Church growth institute is about practical aspect of pastoring- Registrar
Pastor Michael Oluwaniyi is the registrar of International Church Growth Institute. He spoke with Church Times Nigeria on the branch of the school in Akure, Ondo State. Below are excerpts:
Why did Church Growth establish a branch of its school in Akure in the first place?
The Akure branch is part of our expansionist plan. Our vision is to keep spreading and meeting the leadership needs of churches across the country. The Akure School is the third school established by our institute. Lagos was the first, Ibadan followed and then Akure. We started the school with a three-day conference which led to students’ enrolment for the diploma, graduate diploma and then the Phd classes of study in church growth
What did you meet on ground when you got to Akure?
Before we started in Akure there was no school devoted to teaching Church growth in the whole of Ondo State. There are Bible schools there, but nobody was teaching the practical aspect of the church, which is what we do. And that is why we came in to fill that niche. Many are yet to understand what is called church growth.
So how is what you teach in church growth different from what is taught in Bible schools?
In church growth we teach practical aspects of the church. How to handle the married and the singles. We teach how to solve crisis in the church and how to address different segments of the church in concrete terms. We teach them what Jesus wants us to do and make them see what we are doing so that we could experience growth in the proper sense. Most of the time we have elderly people pastoring churches where there are young people. Such pastors need wisdom on what to do. What is taught in Bible schools is more theoretical than practical. In church growth we dwell mainland on the practical end of the church.
So what has been the acceptance?
We had challenge initially because we did not get anybody to catch the vision; who could be a liason for us. We had conference for three years consecutively before we finally got somebody to buy into the vision. We discovered a young pastor. Pastor Boluwatife who left Lagos for Akure. He caught the vision and he was the one who mobilized people. We had 22 people at the conference which kicked off the school.
Some will argue that it is the Holy Spirit that grows the church that there is no need for church growth lessons. How will you react to this?
One thing we teach in church growth is that there is the human aspect and the Holy Spirit aspect. We need to complement the work of the Holy Spirit. There are some things the Holy Ghost will not do. The Holy Spirit is there to guide us to bring to remembrance what we have learnt and to direct us on taking certain decisions. But there are basic administrative issues that we learn. We can also be guided when we share from experiences of people. So there is always the human and Holy Ghost dimensions to pastoring.
So where does your students come from in the Akure school?
We have a handful of students from different denominations: CAC, Redeemed Christian Church of God, The Apostolic Church and majorly independent churches. We have put in about 5 years running the school now. And it has been awesome.
What are the testimonies?
Very positive. Each time we go for training we see the enthusiasm in the people. A woman once told us she would not have known what to do with her ministry if not for the training in church growth. It is only in Church Growth that we train pastors on what to do practically. In some Bible colleges they have a subject called church growth but they don’t go into the practical aspect.
So what is peculiar about the Church in Ondo State?
Church character and behavior cut across. It is the same trend everywhere. Some of the people in Akure had been in Lagos before moving to Akure. The experience for them in Lagos makes it easy for them to grasp the basics. But one thing that is peculiar about the Ondo churches is that worshippers are more inclined to their denominations than any other thing. They don’t blend easily. That is why we don’t have much students from entrenched denominational churches. We have more people from independent churches.
In practical terms what is your definition of growth in the church?
Growth starts from the pastor of the church. If the pastor is not growing spiritually the church will not grow. We emphasise different kinds of growth. If your church grows numerically and not spiritually it is abnormal. Church must grow spiritually and numerically. You can’t leave one and take the other. There are several other aspects of growth which we can’t discuss here.
But there are cases of churches where the pastors does everything he could, yet the church refuses to grow. How will you explain this?
That is why the church growth training is important. There is no how you can do all you should do and not experience growth because it is the desire of God to grow his church. Administration could be poor. If God has called you to ministry he gives you the character and strength to be able to run the ministry. But if you have a negative approach, you may not experience growth. But then there are places you plant your church and it will not even grow. Number one is army barrack. This is because the pastor must be a force man and he could be posted out any time. Frequent posting will affect the growth of the church. If you have your church in the school compound or school dominated community you will only get students when the school is in session. Enclosed environment or places that have been devastated by war also don’t experience growth.
But we read of John the Baptist how people went to meet him in a desert?
In the case of John they went to him and came back. He did not establish a church there. They go and come back. It is like a prayer mountain where people go to receive impartation or go to pray. In such places people go and come. We can’t call that a church.
So what is it about having certificates in Church growth up to getting Phd?
Church growth certificate is not academic in the sense of rigorous academic study devoid of practical. Be are more inclined to the practice of what is in the textbook. We teach the practical aspect of church administration. We introduce students to the practical aspect of the church life. We teach leadership and equip people on how to lead their homes. If you can’t lead your home successfully, you can’t lead the church successfully. If you are not a good leader, there is no way you can lead your church to growth.
In Church Growth studies there is a course we call Church Turnaround. In the Phd class we teach real dynamic church growth. There is a subject on how to handle crisis and criticism in the church. We discovered that there is always problem with church work and that pastors should be equipped to handle such problem. The solution to one problem introduces you to another problem. As long as you are a leader, you will always solve problem till you leave the stage. So we devote our energy to studying the church and trusting the Holy Spirit to help to proffer solutions to the problems encountered in church administration.
So how relevant is the Phd and diploma you give to students?
We are registered with the government. We have done it in such a way that the academic world see it as a high degree. Anybody that attends our Phd class should be able to face all manners of challenges in church. It is not an academic Phd. It is a practical and Spiritual Phd.
The Akure students just graduated this August. What do you have to say about them?
The graduands are wonderful students. We graduated diploma, post graduate diploma and Phd students. We had about five PhD students who graduated this year. They have been very cooperative and zealous with their studies. The four of the five students are founders of their own churches. By and large it has been a worthwhile experience for me and for the entire staff of the institute. It is hoped that we will move to other states with time.