Rev. Cyril Azobu had barely settled down as the new general overseer of Christ for All Mission (CFAM) when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in 2020, leading to global lock down of public and private institutions including churches. In this interview with Christian Benefits, the amiable preacher cum boardroom guru shares how God prepared CFAM ahead of the pandemic and also used it in aiding the transformation of the church coupled with his professional skills and competence as Partner (Head, Advisory) at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Excerpts below
How much has the late Bishop Rowland Ike’s legacy helped you in leading Christ for All Mission since you succeeded him as the church’s general overseer?
It is a good thing for one to ride on the grace of someone. It is also important for one to have his grace. It is also important for one to have a personal relationship with God. Emotional maturity with wisdom is equally important because one needs wisdom to navigate issues that arise in leadership. Another key factor that has helped me is my exposure in both the Christian faith and the corporate world. To the credit of our late bishop, till he passed on, he allowed me to be a minister in the church with my secular work. God has given me the grace to manage both fields.
Tell us how your corporate experience is impacting on the church leadership
In the corporate world as Partner (Head, Advisory) at PricewaterhouseCoopers I have been opportune to learn and acquire leadership and administrative skills. Both skills come handy in steering the affairs of Christ for All Mission as its general overseer. They contribute to my competence. Good character can help one achieve a lot but it is competence that takes one further, particularly when one is walking on unfamiliar terrains. Aside my corporate experience there is also the readiness to sacrifice one’s time and personal resources to the running of the church affairs.
Hardly had you settled down as the church’s new general overseer when the COVID-19 broke out in 2020. How did you manage this sudden development?
Ironically, the transformation people are seeing in the church today started during the COVID-19 pandemic when I had not even had time to harness the members. We had just concluded a prayer programme when the pandemic broke out. I had to encourage the members to continue praying in their respective homes without specific prayer outlines. Incidentally, we had created online prayer groups before the pandemic outbreak. Suffice to say the Lord had prepared us ahead of that time. So, when the pandemic broke out, leading to lock down of churches, we needed to keep our people in check because we have many branches. We discovered that one way to keep the church members connected was to consolidate our online groups. I discovered that beyond what people were seeing there were opportunities to explore. I saw the need to put in place excellence and quality. This birthed another phase of the ministry where professionalism and competence become greater inputs. We also knew that most of our members lacked the means to cope with the pandemic, so we needed to take care of them with provision of palliatives for them. Some of our privileged members contributed funds for the provision for the needy among us. Sometimes certain things dramatically force change if one can read between the lines. When the lock down was lifted we still stayed back for two weeks. When the church resumed our members were amazed at seeing the church’s restructured auditorium. It then dawned on them that it was no longer business as usual; there was a need for change. We articulated the vision to them as simple as possible. So, we were no longer just feeding them but keeping them to be seasoned. The Lord told us 2022 is our year of enlargement and increase. If you want to achieve change at the exterior, it must begin from the interior. So our transformation started from the interior.
What were the contributions of the late Bishop’s friends in keeping the flock together, especially during the church lock down due to COVID-19?
Some of our late bishop’s friends have been of tremendous encouragement. One of them called me to know how I was fairing during the lock down. That for me was more than enough. I believe God has given me the strength to carry on regardless of external factors. For change to happen, someone must bear the burden.
So far, how much has the flock been responding to your tenure of leadership?
They have the zeal for the change we are bringing to the table but many of them lack the means to support the change. They have been contributing according to their individual capacity. They have been giving me so much encouragement that it is not about the number but the willingness. The money in the church treasury at the time our late bishop transited was not adequate to fund the church uncompleted projects that we inherited or passed on to us. Banks were willing to offer me loans but how to pay back was a serious concern. Today, to the glory of God, that is almost a thing of the past. I thank God for my wife. She has been of great support.
How do you manage the church administration, your secular work demands and the home front attention without one adversely affecting the others?
Right from my school days I live a triangular life. While in school I was a leader of a Students fellowship. I shuttled from hostel to fellowship and classes. A lot of time, the library was my home. I lost my dad early, so my schooling was terrible. That was when I learnt to rationalize my life with clear focus. So, combining the church administration, my secular work demands and the home front needs or attention, successfully is by the grace of God. Home is critical for me. I promised myself to give the best parenting life can offer to my children. Today, they are adults and doing very well. My wife is an excellent home manager. I don’t take my office work or church administration home. One thing I do is investing in people and delegating responsibilities to them. My first ministry is my home.
Aside being the home manager, what role does your wife play in the church?
My wife is also a pastor in the church. She is the leader of the church women. She is graced as an excellent planner. When it comes to setting initiatives, it is her area of strength. My wife’s level of spiritual maturity amazes me. She is a role model. I don’t take lightly that part of her ministry. Her role in the church is strong. While my children were growing, at different times she worked in bank and Oil & Gas Company but was still able to focus on taking care of the children.
What is the church numerical strength now compared to when you took over?
There was a time we were hitting between 400 and 500 attendees in a service. We have had some crises. I’m counting committed members because there are some people who don’t come occasionally. One of the blessings of the lock down was the limited gathering policy. That gave us the opportunity to hold our services twice. When we were growing in numbers we thought of breaking the church walls. We have not started full evangelism as planned, yet lots of people are joining us, saying it was God that sent them to be part of us. I can’t really quantify the extent of the move of God in the church since I became its general overseer. We do baptism every month because different people regularly join the church and souls are won.
Specifically, what is the mission of CFAM?
The mission is to reach the world for Christ and raise seasoned disciples for His kingdom
What are some of the church programmes in line with this mission?
We do outreaches but most of them are in-house. I try as much as possible not to lead by programmes. We had a major programme last year November 2021 tagged Rehoboth, which was our first major programme since I took over. We have had different conferences. We go for developmental and empowerment programmes to learn things that will make us better. We have to build them up to a point where they can take it up from there. Beyond discipleship, we have to look at the whole picture. We need the word. It is not compromised. We also have worship with prayer sessions. The third is general well being meetings. We have a watchword every month to ensure a drive. We have over ten branches. What we have been doing in the past two years is building our Jerusalem. This year we are looking at spreading the gospel to different countries. Within the fold, the word, worship, prayer and general well being make our members seasoned disciples. We also seek to impact our communities beyond the church. We want to serve as a responsible corporate citizen. So, we support people seeking how to meet their needs. We also express Christ in schools and several other places. So, we are grooming both in the fold and in the field.
Finally, can we have a look at your upbringing?
My mum did not understand the circumstances surrounding my birth. She labored for three months. How she survived was a miracle. She had other children before me but mine was different. She told me I took ill seriously while growing up. I was supposed to have died but I survived. While growing, I knew something was different about my life. I was hungry for God. While growing up some terrible things happened to my family. After my first three months in high school, my dad died. We were evicted from the government quarters where we lived. All my uncles and dad’s friends deserted us. My mum was a trader. A year before my dad died her goods and shop were destroyed by fire, so we had to start life afresh. Getting into the university, I lived a very terrible life with no one to pick my bills. That was where my triangular life began. I was always found in the library because I was squatting with people most times. I couldn’t afford accommodation. My parents gave birth to eight children. I came out of the University of Lagos with good results This began my first introduction to life. But at the same time that was when the call of God upon my life began to manifest. For my NYSC I was posted to a very remote and difficult place to serve. I wasn’t aware God was grooming me. I wasn’t familiar with the language of the people there but I showed commitment which led to transformation of lives. Despite my academic intelligence, I found it difficult to get a job. What I am today in terms of career is by the grace of God.