by Demola Adesina
He is unarguably one of the core founders of contemporary Pentecostalism – Nigerian style. From humble beginnings, he has modelled his church to be the reference point for prosperity Christianity. Over the years, Bishop David Oyedepo has consistently resonated the model often sought after by many pastors.
Since Bishop Oyedepo’s Church, Living Faith World Outreach (better known as Winners’ Chapel) opened the doors to its Canaanland, the mini town has continued to grow beyond expectations. Perhaps rivalled only by the Mormons’ original Salt Lake City, Canaanland boasts of a mega auditorium, three educational establishments including the much acclaimed Covenant University and myriads of other institutions.
I arrived at Canaanland right after the end of the second of the three regular Sunday services. My sauntering towards the auditorium afforded me the leisure of witnessing the apprehension of a thief. In no time, this middle aged man was whisked into a hitherto inconspicuous security van and the van sped off. As I watched the van speed off, I could not help but wonder how an individual could understand the prosperity message as robbing in the house of God. I made a mental note to find out how the Church will handle the man after the service.
True to its reputation, the auditorium is a wonder to behold. While trying to maintain aesthetic domination, the design of this auditorium shows levels of careful planning and implementation. As I surveyed the arena, I noticed the mass of people present in the auditorium even for the third service. I remembered how I moved through bad roads, potholes and traffic on a Sunday morning to get to this somewhat country location, realising these people must have very good reasons to repeat these experiences every Sunday. So, I settled in and tried to fathom these reasons.
Service begins with a 15-minute praise session. One thing any visitor cannot fail to notice is the quality of the sound system in this auditorium. The sound reverberates right through your body; your thoughts have no place wondering around at that moment. Noticeably also, the order of service is a little different from what is usually found in most Pentecostal Churches. I felt a bit uncomfortable having to throw in my offering before the Sunday sermon came up. And yes, announcements come before the Sunday sermon too. The most important part of the service is the message for the day. We all had to stand to usher in Bishop (as Bishop Oyedepo is fondly called) to the stage.
True to the theme of the service, the Bishop talks about the importance of the mantle, a correlative piece of clothing with that which fell off Elijah as he was being taken into heaven and which was the symbol of Elisha’s authority and service. For the Winners family, this mantle is often represented by a piece of white handkerchief. As it was the occasion of the Bishop’s 56th birthday, white handkerchiefs with a commemorative message were printed and distributed free. A peculiarity of Bishop Oyedepo’s preaching is the way he takes every verse in the Biblical text and relates it to the themes of success and prosperity in the lives of the congregation. He does not just preach positive thinking; he preaches positive thinking strengthened by the certainty provided by faith.
Service ends way into the early afternoon. I tried both utter doggedness and strong cajoling and still did not get the security supervisor to tell me the fate of the thief caught earlier. However, I did find out why so many people travelled long distances to get to this venue every Sunday – within those walls, you get enough motivation for success to make you want to go out and break new bounds every week.