Pastor Chris Oyakhilome’s Business Empire

Pastor Chris Oyakhilome’s The large scale crisis that rocked the Christ Embassy Church in South Africa obviously has not stopped Chris Oyakhilome from building an expansive business empire from which he is making good money. Baby-faced Oyakhilome belongs to the growing clan of pastors who preach prosperity but he is better known for his miracles which are very controversial. Even then, they have remained the source of his popularity and the huge fortunes that he has made. Part of his success could also be attributed to his photogenic attraction and the use of media blitz. His group’s investments in the media include Minaj Broadcasting International, MBI;  Superscreen television; National Standard, a monthly magazine; National Daily, a weekly newspaper; and a cable television network known as Loveworld Media.

This week’s expose by NEWSWATCH Magazine reproduced below details the enigma that is Pastor Chris Oyakhilome and he his ‘parody of wealth’.

Chris Oyakhilome, pastor of Christ Embassy Church, is not only winning souls but has built an expansive business empire from which he is making good money

It is a magnificent glass building. Its blue and gold colours stand it out in the crowd of old buildings on Oregun Road, Ikeja, Lagos. The building which is a few poles away from the old Suzuki Motorcycle assembly plant glitters like the corporate headquarters of a very progressive new generation bank. But it is not. Rather, it is the headquarters of Believers’ LoveWorld Incorporated, otherwise known as Christ Embassy.

Chris Oyakhilome, the Edo State-born pastor and head of Christ Embassy, runs the branches of the church and his other businesses from here. The church has provided for Oyakhilome a good platform for his other business interests which include banking, publishing, broadcasting, entertainment and the hospitality industries.

A normal Sunday service at the headquarters chapel of Christ Embassy draws not less than 30,000 worshippers. Most of them come from distant parishes of the church and the attraction is Oyakhilome himself who they all want to see live on the pulpit.

Oyakhilome belongs to the growing clan of pastors who preach prosperity but he is better known for his miracles which are very controversial. Even then, they have remained the source of his popularity and the huge fortunes that he has made.

The church operates like a conglomerate with no fewer than 10 subsidiaries that work with the common goal of oiling the purse of the ministry and its patron.

The major money spinning arms of the ministry includes LoveWorld Cyber Ministry, LoveWorld Television, Love World Christian Network, LoveWorld Multimedia Ministry and LoveWorld Publishing Ministry.

One business enterprise run by the church is the LoveWorld Records Limited located in Ikeja. It was incorporated in 2008 as a private limited liability company to carry on the business of music, entertainment and gospel merchandise. The record studio has produced many talented music artistes who are members of the church.  Church members say it is the first record label dedicated solely for the publishing, production, marketing and distribution of gospel music and promotion of gospel artistes. The Christ Embassy recording studio operates a distribution network that facilitates the selling and marketing of records within and outside Nigeria. Barely two years after its establishment as one of the many business ventures of the church, it is said to have broken into international markets like the United Kingdom, Canada, United States of America, South Africa and Ghana. Some of its products include music videos and DVDs.

The studio, which is managed by Ehi Moses, an accountant-turned musician and producer with 15 years experience in music and entertainment industry, holds the franchise of record labels of Believers Loveworld Incorporated. Its monthly turnover is put at more than N10 million.

Pastor Oyakhilome is not a good friend of the media but likes the money that the industry spins to him. Before he joined the Nigeria media business, it was hitherto dominated by politicians, businessmen and media practitioners. But today, Oyakhilome, through Global Plus Communications Limited, GPC, controls a media empire worth billions of Naira. They are also located in Nigeria and South Africa.

His group’s investments in the media include Minaj Broadcasting International, MBI;  Superscreen television; National Standard, a monthly magazine; National Daily, a weekly newspaper; and a cable television network known as Loveworld Media.

The satellite television is based in South Africa and it is a free-to-air-no subscription channel. It was set up primarily for the purpose of the church evangelism. Over the years, it had been working in partnership with other media houses to air Oyakhilome on local and international television channels, but in recent years, the focus has broadened to accommodate Christian movies and programmes. A member of the church told Newswatch that the total package for the decoder and dish is N25,000.

Superscreen television station, owned by Oyakhilome, occupies the seventh floor of Lagemo House at Onipanu area of Lagos. The television which began operation in 2007, boasts of state of the art broadcast equipment. In less than four years of existence, Superscreen is now a major force to reckon with in television broadcasting. One of its staff who spoke on the level of success of the station said it certainly does not belong to the group of television station battling for survival.

Majority of staff of the television station are members of Christ Embassy. The television station serves as the media arm of the church, especially because it routinely telecasts church programmes of Christ Embassy. 

Unlike  Superscreen,  Minaj Television International, MBI, is not a success story. In fact, its ownership is now a subject of litigation. Oyakhilome had in 2006, through Global Plus Consulting, GPC, entered into a five-year management contract with Minaj systems owned by Mike Ajegbo, a former senator. The deal was for GPC to revive Minaj, which had become insolvent following its inability to pay its annual subscription fee to the Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation, NBC, and pay arrears of salaries it owed staff. The investment, estimated to be more than N400 million, produced the required impact. The new management team went to work paying the licence fee and outstanding staff salaries. Less than one year after, the result became evident, MBI became number one in sport and entertainment. The following year, the station won four awards at the 2007 Nigeria Media Merit Award, NMMA.

But the once rosy relationship between Minaj systems and GPC promoted by Oyakhilome went awry due to irreconcilable differences in contract agreements. The station has not been able to open because both parties are still in court.       

 In pursuit of the church’s craze for publicity and in spite of huge investments in the broadcast media, Christ Embassy again set up its sole private television station called Loveworld News Media. The studio is located within the church headquarters and is said to operate a 12-hour daily service airing church programmes, Oyakhilome’s preachings and news about the church activities worldwide.

National Standard hit the news-stands in July 2004 as a monthly glossy magazine. Its first office was at Plot 2, Ajumobi Street, off ACME Road, Agidingbi, before relocating to 25 Ogunlowo Street, off Adeniyi Jones, where it is at the moment. Today, the publication has gone weekly. Its sister publication, National Daily, which is a weekly tabloid, is located on Emina Crescent, off Toyin Street, Ikeja.  Paradigm Communications Limited oversees the publication of the papers for Oyakilome’s business empire. The church’s investments in these media enterprises alone is put at more than N5 billion.

 Most of those who do business with Oyakhilome’s media empire are church members, and they are very successful businessmen and women or are in vital decision-making positions. They influence decisions that help to attract business to the media houses owned by the church. It is also an unwritten rule that satellite parishes must advertise their programmes in the church network of media houses. The media houses enjoy advertisement boom during major church activities like Night of Bliss, national youths conference, annual convention and during Pastor Chris’ birthday every December 7.

Again, when Pa Joseph Oyakhilome, the pastor’s father, died last year, the newspapers could not provide enough space to carry obituary announcements and sympathy messages from satellite churches, corporate organisations promoted by church members as well as the church international partners. It was a boom for his media conglomerate and by extension the purse of the church.

Global Plus printing press is another investment of the pastor. The hi-tech ultra modern press is located along Ikosi Road, Oregun, Ikeja. It currently prints Westerner, a weekly magazine owned by a governor in the South-West, at a cost of N1.5 million. An inside source confided in Newswatch that the magazine paid three million Naira for printing the special publication on Ooni of Ife at 80 last February.

Business Eye, a business related magazine owned by Ibim Semenitari, now commissioner for Information, Rivers State, was printing at Global Plus at its debut in 2007 before it stopped using Oyakhilome’s press early last year because of a rift between the paper and the church. The magazine had written a story titled: ‘In the Name of God PLC’ in December 2008 and Christ Embassy felt the story was critical of the church. So, when the magazine took  the next edition materials to the press for printing, Global Plus refused to accept them. The owners also went a step further to seize the materials as a punishment  for the magazine’s audacity to publish negative stories about them.

The printing press also prints the church’s magazine National Standard, and its other publications like Rhapsody of Realities.

Monthly financial yields of the printing press which is worth more than two billion Naira is about N10 million. Investigations also revealed that a bigger printing press with state of the art equipment is being installed in Ikeja presently. After installation, it would serve as the headquarters of the publishing outfit. There is also a plan to set up printing outfits in Abuja, Port Harcourt and Benin.

Christ Embassy also owns CFI Pictures, a company that produces Christian movies. Located within the headquarters premises is a digital media store that markets electronic books and a gift card shop. The two are also money spinning channels for the church. 

The church also has investments in the event and entertainment sector. In 2008, it bought over a warehouse belonging to a shoe making factory along Oregun Road which was converted to an event centre called K and G Event Centre. The event and recreational centre which is located at 8a, Oregun Road, has relaxation spots and other entertainment conveniences for customers. Although it also served the interest of non-members, church members are obliged to hold their events like marriage receptions and birthday bashes there. They pay the regular fees charges.

The church also has an eatery called Dicksons. The fast food joint is rapidly expanding its outlets. It is being developed to compete favourably with Mr Biggs and similar outfits in the country.

Oyakhilome has also spread his business tentacles to the financial sector. The church owns two microfinance banks one of which is Moneycom Microfinance Bank. The interesting aspect of the business investment of the church is that members must imbibe the culture of ‘charity begins at home’ by patronising the product and services provided by business interest of the church.

The business investment of the church is scripted in a way that it cannot be easily linked to the church. Most of the businesses have no signposts and there is usually no open evidence that they are owned by the church because they are run by Board of Trustees. Some members of the trustees are not members of the church.

Oyakhilome’s many companies operate as network. The printing press is responsible for the printing of all works of the church including Rhapsody, books and the magazines. The major advertisers of the media network are members of the church, satellite parishes and other business interests of the church empire. The Records and Digital studio produces all the CDs, DVDs, VCDs and audio cassettes of pastor Oyakhilome’s preaching which are sold both in Nigeria and abroad.

Like a celebrity, Pastor Chris’ name and face sell huge quantities of merchandise. These include books, video tapes of his crusades and miracles, audio cassettes, VCDs and DVDs of his teachings. The cassettes are also marketed online through the digital media which controls the church websites. One of the church’s websites makes money through advertisement of audio and visual materials that promote the Christian faith.

The pastor and his wife, Anita, who heads Christ Embassy international office, have a collection of more than 30 books that are a must read by members who are also encouraged to buy for friends and relations that are not members of the church. The most successful of these is Rhapsody of Realities. The daily devotional guide published monthly is co-authored by Pastor Chris and his wife. The journal which is considered a companion to the bible is currently published in 84 languages. Inside sources put its print run at not below five million. In Nigeria, Rhapsody is currently sold for N150 as against the former price of N300 when it was first published five years ago. It cost $5 per copy abroad and $43.20 for one year subscription. Price tags for his books vary with the minimum going for N1,500 while that of the audio and video CDs range from N300 to N1,000.

On a typical Sunday in the church, it is common to see members scrambling for CDs, VCDs, audio CDs, audio cassettes and books of the pastor.

Most of the church programmes are financed by Oyakhilome’s partners all over the world who donate money to enhance the work of the ministry. Apart from the foreign partners, there is a selected group of members that belong to an organisation in the church called the ‘Havens.’ These are people with deep pockets and work as the financial backbone for the church. A member of the church said the Havens ensure that Oyakhilome is not in short of funds to run church activities.  Havens assist in the sponsorship of key projects of the church.                  

Their financial commitment to the church runs into billions of Naira annually. While the Havens muster their resources to sponsor the church projects and activities, another group called ‘Partnership’ helps members of the church that are indigent.

In partnership, a wealthy member adopts at least five indigent members and takes care of their financial needs.

Like established organisations the church employs some of its unemployed graduate members as full time staff. They work basically at the church headquarters and other units like the Healing School Ministry, bookshops and gift shops.

Oyakhilome has in a bid to consolidate the financial gains of the ministry, aggressively spread its branches to the entire African continent, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania.

In the past five years, the church has intensified its acquisition of properties around Oregun, Billings Way and Alausa in furtherance of its expansion drive. For property owners, it is good tidings.

 The church has also joined the ranks of those that have acquired large expanse of land along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway as camp arena for their crowd-pulling events like convention. The LoveWorld Camp ground is on Kilometre 47 of the express road, close to Redeemed Church camp ground.

To complement the camp ground is a massive structure along Billings Way which is to serve as the International Conference Centre of the Church. The arena which could pass for a mini stadium for first time visitors to Billings Way would cost Oyakhilome several billions of Naira on completion. It is architectural masterpiece.

Despite being listed among the three richest pastors in Nigeria, Oyakhilome has no private jet like David Oyedepo and Enoch Adeboye. A member confided in Newswatch that he usually travels with British Airways when going outside African shores and South African Airways when going to South Africa which is another major   base of the church.

Members of the church do a lot to promote the business interests of Oyakhilome and the church. They make huge financial and material contributions which have formed the base of the wealth of Oyakhilome and his church today. In the process, some have had their fingers burnt.

An instance many would not easily forget in a hurry is the case of Lawrence Agada, a senior cashier with Sheraton Hotels and Towers, Ikeja, Lagos, and an assistant pastor of the Ifako branch of the church, who donated stolen cash and gifts totalling N39 million to the church in the name of sowing a seed. The fraud was discovered in March 2002. According to police investigations, Agada’s donations were in instalments. He bought 250KVA and 27KVA generators valued at N4.4 million and N1.5 million, respectively and donated them to the church headquarters and the Ifako satellite parish of the church. Before then, he had given out six million Naira for the renovation of the local satellite church and one million Naira for the purchase of plastic chairs for the church headquarters. He also contributed N1.5 million for the 2002 edition of the church mega crusade Night of Bliss, and one million Naira for another crusade  tagged Prosperity Convention.

 He ‘blessed’ Carol Sholesi, then pastor of Ifako branch of the church with N400, 000 to enable her attend the 24th congress of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women held in Melbourne, Australia.

Agada also bought musical instruments and chairs for the Agege, Ogba and Oke-Ira churches. He also confessed to using part of the stolen funds to pay church rents. The Benue-born former  Sheraton’s staff profligacy was allegedly prompted by a letter Pastor Chris sent to him on January 12, 2002 prophesying that God would do mighty things in his life. “He will cause you to excel and lift you up so high that the world cannot but take notice of you in Jesus name, Amen.”

He said he took the money believing that he would reap bountiful rewards from the ‘seed sowing’ which would enable him replace all the money. This was not to be. Rather than receive reward for his benevolence, he lost his job and became a guest of the police. An indigene of his Idoma community who pleaded for anonymity told Newswatch that he was declared a persona non grata in his community for that act.”

In 2003, Gbenga Kehinde, another member of the church who was an assistant manager with Eko International Bank, further dragged the name of the church in the mud when he defrauded the bank of N40 million out of which he donated N10 million to  Christ Embassy.

If Agada and Kehinde were audacious to dip their hands into the treasury of their organisations to donate for the upkeep of the church in anticipation of God’s reward, Michael George and Priscillia Maphiwa used their own hard earnings and possessions.

George, an engineer with Mobil Producing Unlimited in Akwa Ibom, was comfortable before he joined Christ Embassy. He later became a major financier of the head parish in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital. His benevolence attracted his church brethrens who turned his house to a Mecca of sort feeding fat on him thereby tasking his resources. His financial commitment widened when he was made a pastor, the Eket branch which he also financed.

Expectedly, his church programmes began to clash with his work. His pastoral calling obliged him to leave the office before close of work three times a week to attend to church activities. In some cases, church programmes outside his state kept him off his duty post for days. 

George, who within eight years of joining the oil multinational, got two promotions and won two awards for diligence, began to exhibit laxity in his duties. His church activities took prominence in his calendar over his work which ironically was the source of income that enabled him contribute bountifully to the church.    

So when the oil giant decided to trim its workforce after the merger with Exxon, George was affected. Unfortunately for him, since he did not build a house for the period he worked and with little or no savings left  having graciously invested much of his savings in the services of the church, he had to plough all his severance entitlement into building his house. His financial status deteriorated in such a way that he could no longer afford meeting some basic needs at home and his extended family which he was the bread winner. Left without money, a gainful employment and two cars which he had donated to the church as seed, family members felt bad that the church could not come to his help. George left Nigeria for America in 2008, courtesy of his wife, an Akwa Ibom indigene, who is an American citizen. He has since settled down in America eking a living.

 Maphiwa, a staunch member of the church in South Africa, also recounted how she and her husband became bankrupt because of their association with the church. She said before joining Christ Embassy in November 2005, she had a car, a house, R35,000 savings and investments in other financial institutions totalling R20,000, but by February 2007, she had gone bankrupt because of the huge sums of money she had spent on the church, saying: “Before joining  Christ Embassy in November 2005, I had a car, a house that was financed by the bank and I could afford my monthly instalments. I had R35, 000 in the bank as savings and some investments with Standard Bank, Liberty and Sanlam to the total sum of R20,000. In December 2005, there was what they called ‘ThanksGiving Service’ which we were required to bring a gift to the Lord in forms of money and other valuables like cars, cell phones and computers to thank God for what he had done for us. We were given a list of eight categories of areas in which to thank God for. These were thanking God for a new job, for the birth of a child, if one got married, if one had a promotion, financial increase, healing in the family, for belonging and functioning in a church department and for being saved from death due to vehicle accident. We were instructed to give a minimum amount of R100 per category. On that day, I gave R800 excluding my tithes which at that time was R2,400. In January 2006, Pastor Kenneth Oyakhilome (younger brother to Chris and head pastor of the South Africa branch) preached and instructed us to give ‘First Fruit’ offering. This meant that one was required to give the entire salary for the month of January. This I did as we were taught that the Lord would  bless us and we would receive a 100 fold return if we obeyed. There was also a threat that came with it, that if we did not obey, blessings would not follow us instead curses would. 

“In Christ Embassy, there are lots of activities’ which require money like Mothers Day, Fathers’ Day and pastor’s birthday. Members are also instructed to buy books, CDs, DVDs so that we have something to preach to our ‘cell’ members. After the huge sums of money I gave to Christ Embassy church, by February 2007 I had to sell my house as I had defaulted four times in a row and the bank threatened to repossess it.” Maphiwa’s account was contained in an affidavit she deposed to the police after her husband, also a pastor of Christ Embassy in South Africa, was arrested for buying a stolen vehicle from another member of the church.

As one minister of God that relishes in miracles, Oyakhilome and his church have also swam several times in murky waters of controversy and scandals.

His first major controversy was in 2002 when he visited Temitope Joshua, founder of Synagogue Church of All Nations. Co-pastors of pentecostal churches chastised him for visiting Joshua whom they alleged was an anti-Christ. They alleged he went to the Ikotun Egbe-based church to collect spiritual powers from Joshua who is known as Emmanuel. Ironically, his major critic was Chris Okotie of Household of God Church that is a neighbour of Christ Embassy at Oregun. Oyakhilome’s many miracle works under his pet television programme, Atmosphere of Miracles came under criticisms. Some Nigerians went to town with stories that most of his widely advertised miracles were stage-managed. The Nigerian media and those in South Africa were awash with stories of how people feigned illness and later proclaimed that they had been cured.  This allegations of fake miracles led to the banning of unverifiable faith healings on televisions in Nigeria by the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, in 2004. Oyakhilome said he was the target of the ban because during that period, he was the biggest patron of Nigerian television stations. His Atmosphere of Miracles which had since given way to Pastor Chris teachings ran seven days a week on 20 television stations. His annual spiritual convention, Night of Bliss, was also given elaborate coverage by various television stations in the country.

Some of his pastors have also, through their conduct dragged the name of the church in the mud in recent years. For instance, on April 25, 2008, Joseph Ehigiator, a pastor of a satellite branch of the church in Benin, was arrested and charged with murder of his wife, Efe. Ehigiator had allegedly conspired with Oweil, his girlfriend, to kill his wife. The lid was blown open when the deceased father, Innocent Omoroguikpon, visited the Secretariat of the state chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, in Benin in July 2008, to protest the underhand dealings between the church and the police to cover the crime.

On December 22, 2009, one Seyi Ahmed, a 30-year-old film producer, attempted to blow up Superscreen television, which is one of the media houses owned by the pastor’s church. Ahmed, who is currently undergoing trial, said his abortive act was to draw the attention of Chris to the unfair treatment he received from the church. He claimed that he had been working for the church for some time and that the last job he did for them he was not paid despite several appeals. He said his intention was to get the attention of Pastor Chris so that he would get his money. Ahmed lost both eyes and a limb to his infamous expedition when the bomb exploded on him before he could reach the seventh floor where the television is located.

Instructively, the new phase of Christianity which has propelled some Pentecostal ministers of God like Oyakhilome to turn their ministries into business empires has received the bashing of some prominent men of God.

Sunday Makinde, prelate of the Methodist Church of Nigeria, once described ‘Pentecostal pastors as gold diggers.’ Peter Akinola, primate of Anglican Church, is another minister of God who is opposed to the way and manner some pastors of churches have turned churches into business outfits. He said they have deviated from the teachings of Christ in pursuit of business.

Augustine Okhuelegbe, parish priest of Saint Catherine Catholic Church, Agbado, Lagos, is equally disturbed with the way the pentecostal pastors have deviated from the teachings and lifestyle of Jesus Christ. “The lifestyle of Jesus Christ runs contrary to the lifestyle of our preachers today. Although we are in a materialistic generation, ministers of God have not been able to separate our calling from life of the materialistic world. You discover that people will now build empires and schools which are named after them in the name of the church,” he said. Commenting on tithes, first fruits and other offerings, he said though these are mentioned in the Bible he regretted that most churches have exploited them as avenues to make money for the church.

According to the Catholic priest, tithe was not meant to be compulsory as some churches have made it to be. He said the problem was that most people are gullible as they accept anything their preachers tell them or prophesy without giving a second thought. “You are not working or engaged in any legitimate business and a pastor tells you by the end of the month you are going to buy a car. How can that happen,” he queried.

Getrude Ezono, a graduate of Psychology and member of Dominion Chapel, said what some pentecostal pastors do amount to hypnotism. She likened some of the prosperity prophesies to what the 419 people do by telling their victims what they want to hear and wish to have or become and in the process hoodwink them to part with their money.

Beatrice Makinde, general overseer of Messiah Mighty Power Church, is worried that Christendom is being portrayed in bad light because of the conduct of some ministers of God. She said there was nothing wrong with prosperity preaching and paying of tithe, but stressed that the primary objective should be to make the members know God. “Prosperity preaching is not totally bad neither is tithe, but the primary objective is to make the members know Christ first; let them know about repentance. They must know God first before prosperity,” she said. She admonished men of God to live by example since the Bible stated that ‘judgement will start from the church.’

Femi Adeniye, a member of Celestial Church, said the mode of practice in the new generation churches have portrayed them as not true followers of Christ. “These new age churches have shown that they are not really true followers of Christ who had insisted that House of God should not be turned to a centre of business transaction.”

Even Pastor Tunde Bakare, senior pastor of Latter Rain Assembly, who is also a pentecostal pastor, admitted that there have been some deviations. Often he has preached against his colleagues that have now placed prosperity and materialism ahead of soul saving. One of such was his sermon titled: ‘The world is watching the church’ which he delivered November last year.

But Oyedepo, an unrepentant prosperity preacher, who ranks among the richest pastors in Nigeria with chains of businesses, justified the business approach of many pentecostal pastors to evangelism in his book Exploits in Ministry. In the book, he described church ministry as essentially business. He says: “Without doubt, one of the reasons why most ministers ordained of God fall short of expectation or collapse completely is due to their unbusiness-like approach to ministry. Ministry is essentially business. Jesus Christ said: Wist ye that I must be about my father’s business (Luke 2:49). It is God’s business. We have been accused of turning ministry into business, but that is not true, we met it as a business. Jesus, the author and founder of ministry, told us it is a business”.

The Ota-based pastor knows where he is coming from. Of all the Pentecostal ministries, Oyedepo’s Winners Chapel remains the most ambitious in terms of turning ministry into a thriving business.

Some members of Christ Embassy justified all that the church does. They said neither Pastor Chris nor members of the church were bothered by the many criticisms against their practice since all they do have roots in the bible.

Mary Oyaheire, a deaconess in the church, admitted that members of the church pay tithe, sow seed and give first fruits. She said members were happy to perform these offerings without any coercion because of the bountiful rewards they have reaped from doing that. She said the bible admonished Christians not to put their money where cockroaches would destroy.

On the allegation that Pastor Oyakhilome deviated from pursuing the spread of the gospel and winning of souls into building business empires, she said there was no place anyway in the bible where it was stated that a minister of God should be poor. “So what you mean is that the pastor should be poor, where in the bible is it stated that a man of God should be poor. Look at Abraham. He was our biblical father he was a rich man. So what are we talking about? Our God is not a God of poverty,” she said.

She even challenged the reporter to come and become a member of the church and see whether in two months he would not be swimming in wealth. She said it was not true that some members have been ruined financially because of their huge financial commitments to the church whereas the pastor’s wealth and the church kept expanding. She said they were all successful people in their various endeavours and that this was due to the goodness of God upon their lives since becoming members of the church.

Another member, Udeme Sylvester, said first fruits and sowing of seed which members take seriously are done according to how the spirit directs. He maintained that they are not given out of compulsion. He disagreed with those who think a minister of God should not be wealthy. He said poverty was not God’s wish for any man but the work of Satan.

However, on Sunday, March 7, Christ Embassy held a concert to raise funds for the victims of the recent earthquake in Haiti. It hopes to raise funds through the selling of tickets. The tickets range from N1000 to N100,000.  The church said the focus was on the children of Haiti. Dajun Ikeokwu, a pastor of the church, said the relief materials to be sent would include food, drugs and clothes.

 The thinking is that the church wants to use the humanitarian gesture to score a point that it also cares contrary to the view that the church makes so much money without helping humanity. 


The Journey to the pulpit

Chris Oyakhilome, an architect, has found greener pastures in pastoral calling

He is one minister who relishes miracles, preaches material prosperity and commands a lot of following among the youths. Chris Oyakhilome,  pastor of Christ Embassy and president, Believers Love World Incorporated, is not only involved in the business of winning souls, but making money.

Like many other pentecostal pastors, he believes that pastoral work is another form of business and those involved in it need not be poor. Since hitting the limelight in the 1990s, Oyakhilome has, through his glamorous looks and oratorical prowess, captured thousands of miracles seekers.

Fondly called Pastor Chris by his admirers, Oyakhilome, who hails from Ewu in Edo State, was brought up in a strict Christian home. He became a born-again Chairman at the age of nine and started his ministry as a young undergraduate at the then Bendel State University, Ekpoma (now Ambrose Ali University) where he studied architecture. Since he graduated in 1987, Oyakhilome who is in his 40s has devoted much attention towards making Christ Embassy one of the fastest growing pentecostal churches in Nigeria.  Although he studied architecture in the university, he appears to have a sharp business sense as he regards his ministry as essentially business.

Oyakhilome has, in a bid to consolidate the financial gains of his ministry, spread its branches to the entire African continent, the Middle East, Europe, the Indian sub- continent, Asia, and Oceania. Anita, his wife, is the director of the church’s international operations. She also pastors the satellite arms in the United Kingdom.

He is among the notable pastors who draw crowds in the country today. His weekly services draw an average of 30,000 worshippers. To date, his crusades have been most outstanding. Many of his followers travel from various parts of the country to the headquarters of the church in Oregun, Lagos, just to be in his presence. His ministry began the pre-booking of seats, which many call ‘paying in advance’ for his sell-out crusade – Total Experience.

Apart from his ability to preach the gospel with panache, Oyakhilome has the mastery of the airwaves. For many years, his telecasts have been of the utmost technical quality. Before his popular television programme, Atmosphere for Miracles, was rested on the orders of the National Broadcasting Commission , NBC, it was captivating to viewers. He is also the author of many books. Some of his most popular books are None of these Diseases and Rhapsody of Realities, which he co-authors with his wife.

The Oyakhilomes have two daughters – Sharon and Charlene