Bishop Abraham Olaleye has advised Church leaders to repent from misleading people, and instead show them the Godly path. The veteran missionary evangelist and Presiding Bishop of Pentecostal Congregation, Ilupeju, Lagos, addresses some salient issues in the Church today in the below interview with Christian Benefits. Excerpts.
Sir, how does it feel been in the ministry for over 30 years now?
It is an experience of joy, fulfillment and most significantly of eternal security. There is nothing one does in life that does not have challenges. However, when we place the challenges and the joy of obeying the Lord side by side, the joy outweighs the challenges. In facts it gets to the point that the challenges become exciting.
Will you please share with us some of the challenges over the years?
Specifically in 1990, I had a very serious financial challenge. This challenge was so pressing that I gave God three days ultimatum to do something. Five day had passed and God had done anything about it. In frustration, I planned to tell the congregation the following day, which was a Sunday, that I am closing up the church and that the people could go their ways. I reminded myself that I am an evangelist anyway. The Sunday came and my mouth was stiffed that I couldn’t make good my threat. On Monday the sixth day, which was after the deadline that I gave to God, God sent someone to give me N50,000, which was N40,000 in excess of what I had prayed for. From that incident, I felt so stupid and determined never to give God ultimatum again, no matter the pressure. I also realized that God is not my mate, but my Father and He cannot be forced to do what He doesn’t want to do. And when He wants to do it, He does it in His perfect timing.
Can you recall vividly how you received the call into the ministry?
I am from a priesthood family. Before I was born, God had already told my parents that He was sending me as a prophet to the nations. So, I grew up bearing in mind that I am called by God. In 1974, I made a personal commitment to God to be my Lord and saviour. As I grew up in the Lord, the calling upon my life began to make sense to me. This knowledge notwithstanding, I felt I need to pursue an academic career before ministry. When I left secondary school, I joined the now defunct National Bank of Nigeria. I resigned from the bank to pursue my admission into the university to study Public Financial Management in an American University. But God said it was time for the work (ministry) to begin. I pleaded with Him to allow me pursue the course, and after that I can then go to Oral Robert University to study theology. But the Lord’s command prevailed.
With whom did you share the calling before you launched into the ministry?
When God gives you a call, He also brings across your path some people that are spiritually ahead of you and that you can look up to. Pastor Owolabi and Elder Bankole were two of such elders that encouraged me. The other person is my friend, Bro. Daniel Akinpelu. He encouraged me to start the ministry on time. I am glad that I listened to him. Today, when most people receive God’s call into ministry, the next thing for them is to start a church. But in my own case, we started the ministry in 1983, and the local church, The Pentecostal Congregation, which serves as our base began in 1986.
Apart from the pastors you mentioned earlier, and your friend, Bro. Akinpelu, who were your mentors when you started the ministry in 1983?
In 1977 and 1978 I read two books by T.L Osborn, Soul Winning and Where the Sinners are, and Join This Chariot. It was after I read these two books that I confirmed that I was not just called to be a minister, but first and foremost, an evangelist to take the gospel of Jesus Christ from “my Jerusalem” (Nigeria) to the uttermost part of the earth. In 1984, I met now late Archbishop Benson Idahosa, who incidentally happened to have affiliation to Dr. T.L Osborn’s ministry. My meeting with Archbishop Idahosa was by revelation, and he played a major role in encouraging me in life and ministry. I was also ordained officially into ministry by this great Africa’s ambassador of apostolic faith.
Besides books, what were other things God used to equip you for the ministry?
My time in Christ Apostolic Church where I was very active. was greatly instrumental for my equipping. By the time I launched out into ministry, church activities were not strange to me because as a lad, I often followed my father to his preaching engagement away from the home church. When I came to Lagos at the age of 10, I was very active in the youth fellowship and the choir. Later I became Sunday school coordinator and also interpreted for our general overseer. Every Sunday evening we will go out for house to house soul-winning in Lawanson area of Surulere. We believed that the only reason Christ saved us is to do evangelism in order to bring more people to the Lord. We were not ashamed or intimidated of preaching the gospel to sinners as we went on evangelism every Sunday evening and returned to the church rejoicing for the number of souls that have been saved through that exercise. That is unlike today when the true essence of the faith has been lost as most believers today would not intercede for the unsaved but rather pray for their enemies, asking them to fall down and die.
What is your opinion on this (fall down and die prayer)?
That is a very sad practice in Christianity today. It was not so from the beginning. I did a teaching titled “Restoring Biblical Christianity’ and stressed the need to differentiate Christianity from Judaism. Judaism allows you to bless those that bless you and curse those that curse you. It is in Judaism that people are taught to love their neighbours but hate their enemies. But Christianity is a whole different way. So, when you say your enemy should fall down and die, you are practicing Judaism and wrongly using the name of Jesus to practice the act. Why did Jesus say, pray for your enemies and those who despitefully use you? Jesus told his disciples that the son of man has not come to destroy men but to save them. When you pray for your enemies to fall down and die are you wrestling against flesh and against principalities, against powers, against the ruler of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places? 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 also says, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh, for the weapon of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” It is so sad that some churches are teaching their members to pray for their enemies to die as if it is a carnal issue. I believe we should begin to ask ourselves how many enemies have been destroyed in that process.
Why do you still go on mission evangelism in spite of your status as a Bishop?
A bishop simply means a General Overseer or a Superintendent. The problem is when some people become bishop or archbishop; they tend to sit back when such offices should even make them to work more for God. Paul said necessity has been laid upon me to preach the gospel. Bishops and Archbishops are not positions given to us to sit back or relax. The titles are good, but the responsibilities that go with them are much more important.
Please, tell us what has sustained you in full time ministry for over 30 years?
It is the grace of God and focus. God called me as an evangelist and gave me the grace to be consistent in that calling. When your colleagues, those you led to Christ and those you mentored in ministry are doing “great stuff” so to say, and you remain focused doing what you are called to do, that is focus; that is not allowing what other people are achieving or has achieved materially to move you. It is this special grace from God that enables and keeps us. I don’t use other people as benchmark for my own success.
Over the years, you have been expressing deep concerns about the state of the in Church in Nigeria. What are the basic problems of the Church in Nigeria?
The destiny of every nation is in the hands of the Church in that nation. If the Church is focused, the political leadership will be focused. If the Church derails, for instance, by pursuing materialism, the nation which is already materialistic-inclined, will relax and say after all even the Church that we are looking up to for modest living is also materialistic and displays affluence. Christianity in Nigeria is still going through the challenge of ego centrism, a method by which we use God to get something. It also means God is a mean to an end when He should actually be the end Himself. We always go seeking God in churches for prosperity and breakthrough, and for God to kill our enemies. But that is not a responsible Christianity. In the teachings of Jesus you don’t find a place where he promised people success, prosperity and breakthrough like what most pastors in Nigeria today usually promise people. Christianity today teaches us to have material things while Jesus Christianity teaches us to leave material things in order for us to hold unto eternal life. It is impossible to pursue materialism and still retain eternal life.
What is the solution to reversing this materialistic trend in the Church today?
The solution is simple, and it is found in 2 Chronicle 7:14. Church leaders must go to God first in repentance and agree that we have misled the people. We have not shown ourselves as the salt and light to the people. We must say enough is enough to too much materialism and prosperity messages that the Bible explains as the things that the Gentiles seek after. When we pursue things the way and manner the Gentiles do, we become Gentiles. In I Timothy 6, Paul told Timothy that we brought nothing into the world and we shall take nothing out of it. He added that godliness and contentment is great gain. In the Church, we have wrongly taught the people that houses, cars, and wealth will show that we are serving God. Houses, cars and material things are too insignificant to prove God to be God indeed! We must go back to the Acts of the Apostles and follow the template.
How can pastors strike a balance between prosperity and holiness messages?
If you want to hear the truth Bro. Olarinde (Christian Benefits publisher), we are not called to enjoy life. We are called to carry our cross daily and follow Jesus, and God will supply our basic needs; food, shelter, clothes and security. Yes, God wants us to be prosperous and successful. But the world’s definitions for prosperity and success are wrong according to God’s definitions. God actually prospers us with wealth for the expansion of His kingdom and to fund charity works. But what the Church is doing today with monies that are meant for world missions and “good works” is private investments and comfort. God is angry because we are allowing people to ask the Church and spiritual leaders many questions. They query our motives for our fundraising programmes and the tithes and offerings that we collect from the members of our churches.
How is your ministers’ group, The Apostles &Prophets Global Mission, addressing these issues you mentioned above?
We have already started addressing some of the problems in the Church today. We are stressing the need for pastors and spiritual leaders to change their faulty mindsets and embrace a new paradigm shift for impacting ministries. We tell them that our highest priority is to obey and honor the heavenly calling upon our lives.