Obinna AkukweDavid Oyedepo, Presiding Bishop of Living Faith Church Worldwide aka Winners Chapel, is unarguably the reigning Apostle of Faith and Prosperity. Bishop Oyedepo, since the inception of Living Faith Church in 1983, has displayed unusual exploits of faith unrivaled since the Pentecostal Revival associated with Azusa Street Revival of 1914.
David Oyedepo is married to Faith Oyedepo, herself a product of faith. As a spinster, she was a prayer leader in her local church and from what one of her mentors, Pastor Mike Oye, told us, Faith would lead other young girls to extra prayers in the church after services have closed in the Methodist Church. Therefore, the explosive faith associated with the Oyedepo’s is not accidental; it is results of seed sown in times past.
Bishop David Oyedepo, born in September 1954, a trained architect, said that God called him in May 1981 through eighteen hour vision where God told him that “but from the beginning it was not so, and now the hour has come to liberate the world through the preaching of the word of faith, and I am sending you to undertake this task”
This vision which is 39 years ago is the foundation of a church that has over 12,000 full time pastors on payroll, over 12,000 branches in over three hundred cities and fifty nine countries worldwide. The church has two universities and dozens of Faith Academy groups of schools and colleges all over Nigeria.
Bishop Oyedepo’s Faith Tabernacle located at Ota, Ogun State, Nigeria , has a seating capacity of 50,000. However, with the overflow facilities, it could contain over one million persons especially during Shiloh seasons. The five Sunday services at Faith Tabernacle, as at 2018, has average Sunday attendance of close to 500,000 and on a few occasions, attendance exceeded 600,000 on a Sunday.
Bishop Oyedepo had repeatedly claimed, in recent times, to be the Apostle of Faith and he lays claims to collecting the mantle from the American preacher, Rev Kenneth Hagin and no preacher of note has disputed the claims. He also claims to be the Apostle of Prosperity and no preacher of note had any course to disprove the claims.
In another instance, he said that God told him in August 1987 during series of speaking engagement in the United States “arise get back home and make my people rich” The phenomenal rise and exploits of the church in 39 years could only be combination of Apostleship of Faith and Prosperity.
1 Faith Tabernacle, 50,000 seater auditorium, was built in one year September 1998-September 1999
2 Covenant University first phase with halls of residence, lecturers quarters, libraries, lecture theaters , faculty buildings and tarred roads was built in eight months January-October, 2002
3 In 2019 alone 6,500 Pastors and Missionary Evangelists were recruited between March and December, adding extra unbudgeted N400 million naira to the overloaded church wage bill monthly i.e. N4.8 billion naira annually, and most of these churches are in the villages and cannot be self sufficient for many years to come.
4 In 2019 alone over 5000 churches were planted, with mini church offices, pastor’s residence and start-up equipment fully funded. This put extra expenditures, apart from incremental wage bill, running into billions of naira of unbudgeted expenses.
5 In 2020, before the advent of Coronavirus, extra 1,500 churches have been planted, remaining 8,500 to be completed before the end of the year, totaling 10,000 new churches for 2020 church year. These churches will be manned by full time pastors.
Having been involved in church planting and missionary activities for about twenty five years, I know that these expenditures will not be possible under a historical space of thirty nine years if the God of Prosperity is not at work. All these branches in 59 nations branches and more than 12,000 branches in Nigeria will not be possible within thirty nine years if the Apostolic Faith is not in operation.
Winners Chapel is the most flamboyant and boastful Pentecostal church around. ‘Winners’ as they are popularly called, are singled out for their pride, self confidence, breakthrough and ‘can do’ spirit. That church has no respect for rich people because majority of them believes that though they may be poor now, they will soon be rich. There you see top politicians, top military brass, top business moguls serving in the White House( Toilet Cleaning Sub-Unit), Sanctuary Keeping, Ushering, Crowd Control, Traffic, Gilead (Medial) without announcing their privileged identities.
Bishop Oyedepo runs a twelve month church calendar known as Pillars of the Commission’, thus every month is dedicated and teachings centered on a particular pillar. In fact, Bishop Oyedepo introduced the mantra “Year of ABCD” and ‘Month of ABCD’ mantra into the Christian faith. I have been around long enough to know when it was first used. In the year 2000, the mantra was ‘Wonder 2000’ and in 2020 it is ‘Breaking Limits 2020’. The pillars of faith include The Word, Faith, Prayer, Vision, Wisdom, Praise, Consecration, Healing, Supernatural, Success, Prosperity, and The Holy Spirit.
I first encountered Bishop Oyedepo in person in year 2000, at Winners Chapel Durumi, Phase 1, when Bishop Dayo Olutayo was Resident Pastor, when he came on a prophetic visit and minister’s conference. I noticed unusual grace, unction, confidence and insight into the Word and that impression had not changed till date.
Bishop Oyedepo is not afraid of controversy; he speaks his mind not minding who is offended. He has variously lashed out at Boko Haram insurgents and cursed their sponsors, including those perceived to be in high places. He has variously condemned the Buhari Presidency for nepotism and lame duck approach to insecurity in Nigeria. He has been at the forefront of criticism of the closure of churches in the wake of coronavirus pandemics positing that churches are solution centers.
Bishop Oyedepo organized Shiloh Programme is the hotbed of Christian gathering in Nigeria. It draws the largest viewership of any religious programme worldwide, including millions present at Shiloh ground in Canaanland and millions viewing from their branches across Nigeria and the nations of the world and. Millions at the Shiloh ground would be exceeded by only the millions at Redeemed Camp for the annual Holy Ghost Congress happening almost simultaneously. In addition, creative miracles happen at Shiloh and I know various instances.
Bishop Oyedepo is very rich. He described himself as ‘dangerously blessed’ and it sparked controversy worldwide. The church has four private jets and choice auditoriums scattered around the world. Winners Chapel is so rich that despite the unethical pilfering of its resources by some backslidden pastors, accountants and church workers, the church still has enough to sponsor projects-schools, churches, charities, scholarship and yet assist other denominations with aid.
Bishop Oyedepo has influenced my life, probably more than other pastors in the Pastor Series1 -6, and probably more than others in upcoming series. Since I subscribed to his teachings from 1997 till I encountered him in 2000, I see a man bold as lion, undaunted by obstacles, filled with insight, and focused on the destiny path ordained for him and he has not changed.
The Word of Faith Bible Institute is the most popular short course bible school worldwide, taught in over 50 nations, with over 500,000 graduands worldwide since inception in 1994.
Bishop Oyedepo regards the renowned preachers like late Kenneth Hagin as his senior mentor. He also sees Rev Kenneth Copeland, Pastor Enoch Adeboye and late Bishop Idahosa as mentors.
Bishop Oyedepo, in my own view, is a bit quick tempered and impatient. He wants results immediately and this has made many of his pastors indulge in unethical practices, the subject of which is not of interest here, to avoid his opprobrium. Records are falsified, results inflated to meet specific targets. The targets include church attendance, new converts, water baptism and Holy Ghost Baptism, finance, Satellite fellowships among others. Winners Chapel is not a place for a lazy and unfocused pastor, it is either you sit up or gets demoted.
Bishop Oyedepo criticizes his pastors the manner he criticizes the government. Therefore, you need a lot of patience to follow him. Those who over the years have followed him patiently, including Bishops’ David Abioye, Thomas Aremu and Pastors’ Chris Nwaka, Triumphant Obamoh, Abraham Ojeme, Adekunle Shiyanbade, Chris Abraham, Joseph Anyanwu, John Adelekan among others, have become spiritual giants themselves.
Bishop Oyedepo has impacted the world with his message of faith and prosperity, and he is unarguably the Apostle of Faith and Prosperity.
Obinna Akukwe wrote via [email protected], @obinnaakukwe