NOT MORE THAN 1% OF CHURCH MEMBERS FOLLOWED ONLINES SERVICES TODAY, SUNDAY 24TH MAY BETWEEN THE HOURS OF 8AM AND 9AM.
This is actually a follow up or Part 2 of an article I wrote sometime back on THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND THE MODERN DAY CHURCH: MY SUBJECTIVE ANALYSIS. Of course I must admit that its content has been greatly refined and polished to make it a bit friendly to my readership. The loud critical approach that characterized its initial style has been toned down largely. That is because of the feedback and almost near threats that I received from people for expressing my informed opinions. Well I agree that once an opinion is made public it can no longer technically be considered subjective because it may scratch on people’s egos. But I appeal to you to bear with me. Also, the survey bit that forms the basis of the analysis here is a current development. It was not part of the initial paper. I had decided not to release the part 2, but following my observations today, I feel impelled and compelled to release it.
Today, 24th May 2020, I decided to do an online church prostitution survey by following the live streaming of churches that had started service by 8:00am Ghana time. I share my observations here. Let me start by defining my sample frame so you can appreciate my survey. I have nearly 5000 friends/followers online and I also follow almost all most popular church brands from Ghana and Nigeria. My heavy online presence gave me access to a lot of livestream services that were ongoing within the time frame specified.
My methodology was simple. By 8am I decided to scroll through my Facebook to observe all online services that were visible to me. I countered a total of 38 livestreams in the time period specified. I stayed on each broadcast between 1 – 5minutes. I observed that the services were at different stages in progress. While some were just beginning, others were in the middle of their services while others were almost ending or about ending. The characterization of the churches included some of the mega churches both in Ghana and and Nigeria, names of which I will not want to mention. They also included some of the young ministries with very vibrant young ministers. Though most of the denominations were of the charismatic breed, there were also a few orthodox and Pentecostal brands, including one popular catholic church based in Nigeria with a unique priest I admire and actually follow.
Now to my observations. I observed with shock that apart from 2 churches, both based in Nigeria that had followers of a little above 4000 and 5000 online, the rest of the 36 churches had very abysmal followings. The highest count in a mega Ghanaian brand was a little less than 1000 as at the time the first livestream was about to end. The closest contender had just about 375 online followers. As for the majority of the other brands, most had less than 100 people following live. Some had as little as 4 following.
As someone quite familiar with the rudiments of research, I admit that a one time observation of between 1 to 5 minutes of each church may not be a very acceptable basis for making useful analysis and conclusions on a complex phenomenon as the one under consideration. However, the observations offer some useful insights into what may not be significantly different in an indepth study. I also admit that the timing of the survey might not have been the most appropriate. But considering the fact that most church services use to run at these same times when we were in normal times, I think the time of the study cannot be completely discounted. Whatsoever be the case, this simple survey which may be among the first of it’s kind in Ghana, though I have not conducted any literature search on the subject, offers very useful basis for an indepth study of our online church innovation, especially considering the fact that the live streaming approach is not particularly new to most ministries. It started long before the inception of covid19. I am ready to partner with any individual or ministry or organisation in this regard to do a comprehensive study of the subject in question.
My conclusions from this simple survey may not sit down well with many who usually will rise to the defense of the churches sometimes with no basis. I am one of those so I won’t be surprised at all. My first conclusion is that the church is one of the institutions, like many African institutions that does not try to match input against output, investment against returns and effort or energy against results. We are quick to say that spiritual investments cannot be objectively evaluated but I don’t even know what that actually means. We make investments that have financial and economic implications so to jump to the rare and appeal to the pneumatikos when there are calls for accountability is neither here nor there. More importantly, Jesus’ own parables of the talents, the lost coin and the ten virgins all give an indication that our Master himself took returns to investments and accountability very seriously. I believe quite sizeable budgets of churches are allocated for social media and online ministry. It is therefore very basic that we will develop objective measures of assessing the reach and impact of those investments. Personally I believe spending ghc500.00 to stay online only to have between 4 to 20 committed church leaders who are following because they don’t want their leader to feel deserted is not just a waste of time but also a waste of God’s resources.
My second conclusion is that the church loves to follow blindly. Suddenly all pastors and church leaders have become tele evangelists. The question I usually ask myself is who in his normal spiritual senses will go online with their data to see senior brands and deep preachers like Eastwood Anaba, Dr. Otabil, archbishop Duncan Williams, Bishop Oyedepo, Dr. Dag Heward Mills, Paul Eneche, etc. (no offense if I didn’t mention your favourite brand) online and be following you from a little church with no proper sound, screaming like a cricket in a hole with all due respect? I think young preacher, you should carve a niche, discover the lacuna in the great brands’ approach and fit yourself in there. That will give your ministry cutting edge and impact. There is no bible verse that says we should all come online and shout to an invisible audience. A classical example in the bible is Philip the deacon and his ministry in the desert. I can talk about that because my family have been going through the entire book of Acts in our daily bible studies. Today we studied chapter 27. When deacon Philip realized that the gurus in the ministry had choked Jerusalem, he moved to Samaria and in the wilderness, he had an encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch. No wonder after his encounter, the Holy Ghost gave him a ride to Azotos. God gives grace where it is needed, not where we think it is needed. That may be the reason why young preacher you will scream online for an hour with only 7 and half people following. It’s not by force, resign from that ministry. If it’s not working, then it’s not worth it.
Thirdly, I think I have made this point in the past but I will reiterate it in the present context: our quest for a global reach and acceptance has denied us our local relevance. Sometimes I don’t only get irritated but scandalized to see a preacher struggling to put a few English words together and in the process statter like the disciples in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. This is against the backdrop that such preachers are very eloquent in their native tongues and could have been very effective in their respective local dialects while reaching more people. So if your audience are not online, why force your way there only to force yourself to speak a language that renders you incompetent when you are actually competent in another language? We are angry that people unnecessarily attack the church but frankly sometimes we give them the ammunition. Can’t we generate other innovative ways of reaching out to the people in our communities without having to compete and compare ourselves with everyone else? Remember the bible warns us against comparing ourselves with those who commend themselves. For they comparing themselves by themselves and commending themselves among themselves are not wise.
Though some recommendations are embedded in my conclusions, I will want to make this one recommendation. I recommend that all churches and ministries do more than coming online on Sundays and midweek to speak to online audiences. That is novel but it doesn’t prove sacrosanct especially from the observations I made today. I believe young MINISTERS of big ministries should be deployed into our communities with especially pickup trucks fitted with rechargeable speakers to speak among community members. This will offer them opportunity not only to speak the word of God to community members but also provide avenues for educating community members on the novel Coronavirus and the health and safety protocols. I am personally sending for my rechargeable speaker tomorrow Monday and this is the last Sunday I will be lying in the house on a Sunday morning. Not to be dishonest, I learnt this strategy from a very senior minister from this soil, that is pastor Nat Awuni Winner.
While typing this article this morning, as if by divine serendipity, I heard someone preaching in English and another translating into Frafra. I stopped and told my wife the preacher was doing a great job. I went out to see who he was but he was quiet a distance away so I couldn’t see his face well but I heard him clearly. My entire area was thrown into excitement and joy hearing his preaching and the songs he sang, which happened to be his own songs he composed years ago while we were growing up. I called for some money thinking he was a young preacher I could bless. I made my wife go ahead to stop their car while I put on my shirt. I went out only to realize he was this colossus of a man of God. I interacted briefly with him and told him I was greatly encouraged and that I was going to follow suit immediately. Of course, this is something I have discussed in the past with my wife and those who have been close to me. However, I have never had the courage to do it until I saw Pastor Nat do it this morning and I decided am sending for that rechargeable system tomorrow so I can launch on come next Sunday. This is an investment that many of us can personally make. It will not cost more than ghc1000.00 to get started. I will suggest further that well meaning individuals who read this article and are willing to support young people to be deployed into our communities on weekly basis should either do that individually. It is a strategic way of organizing young people for this course. All that is required is a car or even Mahama candoo, which we could even rent for an hour or two on sundays for this course. Remember, the Word of God must cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. Again, the Lord gave the word and great is the company of those who publish it. The gospel of the kingdom must be preached in every corner of the earth before the end comes. We cannot hold crusades now but we can surely still reach out to our immediate communities. The gospel is first for our Jerusalem, Judaea, Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth. Let’s leave the online live streaming gospel for those who have mega followings to reach out to the uttermost parts of the earth while we concentrate on our immediate environs. Blessings, peace and prosperity to you my dear reader.
Akolgo Ayine, 24th May 2020