By Ayodele Ale
I read the pathetic story of the late Pastor Essa Ogorry, Founder and Lead Pastor of Fulfilling-Word Foundation Church based in Rivers State who was alleged to have ‘cancelled’ a wedding due to the lateness of the couple for 5 minutes.
He died at the age of 55 last Tuesday, exactly a year after he lost his wife, Tonyemieba to cancer. Their demise has left their 17-year-old child orphaned.
Unfortunately, while the pastor was battling with a terminal ailment and must have been struggling with depression, despite the smiling face and the ‘Somebody shout hallelujah’ the man was being misrepresented and the media was used as a tool.
Pastoral calling – not self-calling – is a tasking venture. I am not talking about self-called pastors who are milking the members of their congregation and exploiting the spiritual ignorance and the vulnerability of others.
Pastoral calling comes with tests, trials and temptations. It also comes with great rewards from the Master.
Apostle Paul narrates his travails in 11 Corinthians 11:23-28 “…in been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”
The Apostle in his letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 1:12) also says, “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry” So I thank the LORD. But with all sincerity, it took time before I eventually ‘surrendered’ to be a pastor. One day, as I was driving home, I told my wife, “At this juncture, I cannot run anymore.” So, it was not surprising to me when a parish was created and I was asked to proceed to the parish as a pastor. As I was crying, my wife was crying. She said, “I don’t want to marry a pastor.” Apparently, some of her friends had told her when I visited her in school, “The face of this your husband resembles the face of a pastor.” And she had shut them down. I cannot blame anybody. As a pastor, you are on the ‘watchlist’ of man and God, because God has a standard.
When they called us out to pray for us, the whole church erupted. Tears rolled down our eyes as we were being prayed for.
But since then, it has been an experience, in the church and outside the church. While the members bring their challenges to the pastor, the pastor runs to the Alpha and the Omega. Pastors are human beings, with flesh and blood. Pastors praise God. Yes. And they also cry because of the myriads of challenges. By the mercies of God, I am a pastor and most of my friends are pastors. But they have their challenges.
Even when pastors battle ailments, they hide it and pray for members. They jump up and down, dishing out prophecies from the pulpit while battling personal excruciating pain. But some pastors are humble enough to ask for prayers from members. One time, I was at the RCCG Redemption Camp when Daddy G.O. (Pastor E.A. Adeboye) knelt down and asked all congregation at the monthly RCCG Holy Ghost Service to pray for him. I once went to the Redemption Camp for personal prayer. At a point, I had to shift to the other side of the beautiful altar when the two persons beside me, who obviously were pastors were praying and crying loudly over personal challenges.
Forget the drama of the few traders on the altar. While some pastors dedicate cars of members, they walk barefooted and cannot even afford to pay for taxis or commercial buses. Some cannot even afford decent meal after their fasting and prayer session! Some cannot pay their children’s school fees. Some have marital challenges, especially due to their parlous economic situations. I know of pastor friends who borrow to assist the members of their congregation who have financial challenges.
When a husband impregnates his wife in the church, the pastor is saddled with the responsibility of praying night and day and fasting for safe delivery – It does not matter whether the husband sleeps in beer parlour.
Apart from this, the battle on the altar is another thing. When a pastor succeeds, it is another story.
Despite all these, the pastor, as a Christian soldier has to soldier on. There is no retreat. 2 Timothy 2:4 says “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”
Our task is to please the master. Isaiah 53:4-5 says “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
We have Christ as our examples. And we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, of those who ran the race to the end, without blemish.
I have also been able to realise that for those who do the work of God in purity and good conscience before men and God, there are rewards, immeasurable, in this life and life after.
Let us appreciate our pastors. May the LORD continue to uphold all the genuine pastors and uphold them till the end. May the LORD also bless our members.
-Ayodele Ale, journalist and lawyer, pastor, is a public affairs analyst