetual begging from congregations to do a work that God has not authorize them to do!
Fifth, by what authority does the Association invite preachers from various congregations to attend its conference? What connection does the church has with it? In the Bible, the church is the only institution that does the work of preaching and teaching. For this human institution known as Church of Christ – Nigeria National Ministers Conference to begin to invite the preachers of various congregations to a conference and even solicit funds from churches and request that churches sponsor their preachers there, is complete heresy and total disregard for the authority of Christ. Little wonder why they cannot respond to defend their practice. Imagine the huge amount of money (3.7 million Naira) that this association was requesting that churches provide for them to host their conference in 2022. Suppose this amount is channeled towards a radio or TV evangelism by a local church, do you know how many people would hear the truth as a result of this effort? What if each local church used their funds to support faithful preachers to do the work of evangelism, would that be a good way to use the Lord’s money or not?
We have no New Testament example of preachers forming an organization to solve “brotherhood” issues or deliberate on how to solve brotherhood issues. We must understand that each local church is autonomous and must handle its issues by itself (Ephesians 4:16). One or more preachers may be invited to help in solving their issues as they desire (Acts 9:38). When preachers form an association to solve brotherhood issues, they are going beyond their scope. Preachers are to do the work of preaching. The National Association of Gospel Ministers is a full fledge organization with headquarters, purse, officers, etc. and probing into church matters without scriptural authority.
It is sad that brethren want to continue to progress in error, despite the efforts that faithful brethren have been making to ensure that the scriptural pattern of sound words is maintained among the brethren. Anyone who is conscious of heaven will do well to disregard these man-made institution and follow the word of God.