Nigeria is a large country with over 200 million people of diverse ethnic groups. Politically, the country is one, but geographically, the country is majorly divided into the North and the South. In Southern Nigeria, Christianity is stronger and is the dominant religion. The Church of Christ is found in every State, and in the villages. Northern Nigeria is predominantly Islam, and the church is small in most of the states, and congregations are found mainly in the State capitals, especially in the Northeast and Northwest. Only in the North Central do we have congregations in some villages. But this is possible because of the determination and resilient attitude of the Christians to continue despite all the threats and attacks. The presence of the School of Biblical Studies in Jos has been the main boost to the growth of the church in the North Central area and has contributed to the survival of some of the smaller congregations in the rest of Northern States.
Before 2000, the church was growing very fast into some villages in the northern states. Islam felt threatened, and then insurrected conflicts, where many Christians have been killed and church buildings burned. We have lost many church buildings to the Islamic attacks. In Plateau State, where we have relatively more congregations, since 2001, we have witnessed several violent conflicts organized by the Muslims. We have lost several Christian brothers. In fact, in 2008 one of our foreign students was killed on his way back from worship. Recently, the building of our young congregation in Mangu Local Government Area was burned, and the house of the preacher, who slightly escaped the attack, was destroyed. Many families have relocated to southern Nigeria to escape the attacks. In Benue and Kaduna States, similar repeated attacks are experienced on a daily basis. The attacks have made farming, which is the main occupation of the rural people, impossible. This thus ushers in severe hunger and abject poverty. Many people are now living in Internal Displaced Homes (IDPs) across each state, becoming refugees in their own land. How long will this continue? We do not know, only that we know that Jesus promised to be with us even unto the end of the ages. Even in view of this, we have resolved that we will not give up. We must build the body of Christ, and we must take the Gospel to the lost souls as long as we still have breath in our nostrils. Before the onset of insecurity, it was easy to move to strange places to stage open air preaching. But it is now very risky as attacks can come from any direction. We now concentrate more on door knocking evangelism. However, in some areas where the security situation is not that bad, we do have open air preaching, but no more in the night.
In the State of Plateau, we have about 28 local congregations, with the biggest congregation being about 300 members. In Benue State we have about 50 congregations with the biggest in the state capital. It has 350 members and has elders and deacons. In Bauchi State, there are only 3 congregations, the largest having about 70 members. Kebbi State has only 1, Sokoto 1, Borno 1, and Zamfara also has 1. Then there are some states without any congregation.
As earlier mentioned, the existence of the School of Biblical Studies in Jos has been of great help to the church. Here, many preachers are trained and sent out to the field every year. But then the small sizes of the congregations and the high level of poverty is a major challenge, as these congregations hardly can afford to pay a preacher to survive. We have introduced skill acquisition to provide the graduates with a skill that will enable them to help themselves in the field.
Our desire is to have a high school to enable us to catch the young children before they grow old. This will help the church to penetrate the population as well as meet their needs of education. The high school will also prepare the young ones for the Bible college.
-Tom Ekpot and Joseph Azembeh, TBC Doctorate Students
About the Writers
Tom Ekpot and Joseph Azembah are online graduate students at TBC. They live and work in Northern Nigeria, an area where Christians are being persecuted. The report that follows is a testament to their faith.