This morning I was in Matthew 7 where Jesus says,

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

How is it possible for someone to call Jesus “Lord” and in His name do many miracles, prophesy, and cast out demons, only for Jesus to say, I never knew you? Isn’t prophesy, casting out demons, and doing miracles in Jesus’ name, Christian work? How can we be deceived into thinking we are serving Jesus when we are not?

One only needs to visit Nigeria to find the answer to these questions. Our time there was truly enlightening. The southern half of Nigeria is 80% Christian and is home to the largest city in all of Africa, Lagos, made up of 21 million people. Yet, Nigeria is an extremely corrupt country and evil place. The kind of place we’d say, “needs missionaries.” Yet thousands of missionaries have been working there for well over 100 years. Multiple generations of born again Christians, and yet so little impact.

We met with a handful of local Christian workers, pastors and several other missionaries. It was interesting how each group blamed the other for their problems. When I asked the question, “So, what impact is the church having on society?” I received a flood of replies that varied from, “all the local pastors want is a Western ‘sugar daddy’” to “there is a tremendous lack of discipleship”.

The first issue is modeling. The nationals do what they see Westerners do. Several Nigerians told me:

  • If the Westerners are dependent on the wealthy West, well then why shouldn’t we Nigerians get money directly from the West too? 
  • If the Westerners have little or no accountability for their time, taking 3 or more months off every year or 2, why should we Nigerians be held accountable for our time? 
  • If the Westerners complain and make excuses about the supposed difficulties of living in our country, why can’t we Nigerians claim the same difficulties as an excuse for little production?

The second issue though, may be more serious. When we asked people about their faith, it often came back to sharing about the things they did. When people did reply, I have a personal relationship with God, it usually turned out to be buzz words and not a deep relationship with God. Interest was high in getting training, finding materials, and learning new methodologies, but few seemed to understand how to discern God’s will, or what His voice sounded like.

The couple we mentor there has started a home for abused women and children and started 4 businesses, with 2 more in the works to start this year. As the women are healed, they are trained in a business so as to have a job, a future, once they are healed.

While I was there, the owner was interviewing a woman named Juliana for a receptionist position. Juliana lived in the community and did not come from an abused background. When he asked, “Why would you want to work here?” Juliana answered, “Because I have heard and seen that God is in this place and I want to work where God is.”

We are learning the importance of using the weapons God has given us to get wisdom and gain a godly understanding for ways of doing business in the community. In time, this should transform a community who we then hope will impact the wider society. We are learning how to put prayer, fasting, and discipleship into the workplace. God cares about everything we do. Everything we do is to be done unto His glory (Colossians 3:23). People need to be discipled in ways to fight for both what is in their control and not in their control. We control systems, machines, methodologies, hours at work, etc., but we do not control the unseen forces at work around us. With the latter, we need to learn to spiritually ask God for the things we do not see or understand, and for the discipline and discernment to apply what He tells us related to these forces.

But discipleship is not words. Discipleship is a relationship. Learning to live life – do business in the Spirit, is fighting in a new arena for most. We need to understand that discipleship is a relationship. These are things that cannot be taught by words alone, but must also be modeled through our lives and work.

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus sends out His disciples to baptize and disciple. In Nigeria, the church and mission agencies seem to be succeeding at only half of this assignment.

As I am asking myself, may we ask one another; Is an incomplete obedience what Jesus means by, I never knew you? Is doing things in His name, different than doing things with Him?

I’d be interested to hear how you think things are going in your own church, or community? And how we might do them better!


PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for other 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.

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