Bishop David Oyedepo is a man of enviable reputation.
Rated as the wealthiest preacher in Nigeria by Forbes Magazine, the Living Faith Church Worldwide (Winners Chapel) which he founded boasting no fewer than 6000 branches and its 50,000-capacity Church Sanctuary in Canaanland, Ota, Ogun State listed as the largest church auditorium by Guinness Book of Records, he is indeed an institution.
To say of the estimated 160 million Nigerians, Bishop Oyedepo is one of the most celebrated, is a statement of fact.
A native of Omu-Aran, Kwara State, Bishop Oyedepo was born in Osogbo, Osun State on September 27, 1954. He was raised by his grandmother in Osogbo. She inculcated in him, the virtues of Christian life via early morning prayers, which she attended with him.
He became born again in 1969.
He reportedly received a mandate from God through an 18-hour vision in May 1981, to liberate the world from all oppression of the devil through the preaching of the word of faith.
That vision led to the founding of the Living Faith Church Worldwide (LFCWW), first called Liberation Faith Hour Ministries in 1981.
On September 17, 1983, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, ordained him and his wife, Faith to become pastors and officially commissioned the new church.
Five years later, Oyedepo was ordained as Bishop.
He is the President of David Oyedepo Ministries International (DOMI).
DOMI is the umbrella organisation comprising Living Faith Church Worldwide (a global network of churches), World Mission Agency (WMA); the global missionary arm of the church’s operations, Dominion Publishing House; the publishing arm of the church, Covenant and Landmark universities, and the Social Development Missions projects- hospitals, maternity homes, schools, etc.
No doubt, he is obviously a very busy man, juggling and coordinating so many things at the same time; moving across continents within hours. Therefore, getting him for media interviews is akin to the proverbial camel passing through the eye of the needle. So, when last week he agreed to speak, as part of activities to mark his 60th anniversary, the expectation was high.
He walked into the Africa Leadership Development Centre auditorium inside the Covenant University at 12:02, for the 12 noon appointment, accompanied by his wife of 32 years, and the Vice Chancellor, Professor Charles Korede Ayo into the waiting arms of several journalists.
If the reporters were expecting a no-holds-barred session, they were wrong. The bishop made it crystal clear that he would only entertain questions relating to his birthday, his missionary work, family and the schools.
But no politics, he delivered with a note of finality.
For about 90 minutes, he not only spoke about those things, he also relaxed his golden rule as he talked on politics and the state of Nigeria.
Here is extract from the session:
On attaining 60
I’m simply grateful to God. I’ve always seen life as a gift from God. Life is a privilege , not a right. No one brought himself or herself to life and no one can sustain his or her life on their own. I’m just grateful to God for all His goodness and mercy to date.
My grandmother, my role model
Growing under my grandmother was an experience I will be eternally grateful to God for. She made a man out of me as a child . She was a devout (person) to the core. She belonged to the Anglican Communion. I learnt plenty of things from her. She is my role model. I speak about her with passion. She exposed me to highly profitable lessons such as character, hard work, focus and financial integrity. Under my grandmother, you are not permitted to do what you like but what is right. Such upbringing gave me respect among my peers and audience with my superiors.
On personalities and books that impacted his life in the ministry
Firstly, the Holy Spirit who delivered the mandate to me on May 2, 1981. Secondly, most of the personalities involved, I encountered by proxy and mostly through books.
For instance, my spiritual life was boosted largely through faith teachings of Kenneth E. Hagin and E. W. Kenyon. T. L. Osborn taught me how to hear from God without which, perhaps, I will not have been in ministry today. Kenneth Copeland taught me how to access divine supplies both for my life and the work of the ministry.
I got so much from all Kenneth Hagin’s books; all Kenneth Copeland’s books; most of T. L. Osborn’s books; most of Yongi Cho’s books; most of E. W Kenyon’s books; most of Oswald J. Smith’s books; most of Smith Wigglesworth’s books; most of Normal Vincent Peale’s books; some of Oral Robert’s books; some of A. W. Tozer’s books; and quite a number of leadership books.
I had a missionary teacher while still in secondary school called Betty Lasher.
She communicated the love of God with such passion and led me to Christ on February 19, 1969, when I was only 15 years old. My calling to ministry, via a divine vision, was such a dramatic one; it was so crystal – clear that I knew without a shadow of doubt that God had called me to the ministry.
The vision lasted 18 hours, between May 1-2, 1981 and I arose from it fully persuaded of God’s call upon my life into ministry. There was nothing to consider; there was nothing to prove; the mandate was very clear.
Secrets of outstanding performance in the ministry: Grace, faith, discipline, diligence and sacrifice.
Faith and prosperity
Firstly, many Christians are suffering from spiritual ignorance and this is the bane of their fulfilment in life (Hosea 4:6).
Secondly, many Christians disregard the place of Covenant practice i.e. the immutable law of giving and receiving (Luke 6:38; II Corinthians 9:6-8; Philippians 4:15-19).
As I have often said, there is no mountain anywhere; everyone’s ignorance is his mountain. What we don’t believe, we are not empowered to become (John 1:12). Until we see what belongs to us , God is not committed to deliver (Gen 13:14- 15).
God as our Father does not wish His children to be poor.
He doesn’t even want some to be rich and others poor. God wants all His children to do well. Gold, wealth and righteousness go together. Christians should aspire to be rich in addition to being righteous.
The story of Canaanland
God spoke to me as far back asA pril 10, 1982, saying: “At the base of this church, a ten t is going to be built to contain 50,000 people.” Canaanland is God’s city and it was built by Him.
My team officially visited the proposed site on January 9, 1997 and as we prayed, God spoke: “This is the place!” Before we knew it , we had acquired 530 acres of land, fully fenced and by May 8, 1998, we had secured all the titles to the land, and held a groundbreaking service on August 29 of the same year for the commencement of construction activities.
Less than a month later (September 18), we held a victory service on the site now christened Canaanland and God spoke prophetically that the tabernacle would be dedicated exactly 12 months from that day on September 18, 1999!
The odds against putting up such a gigantic structure within a year were around a million to one. It seemed like an impossible directive, but when God speaks regarding any matter, it is as good as done (Isaiah 14:24).
As God would have it, Faith Tabernacle, a 50,000-seat auditorium, an architectural masterpiece to His glory, was dedicated exactly on September 18, 1999 exactly as God had said.
Again, we held the groundbreaking service of Covenant University on January 27, 2002 and construction activities commenced in two months later in March. I remember holding the licence to operate the university in my hand and telling God, “I don’t need a university. I’m no longer going to school. If it isn’t your university, tell me and I’ll tear the certificate now.” And God distinctly said to me: “It is mine”. If any further proof was needed that it was indeed God’s project, it came in the form of the official opening of the university-complete with state-of-the-art amenities and Paul said, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. (Philippians 3:13)
I have escaped death too many times; I can’t now come here and be talking about it. But now that we have escaped, thank God for it. Quite a few challenges that we came out of ; making you actually not to see those challenges again. I have here the head of our corporate affairs, they told me they were doing a book on the church, what were the challenges. I told them, “Give me time. I can’t remember them.” And I couldn’t call them back till about three, four weeks. I had to now start trying to remember what were the challenges, where were we then? What happened? That’s how being forgetful of negative things add to us.
For instance, you’ll notice that at a time, there was a media assault on our ministry; almost everything we did was said to be wrong. Now, not one word from me. Not one mention in a council meeting. Not one mention in pastors’ meeting. Now, when I now met the man behind that on the plane; my wife had seen him before I came in, and she was wondering, what would I do with this man today? When I got in, without premonition, the man stood up and came to me. I held him to myself and patted him on the back-”Long time… How’re you? Long time.” I couldn’t feel those seven years of assault, because I need to go somewhere. And if somebody is insulting you and you need to go and write exams tomorrow, won’t you go and face your book? If you don’t, you would fail. You can’t say because somebody insulted you, that was why you failed. If somebody stepped on your toes while you’re going to work, will you now go back home? So, that’s to tell you how much those things don’t have a hold on me. Otherwise, somebody kept assaulting you and you saw him for the first time after about seven years and you embraced and held him to yourself and you were discussing in the plane for almost one and a half hours, positive things. If we were replying in those days, we wouldn’t be here. We would be busy replying. Perhaps, Covenant University would not be here.
My understanding of opposition, persecution is simply someone’s opinion harshly expressed. Everybody has a right to his opinion…I naturally don’t feel it’s necessary to respond to every criticism or attack. I can use the energy I would need to react to make moves. I have enough to think about than start reacting to every attack.
So, we don’t know what we’re losing when we overreact and we keep bitterness in us. We keep counting testimonies, we keep counting victories and we keep counting God’s grace.
There are challenges, no doubt about it. Life is an adventure in challenges and I have said often that it is normal to be challenged, but unscriptural to be defeated.
High school fees
I am sure that we all agree that education is costly.
Education carries cost.
Nothing of value is free.
Our mission, for years, long before we started funding universities or secondary schools, was a bursary-awarding church; and we have not stopped doing that. Last year, the church gave out N174 million on bursary. Landmark University got over N893 million on scholarships. So, the mission has been tirelessly involved in promoting quality education. Interestingly, some of our faculties here enjoyed scholarships while they were in the university without our idea of starting a university. So, we’re concerned about the welbeing of members’ children; we’re concerned about the wellbeing of the nation.
As I always say, our problem is priority. An average Nigeria can spend N1 million on burial, but to spend N200,000 on education, the wife would have to be begging him, “Please, please, please”, because of wrong priority.
So, I think it’s not much about not having money…Please, let me say this, the unfactored fees in public schools when put together, you’d be surprised are more than what the private universities charge. And then consider the number of years you have to spend, which is not regulated. It depends on the climate with the authorities. So, you put all of that together, you find out that you’re not paying anything extraordinary. You’re talking about private universities; talk about private secondary schools in Lagos. There are at least four private schools in Lagos that receive fees more than Covenant University. Why is there no complaint about it?
Now, ask me, how much do Nigerians pay to go to Ghana?
How much do they pay to go to England? How much do they pay to go to America? And you’re paying something here under a proper packaging within a culture that creates a future, why the complaint? So, I think that our own missions, like many other churches, are contributing to the education of members in different ways. And then, starting those schools is all about getting a better platform to train the future leaders.
And may I say this: we’ve never drawn a dime from Covenant University since inception. Proprietors have not benefited N1 from this university since inception because of the enormity of the demand in running the university, and keeping it running. Again, we’ve just endowed a building, Centre for Research.
It is N1billion. Now, if you’re investing in a business and you’ve not drawn anything from it for 12 years, that means you’re not there to draw something. And I can tell you that most of those universities that are run by missions are run through the thick and thin of the organisation. And the fees that students pay can’t build a building, because you’re going to pay all the faculties, you’re going to pay all the staff members, you’re going to pay for power. I don’t have to tell you how much we pay for power in a month to run. If we rented those rooms to those students, most parents would run away, if they were to pay for the power they consume.
But all our staff pay for the power they consume, because we have a system that you get your card to get your energy.
So those are the things. I think we should just stand with these proprietors.
On a yearly basis, we have N1.5 trillion that Nigerians spend on overseas universities. So, people thrive on it. Nigerians spend N463 billion a month on recharge cards. How much are they paying for school fees?
So, it’s all a matter of priority. Nigeria is the largest market for telephones in the world. Some have no jobs, but they have three handsets.
So, it’s all about priority. But to pay N500,000; some have only one son, they have huge business, houses all over the places, they can’t pay it. They would rather go to schools where they would not end in five or 10 years, and be paying all kinds o f nonsense fees to get through.
I think that Nigeria is about experiencing a change. And if you look at most developed countries, it is the private universities that really thrive in research endeavours. And we won’t let them kill it in Nigeria.
We would do our best to keep it running.
Why our university is unique
We have a motto that targets the character of the graduate or the student as much as the learning. We’re going back to the old tradition of university education: You’ve been found worthy in character and in learning. That has become mere theory today.
Today, most graduates are not worth one penny in character; and we’ve discovered that when character is in place, the intellect is more robust, more fruitful. And that accounts for the number of first class we’ve had over the years.
On too many First Class
The taste of the pudding is in the eating. When you see them, you know whether they are first class materials or not. But the good news is that it is proved by all standards. Ten out of the 101 first class graduates awarded scholarship by the FG to Ivy League universities are from Covenant University. So, it’s clear that our first class is not dash-out. It’ smerited.
Christians in politics
The church or the believer is said to be the light of the world.
Those who claim that we are in the world, we’re not of the world are not sincere.
You’re not of the world, but you’re working. You’re not of the world, but you have a business; and this business is relating with people in the world. You have a career, you’re an academic, you’re teaching the world, earning your pay, granting grants and all that stuff. So, I believe that the church is supposed to impact on the world positively, including in politics. Joseph, a man that feared God, was in politics.
Daniel, an embodiment of signs and wonders, was in politics.
So, I strongly believe that the church has the scriptural right to be involved in how the affairs of their nation, local governments and their communities are being run. We have to be practically involved. We’re not the salt of the church, but the salt of the earth. We’re not the light of the church, we’re the light of the world. So, believers have scriptural right to be involved in politics and any other endeavour that has positive influence on human life.
On the state of Nigeria There are so many negative things that happen in the United States and they do not make headlines in the media. We should start being positive like the Americans. Let us rise up to the positive and conquer the challenges.