In this interview with Church Times’ Adekunle Adewunmi, Chairman of Kogi chapter of Christian Association of Nigeria, Bishop John Ibenu bares his mind on the state of the church and the society. Below are excerpts:
For how long have you been involved in ministry work?
I started pastoral ministry in July 1992 and I’m the Senior Pastor, Chapel of Freedom International with branches spread across Nigeria. I’m a Medical Doctor by training.
Have you been practicing before coming into ministry?
I’m still a practicing Doctor; I practiced with government for 11 years before I went full time in 2001
The road to becoming CAN Chairman of Kogi State, how was it?
When you say the road, I don’t know the road. That’s the only place God has used me to serve because that has been my story from my student days. In 1984, I was NIFEST’ Sub Zonal Coordinator in campus and in 1987, I became the Vice President of school gospel while in Zaria. In all of these places, I don’t have to contest or work my way. Sometimes, I don’t even ask for it, they would just choose me to serve in a certain capacity. So, when you talk about the road, I don’t know the road only God puts me to serve in certain capacities.
Also, I was Senior Adviser to Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) then, CAN. In 2016, everybody was saying I have to become CAN Chairman and that was how I emerged CAN Chairman. I’ve never held any other office in CAN except in PFN for 4 years until I became CAN Chairman. Others do politics to get there, I didn’t do any.
How have you been able to manage your pastoral assignment with that of CAN and your family?
CAN is an association of 5 different groups which includes Secretariat of Nigeria Catholics, Christian Council of Nigeria, ECWA Tech, Organisation of African Instituted Churches which comprises of C and S and Celestial Aladura, PFN and CPFN. The structures are different so, I don’t have to change anything; it’s just to manage it as it is. Then, my Church’ case is different altogether; one is a Church ministry while the other one is an association so, management styles differ because the two structures are different and the approaches are different as well. So, once you know how things work, you just fix it and make it work as it is. About my family, it’s a different thing entirely. I’m a Pastor in Church and a father at home so you must separate all these things. I can’t do my pastoral something at home except I have to live the life of Christ in all the three places. When at home, my wife is my wife and I’m her husband, my children have a father and a friend at home. As a father, they should talk to me as a father; I talk to them as children.
The number two objective of CAN is to bring unity and understanding among the people, how has CAN Kogi been able to bring unity among divers tribes in the State?
My successors have done very good jobs before I came on board and all I’m doing is building on the already established foundation. Having been part of it from PFN angle and having come closer to attend meetings as head of a denomination, I have an idea of how we work together and we do not have problem working together because just like I said, it’s an association with a definite structure, you have to work with the structure and bring all the different components together. It’s a matter of understanding; if you understand how it works and how the constitution works; the rest is meant to work.
On the tribal differences, all the tribes are in every bloc because when you come to Catholic, you have the Yoruba, Igbo, Igala, Ebira and when you come to the Christian Council of Nigeria, you also have all the tribes there. There’s no tribalism in CAN, all we know is that the Body of Christ is one, Jesus is the Head and every one of us believes that Jesus is the son of God irrespective of tribes and tongues.
What are some of the tangible feats God has helped you to achieve since you came on board as the Chairman?
I inherited CAN Secretariat at decking level and by the grace of God, we have roofed it, fixed all the windows and doors, plastered it in and out. We are trying to do some fittings which are there for everyone to see. God has helped us to accomplish this. And, we’ve been having very regular meetings, organized seminars. Just last month, we had a seminar on election and electioneering sensitization where we brought over 500 Christians in local governments together. We are mobilizing every eligible Christian to register as a necessity and that their votes must count. On May 12 all Kogi East Christians gathered at the King’s Palace to pray. This we do yearly in the month of May since our inception in 3 years ago.
Any Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) by CAN Kogi to the State?
This is one matter I must address. People often accuse the Church of not performing certain duties. CSR is not something to approach the church for, it’s something to approach companies for. The church is not a company. The church is a religious setup and I find it very amusing and unhappy that people approach the Church for CSR. Some people want to get offended that churches are not doing anything, doing what? We are not doing buying and selling. Banks does buying and selling by the virtue of their business, other organization does that, the church doesn’t do buying and selling. If there’s anything the church is investing in, more than any other; it is to save and convert wicked people on the streets into good people in the society. Converting armed robbers to law abiders, the church is building people and that’s more than anything money can buy.
Some Christians post some things on Facebook that the church is not doing enough. Enough what? The government set up radio and TV where they are bombarding the minds of people with immorality, dancing naked and showing them how to smoke all types of things. 24 hours of everything on radio and TV is bombarding the minds of people in a very worldly way and we only preach one hour each on Sundays and Wednesdays, using only 2 hours in a week trying to change their minds. It’s only the Holy Spirit that helps in developing their minds and if we have been succeeding in using that to mold the society, it’s a big Corporate Social Responsibility. So, anybody who’s thinking it’s until we dig borehole before we are considered doing CSR is only wasting his time. If the money is there, we build boreholes. For instance we run schools here; they are cheap and yet they produce the best WAEC result in Kogi State for the past 4 years.
We are keeping the peace of the society. You don’t hear of religious crisis in Kogi state. People do not know what we do and are doing to ensure people are not burning down houses, churches and mosques. So, we should quantify the damages that would have been done in the society which we have prevented as the biggest CSR. Maintenance of peace, turning sinners into saints and turning wicked people into peace loving people, taking robbers off the street or preaching sermons that keep people in control, that’s the biggest CSR we are doing and people should be appreciative of that. I’m happy that you brought this up because we are the only organization that teaches peace in the home, houses, community and sound family life. The church teaches people entrepreneurship. What the church is giving the society, money can NEVER quantify it and all those accusing the church of what are they doing with their money; which money? Do we get any federal allocation from anywhere? The money comes from the people who come to the church, all of those that speak evil accusations about church and pastors should go open church and find out. I think that’s one angle of argument people haven’t gotten. But what of those who are getting money? Let them go and open one and find out what it entails, what about all these pastors driving flamboyant cars? Is anybody’s money missing? Those are products of impact that they have made in people’s lives.
We don’t have a company, we don’t sell any stuff however, if God enables us, we’d do some stuffs. Just like I said, the road that links the church to the road was being maintained by our Church every year from 1996 until 2009 when the government took it over and the community is appreciative of all our efforts. This community is very peaceful due to our impact in the land. So, that’s our CSR in the community.
What pulls excitement in your ministerial work?
What excites me is when I lead someone to Christ. Whenever I’m able to relieve people of their problems, to make someone who was crying or depressed to smile, excitement greets my heart. So, I can say that every day and every time are exciting moments for me as far as ministry is concerned.
What do you have tell fellow Christians?
The first thing I’d say is that every child of God should be involved in soul winning because God will demand for the blood of people in our hands. That of our friends and uncles that go to hell because we didn’t talk to them and when we are In heaven, the Bible says we’d go for sightseeing where we’d be watching them burn in hell; they’d point fingers at us and some of us won’t be able to look at them. We’d turn our eyes away but unfortunately, there would be nowhere to turn our eyes to. So, there’s going to be mixed feelings in heaven hence, every Christian should get involved in soul winning. A lot of friends will point fingers at us and call us wicked because we never warned them properly about heaven. That’s why I send out the message of salvation on Kogi FM 7:30 – 8am every Sunday morning.
Secondly, every Christian should be involved in politics because the earth is the Lord’s and its fullness. If the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, we should be part of governing this earth that belongs to our God. Something that belongs to the father should be managed by his children, not strangers.
I’m a doctor, when we want to make a diagnosis; you look at the signs and symptoms. When you put A plus B together, you’d arrive at diagnosis. So, signs and symptoms equal diagnosis. Thus, money, hunger, pain and crying means that wicked people are in authority. With all the shouts that we are fighting corruption, there has been no positive change. When there was corruption so to say, we were not hungry but now, we are dying of hunger.
When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice (Proverbs 29:2) but when the wicked are in authority, the people mourn. So, I want people to judge; are people mourning right now? If they are mourning it means there are wicked people in authority.
Who can you call your mentor in ministry?
Bishop David Oyedepo is my mentor in ministry followed by Dr. Sam Omagbe. These men are fathers.
What should we be looking forward to in Kogi State?
The biggest thing we want to see is the conversion of Muslims and pagans in Kogi State to Christ.