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If the church had not been as it is, corruption would have been worse -Obende.

THE church in Nigeria seems to be growing, but there seems to be no commensurate positive impact of the increase in churches and number of branches, on the society as a whole. Why is this so?

I will say emphatically that it is not true that there is no commiserate positive impact on the society by the increase in the number of churches, some of these things take time when you plant a church today, it takes time to grow and multiply on its own. The important thing really is that the word of God is growing.

When you consider what was happening about 20 years ago in terms of Christianity in Nigeria you will see that we have moved forward. I also know that there is a school of thought that says morality and corruption should have been better taken care of in Nigeria considering the number of churches that we have in the country but we should also understand that the population is increasing and we should not just pick the number like that. All said and done, if the church had not been where it is now, it would have been worse.

The church has been taking care of a lot of welfare issues. There are people today who don't even believe there is a government in place. The church is playing a very big role in that regards. In the area of several other needs in the society, you can imagine if we never had the church! You can talk of people committing murders, assassinations, kidnapping. What if the church was not there in the first place to at least ameliorate some of these vices by preaching against them and teaching people the right values. I think we should give glory to God even for the little we are seeing and as we continue to educate people and pray against these ills, it can only be better.

In those days, the areas of healthcare and education were very critical areas where the church intervened, especially during the colonial era which witnessed the advent of biblical evangelism. The current intervention of most churches in these areas after the government takeover of mission-owned schools by the military in the 70s seems to be more commercially-inclined that mission-oriented. Should this be so?

I agree with you but you must also know that aside from the fact that you have more numbers to deal with in terms of potential students, the investments you need to make today is unlike before. Some of these things cost real money and l don't think it is easy for churches to say we will be giving out all these things for free.

I agree with you that the rates are sometimes high, but when you consider what it involves for example, sometimes, you are on generator for 24 hours. Today, diesel is #256 per litre. And if you are to run 200 litres every 24 hours, you know what that will come down to. When you therefore put some of these things together, it's a lot of money. I know we can still do better as a church but it depends on where the money is going to come from.

The Foursquare Gospel church in Nigeria has been around for 63 years, can you tell us some of the interventions you have made in the nation and in the various communities in which you are established?

A lot. We are just talking about the position of the church today in Nigeria. If there has been any church that has been stable, understands the full gospel, preaching the undiluted word of God, it is the Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria that is one Aside that, 15 years ago, Foursquare Churches were only in the South West part of Nigeria but today, we have Foursquare Gospel Churches all over Nigeria in locations where we disciple converts made for Christ. Today in the North, East and even South South, we are there. They may been small, but the impacts are great in the lives of souls converted to Christ.

Recently, we set up several primary and secondary schools in several towns. We also have the Macpherson University in Ogun State which is owned by the church. Apart from Nigeria, we are also pushing along the West Coast of Africa, Europe and other parts of the world with the gospel.

What is the rationale behind this lecture where Rev Mathew Kukah delivered a lecture recently? Is that a kind of political intervention or evangelism?

This year, we tried to balance what is the role of the Christian, especially considering the challenges we have with the economy. Politics and how you can bring your faith into the picture. We discussed a topic that examined the triangle of politics, economy and faith, looking through the eye of the needle. Like you said, Rev Mathew Kukah of the Sokoto Catholic Diocese was the guest lecturer and former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo chaired the event. I think to a very large extent, the guest speaker did justice to that topic. And the former president was at his very best that day. There were developments after that event that emanated from both of them sitting down there that led to further development with great implications for the national polity.

It's not as if the Foursquare Gospel Church is coming into politics but we today, a lot of believers are running away from politics. How do you do businesses in Nigeria today and still keep your faith? How do you go into politics and not compromise your faith like others. Those are the things we are doing. Some other things took off from there and we want to give glory to God for everything?

What is the position of your church as far as Christian participation is concerned?

We encourage it. The church believes in civil government. We have full respect for whoever God has put in charge. We give our advice from time to time. As much as possible, we do not criticize in public, even our members who want to join but the challenge has always been: Can l go in and come out unscathed. There are so many things. So many things. What we do is pray for those who are there, support and pray for our members who may want to go in.

Going by Rev. Kukah's conclusion that practicing politics in Nigeria is like attempting to wash a gutter clean without getting dirty, and considering that there are some churches who insist that a Christian cannot be a practising Politician and vice versa, your members.

Then we will continue the way we are. God will bring change but it has to come from us. Otherwise, we will keep giving people a change agenda that we do not have the capacity for.

We need to get there and bring the change we crave for; otherwise we keep going round in circles. Someone who had ruled 30 years ago came back and another and now another who had been Vice President is likely coming in again. We are just going round in circles. For me, it is enough; we need to bring in the real change.

Christians have become really militant, especially on the social media. Why is this so?

You really can't blame them. Where you should be getting improvements things seem to be getting worse. Succeeding regimes are worse than the previous which they succeeded and promised to improve upon. Today, we can safely conclude that Abacha's government was better than Abdulsalam's, Obasanjo's was better than Yar adua's and so on. Today, Nigerians will tell you that Obasanjo's was far better than Buhari's government. We need to be very careful. Four years ago, you came and promised that we will get the change that we desire but 3 and half years down the lineis this what we bargained for? We have to be careful. They are pushing people to the wall and anything can happen.

This year, your Convention is about 'The Almighty God.' Where is the place of your theme in the context of our present predicament?

This year, Nigerians have been through a lot. It's like progress is not being made and Abram, as he was then called was in a similar situation in Gen 17. There was a promise made but it seemed there was not going to be a fulfillment. God had made several promises to him in Gen 15 but in Gen 17, God reassured him that He will do that which He had promised. He changed Abram's name to Abraham and we believe in this Convention, God will change the names of several attendees. We believe Nigerians need a reassurance and we believe God is in control. We need that reassurance that there is a God in Heaven, the Almighty God that is able to provide for His people in spite and despite their situations and circumstance(s).

We have made generous provisions for accommodation, and at least two meals per day throughout the Convention for everybody from wed 14-18th November, 2018 at Foursquare City, Ajebo, Ogun State. There are special provisons of prayer booths, an initiative which we started last year. Throughout the Convention, there will be Ministers who have special callings in various aspects who will be available for one on one ministrations at these booths for challenges like barreness, deliverance from strange spirits, delay in getting married, lack of progress in business initiatives and such like.

Our General Overseer, Rev. Felix Meduoye will be leading great men of God like Rev. Felix Omobude of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria to minister while Steve Crown will minister in music. There is a special time for the youths on Saturday and I urge everyone to be at the vigil on Friday. A meeting with the Almighty God is what we need at challenging times like these. There are provisions for buses from all parts of Nigeria even as far as Sokoto, Maiduguri, Calabar, Ekpoma, Ilorin, Ekiti and of course, Lagos. So, lack of money should not be a hindrance. We urge everyone to come.
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Publication:Nigerian Tribune (Oyo State, Nigeria)
Geographic Code:6NIGR
Date:Nov 11, 2018
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