By Gbenga Osinaike
Since 1952 when Pa Josiah Akindayomi broke away from the Cherubim and Seraphim Church to start a group that later metamorphosed into the Redeemed Christian Church of God, it’s been a move from one glory to the other.
With its tentacles spread across the globe, what is left is for RCCG to consolidate its gains over the years and further deepen its reach.
Born out of zeal
It’s however instructive to note that Pa Akindayomi began the church out of zeal for God.
He had disagreed with the C&S Church because he felt they were no longer towing the line of faith. He then formed a Bible study group with the hope of getting the attention of the youth and then eventually the adults.
But that effort did not yield the desired result. That made him start holding regular prayer meeting somewhere away from the church. Before long, some families joined him at the prayer meeting.
Pa Akindayomi said in his autobiography, “Shortly after I started my prayers at Canoe Wharf (a location around the present headquarters of the church), I was joined by one Mr. Padonu and his wife and one Mr. Adekoya, and we began to pray together.”
After a while, more people joined the group. This made him move the prayer meeting to his house. People began to attend the meeting from different churches. Around Easter time, they would go back to the Canoe Wharf to pray for 40 days.
Those who came from other churches would return to their churches while a few would remain behind to join Pa Akindayomi in regular prayers at his residence. But he remained a member of the C&S Church.
Not born again
Despite holding prayer meetings, Pa Akindayomi was not yet born again. It was in the course of the regular prayer meeting that he married another woman apart from his first two wives.
He wrote in his autobiography titled, This Is My Story: “After this (forming the prayer group) I moved to 28 Kano Street, Ebute Metta. I only spent four months there. During those four months, I married another wife and brought her there. All these happened in 1949. I now had three wives.”
While in Kano Street and later Bola Street in Ebute Meta, some of the people who had joined him in the prayer meeting left the fellowship. Not long after, he was sacked from the house by his landlord. But another member of the group, Mr. S.A Olonade, made his home available for the prayer meeting.
The group at that time had adopted the name Ogo Oluwa Prayer Group. The congregation used to kneel on ashes in the makeshift building to pray. Things began to happen fast. A member that experienced God’s lifting soon became the first person to pay the biggest tithe of 200 pounds.
The life-changing encounter
But Pa Akindayomi as stated earlier was not born again in the true sense of the word. He disclosed in his autobiography that it was around 3am on a particular day in 1951 that he experienced God’s divine touch which led to his repentance.
He wrote, “My whole life became new. I immediately restituted (sic) my ways with the women I had married in adultery. I then went to the Cherubim and Seraphim Church, made complete restitution and I parted ways with them.”
The prayer group thus became fully evangelical in 1952. But that also marked the beginning of Akindayomi’s travail because he was faced with the paucity of funds.
He sold virtually all that he had to finance the gospel and spent the next six months fasting and praying at the Willoughby Street Sanctuary in Ebute Meta.
He also tried to make the church an affiliate of the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa. But government order, prohibiting correspondents between Nigeria and South Africa, ended the relationship with the church. There was another move to affiliate with another church in Germany. That also did not work.
The name RCCG
By 1956, however, while in Oshogbo, Pa Akindayomi experienced God afresh. It was while praying in Oshogbo, according to him, that the Lord revealed the name, Redeemed Christian Church of God, to him.
That was the beginning of the total independence of the RCCG. From that time till now, the church has continued to move from one level to the other.
It is instructive to note that since Pa Akindayomi passed away on November 2 1980, the RCCG has gone through monumental changes.
Ironically, Pa Akindayomi had laid down some instructions concerning the church in his autobiography. He noted in his memoir that God had promised him that the church would be known all over the world. He had curiously also instructed that the church must be built by the side of the water. That perhaps explains why the headquarters is beside the lagoon in Ebute Meta, Lagos.
Warning for RCCG
Despite the promise of a global reach, Akindayomi stated that God told him the church must resist the temptation of building a high tower and that the church must not condone sin. He also instructed that the pursuit of the church must be the preaching of the gospel.
Akindayomi wrote, “God also warned that we must not hold harvest or anniversary in this church to organise a meeting for money collection so that the church may be rich.
“He said riches (sic) must not take the position of the Holy Spirit and that He will be providing the needs of the church if only we stand on his commandments without mingling His words with our wisdom and that everybody will be surprised as to how and where we get the money we spend.”
Pa Akindayomi also stated in his memoir that “the Lord warned that the church must not establish a mission school for his church is different from worldly churches. He said we must not follow the ways which the world uses to acquire their wealth for our blessing is with the Lord.”
The coming of Adeboye
Pastor Enoch Adeboye joined the church in 1973 from the University of Lagos where he taught Mathematics. He was ordained a pastor in 1975 and served as interpreter to Pa Akindayomi who preached in the Yoruba language.
He however succeeded Pa Akindayomi as the General Overseer of the church. His appointment was formalized by the posthumous reading of Akindayomi’s sealed pronouncement. Adeboye assumed the position of G.O. in 1981.
Since he became the General Overseer, he has taken the church through another level of experience.
If Pa Akindayomi were to speak from the grave, he perhaps would say, “What has happened to the RCCG is beyond human expectations”. And indeed, the buck stops at the table of Pastor Adeboye who overtime has brought many innovations to the church.
The deft moves
Some of the moves will continue to be a subject of debate. Apart from the essence of the gospel which Pastor Adeboye has tried to maintain in the church, the structure and modus operandi of the church have completely changed from what was called classical to model.
As soon as Adeboye took over the leadership of the church, he began to embark on fundamental changes in the mission. Being an academic, it was natural for him to bring his likes into the system.
There was also a need for re-orientation among the RCCG workforce and the need for a new path without tampering with the church’s core values.
But it’s important to note that the changes were not unilateral. Indeed, right from when Pa Akindayomi was alive, Pastor Adeboye had got his confidence and had begun to make him see the need to modify some of his views about the Church’s operations.
For instance, the church did not use to engage musical instruments like drums during praise worship. But Adeboye was able to convince Pa Akindayomi of the need to modify such practice with appropriate biblical reference.
Through the leading of the Holy Spirit, Pastor Adeboye was to create an evangelical structure that accommodates people of all classes. He set up a template that made it easy to reach both the rich and the poor. That to a large extent brought the church out of its doldrums. He also began to establish institutions that would help the church achieve its mission and vision.
Adeboye acquired land for the Redemption Camp in 1983. In 1988, a students’ body known as the Redeemed Christian Fellowship (RCF) was established. That body was strategic and it was following after the Campus Fellowship of the Deeper Life Bible Church.
The RCF is the youth wing of the church, concentrated within tertiary institutions of learning in the country. He also set up the Redeemed Christian Bible College in 1980.
In 1990, Christ the Redeemer’s Friends Universal (CRFU), was established to reach out to the rich in the society. The church has several primary and secondary schools. In 2005, Redeemer’s University was established and several other institutions like technical schools and polytechnic.
RCCG and its social relevance
Beyond the education sector, the RCCG has made some incursions into the health sector. Apart from having health facilities in many parts of the country, it has extended its reach to many of the teaching hospitals across the country by supplying medical equipment and drugs to assist those institutions in their deliveries.
The church has invested heavily in the country’s social re-engineering, helping to rehabilitate drug addicts and societal derelicts. It has helped to create jobs by empowering young people with skills. The church has also made a great impact on prison inmates in the country, changing lives and redirecting destinies.
The Trinity Tower
The high point of the RCCG’s social impact was the construction of a 14-storey building known as Trinity Tower by the City of David parish of the Church.
The edifice has been adjudged an architectural masterpiece by many. It has a transfer beam at the ceiling of the 4th floor carrying all the floors sitting on just that beam with no pillars.
The structure which was commissioned in July 2022 has many features, ranging from a multi-storey car park on split heights for about 673 cars, a gym, and a well-being centre including a medical centre.
It also has a recreation zone, ATM gallery, 4,500-seater concert hall, rooftop terrace, a helipad, and a café.
The structure is so named because it has three towers. It was constructed to generate income that would allow the church to carry out its different Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR).
The RCCG turned out to be the first church in Nigeria that would have such a massive project in place designed to raise funds to fund social initiatives.
Apart from the strong presence of the church in Nigeria, its signature is in many parts of the world. It has gigantic projects and structures in the UK, US, and Canada reaching out to souls and changing the stories of people.
Writing in The New York Times, Andrew Rice calls the RCCG “one of Africa’s most vigorously expansionary religious movements, a homegrown Pentecostal denomination that is crusading to become a global faith”. The church’s leaders preach that in the future, “In every household, there will be at least one member of Redeemed Christian Church of God in the whole world.”
Indeed, the goal of the church as enumerated in its mission statement is to have an RCCG member in every family of the world. That vision is gradually becoming a reality as the church keeps maintaining its relevance and impact in the face of the apathy that has seized the world.
The RCCG mission is no doubt a mission that is beyond human expectations.