We should see churches establishing universities as welcome development to complement efforts of govt- CAC President


CAC President, Pastor Samuel O. Oladele 

President of Christ Apostolic Church, Nigeria and Overseas, Pastor Samuel O. Oladele, talks to Punch Newspaper about moral decadence in society and why some pastors have flamboyant lifestyles, among other issues

Some clerics have been accused of acquiring wealth for themselves, without considering the welfare of their members. What have you to say about this?

The question is: Is it a sin for a minister of God to be wealthy? I don’t think so but it is not what you have or possess that matters but your attitude towards what thy Lord has blessed you with. We are called into different ministries. Some are missionaries. In most cases, some missionaries are not wealthy. If you look at some ministers in some orthodox churches, they don’t wear fancy clothes. We call them men of clothes because it is only the clerical wear they are identified with. So, they live on their meagre salaries if they have a salary at all. But some churches know how to bless their ministers. Sometimes, the wealth we are talking about comes unsolicited. It is not about whether you have wealth or not. It is about what you do with the wealth that you have. I believe that a minister can be blessed.

If you look at America for example, some wealthy ministers have their private jets and so on. So, to me, it is not a sin. So, let no one look at a minister with wealth as somebody who is on his way to hell. Many of them do not blow their trumpets when it comes to the way they spend what thy Lord has blessed them with. It could be a blessing to widows, to orphans, many of them may be doing good and wonderful things unknown to us. I will not just give them a blanket treatment that they are all the same thing.

Why are academic institutions established by churches not affordable to average and poor income earners who are members?

You know it is only this day that we ask that kind of question. The Church generally has been a blessing to the world in terms of the provision of a good life, education, and so on. And there is no free launch anywhere in the world. Even when (the late) Baba (Obafemi) Awolowo provided free education, somebody must have paid for it somewhere. Today, I think we should see churches establishing institutions as a welcome development to complement the efforts of the government. The government alone cannot do it, and it happens everywhere. I attended some schools in America like Saint Louis Christian College in Missouri. It is a Christian college and a private college not owned by the government. So, churches set up these institutions to help society. A child could be sent to a higher institution for a four-year course, and the child may end up spending six to seven years; you know what obtains in this part of the world. That’s the reason we have privately owned tertiary institutions. If you want to go to that place, you should know it is not meant for everybody. It is meant for people who can afford it.

Was that the vision behind the university established by the CAC?

When we started our university in 2006, we asked our church members to contribute so that it would be said in the future that they were part of those who contributed. It will be to their credit. I did contribute then as a minister in CAC but my three children didn’t go there. My first, second, and third (children) didn’t go there. By the time I was moving up and was able to afford it, I sent my baby (last child) to the place. But the fact that I was unable to send my three sons to our institution does not affect me in any way but when history is written tomorrow, whatever I contributed toward the establishment and sustenance of that institution will be there. Like any university today, there is nowhere a professor will not earn half a million and if you want the best for your ward or children, you need to take care of this because they don’t go on strike. Also, we need this money. So, it is not meant for everybody. You must send your child there (to a private university) but if you can afford it, you can do it. So, I don’t think anything is wrong with churches having institutions that some of their members, not every member, cannot afford. Even the Bible says the poor shall not be totally removed or eliminated from the classes of your people. They will always be the poor. The provision is also meant for employment. People will come, get employed, and so on. That is one of the benefits.

What do you think is responsible for sexual immorality among clerics?

Before one becomes a man of God, one is first and foremost a man. And when you put on this load of flesh, you are prone to all the temptations that any man who is a man can face. The Bible says Elijah was a man of passion. There is nothing different in what they are experiencing or encountering in terms of temptations that people like Elijah did not encounter. We do not have a high priest who has not been touched by the feeling of infirmity. He feels infirmity because he also has put on this load of flesh. Temptation itself is not a sin. It is when you yield to temptation that becomes a sin. The Bible says if you yield yourself to the demand of the spirit, you are controlled by the spirit but you can easily yield yourself to the demand of the flesh as well.

However, certain guidelines will safeguard us if we want to counsel members of the opposite sex. These were simple teachings when I was in a Bible college as a pastor. When you want to counsel female members, don’t be alone with them. Let the windows be open. If God sees you, let men see you as well. The Bible says we have to be aware of all appearances of evil. Something may not be evil but may appear evil. So, anything that will give room to suspicion, be aware of it. Let us be conscious of this that men of God are first and foremost men. When the twins, Jacob and Esau, were in the womb of Rebecca, the Bible says the two children were struggling in their mother’s womb. They went to the House of the Lord because they didn’t know why, and God said there were two nations in her womb, one representing the flesh and the other representing the spirit. And you know when you become a Christian, the fact that you are a human is not eliminated. You are still subject or prone to all these temptations as I’ve said earlier.

 So, every Christian, including ministers, has two nations in their wombs – the flesh and the spirit. The Bible says the spirit wars against the flesh and the flesh against the spirit.

What about clerics who did not join the ministry as born-again Christians?

Yes, it is true that some people were not born-again (Christians) before they came into the ministry. The Bible says you have to flee the youthful lust. The youthful lust will not flee from you. You are the one to say, ‘No, I’m running away’. That’s what Joseph did. He ran away. But Samson didn’t do that. He was prepared for everything and the Bible says we should not make room for the flesh. Some may be habitual or serial offenders. It is quite different from those who fall mistakenly. We must not make room for the flesh to dominate us. And for those who are falling on the field, you know in the military of this world, when a fellow soldier falls on the battlefield, others will carry him to safety and recovery. The church needs to have that kind of department where a soldier who falls is taken care of. And with God, there is always a new beginning. Again, on the last day, sins shall abound. Things we never heard of will happen. Every Christian and every minister has to take care of themselves so that we don’t become victims of all these untoward practices in the church.

What are your thoughts about the Companies and Allied Matters Act which the Christian Association kicked against?

We went to court against the introduction of CAMA law and CAN won but the government has now appealed that judgement. Heads of churches and denominations were invited to Abuja to deliberate on the way forward. But whatever happens, there is no way the church can be stopped, either through any draconian law or through any other means; the church cannot be stopped. But the church itself must turn a searchlight upon herself. Is there anything we are doing that is not good? We do have our excesses and if the law that is being introduced by the government will curb certain things that some of us do, so let it be.

There are certain things that we do that you cannot practise in other parts of the world. In England for example, you know that the church doesn’t belong to one person. The church is registered under the charitable law and if you do anything contrary to that, it will be taken from you. But if the government or different governments of this world want to introduce certain things that will stop churches from advancing, that can’t work because there is a power behind the church that works mysteriously; even prosecution cannot stop the church from growing and from being active.

What do you think is responsible for the proliferation of churches in Nigeria today?

Do we call it proliferation? There are many joints for weed smoking and alcohol consumption, and there are many brothels. So, I don’t think we have enough churches in Nigeria. The only thing is that a church should be a church and not a show because there is a difference between a church and a show. I will say we need more churches in Nigeria but let it be a church of God indeed, not just a club, not just a social gathering because the Bible described a church as a ground and pillar of truth.

At some point, your predecessor claimed that the church had overcome the problem of division, yet the division has persisted. Why is that so?

It depends on the interpretation of that statement. Well, I don’t know what my predecessor had in mind by saying that. Maybe it was in anticipation of a resolution of the crisis during his own time. We are still struggling with it and I believe when God’s appointed time comes, we shall all sing hallelujah that the crisis is over and the battle is won, but it is not something that must be one-sided. It must be all-encompassing and all the different and divergent opinions and factions will come together and all of us with one voice will say the battle is won. We look forward to that time.

Given the insecurity in Nigeria, many popular pastors move under the protection of security agents. Does that mean they can’t rely on God’s protection?

That’s a very good question. Why should ministers go about with armed security guards? Well, times are dangerous and God can keep His own but that doesn’t absorb you of your responsibility. Many of us who are not ministers have security guards in our different homes. We have Psalm 23 and some other things but we still engage the services of security agents for protection. Will I say that because I’m a Christian, I will read Psalm 23 and some other scriptures and leave my door open when I’m going to bed at night? There are things we have to do, and you know that ministers are the target of criminals these days.

Look at our baba, the recently retired Prelate of the Methodist Church, who was on his way to a place in the East last year. He was kidnapped and N100m was paid for his release. He was also beaten up. He almost lost his eyes. They (criminals) know that when they kidnap the head of a church, the church members will not fold their arms, they will do something. I know that God is the ultimate protector and our guard but if he had gone with a few armed men then, they could have been accosted but there would have been resistance. When we know that we live in a dangerous time, some desperate situations must be dealt with desperately. Not only men of God, some celebrities, and others go around with the security agents. Look at what happened recently in Ekiti. A student was murdered. Go to some other places in the world, you don’t need all this (protection). There are surveillance cameras there. If you do something wrong, you will get caught and you will not get off scot-free.

Some people partly blame religious organisations for the deteriorating moral standards in society today and for not positively guiding the people. What is your view on that?

As I said early on, we live in a dangerous time, the end of time, and the Bible has told us what we should expect. Sin shall abound. The love of many shall wax cold and Christ said as it was in the days of Noah and what are those things that characterised the days of Noah? In the days of Noah, there were many people and there was violence and permissiveness. People could hardly go out during the daytime. We live in the days that are very similar to the days of Noah. Violence is on the increase not only here but everywhere in the world. We have a church that is supposed to be the light of the world. If the church is accused of not living up to the expectation, there is a sense of truth in that. We lose it when we emphasise the prosperity message at the expense of other teachings of the scriptures. If all we talk about is how to make it, it is a minus for the church; so the church must rise. The Bible tells us to arise and shine for our light has come. It has nothing to do with material prosperity of anybody but moral and spiritual prosperity. That is the job of the church. The church must preach repentance.

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