Jim Massey's Thrust in Nigeria (1)

Leslie Diestelkamp
Westmont, Illinois

In mid-1971 brethren Jim Massey and Billy Nicks were able to secure visas to enter Nigeria for some work. This they did and did a great deal of their work in a significantly new thrust against what brother Massey calls "Forbidding brethren." They not only went into eastern Nigeria where they had previously worked before the civil war there, but they lectured considerably in Lagos in efforts to promote the sponsoring church arrangements, support of human institutions and the use of "missionary messengers," who are men in the field that receive and distribute funds and who have power to determine which native preachers will receive, etc. In a concerted and vigorous effort to indoctrinate brethren there Brother Massey distributed several thousand sets of charts, twenty pages per set, on 11 "by 17" heavy paper. The purpose of this article and more to follow is to briefly review some of the arguments brother Massey made, with special consideration of applications in Nigeria.

Introducing The Field

No doubt most readers of this magazine are quite familiar with the gospel work in Nigeria. Nevertheless it may be well to review briefly the circumstances of that work. Two native men learned the truth by correspondence (in 1947) and baptized each other. They began preaching what they had learned and baptized multitudes (perhaps 10,000 in 80 congregations) even before Americans Went there to live. This was from 1947 to 1952. Since then many Americans have gone and altogether the work has prospered until now, after 24 years there are perhaps 60,000 to 70,000 Christians and between 600 and 700 congregations. The work in the big cities of Western Nigeria was started in 1959 and in Lagos State, including metropolitan Lagos itself, there are perhaps between 20 and 30 congregations. Throughout the country most churches use the various native languages that prevail in each separate community, but in Lagos several congregations conduct all services in English, since they are made up of people from many different tribes.

The dire emergency which was an after math of the civil war in Nigeria touched the hearts of many brethren in America and nearly $100,000.00 was sent by churches of Christ 'and individuals, using their own chosen messengers who delivered the funds to the destitute churches of the eastern areas of Nigeria where the afflictions were greatest. This work was completed even this year (1971).

Response and Responsibility

The Nigerian people have not only proved very responsive to the, pure gospel message, obeying in such significant numbers, but they are very aggressive in accepting responsibility to go forth preaching the Word themselves. In a very few weeks after a new congregation is established, one or more new converts will come and request the opportunity to preach. They eagerly attend every meeting and every class arrangement possible to enable them to learn. Thus there are now literally hundreds of capable native men who do some excellent work in proclaiming truth- to the people everywhere there. A significant number of those native preachers have become very, very proficient. They are able to defend truth against any adversary in or out of the church. Their work involves them in an almost constant confrontation with denominationalism of every kind and they militantly wield the Sword of the Spirit with fruitfulness.

Differences, in Principle

In eastern Nigeria Americans have established Bible Schools, secular schools and a hospital. Furthermore, in that area the Americans who have gone there in the last nineteen years have usually (but not always) been "sponsored" under arrangements that I consider unscriptural. The sponsoring church arrangement has generally prevailed there. Churches in America have been involved to some extent in support of the schools and perhaps the hospital.

But in western Nigeria, in the work in the big cities, we have established nothing but churches. Men were trained to preach by use of private homes, church buildings, rented places, etc. and in arrangements that we sometimes called "Development classes," training classes, etc. These did not become entities in. and of themselves. They were nothing but orderly arrangements and they were always temporary in their location and in their activity.

No doubt it was inevitable that the two procedures described above should clash. Men converted in the cities would go back to the rural areas and take with them the convictions they had learned. Likewise some converted in the eastern rural areas would come to the cities and would sometimes defend the practices they were accustomed to. At the close of the civil war the confrontation became real and sharp in these spiritual realms. And it was under these circumstances that brethren Massey and Nicks went to Nigeria recently as described in my first paragraph in this article.

Massey's Charts

To expedite his efforts Brother Massey produced the charts to which I have already referred. In them he frequently refers to those who oppose the sponsoring church arrangements and church support of human institutions as overbearing, unreasonable, hair-splitting, nit-picking, assumption-binding, inconsistent, hypocritical, and Pharisaical. But his most frequently used description of his opponents is "Forbidding brethren." In my response I shall never retaliate. It is an obvious sign of weakness, not strength, when such unkind descriptions are used. Furthermore, since his hearers have told me that my name is often used in connection with these discussions, I feel it is my duty to respond at least briefly. However, I deny being even a "Forbidding brother" for though I do try to teach, I never try to force anyone. And, anyway, what I teach is not simply opposition to something. The main emphasis of my preaching, in Nigeria and in the U.S. is and always has been to try to lead people to respond to all of God's directives and to enthusiastically engage in every scriptural activity. I am not usually in the negative nor am I principally an opponent of something. Rather, I am most frequently in the affirmative and a proponent of positive action. I believe this is also true of most of the others who do indeed oppose many things that are being practiced in parts of Nigeria now and that are stoutly advocated in Brother Massey's charts and lectures. In the next issue of Truth Magazine I shall attempt a candid reply to the main points Brother Massey has advocated.

December 9, 1971