Apostle Samson Afolabi is the Overseer of Christ Gospel Apostolic Church. He is an alumnus of Faith Christian Theological Seminary where he read up to a Ph.D. in Christian Education between 1986 and 1995. He holds a BSc in Clinical Spiritual and Psycho Theology.
Apostle Afolabi is an alumnus of Christ Apostolic Grammar School, Ibadan where he obtained his West African School Certificate, and also Adeola Odutola College, Ijebu Ode for his Higher School Certificate (Cambridge)
Born on March 3, 1943, Apostle Afolabi joined the CGAC in 1973 and was ordained a pastor in the church in 1987. In 2014, Apostle Paul Okedoyin, whom God used to establish the church in Lagos anointed Apostle Afolabi as his successor. That was about five years before the passing on of Apostle Okedoyin to glory in 2019. But the church has continued to wax strong under the leadership of Apostle Afolabi.
In this interview with Church Times, Apostle Afolabi shares his experience and some leadership nuggets.
When exactly did you join Christ Gospel Apostolic Church?
I started with this church in 1973. I was born and bred by a pastor of the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC). I was attending CAC while in Ibadan. But when I came to Lagos, I joined the Christ Gospel Apostolic Church just as a member. I was a young man, not married. I was following the activities in the church. I found out that the activities were the same as that of the CAC where I came from. I also discovered that the founder actually came from CAC Ibadan before he founded GCAC in Lagos. Since the worship style and the doctrine of the church are the same as CAC, I decided to make this place my church.
It’s interesting that you have a CAC background. Did you meet the great Apostle Ayodele Babalola?
I did meet him but not intimately. I was quite young then. I grew up to know him more. But my father could say much about him. Many people felt the impact of his ministry. He started in 1930 but I was born in 1943. That is 13 years after he began his ministry. So I grew up to experience the great work God used him to do. He influenced a lot of people in those days.
Apostle Babalola was a God sent to Nigeria. Many people embraced his ministry. He was not the founder of CAC but he took an active part in the church and his presence at that time could not be forgotten His impact on CAC is indelible. He served so well as a pastor, prophet, and evangelist. His impact influenced everybody in the CAC setting.
A lot of people believe he started the CAC?
He became so popular because of his gift. The genesis of CAC could be traced to Faith Tabernacle Church. The leaders of the Church at Ijebu Ode were holding a meeting. They would not allow Apostle Babalola into the meeting. While he was waiting outside God used him to perform a miracle. There was a shout and immediately he was invited to join the meeting.
That was how he became part of the leaders of the Faith Tabernacle before they moved to start the Christ Apostolic Church. He was actually performing raw miracles with simplicity and humility. He was instrumental in the great revival that engulfed the whole of southwest Nigeria. The entire country felt his impact. He was not the founder of CAC. But his gift made him popular. There were people like Pa Odubanjo, Hanson, Akinyele, Samuel Adegboyega, and many others who started The Apostolic Church. All these people were there at the beginning before they later moved on to start The Apostolic Church and CAC
But how did you become born again?
I came to know the Lord in 1958. I had a motor accident which affected my schooling. But God healed me. It was that time I heard the word of God and surrendered my life to him. The accident humbled me and I was able to key to the word of God. Since that time I committed myself to God more.
God healed you. How? Was it that you did not get any medical attention?
There were many people who are sick but don’t survive the sickness. If you drink water and it worked for your healing, then God has healed you because God owned the water. In my own case, I had broken legs and was carried to the hospital and the healing came while I was in the hospital. I would have died. I believe God allowed it to happen and he glorified himself. Doctors will say they care but God heals.
Let me ask a theological question here. If for instance, an accident happens involving two people. One person dies and the other is alive. The person alive comes to testify that God kept him alive. Do we now say, it was God who allowed the other person to die?
That is a sensitive issue. God has a say in all things. But we need to be careful. God has given us wisdom and understanding to operate in life. We attribute many things to God. We say God allowed it or God wants it that way. But not all things that happen to us are the will of God.
But there are some areas in which a person is so honest and does the will of God and bad things still happen to the person. That could be a temptation or a trial of life. Sometimes we are victims of circumstances. In that case, you don’t say God allowed it or brought it upon us. But God knows about it. He may not sign it. We have to be careful to do our own part. He has His own part that he plays in our lives.
How was it in this church in those early days?
Baba Paul Okedoyin started well and ended well. He had some able men who were supporting him. They worked tirelessly. As time went on the church was spread around the country. It also spread abroad.
The early men were committed to prayers, the word, and interpreting it. They were so honest and God used them mightily to His glory. Many people were receiving miracles. I remember we had somebody who had a hunch back and it disappeared in the cause of prayer during one of our meetings.
Many people come to prayer meetings and get answers to their prayers. God had promised the founder that he would assist him if he maintained his integrity. And that was what happened.
The founder was 93 when he died. He handed over in 2014 to you. How was he able to cope with running the ministry in old age?
God gave him uncommon health. He was active. He devoted his time to God’s work. He was favoured by God. His greatest strength was the ability to pray and get results. Apostle was humble. He was not covetous. He was very generous. Baba would give and give and give. He never worked in any secular environment while on earth. God gave him the talent to manage the church. He was not materialistic.
There was no breakaway crisis in the church?
For every organisation there will be challenges and opposition. He experienced those things. But in all the challenges, God made Baba scale through. There were people who came and said they were going to start their own ministry. He would still pray for them. He would ask them to be sure they heard from God. Many of them still come around to relate with him. We have a cordial relationship with all those who have gone to start their ministry. They still come around when we have special programmes.
It’s difficult to manage human beings. There are people we needed to handle with care. We teach people God’s word and this has kept many. We learned a lot from Baba Okedoyin. If any case arises, Baba would speak to God and ask for direction. We had cases of people misbehaving. We advise these people and counsel them. We warn them and pray for them. Baba would not take any grudge against anybody.
In your own case, how do you handle the people under you?
I look at myself too as a dunghill. After insults and all, I still say God forgive them. We don’t begrudge anybody. Those who have the fear of God and who work with God get direction on what to do. God is the one who teaches us what to do. If you submit your life to him he would give you direction.
We warn people. If a minister is caught doing the wrong thing, we can ask the minister to leave his position for a short time. We don’t give a punishment that is equal to the offense. If there is a case of immorality by a pastor or minister we ask the person to step aside for a while. We put him in a condition where he would be exposed to the word of God so he could be transformed. God has helped us to manage people well.
You were number 21 in the hierarchy of the church when you were anointed as the overseer. How did that make you feel?
It was like a bombshell to me. How could I be 21 in the hierarchy and be appointed as overseer? I was taken aback. But Baba Okedoyin said God told him that he should appoint me as his successor. That day I went home disturbed and was wondering at the sudden lift. My wife and I wept when my name was announced as the G.O. It is a serious job. It needs total commitment.
It is that understanding that has kept us going. If anybody offends me I still go to God and ask for forgiveness. If anybody does anything against me, I believe the person does not know or that he does not understand. So I don’t allow the attitude of people to rob me of God’s presence in my life.
How did you cope with the scenario of having to work as the overseer when the founder was still alive?
Baba was a peculiar man of God. When he was handing over to me, he said, he would be under my tutelage. But then I still went to him to get permission to carry out certain projects. At a point, he said we should just go ahead with what we wanted to do.
What were the things you learned from Apostle Okedoyin?
Apostle was patient. He would not rush. He was cool and calm. Baba would ask God for direction. He would seek the advice of other people before he takes a decision. He was not a dictator. I took that from him. I discuss whatever I want to do with the top management of the church. We don’t just take decisions. He was not the money type. We have been able to maintain a church that is a Bible-believing church. Anyone we ordain is through God’s direction and not by human permutation.
What did you meet on the ground when you became the Overseer and what was the reaction of the church to your appointment?
My taking over is like a transition because there is a structure already. It’s just for us to build on what has been on the ground. We have more attendance and punctuality of members. We have been expanding what we met on ground. We have been consolidating on what Baba has passed over to us. We have several branches of our church both in Nigeria and abroad.
On people’s reaction when I became the overseer, It is normal for people to feel bad that somebody who is number 21 in the hierarchy of the church was made overseer. But Baba explained to us that God asked him to pick me. He had three men who are his biological children in the church. He could have handed over the church to one of them. But he did not. He told us he was carrying out divine instruction. The good thing about my appointment is that nobody left the church because of it.
Are you also going to hand over to somebody as you are led by God? What is the youth involvement in the church? It appears there many old people in the leadership?
I will hand over to somebody after I clock 80. I have to leave for another. Baba was the founder that was how he could hand over to me that way. The succession issue is now a constitutional thing. Immediately the overseer is 80, he is expected to hand over to another person to run the church. As per the youth, we give young people free hand. Many of them have become pastors in the church. We monitor them. They give us support.