Bishop David Olaniyi Oyedepo is the founder and President of Living Faith Church Worldwide. In this interview by select journalists, Oyedepo speaks on his attaining the age of 60, the growth of the church, among other issues. KEHINDE OYETIMI, who was there, brings excerpts.
How do you feel attaining the age of 60?
I am simply grateful to God. I have always seen life as a gift from God. Life is a privilege, not a right. No one brought himself or herself to life and no one can sustain their life on their own. I am just grateful to God for all His goodness and mercy till date.
What was growing up like for you?
It was more of a school. Growing under my grandmother was an experience I will be eternally grateful to God for. She made a man out of me as a child. I was exposed to highly profitable lessons such as character, hard-work, focus and financial integrity. Under my grandmother, you are not permitted to do what you like but what is right. Such upbringing gave me respect among my peers and audience with my superiors. It is this man-child concept that informed the founding philosophy of our university system.
When you decided to go to the ministry, who were the personalities that made positive impacts in your life?
First, the Holy Spirit, who delivered the mandate to me on May 2, 1981. Second, most of the personalities involved, I encountered by proxy and mostly through books. For instance, my spiritual life was boosted largely through faith teachings of Kenneth E. Hagin and E. W. Kenyon (1976). T. L. Osborn taught me how to hear from God without which, perhaps, I will not have been in ministry today (1976). Kenneth Copeland taught me how to access divine supplies both for my life and the work of the ministry (1977).
Can you recount your born-again encounter/experience and at what point were you so definite that you had a calling?
I had a missionary teacher while still in secondary school called Betty Lasher. She communicated the love of God with such passion and led me to Christ on February 19, 1969, when I was only 15 years old. My calling to ministry, via a divine vision, was such a dramatic one; it was so crystal-clear that I knew without a shadow of a doubt that God had called me to the ministry. The vision lasted 18 hours between May 1 and May 2, 1981 and I arose from it fully persuaded of God’s call upon my life into ministry. There was nothing to consider; there was nothing to prove; the mandate was very clear.
What would you say is responsible for your outstanding performance in the Lord’s vineyard?
Grace, faith, discipline, diligence and sacrifice!
You have taught faith and prosperity in a very simple and awesome manner, yet some are still poor, sick, oppressed and depressed – contrary to the vision /mandate at the birth of your calling. What is the problem, why are many Christians still struggling?
Firstly, many Christians are suffering from spiritual ignorance and this is the bane of their fulfilment in life. Secondly, many Christians disregard the place of covenant practice, i.e., the immutable law of giving and receiving. As I have often said, there is no mountain anywhere; everyone’s ignorance is his mountain. What we don’t believe, we are not empowered to become. Until we see what belongs to us, God is not committed to deliver.
You have always said you are a product of books. Can you tell us which book(s) made the most impact in your life?
All Kenneth Hagin’s books; all Kenneth Copeland’s books; most of T. L. Osborn books; most of Yongi Cho’s books; most of E. W Kenyon’s books; most of Oswald J. Smith’s books; most of Smith Wigglesworth’s books; most of Normal Vincent Peale’s books; some of Oral Robert’s books; some of A. W. Tozer’s books; and quite a number of leadership books.
All of a sudden, a sprawling city, with state of the art infrastructure, emerged in Ota called Canaanland. Can you share with us the birthing of this city?
God spoke to me as far back as April 10, 1982 saying: ‘At the base of this church, a tent is going to be built to contain 50,000 people.’ Canaanland is God’s city and it was built by Him. My team officially visited the proposed site on January 9, 1997 and as we prayed, God spoke: “This is the place!” Before we knew it, we had acquired 530 acres of land, fully fenced and by May 8, 1998, we had secured all the titles to the land, and held a ground-breaking service on August 29 of the same year for the commencement of construction activities.
Less than a month later (September 18), we held a victory service on the site now christened Canaanland and God spoke prophetically that the tabernacle would be dedicated exactly 12 months from that day on September 18, 1999! The odds against putting up such a gigantic structure within a year were around a million to one. It seemed like an impossible directive, but when God speaks regarding any matter, it is as good as done. As God would have it, Faith Tabernacle, a 50,000-seat auditorium, an architectural masterpiece to His glory, was dedicated exactly on September 18, 1999 exactly as God had said.
Again, we held the ground-breaking service of Covenant University on January 27, 2002 and construction activities commenced two months later, in March. I remember holding the licence to operate the university in my hand and telling God, ‘I don’t need a university. I’m no longer going to school. If it isn’t Your university, tell me and I’ll tear the certificate now.’ And God distinctly said to me: ‘It is I.’ If any further proof was needed that it was indeed God’s project, it came in the form of the official opening of the university – complete with state of the art amenities and infrastructure – seven short months later on October 21, 2002!
The way and manner Faith Tabernacle and Covenant University were built are proofs that God built the city. How else can one explain the feats of building Faith Tabernacle (recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest church auditorium in the world) within 12 months and putting up a university system with a massive faculty building, two halls of residence with capacity for 1,500 students, students’ cafeteria, some staff housing, all in seven months? It must be God, and indeed it is God!”
How do you cope with family obligations in spite of your obviously tight schedule? And how would you describe your wife?
Nothing eases life like planning. Someone has said, ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail!’ I have a schedule that accommodates all that’s essential to both my family and ministry. Let me also emphatically state that my wife has indeed been a great helpmeet. She is in charge of all domestic affairs, including maintenance issues involving household facilities.
You have wonderful children and grandchildren. How do you feel seeing their exploits around the world?
I celebrate both the grace of God and the efficacy of the covenant.
How do you relax, given your very tight schedule?
I have instituted a programmed daily rest that I meticulously adhere to. We all know, for instance, that lions don’t go on vacation and yet, they maintain their strength and vigour all through life by engaging in a daily-rest schedule that entails having some good sleep during the day and hunting for food all through the night.
What can you say about your style of administration? Many believe you are strict, if not high-handed.
It is not my style but our system of administration. Our administration is guided by a policy book called The Mandate. This 504-paged book clearly defines things allowed and those not allowed.
Two of your children, Pastors David and Isaac Oyedepo, are doing well in ministry. In fact, Pastor David Oyedepo Jnr held the congregation spellbound during the last Shiloh, by his ministration. What was going on in your mind during that service? What lesson(s) can be drawn from the way your children have turned out vis-à-vis the way many parents raise their children today?
I simply see Psalm 112:1-3 being fulfilled. Secondly, let it be noted that my wife played a principal role in the spiritual and moral upbringing of our children. For instance, just as parents get teachers for their children for various subjects to improve their performance, we specially got a Bible lesson teacher for our kids while growing up in primary and secondary schools. The combination of all these efforts, I strongly believe, is responsible for both their spiritual and intellectual robustness. Don’t also forget that the Bible says that if we properly raise our children, they would exhibit excellent character traits for the rest of their lives. I’ll, therefore, advise parents to be concerned about the spiritual and moral upbringing of their children.
What is your understanding of prosperity in the life of a Christian?
I believe it is the will of God for all His children to prosper. Just like every parent wishes all their children well, God also wishes, above all things, that we prosper and be in health, even as our soul prospers.
However, God’s prosperity is only accessible by covenant practice that is by engaging the law of giving and receiving. These include: giving to God in tithes and offerings, giving to parents, giving to the poor and giving generally to the good of mankind. This is why God’s prosperity plan is only actualised in the lives of those God can trust to use it for His purpose.
Do you think churches should pay taxes as being advocated in some quarters?
My view is that such will amount to double taxation. This is because members that give in churches must have paid their taxes on their income before giving in church, or in any religious or social organisation for that matter; therefore, taxing the church amounts to double taxation. Besides, churches are legally recognised as non-profit organisations and on what basis should they be taxed? My question has always been: Why single out the churches? Are they the only religious or not-for-profit organisations? But should this be ever passed into law, then all other religious bodies and non-profit-organisations such as mosques, town unions, social clubs, all forms of associations, including political parties, must pay taxes.
There is the general belief that you hardly rest. Is this true? If not, how do you relax?
It is not true. What I do is to break my day into two parts. I take a deep rest after the first half before resuming for work in the second half. There is nothing I enjoy like working. I have said several times humorously that I have only one gift – the gift of working!
How do you intend to attain the vision for the Covenant University to be rated among the best 10 in the world by 2022?
We are already on track and we shall keep pressing and pushing because we see it as a prophetic agenda. The hand of the Lord can never fail to deliver His divine purpose. For instance, recently, Covenant University was ranked second of all federal, state and private universities in Nigeria and 25th in Africa in July 2014 Webometric Ranking. To God be the glory, we are making great progress.
Are you grooming any of your children to take over from you?
I have so many children – biological and spiritual and I keep investing time, energy and resources in developing their leadership potentials through seminars, summits and conferences most of which centre around spiritual leadership development. However, succession in the kingdom is absolutely at God’s prerogative as in the case of Moses and Joshua.
Furthermore, in this ministry, we have an operational manual called The Mandate. This 504-page book contains, among others, details of statutory procedures for succession. This book, which was released in 2012, is the second bible of this ministry as it were and the content shall not be subject to review until after the first 50 years, that is 2062, if at all.
At 60, if you meet with God one-on-one and He asks you to make a demand, what would be your request?
To please Him in all my ways and for the rest of my life
What is your favourite scripture?
1John 5:4 – “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”
Posted From iProdigy Group Nigeria(Dabibi Ori-ibim’s Blog).
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