Monday, February 15, 2021 12:11 pm
By Bisi Daniel
A multitude of people moving down a road like a river is a strange sight, even if one knows it is a walking exercise.
But it is quickly understood when it is known that the leader of the group is Pastor Enoch Adeboye, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God.
Walking is his favourite exercise, done on regular basis. And many people like to join him out of the belief that they can benefit from the special anointing he carries.
Interestingly, it is said that many participants, including younger ones, soon run out of breath, while the 78-year-old cleric keeps walking at a steady pace.
“Forget his age and humility, that man is full of inexhaustible energy that challenges younger members of the church,” a member said last week.
As part of the activities marking his 40 years as General Overseer of the church, a “Praise Walk,” starting from the Redemption Camp, was organized on the 23 January.
For four hours, over 2,000 people walked joyously, with Pastor Adeboye showing no sign of tiredness.
The four-hour walk was voluntary, but the walk into the position as General Overseer, wasn’t.
The story of this involuntary walk has been well documented but some fine details are revealed from time to time.
At the February Thanksgiving Service of the church held at its headquarters in Ebute-Metta, Lagos, additions were made.
Although, he had mentioned it at the church’s Ministers Conference before, it was on that Sunday the world knew the person who read Pastor Adeboye’s rejection letter to be General Overseer to the Founder, Reverend Josiah Akindayomi.
He is Pastor David Kuo, now the Assistant General Overseer in charge of affairs of Elders of the church. A young man then, it was perhaps by some divine arrangement that he was chosen to read the letter.
He later became the Mr. Fix-It of the church, who was sent to fix problems in parishes.
For the larger section of the church, he became known when he said that he had decided not to call Pastor Adeboye on the phone again.
According to him, when he served in the North, he had called the General Overseer to update him on an issue, but throughout the conversation, Pastor Adeboye addressed him as “Sir” even after he reminded him he was talking to his boy.
He said he was so troubled that he decided to avoid a repeat of that experience.
It was also Pa Akindayomi’s response to the letter that broke Pastor Adeboye’s resistance to be General Overseer (GO).
He said the Founder, he calls “My-Father-in-the-Lord” told him that he had no objection to his refusal to succeed him but Pastor Adeboye should remember he loved him.
That worked because the Founder truly loved him and he did it so openly that it was an open secret in the church.
The chronicle of events leading to that day suggests that the making of the new GO was by some divine arrangement. God himself had “tied Pastor Adeboye up” and no amount of fasting, praying and letters could stop it.
How else could Pastor Adeboye have been a member of a church he had ridiculed earlier as a “small dog with a big name” because he felt the sign post of the church was bigger than its status then.
The RCCG was founded in 1952 by Pastor Josiah Akindayomi at 9 Willoughby Street and remained there until they were able to acquire a piece of land at the present site of the Headquarters at 1-5 Redemption Way, Ebute-Metta, Lagos (formerly 1a, Cemetery Street).
In the early 1970s he started looking for an educated successor, who had been spiritually revealed to him, but who was at that time not a member of the church.
The man was Enoch Adejare Adeboye, a Mathematics lecturer at the University of Lagos, who was forced by circumstances to join the church in 1973.
In the beginning
Pastor Adeboye explains the circumstances: “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 doctors 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, then suggested I should 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 worship of the Orthodox Church. But because I needed a miracle, I endured.
Although I liked that sermon, I could not understand why the bunch of illiterate preachers felt I had to surrender my life to Jesus Christ for the recovery of my child.
Finally, the word of God touched me and sobbing like a baby, I ran to the altar to accept Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour.”
Before then, Pastor Adeboye had at various times been a member of the Anglican Church and the Christ Apostolic Church, where he said he was taught to fast.
The story of the man God tied up Himself, gets more interesting from this point – a case of man’s will versus God’s.
Pastor Adeboye’s own words:“One eventful day in 1975, my Father-in-the-Lord called me to his office and said, “God has told me to ordain you as a pastor.”
I said, “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!”
For fourteen days and fourteen nights, my wife and I fasted and prayed that I will never become a pastor. This is one of the prayers God didn’t answer.
Then I became a pastor, but a few 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!
I couldn’t say no to him in his presence. So I made sure I got to Ilorin where I was lecturing before I wrote him a beautiful letter. “Please sir, get somebody else. I will support that fellow to the best of my ability.”
I didn’t want to be General Overseer but God compelled me.
That was the most challenging aspect of my Christian life, especially with so much opposition in the church from those who felt that I was too young.
I joined the church only in 1973, even though it had been in existence since 1952. Some foundation members had been pastors even before I was born again.
They regarded my promotion as too rapid! Some of them had become very influential because they had been pastors for a long time.
Fortunately, the majority of the members, particularly the youths, supported me because they realized that it was not what I wanted myself.
God also helped me in many ways. My Father-in-the-Lord couldn’t read anything other than the Bible, so he had to ask somebody to read the letter to him. The young man(Pastor Kuo), who read the letter told everybody about it but the older pastors thought I was manipulating the old man. However, it soon became clear that the situation was the exact opposite.
A very senior member of the church recalled last week that although some members of the church opposed his choice of successor, others believed that the Founder was always spirit-led in his decisions.
But even after he became General Overseer, there were people who believed that he was not chosen by God and that he might have manipulated the old man who couldn’t read or write.
Pastor Adeboye said the Almighty God soon began to give them a sign. “Every month in those days, we used to hold a seminar. And on the first day of every seminar, a child was born and it was always a boy. They knew that it was something that could not be manipulated.”
Summing up the journey so far, he revealed two Sundays ago that the past 40 years has been tough; not easy. The church was a poor one and so they had to struggle to pay salaries. At a point he had to sell her car.
He also had to deal with the persistent problems of the church’s 39 parishes. According to him the challenges were so much that he grew grey hair prematurely until God assured him that the church and its problems were His.
Although the new position was a promotion, it was physically a demotion of some sorts. For example, from the mansion he lived in as a teacher of the University of Ilorin, he had to move into a single room in Mushin, then a rough suburb in Lagos. The accommodation problem became acute when his family was relocating from Ilorin to join him, but he said when he prayed for a bigger place, God promised him a city, which is today’s Redemption Camp.“
When they eventually relocated to the Camp, there were day they could not afford to buy meat and had to rely on “panmo” ( from cow hide).
However, from the growth of the church and its recorded achievements, it is clear that the past 40 good years have been good for the church.
From 40 parishes, including the Headquarters parish, in 1981, RCCG has spread to over 198 countries, with over 32,000 parishes in Nigeria alone. There are at least 732 branches in the UK and Ireland, where it is the fastest growing Pentecostal church.
Although, the General Overseer, noted for humility and holiness, doesn’t take personal credit, his worldwide status looms far larger than that of the youngest Vice Chancellor of Africa, he was striving to be before the call to the service of God.