Wale Ajayi is the Bishop of the Historic Miracle Centre, Benin City, Western Nigeria for Church of God Mission International (CGMI) and Deputy Director, Administration of CGMI. He speaks on the xenophobic attacks in South Africa and how the church should respond to it in this interview with PAUL OMOROGBE.
How should the church respond to the recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa?
I must condemn this act. But apart from condemning the act, it is important for South Africans and Nigerians to live in peace. The Bible speaks about how people should treat strangers. So, it is important that Africans anywhere they live should be treated well. We should also behave well anywhere we find ourselves. We should not break the laws of that place. If anybody is breaking the law, rather than kill them, the security agents of those places should be up to the task to arrest and prosecute such people and not resort to killing people. The counsel for the church in South Africa is not to just pray about it. Our response to such things is to pray. But the church also needs to speak to their people about love – the love of Christ, the love of God. This is because you cannot give what you don’t have. You can only give love because you have received it. We need to come back to the gospel, pointing people to Christ and His cross – the cross demonstrates God’s love. So, when you see people not giving love, it is because they have not received the love of God. That unconditional love of God was given to us in Christ Jesus on the cross.
What is your view on the body of Christ, that is, the church in general, in Nigeria?
That is really something to bother about. My take on that is we need to come together. We are not just to come together in terms of forming a union, but come together in terms of a Christ focus, a Christ consciousness. It will be good to see Jesus take charge in His church. Let Christ become the centre and the focus of the church, not personalities, not material gain, but Christ taking back His church. In doing that, Jesus said the gates of hell will not prevail against the church. So, it is important that Christ takes centre stage in the church in Nigeria, and we will see the church advance. The church in Nigeria must take the message of Christ to the nations. If there must be something that must be increased, it is the preaching of the gospel, because the gospel is the answer to our nation’s problems whether you believe it or not. The truth is that if you change the man, you change the nation and the man can only change when light shines in his heart. The man can only turn from darkness to light and change when the light of the gospel shines in his heart. At that moment, he is delivered from satan’s influence and comes under God’s influence. And a man under God’s influence is a tool for national transformation.
The late Archbishop Benson Idahosa was a church leader in his days. Which of his legacies do you think is paramount?
Interestingly, at the 50th anniversary of the ministry, speaking at the local church, Miracle Centre, where I am the pastor, I was telling our people about so many things that the archbishop did and that he pioneered. But for me, the greatest legacy he had was the legacy of changed lives – people you can point to and say through him, this one got to know Jesus, that one got saved, that one got healed, this one was raised from the dead! There are people whose lives became better because of an encounter with him. That’s the greatest legacy that he had. That’s my opinion – that his greatest legacy was changed lives! He took the gospel to over 150 nations of the earth, he preached personally to millions of people. But for me, the changed lives are what will last. Even concerning the schools and institutions that he built, he said that the purpose of those institutions was not for profit, but an opportunity to reach more people for more changed lives. The university was set up to reach more people to change lives, the secondary and primary schools were for the same purpose. Even the hospital, the Bible schools were for the same purpose. They were not profit-making ventures, but opportunities to reach more people to bring them to Jesus Christ.
You are the youngest to be ordained as bishop in the mission recently. What do you think led to your quick rise in the ministry?
You cannot rule out the favour of God and the grace of God. I attribute all of that to the grace of God. Paul said I am what I am by the grace of God, so I leave it there as the grace of God. I am what I am by the grace of God.