Pastor Francis Madojemu is a popular Ibadan Pastor and founder of The Bridge Network Ministry. The church, he started 11 years ago after he left the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), has grown to become not just a megachurch, but a strong network/business hub where talents are discovered, where small ideas are nurtured, to give a clear vision. The first church service was held on October 1st, 2006. But rather than being addressed as a preacher, Pastor’s calling is teaching. He believes so much in practice and that has been the strength of his ministry over the years.
Last week, RCCG, Pastor Madojemu opened up to City People Ibadan Correspondent, Dare Adeniran, in an exclusive interview. During which he talks extensively on many interesting issues bordering on why he Redeemed, how he has grown his ministry to the stage it is today. His background, policies and many other issues. Madojemu is an Edo man but he was born and raised in the South-West part of the country. His Church (The Bridge Network), located inside the sprawling Alalubosa GRA, Ibadan, houses an event centre (NuStreams Conference and Culture Centre), a furniture showroom and many youth-oriented facilities. Below are the excerpts of the interview. Enjoy it.
How did you find your way into God’s vineyard?
I am an Architect by profession. I went to UNILAG, graduated in 1984 and all I wanted was to teach. So during my Youth Service in 1984/1985 I taught in UNILAG, as an Assistant Lecturer. My mum had a factory at Apata which she wanted me to come and run. U.I just started teaching Architecture then 85/86 session. So I came down to Ibadan, started running my mum’s factory then applied to U.I. Only for me to find out that U.I had cancelled the course. I was very annoyed for the fact that I was stocked. They didn’t have either enough students or resources or something.
But for the fact that I love teaching, I can teach anybody, any class. I later find out that it was not only teaching Architecture, there is more teaching generally. That was when I realised I had a call for teaching. You know there is different between teacher and preacher; a teacher explains while preacher proclaims. A preacher will say Jesus is this, He did this, that and all. But a teacher will say this is how God works; he explains things deeply, more practical than most preachers. And they have a role to play in fact, you find out that Jesus did more of teaching than preaching. So I started teaching Sunday Schools, started teaching House Fellowship at Rhema Chapel. And the thing grew from there. I later joined Redeemed and became an Assistant Pastor and all that. I have never been a full time pastor, I still do business.
At Redeemed Christian Church of God, you rose to become one of the hottest pastors of the church especially in Oyo State and Ibadan in particular. Why did you leave the church. Many were shocked when they heard?
It was just an ideological issue. When I joined Redeemed, like I told you I am not a full-time pastor. We belong to this family called “Apapa Family” led by Tony Rapu from Lagos, it was a region. And in this region was group of young upcoming professionals, who were medical doctors, engineers etc in the Ministry. They were not full time pastors but three years down the line things began to change. We were transferred from one place to the other because we were not full-time pastors. It got to point that they wanted to do a blanket change, as the system dictates, everybody should move. And I felt as comfortable as that process may seemed it won’t go anywhere. You let people do something that is not right and you don’t protest for people who are coming under you. What makes bad thing succeed is good people keeping quiet . “So I said I don’t agree with this move and if I don’t agree with some of these policies I can’t stay in this system”. How do I explain that to people I am leading?
What exactly was your point then?
“My point was that if you want to move people who are not full-time pastors, seat down and have a meeting with them”. You can’t treat somebody you are paying a salary the same way you treat somebody you are not paying. We were not being paid. And most of us were actually some of the largest tithers to the church. We are human beings, tell us what you want to do, let’s seat down and reason together. Let’s come up with a plan. More so, I was also uncomfortable with the fact that, if your father is to change every three or four years, what kind of children would you have? So those are some of the things that really put me off. And rather than criticise the system, the gentle man thing is to step out. I even started this church on a Sunday, I did it on a purpose. So that nobody from other church will be able to come, I was trying to afford this idea of people moving from my former church to this place.
What was the first service of your ministry like and what gave you confident that the church was going to grow?
Of course it was cool. We were very few but it was a wonderful experience. I don’t know if it was confident. I think it was confident as much as, I was already not conforming..when I was building this place, I have playing ground for kids, I have Tennis court outside the church. I have a creche and I was building an E-library. I even rented a portion out to a bank and all that. So I didn’t really fit into the model. For me this was an opportunity to express myself differently. I wasn’t really looking for, and then one of the biggest things I find out about this place is that, I think church is one of the most underutilised properties in the world, it is once in a week thing. So I wanted a place where everyday it would bring an impact, if they are not renting the hall, we be having exhibition. We have sound studio, we have Tech Hub, where young people come in to research on great ideas, equipped with Internet and every other necessary facilities. We have photography studio. We are going to be doing E-commerce summit in March, where we will bring the likes of Konga, Jumia and co because Ibadan people buy a lot of stuffs on all these avenues but very few of Ibadan businesses are represented there. We are trying to bridge that gap.
You left Redeemed because of what you described as ideological issues, harsh policies. What is your ministry doctrine like?
Misrepresentation! The word doctrine is actually a mis-normal in the sense that when it is used in the Bible, Act Chapter 3 means teaching, not fixed doctrine. We need to understand that. Because that is what has put a lot us into trouble. If something is fixed, you won’t change when the time comes for you to change. Let me tell you a story, there is this man, one of the biggest pastors in this city. When he started, the church used to be in the bush, so mosquitoes and snakes were very common in the land.
So when he used to pray he will be smacking his legs and waving his hands across his ears. Then you find out that the only reason he was doing that was to scare those unfriendly creatures away. But he find that 10 years later everybody in his church started doing same. They didn’t know why he was doing it. So when you ask what is the doctrine of this church?
They say we pray like this..(demonstrating). There are some things that are absolute in the Bible, Jesus died on the cross for us, he rose the third day.
Anything else, you learn and keep improving on. There was time church can’t be where is hotel, man can’t seat where woman had sat. We have grown, we will keep growing. So since I came out of Redeemed from feature pastor from Rhema you know that over the years, I have built some of these principles into my life, by the virtue of exposure. And I am learning new things everyday and I am excited about them. So I try as much as possible not be static, it is like when Abraham was told to kill his son, if he didn’t hear the other instruction that says don’t kill him, where will we be?
How would you describe your experience in the Ministry these past years?
It is not that easy. It is tough because I am an orthodox, people don’t understand. It is a long term process but you will see the benefit later, when you see there is a reason you tow a particular line. I believe so much in saving, after giving ten percent to God. You have to save for your future, you should know how to invest.
There is a scripture that says “Isaac sowed in the land and of the land he reaped hundred folds”. We have taught people how to sow in the church, we must teach them how to sow in the land. So when you teach the principle of investment you don’t expect the result to be instant. So my own might be a little bit slower because I am a teacher.
You are sounding like somebody who is highly principled. Has that affected your ministry in any way, whether positive or negative and is there any difference between Madojemu as pastor and Madojemu as a person?
I hope not. My biggest fear in the Ministry is not really the size of the church, finances or success of the church. My biggest fear is a situation my two sons will reject the Gospel I am preaching. I don’t want to live a life that my children, in front of my wife, will say, what dad did in the church, I don’t want to have anything to do with God. I want to live in a such a way that my sons will say I like my father’s faith and I want to be like him. I also don’t want to get to a place they will hate me whether I am too poor or I am on the other side, too arrogant. So that are the two lines I have always try to balance all my life, not on Church. Church is not something I use to measure whether I am succeed or not, it is my kids. Are they Christians?
Do they believe in what I believe in? Are they proud of their father or their mother? So we were lucky to know that, that is the way to live your life, by principle and not by what is popular. Because what is popular will always change, but principle is neither change. Though there are temptations that come along these principles and it is not that easy to live like that. But I am quite happy with who I am. I am comfortable in my own scale.
There this perspective out there that churches nowadays no longer preach the Gospel but instead preach prospect to bring more people in, thereby turning church into business venture. What is your take on this?
It depends on the angle you want to look at it. But to me, it is still a business. Mind you business can be wrongly or rightly managed managed. Again, how many of us, as pastors, were trained to become pastors? How many of us were taken through any kind of process? They just saw that when you speak or touches somebody and the person falls down or you know how to explain the bible they put you in office. No knowledge about human management, long term planning and all.
So you can say that your own calling was divine. Because some will say they receive the calling from God directly and all that?
I was just lucky, that is all. I knew some of these things either through exposure or books I had read, people I had met. Just lucky we didn’t fall into…Any of us could have been in that mess, not been able to see our ways clear. I thank God all the time for something, I wasn’t born in Russia I would have been a communist. Not because I wanted to be. I thank God I wasn’t born in South Africa, I could have had major self-esteem problems. Because I would have grown up in an apartheid country.
The reason I have this level of clarity is because there is purpose for my life. And I was just lucky, there was noting I organised. It was God that organised it in such a way that I get that kind of freedom. But if we were born in South Africa you won’t be able to look the White man in the face, you will be shy, you will bend your head and call him master.
Have you seen a Nigerian call any white man master? Except a house help in this country. But in South Africa till today they still call white man master. Why? Indoctrination, that is what I am talking about. We were just lucky and we need to use it as Nigerians to set other people free. If we get it right in this country, Africa will be freed. I am so convinced about it.
The world has changed but we always seem to catch up at the last minute. Today, you don’t need anybody to succeed, all you have to do is to take advantage of opportunities right in front of you. Churches still doing things the way they have been doing in the last twenty years, nobody wants to show any video. Today I played another pastor’s video in the church. So far people are blessed, I am not interested in who takes the glory? Who Is the famous person in Nigeria? What I am interested in is, did it get to my people? Are they blessed?has their lives changed? That should be my concern.
Was there something in your background that shaped you to become what you are today?
Yes, I must give credit to whom credit is due; my dad and my mum, they were strict. My father was a highly principled, although he died while I was ten. But you can see he already impacted my life. You can’t throw paper out of the car window, you can’t spit through the car window, he will beat me. You can’t lie, if you do you are in trouble. So all these things helped.
My mum, a successful businesswoman, she took risks, she started the factory, that men start. She taught me many business ideas, how to write letters to companies. I am very lucky to have both of them. And they also allowed us to read comics. So when I read comics, in my head, I have been to England, US, by reading. So when I got there I have idea of what to expect. Coupled with the fact that they sent us to very good schools; Federal Government College, Ilorin, Abadina Primary School and all.