BEHOLD OUR REBELLIOUS PASTORS
For some time now our office has been bombarded by calls from our esteemed readers who are daily requesting to buy copy of our magazine that was published in 2010 but alas we couldn’t find a single copy to give them except our library copy that was even bonded. After series of deliberations on what to do since these callers kept calling us ,we decided to reproduced the story same way we did years back.
With the desire by some so-called men of God to live big and acquire all the luxuries of life, church business has now become so lucrative that almost all of them want to live big like the founders and pastors who cruise around the world in private jets, flashy cars and dress in elegant and expensive dresses. Disagreement over the management of church money has often led to fierce divisions in some churches, leading to the exit of some pastors who break away from their former places of worship to found their own churches. Though some lay claim to receiving a “Divine call into the ministry”, many, especially considering the profligate kind of life they live, are in for it because of the monetary gain they would reap in the vineyard of God. Global News, in this edition X-rays the history and activities of some pastors who rebelled against their former bosses to form their own churches.
1) Pastor Mathew Ashimolowo: The founder of Kingsway International Christian Church (KICC) was once a member of Four Square Gospel Church led by an academician, Dr Wilson Badejo. Ashimolowo, according to a source, had been nursing the idea of owning his own church while he was still with the Four Square in Nigeria. However, the opportunity provided itself on a platter of gold when he was posted to London to take charge of the London church. It was in London that he dumped the Four Square to form his own church, Kingsway International Christian Church, a decision he has not regretted since it was taken 10 years ago as he is now one of the richest pastors in Nigeria.
His church attracts 8,000 worshippers while Ashimolowo earns nothing less than 100,000 pounds sterling yearly, more than what the Archbishop of Canterbury, the official head of the Anglican Church, earns. The KICC account reveals the church made £4.9m profit over the last 18 months and has assets worth £22.9m, more than three times the amount held by the foundation maintaining St Paul’s Cathedral. The bulk of the money comes from the donations it fleeces out of the church members, largely African and Caribbean; they paid £9.5m in tithes and offering in the 18 months to April 2008, dwarfing the £33,000 average for the Church of England over the same period.
Another method Ashimolowo uses to force money out of his church members apart from the traditional plate collection, is that forms are handed out to worshippers at some services so they can make bank transfers.
Ashimolowo’s church’s increasing wealth attracted unwanted attention after the discovery of financial irregularities in 2005 by Charity Commission investigators. He was ordered to repay £200,000 after it was substantiated that he used church assets to buy a £13,000 Florida timeshares and £120,000 on his birthday celebration including £80,000 on a car. The flamboyant pastor, apart from his salary from preaching, also made money from royalties from sermons published in books and on DVD’s through his own company, Mathew Ashimolowo Media Ministries which made a profit of close to £60,000 in 2003. The four church directors earn between £60,000 and £80,000 each yearly, in contrast to a typical Church of England vicar who earns around £21,500 and even the Archbishop Canterbury, who has responsibility for an active congregation of close to a million people and earns only £68,740 a year.
Also in Nigeria, he has joined the league of churches with private universities as he is currently building a university on a large expanse of land in his home town, Ode Omu in Osun State. The place is called “Land of Dreams”. He has in his garage exotic wonders-on-wheels like Range Rover Vogue Sport, Porsche Cayenne, Hummer Jeep among others.
2) Ayo Oritsejafor: The founder of Word of Life Church, Warri broke away from Idahosa’s Church of God Mission. He was one of the obedient servants of the late Benson Idahosa heading the Warri church. He broke away from the church to actualize his dream of owning his own church after some squabble with the late Idahosa. His opportunity came one Sunday after he had a meeting with the late Idahosa in Benin and headed straight to Warri. While there, he mounted the pulpit, said a few words, broke down in tears and announced that he was leaving. The announcement caused a commotion that day as many people couldn’t believe that Oritsejafor would be leaving without any formal notice and out of loyalty to him, virtually all the members of the Warri branch followed him when he established his own church. Today, Oritsejafor is one of the men of God living big in the vineyard of God. He moves around in a convoy of exotic cars and escorts.
3) Tunde Bakare: Pastor Tunde Bakare, the founder of Latter Rain Assembly Church, started his missionary journey with the Pastor E.A. Adeboye-led Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), where he was the first pastor of ‘Model Parish’. He was the pastor in charge of ACME Parish that was growing steadily in numbers before Pastor Bakare caught the vision to start his own and when he was leaving the parish, he left with almost all the members of the congregation. Today he has not regretted the action as his church, Latter Rain is one of the fastest growing in Nigeria both in membership and worldly materials.
4) Pastor Gbenga Osho: Pastor Gbenga Osho of the Laughter Foundation Church, which is reputed for giving babies to barren women, also broke away from the Gospel Faith Mission where he was one of the high ranking members of the church. In his quest to own a church, he left Gospel Faith Mission after a misunderstanding over money with the church elders to form his own church called Laughter Foundation, where he is making waves, growing both in numbers and worldly perks of owning a church.
5) Bishop George Adjeman: Is the former pastor of the Ghana branch of Living Faith Word Ministries known as Winners’ Chapel. Trouble broke out between him and Bishop Oyedepo, the founder of the church, when Bishop Adjeman attempted to declare independence of the Ghana branch from the main church. He planned to change the name of the church to Champions’ Chapel. When Oyedepo got wind of his plot, he posted him to Ibadan, which he refused and instead opted to slug it out with Oyedepo to claim the Ghana Church from him. The problem started, according to sources, because Adjeman was unhappy with the way Oyedepo was treating him after labouring for Oyedepo for 18 years with nothing to show for it while Oyedepo was living in affluence, with a private jet, private university among other luxuries. The crisis degenerated and after a series of meetings brokered by the Ghanaian Pentecostal Council, no agreement was reached: Adjeman would not budge while Oyedepo also refused to allow him go away with his money-spinning Ghana branch. To settle the problem, Adjeman made a demand that he be paid $50,000 as severance, along with the church mission house and a car. Oyedepo vehemently opposed this but he was persuaded to see Adjeman as a son and not a rebel and that he should see the money given to Adjeman as a parting gift to a son. Bishop Oyedepo, after due consultation with his church elders, was said to have agreed to approve $100,000 but without a car and a house. This didn’t go down well with Adjeman and he decided to take over the church for himself. The rebellion of Adjeman split over the nearly 20,000-strong church membership; while some were in support of Oyedepo, others were sympathetic to Adjeman. When the problem was getting out of hand, to avoid blood letting, the police authorities in Ghana closed down the church. Adjeman was prevented from taking over the church after the leader of the Nigerian delegation, Pastor Abraham Ojene lodged a report with the police authorities. But he was reportedly humiliated by Adjeman’s men on his trip to Ghana. The whole world was shocked when Adjeman revealed all the financial transactions of the church. Quoting mind boggling figures that would tempt even the “uncalled” to start his church, Adjeman left no one in doubt that money, especially dollars, was in super abundance in the church and that the crisis indeed had a very mammonic root.
6) Wole Oladiyun: Is the founder of wave-making Christ Living Spring Apostolic Ministry popularly known as CLAM, situated around Omole in Ikeja. He was born to Christ Apostolic Church-attending parents but in his quest to learn more about God, Pastor Oladiyun went to the Latter Rain Bible School Lagos. He also passed through Deeper Life Bible Church, Victory Christian Church before he ended up with Faith Family Bible Church Ojodu headed by Rev (Dr) D.K. Aboderin. He left Faith Family Church to establish his own, and since then the church has been growing both in numbers and material gains that accompany today’s gospel work. He also owns a private school, J-Nissi Children School, Ogba.
7) Pastor Everest Ofoegbu: He started his missionary under Pastor Lazarus Mouka of Lord Chosen Charismatic Church sometime in December 2007. The “trendy” and “charismatic” Overseer of Christ Chosen Generation Revival Ministry, Pastor Eze Nnamdi Ofoegbu wrote petition to the police against the General Overseer of Lord’s Chosen Charismatic Revival Ministry, Pastor Lazarus Muoka, demanding the sum of N317 million from his former pastor (Muoka), being what he sank into the church from inception up till the time they parted ways. He said it was an investment, based on an unwritten agreement between them. Ofoegbu said then: “What I am asking for is the fulfilment of the agreement we both entered into, an investment into the work of God for which there will be profit and returns. We both agreed that I invest my life savings and that we were going to reap it many fold when the time comes. I believed him and I invested all that I had including the one that did not belong to me. When the time of harvest came, he started finding faults with me to embarrass me and frustrate me out of the church.
“A man invests with the hope of reaping, I started investing in this project since 2004. From that time till when I left I had invested over N300m. That expanse of land where the church is today and the fleet of luxury buses you see there are part of the investments. The planting of the church in Dubai, United Arab Emirate, Abidjan, Ikoyi and Ibadan are also part of the investments. These are aside the series of crusades we held across the country and beyond.”
Ofoegbu also said: “I am not asking for what I have given to the Lord, far from it. If you have given to the Lord, you have given to the Lord. What you give to the Lord are tithes, and offerings in different forms. Nobody goes back to say I want my offering back or I want my tithes back, no. If you give these to the house of God, you have given to the Lord.” “I only mention these because these are the areas where he said I should go ahead and put money and that the church was going to refund me. There are so many other areas like advertising in print and electronic media which I cannot really go into now. It got to a point when I had spent virtually what I had, in fact, it was like he hypnotized me, he cast a spell on me whereby I was pumping money into the church foolishly, now the scales have fallen off my eyes, I now realize my folly. I am awake to a realization that it was not normal and I hereby demand for a refund, especially for the repayment of the money of my partner from you and your organization.”
Though the master and servant have since settled their differences, things can never be the same again for the two based on the messy revelations of Ofoegbu which made him to set up his own church business so as to at least corner the whole money for himself and not share with anybody.
8 ) Pastor Kyrian Ojong: He was a pastor of The Redeemed Christian Church of God Jesus Sanctuary on Atekong Drive in Calabar, the Cross River State capital. Pastor Ojong lectures at the department of History and Philosophy at the University of Calabar and joined RCCG ten years ago. He was lured from Assemblies of God Church by the leadership of RCCG because of his charisma and faith to head the church in Calabar, first in acting capacity and later as senior pastor. Trouble started between Ekong and leadership of the church when he was posted to another branch known as House of David, the posting which he frowned at and considered as demotion after working hard to establish more than 63 branches of the church in Cross River State. It was gathered that Ojong was bitter that he was transferred to a branch that doesn’t not have influential and important people as members and felt bad that another pastor was brought from another state to head the Calabar province 1 and 2 instead of making him provincial head of the church in Calabar.
Pastor Ojong, before he left RCCG told his members that he had delayed the call by God for him to start his own ministry and that he saw the posting as an opportunity to quit and establish his own church. To show their support for him, his followers rented a hall for him at West African People’s Institute for three years to enable him kick-start his ambition. He now worships with Pastor Ituah Ighodalo: When the going was good between him and the leadership of the Adeboye-led Redeemed Christian Church of God, he was a spiritual son to the General Overseer of the church that is adjudged to be one of the fastest growing in the world.
However, trouble broke out between Ighodalo and the leadership of RCCG over his second marriage to ex-beauty queen Ibidun Ajayi ten years after his first marriage to Ann Sunner collapsed. The couple parted ways when they couldn’t produce any child. His wife refused to return to Nigeria with him.
Few years into his marriage with Ibidun, the leadership of RCCG suspended him from the church based on the doctrine of the church but instead of him to subject himself to the doctrine, he decided to move out to set up his own church, which he now calls Trinity Church.
9) Sam And Victor Adeyemi: Most people in Lagos may not know that the Senior Pastor of Daystar Ministries, Ikeja, Lagos, Pastor Sam Adeyemi has a brother that is also a pastor. Pastor Victor Adeyemi, the General Overseer of the Global Harvest Church, located in Ibadan, Oyo State is the immediate younger brother of Pastor Sam Adeyemi.
Both of them are successful ministers of God today. Victor, just like his brother Sam, entered into full time ministry with Rhema Chapel under the ministry of Reverend George Adegboye in Kwara State. Though the Adeyemis were born into a religious home in Odo-Ere, Yagba-West Local Government Area in Kogi State, they became the first members of their family to become ministers of God. This happened when they joined Rhema Chapel International Churches, under the ministry of Rev. George Adegboye, who believed so much in the two that he made Rev. Sam Adeyemi the Director of Pastoral Care before he later made him Minister in Charge, and later posted him to Lagos. Victor was at the same time posted to the Ibadan branch of the church. It was while in Lagos and Ibadan respectively, miles away from the church’s headquarters in Ilorin, that the two said they heard from God to move forward in 1995.
It was the said word of God that came to the two the same day and time on one of their journeys back to their bases from the Ilorin headquarters of Rhema Chapel that led to the establishment of the more than 20,000-congregation of Daystar Ministries in Lagos and the over 10,000-congregation of Global Harvest Church, Ibadan. Their action, according to Rev. George Adegboye of Rhema Chapel, was really bad because the two left on the same day also, taking along with them sizeable proportions of their respective congregations.
10) Bishop (Dr.) Mike Okonkwo: Bishop (Dr.) Mike Okonkwo was born in Enugu. After his secondary education he joined te Nigerian Ports Authority in 1964, where he worked only for three months before crossing over to the banking industry with African Continental Bank (ACB). His encounter with Jesus was when he was in the fold of the United Church of Christ (UCC) which has its headquarters in Enugu and he started attending church services regularly.
It was in the UCC that he was ordained into the ministry and his first pastoral responsibility was in Lagos with UCC. He was later ordained an Evangelist in the church, saddled with the responsibility of establishing more branches of the church in Lagos ,which he did wholeheartedly from 1976 to 1980, after which he received a certificate of licence from International Deliverance Churches, Dallas, Texas, USA.
Armed with the certificate, he moved on to establish The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM) in 1981. He also bagged some other qualifications, some of which are; diploma degree from the Morris Cerullo School of Ministry, San Diego, California, USA; diploma from International Bible Institute and Seminary, Orlando, Florida; Bachelor of Bible Theology from the same university and later, The Covington Theological Seminary, Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, USA which, because of his many years in the ministry of God, gave him a waiver for Masters Degree, after which he proceeded with his Doctorate degree programme in Divinity which he successfully completed and was conferred with Doctor of Divinity degree with all rights and privileges pertaining thereto. In 1984, the Board of Directors of International Bible Institute, Orlando, Florida, USA conferred on him a Doctor of Letters Degree. In 1987, the United Christian International Bible Institute, Cleveland, Tennessee, USA awarded him a Doctor of Divinity certificate.
11) Pastor Tony Rapu: He’s a pastor that was regarded as one of the closest to the General Overseer of The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adeboye, some years back while he was heading the church’s Freedom Hall Parish. Pastor Tony Rapu, as a minister in the fold was given liberty to do many things. This in no small way broadened the view of the man as he was in a capacity to enter any state in the country, all in the name of expanding the coast of the church, and his actions after that caused many to ask the GO if the young pastor was acting in the interest of the church. This led to his transfer to Europe and his Freedom Hall parish divided into four, to be managed by four of his assistants. On his return he decided to form his own church – This Present House (TPH). Many of the congregation of his former church formed the bulk of those who started the new church with him when he decided to move on after it is obvious that the church would not reinstate him as head of his former parish. That was how Pastor Tony Rapu who was once one of the most outstanding pastors in the RCCG, moved on to form his own church, using his former church as a leverage to achieving this end.
12) Reverend Lazarus Muoka: Lazarus Muoka is the General Overseer of Lord Chosen Charismatic Renewal Ministry, which is situated somewhere along Mile 2 – Oshodi expressway in Lagos and is regarded as one of the fastest growing churches of this era. Little do many know that the aggressive preaching pastor was at a time a member and later a pastor in the fold of Watchman Catholic Charismatic Renewal Mission, where he rose to become the pastor of Mushin branch until he said he had a call to go establish his own church. The decision caused crisis there are allegation of blackmail and many more leveled against him. As expected, many members of his former church followed him to his new church, which is not too far from his former church. The popularity of the church cannot be overemphasized as it is visible for all to see.
13) Prophet Elijah Akinade: The pastor and more of a General Overseer of Christ Apostolic Church (CAC), Lion of Judah, Prophet Akinade started as a member of the choir in the Ibadan branch of Agabala Itura, the church of the current General Evangelist of the Christ Apostolic Church Worldwide, Prophet Dr. S.K. Abiara. He later rose to become one of the leaders in the church choir. Unlike many who must have served in the capacity of pastoring over some selected congregation of the church at one time or the other, Prophet Akinade was said to have just moved on to starting his own church in the city of Ibadan, after which he moved to Lagos. Though his defection to form his new church was said not to have affected the ministry of the senior prophet, it infuriated some members of the church who saw his defection as a slap because some members of the choir defected with him. This they regarded as a sabotage of the effort of the pastors in the church. All these have since then been swept under the carpet as the church has forged ahead and the popularity of the Prophet Akinade’s church cannot be contested as he can boast of congregation of more than 1,000 every week.