John Olusegun Adebayo is the General Overseer of Mount Carmel Evangelistic Ministry International Church, Ikotun Egbe, Lagos State. The Kwara State-born cleric, in this interview with Seyi Sokoya, assesses Nigeria’s current economic situation and his experience as a minister. Excerpts:
Recession still persists, despite government effort to revive the economy. What solutions would you recommend?
The secret is that this recession is to strengthen the nation. It is an effort to forcefully call back people to God. This is one of the means God wants to use to draw people to His side. But I want people to realise that it will be a recession that will turn to reception; it is for people to retrace their steps and live righteous lives.
What is your assessment of today’s Christianity?
The way things are going in Christianity bothers me a lot. There are many things that happen even within God’s vineyard. I am afraid with the way things are going. Christians are relaxing too much. This is not what the Bible tells us; we are asked to pray without ceasing and that we shall not live by bread alone. The truth is that the more you serve God, the deeper your relationship with Him will be. I keep wondering if it is the same heaven Apostles Paul and Peter preached about in those days. People, especially Christians today, don’t want to suffer or be faced with any challenges. Jesus Christ himself suffered and, above all he was exalted. The scripture says after you have suffered, you will be established and settled, but many people don’t like to go though temptations and challenges. This is how one can gather experience and have an understanding of what is right or wrong. This is also what is affecting our leaders today. We have leaders that have never suffered; this is why they make some decisions without considering the masses. The fact that we don’t have tested leaders is making things worse in the nation. This is why I am committed to portraying good leadership and supporting people around me.
How did your journey into the ministry begin?
I was into bread business with my father in Ibadan. I received the call in 1983 and later went to the seminary at Ile-Ife in 1987 and when I completed my study in 1989, I was posted to different churches under the umbrella of the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) in Ibadan. I never envisaged that I would have an independent church, but one day, God told me that He was sending me to Lagos. I prayed over it yet the same vision kept repeating itself. So, I had to comply and I left for Lagos on July 26, 1994 after much pressure. Initially, I was ignored the mandate and as a result of this, I had an auto accident with my family, but divine intervention saved us. This was few months before I finally heeded to the call. I never thought I would leave CAC because the experience I garnered with the eight years I spent as a minister of God really helped me.
To be candid, moving to Lagos State was very difficult because I was not familiar with the terrain. In fact, I didn’t know how to go about it then, but I had to obey the Lord’s instruction. My wife, child and myself came down to Lagos with just N1,200, but I was confident that I had God’s backing. As God would have it, somebody in one of the churches in which I presided gave us a land in Lagos; it was about 2 plots of land. My family and I lived on the cassava farm without roof over our heads. We went through a lot of challenges, but at the end of the day the vision was made manifest beyond my imagination. I have come to realise that obedience, faithfulness and hard work with reverence to God pays. I remember that we never had a single member for a year, but today God has spread the ministry beyond what anyone could imagine; we now have many branches even beyond the shores of this country.
What other challenges have you faced as a cleric?
The challenges are numerous, but I have made up my mind not to succumb to them. One of the greatest challenges I encountered was when I lost two children in 2003 and 2004 simultaneously. These two incidents seriously affected me because I thought that was the end. The shock was too much for the whole family, especially me, but God eventually had His way and healed my wound. Another terrible moment for me was when I lost about 10 members including a pregnant woman in 1998. It was a painful experience for me, but God took control and the church bounced back and the ministry expanded after a year. I was inspired to liberate the whole city of Lagos State, precisely in Egbe area of Lagos. Afterwards, another crisis surfaced and within the space of two months, members of about 300 reduced to 5. Another case was when we were duped over a piece of land we acquired. Despite all I went through, I am grateful that God’s vision for my life still stands.
There have been different positions on the high cost of religious institutions. What is your take on this?
I think one of the major reasons for the establishment of religious institutions, hospitals and maternity homes is for evangelism and to help the church, especially members. This is how the missionaries were able to spread the gospel in Nigeria. The Catholics also used this medium to make the church gain ground in Nigeria and beyond. This idea is a way of giving back to the society and fulfilling God’s mandate to the underprivileged, but it seems the focus is gradually changing. We are all aware that religious churches are now costly to the extent that members cannot even afford them. I think this needs to be corrected by making the cost minimal.
How have you been able to run the church and your Bible institute without problems?
I would say that it is through divine grace. The church and the institutions are growing and God has really been manifesting Himself. Mount Carmel Bible Institute has been able to build a lot of disciples; it is open to many people from various denominations. The church is also achieving its vision in winning souls for Christ and liberating people. Unknown to many, I got the revelation for the name of the church, Mount Carmel, from the late Prophet Akinade of the Lion of Judah in Ibadan when I used to worship at the church.
Could you shed more light on your upcoming event?
The event will commence on the last Sunday of this month, November 27. It is a programme that will gather the entire ministry and everyone that has supported us from inception. One of our guests is Adekola Odunlade. It will also feature a love feast and thanksgiving service, while we will hold a ministers and workers’ conference the next day, Monday, November 28 and later hold a vigil later in the day. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, gospel artistes, including Bukola Akinade, popularly known as Senwele Jesu, Dare Melody, Bunmi Akinananu and Tope Alabi will perform. On Saturday, we will have church dedication and veteran gospel musician, Evangelist Bola Are will be the guest artiste.