People who used to call us disco church are now dancing more than us – Archbishop Ojo – The Sun Nigeria
By Enyeribe Ejiogu ([email protected])
To 73-year-old General Overseer and Presiding Bishop of Calvary Kingdom Church International, Archbishop Joseph Imariabe Ojo, looks more like 63, agile and lively, with no wrinkles on his face. The grip, when he shakes your hand, is very firm. Archbishop Ojo proudly belongs to the “SU” generation of born-again Christians whose lifestyle marked a clear distinction between them and the Orthodox churches of the 1970s through the early 1980s. never reluctant to speak truth to power like his late mentor, Archbishop Benson Idahosa. Approaching the 20e anniversary of his ministry, he sat down to discuss.
The ministry is now 20 years old. Looking back, how do you feel?
I feel good. Honestly, I’m in a good mood. I feel fulfilled. Only God knows the end from the beginning. As humans, when we start something, you can’t just say how it’s going to go and how far you’re going to go; God alone knows the end from the beginning. I would say a lot has been done. Given the financial situation in which we took off, no one would have thought it would be so big and successful. We are grateful to God for what he has done over these two decades.
I know that you were a protege of Bishop Benson Idahosa and that you were with him in Benin at the headquarters of Church of God Mission (CGM) International. When it came time to set up this ministry, you came to Lagos. Why Lagos?
The real picture is this: in November 1988, I was sent to head the Western Province of the CGM headquartered in Lagos. The province covered the states of Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, Osun and Ekiti. So, I came to Lagos in December 1988 as a provincial priest. In 1993, about 29 years ago, I was consecrated bishop of the province. I functioned in this capacity for about 12 years prior to the start of this ministry. In other words, I did not come straight from Benin to start this ministry. I’ve said it often and I want to repeat it for the umpteenth time: I didn’t want to leave CGM, until today. Circumstances beyond my control forced me to leave CGM. I am still an integral part of CGM. I am bold to say that Idahosa touched me deeply. In terms of gospel ministry, I am one of Idahosa’s closest living associates or children. I can say with confidence that I worked with him more closely than anyone else. So, I had no idea to start a ministry, not at all. For four years after his death, I remained at CGM. If the Lord had not led me to begin, it would have been a suicidal adventure for me to return to Benin, to begin a Christian ministry after being away from the city for almost 13 years, from December 1988 to 2002. Having been in Lagos all this time, I was better known in Lagos than in Benin. This is exactly why the ministry started in Lagos. It was great and the ministry became what it is today, and I produced sons and daughters in the ministry.
Now, looking at the Pentecostal movement in Nigeria today, are there any things that you feel bad about? People say the Pentecostal churches in Nigeria have been more about “prosperity messages” than evangelism. What do you think of this statement?
I will not totally condemn those who share this view. Most of the things that happen in Pentecostal churches in terms of prosperity are only temporary. It will definitely fade because everything has its time. The prosperity messages that the Pentecostals embrace, they haven’t quite handled it well. And that’s why we are where we are today. It came to many of them unprepared. The pioneer prosperity preacher was Archbishop Idahosa, but he never messed it up like these people do. An example I had to give is this: he went on a crusade to Australia and was given a private jet. He rejected her; he said he could not accept such a gift and bring it back to Nigeria, where people were wallowing in poverty. He said the Pentecostals wouldn’t understand, so he turned it down. But today, some Pentecostal leaders are buying one, two, and three private jets. I don’t know where they get the money. Buying a private jet is a misplaced priority. This is only my personal opinion, I do not condemn them, I have no right to judge them. I remember Idahosa was the first preacher who bought a great pipe organ and other musical instruments for praise and worship. Some Christian leaders at the time condemned us and derisively called us “disco church”, but today everyone, including the Anglican, Methodist and Catholic churches, now plays music and dances more than us during the service. I was there in 1975, when Idahosa started Redemption Hour on NTA Benin (where we carried pews into the studio to look like a church service). Some who are general overseers today have called us the devil’s church and have described television as a devil’s box. Today it is only that they are on the air, but they have TV stations and broadcast to a global audience via satellite. At the time, Idahosa said we should ignore them because they couldn’t see far, that when they realized their mistake, their eyes would open. The same applies to this issue of prosperity. When they saw that prosperity comes from God, they embraced it but went beyond it. Today they milk members and do all sorts of things to make money. But my joy is that the scripture is very clear and cannot be broken: “we have brought nothing into this world and we take nothing away”. The Bible wants us to be satisfied. I can’t condemn those who want to buy jets and such, but I believe preachers should learn from the life of the apostle Paul, who was opposed to materialistic acquisitions. They should arrange things for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the gospel and the Kingdom.
If you look at what is happening in our country today, with regard to murders and attacks on Christians, there are people who think that if what had been spent on materialistic acquisitions had been invested in the evangelism and other things that really touch the lives of ordinary people, God would have been more merciful to the church in Nigeria. What is your opinion on this?
I believe that people with this mindset may not be wrong; if we had invested early enough to reach the people in some of these places, who today are criminals and doing all kinds of things, I’m sure the level would not have reached the scale it is now, if a lot of between them had been saved. If some of the main leaders of the criminal elements had received Christ or embraced the gospel, we would certainly not be where we are now. Because we did not continue the kind of city-wide crusades that Idahosa and the late German evangelist, Reinhard Bonnke used to do, Satan found these people ready tools to attack. ‘church. I strongly believe that if we had invested in reaching these people, the scale would not have been what we are facing today.
As a key Christian leader, what do you think of what is happening in our political sphere today?
(Takes a deep breath) Just before you arrived, I had told another newspaper that the politics of this country are very unique, very different from the politics of other nations, including those in Africa. Nigeria’s policy is very different from that of Ghana, our neighbor in West Africa. Politics in Nigeria is very unpredictable as there are people whether in power or in the halls of power who have given themselves to Satan. Once someone has given himself to Satan, the person can do anything. Let me tell you this from scripture. The Bible says, “And Satan entered Judas,” which means before Satan entered Judas, he was good. He was one of the 12 disciples of Christ until Satan took control of his mind. So Satan got into some of our politicians and there’s nothing you can do. They will do what the devil has planted in their mind to do. Many politicians have eaten from the pot of the devil and sold their souls to Satan and there is nothing you can do. Only God can save us in this country, only God can stop them. I am not afraid.
Are you saying there is hope for a reversal of what is happening in our country?
I believe God is capable of anything. God can reverse the evil purpose of these people. God can turn the hardest heart into a saint.
Now that the ministry is 20 years old, what do you expect in the next 20 years?
With God keeping me alive for the next 20 years, I want to be a coach and be busy coaching people on the ministry of the gospel. I have held management positions at different levels for 50 years since 1972, when I was appointed national president of the CGM ushers. In 1976 I was ordained a deacon and in 1979 I was called to become a full-time pastor. By the grace of God, in the next 20 years, I believe I will be available and just sit in the coaching corner and lead people. I just want to motivate young people to continue the work of the gospel and to extend the kingdom of Christ on earth. I want to be a successful person who stands behind successful people in the field. I can’t wait to finish strong after all these years. By then, God would have given me a resounding testimony.