By Luke Okoro
The journey was smooth, despite the rough edges and failed portions of the Lagos -Ibadan,- Ife expressway.
The destination was the serene and exquisite Mount Carmel Prayer Village, Ifewara, Osun State developed by Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God for spiritual retreats and conferences. The mission was the four,-day’ In- Service Training of the Igbogbo District of the Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria. The host was the District Overseer, Rev Peter Kolawole Oyetayo, a doctor of Veterinary Medicine. And the date was August 9-12, 2021. The participants were Pastors in the District which included Rev Dr Gilbert Aigbogun, a Zonal Superintendent and chairman of the Organizing Committee, Pastor Joseph Onyekwere Oji, a Zonal Coordinator, Pastor Kunle Adio, District Secretary and Senior Staff of the Lagos Civil Service, Pastor Lookman Ganiyu, legal Practitioner, Pastor Martins Momoh, a Medical Doctor with Lagos University Teaching Hospital and Pastor Luke Okoro, a Media Practitioner among others. The keynote speakers were Dr Cletus Orgu, Provost, LIFE Seminary Ikorodu, Rev Yomi Oyinloye, National Secretary, Foursquare, and Dr Bukola Oluwagbemiga, a Senior Lecturer at LIFE. These trio delivered two papers each.
On the sidelines were presentations by Pastor Joseph Oladapo, a retired Deputy Director in Lagos State and Secretary of the Organizing Committee, who spoke on Evangelism as a Spiritual Pandemic with the capacity to fire up a Church to exponential growth when members are committed, focused and intentional about it, ; Pastor Abiodun Ogunsegha, a Lawyer, who exhorted the participants on the need to make a WILL before death; Pastor Mrs Comfort Adeola Ojo, a health educator, who spoke on Ministers and their health with an advice that ministers should appreciate that only a healthy body can carry the burden of ministry. The District Overseer spoke on Ethics and reminded Pastors the importance of doing ministry according to Biblical principles notwithstanding the changing moral narratives of the 21st century.
Delivering his first paper on : The Mechanics of Sermon Preparation,
Dr Oluwagbemiga likened the Pastor to a tailor who takes a clothing material and turns it into a beautiful designer dress. Given that everything that exists in life has a structure, pastors must structure their messages with the understanding of using WORDS to create the desired impact on their Congregations. According to him, Pastors must take their Congregations from the ‘low,’ to the ‘high’ in their sermon preparation and delivery.
He explained that the Sermon preacher must first : interpret the chosen Text, do a devotion on it to himself before proceeding to read the Text : Intentionally, Intelligently and Interactively. Thereafter, make an Outline which must have the qualities of a, Unity, b, Balance and c, Intelligence.
The language of communication must be clear and intelligible to the congregation while the illustrations must be certain, home- grown with plain applications to the realities of the audience.
Speaking on : Mobilizing Financial Resources for Church Growth, Dr Oluwagbemiga noted that anybody can financially and materially support the church to grow. He debunked arguments that the church should talk less about money because money is the WINGS with which the gospel can fly. He weighed-in in support of moving the gospel on the wings ofJet because it’s faster , safer, more timely and less stressful.
He explained that any effort at raising funds for church growth must be based on , Clear Vision properly explained to the church members to convince them to own the project and a mission with strong prayer support , exemplary leadership commitment, integrity and group unity.
He enjoined Church leaders to hinge their quest for financial resources mobilization on four cardinal pillars namely:1, Seeking God because God is at work for everybody and anytime. 2, Grace , Leading people to receive grace from God to both receive and give from God. 3, Trust : Leading the people to trust God including in their giving to God 4 , Leading people to glorify God using their Resources which He gave them power to make, (Deuteronomy 8:18).
The versatile teacher deepened the teaching by taking his hearers to fund raising patterns adopted by people like David in 1 Chronicles 29, Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles 31 and Nehemiah in Nehemiah 2 and 2, as well as Jesus in Luke 8:1-3 and Paul in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, with a challenge that Church leaders could apply them as prayerfully led by the Holy Ghost.
“In our attempts to mobilize funds for kingdom work, we are encouraged to follow in the footsteps of great people of faith. We must be part of a process saturated with God’s hand”, he concluded.
Dr Orgu in his first paper on: Temperaments and Church Growth , deposed that no temperament is averse to the growth of individual BELIEVER. While identifying the temperaments as : Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholy and Phlegmatic with their varied characteristics. Every individual has combination of at least two ( 2) of the distinct temperaments features mentioned with one them dominant . Orgu argued that no believer should be hampered in their spiritual growth based on their temperaments. According to him, the tools of spiritual growth which include the Word of God, Prayers in the name of Jesus, Fellowship with God and His Church and Service to God and Humanity are all available to Believers no matter their individual temperaments.
“The individual Christian can grow spiritually, their temperament type notwithstanding. One’s temperament does influence some habits or factors that do make or mar spiritual growth. However, spirituality is a CHOICE. The key to spirituality is spiritual exercises, not one’s temperament’, he avered.
Also speaking on : Strategic Thinking in Church Leadership, the number ONE man at LIFE challenged Church Leaders to be intentional about how their Churches would be in a deliberately planned manner and within a reasonable time frame. Leadership must envision the process that would birth the vision and mission and the Drive for implementation with respect for core values. He stated that Strategic Thinkers must hunger, thirst and be restless on the need to change the status quo. They must not always accept the norn , especially when the norn isn’t producing needed results. They must break limitations, persevere in their actions and deliberately form a habit of creativity that would involve breaking the rules. According to him, ” Strategic thinking is a valuable skill in Church Leadership. It enables church Leaders to generate ideas, make quality decisions and put them into action’.
On his part, Rev Oyinloye, who spoke on : Managing Ethnic Diversities in the Church observed the reality of such sentiments in any growing church or people’s group. He denoted such sentiments to includeTribal, Class, Spiritual (or Religious) and Gender.
He counselled that” Every church must ensure that diversities should not be an hindrance to its growth.’
While affirming the wonders of diversities in the church to generate force of unity, fire of love and flame of power that combine to transform members, he added the need to ensure that conflicts arising from these sentiments are speedily addressed by leaders who are Impartial, full of the Holy Ghost and blind to prejudice as done in Acts 6, by the Apostles. He challenged leaders to be transparent and more open and inclusive in their operations in the church . Going forward, he submitted that teaching members to be more committed to Christ is the surer way to exorcise such acrimonious spirit from people. He stressed the importance of promoting programmes of mutual understanding and respect for others — who though may be different from us by culture, education, class or language – in our churches. He urged church leaders to teach their members the difference between culture – people’s way of life, and tradition- which tends to idolatry. He aligned with Apostle Paul that those who promote ethnic jingoism and unruly behavior should be identified and cautioned or disciplined if they persist. He also enthused that leaders should emulate Paul who optimized the advantages of ethnic diversities to build a missionary career that produced the likes of Silas, Timothy and Trophimus an Ephesian as recorded in Acts 21:29. These men were won to Christ by Paul. And were discipled to deepen evangelism among their own people.
His second paper which dealt on : Foursquare Polity, the National Secretary stressed the uniqueness of the Foursquare Organisation, its Constitution, tenets of faith, core values and various ceremonies of the church as well as the Dos and Don’ts of the church and it’s ministers.
He told the ministers that these rules of engagement are not subject to debate by any individual as they were not put in place by an individual. And whereas aspects of the Constitution could be amended by the church as required by law during its Convention, the 22 Tenets of Faith as established by its founder, Aimee Semple McPherson in 1923 are sacrosanct.( The Nigerian Church came into being in 1955).
He took the participants to the various sections of the Church’s Constitution to Part XII dealing with Miscellaneous Matters. Some of the issues discussed in the section included: Abstinence from intoxicants, Moderation and Non involvement in Pagan rites as well as divine healing in the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, and Christian marriage being between a man and a woman who are both Christians. According to him, “Any minister who solemnises a remarriage of divorced people would have their credentials revoked”.
The highpoint of the program was the setting up and inauguration of a Seven- member Strategic Think Tank Team ( S.T.T.T) . for the District; and a visit to the National Museum and the Groove in the ancient city of Ile -Ife under heavy downpour. The next day being Thursday August 12, the city saw our back to Igbogbo in the Old Ikorodu Division of Lagos, Nigeria.