Stepping into the compact but busy looking Oshofisan Street where the Mountain of Liberation and Miracle Ministry is located, the first thing that catches your attention is the heavy presence of the church on the street. Yes, the church popularly known as Liberation City dominates the entire area, putting up pretty looking modern structures on both sides of Oshofisan and giving it a somewhat busy but appealing outlook. It has become a common feature within the area to find hordes of men and women trooping in and out of the street especially during periods when services or weekly programmes are going on. Expectedly, this has greatly enhanced the economic activities of the vicinity, ensuring that the food, drinks, stationeries vendors, etc, all smile to the bank. And if you do care to speak to some of them, they will readily tell you how grateful they are to the founder of the ministry that’s been variously described as one of the fastest rising churches in the country, Pastor (Dr.) Chris Okafor. The incredible growth of his church has greatly transformed their businesses. Starting with a modest gathering about 16 years ago, the church has metamorphosed into a massive congregation that’s starting to hit close to 30,000 worshippers during major church programmes. And its all down to the vision, focus, hard work and tenacity of Pastor Chris Okafor, a man whose spiritual prowess and prophetic abilities have continued to astonish many. His unquenchable thirst to liberate those that have been held down by spiritual shackles have placed him on a pedestal that’s several notches higher than that of his contemporaries. His love for God and his passion for the work of God are examplary. Little wonder why the young, the old and the rich all throng Liberation City to worship God with this good looking and stylish man of God. When City People arrived the church hours after one of it’s popular morning services ended, hundreds of people were still waiting to see Pastor Chris for counseling. No matter how long it would take before it got to their turn, they were ready to wait. For them, all that mattered was getting a one-on-one opportunity with their pastor. They had no doubts in their minds that if he listened to their problems and prayed for them, all their troubles would be over. And you can’t fault their conviction. Such testimonies abound in the church. By the time it was our time to meet with the man they call “The Oracle’, it was a physically drained Pastor Chris that we met seated in his large and tastefully furnished office waiting for us with a smile on his face. He had been attending to the long queue of people waiting to see him all day, still the queue was yet to disappear. His eyes were already tired and heavy. His voice scruffy from long hours of talking. But he was still willing to go ahead with the interview. One couldn’t help but be impressed by Pastor Chris’ humility, he certainly doesn’t carry himself like a man sitting atop a growing multi-million naira ministry. This perhaps explains why members of his church don’t joke with him. They love him with a passion that is uncommon. Because he is accessible to them. He doesn’t shut them out of his space. His door is always open to them. And they know he doesn’t joke with them too.
So, how did this popular man of God start his ministry 16 years ago? What were the obstacles he had to overcome to get to where he is today? How has he been able to grow the congregation from a little over 10,000 to almost 30,000 in the last 2 years, holding massive crusades in major parts of Lagos and beyond? These and more are some of the questions City People Senior Editor, WALE LAWAL (08037209290), asked Pastor Chris 2 weeks ago. The man hardly grants interviews but he graciously agreed to City People’s interview request. This is the first part of the exclusive interview with the respected Prophet and Evangelist popularly called ‘The Oracle.
Let’s talk about how the journey to set up Liberation City began. Perhaps you can start by sharing with us the period when you moved to Lagos, we understand it wasn’t a walk in the park for you at all. How challenging were those times for you?
Funny enough, I didn’t come to Lagos to start a church, I came to Lagos so I could travel abroad. God had told me to go Lagos, but in my mind I’d said if I get there and if I make money I would travel abroad. I come from a family that was quite poor. I did not even have any relative in Lagos. I had lost two of my brothers and a sister, a lot of strange things were happening in the family. I felt I had to do something to make things better. So, I got to Lagos and I saw people dropping at Berger so I decided to drop, where I was going to I didn’t know. I had only a black polythene bag with me and it contained only a shirt and a knicker. That was all I had apart from the shirt and trouser I was wearing. And I started walking. I had no sister or brother in Lagos, my parents had never been to Lagos. I had no one to go to. Soon, I found a school in Omole and started sleeping there. I spoke to the gate man. He would allow me to sleep in the night, wake up early in the morning before the kids start arriving and I would go for my evangelism, preach, not knowing where my next meal would come from. It was that bad. I fasted everyday. The days I am able to eat, fine, if I couldn’t get anything to eat, no problem. I would wash my clothes at night and spread them, early in the morning before the children arrive, I would pick them up and wear them whether they were dry or not. It went on like that for about ten to eleven months until an Anglican priest saw me one day and said, “I see you all the time, you do this evangelism, where are you from?” I explained everything to him, then he said to me, “don’t worry, follow me to my house.”
He took me to his house. He accommodated a total stranger in his house. And, soon, God began to bless his family. Do you know this church started in his house? It was in a rented apartment, the man was living in a flat then. It’s very verifiable, the house is number 3,Egin street, close to St. Timothy here in Ojodu, that’s where this church started from. On Tuesdays, people will gather just to come and see me for counselling and fellowship. And before you know it, people began saying, “there’s a young man there, he’s very powerful, he can see things, God is using him.” And soon, every Tuesday, as early as 6 a.m. we had over a hundred and fifty people in attendance. The landlord said, ah, you have turned my house into a church, we don’t even have privacy anymore.” He told the man I have to go. The man even assisted me in renting a hall. There is a school called Prismoni, it’s close to Zenith Bank here on Aina Street, Ojodu, you get to that Zenith Bank, close to it you’ll see Prismoni. We paid for a hall, then we moved into the hall, then from there we now started doing Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday services. So, we got a hall that will take approximately about 200 people, not too long after, the hall filled up. It could no longer contain the congregation. We now had to start erecting canopies on the floor. People were trooping in and the news was spreading.
Most times, the proprietress of the school would come and shut the place up. She would say, “you people, we agreed for you to use only the hall, now you’re taking the floor as well.” We would have to go and beg her. By the time we finish begging her, it would be close to ten or eleven a.m. And sometimes she would not even agree, so we would just do the service under the sun, yet the people were not ready to leave because they were getting blessed. God was proving himself by doing mighty things. This continued for a while and people were increasing despite this obstacle. I remember they used to have this mallam they called Gambo, he would say to me, “don’t mind my madam, I know God is using you, I know God is going to give you a better place.” Not too long later, we got a land behind that place, it is called Bashiru street, number 9, Bashiru Street. This street used to be opposite the defunct Bank PHB. The property wasn’t our own, it was on lease. It was at the foundation level, so we raised it but there was no roof. But we started all the same. Gradually, we raised about half of the roof and people were still coming. Then, one day, we were going to have the first wedding in the church and someone had just given me a car not too long. And I was already happy, basking in the euphoria that I was about to break a jinx in my family because, before then, no one in my family had ever owned a car or driven one before. So, I was happy I had finally broken that poverty jinx. So, we were to have this wedding the following month and I was troubled that people would be coming and they will see our church with the unfinished roof. That bothered me because I believe first impression matters a lot. So, as I was praying to the Lord for assistance, He said that car they gave you, I’ve answered your prayers with it. I said how? He said give the car to the church, let them sell it and you use it to do the roof. I said, God, this can’t be you speaking, because I was just celebrating my breaking this curse, this evil pattern of nobody owning a car in my family. I struggled with it but eventually I did it. We were able to cover the place, the wedding took place and that shame was taken away. Then, again, I was praying and the Lord said, because you did what I asked you to do, I will bless you, I will multiply you. He said there is no kind of car you will not have except you choose not to have it. And He was true to his words. There was explosion, the church continued to grow and God was glorifying His name. He was doing awesome things, awesome miracles. The space was no longer sufficient for us so we had to put canopies on the street. Then, residents of that street were not happy because they had to park their cars far away from the area so they, move their cars conveniently whenever our services were going on. Then, eventually, we came to this place. First, we bought a plot and we started with that. At that time, there was a church that used to be here. Today, by the grace of God, we own about 90 percent of the properties on this street.
Within all of these moments that you just spoke about, sir, what were those difficult moments that very nearly broke you down and made you begin to doubt if this was what God really called you to do?
Yes, there were times that you finish ministering and you get to your house and you won’t even have food to eat. Sure, there would be a lot of people in the church but by the time you’re done ministering, the only thing you’ll get is, oh, the man of God is powerful, that young man is powerful, oh, God is using him. That is the only thing. You get back home, you’re tired and there’s nothing to eat. Surely, there’s been a lot of difficult situations but He’s been faithful. It’s been God all through. You can imagine waiting after service till everyone had left so I could take a bike home. All the okada people in the area knew my address. They didn’t need to ask where I was going to, they’ll just say, ah, pastor, oya, let’s go, I know your place. Yet, in the same church, you would see people who came with cars, people whom God has blessed through your ministration, and yet, you have to wait till everyone has gone before you can go and get a bike to go home. So, those days were quite challenging. But it’s was also a good experience because it’s not about what we can have, it’s about what we have been sent to do, the lives we have been sent to affect. So, even at that time while we were having that overflow, they were fighting us. Even the owners of the place gave us quit notice and we refused to leave the place. Where was the money to move to somewhere else? Where was the money to even buy a land? During that period I said, “God, you’re the one that called me, you must do something.” And miraculously, God gave us this place. How the money came, I still cannot explain it. He just told me, because you obeyed me, I will honour my word. Then, while I was putting this place together, I was still a tenant in Ogun State, somewhere in Ajuwon, Alagbole. I was still married then. My family, my kids, were all living in Ogun State. You know, as a Senior Pastor of a church, one would expect that I will be living in one big house all alone with my family, but to get a cheap house, we had to go to Ajuwon, Alagbole, to get a flat apartment. There were six flats there and we were one of the occupants. There were about almost eighteen of us living inside the apartment. My children, my wife, my brother, my sister, my wife’s relatives and several other people. It wasn’t really easy during that period, but I was just happy doing the work of God. I was just happy that God is using me to deliver people. I was just happy that God is using me to set people free and people are getting to know Jesus. So many times, there were moments one wished it could’ve been better, it could’ve been this way or that way. But then, God is always faithful, working out something for us even when we can’t see what He’s working out for us.
In the last two years, we have noticed that you have taken Liberation City to another level. The crusades have grown bigger and you have taken them out of this vicinity to places like Ikeja, TBS and so on. Your popularity too also appears to have soared in the same breadth. What is the secret behind this, what have you been doing differently?
Thank you very much. We have been doing a lot in the last two years or so. As for the crusades, we have also been focusing on places outside of the country. I have traveled to about forty-two countries, taking the gospel of our Lord from nation to nation. It’s just this year that I have not been doing much traveling because the Lord asked me to preserve the harvest. We have been training Pastors, we’ve been running Bible schools, which is why I’ve been having my crusades mainly within Lagos, but by next month I will resume holding my crusades outside Lagos. But despite not traveling outside, we’ve done about twelve crusades already this year. We’ll be having one again in Sagamu in a few days. There is nothing like focus. There is nothing like doing what God has asked you to do. There’s nothing like being consistent. Consistency is key. The moment some people realize things are not working their way, they change focus and say maybe this is not what God asked me to do. The fact that God called you does not mean things will work out for you immediately. God says you will go through the fire, you will go through the water, this means there are obstacles that are a necessity that you must overcome. He didn’t say when you go, He said you will go through. That means it’s a necessity that we go through those obstacles in life and at the end. God will glorify His life. Apart from consistency, another thing is focus. Like I always say, one of the greatest attacks that can happen to anybody is a broken focus. Once your focus is broken, you ain’t going nowhere. God gave me a mandate to reach one billion people, that is, to let one billion people know about Jesus. It’s a serious gospel campaign. So, we’re taking this from nation to nation and the grace of God has made it possible. Without the grace of God, we won’t be where we are today. It’s not only in TBS or Ikeja that we have held our crusades, last year we did in Agege, last week we just finished in Police College, Ikeja. This month, we’re going to Trade Fair, after Trade Fair we’ll be going to Ikorodu, after Ikorodu we’ll be going to the Lekki, from Lekki to Apapa. In Lagos alone, we still have more than eleven to twelve crusades to do this year. And we also have outside Lagos. We’re going to Anambra State, Onitsha, Enugu, Benin City, Calabar, Minna, Niger State, Benue State, Kogi State.
(Watch Out For Part 2 Next Week)