The Living Church and the Dead Church, By Femi Aribisala
The scriptures depict a Samaritan woman who attends the Church of Mount Gerizim. In that church, some members of the congregation have buckets, so they are able to draw water from the well to drink. Others expect to have buckets or are hoping to get buckets. Nevertheless, all the members of Mount Gerizim church are thirsty. However, when they get to church, the pastor promises they will have lots of water to drink.
In Mount Gerizim, some are poor and want to be rich. Some cannot pay their rent and want to be able to do so. Some cannot pay their school-fees and are looking for ways and means to do so. Some don’t have cars and want to buy them. Some don’t have houses and desire to build them. Some are single and want to get married. Some are barren and want to have children. Some are unemployed and want to have jobs. Some are of a low estate and want to be promoted.
The church preaches a gospel that promises that the poor would become rich; the unmarried would get married; the barren would have children; and the jobless would get jobs. But their gospel does not tell the poor how to deal with poverty; it does not tell the unmarried how to deal with being single; it does not tell the barren how to deal with barrenness; and it does not tell the unemployed how to deal with joblessness.
For this reason, most members of Mount Gerizim are frustrated. In the church, by the law of averages, certain people succeed in business every year. Certain people buy cars every year. Certain people build houses every year. But for every person who builds a house, thousands more are homeless. For every person who buys a car, thousands more take the bus.
The situation is compounded because God’s providence ensures that some of the rich in the church become poor, some of the married get divorced, some of the parents lose their children, and some of the employed lose their jobs.
Therefore, the gospel preached in the church becomes a lie. When Job lost his job, the pastor told him it must be the result of his unrighteousness. The rumour went round that Job must have been keeping a mistress. When robbers attacked his trucking company, they said he must not have been paying his tithe. When Job’s seven children died in the Tsunami disaster, they said it must be because of his sins.
The Samaritan woman herself has been so frustrated that she keeps moving from church to church. As a matter of fact, she has had five pastors in the last few years, and the man heading Mount Gerizim now is not even her pastor.
But one day, she meets a man called Jesus who is the pastor of the Jerusalem Church. In that church, they don’t serve natural water: they serve living water. When you drink living water, you never thirst again. As a result, people in the Jerusalem Church are not seeking to be rich, to be married, to have children, or to get jobs. In that church, people are simply seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
In the Jerusalem Church, some are rich and some are poor. Some are married and some are not. Some have jobs and some have none. But it does not make a difference because the haves uphold the have-nots: “As it is written, ‘He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.’” (2 Corinthians 8:15).
As a result, with Jesus as their pastor, they lacked nothing. Everyone was his brother’s keeper. There were no frustrated members. All were full of the joy of the Lord. Even when some of them died in a bus accident, they did not lose their joy. Even when El-Gaddai demolished the Abuja branch of the church, they counted it all joy. Even when some religious fanatics attacked some of their members and destroyed their property, they rejoiced and were exceedingly glad. They joyfully accepted the hands of providence knowing they had a better and more enduring inheritance in heaven. (Hebrews 10:34).
When the people in the Jerusalem church have prayer meetings, they don’t ask for bread or for fish. They ask for the Holy Spirit. When they fast, it is not because they are looking for jobs, money, wives or husbands; but because they are looking for God. At their prayer meetings, they don’t spend time fighting demons and all manner of household enemies. When they have prayer meetings, their emphasis is on worshiping God and fellowshiping with him.
When the Samaritan woman heard about Jesus’ Jerusalem Church, she decided to stop going to Mount Gerizim. In fact, she went about preaching to others about this new living church. Within days, many in Samaria were persuaded.
But there is yet another characteristic of the church in Mount Gerizim. In the church, the people are sick, blind, lame and paralysed. Every year, a few people manage to receive healing. But this is only because there is a miracle pool beside the church. Once a year, it is believed that an angel comes down to stir the water in the pool. Only those who step into the pool immediately after the angel stirs the water get healed.
How then did this church get so big? They have a terrific evangelism department. They build up the testimonies of the few who get healed every year. People come in their thousands hoping to be one of the lucky few. But for every one person who gets healed, thousands go home frustrated. For every person who gets healed, thousands remain unhealed.
There is one particular man in Mount Gerizim who has been sick for 38 years. In 38 years he has been coming to the church expecting to get healed, but to no avail. It is remarkable that he nevertheless continued to come to the church. The elaborate testimonies of the few healed people kept him coming. But he remained there a very frustrated Christian.
One day Jesus, the pastor of the Jerusalem Church, visited Mount Gerizim and saw this sick man. He asked him if he would like to be healed. The man tried to explain that it was impossible for him to be healed because others always manage to get into the water before him when the pool is stirred. Jesus did not even help him get into the water. Instead, he said to him: “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” Immediately, the man was made well, took up his bed and went home.
As he was walking down the road, some of his pastors from Mount Gerizim challenged him for carrying his bed. They reminded him that he should not be carrying his bed on the Sabbath. But the man refused to listen to them. He insisted that he was only obeying the instruction of the pastor who healed him.
He said to them: “Your instructions could not heal me for 38 years, so why should I listen to you now that I have found the true healer?”