God is everywhere, this much I know. But it was always easy for me to believe that He has a special abode in Nigeria in view of our fervency in prayers, worship, praise and for everything spiritual. Our churches are mega, some of them having up to 50,000 capacity and higher, often filled to capacity in not just one, two but three separate services on Sundays alone.
Added to the regular weekly services are the multiplicity of programmes of varying titles organised by different Christian groups on monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly and once-yearly basis, attracting hundreds of thousands of interdenominational worshippers from across the country and beyond.
Sometimes when I hear the angelic voices of the mass choir, and look around me to behold the congregation’s sweat-breaking praise sessions, the serious, sometimes-teary supplications going on, and knowing that this same ceremony with identical mammoth crowd is replicated in thousands of other locations in Nigeria at that very moment, it is very difficult to imagine God’s attention being anywhere else.
The picture is created, often with scriptural quotations, that God rejoices in our praises. That this being the only thing He cannot accord Himself, our praises kindle His joy, and He becomes satisfactorily disposed towards our earnest needs even if we don’t put them up to Him in prayers.
The event of the last few months, especially as regards the total shutdown occasioned by the global pandemic has provided me with a new perspective. And it was such a rude shock! How could the churches be empty! Totally empty, not just on Sundays when even the most recalcitrant person finds his way into the sanctuary for a momentary sense of bliss, but for weeks and months?
The magnificent, awe-inspiring structures and the modest church buildings, The small pianos, the large organs, the drums, the guitars, the saxophones, along with all those men and women who have grown wings over time, being literally adored and highly sought after for their mastery of these instruments and voices, making each gathering truly inspirational and the accompanying preaching phenomenal! How could God do without all these, not just in a few centres, but in virtually all locations across the world at the same time? Whao!
We now know, more than ever before, that far more than any congregational fellowship, the extent to which we have God resident in our hearts and the sincerity of our personal worship are what matters most. I foresee that most churches would have a lot of work on their hands in getting back all the numbers they had pre-Covid 19. With many people getting more at peace with connecting prayer groups and fellowship sessions online from the comfort of their homes, the Sunday rituals of travelling several hours through rough roads to and from church services may take a little while to take root again!
Most significantly, reflecting on a biblical passage in Luke 19:40 (“,,I tell you if these men were silent, the very stones will cry out in praise and worship of God), it occurs to me now that If God counts us important, it is a matter of sheer grace. From the preacher to the listener, the vile sinner to the most self- righteous, none makes God more relevant than the other. With us, He is God. Without us, He is still God. Nothing is removed from Him. Nothing is added to Him.