Call him a wordsmith you will rightly hit the nail. Archbishop Isaac Idahosa is one fine preacher whose choices and coinages of words are very persuasive and highly inspirational. The 55-year-old Archbishop-designate of God First Ministries (a.k.a Illumination Assembly) shares some of his experiences in ministry in the past 31 years with Christian Benefits duo of Wole Olarinde and Peace James in the below interview on the 31st anniversary his apostolic ministry, in which he reveals he had severally felt like quitting the ministry in the course of the 31 years journey thus far. Excerpts.
Sir, please share with us how you feel clocking 31 years in ministry?
I feel the same way I felt when it all started in 1989. It is grace paddled. It is all empowered by grace. Once you are still in grace and you are enjoying grace, the same God who started it is still granting all that is required in keeping us moving on.
When you started 31 years ago did you envisage the ministry would attain the high level of glory and fame it has attained today?
I couldn’t have envisaged this. It is a faith venture. God will tell you where you are going, but he would not tell you what you have to go through before you get there. When you take a step of faith in obedience, God will unveil the next phase. He will keep unveiling as your faith keeps depending and trusting in him.
Share with us some of the challenges you have had in the ministry these 31 years, and how you survived those challenge to keep the ministry moving till now.
Several times I had moments that I got discouraged, pained, rejected and felt like quitting. But that same still small voice keeps pushing us on. You can’t be convinced and be confused. When you receive God’s calling, it’s a divine mandate by the conviction of the Holy Spirit that has given you the task. Sometimes you feel like God, where are you; more so when you want to work in your own time, not knowing that God wants to turn you from an eaglet to an eagle. To become an eagle you have to pass through a lot of training. Sometimes, God can allow certain things. I liken it to the experience of Gideon where he seated under an oak tree discouraged. And an angel came and said to him, thou mighty man of valour. The Lord is with you. Gideon was like asking the angel that in this kind of condition what is mighty about me? If the Lord is with me, why am in this condition? Why couldn’t I pay my bills? Why this rejection? Why all these storms. And the Lord said to him go; in this might of yours. It is not what happened around, but what happens inside you. The strength of a man is not determined by his surroundings. It is determined by what is inside him.
What are the factors that keep you going amid the storms in the ministry?
They are persuasion, passion and courage. The things God told me when he called me into full time ministry are the things I still look forward to. When people misunderstand you, don’t misunderstand yourself. Whoever God calls he equips. If it is God’s project it will attract his budget. When pains come, understand that God is not a reactionary God. He is a proactive and provisional God. He has provided in advance for the things you would go through. So, it is just for you to stretch your faith and tap into God’s resources and add patience with long suffering. Many a time we have taught faith without its corresponding sister patience. The Bible says we must follow after those who through faith and patience inherited the promise.
Tell us other factors you added to faith to sustain your ministry these 31 years
Faith is not just about receiving from the Lord. Faith is when you can say even if I am not receiving from the Lord, I will still trust him. Shedrack, Meshach and Abednego said the Lord we serve will deliver us. That is faith. They went on and said even if God does not deliver us. That is trust. Those who trust, don’t rust. When you are going to the other side in the middle of the journey the wind might be contrary, but Jesus is right there with you. The Bible said he put his head on the pillow sleeping; he was communizing the situation. He said let us go over to the other side. He didn’t say you will be stranded or stopped in the middle of the journey. So, always look unto Jesus. Disappoint is enviable but discouragement is a choice. He whom Jesus called to come he would save. Peter said if it be you, bid me come; and yet he was sinking. This was a man who received a calling. He was sinking. How much more who hasn’t got the call. Jesus said come, and you are sinking. How about if he didn’t invite you at all? If he has invited you and you are sinking he will help you out.
What is the exact mandate of your commission by God into the ministry?
The mandate is to expound and bring people to the knowledge of seeking God first and his righteousness. Matthew 6:33 is the bedrock of this ministry. That informed the name, God First Ministries. The mission is to raise people of integrity, character and excellence. The goal is to transport light and transform lives.
What are the gifts God endowed you to accomplish this mandate?
I am apostle. An apostle is an embodiment of the five-fold ministry depending on the one that is required to serve at a particular or specific time.
When you started the ministry 31 years ago, who are the people you looked up to, and still looking up to as your mentors or role models in ministry?
One of the biggest influences over my life is Archbishop Benson Idahosa of blessed memory. We have all drank from him. Of course a lot of people have asked if I’m his son. He was our father of faith. We hailed from the same state and so much grace flowed from that legendary Nigerian global preacher of the gospel. I have also been influenced by those who I have not even seen through their books, tapes like Kenneth Hagins, Oral Robert and T.L Osborn in the area of evangelism. I am submitted to Papa Ayo Oritsejafor. He is my mentor. I also have Bishop David Oyedepo, T.D Jakes and a lot of other influences over my life. I am a crude oil. You can get from crude oil kerosene and engine oil among other products. There are so many impacts and inputs into my life through books and tapes among others.
Many people see you as a bridge between the old and the new generation Nigerian pastors with your easy flow and good relationship with these two distinct generations of ministers of God. How did you achieve this?
Wisdom is profitable to direct. I was 55 years old last February 2020. So, one should be able to stand as the gap between the elderly and the younger ones. Again, if you wash your hands clean you will eat with the elderly. You must learn before the elders. Jesus said learn of me and you will find rest for your soul. To make more is to do more. There is no shortage in humility. You gain more from been humble. When the fathers find out that you are always hungry they will feed you. And for the younger ones you must always impact them in order for you to have a future of continuity of the grace you carry. The Bible says you hear a voice saying behind you this is the way. I learn from both the elder ones and the younger ones. I learn from everything. Elisha was able to gain from Elijah. Joshua was able to gain from Moses. You cannot be without the younger ones or else you are going to cut down all the exploits if you don’t have the younger ones around you. Success without a successor is failure. Your greatest assets are human beings. You can’t be a leader without having a followership. And when they are endeared to you, you must be able to have time for them. Be accessible to them. The younger ones need the leaders that they can reach to share their problems, challenges and prospects with them.
You have kept one spiritual father over the years, and also enjoy a good relationship with several other fathers in the faith, unlike most modern pastors who change their spiritual fathers like wrappers. What is the secret?
The secret is honour. Honour is the key to access. What you honour you access. You don’t choose your father. God chooses your father for you. You don’t choose who should be your parents; even physically. There are those who have made indelible impacts in my life. There is one I really grew up under, Bishop Solomon Agbani, who impacted me. When you call someone your mentor, you should allow him to do the mentoring. It could connote rebuke. The younger ones these days don’t want rebuke. They think everything is about paying tithes to their mentors. You can give all the tithes and things will still be tight for you. You must be rebuked and be told the truth by your mentors if you want to go far in life and ministry. I’m not the type you will come and block my conscience because of what you are bringing, if at all I will accept it. I have to tell you the truth you are going wrong. And that is what I expect too from those I look up to when I’m going wrong. Those who God loves he chastises. But these days, people don’t want chastisement. There was a time I was going to preach in my church in Minna, and Papa Ayo said, Isaac you are coming to Warri. I didn’t even need to tell him I was going to Minna. I went straight to Warri. It was until after the meeting that I said Papa I was supposed to go to Minna. He said why you didn’t go. I said you asked me to come. If he knew that I was going to Minna, he wouldn’t have asked me to come to Warri. At another time I was in America when he called me and said, Isaac you are preaching next tomorrow in Warri. I said Papa I am in America. He said I know. I had to return home to Warri. If you are not submissive you cannot have submission. If you are not subject to authority nobody will subject to you, especially some of these new generation pastors. See the CAMA law trying to regulate churches. It is because of the way some pastors are running their churches. They are not under any discipline; they have no disciplinary structure. They are not under Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), or Pentecostal Association of Nigeria (PFN). So, it gives an ample chance to people to talk against the body of Christ because of the unruliness and disorderliness of some members of the body of Christ.
Tell us about your journey with Christ before God First Ministries was founded in 1989.
God First Ministries started in 1989, but I had served in ministry for seven years before then. I interpreted for Bishop Omo Oba jesu when he held a crusade in the north in 1982. I started ministry at a tender age. God took over me and I discovered his purpose for my life early. So, it should be about 40 years that I been in ministry.
What has life and ministry taught within these 31 years of God First Ministries?
Ministry in 31 years of God First Ministries has taught me that God is over all. Secondly, my ministry is powered by two things; hearing and doing. We hear what he says and carry out what he says. Life and ministry have taught me to always depend on God. Life and ministry have taught me I would not always have everything I want. Life and ministry have taught me to keep what God is saying until the right time. Life and ministry have taught me to mind my business. Life and ministry have taught me to keep my lane and keep the speed. Life and Ministry have taught me not to compete, but to complement. Life and ministry have taught me not to depend on the arm of the flesh. Life and Ministry have taught me so many things. Ministry has taught me that life is a school without a graduation. You will keep learning and learning if you want to learn. Bishop Oyedepo said if you don’t learn by examples you will become an example. I like teaching all the time. I like to forgive and to study the more in order to feed my mind, free my mind and focus my mind.
Despite being an old timer in ministry, you are also among the new generation preachers who have redefined what modern Church should look like from the old order. Did you face some resistance from fellow old timers?
One of the keys to growth is adaptation. It is the ability to know and understand times and seasons. The Bible says the sons of Issachar understood the times and the seasons. Times and seasons change things. You keep evolving. He that has ears let him hear what the spirit is saying. Back then we had no power of the media. Most homes hardly had television back then. Today, our youths are so exposed to so many things that you have to know what to do to get their attention, else you could lose them. I organize a lot of musical programmes. I organize and also do a lot of youthful things. Sometimes I dress like a youth. I get them attracted to myself. God caught the attention of Moses by igniting the bush on fire, yet the bush was not burning. Sometimes I invite some comedians to draw the youth to the church and use that opportunity to preach the word of God to them and lead them to Christ. I release my net at such programmes and catch some of the youths in the net for Jesus Christ. If you are used to what you are used to, you won’t be used to how it should be. You must be able to evolve; think fast out of the box and adapt. Know what it takes and occupy the space till Jesus Comes by adapting. This is very important to the gospel.
How will you describe the impact of God First Ministries at 31 years?
It is only God who can describe our impact. I sow, another water, God brings the increase. We are doing out bits. It’s God that will determine our efforts or impact. The only time I will be fully glad in ministry is when God says to me well done thou good and faithful servant.
What are the sacrifices you have made to keep the ministry going these 31 years?
You can’t succeed in life or in ministry without making some sacrifices. Sacrifice of your time to study the word of God. Sacrifice of your resources and everything you can sacrifice. Your body is a sacrifice. Romans 12:1 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable sacrifice.” That you could give your body; yourself to serve the Lord is enough sacrifice. Other things are secondary.
Do you suffer any form of persecutions, particularly from your parents and friends for abandoning your school certificate to serve the Lord as a preacher of the gospel?
Fortunately none until when I started the ministry from the north. The northern resistance was there at a particular time because some people outside Christianity were getting saved and some of the Northern people who are predominantly Muslims frowned at it. So, I was constantly being arrested by police. As Christian students/preachers at the Kaduna State Polytechnic some people were hostile to us. We survived all those persecutions. When I started the ministry some people misunderstood us because we were under scholarship. Niger state gave us scholarship. So, it was not a big deal to secure a job after graduation for me to now abandon everything to say I was going into full-time ministry. And I had 50kobo when the ministry started. God said that I would continue spending that 50kobo till he comes. Till date I’m still spending the 50kobo. So, the persecutions were more of jesting, mockery and suffering. But I can tell you that I have been favoured by God. I have enjoyed early satisfaction in all ways. God has been so faithful to me and to God First Ministries family worldwide. That was what informed the theme of the anniversary, Celebrating God’s faithfulness. We have seen that God is faithful. Like I said earlier, there were several times I felt like quitting the ministry. God showed up and brought me back. Times when people misunderstood me, he brought life back to me. When I was rejected, he restored me. So many times we disappointed God, but he has made provision for absorbing us. God has made provision for our rescue; even before we entered into ministry. God does not react. He is a proactive God. He has made the plan available even before your failures. It’s not about failures, pains, betrayals, frustrations. It is about God who is there. He is too faithful to fail.
Talking about betrayals, share with us how you handle betrayal in ministry?
It is really painful, but I sleep like a baby in the face of betrayal in ministry. As I told you about three things: feed your mind, free your mind and focus your mind. Feed your mind with the word of God. Free your mind from all grievances, betrayals and offences, and then focus your mind.