In a rare video interview cited online by Church Times, the foremost British missionary, Pa Sidney Elton who passed on in 1987, bared his mind on how people called of God should do ministry and what their attitude should be to money.
The interview was conducted by the late Archbishop Benson Idahosa at his Ilesha, Osun State residence as viewed from the video.
Elton who at that time had been married for over 50 years said he was called by the Lord to ministry work in Nigeria on July 14, 1934.
By then his marriage was just four years old. But he came in 1937. his wife joined him six months after.
His wife who was also present in the interview said when she came to Nigeria there were two big demons troubling the Church: Cruelty and Fear.
She said however that the Lord helped them as a couple to tackle those two demons.
“The women said when I first came they did not love one another. They fought, even in the church. Now they see how I loved them and they began to love one another,” Mrs Elton said in the interview.
Pa Elton noted however that there was great response and respect for God in Nigeria when they came to the country. “The people had great faith in God. You don’t need to tell them to have faith in God, they already had faith in him. They only had their juju.
“But as soon as the gospel was preached they turned from the idols, accepted Jesus, and trusted him completely. The black man has a simple faith in God and God meets him in more than half way. There is more faith in Nigeria today than in Europe.”
Survival in Nigeria
On how he survived in his early years in Nigeria, he said, “I was sent out by a missionary society and I was given an allowance.
“Incidentally, in 1937, that allowance was 7 pounds 15 shillings per month. I had to live on that. I had a little income of my own.
“When my wife joined me it was increased to 13 pounds per month and that allowance was paid by the missionary body in England.”
He said despite the meagre income, he paid the salaries of some of the teachers noting that the entire offerings in the church then was barely up to one pound.
But when he saw that what God was asking him to do in Nigeria was bigger than the denomination that sent him, he had to pull out of the denomination and became an independent missionary. And that meant he was not going to draw allowance from the missionary body that sent him again.
By the time the interview was being conducted in 1982, he said it was 28 years he did not collect salary from anybody or organisation in the world.
The Question of Money
Responding to Idahosa’s question of whether it is possible to do God’s work without money, he said, “God’s message is men. Men have to be supplied. It is God’s plan that the Church body has to be maintained. You speak of money in relation to the work.
“For the last 28 years, I have never received a salary from anybody or any organization in the world. The Lord told me to step out and trust him. I live by what the Lord sends to me and have no idea where they come from. I have not written to anybody for money. I have no circular letter. I have no newsletter going out. The Lord told me to step out, and I obeyed. It is his responsibility to look after me. And so it is with the gospel. He will provide. The bills must be paid.”
His wife said she was not taken aback when her husband, Pa Elton stopped receiving salary from the mission body that sent them to Nigeria.
She said, “It was no surprise because we both had the same calling from the Lord. If somebody pays your salary, it is up to the person what he wants. And we saw something bigger than working for any one church. I and my daughter were quite agreeable to what the Lord said.”
Love conquers money problem
Mrs Elton stressed that if there is love among couples they won’t have problems with the issue of money and how to survive.
“What is missing is love. Many marriages are a complete failure. They don’t marry for love they marry for position as we see around. If you marry for position you will fail. If you marry because you want children you will fail. Many are doing that. People want their daughters to marry rich men. But those who do what God loves, he will bless them.”
In the course of the interview, Idahosa shared the testimony of how the Lord used the ministry of Pa Elton to be a blessing to him.
He said, “As of April 2, 1982, we have 712 branches of our church in this country which were given birth after I met you. And 23 branches in Benin. This is costing us so much. Mama (Mrs. Elton) came to our ministry and said if this work is of the Lord, He will sustain it.
“Since 1979 we stopped asking for pledges and vows. Our needs are daily increasing and God is daily supplying.”
Ministry without salary
He then asked Pa Elton his advice to people who want to go into the work of God without hope of a salary.
Elton said. “Anybody doing God’s work must be sure of God’s call. There are many people doing God’s work who are not called specifically. When God calls, he will provide. That is His responsibility. When a man is called to step out by faith, he steps out by faith looking up to God and God will provide for him.
“Inside the denomination, that is totally different. There is got to be built up a system of faith in the members and the leadership. You are right not to place emphasis on money in the church. It is one of the greatest attacks on the church today because people complain churches are always talking about money.
“God does not need their money. He needs their submission. He needs their cooperation. If a man is called, he should step out and trust God alone. If a church is born, the same thing. They step out trusting God for their financial needs.”
Elton said further that it is better for a pastor to be trained in Nigeria than going to seek training outside the country because the Nigeria scenario is peculiar.
“This is our country where God needs us. And they can’t be taught any other thing if they go to Bible schools in the US. What do they know about witchcraft in the US? They don’t know anything about it. This is the place where God is moving in these days, and I will not advise anyone (pastor) to go abroad for their studies.”
According to him, those in ministry who left Nigeria for foreign countries due to financial constraints were not called by God. “God did not call them obviously. Or they have failed in the call.”
He noted that the majority of the people who were used by God in 1937 to 1945 in Nigeria to bring revival, none of them went abroad.
“They are all dead now. But one big fact we forget is that when we came to Nigeria we not only brought the message of salvation and gospel by faith in Jesus, we were the first to teach the baptism of the holy ghost. We taught it and that revolutionize the life of the early leaders.
“There are many who go to Bible schools without the baptism of the Holy Ghost and they are not successful. But a native of Nigeria even though he is not trained, and we have a few today who are successful evangelists who have never been to Bible school in their lives.
“They have been baptised in the holy ghost, they have been trained by us and they have gone on to hold massive crusades. God can use Nigerians and train them in Nigeria.”
Education is vital
Elton however stressed that education is important for ministry work. “God asked for and can use the best. We advise people who want to get a higher degree to get it. We will need them in the future. Whatever training they get, dedicate it to God. Lay them at the feet of Jesus and he will use it. God requires the best and deserves the best.”
The only way education becomes a problem according to him is “when it is used for personal advantages. Education without God leads to unbelief and destruction. Education with God leads to dedicated life.
“I was trained and educated. I came out as a principal of a college, I will still like to go for more training. There is no limit to what a man can accomplish in God. And anything they can get to help the work of God should be sought for and actively pursued. I will willingly desire to go back to school to learn.”
Elton’s one child
Elton said he had only one child because if he had more, he perhaps would have had to go back to the UK and that would have been the end of his missionary journey. “If there are children who get to school age, the parents will have to go back to the UK and live and that will be the end of missionary life. We faced that problem in 1937. We decided no more children.
“But today is different. These are the last days and whether you are white or black, if you get married, your first priority is to dedicate your life jointly to the Lord Jesus. The matter of children should not come into it at all.
“A large family will be a great disadvantage in many ways these days. You have to be very careful. Pastors who have the propensity to have many children will need to seek God and find out which comes first. God will help them to control themselves. Self-control is one of the fruit of the spirit.”
Elton said if given the opportunity, he will like to come to Nigeria over and over again. “This is the place God wants me to be. The last few years of our lives will be much more glorious. I have not been out of this country for 22 years now. And I have no intention of going out of here. This is the place where God is working. This is a place where revival is.”