Grace Missions International (GMI) recently opened a resource centre for Christians in Lagos. Founder of the organization, Pastor Evans Adetokunbo Emmanuel talked with Church Times on the centre and why Christians should not be limited by denominational barriers.
What is the concept behind the Grace Missions International?
Grace Missions International Teaching Centre is a non-denominational Christian resource centre meant to be what a true non-denominational Christian resource centre ought to be. It is a place Christians from any denomination can come, feel at home, be edified and return to their churches to add value.
Denominational doctrines are often competing with biblical doctrines. How do you balance this?
We teach the Bible without bias and give opportunity for people to ask questions. That has been going on for years now. Our ministers and leaders’ summit on monthly basis have helped some leaders on Bible doctrines. We also help leaders who attend our programs to train their Church leaders and workers. We have built synergies and earned trust from churches. But the truth is that there will be some people who still don’t feel comfortable with what we do. Our joy is that those who use the facilities have seen we are building the kingdom of God and not tearing it down.
What would you say about some other ministries like yours?
The unity of the Church is key and what they are doing is commendable. The issue of membership is a big problem. It is sad that we are eager to teach people how to be members of our church than being members of the body of Christ. The non-denominational ministries coming up help us to see the importance of being members of the body Christ. Membership entrenches denominationalism. You come to GMI, you meet people from different Churches coming for Bible study. There is a kind of fellowship which makes it possible to attend worship in one another’s church. There is a non-den-denominational ministry in Gowon estate run by Pastor Gbenga Samson I go there to enjoy myself, get blessed and return home. There are many other places like that.
Do you think the big pastors thriving on large membership agree with your views totally?
In their own way they have their own non-denominational groups too. There is the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, there is the Christian Association of Nigeria. There are different networks of ministers. You have pastors who have their own ministers’ conference which is very good. The main issue is content. Membership is okay because it helps you to build people, it helps you to get commitment from people. It can give people commitment but by the time you feel you are bigger than the other person we have problem with what commitment membership bring. In the USA for instance we have a lot of non-denominational ministries we don’t have much of that here. You have people like Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer etc., who have independent ministries, you have a lot of ministries springing up from Assemblies of God, you have Southern Baptist Church who allow other non-denominational ministries and it is really healthy. Mike Murdock’s book, the Young Minister handbook where he mentioned the commitment in the American Church. He mentioned that an average American believer has commitment to about nine non-denominational ministries but coming here to Nigeria, an average member doesn’t want to support another ministry and it is because of how we pursue membership. We don’t teach our members here to have a broad mindset. They belong to the body of Christ. We want followers to follow us and not necessarily to follow Christ because of economic reasons. For instance what stops me from giving my tithe to a Church I don’t attend?
Won’t that negate Malachi’s instruction about store house?
The question you should ask is: How do you define store house? They would say where you are being fed spiritually is your store house. If that is what it means then the interpretation is the problem. The time the Bible was talking about the store house the whole Israel had one central temple. Even if we want to translate that to our contemporary time, which Church would you now call the store house? You don’t have two store houses.
If it is where you feed spiritually, you are still going to have several store houses. If I attend Church A for instance and I pay my tithe to Church B where I also get some spiritual nourishment, what is wrong? If you pay your tithe to Church B have you paid to the devil? Who defines what store house is? Store house of who? Who distributes what is in the store house? This is the problem with membership mentality.
That is why people want membership so that people’s commitment can be to them alone. Churches print tithe card so they will be able to trace and monitor who pays and who does not pay. Where did we learn that? Sometimes people are not kingdom minded, we interpret the scriptures to support ourselves. For instance, there is a Church that uses GMI centre on Sundays and we don’t charge them. They had a little crisis and we had to support them with the facility. There are other ministries too that use the facilities where different ministries have their own slots per time and it is all free. We are thinking of a sizable library where anyone can come in and read books. If you are led to give, its fine, we accept gifts but we don’t charge people, no price tag. Our Bible school is free. You may now come that you want to give, we would accept but we don’t charge.
Do you pay tithe on such gifts?
Most of what comes in go to run things. Tithe is for those who work in the ministry. “That there may be meat in mine house…” We have the responsibility of taking care of the people working in the house. There are people who manage the affairs of ministry which cannot be commercialized. If you are a Christian entrepreneur, that is your ministry. Because of the system, we have to take care of the people. We have been doing that, there are pastors who don’t have so we are committed within our little resources. We take care of them. People have brought things for us to share and we have shared. In I Cor 9 Apostle Paul said those who preach the gospel should live by it. Not because they charge. It’s a function of responsibility. We are always at the forefront of taking care of ministers around us.
How is Grace Missions funded since you don’t charge and you don’t take offerings yet you feed participants at your monthly conferences?
We have partners but we don’t run our partnership as a stable partnership in terms of having them pay certain amount per time. The people God has raised are people God has blessed and they have supported over the years. What we spend for ourselves is what remains. If we have money after sorting out what the ministry needs and bills is what we use and this is the 12th year of doing that and God has been faithful. The food, public address system and many other things we use are supplied by people. For instance, the manager of Grace Missions’ programs, Pastor Shola, has his own ministry. We want to raise people that can fully represent the body of Christ.
What if people are not willing?
We have seen all manner of people meanwhile the truth is no single person can do the whole work. The leg cannot do the work of the hand, the eye can’t do the work of the nose. The kidney can’t do the work of the liver the ear can’t do the work of the lungs so we have to understand, it is understanding we need. I should know that you are important to me and I cannot function in your capacity the way you would function. If your ministry closes down today of what advantage is that to me? The heart is just one organ, it can’t do the work of other organs. Can the liver be praying the heart should stop working so he can come in? Everything has its roles. The bile is a very small thing but if it is removed the whole body is in trouble, it doesn’t have to be big.
There are ministries that don’t have to be big, all they need is to be functional and contribute that small thing. Most times we refuse to study what greatness means. A lot of the time people refuse to know the meaning of greatness, people who were great in the kingdom how should they be? Jesus compared them with a little child. These are things we need to go back to and study again so we can understand what God has in mind so we don’t run in vain. You have gathered all manner of people, you have built all manner of things and at the end of the day God tells you all I needed you to do is one small but functioning thing. So, what have you gained?
I think it has to do with perspectives and the individual?
It’s true. For instance, somebody who grows up with a poverty mentality thinks everything about him must be big since that is what he lacked. You want to have a lot of money, people have never heard your name before so you want to be big. You think greatness means people hearing your name. It’s not really that Christ has influenced your ministry but the things you lack are influencing you. Of course, God can influence you by the things you lack. We don’t want to go back there we don’t want to experience it anymore so you see how some people translate greatness. How would someone with billions of naira in his account define greatness? He won’t define it like someone who is poor. They are running away from something.
If I am running away from something it is different from being sent on an errand. They are two different things. A lot of people are running away from something not as if they are going on an errand. Jonah was running away from an assignment. He didn’t have any mission towards Tarshish. If he was going towards the place he was sent it would be a different thing, everybody is moving but to where? Everybody is covering ground but are you on an errand or you are running away from God? So, a lot of us are running away from God, from low self-esteem, away from our mission. That is what make us do what we are doing. You see a lot of people with lots of insecurity. They are defined by things around them. It is God that defines you based on your assignment and He gives you grace to do that. He has sent me to be a teacher of His word.
How does Grace Missions Resource centre function?
We have our monthly ministers’ conferences every first Friday of the month we have a Bible class every Wednesday evening then we have introduced what we call the prayer pitch where we pray for the body of Christ, pray for one another and the nation. We also have what we call the grace web which is for young adults and teenagers from 14 -22. There are three focus areas we have for them. We have leadership training entrepreneurial training and relational training we call it grace web. We run a school of ministry with a wide range of courses.