COVID 19: BAD NEWS FOR PASTORS -BISHOP PROFFERS SOLUTION
Nick Iheanacho is an end of time prophetic minister whose emphasis on Kingdom focused messages has created lots of impact with over 25 years consistent work in God’s vineyard as the presiding Bishop of Arise International Fellowship at Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. He is the host of Perilous Times Gospel Crusade, a ministry platform for mass evangelism, penetrating the hinterlands, cities and nations. He is a keen observer and interpreter of end time events as they relate to the current happenings in the world. The COVID 19 pandemic provides another complex phenomenon in the contemporary history. Taking a deep thought on the pandemic, especially its impact on the public worship, Bishop Iheanacho spared no time in indict church leaders and their overtures for worldly aggrandisement as reason for prolonging the disease. Here are his thoughts shared with this writer at the weekend:
The global lockdown of the church and other places of human importance is a sad news for the church. It caught the church unaware and this is a very bad news for pastors, especially the senior ones we all looked up to. I don’t blame any other persons than the pastors because they did not prepare the church for a time like this and this is why there is so much noise as to whether government should open the church or not. It is not the fault of government, but us pastors who failed in their duty to prepare the people properly for such a time like this. Jesus told us that He was going to prepare a place for us; so there is need for preparation. We are told in the Bible that times like this will come – the perilous times when things will be difficult. The Bible doesn’t even need to mention COVID 19, but there are many portions of the Scriptures that talk about it.
Lack of proper preparation made the church to be taken unaware. Think about this for a second: Who could have been able to stop the church from gathering? Not even government, no matter how powerful a government is, it cannot stop the church from gathering. Check through history, no government, no power has ever stopped the church before. For COVID 19 to stop the church, it means there is something behind the disease that we don’t even know or bother at all to know. COVID 19 appears to me like when God wanted to destroy Ahab, a powerful king of Israel whom no one could stop in battle, the Almighty enquired the heavenly beings who could easily deceive Ahab into self-destructive mission. One spirit said he would go as a lying spirit and enter into the mouth of all his prophets who would then lure him into battle to be killed.
But there was one prophet Micaiah who had a different revelation and said to the king, ‘I saw the host of Israel scattered as sheep without a shepherd’, Ahab was angry at his prophecy and locked him up. Why the king should be angry at Micaiah who gave him a true revelation of what was about to happen? God would always warned us ahead of divine judgment. COVID 19 is a metaphor of what happened to Ahab. It’s like saying, ‘How would I discipline the church and warn the entire world against a looming disaster of higher proportion?
The pride, ego and haughtiness of the church and the world have become so provocative that God may have pondered: If a pestilence, in which World Health Organization (WHO) described as COVID 19 can do the job of bringing the church to a place of reasoning, so be it!
When the church understands what is happening, it will help us comport ourselves. But it seems to me that with the noise all over the world, believers have not understood what is happening: we are murmuring, grudging and making noise all over the place instead of repentance. Our murmurings are making thousands die of the plague just as thousands died in the desert when Israel murmured. There was a plague that killed people from the age 20; it then looked natural but the physicians then had noticed that the disease was killing only people from 20 and above. If you look at the current plague, it is the older people that it kills most.
Whether we open or not is not important, something happened that made us to be shut down, we need to realise that we went wrong and humble ourselves. It is like one who is suspended from the school; does he go home and relax or murmur? No, he won’t go and relax; is it something to be happy about that one has been suspended from school? No! You will humble yourself and work hard to ensure that you are recalled. The church is on suspension now – the stay at home is not a good news to the church and every other person.
Then suddenly, there’s freedom of movement but they hold one particular person – the church – to stay at home, then you should ask yourself why you are still on suspension. That’s the sober reflection, repentance that’s the humility I am talking about. The entire Christendom, the pastors and all ministers of God wherever they are should humble themselves before God and say, ‘God, we have done wrong, please forgive us.’
So, relating the current pandemic to the biblical plagues based on their similarities; what then should be our best response especially in the face of lockdown of Churches?
We have to humble ourselves. God says: “The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day,” Isaiah 2:11. We are so proud and haughty and does not have regards for humility before God. But the answer is in humility. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land,” 2 Chronicles 7:14. The prayer here is not more important than humbling ourselves; when Ahab humbled himself at a time, God changed His mind. Whenever Israel went astray and the enemy nation tormented them, God had always intervened once they humbled themselves and returned to Him.
All of us need to humble ourselves. We are too haughty, there is so much pride in the church. Christ’s church has now become ‘my church,’ if we had allowed the church to be Christ’s own, nobody can shut it down. I hear a lot of people saying, ‘It is not the church that is shut down but the building.’ The church is the gathering of the people of God, and with COVID 19, we are told not to gather; it means we are locked-down. The body of Christ is not one man, but where two or three families gather together in fellowship. One part cannot make the body, the head cannot do without the hand and the hand cannot do without the leg – all of the parts must be fitted together to have the body. When the body of Christ gathers together, that’s the church, and for the body not to gather together we need to know that we have done something wrong.
The day we humble ourselves and ask forgiveness, the day God will turn His mind and the COVID 19 will disappear from the earth.
Secondly, after we have humbled ourselves and repented, we should now reason with ourselves: ‘Now that we have repented and God has forgiven us, how should we behave so we don’t repeat the same mistakes that brought us to where we found ourselves? We have to prepare ourselves and the people of God for rapture. To be honest the church has fallen away. The perilous times 2Timothy 3:1 talks about are here; these are times of a great falling away from the faith as a result of temptations, trials and persecutions of Christians. These chastisement is not to destroy us but to put us in the right shape. But the church does not want to pass through tribulations: ask Christians about tribulations and they will tell you they don’t want to pass through them. But whether we accept the facts or not, we must pass through them. Believers are mistaking tribulations or trials of faith to be the wrath of God, no! Tribulation refers to trial, torture and every believer or pastor must pass through it because we are too loose and not ready for rapture. Tell me which pastor is ready for rapture now! Are you ready for what you are not preaching? Are you ready for what you are not preparing for? Tribulations are to shake and shape us to prepare for what is coming ahead of us.
These shakings are emerging through COVID19, yet people don’t think so. Someone said, ‘Covid 19 is a mere virus, has nothing to do with God.’ This opinion is borne out of ignorance. All those plagues in the Bible which came to pass did not carry the flag of God to show that, ‘Ah, this is what the prophets had warned us about that are coming to pass.’ The plagues came like natural phenomenon. The anti-Christ will not come with horns and tail like an artist’s impression of the devil, he will come naturally either as political, scientific or humanistic person. In fact, anti-Christ will come like someone coming to help.
Job 33:27 says, “God looketh down upon men if men will say, I have done that which profiteth me nothing, he will save men from destruction…” We have to look into our lives to see where we derailed and this is what I do in my life. If I have headache now, I have to ask, ‘Have I stressed up myself, or did I eat what I ought not to have eaten?’ I don’t have to begin to blame someone else for my headache because even if it is caused by an enemy, I must have given him a chance to do that in the first place.
Do you know that the church does not have respect anymore throughout the world? This same church where we all claimed anointing is moving; most of the known ministers of faith when they wave their hands, two hundred people would fall under their anointing, I believe there is anointing in that ground, and in that ground where two hundred people fell, where someone will say, ‘Pastor, there is a woman here who came in with blind eyes but now seeing, if truly it was the Holy Ghost anointing that fell two hundred in that place, and you said Covid 19 is so strong a disease, we cannot gather in that ground again, and you agreed that it’s true; after Covid 19, how will you be able to gather people back in that ground and claim the Holy Ghost is moving? It looks like those miracles are fake, it it were not fake what stops COVID 19 patients from moving in there and get healed? Or why cannot we have a testimony that COVID 19 patients coming into the same ground were healed? This could have been a good testimony.
Someone one observed: If the church is closed to save lives, why is it existing in the first place? What is the meaning of the church in the face of this? Is it a social club or where to make money? Church is the place to save life but if the church has to be closed to save life, then it means whenever lives are to be saved, we need to close the church. So, the blame in on the church, not the government, not the society but the church. You cannot begrudge COVID 19 because I believe that it is the instrument that God is using to make the church know where we have missed it and go back to our first love for God.
Thirdly, after repentance and returning to our first love, we can now be ready to become a place of safety, where we can tell government we can now save lives from COVID 19 and other destructive elements. Then we can boldly tell the world, the church is a place where the lame can walk, the blind see and that fellowshipping together will bring healing. Then we can gather back again. Now, since we have been home, have you heard that miracles are happening, that lives are saved? We are all struggling now, those miracle noise makers are all struggling now, and no noise. It means it has affected everybody. The danger of continued shutdown of the church is that it will affect lives negatively all over the world because no more prayers and it is sad. If you say, close down the church, go and pray at home; how many people are praying at home? It is more dangerous to the nation to continue to close down the church because you cannot through away the good alongside the bad ones. How many testimonies have heard of people praying in the home healed people or saved lives? Instead of praying at home, people are running to the streets to call on God because they have seen that praying at home alone cannot suffice because it written, ‘My house shall be called the house of prayer.’ It is not your house, but His house where He has chosen for His worship.
So, we should not relax, heaven has given us suspension, we must repent, go back to where we missed it.