Leadership means service and value you add to people — Adeyemi
The Senior Pastor of Daystar Christian Centre, Dr. Sam Adeyemi spoke to CHRIS IREKAMBA on key issues about the church and leadership challenges in the polity.
• Our Church Policy Is That No Member Goes To Bed Hungry
Take us to the beginning. Did you start Daystar Christian Centre because you wanted something doing or you heard the call of God to do so?
The call of God came in stages. The first significant one happened when I was about eight years old. We lived in Mokwa, Niger State, and there was no television then, only the radio. So, in the evening, my dad would switch on his radio, while the family chatted. Usually, he would tune to a channel broadcast by Sudan Interior Mission from Monrovia, Liberia. They would say, ‘this is radio ELWA broadcasting from Monrovia, Liberia.’ There was a Yoruba song that was ministered by a choir, and the chorus went thus: “I will spread the gospel, I will spread the gospel, the death of Jesus on the cross I will spread it all over the world.”
The only explanation for what happened to me was that the Holy Spirit tears rolled down my cheeks, when I heard the song. As a young boy, I was so moved. The next day, while we were in a bus going to school and I saw trees, the song came back, just like the tears. I have never forgotten the song. At every point in time, the song would return to me, and that was the first experience.
Later, my parents told me that they named me Samuel because they lost their first son a few hours after he was born. And when they named me Samuel, their pastor, who was a Canadian, asked them, ‘do you understand the meaning of this name? When God is ready to ask for him, would you be willing to let him go?’
Then, during my first year in the Polytechnic, I gave my life to Christ. Some months later, I just discovered that whenever I knelt down to pray, it was like somebody pressed play in my imagination. I would see myself preaching and teaching before a crowd. I knew that could only have come from God, because I was a very shy young man. I had issues looking into a person’s eyes; talk less of standing in front of a crowd to speak.
During my Service year, it just happened that I was chosen to be the president of Corpers Fellowship in Kano State, and that was what I did fully, even though I studied engineering. However, I eventually got a job as a site engineer. But I went into it full time, when our church advertised a position.
I was also a youth pastor in my church, Rhema Chapels International Churches in Ilorin. I was later posted to Lagos State to pastor a branch and it was after that the Holy Spirit led us to start Daystar. So, Daystar is pure revelation from God.
Daystar will be 23 years in November. How has it been all these years?
It’s been an exciting experience. We started with excitement and absolutely, God called us to do this. But in the first three years, the growth was so slow, which really got me concerned. That prompted my going to see my pastor, Bishop David Oyedepo. I said to him, ‘what do you do after you have tried everything you know and the church has refused to grow?’ He said: ‘Look, growth is seasonal’ and he quoted Galatians 6:9, which says, let us not be weary in well doing for in due season we shall reap, if we don’t faint.
He told me that pastoring is a sowing and reaping thing. He said there is a time for sowing and after that, the reaping time will come. In fact, he admonished me not to faint, saying that is the condition. He also said: ‘Whatever it is you have been doing, continue doing it and when the season comes, the growth will come as well.’
What is your relationship with Bishop Oyedepo?
It’s so remarkable that before we started this church, I was driving on the Third Mainland Bridge, when I heard a voice from God telling me I would have a relationship with him. I didn’t know how to work it out until we met at an event. As I was introduced, he turned to look at me. I did not know that he knew me. After the event, I ran after him and said to him, ‘I would like to see you.’ He gave me an appointment. After that appointment, I couldn’t see him again, until I was praying one morning and the Spirit of God showed me exactly what would happen.
Then, my wife was attending their Bible School and one day, I saw her discussing with him at the door. After that, he sent for me and that was how the relationship started growing. He has thousands of spiritual sons all over the world. I wondered why he would bother about me, when we had just started our church. But obviously, as they said: ‘It takes one to know one.’ I think he sensed what God wanted to do with us, and he gave us his full blessings and support.
God blessed him with profound wisdom in every sense of it, even in terms of building and running an organisation, which is very unusual for a pastor. And all that wisdom has really been part of a blessing to me. I asked him a lot of questions and he shared a lot of insight with me. The amazing thing was that when we met, he wasn’t interested in talking about technicalities of ministry. It was my character he emphasised upon, and I tell you, nobody had challenged my character like that before.
He challenged me to work in love and forgive everybody that had hurt me in the past. He said if I didn’t do that, it would create a problem for me in future. You can hardly hear him criticise another pastor. People may criticise him for many things, but there are a few things you look at and you want to be sure that someone is honestly obeying the scriptures, as much as he knows. It is now that I appreciate it more than I did over 20 years ago, when we met.
Many people want to succeed, but they don’t realise that success comes with its challenges. Sometimes, managing success is more difficult than achieving it. But it helps, when there is a solid foundation in character and the fact that the people around me, including my wife, know that if I’m misbehaving, there is someone they can report me to.
That’s mentoring, a critical ingredient in ministry that is seriously lacking today among pastors/men of God. Why is it so?
I realise that mentoring is a skill. First, you have to have genuine love for people. Again, people are in ministry for various reasons. In our part of the world, there is deep deprivation and I have come to realise it also affects those of us in the ministry. For instance, the fear of poverty, fear of failure and lack influence our values and decision-making. Without mentoring and someone sharing his experiences with you, it’s very easy to make mistakes. I have shared openly in my messages the things I have enjoyed from mentoring, as well as the costly mistakes I would have made, if I didn’t have somebody to advise me. As I was about taking decisions and steps I thought were sound ideas, it would just occur to me to ask my mentor. He would just ask me one or two questions and I would be smiling at myself, because my foolishness would have become very apparent.
So, there has to be genuine love, honesty and integrity in the process. Some people don’t also understand the limit of mentoring. You don’t control someone’s life just because they call you a mentor. Unfortunately, in the African culture, the leaders are very powerful and the followers are weak and so, people dominate others. On one of those few times I met Dr. Oyedepo, he said, ‘listen and bear it in mind that as we progress in our relationship, if you ask me a question and I give you advice, and after leaving me the Holy Spirit tells you to do something else, please, don’t mind me, obey the Holy Spirit, because the day we stand before God, you will answer for yourself. I won’t bear responsibility for your mistakes. If the Holy Spirit tells you something contrary to what I said, please obey Him first.’ There aren’t many people that can say that and it’s simply because he wasn’t looking forward to getting anything from me. He was just doing it out of genuine love.
Some men of God give their tithes to other men of God. Do you send your tithe to your mentor?
What I would say is that I am very careful not to make a doctrine out of anything that the Bible doesn’t make a doctrine. There are practices that are good, but the New Testament, especially gives believers a lot of flexibility because we are no longer under the law. So first, there is nowhere you find it in the New Testament that the church must pay tithe. So, I tell people I’m not going to say what the Bible didn’t say. Do I give? Yes, I do. Do I give to my mentor? Yes, I do, because I understand the principle of exchange of values. It’s only a foolish person that wants to get something for nothing. It doesn’t work that way.
In our country today, I see people fighting to get things free and they are quick to point out that other countries of the world give things free to their people, but they fail to understand how those systems work. They are capitalist economies. If you see somebody getting something free, it has been paid for somewhere else. If the government gives something for free, people paid taxes to make that possible. The money didn’t just come from nowhere. The basic thing that drives successful systems like that is exchange of values and that is why God said, ‘the labourer is worthy of his wages.’ If the person realises that this person has blessed me, for instance, in Luke 8, the first three verses, the Bible lists names of some women and many others, and even specified what Jesus did in their lives. For instance, Mary Magdalene, out of whom Jesus cast out seven devils. The Bible says those people gave to Him of their substance; it’s exchange of values. He was not supposed to be chasing money, rather, God called Him to touch people’s lives.
There was a place where Mary broke an alabaster box and poured the perfume on Jesus Christ. People were complaining they would not understand that except you are Mary. They have forgotten how she was running up and down with demons and suddenly Jesus healed her. She was the only person that could have described her own condition before she got healed. Some people may focus on the money, but it’s actually more of the values that are being exchanged. If value is coming to you from somewhere, it’s good for value to go back from you.
Could you throw more light on your passion for leadership and the Sam Adeyemi Global Leadership Consultancy (GLC)?
It’s been a process, in the sense that my dad was a civil servant. We were fine and then, he went into business. We were still okay, but later that business collapsed. Then, we ran into hard times. I mean real hard times. There was a period I had to go with my dad, when the landlord took him to court because he was unable to pay rent. My mum used to buy foodstuff on credit in the neighbourhood. Then I became desperate and in that situation, I wanted a sure way of how to succeed. I began to read books and I discovered that our world is controlled by principles, and different principles controlled different areas of life.
In the process, I discovered principles that influence success. I began to practise them and my life began to change. Then, along the line, the Spirit of God said I should go to the radio and begin to teach people how to succeed. I got concerned and in prayer I said to God, ‘I’m not successful yet, what authority do I have to teach people how to succeed?’ He said, ‘it’s not your achievement that gives you the authority, but the fact that I told you to go and do it. Just say it.’ That was how I went on Raypower on February 8, 1995. It was my first broadcast on success power and it exploded.
I made it religion neutral and it attracted people from all walks of life. I still meet these fans all over the world. In my study of success, I got to realise that it is not enough for you to have a good job, money, cars and houses. It’s actually what we invest in other people’s lives that defines our success. I now realise that service and adding value to other people’s lives is what is called leadership. Then, I discovered that it is an African problem. People think you become a leader just by occupying a position. But it is more than that. Occupying a position doesn’t necessarily make you a leader; rather, it gives you an opportunity. Leadership is simply the influence and ability to influence other people to achieve a goal.
I began to study leadership. I read many books on leadership, and obtained a Master’s degree in leadership. I have crowned it with a doctorate degree in leadership. And the more I study, the more I realise that this thing is a skill. Most of the people occupying leadership position in Africa have not been taught leadership. We just expect people to give what they don’t have. It’s not part of the curriculum in our schools. So, I founded a leadership school in 2002, the Daystar Leadership Academy and we’ve had over 35, 000 people passing through it. It’s paradigm shifting and you can never be a normal African again after going through our courses.
We have testimonies that people who attended our leadership training are the best employees. Then, when I completed my doctorate programme, I wanted to stragetise and also realised that I have been teaching people how to succeed. My focus has been on mass of the people because leaders come from there. But I have been at it for 23 years and some of the people I taught how to succeed are now very successful. But we have fresh challenges, because success is creating new problems for us and people are saying they need me there.
So, a few weeks ago, we launched the Sam Adeyemi Global Leadership Consultancy (GLC). What that means is that I want to take on successful people. There is a reason why the world’s best players still have coaches. I want to be there to advise them. There are things they experience that are not even touched in an MBA class. When you are very successful like that, you will experience MB, but they don’t teach you how to manage your MB in your MBA class and it can be very painful because of where it will come from. Your success will distort your relationship and reconfigure it as well. So, I want to be there as an advisor to help leaders. Sometimes, they have challenges and vision, but the people working with them are not capable. I want to be there to train their teams, and develop leadership capacity.
Is that why you took it to Atlanta in the U.S.?
The vision I have always had is global. I realised that in this day and age, if you are going global, you must leverage technology and when you are a leader, you have to be strategic and put in the least input to get the best result. It’s almost 10 years now, since we had our office in London and USA just came up four years ago. Because of access to technology, the work that one manager will do in the UK or US, sometimes I have to employ four or five people in Nigeria to get it done. So, it is a matter of leveraging to be able to cover the globe. That is why we have bases in the UK and US.
So, it’s not a branch of Daystar in London or US?
We’ve not been led by God to do that yet.
You have often maintained one church location, but recently you started opening satellite centres in Lagos. What really informed this decision?
Once we got a biblical system of building a healthy church in 1999, we’ve been wary. Before then, we had space, but we didn’t have people to fill it. By God’s grace, we now have people. On weekends, we run five services, one on Saturday evening and four on Sundays. All the services on Sundays are full day and the traffic is massive, and so we were compelled to open satellite centres, so that we can create more space to take more people.
We tell people that we are not opening branches yet. What we have now is a one-church multi-sized system. The praise and worship is local. We have one in Lekki, Ikorodu, and Badagry. Interestingly, we’ve not commissioned Badagry formally. So, they do their praise and worship locally there, until it’s time for the message, then, all the centres will connect to where the message is coming from. We configured the centres in such a way that we can preach from any of them and of course, we have the online church, too.
You have identified leadership as an African problem, where do you locate Nigeria in this failure?
We have to admit that we have a cultural deficit, when it comes to leadership. In other words, we met the problems there and we grew with them. In our own part of the world, we believe leaders are superior to those they lead. We have discovered that the essence of leadership is service. It’s not actually about you, but about the people you are leading. In our part of the world, the leaders consume all the resources, meanwhile the resources are not meant for them, but for the people they lead.
I’m trying to make people to be sensitive to it because when they are there as leaders and things don’t work, they make mistakes and they don’t even know what the problem is. You remember the story of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon. As soon as he became king, the people came to him to say his father made things difficult for them. They asked the king to relax the burden on them and make it light. He asked that he should be given some days to think about it. He went to the elders to seek their counsel, and they said to him, ‘speak to them kindly and serve them and they would be loyal to you forever.’ But when he went to the young people he grew up with, they told him to exert his authority on them, and let them know he is in charge. When he came back, he told them, ‘my smallest finger will be thicker than my father’s waist. If my father beat you with whips, I would beat you with scorpion.’ When they heard it, 10 tribes deserted him and he was left with only two tribes.
If our people don’t have that paradigm shift, things will remain where they are. So, being a boss is not about dominating people, but about caring genuinely for them. We have to deal with it from the family level, as well as the school and other sectors of the economy. Those of us that are pastors should live by example, likewise leaders from other sectors of the economy. When people come to Daystar, the first thing they observe is that we sit on similar chairs as church members. There is no different chair for pastors, and I have told the protocol officers here not to push any member away because of me.
I know the large crowd will make it look like I’m a big man. It is not because I am special that you are here; it is because you are special that I am here. I have told them if they need to push anybody, it shouldn’t be church members, but me. Nobody should leave our church with a lower self-esteem than he/she came with. Good leaders don’t produce only followers, but they also produce leaders like themselves.
So, here, we groom, train and empower people. But some people feel if you empowered people like that, and they become confident, they would just break your church and steal members. But we took that risk and empowered the people, and rather than breaking up, they became loyal. And those that feel God is calling them to start their ministries, we pray for them publicly and ask the church to support them. We also go with them to their new churches and offer prayers there. The amazing thing is that those churches are growing and our own is also growing.
Would you advise Christians/pastors to go into politics?
I encourage people to get involved. They should become card-carrying members of a political party. I want them to join both the old and new political parties. Anyone they like. With time, I think the current 91 political parties will regularise themselves. Young people need to be courageous and should not be discouraged or feel helpless. Everybody should participate in the political process and go beyond getting their voter cards.
I’m asking Christians to participate at all levels, know what they are doing at the primaries and things like that. And if a pastor feels he is called, he should go ahead and do it. But I know some people have said God told them they would become president of Nigeria, but they have not become president, that is not their own problem. They did what they believed God told them to do. We should respect them for the fact that they even tried.
I would just say a pastor has to be very careful, and not carry his partisanship to the pulpit. This will split the church.
I’m telling Christians to also pray about it, if God has really called you to participate, as a political influencer or to contest for political office.
Not long ago, your church started Saturday service. What is Sabbath, Saturday or Sunday?
We didn’t have enough space to accommodate our members. That was what brought the idea in the first place, so, we could create more space. So, the Saturday service came up as one of the ideas. Several years ago, I went to Houston, Texas, where I attended Lakewood Church, that is, Pastor Joel Osteen’s church and it was a Saturday service that I attended. They hold service on Saturday and two services on Sunday. It was fully attended and it works a lot in the Western world, because 20 to 25 per cent of their members don’t show up on Sunday morning, because they are at work.
For us here, it was just an idea, which I mentioned at our workers’ meeting. But then, when I sampled their opinion on the idea, their response amazed me. A lady said, ‘I have just told my leader next to me that I have not attended Sunday service for the past two years, because I go to work on Sunday morning.’
Another experience was when I was returning from Abuja on a flight a few days ago, and a female crewmember said to me, ‘I’m a member of your church, but I miss Sunday service sometimes because I’m on duty.’ There was also a young man, who said he had not been able to attend Sunday service for two years. According to him, he was running a Ph.D. programme.
The Saturday service has also reduced the parking problem. On Sundays, once we finish the first service, you need to move your car away immediately for the second, third and fourth services.
Regarding the principle of Sabbath in the New Testament, there is a principle that we keep, but a particular day is not specified. And the principle is, rest one day of the week. Anyway, the original Sabbath was Saturday from what we gathered from Jewish custom. There is no commandment from New Testament that we must mark the Sabbath on a particular day.
What is your position on tithe, as the debate is still affecting churches today?
The tithe controversy is situated within a broader subject, which is legalism versus grace. The attempt to practise the Old Testament under the New Testament dispensation is really the huge trouble going on in the church in Nigeria presently, and tithe happens to be one of those topics. And people are saying should we obey everything that is in the Old Testament? Tithe, as it is practised in many churches, as it was recommended under the Law of Moses, for example, Paul the Apostle said you couldn’t pick and choose, when it comes to obeying 613 laws of Moses. If you obey one, you must obey all. If you disobey one, it is a curse.
Tithing, as it has been preached and practised, has been largely according to the Law of Moses. Malachi falls under that purview; if you don’t pay tithe you will be cursed. When this issue was raised, I think it was just an opportunity for the church to debate. The gospel was not getting to the Gentiles and the Jewish people wanted the Gentiles to practise Christianity, as it was practised under the law to do circumcision. They had to take it to the Council, where they debated on it and took a decision. I expected same debate on tithe.
My position is that the Law of Moses has expired for New Testament Christians. So tithing, as it is practised under the Law of Moses has expired. Tithing, as a principle is only 10 per cent in the New Testament, you don’t see any percentage specified for a Christian. A Christian can decide to give 10 per cent of his/her money. Christians should be given that freedom. For the fact that the person is giving that 10 per cent does not mean he/she is giving it under the Law of Moses. Just like if I circumcise my son, which we did, that doesn’t mean we are practising the Law of Moses.
It’s just because I have seen its health benefits.
Anyone that decides to give knows that there are benefits from giving. There are non-Christians that give 10 per cent of their money; some give 10 per cent of the profit of their business. The people should be given freedom to do that, because that is what New Testament Christianity does. It gives you freedom to decide according to how God has blessed you.
I will go beyond the controversy to say that bigger problem is the lack of love that I am seeing. The way we are attacking one another is not good. We need to practise love and accommodate our weaknesses and discuss without abusing one another.
Do you share the view that pastors should be licensed?
I would say that the gospel is too flexible for it to be confined only to people that are licensed. If Jesus had to be licensed by the Pharisees and Scribes He met on ground, His message would have been dead on arrival. Licensing is not wrong, and being trained for ministry is not wrong. In fact, what we are seeing in the Charismatic church in Nigeria today is the down side of not getting theological training. That is why we are having a lot of arguments now. People are questioning some of our theology. There is value in theological training; there is value in instruction, but sometimes what was revelation yesterday becomes tradition today and becomes too stiff for the Holy Spirit to use.
So, those outside the existing structures like it happened to Jesus and Paul, when he wanted to do something new, don’t find it easy. It was difficult for Peter to adjust, when God wanted to reach to the Gentiles. He had to show Peter revelation and He said, “arise, kill and eat…” but Peter argued, ‘I have never eaten unclean thing….’ God rebuked him and said you can’t call unclean what I called clean. Peter struggled with it and the church has almost come to that scenario, where it is struggling with the new thing that God wants to do. If the old had to license the new, it will frustrate the new thing God wants to do.
So, I would say it should not be made as law, but those that are called into ministry should be helped in getting training and if possible, being licensed.
The church today is seen as a family business, where the man hands over to either his wife or son. What is your view on church succession?
I would say God’s plans are different from ours. Ministry is never man’s idea; it is God’s. So, who will succeed who? First, the process needs to be clearly established in each ministry. It needs to be transparent and put into the church’s policy. Two, rooms should be made primarily for God to speak and indicate who He wants. Jesus’ disciples were contesting over who would sit on His right or left and He said to them, it is not within His power to determine that, but His Father in heaven.
Many ministries have fizzled out because sentiment was allowed to dictate people who would succeed. And in that process, there are different models for it. Sometimes, it is also in the Bible; the current leader is given the opportunity to pray and select someone. But then, to protect the integrity of the process, the relevant board also needs to be involved. The name should be proposed and the people in leadership should also pray and give confirmation or whatever through a clear, transparent process. That means, in some instances, it will be family members. If that is God’s choice, so be it and proof of God’s calling will be evident, because we’ve seen things like that.
In some others, it will not be family members and it works out well. For instance, at the Redeemed Christian Church of God, the founder passed the baton to someone who was not his family member. The unlettered man was led to be a mentor over a Ph.D. holder, a young man. In fact, one of the important things in transition is that if the founder had been there for a long time, it’s better for it to go down to the younger generation, if the church is to be seen in future. We’ve also seen examples like that. There should be a clear policy and provision should even be made for what will happen in the event of the current leader passing on without naming a successor. That aspect should be covered because we’ve had churches that have gone right to the Supreme Court to fight over succession issues in our country.
What should churches do to positively affect the society?
The church has always affected the society positively. Acts Chapter 2 is also a model. They were providing food for the people; welfare of church members is primarily the responsibility of every church. In our church, we have it as policy that no member goes to bed hungry. The day we allow that to happen, we are no longer a New Testament church. I would say though, that what churches are doing in the lives of members in the society is grossly understated. You will have to be callous as a pastor not to help people get food to eat. What people are doing now is to take mega churches and use them as prototype to judge all churches in Nigeria.
Unfortunately, it’s a small number of churches that are mega, most churches are small and a large chunk of them are not in the cities, they are in the rural areas. So, you can’t just make one blanket statement about churches.
We are discussing with other pastors now that the scriptures we’ve been using to justify our not telling the public of what we are doing is misinterpreting that we are not doing. Because Jesus said we should not be like the Pharisees who give alms in public to be seen of men. He said what your right hand does; you should not allow your left hand to know about it. And because of that, we don’t publicise what we are doing to take care of people. I’m asking people to revert to Matthew chapter 5, where Jesus admonished that the church is the light of the world and should shine before men that they may see the good works and glorify God the Father in heaven.
So, the society will not respect God until they see the value that the church is adding into people’s lives. We’ve been hiding and there is no justification for hiding what God has been doing through us in people’s lives.
Who would you blame more for the problems of Nigeria, leaders or the led?
As an expert in leadership, there are things I expect the president to have done and he is not doing them. I expect him to describe the vision of a developed Nigeria. What is he seeing about the future of Nigeria? That is how people follow a leader because we know where we are supposed to be going. I don’t know anything else Nigeria should seek other than a developed country. And it is very possible because we’ve seen other countries do it.
A leader should not only have vision, he should be able to communicate it. Because it is that picture that people have in their heads and the values, standards and principles that will make it possible. It is those values that will regulate each person’s behaviour when they are on their own. What Nigeria is today is the combination of what all of us are doing. One president cannot chase 180 million people, and start begging and compelling them to behave right. The best you can do is to use those pictures and words to communicate. I wish the president would speak to Nigerians every week. We need it.
I believe that the rest of us Nigerians also have a role to play. Until all Nigerians get behind the change initiatives, even good people in government may not be able to change this country, and that is my concern. Because there are many selfish and self-centred individuals. For instance, we live in beautiful houses, but the roads are bad. It says something negative about of us. Some of us prefer personal success to community success. Nigerians ought to go on the platform of sacrifice, we ought to be ready, and that is what makes powerful leaders.
What is your vision for Nigeria?
I see a developed Nigeria; I see it clearly. I see infrastructure as beautiful as we have in other parts of the world. I see world-class schools, world-class hospitals, world-class police stations that are well equipped, as well as well paid police officers. I see world-class military formation, where service men are respected and the average person on the street would value a soldier for choosing to sacrifice his or her life for the country. I see world-class roads and new cities. I see the aviation industry exploding. I see Nigeria performing wonders in information technology and greater chunk of our wealth coming from IT.