RCCG And LFC: One Of The Greatest Testimonies Of Inter-Church Harmony

RCCG And LFC: One Of The Greatest Testimonies Of Inter-Church Harmony
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Focus on Church Growth in Nigeria:

By Leke Beecroft

"And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devil's in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: FOR HE THAT IS NOT AGAINST US IS FOR US".

As the Church continues into the latter of the last days, it seems that strife, rivalry and competition are more pronounced than ever. From the days of Christ aptly described by the above scripture to the schism between Apostles Paul and Barnabas over John Mark in Acts chapters 12 and 15, the Church began to experience strife in various dimensions as it grew globally.

The Catholic Church came as a result of fusion of religion and political power and catholicism soon ruled the world. From thence came forth the Church of England (Anglican) and Lutheran Churches. Soon the Methodist Church resulted as a reaction to the Anglican doctrines. The Baptists also emerged due to dissatisfaction with the Church of England. These events and many others leading to the growth of orthodox christianity globally over about 1,900 years can be considered as the First Wave of Church Growth and spread.

In the early 20th century, the Azusa Revival by Seymour and Charles Parnham's (who also left the Methodist Church) pentecostal revival happened at about the same time leading to the evolution of pentecostalism. The Second wave led to the birth of the Apostolic Faith Mission, Assemblies of God, Church of God in Christ (the oldest black church), The Apostolic Church and Foursquare Church among many others. These churches spread to Africa in the first part of the 20th century.

The 3rd wave period varied around the world; in Africa and specifically Nigeria, it's most populous nation, it began with the advent of the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) who broke off from TAC in 1940, the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in 1952, a departure from the pervasive white garment churches at the time and the Church of God Mission in 1968 led by Idahosa (formerly of the Assemblies of God). Soon, Nigerian universities produced indigenous university graduates who led the. 4th wave led by Kumuyi's 'Deeper Life', Tunde Joda's 'Christ Chapel',Mike Okonkwo's 'The Redeemed Evangelical Mission' (TREM) Oyedepo's 'Living Faith', Wale Oke's 'Sword of the Spirit', Olubi Johnson's 'Scripture Pasture', Omobude's 'New Covenant', Oritsejafor's 'Word of Life', Olukoya's 'Mountain of Fire' (MFM) 'and Oyakhilome's 'Christ Embassy' to mention but a few. The 5th (Joshua Generation) and 6th (Generation Next) waves are subjects which will be discussed in two of my upcoming books.

The 3rd wave in America led to the emergence of pentecostal greats such as Kenneth Hagin, Oral Roberts and Jack Coe. At some point, Kenneth Hagin, Oral Roberts, Gordon Lindsay and T.L Osborn all lived within the same block of flats. Coe who was affiliated to Assemblies of God and eventually had to part ways with them was dynamic and enthusiastic in his beliefs. Coe knew Oral Roberts and was taken in by the size of Robert’s 3,000 capacity revival tent. One day Coe went to a Roberts’s tent meeting and measured his tent. He then ordered a larger one. Subsequently, Coe announced that his tent was the largest in the world. He employed about 80 men which was considered a success at that time. He however kept his men on their toes, always sending them to measure other tents to ensure that none ever passed his. He died before he was 40. Such stories of competition and rivalry have continued to date, often being the case that the larger the ministries involved, the greater the rivalry.

Such rivalries even in Nigeria, partly led to the formation of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) by Idahosa and others. The newly ordained leader of the RCCG, Enoch Adeboye on his part played a major role in the commissioning of Oyedepo to start the Living Faith Church in 1983. He prophesied "This ministry shall be great". At the time, RCCG had 38 branches including one outside Nigeria (Ghana) while Oyedepo started church in December 1983 in Kaduna with 3 other members.

I first got to know of the RCCG in 1993 as a teenager through a RCCG calender. My parents had newly moved to Lagos. This seemed to be a fast growing church and I took interest in it. In 1997, I got to meet Pastor Adeboye with my Dad at the Redemption Camp. Four things struck me firsthand. First was Adeboye's humility and second, the mammoth crowd at the Holy Ghost Night-the largest Christian gathering in Nigeria. Third was the size of the venue of the meeting and fourth was the expansive land called the 'Redemption Camp'. My first meeting with Oyedepo was in 1989 when he displayed the architectural model of the soon to be constructed 'Garden of Faith' at the. Kongo Conference Hotel, Zaria. I thought it was simply too ambitious; it was going to be the largest church building in northern Nigeria. In 1996, I walked into the Garden of Faith. Again, I was in the Faith Tabernacle, a sequel to the Garden of Faith in 1999 at dedication. I could tell by the late 90s that these two churches were going to 'reign'. However, as was normally said at the time, the church reigns were seasonal and would only last a while before other ministries took over. Say, 3, 4 or 5 years. Examples of churches which had previously 'reigned' were commonly mentioned.

At the foundation laying of Faith Tabernacle, I went with a number of RCCG members (Redeemed Christian Fellowship, Yabatech), also students, who were keen to know one fact :how many acres was Canaanland? Oyedepo as if knowing the minds of his church members made a profound statement during that event which struck deep "We are not in a competition, we are in a commission". My Dad referred to that statement after the service. From then till date, the two leaders have together and independently made statements and taken actions that have kept members in a good place. A place where they see each other as brethren and not rivals. Stories abound of relationships gone sour but this has stood the test of time.

It may be necessary to at this point mention some of the testimonies of these two ministries headquartered within the same location, Ogun State, Nigeria to understand the magnitude of greatness they've had to manage. RCCG in 64 years has established over 32,000 branches in 140 countries while Living Faith has in 35 years established about 8,000 in 60 countries and often builds the largest single church in every city of Nigeria and many cities of Africa with services held live online in about 160 nations. The two ministries have also run successful aviation organisations to the chagrin of critics. RCCG's Redemption Camp is about 40,000 acres while Canaanland is about 17,000 acres making them the two largest Christian estates in the world. The sheer size of Redemption Camp has led to court cases with two other mega churches. Providence however located RCCG at Lagos-Ibadan Expressway while placing LFC at the other end, the Ota-Idiroko Expressway. The RCCG oversees about 200 nursery and primary schools while Living Faith Church (LFC) runs about 160. RCCG owns about 10 secondary schools while LFC administers 20. RCCG owns Redeemers University while LFC presently runs 2, Covenant and Landmark. The two churches own two of the largest Christian residential estates in the world. Presently, RCCG is constructing the 3km by 3km Arena, considered the largest open air pavilion in the world while LFC is constructing an ultra-modern 100,000 capacity Faith Theatre which is double in size of 50,000 seat Faith Tabernacle, currently the world's largest church auditorium.

These however wane when considering that in 1998, the RCCG gathered by CNN estimates, about 7.2 million people, considered the largest gathering of Christians in the world at Lekki, Nigeria. The numbers haven't necessarily decreased and church membership for a church less than 70 years is in excess of 6 million. LFC on the other hand gathers weekly, what is considered the largest gathering of christians, (numbering in excess of 400,000) anywhere in the world.

That these two ministries have handled growth well has not come without challenges. From differences in doctrines, to perception by overzealous members. The unity in leadership has ensured the friendship between members. The last elections in Nigeria brought up a RCCG Vice-Presidential candidate as well as an incumbent President who visited Canaanland weeks to the election. Elections came and went and the fallout was managed properly. A few weeks later, Vice President Osinbajo visited Covenant University hosted by Oyedepo. In one of my interviews conducted with a very successful and senior pastor of RCCG in 2011, he asked me "I used to think Oyedepo was a noisemaker and that we only had to contend with Catholics, Baptists and Methodists; please tell me, where does Oyedepo get all that money" ? The corporate tithing doctrine practiced by LFC seems to be a sort of icing on the cake of this relationship.

It is my earnest prayer that long after these patriarchs are departed and if Jesus tarries, the two ministries will not only continue their roles in the expansion of the Kingdom, but remain a model of inter-church harmony even till the end of the age.

"So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another"
Romans 12:5

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