The Guardian
Email YouTube Facebook Instagram Twitter WhatsApp

Awojide: God’s intervention is best solution to killings, nation’s woes

Related

• The Church Has A Responsibility To Pray, Advise Government
• Any Religion That Promotes Killing Is Not A Religion

The grand finale of the Centenary Celebrations of The Apostolic Church (TAC) Nigeria holds today, at the National Headquarters of the church, in Olorunda, Ketu, Lagos State, and will feature the ordination of 180 apostles. In this interview with CHRIS IREKAMBA, the vice president of the church/ Lagos, Western and Northern Areas (LAWNA) Territorial Chairman, Pastor (Dr.) Emmanuel Segun Awojide, spoke on the church’s first centenary, how it has averted leadership crisis, the role of the church in nation building, tithing, as well as, the continued killings in the country.
 
How has the journey been for the Apostolic Church Nigeria (TAC) in the last 100 years?
In the life of a nation, as well as in the life of a church 100 years is not a joke. What is now The Apostolic Church first started as the Diamond Society, later the Precious Stones and thereafter Faith Tabernacle. The Apostolic Church was birthed as a result of the Welsh Revival of 1904 in Wales, one of the countries that make up Great Britain. Here in Nigeria, there was a group of men who believed in divine healing and the efficacy of prayers; they believed in holiness, as well as, in righteousness and miracles. Though at that time they were not christened The Apostolic Church, but they had this sacred doctrine of the church, which they held tenaciously. Consequently, as they practised their faith, revival came into the country around 1930.

As a result of that revival, God began to use them to heal and to deliver people with diverse problems, and there was a sort of jealousy from orthodox churches and herbalists/non-believers, who felt that they were losing their members, their trade, fame and popularity to this group, and of course you know that at that time idolatry was in vogue in the country. So, this revival opened people’s eyes to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Also at that time, government authorities confronted them, and that made the group to look for an organisation within the British system that believed in the same doctrine with it. It was through tracts and other correspondences that they were able to get a church in Britain that had similar beliefs and consequently, those people were invited to Nigeria, and in 1931 there was a formal affiliation with that church.

But before they came here, a church already existed, so they didn’t convert nor preach the gospel to our people. These people were originally Christians believing in similar things, so all they did was to team up with them. It was in 1981 when we celebrated 50 years of that affiliation but incidentally, last year, we wrote the history of the church, and traced its history to 1918. So, The Apostolic Church actually had its root from that 1918 and from 1918 to 2018 makes the church 100 years.  

It’s has been such an eventful century for the church. In 2009, the membership strength stood at about five million. How has the last nearly 10 years been?
The church has actually witnessed more progress in the last 10 years. For example, it has created more areas, more districts even as more churches are still emerging. The church is still increasing in membership even though people also move to other denominations and vice versa. Within the country also, we have spread to 27 states that is within the Lagos, Western and Northern Areas (LAWNA) Territory. We still have the Cross River Territory, which is made up of Calabar and its environs. There is also Igbo Field; Maritime Field, as well as, Akwa Ibom Field, among others. The totality of that makes The Apostolic Church Nigeria. 

Of the 10 territories and fields in the church, Akwa Ibom State alone has five fields such as Uyo, Ikot Ekpene, Eket, Ikot Abasi and Oron fields. Why do you have such concentration of territories and fields when there are a lot of members in other parts of the country?
Each of the territories has the power to expand. For instance, in LAWNA Territory, we have about 95 areas. The Anglican Church calls such groupings dioceses, but in The Apostolic Church, we designate them as areas, and within these areas, we have districts. Within the districts we have assemblies; that is the local church. When they become too large they can still split. Originally, LAWNA Territory that now has 95 areas had only four areas, namely, Lagos, Ilesa, Zaria, and Kabba. So, as we grow we split further.

From the pioneer national president of the church, Pastor Eyo E. Okon, to his successor, Pastor Gabriel Olutola, and now the incumbent, Pastor S. E. Igwe, the church has been able to avert leadership crisis for this long. What has been responsible for this?
As a church we believe in the voice of the Lord in the appointment of leaders; we don’t canvass for leaders; we don’t go into voting; we don’t go into politics, and we don’t appoint leaders unless directed by God. So, we allow God to lead and when you do that, God appoints leaders of His own mind, and so nobody jostles for leadership position. For instance, the late Pastor E. E. Okon after emerging as the leader remained in that capacity until he passed into glory. It was after his demise that another leader emerged through a prophetic message.

How did the prophesy come to the church, and through who?
We believe in the ascension gift, that is, God giving gifts to apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. It is through that instrument that leaders emerge in The Apostolic Church. Prophets are those who hear from God and deliver the message to the church. We believe it. When Moses died, God appointed Joshua and he was not voted for by anybody, so here, there was no campaign to that effect. God will look into the heart of his people and say, ‘this is your next leader.’

In The Apostolic Church, who is qualified to hear from God, and why are such communications not questioned? 
God speaks to man; He speaks to individuals, and through the baptism of the Holy Spirit you can see the mind of God, as well as, the future. So, there are ordained men of God in the church, who are gifted as prophets, and theirs is to seek the mind of God, and through them, God directs the church on what to do. Each year, we gather on this church ground to pray and to listen to the voice of God and He directs us; He reveals to us what will happen in the nation, as well as, in the church. He also tells us what to expect within the year and in the future. That is why we are a Pentecostal church; we believe that God speaks to the church, and the Bible is full of such prophesies. God spoke to Moses; He did not speak to the people directly, but through his prophets. He directs the affairs of the church through prophetic messages.
 
We have a council of apostles and prophets in the church and God speaks through them. We have faith in them and believe whatever they tell us concerning the church and the Bible is also there to guide us. Sometimes the person that the prophesy came through may be from a different ethnic group, while the beneficiary of the message would be from a completely different ethnic background as well. You know that is definitely beyond sentiments, bias and prejudices. Currently, the National President of the church, Pastor S. E. Igwe, is an Igbo man, and he emerged through this process and you cannot be an apostle without the spirit of discernment. In such situations we declare prayer and fasting and God has been helping us. And so, this is one of the ways we have averted crisis in the leadership of the church.

The Apostolic Church has joined others in opening up schools including a university. What informed this initiative and how affordable is it?
We thank God for providing the schools, which we also see as an avenue to propagate the gospel. The Bible says, ‘My people perish for lack of knowledge…’ So, education is part of the gospel. We have primary schools as well as secondary and one university in Ogwa, Edo State. The first teacher training college by the Apostolic Church was built in 1946 at IIesa. Our secondary school in Irishigun, Ketu was inaugurated on January 24, 1964 and that has produced so many graduates. And today, one of the old students of the school is a vice chancellor in one of the universities in Abeokuta, Ogun State and that of our institution at Ilesa has produced so many vice chancellors.
  
Now the school fees of that university happens to be the lowest as we know for private universities. It ranges from N340, 000 to N410, 000 per annum. The amount is inclusive of accommodation and others. There is also a waiver of N100, 000 for members. We believe that is affordable compared to what other private universities in the country are charging.  

The increasing number of churches in the country has not been able to reduce the volume of evil taking place in the country. Are churches really turning people away from their old ways?
The Bible says not everyone is a believer because there are still wicked men and women who are adamant and not ready to yield to the gospel. If all have yielded to the gospel then, there will be no need preaching the gospel. Evil and wickedness will increase in the world, and that is what the Bible tells us.For instance, in the Western Region, free primary education was introduced in 1955 and today we still have quite a number of people who chose not to go to school despite the free primary education. The light of the gospel has come into the world, but some men still love to remain in darkness more than venturing into light because their works are evil.

Many church leaders are mismanaging church funds. Why is there so much corruption in churches?
It’s not everybody that has given his or her life to God. Again, the devil is still at work and this devil is always active. Anyone who does not yield himself/herself to God will always be used by the devil. It is a known fact that the higher you go, the higher the temptations and trials that you are bound to face. Church leaders should not tamper with church funds, but unfortunately, there are some that do so because the devil is still active. And among the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ, unfortunately you still find a Judas Iscariot among them. If we can find one Judas out of 12, you can imagine how many Judases that would be present in a multitude. If Jesus had to pray all through the night and yet got a Judas among the 12, then we can still expect that many Judases are still out there in the world.

The Apostolic Church has not come out to criticise the Federal Government over its failure to curb incessant killings going on in the country. Why is it so?
Our responsibility is to pray for the government of the day. According to Romans 13, ‘… For there is no power but of God. The rulers that be are ordained of God,’ and we should subject ourselves to the leaders. Not only that, we can only judge those within; we can’t judge those who are not with us. When you want to discipline, you discipline your own children, the children that do not belong to you and are not under your control, what do you do with them? When you talk about criticisms, it is judgment.

It is simply defined as judgment, a critical assessment of a thing, a place, issues and a person. So, it is not the duty of the church to criticise, but when given the opportunity, we advice the government. The church serves in advisory capacity for the government and the society; it is meant to be the salt of the society and as such you don’t assume the position of the soup. The church is meant to be the light of the society; as light, you don’t function when there is no presence of darkness.

So must the church wait until it receives permission before it can voice out? A short while ago, the Catholic Church protested nationwide against the wanton killing of innocent Nigerians, and CAN did a similar thing too. The Apostolic Church has not said anything in this regard. Why?
Has the criticism solved the problem? The criticism has not solved the problem. Our belief is that God can solve any problem because the heart of the king is in His hands. Do you know that we pray throughout the year for the nation? They are also churches that are praying round the clock for the good of this nation, and as they are stopping another one is taking over from there.

There was a call that government should license citizens to carry arms in order to protect themselves from herdsmen? Do you support this call?
Is it legal for everybody to carry arm? In America where they carry arms what is the consequence? Is the place at peace? In places where they carry such arms has that solved their problems? Has the intervention of the military solved the problem of Boko Haram? There are principles to follow. You don’t carry arms and still be guiltless. If an approach fails to give the desired results, why do you bother yourself? We are talking about a better intervention, which is divine. If you hold a sword and I hold another sword that doesn’t solve our problem and he who kills by the sword shall die by the sword. Any religion that promotes killing is not a religion.

Most fulltime pastors are not well remunerated in churches, does this not create an atmosphere where they become needy and are tempted to go astray?
Every called-out person knows that he has come to make sacrifice and to be well paid is relative because money does not satisfy everybody. The law of economics says ‘nobody actually has all that he wants.’ In that case, you have to manage what you have because all human needs cannot be satisfied, but God can satisfy every man. And the Bible says, ‘Godliness with contentment is a great gain.’ So, people who want to be thieves will still be thieves. In our country today, it is the rich people who are the greatest thieves and robbers. So, stealing is a habit for some people, and anybody can steal once he/she is not contented. Once God does not satisfy you, no matter what happens, you will never be satisfied. So, people do not steal because they are not well paid. In The Apostolic Church, ministers are paid equally, no matter your location.
  
Initially, ministers know that they are not going to be ‘well paid’ and they knew this before they joined the ministry. They are the ones that said they were called by God, and if God calls you, He will provide for you, and you know we all started from somewhere. Even Judas started with Jesus as the treasurer, and was stealing from the purse. Even if a minister is paid well, if he wants to steal, he will still steal.
 
Look at the Nigerian Police, for instance, there was a time they cried out that the government should increase their pay. After their salary was increased did they stop extorting money from the people? No. Satisfaction is a state of mind and not how much you earn. Church funds come through tithe, and ministers are paid out of this tithe. If the tithe is not forthcoming from the congregation, how well can you want to pay the ministers, who are paid through tithe when church members are not receiving their salaries? How do they pay their tithes?

Some schools of thought are of the view that tithes are not judiciously used in many churches to help poor members hence the clamour to stop the payment of tithes. What is your position on this?
Payment of tithe is biblical and it is in the word of God. It says ‘bring ye all the tithe into my house that there may be food in my house.’ That is God’s word. However, abuse of tithe may be happening in private churches with private founders, who control the tithe absolutely. But here, tithe is managed by the ministers, so, it is not possible for a person to live above his means. Even when what we are paid is not comparable to what one can earn outside, we depend on provisions from God. So, abuse in the use of tithe is not possible within a well-organised church.
 
For example, tithe in TAC moves from the assembly to the district, from there to the area, and then to the central purse. It is from this central purse that every minister is paid. So, anybody who abuses tithe the penalty is there, and for non-payers, the penalty is also there, just as there is also a penalty for those who don’t pay faithfully. And for those who rob God the penalty is there; for those who misuse tithe, the penalty is there. So, anybody who knows the penalty will always abstain from the abuse of tithe. As a church, we are encouraging Christians to pay their tithes because it is God’s command. As a church, do you know that we have to pay bills to local and state governments in addition to paying salaries to ministers?   

Some churches have very rich leaders and pastors, while their members wallow in poverty. Must churches only minister to the spiritual needs of their members?
Is the spiritual aspect not part of the wellbeing of members of the church? The Apostolic Church is a Bible-centred church, and will not do anything that is out of the scriptures. If we find such a pastor he will be disciplined. As a church, we are very much interested in the welfare of our members. For the youths among them, we organise career talks for them and we consider them first if we have ventures. This is part of looking into their wellbeing. Besides that, we have a charitable purse for people who are in dire need like the widows and orphans; we make provision for them as well as teach them how they can fend for themselves.

The Apostolic Church has joined others in opening up schools including a university. What informed this initiative and how affordable is it?
We thank God for providing the schools, which we also see as an avenue to propagate the gospel. The Bible says, ‘My people perish for lack of knowledge…’ So, education is part of the gospel. We have primary schools as well as secondary and one university in Ogwa, Edo State. The first teacher training college by the Apostolic Church was built in 1946 at IIesa. Our secondary school in Irishigun, Ketu was inaugurated on January 24, 1964 and that has produced so many graduates. And today, one of the old students of the school is a vice chancellor in one of the universities in Abeokuta, Ogun State and that of our institution at Ilesa has produced so many vice chancellors.
  
Now the school fees of that university happens to be the lowest as we know for private universities. It ranges from N340, 000 to N410, 000 per annum. The amount is inclusive of accommodation and others. There is also a waiver of N100, 000 for members. We believe that is affordable compared to what other private universities in the country are charging.  

What is your message to Nigerians?
We need God before the multi-various problems we are faced within the country can be solved. God is the only solution and with Him all things are possible. So we should raise the banner of the gospel in the country and with the celebration of this 100 years existence of the Apostolic Church we want Nigerians to appreciate the goodness of God. They should cleave unto God and look unto Jesus the only Saviour Who is able to save us from the predicaments and those oppositions in the country.

 
 


In this article:
Emmanuel Segun Awojide
Receive News Alerts on Whatsapp: +2348136370421

No comments yet