It’s not by accident that he bears Enoch. Just like the Biblical Enoch who walked with God, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye has been walking with God for close to 50 years.
It is not certain God is in a hurry to take him home. And just like God told Joshua in the Bible that there were yet many lands to conquer though he was old, God seems to be saying to Adeboye there is more to do.
To mark his 80th birthday on March 2, 2022, he had requested 8 million souls within a space of 80 days from when he made the announcement. That translates to an average of 100,000 souls per day. A tall order you would say.
But from all indications, the souls were coming. About a week to his birthday, he organised a crusade in the heart of Borno State, the headquarters of insurgents in Nigeria. A public evangelical meeting in that part of the country is like going to snatch souls from the jaws of the lion.
Adeboye: His audacity
But he has been known for his audacity. The Redemption Camp is a signature of God’s faithfulness and his walk with God or so it seemed. For the monthly Holy Ghost Camp, he must have used and dumped about five different large auditoria before the present 3 by 3 kilometre size.
Many years ago while preaching to the Holy Ghost night congregation at the first auditorium on the Redemption Camp, he made a prediction that it would come to a time when vehicles would be used to transport those who will give their lives to Christ in the auditorium.
That was around 1994. 28 years after, that prophecy seems to have come to pass. If those who want to give their lives to Christ at the present auditorium have to come to the altar, they perhaps would need to be transported.
Ibadan size auditorium
He sure seems to have a deal with God. Just in 2019 at the Holy Ghost Congress, he made a shocking declaration that he was not going anywhere until he builds a church as large as that of Ibadan.
Adeboye made the declaration on Wednesday night, December 11, at the Congress tagged ‘The Great Turnaround’ He said, “If anybody tells you Pastor Adeboye is dead, don’t believe them because God is going to build us the auditorium as big as Ibadan. Until that is done, I’m not going anywhere.”
Many had wondered. Could he be talking of the physical size of Ibadan or the mythical size? Could he be talking of a church building? Or even a tent? Could he be talking of a space where human beings would gather to worship God?
While many are grappling with the consequence and intention of that declaration, Pastor Adeboye has continued to walk with God. He has also not relented in doing God’s work either.
Adeboye’s walk and work with God
Though people have different perspectives of God’s work, the work being carried out by this God’s servant seems to be all-encompassing.
He is evidently cooperating with God in souls engineering, doing structural expansion, and indeed pursuing the numerical growth of the RCCG.
He is perhaps the first servant of God in Nigeria to lead a church where parishes within the church compete among themselves. Call it the five-minute drive radius church and you won’t be wrong.
The vision is to plant churches within ten minutes’ driving distance in every developed nation and within five minutes walk in every developing nation of the world.
As of today, the parishes of RCCG seem to be a one-minute drive apart in some parts of Nigeria. He has since brought his ingenuity as a mathematician to bear on the church.
RCCG member in every family
The growth is not only geometric, it is with the speed of the light and has spread to over 180 countries of the world.
The church has over 6 million members distributed in over 4,000 parishes in the continents of Africa, Europe, Asia, and America.
Adeboye had told a gathering of men from different faiths at the instance of the United Nations during his 70th birthday that his vision was to have a member of RCCG in every family of the world.
Already, in Nigeria, the church is creeping into many homes. Many are joining. Pastors in the church are competing among themselves to do the master’s bidding. There had been instances where two RCCG parishes were spotted in one building until the church had to step in.
Adeboye however did not come tumbling down on the landscape of history in a jiffy. He seems to have paid his dues. He came to know Jesus as a university teacher in 1973.
One of his children had a challenge that took him to many doctors and herbal practitioners. There was no respite until an uncle of his, Dr Chris Fajemirokun suggested to him the RCCG.
Then in his early 30s at that time. He was teaching Mathematics at the University of Lagos and decided to give the church a try.
By the time he got to the church, he could not resist the power in the word of God from the founder of the RCCG, Pa Josiah Akindayomi. On one of the service days, he surrendered to Jesus and almost immediately became the right-hand man of Pa Akindayomi.
Prior to that glorious conversion experience, Adeboye had nursed the idea of becoming the youngest Vice-Chancellor in the whole of Africa. His credentials were impressive.
He was the first to earn an MSC in Mathematics from the University of Lagos and also the first in the school to earn a Ph.D. in Mathematics. He was trailing an academic pathway that was promising.
But his conversion halted his journey. He now had to carry the Bible. His destiny turned completely. Pa Akindayomi had earlier been told by God that Adeboye would succeed him.
Never wanted to be pastor
The Ifewara Osun State-born pastor could not imagine he would step into the massive shoes of Pa Akindayomi. He had suffered so much poverty in his growing-up years that becoming a pastor was the least of his concern.
Being a lecturer was like a call to the cult of the comfortable in the society. The future was clear and bright.
But this call to God’s work was a diversion or so it seemed. He said at some fora that he had to pray and fast for 14 days to avert being ordained a pastor.
The prayer rather fast-track his becoming one. On September 14, 1975, he was ordained deacon along with four others at the Ebute-Metta headquarters of the church. He became a full pastor in 1977.
That was the beginning of the journey that saw him becoming the General Overseer of the RCCG.
Pa Akindayomi who died in 1980 at the age of 75 had left a clear message that Adeboye would lead the church to its next level. Adeboye was ordained in March 1981. That was 41 years ago.
But that was the beginning of another round of challenges. He had to leave the comfort of the academic community to a small apartment in Mushin, Lagos from where he runs the church as the General Overseer.
The big break
Not many people knew Pastor Adeboye in those early years. He was however known in the church circle. He was a modest teacher of the word. By the time he took over the church, it had 39 parishes. And he was saddled with the task of growing the church which has the prophetic tag of a covenant church.
It is believed that the church will still be on till Jesus’ second coming according to God’s promise to the founder.
But from the day Pastor Adeboye was ordained as RCCG General Overseer till about the early 90s, not much was known about him on the global landscape.
Then, Archbishop Benson Idahosa was the main man on the Pentecostal turf. Pastor Adeboye is however one of the founding fathers of the PFN. He was the second National President, having led the fellowship from 1992 to 1995.
That exposure shored up his credentials. But then, his image had not loomed this large. The tide however turned in 1998 after the much talked about Lekki 98. That was the breaking point for both Pastor Adeboye and the RCCG.
Lekki 98: The gathering that made the difference
Leke Beecroft once wrote, “I was there physically. RCCG announced conservative estimates of 6.5 million while CNN said it was more like 7.2 million. From Lekki Beach to Mobil in V.I (near 1004) was blocked. It took me and my friends 2 hours of jogging to get there.”
While Beecroft was able to access the venue of the all-night prayer in December 1998, many Lagosians were about three kilometers away from the site.
They could only hear the voice of the RCCG Overseer who was then 56 years old. Some did not get to hear his voice as they were stuck in traffic on the third mainland bridge. So many people were trapped at various points in Lagos.
Rather than grumble, many were excited. It was the first time such gathering would be taking place in Nigeria and perhaps in the history of the world.
The theme of the meeting was “Divine Visitation” That event changed something about the church. It was just the year before democracy staged a comeback to the country.
It was truly a divine visitation for Nigerians and indeed for the RCCG.
CNN and BBC REPORT
CNN and BBC reported there was an unprecedented gathering of over 7,000,000 Christians who prayed all night in Lagos, Nigeria. “And there was no stampede during and after the event.”
That was the leap for Pastor Adeboye. The RCCG also got a leap. From that time on, the image of Pastor Adeboye soared. He became a global citizen.
An international magazine, Newsweek in its January 5, 2009 edition named him one of the 50 most influential people in the world.
Adeboye and Pope Benedict XVI were the only Christian leaders on the list. This was a significant leap for Adeboye who after Lekki 98 said God warned him against pride.
He said in one of his messages that he was full of praise to God after the glorious Lekki 98 until God asked him to draw the figure of a man. Adeboye obeyed. And the next instruction was to wipe out the figure. He did.
And then the bomb, “Son, you are thanking me for what I have done, if you ever forget who is in charge I will wipe you out like you wiped out what you have drawn. Nobody will even remember that you ever came into this world”.
That statement seems to ring on and on in Adeboye’s ears. And that is what has made him keep a low profile despite the seeming larger-than-life posture the world confers on him.
At 80 and beyond
At 80, one would have thought Pastor Adeboye would slow down. But slowing down could be like snuffing the life out of him. A few years ago, he appointed a National Overseer over the RCCG Nigeria. Many had thought that he would slow down his activities from that time. But that has not been the case.
Rather he has continued to fire on. Just last year, he lost one of his priced children, Dare Adeboye. That incident notwithstanding, he has not allowed his zeal and faith to wane. Day by the day, he has pressed on traveling, honouring invitations, and holding special programmes.
The strength for all these activities could only have come from God. He once told Church Times that one of the greatest temptations he ever faced was how to deal with people he once helped but who now turn against him. But he said God had always given him the grace to overcome such temptation.
The years ahead for him seems short but long. In the coming years, many decisions would have to come to play. The church which has become a global brand would pass through some transition.
He once said one of his greatest expectations would be to see RCCG members in heaven. He also expressed the wish that members of the church will be accorded a special privilege in heaven by God.
“I know this may not be granted, but I wish members of RCCG will be offered a particular section in heaven so that we could see ourselves. . This is why you find me crying all the time that we must be holy because without holiness nobody is going to see God,” He said in one of the holy ghost night meetings
The issues at stake
But these crowning years of Pastor Adeboye are years that he has to again examine his theology. Many had taken him up on his position on the payment of tithe. He once preached that tithe defaulters will not make heaven. That drew some flak from people.
And then, some church leaders are worried about his continuous recourse to the Old Testament and not being able to rightly situate it in the context of the New Testament.
For instance, Pastor Adeboye had preached about the redemption of the firstborn with a price. The subject was at a time incorporated in the Sunday School Manual of the church.
Many discerning church leaders have expressed great concern about this doctrine wondering why a man of Adeboye’s calibre would accommodate such belief.
The gravity of this doctrinal infraction seems not lost on discerning Bible students who believe that Jesus is the firstborn of all believers. They believe also that since he shed his blood for the whole of humanity, trying to redeem one’s firstborn with the monetary price is stepping on the sacrifice.
Perhaps Pastor Adeboye would need to explain more to the rest of the Church how this doctrine sits with him. Some have also picked holes in some extra-biblical practices in the Church.
He was particularly criticized by some folks on the recommendation of three handkerchiefs to his congregation. He asked them to engage the handkerchief depending on the severity of their problems.
While pastor Adeboye may be oblivious of the implication of the use of faith extenders, many of his followers are going a step further than him.
Gradually, people no longer refer to the name Jesus when a miracle happens in their lives. They rather talk about the handkerchief. They talk about the oil. Some testifiers would rather give glory to the elements that they used. They only make a passing mention of Jesus.
As the years draw close for him, Pastor Adeboye will have to get off the back of sycophants, who rather than draw his attention to some slips would choose to eulogise him.
But then, for a long time, the world will continue to benefit from the great impact of his work and walk with God.
By Gbenga Osinaike