By: Daniel Breakforth
FROM MUSHROOM TO ‘MUCHROOM’
The story of the emergence and explosion of the Pentecostal Church in Nigeria and the rumblings from the gates of hell…..and the pharisees.
“The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner”
One of my favourite verses of scripture lies in 1 Corinthians 2:8……which none of the princes of this world knew, For had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.”
Today there is so much angst against the Church for no valid reason. The scriptures above capture in summary the article to follow. The gates of hell are raging and just like Satan quotes scriptures to Jesus, many on social media are today attempting to repeat the feat of their father the devil. This writer happens to be a historian with special interest in the history of the Church in Nigeria and so I am in familiar terrain.
Bishop Ajayi Crowther, ( God bless his soul), may never have understood the depth of the foundation he laid when he joined the Church Missionary Society (CMS) run by the orthodox Church of England (Anglican Church). Ajayi Crowther it was who translated the English Bible into Yoruba in the latter stages of the 19th century. About 3 decades later, a young yoruba man by name Joseph Ayodele Babalola took a yoruba Bible in his hand with a bell in the other and announced the birth of pentecostalism in Nigeria through the Oke Ooye revival.
It was not so simple. The rugged gospel style of the Odo Owa born Babalola, his outrageous attire, the seemingly ‘extreme’ faith or beliefs such as the raising of the dead that primarily led to the Oke Ooye revival and the dogged stance against medication (iwosan lai l’ogun) solidified the new movement as a departure from orthodoxy. Colonial Nigeria knew the word ‘miracle’ practically for the first time. In an interview with 96 year old Papa Adaramoye in 2011 (shortly before he passed on to glory), he told me how the raising of the little child from the dead by “Aposteli” Joseph Ayodele Babalola at that particular meeting has not permitted them to “share the Benediction ” till today……..
Babalola ran foul of the colonial laws. He was accused of practising medicine without a license. How else could they attack the healing revivals which led thousands to abandon their hospital beds and come running to Babalola at the ‘omi ariran’ to receive their healing. Babalola was jailed for 6 months. “Good riddance to bad rubbish”…….
…. or so they thought.
The indigenous ministry, the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) of which he was the General Evangelist however had one major challenge; they were not being sponsored unlike their foreign counterparts such as the Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists, Presbyterian,Assemblies and other foreign Ministries. …to make it simple, CAC had no money….CAC was poor….”owo ni keke ihinrere” (money is the wheel of the gospel) could never have been a truer adage at the time. Well, NOBODY cared……..perhaps.
In 1959, at the early age of 54, Babalola took his last breath on the earth somewhere at Efon Alaaye. With it went the golden age of the CAC. The joy of independence was soon shaken. CAC built schools they could not maintain and before long began to call on the government to take them over to no avail. “Truly they were as poor as church rats”. Of course NOBODY really cared….or so we thought.
I dare say The Spirit abhors vacuum.
In the first month of the next year, January 1960, a young man, Benson Andrew Idahosa met with Jesus at the Assemblies of God Church in Benin. Benson Idahosa grew out of abject poverty. He soon changed the face of pentecostalism in Africa. For the first time in Nigeria, a local church, the Church of God Missions “International”, dared to build a 500 capacity church. To put it in context, That ‘balloon’ dream led to mutiny and treachery in the little church of some 40 adult members in 1970. Again 5 years later, he embarked on a 4000 capacity church project. The gates of hell went mad. Idahosa did not stop there. He began having Christian programs on radio, such had never happened before……..it wasn’t enough he started with the televising of church programs. All churches attacked him for being so worldly, devilish and vain. Some from the gates of hell genuinely felt it was too expensive while others such as the “pharisees” condemned the worldly act and further banned their members from watching the ‘apoti esu’ or ‘devil’s box’.
Benson Idahosa was done? …..Or so they thought. He began to be more ‘worldly’. Unlike Jesus, Idahosa was not satisfied with walking around to preach. He used the motorbike and got excommunicated from church for that. Eventually the pastor who excommunicated him needed to borrow the same motorbike when his own wife was pregnant and on the verge of delivery…..as bad as that was….he did the unthinkable…he later bought a Mercedes-Benz……..how could a pastor descend into the abyss of hell by using a Benz? Jesus never used a car talk moreof a Benz to preach the gospel. He began to wear ‘agbada’ around the world (the traditional garb for men in yoruba parlance).
Benson Idahosa had taken it too far….unfortunately he wasn’t done. He committed the worst atrocity. Unlike the CAC that was begging for her schools to be taken over, Idahosa built nursery, primary and secondary schools and for the first time, a church asked to own a university. As for that, he was largely ignored…..the reason was simple….a local church would never muster such volume of funding…..or so they thought.
Benson Idahosa visited the public universities, birthed and led other ‘small’ ministries as he grew. My dad , a student leader of the Evangelical Christian Union (ECU) was invited to Benin from the ‘Great Ife’ after a visit. It was at this point that the mainline leaders of the orthodox churches who dominated the umbrella Christian body in Nigeria, CAN in consternation finally muttered……who are all these mushroom churches? Annoyingly, all these mushroom churches added the suffix ‘worldwide ‘ or ‘international’ to their names……what could be more self conceited or deceitful………or so they believed. Ironically, Pa Akindayomi who instructed that RCCG should never use ‘international’ or ‘worldwide’ soon planted an international parish in Ghana….today RCCG alone has over 10,000 international parishes.
Pastor Idahosa joined other clergy at the airport to welcome the governor once in the latter part of the 70s. He was ‘walked away’ by the protocol official. A ‘mushroom’ Pentecostal church pastor was not qualified to ‘welcome a sitting governor……..or so they thought.
Unrelenting, Papa Idahosa not only appeared on TV but engaged a witch threatening to kill him on live TV. It caught the nation’s attention. State governor’s and president’s began to recognise and seek the man of God from Benin. Idahosa was on a spiritual roll……he did the abominable……..he spoke about the desire to buy an aircraft. For a man who eventually visited over 140 nations of the world on missionary journeys, It seemed as mere ranting and as such was not taken seriously even by Christians. …well except for some young men who were watching and waiting….the Adeboyes, Oyedepos, Oritsejafors and Oyakhilomes. ……the Mushroom churches were spreading.
In 1983, Idahosa commenced the building of the first Stadium church in Africa. …the Faith Arena. It was stupendous. He went on to lead crusades all over the world with the most prominent names in Christendom. Archbishop Idahosa declared humorously…..they used to call us ‘mushroom’ churches, now we have become ‘muchroom’ churches.
Benson Idahosa was later ordained Archbishop and he consequently ordained pentecostal Bishops from other Ministries including the likes of Mike Okonkwo of TREM in Lagos, Eromobor of New Generation in Kano and Oyedepo of LFC in Lagos as well as many others in his ministry (CGMI) who formed the college of Bishops in 1989. The same year , a former mushroom house fellowship which started in 1973 at the University of Lagos, headed by a lecturer had grown to become the largest single congregation in Africa.
Williams Kumuyi, after excommunication from the Apostolic Faith Mission established a new ministry-The Deeper Christian Life Ministry.
In March 1998, Idahosa departed the stage and was coronated in glory. That year, the body of Christ in Nigeria took a giant leap. MFM procured the acreage known as Prayer City and commenced construction of one of the largest prayer cities in the continent. Winners Chapel began the construction of the largest church auditorium on the earth which was later captured in the Guinness book of records (after 9 years of denial) while in December 1998, the RCCG appeared on the world stage with Lekki 98 where according to CNN, 7.2 million people gathered.
The world did not know what hit it when it did. While everyone was deliberately ignoring the Church, the Church and especially the Pentecostal arm grew in prominence. Years ago in Nigeria, a CAN President was either a Catholic or Anglican. ..today Ayo Oritsejafor is a pointer to the emergence of the mushrooms of which we speak. These Churches fund several institutions conveniently and of course run private jets effectively for their missionary work in the midst of the flailing aviation system in Africa…..these Churches are much more prudent than even the governments of several nations. They spend less than their income thus establishing a strong savings culture which has largely exempted the Church from the ongoing recession. All the dreams and seeds of Idahosa are being replicated. Today Nigeria has 50 church universities with over 150 still applying to establish more.
A study of pentecostalism worldwide revealed that for churches in which their founders are still alive, the largest are all in Nigeria-they have become Churches like nations or Nation-Churches; the likes of Kumuyi’s DLBC, Oyakhilome’s BLW, Oyedepo’s LFC, Olukoya’s MFM and many others stand as testimony.
Furthermore, as a result of her bid to make a change in the comatose academic environment by owning and administering schools, Churches are heavily criticised for owning these schools rather ignorantly but their impact cannot be denied. Nigeria’s best private universities are the ones run by these Churches, causing a stir among government universities and thus leading to healthy competition in the academia.
A few years ago, worried at the volume of income of one of the largest Churches in Africa, a Nigerian Central Bank governor demanded a weekly report of the weekly income of the Church. This was largely rebuffed. If the Church in Nigeria stops construction work on various projects today, the effect would be phenomenal. If the Church chooses to withdraw her funds from banks today in one swoop, the resultant effect will be catastrophic.
At the 30th anniversary of Winners Chapel in 2011, Bishop Oyedepo was reminded by a gospel music minister that if the church plane had crashed back in 1998 when the aircraft lost an engine mid air, they would have blamed him and declared that God did not send him.Today, church owned universities are selected for blame….univer
sities that were built out of ‘nothing’….truth be said, even if they offer free education today, the gates of hell and other places will immediately accuse them of lack of standards or lack of sustainability. They will argue that God did not send them. The Church of Jesus will never be able to please the Gates of Hell……and the pharisees will never be impressed like they never were convinced even by Jesus.
Early in 2017, another attack concerning headship of the Church in Nigeria led to the ‘ initial’ resignation of a foremost Christian leader. It is worthy of note that the likes of Apostle Babalola, Pastor Akindayomi and Archbishop Idahosa all died while in their priestly offices and the gates of hell and the pharisees cared less.
Up until now in the history of the world, no government has ever been interested in how the priesthood functions until now when hell raged in the greatest epitome of pentecostalism in the world……Lagos. The Church has risen to a stage now that hell is jittery. They keep shouting that there is no revival yet keep fighting against the revival. The obnoxious law has now been suspended and the main proponent sacked.
The seeds have germinated and the next generation waits in the wings to take over from the advancing fathers. Meanwhile the ‘gates of hell are raging, the attack on men of God and the Churches have reached an alarming phase. Every single man set aside by God has become a target of both the wolves in sheep clothing and the sheep in wolves clothing.
Jesus was vilified. ……our men of God will be villified; however, mushroom Churches will continue transforming to Muchroom Churches and advance to become global Churches which will not only outlive us but generations unborn…….. if Jesus tarries.
For we can do nothing against the truth but for the Truth.
“…….The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner. This was the Lord’s doing and it is marvellous in our eyes. ..
“….And I say also unto thee, That though art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
This article was originally published in 2018.