From time immemorial, football has been a favorite sport for Nigerians. Irrespective of their tribal extraction, Nigerians do not discriminate against one another when it comes to watching football matches. This is about the last strand of unity holding over 180 million people after religion and ethnicity have dealt deadly blows on national unity.
Meanwhile, Daystar Christian Centre and a few other churches have gone a step further to invest into this trend of ‘evangelism’ via football. They now do this by opening their halls for football fans to view live matches.
However, some Christians have reacted to the gesture of churches going in this direction. Daystar Christian Centre and a few other churches last Saturday opened their facilities for football enthusiasts to watch the European Champions League final match between Real Madrid of Spain and Liverpool Football Club of England.
A Deaconess with the Christ Apostolic Church, Mrs. N. Olanrewaju, said indeed the end time is here. According to her, “We are in the end time really, anything that is not Biblical is not of Christ. Most of the spectators will smoke cigarettes even marijuana, most will come with alcoholic drinks, some will even come with their girlfriends, so it is very wrong.”
In her own opinion, Udeme Udom, a broadcaster was surprised a church can come up with such an idea. “Champions League in the Church?” She exclaimed. But she reasoned otherwise that, “May be it is another level of evangelism.”
Funke Madamori is on the staff of the Abuja based Dominion Armies of God Church. According to her, opening church facilities to beam live football matches may not be a bad idea if the gospel is preached at the venue. “It is kind of cool. Hope there will be brief sermon after the match,” she remarked.
To Dr. Emmanuel Olufemi, a theologian, it is humanism. “It is humanism, a worship of human ideology. The church is God’s house of prayer, not a den of entertainment. It is a violation of kingdom principle. The church is a house of prayer and not a den of entertainment,” he said.
In his own response, a Chaplain with the Nigerian Chaplain Corps, Tony Ofili-Akpom said, “He that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin…selah!”
On the contrary, Pastor Solomon Adebosin reasoned along motive. “The issue is motive. What is the intent?” He asked, stating further that, “That is why Jesus said we shouldn’t judge anything before the time. Concerning him the Bible says he won’t judge by sight. Whether or not Jesus would be happy is dependent upon what the intent is.”
Mrs. Bolanle Emmanuel is a Christian, a civil servant in her opinion wasn’t comfortable with the gesture of Daystar Christian Centre and another Redeemed Christian Church of God Parish. “The Church is a sacred place set aside to meet and commune with God. Are the TV sets in our homes not adequate or must we in the name of communion disregard what we ourselves have set aside unto God? There is time for everything,” she said.
An Abuja based pastor, Immanuel Adeyomoye has however seen nothing wrong in leaving church facilities to watch live football. According to him, it can be used as an evangelism tool.
“What is wrong in bringing sinners to watch football in a decent and spiritual atmosphere? Would we rather prefer the beer parlors, brothels, shrines keep hosting them?” he asked.
Adeyomoye continued that, “Many of them have never been in a serene and peaceful environment before, they are used to foul environments and languages. Hearing ‘praise the Lord, it is a goal!’ could shift their thinking for once.” He also looks forward to a time he could organize a similar event.
“I am looking at a time I would organize jazz, reggae, soul etc nights where people would have such drive/passion to come to a serene and spiritual atmosphere to listen and unwind with bottles of non-alcoholic wine and suya.”
According to him, if resources permit he would like to engage in some ‘unusual’ evangelistic moves. “If I have the resources I would bring Lagbaja, Beautiful Nubia to the Church to sing gospel instead of wasting money on the so called gospel artistes whose songs are more noise than worship.
“Why do we go to the market places, beer parlors to preach and win souls? Is it not to lure them to church? Why not bring what (not comedy that don’t glorify God) is keeping them from coming to church so that they can come? My motive is bring people to church by every godly means and if football etc is it, then I am in,” he argued.
Rev. Ayo Fawehinmi is a gospel minister based in London, United Kingdom. In his opinion, the British citizen doesn’t believe Daystar Christian Centre is opening its doors for the god of soccer as some have opined.
“I don’t think they are opening doors for the god of soccer. I can readily see reasons why any worse pastor would do it,” he said, adding that, “People who have never entered church would come to watch. It is advertisement. Many may be embolden to go to that church again. And I am sure it will be available avenue to pop in a word of the gospel,” he said.
Fawehinmi also noted that, “It is a good way for bonding with the community as well. But again it may not be good for all churches…motive matters. We have to understand the nature of the born again movement in Nigeria. Some were called, some were sent, some went when they were not sent,” he explained.
Another commentator, Clara Wilson simply said, “These are the last days many things would happen.”
A pastor who worships with the Daystar Christian Centre who wished to be anonymous in his comment said, “I worship at Daystar that is why I am so angry and seriously disappointed. I didn’t know we could descend so low, I have seen an MFM youth parish and a Redeemed parish doing the same thing as well.”
Pastor Gabriel Macaulay-Smith is a Nigerian gospel minister based in the United States of America. He also confirmed that many churches are opening their facilities for such activities. “It is like a way of evangelism to bring people into the church. Also I don’t know if Daystar heard from God,” he said.
Macaulay-Smith also reasoned along security. “You know that most viewing centres had issues of security where terrorists went on killing mission but in the church the security is tight and secured.”
However, while many are for, many are also against the gesture of churches opening their facilities for football viewing. Some have relayed the Biblical story where Jesus Christ chased out people buying and selling in the synagogue establishing that his father’s house must be a place of prayer alone and not a den of thieves.
Meanwhile, some churches today may be seeing things differently. They may be seeing evangelism instead and according to Apostle Paul, Christ must be preached by all means and this may justify the excuse of those who want to preach the gospel using the football viewing approach.
The question is: would the gospel be preached at the end? Would jubilating football fans be sober enough to take in the seed of the word of God in a tension soaked atmosphere?