God's General and his unrelenting mission

2012-03-04
THE SUN Newspaper- Beifoh Osewele

‘Let everybody shout Halleluyah!’ the preacher commanded in his characteristic semi-baritone voice. In unison, the estimated seven million crowd thundered in unison. For close to five minutes, the echo of ‘Halleluyah!’ reverberated through the expansive arena and serenaded the mammoth crowd. Then, all was quiet again.

Then slowly, the preacher began to pray and to prophesy. And the expectant worshippers hung on to every of his words, as if their existence depended on it. The attention was total. Besides the preacher’s voice, there was pin-drop silence.

“We went to a Holy Ghost Service in Kaduna…I wanted to go to the toilet while the choir was singing, there was this brother who was an usher standing somewhere near the toilet. So he greeted me and I shook hands with him. I didn’t know he was rejoicing. I went to the toilet. Apparently, he had told the other ushers that he shook my hand. When I was coming back, there were about half a dozen of them.

So, I shook hands with them. I didn’t know that one of them had received one before he shook my hand the second time and he put his hand in his pocket. He got home and told the wife who had been barren for years, ‘Bring your stomach, the GO shook my hand two times.’ Nine months later the baby came. Your hands will be blessed tonight! (Amen!) I say your hands will be blessed tonight! (Amen!)’

As if on cue, the congregation in the starless night turned wild. The excitement was so thick you could clutch it with your bare hands. The congregation was simply ecstatic. Calmly, the preacher allowed them enough time to get back on track. Then, in the same calm voice he continued:

“A sister came to one of the programmes in Ebute Metta, Lagos, years ago, and the word came just as it is coming now that there is a sister whose mother didn’t want her to marry. That if the mother does not release her, Mama herself will be buried within seven days. A word just came like that and I announced it. I don’t know which sister was concerned. The following day, the sister came with the mother. The mother was very furious. ‘That’s the way you stupid prophets spoil the head of our girls, telling my daughter that I will die because I didn’t allow her to marry.’ I said me? ‘Sister did I say that?’

She said the prophecy that came yesterday. What God said is that, ‘there is a sister here’. Did I mention your name? I said Mama don’t mind her, nobody mentioned her name, she was just claiming what is not her own. The mother said, oh-oh, is that so? She said, all right. She asked the lady to go out and the lady went out. And she said ‘Pastor, but is it true that the mother will die?’ I said, ‘I’m not talking about you oh. I’m not talking about you, but what God told me is going to come to pass.

So, if you are the one, before the week runs out, whoever it is, is going to be buried.’ ‘I’m not asking her not to marry but who is going to take care of me after?’ I said Mama, that’s simple. I can tell her and tell the husband to take good care of you. I will make them promise. That’s if she can marry within six months.’ This girl, who was almost 40 years old, and nobody had looked in her direction before… There is somebody here today… anybody who says you will not marry will not see the end of January because loneliness must end!”

For the teeming worshippers of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, fans of Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, and the global Christian community, celebration is in the air. Like a skilled marksman would hit a bull’s eye, Daddy G. O. (as the RCCG General Overseer is fondly called) has hit the biblical three scores and ten years. This festive and celebrative mood has been sustained since last Thursday, the eve of this birthday, as worshippers from every part of the globe have literally occupied the campground of the church, along the ever-busy Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, popularly called Redemption Camp. Such gatherings are not alien to the site. If anything, they are common events. They happen, at least, once every month. Yes, the church holds its monthly Holy Ghost service at the camp.

Though not a birthday person, the Ifewara, Osun State-born servant of God, as he prefers to be addressed, once said the greatest birthday gift he ever received was not any material thing as you would have expected. Rather, it was the commencement of the Holy Ghost Service at the Redemption Camp. For almost four decades now, he has been on the Lord’s side, serving as a role model to millions of believers, worldwide, ministering in the Lord’s vineyard.

Adeboye’s unique birthday gift
The story of the monthly Holy Ghost Service dates back in time. It was a few days to his birthday. And Pastor Adeboye was waiting on the Lord, fasting and praying. Then, he said he heard God, vividly, asking him what he would love to have to celebrate his birthday. Without hesitation, he tabled one single request. He never asked for material things, power or longevity. He simply told God that he would love a situation where all those who attend the RCCG got answers to all their prayers and all sicknesses are healed.

“To me, that would have been a great breakthrough,” he enthused while sharing his testimony in one of his rare media chats. “And the Lord spoke to me, son, gather all the people together then I would bless them. That was what marked the beginning of the Holy Ghost service. I obeyed the Lord and since then we have been having the Holy Ghost service. And the Lord has been faithful.”

Today, the Holy Ghost service has become a meeting point not only for Christians from across the country, but also worshippers from the African continent and, indeed, people from all over the world. But the crowd the ground had hosted in the past easily pale into insignificance when compared with that of the last three days. Even today promises to be bigger. No fewer than 15 million worshippers at the Thanksgiving Service of Pastor Adeboye who enlisted in the league of septuagenarians last Friday. As men rejoiced with him here on earth, the heaven blazed forth in glory as Daddy GO clocked 70 last Friday.

Expectedly, the millions of parishioners that began thronging the campground since early last Thursday are in high spirit. They are united in purpose. They had come from far and near, abandoning all other cares to celebrate with the humble and personable father in the lord. The celebration is not only warranted, but also well deserved. As an individual, and as a preacher, Pastor Adeboye has come of age. He is arguably one of the most respected preachers in the world today. He bestrides Christendom like a colossus.

To say Daddy G.O. is one of the most successful and influential preachers in the world is to put it mildly. In fact, he is one the most outstanding figures of the 21st century church. This was confirmed by one of the most authoritative global news magazine, Newsweek, which named him in the first 50 Global Elite listing in its January 5, 2009 edition. Adeboye, the only African to make the list, and the Pope were the only Christian leaders featured in the list. Besides naming him as the 49th most powerful person in the world, the magazine, went on to describe him as being extraordinarily successful and above the fray of financial misdeeds commonly associated with “other Pentecostal pastors.”

Such is his global acclaim and reputation that the influential magazine said of him further: “Behind Adeboye’s extraordinary success is his reputation for honesty. While other Pentecostal pastors (including some Nigerians) have been accused of financial misdeeds or faking supernatural powers, Adeboye remains above the fray.”

Journey to the pulpit
His journey to the pulpit is very interesting and dramatic. First, he never set out to be a preacher. When it became apparent he was destined to head the church, he prayed and fasted for the cup of GO to pass him by. The appointment of Pastor Adeboye to the saddle of the church did not happen suddenly. It had been revealed to Pastor Josiah Oluwafemi Akindayomi, founder of the church way back in the 1970s, long before Adeboye even became a Christian.

The revelation was that a bright young man would take over the mantle of leadership after his demise. And about five years before his ascension to the exalted office, Pastor Adeboye himself had a revelation about his imminent appointment. Together with his wife, Pastor Foluke Adeboye (Mummy GO), he had prayed against it. But another revelation came to him a year before the event. It would appear as if God had laid so many mines on his path that there was no way he could escape. When eventually the call came, though he was fazed, he could not resist or refuse it.

“I attended an interview in 1969,” the highly respected preacher begins, traveling down memory lane. “I wanted to go abroad for further studies. I applied for commonwealth scholarship, and I sat before the panel. As you know, when it comes to Mathematics, it is either you know the answer to the question or you do not know. There’s no third way to it. If I say 2+2, you know the answer is four.

“I sat before the panel and they were asking me questions. I was surprised that didn’t these people know that I have honours in Mathematics, because they were asking elementary questions. By the time everybody was satisfied, there was a man who was dozing all the time. When they woke him up and asked if he had any question for me, he said, ‘Oh, oh yes! Where is Entebbe?’ I said I was not there for Geography. Fortunately, or unfortunately for me, I lost. But thank God, He used that to bring me to where I am today.

“As I was going out of the place, I met one of my lecturers at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN). He asked what I was doing there? I said that I came for an interview. And he said, ‘Why do you want to go abroad to study? I know you. You’re my student, there’s no need to go abroad.’ That is how I ended up at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) for my Master’s. It was there I got born again. And that led me to where I am today.”

Daddy G. O. is at the commanding height of the ministry. With followership running into tens of million all over the world, his church is the foremost Pentecostal church in the world. And the flock keeps growing by the hour.

Humble beginnings of a ‘mathematical’ preacher
Born on March 2, 1942 at Ifewara in Osun State into the family of Moses Adeboye, Pastor Adeboye grew up under a very difficult economic condition such that he was bereft of virtually all the good material things of life. The family was so poor that sending their boy to school was almost an impossible task. For the first 17 years of his life, he was never able to afford a pair shoe. His education was a struggle if not sheer miracle. He graduated at in 1967 at the age of 25. He attended St Stephen’s Anglican Primary School, Ilesa Grammar School, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo, University) and University of Lagos.

However, the fact that he attended school under very difficult situations was not enough to dampen his resolve to make it in life. What his parents lacked in material wealth, he made up in academic excellence. Among his peers in school, the young Adeboye was the man to beat as he dazzled like a mega star. From primary school to the university level, he remained consistently an ‘A’ student.

With an M.Sc in Hydrodynamics and a PhD in Applied Mathematics, the soft-spoken pastor started his teaching career at Oke-Igbo Ifetedo Grammar School, where he taught Mathematics and later moved to Anglican Girls Grammar School in Lagos. He, thereafter, lectured at University of Ilorin, and later University of Lagos. According to Pastor Adeboye, in one of his rare interviews, his dream then was to become the youngest Vice Chancellor in Africa. But, the manifestation of the plan in his life began the moment he was invited by his uncle, the Reverend Chris Fajemirokun, to RCCG to seek solution to a particular problem.

Adeboye got married in 1968 to his heartthrob, Foluke. They were faced with the challenge of recurrent caeserian sections by which the wife had delivered their two babies. It was in the bid to find a solution to it that the varsity don and wife were invited to the church by his uncle. Rev Josiah Olufemi Akindayomi led the church he founded in 1952. True, Adeboye had a strict Christian upbringing. But then, he was at best a churchgoer. Though the fact of his Christian background and upbringing gave him appreciation of whom God is, it never forged him into an outstanding Christian.

But the message he heard in the church from the General Superintendent, GS, that fateful day was power-packed. It did not only touch his heart, it also steered him towards the narrow path. The message made it clear to him that his way of life would lead him to hell. So, when on July 29, 1973, an altar call was made, for those who wanted to surrender their lives to Jesus Christ to step out, he did not hesitate. “Something overwhelmed me that I was close to hell and I didn’t know it,” he continued in the interview. “I suddenly realized that it is possible to have all the PhDs in the world and still be on the losing side. I know all the formula, but I did not know the one to eternal life.”

Following his acceptance of the altar call, he was baptised by immersion in September 1973. From that moment, he never looked back. As his zeal for God became an obsession, he began to see the difference between being a churchgoer and being truly born-again. Then, life for him took on new form and shape. Two years later, he was ordained a pastor. He began translating Rev. Olufemi’s sermons from Yoruba to English. In 1981, he was appointed General Overseer, thereby succeeding Papa Akindayomi, who had died the previous year. For three years, he performed the role on part-time basis, while he still lectured at the University of Ilorin. He later gave up his university position to preach full-time.

When at 38, Pastor Adeboye became the leader of the church, more than a few elders of the church were surprised. But even such elders would no doubt be happy today as they would readily agree that Pastor Adeboye has changed the face of Christianity in Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the world. Unlike most preachers, his messages are centred on holiness and purity. Pastor Adeboye is widely respected for his humility and simplicity.

Though three scores and ten years old, Pastor Adeboye has stated that his aim is to put a branch of the church within five minute-reach of every person on earth. His success, he says, are rooted in his message. “Pentecostals have such an impact because they talk of the here and now, not just the by and by,” he says.
“We pray for the sick, but we pray for their prosperity, for their overcoming of evil forces and so on. While we have to worry about heaven, there are some things God could do for us in the here and now.”

The church was relatively unknown when Adeboye took charge. Today, the church has branches in no fewer than 110 countries. In Nigeria alone, RCCG boasts of roughly 15,000 branches with congregation estimated at five million. It is said that there are at least 360 RCCG churches in Britain, and about the same number in America. Adeboye says he has sent missionaries to China and such Islamic countries as Pakistan and Malaysia.
In the book Enoch Adeboye, Rebecca Bible-Davids said of Adeboye: “Under his leadership, the church has experienced phenomenal growth from 40 small parishes which were located only in the south-western Nigeria to well over 20,000 parishes in 110 nations. Pastor Adeboye is also the host of the annual Holy Ghost Congress, which attracts over seven million worshippers from all the continents of the world and is reputed as the largest gathering of human beings in history.”

As Daddy GO steps gracefully into the club of 70, his teeming followers believe the journey has just begun. Daddy GO, many said, would not give up until he saturates world from coast to coast with the good news and garner souls for the kingdom.

Adeboye at 70: I testify
By Laolu Akande

Pastor Adeboye “has made big plans to save your soul,“ writes Newsweek, a prominent US-based international newsmagazine in 2008, when he was named one of the world’s Top 50 Global Elites. At 70, a milestone age that he attains on Friday, March 2, 2012, there is no suggestion that he is about to relent on that effort. To say Adeboye is a true man of God is well known and stated already. But he is also one man of God, who deliberately and constantly elevates the God, more than the man. In the interest of full disclosure, let me state from the onset that I am a Parish Pastor of one of the thousands parishes of the Redeemed Christian Church of God around the world. But I write here in my personal capacity to pay tribute to the General Overseer of the church who has touched and continues to touch millions of lives including mine.

Let us to briefly highlight some exemplary virtues that his life represents, starting with his legendary humility. My very first experience of seeing Pastor Adeboye was at the University of Ibadan in the mid-90s, when he came to minister at the Chapel of The Resurrection. As he proceeded into the chapel alongside other ministers and aides, I was asking where is the man? His Danshiki successfully concealed the influence and accomplishments already well noted in his life and ministry then.

Daddy G.O., as many of us fondly refer to him, keeps in his office, an old photo of himself when he was new and very fresh in church leadership. At that time, no one knew him as such. Those were the leaner times. Then, Adeboye, (as he refers to himself in public speeches), was only a hopeful promise packaged in a controversial order from the late redoubtable founder of RCCG, Pa. Josiah Akindayomi. The photo is left there to remind him regularly, the story goes, of his humble background, helping him to remain as humble as possible.

In 2004, here in New York, the church held its annual North American Convention and some of us were involved in the several areas of planning. I still remember how Adeboye needed to get a new shoe and gave clear instructions that the shoe must not exceed $30! If any of the aides around planned to outwit him and get a “better” shoe, he gave the clincher-he has to see the receipt! This is one of the reasons I am personally convinced that Adeboye is not using a private jet today because of the luxury it connotes. It was purely a decision based on need and easier access for a global evangelical itinerant like him and his excellent wife, Pastor Folu Adeboye, a woman of virtue in her own standing.

What about Pastor Adeboye’s integrity? There is no point to represent that he is perfect. But he is a tireless pursuer of it. I will give two quick illustrations.
After the Redeemers University for the Nations, RUN, was established, Pastor Adeboye brought in a world-class academic and administrator, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, one of the best products of the University of Ibadan’s Virology Department and College of Medicine. As soon as Tomori took charge, Adeboye heaved a sigh of relief and yielded the control and management of the place to Tomori, the governing bodies and Council.

Those who think access or relationship to RCCG pastors and leaders could influence the way the university would operate soon found out that the G.O. himself was acting in tandem with university regulations, limiting his role to that of the Visitor. Some church ministers, leaders and their relations lost their jobs in the school because they were found wanting and not up to the task. Those who think the G.O. will intervene to stretch university policies and apply equal standards found out he will not meddle.

Influential leaders who kept approaching the school for all kinds of favours against regulations and who kept dropping the G.O’s name to influence decisions, soon discovered that the university management was truly free to manage the school. The story is told of how a relative of a very senior pastor was fired for dereliction of duty. And when a secretary/typist was asked to type out a letter of dismissal, the typist was shaking and reluctant seeing the name of the person involved. She then was warned to either type promptly or else two letters of dismissal would be due! That dismissal stood.

I was also personally present in the US where the General Overseer personally took responsibility for the failure of a church project to which many members had contributed funds and resources over a billion in Naira. The project failed because of the arrant mismanagement of some officials put in charge.

Before the G.O. spoke, someone who knew I am a journalist, sent me documented details of the mismanagement perpetuated by some of the officials involved and I was worried at the extent of carelessness and wrangling by those charged with implementing the project. But when the G.O. stood up to take responsibility and apologized to the people, even offering to personally repay all those who had contributed, I relinquished my investigation and my fears were dissuaded.

Of course, the people involved were also relieved of their roles in the project.
Finally, I want to highlight, Pastor Adeboye’s knack to promote people under him. Pastor James Fadele, the former top designer of Ford Motors in Michigan, USA, and a well-known business owner, relinquished his career and sold his business to take up the leadership of the church here in the US and Canada. Fadele, himself an inspiring leader, tells of how Adeboye encouraged him to start a church in the basement of his home then in Michigan in the mid-90s.

Daddy G.O. corroborated the story in one of his many interactions with pastors and ministers here, that he had been asking RCCG members in the US to “start something.” But many did not want to take the plunge, but Fadele did. Pastor Adeboye, personally joined Pastor Fadele to make posters and paste them around his home when they started the first house fellowship of the church in the USA. Today there are over 500 RCCG parishes in the US and Canada. Besides, the church also owns a massive camp in Dallas, Texas, its North American headquarters, where another Redemption Camp is now being developed.

One is not unaware of some critical views regarding Pastor Adeboye, but a birthday tribute is no right place or time to address them. Those issues would not escape public review and dissecting, since Daddy G.O. is clearly today a national and global religious elder statesman. But what people will ultimately discover after all the intellectual scrutiny, I suspect, is Adeboye’s truly humble heart, a profoundly gracious disposition, and a depth of wisdom.

But there is a humble request: Let Pastor Adeboye raise his voice, -a powerful and influential voice-more often on national issues like he did last year when he warned that the elections must not be rigged!



 

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