Continued from part 1
Culled from Daily Champion. A rear 2005 interview of Pastor Chris Oyakhilome
How did your relationship with Prophet T.B Joshua begin? Rev Chris Okotie said then that T.B. Joshua recruited or ordained you into his cult way back 1986.
I remember in 2001 a lot of ministers including Pastor Chris Okotie, Bishop Mike Okonkwo and Pastor Tunde Bakare did say things along that line. The truth is that they were all wrong. They were getting information from the wrong sources, and it is unfortunate that they believed their wrong sources; incidentally none of them asked me intelligent questions. I hope to write a book on the episode someday. I have so much to say about all that transpired, maybe for the future. It was an interesting period, but the truth is that what they said was not true. I was surprised when the fact that I related with Prophet T.B Joshua, sparked off controversies. I was very surprised. You wonder why? Because I related with a lot of folks and nobody said anything, so I wondered why they got so mad about this one.
his was no ordinary person. This was Prophet T.B. Joshua; a man whom most ministers believe is involved in occultic practices.
I was surprised that they all said that. Remember that Jesus visited non-followers, non believers and he was criticized by the religious folks of his day. They said this man eateth and drinketh with sinners. They said Jesus could not be a prophet of God because he ate and drank with sinners. I thought if I related with anybody, it shouldn’t be a problem, even if he was a sinner. There was no reason for that. After all everybody needs the gospel. So from that stand point I was surprised at their response. It was the wrong response anyway. I remember that I made a tape then, called ‘Truth on Trial’ and there I said, “Just because you hate somebody does not mean I have to hate with you”. When Jesus related with sinners, they did not change him. So, no matter what they thought T.B. Joshua was, my relating with him shouldn’t have been expected to change me. So, it was very wrong for anyone to have interfered.
They said he was of the devil…
Well, that is between them and God.
How exactly did you meet T.B. Joshua?
It was in 2001 that I met him or spoke with him for the first time, contrary to the assertions of the PFN leaders. He called me on the phone. He had been watching our programme on television with some of his visitors, and there was this episode of a little girl who was born blind, who received her sight at our crusade. He said he was moved by the miracle and decided to call me. That was our first contact. After that, we spoke several other times on telephone. At that time, I had only seen maybe two or three of his programmes on TV. I did not know much about him at all, and so when he spoke with me on the phone, we exchanged pleasantries, and made references to what we were doing.
In the process of time, on a particular Wednesday, several weeks after we had been talking on the phone, he called me on the phone and requested that I joined him in ministering to a particular man that was coming from Holland,
during a special service that night. I said we’ll be having a service and he said his service was going to be all night long. I was going to finish mine about 9 pm and his was going to be all night, so I said ‘alright, how long is it going to take me to get to where you are?’ He said it’s about 30 minutes, half an hour. I said ok, ‘if I get out of here around 9 o’ clock, I’ll be there by 9.30. I’ll try to make it’. I went there with several people.
We met for the first time, face to face then, and went into the congregation and he introduced me to them and I greeted the people. Of course a lot of them had been seeing me on television and so they were excited to see me come to their church. Shortly after I greeted them, I went with him to the healing section. We got to the healing section; he started out ministering to them while I was waiting because I was only going to join him in ministering to the foreigners based on his earlier request. When we got to the section where the foreigners were, most of whom were from Holland, we both ministered to the man who was sick of multiple sclerosis. I believe his name was Jan Westerhof; that was about it.
Now you must realize that before I met with T.B. Joshua, I’d been holding crusades and healing services for years. This was 2001 and by then I had held many crusades with thousands of people and we already had our programme, Atmosphere For Miracles, where we showed testimonies of people who were getting healed in our meetings. So healings and miracles were not new to me. When I met with him, of course I was excited, glad to see someone who was interested in the kind of things that I was doing.
When these controversies came up, when these pastors, Pastor Chris Okotie, Bishop Mike Okonkwo and Pastor Tunde Bakare got on television and began to say a lot of things, I actually had to maintain an association of sympathy with the man. There are so many things I have to say like I told you, but these are all leaders in the church and I wouldn’t want to say things that would make them unhappy with themselves or even make members of their congregation unhappy with them. I do not think that is my responsibility. So I would not want to go into certain details.
Did you at any moment think that your detractors were right and you wrong? After all you were the only man on your side of the divide.
I knew they were wrong all the time. Maybe I should define something, because the issue was not T.B. Joshua. They tried to make him the issue. He was not the issue. And I can prove that. The reason I said they tried to make him the issue is this; the president of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, became the Vice President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, of which the Synagogue Church headed by T.B. Joshua is a part, Cherubim and Seraphim is a part, Celestial Church of Christ is a part and many other groups. In fact, he became the de facto Vice President of the Synagogue! And nobody said anything about it. There could be no better endorsement of T.B. Joshua from the PFN than that. If you could fraternize with all these groups as their Vice President, doesn’t that say something, if indeed any of them was really of the Devil? Imagine Paul the Apostle as the Vice President of an occultic group? The point is T.B. Joshua was not the problem. They used him as the reason for their actions which were based on their wrong spiritual perceptions.
Rev Okotie claimed that T.B. Joshua laid hands on you and ordained you into ministry. When a newsmagazine asked the Prophet a question along that line, his answer sounded ambiguous lending credence to Okotie’s assertion. So did T.B. Joshua lay hands on you?
The answer is No! That did not happen, I was never a part of his ministry as alleged by Chris Okotie and others. I was never a part of Synagogue. I met him for the first time in 2001. I have never been involved in their ministry and he has never had to minister to me. We have related as friends. I have many minister friends, even though we don’t all exactly believe the same things.
What about the issue of money? Pastor Tunde Bakare said he saw a vision in which you were collecting money or deposit slips from T.B. Joshua and concluded you must have compromised for the sake of filthy lucre.
The allegations that he gave me money and that he was sponsoring our television programme doesn’t make sense, considering our financial status as a ministry. T.B. Joshua must have been flattered to hear that from Pastor Bakare. It was all false.
There is this video tape featuring you and T.B. Joshua, healing a man from Holland in a wheelchair. A voice over referred to you as the Junior Prophet. Have you seen the tape?
(Laughs) Firstly, I have not seen the commercial or consumer version of the tape. But, I have a copy of the original edit that includes my whole visit and activities there. You know that as in several church organizations where they call the helmsman, Senior Pastor or General Overseer, T.B. Joshua is referred to as the Senior Prophet at the Synagogue. It’s unfortunate that the commentator was not corrected in his error or assumption that whoever was ministering with the Senior Prophet must therefore be the Junior Prophet. I know some of the foreigners, who were not in the main service when I addressed the congregation, could have thought so, because they were in the emergency section waiting for healing. I remember one of them in his testimony actually made that comment.
Even though I was not offended, they should have been corrected.
Your liaison with T.B. Joshua caused a deep friction within Pentecostal circles and sparked off a crisis that many believed was going to destroy your ministry. How did you weather the storm?
You see, what many do not understand is this: the so called crisis period did not lead to anything. They were the ones that had a crisis. I was not in crisis, and this was what they did not understand. We have a firm bible based ministry. If a ministry like this could have been destroyed by things like this, that would have happened a very long time ago. So, I was not in crisis and did not need to weather the storm. I just went on with my business.
Were you not concerned about the status of your detractors? You were pitched against the Who is Who in Nigerian Pentecostal circles; especially considering the fact that men of God like Bishop Mike Okonkwo, and Pastor Adeboye of the Redeemed Church and even Matthew Ashimolowo made certain remarks about you then.
I did not mind. I was never bitter about it. They were all misled by their sources or assumptions. I have never met Pastor Ashimolowo or Pastor Adeboye. They don’t know me. Even though Pastor Adeboye granted us the use of the Redeemed Camp facilities twice, several years ago, for which we remain grateful, I’ve never met him. But, whatever their comments were, I leave it all to God. You see, I have been brought up strong in the word of God. I have walked with the Holy Spirit enough to know, like the Apostle Paul that none of these things move me.
And if you are successful, you expect people to come after you. If you amount to anything you should never be surprised when people criticize you. Never be surprised when people rise against you and condemn you. Jesus said we should not be amazed when they say all manner of evil against us and accuse us falsely. Jesus was accused falsely. If I have been accused falsely and criticized by people, it does not mean anything. I am in good company because Jesus and the apostles suffered the same things. But they were successful and so have I been and I’ll continue to be because I am walking in the path of light. So I already knew the end from the beginning.
Did you feel a sense of betrayal by those who were supposedly members of your primary constituency?
A sense of betrayal? They were not my primary constituency. That is the problem! I have never focused on them.
But they were also ministers.
That is what I am saying. I did not think about them. You see, God speaking to the children of Israel, said, “When I called Abraham, I called him alone”. You see prophets stand alone. When God calls you, he calls you alone. I only had Jesus in focus and always wanted to make sure that I did that, which would please him. I did not want to condemn them and I still would not say anything against them but that does not mean that what they said was the truth. It is still not true. Some people thought I was defending T.B. Joshua. No! I was defending the truth. All I said was, no matter what you think about him, treat him right. Period! Treat him the way Jesus said to treat people.
Did you ever get disturbed about the prospect of coming to church and finding your congregation has left? Some of the ministers advised them to leave you for the sake of their spiritual sanity.
(Laughs) Well I never even considered what they said. As a matter of fact, anybody can say anything. The question is, who was he speaking for? The bible says in Lamentation 3: 37, “who is it that speaketh and it cometh to pass when the Lord commanded it not”? No matter what anybody says, if God’s power is not in their words, the words are empty. So those were empty words, they did not come to pass; they did not work or produce results. I was sent by God and it was important for me to know who sent me, and it was also important for me to know what my mission was.
Your strategies for handling controversies and crisis are rather strange. While others are addressing press conferences and issuing press release, you maintain a stoic silence. Is it on purpose, like a special strategy?
Well, not really. It is not on purpose. It is not planned. I am just doing what I was called to do. I do not think it is my responsibility to respond to issues that are raised by different people. I have a mission, I have a message to preach, and I am on television everyday. I have been given a unique opportunity, a very rare privilege from God. I do not know what more I could ask for. I have the opportunity to talk to millions of people around the world. I have been tremendously blessed and favoured. I can not ask for more. So in terms of having the opportunity or the platform to express myself, I have it more than any newspaper or media organization in this country could grant me. So the truth is: I have enough platform to say what I want to say. I have been tremendously favoured to be able to get on the electronic media on all formats, all around the world, hold crusades and do all the things I want to do! Our books and tapes are everywhere and so I’m just focused, doing the things I am called to do.
The world is all about relationships. As a journalist, I get to relate with other journalists. We hear of corroboration between other ministers as they hold joint programmes and preach in each other’s churches. But Pastor Chris doesn’t preach anywhere else but Christ Embassy, and he doesn’t have minister friends. People think you are proud.
(Laughs) Well, certain people think that until you relate with them particularly, you have not related with anybody. That is wrong. I have thousands of ministers in our ministry and that is more than enough to relate with. I relate with ministers regularly.
I do not know what else I should be doing. And remember, the more ministers you relate with, the less time you’ll have to relate with God. So I think I have more than enough already, I am now trying to have ministers to relate to other ministers, so I can even relate less. That is it. The ministry is different from other businesses. You gave yourself as an example; as a journalist, you relate with other journalists, but the ministry is different. You need to relate more with the Holy Spirit than with anybody else.
Is that the reason you are not a member of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, or Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN?
PFN or CAN? You know sometimes people make some things seem more serious than they really are. The Christian Association of Nigeria is a great organization started by human beings. God did not say you must be in CAN to be able to function.
I think they are doing their job the best way they know how, but I do not know what their aims and objectives are, and I have a vision that is unique.
The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria has its beliefs. I am not a Pentecostal and therefore don’t have to be a part of it. It’s like they are not Baptists, else, why did they not join the Baptist Fellowship of Nigeria? Why? We all believe in Jesus; why did they not join the Baptist? Because of their beliefs! So they feel they are different from the Baptists and there is nothing wrong with that. I think it depends on beliefs. I do not believe everything from the Pentecostal stand point, because there is nothing Pentecostal in Christianity.
The term Pentecostal denotes all those who believe in being born again, speaking in tongues…
That is wrong; It’s a misnomer. I know where it came from. It came from the fact that on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon the believers in the upper room in Acts, chapter two. But the truth is that it came only on those who were not celebrating Pentecost! Those who were celebrating Pentecost where outside and did not receive the Holy Spirit. So, from the biblical point, the Pentecostals were those who did not receive the Holy Spirit the day the Holy Spirit came. Those who received the Holy Spirit were not celebrating Pentecost.
But the term ‘Pentecostal’ is generally accepted…
That is the problem. Many people prefer to do what is generally accepted instead of the truth. I think they have not done enough study on that subject and that is the reason; and of course don’t forget people would rather die with their names than change it. So I am not suggesting they change. I am just telling you why I am not a member of PFN, because for the same reason they are not members of the Baptist fellowship or the Anglican or Methodist. These are all Christians but they do not believe everything they do and I do not believe everything they do! Even beginning with their name, but I am not against them at all.
Aside healing, another cardinal aspect of your teaching is prosperity. And of course you cannot talk prosperity without talking about money; the love of which the bible says is the root of all evil. The problem with our nation today stems from the unbridled lust for acquisitions. Shouldn’t the church focus on holiness, self denial, and other subjects associated with traditional Christianity.
Well, the church should not focus on any of those things. The church should focus on Jesus and his message and when they do that, they would talk about all these things because they concern man. The true message then will include self denial, holiness and righteousness, not as a pursuit but as a result. In talking about the issue of money, remember that people go to work seven days a week, many five days a week but a lot of them six to seven days a week. They go because of money. And Jesus talked a lot about money. If you do not teach people about money, then they would do the wrong things. The bible doesn’t say money is the root of all evil; it is the love of money. What about the stem, the branches of all evil? What about the fruit of all evil? No one is talking about that. After all, the root will not stay by itself. There are other things that are connected to evil; it is not only the love of money that is bad.
There are a lot of other things that are bad. Prosperity is important and we preach it, not because we want to talk about it, but because this is in the message of Jesus Christ.
How old is Pastor Chris? There is a mystery surrounding your age; no birthday greetings in the papers carry your age.
Well I would say I am a bit fascinated by the media creation of a mystery because none of us created it. I went to schools, and so must have registered with my age declarations, I have a passport and my date of birth must be there. I have filled so many forms throughout this country. So for anybody to suggest that there is a mystery about my age seems mischievous. So I think I would rather leave it that way.
Will you like to solve the mystery for us?
No. It seems mischievous and ridiculous, but maybe I have enjoyed the mystery created by the media over the issue and would just let it be.