India trip: How it changed me
. My only regret
I say it everywhere. There is nothing to hide about the church. I have said it over the years that the only regret I have is not knowing Jesus early enough. I was the Vice President of the sixth largest bank in the US but I was empty. I was not a believer.
I was into all kinds of wizardry. But I had material blessings. I came back to Nigeria as an expatriate in 1979 and I had all things at my beck and call until I met Jesus and everything about me changed. I had to give up everything. Today, I have no house in this country. I pay rent. Jesus is the only thing I have and I can say with Jesus I have everything.
Apostle Alexander Bamgbola is the Chairman of Lagos Chapter of Christian Association of Nigeria. Despite being a septuagenarian, he still goes on mission trips both within and outside the country. Bamgbola has been playing active roles in the church since the 90s. He was next in line to the celebrated pastor Gabriel Oduyemi, founder of Bethel Ministries known as Wonder City. He moved on later to start a fresh work, Zion, the City of the Lord Ministries from where he was appointed the Chairman of Lagos Chapter of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria and now CAN.
Bamgbola bestrode the corporate world both in the US and Nigeria like a colossus. His contribution to the banking sector and indeed the entire economy of Nigeria was huge. But when the Lord called him, he could not resist his call. He abandoned all that he had acquired and followed Jesus. In this interview with Church Times Nigeria, he shares the experience of his recent trip to India and then his pain about the Nigerian Church. Below are excerpts:
You went to India recently for a crusade and other missions’ engagement. What impact did the trip make on you?
Thank you for the question. My India trip has only made me reflect on the decadence in the Church back in Nigeria. Let me say for a start that many of us have gone away from the Bible. We are not studying the Bible the way we used to. Many are just listening to what preachers say without checking the Bible for themselves. I recall that in 2017 immediately after the Reinhand Bonnke programme, I was invited to minister at the Holy Ghost congress alongside with Pastor Enoch Adeboye.
That was when the Lord showed me a vision of the rapture and that has been my message. To make heaven may not be as easy as we think. The message the Lord gave to me is that Jesus is coming now, not soon.
My going to India changed me in and out. Looking at what we are doing here as Christians, I am afraid we have missed it. We are deceiving ourselves. We have been distracted from the message of Jesus. We have been sent forth to go and preach the gospel. Unfortunately we are not preaching the true gospel in our nation. The few who are preaching are not making disciples. Even the mixed multitudes in the days of Jesus were being taught the word of God. Now we have multitude who are not being taught how to follow Jesus. We are being taught how to prosper. We deceive our people and create our own revelation.
So in what specific way sir did the India trip change you?
What came to be as a shock was the way the Hindus were embracing Jesus. The Hindus are the most difficult people to convert. Missionaries have been there several times. And it seems they were difficult people to change. But my experience in India recently proved to the contrary. God is moving and impacting their lives in amazing ways. I saw Hindus give their lives to Christ in their thousands. That to me is quite phenomenal.
On which of the platform did you travel to India?
The organization that took me to India is called Global Association of Ministries and Churches. It was formed about nine years ago in the US by Apostle Tim Atunnise. I had brought him down to teach internet evangelism when I was the chairman of the Lagos Chapter of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria. He started this global evangelism using the internet early. It was when we travelled to Jamaica we got to know that his YouTube has the ninth largest followership in the whole world. As of that week he had 39.9 million followers around the world.
His weekly Bible study attracts over 280,000 all over the world. He started this vision and it’s been amazing. He is my son in the faith. He had this dream where the Lord sent him to the nations of the world. When he shared the dream with me I gave him my word that I will support him anywhere he goes. That informed part of the reason I was with him in India. His own ministries is Global Vision while the GAMC also came up as an arm of his ministry. We went to Uganda about eight years now. He went to China, Thailand and then the Lord told him to go to India.
It was in India he saw something that really amazed him. India has about 35 million gods. He then began to have a heavy burden to reach out to the people there with the gospel. The Lord began to reveal to him what to do. He set up a Bible college where they run a two-year programme for church leaders. He is a great teacher of the word. My observation in this recent trip during which we held a three-day crusade is that many of the Hindu converts are eager for the word of God. In fact on the day of graduation of the students in the Bible school, one of them had an accident and sustained injury in his spinal cord. He insisted they should carry him to the graduation ceremony from the hospital.
I was overwhelmed by the love of God that these people exhibited. You see successful people thirsty for the word. Apart from the Bible School, they also have also an orphanage and an old people’s home.
Let’s talk about the three-day crusade?
The response to the crusade was incredible. During the crusade it rained every day. But the rain did not affect the attendance. That was what came to me as a surprise. It was one crusade that blew my mind. The first day about 540 Hindus gave their lives to Christ inside the heavy downpour. They were inside the rain. The rain was up to their knees. I had no option but to stay in the rain too. By the end of the crusade the second day about 4000 Hindus surrendered their lives to Christ. I was the one who ministered that day by his grace. I just shared my testimony of conversion. The way they accepted the gospel was amazing. They were excited about the gospel. It was like the days of old here in Nigeria when people were so hungry for the word of God.
Today we use all kinds of gimmicks to bring people to church. The church must decide to deliberately repent. We must teach the truth in this country. We must teach the gospel. After I came back to Nigeria I still had moments of reflection on the India experience.
We have talked and prayed. The choice is now for people to come to the Lord in repentance in Nigeria. Jesus told us about the last day. We need to go back to Jesus and retool. We must deliberately go back to Jesus.
You are the chairman of CAN and you are saying this. One would have expected that you will paint a good picture of the church?
I say it everywhere. There is nothing to hide about the church. I have said it over the years that the only regret I have is not knowing Jesus early enough. I was the Vice President of the sixth largest bank in the US but I was empty. I was not a believer. I was into all kinds of wizardry. But I had material blessings. I came back to Nigeria as an expatriate in 1979 and I had all things at my beck and call until I met Jesus and everything about me changed. I had to give up everything. Today, I have no house in this country. I pay rent. Jesus is the only thing I have and I can say with Jesus I have everything.
It’s hard to believe that you don’t have a house in this country?
I managed two banks, had assets and shares in companies. I had 10 percent of the shares of some of the defunct banks. But the Lord asked me to give up all the things I had acquired. The only person who is a witness to this is Pastor Adeboye. I was close to him and still close to him. The only thing is that I don’t see him as often as we used to meet because of his busy schedule all over the world. The first day he saw me he knew I had the call of God in my life. I was president of the Full Gospel then in Victoria Island with Elder Ohiwerei. I gave up my shares in about 17 different companies at home and abroad. Adeboye told me that God would remove all the things I had acquired but that he would be praying for me that God will not bring me to nothing.
I retired in 1993 as MD of a bank. By 1997 my wife and I did not have money to buy meat to eat at home. I gave up shares of about 40 percent in an insurance company that is one of the biggest insurance companies today. The Lord asked me not to go back to all those things I had acquired. My things were thrown out of the house I lived. It was a major headline in the Guardian Newspapers…Ex-bank MD rendered homeless. I was living in 33, Copper Road, Ikoyi. I was homeless for one and half years with my family. I had to stay in my friend’s house, Admiral Eyitayo.
My late wife and I lived with him for one and half years with our last child. That is why I am pained by what the church is doing now. When our ministry started after I had left my former church I became so popular again. Within one year we had five branches all over the world. But the Lord said to me that I was building my own church not his. I had to tell all the pastors of those branches to take over the branches.
What do you think would have informed the passion of the Indians?
We had similar experience in Nigeria in the 70s. I believe the Lord is being lifted up truly in India that is why they showed so much passion for the things of God in that part of the country we went to. We see ministers who were content and happy. We saw poverty among the people in India but then they were not dissuaded. Their financial status did not matter to their faith. Their love for God was contagious and overwhelming. When people hear the truth they are liberated. In Nigeria the war made a bang on Pentecostalism. I believe that the church in Nigeria will come alive again.
But then what do you think is wrong with the church in Nigeria?
We have resources but we waste it. We use money to build structures that will perish. The souls of people are perishing we are building cathedrals. Jesus never built a church. He was a nomadic preacher. He was born in a manger. He moved about to where he was welcome preaching the good news. He died and was buried in a borrowed tomb. He borrowed the upper room where he had supper with his disciples. We are supposed to be building men instead of structures. I was part of it. We built the best church in the country at that time talking of Bethel Ministries where I was next to Pastor Gabriel Oduyemi. I guess that is why the Lord had to make me pass through what I passed through. When I see the way things went on in the India community where we had the crusade I lament for my country. We have lost the fear of God.
But what practical things has the Lord helped you to bring to bear on the Lagos CAN?
To the glory of God the changes in Lagos CAN are self-evident. I had my misgivings about CAN before I came on board. I did not want the politics of CAN. I used to send our brethren to represent me in CAN in those days while I was in PFN. But the Lord revealed to me that I needed to be involved. And that things had to change. God has been so God to us in Lagos. We are now being respected. Our emphasis is to train CAN members to follow God. The Lord is purifying us. God has enabled me to move around to see things for myself. We have been doing a lot of collaborations with major churches like the Deeper Life moving from local government to another holding programmes. I am the current chairman of all the six states in the southwest. We work together to hold crusades and programmes that would bring some changes to the Church.
But is CAN not looking at the possibility of sanctioning erring members?
We have been looking at that for years. But it’s an association of interested members. Anything that has no legal backing will not get the needed cooperation. We just need to tell them the truth and train them while trusting God that they will change. Things are changing generally. We make our members realize the church can’t be run the way it was run many years ago. Many people around now are now internet savvy. We need to train church leaders on how to employ technology to do church. We are also bringing integrity into the life of leadership in the church. CAN is being sanitized. The minds of many of the leaders are changing for good more than ever before.