Okogie Blasts Benson Idahosa and His Pentecostal 'Sons'

I read with interest the recent tirade of Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Anthony Okogie against the late Benson Idahosa and his Pentecostal brethren. Okogie did not mince words in his blunt appraisal of the late archbishop, equating his charismatic ‘prosperity-preaching’ to plain deception of the gullible and susceptible in the name of Christianity. “Idahosa used to say ‘if your Jesus is poor, my Jesus is rich.’ People like Idahosa don’t think about suffering but how to live the best. They used the gospel to deceive the people, and we have people following him,” he said during the commissioning of newly trained Catholic Evangelisers of the Antioch School of Evangelisation at Holy Family Catholic Church, Festac Town, Lagos (See Sunday Champion – 19th July 2009).

The accusations are strong – misinterpretation of the Bible and subsequent deception of the masses with erroneous doctrine, preached more for the intention of personal gain and fame, with little consideration for the people’s physical and spiritual welfare. And this is in reference to the man collectively considered the mentor of the Pentecostal ‘giants’ today – the likes of Adeboye, Oyedepo, Oritsejafor, Okonkwo, Okotie and Adefarasin inclusive.

In keeping with Okogie’s outburst, I received a response to one of my recent write-ups from a disgruntled fellow who candidly bemoaned the state Pentecostal Christianity in Nigeria has fallen to. “I spent 10 years running from Christ Embassy to Latter Rain to Redeemed, only to discover that the self professed men-of-God are nothing but religious bandits”, Mr. Okeke wrote. “Their job is to milk the gullible hungry Nigerians by laying hands, evoking false hope and selling “claim it” miracles. With the other hand, they take money from 419ers, corrupt government officials and overnight millionaires. They certify and glorify these criminals by association, membership and selling them special seats around the altar. In the name of expanding the gospel or planting churches (as it is popularly called), they send out ill prepared jobless men as pastors to every nook and cranny of Nigeria to fool and deceive people. They have perfected the means of quoting the Bible to suit their extortionate purposes, as if Nigerians are too retarded to read and understand the simple language of the Bible. Most of these pastors strictly depend on the contributions of their over-burdened members to live out their luxurious and extravagant lifestyles. Their wives automatically become assistant pastors, bishops or ‘Mama G.O’. God asked us to bring our tithes and offerings to His house in order for meat to be available in His house, not for the pastors to dress up in Gucci and ride in Hummers displaying their wives ill gotten jewelleries with bodyguards and police officers.”

Although strongly opinionated, the points made display distressing proximity to reality. Many ministers of God in Nigeria seem to have drifted from their divine duty and distorted their actual assignment – being the hands and feet of Jesus to the lost and broken hearted. Kingdom business has been reduced to worldly commerce; the pulpit of peace has turned to a podium of dissension. I recall that Idahosa himself was the instigator of various crusades in Tafewa Balewa Square, Lagos, where thousands of Nigerians unanimously prayed for the destruction of Pastor T.B. Joshua and dissolution of his ‘Synagogue of Satan.’ The prayers appear to have had an opposite effect with the increasing repute and worldwide demand for Joshua and his ministry.

However, it would be foolish to underestimate the power of religion as a potential catalyst of positive change in Nigeria. I mean, our pastors are almost akin to English footballers in terms of acclaim and esteem. They wield such stupendous authority in the socio-economic sphere that one was recently voted Nigeria’s ‘Greatest living legend’ notwithstanding the fact that he regularly socializes with an ex-president embroiled in allegations of corruption and a governor enmeshed in accusations of diabolic practices. Nigeria can lay claim to the world’s largest church auditorium, the biggest gathering of Christians in a single event and the designation of the ‘most religious nation’, yet we are among the most mismanaged, corrupt and poverty-stricken people on earth. Can this be considered a mere irony, or indicative of our pastor’s abuse of privilege and promise? Can such change come when clerics continue to drift from their divine cause and course for the sake of temporal treasures and pleasures?

Nonetheless, judgement is not a function allotted to us mortals during our brief stay here. The Bible has made unequivocally clear the universal assignment Jesus specified to His servants, and the accounting they will all stand to give thereof. He said in Matthew 25:45: “Whatsoever you do [or fail to do] to the least of my brothers – that you do unto me.” In other words, Jesus was simply saying: ‘I have no farm where I expect you to work for me, or an office where I expect you to help me in checking files. My farm and office are your fellow brothers. Whatever help you render to the least of them, whatever problem you help someone else to solve, that you render unto Me.’

It is time the Pentecostal Church realised that the verification of a fruitful ministry stands not in the number of people who attend your crusades, the number of branches your church has or the worldly belongings you possess – but rather the problems you have solved, the needs you have met and the lives you have improved. We are called to live a life of investment, not expenditure. All the resources within and around must be passionately channelled towards these charitable purposes.

Just consider how many despondent students could receive quality education if church-tithes were used for scholarship schemes? Consider how many beggars could be taken off the street if church offerings were translated to capital for job creation? Consider how much joy could be restored to the hopeless and homeless if church members were taught to spend more on others and less on themselves, and their pastors led by such example? If frustrated youths were encouraged instead of used and misled – imagine the reduction in street crime, prostitution and cultist activities on campuses? If Christians chose to show love beyond tribe and faith, imagine the diminution in religious and ethnic tension. If blind condemnation was replaced by constructive criticism, imagine the lessons that would be learned instead of pointless battles fought. This, coupled with spiritual guidance, godly principles and practical compassion, has the potential of producing change in the Nigerian atmosphere and attitude.

Our pastors need to imbibe the principles of the late Mother Teresa who gave her entire life, wealth and worth to the poor in India. She poignantly said, “When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed. We have refused to be instruments of love in the hands of God to give the poor a piece of bread, to offer them a dress with which to ward off the cold. It has happened because we did not recognize Christ when, once more, he appeared under the guise of pain, identified with a man numb from the cold, dying of hunger, when he came in a lonely human being, in a lost child in search of a home.” A stark contrast to the Pentecostal message, “If you are not a giver today, you shall be a beggar tomorrow.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

Truly – we make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.

Written by
Ihechukwu Njoku
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4 comments
  • Yes, the pastors are an issue, but the major problem in Nigeria is not them, but the fact that the North dominates the rest of Nigeria; until this problem is solved, Nigeria will not prosper. Beyond that the individual States’ justice systems are pathetically weak.
    America has many get rich quick etc. pastors, but at least it has a reasonable political arrangement where people’s rights are respected to a large extent. Even if you are in a minority, at least there is recourse to a reasonably good justice system when you experience discrimination, violence etc. To what do people have recourse in Nigeria when a police officer extorts from them, is violent or military personnel bully the public all over the place?

  • Your Article was of great interest to me! While I agree with some of the parts of the Articles, there are some that needs more spritual wisdom for people like Okogie to understand. I gree that get rich quick or properity preaching has no place in the bible

    Deuteronomy 28: 1And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: 2And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.

    There are conditions to be met before God’s blessing can come upon you, it is not automatic in any form or fashion. Many of them are not called by God, they just stand up and went; that is why they act the way they do.

    (2) To serve God you have to be called by Him it is not a profession you go into because you have some Theological degree. Exodus 3: 1Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. 2And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. 3And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. 4And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. 5And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. 6Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God. 7And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; 8And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them. 10Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.

    Joshua 1:1Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying, 2Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. 3Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.

    Just to give you sense of How God called His servants and it has not changed . Take a look how Jesus called His disciples in

    Matthew 4: 18And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. 19And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. 20And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. 21And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. 22And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.

    (3) The preachers are very rich in the bible time because God gave them every tithe of the people and the offerings are for the running of the temple.

    Exodus 25: 1And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering. 3And this is the offering which ye shall take of them; gold, and silver, and brass, 4And blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats’ hair, 5And rams’ skins dyed red, and badgers’ skins, and shittim wood, 6Oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense, 7Onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate. 8And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. 9According to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.

    Numbers 18: 20And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel. 21And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. 22Neither must the children of Israel henceforth come nigh the tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin, and die. 23But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they have no inheritance. 24But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.

    I totally refuse to accept the way the wealth is flunt in the face of the people. Preachers ought to be the richest amongst the people of God. It just that when people do not read the bible they quote it out of context to make their point.

    If you read my book, “SOVEREIGNTY” BY Apostle Samuel J. Ugochukwu you will see that I said almost the same thing in a different way.

  • The Archbishop of Abuja’s Easter message was “What is Truth”. This article also hits the nail on the head brilliantly, thank you. “Judgement begins with the house of God”.