The Effect of Church Conflict on the Growth of Churches in Nigeria: A Case Study of Selected Churches in Abuja

According to Singer and Small (2008), conflicts is defined as violent disputes pitting two individuals or groups or nations. Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research (HIIK, 2005) defined conflicts as an opposing of interests. Thus, this is positional variances regarding some values and involving more than one party including groups, organized groups, states, and organizations with the aim of pursuing their benefits to succeed in their cases. Despite the establishment and growth of Pentecostal churches all over Nigeria, they are punctured by conflict. Kamau (1994) asserts that there are many cases of conflicts in Pentecostal churches, usually followed by splits which negatively affect church growth. The conflicts usually subdue the efforts put forth to resolve them. According to Gathuki (2015), there were several Pentecostal churches that had been established in Kiria-ini town before CCI was established. Some of these churches were the Gospel Outreach, Revival and Hope, Deliverance Church, United Pentecostal Church and Glorious Worship Centre among others. These churches grew and had influence in Kiria-ini town. They attracted many followers from this town and its neighborhood. However, all these churches were later embroiled with conflicts which led to their closure as they lost their members to unending


Similar conflicts and subsequent splits in Pentecostal churches are also common in Kenya (Kagema & Maina 2014). In 2008, the Full Gospel Churches of Kenya (FGCK) was involved in a succession of dispute that broke the sixty-year-old unity which it had enjoyed. This dispute effectively split the church into two factions namely the original FGCK and a faction called Worldwide Full Gospel Churches (Gathuki, 2015). Earlier in the year 2000, similar conflicts had split the Gospel Outreach Church of Kenya forming a new faction called Gospel Revival Centre (GRC). In 2014, the Deliverance Church Nyeri branch, which had about 300 members, got involved in leadership conflicts which split it into two. A large group of members led by the deputy pastor left this church and established a church called Prime Ministry International (PMI) (Gathuki, 2015).

Leadership wrangles is a leading cause of conflict in churches today (Awojobi, 2011). Leadership conflict is the vigorous struggle or may include disorderly fight with the aim of occupying a leadership position or post by whatever means possible which is contrary to the accepted norm or laid down rules/procedure or standard. Put differently, it is a desire to ascend to leadership by “fire or force” or “do or die” against the will of majority. Some people in the church have used diabolical means to take over a given office.

Various examples can be given for churches that have undergone church conflict. For instance, the Church of God Mission under Archbishop Benson Idahosa experienced leadership conflict immediately after his demise



(Awojobi, 2011). This was after the ordination of his wife, Margaret Idahosa, as his successor even after numerous protests. In protest, some pastors and bishops under this ministry started their own because they were not satisfied with the choice of the wife as their leader (ibid). In another instance, in 2010, a case was filed in the Federal High Court, Lagos as two pastors Olusheye and Akintola were fighting to succeed Pastor E. H. Olusheye as the head of Christ Apostolic Church worldwide (Awojobi, 2011).

According to Haugk (2008), Sande (2004) and Donovan (2006), church conflicts are the major cause of member mobility as people move back and forth from one church to the other never to settle as they seek spiritual satisfaction and a place to belong. Thus, the congregation gets into a state of mobility and change. This mobility exposes Pentecostal Christians to abuse by church leaders who in most cases exploit them financially because they are desperate and are looking for identity. These scholars further observe that many of these members may not know the source of the problem and often hope that such conflicts will be resolved. However, when the situation gets worse to the extent of splitting or closing down a church, such Christians become emotionally unstable and may not trust any other church leader again.

Ansre (1997) noted that personal animosities have also been found to cause family division and loss of property. For instance, the division of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church resulted in the closure of the church buildings and disruption of the church services. Awedoba (2009) writes that in the absence of peace and unity, the development is retarded. Conflicts in most cases lead to the destruction of personal property or even church properties, personal harm, and the sense of uncertainty remains tall. In such an environment of conflict, development of the church is unlikely until peace returned. During the time of conflict, church members take sides and confrontation with opposing sides, and it sometimes turns physical.

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