Ignorance is costly. Unfortunately many pay the price daily, particularly in the church circle.
We often get reports of pastors who prey on the minds of innocent people particularly those who believe every word they utter.
It is more painful when victims of such pastors are people who are genuinely seeking the Lord. So many have lost faith and quite a number are suicidal after their encounters with greedy men in the garb of pastors.
Yet, there is no end in sight. The ranks of such manipulators and witch doctors in cassock are growing by the day.
Just in July, there were a series of reports about a lady based in the United Kingdom, by the name, Vivienne Olusanya. She fell victim to Victor Okike, an Abuja-based pastor, and his insatiable appetite for money.
Vivienne has been in a dire medical condition. She was 12 when her mother died of cancer at the age of 37. She too has been diagnosed with cancer and the doctors told her she had just 12 years to live barring any supernatural intervention.
That news sent her into a shock wave. She started looking for a miracle. Six years into her trauma, she met a brother who introduced her to Pastor Victor Okike of Goodnews International Bible Church FCDA Quarters Extension, Bari, Abuja.
The pastor who is evidently more of a voodoo priest, told her special prayers would be done for her and that he would kill cows and rams to appease the forces that have trailed her family lineage. He needed N1.5 million to carry out the ritual.
Money poured in for Okike
Vivienne who said she was unemployed had to go borrowing. She sent the money to Okike. A few days after, he called her again and made more demands for money
This time, he said seven other pastors had joined in the prayer chain and that they would need N100k each because they would be on a dry fast. Vivienne who desperately needed a miracle had to borrow to make the money available.
Each time Vivienne tells Okike she had no money, his response was, “Go and borrow”. So she was always borrowing to satisfy the pastor’s appetite for money up till the time she gave him money for a designer suit. The suit was supposed to be another miracle instrument that would procure for Vivienne a suitor.
The unsuspecting lady did not know what came over her. She gave in to all the requests of the pastor and sent money running into about N3 million to Okike to carry out the spiritual fireworks.
She had hopes that as soon as the pastor carries out the rites on her behalf, all her problems would disappear into thin air just like that.
But months after the payment and the supposed sacrifices and prayers, the problem of Vivienne remained. She is still undergoing chemotherapy to manage her cancerous condition.
Despite Vivienne’s hanging prayer requests, Okike who perhaps has a lacerated deceitful tongue asked her for another N5 million to buy musical instruments for a crusade.
This time, he told her that as the instruments are being used on the crusade ground, the cancer in her body would disappear.
It sounded quite outlandish. Vivienne however would no longer be swayed. She came to her senses and asked Okike for a refund of all the money she had invested into procuring a miracle.
Vivienne has been crying for a refund for over a month now. She has voice notes of the conversation with Okike which she made available to the media and also transaction receipts of the money sent to Okike.
Avoid Victor Okike
Just a few days ago, she spoke with Church Times from her UK base. She was bemoaning her condition.
She says she wants the world to be aware of Okike’s malevolence and that she would not want other people to fall victim to his manipulation.
The irony about the whole twist is that from the audio conversation with Vivienne, Okike was adamant and felt he did no wrong.
He said for instance that he got the consent of Vivienne before he embarked on the spiritual work. Since Vivienne gave him the go-ahead, there was no way he could refund the money because it has been used to buy all the things needed for the prayers. But then there was no miracle in sight. The conversation was back and forth.
It’s been difficult to reach Okike. His two lines are not going. But he has not denied getting involved with Vivienne despite all the reports about the issue in the media.
The drama is still on and it is now left for the public to be wary of wolfs who call themselves pastors. Sadly there are too many folks out there who like Vivienne have fallen victim to fake pastors.
While we pray for Vivienne and many in her shoes to get the miracle they need; it’s important we get to the root of the miracle menace in the church.
If we don’t, we will continue to moan and mourn. And the company of the deceived will continue to swell.
Health and wealth
The reason we have those who merchandise the anointing and the patently fake prophets is that the church places a premium on miracles and by extension the wealth and health gospel.
Until we expunge those two elements from our core concern, the charlatans will continue to bring opprobrium to the church.
They know people want health and wealth. They want a miracle. But if people know miracles are just like the icing on the cake and not the real deal, they will pay less attention to the fakes.
Unfortunately, those we see as signposts of the Church place so much emphasis on miracles. They advertise miracles and ask people to come get their miracles.
By that they mean people should come and get both their needs and their wants which have nothing to do with their souls. But which miracle is more than the salvation of one’s soul?
Miracles are real
Jesus performed miracles. He did not preach it. And he did not ask us to preach it. He asked us to heal the sick, raise the dead. That is different from making miracle messages our core concern.
Today, we spend quality time talking about miracles and working people up to fathom change in their circumstances without a change in their hearts.
It’s so bad that some have been taught to believe if they don’t get a miracle they don’t belong to God. That is the extreme of these miracle mongers.
But do we spend time thinking about this craze for miracles? Pastor Nick Vujicic, the Australian Evangelist that was born without arms and legs is a classic case of a man who has a deep understanding of God when it comes to issues about miracles.
He made a profound statement that is more of words on the marble. He said, “If you can’t get a miracle be the miracle.” The meaning of that is, your condition notwithstanding, you can still be a testimony to the world. And God can use you to be a miracle. That is what Vujicic has been doing. There are countless Christians over the years whose lives in their “miracle-less” state have been a blessing to humanity.
Many deformed individuals never got a miracle and yet are doing exploits for the Lord.
What the gospel is not
The truth that should sink into our heads is that wealth and health are not the gospel, they will never be the gospel. The gospel message has nothing to do with those two elements. Health and wealth have been in existence ever before Jesus came.
Jesus did not come to die so we have health and wealth. Far from it. The concern of Jesus was the soul of man. And that is why he said in an emphatic tone: What shall it profit a man if he loses his soul and gains the world?
Come to think of it, if health and wealth are elements of the gospel, then anybody who has any health challenge, no matter how spiritual can’t claim to be a Christian. And the poor too can’t claim to be Christians.
Let us get off this “come get your miracle horse” and embrace the simplicity of the gospel. Jesus died to save us from sin and reconcile us back to God. Simple. It is not more. It is not less.
Anybody who believes in him will have eternal life, not eternal wealth, not good health. Everything about wealth and health has long been provided for the whole human race by God.
God is kind to all
The rain falls on both the good and bad. The soil does not discriminate between the seed planted by a Christian and the one planted by an atheist. They will both grow. The Christian however enjoys special grace in some circumstances. But that is not the rule.
In the Bible language sickness and disease are sometimes used to mean sin. But then, Jesus gave us the power to heal the sick and raise the dead.
These are the fallout of our operations in the field as purveyors of the gospel. But they are not the gospel. We can’t preach the gospel based on that. That is why Billy Graham was a successful evangelist despite not preaching miracles in his crusades.
We are not by any stretch saying miracles are not necessary. Those who go through pain want miracles. And they should be encouraged that God will visit them.
But it should not be overstretched. God intervenes in the affairs of men on his own terms. And not by our forceful manipulation. There is a place of faith in healing. But there have been instances where people don’t even have faith and yet they get healed.
We should pray for the sick to get healed. But if the healing is not coming, we should wait on God while they seek medical help. Paul despite the great anointing upon his life told Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach ailment.
Why did he not pray for Timothy to be healed? But then there are records of Paul raising the dead and healing the sick. Peter’s shadow’s healed the sick. But he did not set up a healing chapel where the concern is about physical healing.
It is safe to just pray for people after every teaching session and trust God for their healing. We don’t need to make a drama of people’s situations. It is a big distraction from what we have been called to do.
By Gbenga Osinaike