Almost ten years ago, I wrote the first part of this article. In it, I narrated my encounter with the introduction of Bruce Barton’s 1925 book titled, The Man Nobody Knows: A Discovery of the Real Jesus Christ.
In the book, Bruce Barton evaluated Jesus’ ministry on Earth using the eye of an advert executive and concluded that it followed the structures of modern businesses. The author pointed out how Jesus used today’s marketing tools and advertisement strategies to build a formidable business empire. One overlooked aspect of the piece was Barton’s assessment of Jesus’ ministry on how he picked his workers and how he appointed his successor.
Ten years later, as the leaders of the second generation of Pentecostal churches in Nigeria face inevitable retirement, how church leaders pick successors is now front and center in the backrooms of these churches. Sometimes, it spills out to the front office, as we recently saw in a schism in the Pastor Enoch Adeboye-led Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG).
In the piece, I also looked at the then outrageous utterances of Bishop David Oyedepo concerning how he independently built Covenant University and other investments allied to Living Faith Church Worldwide (aka Winners’ Chapel International) without using tithes, offerings, donations and money from members of his church. The piece also touched on Oyedepo’s bragging about not receiving any salary from the church since 1987 and his wife not receiving from him money for feeding since 1988. The man of God did not reveal how he was sustaining himself and his lifestyle. The piece showed how the whole operation of the Winners’ Chapel fitted in well with this new commodification of the ministry of Jesus.
After the publication, Nigerian readers’ reaction to the piece was quite predictable. They condemned it and condemned me and predicted that I was heading to instant hellfire and certain and sudden death. They regurgitated the standard lines of “ God cannot be mocked,” “do not judge,” “do not touch my anointed,” and “do not use the things of the world to judge spiritual things.” In fact, some even argued that churches are private businesses and people outside a church should not interrogate the activities of any church and its leaders.