By Gbenga Osinaike
Beat the drums, blow the trumpets, clap your hands and shout hallelujah! The Redeemed Christian Church of God is 70! It is not just 70 years, it is blossoming and flourishing like the proverbial tree planted by the riverside. The founder, Pa Josiah Akindayomi, will sure be having a nice time in paradise, nodding his head in attestation of the great and mighty works of God among His people.
Pa Akindayomi perhaps would not have thought that the group he started 70 years ago as a prayer group would become an oak tree where people from all over the world are now taking refuge. Akindayomi, who was then a member of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church, began the church as a prayer group in the Cherubim and Seraphim Church. The prayer group had just 13 men with Bro Akindayomi (founder) as he was then known. The other people in the group were: Bro. J.A. Fakunmoju, Bro. Makun (the first ordained pastor in the church), Bro. J. A. Adekoya, Bro. S.K. Padonu, Bro. S.A. Olonode, Bro. Fadiora, Bro Ilenusi, Bro Okuwobi, Bro Fetuga, Bro. Adefeso, Bro G. A Adefunwa and Bro. Matiluko.
They continued to worship at no. 9 Willoughby Street, Ebute Meta, Lagos, having been excommunicated from the Cherubim and Seraphim Church. In the course of their meetings, they needed to have their own identity. Thus, the group was first called the Apostolic Faith of South Africa.
Though it had no link with South Africa, it was documented in a booklet published by the church to mark its 50th anniversary that the first name given to the church was a “classic example of the innocence of Rev. Akindayomi”. Sometime later, after learning that Nigeria is not in Southern Africa, he changed the name of the group to the Apostolic Faith Mission of West Africa. But all those names soon gave way to Redeemed Christian Church of God after a divine encounter the founder had with God. He was said to have been woken up in a trance and given its current name, though he was not a lettered person. Bro. Olanode, one of his lieutenants who was educated, interpreted what the founder copied from the vision as REDEEMED CHRISTIAN CHURCH OF GOD.
God subsequently gave instructions that the church should not merge with any foreign church nor should it raise funds through harvest and establishment of schools. That perhaps informed why all educational institutions supposedly under the purview of the church are being run by Christ the Redeemer’s Ministries.
The church began in earnest and made modest strides until 1973 when Pastor Enoch Adeboye joined. He gave his life to Christ in the church in the course of looking for healing for his third child who had earlier been struck by a strange disease. The child was always crying and doctors could not diagnose what had gone wrong. But all that became history as soon as he surrendered his life to Christ. His family was generally touched and a new life began.
But Adeboye’s life and that of the RCCG seemed to have had a date with destiny. He assumed the leadership of the church in 1981. God had already spoken to both him and the founder that he would be the one that would lead the church.
Amidst several controversies and disenchantment of some members, Adeboye, then a university lecturer, became the General Overseer of the church. On leading the church, he faced the twin problem of acceptance and poverty. The entire tithe of the church then was not more than N7,000. But that was soon addressed as he began exposing members to principles of prosperity. He also had to introduce new programmes. He introduced the Digging Deep and Faith Clinic to the church. This gave the church a solid foundation.
By the time Pa Akindayomi died in 1980, he left 40 branches of the RCCG to his chosen successor – Enoch Adeboye. Indeed, the choice has proven extremely successful. The Redeemed church claims to have several millions of members across over 50,000 branches in 198 countries worldwide. And there are at least 850 branches in the UK and Ireland alone.
According to a statement credited to Pastor Adeboye in the church’s publication, the Digging Deep started with four people: Pastor Adeboye, Bro Lawal, Bro Ojo and Sis Omoniyi in his house on Adelabu Street, Surulere. The Faith Clinic, on the other hand, started when God spoke to him in 1980 that he was going to start a programme that would be called Faith Clinic. Pa Akindayomi and Rev. E. Hagin, both now late, confirmed this separately.
As at 2020, there were 709 parishes of the church in the US. That was after about 10 parishes of the church severed their relationship with it. There is no information as to the current status of the church in both the UK and the US, but there are indications that more parishes have been established.
The Impact Of The Church Is Spreading Across The World
The RCCG, no doubt, has become so massive that the real trouble the church has is not of growth but of managing the growth. One of the hallmarks of the church is the monthly Holy Ghost service. The service is the main crowd puller for the church.
The growth of the church is in fact traced to the monthly programme. Though some have also linked the growth to the establishment of the Model Parishes, there is no gainsaying the monthly gathering is a huge catalyst for the expansion.
Adeboye had introduced the Model Parish, a development which church experts say has given the church its meteoric rise. The first Model Parish was inaugurated in May 1988 at 1, Ladipo Oluwole Street, off Adeniyi Jones, Ikeja, Lagos, with Pastor Tunde Bakare, now of the Citadel Global Community Church, as the first pastor. A few months to the first anniversary of the church, Pastor Bakare pulled out to start his own ministry. The majority of the members followed him to start the new work leaving only about 18 people according to a mission’s publication of the RCCG.
It is interesting to note that the second Model Parish was established in Ikoyi in August 1989 while the third was established in Apapa, Lagos, on May 5, 1991, by Pastor Tony Rapu. An RCCG publication notes, “Pastor Tony Rapu, a medical doctor, was one of the three young professionals called by Pastor Adeboye in the beginning. Pastor Rapu gave all he had, including selling his car and other valuables, to enhance the vision of the Model Parish. He worked tirelessly to plant many other parishes and his efforts were rewarded; but he too left the Redeemed Christian Church of God in 1997.”
Though the development shook the church, it soon got over it. Pastor Adeboye had earlier introduced the Christ Redeemers Friends Universal to take the gospel to the top echelon of society like businessmen and captains of industry. He also started the Holy Ghost service in 1986 as a response to God’s directive and the Holy Ghost Festival in 1998.
Today, the church seems to have immunity from breakaway factions. Despite those leaving the church, it has continued to spread its tentacle to all the nooks and crannies of the world.
Below, we serve you a glimpse of how the church took its root in some of the states of Nigeria.
How RCCG Started In Some Of The States
The first parish of RCCG in the state was planted in 1954 after a crusade which included a team of ministers from Ebute Metta. The team included the founder of Gospel Faith Mission, late Pastor George. The parish was located at 55, Olufemisoro Street, Ondo. The first pastor in charge was Pastor E.K. Orundun who slept in the Lord in 1997.
The church closed down three years after it was established due to some crisis in the state which led to the exodus of many of its members. But it soon bounced back and has since occupied its initial land and has spread to other parts of the state.
The church was first established in the state in 1967 at the time Nigeria was divided into four regions. Pa Akindayomi was said to have led a team to establish the church at Oniyanrin, Odo Alawo, Ibadan. Bro Akande, a former member of the Christ Apostolic Church, was made the first pastor.
There was a crisis in the Ibadan church in August 1974. One Rev. Akinlenbola led a splinter group and started another church called Elim Gospel Church. The incident which happened during the annual convention of the church saw almost three-quarters of the church following after the new church. But RCCG has since spread to all nooks and crannies of the state, making giant strides.
RCCG in Ogun state was said to have commenced before the creation of the state in 1976. The parish started in 1971 at the town hall, Ijebu Igbo. After the crusade, the house of Baba Onisile was used as the fellowship centre for those converted during the programme.
One Bro Segun Adewale was acting as the parish pastor before Pastor D.B. Akande was posted to the parish as the first pastor. Membership of the church then was between 30 and 40 at its inception in October 1971. The first parish is known as Oke Tako Parish. The second parish was planted in Abeokuta in 1977.
The story of the church in Edo state began with a farmer and businessman, Pa. James Ufeli, who went on a business trip from his settlement called Okhuaihe to Benin City in January 1965. When he got to Benin, he saw a crowd of people listening to a white man; the person was T. L. Osborn. With him were pastor Shobiya and late Archbishop Benson Idahosa. After the programme, Pa Ufeli requested that they should start a church in his village.
A week later, the team, including Osborn, followed Ufeli to his village to hold a crusade. After the crusade, a fellowship was born and the team was always coming every weekend to teach and pray with the brethren.
However, when the civil war broke out in 1967, Osborn left Nigeria and Pastor Shobiye took over the assignment. In 1968, Pa Akindayomi visited the brethren in the settlement and spent two days.
Because of the war, Pa Ufeli wanted to go back to Delta where he came from but he was encouraged to stay in the settlement so that no harm would come to him. He stayed back and he soon became the parish pastor. It is said that Pa Ufeli has been of tremendous blessing to the church.
In the case of Delta State, the RCCG was a response to a request by some indigenes of the state. They included the late Pastor Illiveandah and Pastor Johnson Osakwe. In response to their desire, a crusade was conducted in April 1981 in Ezionum.
After the crusade, the first RCCG parish was established. The church was meeting at Ezhie Primary School with Pastor Ebe as the first parish pastor. The initial attendance was put at between 150 and 200.
The RCCG in Kwara State was planted in 1965 by Pastor S.A. Olaniyan who was then a staff of G. B. Olivet, a division of United Africa Company, when he was transferred from Lagos to Ilorin by the company. The church started as a house fellowship and then moved to Gbabiabiadin Lane, Opo Malu, with a membership of about 22. A parish was later established after a crusade by the late general superintendent.
Mr M.J.A. Adebodun was the instrument that God used to start the church in Kano in 1975. His employers, Chemical and Allied Products Limited, had transferred him to Kano. He was living with a friend, Mr Adetayo at No. 1 Adua Road opposite Eldorado Cinema. That was where the church formerly took off. It later moved to Methodist Transfer Primary School and then back to brother Adetayo’s house when the government stopped churches from using schools for church services.
But the landlord soon drove them out and the church moved to pastor Akindele’s house. They were ejected there too and the church moved to Adebodun’s house where the landlord also threatened him with immediate ejection. The church finally procured a landed property where it built a wooden structure. It was located at 112 Egbe road. The pioneer pastor was pastor Adebodun-Topronu. But Pastor Amos Olusanya was subsequently posted to the place as the first full pastor.
The church in Benue was a result of the miraculous healing of the mother of one Evangelist Victor Oboyi. In 1978, Oboyi and one brother Murphy held an evangelistic conference that brought a great revival to Otukpo town which led to the setting up of a house fellowship in Oboyi’s house, 30, Igede street.
It was that same year that he attended the congress organized in Ilesha by Pastor Adeboye. It was at the congress that Oboyi told Adeboye that his mother was ill and asked that she be prayed for. Prayer was made on a handkerchief which he subsequently used to pray for his mother in Otukpo and she was healed of the illness that had afflicted her for 10 years. It was after the miraculous healing that Oboyi requested that the RCCG be established in his town.
This informed the congress which was held at Government Secondary School, Otukpo. At the end of the congress, many souls were added to the fellowship that took place in the house of brother Oboyi but because of his many travels, he could not stay behind to supervise the fellowship. Pastor Adewale, who had accompanied Adeboye to the congress, had to stay behind to handle the fellowship which was then renamed Redeemed Christian Church of God.
Unfortunately, evangelist Oboyi who had successfully concluded a conference at Gboko under the auspices of his ministry, Abundance of Christ Ministry, was killed by some unknown persons when he was doing “morning cry” (early morning preaching). The murder was said to have taken place a few metres away from his house. The church however built its permanent structure after his death. In 1982, the foundation laying ceremony took place at the permanent site of the church (at Oweto in Otukpo).
The church was planted in 1982 by brothers from Kano. Before then, a brother called Adewale helped the church to secure land behind 44 Barracks Badiko. The brethren from Kano moved to Kaduna to build on the land through direct labour.
The first service of the church was held on March 19, 1984, in a car park in Pastor Obayemi’s residence. The first offshoot parish was born in November 1988.
RCCG had been in existence in Kogi before August 27, 1991, when the state was created. The first parish started in Ogiri in 1963 with Pastor Kola as presiding pastor. The church however did not grow according to church records until the creation of Kogi State.
Pastor and Mrs Funsho Adeyoluwa started the church in Plateau. They started a house fellowship in Pankshin in early 1986. They later moved to Jos and moved the church along. They used a primary school and later moved to a rented house on Rukuba road. The church was formally inaugurated in 1987 by Pastor D. A. Ilori.
Pastor Mrs Bankole had been posted to Federal Polytechnic, Nasarawa, as an auditor. Upon her arrival, she and her husband discovered that the RCCG was not in the state. They started with a house fellowship, which attracted people from the polytechnic. The first full-time pastor for the parish was Pastor Femi Eno-Izobor.
The beginning of the RCCG in the FCT can be traced to C. J. Akiri. Upon relocation to Abuja in 1987, the Holy Spirit led him to establish a parish of the RCCG in his residence, block 53 Flat 1, Karu, Abuja. In November of that year, he applied for the use of a classroom at the L.E.D Primary School, Block H. Nyanya, Karu. The first Sunday service was held on February 17, 1991, with a total of 22 people in attendance.
The church in Sokoto planted the first RCCG church in Kebbi located in Zuru in November 1988. Pastor Elijah Eluseyi was sent to pastor the church.
Pastor R.A. Dada started the church in Minna when he was transferred by Nigeria Telecommunications Plc to the state. He started a house fellowship in 1989. A church, Faith Foundation Church, provided accommodation for the parish when it began to grow. The accommodation was at Top Medical Road, Up Hill Tunga, Minna. Pastor Adeboye conducted the foundation laying of the church’s permanent site in 1991. The parish is today known as Living Stone Parish.
Two members of the church in Sokoto had moved to Gusua to take up jobs in January, 1990. They were Brother Kola Opadotun and Mrs Kemi Aduradola. The church started in the house of brother Opadotun.
When his landlord learnt that he had begun a fellowship, he was ejected. When a youth corps member joined the parish, there were moves to secure a worship centre. The First African Church offered their premises for Monday Digging Deep and Thursday Faith Clinic while Baptist Church offered theirs for Sunday worship. By October 1991, the growth of the church necessitated the posting of Pastor Akinsulire to the place as the first full-time pastor.
The church in Jigawa started in Kazuare at the premises of the Anglican church in the town in 1992. The RCCG used to hold its service before the Anglican church had theirs and also had mid-week services in the church. The church however gave the RCCG quit notice when it noticed that its members were attending RCCG. The CAC church around the area gladly accepted to host the RCCG. It was from this point that the church moved to acquire its own property.
God used Pastor John Sunmonu in 1991 to start a parish of the RCCG in the state. Although the growth of the church cannot be compared to that in other states, even in the north, there are indications that great things are now happening in the state.
A former staff of AfriBank, Pastor Owolabi, was transferred to Bauchi by the Bank. He had a strong leading to start a branch of the church in the state. The church started its meeting at the Multi-Purpose Sports Hall, Bauchi. It was said that he used his car loan to acquire a residential building from one of the members of the church. The parish is now known as Alpha and Omega Parish.
Pastor E.A. Kalejaiye took the church to Gombe in 1993. He had led an evangelical team from one state to the other and had planted churches where there were none including Gombe. Pastor Alex Ekwueme was the first pastor of the church in the state. He was left behind after the crusade to supervise the work there.
The church could not start in the state capital because of persecution. But the first parish started in Funtua on November 2, 1997, with 20 people at the inaugural service. Among the pioneer members were Pastor Abiodun Coker and Pastor Oloyede.
The RCCG in Imo Started at Nnebukwu in Oguta Local Government. Pastor Romanus Assonna established the first parish called Rock of Ages Parish in 1982 after his training at the Redeemed Christian Bible College.
A sister, Olukoga Wemimo, was mightily used of God to start the church in Rivers when she went there on a one-year youth corps programme in 1983. She started the church at her residence near the University of Port Harcourt during her service year. There was a crusade in Port Harcourt in that same year and the Parish was inaugurated in May 1983, with Pastor Solomon Adewale as the first parish pastor.
The church got to Enugu in September 1989, through Bro Moses Overakpo. The church located at 135 Agbani Road, Enugu, had brothers Tony, Paul and Njoku as ministers. The parish started with 24 members. The first model parish in the state was planted in 1995.
The Rivers State RCCG planted the first parish of the church in Abia on June 3, 1990, at Omuoha Road Ogbor Hill, Aba. The first parish pastor was Pastor Olukoga.
Rivers state also introduced the church to Bayelsa in December 1992, during a Let’s Go A Fishing Programme. This was before the state was carved out of Rivers State. The period of 1992 to 1996 witnessed a period of complete stagnation. But it has since overcome the initial stagnation to witness growth.
The GRA Port Harcourt RCCG under the leadership of late Justice Abel Taria helped in establishing the branch of the church in Akwa Ibom. She had contacted Mrs Helen Daye Agama who showed a lot of enthusiasm about the church being brought to her community. She was said to have bought about 100 chairs for the church to start service. The parish, which started in Abak in 1992, had over 90 parishes as of 10 years ago.
The first fellowship of the church was held on September 5, 1994, at Mount Zion Cuisine Restaurant, 8, Regina Nwankwo Avenue GRA, Onitsha. Pastor Francis Onofeghara and Dave Okunade were instrumental in the formation of the RCCG in the state.
Beyond Nigeria, the RCCG has spread across all the continents of the world.as stated earlier.
Though there are no literature on how the parishes across the world began, there are ample evidence that some of them were not deliberately planted.
The mission’s board of the church no doubt sent missionaries out of the country to plant some of the parishes.
But a number were planted by members of the church who had other things doing abroad. In some cases people from those countries requested for the church.
Incidentally there are some parts of the world where the RCCG is, that Pastor Adeboye has not stepped his foot.
This largely shows God is the one spreading the gospel through the church.
But then one cannot overlook the great work done by the RCCG missions department in deliberately sending missionaries out of the country.
The Redeemed Christian School of Mission (RECSOM) was established in 1993 to train missionaries to fulfil the great commission. Thousands of trained missionaries have passed through RECSOM.
They are well-equipped with resources to traverse the globe reaching out to people destined to hear he gospel.
Apart from sending missionaries to different parts of the world, technology has been greatly deployed to spread the gospel of Jesus. And by extension, the name of the church.
Millions of people from different parts of the world are often hooked to the online platform of the church. The Dove Media and other media owned by the RCCG have been instrumental in this regard.
As the church marks its 70 years on the face of the earth, it is hoped that it would continue to be a beckon of hope to a dying world.