If you are a “Gen Z”, a fan of the micro-blogging platform; Twitter, or you just love to keep up with trends whilst engaging in discussions on the internet, then there might be a mental image of Pastor Adeboye; the General Overseer of Redeemed Christian Church of God worldwide, that you have – the misogynist, the sexist, the tithe advocate, the enemy-murderer, the legalistic clergy and many more, which in all fairness, have proof to back them.
Pastor Adeboye’s representation in the media, has in recent times, declined to an all-time low and whilst the man of God doesn’t really care, such impression is never favourable for the 76-year-old General Overseer of the widely known church. Not a body like The Redeemed Christian Church of God. And definitely not a man like Pastor Adeboye.
His yearly prophecies and (somewhat outrageous) prophetic declarations don’t make this any better. As sometimes, this comes with many holes, many flaws and many questions. What is saddening, however, is that when we throw the baby with the bathwater – the messenger with the message, the baby would still need a bath; the message, a medium (In this case, a messenger).
Born in 1942 into a humble family in the village of Ifewara, Osun State with no form of privilege or divine inkling to the family of farmer, Moses Adeboye and Locust bean trader, Esther Adeboye. Nothing about the young child suggested anything besides the fact that the family barely had the resources to train the young man in the least possible way. But, in all of that, Enoch had a strong desire to possess the basic educational requirements which propelled him to go on a hunger strike to convince his parents that schooling meant so much more to him. The hunger strike proved effective as his father, sold his goat to pay for his school fees at the only missionary school in their village – St. Stephen’s Anglican Primary School Ifewara, Osun State.
It was in school that Enoch Adeboye discovered his craving for books and a propensity for science and in the particular the field of Mathematics. With that in mind, he followed his educational dream and forged on to get a Bachelors (BSc.) degree in Mathematics from the University of Nigeria, Nnsukka, Nigeria in 1967, a Masters (MSc.) Degree in Hydrodynamics and a Doctorate Degree (PhD) in Applied Mathematics, both from the University of Lagos, Nigeria.
All of these didn’t materialize so effortlessly. Of course, there were challenges, difficulties and discouragements. But, Adeboye’s propelling force was the desire to become the youngest Vice-Chancellor of any one of the frontline Universities in Nigeria. And with his current achievements, he had, it was going to happen, without a doubt. Or, maybe not.
The Hustle is Real
Transitioning from Elementary School to Postgraduate Level for Adeboye wasn’t a walk in the park neither was it as extraordinary as many might prefer to believe. To keep up with the financially demanding nature of education and high-level education of that sort, Adeboye had to engage in other extracurricular endeavours. Adeboye once worked as a photographer – taking pictures of his fellow scholars as an extra source of income.
There is the popular story of Adeboye not having shoes for the first seventeen years of his life. One he never ceases to tell whenever an opportunity presented itself. His upbringing made two facts obvious to him. First, that the only path out of the vicious cycle of poverty in his family was for him to work as hard as he possibly could. The second was that there will be occasions of plenty. However, he needed to be prudent with resources when it comes. And those principles still behind Adeboye’s attitude to money to date. He doesn’t spend money extravagantly neither does he adorn himself in highly expensive clothes or jewelry.
It’s why many refer to him as a truly humble pastor. Although, humility is one of the perks salvation experience and growth in faith, growing up in such poverty-stricken conditions definitely takes a toll on one’s approach to life and wealth. Thankfully, for Enoch, it was positive. And that humility has become a trademark and the hallmark of Adeboye’s life.
On True Love
It was during his time as a student and in his average living conditions that he met his one Folu Adeboye (Nee Adeyokunnu). He couldn’t approach her nor could he talk about having feelings for a princess and a fairly wealthy young lady.
Enoch always tells the story of how there were many men at the time, contesting for the hand of Folu Adenike. Like it always plays out in Nollywood movies, he wanted to marry a beautiful princess but he was the least qualified among the suitors. One of the possible suitors was even a lawyer who owned a car and all he had as a means of transport was his foot. That was when he told her about his financial status. He had nothing to offer her except his love.
Surprisingly, she chose to marry him; for his honesty, for his humility and her spiritual discernment that convinced her that he was good enough. Enoch couldn’t even afford a ring at the time, but, he promised his wife that she would not lack any good thing and he has kept that promise this long.
In 1967, the duo finally got married. First, the traditional way and two years later, with a church wedding.
On Finding Faith
Adeboye was born into a family with strict Christian upbringing which was popular in those days. The “spiritual climate” under which he grew gave him an appreciation of God, but that was it. So he grew up as a nominal Anglican.
However, midway through their marriage, the young couple were faced with the problem of recurrent caesarian section by which the wife had delivered their first two babies. The doctors had advised that having babies by natural means was impossible and as difficult as it sounded, they were advised against having more children.
As part of the quest for a solution to their inability to find children, the young couple were invited to the Redeemed Christian Church of God by his uncle, Rev. Chris Fajemirokun. The church was headed by the Founder, Pastor Josiah Oluwafemi Akindayomi, who did not have any formal education and couldn’t communicate in the English Language.
However, he felt intrigued by the knowledge of God, examination and exposition of the Bible that uneducated men had and counted those men as superior to him.
On 29th of July 1973, an altar call was made in the church for those who wanted to receive the new life of Christ and forsake their sinful ways, Adeboye and his wife went forward and in a moment received the gift of salvation. Speaking on his salvation experience, later on, he said, “Something overwhelmed me that day – that I was close to hell and I didn’t know it. I suddenly realized that it is possible to have all the PhD’s in the world and still be on the losing side. I know all the formula but I did not know the one eternal life”.
Miracles all around
As a sign to assert that God was now dwelling within them, Adeboye’s wife who had been warned against childbearing became pregnant again. She gave birth to a baby boy in 1978 at the church’s maternity centre in Ebute-Metta, Lagos. The baby, against all medical advice, came in through natural birth was named OLUWADAMILARE. He came as a source of joy to the parents and a proof of the work of God.
A second “miracle baby” followed in 1982 through the same process of natural delivery, at the same maternity centre of the church and by the same church midwives. The baby, named OLUWAGBEMILEKE became the final confirmation by the couple that with God nothing shall be impossible.
The Pastoral Call
Unknown to Adeboye, his appointment to leadership of the Redeemed Christian Church of God as the General Overseer had been revealed even before he became a member of the Church. The revelation came to Pa Josiah; the Founder of the Church in early70s that his successor would be “a young educated man”.
In those days, it was extremely rare to meet young educated men, especially University graduates in Pentecostal Churches (which were regarded as being too fanatical). Thus, when Adeboye; the young University lecturer became a member of the church in 1973, Pastor Akindayomi was able to recognize his successor in the spirit, as the person the Lord had spoken to him about.
At first, Adeboye served as the interpreter to translate Akindayomi’s sermons from the native language Yoruba into English. Afterwards, he started organizing Bible Study meetings, Crusades, Revivals, Outreaches and the evangelistic meetings.
His burning zeal for God, his willingness to learn( even from people far intellectually inferior to him), his intensive study of the word of God as contained in the Bible further went to confirm the accuracy of the revelation received by the General Superintendent.
About five years before he became the General Overseer of the church, Pastor Adeboye also had some revelation concerning the appointment and after sharing it with his wife, they fervently prayed and fasted for God to allow the “cup pass over them”. One year before the event, he had another divine revelation concerning the appointment.
Before passing on into glory, the founder, Pa Akindayomi had revealed to select groups of the Church’s Councils at different instances, the divine will of God regarding his successor.
From human perception, it was hardly comprehensible that a young man aged thirty-something, who had also just recently joined the church will become the leader of the church, over men in their late forties, fifties and sixties who had been in the church for between fifteen and twenty years. He also revealed that those who might not wish to see the fulfilment of the wish of God will be removed by God himself without affecting the progress of the church.
After the founder passed on to Glory on 2nd November 1980, it was clear to everyone who was supposed to succeed as leader of the church, the battle, however, was for the man to step up into God’s will.
On 21st of January 1981 (after only seven years of being saved), Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye aged 38 at the time was ordained as the leader of the Redeemed Christian Church of God and chose the title, “General overseer” above several other high titles.
He began pastoring part-time whilst continuing with his lecturing at the University of Lagos but in a little while gave up lecturing to focus on the work of the ministry, full time. He transformed the church from what it was then and the church experienced massive growth and expansion after he took over.
Growth and Achievements
On 18th December 1998, Daddy G.O (as he is fondly called) hosted the very first Holy Ghost Festival – a meeting of the word, prayer and demonstrations of the spirit. The project was carried out in the form of an open-air Worship Service in Lekki, Lagos, Nigeria and in attendance were over seven million people as confirmed by the CNN aerial satellite. Despite the population, not one person was lost or died in the crowd and this feat became a yearly affair that evolved into the annual Holy Ghost Congress held every December at the Redemption Camp.
In addition to this is the annual Holy Ghost Convention which holds in August at the Redemption Camp and serves as the end and beginning of the RCCG Calendar year.
Pastor Adeboye is a man of prayer and asides the fact that building an institution like RCCG verifies that already, a 2014 message of his confirms it. In the message, he shared about how he once prayed with so much fervour at the Redemption camp till there was a ground-shake that spread from where he was all the way to Ijebu Ode.
Not only is Pastor Adeboye one of the most respected Pastors in Nigeria, he has won National and International awards. He dedicated the first chapel in the Nigerian Presidential Villa, Abuja, Nigeria and in 2002. He has also written over 60 books and He published a daily devotional called Open Heavens annually.
Pastor Adeboye’s growth in the Christian faith and in the Redeemed Christian Church of God was a result of direct mentorship from the founder. And on a yearly basis, The Redeemed Christian Church of God dedicates several pastors and deacons who have been counted worthy of that role. Many Pastors, Leaders and Public figures (both in Nigeria and beyond) are either direct results of the discipleship of Pastor Adeboye or have been extremely influenced by one of his disciples. His proteges are either at the top of their career, sphere of influence or have started influential ministries all over the world.
The controversy around Pastor Adeboye started brewing after the church had embarked on a private jet project. And as if people were looking for the one thing Adeboye will do wrong, they all jumped on it. “Why would a General overseer buy a private jet?” Where did he get the money to buy a private jet?” “His members are poor, yet, he keeps buying a private jet” and several other questions filled the internet.
In response to that, he said; “When you have to oversee churches in 160 countries, you can’t do that on a bicycle,”. But for the distrustful Nigerians, this was not enough. They wanted more and more.
Then the conversation on tithing was brewing up, the numerous responses from Pastor Adeboye, the speech he gave at a singles summit where he discouraged online dating, that time he talked about his wife cooking and his public love began to wane, literally.
Today, we will talk about all of the things Pastor Adeboye does wrong, we will bash and hate the man, we will call him all sort of names and shame him for his errors. We will convince people to leave the RCCG because of their doctrinal standpoints. And we might be right.
One thing we shouldn’t do is to discredit his work and the immense progress his work has given Church Culture. Younger men and women can now attain to positions of pastoral influence but this wasn’t always the case until men like Adeboye took such appointments and made it such an admirable profession. He has opened doors with his work and allowed several other younger ministers walk through as if to be a forerunner. And maybe that is what he is – One who has to do the bulk of the work, plant the seeds, labour and groan for younger ministers to benefit from. If we view Pastor Adeboye through those lenses, then, he has been a tremendous success.
It’s hard, if not impossible to have a discourse on the success of the spread of the Christian faith in Nigeria and to many other countries of the world without mentioning the man and his work. And this image of Pastor Adeboye can be redeemed. Only that, as I guess, the pastor is more concerned about the next thing for the gospel, the church, building more parishes, and the Christian faith for him be bothered about public acceptance and perception.
If for nothing, but the points touched on above, Pastor Adeboye deserves more than accolades.
His work should not and never be forgotten or be disrespected.
Bolu Akindele is a freelance writer and journalist whose work covers religion, human interest stories and development across Nigeria and increasingly, West Africa.