Church will influence governments, change lives if we live above board — Ven. Dokunmu
St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Ishagatedo, Isolo, Lagos attained 100 years last month, and the church has lined up activities to celebrate the centenary anniversary. In this interview with CHRIS IREKAMBA, Vicar of the church, VENERABLE OLUWASEUN B. DOKUNMU, who also doubles as the Archdeacon of Islolo Archdeaconry, spoke on the epoch-making event, impact of the church in the community and award to members.
What are the activities lined up to mark the anniversary?
First, we have a programme that is coming up on Wednesday, February 20 to Friday 22 titled: “God Our Help In Ages Past,” taken from Psalm 90. It is one of the events lined up to celebrate our centenary anniversary. The venue is the open field at St. Paul’s Primary School, Ishagatedo, Isolo. The church’s primary assignment is to evangelise and win souls for Christ. Don’t forget we have a mandate to go into the world and preach the gospel, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The event is to revive the spiritual lives of our members, as well as launch them into fresh blessings, because we’re not just celebrating, but also expecting tangible blessings from Almighty God. The Lord never runs out of physical blessings. It is also to encourage people to bring their burdens, because Jesus said: “Come unto me all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” So, during the programme, people are expected to present their problems to God, burdens and yokes are going to be destroyed.
For Nigerians, the programme is timely because the elections are here, and we have been hearing all manner of prophecies. So, it is a time for us to seek God’s face, pray for the nation and commit the elections into His hand. Our focus as a church is that the elections must be peaceful, free, credible and fair. The church attained 100 years in January 2019.
In the church calendar, we have what is called Saints Day, and Saint Paul’s Day is always in January. But due to the tight schedule of our leader in the Diocese, Rt. Rev. Dr. James Olusola Odedeji, he asked that we move it to February. Ordinarily, the programme was supposed to hold in January and by God’s grace we are starting on Monday, February 18. Indeed, two Sundays ago, we organised a programme tagged: “Jesus Walk” as part of our centenary programme and two sessions of the church (English and Yoruba) came together and we walked round the neighbourhood. We are also organising a three-day revival programme.
Other activities lined up for the anniversary include award night for deserving church members. Some of them are founders of the church that have done well for the church’s growth. We are planning to lay foundation for our centenary building at Okota and our Lord Bishop Rt. Rev. Dr. James Olusola Odedeji will be here to lay the foundation on February 20. The following day, there will be a combined thanksgiving service billed for 9am. Immediately, after the service, we will proceed to Ire-Akari Primary School, Isolo for the reception.
God has been very gracious to us. This church has been like a light in the community. St. Paul’s Anglican Church has really transformed lives. If you remove this church from Ishagatedo, you have nothing again. God has been showering so much blessings on us, and that is why we are saying “God Our Help In Ages Past,” no man should take His glory.
In what ways has the church impacted the community and members?
We have a 500 KVA transformer and we’ve agreed to give the community light from here. Secondly, we are also planning to give them streetlight to illuminate the area. In the course of the anniversary, we are planning to give food and free medical treatment to patients in the area. We’ve paid school fees of our members and non-members, especially the less privileged from primary to tertiary levels. We’ve paid house rent for our members, as well as their hospital bills. Surgical operations have been performed on some of our members and church footed the bills. We also have an empowerment programme for youths, as well as a scholarship scheme. If any of our youths is doing one business or the other, all he/she needs to do is submit a proposal to the church committee saddled with such responsibility, and it will look into it and certain amount given to the person.
We also have a food bank, which distributes to people in need, and they come from all over the place. We do this to non-members. Sometime last year, a church was dedicated in Damolapo, Ikorodu and was built by Youngmen Christian Association, a society in this church and handed over to some bishops. We’ve bought landed properties and given to so many churches in Isolo Archdeaconry. Some of the beneficiaries are not under our Archdeaconry. There is a missionary primary school here that is still under Lagos State government, but from time to time we help the school. For example, last year, we bought drugs for them and every year, we give them money to maintain one or two things in the school. We have a cordial relationship with the headmistress and the teachers there.
Do you think that the church has influenced those in government and politicians positively?
The way to influence the people is to preach God’s Word. What you don’t know can kill you. The heart of an unsaved man is desperately wicked. If a man is saved, his problem is minimal, but if a man is not saved, he has so many problems. It is God’s Word that changes men’s hearts. Clergymen must continue to preach the word of God to change people’s heart. Church leaders must show good example. We must live above board. We should watch what we take from politicians. They will come to church to worship and to bless the work of God, but we should be careful of what we eat or take from them. When you preach the gospel, people may accept it, some may not accept it. It’s affecting our leaders in government in the same manner. If we have leaders that are willing to obey the gospel truth, you’ll begin to see positive changes in our country.
For instance, in those days, kings went to the prophets, but in our own generation, prophets go to Aso Rock, and that is one of the things causing problem.
The church has been accused of being a bad influence on the society…
When people don’t see church as the church of the living God, all manner of things happen there. Some people see the church as their personal property. We have cabals in the church, which behave as if without them nothing can be done. Some people are in the church purposely for what they will get, and not to serve God. I can tell you from experience that many come to church because of contracts. When you don’t see the church as belonging to God, all manner of things, including tribalism are the order of the day because what you focus on is what you get, but there is a way to behave in the church according to scriptures. There is a way Christians should behave.
How can the church deal with the cabals?
The starting point is trusting God to provide your needs. We have good people that give their resources to the church without thinking of what they will get in return. But there are also people, who, when they give their resources, want to control church leaders and enslave them. They want to hijack authority of the church, and once you fail to do their bidding there is problem. They will come together to fight church leaders. When God calls a man, He equips him. If God asks you to go for any assignment for Him, He makes provision for your needs. So, church leaders should depend on God for their needs. God may decide to bring an outsider to do His job, as there’s nothing He cannot do. Christians should know that all they have belong to God and it’s a privilege to give. Nobody should hijack church authority from the leaders, just because they are donating to church.
How did you become the Archdeacon/Vicar of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Ishagatedo?
It is by grace. I am not the most qualified person in the Diocese of Lagos West. It is the discretion of our Lord Bishop, Rt. Rev. Dr. James Olusola Odedeji to transfer priests to any church. The Lord Bishop asked me to come here and that’s how I became the Archdeacon/Vicar of this place. When I was coming to this place I asked God what He would want me to do for Him, and He gave me three assignments: one is aggressive evangelism; two, family restoration; and three, youth empowerment, which is divided into two: spiritual and physical. So, I am pursuing that in line with the vision of the Diocesan Bishop, because I don’t have a personal vision. My own vision may not align with his vision. Ten years may not be feasible, but the little time I’m going to be here, we must produce God’s generals.