By Gbenga Osinaike
As a young boy in a Muslim family, Tunde Elebute’s commitment to Islam was super. Rather than miss the regular five times prayer he would forfeit his food and head for the mosque. He was the one who called prayers and had also expressed deep love for the Quranic school. He started out well with the school and was already buying Islamic books to deepen his knowledge.
But his romance with Islam was aborted when the koranic teacher displayed some highhandedness. “I remember as a young boy who was zealous for the Islamic religion, I had enrolled in the Islamic school. But one day our teacher in the school for reasons I cannot now recall used the tesbiu, (the prayer bead) to whip my head. I got annoyed and vowed never to return to the school again. That forced me to leave Ibadan where we grew up to go back to the village.”
Years after, a sister invited him to a fellowship programme. That invitation was to open his eyes to another realm of gathering different from what he was used to. By the time he was in class five as it was then known in the school curriculum, he attended a ministry in Ibadan; Soul Winning Miracle Crusade led by one Evangelist Caleb Oyelade. It was Oyelade’s impactful message that drew him out of sin and established his feet on Jesus. “I was in a meeting when the evangelist preached. I saw my nakedness. I saw the need for Jesus. An indescribable joy flooded my spirit.” He enthused.
Coming to Jesus for Elebute was serious business. “In those days we met on a daily basis for Bible study. That was around 1976. My conversion took place during the long vacation of class four going to five. When I got back to school I started a fellowship group where we met regularly for Bible study and prayers. But in the fellowship where I surrendered my life to Jesus people go to Bible study every day. They would close their businesses in the evening and go to listen to impactful teachings.”
But his family could not understand his new-found faith. He was beaten to the point that blood came out of his body. His elder brother sent him out of the house and he had to put up with a brother. The elder brother also attempted to stop him from a teaching appointment but it did not work as the owner of the school, though a Muslim, said he could not afford to do away with Elebute due to his diligence.
The persecution notwithstanding, Elebute trudged on. The zeal of the Lord’s house had consumed his very being to the point that he knew no social life. “All our heart desire was to do God’s will. We were taught repentance, forgiveness and righteousness. We were made to believe that the name of the Lord is a strong tower and that the righteous run into it and is saved. Then, we were not being exposed to the prosperity message of a good life. The message was raw and it usually bothered on righteousness and being divinely secured.”
That was the background that informed Elebute’s early encounter with Jesus. By the time he got admission to the University of Ibadan to study Agric Economics, he had been fully enmeshed in the gospel. So, it was not much of a surprise that when he got the university at some point he became the president of Ibadan Varsity Christian Union and also The Apostolic Church Students Fellowship, the two fellowship groups he attended simultaneously.
He recalled how God used evangelist Oyelade to strengthen his faith. “That man was a great man of faith. He was a soldier and he fought in the Biafra war. He actually died in the war due to injuries he sustained but the Lord raised him and sent him to go back to the world and preach the gospel. He used to tell us that when he died he saw himself with Jesus and Jesus said to him, your sins have been forgiven, you have been healed. Go into the world and preach the gospel. Because of this encounter his messages were always biting. They came with passion. He wrote a book titled, “A soldier healed by Jesus” he was always preaching on radio then. He labored over many of us and that is why till date many of those who encountered the man’s ministry are preachers of the gospel”
By the time he graduated from the university Elebute buried himself in evangelical work but there was never a time according to him when he thought of becoming a pastor. “I never knew I would start a church not to talk of being a pastor. I was just contented with preaching the gospel and teaching. I derived joy in it.”
Despite the demands of the corporate world as a banker of many years, Elebute did not feel comfortable anytime he could not attend the fellowship. “I remember there were times I took the risk of leaving the office to attend fellowship. But because I was quite diligent in the place of work, God did not allow me to run into trouble with my employers until the time came for me to resign and do my private business.”
Though he was a member of the Foursquare Gospel Church, he saw more than the denomination. “We were more about the Body of Christ rather than the church. We were not brought to think of our denomination. The fellowship we had in VI was non-denominational. It was the Full Gospel Business Men Fellowship Chapter called reception centre. God used that platform to raise many people who are now heavily involved in some churches. Some of those who were part of that fellowship have also started their own ministries. But then it was just a Bible teaching group where we all came to learn.”
Elebute who went into private business after retiring from the banking industry said the Lord fashioned his ministry after that of late Kenneth Hagin disclosing that he was commissioned to teach the integrity of the word of God. “There was a time the Lord was telling me some things and there in the vision he mentioned names of people who taught certain messages but the one that I heard and could remember was when he said Kenneth Hagin taught it…
“That was an indication for me that I have been called to the teaching ministry. There were things God told me directly that I did not hear from anybody that is why there is nothing I knew at my conversion that I have jettisoned because we were properly taught. There were some weird teachings in those days that did not enter my spirit. In those days when people were taught not to watch television and all that I was not carried away because we had proper teaching from day one. It was difficult for anybody to sway us.”
The idea of starting a church for Elebute, who is the Provincial Pastor of Mainland Chapter of the Lagos PFN did not come up until 1998. That was one year after he began a teaching ministry in Gbagada. Before then he had always loved platforms that brought believers together. He finds time to attend any programme with a non-denominational content. That perhaps informs his many years of involvement with the PFN.
“I discovered that PFN is a necessity for any Pentecostal preacher because it is a platform where we can strengthen ourselves and grow. Many pastors need teachings. They need to see good examples. It is a very important body and it should be seen as a platform to train pastors.
“That is what we try to do in our province. I encourage those in my province to attend programmes and seminars for their own good. By the grace of God some of them are coming up. God has used us to support pastors both financially and spiritually. We have this programme called Community Assisted Programme (CAP) through the programme we reach out to our immediate community. We create time to teach the pastors the truth. We organize programmes and we have been able to revive dead chapters.”
On the strength of the province he notes, “In Mainland Province we have about 10 chapters. Each chapter has close to 100 churches but some of the churches are not active. The truth is that the network of the PFN is wide.”
He said God has given him the wisdom to coordinate pastors. “For you to effectively lead pastors they must see something different in you. That is what will make them to respect you. They must see integrity in you. For the past eight years that I have been chairman of the mainland province I can’t remember coming late to meetings. The pastors in my province are challenged by this. God has given me opportunity to be faithful and when there is something to share and you carry them along they will appreciate it. Right now, some of them are telling me I should not go and they want me to do third term. But that is not possible. I think others should be allowed to come on board.”
On whether the PFN assignment has impacted his family negatively, he says, “The language is balancing. My wife understood before I married her that I am a Jesus man. Even when I was not a pastor I was always involved in the church. My children are all involved in church. They are doing well. My wife has been a nurse and matron at some point before she retired. She has been a busy person. I was working in the bank she was working in LUTH precisely. There were days we don’t see for three days consecutively. Our case is a case of two busy people there has been no dull moment. I think that has been the reason we are able to come along very well.”