Debonair. Suave. Sophistication. No single word can entirely capture the aura that traditionally surrounds the Christ Embassy brand.
For the past few years, the church and its leader, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, have been the subject of constant controversy – the kind of scandals that keep the soft-sell industry a lucrative one. First was the battle of the ‘Chrises’, where Pastor Kris Okotie challenged Chris Oyakhilome’s anointing and association with controversial Prophet T.B. Joshua. Then came the issue of the authenticity of his miracles, which allegedly led to the NBC ban on ‘unsubstantiated miracles’. In the midst of these, rumours of the collapse of Pastor Chris’ marriage still managed to escape. In recent years, we’ve heard of his growing business empire and the alleged maltreatment of his workers.
Expectedly, these stories die down in a way that suggests that they were inauthentic anyway, and through it all, the man and the church he leads continue to handle the rumours with an amazing maturity. For this, I deeply respect Pastor Chris.
When I visited Christ Embassy, K & G Centre, Oregun Ikeja, my aim was to experience that ‘Christ Embassy spirit’ firsthand. As I walked towards the auditorium, I was spotted out as a first timer by a man who I suspect to be a psychic. He immediately got my fake phone number, and we agreed to meet after the meeting so he would guide me through joining PCU as my cell coordinator. I don’t remember asking for one though.
As I took my seat I immediately recognised the auditorium from the TV episodes. Expectedly it didn’t look as out of the world as on television, probably because I was experiencing it in real time. However, the stage exhumed a classy theme and was indescribably lighted. The church’s audiovisual equipment was first-rate – enough to make any commercial videographer envious. I was more interested in the ladies who handled them. They ensured that my mouth intermittently remained ajar during the course of the service. The time was 7:40am – ten minutes later than the advertised opening time – and I could not help but notice how empty the hall was. As people trooped in leisurely over an hour later, I thought to myself how a lesson on punctuality was badly needed here.
The service started with a worship session which was followed by an ‘Enter the Healing School’ session. Here a testimony from the healing school was displayed over the projector with the aim of helping the congregation to build up their faith in God. The themes of prosperity and health in body continually permeated all the parts of the service.
Much time was spent preparing for the Reach Out Nigeria Campaign, Christ Embassy’s yearly campaign to celebrate Nigeria’s independence through religious and social impartation. The former is achieved by distributing Rhapsody of Realities, and the latter is done through the donation of amenities to social institutions. I could not stop my mind from estimating how many billions of naira would be committed yearly to the Reach Out Nigeria Campaign. I was taken aback by the fact that though the money could have been committed to the purchase of a Gulfstream IV for Pastor Chris, it was being used for the benefit the Nigerian cause.
When the service was over, and I took a walk to the snack stand. I guzzled a bottle of soda while trying to hide from the psychic and his PCU meeting. All in all, it was fun to have a practical experience of this much talked about church. You should try it someday. There’s much more to it than the television shows.
I must say that I noticed the comments on the St. Dominic Issue and I find them quite interesting. Just to be sure, I do not intend to ‘caricature’ or ‘ridicule’ any place of worship. In actual fact, these reports could be more of an appraisal of the ‘softer’ religions.
And the point? Interacting with other churches helps us to understand other people’s beliefs and faiths, thereby breeding tolerance and peaceful co-existence. Removing the close-minded outlook of contemporary religions helps breed the much sought after religious peace – this is a step in that direction.