KEYNOTE ADDRESS DELIVERED BY OLUSEGUN SOFUNKE (ESQ) LAY PRESIDENT OF THE DIOCESE OF LAGOS TO THE 49TH ANNUAL SYNOD OF THE DIOCESE HOSTED BY METHODIST CHURCH NIGERIA, EREKO CIRCUIT FROM THURSDAY 3RD MARCH TO SUNDAY 6TH MARCH 2011.
It is indeed a thing of great joy that I welcome you all to the 49th Annual Synod of the Premier Diocese in the whole Conference area. I am personally delighted to welcome you particularly to Ereko because it is indeed a pleasant home-coming for me. This is the Circuit where I was first introduced to the rudiments of Circuit administration when my local Church Igbogila-Ipaja (now a Circuit) was under Ereko Circuit. As a Society Steward , as it was then called, I served in a few circuit committees and acquired knowledge under seasoned church administrators like Sir Akin Oyenusi and Sir F.O.C Coker a.k.a friend of Christ. It is worthy of mentioning and perhaps of interest to you to know that the history of my local church cannot be complete without mentioning the Ẹgbë Afúnrúgbìn of Ereko church as history has it that the society played prominent role in the establishment of Igbogila-Ipaja church which is over sixty years old now. Permit me then to say ‘Ẹ kú ilé o’.
Our coming to Ereko for this 49th Synod is significant in a sense that it is the year which precedes our Jubilee Synod which will come up next year by the grace of God. The relevance of our coming to Ereko this year is that it is the seat of the first LAY PRESIDENT of the Diocese of Lagos (before the decentralization) in the person of an icon, Sir (Justice) Duro Orike Adebiyi who has been a strong pillar behind this Diocese. Our coming is therefore to put our Baba and Mama Adebiyi and indeed the entire Ereko (home and abroad) on NOTICE that, come next year, we shall celebrate the magnificence of the ‘building’ built upon the foundation laid by Baba Adebiyi. It is my prayer that God grants all of us the grace to witness the celebrations in joy and good health. Baba and Mama, ẹ ẹ pẹ fun wa o. I hope that by the end of this Synod, we would have set up the machinery that will make our Jubilee celebrations a matchless Christian thanksgiving to the glory of God.
About this time last year, at our 48th Synod, I took over the mantle of leadership as a Lay President. I owe a lot of gratitude to the Almighty God, who by His mercies and grace did not allow the Devil to triumph over me. Like Paul the Apostle, I say, if not for His mercies I would have been consumed. In spite of my health challenges, which manifested same time with the commencement of my first year in office, God proved Himself to me as a trusted Father, a dependable Friend and a close Ally in times of trouble. He strengthened me so much that I was able to successfully represent you at all the meetings called at Diocesan, Archdiocesan and Conference levels, even sometimes at short notice. Can anyone believe that I was at the week-long Methodist Conference held at Umuahia in Abia State? All this I owe to this IMMORTAL, INVISIBLE, THE I AM THAT I AM, OMNIPOTENT, OMNIPRESENT, GOD ALMIGHTY. To Him alone be ADORATION, HONOR, POWER and MAJESTY IN JESUS NAME (AMEN) ‘And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake; FOR WHEN I AM WEAK, THEN I AM STRONG.’ 2nd Corinthians 12 vs9-10.
Permit me to appreciate my amiable wife (LAIDE) who in fact, was the vessel used by God to put effect to His counsel concerning me. She was always there for me, at home, India, Umuahia, Sagamu, etc. Thank you my dear, our mother in Israel. BLESSED ARE YOU AMONGST WOMEN.
My appreciation goes to Baba Archbishop Ajayi for his patience with me when necessity was placed on me occasionally to passionately, sometimes harshly, advocate for things that will wake up this sleeping giant of a Diocese. I have learnt from you how not to allow anger make one to lose focus of a right direction. I thank Mama Ajayi for always ensuring and praying that we work together amicably.
I cannot but thank the Circuit Presbyters, the Circuit Stewards, Sir (Prof) Labi Somorin, Sis. Adesanya, Bro Ojofehintimi, The Rev. Sokoya , the whole members of the Benevolent and Visitation sub-committee of the Diocesan Christian Social Action Committee as well as members of the Synod Decisions Implementation Committee led by Sir JOPA for responding promptly when duty called, even under difficult situations. I say thank you, May God reward you even beyond your expectation, note that God rewards those who diligently seek and serve Him. Note also that you have not finished the race, so let us run the race together till eternity.
I will be ungrateful not to express my deepest appreciation to you all, most especially Societies and Individuals (including Prelate Makinde) for your prayers, financial and moral support for my treatment at India. May God give you the grace of good health and peace in your lifetime in Jesus name (amen).
THE STATE OF OUR DIOCESE
In my address to the Synod of last year, I made an attempt to identify the expected role of our Diocese, as the Premier Diocese in the whole conference area, in the context of the Vision and Mission statement of the Methodist Church Nigeria. I recall I did a segmentation of our mission statement into three, namely (1) to consistently win souls for Christ, (2)to develop spiritually fulfilled members, and (3)to remain very active in serving humanity.
Under No 1, I recall quoting Rick Warner that ‘A church’s health is measured by its SENDING CAPACITY, NOT SEATING CAPACITY’. I recall making the following recommendations to Synod for discussion and holistic implementation:
(a) To mandate each circuit to establish (plant) a church or at least a fellowship centre in a year.
(b) To create a church –planting unit in the Diocesan Headquarters, to be headed by a vibrant Priest who will have the responsibility of supervising the efforts of circuits and recommend assistance needed from the Diocese.
(c) To mandate the Diocese to organize bi-annual outreach programs, these will be targeted at a class or classes of persons in the society e.g. traditional rulers, LGA Chairmen and Councilors, Businessmen, Top Senior Civil/Public Servants, e.t.c. This may be in form of a breakfast/Lunch/Dinner Fellowship where the word of God will be delivered. Hearing the word of God enhances faith. Rom. 10:17.
(d) To work towards having a sponsored Radio/TV program where a well-grounded clergy (preferably the Bishop) will be talking to the public on a bible-based topic with emphasis on soul winning.
(e) To urge our local churches to have an outreach once in a month in their neighborhood and ensure follow-up action. We have a duty to proclaim the word while God convicts and adds to the church. Acts 2:47.
These recommendations were never discussed, not to talk of being implemented because of time constraint. Permit me therefore to re-present them for Synod’s consideration this time around. Under Nos. 2 and 3 of the segmented Mission Statement, I canvassed for emphasis to be placed more on the TEACHING OF THE WORD than any other thing and the adoption of community-relevant projects in our Church environment respectively. I expect that these and some others approved by this Synod will form the benchmark in our self appraisal and assessment exercise next Synod.
YEAR 2010 IN RETROSPECT
I am not sure I have come across the word ‘Synod’ in the bible, what appears to me to have its resemblance is in the message of the Lord to the people of the Southern Kingdom of Judah through Prophet Joel in Joel 1: 14 ‘Announce a time of fasting; call the people together for a SOLEMN MEETING (capital mine). Bring the leaders and all the people into the Temple of the Lord your God, and cry out to him there’. This message was a warning from God, after observing their complacency about following the plan of God and they were exhibiting spiritual blindness which made God to allow them to suffer series of disasters. So verse 14 is to call them to order, to self examination toward restoration, to reawakening from their slumber. So also, this Synod should be a SOLEMN ASSEMBLY for us, where we reflect on the past, re-energize and re-strategize in our very important roles in fulfilling the Vision and Mission of the Methodist Church Nigeria. This reflection should not be for the indictment of anybody or a case of buck-passing, as we are all, one way or the other, culpable (though the leadership shares more of this).
Though looking at year 2010 in retrospect, one may see few flashes of improvement in our Diocesan programs, no one in reality will say he is satisfied with our performance in the year as a Diocese which prides itself as the NUMERO UNO (first among equals). No serious minded person, except one with pedestrian mind, will be satisfied with where we were in year 2010 because (in the language of the Archbishop) ’we are not where we should be, this is Lagos’. The result of the appraisal and assessment of 2009 Diocesan performance, announced at the last Conference in Umuahia, shows that our Diocese took 35th position whereas the Diocese of Lagos West came first, yet nothing has shown that our position will not be worse off in the appraisal and assessment of year 2010. If we use the benchmarks adopted by the Conference Committee on Appraisal and Assessment, viz. (1) COMPLIANCE TO CONFERENCE DIRECTIVES, (2) CONFERENCE FUND REMITTANCES, and (3) EVANGELISM & CHURCH PLANTING, we shall see a lot of underperformance. Perhaps of serious concern is our performance in the area of evangelism. It is disheartening that as a Diocese, a single kobo was not expended on evangelism in year 2010, not even when applications were made to the Diocese for support by the relevant Diocesan Committees and officers. Yet it is a Diocese that had 13 budgetary expenditure items over expended in the year. We seem to have forgotten that spending on evangelism is a constitutional matter and not something left to the whims and caprices of the Archbishop or the Lay President, or the Diocesan Treasurer, Section 420 of the Constitution of Methodist Church Nigeria 2006 is pertinent. Funding of evangelism should not be left as a burden on officers and members of the relevant committees. The Prison Evangelism to Maximum Prison, Kirikiri, the visit to the aged members of the Diocese, the visit to the physically impaired (deaf & dumb) children at Surulere could not have been done but for the doggedness of members of the Benevolent & Visitation Sub-committee of the Diocesan Christian Social Work Committee led by Very Rev Subuloye. Also the impressive Outreach Program tagged ‘METHODIST PEOPLES AND FRIENDS’ which has projected the Gospel of Jesus Christ beyond the boundaries of our Diocese could not have seen the light of day but for the resolute efforts and doggedness of The Rev. Tunde Oniyide as assisted by the likes of Sis. (Dr.) Funmi Fasoro, Bro.Tosin Olaniyan, and host of others. The Diocese should be supportive of the good programs proposed by officers and committees of the Diocese as there are limits to which the members can stretch their pockets. It is equally worrisome that we don’t even pay our financial dues to bodies like the Conference Department of Evangelism, Association of Methodist Brigades (AMB) and the like. As an insider to the Accounts of the Diocese, this could not have been that we were short of funds. The Dedicated Bank Account which the Diocesan Council directed should be opened for Evangelism over three months ago has not seen the light of day. The line of thought that Evangelism program should be self-funding cannot be realistic in present day Nigeria, because we now have many competing churches spending heavily on getting the attention of unbelievers; even if, for the purpose of argument we agree to the thought of self-funding, should we not first invest (sow) something. In Hosea 10:12, the word of God says “SOW (capital mine) to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; BREAK UP YOUR FALLOW GROUND (capital mine): for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you”. No cross No crown, No sowing No reaping.
Still on Evangelism, there is no doubt that our local churches are doing well in areas such as Bible Study sessions, weekly mid-week prayer meetings, monthly revivals and night vigils, however this is more of what Rick Warner calls SEATING CAPACITY, what about our SENDING CAPACITY ? How many of us conducted any outside crusade? What benefits did the people in your church environment (non-members) enjoy from you which would have afforded you the opportunity to introduce Christ to them? Are we that poor that none of our churches has sponsored spiritual programs on Radio and TV for the propagation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ or is it a matter of nothing to offer? We should not be contented in remaining in our ‘Jerusalem’. (Matthew 28: 19-20). The Diocese must synergize the efforts of the Circuits and local Churches.
Sadly too, in year 2010 (as in previous years as I was told) the Diocese defaulted in paying the salaries of some of our Ministers promptly as and when due, as they were owed three to four months, yet these are Ministers we expect to pray for us, bless us and give us Holy Communion. The reason is not far fetched as it is attributed to lack of appreciable payment of Circuit assessment. The sad consequence of this now is that most, if not all, of our Ministers are now ‘serving table’ because the fear of default in the payment of assessment is the beginning of wisdom. They get worried on how the assessment will be paid so much that the focus of their Ministry is neglected. Our lay leaders should read Acts 6: 1-8 with divine understanding and reverse this situation. We should know that the spread of the word of God will be hindered if Priests are made to be over burdened by mundane things of the world. Note specifically verse 7 which says ‘And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the Priests WERE OBEDIENT TO THE FAITH’. (capital mine).
Gladly, year 2010 was not of worrisome stories only, as our Women Department, as represented by the Diocesan Women’ Fellowship projected the image of the Diocese very well. This Fellowship hosted successfully the Inter-Archdiocesan Conference, held their annual conference and executed their annual program effectively, with programs spread across the Diocese and even without any burden placed on the Diocese. I am privy to the high level of accountability and transparency in their finances. We owe a lot of gratitude to the leadership of the fellowship as represented by the wife of the Archbishop, Mama A.O. Ajayi. Equally glad to mention, is the Diocesan Men’ Fellowship led by Sir (Prof) Labi Somorin. The fellowship had its debut in Sports Evangelism in 2010 with a promise to give it wider dimension in 2011; the bible study inter-circuit competition was not left out. We are grateful to the leadership. We hope the Youth fellowship will wake up and live up to their slogan which says ‘I AM A YOUTH AND USEFUL’ Remember NOW thy Creator in the days of thy youth. Eccl 12:1a.
Gladly too, year 2010 witnessed significant progress in the construction of the official residence of the Archbishop which we started about six years ago. We owe the progress made, largely to the concerted efforts of the Archbishop, Sir Tunde Anjous, and Sir Bimbo Carzim. We are grateful to them and host of others who are supporting this long over due project financially and in other ways. We believe God for His grace upon us to be able to make the place befitting for the Archbishop’s movement into the house in the early part of the 2nd quarter of this year. It is my prayer that God gives all of us the grace to witness the Dedication Ceremony in peace and good health, in a grand style to the glory of God (amen).
Something to rejoice about in year 2010 again is the appreciable completion of the new ultra modern Wesley Cathedral Olowogbowo, which was dedicated on 19th February, 2011. It is indeed a place to worship. I commend the leaders of Olowogbowo for their resourcefulness in building a magnificent edifice like this and I thank them for making us proud. I appeal to them not to rest yet as a magnificent Cathedral like this deserves to have a befitting Bishop’s Lodge, which has been under construction for about six years now. God in heaven will reward your labor of love bountifully in Jesus name (amen)
YEAR 2011: MY DESIRES AND EXPECTATIONS
Here I intend to lay emphasis on Leadership by the Laity. The reason for this emphasis on Leadership by the laity is informed by a point made by my wife in one of our discussions on Church matters. She said that if the lay leaders fail to fill the gap for our clergy, during their error of commission or omission, the consequences will be the cup of tea of the members when the Minister is transferred, she therefore opined that it is better to help him to succeed rather than battling to clear the mess he has left behind.
We, the lay leaders have a lot to do in the attainment of vision and mission of the Methodist Church Nigeria, unfortunately however, our ATTITUDE is our greatest albatross. It is usually said that a person’s attitude determines his/her altitude. The way you see your leadership role is the same way you will do it. If you perceive it as the business of the Minister and not your father’s business, you are likely to be offended by slightest provocation, you are likely to expect appreciation from man and when it is not given the way you want it, you will feel frustrated and abandon it; it is then you hear some of us saying ‘I will leave the work for you, after all you don’t pay me salaries’. Sometimes when addressing our members concerning the decisions of a meeting which we attended, some of us start with ‘They said’ and not ‘We agreed’. We distance ourselves from shared objectives and sometimes we project matters negatively. We sometimes find our leaders (Ministers inclusive) discussing Methodist Church negatively, even, with non-Methodists. We need a culture-change to make us realize that every fellow on the ship has a role to play, otherwise the ship will sink. Our father’s business is a serious business, it is not something you do without sacrifice, it is not only when you have time, it is not what you handle carelessly or negligently because you think no one can sanction you, it is not something you accomplish by your will-power but by the power of the Holy Spirit, it is a fragile thing for which you will be held accountable by God. Lead by example, attend bible study and prayer meetings, mentor the youth or a new convert, be a role model without being hypocritical. You are an ambassador of Christ.
FINANCING THE DIOCESE
For our Diocese to get to where it should be, we need to consciously strategize constantly as reliance on Circuit assessment cannot take us far. God willing, our investment outfit, under the name MCN-DOL (NIG) LTD, will soon be on board, with the Registered Certificate approved by the Corporate Affairs Commission this month of March. I urge all of us to support it with our ideas, our patronage and our prayers. It will be a Small-Scale enterprise with focus on expanding the financial base of the Diocese through entrepreneurial Services/Product that will make us remain relevant to our society.
Finance has been a clog in the will of progress for Church planting, even those planted are still weak in resources because their mother churches are equally weak, yet they have to compete for converts with the new generation churches. From observations, new members always avoid joining a church which is seen to be struggling as they fear that they will carry the burden of growth. What has limited our efforts in this sense is the lack of synergy, lack of connectional approach where the strong help the weak. Permit me therefore to think aloud. Assuming we create a CHURCH PLANTING FUND (CPF) minimum of N50 per member, per Sunday as it is with the Conference Seed of faith. On the assumption of 4 Sundays per month and 3000 members participating, we will have
N50 by 4= N200 by 12= N2400 by 3000= N7, 200,000.00 in a Dedicated bank account in a year. The assistance from this fund will complement the efforts of the founding mother church. Information has it that the Anglican Church is currently acquiring land in all Government Estates in Lagos State, however remote the location. I commit my thoughts to this August Synod for consideration and approval. If approved, I plead with you all to present it to your congregation as a shared goal/ value which will benefit both the strong and the weak.
THEME OF SYNOD: I WILL HEAL YOUR LAND.
This theme is an extract from 2nd Chronicles 7: 14 and it presents an affirmative promise of God to us. The authors of this theme in the Conference Office must have been inspired by the nature of God as a Merciful God, which probably informed the affirmative nature of the theme, whereas, in the context of that Chapter, it is indeed a CONDITIONAL promise of God. It was in fact the response of God to the prayers and burnt offerings of King Solomon to God. A conditional promise, given by a party, is one whose actualization depends on the performance of the other party’s obligation; otherwise it remains a promise forever without any effect.
Preceding the Dedication of the Temple built by Solomon, he had rendered fervent prayers to God as recorded in Chapter 6; he adored God for fulfilling the promise He made to David his father concerning the building of the Temple, and now that the Temple had been built, he prayed to God to fulfill His promise further. In Chap 6:16, he says “And now, O Lord, God of Israel, carry out your further promise to your servant David, my father. For you said to him, ‘if your descendants guard their behavior and obey my law as you have done, they will always reign over Israel’. Now, O Lord, God of Israel, fulfill this promise to your servant David.” Solomon probably knew his people as stubborn people who will always offend God by their sinful ways hence the intercessory prayers as recorded throughout that chapter. The thrust of his prayers to God was that, whenever his people sinned against God, IF, they return to the Temple for forgiveness, God should hear from Heaven and show His mercy and forgive.
After the celebration of the Dedication of the Temple, which witnessed Prayers, and Sacrifices of burnt offerings by Solomon and his people, God appeared to Solomon as recorded in verses 12 to 14 of Chapter 7. From these verses, I can imagine God telling Solomon as He is telling NIGERIANS today that, “look My Son, I have heard you and have decided to be present with you, but don’t think you will still not experience Global economic recession, in fact you will still have incessant Power outages, skyrocketed food prices, collapsed educational system, armed robbery, kidnapping, rape, corruption by leaders and followers, death on the highways as a result of bad road, unemployment, and other vices, but if and only if, my children behave as my children indeed, if they advance beyond religiosity into practical Christian holiness, if they permit the rule of God to prevail over the rule of man, if they stop doing my business lazily and get serious, then don’t worry, remember what I told you in Mathew 6: 33, that you should FIRST seek my kingdom and it’s righteousness and I will handle the rest for you, remember also my words in Psalm 91, especially verses 7 & 8 ‘a thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes shall you behold and see the reward of the wicked’; SO RELAX!!!”
That is God talking to us today. The promise of God to heal our land is predicated on our OBEDIENCE to the word of God, it does not just happen by fiat, you must earn it through obedience, the bible in Hebrews 12: 25 says ‘See to it that you obey God, the one who is speaking to you. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, how terrible our danger if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven.’ It went further in verses 28 and 29 that ‘Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be destroyed, let us be thankful and PLEASE GOD (capital mine) by worshiping Him with holy fear and awe. For our God is a consuming fire.’ This is in spite of being a merciful God.
God is ready and able to heal our land. That ‘land’ may be your challenges over your children, your business, your family, your health, your church, your finances etc. You are not in this Synod by accident, God foreknew it and He designed it. He is asking you to find out where you have missed it, as a Lay President, a Diocesan officer, a Circuit officer, a local Church Steward, a leader at any level, officers of Fellowships, a Minister of God, even in your duties in the secular world. God is ready, are you ready for Him?
IMAGINE IN YEAR 2011
----a Methodist Church Nigeria where we are all dissatisfied with the status quo
----a Methodist Church Nigeria where we all decide to change
----a Methodist Church Nigeria where we personally re-examine ourselves as to how and where we stand in kingdom principles
----a Methodist Church Nigeria where leaders, both clergy and lay, will ask themselves in what way or ways they have acted faithfully to the fulfillment of the Mission and Vision of the MCN.
----a Methodist Church Nigeria where you and I will not feel too big to attend the bible study sessions of our local assembly
----a Methodist Church Nigeria where you and I will not be too busy to attend the weekday Prayer meetings of our local assembly, our Monthly Diocesan God’s Power Night and the Monthly 1st Tuesday Revival/Renewal Service
----a Methodist Church Nigeria where our meetings will be devoid of eye service and hypocrisy
----a Methodist Church Nigeria where our zeal will be according to knowledge and our righteousness will be that of God and not of man
----a Methodist Church Nigeria where our Sunday Services will not be as usual but will leave us remorseful and challenged towards kingdom principles
----a Methodist Church Nigeria where our Lay Leaders will feel challenged to relieve our clergy from serving the table, by their cracking of brains on how assessment will be paid for the sake of their monthly stipend rather than the primary duty of delivery and impartation of the word of God
----a Methodist Church Nigeria where the clergy will see this primary duty as the fulfillment of their Call rather than the craze to be a Bishop at all cost
----a Methodist Church Nigeria where our members will respect, trust and repose confidence in our clergy rather than their ‘NICODEMOUS’ attitude towards Pastors of other churches
----a Methodist Church Nigeria where our clergy will speak the word of God with authority and the word marching their conduct
----a Methodist Church Nigeria we shall all be proud of rather than making negative comments in our discussions, even with non-Methodists
----a Methodist Church Nigeria of WORD, DEED and SIGNS
JUST IMAGINE, IMAGINE AND IMAGINE
Once again, I welcome you all to this Synod and pray that it will not be another mere talk-shop in Jesus name (amen).
Thank you for your attention.
OLUSEGUN SOFUNKE. (Esq)