Apostle Isaiah Lawon is the International Missions Director of Fullstature Missions International (FMI), with presence worldwide and a global dedication to the spread of the gospel. He speaks with RITA OKONOBOH on how Christians can evangelise effectively, how clerics can realign their messages towards salvation, the annual Advancing World Missions Conference, among other issues. Excerpts:
The FMI is all about missions and active evangelism. A female preacher was murdered recently in the course of evangelism. How would you react to that?
There is no safety in this world. Someone would die one way or the other. Jesus Christ, as good as he was, was murdered. To many ministers of God and Christians, it would seem like nothing strange. From the human point of view, one may react with anger. I think what those who planned that thought that Christians would react and there would be civil unrest. However, I think Christians are more informed and understand that such violent responses are unnecessary. It’s obvious from the way the husband reacted as well as the denomination. The reaction eventually became news. If people were to react negatively, Nigeria would not have been in peace.
The Christian Association of Nigeria has declared that Christianity is under siege. In the face of proposed licences by some Northern governors, attacks on Christians in various parts of the country, among others, how would you advise Christians on pushing the faith forward?
From time immemorial, the natural has never been at peace with the supernatural; the devil has never been at peace with God’s ways. Like it is today, people may be politically correct but they may not be serving God. They may also not be the public. That is why the language and manner with which we react to one another is what causes a lot of problems. For true believers, there are many ways to preach the gospel without causing mayhem. However, we cannot prevent persecution. It will certainly come. People who are upright are usually faced with challenges. I believe Nigeria will get better.
The FMI has presence in various countries. Even with the proliferation of Christianity worldwide, and especially in Nigeria, moral standards seem to be on the decline. Are churches not doing enough?
It is not that the church is not doing enough. People talk about proliferation of churches but they don’t talk about population explosion. There may be concentration of churches in some place but it is not like that in most nations. In China, we still have underground churches. In Russia, a decree was published recently banning certain things about the faith. Even in America, churches are faced with problems. So, it is not strange at all because that is what is supposed to be. In fact, if as a Christian, you never faced challenges, then, your Christianity is suspect.
There are concerns that more and more Christian leaders are spreading prosperity messages, rather than salvation. What is the focus of the FMI and how would you advise such clerics on realigning their messages so that the people can aim for heaven?
The message of the FMI is ‘missions’; for people to go into the world and preach the gospel, but the gospel does not spread poverty. In fact, the gospel says, ‘in Him, there was light,’ and wherever there is light, there is development. Christianity brought a lot of the development to the South-West, South-East and the South-South of Nigeria. I would advise Christian leaders to put emphasis where it is due. And it is that character matters. You can’t spread the gospel by falsehood or excessive lifestyle because people would misunderstand.
What is the purpose of the annual Advancing World Missions Conference?
The basic purpose is that we want to mobilise the church into action so that they will evangelise the lost. The theme this year is Kingdom Force: Invading the Nations and the message from the theme is to mobilise the body of Christ so that they can rise up to the call they have to take the gospel, which is not powerless, to reach those who are in serious need, especially those who have never heard about the good news of Jesus Christ. To put it more concretely, it is to say that we need that type of determination that can break grounds that have been resistant to the gospel. The 2016 edition is ongoing and will also take place today at 9:00 a.m.
What would be your advice for the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration?
My advice is that it should lead well. Governance is a tough issue in Nigeria and Nigeria is a complicated place. To lead Nigerians requires adequate preparation. You can’t have one agenda and say fighting that problem is the source of all other problems. We have ethnic problems, the problem of corruption and even religious challenges, among others. For those in governance, they should address these problems adequately. They need wisdom to govern and we pray for them regularly.
What is your greatest testimony as a missionary?
It is to see people recovered; that is when God has helped us to penetrate tribes who haven’t ever had contact with the gospel. That is what keeps us going. Our joy is that we took the light to where it doesn’t exist and that light endures. Also, we are happy when we see the hand of God in what we do. For instance, we took the gospel to the people of Konkomba in Ghana. The Konkombas are known for war and that has been a problem for the Ghanaian government and every year, they send troops to keep the peace in that area. We took the gospel to them and suddenly, the strife ceased. Now, government no longer sends soldiers there to keep the peace. What happened was that the man who used to make charms for them for violence and even charms to ensure that they were not killed by bullets became sick and couldn’t cure himself. He had a sore that seemed incurable. Our missionaries prayed a simple prayer for him and in three days, the sore dried up. When that happened, he refused to continue making those charms. There have also been testimonies with establishment of schools. There are so many special testimonies.
With over 35 years as a preacher, do you have any regrets?
It gets better and better everyday. Sometimes, I wish I could live the life again, doing the same thing all over because if I knew what I know now when I was 25, this world would have been some other place.