That morning as he walked to his office to honour the appointment with Church Times’ reporter; his simplicity strikes. No protocol, no ceremony. He did not come with a retinue of aides as characteristic of some top church leaders. Few minutes after he settled down, he invited this reporter for the interview.
Welcome to the world of Special Apostle Sunday Funsho Korode, District Chairman and General Leader, Cherubim&Seraphim Movement Church, Surulere Sub-Headquarters. Ayo Ni O. He took over from the late Prophet Gabriel Fakeye.
Korode is one of the early graduates from the University of Lagos having graduate in 1965 with a B.Sc in Business Administration and later a Master of Science Degree in Business Management with emphasis in Organisational Behaviour.
He is a member of several professional bodies including the Nigeria Institute of Management, Society for Human Resources Management, USA and a host of others. He was one time CEO/Registrar of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management where he served for 11 years. He later joined the Industrial and General Insurance (IGI) Plc as Group Director Human Resources and Administration. He left the IGI group to set up Grace Springs Academy.
In this interview, Korode who has the unique privilege of being born into the C&S Church with an enduring long history of service in the church; gives an insight into the C&S church and the beauty of its seamless leadership transition. Below are excerpts:
It’s more than a year that the founder of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church Ayo Ni O died. You have stepped in as the substantive leader of the mission. This is the first succession. How did you manage to do this without much rancour in such a big organization?
God will not come down to do the transition for us. He will use human beings. I think what really helped a smooth transition in our case is that our former leader has been able to build a system of operation that has prepared many successors in the hierarchy. So it becomes easy for anybody within the church council to step into his shoes. We have always had the Leader-in-council. Baba Fakeye was the spiritual leader. Our former leader started the church. But its running has been on the shoulder of the leaders.
God gave him the instruction to start the church through a prophecy from another person. He was in the UK by that time. He then shared the vision with some of his other colleagues and came back to Nigeria to start the church. So the church is not an individual arrangement. It was born out of obedience to divine instruction. He was the arrow head.
So the late founder could not lay claim to be the founder of the church in the strict sense of the word?
He had never claimed to be the founder from the perspective with which we see the word. He had been a member of the larger body C&S movement. He was in Zaria and active in the church since 1957. He had this gift of prophecy and prayer before he travelled to UK from where he started a branch of the C&S in 1965 in the UK. He was in the UK and he came back to Nigeria with his other colleagues to start the Ayo Ni O! Church at the instance of God’s directive.
What distinguished him from other leaders is his sense of organization. He was a goal oriented person and he had a clear picture of what the Lord asked him to do.
Was he supposed to start anything different from the traditional C&S?
It’s still the same Cherubim and Seraphim. We are not laying claim to any special originality. But what we lay emphasis on are the things that can be well established in the Bible. But we had to extricate some of the things we felt were not Bible-based and hold unto the truth as established in the Bible. This was important for us because there had been infiltration and deviation from the original vision of the church. Even in the C&S group there are many others who are as focused and Bible oriented as we are. Baba Fakeye’s leadership was an inclusive form of leadership and not sole proprietorship. He never celebrated self.
Was his vision to go back to what Orimolade stood for?
I think he went beyond that. Baba Orimolade was constrained by education and by social connection. The nucleus of His personality was the Holy Spirit which was quite in order. But there were no expressions of other world views which cannot be captured now. By the time Baba Fakeye was coming; a new dispensation had to come in. In the real sense there is no new idea as it were. We are all building on what the Lord Jesus had already established. What Baba Fakeye did was to build on an existing foundation and take the church further; making it relevant to the contemporary age without distorting the original vision of the founder and also without veering away from the scriptures. But the truth is that no new foundation can be laid apart from what had been laid. There is nothing like being called a primate. For me it is vain glorious. What man has done at best is to recreate what had already been created.
By 1982 when the church had become actually big; it turned out to be the largest church in the country. It had occupied about 70 acres of land. It was between 1983 and 1984 that many of the Pentecostal churches started getting foothold. The most popular of them perhaps was being known in 1986. By that time, Fakeye could have assumed a utopian status arrogating to himself some kind of unfounded title. But he did not do that. Till he died, he still honoured the current Baba Aladura of the church. He went on a lot of errands for the man and he did not take any offence. He was not out to showcase self. He had a regime of leadership that carried everybody along. He gave people their dues by plugging them into position irrespective of when they joined the church.
What then exactly is the structure of the C&S Ayo Ni O!
We have 24 elders and the overall leader is taken from the 24 elders. This is the first time somebody will succeed the first leader from the body of elders. When the issue of succession came; it was clear that anybody among the 24 elders could comfortably be the overall leader without rancour. The leadership does not have to be the person directly next to him in terms of hierarchy. For instance I was number 18 in the church hierarchy before my appointment; though I had been in the church since the beginning as a student of the University of Lagos.
I was not to become the leader of the church; though I was the general choirmaster of the church for 43 years. That arm of the church was pivotal because of the impact the group has made over the years. We have had close to 35 albums of evangelical songs which have been a blessing to people over the years.
Why then is the group not known in the gospel music industry?
We have always been publicity shy. The real media presence we have had is all about our leader and his outreach ministry. He was perhaps one of the earliest persons on Radio to preach the gospel. We did not publicize much of the choir. As early as 1978 we had opportunity to talk about our album on TV. We have been releasing our albums but we left the promotion to our producers and we have been selling volumes. But we have never been involved in gospel artists competition because God did not allow us do such. May be that is why we have not been popular. Our records are played all over. It is Christ-centric.
How did you come about the church in the first place?
I was born into the C and S church. My father was founder of a branch of the C$S church in my town in Omu Aran, Kwara State.
The same town with Bishop Oyedepo?
Yes. We are quite related to the Oyedepos. As I was saying; I was a member of the church when I was a student at the University of Lagos. I attended the Sabo branch of the church.
You did not attend the Lagos Varsity Christian Union?
By the time I was in the university there no Christian body on campus. In those days we had to look for church outside the campus to worship. I left UNILAG in 1973. I was among the first set of youth corps members in the country. When Baba Fakeye returned from the UK in 1969 and later started the Ayo ni O I joined his group. He was initially worshiping in Olorunsogo branch of the C$S Movement. But he founded the Ayo Ni O Church in 1971. I was on campus when I joined them. In those days they had no permanent place of worship. We moved from place to place. The first place of worship was the flat of one of the members; Prophet Jagun. That was where I joined. It was during a thanksgiving service that I noticed there was no choir in the church. I made inquiry and they told me everybody was a member of the choir. So I decided to be a one-man choir at 68, Nnobi Street, Ikate, Surulere. That was my real debut as a substantive member of the church. From there we moved to Reagan Memorial School in Iwaya and later we moved to the Bar Beach to worship in the open air. We later got a bigger classroom in Iwaya for worship and then to another place in Aguda. It was from Aguda that we got the current place of location. I was appointed the choir master in 1972.
What about your own personal encounter? The Bible talks about being born again. What do you say about this?
Many things are contemporary with many people and many people want to paint a picture of special experiences. I think this is good for biographies. But I can say I have always had encounter with God right from birth. I was born in the church and I can say that every other experience were not just experiences but contacts with what I needed to do in the ministry as I was growing. From day one, my soul, spirit and body were sold to Christ. It was during a Sunday Service that my mother gave birth to me. My first experience as a believer was at birth.
But were you conscious then?
When you talk about consciousness; I believe that your consciousness is more spiritual at the incorporeal level than what you have at the corporeal level.
Can you explain?
If you read Psalm 8, a verse there says from the mouth of suckling God ordained strength. You then ask yourself; suckling? Are they conscious? Christ now came to say later that the eyes of those children behold the angels of God. At that level they are even a lot more like it than when they interacted with the real world. The evolution of man from unconsciousness to consciousness begins the degradation of man and the degeneration of the substantive spirit to mundane expression. That is why I believe that the more conscious you become; the less God conscious you are. So when people come celebrate their new birth; I think that is just for celebration.
But there are children that were born into occult and ungodly environment. What do you have to say about that?
In such instance they can come and say they met Christ and are able to do away with occult background. That is clearly what I am trying to get at. There was the case of one our members who got married. After sometime we did not see them again in church. By the time I met them they told me they had become born again. When they said they had become born again I believed they had started a new life. I was excited about the experience they claim to have had. They talked about their experience and we prayed. But for no reason, husband and wife started quarreling for no serious issue right in my presence. And their voices were rising unnecessarily. I now said to them they must be truly born again! The brother looked at me and the wife too; and I said to them beyond sloganeering the reality is what you are. You are what comes from within you. Sometimes we vocalize what is not true. In elementary sociological thinking they say, who you are; who you think you; who you think others think you are; are a reflections of who you really are.
You have to titrate the acid against the base to get a true reflection of who you are. Our identity stems from our character. The character, the conduct the contribution and the creed are all what defines the Christian. Your faith is in the continuum. The true identity of man comes from his thoughts, his word, to repeated action to character to habit.
Christ said; except you are born again you won’t enter the kingdom? How would you situate this in the context of your analysis?
What Christ was always getting people to appreciate is that you are not anything apart from the continuum I have just described. And if you get to know Christ at the beginning of your life; you are already in Him and all you do thereafter is maintenance management to sustain your relationship with him.
You are not anything apart from having a connection with him. Being in the spirit is reaching the level of atonement (at one with God) And that is what Jesus was trying to get us to appreciate. Jesus made it known to the Pharisees that they were dirty inside. Isaiah also said something like that. It is important to appreciate what Jesus told Nicodemus that for him to get to the kingdom of God he has to devalue his personal currency. He has to appreciate that you are not it until you become it. You can only be declared that you are in Christ by the spirit in you. It is not so much about sloganeering. It is looking at yourself from the inside in terms of character, conduct, conversation and contribution and your creed. Those are the things that will join you to the Lord at the point of atonement. That is what Ephesians 4 is trying to say. When it comes to the Day of Judgment we will appreciate that the real meaning of being born again is not in slogans. Coming to say you are born again does not convey any meaning but in the bearing of the fruit of salvation. At the point of knowing Christ the fat in your body should melt so that your true identity will eventually show. In I Pet 2v9 we are called peculiar and holy. These are virtues we are supposed to demonstrate. It is in the demonstration that we know that we are born or unborn.
Do you attain these things you are talking about by human efforts?
No. That is why Paul said by grace we are saved and not by works. You could be called into the grace and you could decide for the Lord at a particular stage of your life. In Psalm 71 David talked about early connection with God. Jeremiah was known from the womb by God. So at what point did he become born again?
St. Augustine talks about predestination of the believer. People should begin to appreciate God from the perspective of the Holy Spirit and not a socially constructed perspective and say because I met Pastor Korode who declared me holy then I am holy. No man can pronounce another man’s sainthood. There is a lot of defalcation in contemporary Christianity with people mixing up the ways of God along the ways of men.
Thanks for this explanation. But why has C&S been this stratified?
I think the issue of denominations or stratification has been on from the days of Martin Luther and the protestant movement. That was the beginning of the split of the church. Luther read the Bible and found out that there were discrepancies between what was preached and what was in the Bible. He made some of his positions known to the church. He refused to recount his position even when he was threatened with death.
In the church today, people have several reasons for moving away to start their own group. Some decide to move on if they will not have the opportunity to express themselves where they worship. Some also start another church because of selfish interest, greed and lust for position and power. Some are already entrenched in idolatry but because it is not normal to advertise such openly they move out of the church to start another group. The veering away gives them an opportunity to wear the garment of the angel of light.
The fact is that freedom of worship is guaranteed in the constitution. You can wear the garment and shout like a masquerade and nobody will query you. Some of the brand identity of the C$S are available in the market place. People have access to these things; they buy them and use them to start deceiving people.
But is it true that Moses Orimolade prophesied that the church will be stratified during his lifetime?
He did not. He was only talking to a situation that the way they (people in the church) were going they would not be able to stay together. He said if they were all operating the way they were operating they would not be one. He said they were not focusing on the kingdom of heaven. He said they were becoming terribly ethnic and conspiratorial. He was talking in the language of Joshua who charged the people to serve the Lord.
But did he really set out to start a church in the first place?
No. He did not. He was an itinerant evangelist. He was doing Bible teaching and preaching the word. He was with the Anglican in the beginning. He would join service in the morning but later in the evening people would go to his house for prayers and bible study. That is how he started. He started the Praying Band within the Anglican Church. Egbe Aladura.
When he started saying Thus says the Lord, they began to talk against his brand of faith. So that was the genesis of his exit from the Anglican Church. But he still did not leave the church. In the course of this he met Captain Abiodun Emmanuel who was a Catholic. On their Corpus Christi Day she went into trance and people felt she was sick and they tried all they could to revive her but she did not respond. They now invited baba Aladura to the scene. Baba Aladura was the Anglican Church in Ebute Meta. He decided to go with them to see the woman. There was no vehicle to take him to where the woman was. He was crippled. But they were surprised to meet him at the woman’s place ahead of them. He spoke in tongues with the woman who was in trance and the woman responded. He said the Lord said they should shout Halleluyah. Again he said the Lord said “we should sing a song”. Orimolade eventually prayed for the woman and she came out of trance.
That was the beginning of the relationship between Captain Abiodun and Moses Orimolade. Abiodun was a young pretty adorable lady and was always in the company of Baba Aladura after the trance experience. She was more educated and socially exposed than Baba Aladura. So they both decided to start the church. When the church had started the elite among them began to see that Orimolade was not educated. There was division. That was what led to the discordant voices that trailed the movement. But it is to the glory of God that Baba Fakeye made the move to unify the church when he was alive. In 1986, Captain Abiodun became the head of all the Cherubim and Seraphim Church. They came under one roof. All the factions in the C$S Movement now meet annually at a camp along Lagos-Ibadan expressway.
You are in the prophetic ministry. What is the Lord saying concerning Nigeria?
You don’t need a prophet to say the obvious. Prophets have said things and played to the gallery. But I believe the prophetic ministry is not for show. Prophecy is not what you conjure. Contemporary prophetic utterance is just like repeating the obvious. A person who does not have prophetic gift can say what many of what the so called prophets say.
What the Bible says should be what a genuine prophet should say. The Bible says if my people who called by name are willing and obedient and turn from their wicked ways I will heal their land. (2 Chron 7v14). That is what the prophet should prophesy. God wants us to come to him in repentance. He will hear us and heal our land. Preachers should be preaching that people should come to the Lord. That is what prophets should be prophesying. I will never be a prophet of doom. The reason is that God is not interested in the destruction of his people. God said to, “Jonah go to Nineveh and preach to them”, he refused. God made sure he got their through the whale. When he got there he preached fire and brimstone and the people
But Jonah was not happy. He wanted his prophecy of doom to come to past. That is how many prophets are. We have tendency of prophetic arrogance. We should refrain from that. We arrogate to ourselves the judgement of God without thinking about the goodness of God. Mercy goes beyond expression of how powerful God is in terms of destruction. All God wants us to do is to impress on the people on the need to have a change of heart. God has planted eternity in us and he wants us to change.
Nothing new is coming from the prophets of today. We tell people they will prosper. You don’t need people to prophesy the obvious. People come to me and tell me to prophesy. I tell them I don’t do that. I ask what your problem is and we can pray about it together. There are times I fast and pray and do not see anything. But there are times God speaks and shows us things. It is important as Christians for us to boundary-span our prophetic gifting.
Deuteronomy 29v29 says: The secret things belong to God and what he reveals he reveals. Daniel had encounter with the Lord where he was asking God certain questions and the Lord told him he should concern himself with what had been revealed to him.
What are your plans and vision for the church?
We are working on conceptualize a structure that will drive the vision of the church. We have a 15-ministry structure on ground driving activities. The kingdom of God is our focus. Our vision is to make heaven. Bible is our road map. We are Pentecostal in dispensation and evangelical in ministry. We want to cater for the people who are in charge of our spiritual lives. We are also concerned about wellbeing of our members. We have tried to give proper orientation to our people. We are also getting the people know that we are Christ-centric in our practice and that all forms of ritualistic expression and anti-Christ practices is not allowed in the church. A number of things people get into like the use of coconut. Candle and the burning of the strange incense are not allowed in the church. It is important to let our people know that we are de-emphasizing those things. We pray into water and pray with the oil just like many Pentecostals now do. We concentrate on what we can verify in the Bible. We are carrying what is called spiritual fumigation of our practices. Our vision is also to ensure advocacy at the political and social realms by moderating the excesses of our political leaders. We also want to involved in getting the body of Christ to be one and also be involved in inter-faith activities. These are things that have been put in place by our former leader. We are just building on them. We have help, education, women and a number of other ministries that have been established to address all the areas of concern in the church.