Sunday Adelaja, Nigerian pastor of Embassy of the Blessed Kingdom of God, Kiev Ukraine in this concluding interview with Church Times Nigeria touches further on why he believes he should continue to raise the alarm over the Nigerian Church despite his own personal challenges.
How will you react to people like Apostle Alfred Williams who say they commissioned you to ministry and are not happy with your style of offering correction?
You know, one thing that our people like to do is to take glory where the glory doesn’t belong to them. Before I started talking this way and correcting the errors in the Nigerian church, all these so called pastors, Bishops and G.Os of Nigeria and Nigerian descent used me as their doyen. They used to call me the bright star of Nigerian Christianity. They used me as the Cinderella of the Nigerian church. They all wanted to associate with me one way or the other and if there was any one of them that was lucky enough to come across me before I became big. All of them are claiming that they commissioned me or raised me up, my mentor or my father.
So if Apostle Williams is saying he is the one that commissioned me to ministry, go and listen to Bishop Wale Oke, he will say the same thing, Pastor Kumuyi might say almost the same thing. All of them want to take glory for where they didn’t sow. Of course, I have never been a church member in my life. The only church I attended growing up was Anglican church. I got saved with my sister Laide Adelaja who was in college in Abeokuta, came back home and preached to me.
That was my first encounter with the gospel. But I committed my life totally when I heard Pastor Kumuyi say the same thing over the television. I never met him then, but only heard him preach over the television. I was attending Deeper Life church for only six months before I left the country. But they didn’t even allow me to become a member because I was without a shoe, I only had a pair of slippers. They told me they cannot accept me because I didn’t have a shoe. But I thank God for that because if I had become a member there, they would have laid a claim to me.
So, I left the church to arrive Russia where there was no church. Now, I have mentioned the names of ministers who had been a blessing to me either through their books or their meetings. Now what Apostle Alfred Williams is talking about is the case when I was finishing my masters in Russia, we the student body invited Bishop Wale Oke to preach to our student fellowship in the university. So, he came and brought some people with him, one of the people he brought was Alfred Williams who was in the U.K. So, Bishop Wale Oke was the main speaker and Alfred Williams was taking some of the sessions. So, if he says he commissioned me into ministry, maybe what he means is that I attended that meeting as one of the leaders of the student body and I was interpreting also for them. So, maybe the fact that after the message he prayed for the whole church which I was part of it which he claims to be commissioning. Well, if that is the case, so be it. But I didn’t have any relationship with him one-on-one until about 20 years later when I invited him to my church which was already the largest church in Europe with 25,000 people to speak.
The fact that he disagrees with my style, oh you ask people in England if people don’t disagree with his own style too. Yes of course, he has the right to disagree with my style just as a lot of people disagree with his own style as well in the UK. We are living in a free world, anybody can agree or disagree with what I am doing but as far as I am standing on the ground of truth, I am comforted. My own concern is that God is in agreement with what I am doing. I believe that it doesn’t matter how many people disagree with what I am doing as long God agrees with it. As far as I am concerned, I rather prefer the whole world to disagree with me and God agree with me than to have the whole world agree with me and God be against me.
Your expose on some leading pastors in Nigeria is causing a quiet revolution. The income in some churches is dwindling. What exactly is your position about money vis-a-vis the church work?
On the issue of money in the Nigerian church, I believe the church must support their ministers and church members support their local church and ministers. But the only kind of giving the Bible encourages in the New Testament is free-will offering. That’s all. But what has happened in the Nigerian church and her leaders is that they have sold their conscience to mammon. 2 Peter 2:3 said, “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingered not, and their damnation.” What is happening in the Nigerian church is that covetousness has overtaken the Nigerian church and the pastors are using feign word to merchandize the people of God. In Ezekiel 34: 7-10 Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord; As I live, saith the Lord God, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock;
Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord; Thus, saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves anymore; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. I think this particular passage is talking to the Nigerian church. I believe the Nigerian pastors are feeding themselves and building their empires and ministries while church members are going hungry. Nigeria has become number one poorest country in the world per population right now. Our people are living on less than $1 today and our pastors at the same time are buying jeeps, private jets, flying all around the world and building their empires while people in their own churches cannot even eat three square meals. Our Nigerian church has departed from the injunctions in the Bible that the offerings that are coming into the church must first of all be used in taking care of the poor.
Jesus in Matthew 25:42 “For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink”. This is what the church is meant to be doing. We are meant to eliminate poverty and wretchedness from our society. We are supposed to use the resources in the church not only to take care of the needs of our church members but of our community also. Just like in the book of Acts, we see the offering that came into the church was used to meet the needs of the people.
In Acts 4:32-37 said, “32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
There was no needy person amongst them because the church had taken care of all the needs of the society. The church today is now taking from the needy and using it to take care of the Bishops and G.Os. It is wickedness. The Bible says that whosoever that gives to the rich is an oppressor and the same as someone stealing from the poor. Whereas the Bible tells us in Psalm 82:3 “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. and Proverbs 19:17 If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD–and he will repay you!
In Matthew 19:21, Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Anybody that wants to follow Jesus must learn to pay attention to the poor. This is what the Nigerian church has to come back to. It is the basic and elementary part of the gospel of Christ.
I think I must also touch here about the question of tithe and offering. Like I said, in the New Testament, there is no place for compulsory giving of tithe. I personally give tithe, not 10% but 20% just as a measure of discipline to honor God. Giving to God must be as appreciation and thanksgiving for what he has done for us. It should be a measure of love. It shouldn’t be because of the law or that it was done in the Old Testament. When Nigerian pastors are saying people are cursed because they don’t pay tithe, it is because they don’t understand the New Testament gospel. Because in the New Testament Jesus and his disciples didn’t preach tithe talk less of collecting tithe. Jesus never collected tithe.
The Apostles never collected tithe and never demanded tithe from the church in the New Testament. So when it talks about tithe in Malachi 3:5” “So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty.”
It is talking about the leader of the churches and the country that are well to do, collecting this tithe from the people and are not using it for the purpose that God instituted it. God said so that there would be food in my house. Why food? So that people can come to the house of God to eat. So in Malachi, the ministers instead of using the tithe to feed the hungry, they were using to build their empires just us the pastors in the Nigerian church are doing today. They were not using the tithe to take care of the poor, the widows and the fatherless. That is what that Malachi was talking about; the money that was coming was supposed to take care of these people according to verse 5.
The Nigerian church just read from verses 8 to 12 omitting verse 5 telling us the real culprits who are stealing from God. Just as the church in the New Testament used the offerings to take care of the need of the people, the Nigerian church has to get back to this if they want to follow the truth of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
You are now almost living in the cyberspace. What is happening to your ministry?
I pray what is happening in my ministry will happen to most people in Nigeria. I think the ministry that God has blessed me with and has helped me to build is the dream of every Bishop and G.O in Nigeria. Every pastor will like to have the kind of church that I have and that is why all of them are running to Europe and America to start churches. But they cannot have the kind of church that I have been able to build in Ukraine.
Nothing is happening to my ministry but over the past 24 years, I have been able to raise ministers and pastors who are taking care of a lot of the chunk of the work that I used to do personally. So, what I am now doing as the senior pastor of the church is to train the leaders and ministering to the church once a month and my junior pastors are the one running the local churches. We have in Ukraine over 400 churches; in the city of Kyiv, we have 40 churches. All over the world we have started over 2,700 churches in different countries in the world and of course you know that 99% of our church is made up of white Caucasians. So, by the time anybody is able to do that and yet not sit down in church and make yourself the superstar and a little god but you’re able to set yourself free and delegate the work to other minister and release them.
That is the kind of Christianity we need to practice in Nigeria, when no G.O or pastor is accruing the people to himself as his own slaves but is setting the people free and encouraging them to pursue their own calling. That is the kind of Christianity we need to get back to in Nigeria. Not privatizing church and the people that Jesus has died for.
I was able to set myself free because of this understanding to be able to minster more to the people on the internet and the world at large. So the church is prospering with me or without me. Another reason I had to do that is because I know I am coming to Nigeria and since I am returning to Nigeria, I need to right now getting off from the church so that they will be able to survive while I am still here without me so that when I am now gone they would even be able to thrive the more.
There is an impression back home that you have scandals trailing your ministry. What exactly is the situation of things now with the Ukrainian govt.?
Oh Yeah, I have scandals trailing my ministry for sure. If you call yourself a minister of the New Testament and you don’t have scandals trailing your ministry, then you’re probably not a minister. Because the Bible says that woe unto you when everybody is saying good about you. You cannot be a friend of God and be a friend of the world at the same time. If you truly are a friend of God, the world is going to hate you. Jesus said, they hated me first, so they’ll hate you. A servant cannot be more that his master. The Bible also says that anybody that wants to live a godly life must face persecutions. So, if you have not been persecuted as I am, it shows the rotten state of the Nigerian church. The church has now become darkness like the world, there is no difference. We practice the same thing. So, there’s no scandal, no problem, no persecution because we are not practicing real Christianity.
I am proud of my attacks and travails. I am like Apostle Paul that said, I would rather glory in my weaknesses and tribulations than in the good things because he was always in one tribulation or the other. That is what Christianity is about. The sign of Christianity is not that everything is going smooth and nice, but that you are thriving and doing the will of God though there are things against you.
2 Corinthians 12;9-10. “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
So, that is my answer to your question about scandals in the ministry.
Now concerning my situation in Ukraine in particular, I think it’s the wisdom of God that He has made me to be going through the persecution and the law suits that have not allowed me to travel these days because If I have been able to travel, I would have been in Nigeria now and I am not sure if some people will not have taken the law into their hands and attack me or harm me. So, I think, it is the wisdom of God to have kept me here in the Ukraine right now before Nigeria would be ready for me to come. As soon as Nigeria is ready, I bet you I will be right there ready to leave Ukraine and move over to Nigeria.
Since you began this campaign what toll has it taken on you?
- All my old friends have suddenly disappeared.
- People are spreading evil reports about me. Some are even saying I am no more the pastor of the Embassy of God Church, Ukraine, that I have been removed.
- A lot of people are spreading some news about alleged sexual accusations against me.
These are some of the prices you have to pay for standing against the larger Christian world. Some people say I have backslidden while other say I am an anti-Christ.
So all these things will be said and done against you when you stand for the truth, but what matters is that God knows the truth and as long as God knows the truth I am going to be on the side of God. Anybody on the side of God is a majority.
What has been the reaction of your family and church members to your present preoccupation?
Most of my church members are not English speakers, they speak Russian and Ukrainian. So, they care less about what I am saying in English language because they already know me anyway and I speak to them in their Russian language. They are not bothered and they know my track record. They know how I have led this kind of revolution in Ukraine already not only in the church but also in the political world. What I have started to do now is just introduction; I am going to go beyond just talking about the religious system of Nigeria to talking about every sphere of the society. I will be talking about politics, culture and every sphere of society in Nigeria sooner than later especially when I am back to Nigeria. My own preoccupation is not to be a critic but to fight for the wellbeing of God’s people and to be on the side of the God’s truth. So, anywhere deceptions, lies and falsehood is taking roots in the society, it is my job as the preacher of truth to challenge for any kind of falsehood, to uproot them and to establish truth in its place.
My family also know me. If anybody knows my history, what I have done by the grace of God in Ukraine here will not even see any problem in what I am doing now because I have done even greater things here in Ukraine. I have made greater problems and fought with the beast, evil spirits, principalities and powers in eastern Europe, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. So, I am familiar with this and my family is also. So, we are at peace and in Nigeria, it’s just the beginning, you haven’t seen anything yet.
One would have thought you would come back to Nigeria to begin a church and demonstrate how a proper church is being run. Are you thinking in this line? When should Nigeria be expecting you?
I am not doing what I am doing because I want to start a church in Nigeria. I have already built one of the greatest churches in the world and this not just my word but the assessment of some of the greatest theologians and church analysts in the world like Peter Wagner and other people.
So, I have built one of the greatest churches in the world greater than most churches in Nigeria and the record is there so I don’t need to claim anything. I don’t need to prove anything to Nigeria. If I am able to do it in eastern Europe, for me it is not even a challenge to build the biggest church in Nigeria. It’s not a challenge at all. But that is not my challenge right now.
My challenge is to lift Nigerians out of poverty and to bring about national transformation in Nigeria.
My challenge is to make sure that Nigeria is removed from a 3rd world country and the status of the poorest country in the world to at least a descent country to live in.
My desire is to make the nation one of the greatest Christian countries in the world. My desire is to change the economy of Nigeria, the social life of Nigeria, the mindset of Nigerians, the value system of Nigeria and to build a new Nigeria. So, my passion for Nigeria goes beyond the four walls of the church. It is too small a challenge for me to just come and build a good church in Nigeria. So, my goal for coming to Nigeria is not to build a church but if anybody who is a pastor wants to learn from me, I would be glad to share with them what I know. But I am not coming to build a church Nigeria, I don’t need to proof that point, I have already done that. That is in my past.
When should Nigeria be expecting me? I don’t know yet, when I am about to arrive everybody will be aware of it
Some argue that your attack on churches is to pave the way for your own ministry when you come. How will you react to this sir?
The argument is based on what they know. The only thing they know to do is to build church and they use themselves to judge me. They think the only thing I know to do is to build church but fortunately I go beyond church walls to build societies. I am expert in National transformation. I consult with governments. I have spoken in the United States Senates, the Israeli parliament, Japanese parliament, and the United Nations twice. I know something in this life more than just building churches. I have written over 300 books on various topics. I can do so many things you’ll be amazed. I have raised single handedly over 200 millionaires in US dollars.
So, I know to do a lot of other things than only building a church. I am not going to allow anybody to label by making me look like I am only a pastor and that’s all. No! I am more than a pastor. I am a transformation strategist, an Innovator, an author, a business and political consultant.
When I come to Nigeria, Nigeria would discover who Sunday Adelaja is for sure. So, I don’t need to pull other people down in order to build my own ministry. No! That’s not my style. I didn’t do that in Russia. When I went to Russia, I did it the hard way. I had to learn the language that was strange to me. I had to learn the culture and speak like them. I had to adopt a nation that is not mine. I had to make a foreign people become my people. I had to disciple people that don’t look like mine. I know how to work the hard way. I don’t need to pull down or build on another man’s foundation. No! I know how to work the hard way. I know how to build from the scratch. I know how to lay the foundation for a work that will be unique and not like any other.
If God will tell me to start a church in Nigeria, it wouldn’t be like any other thing you’ve seen. I am not interested in that and I pray God will not tell me to start a church because I am more burdened about lifting at least 40 million people out of poverty in our country. I want Nigeria to be the pride of the earth before I die. That is my vision, my next challenge and stage of my life. That is what my life is going to be dedicated to. To make Nigeria the pride of the earth. This is why I want to come back to Nigeria and not to build church.