by Rev. Stephen Panya Baba | “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19
Greetings to you all in the precious name of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. It is a very rare and a great privilege to be chosen by God through His servants and people, to lead ECWA at this critical time in its history.
I. ECWA History
ECWA has come a long way since the coming of the pioneer team of the then Sudan Interior Missions (SIM) Missionaries, our founding fathers and heroes of faith, Walter Gowans, Thomas Kent and Rowland Bingham, who arrived the shores of our land in Lagos on 4th December 1893.
1. Evangelical Missionary Society (EMS)
I remember when I was appointed Director of Evangelical Missionary Society (EMS). To find inspiration and get a ‘feel’ of what our pioneers went through, I decided to visit the grave of Walter Gowans at Girku. We had to drive, take a chance through the bush, go by foot through the water, enter a canoe and finally tread dangerously through the flowering shrubs before we could reach the lone grave of Walter Gowans in Girku. It is also worthy of mention that 125 years after the death of Walter Gowans, his grave is still not accessible except on foot. I wept bitterly that day beside his grave and asked God for the grace to re-intensify our effort, so that the vision He gave to our founding Fathers to reach the entire world with the gospel of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ would not fade away during our time.
2. Build Befitting Memorials at Bida and Girku
To make matters more worrisome, I may say at a point in time, the grave of Thomas Kent at Bida had become a rubbish dump, until the ECWA Minna DCC and some visiting Western Missionaries
on a historical voyage and research gave some funds for the place to be cleared. There is definitely the need to build befitting memorials at Bida and Girku, where the graves of two of our founding fathers, Thomas Kent and Walter Gowans lay, to serve as memorials to ECWA’s Ministry Philosophy, so that like me, many more of this younger generations of ‘ECWANs’ can go and have their vision and passion to take the gospel to the lost and unsaved of this world renewed.
Since the time of arrival of our founding fathers and the evangelism and planting of their first church at Patigi, in the present Niger state, ECWA has made progress spiritually, physically, especially the increase in the number of worshippers and more visibly, materially and financially.
However, we must be very careful never to use human or any external or worldly parameters as criteria for accessing and evaluating the progress of our church. The biggest danger when we use worldly criteria to assess and evaluate our progress and standing as a Church is that we would easily suffer the Laodecian disease. When the Laodecian Church used this approach in evaluating their performance, God told them; “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”
We must therefore use God’s criteria to assess and evaluate ourselves and using God’s criteria, the truth is that we are far below what God wants us to be in all respects and especially spirituality. Using God’s criteria, we stand fallen; terribly short.
II. Moving Forward
To move forward and scale greater heights and be the glorious Church that God wants it to be, especially spiritually, ECWA needs the kind of transformation that no one, no man can bring about, certainly, not I or the ECWA Executive, except God and God alone! Nothing short of a powerful supernatural move of God, resulting in revival, would bring about the needed transformation. The key to a glorious ECWA is Revival! For the avoidance of doubt, it is God and only God who can transform
ECWA into the glorious church that He wants it to be, without spots or wrinkle through a powerful supernatural move of the Holy Spirit. This must be our prayer and the prayer of all those who love ECWA and wish her well.
We have the promise of God in Psalm 110:3 to rely upon which says; “In that day of your power your people shall come to you willingly, dressed in holy altar robes. And your strength shall be renewed day by day like morning dew.” Another promise that the Holy Spirit has brought to my mind is Isaiah 43:18-19, which says; “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”
Every one of us has a specific role to play in this end time powerful supernatural move of God in ECWA. However, one thing that God would have all of us do is to pray! In Isaiah 62:6-7, God said, I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.” And ECWA is our Jerusalem. We must never be silent day or night. We must never give ourselves any rest and give God no rest, until He establishes ECWA and makes her the glorious Church He desires it to be. I have consequently printed a thirty one day prayer program which would be distributed for use by all of us as a guide and aid for us to pray for ECWA. We shall also circulate it through other channels including internet and social media by God’s grace. It is hoped that it would be updated from time to time God willing.
We must pray for God’s powerful supernatural move of the Holy Spirit, to ignite fires that would be blown into flames of revival by the wind of His Spirit, in order to destroy and consume anything that is not of God in our lives, families, church and nation. We must pray for the Holy Fire to be closely followed by a mighty outflow of the River of God from His throne of grace, into our lives and families and churches and that as God showed the Prophet Ezekiel in a vision, as the mighty River of God, the River of the Holy Spirit, the River of Living Waters flows; it would give life to the dead spiritually and if it pleases Him physically; it would set the captives free from bondage to Sin and Satan, transform lives, heal the sick spiritually and physically and generally bless His beloved people spiritually, physically and materially/financially. God has promised that; “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14-15
2. Open to Guidance & Leading of the Holy Spirit
We must be all open to the work, guidance and leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives, families and churches and be absolutely surrendered to be used of the Lord Holy Spirit as God pleases. Those that surrender to the Holy Spirit for Him to use would have abundant joy and would be blessed here on earth and greatly rewarded when we shall all appear before the Lord on that day to receive our reward. Those that are indifferent would miss out in the joy, blessing here on earth and reward in eternity. Those that are opposed to the mighty move of the Holy Spirit would be overruled, set aside or removed out of the way as the case may be, but I pray that this fate would not befall any one of us in Jesus name.
Every genuine revival must be followed by discipleship. As we trust the Lord for revival in ECWA, we intend to encourage and firm up the discipleship program of the Church whereby teaching and instruction on biblical truth will also be demonstrated practically in daily life, the ultimate goal being to engraft believers in Christ, the Vine, so that he can bring him to maturity in Christ and “bear much fruit” that will last (John 15: 1-16).
3. SIM Missionaries Contributions
We remain extremely grateful for the solid foundation laid by our founding Mission, the SIM Missionaries, and the subsequent building and reinforcements made over these many years by our
parents who passed on the baton to us. In the immediate period, my predecessor and the ECWA Executive under his leadership pursued a four point agenda of ‘connecting ECWA to God, ECWA to ECWA, ECWA to the World and Mobilizing Resources for the continual Propagation of the gospel’. We are grateful to God for all the progress made over all these years, but now, I believe is the time for us to re-strategize in order for ECWA to make greater impact, in empowering its members, (spiritually, physically, materially/ financially), to reach a lost and dying world, with holistic gospel of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.
All hands will need to be on deck in our effort of re-strategizing, in order to make greater impact in empowering ECWA members, to reach a lost and dying world with the holistic gospel of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.
4. Need Everyone’s Participation
Our re-strategizing for greater holistic impact of the gospel must encompass all and cover all the segments of ECWA including the Men, Women and especially the Youth and Children of the Church. We must intentionally plan to recapture especially our Youth back to the church and maintain our children as they grow and develop to spiritual and physical maturity.
As earlier noted, praying for the powerful supernatural move of the Holy Spirit for revival in ECWA by all, is the key to strengthening the critical fundamental spiritual bedrock needed, for the necessary structure to be further developed upon.
5. Ever Changing Culture & Persecution
Furthermore, the population of persecuted Christians, widows, orphans and vulnerable children and the poor generally in our churches and Mission fields has reached astronomical levels. Apart from natural causes and other socio – political factors like ethnic and tribal clashes, the murderous activities of radical Islamists like Boko Haram and some Fulani herdsmen who are Jihadists, have contributed very greatly to the rise in the number of widows and orphans in many of our churches today.
I must at this stage, call on the Federal Government and indeed all governing authorities at State and Local Government levels, to show greater resolve and take more concrete steps in stopping the evil carnage being perpetrated by Boko Haram and those that are Fulani Jihadist Herdsmen, otherwise, like our much respected and highly esteemed Elder Statesman Gen. T. Y. Danjuma rightly said, citizens are left with no option than to resort to self-defense. Self-defense is a constitutional and legal right to which every citizen is entitled.
Failure to rein in and prosecute these wicked men would only confirm the increasingly perceived notion that Boko Haram has rebranded themselves in form of the Fulani Jihadist herdsmen, and that they are carrying out their nefarious activities under the protection and covert support of Federal Government and its security agencies. Government must arise to the occasion and put an end to this wicked plan to annihilate Nigerians, especially Christians, in the Middle Belt Region and zones of Plateau, Benue, Taraba, Gongola, Sothern Bornu and Southern Kaduna and other parts of the North East because the corporate existence of our dear country Nigeria is being threatened.
We are also still calling for intensified action by the Federal Government to secure the release of the remaining Chibok girls and of recent, Leah Sharibu, who is being held captive by Boko Haram, for the singular reason that she has refused to deny her faith in our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. Leah deserves a Nobel prize for her strength of spirit and courage in the midst of pain and suffering. We call on the international community to act on behalf of Leah Sharibu like they did Malala Yousfzai. Our prayers are with the many parents of the Chibok girls and the Sharibu family not only for the comfort of the Holy Spirit, but for their release from captivity in Jesus name.
ECWA in collaboration with other sister churches and adherents of other faiths, shall continue praying, working and doing all it can through dialogue and other means, for peace to reign on the Plateau and in Nigeria as a whole. While we pray for peace in our Land in obedience to Scriptural injunction as Christians, and also partner with Government, groups and well-meaning individuals towards the attainment of this most important value in every society, let us remember that peace is merely an illusion unless anchored on the bedrock of justice. Without justice in our society peace is a mirage, a fleeting shadow beyond grasp. It is for this reason that I call on governments and authorities at all levels to ensure that justice flows like a river in our Land by giving each citizen his or her due in spite of religion, tribe, creed or social standing. That is the real way to peace and progress. When this happens, the evils and wickedness that have plagued our country will be eliminated.
6. Immediate Need for Social Security Safety Net
As the consequence of the forgone, the number of persecuted Christians, widows, orphans and vulnerable children within our churches today has reached a crisis proportion. In Nigeria and Africa generally, there is no social security safety net that our many members in such situation can fall back on, therefore, ECWA Leadership at LCB, LCC, DCC and GCC levels, would be encouraged to develop means and ways of ensuring that Brethren reach out to each other, in a more holistic way, so that the church can be strengthened in order to be more effective in reaching out to a lost and dying world. ECWA can no longer continue responding to emergency or crisis relief and other such needs on ad hoc basis through a standing Committee. There is need to strengthen existing structures or consider establishing a unit, at least at Headquarters level and to recruit, train and deploy staff for that purpose, so that cases of granting emergency reliefs, which have now become a permanent feature of the church, and the spiritual care and the economic empowerment of our persecuted Brethren, widows, orphans and vulnerable children, the poor and needy generally, would be given more adequate attention on a continual basis.James 1:27, says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. For this purpose therefore, we shall intensify effort for ECWA Rural Development (ERD) to be resuscitated.
The Plateau State Governor on his last visit to the ECWA General Church Council, recalled the glorious days of ERD with nostalgia. Now that he is a very close neighbor to ERD in the new Government house, our prayer is that you would be a good one, who loves your neighbor as yourself and be your neighbor’s keeper! As ECWA does its very best, we seize this opportunity to call on His Excellency to join in the ongoing effort to resuscitate ERD to serve the good people of Plateau State and Nigeria at large in Jesus name. The Peoples Oriented Development (POD) of ECWA will likewise also be strengthened. Other means of encouraging holistic ministry would be explored, so that as the scriptures say; ‘brotherly love would continue’. Hebrews 13:1
Your Excellency, the Governor of Plateau State, I must give credit to whom it is due. You have done excellently in taking care of the salaries of civil servants in the state and also paying Pensioners their due, at this twilight of their lives, when they are weak and helpless and in need of their pension payment most. I even heard you have been nicknamed the ‘Alert Governor!”, because of your prompt regular payment of salaries of civil servants. Please, keep it up and God bless you. May other governors and leaders emulate you in Jesus name. We also appreciate you for appointing many ECWA sons and daughters in your cabinet.
III. Key to the Lost and Dying World: Evangelism and Missions
As regards reaching the lost and dying world, Evangelism and Missions is the key. As we believe God for a special and mighty visitation, and powerful supernatural move for revival that would make us more effective witnesses in our various places of calling, there would be need for intensified effort in reaching out to the lost beyond our vicinity through missions, and different approaches would need to be adopted for different areas, especially in the following:
1. The Core North
The original vision of our SIM Founding Fathers was to reach the interior of Sudan, especially the core north, with the saving gospel of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. Incidentally, I was in Kano at the same time that the present S.I.M. Nigeria Director, Rev Tom Jessurun worshipped with us at ECWA Gospel Center Kano, where he challenged the church not to cower, in the face of opposition and persecution orchestrated by forces opposed to the gospel, but to forge ahead, because God’s promise that He would build His Church and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it, is not for a church that is complacent or stationary, but for an advancing church that is invading the kingdom of darkness to rescue the perishing. That made a great impression on me, especially as regards the core north mission field. We must push ahead with the gospel to the Core North and believe God to conquer as many with the message of love and bring them into the Kingdom of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. Much as God hates the wickedness of Boko Haram and some that are Fulani Jihadists Herdsmen, He takes no pleasure in the death of a sinner. God loves all the people on this earth because He has created us all, and this includes Boko Haram Members and the Fulani Jihadist Herdsmen, whom God desires that they should not die in their sins, but come to the saving knowledge of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. We must be ready to pay the price in taking the gospel to all the world, especially the Core North of Nigeria and other difficult areas, bearing in mind that God Himself, demonstrated His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8.
2. Remembering Our Past and Empowering the Future Generation
Again our daughter Leah Sharibu’s unflinching stand as a witness for Christ Jesus in this context is a current testimony that God’s grace would always be sufficient for us no matter the danger, even to our lives. Towards re-intensifying our focus on this vision, we shall by God’s grace, in conjunction with Call of Hope, S.I.M. and other partners, hold a special ‘Core North Gospel Summit’, an idea conceived by the late Trustee, Dr. Philip Usman, in conjunction with Elder Dele Onamusi, as soon as possible. The mention of late Trustee Dr. Philip Usman brings to mind also one of our gallant Church leaders, Rev. Dr. Musa Asake, who also recently passed on to glory. Please pray for the comfort of the Holy Spirit for their immediate families, the ECWA family and the entire Nigerian Christendom (A one minute silence in honor of late Trustee Dr. Philip Usman and Rev Dr. Musa Asake).
3. The South
As regards the Southern part of Nigeria generally and the South-South region in particular, the greatest challenge is the battle for the truth. ECWA over the years has been known for, as our learned colleagues would assert, ‘preaching the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’ of the gospel. ECWA Television which had its debut yesterday on the cable shall play a key role in complementing our outreach effort to this region.
Please, tune in always and encourage others to tune in to watch ECWA TV using any ‘free to air decoder’. You can also download ECWA TV Mobile App on your android phone. We shall re-intensify our efforts for urban church planting, in order to establish and increase platforms for preaching the true gospel as opposed to the very prevalent ‘different gospel’ being preached and which Paul in Galatians 1:6 condemned as no gospel at all. Also, these established urban churches would be used as bases to lunch out to other less reached groups, especially in the creeks. I look forward to hearing testimonies of special EMS missions work in the Niger Creeks, just as we have been doing in the mountains of the Core and Far North Regions of Nigeria.
4. Cross Borders Missions
With respect to Cross Borders Missions, there is need to mobilize resources in order to push the work to the next phase and greater height in the various world missions fields that we have opened. EMS of ECWA right now needs a minimum of N1billion towards this purpose. As at the present, all the support that is coming in for EMS including the two Missions Week Collections, barely cover the Home Missions needs. The amount left is able to meet only some critical needs on the Cross Borders fields. We thank God for ECWA Portfolio Management Ltd which has been making yearly contribution to this great need and I pray that other strategic Business Units will emulate EPML. We encourage our members, friends and supporters alike to invest generously in this Kingdom’s work. We remain opened to ideas as to how we can raise and fund this very urgent and critical Kingdom’s need, in order to greatly boost our effort to win souls for Christ all over the world.
5. ECWA Education & Future Ministry
Bingham University is the new face in ECWA of the present and futuristic ministry in ECWA and World Missions. There is increasing need in the world of today and the future, of Missionary teachers, nurses, doctors, engineers, lawyers and other such tent making professionals. Many of us, including myself are products of Graduates and Professionals, including Nigerian and Western Missionaries, who sacrificed and came as Missionary Teachers. In my own case, I was taught in ECWA Secondary School Miango, which gave me a sound grounding and equipped me spiritually and intellectually to minister to my own generation. Therefore, we shall work very closely through ECWA Education Department and seek the support and collaboration of our founding Mission, SIM and relevant governing authorities, to establish a Department of Theology with great emphasis on World Missions and Urban Ministry in Bingham University, so that, our graduates, Pastors and Members alike, will not be very sound professionally, but would be best equipped spiritually and all round, to more effectively serve as Ministers of God in urban settings as well as Cross –cultural Missionaries all over the world. As we encourage lay ministry by our spiritually matured professionals in the church, Bingham University must now set the pace and make training of our Pastors who are equipped all round, spiritually, intellectually and professionally, its top and urgent priority.
EMS of ECWA shall remain our primary agent for driving the mission vision, I however call on the entire church to see Evangelism and Missions as our fundamental mandate, and to do all we can to be fully involved, by way of being powerful witnesses for the Lord Jesus in the various places of our callings, and by praying, giving and supporting Missions.
We thank God once again for the legacy we inherited from our SIM founding fathers of a lifestyle of godly simplicity and servant leadership, transparency and accountability. I will implore all ECWA Church Leaders and members, to do our best to imbue and perpetuate this legacy in our lives and ministry and to bequeath it to future generations. Let us remember that most of our operations are being supported by very sacrificial and generous offerings, tithes and donations by members, many of whom are persecuted Christians, widows, orphans, petty traders and the poor, whom Jesus said, we would always have among us. Some others are blind, lame, dumb or crippled. We must therefore administer these financial resources with the fear of God, to whom we are accountable, especially in view of the great judgment day, that we all shall appear before the judgment throne of God to give account of our stewardship.
To all ECWA Staff and workers managing these resources, starting from myself, we must realize first and foremost that we are children of `God. We should remember always that it is God who has called us and given us the privilege of serving Him in our various capacities and so as a staff of ECWA, God is our direct ‘Boss’ who knows and sees everything that we are doing, including our very inner motives. This comes with great privileges as well as very serious responsibilities. As our ‘Boss’, God never owes anyone, and in fact He pays very generously. The old hymn, a favorite of my father’s, Rev. (Dr.) Panya Baba, says it very well: “It pays to serve Jesus.” However, God blesses the worker according to his or her motive and faithfulness to his or her calling. More importantly, as we serve Him, we should remember the eternal rewards kept in heaven for us. Motive and faithfulness are key in pleasing our ‘Boss’ and Master. Towards this end, staff welfare would remain our priority; however, we shall review our accounting systems and operations to enhance transparency, accountability, faithfulness and prudence, in order to aid us in more faithfully serving the Lord.
I will once more conclude with the scriptural promise of Isaiah 43:19; “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”
Finally, I ask this of you, every member of ECWA and the Church of God universal: Pray for me and the ECWA Executive that God will fulfill His divine will and purpose for ECWA. May the Good Lord spare our lives to witness and partake in the joy of celebrating His new and mighty works in and through ECWA. May He lift up His countenance upon His people and prosper His work in ECWA and beyond in Jesus’ precious Name!
Long live ECWA,
Long Live Plateau State
Long Live Nigeria
Thank you and God bless you all in Jesus name.
Inaugural speech delivered by Rev. Stephen Panya Baba on the occasion of his installation as president of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) on Saturday, 2nd June 2018 at ECWA Headquarters, Jos.