In our days, evangelicals thought those who spoke in tongues had demons -Wilson Badejo

 

 

 

 

Rev. Wilson Badejo was 70 in May 2017. For many who are conversant with the history of Pentecostalism in Nigeria, Badejo is not just a pastor. He is one of the earliest people who embraced the gospel as a university student. He was part of the first set of NYSC and was fully involved in spreading the gospel across the country as a young man.

That zeal has simply refused to die. Over the years, Badejo has length himself to the service of God work conscientiously to promote unity of the Body of Christ. He became well-known when he was appointed the General Overseer of the Foursquare Church of Nigeria after several years of serving in different capacities in the church.

God used him to make a lot of transformation while at the leadership of Foursquare Church. Beyond the church, Badejo 1973 Veterinary Medicine graduate from the University of Ibadan worked at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the Ibru Organisation from where he resigned while still in his prime to work full time in God’s vineyard. His love for the downtrodden is legendary as his foundation, Wilson Badejo Foundation focus mainly on ameliorating the plight of the poor and the disadvantaged folks. In this interview with Church Times Badejo goes back memory lane on the journey of faith. Enjoy.

 

 

You are a walking history of the church in Nigeria especially for Pentecostalism. What was the scenario that surrounded your conversion?

 

I thank God that I came to know Christ when I was 19 at the University of Ibadan. I was in my second year in the university. My encounter was not accidental because nothing happens to us by accident. It was pretty historic and epochal. I was both the Secretary of the Nnamdi Azikwe Hall and the Students Union of the university.

 

It was in the course of this that the school was engrossed in a crisis. The students wanted one Mrs Akpampa to go. He was the Hall Supervisor and they felt she was not a good administrator. Professor Lambo was the VC and it was alleged that the VC was supporting her. So there was a protest against her. We were insisting she must be relieved of that office as the Hall supervisor. We went to the Trenchard Hall to protest. This happened between 1969/70. The protest went on for three days. It was on the third day that it became violent.  I was coming back from the Anatomy Lab when I joined in the protest on the third day and we were able to repel the police with pellets but the police went back to reinforce and came back to attack us.

 

There was full reinforcement of police and they started shooting into the air to scare students. That was when Kunle Adepeju was killed. The bullet that hit him passed through my ear to hit him. When I heard he died I was really touched. I was downcast and began to reason that life was cruel.

 

I thought it could have been me. That event set me thinking. It started a series of reactions inside me. So when there was missions programme later in the year on the university to welcome news students, I stopped over at the Trenchard Hall to listen to the music. I had thought to myself that after the music I would proceed to the anatomy lab. But by the time the music stopped I could not go again. I had become enthralled in the whole event and I sat back to listen to the rest of the programme.

 

The programme made a lot of impression on my mind that made me began to reflect on the hereafter. The preacher called for those who wanted to give their lives to Christ. Initially I was reluctant because it was quite absurd for a union leader to identify with SU on campus. It was believed that those in students’ unionism were not serious students. But somehow I raised my hand and came out as instructed. As I was coming out, tears welled in my eyes. I was really broken. I said the sinner’s prayer and I felt a big load had been lifted off me. I was relieved and joy was written all over me. That was it. Since then I have been serving the Lord and going from one glory to another.

 

But how were your early days in Christ? Was the term born again used then?

 

It was used but it was not common. It was something serious to give your life to Christ. We were usually so excited when people gave their lives to Christ. When I surrendered my life there was an uproar on campus and many of my friends said I would soon come back to join them in the world.  But they wrong because I became so committed. I joined the IVCU on campus and met some fantastic brothers who helped me to grow in the faith. The foundation of my faith in God was laid through the discipleship that was put in place then. The people who had known the Lord before us were very much around us to encourage us and pray with us. That makes it difficult for many of us to look back.

 

Who were the fathers of faith then?

 

We had people like Rev Mike Oye, Demuyiwa Olamijulo of the Apostolic Faith and a host of others I cannot readily recall. In those days we were so committed to evangelism and Bible studies that we used every spare time we had to for evangelism. During the weekend those of us who were fervent in the Lord were doing evangelism in villages and hamlets. We did not spend our weekends on campus.  We took time to reach out to schools and colleges. We had travelling secretaries and it was something a little bit tasking but we enjoyed it.

 

There were some distinctive features that made Christians unique. The fellowship was strong. We missed it in some areas when we went to the extreme of saying if you were not speaking in tongues you were not born again. Some doubted their Christian faith. On the other hand the evangelicals did not believe in speaking in tongues. In fact they believed speaking in tongues was a demonic thing. It was that bad. So there was this doctrinal problem between the evangelicals and the Pentecostals on campus. I was part of the Pentecostals.

 

The Pentecostals had this Tuesday Fellowship where we do our speaking in tongues and enjoyed fellowship. One of the leaders then William Ifode had a group called World Action for Christ. It was a big mission’s body. We had crusades in villages, towns and many parts of the country. We were very restive at that time. To spend three months at home doing nothing was not part of us. We needed to go out and hold outreaches. It was pretty a fruitful time of our lives.

 

So what were the struggles you had to contend with?

 

What we must appreciate is that majority of the converts were coming from orthodox churches and the older Christians in the orthodox churches were repulsive of the new move. They could not understand the speaking in tongues and the supposedly strange lifestyles we were living. On our part we started seeing that God was manifesting himself greatly in our lives. There were miracles and things were happening. We were the one experiencing these moves but those outside could not comprehend what was going on. They did not see miracles as a possibility.  That was the controversy at that time. But we waded through it.

 

The irony of it all is that our senior friends who had become born again did not give us breathing space either. We were the Pentecostal they were evangelical. So they did not give us support as it were because they did not buy the doctrine of speaking in tongues. The Student Christian Movement SCM on the other hand was seen more like the permissive group. They believed they were social Christians. We were considered as extreme.  But with time we came to certain understanding and everything went on well.

 

Between the time of your conversion and now there is a huge difference in the way the church is. What do you think went wrong between that time and now?

 

I will like to say that revival is not static.  It is monumental. It is a move of the Holy Spirit. As at the time UI was having its revival other campuses also caught the fire. The revival permeated various aspects of the Christian activities on campuses in Ife, Nsukka, Lagos. Because it was something that was not common we needed the special grace of God and a good understanding of what biblical principles were to sustain the revival.

 

Revival comes in spikes and if it is not sustained it fades away. The opposition against us was very strong from many quarters and there were some extremes from our brothers in faith. Some abandoned their studies because they felt they had the call to do God’s work and as such would be wasting their time reading books. There were those who left school among our set who went to full time ministry.

 

There were a few others who continued with their studies and the Lord prospered them. I narrowly missed it. I also wanted to abandon my studies. I felt the much we had learnt was enough that we should go and preach the gospel because Jesus was soon going to come. So all these factors helped to derail the revival so to say and that is why we have not been able to sustain the momentum. But I think God has been gracious to the church in that over the years our understanding of God has deepened and we have become more mature.

 

So what was the attitude of your parents to your conversion?

 

My parents were not supportive. My daddy said I was mad. But what I soon discovered with parents then was that once you can cope with your studies and move on fine they soft pedal on their criticism of you. But if you have references and failures they believe it is the faith that is affecting you and so will be hard on you. The onus then lied on us to be excellent in our studies and make good grades so as to shut their mouth from deriding the name of God.

 

So how did you come about your involvement with Foursquare?

 

Let me start by saying I served at the Obudu Cattle Ranch. We started with children ministry. We started a church on the ranch. We were the first set of the NYSC. 73/74 set. We saw God at work. We used to go to the church in the village where we conducted crusade and support the church to grow. So our activities on the ranch were a springboard for some churches to experience our dynamism and absolve us to their leadership. We were sincere, thorough and did what we did with all our heart. .  By the time I was through with the NYSC we handed the church to Assemblies of God.

 

When I came back from NYSC I secured job immediately. In those days jobs wait for you immediately after your NYSC. I was posted to Jos. I was a research officer in Jos working with FG. With that at the back of mind we were fairly well treated. Churches gave us some respect and they opened doors for us to preach. They allowed us to preach on their pulpits. But I was active with the Evangelical Church Winning All. It used to be Evangelical Church of West Africa. ECWA.

 

I brought the experience of Jos to Lagos when I was posted to Lagos to do the Quarantine service at the Airport. I started a fellowship at the Muritala Airport which used to be international Airport and then local. It was very vibrant. We met every Tuesday and Thursday. Thereafter people got to know about it. It was around that time Brother Williams Kumuyi now Pastor Kumuyi was also doing something in UNILAG. It was a great experience for us in those days.

 

Rev Boyejo, Senior Pastor Foursquare Gospel Church heard about what we were doing and he embraced us well. Before I knew it I became a constant preacher within the pastoral ministry of the Foursquare. We taught in the Sunday School and other fora.

 

Pastor Boyejo was using that to watch us and see if we truly knew the Lord and were born again. He was the one who invited me to Foursquare. But the fellowship at the Airport continued. The Airport fellowship had attracted many people. Some of the people also came to Foursquare. This should be around 1974 or thereabout. The higher institutions around Foursquare Church in Yaba were also very fruitful for the church. Our outreaches to schools were so strong. People like Pastor Odunaike who was the General Superintendent of the Church was a model to us. There were revival meetings; some for as long as 15 days. We had Archbishop Benson Idahosa, Evang. Uma Ukpai and a host of other prominent men of God who came around to minister. The church was always jampacked. That was the kind of scenario we found ourselves. It was really an exciting and profitable time with God.

 

Did it ever cross your mind that you will get to the top of the church hierarchy?

 

It never crossed my mind that I would reach the apex of the church. But we took the assignments we were given seriously. We had a good environment that helped us to solidify our faith. I was president of the youth in Foursquare at 28 and I enjoyed those youthful years and fellowship with the Lord.

 

Was that where you met your wife?

 

I met my wife at the Tuesday Fellowship at the University of Ibadan. In those days you don’t just go to the person you want to marry. You had to make consultations first with the leader of your fellowship. In my case I had to tell the coordinator of the fellowship William Ifude and we prayed together about it. But I did not tell my wife I wanted to marry her until after about five years of just being friends. We were accidentally being paired together for outreaches until towards my final year when we started knowing ourselves better. By the middle of that year I proposed to her.

 

So you were so sure she was the one for you. You had a conviction?

 

I had a divine revelation that she was the one for me. But I was very careful so that I don’t break her heart. I had to be sure and be sure again it was God leading me. When I mentioned it to her she said she already knew. And she stretched her hands and said let us pray. If she had said no to my proposal I would not have married again. I would probably have become reverend father.

 

Really! Was it that you had problem talking with ladies?

 

No. It was more of my faith in God. If God had told me she was the one for me and she said no that would have meant there was something wrong with my relationship with God or perhaps I did not hear God well. I would have been wrong and that would have shaken my faith. But I was so glad when she said she knew and that she would be lying if she feigned ignorance. That kind of gave me some joy that I could hear from God and what I heard was being confirmed.

 

You have been married for 42 years. What are the lessons you have learnt?

 

I have learnt that for any marriage to succeed one must be strong in the Lord and know what one believes. In our time we were exposed to sound scripturally training. We also had some godly examples of some of our senior friends. Let me also say that the time of courtship is an opportunity to provide a good foundation for marriage. There were some restrictions we obeyed. We didn’t engage in premarital sex. Kissing a girl and cuddling was not even encouraged. There was self-discipline and we meant business. A few of us missed it but many of us were able to sail through. All along the way I perceived the presence of God in our lives has helped to solidify the union till now.

 

You were the General Overseer of the Foursquare Church for 10 years. What lessons did you learn in those ten years?

 

I think my memoirs has all the details of my experience. It will give you a good insight. Some of the few things I learnt are that if God calls you he will make a way for you. The gifts of a man make way for him. There were manifestations of gifts in my life that made way for me. I enjoyed teaching and the fellowship of the brethren. I saw laying of hands and people being baptised in the Holy Spirit. I saw and experienced the miraculous. The doctrinal statement of the church is very sound. It says: Jesus is the Savior, the baptiser the healer and the soon coming king. We had good Sunday school class. There was also a good follow up class for new converts. The discipleship programme of the church was very sound. We had a good Sunday school manual. Those were outstanding qualities of foursquare. And those qualities are still being sustained to the glory of God.

 

Did anything come to you as a shock when you became the G.O.?

 

When I became G.O. I was deeply concerned about the church. The church has a big name outside but the people in fellowship were not commensurate to the noise and prominence it had. I felt concerned. My primary thrust was church planting. We wanted to see more people come to know the Lord. By the special grace of God we got into evangelism and discipleship. By that time in my first year we planted about 172 churches under the acronym of the Bailey Harvest. It was well embraced. Though there were challenges but we waded through. We planted more than 200 churches by the end of the second year. By the end of the third year we had planted 1000 churches. In ten years we had well over a thousand churches added. The church has grown and it is still growing. We want to thank those who are there for continuing the work. In our time we were concerned about expansion and discipleship. The current leadership is doing great by being able to sustain the work and improving on it.

 

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