Rev Ladi Thompson is the General Overseer of Living Waters Unlimited based in Anthony Village, Lagos, Nigeria. He is an activist within the church promoting the cause of the kingdom. He founded Macedonia Initiative, a body committed to promoting love in the Body of Christ and giving succor to those who have been affected by persecution in the country. Today, he is leading another revolution in the church asking church leaders to come back to the gospel of the kingdom. He reasons that many churches have been satisfied with preaching part of the kingdom message and not the entire message of the kingdom. In this interview with Gbenga Osinaike, Thompson gives an insight into the Pentecostal Church and the need for a shift to the gospel of the kingdom.
At what point did you encounter the Pentecostal movement?
It was in the 80s. But we should not forget that Pentecostal movement in Nigeria started in the 1920s, and its influence went round Nigeria. It did not really rise to prominence until the 70s. That coincided with the austerity measures in the early 80s. As hardship increased in Nigeria, it forced a lot of people to do a rethink. There was an army of unemployed people and people who had been retired prematurely around that time.
So, it became necessary for people to seek God. At that time the orthodox representation of the church was not singing any new song. But the Pentecostals were saying water could still come out of the rock. Such hope message was the mainstay of many people. That was when the orthodox began to call the Pentecostal churches mushroom churches but they did not realize that God had moved on. People started trooping to the Pentecostal churches because the Pentecostals made it a point for people to adhere to the word of God more than tradition and cultural celebration which orthodoxy was still holding to. So, naturally the kingdom of God had to move forward. We were a part of those who were in the early movement. There was the Christ Chapel in Lagos which gave birth to so many Pentecostal preachers. It made a lot of sense for us then because what the Pentecostals were saying had corroboration with the scriptures.
Are you saying in essence that the Pentecostal movement was a product of the downturn in the economy of Nigeria?
Not really. It started in the 20s as I said. So the downturn in the economy did not really give birth to it.
I mean the loudness of the movement?
Oh! You are now introducing another dynamics to it. Well initially, as long as the movement stayed on the word of God, things went well. In those days if you wanted people of integrity you go to the Pentecostals. If you wanted an accountant that will not steal your money you look for Pentecostals. Foursquare Church for instance had excellent foundation course for believers. However, from orthodoxy there had come the idea that started about 1800 whereby piety was equated with poverty. So many fathers of faith started research into that, and soon discovered that God has his own welfare package which talks about living well and good. The Pentecostal body then championed that cry that abundance was not a sin. The only challenge again is that there was a swing from abject poverty or poverty being associated with piety to a swing to another end of the pendulum where the indices were such that one could equate gain with righteousness. This swing coincided with the years of deep corruption coming from the high places.
In the history of the church there has been confusion on the issue of handling wealth. The world at a point began to see that there seemed to be no difference between it and the Christian. They began to see that the measure whereby they were measured and that of Christians were the same. But my position is that any gospel that you cannot preach in Dubai to a Sheik and have him consider cannot be authentic gospel.
What then is your assessment of the Pentecostals?
We must first commend the work that was done in the earlier years. The movement has given hope where there is no hope. A lot of people that have been very successful today who are established and stable were brought up by the Pentecostals. But when Satan saw that the Pentecostals were championing the advance of God’s kingdom, it obviously turned its attention to it. The strategy was to use a lot of tactics to ridicule the Pentecostals. The fortune of the Pentecostals swung and public opinion were swayed against the Pentecostals. The fold took a heap of the negative public sentiment. And the graph dived.
So where did the movement get it wrong?
I think the dynamics of the Pentecostal movement is its ability to think out of the box. I remember that adherents of the movement saw the threat of the Boko Haram coming and they were able to alert the body of Christ and sensitize it to prayers. No matter what anybody says one of the things that must go down in history as a major positive for pastor Ayo Orisejafor is being able to attain the height of being the CAN (Christian Association of Nigeria) president.
He is the first Pentecostal to be the CAN president. He must also be commended for having gone ahead of the nation at the time it was not popular to seek a foreign terrorist organization designation for the Boko Haram at a time the FG was still in denial. I think God in his mercy knew that there was a need for that Pentecostal ability to withstand the terror that was against the entire church. Well the excesses have not helped. The flamboyance, the improper management of change of wealth and its influx has engendered a lot of criticism. And I think we can’t run away from this. We have to put our house in order too.
What are the areas you think the movement is failing? How should it stem the tide?
The Pentecostal movement globally may have reached its zenith. What started in Azusa as gift and the exercise of the gifts of the Holy Spirit may have run its course completely. Men will try to continue structure long after God had moved forward. We saw that happen in the Old Testament. The Jews could not accept that it was God who sent Jesus. Their argument was that the law was given to them by God through Moses. So how can what Jesus has come to do be so different from what the law was? They found it difficult moving with God. Even good people in history have run into trouble with God because they elevate rules and rituals above God. The truth is that God does not change but what man can absorb per time is limited. In God’s wisdom he has led man per time from revival to revival. The major focus for God has always been the kingdom. God has not changed focus or His message. But he has fed mankind at a pace he could afford.
Right now what is happening to all revivals is that whatever message, being born again, gifts of the Holy Spirit and several other issues in the body have run their course and have affected the mainstream churches. These things have become the standard everywhere. Now the church has to move forward and I will tell you confidently that in a few years to come the emphasis is going to return to the kingdom of God. A lot of Pentecostal movement all over the world will have problem with this new emphasis.
We are going to find out that the force of habit and inability of man to humble himself before God and the strength of religion will create a situation where there will be a strong wind from above that is going to be refocusing on the fact that God in the beginning never intended to start a religion. And that Jesus never started a religion but that the objective of Jesus’ coming was a restoration of the expansion programme of the kingdom of God that was truncated by Adam’s fall in the garden. We have majored in the minors.
The revelation of being born again, holiness, e.t.c, was actually part of the keys of the kingdom. But we preach them as an end and have also turned them to divisive instruments. The Pentecostal fold capitalized on the paucity of knowledge in the orthodox churches concerning the new birth to increase mightily at the expense of the orthodox churches and made a major doctrine out of something that was mentioned in a private conversion only once in the Bible. Jesus said except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. We blocked the kingdom of God and took the born again phrase to the level of religion. It has worked for more than 100 years now. But the owner of life and the owner of the universe did not send his son to preach born again. He did not send his son to preach prosperity. He did not send his son to preach redemption. Etc. In the New Testament over 156 times Jesus made direct reference to the project of the kingdom of God. His first message was about the kingdom. All the disciples preached the kingdom but we have been preaching some of the nuggets of the kingdom at the expense of the kingdom. I am expecting to see some major paradigm shift to the message of the kingdom.
I was at a meeting with some Pentecostal leaders some days ago and I told them that “I don’t think any of us here will qualify for the next move of God. And that if any of us qualifies it is going to be a miracle”
I told the church leaders that it is in the habit of God to use the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. I see a refocusing not on the level of the new birth but on the level of two things-the keys of the kingdom and the mystery of the kingdom.
Are you saying there will be a new movement that will be branded that way?
I am saying there will be continuation of the programme that God started in Genesis. He never abandoned it. In fact everything that God has ever done is in line with the kingdom. The Bible makes it clear that the end will not come until the gospel of the kingdom is preached.
That means if you are not preaching the kingdom, you are not preaching the gospel?
The gospel of the kingdom is the mother umbrella, the biggest package of the approved gospel. The gospel of the kingdom means the good news. Within it we have the good news of the new birth, the Holy Spirit, prosperity. However when you begin to preach those things without the good news of the kingdom the purpose will not be achieved.
How do you mean?
God decided we are not going to continue the way it was in eternity past and he created a new heaven and a new earth and he created a supervisor of change after His order. He created man to supervise the extension of the kingdom of God from the heaven to the earth. But this was truncated by the cleverness of Satan who deceived the first couple. From Genesis to Revelation, all you see is the movement of God to introduce a solution to what Adam had lost and to continue the programme from where Adam truncated it. So the truth is that God did not start any religion. From the beginning it has always been about the kingdom of God. There was no church in the Garden of Eden but there was a fellowship. There was a domain and there was somebody in charge of that domain. When that was shattered in Genesis Chapter 3, all the promises were for the restoration of the kingdom project, its expansion and extension. Religious people think Jesus came to set up a religion, for instance Christianity is not a kingdom; it is a religion. In the strictest sense we are going to be returning back to that and a lot of people will find it difficult to realign to that. For the Pentecostal move, its leadership model will give it the greatest problem. In the leadership move in Africa, the greatness of a leader is measured by how many people serving the leader. In the kingdom of God, your leadership is confirmed by how many people you can serve. The Pentecostal tradition has come to a place where the Pentecostal leader may be afraid to lose his hold on the people because the Pentecostal leaders thrive on the insecurity of the people.
When Jesus arrived here, he picked the worst people, the dreg of society, ambitious illiterates and he ran the kingdom programme through them. He realigned their ambition. In the kingdom of God there are no followers we are all leaders. If you say that, a person who thrives on insecurity will naturally resist this forgetting that in the kingdom of God there is no mandate for man to lead man. If you capitalize on the insecurity of the people, it will be tough for people to realize that everybody is a potential leader. We declare Jesus Christ as the King of kings, it suggests that we are all leaders being led by Jesus.
A good number of Pentecostals have actually prospered by capitalizing on the insecurity of their members. The Pentecostal fold is the last of the line of revival that has tried to execute the mandate of God on earth but you will discover that the gospel being preached is quite ineffective. The reason is simple; there is only one gospel that will succeed in Africa while others will fail because Africa has been subjected to another slavery programme apart from the initial slavery programme where Satan enslaved mankind generally. In the second form, man is broken and his soul is crushed for economic use. It is a self-effacing formula and its application is so satanically huge that the product of it is difficult to diagnose.
The African man is described as being ungovernable, as having a limitation on his ability. The evil brilliance of that package was so much that God could succeed in getting the Israelites out of Egypt but he could only succeed in getting Egypt out of just two of them: Caleb and Joshua.
If you look at all the attributes of a reduced human being, you will understand why we have bad leadership in Africa. To solve this, the broken spirit has to be recreated. There has to be a total reprogramming of the mind so that the body can now be free. These steps are only available in the gospel of the kingdom. A man can preach holiness and be so wicked and difficult to govern. He may prosper but there is poverty within him. The only people who are immune are the people who are products of the gospel of the kingdom. That is why for Africa all these other gospels can’t work because we have been through second slavery. It took me 15 years research to arrive at this conclusion.
What you are saying is that the African man needs emancipation?
In order to make the process more difficult, Satan infiltrated the woman kind and the black race to truncate the plan of God. It is spiritual. The Africans have been processed. There is a lot of deceit going on that democracy; capitalism will work here because it works in other climes. The solution to the African problem is the gospel of the kingdom.
What do you have to tell the Pentecostal movement in view of all these?
We should be the first to tell the world that the reason why the Pentecostal movement is going round the circle is that they need to accept that Pentecost was an event. What we are dealing with is more than an event. And there is a need for us to humble ourselves and upgrade or we will be irrelevant. The Pentecostal movement in the world is losing relevance slowly. If we don’t arrest this it is going to be a speedy journey downhill. We need to surrender to God and whatever God says is where we will go.
Rev. Ladi Peter Thompson is the General Overseer of Living Waters Unlimited a.k.a Grace Tabernacle, 1, Apostolic Faith Campground Road, Anthony Village, Lagos, Nigeria. He could be reached on +2348023058611, +2347030741275