CALVARY Bible Church, Lagos, the church arm of the Truth of Calvary Ministries, founded on December 31, 1995, is 20 and in this interview with Sam Eyoboka, the General Overseer, Pastor Olumide Emmanuel, spoke on issues relating to ministry and a lot more. Excerpts:-
Did you envisage the church was going to come this far when you took off?
We expected we’d grow and expand but we couldn’t have known where we’d be at every point or turn. In some aspects, what we are seeing are really mind-blowing but in some, we know we could have done better. But through it all, God has been gracious to us. For instance, when we started in a rented apartment, it took us three months to raise the fee.
From the caliber of people we had, it was like; will anything good come from us. The first set of lands we bought was for N70,000 per plot. We got four plots at N280,000. It took us over one year to raise the money. To look at where we are now is a miracle. However on the number of people we have, we believe we have what it takes to attract more people.
We are a kingdom church. On an annual basis, we reach out to 10,000 people based on verifiable statistics. We go to bus stations, prisons, hotels and football pitches. The 10,000 are not here because we are a kingdom church. It is not about our seating capacity but impact-capacity. The kingdom is not about that but we also want those seating to be more.
Many people have difficulties defining you. They wonder if you are a general overseer, businessman, common sense coach or itinerant preacher…
When you start, you are an individual. Then you get married and become a husband. When you have children, you are a father. You are the same person but your title changes by virtue of your responsibilities and roles. So, that is the challenge with defining me. I always tell people I am an apostle in the marketplace. God has raised me to raise kingdom believers and ministries. For those in the church, there is no confusion at all about that. The difference about church and kingdom is that church says ‘just come and be part of us’ while kingdom is about going forth. So, we are not interested in drawing people that will just seat and not make a difference in their world. I will just say I am an apostle in the marketplace. I am more than a church man.
When you started the real estate business, many wondered if you were leaving ministry for business. Can you explain the rationale behind it?
Well, they will understand more with time. When you pioneer something, you face that challenge. The challenge with the church in Nigeria is that we have more understanding of the church than the kingdom. When somebody receives a call now, the first thing they do is to start a church. But God could be calling them to start ministries. There are many evangelists pastoring. Many who should be in different ministries are sitting down in churches. The Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin and Benny Hinn of the world did not have a church. They imparted the world running ministries. It is not about how many people you could seat.
So, when we went into the estate business, it was because many Christians say the earth is of the Lord but do not have a plot of land. If the earth is of the Lord, why can’t He give Christians lands? We came to a place where we realised that faith is about lands. I came into an investment understanding at a time, took the church on that journey and we began to grow. Whoever owns the land determines the faith of the land. If you were born in Pakistan today, you are going to be a Muslim. Why? It is because whoever owns the lands owns the faith.
That was how God told me to connect people to own territories. That was what inspired the real estate issue. It was to inspire believers to own territories so that they can have influence for God. We have made home owners and estates for believers. But in the last two years, I have left the business and church for younger ministers to run.
If you were to start all over today, what would you do differently?
When we started out, there were a lot of things that we believed that affected the way we did ministry. So, I would change my methodologies. It took me years to realise that the message is the same but the methodologies different. We were too rigid when we started. There was a time I didn’t believe that women should preach. Sometimes when I came to the pulpit, I was busy emphasizing on wearing weavons and trousers. Even though we were trying to make people holy, we were scaring people away. I remember we refused to borrow money in the name of church that will change now.
Some people were willing to give us musical equipment on installment but we refused because we said we didn’t want to owe. If we had accepted, it would have boosted our music and drawn more people. So, I will just change my methodologies and mindsets.
In those days, I would have joined those criticising inviting comedians to church. I will be at the forefront, but I understand better now. We have never compromised on integrity and standing for God but we are evolving in our methods. We have had to learn from making mistakes.
Have you outgrown Wisdom for Singles conferences?
No I have not. In fact, I am doing Wisdom for Teenagers. It is not that one is not doing these things again but one is busy that the scale is changing. We are using different strategies now. At this stage, I have raised people that should do what we used to do so that we can do what they cannot do. In those days, I was everywhere with publicity. My face was always in the media. But now, one is busy. So, the time is not there. I have handed over the church and business to people. I don’t have to be here for the church to run.
What made you hand over a church while you are still alive?
It is because I don’t run a church but a kingdom. People have asked me what I will now be doing after handing over the church. They have told me to make the Senior Pastor Deputy something but I am not bothered. It is not my church. It belongs to God. It is not a family business. If I need money, I just ask if we can afford it or not. I don’t even know how much we have in the account.
And that does not bother you?
Why should it? If I want to know all that, it becomes micro-managing. You just die before your time doing that. The reason people do that is because they don’t run church like kingdom. It is only the pastor and his wife that are signatories. They carry the offering and go with it. So, they cannot leave it for others. It is like what is happening now in Nigeria. If the PDP had won, we won’t hear what we are hearing now. They would have just covered up. But another party took over and we are seeing all the mess created. So, it is like in many churches too. They don’t want to hand over to someone that will expose them.
That means a succession crisis will not be a challenge here?
Of course, there won’t be. For over a decade now, everyday knew who will take over from me. We have another resident pastor also in the waiting. God forbids, if anything happens now, there is no wife that will fight church or a mother that will say we started the church together. In 20 years, we have not had a breakaway because we allow people to display their talents. There can be visions within visions. When people leave, we celebrate them. We also support them if we can.
You must have a large heart, don’t you?
No, I don’t. It is just the way it should be. I am not a superhuman or special. It is the other people that are in error. Jesus raised 12 people and said they will be greater than him. We all want our children to be greater than us. We understand biology but not spiritology.