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ICC Note: Where 1.5 million people have been displaced from their homes in northern Nigeria, Christians in the country’s south are obeying the Great Commission preaching the gospel and making disciples of Jesus in refugee camps. General Secretary Durosinjesu Ayanrinola of the All Africa Baptist Fellowship says a strong link exists between robust preaching of the gospel and Christian discipleship with the spiritual battle against Boko Haram. Ayanirola says Christians built up in their faith with stalwart trust in the Lord and His promises are better equipped to stand in the midst of constant persecution from Islamic radicals.  That’s why he is urging Christians in Nigeria’s south to engage in gospel ministry among the displaced population and is working to encourage those people that they are not forgotten or abandoned.

By Diana Chandler

Ibadan, Nigeria (Baptist Press) – Nominal Christianity fueled by a lack of discipleship is a major obstacle in standing against Boko Haram’s persecution of believers in Nigeria, a leader of more than 10 million Baptists in Africa told Baptist Press.

Yet, Baptists in Nigeria still manage to teach the Gospel at refugee camps and other locations where 1.5 million have been displaced by Boko Haram violence, said Durosinjesu Ayanrinola, general secretary of the All Africa Baptist Fellowship of 62 unions and conventions from 33 African countries.

“The issue of nominalism is nothing more or nothing less than lack of discipleship, when Christians are not discipled; so you have a case where they will not grow their relationship with Jesus,” Ayanrinola said. “We discovered that even though many attend church, the issue of discipleship is the case. Not many have gone through what it means to be Christian. Not many can stand on their own. They go to church, but they don’t have that in-depth relationship that can make them to stand [during] the difficult times like this.”

Ayanrinola spoke to BP while in the United States in March, when he greeted worshippers at First Baptist Church in Nashville and visited his alma mater, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

“But the good thing is that during this time, there are people who are ministering today, even in their refugee camps, to assure them of God’s presence, to assure them that they are not alone,” Ayanrinola said. “It’s just like when the Israelites were in exile and God is raising up prophets to minister to them. I believe that even during these difficult times, there are some pastors who have seen it as a ministry, even to minister to these displaced people, to pray for them, to comfort them, to assure them. They go to them one by one and collectively. And where it is possible outside the Boko Haram place to meet, they are meeting.”

Christians who are not strong in their faith are easily sidelined by the terrorists who seek to drive out Christianity from the country and establish strict Islamic law.

“This is a difficult time in their Christian journey. Some of them came out from idolatry and because of this attack on their faith, some of them are saying ‘Where is the God that we’ve heard can save us in difficult times like this?'” Ayanrinola said. “So you have some of them going back, who are not strong, going back to their idolatry, especially for protection.”

Boko Haram has intensified attacks in northeastern Nigeria since President Goodluck Jonathan imposed a state of emergency in the region in May 2013, and at one point had captured territories totaling more than 20,000 square miles, establishing Islamic caliphates under Boko Haram rule. The violence forced Nigeria to delay Feb. 14 national elections until March 28.

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