Rev Prince Sunday Ohioma is a Senior Pastor of the Ikeja, Lagos branch of the Christian Evangelical Fellowship of Nigeria (CEFN)
He is a product of the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) Logos Christian College and Graduate School, Florida, USA, and Peace and Conflict Management, International University, Bamenda, Cameroon where he earned, a diploma, BA, and MA degrees
Ohioma who will be 54 in June celebrated 30 years of pulpit ministry on April 3, 2022.
Also a chaplain, Ohioma had served in different capacities as an evangelist in the North. He shares his ministry experience with Wilson Adekumola, Excerpts:
Congratulations on your 30th anniversary in ministry. What is your own perspective about being born again?
It’s about giving your life to Christ totally and creating a special relationship with Him. It is making up your mind that whatever may be the consequence of your decision you will stay with him. It is living the life of Christ.
What is your experience in this regard?
I used to follow my parents to church and I participated fully in church activities yet I was not saved. But I got converted at a Christian camp meeting. My main motivation for going to the camp was to go and play basketball which I love so much. But had other plans for me. There was a particular night of the meeting an evangelist, Timothy Oge preached on “who will I send”
After preaching he began to cry and then made an altar call. I was moved. I could not tell whether it was his message that influenced me or I was just being emotional. But I found myself outside. I was the only one that came out and that was the day I gave my life to Christ.
Since that day, I began to have a deep hunger for God. Later on, I joined the Christian Evangelical Fellowship of Nigeria as a traveling evangelist. I had worked in many parts of the North until 2018 when I was transferred to Lagos.
What has been the experience working in his vineyard?
It’s been quite exciting and at the same time challenging. I have always found myself in a church that has one challenge or the other. But God has always intervened. The moment the challenge is resolved the church would post me to another branch.
But the joy is that I have also got the support of members wherever I am posted to serve. Most of my evangelism was in the North. So, it was not easy evangelizing there.
Tell us about those challenges. Did you have any near-death experience?
Yes, but the Lord was merciful. I had a series of accidents but the Lord always proved he is the one that sent me. Apart from that, there was an armed robbery incident I would not forget in a hurry. During the encounter with the robbers, I discovered that the leader of the gang was my classmate in primary school.
When he saw me he called my name and I was so scared. I pretended as if I did not know him. He said I should cheer up. He asked if I could recall his face. I looked at him. I recognised him immediately. The Holy Spirit emboldened me. I said, “How are you?” he said fine.
He then told his gang members to let us go that I was ‘his guy’. You know what that means? It was God that must have ministered to him to spare me because ordinarily, he would have just killed me since I had recognised him.
I had a series of attacks because of the church. In Zamfara, religious fanatics came on two occasions to destroy our church. In Bauchi, they sent people to kill me because they saw me as trouble to the environment. I had a series of accidents but the Lord proved He is the one that called me.
How will you assess evangelism in the north with what is obtainable now because of the incessant kidnappings and killings by bandits and Boko Haram?
Doing evangelism in the north is a herculean task. Most of the time when we have Muslim converts we would use every means to protect them. There were some situations we moved them out of the place to a secure area.
It’s difficult for pastors to get accommodation. They believe they will turn such accommodation into a church. To buy land to build is a problem. You cannot even buy property in the name of a church. Most of the church properties were bought in the name of a person and later transferred to the church.
The issues of kidnapping by bandits and the killings by Boko Haram are a recent development. When we were there what we experienced then were religious riots. I can say evangelism was easier then than now.
What would you consider your most prized possession or achievement in the last 30 years?
What I can describe as my achievement are the people God helped me to win their souls for Christ. Presently, I can tell you that I have about ten people I commissioned that have their personal ministry today. These are the people I brought up in the faith.
God actually helped me to nurture them spiritually and they are doing great. This is the greatest achievement I have recorded. When I was in Otukpo in Benue State I was able to establish three churches that are doing well now. I set up a branch in Gombe, Bauchi State, and by the grace of God the church is moving on there. I also founded two branches in Abuja. Then in Ogun State, I have a branch planted in Magboro. I thank God for these achievements.
If you could reverse the hand of time, what would you like to correct in your life?
We are human and there are times we make mistakes because of the things we do. One of the issues that have actually troubled me in the course of my assignment is the misplaced trust I had in a man. He came to me and claimed he was a man of God. I believed him and I embraced him.
I called my members and encouraged them to support him but at the end of the day, he betrayed that trust. He impregnated two of my members. I could not believe he would do such a thing. The painful thing is that if I had not recommended the man to my members he would not have had access to them. Each time I remember that incident it gives me a lot of pain in my heart. But the deed has been done.
It is a lesson for me. Now I won’t be in a hurry to recommend anybody. The problem I had then was that I did not investigate him because he said he was a pastor and I believed him. But what I did then was that I reported him to the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and he was suspended.
He started a church and it was closed down because of the things he was doing not to me alone, but also to others ministers of God. So now, if one man comes and says he is a pastor I will take my time to study him before I go closer to him not to talk of leaving my members for him.
What is peculiar about CEFN that people do not know?
CEFN is like a missionary church. We place a lot of premium on evangelism. This year alone we have been able to establish 500 branches in Nigeria through our evangelical activities. We send missionaries to places we discover there is no church.
What impact has your ministry made in society apart from soul winning?
Personally, there is a programme I run for students, widows, and orphans. I render assistance to them in my own little way. I sponsor some orphans in school. The mission school we run is tuition-free for orphans. We subsidize those who are not orphans. It is a boarding school but the highest they pay is about N30,000. From time to time we organize seminars for students, we visit some schools and also we have a prison ministry. We send some materials to prisons and we use that to preach the gospel. We also do hospital evangelism and we give the little we can afford and pray for the sick.
What is your perception about Nigerian churches today, are they doing church the way it should be done?
We cannot generalize. There are some churches that preach the gospel of Christ very well. Some put money first, which is unfortunate. Like I told someone that if we do what Jesus assigns us to do we will be more involved in evangelism than every other thing. The Bible says seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness every other thing will be added to you.
My emphasis then was on churches that own schools. When I attended missionary school in those days it was like a free school, a mission-sponsored school. But now missionary schools are even higher than secular schools. We know that things are hard but because it is a missionary school we have to consider the less privileged and we see how we encourage people to go to school. Some of the churches are doing very well and some are after money.
Like you said, in the Nigerian Church today, offering and tithe seem to be a topical issue. How will you react to this?
I don’t know why offering and tithe should be a problem because they are scriptural. God tells us to bring our tithe to the storehouse. We use the money for evangelism. We are not expecting any grant from the government.
When people complain I keep on wondering why this should be a problem. Not all churches use tithe and offering to enrich themselves. In our ministry, offering and tithe are meant for evangelism. Having worked in the ministry for thirty years now it will shock you to know that my salary allowance is nothing to write home about.
How then have you been able to sustain yourself these past thirty years?
I live by His grace. It is God. It is not our work. It is God’s work. I remember a programme I had at the All Nations Bible Institute in Benin in those days. The convener then was Archbishop Benson Idahosa. He would say, “as you are going, tell people about God and God will tell people about you” and that is what is sustaining us.
God is using people to bless our lives. There are times we don’t even tell God about our needs before He supplies us. Some send money to our account. I have discovered that when you truly serve God He will cause people to bless you.
We observed that churches are in every nook and cranny of society yet crime is on the increase. Does that mean the Church as an agent of change is not living up to the billings?
I can say it is the spirit of the end time because the Bible says that in the last days, wickedness will increase. That is one of the reasons it seems the effort of the church is not bearing fruit. The churches are doing great work but we need to do more because of the high rate of crime. It is just the spirit the of end time.
And most times the family has a lot to do. Some parents ignore the misdeeds of their children. They fail to put them aright. When they grow up with such it will be very difficult to change them. Bible says teach your child the way he should go so that when he grows up he will not depart from it.
We also need to blame parents for what is happening in society. The church may not do everything but the family has a vital role to play that will help to curb crime. If the home can join hand with the Church I think we will have a better society.
What is your Christian philosophy?
My philosophy about Christianity is that it is a way of life, not religion. Some say Christianity is a religion but I don’t believe in that. The disciples of Jesus Christ were first called Christians in Antioch. It is not because of anything but the life they saw in them. So, as a Christian, everything about you must be Christ-like. It must reflect the scriptures. For instance, I used to be very aggressive before I knew Christ. Since I knew Christ everything changed. My life is patterned towards the scriptures. So, Christianity is just the way of life.
What is your special message to the church leaders?
My special message to the leaders is that we are living in an era where people give less attention to the things of God. They are after worldly things. That shows that something is wrong somewhere. So I will urge the ministers of God to let us put more effort to prepare people for the kingdom that is the central message.
God wants those people He has called to prepare their followers for His kingdom. In doing this we are doing the work of God. So whatever we are doing we must prove that our priority is to make people focus on heaven. Even when the issue of money comes it should not take the place of our primary assignment which is preparing souls for His kingdom and the Lord will be happy with that when He comes.
What is happening now shows that the end is near. The Lord Jesus will be disappointed when He comes and see that we are not doing His will