For three days, two weeks ago, thousands of people packed the new three-kilometre-by-three-kilometre auditorium of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) for its monthly Holy Ghost Service and to mark the 74th birthday of an iconic and revered man of God, Pastor E.A Adeboye. The beauty of the events was not all about spirituality, but the awesomeness of the structure, the serenity and the ant-kingdom-like orderliness as if somebody somewhere was using a remote control. The story of the arena is for another day. Today is for the Birthday Daddy!
Writing about Pastor Adeboye, leader of The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in a small space has always been difficult for me because of the awesome accomplishments of a man revered by millions of people across the world as a true Man of God. But I love doing it!
The RCCG was founded in Nigeria in 1952 by Pastor Josiah Akindayomi at 9 Willoughby Street, Ebute-Metta, Lagos. It moved later to 1-5 Redemption Way, Ebute-Metta, which still serves as its headquarters.
As at last year, the church had spread to over 184 countries, with over 32,000 parishes in Nigeria alone and at least 540 branches in the UK and Ireland. Millions of people from all over the world attend the church’s conventions and the monthly Holy Ghost Congress at its Redemption Camp. And with the numbers surging out of available space, the Church had to go for a new auditorium called the Arena, which was used for the birthday events. It is located on Simawa Road, a few kilometres from the current one-and-half-kilometre by one-kilometre auditorium. On completion, it will seat 12 million people.
The RCCG is noted for miracles, signs and wonders and the salvation of millions of souls. And the life of Pastor Adeboye is itself one big miracle! For a man born to financially-challenged parents in the remote village of Ifewara, Osun State; who had no shoes at 18 years old; who was not a Born Again Christian until he was a mathematics teacher at the University of Lagos, growing a church into a visible presence and be loved around the world is, indeed, a miracle worth knowing. For this same man to remain infectiously humble, in spite of his enormous power, influence and popularity is also a miracle in itself.
Big Name Kills Small Dog
Curiously, some four years before God arrested Pastor Adeboye into the church, he had ridiculed it. Hear him: “In 1969, while doing my postgraduate programme in Mathematics, a friend of mine was doing his research on the coastlines of Lagos and so he needed to visit coastlines to take soil samples. He decided to go to Ebute-Metta, Lagos, for more samples. Because we were friends and I was available, I accompanied him.
At Ebute-Metta, we saw a very large signboard which read, ‘The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG).’ Looking to see what the big signboard was referring to, we only saw a very little church.
“I turned to my friend and said, “The big name killed a small dog.”
We laughed and left.
Since his arrest, God has used the miracle Birthday Daddy for millions of miracles across that world, some which he shares regularly to illustrate his sermons. They are too many to count, and he of course may not have heard this one. As I discussed the subject one day with my friend Mr. Kunle David, a businessman and exporter, it promptly invoked his own testimony. Years ago, when Daddy G.O. was still laying hands (he can’t practically do it now for thousand and millions of worshippers who attend his programmes) on people to pray for them, Mr. David attended a programme at the headquarters of the church at Ebute-Metta and saw wonders.
His account is so moving I choose to use his own words: “Towards the end of the programme, I was one of the many people who queued up for Baba to lay hands on. Some pastors followed him as he moved from one person to another. It soon got to my turn and as he laid his hand on me and started praying, I felt the flow of anointing physically. It is an unforgettable experience. I felt my hair being combed endlessly. The rest of my body was charged tense.
“More wonders were to follow. After the programme, as I left the church, I prayed silently for God to confirm the experience. As it is usually the case where Baba preaches, the area was choked with people who attended the programme. I had to walk far away from the church to get a taxi.
“Hmmm! As I approached Ibadan Street, Ebute-Metta, several metres away, I saw a man, standing by a Mercedes Benz car, beckoning on me. Repeatedly, I asked to confirm it was me he was calling, but he said he had been waiting to take me home. Long story cut short, the man took me home for free. Only me!”
Pastor Adeboye was himself arrested by God in 1973 during his quest for a miracle: Here is his own account of the moment: “July 29, 1973, was the day I had the ultimate encounter with God that completely changed my life. At the time, I was a senior lecturer in Mathematics at the University of Lagos. My wife, Folu, delivered all our children by caesarean operation and medical practitioners advised us to stop having children. Soon after that, our new baby, the third, was afflicted with a strange disease. Sleepless nights and days of consulting orthodox and traditional medical practitioners as well as spiritual healers yielded no relief.
“My uncle, Rev. Fajemirokun, suggested I try The Redeemed Christian Church of God. There, the rather rowdy mode of worship, noisy prayers and the derelict environment were all strange to a man used to controlled religious ceremonies of the Orthodox Church. But because I needed a miracle, I endured. Finally, the word of God touched me. Sobbing like a baby, I ran to the altar to accept Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour. I was rewarded immediately when my sick baby recovered.
“Two years after my baptism in 1973, when I first heard that I would be ordained a pastor, I thought it was a joke. I prayed to God to change the mind of Pa Akindayomi, but it was too late. Nothing changed. “So on September 14, 1975, I was ordained a pastor. I soon became the interpreter to My-Father-in-the-Lord, who preached in Yoruba for me to translate into English.”
God did not stop there. Earlier, God had spoken to Pa Akindayomi about his successor. The Lord told him that the successor, who was not a member of the church then, would be an educated young man. When a young university lecturer joined the church in 1973, Papa Akindayomi recognized him in the spirit. Two years later, the Church’s founder called him to his office and said, “God has told me to ordain you as a pastor.”
According to Pastor Adeboye, he asked himself “What kind of problem is this? I didn’t come to church to become a pastor, I came to church to have problems solved and in the process my soul was saved. Beautiful but it should stop there. For fourteen days and fourteen nights, my wife and I fasted and prayed that I will never become a pastor. This is one of my prayers God didn’t answer. So I became a pastor, and years after that my Father-in-the-Lord called me and said you are going to succeed me.
Haaaa! Being a pastor was bad enough. General Overseer, no way!” But again God said “no”!
Today, the story of RCCG sounds all beautiful and sweet and some critics think it is all about money, rather than serving God. How wrong! For the ever-praying and fasting Pastor, the early years as G.O. would have driven most people back into the comfort of university life. Here are instances in his words:
Mushin Demotion: Prior to becoming the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, I was the head of Department of Mathematics at the University of Ilorin, Nigeria. I was living in a mansion with a two-bedroom guest quarters. I also had servants’ quarters with four bedrooms. All these were not part of the main house. But when I became the General Overseer, I had to live in a one-room apartment at Mushin (a relatively poor suburb in Lagos). I left my wife and children in Ilorin to be in Lagos to work in the church.
The 50 Kobo Gift: I recall when a young man gave me a 50 kobo note; I received it and blessed him. I told him I would spend the money on myself so that my heartfelt blessing will have an impact on him. That night, I thought over it and wept. I ruminated on how I had gone from being the head of the Mathematics Department of a University to being a full-time minister who would be excited about a 50 kobo gift.
Okra Meat Delicacy: In those early days of the Camp, sometimes my wife used to prepare dinner for the children without meat and I was touched. I remembered those days, when our mothers used to make okra meat. They would take okra and cut off its head and bottom, and throw it into the okra soup. That was okra meat, very sweet.
One day, I reminded my wife how I used to tell her to cut cow skin meat, popularly called pomo in local parlance, into two, especially the very thick ones so that it could go round, and how I used to say that although the situation may continue for some time, the future was going to be alright.
Toll Gate: There were times when we couldn’t go to Lagos from the Redemption Camp because we didn’t have just one Naira to pay the toll gate fee. There was no money.
The sweep of Pastor Adeboye’s life and the scope of his accomplishments make it difficult to stop the story here, but stop we must to continue elsewhere. Notably, he gives it all to God. “If you do your business the way it has to be done, the Divine Partner will play His own part. Things might be slow to start with but it will pick up. When you are in active partnership with the Almighty God, you will begin to have unusual victories.”
Let somebody shout Halleluyah, as even at 74, there is so much life in Daddy G.O., signaling a lot more to come!