Church Politics

By Gbenga Osinaike

Leke Adeboye, son of Pastor Enoch Adeboye, General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, made a passing remark recently during an interview session he had with Pastor Isaac Oyedepo on May 16, 2024.

It was a 30-minute interview that touched on a wide range of issues. But at a point, the young Adeboye insinuated that the politics people play in Church can be deadly.

Pastor Oyedepo corroborated his views when he said that what he experienced in the first three months of his evangelical ministry was unbelievable. He did not go into details, but that statement itself is pregnant.

That exchange between the duo of Isaac Oyedepo and Leke Adeboye was just a tip of what is being experienced in the Body of Christ. Many believe the politics people play in the church is deadlier than what is experienced in the secular world. Some would rather not have anything to do with some assemblies because they believe they are places where dog eats dog.

Many pastors have gory tales to tell about their experience with their church administration. It is simply hard to know if it is the Holy Spirit that is leading in some of these churches or if it is the force of flesh. Ironically, playing politics in the church did not start today. Right from the Acts of Apostles, we see examples of how the disciples also played politics among themselves. Paul disagreed with John Mark so he would not agree that he should follow them on a mission trip.

In Acts 15:36-39, the Bible says, “Sometime later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing. Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company.”

Pastor Leke Adeboye

That is quite instructive. That was disagreement based on principle. But in the modern church, however, church members including pastors, have taken politicking to a deadly level. Mammon has become the determinant of many actions.

Beyond that, the church has been divided into camps and loyalty clubs. People no longer have God as their focus. Rather, they have created for themselves idols that they pay obeisance to.

About a couple of years ago, two pastors in a branch of one of the largest Pentecostal churches were almost at daggers drawn over control of a branch of the church. They were pastors almost of the same rank but they were posted to serve in the same place. At a point, the two of them were almost becoming a nuisance to the Church. They were competing for the attention of members and getting to the point of clashing over who preaches.

The situation got messier and the head of the pastors in the Ota, Ogun State community where the church was located, had to step in. The two pastors were transferred from the church. That was when the church had a respite.

Beyond the obvious brickbats that are experienced in many assemblies, more satanic politicking goes on behind the curtain in many church gatherings. Pastor Debo Akinyemi in an interview with our correspondent described the scenario in many churches as worrisome.

Sharing a personal experience, he said, “I have been an ordained pastor since 2001 in a big Pentecostal church. My first entry point was in 1993 in one beautiful Holy Spirit-filled branch of the church somewhere in the Mile 12 area of Lagos. Then, everybody was everybody’s keeper. That initial experience gave me a kind of inspiring perception about the Church.”

Pastor Debo Akinyemi

But with time, Akinyemi changed residence and had to join another branch of the church in the Alagbado area of Lagos. He had the opportunity of serving under wonderful state pastors then. “I remember having a good time with Pastor Ibitayo, Pastor Titus, and Pastor Daramola to mention a few of the pastors I worked with. The experience in that branch of the church was also a nice one” he said.

Things are however not looking straight again according to Pastor Akinyemi. “In the last couple of years, I can tell you that things have changed. I began to see a different church from the one I used to know. Now it appears money and connection are ruling the waves. Decisions are taken on the premise of money. What you get is determined by who you know and what you have.”

Akinyemi recalled he had a terrible experience in a particular branch that made him leave the church without notice. “I had to pack my things and leave. In that branch, I had an altar minister that I introduced to the pastor at the headquarters of the church. Unfortunately, since the two of them got to know each other, they turned themselves into a pair of scissors chopping me in between. She got so favoured by the lead pastor that she felt she could get away with anything. She became unruly. She would not attend workers’ meeting and yet she would want to minister. When I tried to check her, she took my matter to the lead pastor. Before I knew it, I was transferred from the branch to another. At that point, I already had enough.”

That experience made him quit the branch for another branch for the umpteenth time. “I never thought of leaving the church because there is no church you don’t get a semblance of what transpires in where I worship. So, it’s better we stay inside and make the modest contribution we can.  But I can tell you that the politics in the church is getting dirtier by the day.”

But that was not all. Akinyemi said the other branches of the church was not different. This time, the lead pastor he worked under, according to him, was a money monger. “I realised this new branch was worse. The pastor I report to believes anything can be procured with money. He believes no person can run a church effectively without money. I find that incredulous because we can’t judge everything on the altar of money. Yes, I agree we need money to run the church, but the way we go about it is making the church look like a business which it is not. People use money to get to a position. That should not be encouraged by all means.”

The painful part of the dirty politicking in many churches, according to Akinyemi, is that there are places where pastors and ministers keep grudges. “Some get to the point of not greeting themselves. Where I worship presently, I know ministers who don’t greet themselves. It is that bad. Sometimes I wonder whether we are in a church or a boardroom. The politics is horrible.”

Akinyemi noted further, “Many people are carrying big titles but are bickering over mundane things. Dirty Church politics is the elephant in the room. It is high time the church looked into it. It is creating a lot of problems and stifling the growth of the church. There is too much pretence in many of our parishes,” he said.

Evangelist Wale Olugbenro shares a more graphic story about his experience with dirty politics in the church environment.

Evangelist Wale Olugbenro

Olugbenro, who was once a pastor in another evangelical church said God led him to stop pastoring and go into evangelism. “I discovered I did not have a calling to pastoring. When I realised that, I put in my resignation letter and chose to remain an evangelist serving the churches around me. We would hold crusade and pass on the converts to members of the church.”

He said he used to get invitations to minister in other churches, but that this evangelical church where he worships has been his main church. “This is where I worship and I will remain here. But I find some things wrong in the system that have to be corrected. I discovered that if you don’t know anybody, no matter how good your idea is, it may not get the support of the people who are supposed to support you.”

He recalled two instances: one was when he was still a pastor and they needed some money to carry out some evangelical and building projects. “We wrote to the lead pastor of the area. We did not get any response. We tried all we could but the project did not fly. But when somebody came to our branch and got to know we were doing the project, he used his connection to get the money out for us. I think that is not too tidy for a church. People should be attended to based on merit. I discovered that if you don’t know anybody, you are on your own. It is so bad that some appointments and positions are based on who you know,” he said.

The other unfortunate incident happened when he began his ministry as an evangelist. He said the Lord led him to hold a major crusade. He carried some branches of the church along in the planning. “I got the support of many of the branches. We had meetings and agreed on a date for the crusade and even went ahead to print handbills to invite people.

“We started moving from house-to-house inviting people to attend the crusade. The news was everywhere that the crusade would take place at the set time. But just about two days before the event, the lead pastor for that chapter of the big evangelical church gave the order that none of the people under his care must attend the crusade. He was so emphatic that some of the pastors had to come pleading with me that they wouldn’t be able to come again. That was two days before the event. We eventually had the crusade but my spirit was low all through because I felt like an orphan. I felt betrayed by my people. Till today, I am still baffled as to why a pastor would go to that extent to stop a crusade that is expected to bring souls to God’s kingdom.”

He said there was no official reason for asking branches under him not to participate. “That experience has remained with me for a long time. Each time I think about it, I wonder if we are doing church or just interested in social engagements. It is a pathetic situation. Only God can save His church.”

Olugbenro reasoned that the only way to get out of the heat of dirty politics is for every member to be focused. “Because Church is a gathering of people, you can’t rule out politics, you can’t rule out favouritism. It is normal in any human gathering. It is just that it is believed that in church there is neither Greek nor Jew, male or female, that we are all one in the body of Christ. But that is not the reality on ground. People have preferences and they take sides. There should be a mechanism in place to moderate this and allow things to be done based on merit. I don’t need to know anybody to get things done as long as that thing is not for self-promotion.”

In his views, the General Overseer of Mountain Top of Success Chapel, Pastor Gbenga Odubanjo, noted that politics in the Church is worse than what we see outside. “The bigger the church, the bigger and messier the politics and the more they introduce all manner of devilish acts into it. What we have in many churches is that there are different laws for different people within the same system. There are laws for members and laws for pastors’ children. There are also laws for ministers depending on how the ministers are close to the leader of the church. We can easily overlook some. But when it comes to members who have no name, we want to consult the Bible and apply it strictly to them. When it involves those who contribute financially, we pretend as if they are above the law. That is when we talk about the mercy of God.”

Pastor Gbenga Odubanjo

Odubanjo said the idea of overlooking the sin of one and showing favouritism to some people while others are getting reprimanded, is bringing division to the body of Christ. “I have discovered that we don’t use the same word of God to apply to everybody when it comes to dishing out punishment. This is the reason we no longer see the move of God. We have allowed sentiment to rule us, to guard us. It pains the Lord because outsiders can notice what is going on. They are watching.”

He brought to attention the case of a pastor in a big denomination whose wife died. “The pastor was not allowed to marry by the church authority. He was told he had to wait and get approval from the church authority. This man waited for five years; he was not given clearance to marry. And then the wife of the founder of the church died. The founder married the same year his wife died.

“The committee that sat concerning this other pastor’s matter could no longer sit concerning the GO when he lost his wife. This brother was highly offended. Many people are sitting at home today because of this kind of injustice in the church.”

He also cited another instance where a church member impregnated another member out of wedlock. The church was quick to apply the rod on this member. But a few years later, the son of the pastor impregnated a church worker. And the church went on silent mode.  There are cases like this in many assemblies. The youths are observing all these.”

Odubanjo, who has been in ministry for over two decades, said there are countless tales of discrimination and favouritism in the church. “Many leadership positions are given based on money and not competence. If a man has money, he is preferred over the one that does not have.”

According to Odubanjo, the way out is for the church to come to a place of maintaining the integrity of the word of God when it comes to application. “God will not use one law for one and use another law for another person. If we preach the word, we should live by the word irrespective of who is concerned. We should allow the word to take control of our decision-making. By so doing, people will know it is not about sentiment but more of what the word of God is saying.”


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