Federal Republic of Nigeria
Christian leaders are under great stress in today’s Nigeria, including spiritual opposition, political pressure and financial temptations. Those in the north also face very real dangers from Muslim extremists. Many have ministries with wider African or even global impact. Pray for:
a) Integrity and unity in leadership. There is frequently a gap between what is preached and what is perceived to be practiced by Christian leaders. Especially among the newer, fast-growing churches, prayer is needed for:
i Unity. The fragmented nature of the Church is not so much about personal ambition and personal conflicts as it is about denominational or tribal differences. If leaders cannot work together, then neither will their followers.
ii Honesty. A profusion of competing denominations and sects has emerged, many of them claiming inflated numbers to increase the prestige of their leaders.
iii Personal holiness. Extravagant lifestyles and oily showmanship usurp spiritual depth and biblical preaching as indicators of anointing. Instances of corruption, theft, embezzlement and sexual immorality are tragically frequent.
iv Accountability is often absent; the “big man” dynamic plays into the same materialism, pride and carnality that cripple Nigeria politically and economically.
Pray that humility, simplicity and holiness might become the watchwords of the Nigerian Church.
b) The multiplication of leaders who are Spirit-led, well versed in the Scriptures, skilled in disciple-making and steeped in the knowledge of God and the power of prayer.
c) The hundreds of seminaries, colleges, Bible schools and training programmes in Nigeria, as well as the many TEE courses. The rush of many theological institutions to affiliate to Nigerian universities has produced neither the academic excellence nor the genuine spirituality that the churches so badly need. Several of Nigeria’s leading seminaries are strengthened by pursuing the standards of ACTEA (Accrediting Council for Theological Education in Africa). Though demand for places is high from their own constituent churches, evangelical seminaries are able to offer significant help in the training of pastors for African Initiated Churches.
d) Servant-leaders and mentors to be raised up. One-man ministries, dictatorial leadership, empire-building and unwillingness to entrust responsibility to the upcoming generation are common weaknesses. The generation gap between older and younger pastors is often large and a source of resentment, since the older leaders cling to their power and influence rather than passing the torch.
e) Expatriate ministries, seeking high-profile campaigns that are not necessarily needed or welcomed by established Nigerian leadership networks, can always find other nationals through whom to run their events. This fosters further division and is symptomatic of the Church’s inability to stand as one.
The scale of persecution of Christians by Muslims has accelerated in Nigeria’s northern states and as far south as the central plateau. It has caused the death of thousands, including pastors, and the destruction of hundreds, even thousands, of churches. It has united Christians and driven them to the Lord in prayer, but it also threatens the very fabric of Nigerian society and statehood. Pray for:
a) An understanding of the causes of this complex situation. Muslims fear a loss of power, influence and land as the Church grows and as democracy spreads. Tribal and political rivalries contribute to the tension. Jihadist influences foment pre-planned violence and use the flimsiest pretexts to invoke riots. Not least, the evil one seeks to kill, steal and destroy, from both Christians and Muslims.
b) Restoration and recovery for those who have suffered loss, bereavement and rape. Both Nigerian churches and international agencies are providing new homes, clothing, food and essentials, but inner healing cannot be so easily procured.
c) Forgiveness for persecutors and deliverance from a spirit of revenge.
d) The Christian Association of Nigeria and its ministry of representing Nigeria’s 88 million Christians in five major blocs to the local and federal authorities.
e) Decisive actions by the authorities. Not enough is done to prevent and discourage the outbreak of violence by Muslims – many feel the police and/or military are compromised. Justice is rarely seen to be done, and compensation for the loss and destruction is often promised but almost never delivered.
f) The exposure of the violent and hateful nature of extremist groups. Christians suffer a series of attacks, often pre-planned and well coordinated, and even attempts to force them to convert to Islam under threat of death. This has led to several courageously dying as martyrs. In a number of situations, Christians are unable to trust the protection of government security forces or police to prevent attacks from invading militants.
g) The conversion of Muslims, both of persecutors and of those appalled by the behaviour of their co-religionists. Many of these have been won to Christ over recent years, which is part of the reason for the attacks.
h) The best possible response by Christians. Until now, forbearance has been mistaken for weakness. The large majority of Christians endure such predations without retaliation. But at times of provocation, pastors struggle to prevent their members, especially nominal members, from taking vengeance. Many Christians are involved in peacemaking and pray for a supernatural love of enemies that no force can defeat.
The gospel has made progress since independence despite considerable opposition from Muslims. Many smaller non-Muslim peoples and an increasing number of Muslim-majority peoples are responding to the gospel. Believers from a Muslim background are often driven either underground or out of their home area. As a result, an underground network of believers is developing, as are Christian ministries focused on sheltering and discipling converts. Pray for the protection and growth of this accelerating movement.