Why some men of God/ministries don’t plant churches
Ministers of faith and believers have the mandate to preach the gospel and win souls for the Lord Jesus Christ. And as more converted souls are brought into the Christian fold, the need may arise for more worship centres to take care of the spiritual needs of the faithful. This apparently explains the motive behind the planting of churches and establishment of more branches. There are some mega-churches in Nigeria with branches in practically every nook and cranny of the world. However, there are some men of God that have been in the business for decades, but who have chosen to maintain just one single worship centre. What informs the decision to uphold one central place of worship? What are the advantages and disadvantages of having one central worship centre? CHRIS IREKAMBA reports.
Bishop (Prof.) Iroelekanya Cyriacus Uwanaka is General Overseer of the Pentecostal Restoration Church in Mafoluku, Oshodi, Lagos. His church has been in existence for 24 years, while the Bible College will be 20 next year. He told The Guardian that when dealing with God, one should be very careful, especially those who preach holiness.
He said: “I don’t have branches anywhere, though some of my pastors that have established their own churches decided to bear the name of this church. One is in Ikeja, while the other is in Agege, all in Lagos State. However, I don’t consider those branches mine, because I don’t go there to supervise or know what they are doing. The word of Jesus Christ did not say pastors or men of God should plant churches. Rather, you can make disciples without having a church. Those days, they hadn’t any church, but they were moving from house to house, breaking bread and having things in common. Everybody was a disciple and worker, as there were no church members or church leaders. The only thing was that they needed a place to have fellowship together. In those days, disciples could go to Okigwe, for instance, and make disciples, and would hand over the converts to the church there and then proceed to Umuahia and do the same thing there.
“Though God called some and named them pastors, such people are like leaders and teachers, who have to balance the doctrine of the Bible. Then there are apostles who go about planting churches. We also have prophets that tell people the mind of God at all times. These are called and their duties are to plant churches, unlike evangelists who are like salesmen and go-getters, they could be called itinerary evangelists, just like what Rev. Dr. Uma Ukpai is doing. Evangelists organise revivals, and hold open-air meetings/crusades. But an apostle keeps planting churches all over the place. He plants a church here and pastors it for two to three years and then moves on to another place. However, there is problem here, and not just in Nigeria, but all over the place.”
Bishop Uwanaka lamented that today’s church has been bastardised, as one can hardly find a complete church any more. “A complete church must have all the five-fold ministries working, but what we have today is; if a man is an apostle, everybody in that church becomes apostle,” he explained. “This is not supposed to be so. If he is a prophet, all his members also become prophets. In a real church, you must have evangelists, prophets, apostles, pastors and teachers. But what is happening today is that as soon as an evangelist does one, two, three miracles and people identify with the church, the next thing he does is to run to establish his own church. Same thing for a prophet. If he discovers that God is using him, he starts his own church. That is the problem we are having today. Again, you discover that in some churches, one man does everything — he is the pastor, prophet, evangelist, and so on. So many of these people are not called, they called themselves. I don’t want to be involved in this kind of confusion and it’s like the more you know, the more trouble you tend to have. Evangelists do not stay in one place, as they are soul winners; they rescue people from going to hell.
“For instance, Pastor W.F. Kumuyi didn’t have branches everywhere before. He is a complete teacher. But when you have branches everywhere, how do you make people to understand God’s doctrine? He now uses satellite television to teach other branches of the church. That is why I remain in one place, so I can continue to teach people the basic truth of God’s word. I want to monitor those under me, as well as the ministers that come to the church. That is why I don’t want to have branches.”
The man of God, who hails from Mbano in Imo State, has no branch even in his home state. He explained that some men of God are bent on having many branches because “they probably want to make more money, to become popular or famous. Apostle Paul, who did more work than any other disciples, never saw the work of God as his own establishment. After establishing churches, he only went there to see how they were faring. Where in the Bible did you see a church that was credited to Apostle Paul? In all the places he preached the word of God, he only handed converts over to the existing church. Men of God without branches have genuine reasons for not having branches.
Damilare Ogunkua is a second year student of Landmark University, Kwara State, and a member of the Household of God, Ikeja, Lagos. As a young child of his family, he grew up to embrace the faith of his parents who are also members of the church. His father had been a member of the church for over 20 years. On the advantage of worshipping in a church that has only one central worship place, he said: “I’m here to worship God, and I’m not bothered about whether the church has branches or not. Moreover, my dad has been here for 30 years and I have to conform to what my parents are doing. Having branches or not is not a problem to me, as long as we draw people closer to God, which means we are doing God’s work. It still serves the same purpose.”
In his view, are there disadvantages?
“Yes, there is a disadvantage. For instance, people that live far from the church and who would want to come to church every Sunday could be discouraged, because if they don’t leave home early, they might get to church late or upon getting here, they might just discover that the church service has ended. But then, it all depends on one’s determination. If you live far from the church and you know it takes two hours to get there, and you are passionate about God, you will do everything possible to come here early. So, though it is a disadvantage, but I don’t think it should be a major disadvantage. In my opinion, however, the advantages are more.
“For example, here, we have our pastor with us every time, but those churches with many branches, they don’t have their head pastor every time. And if you look it very well, how many churches can the head visit? He can’t go to all parishes every Sunday. Here, the founder of the church and God’s ordained minister speaks to us directly; we see him and things like that. If you can hear the word of God through the person that God ordained, I think that is a plus for us; it is an advantage and whatever he says is right and God confirms it.”
Morenike Akinlubi has been with Household of God for 19 years. According to her, “worshipping God doesn’t have anything to do with having branches or not. God is everywhere, so this is where God has appointed me to be, and it doesn’t matter whether there are branches or not. To me, there is no advantage or disadvantage, because there is nowhere the Bible talks about having other branches or other assemblies. Every church has its own doctrine and I worship in the Household of God, where our doctrine is different. God is here and this is where my faith is and He answers my prayers. So, what matters is my relationship with God and not with branches.”
But Samuel David, another member of the church, said the only person qualified to answer the question is the man God called and ordained to establish the church. Speaking with The Guardian, a lady who worships with Latter Rain Assembly, Ogba, another church generally believed to have maintained a single place of worship, believes that every true church has a vision and it is the vision that guides every ordained man of God to be different from the rest.
She said: “I believe when you are called by God, He gives you a vision and a mandate to follow. So, it depends on the vision one has received from God, which determines what you are going to do. And if God has given you a vision that says you should have only one central place of worship, you have to follow it. You really have to trust God and be a person that is secure, because if you are not secure, when you see your colleagues setting up branches and you know the way we human beings define prosperity and success, you might begin to feel, ‘oh, my mates are doing this or that and we started at the same time, but look at them, they have 10 branches all around and If I don’t have another branch, they might think I’m a failure.’ So, there is need for one to be sure of what he heard from God and be able to maintain it.”
She agreed that it is not easy for any man of God to remain in one place for years, without branches. She counseled men of God to remain consistent and adhere to what they heard from God.
She said: “I don’t really see any disadvantage or advantages, as it depends on what you’ve received from God. “The great commission I believe is for everybody and if you look at the Latter Rain Assembly, for instance, you find out that though we have this central worship place, we have influence all around the world through our TV programme known as Moment of Truth, which is on different TV stations in Nigeria and outside. People can also view our services by life streaming on the Internet, even if you are in America, in Europe or anywhere in the world and even in remote places. So long you have the Internet, you can access our services. Also, each one of us has been given the assignment to go out and evangelise, whether going to work, school, or even in our neighbourhoods. We understand we are ministers of God and we need to care for lost souls. That is part of what we are trying to achieve this year.
“Anywhere Latterians find themselves, they are evangelists. Latter Rain is a church that encourages people to discover who they are, discover their ministries, their giftings, as well as their calling. They are also equipped so that they can go out there and do things on their own. There are so many ministries that are attached to this ministry; some people you see here have their ministries.
“At Latter Rain, we don’t force people to stay. Part of our vision is to liberate people. As such, people are equipped so they can have influence. We don’t equip them so that they can be following the pastor around. This does not bring joy to our pastor. Rather, our pastor wants to see people who know who they are in Christ and are doing what they are supposed to do. We have pastors who were trained here and after a while, they went and set up their own churches. Indeed, Latter Rain is not the only church that has one central place of worship. God will not call you to set up a church without giving you the blueprint or vision. So, I’m okay worshiping here, and whether it has branches or not, I am satisfied because I’m getting what I want.”
Oghene Onos Emmanuel is another worshipper at the Latter Rain Assembly. He strongly defended one central place of worship, even as he asserted that the idea of having branches is never the concept of Jesus Christ, the Owner of the church.
“What the early apostles did in those days was to plant churches anywhere they preached the gospel,” he explained. “For instance, you don’t hear about the church in Corinth, or the Church in Ephesus having another branch in Galatia and things like that. It wasn’t the original blueprint of our Lord Jesus Christ. Rather, men developed the idea. I remember the message our pastor gave us sometime ago, that he had a vision, where he saw a train and all of a sudden, the coaches of the train started separating from the main body, until it was only one that remained. The interpretation of that vision was like God did not call him to open branches. After that encounter, he handed over the churches he had earlier opened to those pastoring them and then maintained only the headquarters. Today, those churches are independent and without his control. You can see that he is effective.
Other churches with branches are under the control of one General Overseer, they are accountable to the headquarters church, they submit and remit their accounts. Such branches are not self-sufficient or self-dependent. But churches like ours are self-sufficient, independent and are connected and attached to only Jesus Christ through the gifts that God has bestowed upon our pastor. We are often edified by our pastor’s works.
“Some people have deviated from the concept, as they now view success as being based on how many branches they have and things like that. And very often you hear them say, ‘I have so many churches worldwide.’ Many people will be shocked when they get to heaven and realise there’s nothing like that. People just copy companies’ ideas and impose them on the church. I agree that church can spread, but that doesn’t mean there has to be branches everywhere.
“In the days of the apostles, did you see where Paul was referred to as the general overseer of a particular church? Anything like that I cannot be part of. At Latter Rain, there is this phrase we use, which goes: “big enough to service, small enough to know you.” In the Bible, we have what is called church in the house, and if it were that principle they’ve adopted, that would have been fine. Every house you visit, there is a church, where they are there doing God’s work without making noise about it. Church in the house is like a fellowship. We are following the proper Biblical design and standard, which I don’t have any problem with and that is why I’m still a member of this church.
“If you are not in Lagos to attend our programme, there is life stream. You can be in Japan and still fellowship with the church. Technology has made accessing our programmes possible, as you can listen to our pastor’s message online, through Whatsapp, or you download the message and listen to it word for word.
“The advantages are many. First, the pastor is not overburdened with so many activities. Even Moses in the Bible, the father-in-law told him to delegate his responsibilities to wise men with good judgment and free himself from other responsibilities. He raised about 70 other leaders and transferred responsibilities to them. Our pastor used to tell us that you are not called to pastor everybody, and Apostle Paul encouraged other disciples to stay in the area of their calling. Our primary calling is to worship God and then disciple men and women, but many are doing otherwise.”
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