Nigerian-born Pastor Sunday Adelaja is the founder of Embassy of God Church, Kiev, Ukraine, the largest Pentecostal church in Europe. He spoke with Sunday Oguntola on the wrong concepts that churches in Nigeria are promoting. Excerpts:
Q. During your last visit to Nigeria, you were emphatic that the church was the major problem with the nation’s stunted growth. Do you still maintain that stance?
A. I wish to state categorically that I am not talking about any particular ministry. There is nothing personal at all. I am not against any man of God or any denomination. I’m just pointing out what I believe is the truth about the situation in our country.
I wish to appreciate all the men of God that have labored in our country. I think they did their best. I believe they taught us what they know. But we still have to admit that things were wrong and these things have to be corrected.
Q. What are some of these things?
A. In my opinion, the leadership and the structure of the church in Nigeria are as guilty as the politicians. We Christians like to judge, condemn and point fingers at the politicians. In some cases some churches are worse and some of the practices in churches might be worse than what the politicians do.
I am a strong believer in the fact that whatever is happening in any country, the number one cause of it is the damaged value system of that nation. I think we have a faulty and perverse value system in Nigeria. That is the root cause of all our problems, not just political leadership.
The political leadership comes from our society. Our leaders are not been imported from Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau or from some exotic places like Fiji totally different from us. They are not bringing their strange fire to our camp. No!!!
Q. How do you mean?
A. For us to have a corrupt value system as a nation and then be hoping to produce godly leaders is hypocrisy of the highest order. It doesn’t just happen!
It would take a miracle to have such leaders, what would normally happen is that even when such leaders emerge they would be largely opposed. They would be criticised because what they are doing will not make sense to most of the citizens. Most of the people on the ground profess different value systems.
The value systems the reformed leaders are bringing to our society would conflict with the ones that people are used to. The people would be condemning them. The conflict equals clashes. That means there would be controversies and disagreements.
That is what happened when we had a quite disciplined, god- fearing, pious leader in Muhammadu Buhari in the ‘80s. He was overthrown and the people rejoiced because the discipline and order he was bringing to our people was totally strange to them.
We are used to living the way we like to live. We are used to keeping our freedom, our liberty, our way of doing things. If we now have a god -fearing leader that wishes to develop the country, he would have to first alter the way we do things. Until we change, nothing changes. We didn’t want to change, so when Babangida who was more like us overthrew Buhari, we were happy.
Q. How does the church come in then?
A. The truth is that our value system comes from our pulpit. Our value system comes from our religious beliefs. Our value system comes from our religious practices. Our value systems come from our educational system. In Nigeria, the authority of the religious institutions is much higher than the authority of the educational system.
So, most of our value system is influenced by faith and religion. That is why I am saying it is the faulty and corrupt messages we have introduced to our pulpits that is responsible for producing corrupt practices in our society.
Q. Can you give examples of this?
A. A pastor could say that somebody would be a millionaire before the end of the year. Whereas we are in November or December and there are 500 people in that auditorium. All of them will shout amen!!! Yet Pastors don’t correct them saying that no, you would not become a millionaire before the end of the year even if you shout amen for the whole day.
The only person that would become a millionaire is the person that has worked for it. The only person that would become a millionaire is the person that has at least signed a contract. When pastors don’t clarify that, everybody begins to believe that some miracles would happen.
So when such a member goes to his office and he sees an unsigned check, for a million dollars and nobody is claiming responsibility for it, he claims it. He believes that it is God that has provided for him. That is how corruption gets from the pulpit to the society. That particular member would claim that God has answered his Pastor’s prayer.
He would boldly come to give testimony the following Sunday while the naïve and ignorant members would shout hallelujah! Meanwhile they too are expecting similar miracles and on and on. That is how the vicious circle of corruption from the pulpit to the whole country runs.
Q. But isn’t breakthrough real?
A. Breakthrough is a word from breaking forth. Water, springs or streams break forth from under the ground. For it to break forth, it must have been forcing its way for ages or for years before it all of a sudden breaks through.
The breakthrough that we see all of a sudden is as a result of hard work, invincible hard work. Yet we don’t emphasis the hard work aspect, we don’t emphasize the preparation aspect. We only emphasize the breakthrough. We think that those breakthroughs only come through prayers. That is another root of corruption.
Everybody goes out of the church looking for a breakthrough. So any opportunity they see, even though they are not legal, which they didn’t labor for, they want to take advantage of. We are promoting through our preaching and teachings from our pulpits the culture of getting something for nothing.
That means, I don’t need to do much but I can get something I can become rich. That way we are promoting corruption in the whole country. Instead of us to promote the culture of hard work before profit, we rather promote frivolity from our pulpits.
Q. So, all miracles have to be worked out?
A. The rule of life is that you work hard for your results. You don’t wait for grace or favor to give you results without working for them. We don’t teach people in our churches that truth.
If you don’t work for wealth even if you get that wealth through your parents, relatives or spouse, you are still a thief (Prov. 28:24). You are robbing the people who gave you that wealth.
That is because somebody worked for what you are claiming. How can you just be going to church and claiming something for yourself? That is another faulty doctrine we have, that promotes corruption in the country.
When you teach that people can claim anything, how can they claim when they are not qualified for it? How can they just claim simply because they have greed for it? We are promoting greed, we are promoting lust.
There is no product without the process of production. We tell people they can get something by faith, to only believe. We tell them to just give offerings. We teach them about faith offering. We teach them about tithe and offering. Not that I don’t believe in tithe and offering but that is not the way of receiving wealth. It is the way of preventing curses from coming to your resources.
For you to really have wealth, giving tithes and offerings are not enough. Tithes and offerings open up heaven to you. God doesn’t send money from heaven. You have to go to work and be involved in the process of production. It is only that way wealth and riches will come to you.
Another problem we have in the nation that is contributed by the church is that we teach millions of people that they should expect miracles. Pastors teach about miracles without telling them the truth about the order of life.
The way we are all supposed to live on a daily basis is not through miracles or by miracles. We are supposed to live by laws and principles that God has placed in the laws of nature, in the principles of life and order.
Life depends on laws and rules. But we tell people about miracle, miracle, miracle. No matter what you talk to a Nigerian about, they will tell you about the fact that God will do it. We are asking God to do for us what he has asked us to do for ourselves. There is no way God can do for man, what man is supposed to do for himself. There is no way man can do for God what God can only do.
Most of our prayers in Nigeria maybe about 80 percent are a waste of time. This is because we ask God to do for us what he has asked us to do for ourselves or we ask God to do for us what he has already done.
Thanks to that deceptive teaching, our people expect miracles from morning till night. Our people are looking for miracles. So, any opportunity that presents itself godly or ungodly we take as God’s miracle or blessing. That is a major factor encouraging corruption in the land.
In the real sense we don’t teach people that the possibility of miracle is not the order of the day. It is only two percent of our daily life that should depend on miracles from God. The order of life is the observation of God’s laws and order. Obedience to the laws of God and the society brings wealth and blessings.