The Lead Pastor of the Light of Salvation Evangelical Ministries (LISEM), Ijegun Lagos, Pastor Ayo Ayolola, has lent his voice to the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic across the globe. The cleric called the pandemic Godspiracy rather than conspiracy as some people have labeled the global scourge. He also severely carpets church leaders on several issues about the Church in the below interview with Christian Benefits magazine transcribed by Teniola Olarinde. Excerpts.
Please can we meet you sir?
My name is Pastor Ayo Ayolola. I am the Lead Pastor of Light of Salvation ministries located at No. 68 Kudeyibu Estate, Ijegun, Lagos. I’m also the President of Global Bible College at Arkansas; United States of America. I am also a Human Resource Practitioner.
Tell us how you received the call into the ministry, and the mandate of your commission by God into the ministry?
My call to ministry is a confirmation of prophecy given by God. I was born in the South but bred in the North precisely Kano. Shortly before I left Kano, God told me that he would bring me back home and five years thereafter He would give me another assignment. And to the glory of God, the call came precisely five year upon my return. So, I had to leave all to do the will of God. Speaking of the mandate, it is simply evangelical by calling. I am a Preacher of the Word of God and a Counsellor.
Presently, the entire world is being ravaged by coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. What do you make of this pandemic?
Coronavirus (COVID-19) that has ravaged the entire world is an unfortunate incident. It has slowed down the world’s development. Lives have been lost to this pandemic and destinies have been aborted. Indeed, it’s a colossal loss to the entire world.
How will you describe the world leaders’ responses and efforts in curbing the spread of this pandemic that has reportedly claimed millions of lives globally?
The world leaders’ responses to COVID-19 pandemic have been swift and precise. This is because as the saying goes, ‘the future is lived in consideration of the past’. So, the world leaders responded by leveraging on the past experiences and scientific developments.
At the local level, what is your assessment of the efforts of the Nigerian government towards controlling the spread of the virus across the country?
The administration has done remarkably well. The administration took cues from other affected nations of the world. Indeed, the effects would have been more disastrous. We thank God that we have been able to put the pandemic under control.
The cause of the coronavirus has elicited many controversies from all parts of the world. One major controversy on the cause of the virus is tagged conspiracy theory. Tell us your take on this particular controversy?
I am not going to dwell on the conspiracy theory propounded by many people, including clergy men all over the world. If you ask me, I would say it is “Godspiracy,” and I would dwell on this as we go on.
Some adduced that the COVID-19 pandemic is a signal to an imminent end of the world. As a pastor, tell us how correct or incorrect this position is.
The Bible eschatology is very clear on how the world would come to an end and I’m not sure at all if God would change the programme. It is interesting to know that the Old Testament is New Testament contained and the New Testament is Old Testament fulfilled. So, the advent of coronavirus would not change the order.
One of the main effects of the pandemic is the lock down of churches and other institutions by governments in several parts of the world. Is it truly in the best interest of the world as most world leaders posited, for churches to be lock down as a measure of controlling the spread of the deadly virus?
The actions of the world leaders have been both scientific and spiritual. It makes a whole lot of sense because there are so many thing that we have to do by ourselves and for ourselves. So, it’s important that we obey all the measures and instructions from the relevant authorities to control the pandemic. Today, most places were opened because of the economy, not because it is completely safe to do so. We must be obedient to the instructions by the authorities. I call it “Godspiracy” because I know and I’m convincingly convinced that the President of this nation cannot lock down the church. The Governors cannot lock down the church. The Presidential Task Force has no power to lock down the church, because we are the Church . The government simply lock down the meeting places for control purposes.
As a matter of fact, God allowed the pandemic, and my reasons for saying so are, first the church has gotten the narratives wrong. The so-called church buildings all around the world today are not God’s strategy for the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is basically human strategy. God’s strategy is in the Book of Matthew 28: 18-20, which simply says “GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES OF NATIONS” But
human strategy says “Come And Sit. The human strategy is a brainchild of the Roman Emperor, Emperor Constantine, to control the church and the resultant effects of this strategy is the drama we have on the altar today; the magnitude of abuses on the altar today. We have become complacent and so comfortable at the expense of soul winning. Your guess is as good as mine. We have taken pride in Meeting Places and Structures. We are so boastful of number of congregations. The level of affluence has become a factor of measuring success in ministry, or who got the approval stamp of God. The church has gone to sleep, and we have all embarked on survival strategy. Today, the Church is full of activities but without achievements. The church is making motions but without movement; all because we have refused to adopt God’s strategy. As a matter of fact, I sympathize with my very senior colleagues who have invested huge resources in structures. It is quite disturbing as the meeting places are virtually empty, under lock and key. I have one too, which made me a culprit. It is quite worrisome. But this is the price that we have to pay because we have gotten the narratives wrong as a people. We have abandoned God’s strategy for our own strategy. So, God allowed the pandemic by looking the other way. He humbled us by calling us to repentance. The Book of 2 Chronicles 7: 13-14 states that “if I shut up the heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people, if my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn their ways: then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins, and heal their land.” This is the promise of God that has manifested in our lives in this period of destruction. It is incredibly amazing that we have dramatically come to recognize the sovereignty of God and we are gradually returning to him.
What does the lock down of churches and schools in most parts of Nigeria from March till now (July) portend for the future of the country?
The lock down of churches and schools by the Nigerian government brings backwardness in development as a nation in a competitive world. Our economy has been greatly and adversely affected. Recovery will certain take a long time to achieve.
As a pastor, what can people learn from the global threat of the COVID-19?
Let the Christian community go back to God and implement God’s strategy as contained in Matthew 28:18-20. Let the Christian community de-emphasize building structures and congregational numbers as factors of success in ministry. Let the Christian community stop super- imposing ourselves on the reconfigured souls and taking undue advantage of their ignorance.
Some people have concluded that after the COVID-19 is over, the entire world will never remain the same again. What is your take on this conclusion?
The pandemic has shaken the world to its foundation and the situation cannot be the same again until we go back to God.
Tell us some of the gains as well as the losses from the COVID-19 scourge across the globe thus far.
The significant gain of the pandemic is that at least we have realized God’s supremacy, and that God rules in the affairs of men. As the book of John 15:5 reads in part “without Him, we can do nothing.”
The losses through the pandemic are enormous and unquantifiable as they cut across every strata of life. It is a clarion call to the government and individuals alike to always ensure that adequate provisions are made for the rainy day