Pastor Oluwafemi Odebiyi is the pastor-in-charge of the Spring of Faith Bible Church, Camp David, Ayobo, Lagos. In this interview with SEGUN OLATUNJI, the clergyman speaks on the Christian faith in Nigeria, the role of the church in addressing the current economic recession, the anti-corruption war and sundry issues. Excerpts:
You’ve been a pastor for quite a while, what has been your experience?
For me to share my experience, it’s a very long story. We thank God for what He’s doing in our lives and in the ministry at large. I started my career with the Christ Apostolic Church, Agbala Itura, under our father in the Lord, Prohet S.K Abiara. I worked under him before God led me to start a ministry. That was about 15 years ago.
So, how have your ministry fared since then?
Well, since then God has been moving and He’s been doing His wonders. This year, we are clocking eight years, November 6, to be precise. Our anniversary is tagged “Creating a new beginning.”
What’s going to be the focus of your 8th anniversary?
With our 8th anniversary, we want Nigerians to know that they can create a new beginning. We want everybody to know that even the country Nigeria can create a new beginning for itself and its citizens. So, we want to start a new thing, a new innovation for people to recognize Jesus as their Lord and saviour and we’ll centre our message on Calvary because everything started and ended at Calvary.
Before you came into the ministry fully, what were you engaged in?
I came into the ministry at a very early age. Shortly before I finished my secondary education, I got born-again. In 1989 April, Baba Abiara came to Ilesa for a revival and I was one of the participants there. After the revival, they started the church. Later, I too, got the conviction that I must work for God and then I proceeded to Christ International Divinity College, Erimo, an affiliate of Acadia University, Canada, where I got my Bachelor of Theology.
You have been in the Lord’s vineyard for some years now, have you had any regret so far doing God’s work?
No, there has never been any moment of regret. God has always been faithful. The more you move closer to God, the more you know Him. If you have contact with God, He cannot fail you. So, God has been so faithful and He has never disappointed me. If I seek something and I don’t get it, God will tell me I should wait because He would still do it. God has been very faithful. When we also wanted to start this ministry, I told God if truly you’ve called me to stand on my own, because I enjoyed working under Baba Abiara, I said God I need a land and He did it in a miraculous way. God has since remained faithful and everything has been going on fine.
You started under Christ Apostolic Church but now you are on your own. Do you share the view that we have too many churches in Nigeria?
No, we don’t even have enough yet. We still need more churches and more ministries because people that have yet to receive Christ are still very many in number. But people should note that we should be very careful about the unnecessary proliferation of churches. People should not engage in starting a ministry because of pecuniary or other worldly things or because of lack of employment. They should wait and receive divine calls before doing that and that is why you see some ministries packing up or collapsing after a very short while because they lack solid spiritual base. If they lack spiritual base, they cannot stand. But if there is that divine base and true divine call into the ministry, if God has called you and has sent you on a mission, He would back up your mission. So, we cannot say that churches are too many because there are a lot of people that are yet to be born-again and we have to reach them. But it is impossible for one or few pastors or churches to achieve that because God is still in the business of calling people as we are talking.
“Nigerians should be patient. Buhari is not the cause of the problems. The problem is not caused by any government. It’s God. Let’s turn back to God we’ll know the solution to our crisis”
Despite the fact that we have so many churches in the country, crime has continued to spread everywhere and so some Nigerians have come to the conclusion that the churches and other religious organisations have failed in this regard. Is this true?
The Bible says many were called but few were chosen. God is not a task master. God respects choice. Genesis Chapter 11:1. You will see that because people spoke one language, they decided to build the tower of Babel in their attempt to see God and to check them, God made it impossible for them to understand the languages spoken by each of them and there was commotion and confusion amongst them. Everybody has his/her own free will. If you get born-again today, there is a grace for you and if you choose not to, it’s ok. If not for the churches and religious organisations, we can’t guess what could have happened to Nigeria as a country and the entire world. We thank God for religion, the churches and mosques where they speak the words of God. In fact, the church has helped in reducing the rate of crime in the society. Go to many revival programmes and you’ll see a lot of people giving their lives to God.
Nigeria is going through difficult times and everybody is groaning. As a pastor, how would you advise Nigerians at this point in time?
Nigerians should be patient. Buhari is not the cause of the problems. The problem is not caused by any government. It’s God. Let’s turn back to God. Let’s go back and seek Calvary, we’ll know the solution to our crisis. People say it’s this person, it’s that person. No! Even in the Bible, there is time for famine in the book of Genesis. There was famine in Egypt for seven years. But ours will not be up to seven years in Jesus name. Amen. So, it’s God that is working. After this period, there is going to be plenty. I want to tell Nigerians we have to move closer to God. I travel across the world and I meet Nigerians, who are really praying. Despite the fact that we are praying; we still have this scarcity but let’s continue to pray. I believe God will change our situation in Nigeria, in Jesus name.
What is your view about the Federal Government’s anti-corruption crusade?
President Buhari is trying but catching corrupt people is not the only thing we need in Nigeria. He should fight corruption but at the same time he should focus on one thing that Nigerians would be happy about. We want him to do one thing that everybody would remember him for and say when President Buhari was there, he did this for us. If his main focus is the corrupt people, he would not achieve anything by the end of his tenure. He should not allow the anti-corruption war to distract him. He should try to fulfil his campaign promises. We are praying for him and God will help him in Jesus name.
Is lack of visionary leadership our major problem in Nigeria, as it’s being claimed?
Yes, that is our problem. One thing that baffles me is that these people travel abroad, they see the situation of things over there; how things are being done properly and orderly. I just returned from the United States. While there, I saw how things were being done in an organised manner. But it’s unfortunate that our leaders who always go over there fail to come back home and replicate all the good things they see over there. How can a man stash away millions of dollars in his house while people are suffering? These people should repent. What are those things that our government is providing for us here? Our roads are in terrible state, people have no access to potable water; electricity is not even there at all. The hardship in this country is even affecting the church. A lot of people don’t even want to believe in God again because of the hardship in the country. For many people to feed themselves daily is even difficult because of lack of job. Yet billions of Naira is embezzled. We have to change. We believe that God will intervene and speak to our leaders in Abuja and everywhere. God will make them to change by force and by fire.
Today’s Christianity has become permissive by allowing things of the world. How true is this?
The world is changing. We have to move as the world moves. For example, when the children of Israel left Egypt, during the day they were being led by the cloud and during the night by the pillar of fire. Now, if the movement started, anyone of them who failed to move would die. So, as the world is moving, we have to move accordingly. Not that the Christianity of nowadays is out of place but it is we, the people, that are not serving God the way we should serve Him. We have to go back to the old ways and work for God without looking back.
What has been the impact of your church on your surrounding?
To the glory of God, every ministry must affect its environment. For the eight years, we’ve been catering to both the spiritual and material needs of our environment. For example, we have dug a borehole to provide water for the people around here. Whether there is electricity or not, the church supplies water to the people. Also, during our anniversary celebrations, we feed people around here.