Bishop Isaac Idahosa is the General Overseer of Illumination Assembly, aka God First Ministries. From Edo State, the handsome preacher and singer shocked the world weeks back when he visited the Ojodu, Lagos church of controversial minister, Prophet Chris Okafor, widely known as ‘O Talk Na Do’.
We went in search of him on Saturday, May 5, 2012 in Badore, Ajah, Lagos. And for well over one hour inside his massive church, he took time to enumerate his reasons for the visit, his relationship with Okafor, how he started and more. Come with us…
What makes a good pastor?
Constantly being in touch with God and the people; remaining focused and then ensuring that you have a mentor over you to checkmate you from time to time, because there must be some excesses that must be curtailed. A good pastor is a pastor who has a God-heart and lives for the common good of his people.
What are the elements of a good message? When can a message be said to contain all the necessary ingredients?
Of course, all messages must be from God. So, you have to hear from God and know the right time for the message, because when truth is wrongly applied it becomes an error. Then, a message must be able to drive a point home to the extent of giving and bringing hope to the people and culminate to transformation of lives.
Why do most pastors fail?
Discouragement shows up from time to time. If I had wanted to fail, I would have failed. But most pastors fail, one – because of discouragement; two – wrong company; three – lack of adequate understanding of their calling; four – competition; you want to prove a point to man. So many factors. But these are just a few of them.
Why is sin all over the place in spite of the fact that we have too many churches around?
It could be worse without. It’s one of the signs of the last days. But where sin abounds, grace much more abounds. But it also depends on what you define as sin. When you break the rules of God, you have sinned. You know what is right to do, you don’t do it, you have sinned. Sin is multiplied because of the last days’ syndrome.
Why do we have too much bad blood in the Christendom? Why do pastors hate one another?
Anyway, some are called, some called themselves. The basis for calling and operation as a pastor is humility and when one is humble, he has a nature of God. That is holiness. Holiness is not don’t sin. Holiness is the nature of God. But when you are holy you won’t sin. You see, enmity springs up when you begin to find competition, envy, jealousy and trying to do what others are doing, because you don’t have the clear-cut vision of what God has asked you to do. Some want to belong to a particular class, not knowing that the yardstick of God is not the same as the yardstick of man. Pastors today are a rivals because of what they think is success. And it has entered into their heads. They now have companies, cliques and different kinds of segments in the Body of Christ. So, those who want to belong, who are not accepted, tend to now have something to say or speculate about those who think they are up there. Those who are up there think they are more superior. Nothing vexes a young man coming up like rejection. The worst thing a pastor faces among other pastors is rejection. No matter what you have got within you, if you are not given a chance or a platform, you can’t express it. And the greatest thing a pastor can give to you or whoever is acceptance.
Why do we have too many pastors around?
Because they want to prove a point. They want to meet up. They want to get to a point where they will say they are there.
How do we identify a genuine pastor from the fake?
By their fruits you shall know them. That is what Jesus said. It’s a matter of time. If it’s of God, it will stand the test of time, if it’s not of God, it will fizzle out. We’ve seen a whole lot who came and today are no more. And we’ve also seen those that were never in the limelight, over time, God just made them a voice. If it’s what you will be doing for life, faking it will not help you. You must allow God to paddle the course of your ministry. Wait on God to perfect His right timing for your manifestation.
Considering the volume of controversies trailing O Talk Na Do (Prophet Chris Okafor), a lot of people were taken aback by your visit to his church. What exactly did you go there to do and also what is your relationship with him?
He’s been released! Hope you are aware? During the kidnap, I sat down and thought that if everybody folds their arms…it’s only in the Body of Christ that we allow wounded soldiers to die. Every soul is precious to God and God has His yardstick for judgement. It’s not within anybody’s control. Romans 8 vs 1 says ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and death’. You said you are a Christian. The bedrock for Christianity is love. You can’t correct from a distance. You have to show me love. The prodigal son when he returned back home, his father stretched forth his hands to welcome him. If I am bad, the fastest way to correct me is showing me love. But today we find out that if speculations go about a particular person, nobody even wants to find out what is it all about him or her; we just totally condemn such an individual, not giving the person a chance. Even God gave us a chance. While we were yet sinners He sent His son to die for us and that’s where we have difficulty. I remember the case of Paul. As bad as he was as Saul, he had an encounter and when he had that encounter, the apostles were not there. So, getting to Jerusalem, they were all afraid to absorb him into the brotherhood, thinking he was the person they used to think he was. But he had changed. So, that is the issue. One must be able to stretch forth his arms and say God, over to you.
How long have you known him and what kind of person is he?
Well, he’s a servant of God. I knew him when I was at Ajao Estate (Lagos). He was coming around from time to time and about the end of last year, I obliged to go preach for him. That was November or December. That’s the relationship we have as servants of God. People have said a whole lot. In fact, when I was going to go, I received a call, ‘Don’t go, don’t go!’ What are your reasons? None! Now, if one comes and tells you this about this, it is left for you who has the spirit of God to go and kneel down and pray. People’s opinion must only count when it is in line with the spirit of God. But nobody takes time to find out who you are. Everybody speculates and then concludes what they think you are. So, he invited me, I prayed, I got peace about it, I went to bless him. So, during this kidnap, I sat down to find out souls are souls. I just deemed it fit to go and encourage the Body of Christ. The last time I saw Papa Ayo (Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor), he flew into Lagos last year. He’s my mentor. I asked him what he was here for, he said he came to preach for a C & S Church. I was laughing. I said, so Papa you mean (demonstrates), he said yes! As a spiritual covering, as a father to the Christendom in Nigeria, he does not segregate where to go or where not to go. That’s what we did. We are towing the line of our spiritual mentor.
Why do you think a lot of people do not agree with what Okafor is doing?
Best known to them, because I am not in their shoes to know why. I’m speaking on my own behalf. I’m personalizing my own. I would want them to bring it on clearer terms why they have not accepted this person. Then, how many of them have been able to sit him down and say this, this, this are the things we feel are not right. What are you doing about that? What’s your take, why are you doing what you are doing? By scolding him, if he was going wrong, they are able to retrieve him and regain him than to abandon him if he was already going astray.
It’s been established that you are close to him, tell us what exactly happened to him?
He went to preach in Anambra State. Now, on his way, he was trying to catch a flight; so he had to go to Benin so he can catch his flight to Lagos to catch up with his Sunday service. It’s all about kidnapping. On his way to Benin, it was late, between 10 and 11pm, they kidnapped him.
He’s been released, glory be to God. Did he tell you how much the kidnappers collected before releasing him?
About N25 million.
When exactly was he released?
(Thinks) – It should be Monday night (April 30, 2012).
Has he narrated his experience in the kidnappers’ den to you? Were the kidnappers nice to him or nasty?
Oh yeah, he discussed that with me. Each time they called, they were hostile on the phone. I mean, that was one of their ways to attract better ransom, but he wasn’t hurt.
N25 million is a lot of money, were you part of the contributors?
Yes. You see, what you make happen for one, sometimes it comes back to you. Like some were wondering why raising money for him here and there. Even if you said he’s bad, would you have preferred him rotten there? Salvage him first, then sit him down and talk to him. So, that was what we did.
Back to you again. Tell us the story of Illumination Assembly, how did it start, how did you receive the call and where are you headed?
In 1989 in Minna, Niger State, when it was so pronounced and dawned on me to start a ministry for God – God First Ministries, I had 50 kobo! So, the ministry was started with 50 kobo. I wanted to go to Jos because I had a few people who had soft spot for me then and number two was the very good weather; number three, no religions upheavals, unlike what we see today. But God said to me, I must go back to where I began – because our parents settled in the north before the war. We were all born and brought up in the north. We enjoyed scholarship, kudos to Niger State. So, He said get back to Minna and then return back to them what they had put in you when you were there. We had a family friend then, the Mayas. They gave me their boy’s quarters. I told them this was what God asked me to come do – to start a ministry in Minna. They believed in me, but many didn’t believe and I returned back to God and God said to me, if nobody understands you, understand yourself. If everybody misunderstands you, understand yourself. When others laugh at you, don’t laugh at yourself. These were the few words He gave to me. They gave me their boy’s quarters, there I was playing guitar, singing and I attracted to myself a lot of students and people. Then, He said now, go and commence the ministry full blast. That was 89. So, I told the Mayas I was going to look for an accommodation to start the ministry fully. They thought I had money. So, we went in search of a three-bedroom flat so I could use the parlour. They got one for N6000. It was huge then. They believed I had the money because I didn’t ask anybody for money. On my way out of that place, I now saw a building abandoned and dilapidated and written on it was – God’s own house. God said this is where I want you to start the ministry. Then, I beckoned to the Mayas, I said look at what God is telling me right now; that this is where He wants. They thought something was wrong with me because nobody had lived in it for years. The building was owned by one Justice Shagari who ran mental after he handled a case and he was attacked. And each person that lived there after him ran mad also, so they abandoned the place. It was swampy, they grew rice there and all. But I said this is where God said I will start the ministry from. They were like, are you alright? And I said that is what I’m hearing. So, we went in search of the man who was in charge of the place – who happens to be Late Justice Awoniyi in Niger State. The Mayas said to drive me there and when I told the man I needed to use the place, the man laughed. He said you are about to run mad. I said no, no, God called me. He said alright, if you say so, take it for free. So, the students helped to clear the place. It was called God First Ministries and started on the 25th of August 1989. I went to bed that night, no louvers, no doors, no toilet. I was bathing once a day outside. People’s farmland was my toilet. That was how the ministry was started with 35 students.
What would you say has catapulted the ministry to where it is today?
Hearing and doing. My name implies hearing and doing. Hearing God, that’s the meaning of Idahosa. Once you lose touch with God, you have lost touch with your source and heaven cannot back you up if you are not in line with the calling. When you hear and you have the faith to do, then He takes you. God will not show you all about you, for two reasons – not to be proud and not to be scared. God does not promise you safe journey, He promises safe landing. So, it helps your faith to lean on Him.
God asked you to start the ministry in Niger State, when did He ask you to move down to Lagos?
Three years later!
How has the experience been in Lagos?
It was a humble beginning too. So many things had happened in Minna then. We pioneered the Pentecostal revival there with people like Philip Mokunga, Dr. Samande and what have you. We were constantly being arrested and in the midst of that God broke us through in Minna. I got into Lagos in 1992. That was around December. I had gotten a few people. The Lagos ministry started in Surulere. To be precise, at Mama Akinyemi’s house. Her living room was where the ministry started until we were able to buy our land and build at 32, Mogaji Street, Ijeshatedo.
What has been the wisest decision taken by you since you started this ministry?
Obedience! Obeying God’s voice is that exchange for any transformation.
You just celebrated the 20th anniversary of your marriage, what would you say has sustained your union in the midst of too many that crumbles daily?
Principles. Love will marry for you, principles will keep it. It’s not enough to love; you have to add love principles that will guard the home. Principles will help you adjust. Marriage is like a school without graduation. It’s also the only school where the first day of entry, you are handed over your certificate. So, it is in your hands.
We trust that you will succeed, but there are principles to look out for.
What are these principles?
Principles of communication, principles of adjustment, principles of learning to be sincere and trustworthy, truthful; principles of faithfulness, principles of balancing the mother in law, father in law syndrome; principles of accepting from my own end her people – balancing equation.
Tell us about your wife and your children.
Christy is my wife’s name. My mum’s name is also Christy and my daughter’s name is Christabel; born 92. She will be 20 by December. She’s schooling in Cyprus. Osagie Apostle is the second born, a boy. Osagie means the sent one.
Where do you see Illumination Assembly in the next ten years?
In the next ten years, we would have covered the earth with the knowledge of the glory of God. Illumination has to do with information, with light, with revelation and to pull off the mask of ignorance about God, about the world. Helping people discover their God-given potentials.
As a good looking pastor, how do you cope with women, do they also tempt you?
A servant is no greater than his master. Jesus was tempted in all things. If Jesus wanted to sin, He would have sinned, but He chose not to. That’s a point of decision. Women are wonderful, but you have to define each relationship. Once there’s a definition, there is caution. Whoever comes into your ministry comes for different reasons. So, you must be able to have discernment to know this is this, this is that and learn when to draw the curtain.
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