Church Leaders Need To Do More For Those Outside The Church
Apostle Joseph Agboli, General Overseer of The Victorious Army Ministries International and his wife, Pastor Blessings hosted some journalists including INDEPENDENT’s Chinyere Abiaziem to a briefing in view of this year’s Bethel Convention of the Church, in which they reacted to issues in Christendom including jet owning Nigerian preachers, what churches should be doing to impact the society, the wake up call to Christians on tithing, etc. Excerpts:
Tell us about the annual Bethel Convention of your ministry and what participants should expect?
This year would be the fifth Bethel Victory Convention. It was born in 2012 and it has been glorious and the Lord has been taking us from glory to glory. Come November 21stto 26th, we would be having the Fifth Bethel Convention. It promises to be a season of the overflow of God’s glory and greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon God’s people with amazing signs and wonders. It is going to mark the end of the era of afflictions in lives. The yoke of Satanic forces unleashed on humanity preventing them from manifesting their ordained destinies will be terminated. The yoke of barrenness, sickness, poverty and marital delays will end in this convention.Surely as the Lord liveth, the people of God are not only going to smile during this convention but would experience continuous laughter to the glory of God. This time, God has prepared his servants with apostolic anointing for the programme. Pastor Mathew Ashimolowo of KICC, Apostle Paul Thompson, Apostle Joshua, and Pastor Abel are part of the men of God that would be ministering. While those ministering in songs include; Chinyere Udoma, Joe Praise, Kingsley Ike, Victorious Choir, Big Bolaji and Steve Crown. Again, it is going to be far better than the previous ones because the path of the just is like a light that shinneth bright unto a perfect day. The theme of this year’s convention is declared the ‘God Of Wonders’. So people are going to experience amazing wonders in every area of their lives to the glory of God.
You regularly invite Pastor Ashimolowo for your programmes particularly the convention?
Pastor Ashimolowo is a humble man of God that preaches the word undiluted. There is connectivity in the realm of the spirit that is why he is always here to minister to us.
What can you say is the impact of the convention on the Nigerian populace at this time in the nation’s history?
In every convention, we take care of people. I personally supervise this. For 22 years that we have been in the ministry, we have always taken care of the poor. That is why we go to the streets and do rallies. During these rallies, we win souls and we mentor, train them if need be. This Acme road, where we are situated used to be den of ritualists and robbers; we saw body parts on daily basis when came here in 1997. And I said to God, how could we stop robbers and ritualists from this route? So God gave me a vision and I started taking people from the streets and I can tell you that we have over 1,000 people that have passed through this ministry; those who went to Bible school dropped the gun, those who are now married and doing very well. We have rehabilitated more numbers than I can count. One day, I was driving around ‘Universal’ by 1pm and the Lord said to me to park my car. I spoke to some guys, about 64 of them. They followed me and I took them to Boulus company down the road and I bought them motor bikes. I bailed the ones already in jail; I took some to the rehabilitation centre in Ikoyi. The ones who did not have money to get married, I assisted them and many of them are doing very well abroad.We have done quite a lot. Even some Sundays ago, we gave out bags of rice. Over 144 people are on our scholarship list from primary to university level. We do not need to know their parents. There are elderly people from the age of 60 that we place on salary. These are the few things and we are trusting God for more in ensuring that people get off the streets.
The argument is being sustained that tithing is unbiblical, what is your take on that?
I do not know what gave the young man the notion to want to challenge tithe, Pastor Blessings stated. She said if you believe in the blessings of the Old Testament, you must also believe in the instructions of the Old Testament. We cannot take just the blessings and throw away the instructions. People of this generation do not want to refer to the Old Testament. Jesus said He has not come to abolish the law. This means there is a laid down law of what you need to do as a Christian though we walk in the era of grace. There are things a child of God needs to adhere to access some blessings. So tithing is biblical. I think the man who challenged tithing is seeking attention of daddy G.O and he has not given him that attention.I do not want to believe that he woke up one day seeking to change the doctrine of the Church. Some call it a revolution, I do not see it as that, I think he has opened more doors for people to understand the importance of tithe. I am not seeing it from the negative aspect but the positive aspect. I am praying for him. He has read the scriptures and quotes the scriptures, but he has not yet understood the revelation of what he is talking about. Until he has acquired knowledge from reading the scriptures, what he is saying will not hold any water as far as I am concerned. He has made the Christian belief on tithing stronger because people are getting to study and know the importance of tithe — why they should tithe and not tithe.For me, it is time for a wake up call that tithing is important because for us to build the kingdom, there must be meat in God’s house. Even unbelievers have their way of tithing. The meat must come into the house of God so that whether we are using it to feed the poor, building rehabilitation centers, help the congregation because the poor will not finish in the land. Let us give him time as things unfold, you might just see him preaching or opening a Church because he is going to be tested by what he has preached to the world, which brought about quarrel.
How do you see the coming of Evang. Reinhard Bonnke to Nigeria?
What he has come to do is like a wake up call, ministry is not for one man but one man can make a change. I am sure when you went to school someone influenced you. You saw someone who was successful and you wanted to be like that person. God will always resolve one person to influence others. He came to influence the believers and unbelievers that Jesus is coming soon. To remember that the word of God is still working, sickness is not for us and poverty is not for us. We live in the world but what happens to the world should not happen to the children of God. Governments of all nations are upon the shoulder of Christ. If God is in charge of our lives with Jesus Christ as our advocate, there is need for us to live above the physical happenings of Nigeria.
There have been condemnations concerning preachers owning private jets, what is your take on this?
About six times this year alone, I was to preach in Port Harcourt. I was at the airport from8am till 1pm. In another occasion in Abuja, I got at the airport about 3:45pm. and I was still at the airport till 11:30pm when they picked me up. I was there when the shops in the airport closed for the day. If I had a jet, I would have arrived Lagos like 5:30pm.
Are you planning to own a jet?
I do have one and I am not apologetic. Can I also make this clear to you; offerings can’t buy jets. You can come here during one of our services and we give you the offerings to count. Offerings can’t buy jets. Find out from those who own jets, they owe. You buy jet on lease. I do not know of any Nigerian in the international club that paid cash in full for jets. What we have done is buy the jet and lease it out and make money from it. You do not just get a jet and park for the sake that you have a jet. No. You run businesses with it. You can lease it to any individual or firm capable of paying you. You use it when you want to use it and lease it when the call comes for it to be leased. It is a business on its own. But I do not think offerings can pay for jet. I do not know how much the Church is collecting. I do not know that thing that pastors should apologise for spending money that belongs to them; because we are pastors do not mean we are poor.
It has been alleged that corruption and embezzlement of funds is getting common among the clerics with some even in Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s (EFCC’s) custody?
Whether in Church or Mosque people are people. I was complaining to my mother in the Lord the other day and she said she wants me to build a pyramid to ensure that what I do not want happen at the bottom must not happen at the top. That has been my watchword. Talking about spirituality and money, the pressure of life and family has made a lot of people to lose their integrity. It is very difficult to be a Nigerian, I am sorry to say this because Nigeria does not take care of you; you take care of yourself and extended family. The pressure from your extended to immediate is very suffocating. Each time I see a Nigerian in the world, I applaud them because of the strength and ability they have. We are one nation that can shoulder anything and move on as if nothing is happening.
Some persons are of the opinion that today’s churches are business centers with preachers no more after salvation of souls but living in so much luxury?
Some years ago, a guy told me he wanted to travel to Germany and I asked him how much it would cost and he answered. So I helped him realise that. Then about a year ago, he e-mailed me that he wants to send me a car and I asked where he got the money from within six months? He answered that he worked and saved the money for the car. I told him ‘you know what’ send the money to me, which he did. Should I throw the money away so that you won’t judge me? Whatever I spend it on is my concern. What is important is that, is God okay with what you are doing? If yes, then go ahead. The critics help you to be careful not even to move forward. You have to know that people are watching and you must manage your excesses. So when they criticise like that, I weigh the option, I welcome the criticisms and advise myself. Because not all the voices of critics are wrong, they are warning you against what Satan has planned for your future. Satan speaks through his people as God speaks through his people. I think the Church is doing her best at the moment. The Church is trying but we do not celebrate what it is doing. I think we should do more outside the confine of the church. Church leaders must step out of the Church and do more. Our love should transcend beyond the walls of the Church. Apostle Agboli said, “When commission was born, they were paying me N1, 000 per month, it was not coming regularly but comes in four to six months. If it is in six months, they paid N6, 000. I have never used the church money to buy myself a car.”
How responsible is the church to her immediate community?
We know how to take care of the community where we stay. This environment knows that we take care of our neighbours and at peace with them.