Assistant General Overseer in charge of Personnel and Administration of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, Pastor Johnson Funsho Odesola spoke with KSO in an exclusive online interview recently. He bared his mind on several issues including, tithes, offerings, gospel drama and his relationship with The Adeboye family.
KSO: Apparently, when you joined RCCG, it never occurred to you that you will rise to this level in the Church leadership cadre. Apart from the Grace of God, what other things helped you get this far.
ODESOLA: Thank you very much, the journey of life is not a cut and join thing, I came into the church just like any other person, I want to serve God, I didn’t even want to be a full- timer. In my early days I attempted to run away from Nigeria. While I was at The Polytechnic Ibadan in my final year, the Lord spoke to me that I will serve him. I said “Yeah, I will serve you with my money and my attendance in church”
So, when I finished, God blessed me with a good Job. Somebody had a problem, and he had a child in the school. They brought the plan home, they were looking for solution, I got the plan I was able to solve the problem so in my final year they took up the bill. So when I finished, I had to work for them. I was working and the going was good with a car, as a young engineer.
It wasn’t my intention at all to be a minister; I never wanted to be one. When I got married, I told my wife God was calling me but not now. She said its okay. From time to time she wanted to raise the subject “this your calling…..” I would say “No….. Don’t go there” until I had a snake bite, in Ijebu-Ode. I was in charge of government-owned projects of the low cost housing estate in Ikangba Ijebu-Ode as the Project Manager and the Project Engineer. It was there that I had the snake bite. They said they wanted me to the hospital but I said no. So, they took me home, they told my wife that “snake has bitten your husband” She rushed to the church to call the pastors. They came to pray for me and I ended up not using any medication.
There and then, I promised God that if I can be healed I will serve him. Thereafter, I came in to the church as a volunteer worker. I met Daddy G.O and he said to me “God has been calling you to the field” and I said “Sir, I want to volunteer my service, for the campus fellowships because God has told me that I will work with the youths.” That was how I came in for volunteer service.
I met Daddy G.O and he said to me “God has been calling you to the field” and I said “Sir, I want to volunteer my service, for the campus fellowships because God has told me that I will work with the youths.”
Now you have helped me to answer the first question by referring to the grace. But also, I didn’t relent in any assignment I am given. One of the things I do with my assignments is that I focus on the assignment as if that is the last assignment I will do. So while I was at the Campus Fellowship assignment, I had to travel the length and breadth of Nigerian campuses, establishing what is known as RCF today. I traveled to the North, the East as The Traveling Secretary of the Christ the Redeemers Ministries.
There is no way I can mention the grace of God without mentioning the ability I am given me to be able to focus. So I wasn’t praying for any position I never knew I will become anything. Even as I am talking to you, I don’t still believe that I can do what I am doing now. People ask me “how do you do what you are doing now” I tell you, I don’t know. Because I don’t seem to see myself doing anything, because each time I want to sleep, I ask God: “have I not disappointed you today? Have I done something I need not to do today?” So the grace of God and focus on the assignment has been my strength.
At this moment, there is lockdown, yet I am in the office, we have held about three long meetings today on zoom with some people far away. I have held meetings with some mission board people. Nobody can tell what tomorrow will bring, tomorrow is a dream. Yesterday is a spent currency, today is the opportunity. Just do what you have to do per day.
KSO: What do you consider to be the most challenging part of your current office as the AGO in charge of administration.
ODESOLA: Quite huge, in the sense that, I am like the clerk of the organization. So, whatever correspondence to the people in the government or in other churches, it has to be through my office and so it a huge responsibility. Many a time, I have asked myself several questions “how did I get to where I am now?” Quite often, there are huge assignments to do and the challenge is the fact that I have to be involved in almost everything. I have to be involved in the things going on at The Redemption Camp. I have to be involved in things going on around my boss, The General Overseer and I have to be involved in things around the people in the mission. So the basic challenge is the fact that I don’t have time for myself and the type boss that I work with is not someone that will speak harshly. He is someone who hardly talks. One does not know if he is satisfied with what you’re doing. So, many times, you have to ask “Sir, I hope am really on line” Sometimes, he would say “It’s okay….you are trying but it could be better”
Thank God that I have discovered that I can use division of labour. In this generation, some of these young guys around us know much more. Fortunately, most of the people that surround me are young people. I make myself honourable to them. I told them, “Yes, please am a Pastor, but can you stop all these Daddy-Daddy kind of a thing. I know some of you; I am not old enough to be your father. You are my junior brothers and sisters so let keep it as that.
As am talking now, there is a huge pile of files on my table and despite the fact that I have sent some out and delegated some, but there is still quite a huge pile of appointments, promotions, assessments, increments, requests still begging for attention. So the challenges are huge, but God is up to the tasks. Everybody seek for my attention, but if I have to answer all the people, I can’t meet up. So, people complain “Oh, you don’t pick your phone… Oh, you don’t like me!”
KSO: The world is going through a major battle now, the *COVID* 19. What is your message to the world on Covid 19. What is your Church doing to alleviate the sufferings of the people and CSR.
ODESOLA: Our take is that as we walk in life there is bound to be problems. I was speaking to some set of people about an hour ago. When this problem ends, another one will come. Anyone who will succeed will fail several times. So it is not just a one off thing. One thing about us human being is that we don’t prepare for failure, we prepare to succeed, but failure happens!!! Nobody prepared for Covid-19 but it happened. So what we need to do is to change our perspective which I believe the church has done. RCCG as a church gather quite a lot of crowd; our traffic is huge here and there, so we have to be pro-active.
There are two ways to solve a problem, its either you fear it or fight it. When I say fight it, I mean you change your perspective. What you don’t have power to change; you just change your perspective about it. So, we as a church have changed our perspective. Well, it has happened, it is something we never bargained for, now that it has happened; how do we reposition our-selves? How do we reposition the church? How do we reposition the members?
There is no generation that you do not have its challenges and this one is a general challenge to everyone, so all we need to do is to change our perspective. For us as church, we determine that if the people can’t come to church, then we can reach them in their various homes. Originally, we thought house fellowship will work, but we discovered house fellowships cannot work because people didn’t want others to come to their home. So, we decided make every family a house fellowship. We now take each family as a house unit. Initially, we started by sending money according to the sizes of families and elderly persons. Those who are older, we give them food and send five thousand naira to their accounts. From there, we moved to people around. We went to some of our churches, we gave them food to share for members first, and those people who are friends of the members.
In Nigeria, RCCG is on the fore front. Apart from donating things to the government, Daddy Adeboye on his own donated 20 million naira to Osun State. We donated numbers of hand sanitizers apart from the ICT unit we donated in Lagos. We donated thousands of hand sanitizers, face marks, and surgical blades. Here in Ogun, we just emptied our ICU unit for the state government. We had two brand new ventilators which we gave to Ogun State and also gave them beds. We have also that in Jos and a couple of states supporting them with drugs, and face masks.
We have been accused, called such names as “segregationists” that we are selfish but that is okay for us that. But today now as am talking, we are sharing cartons of eggs. We are sharing about eleven thousand crates of eggs tomorrow. We are going to share the rest in almost all our provincial headquarters in Lagos.
KSO: The Church has recently come under heavy criticism for asking members to continue to pay tithes and offerings despite the happenings around the World. Do you think the Church is justified in this regard?
ODESOLA: Thank you very much, it is like asking the question like is it okay to be too busy without eating, because we need fuel to be able to move on. I said it when I was taking the Bible study few days ago on Dove TV that the time we need to give is the time when things are hard. It is not that God needs our money but we need a future. God will not ask us if he needs money but what we give to church as tithe and offerings is a test of our love for God. The most intelligent among us were told the day we are born. They told us, oh yes you were born on the 15th of June, etc.
I didn’t pick my father, he didn’t pick me also, I didn’t pick my mother, she didn’t pick me, they don’t know they are going to have me, I didn’t know am going to have them. They are decisions that God has made. There are choices we need to make in life, all the people we have mentioned; father, mother, sister, aunts are choices that God has made for us. God’s love is unconditional but God’s blessings are conditional. That’s why the Bible say, the rich and the poor, God made them all. So the issue of tithe is the principle of the kingdom. God runs the world by principles and run all his affairs by principles. God created Adam and Eve and He put the principles of fruitfulness in place, so if you pray you are married, you pray and pray God let my wife give birth to twice, male and female and you did not meet with your wife, you will pray and pray and get frustrated. The same thing applies to the principle of giving. If you are in the Kingdom and you know how to pray very well…You see we a have a fallacy of saying PRAYER IS THE MASTER KEY!!!
Prayer is a key, prayer is not the Master Key! it is one of the keys!!! Giving is a key, forgiveness is a key, love is a key.Pastor J.F. Odesola
What prayer will do, giving will not do. What giving will do, prayer will not do. There are people who joined the church since 20 years ago; they have remained welfare candidates till date. Yet, there are people who joined few weeks ago and they are prospered; because as long as the earth remains, seed time and harvest will not cease.
It is God that invented tithe. I have a lot of bogus study on this but I don’t think because the people are attacking tithes I should release that now. They also have their own study. But I think in following God, trust and obedience is the key. Everything God asked us to do have elements of risks. You may not know why but it’s for our good. Giving tithe is for our good. It is in this difficult time that we have to give, so that you give your way out of problem. Remember the widow in the Bible; God asked a prophet go and meet her. She said ah I have my last meal. In the contemporary world, they will say the Prophet is wicked. He said; that last meal, prepare it for me. You will say ah this one is selfish, but the lady trusted and obeyed and that was how she became a food supplier for the rest of her life.
Another woman cried to the prophet and said my late husband was a debtor. So it is possible to be a pastor and die in poverty, He was one of the sons of the prophet who died and left the legacy of poverty for the children. The man of God said what do you have and she said I have nothing. The man of God wanted to turn back, and she said oh sir, am sorry I remember, I have a small bottle of oil, and he said it’s okay. Everybody, even now that there is dryness, somebody has something. Something to start life up with.
I like your write-up on this (referring to an online article by KSO some weeks ago)
People who are giving don’t complain, those who are not giving are the ones complaining. When I was a pastor in Zambia somebody said Oh we are giving tithe too much!!! So, I brought out the record, and I said since when you have joined this church this is how much you have given; take your money. He was afraid. You didn’t buy the chair, you sat on the first day you came to the church. You are not the one who bought the micro-phones, you are not the one who build the building, even if you contribute; you are not the only one.
KSO: Universities owned by Churches are not free but expensive. Some have argued that fees in Church Owned institutions should be cheap. Do you think such arguments hold water?
ODESOLA: Let me first tell you what we do in our own university by the grace of God. Although this is not a public thing we do. If you are a member of the church, you are entitled to certain percentages of discount. There is a fund that the church put together to support the members, pastors and ministers. It’s in categories; that for full time pastors is different from those who are part-time pastors. The one for pastors is different from members. They are in three levels; full-timers, part-timers and the members. So we do that sufficiently in our institution. To run education is not cheap. Establishing a university is something, to sustain that university is another thing. Before the Corona virus, there are only two centres in Nigeria where they can test and detect any disease and one of the centres is in Redeemers University. It is just one centre that all of Africa is looking up to because most of the critical things they can’t do elsewhere, they can do it there. If you know how much they sank into that department…quite a lot of money. Despite the fact that there are international supports, that department alone gulped thousands of dollars.
So education anywhere is not cheap if we want a qualitative education. Yes, they said members donated to start a school but what about running it? It’s not just about building the school, it is not just about employing the teachers, it is not just about developing the curriculum, it is not just about the approval of the school but what about the running of the school? People have options. When you compare what people are getting there. I have heard people here and there, but more often than not, the people who talk are the people who have benefited from what missionaries have done. In our school, if we really know a family cannot pay; of course there are quite a number of them that they have waived payment for. Even as am talking now at the university in Ede, they are still building. There are departments they haven’t fully developed. They are just developing and coming up with Engineering, Law and so on. So education is not cheap, if we want development. Those who talk about are the high cost of education; I think are the people who don’t really have a forward-looking mind, because education is not cheap. Everyone who thinks education is costly should try ignorance. It is not cheap!!!
To be continued…