By Gbenga Osinaike
She stands in her own world. You may not like her guts, but Oluwatoyin Bakare is a shining light in the Celestial Church of Christ. She does not care whose ox is gored. Her tenses are laced with some truths you perhaps will not hear in many circles.
That Tuesday at the Shalom Parish of Celestial Church of Christ she regaled this writer with her sojourn to the CCC explaining that from day one she never liked the idea of going to Celestial Church. She had once made jest of one of her friends who married in the Celestial Church wondering what could have made her condescend so low when there were better churches that would make the wedding a talk of the town.
But her dislike for CCC is not so much than her love for God. As a student in a St. Theresa School Ibadan, Bakare had loved the idea of becoming a nun. “I wanted to be a reverend sister. I loved the idea and worked towards it. But my father could not stand a situation where I would not marry. Moreso, being a Muslim he did not welcome the idea.”
That truncated her ambition. But her sojourn to the CCC began with a prophecy by one of her siblings who said to her she was going to be used in the CCC. That statement earned the sibling a slap from Bakare. “I slapped her when she made that statement and wondered why she would ever link me with CCC.”
But that prophesy was soon to come to pass when circumstances led her to one of the parishes in Ibadan and from there her love for God became intense. “I found myself attending their programmes and learning. Before I knew what was happening I became so involved that I had to make time to attend a Bible School where I spent six years.”
Today, Bakare is a known name across the churches. She ministers in both white garment and plain cloth churches spreading the knowledge of God as it were. She has been doing that for 25 years. But she became a full time itinerant preacher of the word 10 years ago. “God told me to leave secular business and start the preaching of the gospel full time. That is what I have been doing for 10 years now.
She does not have kind words for those who drag the name of God in the mud noting that the church as a whole need to repent. “There is no church that is free from vices. The problem is not with the entity call church but the people who make up the church. There are wrong people everywhere”
She notes that the CCC has its own peculiar challenge pointing out however that there are great and wonderful people in the church.
You may not align with her white garment but you may find it hard to fault her theology. She posits for instance that the idea of using manipulation to collect money from people is not of God. In our parish we don’t encourage it. We don’t even announce the donation of people. We make it clear that you are free to give and it should be done willingly. This idea of tying money to God’s blessings is not of God. People can be led to do things for the progress of God’s work. But it is not for the preacher to manipulate them to do it.”
She also notes that some prayers in many assemblies are repulsive. “We seem to attach many things to the devil. But what is killing many people is not even the devil but our ignorance. People die more of ignorance and self-indulgence. The role of the devil and perhaps some evil people is just about 10 percent in the daily challenges we face in life. But what I tell people is that the power of God is sufficient to deal with issues emanating from any angle if we surrender our lives to his leadership and direction. This over emphasis on household enemy and satanic attacks is not helping the church. The interesting thing is that you hear people from all kinds of denominations preaching the gospel of fear rather than the gospel of faith in Jesus and his finished work on the cross.”
Shedding light on some of the practices of the CCC, Bakare who was into auto business before she abandoned all for Jesus said, “The issue of candle, coconut, bathing in the river and some of the supposedly strange practices in the CCC are not things that should remove our eyes from the bigger picture of the finished work of Jesus.
“The truth is that many of these things were introduced to help weak Christians who don’t have the capacity to understand that the name of Jesus is enough. There are also cases of people who use those things because of the specific leading of God. If for instance I give somebody coconut and ask the person to pray with it that coconut stands as a symbolic prayer object. The person uses the coconut and he prays thus, “God, only you know the mystery behind the water in the coconut, let me experience inexplicable miracle in my life.” You find out that the coconut stands as a metaphor for the prayers we offer. Without the coconut prayers will still be answered. There is nothing special about it. “
She explained that many people are too lazy and ill-informed. “The problem of the church is the problem of spiritual immaturity. People don’t want to study the word and connect to God. They are only interested in what the pastor says. That is the reason why the issue of faith objects becomes so strong in the church. It is prevalent in almost all churches today.”
She reasoned further that the individual has to liberate himself and study the word. “We all have access to the word of God. There is no secrecy about the things of God. For instance I take my time to study and I listen to preachers from across denominations. I know the person preaching heresy and those who are preaching the truth. I take what will benefit my soul and throw away poison. So there is really no reason why anybody should be locked down.”