Recent events in the Church have generated social fervour about the lifestyles of men of the robe and the governance structure of the Church in Nigeria, in particular the Pentecostal hue. This is as expected because the funding profile of the Church is primarily derived from contributions from congregants. There is a lot of angst out there because Nigerians are experiencing economic hardship. This provides some of the context for the public backlash.
However we risk throwing out the baby with the bath water if our passion becomes a raging flood that sweeps away reason and structural facts. Are there excesses in the church?
No doubt. The eco-system is imperfect and cannot be perfect for the simple reason that Pastors are men after all. And the operations of some snake oil merchants have only served to compound issues.
There are now magicians in robes, economic opportunists in cassocks, ecclesiastical predators in surplices and charlatans in collars. But there are so many genuine men of God and ministries, thousands upon thousands of them. The Orthodox Church establishment laid the foundation for modern Nigeria. They are the offshoots of missionary work. They educated the people we now refer to as the founding fathers of the federation. They established the first set of hospitals and schools in Nigeria.
CMS Grammar School, Methodist Boys’ High School, Baptist Academy and Our Lady of Apostles Grammar School are well known examples of schools established by missionaries.
It was the Church that educated the first set of civil servants in Nigeria. And the Church has always been at the nexus of cultural re-orientation in Nigeria. Who can ever forget the work of Mary Slessor, the diminutive nurse who fought against the barbaric culture of the killing of twins? And so when we chant about the “labour of our heroes past,” we must not forget that some of these heroes are the missionaries and the orthodox establishments.
Now we do not know why but clearly, God raised a generational stream of young men and women to build on the foundational work of the orthodox churches. The work began with the establishment of the Scripture Union (S.U or C.U – Christian Union) in primary and secondary schools. From that movement emerged the generation of those who now head the Pentecostal institutional churches today, in particular the unassuming Pastor Enoch Adeboye and the self-effacing Pastor William F. Kumuyi. Incidentally both attended The Apostolic Faith before fate directed their trajectories.
Both are very well educated. Pastor Adeboye has a PhD in Applied Mathematics whilst Pastor Kumuyi has a first class honours degree in Mathematics. At the time of their ascendance, the “faith movement” was taking root in America and this spawned the ministries of the late Archbishop Benson Idahosa who “fathered” Bishop David Oyedepo and Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor. Archbishop Idahosa also mentored Dr. Myles Munroe. We must also note the great work of a little known Englishman who settled in Ile Ife, the late Pa Elton. He would be responsible for the mentoring of the next ministerial generation and the establishment of Pentecostal doctrine in Nigeria. He is often credited with the establishment of the phenomenon of baptism of the Holy Ghost in Nigeria. We must of course acknowledge the incredible apostolic ministries of Brothers Timothy Oshokoya, Lucas Obakoya and D. T. Robins founders of the Apostolic Faith in Nigeria. They are credited with raising people from the dead. However something major took place in the early 80s. A then unknown medical student at the University of Lagos was ordained a Pastor by the Assemblies of God Church. This was an extremely radical event for that period. His name is Dr. Tunde Joda of the Christ Chapel fame. He was a product and proponent of the Faith Movement and was highly influenced by the ministries of Rev. Kenneth E. Hagin and Kenneth Copeland and other generals of the Faith Movement. He opened the door for his generation and made God exciting to young people. That was a generational advent and invariably members of that generation became pastors.
Because of the educational background of the generation, the Pentecostal movement acquired sophistication. The emergent pastors are generally creative in approach, aggressive, uninhibited, resourceful, and well-grounded in progressive understanding of God’s word. Many emerged through the “model parish” structure of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. Dr. Tony Rapu would prove pivotal to that structure though there is evidence to the effect that Pastor Tunde Bakare was the pioneer of the first model parish of the RCCG (Ladipo Oluwole).
That was before he went on to found the Latter Rain Assembly. But Tony Rapu did incredible work and took Redeemed Christian Church of God international.Reverend Chris Okotie would emerge post Dr. Tunde Joda as an apostle of the doctrine of grace. In Ibadan, Dr. Olubi Johnson was establishing the faith movement, whilst in Ilorin the ministry of Rev. George Adegboye was also very established. Some in that generation are now in full time ministry but many maintain a dualism – they work as professional managers and entrepreneurs whilst running the churches on a full term basis. (Some are in government). And so we arrived at a literal prophetic era in Nigeria church history – the era of the order of priest-kings technically known as the Order of Melchizedek. All Christians belong to this Order but these young pastors in dual callings typify the Order. Most are successful in their secular callings and it would be uncharitable to assume that they went into ministry for money. Most do not collect salaries from their churches. Instead they contribute.
These emergent pastors signified a generational move of God. The generation is noted for “speaking in tongues” – a peculiar glossolalia dating back to Pentecost. They are thus referred to as “Pentecostals”. (In modern parlance, the term “Pentecostal” has come to signify exuberant loud worship and gifted oratory). They redefined what a man of God is and till today, the redefinition presents a challenge to society. So aggressive are members of this Pentecostal movement that in a strange twist of fate, they exported Christianity back to the UK. And they have established churches in Ukraine, Ireland, America and all over the world. Nigeria as a nation has no social security system. The absence of safety nets is why individuals take care of the economic needs of their parents in old age. This familial approach to social security leaves huge swaths of needy citizens unattended to. Into this void has stepped the Church. The Church complements the efforts of some State governments who clearly cannot cope with the deluge of developmental challenges facing Nigeria. And the Pentecostal generation has acquitted itself wonderfully at this task. Angst/
Let’s be more particular. Pastor Taiwo Odukoya, a man of grace runs The Fountain of Life Church. It has a hospital, an orphanage, a school for the indigent and orphans and a vocational farm. Pastor Ituah Ighodalo, the founder of Trinity House and a former Redeemed Christian Church of God pastor, supports indigent students with scholarships. His Lydia Grace Foundation supports the rehabilitation of lower class prostitutes, among so many other initiatives.
Pastor Tony Rapu, now the senior Pastor of This Present House runs one of the most successful drug rehabilitation programmes through the Freedom Foundation network.
His God Bless Nigeria Church is a specialised ministry to miscreants and “area boys”. It’s hugely successful. Pastor Poju Oyemade organises a bi-annual youth empowerment seminar called The Platform. It’s so popular. Reverend Sam Adeyemi, a gentleman of the robe runs Daystar Christian Centre. His Church has a community impact programme and has renovated 5 State schools, among so many other programmes. He is particularly noted for leadership training. Pastor Paul Adefarasin of the House on the Rock Church hosts an annual cultural impact programme called The Experience. It is a major engagement platform for youths through music. The City of David, a Redeemed Church parish runs a most successful soccer academy and acclaimed football club, COD United FC. These are just a few examples of what these particular ministries are engaged in and space will not permit us to name the works of so many other ministries. Many church ministries run schools, hospitals, orphanages, sex worker rehabilitation programmes, drug rehabilitation programmes, community development programmes and youth development programmes. By the time we scale up to the network of Redeemed Christian Church of God and the like, the exponential value of Church ministries becomes staggering in proportion. The Catholic Church is responsible for the establishment of a university, the Pan African University. That university has taken up a major responsibility for skill development in the private sector. The Church also founded Loyola Jesuit Secondary School. Bishop David Oyedepo (Winners Chapel) founded two universities! No other Nigerian, living or dead has accomplished such a feat. His ministry also runs 153 primary schools (147 in Nigeria and in 6 other African countries) as well as 23 standard secondary schools.
Invariably almost every church has bent its back to carry the burden of the State and it’s a huge burden.