Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The ‘Altar’ for a ‘Stage’?

“Only you are holy, only you are worthy, only you are wonderful, for there’s no one else like you, who is faithful ever true, all my love, my heart, my life is a testimony.” As I lifted my hands in worship, mouth opened in the rendition of this amazing song by Donnie McClurkin. I could see worshippers face flat on the floor, some on their knees while others stood there crying as the beautiful music escaped my lips.
The song must have come through with great emotional honesty. But as I led the church in the worship session that beautiful Sunday morning, an overwhelming sadness came upon me. The change I cause in these gathering of worshippers is evidently lacking in my life.
I am Jolaoluwa Akinyemi popularly known called JSings and without much talk you should know why that is. I have been singing since I was five. My mother made me join the junior choir in church and as I grew older it became a must to be in the church choir. It didn’t come with much stress because I was an amazing singer. While other children were shouted at, I was made the reference point. Who doesn’t love praises? Especially when it was given publicly.
Everywhere I went, I was a sensation. If you have it, flaunt it right? Singing was my own unique selling point. From secondary school through to my university level, I sang my way through. One thing I realised was that in this world there is nothing compared to the love people have for someone who can sing and I mean really sing.
I had that kind of voice – pure, natural and sweet. It always had an effect and because I knew how powerful my voice was, I always made sure everyone knew as well. I remember that my voice had won me my first relationship during my university days. Femi never failed to mention at every opportunity that it was my powerful rendition of “Waging War” by Cece Winans that attracted me to him. I agree totally because I remember that singspiration Night on campus in my 200l, I was on fire. At the end of that night if I had wanted to have a relationship with ten guys it would have happened. Not ordinary guys o, tongue speaking, born again guys of God.
Many years down the line here I was infront of a large congregation leading people in worship yet not truly worshipping. Don’t get me wrong I have always been a church girl, at every stage of my life, I was always close to the altar. The problem is if it was for the love of singing or for the love of God.
Everytime I stepped into a new church, I only had to speak to the choir leader and pastor, I automatically became the star. In few weeks, I would be leading the congregation in praise and worship sessions. It was instant, more like my voice always made the way and little emphasis was placed on workers in training, altar call and stuff like that. Infact if they had asked me to rededicate my life I wouldn’t have, I felt so big and I took pride in how the world viewed my spiritual status. I would like to come across as strong and deeply rooted in Christ. How awkward it would feel if I have to walk through members and workers and say that I am responding to altar call, hmmmmmmmmm, very degrading. My voice was good enough to make me a grounded Christian. This was the trend for me and once I climbed the altar, ready or not, the move was powerful for all but hardly for me.
I remember the first day I walked into Day Life Christian Ministries, I had just moved to Lagos after my youth service and I was looking for a church to attend. I was taking a stroll one Saturday evening when I saw the big banner advertising the church. I walked into the street and started to look around for it. I didn’t walk far into the street before sighting the church. It was big and beautiful, seeing the physical structure I was already drawn. It was nothing compared to the small unpainted churches I had seen earlier, this was by far better and definitely worth trying.
As I walked into the compound, I heard singing voices and as I moved closer, I could hear clearly, it was Marvin Sapps’ “He saw the best in me…” how I love that song. I was now standing at the entrance of the church, I could see the choir members preparing for Sunday’s ministration. As I made my way inside, a young man walked towards me and asked if he could help with anything. I introduced myself and told him I was looking around for a church and I was drawn by the sound of their voices. He told me he was the choir leader and went ahead to sell the church to me. We exchanged numbers and he encouraged me to join them in service tomorrow. I watched him leave as he made his way back to the others and then decided to sit through their choir rehearsal. I found a comfortable seat at the back, I listened and I judged.
‘That’s not too bad’, ‘wow that’s lovely’, ‘she needs to sing from her stomach more’, ‘how did this one make his way to the choir stand?’ These and more were the thoughts going through my head as I listened to them rehearse. They had a really good choir, I was impressed and then I made up my mind to join the choir there and then. The rehearsal came to an end at exactly 8:00pm and I could not believe that I had waited till the end.
‘You stayed for our rehearsals?’ The voice came from behind and I knew it was Sam, the young man who had introduced himself as the choir leader. I turned back and told him I couldn’t resist the sound of good music. We both had a god laugh and he offered to drop me at home, I told him that I would love to join the choir and he put me to a test. I could see his jaw drop as I sang Sinach’s ‘Jesus is alive’. That’s one of my favourite songs. I remember that he had parked the car and listened to me sing the whole song. When I finished he just kept smiling and said I definitely had to be in church the next day and also wait for choir rehearsals after service.
He dropped me off and I thanked him. As I entered into the house I received a text from none other than my future choir leader ‘you have an amazingly beautiful voice, can’t wait to work with you.’ I simply replied ‘thanks’. But that was the beginning of a lot of work and not just voice work if you know what I mean. There’s usually this first time craze that comes with meeting an amazing singer. Well maybe not all the time but for me that craze is always present.
I did go to the church on Sunday and as expected I waited for the choir rehearsals. He introduced me to the others and just like that I became a member of the choir. Sam also became my church driver, he would insist on dropping me at home everytime I was in church. I had not started working so I was available during mid-week services. Sam would sometimes ask me to help lead the praise and worship session during the mid-week services. Which I did gladly.
One evening I was on my way back from service when Sam said he was infront of my house, told him I was on my way back and he offered to wait. When I got home I aksed him to come in. I had rented a one bedroom apartment when I arrived Lagos. He sat comfortably on the single sofa I had and then said he thought to check me on his from work. I jokingly said but we chatted all day and saw on Sunday, he then replied that it wasn’t enough. He asked how the service went and I told him all about it. We had a long talk and even shared personal experiences. Soon it was time for him to leave and I was all alone in my room again. It actually felt nice having a friend around. I was just settling well into Lagos and making new friends.
Myself and Sam became very close and we would talk throughout the day. One Wednesday I was unable to go to church for the mid service because I was very ill, and to my surprise I got a call from Tope, a member of the choir that he was outside my house, I was amazed. I didn’t really talk to him except for our short greetings at rehearsals, so it came as a surprise to have him at my doorstep. He explained to me that he had gotten my address from the choir register and decided to pay a visit on his way home since it was very unusual for me to be absent during midweek. He stayed a while and he was very nice to me, he spoke softly and was full of encouragement. As he was about to leave he asked if I was studying any part of scripture at the moment, I didn’t want to come across as an unserious Christian so I said yes and gently prayed that he wouldn’t ask for the details. Thankfully he didn’t, he only smiled and then took his leave.
I couldn’t remember the last time I had opened my bible or had a quiet time at home except for during mid-week and Sunday services. I was more of the church relevant person, my days at home were spent chatting, eating, browsing, and the likes. Funny thing is time just flies, I sit and stand and sleep and before I know it the day is over. But as long as I was leading people well in church, it didn’t really matter.
I kept communicating with Sam and Tope. It all seemed really harmless though I never mentioned to either of the two that I was in close communication, it just went on. I dint feel the need though, after all we were all just choir members.
One Friday evening, Sam came over, and we had our long talks as usual. At around 10 he announced that he was leaving, I walked him to the door and he gave me a tight hug and instead of stepping back a little, we both devoured each other like hungry lions. It was like we had been waiting to fulfil every lustful passion.
In few minutes the raging passion was gone and it was replaced with unexplainable guilt. Sam dressed up in a rush and ran out of my house without saying a word. I sat there naked and ashamed. It wouldn’t have been worse, if Sam had made contact with me, the whole night he didn’t say a word, infact the next day he didn’t say a word. Our next meeting was at choir rehearsals. When he saw me, he looked in another direction and he avoided me all through the rehearsal. It was hard to miss, I’m sure people knew something was wrong but no one said anything. There was hardly any rehearsal Sam didn’t tease me, so this new style was a bit unusual.
After rehearsal I waited to see if he would offer to drop me at home, but he didn’t, he left without saying a word. Tope walked towards me and asked what was going on between Sam and I, I told him there was nothing. He asked why I didn’t take his call all day as he had something important to tell me. I told him we could discuss later as I had somethings to attend to at home.
When I got home, to my surprise, Sam was waiting at the door. We got into the house, he didn’t say a word and next thing he ripped my clothes apart, yet again we were in the same guilt boat. It became an obsession, we hardly spoke to each other anymore, all we were doing was sex and more sex.
When we got to church, we would put up the holy act, lift up hands and lead people into Gods presence but indoors we became unrepentant sex addicts. As long as no one could see us, we were good, we could be anything in our closets and be the worship leaders on Sunday.
Tope and I kept our phone communication intact. He was truly a sweet person, he took the word of God seriously and would take time each morning to share things he learnt from his devotion, half of these things I never read. He liked me and wanted a relationship, but I was blinded by lust. Tope always talked about keeping oneself until marriage and the type of woman he wanted. He saw me as that type of woman because he only judged me from what he saw in church. I was not quarter the woman he thought.
It was all becoming too much to take in, still I was in this growing sex groove with my choir leader. It was disturbing how we could be involved like that and still go to church without any form of remorse and lead people who sought a holy God with unclean hands and hearts.
All of these played back as I sang “Only you are holy, only you are worthy, only you are wonderful, for there’s no one else like you, who is faithful ever true, all my love, my heart, my life is a testimony.” That beautiful Sunday morning as great sadness came upon me, first because of my sins that played in my head and second because of people who truly came to worship and seek God
I am a totally different person from what the church sees. I am an actress, wherever I was, I was acting, it was a case of wherever the stage meets me, if the stage met me in my room I was the fornicator, if the stage met me in church, I was the worship leader, if the stage met me with Tobi, I was the liar, it was all about who was watching me act. People would see me and think ‘wow, she must be so in tune with God, her life must be perfect, she’s headed straight to heaven.’ But that’s a lie. I was a performer with well scripted lines, I knew all my songs well and I could sing anytime the need arises. To me the altar is just another stage. I didn’t have a personal relationship with God
I really don’t know how this story will end, but as of last week I still had unprotected, devouring sex episode with Sam. What Sam and I are doing can destroy the altar of worship. I am still lying to Tope and I still unrepentantly lead people in worship but truth is I’m trying to make amends, I have resolved to leave the church and start afresh, I didn’t go to the church to serve God, I went in to show off, I didn’t go there for the altar, I went for a stage. The altar is a place of consecration, humility and sanctification, a stage is a place of pride, show off and impression. I was constantly trading God’s altar for a stage. But I am done, I am answering that altar call this minute. Because both the altar and the stage need an inspiration to get on it. If God isn’t your inspiration stay away from the altar.
Stop acting spiritual, it is a dangerous place to be. Go to your personal space and work things out. Stop trading God’s altar for a performance stage. You may fool the congregation with lifted hands but you can never fool God, you may fool the congregation with bended knees but you can never fool God, and guess what in the end it is God’s altar not the congregations’, it is God’s judgement not the congregations’. Pastors, Teachers, Choristers, Quit the acting on the altar it is not a stage.
John 4:23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

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