Things have been going well for many Nigerian Pentecostal pastors for so long. Many have become multi-billionaires as leaders of mega churches. They are far richer than their peers in other parts of the world.
This is through a version of the Christian theology branded as “name it and claim it,” another word for prosperity preaching.
Church members are encouraged to sow everything they have for a hundred-fold return or even more, as if the Kingdom is a mere investment bank.
Believers are often not given the whole picture since, unlike a bank, God’s requirements are often more stringent or varied, and some investments may not attract any return.
When there is a delay or denial, believers become disillusioned. As they wonder if it is their fault, they are asked to throw more money, prayer or fasting at the problem.
Some move from church to church, pastor to pastor in search of a miracle. The long wait at the various churches has created an army of fatigued believers, some now skeptical and probing for hard truths behind the preaching they have been nurtured with.
From the relics has emerged a new breed of ordinary Christians and pastors, who have been dissecting the scriptures in a new light as they question what has long been taken as the gospel-truth.
The work is aided by a revolution in technology, which allows instant web searches and access to several versions of the Bible with study plans as an app on a smartphone.
But no single person has had the impact of the radio talk show host, popularly known as Daddy Freeze.
Daddy Freeze is a phenomenon, a celebrity in his own class, and a formidable conscience against the excesses of the Pentecostal movement in Nigeria
He is bold, confronting, confident, articulate and does not back down. Pastors are fearful of him and often attack him. While many Christians are angry at him, some privately applaud him.
Daddy Freeze is a phenomenon, a celebrity in his own class, and a formidable conscience against the excesses of the Pentecostal movement in Nigeria.
Daddy Freeze has taken on the high and mighty in the church, forcing them to reconcile their teachings in the light of the gospel and challenging those who command respect beyond measure to say something new.
The smooth talker uses the social media as his pulpit to challenge the letter, spirit and practice of Christianity in Nigeria. He is throwing fundamental questions about faith in the public square and forcing believers to investigate some of the dogma in their assemblies.
I have been following carefully the bout between the enigma known as Daddy Freeze and the Nigerian Pentecostal church with amusement and curiosity but spellbinding interest.
He is forcing church leadership to speak out about subjects that no one had dared raise before and defend themselves: using the Bible
What makes Daddy Freeze such a compelling personality in the life of the nation is not just his ability to confront the most revered of revered church leaders - the ones presidents would not even confront – but the number of Christian doctrines he has forced us to re-examine simply by going into the Word.
He is leading us to ask simple questions, such as if church leaders should live modestly or the cost of Christian schools should be less than those set up for commercial purposes or if millions of women – including your mum, wife, sister or daughter - are an abomination to God when they wear trousers.
He is forcing church leadership to speak out about subjects that no one had dared raise before and defend themselves: using the Bible.
Daddy Freeze is cut from a new generation of Nigerians - who question anyone, regardless of esteem, class or rank. For him, it's all about the subject and the topic.
For this reason, he finds it rather easy to slice through the issue without bothering about the gasps and wheezes from the rest of us who are so respectful that we question nothing.
He cuts through canons and dives into ordinances that Christians have felt better to leave alone.
He is setting up a scene where arrogant church leaders who never declare their church’s financial statements will become accountable not only to God but to the people they lead.
Daddy Freeze is cut from a new generation of Nigerians - who question anyone, regardless of esteem, class or rank
He is pushing believers to really dig deeper in their Bible studies by taking a line of inquiry that is deeply personal, reflective and genuine.
He forces an examination of the scriptures along the lines of John Piper, the popular American evangelist, who claims that prosperity teaching does great damage to the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
Piper wrote: “I have watched the rise of enormous churches and ministries who preach and export to poor nations a prosperity ‘gospel’ that mutes the Bible teaching on suffering and reduces the glorious gospel to earthly betterment rooted in human attitudes and not the glory of Calvary,” and concludes: “God himself is our greatest Treasure - not his gifts.”
Daddy Freeze is making simple what the church had packaged complex.
Supporters of Daddy Freeze have mostly been operating underground because they could neither admit to the brethren or spouses how simpler and different the scriptures are becoming under illumination, nor confront church leaders with their questions.
I joined others to comment on one of Daddy Freeze’s remarks recently in an online newspaper, and was amazed by the volume, veracity and intensity of attack that my views in support attracted.
Many Christians say Daddy Freeze is cursed and is an instrument of the devil. They call him a Muslim, a bastard and all kinds of names. Interestingly, they used words in their attack that Jesus would have condemned.
The talk show host uses the scriptures to back up his points more than the zealots who attack him.
It is hardly believable that Daddy Freeze would be the kind who would set the captives free, but he has forced the church to confront and defend some teachings that they have used to keep the flock in line as they grew richer at the top.
If we look critically at Christian history, God picks good moments to correct misbehaviour in Christendom. From the old to the new testaments, the Bible is filled with accounts of corrective historical events.
At times, the correction is from within, and sometimes they are from outside. In fact, God did not deem it excessive to send the children of Israel on a corrective exile in the ungodly Babylon and make them live under the favor of unbelieving foreign kings.
Daddy Freeze is making simple what the church had packaged complex
Martin Luther, the German clergy, redeemed the church from an apparent self-destruction under Catholic doctrines, which ran determinately against the principles that we today take as sacrosanct Christian teachings.
His correction of church doctrines came at the time of a major communication revolution similar to what we are experiencing today – the print technology.
It would be a greasing of Daddy Freeze’s ego to compare him to Luther, but as far as the state of the Pentecostal church goes in Nigeria today, the radio talk show has forced a paradigm shift, and with it an enlightenment and rediscovery within the church that is necessary and should be appreciated by all true believers.
The Nigerian Pentecostal has an opportunity to take corrective actions to turn itself from the path of ridicule and destruction.
As someone whose faith was unleashed through the Pentecostal movement and has remained faithful to its core teachings, the weight of the Kingdom has been pressing upon me to come out and declare that the materialism oozing from her is not just ungodly but also disgraceful in its magnitude.
A few years ago, a close friend and I were having a conversation as friends and Christians at my house. He is a Professor in a first-generation university and a pastor of the largest Pentecostal church in Nigeria.
He was worried by the fact that the church's prosperity was leaving many behind.
My friend detailed how Christian universities were too expensive for their congregants which had focused on educating the children of the rich who were non-believers, leaving no room even for scholarships for indigent church members.
My friend and I are children of teachers. If our dads had not had the fortune of attending schools of the Church Missionary Society of Nigeria (CMS) for free, we could have been born to illiterates and never had the opportunity that we have had in life.
The problem is a church that has lost her ways, and a fearful and dogmatic people too afraid to share what they have read to confront church leadership, even when it has stepped out of bounds
In a very intimate and dispassionate discussion, we saw that the church had lost its way. That was nearly a decade ago.
What we didn't see was that the time was near when the church would come under an open challenge on the radio and Instagram. We did not see a Daddy Freeze.
Whatever anyone might think of Daddy Freeze, he is often right – not always - on the facts of the scriptures and absolutely on point on morality.
The church has lost its moral compass and fabric. I do not hold Daddy Freeze to any strict scriptural standard by the way– that should be directed at the church.
Millions of our children are going to bed hungry, widows have no help and the poor have no helping hand.
The church, in most cases, continues to withdraw from the accounts of the people they are supposed to give to, through a narrow and selfish narrative of the scriptures.
So many poor people cannot continue to exist when the church has never been richer
As in the days of Jesus on the earth, the widow continues to be forced to give the mite, when church leaders live in luxury.
The same Nigerian church is now spreading her toxic message to Nigerians in the Diaspora.
I have heard many times in the past few years, Nigerian pastors visiting America asking why we pay mortgage for 30 years and take a lifetime to buy only one house.
They say Christians living abroad are a failure because if they are not accumulating properties and cars. The white people have concluded through experience and history that happiness does not require acquisitive wealth.
And Christians are encouraged to give more than they keep. The Nigerian church, instead of understanding and teaching this virtue, is pushing the flock toward reckless and endless acquisitive engagement that has become rampant in Nigeria.
The greed that has become the trademark of the church was the invitation to Daddy Freeze. We have been long deserving of someone like him from the world for so long.
He should continue to prick the conscience of the church, of the believers and of all people.
In our climate, a Daddy Freeze is not only unavoidable, he becomes desirable.
He has become our inner voice asking if it is right or wrong each time he raises questions or discusses topics that we are too afraid to confront as people of faith.
He is challenging the gods we have created; the daddies that the scriptures say we should not even think about – except him.
Many more Daddy Freezes may be on the way. They will ridicule the church. They will challenge her. They will correct her. They will stretch her. And they will expose her using the scriptures.
And the simple reason is that the problem is not Daddy Freeze. The problem is a church that has lost her ways, and a fearful and dogmatic people too afraid to share what they have read to confront church leadership, even when it has stepped out of bounds.
The church cannot continue to win souls she tramples upon. The church is not a mall.
The church is not a commercial enterprise. So many poor people cannot continue to exist when the church has never been richer.
The gospel has been deprived and the church must find her way back to where it began.