Christian Worshippers

By Gbenga Osinaike

Sarah Omakwu, Pastor at Family Worship Centre, Abuja, did not mince words a couple of months ago when she descended on fraudulent Christians in the Civil Service in one of her messages.

A pin-drop silence enveloped the large church auditorium as she painted a graphic picture of people who claim to be believers and yet, defraud public institutions.

Her words:  “If you are a Christian and you are in the civil service and your promotion is rapid, you can’t be a Christian. The real Christians don’t get promoted. They would work and work. All those who come behind them will be promoted and they will only be promoted once in a while. The people that come after them would become Permanent Secretaries but they will still be behind.”

And then the bombshell from her. She said, “If you are a Christian in the civil service and you have houses in Lagos and Abuja, houses in London, and your children are overseas, you are a thief. Quote me anywhere. You are a thief because this system is the world system. It can’t promote the children of God. If you are a Christian, they will fight you to frustration.  If you are a Christian that is just getting promoted, check your life, there is compromise somewhere.”

Pastor Sarah Omakwu

She said, “Generally if you are not suffering, everything is okay, na lie. You are a compromiser.”

She went further to note that many Christians are very comfortable in their disobedience. “You have good cars; you have a good house. But you disobey God in many things. You cheat, you lie.  You vehemently refuse the will of God. But you are enjoying.  It is earthly enjoyment. And when the trumpet sounds you will not go,” she quipped. 

Giving her testimony, she said, “If you come to my office, you won’t see any plaque. But I have seen many men of God fill their offices with plaques. If you get to heaven, they may not even know you. I don’t want to see any award in my life. The only award I want is “well done” from God.”

Her position that civil servants who live extravagant lives are corrupt can’t be disputed. The only ground on which civil servants could live big would be that they inherited some property or have other concerns. If it is just civil service work, it is not possible to live big to the point of having houses in prime places.

Indeed, when the video of Omakwu’s message went viral, it was difficult to counter her position. But then, her concern is perhaps not the people of the world who steal government money and engage in fraudulent practices because that may well be their lifestyle.  Her concern was more about Christians who sit comfortably in government offices, yet are thieves. 

And that is the concern of many lovers of God and those who sincerely want revival in the land. 

In the wake of the post-civil war revival in the 70s, the church was the beautiful bride the people of the world looked up to.  Many employers of labour were comfortable working with those who were tagged with the SU label because they knew they won’t steal money. The integrity then was high. Many Christians were known for their forthrightness.

Christians in those days would rather lose their jobs than compromise their Christian faith. The commitment then was so strong that some Christians would rather not work in some environments.

Some medical doctors and nurses were believers who would not work in hospitals where abortion was carried out. Some believers refused to work in Breweries where they produce alcohol. Working in the Tobacco industry was an anathema. Beyond that, Christians were taken for their word. They would not falsify documents; they would not cheat. They were known for returning money mistakenly paid into their account. The work ethics of most believers were high.

Pastor David Ibiyeomie

That was the order of things until the late 80s when the prosperity gospel began to creep into the church. The average Christian began to see the need to make money and display affluence. The mantra was, “My God is not a poor God.”  This mindset drove many into a frenzy and turned many into slaves to material things. The humility and love for the brethren that characterised the life of the believer in the 70s began to wane. The spirit of competition and greed settled on many assemblies. The consequence is that people claim to be Christians yet deny the power of God. They claim to know God, yet they fail to live for Him. The work ethics collapsed.

Today, Christians are being bashed daily on the social media. The reports in the news media are equally not cheering. There are stories of believers who steal money from their places of work and still bring the stolen money to the church in the form of tithe. Many are wondering why Nigeria is full of churches yet, the moral compass is sliding. Many Christians have simply become part of the world system. They do business the way of the world. They falsify documents. They lie about their age and would do anything to make money. That is a disturbing trend.

A civil servant with Lagos State Government who prefers not to be mentioned, corroborated Omakwu’s views. According to her, many civil servants who claim to be Christians in her office don’t live the life of Christ. “In my office, we don’t know who a Christian is. It is only God that will help us. Many of us who name the name of Christ are just like any other worker. No difference. We steal, tell lies, and hold grudges. The fruit of the Spirit is not evident in us.”

She noted that as soon as many get to the gate of the office, they remove their Christian toga and put on the office toga. “By that I mean they compromise in every sense of the word. It is believed that in the workplace you are not supposed to be truthful and straightforward. Some bosses are Christians and even go by the pastor title. But they sit on the promotion of people under them. You can’t tell the difference between them and the unbeliever. Sometimes when I think about it, my heart sinks.”

The respondent told our reporter that she had faced victimisation from a fellow Christian in the office. She said, “Those who want to live the life of Christ are haunted and are frustrated. If you don’t do their bidding, they will transfer you from the unit and replace you with somebody else who will listen to them. Living the life of Christ in the workplace is a lot of challenge. Apart from being fraudulent, the work ethics of many is disappointing. Their integrity quotient is zero. They have no regard for authority and don’t seem to respect work hours.”

Engineer Tunde Oshodi who rose to become Permanent Secretary in Lagos State has more practical experience working as a believer in a secular environment. He became born again just about a year before he joined the civil service. His conversion was so dramatic. He was never a Christian while in the university. But he encountered Christ during the compulsory National Youth Service programme.

He recalled that the foundation he had as a believer was what helped him navigate the work environment. “If not for the foundation I had when I became born again, I would have been swept away by the temptations in the workplace. The temptations were so strong and compelling. But the Lord supplied me grace. Living right was just the right thing for me to do. I did not see it as something to contend with.”

Oshodi who retired from the civil service a couple of years ago said it was not long after his NYSC that he secured a job with the Lagos State Government. He was a young engineer and was to work in the Ministry of Works and Environment. He said not long after he secured the job, he was to supervise a contractor who had been awarded a contract to supply some electrical appliances to the Lagos State Government. “I did not know how the work environment was. I just thought people should do their job and never expect anything. But the first shock I got was that I got home one day to meet fridge, air-conditioners, and some other items. I asked who brought them, I was told it was a contractor who had just been awarded the contract to supply the state with some appliances. My first reaction was that the items be returned to him.”

Engineer Tunde Oshodi

The contractor was taken aback because he was used to paying graft to get such favour. But that was just like a teaser for Oshodi who said he had to contend with many other temptations throughout his stay in the ministry. Not long after that experience, a paper was brought to him in the office to sign indicating that a particular contractor had been paid. He refused to sign the paper. “When I refused, my boss told me I would be sacked. I did not think twice. I told him I was ready to leave the civil service. By the following day, I brought my resignation letter to him. He was surprised. Immediately, he changed his tone and said he was only joking. The paper was signed by someone else and their fraud was sealed. But my action registered something in him. He was so impressed by my stance on graft. He too got inspired to do the right thing later.

“It was because of what he learned from me that made him also kick against the reckless way ecological funds were being spent in the civil service. Eventually, it was his position on ecological funds that consumed him.”

Oshodi said his over 30 years in the civil service were dramatic. He said he never expected any form of promotion because those who got promoted, especially to political positions like the Permanent Secretary, were those who were ready to play ball and those who play to the gallery.

“I did not have an eye on such a position. I was just doing my work. But then, a new governor came to power. It was through the grace of God and that governor that I got the position of Permanent Secretary. When he became governor, he introduced the idea of writing exams for those who wanted to become Permanent Secretaries. It was that window that gave me the grace to qualify for that position.”

But getting there was not on a platter. Oshodi recalled that before he became PS, he was part of a team that worked on a particular project sponsored by the World Bank which ran into millions of dollars. “Many in the service then thought that the project was an opportunity to steal money. They didn’t know such projects have set timelines and deliverables that make it impossible to steal money even if you want to steal. But then people still manoeuvre their ways to steal.”

While working on the project, some interested parties were not comfortable with him being there because they knew he would not allow fraud. “It got to a point that they reported our team to the EFCC. We were invited by the EFCC twice. They looked at the papers and did not find anything incriminating.” Oshodi recalled.

Even at that, there were efforts to frustrate him and push him out of the place. Eventually, he was taken out of the project and had to report back to the head of the service pending when there would be a vacancy in some other offices for him to serve. It was during that time of hibernation in the office of the head of service that his name was announced as Permanent Secretary along with a few others. That became possible because he had already written the exams for the position before the World Bank project came up.

Oshodi corroborated Pastor Omakwu’s position that it is not possible to rise without compromising your Christian faith in many instances. In his own case, though he rose to become Permanent Secretary, his stay as PS did not last. “The same forces that were not comfortable with my stance for the right thing ensured that I did not stay in that position for more than 18 months though I still had another year to spend. I was asked to go on early retirement.”

He said people do all kinds of things to get promotions including joining cults and paying lip service. “Those who get it and want to continue with the life of integrity are often frustrated out of the system. That was my experience.”

The story of Oshodi is just one out of the many cases in the workplace. Unfortunately, many who profess to be Christians are not different from unbelievers in their disposition to work.

Despite all the negative news about believers misbehaving in the workplace, there are few instances like that of Oshodi and many other believers out there who make the Lord proud. 

Pastor Williams Kumuyi, General Superintendent of Deeper Life Bible Church, in one of his recent messages, said he encountered a man in Europe who spoke so well about a member of his church. He said the company of the man was about to fold up until a Deeper Life member stepped in and changed the face of the company. The company was going down because of the attitude of its staff and their fraudulent postures. Kumuyi’s testimony about his church member is an inspiration to many believers to live the life of Christ in the workplace.

Just about three weeks ago, Pastor David Ibiyeomie, founder of Salvation Ministries, openly commended a staff of the church who was noted for his integrity and outstanding performance in the place of work. The staff was given a bungalow and was endowed with other goodies just to inspire others and encourage him to continue to be truthful. He said the staff was a mechanic who was known for being forthright when he was discovered and was brought to come and work with the church.

Indeed, it pays to be hardworking, honest, and trustworthy. A man may lose everything, as long as he has not lost character, he can still stand tall with confidence. But a man without character is like a broken wall. As workers are being celebrated in May, Christians must stand out and continually shine the light of God in their different work environments.

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