By: Deji Yesufu
It is no longer news that another Pentecostal Pastor has bitten the dust regarding moral matters in the conduct of his ministry. Joshua Iginla, a leading Charismatic/Pentecostal Pastor in Abuja, Nigeria, some weeks ago, made an open confession in his church about engaging in extramarital affairs. Some individuals had been blackmailing Mr. Iginla, threatening to expose his sordid lifestyle – so he made the open confession to evade blackmail. But that was not all. Iginla, in his confession, succeeded in blaming his wife for his moral failure. He claimed that his wife had gotten pregnant for another man and had brought an “unholy child” into their home. He said the frustrations he was under as a result of his wife’s actions led him to also father a child out of wedlock. Following the confession, he has now put an end to his marriage.
After his confession, the media was again inundated with yet another story on the Iginlas. Pastor Iginla, while narrating his story in church, left out the fact that he had long been married to his baby mama – a South African “Prophetess”- who was expecting their second child. Mrs. Iginla, who resides in far away United States, also published a video on social media where she sought to wash herself clean by blaming “Stella” (who is Mr. Iginla’s baby mama). Mrs. Iginla said, among other things, that Stella had requested that she share her husband with her. And that if she does not agree to this, she would collect her husband from her. Somehow, as Mrs. Iginla would have us believe, Stella has now succeeded in her plans.
My grouse with this whole Joshua Iginla magana is not with the sordid stories that are emanating from the home of a leader of a Christian organization. For me, scandals is the norm in Pentecostal churches. In the decade that we are completing, the Nigerian church has been immersed in more than enough stories of sexual scandals from these new generation churches, such that no one is surprised by them anymore. When Ese Walters revealed her sexual philandering with Biodun Fatoyinbo of COZA, the nation had more than enough to talk about. But Mr. Fatoyinbo wisely left everyone hanging by simply stating that he would give a “robust response” to his accuser. It is six years now and he has said nothing. Mrs. Oyakhilome, wife of Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, filed for divorce some years ago. She stated in her written statement to the courts that her husband was having unholy relations with female pastors in the church. The divorce came and went, and the church returned to business.
Nigerian Pentecostal churches are places where scandals thrive. That a pastor in these churches is involved in sexual sins is not a big deal. It is simply stated that the minister “fell” and it is the duty of the church to cover him up and ensure that he is restored to ministry again. There is no discipline and where there is one it turns out to be a pat on the back. Nigerian Pentecostal churches have a low view of holiness and do not give premium to leaders being examples to followers in moral matters. It is the reason why in such churches all sort of sordid things go on there. It is simple: the things that these churches give premium to are prosperity and miracles. And somehow they understand that a high moral standard in church would not affect these things that they seek after. So there are manifestations of all kinds of demonic activities in their midst.
Sometime in the early part of 2018, an American minister by the name Art Azurdia, came out openly to the board of elders in his church that he had been involved in moral failure twice in his ministry. The second one was what led to his confession but he also made it clear to the church that there had been another occasion, some ten years earlier. While the church board considered what they would do to him, Pastor Azurdia wrote an open letter to the church board, members of his church and to the whole Christian community around the world. He affirmed publicly what he had told his elders in private. He then resigned his job as a pastor. He requested that all his retirement benefits be withheld from him. He explained that he needed to leave town to go along with his wife to attend to some family needs. In short, he disqualified himself from ministry. The church has since moved on. The story of Art Azurdia and his response to his own moral failure is what one would refer to as true repentance. He might have lost his ministry but he surely has returned to a relationship with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The leading reason why there are few Art Azurdias in Nigerian Pentecostal churches is because many Pentecostal Pastors have no relationship with Jesus Christ. To say it succinctly: many of these Pastors are not Christians. They have no changed life; they are not born again; they are sinners heading to an eternity without God without Christ. My argument against Pentecostalism has been that very few Pentecostal churches still preach a Christian gospel. And where there is no gospel message preached there can be no conversion of sinners. It is the gospel that saves sinners. When men understand why Jesus Christ lived and died and rose again; when they understand that Christ died to save them from their own sins (and not salvation from sin AND sickness and poverty); when people see the crucified Christ in the gospel they hear; it is then they would turn to God in genuine repentance and find sincere faith in God. Pentecostal churches, particularly those that have been taken over by the Word of Faith heresy, would preach all kinds of warped message and call it the gospel. Then they would give an altar call. People who have not understood their state as sinners would come out, “give their lives to Christ” and then begin a journey into a false Christian profession. With time they would receive some experience with speaking with tongues. Those that have some education would be invited to leadership positions and ministry begins.
There has been no conversion experience that is definite and that show one leaving a life of sin to a life of godliness. There has been no careful discipleship in the word of God. There has been no process of learning to deal with one’s own lust and personal iniquity – to the point of mastering one’s own sins. There are no examples in ministry for these men to imitate. Rather the preponderance of tithes and offering makes ministry attractive for these men and with time they come into leadership position and all kinds of hell break loose. The kind of evil works going on in these churches in the name of “ministry” cannot be described. Only eternity would reveal them. Those who have young daughters would do well to warn them against going to Nigerian new generation churches. Except you want to breed a sex slave under your roof.
What has piqued me the most about the Joshua Iginla matter is not the fact that the man fell; that is really not news. The number of Pentecostal pastors still “standing” in Nigeria can be counted on a person’s fingers. What is most annoying about the Iginla matter is that people think it is not a big deal. Our sense of moral outrage has been so lowered in this country that nothing shocks us anymore. Even as I write, Mr. Iginla is still doing ministry. What a shame.
There is little that is worse than a Pastor, who ought to be teaching moral standards and exemplifying them through his own practical life, to be found having failed in morals and to also be making efforts to cover his tracks in the process. It is evil. It is worse than armed robbery. It is a betrayal of people’s trust. And quite naturally, as we saw in Azurdia’s case, such a person ought to willingly resign his ministry. If he has truly shown repentance and has exhibited such fruits, his church may consider him for reinstatement. But he ought not to continue to preach to people. What exactly would he be saying?
In Nigeria, he very well can continue to preach because morality is not the message our pastors teach anymore. They do not live nor do they have any moral sense left in them. Besides, the church is their own. They built it. “It is my ministry” and no one dare take it away from them. They do not have anyone overseeing their work. They are accountable to no one. This is the making of Joshua Iginla and the days to come will reveal more and more of these sordid matters in Nigerian Pentecostal churches.
Deji Yesufu is the author of the book Victor Banjo. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org