Q: In an interview published a few months ago, you were unflattering in your assessment of today's church, describing it as a theatre. Why did you do this?
A: You go to the theatre for amusement or relaxation. You want to be entertained. But the Church of Jesus Christ was not designed to be a theatre where one celebrity performs and the others are just spectators. In most churches today, one lone star rises and others come to watch him perform. That is not church the way Jesus established it. The purpose of the five-fold ministry that he handed over to the apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastors is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry so that they should only come here (church) to refuel and go out to actually carry out what they have learnt. If you run a church where on Sunday, people come for service; on Monday, they come for special meeting; on Tuesday, they come for another thing; on Wednesday, they have Bible study; on Friday, they have special prayer and on Saturday, they have house fellowship, where are they going to live the life? Everything is tied around the building. You know a good church if the building does not exist and the church continues. And I'm not trying to say one church is better than another. When they mention Latter Rain Assembly, what name comes to your mind? Tunde Bakare. When they mention the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, it is Adeboye. If they say Deeper Life, it is Kumuyi. That is not church. That is superstardom.
Q: That sounds like celebrity Christianity.
A: It is. What should happen is when they mention the Redeemed Christian Church of God, you should think of a people that believe in what God has given as a vision to that place and are willing to defend it with their lives. We have many churches, but a negligible amount of righteousness in our land. The recent banking crisis revealed that some prominent Christians were among those who caused it.
And so you wonder what is the benefit of holiness, of sanctification and righteousness. We are supposed to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth.
Why would this happen? Because pastors don't even care where their people get the money. Just bring it and let life continue. How many pastors ask for the source of the money followers give? Most of these treasury looters and robbers sit in the front row of our churches and donate the largest amounts and pastors don't care. They'll even be praying for them like some people pray for armed robbers. That's why I said the church has become a theatre: a place where people come to amuse themselves. Because they don't know that the church is a war zone, where soldiers of the cross are trained. It's where the standard of discipleship is raised; where you become an agent for change in a nation. I'm not talking of rascality. I'm not saying let's go on the streets and be displaying rascality. I'm talking of constructive engagement and constructive dismantling of the oppressive forces over our nation. It is not only about praying, but having a head-on collision with them and calling a spade a spade. If that's the role the church had been playing in Nigeria, we wouldn't be in this mess. But we'll rather take them to a side and tell them to come to a particular location once a week or once a month to get special prayer and lay empty hands on empty heads. That's not Christ, that's not church.
Q: The once-a-month special prayer you mentioned brings to memory your criticism of the Lekki 98 programme of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. You've also criticised the yearly Shiloh programme organised by Bishop Oyedepo's Winners' Chapel.
How did I criticise that? You have to remind me because I will not even dignify that (Shiloh) by a comment. I'm not criticising them. For the Redeemed Church, the theme was the visitation of God or something to that effect; so that you don't miss the day of your visitation.
And I said this is how you know if people are backward. Is He visiting us now or does He want habitation after He had died and He has risen from the dead and He's now in heaven and the Holy Ghost is here? It's no longer time of visitation that you might be built up a habitation of God. A visitor is different from one who is inhabiting. Because He's a visitor, He comes and goes. That's why people don't have His presence to carry Him in their hearts. It's not an empty criticism, it's just that you know how we as a people are. That's all.
Q: Why are you saying Oyedepo's Shiloh does not merit a comment?
A: I'm not dignifying it with a comment because there's no difference between him or whoever is perpetrating the things they are doing and the man they're trying to crucify called T. B. Joshua. What's the difference in their practices? Very little. The Christianity of chattels, of oil, of mantle, of washing of feet? Where are those things? They should show it to me in the Bible. And I can tell you where it is from. ‘Is any among you sick, let him call for the elders of the church.' Do you know it was written to Jews in Diaspora. Besides that, ‘is any among you sick, having called the elders of the church, let them anoint the sick with oil and pray over the sick.' You want me to read it?
A: Okay. At least we're beginning to learn little by little so that you don't think we're hotheads, just not seeing anything good in other people.
Q: That's the impression people have.
A: Well, anybody who criticises others just for criticising sake is sick because the critical spirit itself is evidence of false ministry. I'm not a town crier. In the course of life, Oyedepo and I had been in the same hotel suite–he and his wife in one room, myself and my wife in another. We were meeting and praying until during the Gulf War, I said you're departing from the faith; you're bringing in substitutes. This is not Christianity that we received and some people must rise in the defence of the Gospel and contend for the faith that was once given to the saints. That's what the Bible says. It says contend, fight for it. Because they're one generation away from paganism. The pre-conversion disposition of these people from ‘Aladura' churches and those who were raised in such environments have now being carried in so that people now go to work with mantle in their pocket and they take photographs to hit the mantle. I know how many converts from them have left because they are now seeing the truth. These are my friends, we took sweet counsel together. Let God be God and let every man be a man whether I'm a critical person that has no brain or just pulling down every man's house. How can you pull other people's house down and yours will stand if that is the agenda? But let me read this to you because I want to first and foremost show you something. ‘James, a born servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes, which are scattered abroad.' Are you part of the twelve tribes?
A: Okay. It's because it's their culture. You see it in Mark Chapter 6 that they were the ones that took oil. It's part of their culture because they lived in open space and if you rub yourself with oil, mosquitoes and things like that would not bite you. That's the medicine they had in their day. Now, in Chapter 5, the Bible says: ‘Is anyone among you suffering, let him pray; is anyone cheerful, let him sing Psalms. Is anyone among you sick (from verse 13), let him call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.' Now, would that heal him? Let's read further. ‘And the prayer of faith will save (not heal) the sick.' It's like a wounded soldier that is taken from the firing range.
That prayer of faith would stop the attack that is coming, but only one thing will heal him. Not the oil, not just the prayer of faith. ‘The prayer of faith will save the sick and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much, makes available tremendous power of God.' Now, are all the people that you give oil to carry about elders? The truth is you sell the oil to them. At the point that I really got beside myself, so to say, was when Oyedepo said that the anointing oil is not the symbol of the Holy Spirit, but the life of God in the bottle. I tore the book openly that this is heresy, this is error, this is taking advantage of people. And after that we met; we met abroad and Oyedepo said: ‘Look, what I didn't like, really, was my book that you tore.” I said David, I didn't tear your book. I bought it; it is mine. You wrote it. I tore the book I bought because it contained an error.
If the Holy Spirit is oil, then Jesus is a Lamb of God on four legs. He was never human. These are metaphors and symbols until the real thing would come. You don't get the substance and pursue shadow. The Holy Spirit has come in person and He is dwelling with us today. Tell people to live right, to eat right and to drink clean water. Tell them to take advantage of medicine when it is necessary. Jesus said they that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. Here I am, and you can ask him also and all these men who will tell you fast and pray, if they don't use vitamins, eat good food and live in clean environments. Why are you fooling people that all things are in prayer, prayer, prayer, prayer, prayer. I pray, I believe in God and I believe in miracles. I've seen miracles happen. But I will not take advantage of a person.
Q: What was Oyedepo's reaction when you made your observations known to him about this perceived heresy? Was there a debate of some sort?
A: No, I will tell you how it happened. I really do not want to be dragged into this because it's in the past. But for the benefit of the public, I will tell you what happened. Between 1994-1996, I was not physically present on a daily basis in Nigeria. I was in England. I was travelling with my mentor, Dr. Lester Sumral of blessed memory now. Sumral and I were travelling, to Europe and the rest of the world to do mission work. And in 1996, to be precise, I organised a global mission conference here, when we brought all missionaries on the West African coast to nurture, encourage and strengthen them so that they could re-equip and have materials to go back to the field. They were not necessarily Nigerians. Many of them were from abroad, many from West Africa. Oyedepo, being my friend, sent his books here and the books were being sold in our bookshop. This is how I got to know this. And God is witness, and he knows too.
The missionaries bought some of the books. The day they brought the books to me, I just told the bookshop to take them and pay whatever it had to pay and then, the bookshop could sell them. These people carried the materials away. And the head of their organisation, Living Word Missions, called me on phone after the conference and I was in Britain. He said: ‘Why did you allow occultic books to be sold in your church?' I said occultic books? Impossible. He said there were two books that people bought and had been complaining about. One is written by one David Oyedepo, the other by his wife. And they were on communion and oil. I asked what was wrong about communion. I said it's one of the things that Jesus left for the saints and that oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. He said I had not read the book. I asked him to send me the relevant pages of the books by fax or by e-mail. I thought it could be some people doing mischief. I believed the mistakes must have been made by those who edited the books. That was my thought. These are men we pray together. We didn't get born-again because we wanted money. I didn't come into ministry because I wanted money. God blessed me before I came into the ministry. So, the pages were sent to me. I said no, this cannot be. When I read the one that says oil is not the symbol of the Holy Spirit, but the life of God in the bottle, I said this cannot be. I also read the portion that says you can take communion and fly like a bird. I said wait a minute, this is extending truth beyond its limits. So, on my next visit to Nigeria, I requested for the books to match them with the copies I had so I could be sure that nobody was playing a cruel joke on me. Immediately I saw it, the first thing I did was to call Oyedepo. They said he was not available, but that his wife was available. I asked to speak with the wife on the phone. And they said oh, she just stepped out.
I said no problem. In handwritten form, I sent him a fax. Those were not the days you leave messages for people. Phones were not common. So, I sent a fax saying I thought those editing his books were adding garbage in them. I said we needed to meet. There was no response. There is a pastor in his organisation, his name is now Dr. Robert Johnson. We called him Abdullahi. That was his name. He came here. I spoke into two tapes to do a critique and I gave to Abdullahi, who is now Dr. Johnson. He has left his organisation now. I said ‘could you give this to him so that we can meet to talk'. And response came to me that he said these were revelations given to him by God, as God gave revelation to Paul. At that point, I took a step further. I was in America and I was in the house of Wale Oke.
I'm mentioning names because if you want to lie, you don't have anyone to mention. I said Wale Oke, this is what I've seen. Wale Oke and I were in the university together. He said he had also seen it. He said he had gone to him but this was the response. I said if he is teaching heresy to his people, it doesn't matter to me. But the moment he put it in print form, on radio or television, he is poisoning the public water. Some of us will have to rise up. So, I started a series called the Synagogue of Satan. And I began to deal with those issues, bringing truth.
Because you don't just shout that piece of stick is crooked. Lay the stick on its side, all eyes will see it. That was what began. And Bishop Mike Okonkwo now met me in Ghana and said don't let us wash our dirty linen in public. I asked what he had done about it. He said he had gone to Oyedepo, who insisted that it was the revelation that he received from God. I said Mike, if you see me on top of my secretary, not my wife, and I said I've just got a revelation from God, will you leave me to die in sin?
When it got hot, he began to curse and swear that my television ministry will go off-air in Nigeria; that I will not have money. There was no curse he didn't place. Whether that's the truth or not, time will tell.
Why do I mention names? I'm not doing to so to be a critic. I have a clear agenda and I have a clear mind. If you teach and say to your wife that while you are eating, your wife should not eat and sit down, it's your home. But don't extend it to me and raise my children that way. Then you're looking for trouble. If you teach your people error and they believe in it, it's between you and them.
But don't put it in the public arena. I have responsibility over those that look up to me, over those that I pastor and over those that benefit from knowing the truth. It is going to create conflict. There is only one faith, one Lord, one baptism, one God, father of all, who is in you all, through you all. When I was a Muslim, on Juma'at day, when they said Allah U Akbar, we all bowed. You don't know who is Ansar-Ud-Deen or Nawar-Ud-Deen or Islamiyat. But here we are talking one Christ and seven different ideologies about one thing. So, we must know what is the truth. That is our passion; that is the reason to warn people that these are the apostates and they are only interested in the gospel of wealth.
Q: You were once with the Redeemed Christian Church of God and you were among the youths who started the model parishes. Why did you leave?
A: I had kept quite hitherto. And because if you don't let sleeping dogs lie and you don't allow lying dogs to sleep, they will continue to bark. Let's back-track. I got born-again on 24 September 1974 in the Baptist Church. I remained in the Baptist Church until I became a youth pastor. And if you go to Yaba Baptist Church, you will see my name on their plaque.
While I was in there, I started attending Monday Bible study at Deeper Life, just to deepen my knowledge. Deeper Life was not a church then. And I stayed in Deeper Life for five years. While I was in the University of Lagos, I was attending Foursquare, being mentored by Dr. Odunaike. I knew him at close range, up to his bedroom. When Deeper Life started as a church, I was invited to be among the core leadership and I stayed there as national legal adviser for five years before I left for the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG.
My first visit to the Redeemed Church was on the first Sunday of March, 1984. It was my photographer who invited me. At that point in time, I had reached the point where I said I was tired of churches. It was as if what they were saying and what they were doing were miles apart. I told myself I would not go to church any longer.
I remember Brother Kumuyi sending for me and saying: ‘You left Deeper Life for the Redeemed Christian Church of God. You have just jumped from frying pan to fire.' This is the first time I'm saying this in the open. I said if the fire burned me, I would warm myself in it because I was tired of what I was seeing here because I didn't see them in scriptures. I didn't get born-again in the Redeemed Christian Church of God. I didn't get baptised in the Holy Ghost in the Redeemed Christian Church of God. I had served in leadership capacity in different churches ever before I came to the Redeemed Church. That's why I say you can't say I am one of the youths that started this. That is one.
Two, the first day I got to RCCG, Pastor Adeboye was looking for professionals. And when they said all God's children should wait, I told my fiancee, now my wife, that they were talking to their members. And she said we should wait till the end. I sat there, at the back. Pastor Adeboye said: ‘That brother in blue white blue.' I said: ‘Me?' He said: ‘What's your profession?' I said: ‘I'm a lawyer.' He told me to see him that day.
I was running away from responsibilities in the church and I ran into another one. I went to see him and he said the church had some cases in court. I handled them free of charge. His approach was really gentlemanly and I thought I should give him a chance. That was how I started in that church. The first house I ever built in my life is at the Redemption Camp. I built it in 1986-87. I built it to just live there and serve God. I didn't want to be a pastor. I'm a trained lawyer. I trained under Gani and trained under Rotimi Williams. I wanted to practise my profession. I had three things at the back of my mind in my life: to be a successful legal practitioner, to get to the peak of my career and to be a successful millionaire. And by 1986/87, I already had seven lawyers in my chambers, working full-time. I won my first Appeal Court case on my 21st day at the bar. I learnt under the masters. That's why Gani's death shook me. If you see some of the books Gani wrote, you will see my name in them. He dedicated some of them to me, to our industry while we were with him, before I crossed to Chief Rotimi Williams' chambers and later to start my own practice. I was doing business. I brought Skoda into Nigeria. I had factories in Nigeria and I was doing well in international trade. I wanted to use both law and business to go into politics. That was my triangle.
I feel lazy souls look for ways and means of manipulating people for what they cannot get through their own skills. God blessed what I was doing. And if it's the other way round, time will tell because the records are there of my giving to the church. I remember my external auditor, Mr. Dupe Adubiaro, who is still in the Redeemed Christian Church of God and who is the chairman of their building committee in Festac. I took him to Redeemed. He's my external auditor till today. He's the one preparing my tax papers. He came one day and said at the rate you're going, you will go bankrupt because every cheque I see is to the church. I said I don't give people my money; I give it to God, whenever there is need in the house of God. Secondly, the vision for the model parishes was given to me, not to Pastor Adeboye, regardless of all propaganda and lies you have heard. It was on 3rd of May 1988 that God gave me the vision. There was no other person in the place where God gave it to me. I went to Ladipo Oluwole Street. And I have witnesses. One of them is dead, two are alive. Babalola, who was electrician in the church; Olufunlayo, who was the builder that built my house at the camp; and Olugbemi, a painter in that church, who has left now to start his own church. They were the three people I took to this building and we started. It was the fourth day and I said, wait a minute, I've not told Pastor Adeboye what God told me. And they took me in their car and we rushed to the camp and Pastor Adeboye came the following day. And when he saw what I was doing, he said: ‘What would you call this?' God is witness and let God be the judge of every man in life. I said: ‘Sir, I have no desire to be a pastor. I received this vision that what you are doing can never catapult the gospel to the nations of the earth. Because everything is marooned in Ebutte Metta among the old (what they called classical). And it's like reading the Bible upside down.'
I asked how we could reach the next generation and suggested that we should call this Model Parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. The concept then was to have one Model Parish in every city. So, we did one in Lagos and we did one in Ibadan until 1 October 1988, when God said my time was up. And I told only two people that day. Tony Rapu and Niyi Adefowope, who were MC's at my annual El-Shaddai Day for my chambers. And we do that El-Shaddai feast once a year. Instead of giving bribes to civil servants, I'll call them together once a year, give them a feast and bless them. I'm writing my memoirs and one of the chapters is titled The Model Parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God: Fiction and Facts. If you have heard all kinds of lies and propaganda that were issued out, falsehood may go for years, when the arrow of truth shoots, there will be no trace of falsehood. That's why I will mention persons and names so that these things can be verified at the right time. I left them when God said it was time to move. And I went to Adeboye to tell him. And what he said to me, which we call the 14 points, are all written. He had a copy, I have a copy. That's why when I publish my memoirs, you will not find me saying ‘I think God said' and ‘I think this is it.' I would tell you what happened.
I am a student of history and I am a lawyer by discipline. I'm not trying to expose anyone, but we better leave lying dogs to sleep or allow sleeping dogs to lie or else when they begin to bark, they will bite. I remember immediately I left, they quickly groomed Tony to take my position. One professional has gone, then another.
Q: Your wife is not visible unlike the wives of other pastors. Is this deliberate or is she just a reclusive person?
I would want you to ask her directly, but she is not in the country. We have five children. You look in the Bible and you see Eli. Have you ever heard Mrs. Eli? Did you see Mrs. Samuel? I'm not saying women should not be in the ministry. Those who are called by God to serve in pastoral capacity in churches side by side with their wife should receive that call and fulfil it. But my wife does not become a pastor because I'm a pastor. It's the same mentality that the head of state's wife must be first lady and must have an office. No. The call of God can be upon a family, can be upon an individual. My wife supports me absolutely. Did she play roles when she was here? Yes. But we have five children. Who wants to save the world and lose his own children? So, we decided that she would hold the home front. I don't think I'll be what I am without a solid wife behind me. She's not a nuisance or somebody that can be silenced. She functions in the areas that she has received grace.
Any animal with two heads is a monster. Your wife does not become a co-pastor because you are a pastor. There's no such thing in the Bible. If not, Peter's wife should have been a pastor. So should have been the wives of others who were married. It's just a mess that is in the world.
Q: And when the man dies the woman steps in…
A: Because it is a family business.
* Culled from The News