The mammoth crowd gives an impression you’re in an open air crusade being held by Evangelist Reinhand Bonnke. But you’re dead wrong. This is not Bonnke. This is Michael Oke, a Nigerian and the National Evangelist of The Apostolic Church. Oke has traversed many parts of the country, from Lagos to Abeokuta to Ijesha and then Akwa Ibom. He delivers the gospel of Jesus with passion and zeal.
Since 1989 when he joined the church; one thing seems to define his life, passion. He however did not the join the Church as a believer. He came from a Muslim background and had wanted to attend a Quaranic school before he found himself in the church by chance. “There is this man that had always invited me to come to church with him. I would decline. But this particular day I offered to go to church with him because I had just bought a new dress and felt the only place to show off this dress was the church. So I went to him and said I was ready to go to church. He was excited. We got to church and I saw the gift of God in operation. It was the Pentecost Sunday of the church. People were speaking in tongues and there were divers’ manifestations. I was fascinated by this development and went to the pastor of the church after service that I would also like to have such experience and asked when next they would have such impartation service. He told me. I got to church around 4.30 am instead of 6 am when the next service was to start because I was really thirsty for the experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit.”
That was it. Since that day, Oke said he could not stop going to church. But he never got baptized in the Holy Spirit until after one year in the church. He however experienced a change of heart and became so committed to his walk with God. That was not all. He had to give up a lucrative part of his business when it was obvious he would get into trouble with God.
“I learnt to trade in building material. The most lucrative part of the trade is to sell iron rod. That is where it was easy for us to be fraudulent. I had done some fraudulent deals as an unbeliever with the sale of iron rods. But there was this particular day I was in church and the preacher preached that we would lose anything we acquired through fraudulent means and then God would begin to give us true wealth by himself. That message pricked my heart”
As if God was confirming the words of the preacher, the following day thieves invaded his house and went away with all his belongings. While recalling that the message troubled him for about one year he discovered later he could no longer continue defrauding people so he changed his line of business from selling iron rod to other building materials where he could not manipulate things. He then gained back his peace of mind.
That was the beginning of true fellowship with God for him. Along the line he met a senior pastor in the church who played the role of a mentor for him. “I learnt how to pray under this pastor. He took me to Ikoyi Prayer Mountain from where I got the orientation on prayer.”
Though he had the joy of salvation and peace of mind, life was harsh. He traced this to a fallout of some of the moves his parents had made to fortify his life while growing up. “My mother lost eight of her children and there was fear that they would lose me. So they got involved in some things that later affected me. But with prayers and waiting on God I was able to set myself loose from the stronghold of the devil.
On how he came about evangelism he recounts, “Everyone is called to save others. When I joined the ministry I met a great evangelist in the church who is no longer alive. I met this evangelist and was under his ministration. I planned to see him before he was transferred to Ilesha. But I could not. But I later saw him in the dream where he told me I should ask for the power to hold the house. That meant a lot to me. I was pondering on the dream and had another dream. In that dream he told me I should stop praying that God should make me a tree that cannot be uprooted, but that God should plant me like a rock. He explained to me in the dream that some trees may not be uprooted but the wild wind may pluck their leaves away. That was when I knew there was a future for me in the ministry.”
That experience coupled with his passion to spread the word made him abandon his business to be fully committed to missions in 1993 “In the Apostolic Faith Church we are meant to live by faith. Once you say you have been called of God to work in his vineyard, it is expected that you will trust God for your daily needs.”
He expressed concern that many believers are not involved in evangelism saying, “Every believer should have the zeal for evangelism. Unfortunately some are ashamed to call themselves Christians. In those days when you see a Christian you know. But today hardly can you differentiate a Christian from the people of the world. It’s a challenge to the church and the pastorate. It is the sign of the end and it will keep manifesting till Jesus comes.”
Oke whose wife is fully with him in the missions believes evangelism can solve the crisis in the country. “Christianity has helped society by bringing the unsaved to Christ. Those who are truly saved will not go into crime. The essence of the gospel is to bring sinners to Christ”
On his position as the National Evangelist of the Apostolic Church, he says, “I am not better than all other evangelists in the church. But I happened to be here as the national evangelist of the church. I thank God for experiences I have had so far. We have had crusades in several parts of Nigeria starting from Lagos. The crusade in Abeokuta was held close to where I lived when I was growing up. That was quite emotional for me. When people hear the word of God and surrender to Jesus I am always excited.”
He recalled an event, “In Ilesha, Osun State in 2006 December a woman came out and said she wanted to give her life to Christ at our crusade. I had preached on the danger of adultery. She said she was 80 years and was still committing adultery. The word of God sparked off something in her. I was wondering where she got the strength to be involved in immorality at 80. But my joy is that she met the Lord.”
Crusade according to him “is the most effective means of evangelism but most expensive. Many run away from it because it is expensive. It depends on the motive of crusade. Some Churches and individuals use crusades as an avenue of raising funds. We don’t raise funds on crusade ground. We are mainly interested in the souls.”
Though he has held many indoor programmes in the North he says the church was yet to hold crusade in that part of the country. Commenting on some Christians who are turning to Islam he says, “So many people in the church are not saved. I believe those who are leaving the church to become Muslims are not saved. The difference is clear. I deliberately published the testimony of a woman who went to Saudi Arabia and came to know the Lord in our in-house journal. Her story is fascinating. The problem is that some churches are interested in the crowd. They are not mindful if those people are saved or not.”
On 2019 he says, “This year is a special year. When I met with the Lord in December he spoke to me that people should be ready to give their lives fully to him because the second coming of Christ is imminent. He said we should lead many to Christ before untimely death would snatch them. I believe that with the gospel of Jesus being preached with a single mind, Nigeria would overcome the problem of crime and immorality”
While declaring that he is not a political prophet, he pleaded with politicians to allow peace in the coming elections. “For the ungodly it is do or die but not with a godly man. The Christian can only vote for people of their choice. The religious leaders are not in a position to rule the country. The only power they have is their vote. Our political leaders are desperate and hardly will you know their mind. Whether you vote or not some of them know what to do. If we go by the will of the people there won’t be problem. Unfortunately our leaders deceive us. Why do we have cabals? The politicians should allow the fear of God to rule their lives. If bloodshed will seize in Nigeria it is in the hands of political leaders.”