by Yinka Adeniran
Sword of the Spirit Ministries, operators of Christ Life Church recently marked its 30th anniversary. Founder of the church, Bishop Francis Wale Oke, spoke on the journey since inception especially, the good and the ugly moments as well as on some national issues as it relates to the church, Christianity among others. Yinka Adeniran was there. Excerpts:
THIRTY years after the church took off, how has the journey been?
The journey has been wonderful. Really, the Lord has been gracious. I started out as an itinerant evangelist, going across all the nations to hold interdenominational crusades. We had held stadium revival in virtually all the state capitals, except Adamawa.
But after 14 years of gospel crusade, the Lord instructed us to start a church. He had spoken to me earlier in 1984 that we were going to start a church in Ibadan and that the church would go global but that He would tell me when the time arrives.
Then, friends and Christian leaders began to speak to me. Bishop David Oyedepo spoke to me about setting up a church and I said no. Pastor E.A. Adeboye spoke to me about it and I told him that I would start when God asks me to.
Archbishop Benson Idahosa came to our convention in 1988 and announced that we were going to start a church but I said no. This was because in doing the work of the Kingdom, as an Apostle, you don’t base your work on the words of men, you listen to what the Lord says.
Because if you meet with challenges, men cannot help you solve the challenges. But if it is God, you have nothing to fear. So on the 8th of February, 1989 while in Lagos, the Lord told me it was time for the church. So when I got back to Ibadan, I told the fellowship we were starting a church.
On the 12th of February, 1989, Christ Life Church took off. Within the first year of the church, we were over a thousand. We bought the portion of this garden in 1990. So it was rapid. The journey has been amazing, not without its challenges though.
There were stories about angelic visit in the journey so far
Yes, I have experienced angelic visitations. My first experience was in 1980 in Port-Harcourt and it has to do with the person I was going to marry. I was about making a wrong choice and the angel of the Lord appeared to me to stop me. The second time I had an angelic visitation was when I was in the midst of a spiritual crisis. So I decided to fast without stopping.
When the fast reached 178 days, I was praying in my house in the night and just about 3:30 am, I heard a male voice singing at the gate of my house. When I kept quiet, he called me by my name (the name by which only my mother calls me) and spoke words of comfort and assurance to me. Right there and then, I began to praise God.
The third angelic visitation was about this land. Because of the numerical growth of the church, we went searching for land everywhere. So one day, my secretary came in to tell me about an elderly man who wanted to meet me. The man came in white Babariga looking fresh.
I welcomed him and offered him a seat, which he refused. He said: “I learnt you are looking for land, have you considered Olaogun’s hatchery? They’ve broken it into plots and they want to sell. It is along Old Ife Road. Go check it. It may be good for you.”
I appreciated him and asked for his name, but he smiled and said, “I’ll see you.” I didn’t guess anything. I thought he was one of the estate agents. I asked for his card so we could talk subsequently, he smiled again and said, “I’ll still see you.”
I wanted to offer him a gift, he rejected it and said, “I’ll see you again.” And then he disappeared. The information he gave us that day led us to this place. I’ve had another one too after that. I’m not going to tell you that one.
Could you reflect on your challenges when you were about starting and on how you have been able to maintain success?
We didn’t have any problem about starting because it is not Francis Wale Oke’s church, it is the church of Christ. He leads us as we follow Him. And every step has been interesting. We have been working with God as He reveals His plans to us day by day. We are not in competition with our friends.
They are where they are because that’s how God has led them. We are where we are because that is how God has led us. Our eyes are set on God because He never misses the way, in fact, He is the way.
Behind every glory, there are stories. We’ve had challenges, but by and large, the real challenge is the challenge of men, people. Jesus himself warned us to beware of men. Jesus did not commit Himself to people because he knew what was in them. You would raise people and expend your emotion on them, yet they would turn to stab you on the back.
The challenge of men you fed, who turned out to be Judas Iscariot. If you take that away, there is no challenge. The whole book of Jonah captures this well. The storm, fish, grass and things obeyed God but when God spoke to man, the man went the other way.
How have you managed to move on despite the challenges of men?
We take our time to pray. The hearts of men are in the hands of God. Again, we use the word of God. The word of God has the capacity to change, shape and convict the heart of men. We teach the word. Then, we work in patience. When you work with people, you have to be patient to deal with people.
Would you like to reflect on some of the good moments you have had?
So many, but I will tell you one. On the 8th of March this year, I sat in the Sanctuary to watch the matriculation ceremony of the pioneer students of Precious Cornerstone University and I was moved to tears. As I sat there, I made a play back in my mind to 12 years on the memory lane.
We made the declaration for our vision for the university on November 11, 2006 and for the next 12 years, it was battle. The operational licence was not forthcoming and we remained resolute not to start the university until the licence was released.
We were not ready to do anything illegal. Our licence was issued by the federal government on December 19, 2017. And in March 8, 2019, I saw the students matriculating. They were from 21 states of the federation and the federal capital territory. Someone said our school is truly a federal university and I give glory to God for that. It’s a moment of joy.
How have you been able to combine the home front with the ministry?
To succeed in ministry, one must understand God’s priority. In God’s priority, God comes first. Your health comes next and your family before your ministry. Failure looms when the order is violated. God taught me the priority of a minister’s life and I’ve maintained my focus.
Some said you are a workaholic?
Well, nobody can succeed in ministry without being a workaholic. But then, we work like God and not like a fool. In Genesis 1, God works very hard. He prepares His work in the evening and completes it in the day. That is why you would read, “And the evening and the morning were the first day.”
So God’s day starts the previous night and that is a serious strategy for success. Plan your day the previous night; get up in the day and implement it. But then, on the seventh day, He withdrew from all the works and rested. For me, I do prayer-work to relax. I come back sweating, relaxed and refreshed.
What has God told you about Nigeria?
There is a great future for Nigeria. Nigeria will not break. By the way, I’ve carried Nigeria as a burden in my heart since I became prophetically conscious in 1976. As a prophet, I intercede. I do not go to the pages of newspaper to predict what would happen.
Nigeria is going through the stage of becoming a prosperous and great nation. The problem of Boko Haram, insurgency and uprisings will pass away. God will raise leaders who will be able to unite Nigeria for us. Meanwhile, our leaders are trying but they are not there yet.
We need their irrevocable integrity and commitment now more than before. We need them to throw up a new crop of leaders who are 21st century compliant and current with the on-goings in the world technologically and economically. The set of leaders who can take Nigeria from being a consumer nation to a producer nation and from being an importing nation to an exporting nation. The only two things I think Nigeria is exporting today are people and faith.
Being a dirty game, should Christians engage in politics?
Politics is a very dirty game and that is why Christians must go there to clean it up. It is a systemic rot which cannot be cleaned up in just four years. Let genuine Christians who have been discipled go into politics to clean it up.
The National Assembly is planning to constitute its leadership and CAN have been agitating that Christians be taken into cognizance.
Yes, CAN is doing that because Christians have been marginalised in many ways and CAN must be sure that there is fairness and equity. CAN is not asking that all the slots in the leadership be given to Christians, they are just demanding that there should be a balance.
Whether you believe it or not, religion has become a major factor in our national politics. It will be wrong for CAN to keep quiet now. Their stand is correct. They have my backing for staging that course. Otherwise, you just wake up and discover that there is no Christian in the leadership of the national assembly. The church should have a voice there.
Some people alleged VP Osinbajo is not representing the interest of Christians well. As a leader, how do you view that?
The point is it is easy to criticise. A lot of people don’t know the role that man is playing there. He is the ‘sole light’ in the midst of darkness in Aso Villa and he is doing his best. On a personal level, he’s been there for four years without any scandal. He has carried himself with poise and dignity. His grasp of national issues, the analysis, the confidence with which he speaks, oh come on!
Church, wake up and celebrate your hero and champion. On the two occasions on which he has acted as President, everybody knew everything was different. What else do you want him to do? He is not the President. There is a limit to the role of the vice president.
He and the president are close because the President has found him trustworthy. We’ve had issues in this nation before where governor and deputy governor would be at each other’s throat. It was the same with the President and Vice President such that rather than getting busy with the administration of the country, they would be creating distraction. We don’t have that now. The man just wants to serve the nation. I give him kudos.