Culled from Daily Champion. A rear 2005 interview of Pastor Chris Oyakhilome
The humility and success of the founder of Christ Embassy is simply phenomenal. In a few years, the ministry has grown from a campus fellowship of a few hundreds to an international ministry making world-wide impact. And in nearly every country of the world, the gospel according to Pastor Chris is spreading fast.
Oyakhilome talks about Jesus and the Holy Spirit as though they live together. Handsome and debonair, he delivers the message of the one he said sent him with a passion. In Nigeria his name has become synonymous with miracle healing. And when he talks about prosperity, he really is unapologetic. Hear him “I will never be broke in my life”.
Since the debut of its TV programme in 1996, the ministry has remained on the cutting edge, pioneering new ways of doing things in the industry, that has become the envy of long established television stations. It has the largest Christian television network in Africa, and with its recently launched satellite station is reaching out to about a quarter of the world’s population.
Aside miracle healing, Oyakhilome is also many things to different people. To some, he is controversial and to others, he is mysterious. And the man of God doesn’t help matters as he has consistently refused to grant press interviews. He would rather talk about the Christ he seeks to introduce than Pastor Chris. Last week, National Standard in line with our avowed commitment to letting you hear from notable Nigerians got Pastor Chris to talk. He spoke with Editor-in-Chief, Ambrose Isesele. We serve you the first of a two part series. You will be glad to read this.
You are perhaps one of the most recognizable Nigerians of our time. However, due to a seemingly averse attitude to press interviews and media publicity, there is something of a mystery surrounding your person. Who is Pastor Chris?
Firstly, I am not adverse to press interviews or to the media; at least I am talking to you now. That conclusion is erroneous. Most probably, they did not come the right way. After all, I am on television everyday. So I can not be said to be adverse to the media.
Secondly, you asked, ‘Who is Pastor Chris?’ The question is slightly difficult because I do not know what you are expecting me to say. Pastor Chris is just someone called of God to preach the gospel. So, I preach Jesus Christ, the one whom I introduce. Everywhere I go, I have to introduce him rather than myself. So I don’t talk about me but about the one who sent me.
So little is known about your organization’s activities. Why the media blackout?
It depends on what you are looking for. If you want to know what we preach, it is known around the world. Our materials are out, in books, tapes, on TV and on the internet. So it can not be said that little is known about the ministry, because you can hear the message, and the most important thing in the ministry is the message. If our message is preached and heard, we have succeeded, even if we as individuals are
not known and the structures are not known.
Jesus preached a message, Paul preached a message. Ask anybody now to describe for you the ministry of Paul. He can only be described with his message. No one can say anything else apart from through his message, his journeys. Do you understand? So that’s about it really. It is not because we do not want anyone to know anything; it is just that we are more concerned about our mission than ourselves.
What exactly is the scope of your ministry?
Jesus said to go into the entire world and preach the gospel and I believe our message is going around the world. We are covering many parts of Africa and Europe; we are reaching into America, Asia and now we are going into Australia and New Zealand. So, we are going that far based on our message and instructions.
How do you do that?
By the power of the Spirit. We have a worldwide Television ministry and churches all over the world.
How many churches do you have?
The truth is that we are increasing regularly and far beyond my personal work. I get to hear a new church has been started. Because we are training leaders all the time, so the structure is such that I personally do not have to pursue the growth of these churches. They are springing up from time to time as we preach around the world. So, they are very many. I think that is the best way I can put it.
Your television ministry is quite expansive and must be costing you a fortune; and you have a lot of activities going on around the world. A lot of people would have been satisfied with even a quarter of what you have done and seen it as a life time achievement, but you keep on pushing. What is your motivation; what drives you?
Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel”. So, the bottom line is preaching the gospel. We are preaching the gospel and we are raising people to do the same. Of course a lot of times people ask me some of the questions you are asking now, how many churches we have and why do we preach like this? But Jesus said to do it. The message is so important; we want the whole world to hear it. It is the message of their salvation; we are not just building a ministry like we are building an organization. No! The reason for all the structures and all of the materials that we are producing is because of the message of salvation. Man needs to hear what God has already done for him in Christ Jesus. And that is why we’ve got to preach it so they can hear it everywhere. That is the driving force; the importance of the message and this is the only way they can be saved.
How large is your church?
In Nigeria alone we have more than one million members spread across the country.
The name Pastor Chris is synonymous with miracles. Why the emphasis on miracles?
I do not lay emphasis on miracles. There are people who say that I preach miracles, but I do not preach miracles. The truth is that, when Jesus came, He did not lay emphasis on miracles, but more than two-third of his ministry was on healing the sick. Why? Not because he preached healing, but he came to heal. Now, I have a message that certainly heals people. You can not hear that message and remain sick, poor or dejected. It would bring you hope and life. So I do not emphasize miracles. I emphasize the living Christ and when I do that, the divine power of the Holy Ghost follows the message, and of a necessity, there will be healings and miracles. How can you believe in God without having miracles? God is a supernatural being and if he is real, there must be supernatural acts and responses. So the miracles are there to prove his existence, his presence and his message. In fact we do not necessarily heal the sick to prove it. It is his presence that proves it. So I do not preach miracles or emphasize miracles. I emphasize Christ and the miracles have to follow. They are like your credentials. If you preach Jesus Christ and he sent you, he will back up your claims. Now if he doesn’t back up your claims, you have to find out whether or not you are called. So those miracles are given by Jesus to confirm that he sent us. So he is the one actually performing these miracles.
Are these miracles real? Skeptics believe that it is either a means of taking advantage of people who are distressed and desperate for solutions, or a means of diverting people’s attention from the challenges of living in a real world to the pursuit of a utopia that is really non-existent.
Just because you believe they are not real doesn’t mean they are not real. Anybody can believe what he wants to. There was a time people said it was impossible to transmit sound without a material medium, but it happened. There was a day they believed the earth was flat and that if you got to the edge you would fall off, but that did not make it true. So miracles are real. It is like saying ‘I do not believe that man can land on the moon”, just because you have not been there. Some people have been there and they have come back with reports and we believe them. And today, we are planning a lot of things on earth based on their findings.
There are those who also ask us to prove the miracles. The question is, Do they really believe there was a Jesus at all? Did Jesus perform miracles? Historical accounts show that he did. The bible proves that he did. If these questions were posed by non-Christians, I will not be concerned about it. They do not believe anyway, and that’s why we are preaching to them so that they can believe.
But when questions like these are posed by Christians, it becomes disturbing. It’s a stupid question for a Christian to ask. A Christian asking if miracles are real? No, they don’t believe in Jesus. They believe Jesus was raised from the dead and he is in heaven. Where is heaven? If he was raised from the dead, that was a miracle. Ok! If Jesus performed miracles and he was raised from the dead, then what is he today? Has he changed? Does he still have the power? If he doesn’t have the power, was he robbed of it? Is he more powerful today than then? Or is he less powerful, or the same? If he is less powerful, then we shouldn’t expect miracles. Then he is not Lord. His death was a defeat and there is no reason for all theChristians to believe in him, and there is no need for Christianity. If he is the same, then he must be able to perform the miracles. So the least he could be is to be the same; which means, the miracles he performed then must be real. Now if those miracles can no longer be performed, then it means that he left us worse than when he came and there is no reason for that since he brought us salvation. Salvation is a miracle. So if the miracles are not real, salvation is not real. So anybody who says he is born again is lying to himself because to be born again is a miracle. Many of these folks believe that they have received the Holy Spirit. Where is the Holy Spirit? Can you see the Holy Spirit with your optical eyes? No! Is there such a Spirit? Yes! If the Spirit is true and real, then his acts must be true and real. So, these miracles are true and real. They are as real as the Holy Spirit because He does them. They are as real as the living Christ because he is back of them.
What are miracles and how do they happen?
A miracle is an inexplicable intervention by a supernatural power in the natural affairs of man. A miracle is something beyond the normal course of events. Usually a miracle is a positive event. It is not something that destroys. You cannot say an earthquake is a miracle because it is not positive. Miracles are positive events, happenings; they make you glad, happy and bring fulfillment and joy. They are such interruptions of the normal course of events, of the normal habits of man.
If you were running and fell down and got yourself wounded, the natural course is that it should get healed sooner or later, and then if you treat it medically, it may speed up the process. That is the natural course. But when such a wound closes up in an instant or overnight, it is a miracle! It is out of the normal course. Or if someone who was born blind and cannot see naturally, maybe because of the destruction of one or two areas of his optical structure, suddenly begins to see, that is a miracle! So, Jesus opened blind eyes, unstopped deaf ears, made the lame walk; all these were people who naturally could not have had their situations changed. This happened either in a split second or even as a gradual process, yet it was beyond the ordinary. So, it was a miracle.
There is the issue of people falling down when you touch them or blow some air on them. Why do people fall when Pastor Chris touches them?
Why do people fall when Pastor Chris touches them? Wonderful! First it is important for us to realize that the power and the glory of God is more than man can accommodate. When the glory of God overwhelms a man, he cannot stand it. It is a sign from God that proves His presence. I do not have control over it. He gave me that power as a sign to the world.
Are the workings of miracles the exclusive preserve of a chosen few like you?
Yes and No! No, in the sense that miracles can happen when you pray because God has promised to answer prayers. So, if anyone would pray the bible way, God will answer and God’s response to man’s request is itself a miracle. So anybody could have a miracle. Then yes, in the sense that there are those who are chosen and anointed with special power for healings and miracles and the bible talks about that. If you would read in 1st Corinthians 12 verse 27-30, it tells us about those who are anointed to perform miracles. So there are specific callings in that regards.
Your meetings attract the largest crowds in the country today with estimated crowds of between 1m – 2.5million people. What is the ‘catch’? What brings people there?
It’s not a catch. I believe we are given different gifts and callings. God uses us in different ways; I just think that is God’s grace. You see, God has something to say and I am his mouth piece. So he does three things. Number one is to give me the message that He wants me to communicate; number two is for Him to draw the people that He wants to hear it and number three is to confirm the message with miraculous signs. That is the way I look at it. It is up to him. I am not sure that I have a personal control over that. I think it is just God’s grace.
Within the last three years, there has been a lot of controversies surrounding. Pastor Chris: from your association with Prophet T.B. Joshua which led to your split with the mainstream Pentecostal ministers in the country to issues of large donations to the ministry by members who purportedly defrauded their organizations and then the ban on miracle programmes by the National Broadcasting Commission. Your silence at every point gives the impression that you love controversies.
It is not true that I love controversies. Jesus was a controversial figure and his ministry was controversial, not because Jesus loved controversies or that he sparked off controversies but because the people thought and acted differently from God’s ways of doing things and so Jesus could never agree with them; and that is where controversies begin – disagreements. So these so called controversies were not things that I sparked off, nor is it that I enjoy controversies. Then why was I silent? Because Jesus did not need to respond to his critics! So, I have found no reason to respond to them. One thing you need to know about your critics is this: no great man ever criticized a lesser man. respond because only lesser men criticize greater men.
You can only be criticized by those who are lesser than you. So the response to criticism should always be from that stand point. When you are criticized, you ask yourself, ‘Is this a criticism’. If it is, then you do not need to.
And that immediately suggests that the one who criticizes you deserves no response. That is the reason why I have not thought of responding to them.
To be continued in part 2