Rev Samuel Aboyeji is the incoming General Overseer of The Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria. In this interview by TAYO GESINDE, FAVOUR BOLUWADE and ENIOLA OYEMOLADE, he speaks about his journey into ministerial work and his plans for the church. Excerpts:
When you came into the ministry, did you ever envisage that one day, you will become the General Overseer of Foursquare Gospel Church?
I came into the ministry for the first time as an undergraduate in the university. There was a small fellowship and our leader used to take us to the camp anytime we have a semester break. That was my first introduction to the ministry as leaders in fellowship on campus. We go from time to time for retreats. Because of that, when it was time to have my mandatory National Youth Service, I had it with the Faith Liberation Hour Ministry, which is known as Living Faith Church. I’ve been in the ministry, but I’ve never thought of becoming a General Overseer one day. It was when I came to Lagos for my MBA at the University of Lagos that I used to attend Foursquare Church and in 1988, I joined the church. The way I joined, I couldn’t have imagined that I would become G.O because I didn’t join as the first set of people to join the church and looking at the age of the Church, such a thing wouldn’t have crossed my mind. I just went to Foursquare with my heart committed to serving God, to love Him more and to learn more about Him.
How did you feel when you got to know you were going to take over from the outgoing G.O?
I started avoiding him. I felt by doing that, I would escape it. Things that would naturally take me to him, I started avoiding it. That was my initial reaction until I prayed and God began to give me confidence and of course, I looked through the scripture and it was a natural response. To everybody that is called by God, the natural response is to feel inadequate and insufficient. After then, I was comforted and knew my behaviour was not abnormal after all and began to build confidence day by day, it got clearer until the election on the 20th of July, 2019.
You were a district overseer and regional coordinator. What has been your experience in leadership so far?
Since 1988, I’ve been in Foursquare. Apart from playing leadership roles within fellowships on campus, I can say within the church setting, all the experiences I’ve had have been within Foursquare. It has been a very rich experience because of how I joined. I didn’t join as a pastor. I walked into the Somolu Church and I was given a class as a student in the Sunday School and I became a teacher eventually and house fellowship coordinator, then I became a CFM Secretary until one of our founding fathers, the late Rev James Boyejo, got to know that I was in Somolu. He and Bishop Oyedepo had always been part of the ministerial summit that was held in Benin by the late Archbishop Benson Idahosa. When he got to know I was in Foursquare, he insisted I joined him in Akoka Church. There, he made me a General Sunday School Superintendent. That exposed me again to another area of leadership within the Foursquare Church and within a short time, they made me one of the assistant pastors. It was during those times he encouraged me to go to the Bible School. I felt I was already a pastor and didn’t need Bible School training, but he persuaded me and used his money to get the form for me so that I could go. I went there and enriched my experience in leadership.
It was from being an assistant pastor that I was asked to go and pastor a church in a place called Lady Lak in Lagos. I pastored the church for two years and then, my employer, Shell, asked me to go to Warri. I was pastoring part-time. As I got to Warri, I was asked by the leadership of the church to take over.
Are you still with Shell?
I joined Shell in 1992. While I worked there, one great support I had was from my wife. We both sat down and said if we were going to progress with our service to God and also make ends meet, have a good home and train our children, then both of us cannot be running helter-skelter. So, she graciously agreed with me to face the ministry and home full time while I face Shell and the ministry. That in a way assisted me greatly. When the Warri district was inaugurated in 2006, and the Lord gave us a direct message that we were created to multiply, so we were just 43 churches when we took off, but by 2010, it was pretty difficult for me to continue and the Lord reminded me of a covenant I made with him earlier that when I clocked 50, I would not serve man again. By March 2010, I had to tell my employer that if I was given the opportunity, I would like to go. It was pretty difficult for them because it was at the peak of my career. We just had the Niger Delta crisis and I was one of the people leading the negotiations with the communities and God gave me so much favour with them, being a man of God. That was also the time Yar’Adua came with the Amnesty programme and we capitalised on that to bring peace and restore our production, because we were shut down completely. So it was at a peak of when they were looking forward to getting me to do more, that I left.
From the leadership experience you’ve shared with us, one could see that God has been preparing you for this work. What plans do you now have as you are taking over the leadership on Sunday?
The first thing you’ll notice about this church is that this is not a new church. In fact, as I reflected and prayed, the Lord opened my eyes to see that I am the first General Overseer of this church that is younger than the church. Having known that, we have started praying and seeking the face of God on what direction He wants us to go. The mission of the church is clear. We are here in Nigeria to preach the Foursquare message which is Jesus is the saviour. Jesus is the healer, Jesus is the baptizer and Jesus is the soon coming king. That is the message that the whole world needs and we even need it more in Nigeria. When you look at Matthew 9:37, it says what a huge harvest. That huge harvest is our focus using four approaches. The first one is what we are doing currently which is church-planting.
Rev Felix Meduoye has built substantially on what was done by his own predecessors. When he was taking over, the church was between 1,500-2,000. He had used his focus on mission powered prayer, the decade of multiplication which is going to end next year. He used that to focus on missions and harvest. What we want to do is to build on that as far as church-planting is concerned. We already have the foundation, so we’ll build on that using what we call our RICHES approach. Riverine Coastal and Interland Churches Enlargement Scheme. We have a lot of churches now. As at the last count, we have about 4,400 churches, in Nigeria. All those churches that are in the hinterland and riverine, there are still a lot more we need to plant as well as in the cities. We want to continue with the church-planting. We are already envisaging having three product lines.
The second one is the issue of the Youth megachurches because if you look at Nigeria, we are a youthful nation. Experts have said we are the third-largest youth population in the world, coming after India and China. So, we will be having a youth encounter and empowerment summit. Youth encounter will take care of the spiritual side because until someone has an encounter with Christ and also empower them. We are not only ready to reach them with the Gospel, but we are also ready, God helping us, to be able to meet their needs physically. In this case, we are going to look at the areas where we can mobilise resources to help young people. Those who need to be empowered to complete their education, to have a skill with which they can have a livelihood and those who need to be empowered to have a job. Those youths on encounter and empowerment summit will focus on that specifically so as to reach out to the young people with the gospel because the gospel now has to be total, not just having encounter. The encounter with Jesus should translate into fulfilling God’s program for their lives.
Apart from that, we are also looking at the welfare of our pastors. A church that has been in existence for 64 years will have a large number of pastors. As at the last count, just like we have 4,400 churches, we also have more than 4,400 pastors. When you look at those pastors, many of them have put in years of service and in those days when people came into the ministry, they just came, not looking for anything. They gave everything. Now that God has taken the Church from glory to glory, and we can see the earthly glory being manifested in the church, we want to see how God will help us to harness these resources. First of all, to take care of these people and not make them regret answering the call of God, and to use this also as a way of motivating the young ones who may want to come to the ministry because it is the way you treat the old ones that will either encourage or discourage the young ones coming. I hear people say it that some children of pastors usually vow never to be pastors because of what they’ve seen their fathers go through.
So by the grace of God, we are looking at how God can help us. Even if we cannot solve all their problems, let us make a difference and let them be happy that they serve God. We are trusting God that if we focus on these three areas, it will impact every area of the church and make us fulfil the calling the Lord has given to us. So we need a lot of prayers, that is another area of focus. We also intend to intensify prayers. Some of the programmes that are on ground that encourage us to pray, we are going to continue with them because you can’t do anything without prayers. Prayer is so key. We may have good ideas and plans but if you don’t pray, you are not likely to achieve anything. So, we intend to focus on prayer so that God, who has taken the Church to this level, will take the church further.
The office of the pastor has been bastardised, unlike in times past, it used to be honoured. What can be done about it?
It’s not even just the pastors, but even the born-again Christians. Now, you can’t even recruit anyone for anything now in the church because you may not find faithful people. That shows the level of degradation. We missed it the day some of the churches coming up decided we don’t need Sunday Schools anymore. Most of the churches don’t have anywhere where they give their people in-depth teaching. All they rely on is Sunday morning preaching which is not even up to an hour. The Sunday School gives you the opportunity to ask questions when you are confused and to relate it to life. This is what we call discipleship. We should preach the gospel and also teach others to observe. Now we only preach but don’t teach. Those are the areas where we missed it. Until we return to the word, the problem won’t stop. Don’t just go preaching, go make disciples. You can’t be a disciple without being disciplined.
Message to Nigerian Tribune at 70.
Firstly, anyone who has been in business and has lasted this long, it means you are doing it well. So I commend you. A lot of newspaper houses have come and gone within the period of these 70 years, just like we cannot count how many churches have folded up within our 64 years of existence. You have done well to have to stand your ground. Kudos to you. It means you must have some good tradition, quality culture and you must have been evolving with whatever changes have been coming because that is one of the things that kill businesses. You must evolve and keep up with change. We thank God for you and God is going to help you.