As the New Lagos Baptist Church celebrates its 60th anniversary, the Under-Shepherd Pastor Manasseh Adetunmibi speaks on the growth of the Church, relocation and missionary activities, in this interview withSandra Ukele
Tell us about your work in the Church
My name is Pastor Adegboyega Manasseh Adetunmibi, the senior Pastor of New Lagos Baptist Church Surulere. By His Grace, I have been here for seven years. We are celebrating the existence of our church in the past 60 years. God has been faithful to the church and we want to recognise the work of our founding fathers and to continue to build upon their good works. This is the bottom-line of our celebration. We know that everything in this world is by His Grace; nobody can accomplish anything by his own strength so we tagged our theme for this celebration “60Years Of God’s Grace.” In this theme, we celebrate His goodness, mercies and grace, and we shall build upon the works of the founding fathers.
Can you tell us the journey so far?
The church was founded on 28th of October 1956. Initially, members of this church were living in Lagos Island but because of the reorganisation done by the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC), many of them migrated to this area in 1956. As a result of their relocation, many of them could not go to the Island for worship; they said, “what should we do, well, let us organise ourselves and have a worship centre here.” The Church first congregated at 51 Oyerokun Road, Surulere, later moved to 29 Onitolo Street, Surulere and finally relocated to the present site at Bank Olemoh/Olawale Dawodu in July 1973. The church was organised on the 20th of January 1963. Organisation in Baptist context means that the Church has become a full-fledged Baptist Church.
What is the difference between the year the church was founded and the year it was organised?
The year it was founded simply means the year the church started. The year the church got her autonomy from the mother church under the direction of the Holy Spirit is referred to as organisation. In other words, Organisation of a local Baptist Church gives the Church the grace to be self-governing, self-sponsoring and self- administering.
Tell us more about the membership of the church, and how has it has developed
One of the things we know about the church is that it is an institution of transition where people come in and go out. By the Grace of God, the church attendance is around 400 members. Initially, it was more than that but it reduced because of the relocation of members to their personal houses, built outside the city centre. Presently, there is a church-shift from urban areas to developing areas. Unlike those days when people moved from rural areas to urban, the reverse is now the case. This relocation has affected church membership a little bit. However, we thank God that the church keeps on growing. Spiritually, we are moving on; financially, God is helping us and morally we are making progress. We depend on God’s Grace for all these things and we are trusting God for more. As I mentioned earlier, we are building upon the foundation laid down by our forefathers. Hence, presently we are planning to add more values to the lives of worshippers and our community.
What projects has the church been involved in over the years?
The church has been involving in many projects. For instance, we have Four-Daughter churches planted by this church. They are the First Baptist church Olorunda established in 1963; Ireti Baptist church, Badia, 1967; Idimu Baptist church, 1985; and Maranatha Baptist church, 2002. We have the intention of planting another church next year.
You are about marking your 60th anniversary. What are some of the things you look back at and celebrate God for?
Most of the events revolve around spiritual empowerment of members. Presently, our members have become leaders in our Association and Conference at large. At the same time, they have gone to various places where they have been effective in the hands of the Lord. Also, when we look back and realise that the church that started as a small group has expanded to this length, we feel that God has been good to us; we need to celebrate Him for His Mercies and Grace.
We have many reasons to thank Him in the past 60 years, We want to have educational project in commemoration of the 60 years anniversary.
What will the educational project entail?
There are two ways of looking at it. First of all, we want to have primary school education as an effective medium of evangelism. This is because education is costly in this area. In fact, from our statistics, this church charges the minimum rate in terms of school fees.
This is because we want the low income earners in this vicinity to sponsor their wards to school. For this reason, we are considering having a good structure to provide quality education and to complement government’s effort in providing basic education.
Secondly, we would be using this building for our Sunday School classes, discipleship, membership class and other areas to empower the teaching ministry of the church.
How would you describe the Nigerian educational system?
Nigeria is trying its best, but it is not like the original intention of the missionaries. The missionaries brought education to Nigeria; they were not charging exorbitant fees in the past, which was the reason many people were able to afford good education. Presently, even churches charge school fees that are too high for many people to pay. To me, I do not see progress in education here now, because of the cost. The federal government is doing its part but the federal government cannot do everything, the church should be able to collaborate with the government and those who enjoyed free education should be able to contribute their own part so that the less privileged would be able to have access to qualitative education.
You are a man of God and I am sure you must have been trained in a seminary or Bible school. How would you compare the church of the 1950s when this church was instituted and the present day church?
I am a trained Baptist Pastor from The Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso and I had the opportunity to attend the University of Ibadan for my first and second degrees. I also went to Holland to study Reformed Theology. In those days, I could see the zeal for righteousness but now it is the zeal for prosperity. The church has become a kind of social club where people talk more of socialisation without consciousness of heaven. In those days people valued rapture, heaven, holiness and characters were being moulded, but presently it is the issue of prosperity theology. The disparity is wide. In our church, we tell members that heaven is the ultimate; whatever you accomplish in this world is a waste; if you do not make heaven.
What do you have to say about dressing to church, considering Christian values?
You know your appearance says a lot about you. If you are somebody that values dignity, you have to dress the way you want people to address you. Presently, people come to church as a social club house. If they know that they are going to meet the King of kings and Lord of lords, the one they should value most comprehensively, they need to dress properly. Again, there is cross-cultural theology where people say it does not matter; the dress does not matter. Well, in Western world it does not matter but in our world here, we value dress code. People have to be conscious that they are coming to meet God and whatever they put on should not distract the attention of other worshippers. The Western culture is not the standard for Christianity, but the Scriptures (see Romans 12:2; 1Cor. 15:33 and Deut. 22:5).
What goodwill message do you have for your members and the general public?
I thank God for their lives because of their cooperation thus far. I appreciate the pastors that are working with me and those that have worked ahead of me; they have been giving me good support. I appreciate their commitment and contributions. I also appreciate the deacons and the Anniversary Committee members. We are working together as a team and nobody can be successful without cooperation of others. I appreciate the contributions of members and the community. May God bless us together as we are working towards one goal, which is to make heaven.