Prophetess Adejinmi Olubukola is a Prophetess in the Celestial Church of Christ. Her husband is the shepherd of one of the parishes in the church. But she is not the regular kind of Celestial prophetess. Though she has been in the church since the late 90s, she has refused to conform with some of the things the church is known for.
A graduate of Literature from Ahmaddu Bello University, Adejinmi is currently pursuing a Doctor of Divinity at the West Africa Theological Seminary. She spoke with Church Times’ Gbenga Osinaike on her sojourn in the Celestial Church and the great strides the Lord has used her to carry out in the church since she joined. Below are excerpts:
You have been in the Celestial Church for a while and the story we hear is that God has been using you to stir a revival in the church. How did you encounter the church in the first place?
I had met Christ right from my undergraduate days but then I was first a member of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church. But I had had cause to attend the Deeper Life Church while on campus and some other denominations. In the north where I did my undergraduate studies it was difficult to find your preferred church. In most instances people make do with any church they find around them. It is unlike here where there are many churches to choose from. The important thing for me then was the saving knowledge of Jesus which I cherished so well.After my university education I travelled to the UK. Initially I was attending Mountain of Fire and Miracles in the UK before I began to attend the Celestial Church of Christ.
The beauty about the Celestial church in the UK is that the church then was centred on worshiping God. People were more concerned about serving God and they took Bible study sessions seriously. But the case in Nigeria is different. While in the UK, I aligned with a parish of the church that was close to where I was living. I got married in the UK to my present husband and we really had great time serving the Lord until we came back to Nigeria to meet a different scenario.
Specifically, what were you doing in the UK apart from church?
Well I was a teacher in one of their high schools. I was teaching English though I did Literature in the University. But that job also afforded me a great opportunity to develop myself. I had a lot of time after the teaching hours. Usually when I got home in those days I would sit by the television and would watch the CNN and God’s Channel. The later afforded me an opportunity to develop myself spiritually because several servants of God came on air to preach and teach the word. I gained a lot.
Before then I had a very disciplined Christian background which made me seek after God. In my younger days I had lived with my grandmother who was a committed believer and she had nurtured me in the way of the Lord. So, giving my life to Christ later in my undergraduate days came naturally. It was in the UK that I began to follow a discipleship series which really helped me to have a grasp of what it means to have a relationship with God. The Celestial Church was just one of the outlets that helped my spiritual growth. I learnt from a lot of other teachers of the word that are not in the Celestial church.
Are you saying the doctrines of the celestial church are things you agreed with despite the fact that you had come to the knowledge of Christ?
Well we will come to that later. But it is not about agreeing with the doctrine of the CCC. It’s about establishing the truth from the scriptures and being able to stand by it. I had always had an independent mind of my own and I am not easily swayed. Once I am able to establish the truth I hold unto it. It did not really matter if others were not in agreement with me.
The doctrines of the CCC is one thing the doctrine of the Bible is another thing. I soon found out in my walk with God and my relationship with church leaders that there are differences between liturgical understanding and theological understanding.
In most instances theology is always right because in theology there is always a clear-cut interpretation of what the Bible is saying. But most liturgical convictions are based on personal revelation of the church founder which sometimes may not be established from the Bible.
So how did you now get involved in the Church so well that it seems that some see you as a dissident?
When I came back to Nigeria in 2007 I saw a different scenario. I soon discovered that there was a lot of syncretic practices in the church. I saw all kinds of abominable things and that created a burden for me. It was like God laying a burden on my heart to do something about the church. It was when I came back to Nigeria that I was able to relate the series of dreams I had while in the UK. But before I could connect with the dreams I was planning to leave the church.
The things I met was disgusting to say the least and what really bothered me was that I discovered that people were being used by the shepherds and were being manipulated. That was my experience but I can not generalize. Even at that I think there were those who were doing it right. But there was a gap that needed to be filled and that is the gap of the knowledge of God’s word and ability to divorce Christianity from African Traditional Religion.
You talked about having dreams in the UK. What were the series of dream you had?
Well in 2001 I had a dream where I saw my self in a construction site. I saw a man using caterpillar to bulldozer some buildings that had become old and dilapidated. As the man was pulling down the old structure he was building new ones. So, I walked to the man in the dream and told him I was in need of a job that I was tired of the teaching job I was doing. But the man said to me that “Bukola you were not meant to teach what I am doing is what you are supposed to do. He told me to join him in the bulldozer and said to me that he would take me to my own site. So, he took me to a virgin land and asked me to go and work on the virgin land and that he was coming back to see what I had done. I woke up from the dream and said perhaps God wanted me to work in the construction industry. The following Sunday I went to church. We were attending Edward Parish in the UK then. As I entered the church a prophetess grabbed my legs and said to me that God was going to use me in the CCC. And she said to me that while doing the work my hand would bleed, She said I have been sent to be a missionary in the CCC. I was able to relate the dream to the prophecy.
About two years after I saw myself in a church cutting grass and at a point my hand was bleeding. In that dream I recalled the first dream. Two years after this dream I had another one where I saw myself cleaning a dirty church along with some other people. At that point it was clear to me that leaving the church was not an option that God wanted to use me in the church. All this happened while I was in the UK. But when I came back to Nigeria with my husband in 2007 and saw what was going on I brought to remembrance the series of dreams I had in the past. That was what propelled me to roll up my sleeves to begin work. The challenge again was how to be different. But the Lord has been helping us.
But in concrete terms how have you been able to carry out this task of re-orientating church members?
When I came back with my husband one of the leading shepherds in the CCC encouraged me to go to the West Africa Theological Seminary. My husband was also supportive and infact got the form for me. I enrolled in WATS and did the masters programme in Divinity. I am currently doing a doctoral programme in divinity. Going to WATS has greatly helped my theology and had helped to enhance my appreciation of the Bible. But in concrete terms we started a discipleship programme in the church and the response both negative and positive have been amazing. What we are doing is causing a storm. Some of the shepherds feel threatened by the discipleship training programme and they are discouraging members of the church from coming for our training and listening to us. One of the intervention is the school we are currently running. Though it is non-denominational because we have people from several other churches also attending. Infact only a few are from the CCC. But it has helped to open the eyes of many. What is happening in the church today is beyond denomination. All churches are affected by the rot so it is not about church it is about Christ and the need for Christ to be formed in the lives of people.
One would have thought that in the first place you will have nothing to do with the CCC giving your new birth experience?
You must appreciate that my coming into the church was propelled by an inner conviction that God would use me as an instrument to wake the church to scriptural truth. I knew all along that It was not a perfect church. But the truth is that there is no denomination that is perfect. But like I said earlier, I have always had an independent mind I do not follow the crowd and I do not follow prophets. If a prophet comes to me to give me a revelation I must have been shown that thing by God or God must have confirmed that thing to me. So, I was not really bothered about the perceived minuses in the church because whether we like it or not the people in CCC also deserve to know the Lord and God would have to use somebody.
The contention in some circles is that the foundation of the CCC is faulty, that the founder, SBJ Oshoffa did not have a genuine call. How would you react to this?
This is one area I think we need a lot of understanding. The first thing we must know is that Oshoffa was living with a Methodist priest when the Lord called him. He was not an idol worshiper as it were. He was born by parents who had been waiting on God for children before he was born. He was named Samuel and Joseph at birth confirming that his parents were Christians so to say. When God called him, he was in the bush with the Bible to tell you that he had a kind of relationship with God. We must also understand that he was called within a cultural context but he was not lettered enough to understand certain theological issues. So, God had to speak to him in the language of signs and symbols. God told him that many would not make it to heaven because of their idolatrous lifestyle. So you now wonder why somebody who had such calling will be into syncretism. I think the Methodist Church is partly to blame in not being able to disciple Oshoffa well when he had that encounter with God. At that time the Methodist Church where he was worshipping could not understand the call of God on his life and the signs and wonders God was using him to perform so they pushed him out. It was when he came to Nigeria and the ministry was accepted by people that it dawned on those in Porto-Novo that they had lost a precious instrument in the hands of God. The truth is that God backed the ministry of Oshoffa with signs and wonders. But the challenge was that he was influenced negatively by some people. All the fetish things that had become a sort of norm in some parishes were things Oshoffa frowned at as far back as 1974. (Adejinmi showed this reporter a publication) in this publication, Oshoffa as far back as 1974 denounced all those who used all kinds of fetish things in the church like breaking of pots at T junction, engaging in spiritual bath, flogging people during deliverance, going to bath in the beach in the name of deliverance, breaking of egg and all kinds of fetish things were the things he abhorred. He kicked against all these strange practices. (interviewee reading from the publication) he said God saved him from a debilitating sickness several years earlier so he could correct the ills in the church.
But why was it difficult for him to stop these strange practices when he was alive?
I have just showed to you where he denounced all these practices. The journal I showed you republished the 1974 declaration of the elders of the CCC. The declaration was spearheaded and signed by the founder of the church. But what happened was that some people had become so much entrenched in the church that they enjoyed doing what they were doing. Some felt because Oschoffa was about to die he did not want to bequeath the powers he was using to perform those miracles to subsequent generation. For me I think the foundation of the church is not the problem but the way people are building on the foundation. Paul warned believers on how they build on the foundation. One’s background has a way of influencing one’s Christianity. For instance, the white man who brought the faith did not experience witchcraft the way we experience it. Unfortunately, in an attempt to deal with the peculiar African experience of voodoo and witchcraft, some members of the church delved into syncretism in the sense that they still hold unto what they were doing in the traditional African way but now use the name of Jesus instead of calling their local gods. From my understanding what is lacking in many cases is a sound Bible knowledge that would give them the assurance of their place in Christ.
But then how do you explain the way the prophetic gift is being bastardized in the church?
The truth is that we can’t eradicate the office of the prophet. The scripture talks about it. In the New Testament we read of the Agabus and the daughters of Philip who were described as prophetess. Agabus infact talked in symbolic form. He took the girdle of Paul and gave prophetic words concerning him. Prophets talk in symbols. This is where we need to strike the balance and this is where the office of a teacher is important so as to balance the office of the prophet. Jesus himself was a fruit of prophecy. But there should not be over emphasis of the office to the detriment of other offices in the five fold ministry.
What then would you regard as biblical prophecy?
God hears prayers but prophets talk in symbols. God speaks to people in the language they understand. That is the perspective with which we should look at prophecy. Prophecy in the biblical sense exalts the word of God more than vision and revelations. But I think where the challenge lies is trying to balance what the Bible says with what is revealed. Any prophecy that does not conform with the word is not of God. We must however appreciate that the ways of the prophet could be strange. The prophets of old were asked to do strange things that does not seem to conform to logic. For us today we have the word of God to gauge whatever we are being led to do. For instance, I operate in the prophetic gift but you can’t see me do what many who have that gift do because of my understanding. What we are saying is that people need the word to stabilize the prophetic office.
We also find out that the CCC promotes the use of elements so much in the place of prayers?
Yes. But the truth is that the elements that people carry about do not add anything to their prayers. They are only used to assist the faith of the weak. Whether we use elements or not, God will answer us. The sad aspect is when people now attribute the miracle they experience to the elements. For people who use the elements I see it as level of their faith. But they have to grow away from that level of faith and become mature. When a believer spends time with God in prayer and study of the word he will not be moving from one place to the other. The challenge of the church today is that the place of the teacher is being relegated to the background. I believe any church denomination that does not recognize the office of the teacher will die in ignorance. Many churches don’t have proper Bible study and discipleship programme for their members. This is really unfortunate. And it is the reason why people are not mature.
In what way has your theological education helped your appreciation of the Bible?
In many ways. Apart from what theology has done to my understanding, I think because I am in West Africa Theological Seminary now, a non-denominational setting I have better understanding of the church. I have now come to discover that Church will take no person to Jesus. All the churches have one challenge or the other. There is no point moving from one church to another. What is important is to have a relationship with Jesus. There is no denomination in heaven. You don’t need any church to get to heaven what you need is Jesus.
What has been the testimony of the revolutionary work you’re carrying out in the church?
God has been wonderful. We have been able to disciple many of members of the church. Some of those who passed through our discipleship programme have been able to influence their parishes. There have been backlash as some of them were sent out of their parishes because the shepherds in those parishes were not comfortable with change. For us we stand for the truth of the Bible.
There are a lot of other contending issues. People walking barefoot in the church. Some see it as an occult practice?
I think walking barefoot and wearing white garment are non-essentials. The founder saw a revelation of people worshipping in heaven in white robes and he interpreted what he saw in the physical. The truth is that the white robe in the spiritual sense is for those who have overcome according to what the book of Revelation tells us. But what I have found over the years is that there has been an abuse of the white garment. When white is worn it is supposed to portray what heaven will look like. I don’t wear it always. I only wear in the vicinity of the church. What I do has gone beyond the CCC. We run an interdenominational Bible College and also do entrepreneurial training for women. I had to go and learn how to make about 21 products so I can teach women. We run adult literacy programme, several programmes on Information Technology so that pastors could enhance their ministerial calling.