By Gbenga Osinaike
It was the first ever of its kind. People in their thousands trekked long distances to get to Lekki, Lagos. The whole of that landscape then was a sandy landmine, far away from residential areas. Yet, thousands thronged the place to hear God’s word.
It was Lekki ‘98, the first Holy Ghost Congress of the RCCG so to say. Before then, the yearly meeting was known as Festival of Praise. The General Overseer of the RCCG, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, said he was inspired to start a yearly gathering of believers who come to give God praise and listen to God’s word as an antidote to the 1977 Festival of Arts and Culture in Nigeria. The yearly meeting went on and on.
But it was in 1998 that the paradigm changed. That was the first time the meeting was tagged Holy Ghost Congress. And that was the first time it would attract a massive crowd with global attention.
The gathering was simply phenomenal. The theme of that major event was Divine Visitation. By the end of the Congress, the Lord indeed visited Nigeria starting from Lekki. The whole of that enclave became a sought-after area of Lagos. The property value increased and Nigeria generally experienced a new lease of life.
Lekki ‘98 happened just at the twilight of military rule in Nigeria. The following year was the beginning of democracy in the country.
That was 25 years ago. Since that epoch event, the RCCG has not failed to hold the Congress every December. It usually promises to be a time of great encounters and outpouring of the power of God.
The 2023 Congress is tagged, “Divine Repositioning.” Already by the time this piece gets to you, the Congress will be holding and thousands will be gathered again at the feet of the Lord to hear the Lord speak to their hearts.
The expectation of a new order is not only limited to Nigeria. People across the globe are looking forward to a new order after the Congress. The question is, what in specific terms is that new positioning? How is the 2023 Congress going to be different from previous ones?
Pastor Busola Joel is the Lead Pastor of RCCG Green Pastures, Leicester, where he has been pastoring for about 18 years. He is also the Area Pastor of Leicester.
He told Beautiful Day that there is an expectation of a paradigm shift. “People are looking forward to a shift in all areas of life particularly among RCCG members and RCCG as a church. There is a kind of agitation among young people that is seeking relevance. I think the Congress will be the crystallization of that new order.”
Joel notes that what is happening in Europe, Africa, and indeed the rest of the world, has clearly shown that a new chapter is about to be born.
“The Church is not left out of this new order. I think that is what informed the theme: Divine Repositioning.”
Citing the example of the RCCG, Joel said, “The young people don’t seem to be at home with the style of worship in some parishes of the RCCG. They don’t seem to understand our theology and our presentation. That is what informed the Youth Church in the RCCG. But beyond the Youth Church, there is an inner quest from young people that is about to explode. It is that birth pang that is making them restless and also makes them want to explore new worship mode.”
He gave practical instances of some of the young people of RCCG parentage who seem to prefer worship in other churches.
He said, “Many of these young people are indeed craving attention, that is why they move from one place to the other. I believe the Congress is about to usher in a new template that will accommodate the burning passion of young people.”
He recalled attending a meeting of about 700 pastors of the RCCG. “In that meeting, the then chairman of RCCG UK asked those who were less than 30 years old to stand up. To the surprise of many, only about 30 people were less than 30 years in that meeting. The bulk of the pastors were in their 40s and 50s. It was at that point that I began to see that we are not there yet in terms of keeping abreast with global trends. If the bulk of those in leadership are old people, the future of the church is at stake.”
He recalled that when Pastor Adeboye took over the leadership of the church, he was in his late 30s. “But then, when he became G.O., he encouraged young people. The leadership of the church was systemically being taken over by the youth. It was during those early days that the Model Parish of the RCCG began. It was in alignment with a repositioning then,” he said.
Joel however believes both the classical and model parishes of the RCCG have aligned into one. “There is a need for a fresh impetus. The church needs to reinvent and connect with the future.”
On the likely area that the church should be re-positioned, he said, “By now the leadership of the church should be trained in the area of Artificial Intelligence so that they will be continually relevant to the modern world. That can’t be negotiated. The young people today will only listen to pastors who speak their language. If we can’t speak their language, we have no business pastoring them. And that does not mean the theology has to change.
Joel also thinks RCCG should examine its theology and its application. “Many young people are asking questions. What is the appropriate response to these questions? These are not the days you can bamboozle people with empty phrases. The questions we avoided in the past should be answered now. That is where we need to reposition ourselves in the area of our theology and be well-grounded.
The basic question according to him should be, how will Jesus respond, for instance, to the issue of gay and lesbianism? “What is the best approach to this set of people? How do we win them and at the same time make them see the evil in what they are doing? This is just one out of many other questions that should be addressed.
While insisting that there is a need for the church to create a template for the young people to manifest their talents and abilities, he said, “The generations that are being raised are analytical. They have a high-tech mindset. They have skill for witty invention. The church needs to reposition itself to accommodate them if it does not want to lose them”
For Pastor Sesan Sotunde, Divine Repositioning is an indication that a new order is in the offing. “The G.O. said God told him about a new RCCG. For me, I think there will be so many changes in the days to come. I am not surprised about the theme.”
Sotunde, who is the Pastor in Charge of King of Glory Zone of the RCCG Ogun Province 4, said “Divine Repositioning is the repositioning of the church for the second coming of Jesus. I believe the Lord Himself will reposition the church to greater heights. I believe there will be a kind of re-ordering.”
He believes almost everything about the RCCG should change. “Presently, young people are almost taking over the running of the church. I believe Divine Repositioning will bring in vibrant people to the kingdom.”
Sotunde said people who have been in the RCCG for long may find it difficult to key into the new order. “They may not see the vision coming to reality. But the word of God has come forth and it will accomplish that which it is set to do. My appeal is that those of us who belong to the old generation who may be sceptical of a new order, should wake up and be alert.”
Pastor Lanre Ojeola believes the theme for the 2023 Congress could not have come at a better time. “God created us for a purpose. The challenge for many of us is the inability to know God’s purpose for our lives. But then, there is also the factor of the enemy, the devil. When men slept, the enemy planted evil seeds in the vine and thereby corrupted the vine. Divine repositioning for me is God coming to bring a divine order.”
He cited examples of Bible characters whose destinies were almost truncated adding, “It was divine repositioning that made Hannah the mother of Samuel eventually have many other children. She was destined to be the mother of children. She needed the repositioning to get her divine mandate. And she got it.”
Ojeola who is a Pastor Charge of zone in Lagos province 42 and pastor of Beautiful Gate Parish said, “I think the 2023 Congress is essentially about people being re-positioned to attain their divine destiny.”
He expressed optimism that God will use the Congress to reposition the RCCG and all attendees. “The G.O. had the ambition of becoming the youngest VC. But the Lord re-positioned him. Everybody has a dream of what he wants but what God wants us to be is more important than what we want to be. I believe that is the reason we all have to key into the Congress to get a divine direction.
“When individuals are reformed, it will affect the church positively. It is absurd for one man to be successful among many people. So the Congress is a call to collective redemption. If everybody is well positioned, there will be societal transformation. It is when individuals are positioned divinely that the society and the nation will turn out well.”
On how to benefit from this new order, Ojeola offers, “The first thing is to pray and seek God’s direction for our lives. By the time you know where God is taking you, you will not swim against the current. The working out of the rest is left to God. The individual has to discover the purpose of God for their lives. Rediscovering purpose is strategic for life.”
Lekan Adebekun, Pastor in Charge of New Life Zone of the RCCG in Lagos however believes the theme is an indication that God wants to do a new thing in Nigeria.
“We have never had it so bad in Nigeria. The nation has gone through a lot of ups and downs. The economy is so bad. Nobody thought we would go this low. I believe this theme is an indication that God is about to turn our situation around in Nigeria. I also believe that God has a purpose for us as individuals. God wants to do something new. The living condition of people is appalling. I am expecting that things will take a new turn after the Congress.
Adebekun believes the 2023 Congress is not an ordinary Congress. I believe strongly that everybody must get their spiritual antennae active so they can receive. If we are just going for Congress, we might not get anything. People must come with the heart to get a turnaround in specific areas of their lives. For me, it is a Congress for the individual which will eventually translate to national revival.”