RCCG @ 64: Pains and gains of a covenant church

 

 

 

 

Pastor Enoch Adeboye
Pastor Enoch Adeboye

By Gbenga Osinaike

Just say RCCG; log that acronym on the internet, mention it to people around Nigeria and many countries of the world; you can be sure that you’re not likely to miss your find.

RCCG is almost becoming synonymous with the church in Nigeria. Though there are over 300,000 Pentecostal cum apostolic churches (excluding the orthodox) in the country; according to Wikipedia, the name RCCG stands out.

It is the Redeemed Christian Church of God. Its overseer, Enoch Adeboye  assumes a global status that has since placed his name among the first 50 most powerful people in the world as noted by the respected Newsweek magazine. That rating was done in 2008.

The fame of Adeboye is soaring to the heavens. Though Adeboye manages to keep his head low; it is increasingly difficult for him to remain low. Issues have continued to pop up that put him in the front burner. Even when he tries to stay away from politics; his name echoes in the background. He is not a controversial man as it were. But controversy seems to stoke him in the face.

RCCG was founded in 1952 by Josiah Akindayomi; a barely literate man whose spiritual insight was outstanding. Despite Akindayomi’s seeming inability to read he could quote effortlessly from the Bible. He befuddled his generation with his spiritual prowess and pioneered the ministry despite initial odds and persecution that he faced in the Cherubim and Seraphim Church where he initially worshipped.

By the time he died in 1980, he left forty branches of the RCCG to his chosen successor – Enoch Adeboye. Indeed the choice has proven extremely successful. The Redeemed church claims to have over five million members across 20,000 branches in 178 countries worldwide. And there are at least 540 branches in the UK and Ireland alone.

The RCCG no doubt has become so massive that the real trouble the church has is not of growth but of managing the growth. One of the hallmarks of the church is the monthly Holy Ghost service. The service is the main crowd puller for the church. The growth of the church is in fact traced to the monthly programme. Though some have also linked the growth to the establishment of the model parishes, there is no gainsaying the monthly gathering is a huge catalyst for the expansion

Its beauty

The church no doubt has made tremendous impact in the area of soul winning. There is perhaps no other church in Nigeria that has the zeal of the RCCG in reaching out to souls. In the drive for souls the church has had to pay a lot of price laboring hard and spending resources. Pastor Adeboye is known to fish for souls in troubled areas of life.

His love for traditional rulers is legendary.  Adeboye has for long been exhibiting this unusual burden for traditional rulers. The RCCG today perhaps have the largest number of traditional rulers who are born again. This drive has been extended to the academia and the affluent in the society. In the RCCG today, there are a number of influential people starting from the Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, some governors in the country, lawmakers and influential business men and women. No doubt the church has greatly impacted the nation and the world in general. Its drive for missions is also legendary. Troubled spots of the world have had a touch of the gospel through the influence of the RCCG. This is no doubt a good development and cheering development.

The Redemption City

It is important to note that the present place where the church’s camp, the Redemption Camp is located, was a den of robbers. It was a dunghill and a fearful forest. But the invasion of the church has turned the place to a wonderland. The City has been a blessing to thousands of people. Many make their living from the church in one way or the other.

There are several magnificent structures on the camp ground with banking institutions and all kinds of business. The banks on the camp include Zenith, Access Bank, UBA, GTB, Zenith, Eco Bank and Haggai. There are recreational centres across the camp with guest houses for visitors. The camp has the necessary facilities that make for a modern city. It is also noteworthy that the camp runs its own grid which guarantees 24-hour power supply. It is instructive that this is a feat that Nigeria as a country is struggling to achieve.

Institutions

The institutions of the RCCG which include a university, several secondary and primary schools across the country, a Bible College and a host of other training facilities are not only for the benefit of members of the church but a blessing to the church in Nigeria and the general public. There are several businesses being run by the church that has helped to create jobs for several hundreds of people. The sheer size of the church’s workforce and the fact that it runs projects on a continuous basis shows its making impact on the society.

Its social responsibility

It is instructive to note that the leadership of the RCCG makes it a rule for all its provinces to create programmes that will be a blessing to the environment they are located. This informed the building of infrastructure and provision of social amenities by some of the parishes of the church. Many of the parishes especially the Apapa Family of the RCCG have tremendously impacted their environment. So many other parishes have made great impact over the years. This is coupled with the welfare programme being run by the church from its headquarters.

The gains of the church notwithstanding; there are indices to show that it is carrying a lot of burdens. What then are the burdens of this covenant church?

The monthly traffic in Redemption city

The Holy Ghost Night is one of the main programmes of the church. Pastor Adeboye began the programme after seeking the face of the Lord for a birthday gift. He had told God that he would want all those under his ministration to be healed. God told him to gather the people in a place that he would heal them. That informed the establishment of the monthly programme attended by people from far and near. It started with his birthday in March. Most of the attendees come with expectations trusting God for divine touch.

The programme no doubt has been a tremendous blessing to millions of people across the globe. Testimonies abound on how people were healed and delivered. Many also get saved at the monthly meeting. It has however become the major cause of traffic jam along the Lagos Ibadan road leaving many motorists hapless and frustrated. Some tactically avoid the road during those services. It is almost a regular experience for people to leave their homes, head for the service and end up sleeping on the road. The church on its part has devised several ways of controlling the traffic and opening up alternative routes. But there seems to be no end in sight; thus forcing traffic agents to advise motorists to avoid the axis during the Holy Ghost service.

This traffic challenge however cannot compare with the immense blessings that people get from the programme. The current space allocated for the monthly is a two kilometer by one kilometer auditorium. But a far bigger one with three kilometer by three kilometer dimension is now in use though yet to be completed.

 

The 3km by 3km

If there is any reason the church has had to swim in the murky waters of controversy, it is because of the vision of the 3km by 3km auditorium which is still under construction in Shimawa, a shouting distance from the present auditorium. The church has had about two major services in the uncompleted auditorium and the traffic experience for many people was not palatable.

Pastor Adeboye had hinted several years at one of the Holy Ghost services when the church was still at the first auditorium close to the express road that it would come to a time when those who give their lives to Christ on the Redemption camp would have to be transported via a vehicle in the auditorium to the altar because of the distance of the pulpit from the pew. That time is here.

But many of the church members who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity are not too comfortable with the move. Some believe the present auditorium could still be managed pointing out that there is no need putting up such structure in a digital age.

The problem as it is, may not be with the vision but the fact that the project is taking a toll on the church’s finances. Pastor Adeboye had confessed in one of the meetings that the project had turned him to a “beggar” He had wondered at the undue delay the project is experiencing. His call for donation from people once drew the ire of observers who believed that such humungous fund ought to have been  channeled into more realistic  areas of need like face-lift of many parishes operating in make-shift structures.

The present auditorium was built in 2000 and it has a capacity to take in one million people. But while announcing the construction of the new auditorium at the August 2013 convention, Adeboye said the 3 km by 3 km  auditorium would solve the accommodation problem of worshippers. But many are yet to fathom the reason behind the auditorium. Though the project has gone a long way as billions have already been sunk into it, there are indications that the project still has a long way to go.

The question many would want to ask is: as a church with radical expansionist drive, will it one day build a 6km by 6km? Some posit that there is no time in the life of a mission that a single auditorium would contain all worshippers noting that the church ought to have considered the virtual world and take advantage of technology. “They should consolidate on the online and TV facility and decentralize the gathering,” said Toyin Adeniyi.

But Pastor Michael Adunade sees the project from a different stand point. “It is difficult to query a man’s vision. I believe strongly that the 3km by 3km is a great way of presenting Nigeria on the global front. It will go a long way to attract tourists to the country apart from the fact that it will solve the accommodation problem of worshippers on the camp. I also believe it will create a lot of jobs for people. Iron benders and others in the construction sector of the national economy stand to gain from the project in no small measure. “I do not believe it is a waste,” he stressed.

RCCG pastors

The vision of the church which is to have an RCCG within a walk of 5 minutes seems so good and commendable. But the truth is that this multiplication drive has put a lot of pressure on the workforce of the church thereby necessitating a situation where ill-equipped pastors are asked to man many of the emerging parishes of the church. Already the influx of untrained  pastors and ministers is taking toll on the church. This also seems to  have furnished ample room for people with questionable character to grab the toga of pastor in the mission.  Though this phenomenon is not peculiar to RCCG, the media never passes off the opportunity to hype crimes allegedly committed by Adeboye’s  pastors, apparently due to the standing of the church. Though RCCG has a vibrant Bible School and Discipleship training programme the quality control is still far-fetched. The institutions are fast becoming unaffordable for many members. It is interesting to note that the Bible College started by offering free training to interested members but now the various certificates issued by the school are now prerequisites for ordination thus making it compelling for more students to throng the school. This obviously has been an impetus for the school management to raise the school fees. To earn diploma even in any of the satellite campuses cumulatively could cost a student no less than N50, 000, thus making it prohibitive for prospective but indigent students. 

Another sore point is the policy of the church to use non-stipendiary ministers as pastors. While this system is said to have given opportunity to thousands of people to serve in that esteemed capacity it has created a lot of problem. For instance midweek services in the church suffer a lot of lapses especially in the urban areas as many pastors are not on ground to superintend their churches because they have to look after their paid jobs or businesses. 

Yet another problem is the seeming scarcity of quality workforce as the church is left with no choice than to make use of any available minister, not minding the level of competence. It is a common knowledge in the church that all it takes to become a non-stipendiary pastor is to show flashes of zeal.

 

 

Go-A-Fishing

There is no doubt that the vision of the Go-A-Fishing is a great one. Lives are being saved and people are being established in the Lord. There is however need to rejig the programme and look at possible ways of making it more effective. There are quite a number of parishes of the RCCG who take the programme serious and really embark on evangelism. But investigation carried out by our correspondents showed that many of the parishes of the church do it for the sake of doing it. The question is often asked whether the programme is to win souls to the kingdom or to win souls to the RCCG churches? The question arises due to the shoddy way many RCCG commands handle the biennial event.

The main problem however is the monetization of the visit of supervisors to the various let’s go a fishing locations. There were reports of supervisors angling for goodwill dole out without showing up or making dispassionate assessments of the set at the locations assigned to them. This informed Adeboye’s recent directive that no honorarium should be given to these supervisors. However it is doubtful if this directive is being complied with fully.

It is also instructive to note that the proliferation of the parishes of the church has led to a situation where the church is competing against itself. The cut throat competition among parishes is such that erring workers placed under punitive measures in their parishes are readily welcome in other parishes.

The recent order to parishes that they should double their membership has added a new dimension to the hydra-headed challenges facing the church. While this has encouraged some pastors to work harder, there is now the tendency for many others to employ strange and unbiblical means to increase their attendance at all cost.

 

Doctrine of the Redemption of the first born

It is hard to really situate this doctrine within the RCCG. A look through the doctrines of the church as published on its website does not indicate anything like that. So one is really curious as to what informed the doctrine which is tactically gaining ground though not well pronounced. With all the theological argument for it; it seems incongruous with the heritage of the new birth more so that there is a monetary element to it. This reporter has had instances of the RCCG churches where this is mentioned and members were urged to redeem their first born. About a year ago at a news conference to herald one of the church’s programmes Pastor Adeboye restated his commitment to the redemption of the firstborn citing scriptures in the Old Testament.

“But how many of the Old Testament instructions are being carried out this day? What happened to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross? If prayers must be specially made for the first born, why must it not be made for others with equal intensity? Why the monetary perspective to the issue of redemption?” While the church has a liberty to believe whatever, it is important for it to take into cognizance its pedigree and the fact that it occupies a strategic placement in Nigeria.” Said a top member of the church who craved anonymity.

 

 

Model parish and the classical parish

When the idea of model parish was introduced to the church, the essence was to reach out to people in the upper class. To achieve this, it has to compromise on some of its classical hardline posture. The issue of dressing was compromised while members are given certain liberty that are not allowed in the classical RCCG.

A church enthusiast, Funmi Adeyemi reasons, “What has happened over the years is that the church has had to cope with the Avant-garde lifestyle of the model parishes thus creating a picture of a church with two streams of administration and control. Though the influence of the model parishes has been overwhelming there is a need for the church to sit back and harmonise its doctrinal inclinations.”

As it is RCCG may have to work more on the pains especially its manpower and the need to purge it of undesirable elements who are bent on ridiculing the Body of Christ. The church should also ensure that it creates a way of monitoring activities of those who hold strategic positions in the church. This is important because the church has become a strong block in the Church in Nigeria.

 

 

 

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