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WHY I DON'T PREACH AGAINST SMOKING, BY PASTOR

By NBF News
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Across the world, most Christian leaders, especially pastors of Pentecostal churches, openly preach against smoking. They insist that a puff of tobacco is not only dangerous to your health; it is in fact a sin before God.

Well, there's a pastor who disagrees with this doctrine, and he's not hiding it. Rev. Christor Rolland is the pastor of a German church in Nigeria. The man of God, who oversees the German Congregation in the country, says the church has existed for over 30 years. He runs the church alongside his wife.

But some activities and doctrines of the church which he said has a congregation of between 40 and 50 will appear strange to many. While other churches hold programmes several times a week, Pastor Rolland's church which is located at Beachland Estate, Lagos meets just twice in a month. The preacher also sees nothing wrong in smoking and he doesn't preach against the habit. As a matter of fact, his wife, with whom he oversees the church, is a consummate smoker. She's been smoking for many years, he said, and he has no problems with it.

'It is not a problem at all if my wife smokes,' he told Daily Sun. 'In Germany, we have a problem in the society. That is why people smoke only in the room and not at public places just because it would have effects on other people's health. Smoking actually has no spiritual effect. I cannot say, don't smoke, because it is the decision of everybody to smoke or not to smoke. If people have a feeling that they should not do so, they will abstain from smoking. It is not because of anything related to their spiritual lives.'

Pastor Rolland's church recently held one of its activities at Shie, a coastal village near Badagry in Lagos. The village, sitting off the beach, is accessible only by boat. After the programme, Pastor Rolland had a short chat with this reporter.

'I am a pastor of the German-speaking congregation. Historically, many missionaries came to Nigeria from Germany, Austria and some other nearby European nations over 25 years ago. They founded a congregation in Beachland because it was a German village, and they started to build a church, school and other facilities. The community had more than 600 people, and many of those people actually formed the congregation.

'The congregation was necessary because the Germans needed to worship in their mother tongue at a place not far from their homes. By tradition, all Germans are Christians, but time has changed much of that. Many have lost their Christian roots through unbelief. And when you ask them, they are not sure of what they even believe today. That was why the church needs to call them back and teach them and their children, and put them into confirmation classes. And as the pastor, I am needed around the congregation to attend to the people's needs and to celebrate with them at times like this.

'There are several other branches that we have, but in Lagos, our base is the Beachland Estate. Sometimes, we go to Abuja. We also have a congregation in Enugu for our people. We visit these places from time to time. I went to Uyo. Just recently, I was in Accra, Ghana to see the German congregation there. There's no other German congregation in Africa apart from ours. We Germans come to Church two times a month. That means a lot to us. I don't think our people will be able to cope coming to worship every Sunday. Well, some may, but not all.

'We have some relationship with So-said Charity Home, the Beth Torrey Home (Kirikiri, Lagos) and the Motherless Babies Home, Ota. We also have our own schools at Olodi-Apapa in Ajegunle. We meet at these places two times in a year and we also partner public schools to take care of the helpless. Whenever we are there, we organize special lessons on leadership. As people working in the society, we teach them how to become leaders of change, how to overcome violence in the society, how to use their talents for good work and not to obey just what the society is teaching them.

'I'm not a musician, but I learnt to play the guitar when I was a child. Since then, I've never stopped to train myself or put my ability on the guitar. And I think my congregation would like to sing with me, and I will like to improve on my skills and use it by the grace of God to serve Him.'

When asked why people take refreshments after each service at the church, Rev. Rolland, said the church is an avenue to bring together Germans living in Lagos. 'They have to listen to the word of God and to pray. When you have a service where you only pray and sing, and at the end you go home, it is not enough. The church is a community and I believe after a relationship with God, members can't just go home. No. They can talk and interact with each other after the church, and also know each other better. While talking with each other, they experience God in a better way and also offer one another something. While doing that, we have something to eat, and that serves as a good opportunity to bring people together. We also have many Nigerians in the congregation. We have many of them because some Nigerians like to come and fraternize with us. Most of them are students as well as people married to Germans.'

Does he have some time for his family? 'That's not a problem,' he asserted. 'When I was in Germany, anytime I was away, my wife was always alone. But now in Nigeria, we have much time for each other. In Germany, we had full time jobs and we only came together in the evening. Since we don't have any children, we have more time for each other.

'People do come around to visit us and at times we go out for celebration. On Saturdays, we get to people to know them. And when people are celebrating, maybe their birthday, we also go there together to celebrate with them. My wife is a teacher in a German school where she teaches children.'