PASTORS MUST NOT JOIN POLITICS
When in November last year the Assemblies of God Nigeria elected a new general superintendent, the church may have gone after a man in the heart of God and one who would take the church to higher heights.
Indeed, the new General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God Nigeria, Rev Prof Paul Emeka from his antecedents in the church has been well groomed to deliver on the expectations of the church.
When last week he engaged a select group of journalists in the national headquarters of the Assemblies of God Nigeria in Enugu it was the vintage Prof Emeka talking about the church, what they do and where he hopes to take the church to during his tenure.
He also looked at some national issues, including the presidency, saying that all eyes would be on President Goodluck Jonathan if he returns after the April polls when he would be judged on his own single performance. Excerpts:
The Assemblies of God I met upon assumption as General Superintendent
The church was progressing well, but what caused the transition was that the man I succeeded, Reverend Dr Charles Osueke completed his tenure and was to go on a mandatory retirement. So, when he went on this mandatory retirement, he rounded off with the 34th General Council meeting; and an election was conducted and I happened to be the man elected to take his place. Well, I met it (the church) well. The church has been good because my predecessor tried the much he could to put the church on good footing and the church has been maintaining it till today. I have just come in to continue from where he stopped.
My vision as General Superintendent
My vision now that I have taken charge is to consolidate the spirituality of the church. And also to keep on with the existing projects that my predecessor started like the Evangel University, the camp at Okpoto and some other ones. But that is not to say that we will stop at that, there are still more things to be done for the church that we need to carry on. For example, when I read what we call the Second Nike Lake Declaration, and that happened to be my vision, we mentioned the fact that the church up till this time, which we started over 70 years ago, had not really been embarking on business ventures. It has been depending solely on the tithes and offerings of the church.
And we felt that it is good for us to embark on mega church projects, which would be like ventures and investments. We are also going to embark on the evangelization of the African countries that have not been properly evangelized. Already, we are there, but we want to expand it. That is one thing we want to do. But at the same time, I discovered that there was a time that we paid very big attention to foreign missions and we discovered that the attendance, the population of the church in the nation was dwindling. This time around, I will also let the people know like I am letting you know that we are going to embark on it to make sure that we properly evangelize Nigeria and increase the population of the church.
The church presently is over two million, but we want to take it to where it should be by embarking on full missions and strong evangelistic strategies. That is what we will do and we will continue with it. We will also look at the salary structure of our ministers. We intend to increase it. We also want to establish a centralized pool from where we will be paying our ministers. It is one of the things and foremost among this is the fact that we want to launch into satellite broadcasting of our gospel. And we are planning seriously, not just to go and patronize an existing one, but to start our own full scale and begin to broadcast. It will help us to reach out, to evangelize all Nigeria and across the country and the continent. These are some of the things we wish to do.
My vision as an individual is interwoven with the vision of the church because I stay here to serve the church. My own individual mission is to go ahead in my ministry of saving souls. But I have chosen Assemblies of God to be a channel through which I am going to express my ministry. I have set the vision and I believe that the vision will go well.
The challenges I am facing is adjustment and these challenges are normal. We are coping on with these challenges. The other challenge is to actually know where we will build. For example, our big camp at Okpoto where we use for our mega church programmes is now being shared with the Evangel University. The structures we put up there are mainly for the camps and our programmes, especially penile that attracts about 100,000 persons. When we started talking about Evangel University, the NUC recommended that we put on ground structures and we had to convert these structures that were formally used for penile, our church programmes, to the university, which requires us to begin afresh. We are also talking about finding another land in this urban area to begin to set up another camp.
Our Evangel University
The NUC has come here a number of times, supervising it and they gave us specifications and we have been building to the specification they gave to us. I think right now, we seem to have completed what they recommended for us. We are waiting for them to come and I believe that they are going to come before February ends. When they come, we are expecting nothing less than total approval for us to take off.
Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) position in Nigeria's security situation
The position of CAN is also the position of Assemblies of God. That position is that we condemn in its totality what is going on in the North. We think the government should upgrade security there. If you look at the pattern of killings there, Christians are killed. The Muslims take the offensive side. They begin it because by the injunction we are given in the Bible, we don't cause trouble. But we know that we can defend ourselves. These Muslims will cause horrific attacks. They will come from nowhere, kill people and before the Christians will re-organise to defend themselves, the soldiers have already come and stopped them. It has continued and now we have come to believe strongly that the military are taking sides with the Muslims to keep killing Christians. So, we object to this strongly and say that something should be done.
We also feel that the Boko Haram of a thing in far Maiduguri should also be stopped because the outside world is watching. Anybody that wants to be the president of Nigeria should take security matter and give it priority so that it will not look like a country of small boys who cannot stop themselves from fighting. Our men pay lip service to security situation, and they do nothing. Every day it keeps worsening. You hear bomb blast here, bomb blast there, killing and then terrorism. All of them are coming and we can't control any one of them. So, CAN is not happy; Assemblies of GOD is not also happy with what is happening.
Our members, churches and the crises
Even if not in this one, the ones in the past, our members and churches were affected, but from the proportion, the number killed presently, will not justify singling it out and publishing it. Rather, we talk as Christians. But as for being affected, they have always been affected in many ways. Sometimes, we send relief to help all Christians and send another one to help members of Assemblies of God who are affected.
The way out
All Christians must know how to pray and pray strongly for that situation because we do know that the devil use territorial spirits to cause havoc in the world. That is from the point of view of spirituality, but we also feel that the government has a lot to do by meaning business and coming there. Whatever government means to do, it can achieve. If government means there will be no riot any longer there, we only need a leader that will summon enough courage with strong administrative will to arrest the situation. We only feel that government has a lot to do to go there and quell that trouble. Panels have been set; committees have been set to study the indigeneship and religious crises in Jos, for example.
They have come out with their results and those things should be implemented. For example, in the North over there, people kill, those that kill are arrested and you discover that many of them are foreigners, helping the Muslims. Nothing is done to them and you discover that one night, those with financial muscle will bribe their way out, open prison doors and tell us they have escaped. We have seen all these happened. If government is serious, we will see all these things stop.
Election year and advice to politicians
The advice I give to politicians is to justify the efforts that we have put so far because immediately it was announced that voters registration has commenced, we went to our churches, CAN, as well as other clergy men in their churches, advising our people to come out and register. They are doing that. We have now become politically aware and you cannot blame us again. We are doing all those things. But we are appealing to politicians to justify the prayers we have been offering on their behalf. To also, justify the mobilization of our people, which we have embarked upon for a very long time now to mobilize the trooping out of the people of God to register.
So that when the time comes, we vote. Let them not misappropriate our votes. Let them not rig them. Let them give it to whoever we cast it and let the good people come. We are advising the politicians that anybody that wants to govern us, to rule us must be serious and make sure that we move Nigeria ahead and not just to pay lip service to things that matter. It is not just that they say it, their manifestoes and all these things are good, the radio jingles, but when it comes to action and performance, you find out that these people are not doing anything.
So, much that people are saying that what they are clamouring for, scampering for, struggling for, is simply to get to the houses over there and then begin to eat money and loot money like their predecessors had done. We say that they have to be very serious because there is a limit to what a man can endure. The Nigerian citizens have endured enough and we want them to begin to do something. They tell us that Nigeria is blessed with enormous resources. They are not utilizing it very well. That is our annoyance. We are asking the politicians to mean business. Let it not be business as usual.
Christians involving in partisan politics
Christians should be involved in partisan politics. And what is partisan politics? Being a card carrying member of PDP or ANPP; yes, Christians should be. Only clergy men are the people who should not be card carrying members. They should be neutral because we pastor churches and in that congregation, members of PDP are there, members of PDC are there, members of ANPP are there. And so, if you belong to one particular party in a partisan sense, you drive others away. But the Christians themselves have the right to belong to any political party of their choice, to vie for governorship, for president and you can't do that without becoming partisan.
General Muhammadu Buhari choosing Pastor Tunde Bakare as his running mate
You know, what we really go for is for a man to have strong conviction. Even before Bakare now, Chris Okotie has been coming out often and he believes that he has a vision for that. Generally, even if they become, let them not show their bias. I know that it is Herculean task to be in a church, preach the gospel without letting your people know your bias.
If they want to show the world their bias, it must be outside the pulpit, outside the congregation. And so, it will take a very great discipline on their part to remain non-partisanship in congregational matters, but when they come out, they declare. However, the members of the church will likely go where the pastors go. However, the pastors should not declare their bias when they come to church. I don't want to condemn Bakare or Chris Okotie because they feel they have conviction for that, but on principle, the best thing is for a man of God to be non-partisan.
Where I hope to take Assemblies of God to
I hope to take Assemblies of God to God.
Our financial muscle to pursue our programmes
Yes, my church has the financial muscle because we are dedicated and we are determined and we are committed. Our people, when we decide on a thing, we never look back until we get it accomplished. Take for instance, our university, we have come up to a level that we do not even know why NUC has not granted us approval because there are so many universities that have not achieved what we have achieved in terms of structures, in terms of other things they recommended, but they have been given approval. However, we are getting along well with NUC and any time from now, they are going to approve it. As for financial muscle, we have it.
Challenges of orthodox churches and the Pentecostals
Yes, Assemblies of God, if you call us orthodox, you may not be wrong, but going by the meaning of the term right now, I will say that we are not orthodox. Orthodox simply means standard. If you talk of standard of doctrine, yes, we do have, but as a movement, we don't belong.
By the classification of the church, we are Pentecostals. But the only thing is that when you come to the Pentecostals, we have three kinds of Pentecostals.
Number one, the classical Pentecostals, Assemblies of God, Four Square, Apostolic Faith; we belong to this in that we started early years and we hold the core doctrines of Pentecostalism. We also have the reformed Pentecostals. Those who were Aladura before, but later on changed and become Pentecostals, such as Redeem and those churches, but then we have the charismatic Pentecostals and that is what we call new generation churches. So, they are moving forward, we admire them. But what makes us classical is the very fact that we are very selective in our teachings.
We try to maintain standards.
We don't allow everything. I am not saying that others allow everything, but I am only telling you what we believe. So, we are very strict to make sure that holiness is maintained and the Bible doctrine is kept. And you know for example, even though we give you statistics like some others give, some others may give you statistics on the basis of headcount. We come to the church, you count the people that are in the church and then you say, this is our number, you shoot it up to 10 million. But in our own case, we classify the attendance. We have the adherents, we have the baptized, we have the full members, we have the visitors and we don't have those people as our members.
We go strictly for those who are baptized and those who have become full members and we tell the world, this is our members. The visitors are not counted. The adherents are not counted. So, that is the thing. If we count all these together, without being as selective as we are now, we tell you the membership of Assemblies of God will be going to 15 million. But we are happy going by the way we go. We are very conservative when it comes to statistics. We still believe that with the new method we are going to apply and adopt now, Assemblies of God before long will grow high and by the grace of God that is my greatest vision and I see that possibility and we are going to pursue it and we live to see it. Very soon, Assemblies of God will be counting five million, 10 million, and 15 million as the case will be.
Pentecostals getting members from prosperity preaching and miracles
Let me tell you one thing about Assemblies of God. Assemblies of God is republican in nature. It is not really patriarchal. In the sense that it is not owned by one man and, so, when I stay on my own and perform miracle, you may not have the financial muscle to go and advertise it in television like somebody in Lagos who happens to be a pastor.
We have about more than 12,000 pastors working. All of them pray for the sick and miracles happen. But no one man is projected as the miracle worker. When the miracle happens, we give glory to God and forge ahead. But there are churches where we have one man as the founder. There are many people in that church that perform miracles. But you don't advertise it. It is only the one performed by the founder that you see on television. But we don't believe that. Everybody has to do it. Miracles are not for show. And so, there was something you said also, that word should be removed.
We are not only Pentecostals; we are foremost Pentecostals in Nigeria. What is Pentecostals? Those who believe on the manifestation of Holy Spirit like it happened on the day of Pentecost. That was in 1930s that we showed the way and then others followed. And then, prosperity, we preach prosperity, but that means definition. It is not prosperity in the sense of telling somebody; bring all you have, no. We teach it from the Bible. You have to trust God and believe God and God will be blessing you. Prosperity does not come like a bank. It is supernaturally natural and naturally supernatural. And there are many factors and variables that must be taken into consideration, including hard work, holy living, diligence in your business and increasing in competence and excellence; all these things will bring prosperity to you. We do believe it.
Our youth programmes
Yes, from the onset, we have always taken affairs of youths very seriously and so that's why the general council of Assemblies of God Nigeria has a department solely devoted to affairs of the youth. From time to time, we have conferences for the youths. Every day, we devote a day for youths' week and then, we also conduct seminars on wealth creation and empowerment for the youths. So, these are the things we do. We also allow the youths to express what they know and at times they come up with a project and we give them the support to go on. So, Assemblies of God is very strong in supporting the youths, promoting them, empowering them and teaching them to create wealth for themselves.
Assessing President Goodluck Jonathan
Talk of Goodluck, I must also say that he has a pass mark, but he needs to do more. But why we are not very vehement in assessing him is that we are aware that he took over from Musa Yar'Adua and he is contesting election. He wouldn't be as strong as we expect him to be so that he will get votes. After the votes, all eyes will be on him to see what he will do. But so far, he has tried, especially in the area of power and fuel, he is trying because we can now run into a filling station and fuel our cars. The situation is no longer epileptic. Like sometime when you wake up in the morning and discover there is fuel scarcity. Now, such fear is not there. He is trying, but let him do more.
I was called into the ministry when I was very young. I gave my life to the Lord Jesus in 1973. In 1976, God called me and I went into the Bible school. I was doing petty business, but I had not been properly established but I went to Bible school and from there I continued till today. I have pastored up to seven churches, North and South before I was invited to teach in our divinity school.
I taught there for some time, I came back to Enugu to pastor again in Uwani. From there I was elected district secretary; from there I was elected District Superintendent, later on EC member, later on Assistant General Superintendent, and now General Superintendent. I have a good family. My family is a good one. I have a good wife. I have three children, two boys and one girl. They are doing well equally.