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Evangelists without churches: How they survive without nominal members

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Uma Ukpai


Usually, when men of God believe they have been called, the next ‘natural’ step for some is to establish a church or ministry to start ministering to souls. Getting called and establishing a church seem to be synonymous with this category. And though many tend to start with a few members, they soon grow big, with numerous branches everywhere aimed at reaching as many souls as possible. While this trend seems to be the norm, there is another category of men of God, who feel there is no correlation between getting called and establishing a church. These are the evangelists without churches. Their brand of ministry is unique, as they don’t have any designated place of worship they call their own, though they still achieve their purpose with other churches.

But what is the difference between them and other men of God that are founders of churches? What is their mission all about? How do they survive with this method of evangelisation?

Some evangelists without churches shared their views on the issue with The Guardian. A popular evangelist and founder/president of Uma Ukpai Evangelist Association Inc., Rev. Dr. Uma Ukpai, explained to The Guardian that evangelists are those who do not pastor a particular church, though they are part of every church.

He said: “I was called to be a major evangelist and that role takes me from city to city. I can mobilise an entire city and provide them daily with about 200 buses to come attend programmes. I belong to a church where I am accountable to.”

Having been a member of Assemblies of God for over five decades, he explained that the calling of an evangelist comes in grace and classes. “I have been a member of the Assemblies of God since 1958, and I am not a General Overseer. A General Overseer is one that supervises many churches, and he is more of an administrator,” he said. “It is not a biblical calling. And though God also calls an Evangelist, but the calling is in grace and classes. Every evangelist must have a link with a particular church, as nobody is allowed to go without a church. You must give account of your life to a church; nobody goes about without being accountable to somebody. Every believer, who calls himself an apostle, a prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher, must belong to a church, where he/she worships, and that church usually calls him to order and asks for an account.

“Every man called of God is an Evangelist and a teacher. He is also a pastor, prophet, as well as an Apostle. Jesus Christ was an Evangelist. He moved from city to city, as He had no church of His own. He was also a teacher of the Word, as well as being a Pastor. So, how do evangelists survive?

Rev. Ukpai said: “If you are not called as an evangelist, you will not last. God does not bless what He does not approve. If God does not approve what you are doing, He will not give you money to eat, you will not find favour in the sight of men, and nobody will care about your welfare. But if you are doing what God wants you to do, He will send people you don’t even know to take care of you, because you are important to Him.

“Where I am now, people buy my shoes and these are people I don’t even know. And even though I don’t tell anyone to buy shoes for me, but sometimes someone may bring seven or 20 pairs of shoes for me, while others may bring 36 dresses. These happenings are not ordinary and cannot be imitated. Imitation leads to limitation. When you try to copy others, you are going to end up having all kinds of problems. God does not bless what He does not approve. It may look disorganised, but in God’s scheme of things, everything is in order. If you are not called to be an evangelist, you will not carry healing miracle anointing, which is what attracts the crowd to come. When they hear your name or that you are coming, everybody will be there, knowing they will go home with unexpected miracles.

“When God calls a man and gives him a vision, He will also give the provision. For instance, I have never asked anybody for money, neither have I ever written to anybody to give me money to buy a house or a car, no. Once I have need, God provides the money. I have been in the Evangelistic ministry for 52 years. I was called in 1958 to be a major Evangelist.”

ON his part, Evangelist Afolabi Emmanuel Idowu, Founder of Christ The Redeemer Ministry, said survival is by the grace of God. “One thing I know is that, if you are sure of your calling and you are on the right track, you will succeed. According to Philippians Chapter 4 verse 19, “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus,” according to the works of my hand. When I follow His footstep and act accordingly, He will meet my needs, but anytime I deviate from His will, then I am on my own.

“People that know much about my calling and those who really know that I am doing it are the people investing into my life. Several clergymen have contributed to my ministry, and times without number, they have met my needs. If you make money the priority, you will fail, knowing that the people you are going to meet don’t know anything, while others know, but they have failed to yield.”

Evangelist Idowu explained that money should not even be introduced to the people being preached to. “If you do so, you have forfeited the primary purpose of your ministry. But God in His infinite mercy always raise people outside those being ministered to.”

He advised men of God and preachers of the gospel to avoid depending on the people they are trying to win their souls.He said: “That is the reason many Evangelists could not go far, as they were blindfolded by the monetary aspect, and sometimes when people see a multitude, they get carried away. And though they will make it, but it won’t last.

On the challenges, he said: “There are so many challenges in this ministry, but the first thing is to be sure of one’s calling. While in the wilderness, John the Baptist was doing fine. Jesus went there for confirmation and saw that the man was doing fine, and all he needed, he got.

“There are times you would have set up your instruments and gadgets for ministration and they might just not function, but God, through His grace and mercy would raise help where it is least expected. At times, one would have been rest assured that certain venue was available for ministration, but on getting there, the people in charge would change their mind after it had already been made known to the public that, that is the venue.

“At times when you go to a strange land to win souls, you may not be familiar with their foods, their habits and way of life, which might have unpleasant effect on one’s health, especially members of the evangelism team. But you have to force yourself to adapt because if you don’t, you cannot achieve anything there. You have to take it on account of the fact that God sent you there and when you obey, He is ready to take care of those things.”

PROPHETESS Laeh Olayemi has made a covenant never to establish a church, no matter the situation. “As an Evangelist/Revivalist, I go to churches, preach the gospel of Christ and win souls for the kingdom,” she explained. “In all this, what I get after ministrations in most of the churches is transportation fare, which ranges from N1, 500 and N2, 000. But I am most grateful to God, Who gave me the strength and power to embark on this ministry. So, the emphasis should not be on what you are going to get after ministering. For instance, I have made a covenant to continue to evangelise without looking back. And though people have been telling me that God called me to establish a church, but I cannot plant any church. My family and I are just surviving by the grace of God. It’s only God that has been winning my wars and solving my challenges.

“I have encountered so many challenges in this ministry, especially when I am ministering in churches. I am often confronted with envy from host members, but despite all this, I have not looked back because I am standing on God’s mandate and I know that one day, the Lord who called me will raise up His glory more than my expectation in life.”

FOR over 15 years, Evangelist Julianah Philip has propagated the gospel as an evangelist without a church. And all these years, she has been thanking the Lord for giving her the grace to continue.

Philip, who believes that the advantages in her line of work outweigh the disadvantages, said: “those who are called need not to be afraid. For instance, when I sometimes go to churches to minister without money on me, God has miraculously used people to assist me. I have been in this ministry for over 15 years, touring places like Abuja, Lagos and other cities, and God has always ministered to me to continue with the ministry. I have never looked back or contemplated leaving the ministry, because God called me to do it. He called me and wherever He sends me, I don’t hesitate to go there.”

And though Evangelist Philip said she has no plans to establish a church presently, but if God mandates her to do so, she won’t hesitate. “Right now, He hasn’t said I should establish a church,” she said.


In this article:
Uma Ukpai
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