By Gbenga Osinaike
Rev Oladele Afolabi is unassuming. He had come to know the Lord at very tender age while in the Anglican Church and had given himself to God’s service. But all the while during his growing up years, he never thought he would one day start a church not to talk of being the chairman of a province of the PFN.
“When I finished secondary school and was preparing for admission in the university, for the first time I heard the voice of the Lord. Before then I used to study the Bible a lot. Apart from studying for JAMB, I would study the Bible. It was in one of the nights that the Lord spoke to me and said he was going to use me for the expansion of his kingdom. Before then I had given my life to Christ in the Anglican Church and was also attending Bible Studies in some other evangelical groups. But then, I told God that I wanted to go to school so that people won’t say I embraced the gospel because I was a failure.”
He soon got admission to the university. By the time he graduated from the university armed with a degree, the Lord came to remind him of the call to ministry. He then got immersed in evangelical work. But going full time to do evangelical work was not what he wanted. “I wanted to use my own funds to fund the gospel. I remember having another encounter where God showed me the vision of rapture and I saw the whole world in disarray. The vision was so strong because I felt the pain of the vision physically. That was enough impetus to abandon all and embrace evangelical work. But then I was skeptical of how I would survive. So I took up several paid employment so as to support whatever evangelical activity I was doing. In those days it was difficult to raise money. People were not even talking about money in the church. Rather, if God calls you, the orientation was that you will bring your money to work for God.”
So he formed a team of evangelicals. They used to do evangelism in rural areas all around Lagos. But the intention was not to start a church. The souls won through those efforts were passed on to other churches while he continued to explore the corporate world. He recalled however that his passion for evangelism was ignited years ago while undergoing the mandatory one year youth service corp in Osun State. “I recall while doing my youth service in Osun State I was in my room where I had this encounter with Christ. He came into my room and asked me to kneel down and he impacted me. He told me about the future and gave me a clear picture of what wanted me to do.”
That encounter still did not mean starting a church for Afolabi who did not waste time to align himself with a church in Lagos after his youth service. “I was in that church and laboured with the workforce. The church was doing quite well and I believe it’s still doing well. There was a programme that God used me to organise and it was an interdenominational programme. It was a great success. I was doing quite well in the church. But along the line the Lord asked me to leave the church. I did not know what to do because I was comfortable. Leaving the church did not make any sense to me then. But the Lord warned me to leave and that if I remained in the church I would regret it.”
Even with all the promptings of God, Afolabi who is the founder of Christ Base Assembly based in Oworonshoki, Lagos did not still see the reason to leave his former church. He continued serving the Lord there until the church council called him one day and pleaded with him to leave the church. That came to him as strange. Unlike many people who leave churches to start their own, in his own case the leadership of the church pleaded with him to leave. They had sense the grace of God upon his life and felt keeping him in that church would be depriving the kingdom of what the Lord wants to do through him.
That was the beginning. “I was actually afraid to take any step because the development came to me suddenly. But then I continued organising Bible study programmes and interdenominational meetings. This continued for a while until those who came for the meetings urged me to start a Sunday service. In fact the person who challenged and urged me to start was the one who brought out money to support the move. That was how we began the ministry with about 14 members in 1997”
Recalling the early days he said, “I was not married then when the ministry started. As a matter of fact the person I married is one of the students I taught in those days when I was doing tutorial classes for students preparing for GCE and JAMB. I was also heavily involved in the corporate world, worked in an advertising agency. But by the time the company was leaving for Abuja I had to decide between the ministry and the work. I opted to stay back in Lagos because of the ministry. I remember then that we had rules and regulations that bother appearance in church. But with time we began to realise that we needed to allow people come as they are and later teach them the word and allow them grow at their own pace while we nurture them in prayers.
“I remember we were also brought up to think that everything rested on prayers and fasting. I used to fast almost on a daily basis. But that orientation too has changed. While we still fast and pray, waiting on the Lord I have since discovered there is a need for wisdom and knowledge while carrying out these spiritual exercise”
He debunked insinuations that many church leaders are living in luxury. “I can tell you as the chairman of the Kosofe Province of the PFN that many pastors are going through challenges and are not living well. The few ones that are doing well give the impression that the church is all about money. But that is not so. In many cases it’s not about the money. Many of these pastors are genuinely zealous for the Lord but they don’t have the kind of money that people think they have. When people are complaining that pastors are riding jets I wonder because only a few are enjoying while majority are suffering. The ministry is about sacrifice. When God called us there was no promise of money. Many had to sacrifice their personal comfort to do this work because of deep conviction. Along the line when God blesses them those around begin to make disparaging comments. I think this is not fair. As a matter of fact I believe that it is an error to think when you become a pastor your financial status becomes guaranteed”
He stated that if he was looking for money for instance he would have relocated abroad. “I remember the last time I went to the US, a fellow pastor took me in his car and we drove through some of the streets in one of the states in the US and the friend was showing me how gay pastors have infiltrated ministry. Only a few of the churches I saw did not have the gay sign. The pastor pleaded with me to come over to the US to help out. I have all that it takes to relocate. But then I told him God has not given me the go ahead to relocate. I needed to hear from God and God had not told me anything. If I was greedy for money and want comfort by all means I would have fallen to that temptation and I would have just tied it to the need for missions in the US. But then the need to hear from God is more than whatever desire one may have.”
On PFN, Afolabi, former Chairman of Kosofe province of the PFN now Director of Special Project and Infrastructure, offers, “Initially I thought I was wasting my time by being part of PFN but later I saw that my membership has greatly helped me. I am able to mingle with other leaders and appreciate the ministry more. People share ideas and we share challenges too and thereby strengthen ourselves. Here in Kosofe we do a lot to empower pastors that are challenged both spiritually and financially. We empower pastors, run seminars and hold programmes that would help promote the work of God in their hands.”
Afolabi stated, “I believe so much in community service. In my street where I reside for instance I am the chairman of the street and I relate with other residents to make the community what it is today. We run various community service. I believe as believers we have a responsibility to our immediate community. We are supposed to be the light of the world. I encourage my members to be actively involved in community development too.”
Married to a banker, the Christ Base Assembly G.O believes there is need for church leaders to begin to address their minds to the reality on ground. “I believe pastors should not rely on the church they pastor for sustenance but should depend on God and also work with their own hands and engage in legitimate things that would help them improve their financially status which will not jeopardise the work of God in their hands. They should also be an example in integrity and champion the cause of the community they find themselves by contributing their quota to the emancipation of such community.”