By DAN AMOR
That the modern age is an era of great religious speculation will be apparent to even the most casual student of its literature; that it is also an age of great religious faith no one can contest. As things stand, it is evident that not a few contemporaries would be disposed to concur with the popular view that men cannot do without religion, and that they cannot all do with it as it is. But, surely, it is the dialogue of the human mind with itself that characterizes man’s continuous search for spiritual meaning in the modern world.
Yet, presently, Nigerian men of God have set their stamp more strongly on the general character of the Christian religion as a way of life. During the last few decades, our generation in particular has seen a re-orientation of our mind and soul, which implies not only a permanent change but, indeed, a shifting of the spiritual horizon, with far-reaching results. All these swiftly rising new men of God in Nigeria, whose names we now recognize as stimulating signals, have one thing in common: they are fully and truly committed. And their congregations greet them with enthusiasm, no matter the location.
One of these anointed servants of the Most High God is Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua, who unfortunately died on June 7, 2021, seven days to his 58th birthday anniversary, June 12, this year. More than any of his contemporaries, Prophet T. B. Joshua had exerted a tremendous influence on the spiritual and economic life of his teeming congregation in particular and humanity at large. This piece is not an attempt to embark on a deconstruction of T.B. Joshua. Admittedly, to offer an honest critical evaluation of the whole corpus of criticisms of the late controversial pastor is certainly an ambitious undertaking. But it would be more rational to repudiate the cynical over-simplification by fifth columnists and court jesters whose major pre-occupation it is to ridicule someone who had practically and positively ministered to the vast majority of the downtrodden. It is certainly not the business of this column to question the fabrics of the moving saga that wove into autonomous existence the circumstances that surrounded the dramatic emergence of the late spiritual challenger.
Yet, the bone of contention right now is that due to the enormous traffic the church generates from amongst Africans and the world at large, the SCOAN is now a multi-billion Naira/multi-million dollar church. Consequently, after Joshua’s burial on July 8, 2021, about a month after his untimely exit, the issue of headship of the house of God is a subject of controversy. While five pastors of the church who had long been with the Prophet until they were now called “sons” of the late leader are claiming that one of them should head the church, a select group of women known as “T. B. Joshua’s women” are also battling his wife, Evelyn, over leadership. There are clear indications that these female disciples of the late Prophet are posing grave challenges to the emergence of Mrs. Evelyn Joshua as the successor to him and the next General Overseer of the church.
But the truth is that God gives the vision for the formation of a Pentecostal church to one man. And since the Bible says that the man and his wife are now one, it goes without much ado that the wife of the late man of God becomes the successor to the man. Apart from the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) where its founder Rev. Pa. Josiah Olufemi Akindayomi, openly appointed his interpreter Pastor E. A. Adeboye as successor, in several other Pentecostal churches in Nigeria, the United States of America and even beyond, late GOs are, more often than not succeeded by their widows. When Bishop Harford Anayo Iloputaife of Victory Christian Church (VCC), Lagos, was assassinated in Lagos in 1995 (10 years after its formation), his widow, Apostle Nkechi became the General Overseer of the church. In like manner, when the charismatic Pentecostal preacher Archbishop Benson Andrew Adahosa of Church of God Mission (CGM), Benin City died, in 1998, his wife, Bishop Margaret Idahosa , automatically became the leader of the church. We can go on and on. Therefore, the media cannot sit and watch until servants take leadership of a church T. B. Joshua started from scratch with his wife. Someone should tell those “women” and “sons” of Joshua that the death of the Prophet marked the end of an era and the beginning of another era, with Mrs. Joshua as the head.
So, to allow peace to reign and in order not to disrupt or distract the free-flow of the Holy Spirit in SCOAN, let Mrs. Evelyn Joshua, the widow of Prophet T. B. Joshua, be respected as the General Overseer (GO) and head of the church. Having married and lived with her husband for 31 years and served as the woman behind his success in the ministry, who wants to shove her aside? Mrs. Evelyn Joshua is therefore the undisputed head of Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) all over the world. We must encourage her to reap the fruit of her labour and the untiring efforts of her husband. However, Apostles and Pastors should continue to perform their roles in the house of God under the supervision of Mrs. Joshua. Even at the Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM), in Lagos, Bishop Peace Okonkwo, wife of the sent man of God, Bishop Dr. Mike Okonkwo, started playing the role of General Overseer long ago while the husband is still alive. The living should allow the soul of Prophet T. B. Joshua to rest in peace.
He was, indeed, a good servant of the Most High God, who loved his family and humanity at large. Amidst the ponderous saga of some “holier-than-thou” men of God who tax their congregations to build schools, colleges and universities to which they (members) cannot afford to send their children due to exorbitant fees, Joshua had awarded scholarships to thousands of his members and even beyond. His consistent life style had already given proof of his individuality as a true servant of God. And the manifest hand of God that radiated through his ministration had drawn many lost sheep back to the Body of Christ. A close look at the circumstances of his life shows that Prophet Joshua was born with the natural requirements for a calling of an ideal tendency. In recent times, I have heard not less than three pastors, hitherto doubtful of Joshua’s spiritual credentials, now testifying openly that TB was a true servant of God.
One of them even confessed at a meeting recently, where yours sincerely was in attendance, that but for his strong attachment and loyalty to his superintendent, he would have resigned to become one of Joshua’s ministers. Whatever was responsible for this bout of proclamation, the truth is that in spite of the antics of his detractors schooled in the pull-him-down (PHD) syndrome, Joshua possessed a heroic pathos, and had infested in our very eyes an uncommon spiritual candour. Had Thomas Paine watched Joshua closely during his day he would probably not have made his famous declaration that “religion is the opium of the masses.” A recent incident involving an accidental collapse of one of the buildings in his church complex resulting to the death of some members had seen a litany of detractors calling for his head. Yet, this did not deter the faithful from massing into the fold in their thousands.
As a testimony to his rising profile, Joshua had a large flock of Christian believers from Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America; and his healing power made headline news in media houses around the world. Again, the Synagogue Church of All Nations at its Ikotun, Lagos headquarters, has played host to very important dignitaries from across the world. The tremendous growth in population of his ministry apparently accounts for the equally large viewership of his television network programme known as “Emmanuel TV”. No wonder, every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to claim leadership of this large and wealthy church. But the church belongs to God while the leadership belongs to his immediate family.
As a hard working, loyal and dedicated spiritual bulldozer who could shrink up the sundering seas, level all intruding mountains, bridge all gulfs and put a lamp in every dark tunnel, TB Joshua was undoubtedly a spiritual phenomenon whose corpus required a large canvas. It is incontestable that the spiritual seriousness of the present times, so conspicuous in most Nigerian Christians, is due in no small part to evangelical Christianity, which has coloured the beliefs and practices of so large a segment of the populace. For, much as practical evangelism has nurtured the need for a religious faith in our society, it has inadvertently made allowance for the major ideological developments of the age.
One of such biblical injunctions which has become the foundation for human ideological creeds is the command by Jesus Christ for Christians to give to the poor and needy. On this score, Prophet Joshua dwarfed all superlatives, at least in Nigeria. Whereas most men of God tax their congregations (sometimes to breaking point) to acquire aeroplanes and jets to fly all over the world, Joshua was one of the few men of God who have seen the need to invest in human capital. In fact, Prophet Joshua, despite the material success of his ministry, drove a bus instead of a jeep or limousine. It is hoped that Evelyn, his beloved widow, should take after him and make holiness and the survival of her congregation and humanity her focal points. Let Mrs. Evelyn Joshua be anointed into office as the new head of church.