By Bimpe Ade
Ituah Ighodalo is the popular Pastor of Trinity House- a mega church in Victoria Island, Lagos. In this candid and revealing interview, Pastor Ighodalo reveals that there is no problem at all in his marriage. He also talks about God, Love, and Politics. He responds to his critics, and speaks on his journey from Redeemed to Trinity House
What are some of the challenges you faced before moving your church to its permanent site?
You know we’ve been growing a church and at the same time, we’ve been building a permanent site. So, the challenges have been more of the challenges of a new church, and growing a church. As for the permanent site and moving there, God showed us incredible favour, so I will not say that we had challengesbesides typical funding issues that most people have but somehow, at every step of the way, God provided the funding and when there was no funding there was favour, in that people will just say to you; just go on and do this, just go on and do that. So we got a lot of favour, a lot of help, and a lot of support and we are very thankful to God.
Who owns the church?
God owns Trinity House. God almighty owns Trinity House.
But you are the General Overseer?
I’m the senior pastor. No, it’s a church of God. I’m just privileged to lead the church, and to direct it as I’m directed by God, so it actually belongs to God.
Are there any future plans to set up branches of the church?
Definitely, even as I speak we have a centre at the University of Lagos called Trinity Centre. We have what we call Light Houses in about five locations all over Lagos. We partner with eateries, especially Sweet Sensation, and we use their facility to set up what is called a Light House which meets during the week.
As I speak, our mainland branch is being worked on, and it should start within the next 3-4 months. Also, our first branch in the United States, in California is starting in another two weeks. We are working on something in South Africa by God’s grace and mercy. There’s another mainland branch that should start before the end of the year. And bit by bit, we are looking at places like Abuja and Port Harcourt. So God is doing his work as we find openings.
You pastor arguably the fastest growing church in Nigeria, and you have just commissioned a 5,000 capacity worship centre. Did you imagine a church of this size only a few years after leaving Redeemed?
That’s a good question. I’ve always imagined a church of this size. The issue is the number of years. What God has done has given us incredible speed. Before we left Christ Church, we were a little over 4,500, so we are a little bit used to those numbers and somehow God gave us speed with this particular work so we are very grateful to him.
What draws people to you? You helped build Christ Church from the ground up, and you have done it again with Trinity House.
Well I don’t know (Laughs). I don’t know. I have a very simple formula; I try to just do what I think God has asked me to do. So I’m not always right because sometimes you are not so sure, but I try with a very open and honest heart to do what I think God asked me to do. So there’s nothing I do without sort of trying to consult God, and the once or twice that I’ve gone ahead of him without consulting him, I know what the repercussions have been. So I think that perhaps is what people see, and my openness towards God, and my willingness to serve him without any airs and graces. I just do my best for people you know, also I’m a people person. I love helping people, and I’m just really focused on what God wants me to do.
Could you please share those one or two times you went ahead of God without consulting him?
(Laughs) They are not major things. Many years ago, I was doing some missionary work in England. It was the middle of winter about early December. I borrowed my cousin’s car, and I was supposed to go somewhere quickly, and as I left the house that day ,something said to me turn left, and it didn’t make sense because the shorter route was to turn right. So I pushed that voice to the back and I turned right and not soon as I turned right, I ran into an accident. I hit some lady, and I remembered that I should have turned left. Needless to say I spent about 45 minutes in the winter appealing to this lady. She was okay and God took control, but that’s one clear incident I remember very well. There’s been a few others which I don’t remember very clearly but somehow or the other , when God wraps me on the finger I know.
How has been an accountant helped in the business of running a church?
Not a lot. Aside from the fact hat it’s given me good analytical mind, and good administrative skills which are also very important when you are running any kind of organization. And then also good consulting skills. I tell a lot of people that it’s the same skill that I use to do consulting for companies that I tend to use to do counseling for people. So that has helped, the consulting skills have been very good.
How do you respond to being referred to as a pastor for corporate Nigeria, and criticisms that you run a high end church?
Well maybe because I have a lot of friends in the corporate world, I encourage a lot of them to come to Jesus. I don’t know how I’ll react to that, but I think maybe I’m doing something right. And again because I still operate in the corporate sphere. I still go to NESG ( The Nigerian Economic Summit Group). So that’s fine we need to reach everybody.
Your wife is stunning. How many years have you been married now?
I got married 2007, so, it is barely six years.
How has married life been to you?
We thank God. It’s been very nice. Very wonderful. I have a very understanding wife. I believe she loves me very much. She’s simple. She’s easy to get along with, and we are very good friends. So, I’m quite happy to be honest.
What attracted you to your wife? How did you know she was the one?
Her simplicity. She’s an attractive person, but then when we got talking, I found her to be simple, down to earth, sincere and willing to accept me for what I was and not what she thought I was. And we got on very well and I had this desire even if I didn’t marry her to look after her; to protect her, to guide her, and to direct her. I had this desire just to take care of her. I just felt that somehow, God had brought her into my life to look after, so I told her that: look even if nothing happens, I will look after you. And I think I’ve kept faithful to that commitment because I do look after her.
You famously left Redeemed shortly after you got married. A lot of people wanted you to end your marriage and remain a Redeemed pastor. Why didn’t you just go with the general consensus and stay in Redeemed?
I didn’t think what they desired for me was right. I knew what I was doing when I got married. I received, or I thought I received the support of the church when I got married. And therefore, the solution to that situation was not ending the marriage. There were too many things involved, besides I love my wife, and I was getting on very well with her so why should I end a good thing. So, it’s not denomination, its about serving God, and I knew that I could still serve God in a lot of different capacities and I was determined to continue serving God. So, if you can’t serve God in Jerusalem, you can serve God in Damascus. If you can’t serve God in London, you can serve him in Lagos. So I just kept serving God, and I’m still serving God.
What do you think about a pastor remarrying after your experience?
There are different situations and circumstances clearly the bible says, and I believe that God hates divorce mainly to protect the women, so that men will not just be careless about this business of marriage. So God hates it. Again marriage is a symbol of Christ and the Church, but then there are different circumstances. The bible also says if an unbelieving wife or husband leaves their spouse then the other spouse is free. And more than divorce and separation, God also hates adultery and fornication, and therefore if you are not able to hold yourself, God will rather you marry than continue in adultery and fornication, and just really putting the name of God to shame. So we need to look at every circumstance in context. So, if a person came to me now and said they wanted to leave their wife or husband, I will really work hard to preserve that marriage. Also, there are some circumstances where there is irretrievable breakdown of the marriage for whatever reason, and if that happens, you have to move to the next stage. Sometimes, God comes with mercy and forgiveness because he understands circumstances. The key is to follow God and obey him, and do what you think he has asked you to do.
You and Pastor Adeboye are related right? It must have been difficult for him to see you go through all that criticism, and ultimately leave Redeemed.
You are right. We are related yes. He and my mother come from the same ancestral stock. I cannot say for certain that there is a blood relationship as it were. But my mother and him come from the same ancestral stock. For instance, he taught and lived in my grandmother’s house when he finished university so there’s some blood line there somewhere. That’s the relationship. Well when you see him, you have to ask him about that.
Recently there were rumours about trouble in your marriage on the internet. What do you have to say to clear these rumours, and give some clarity?
Yes there were rumours but there is no problem at all in my marriage. It’s just unfortunate that some people decided to go out of their way to create something that was not, but my wife and I are happy. If you go to my house now, you’ll see her there.
A lot of women wanted to marry you when you were single in Christ Church. There are rumours of women basically harassing you, so have they relented now that you are happily married?
The harassment didn’t stop ironically. It’s just reduced considerably in that while a lot of people were bold and verbal when I was single ,they are bit more subtle and stylish now, but you can still see and feel. Well, God helped me lets put it that way. Some women are very bold these days. Honestly.
Sorry about the passing of your father; you were incredibly close to him. What has been the impact of his death on you?
A great emptiness. You are right my father and I were very good friends. Simple man. Nice man. Frank and truthful, and a loving man. So a great part of our lives has gone. My mother and I were also very close. We are a strong family. Small family very closely knit. So it’s been painful but we’ve adjusted quite well, and life has to go on.
What is the greatest lesson you learnt from him?
Simplicity and honesty. He was a simple and straightforward gentleman. I learnt that about him, and I admire that about him. I try my best to emulate that about him.
Lets talk about your path to Christ. You revealed in the past that you were suicidal, how did you find peace, and is this what led you to Christ?
To be honest, I had been born again before that incident but before I became born again, I was doing some business-accounting, and I got into this financial problem wherein I lost a lot of money; my personal money and monies I held in trust for people. But that wasn’t what quite got me born again. I didn’t even realize there was going to be such a problem.
Shortly after I got born again, there was the finance house crisis, and all of a sudden people started chasing me up and down wanting to collect money. I had no money to give them, so one day, while driving down third mainland bridge, it just occurred to me that why don’t I just get out of this thing and have people stop embarrassing me. So I asked my driver to park, and the silly guy too parked. Just before I took that step, one voice said to me YOU FOOL! If you jump, they’ll just eat akara. So I changed my mind, and that thankfully was the voice of God. Thankfully, I was born again and God’s voice prevailed. And from that day, people stopped harassing me, they still asked but there was no harassment. And bit by bit, I paid every Kobo back. One or two people forgave, and some of them, I became their pastor (Laughs).
Did Jesus Christ really exist? How can you prove this without using Bible sources as proof?
Most people agree that Jesus Christ was here. Muslims have it in the Qur’an. Buddhists know there was a man called Jesus Christ. The contention is- was he the son of God or not, and he died and resurrected or not. It’s a difficult thing to physically prove that he died and resurrected, but it’s not too difficult to prove that he was the son of God in that his lifestyle, his teaching, his attitude to things showed that he lived at perfection, and only the son of God can live at that level of perfection that we all aspire to. And the only proof that he died and resurrected is that there is response to prayer in his name. That’s the way I prove.
A lot of people refer to CAN as a political party. I assume you are a member. What do you think about politics and the Church?
Christian Association of Nigeria? Well I don’t know that there’s registration, but by the fact that I’m a christian, I assume I’m a member. Once there are human beings, there’s politics. And what is politics-an aspiration to governance and leadership, and everybody has a right to aspire to governance and leadership.
What makes it sound political is strategy; both proper and improper that people tend to engage to get to power. I think that every christian must be involved in politics, or to determine those who get into leadership and governance. Everybody has a right to determine who their leader is. We all must be politically aware. And where we feel a call, or an inclination or sense of responsibility or incompetence, we must volunteer ourselves to run because we want good people to be in the right places of leadership.
What are your thoughts on Boko Haram, and the level of insecurity in the country?
I think Boko Haram is a deliberate creation of some people. It is probably backfiring now, because it is getting a little bit out of control. A creation deliberately done to make Nigeria difficult to govern for anybody who is not Northern. That is simply what I think.
There’s this desire for leadership by a segment of our country which again is not an unwholesome desire. It’s just the method that’s unacceptable. Terrorism, killing of innocent people, making the place ungovernable and insecurity will hurt everybody, and it is hurting everybody. Again the government has to be a bit more forceful, more decisive, a bit more aggressive in solving this problem. Yes, there can be negotiation, but you negotiate from a place of strength. I do think that the people responsible, and perpetuating Boko Haram know. I don’t think it’s a secret. So I think they should go after them.
You think amnesty was
the right move by the
No, I think it was a set-up. I don’t know why they set-up the president to make that move. You don’t negotiate with people who first of all have not made themselves known in a public way. Secondly, they have not made any demands for anything. So what is the basis for negotiation. Where is the basis for amnesty when they haven’t demanded for anything . The first thing is to find them, second is to round them up, third is to ask them who’s behind this and why are they doing this, then fourth is to decide what to do with them. Either to punish them or give them amnesty. So you must follow the process. You can’t go from A-D.
If you were to sum up one message from all your teachings, what would it be?
If you believe , all things are possible to them that believe. Also, my greatest teaching is to fulfill the will of God.
What motivates you?
I have a deep desire to achieve, to succeed, to help, to change, so there’s nowhere I go that I don’t desire to improve, or change the place to make things better. What gets me up in the morning are the things I have set out to achieve that day for my church, for myself, for my business, and for the numerous people I take responsibility for, and what makes me very happy is when somebody’s life is changed and things get a lot better for that person.
What do you do with your time outside the Church?
I run an accounting firm, I chair 14 NGOs (Non-governmental organizations), I enjoy that a lot. I’m on the board of 10 companies, and chair four of them. I am extremely busy, and I watch soccer from time to time. Till tomorrow, I’m after Liverpool and Brazil, they play the best football in the world as far as I’m concerned.
What do you want your legacy to be?
A man that came, that tried and hopefully succeeded to make a difference.