Our vision is to plant the African Church all over the continent — Okunola
Rt. Revd. Jeremiah Tunji Okunlola, popularly called Baba Ire Owuro, coined from his early morning prayers on Radio OGBC II 90.5 FM Abeokuta, Ogun State, is the newly consecrated Bishop of The African Church and Director of Mission, who will be enthroned today at The African Church Solution Camp, Sam Ewang Estate, Abeokuta. He spoke with GBENGA AKINFENWA on his vision for the church, state of the nation and on how to elect a new president come 2019.
You will be enthroned today as the Bishop of The African Church. How did you get here?
It was by the grace of God. The Bible says no man can get anything, except the Lord gives him. So, I believe getting here is by His grace.
This is my 21st year in service in The African Church, and God has been helping me. There are some ministers that are older than me or who are my seniors in the ministry.
So, becoming a Bishop today is a challenge for more responsibilities.
Could we have insight into your background? How did you receive your calling?
I was born in Ife-Odan in Ejigbo Local Council Area of Osun State over 40 years ago, to a very poor family. And when I say very poor, l mean it. We were poor to the extent that we hardly took three-square meals a day.
And when we did, there was no meat or anything to supplement it. My father came to Lagos in search of greener pastures, but returned with nothing. He later resorted to farming.
By God’s grace, I attended African Church Primary School, Ife-Odan; and Anglican Church Grammar School, Ife-Odan for my primary and secondary education, respectively.
By God’s grace, I was very brilliant, but because of financial incapacitation, my parents couldn’t pay for tertiary education. All they could afford was College of education.
I gained admission into Kwara State College of Education, Oro, where I obtained National Certificate of Education (NCE). From there, I proceeded to University of Ado-Ekiti (UNAD) for Bachelor of Education (B Ed).
I received God’s calling during my NCE programme around 1993. Then, I was the Prayer Secretary for Fellowship of Christian Students.
In that position, I assumed many responsibilities as a spiritual father. My closeness to God then was deepened to the point of receiving higher calling.
So, when God called me, He showed me some revelations that proved to me that I would work in my father’s church, which is The African Church. I was born, baptised and confirmed in The African Church.
There were many Pentecostal churches then at Oro and Ilorin that were trying to lure me to their ministries because they could see some gift in me, even while in school. But God insisted He wanted to use me in The African Church.
Later in 1997, when God confirmed that I would go to The African Church, I came into the ministry through The African Church College of Theology. God told me that He called me as a prophet for the church and I asked Him how that would be possible.
The office of the prophet is not recognised, mentioned or known in the church and God said He would do something.
After my graduation, I was posted to Gospel African Church, Ejigbo, Osun State on August 27, 1998. I was to resuscitate the church there, as the one established back then was no more.
And by God’s grace after seven years, I was transferred to Ebenezer African Church, Igboole-lgboora in February 2004. The church also had a little challenge, but by God’s grace, we were able to solve it.
In 2007, another calling came, that there was need for a Camp Chaplain at The African Church Solution Camp, Abeokuta and that was how I was posted here on February 1, 2007.
On getting here, I didn’t meet a single soul. But currently through God’s power, within 11 years, we have a population of between 3,000 and 5,000 congregations for a single service.
What is your vision for the church?
I had a vision since the first day I entered The African Church, which God gave me. He assured me that He would use me if I would humble myself, obey Him and discipline myself, that He would make my name known all over, which He has done.
The appellate, Baba Ori Oke that people called me was given to me by former Primate of the Church, His Grace, Most Revd. Dr. Onanuga, the day he introduced me at the Solution night of February 2007. He said: “We now have one Baba Ori Oke here.
Don’t go anywhere anymore; this is our own Ori-Oke (Prayer ground).” Since then, people have been calling me that name, though it has been replaced by Baba Ire Owuro, due to my early morning blessing on Ogun State Broadcasting Corporation (OGBC) 90.5 FM, Abeokuta every morning by 5:55am in the last five years.
My vision is that, even if we don’t have The African Church in other continents, at least as our name implies, we must take every country in Africa. Once I had that vision, I don’t know how God did it that the Church made me Director of Mission.
Definitely, the office has really proved that God has already given me a vision for the church to be known all over Nigeria, as well as ensure that The African church represents a church world in Africa.
Of course, some people still don’t know The African Church, even in Lagos State. So, we need to let people know that there is a church called The African Church.
By God’s grace, the vision has started and authority has been given, which is my being ordained Bishop of Mission for The African Church. With God’s help and that of vision helpers, I know we are going to get there.
How did you come about the situation, where Solution Camp is open to people of different denominations?
When God gives you a vision, He will back it up. God told me that what He gave me is not a ‘four walls’ church ministry, that is, four corner of church ministry.
He gave me a Para-doctrinal ministry, and told me to focus on Apostolic doctrine, which is also a Biblical doctrine. No minister can go far with denominational doctrine, which will mortgage and limit you only to the people that believe in your denomination.
And if you notice today, people are getting tired and youths are leaving our church, because they are mortgaged to traditions and customs.
As the world changes, we must also change, but the changes we effect must be in line with the Bible, which is universal.
Its content applies to all people and all ages. When you base your ministry on apostolic principles and practices, Biblical doctrine will come naturally.
Let the people know that it is only the gospel of Christ that is needed.
Secondly, God gave me a prayer and prophetic ministry. When He did, I asked Him if it would be possible in The African Church and He responded that He would make it possible. And He has done so.
I have been in church doctrine for over 10 years before I was transferred here. When I got here, I wept. While weeping, God appeared to me and said, ‘you are not wise.
I brought you to a place where the vision I gave you will come to pass and you are weeping, instead of you to celebrate.’ Then I took up the courage and started with two people, including my wife, making three.
By the time we started jingling the bell, somebody passing along the road came in.
He said he heard the bell and has come to pray, and that was how we started with three people. Today, we have over 3,000 members within 10 years.
What is the camp’s modus operandi?
By His Grace, we hold congresses, conventions and programmes on capacity building for youths, in form of workshops and seminars. We hold programmes here on daily basis, starting with women programme, men programme, programme on fruits of the womb and others that can benefit whoever comes around.
There is no doubt The African Church and other orthodox churches are fast losing youths to Pentecostal churches. What is responsible for this?
Tradition is one of the causes. Wherever the Bible does not supersede church traditions, there is no way youths would not leave.
In those days, there were some practices that were not really Biblical in our church, which actually sent our youths away. Another factor was the fact that the youths were not allowed to participate in church administration, and the Bible tells me that the glory of the youth is their strength.
If youths are willing to do something, and you don’t allow them to do so, they will go where they can participate. Youths were not allowed to participate in the church and any time they talked, they were told to keep quiet.
Fortunately today, changes have come. Among the Bishops, I think I am the youngest and I will be the voice and model for youths.
Once our youths are allowed to participate, they will stay. And through God’s grace, those that left are gradually returning. With the present youth organs in the church, that is The African Church Evangelical Fellowship (T.A.C.E.F) and African Church Youth Association (A.C.Y.A), we believe the church has hope.
What is your view on the present state of the nation?
The current state of the country is unfortunate. Those that have been around for the past 40 years, and can compare what the nation was then with what it is now, would know that Nigeria is in serious trouble.
The state of the nation is not palatable at all. It is a pity that we have not got it right as a country in terms of leadership. But I know that one day; we will get it right in that area.
I can say categorically that we have hope. We have hope in the Lord. Very soon, Nigeria will overcome this crisis.
As 2019 draws nearer, what should be the roles of men of God, in ensuring crisis-free polls?
Our duty as men of God is to sensitise Nigerians. This is very important and it needs to be carried out in three areas.
Firstly, we need to sensitise people by encouraging them to get their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs). That is our power to either vote people in or vote them out.
Secondly, we need to encourage them not to sell their conscience. In other words, they should reject monetary inducement and they should endeavour to have the fear of God.
Thirdly, our duty is to continue praying, interceding for this country because prayer is powerful. It is the only spiritual weapon that is capable of changing anything.
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