Pastor Bisi Adewale is a family minister, consultant and author of over 70 books on family life, marriage, parenting, relationship. The president of Family Booster Ministries, Lagos State and College of Marital Success, Africa’s premier marriage institution, in an interaction with RITA OKONOBOH, speaks on religious, marital and national issues. Excerpts:
I’m from Osun State and I studied accounting but I was called by God to go into family life and training. The ministry started on the 9th of September, 1999. In fact, I started in my final year on campus when it was clear that was the direction the Lord wanted me to take.
What was the turning point?
That was in my final year in school. I was to write two papers the next day – management accounting and financial accounting and any accounting student would know that those two core courses were not to be taken for granted. However, I heard a voice that said: ‘meet me on the field.’ I was reading on the campus then and there was this field close to the hall. I went there and began to pray. My friends were wondering why I was on the field when I had exams the next day. Then the Lord began to talk to me, telling me He wasn’t calling me to balance accounts but family life.
Are you affiliated to any church?
I attend a local church as a member but our ministry is open to all Christians. We go to schools and corporate organisations. Whosoever expresses interest in learning about marriage, we will be there but that is as long as they agree that the teaching is based strictly on Christian principles.
As a pastor, do you think it is right for pastors to divorce and in what situation would you recommend divorce?
As a Christian, I always stand with the Bible and the Bible does not support divorce. You know, sometimes, you can read the Bible to suit your purpose but that doesn’t mean the Bible has changed. However, I’m not God. It’s between them and their God.
On what case will one recommend divorce, it’s like asking at what stage will a doctor recommend death. We do everything to prevent divorce. If the couple then decides to go ahead and divorce, it will be at their discretion. In our ministry, we believe so strongly that there is no marriage that is irredeemable or irreparable in God’s workshop. There was a case of a couple who were separated for about seven months. In fact, extended family members, pastors and counsellors had given up on them. All of a sudden, we received a text message from the woman, thanking us for not giving up on them, and for our support and to tell us that she and her husband had reconciled. We were shocked. That is why we are always careful when counselling couples, because anything is possible.
How would you advise clerics on creating a balance between the family and the church?
Not just clerics but also celebrities, everybody. To create a balance involves understanding what marriage is all about. The number one reason for marriage is for companionship, that is, your spouse is your teammate. The only person that can influence you as a team is the coach and the coach in this case is God. The second thing is to set your priorities right. Your priority should be your spouse. God should be number one; your spouse, number two; children, third place, then career, extended family can come in. If you want the best in family life, you must set your priorities right.
What would you say are the three most important things that make marriages work?
Many things make marriage work. In order of importance, three important things are the fear of God, training, time. The fear of God will never let a man commit adultery or beat his wife. Even when emotion wants to overcome reason, the fear of the Lord will keep you. We have so many quack husbands and wives. The average spouse is not trained about family life, showing examples to children, sex, in-laws and even money management in marriage. Imagine not disclosing your salary to your spouse? You can let the person see you naked but you don’t want the person to know what is in your bank account; that is foolishness. It is lack of training. It is sad that there is no training at government level on family life. Someone once asked me what I would do if I could be president of Nigeria for one day and I said I would order that marriage teaching be added to the education curriculum from primary school to university level, and even at the NYSC. With that, we can reduce divorce rates by 80 per cent. It can sometimes be baffling that two good people will come together and have a bad marriage. It is lack of training. Your marriage can never work if you’re never at home. And even for those at home, they still find ways to engage themselves, without actually spending time together. Some people only find themselves at home on weekends and instead, attend weddings, social gatherings, play golf, without really spending time together. Couples should deliberately spend time together, no matter how busy they are.
How long do you think courtship should last?
Courtship has no stipulated time in the Bible. We have courtship that lasted for two to three hours in the case of Isaac and Rebecca, and we have the courtship that lasted for 14 years in the case of Jacob and Rachel. However, based on counselling experience, we suggest it should be at least six months, and not more than 18 months.
There seems to be a rise in reports of men raping their daughters and underage girls. Even pastors have not been spared this shame. As a pastor and father, what do you think is wrong?
Pornography is major cause. It is a multimillion-dollar industry now and when you’re given to pornography, you lose your sense of decency. Your moral values will fall and you will begin to see women from the navel to the thigh. To make matters worse, there are online sites that promote child pornography. If you’re given to pornography, you’ll misbehave.
Clerics’ families are expected to be shining examples of family life but over the years, there is the notion that many do not live up to expectation. What do you think is going on?
That assertion is not correct. Sometimes, people pick an example out of 1,000 and blow it out of proportion and it would seem that all pastors are like that. I’ve seen countless numbers of pastors with very fantastic marriages. I teach about family values within and outside Nigeria and there are so many pastors in wonderful marriages. You know in every profession, we have people who have problems, one way or the other. One thing I usually tell people is that anointing doesn’t make a marriage work. One main reason many pastors have marital problems is that they become married to the church and ignore their wives. Even the Bible frowns on staying away from the marriage. The main reason for marriage is companionship. That is why the Bible states that it is not good for man to be alone. In marriage counselling, we encourage couples not to stay apart for more than 21 days at a stretch, because after three weeks, you become strangers. It takes 21 days to start a new habit so anyone you haven’t seen for 21 days, it may be hard to trust such a person. That is why we discourage staying apart for such a long time. Pastors are not different as far as marriage is concerned. If they break the principles of marriage, such marriages will crash.
There are concerns that more people are preparing for weddings, rather than the marriage. How would you advise single people on adequate preparation for marriage?
In fact, nowadays, people prepare more for the proposal than the marriage. The average woman spends months daydreaming of the man who would propose to her in the middle of traffic, while he man is busy spending money and planning for months on making the perfect proposal. There is the case of a man who spent N200,000 to train a monkey to bring the ring on the day he would propose. That time can be spent learning about marriage. To the young ones, they should go for training. It is very important. The fear of God is not enough. A couple needs training. The devil is not responsible for failed marriages, rather, the spouses who let themselves to be the devil’s contactors.
Aside sex, adultery and love children seems to be a major cause for many failed marriages. How would you advise couples who find themselves in this situation?
Adultery erodes trust and breaks families. However, we will never advise the couple to divorce. Although, we have noticed that many women may continue with the marriage, even if they may find it hard to forgive. The men find it very hard to forgive. We had a recent case in which the wife committed adultery with three close friends of her husband. The husband said he wasn’t ready to divorce her but he asked for a separation for a while, because he didn’t trust himself not to be provoked to the point of killing her. And we agreed with him and told the wife to keep praying and at intervals, send text messages of remorse. She even said she was ready for deliverance, because according to her, it wasn’t that she liked sex but that she just found herself doing it. She took steps to restore herself and we carried the husband along. They reconciled weeks ago.
Marriage can enter into the stormy waters of infidelity through carelessness. Sometimes, it’s the wife, but we have discovered that in 90 per cent of the cases, the husband was to blame for his carelessness. When a woman brings maids into the house, allows the maid to cook for the husband, lay the matrimonial bed, denies her husband sex, allows her to wear indecent clothes around the house or even for the mere fact that the housemaid is more beautiful that the wife, such a wife is writing letter to evil. However, the onus is on the man, because he will give account of his moral failure. I always advise couples to discuss their troubles no matter how difficult it is. We have a counselling session we call Intimate Talking Time, when we create the room for couples to sit down and open up to themselves. No matter how terrible a marriage is, when a spouse steps back and realises his/her mistake in contributing to the crisis, then there is a solution. In fact, when a couple has an argument, they should endeavour to sleep together, no matter how angry they are at each other; that is a step to reconciliation.
Won’t you say that marriage training is inviting third parties into the marriage?
Training is not third party, but ‘help’ party. Apart from conventional training, one way of getting adequate training is to read quality books. Spiritual support, family support, praying for your spouse, contentment, career support, how to be the best spouse, dealing with in-laws, money management, discipline, sex, technical marital mistakes, respecting your spouse, preventing crisis, among other topics, are discussed in the pages of quality books on marriage.