You Are Not Cursed If You Don’t Pay Tithes9 min read
Prophet Israel Oladele Ogundipe, a celebrity clergy and Shepherd-in-charge of the Celestial Church of Christ, Genesis Global has added his voice to the controversial tithe debate that has been trending for some weeks now. In this exclusive interview with Global News Magazine, he also speaks on his calling and other sundry issues
Many people are yet to understand who you are. Are you a Celestial or Pentecostal pastor?
I’m a Celestial, a pure one at that. They didn’t understand because many people have been misled about the doctrine of Celestial church. When I came into the church truly, that was when I understand that there are some orchestrated spiritual activities that are created by some people, perhaps to get money from their followers. I don’t know if God or the Holy Spirit gave it to them. Sometimes, you cannot argue with two people, the same way you can’t argue with a pregnant woman, and sometimes, you can’t argue with a prophet. But if you have the right conviction, you can argue with a prophet. When I came to the church, I believed it is a spiritual church where people are being led by the spirit of God. But what we do here that makes us different is that we don’t go to the stream, we don’t go to the bush, and we don’t do anything that is barbaric –all of these things were not even part of the church’s doctrine. They are things that some people just want to do because God said they should do it or the Holy Spirit said they should do it. In my own case, when I came into the ministry, I told God to give me grace to pray without going to the stream and people will see their miracles; give me grace to let people see miracle without telling them to drink green water; give me grace perform my duties without going to the bush. I read a lot and have many mentors. I have studied about churches and ministries, that is why we are a little bit different, but we are Celestians.
At what point did you stop going to the stream, bush and all that?
That was actually in 2004. I didn’t really like it from the outset anyway. I’m a Christ Apostolic Church boy, and we were brought up to believe in prayers and fasting. My mother happens to be a deaconess and my late father was a deacon. So when I came into Celestial, I watched the way they do it (going to the streams and all that); sometimes it works, I’m not saying it doesn’t work –for people who believes in it, it works. But on my own, I know that the only thing constant in life is change and the whole world is changing, so I told God to help me. Even then, I didn’t know how to sing, but I started praying for it. But it can’t just come like that without rehearsing because I believe preparation comes before manifestation. Since I started this ministry work, I have never charged anybody for money –all I do is pray for them, and when they see their miracles, some of them come back to give thanksgiving to the church.
Is there any particular incident that triggered your decision to stop going to the streams?
Yes, there was a time I started reading books about…my African mentor is Dr Mathew Ashimolowo, while my American mentor is Bishop T.D Jakes. I started studying about the whole thing and realised that there was no incident like that. A time is coming in Nigeria that all these rivers might turn to swimming pool. My church’s population just grew to about 500 then, I imagined how possible it could be if I wanted all of them to go to the stream. So when I started praying, the Holy Spirit gave me more information about spiritual and mental liberation. That is why we have large numbers of people from Pentecostal churches worshipping with us, wearing our sutana (white garment). Some are wearing their mufti but with no shoe.
Has the leadership of Celestial Church accepted your new doctrine, considering the fact that your church is not even painted in the traditional white and blue synonymous with Cele churches?
Some of them have asked questions, while some don’t bother to ask. I just believe that most times, people are after results, and it is only a fool that will doubt a proof. I have told some of them that we need to think outside the box, and when they realised the way my church is growing and everything, they accepted. The Spiritual head of the church worldwide (Pastor Emmanuel Mobiyina Oshoffa) was also at our Adult Harvest thanksgiving service last year and he is still coming this year. We are still lightening candles, we don’t wear shoes –we are not doing anything contrary to the will of God. We just want to have a touch of excellence.
Should we say you are preparing to break out of the Celestial church in future because you do many things differently from others?
No. One needs to separate water out of waters. Like here, we preach in English, we do marriage counselling and seminars. We do conferences. The building we just bought in front of the school will be used for build a school, and it will be free of charge to church members. Somebody gave me a car last year; I sold it and gave the money to the church. We have used the money to quicken the renovation of the church and part of it to construct the road leading to the church. I believe the church must affect the community. When God used another person to bless me during my birthday, I gave the money to the church and we used it to buy the school building for 21 million naira. I have never been part of the church money from the outset; all I do is just to sign. The nursery and primary school we are building is going to be of a high standard. The school will have a pool. The classes will have television sets, air conditioners and 24-hour power because we are going to buy a big power generating set. It is going to be free for our church members. Even if they are going to pay at all, it will be very minimal. We also have a charity programme for widows –these are all the things we do that cannot be handed over to the Headquarter (Celestial) because it is my own vision.
If the situation warrants you to break away from the church, will you do that?
One needs to be led by God, and that is why one cannot decide for God. But I have never received such direction.
What if God says you should move on?
Of course, I can’t argue with God –He has the final say. If the instruction is from God, then it’s fine. But that will definitely not come from a human being because even when my family didn’t want me to join Cele, God said I should go ahead.
What if the church authorities compel you to quit?
They can’t compel me because I’m a man of vision and I have a lion heart. Aside the fact that we don’t go to streams and bush, everything we do is in order with the tenets of the church. They love the way we preach and they love the way we hold seminars and train people –that is why our Pastor is coming here all the time. And the youths that are coming up now are beginning to see me as their mentor.
An average Celestial Shepherd is expected to wear sutana everyday and also reside in the church premises. But yours is different as we see you on mufti most times.
If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature –old things have passed away and all things become new. When they used to wear sutana all the time and live in the church premises, the church has not grown to this level. More so, I’m not the only one that wears mufti among the Shepherds. It’s a way of telling people that it is a simple church and not a cult. I can’t travel to America when there is cold and wear sutana without wearing a shoe, so nothing is bad in that. Anything that doesn’t change cannot grow, and anything that will grow needs to change. I just want to be a free person. I have been to the Embassies several times without wearing my sutana and I have been given visas. So it is not about the cloth, but what is inside of me.
Pastor Adeboye is your spiritual grand-father. Your mentor in the area of prayer is Pastor Wole Oladiyun. Your African mentor is Bishop Mathew Ashimolowo, while your main mentor is Bishop T.D. Jakes. Where is the place of Reverend Oshoffa, the founder of Celestial church?
Oshoffa is my father. He is the founder of the church. He is all in all because when I talk about Celestial that is my foundation. There is no way you talk about a building without its foundation. All those people you mentioned are just pillars. No building will have pillars without foundation –Oshoffa is my foundation.
You have changed the name of your church from Genesis Parish to Genesis Model, and now Genesis Global. What informs that?
I’m insatiable –I upgrade every day. God himself is not a monument –He is a movement. That is why His church is not just a church but a movement. We started with Genesis Parish, later we changed it to Genesis Model; that was when we started introducing transition taken out of tradition. Then we were supposed to use International, but we didn’t want to compete with the church’s headquarters in Ketu, so we decided to use Genesis Global. Every leader must have a picture of where the future is going. We call it Genesis Global because we believe we are going to plant ourselves all over the world.
Do you collect tithes?
Yes, we collect tithe here.
Do you believe in tithe?
Yes, I believe in it. There are some widows in the church that are on salary and others. We have 11 children we have adopted and we pay their school fees and all that –these are some of the things we use tithe money for.
Is it true that those who don’t pay tithes are cursed?
They are not cursed. God said if you don’t pay, ‘I will send devourer,’ it’s in the Bible. So it’s your own choice. Tithes have got to do with your own conviction. What about some people that don’t go to church at all and they are blessed? Some people don’t pay offering and tithe yet they are richer than people who go to church and paying tithe. Some people don’t pay tithe but they reach out to motherless baby homes and the needy. God can bless them simply because of that.
You were once a labourer on this land where your church is built. But today, you’re the landlord of the same place. How did that happen?
It’s by the grace of God. Many years back, I served as a labourer here. I used to do menial jobs for some landlords here at that time, like digging their soak-away, and all that. Today I have become a popular landlord in that same place. I never dreamt of it, but I believe that whatever you are doing, do it well. But I remember that when I was growing up, I used to boast to my parents that I would be great, but I never knew the way it was going to be. I give God all the glory. And in fact, God has even told me that I haven’t even started. That is why I will keep doing more for God.