The common saying, ‘As poor as a church rat’ is fast losing its proverbial essence, given the assets churches and their leaders parade today. To disprove the saying, Opeyemi Adesina, Tayo Salami
and Chika Morkah, using additional Internet sources, identify four Nigerian pastors who are not only rich but are setting the pace in the art of wealth creation and business management.
They labour in the Lord’s vineyard, yet they are stupendously rich. That statement aptly captures the monetary worth of some pastors plying the gospel of Christ in Nigeria today. Not a few people will marvel at the value of the estates and earthly possessions on which they sit and superintend. Although they are many in the wealth circle, four of them clearly stand out, given their carriage, life styles, investments and popularity. Not many will fault the likes of Bishop David Oyedepo of Winners Chapel, Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo of Kingsway International Christian Centre, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome of Christ Embassy, and Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua of Synagogue Church of All Nation as the ‘Big Four’ among several other affluent ministers of God.
It may pose a surprise that a few others who are head-to-head, or even heads above these four are not included, it is for no other reason than that their churches are more institutional and non-hereditary as churches of these four are likely to be. It’s on that ground that Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, in particular, is not included.
Bishop David Oyedepo
Based on the parameters earlier listed, the richest pastor in Nigeria can be said to be the President and Founder of the Living Faith World Outreach Ministry, aka Winners Chapel, Bishop David O. Oyedepo. The church has the largest worship centre in the country, a 50,000-seat auditorium located at Canaanland, Ota, Ogun State.
Bishop Oyedepo is reported to own two private jets (Gulfstream 1 & Gulfstream 4), a Rolls Royce phantom among other luxury cars, an expensive university (Covenant University), a massive church auditorium, over 1000 branches locally and internationally. He’s also reported to be collecting through his church an average tithe income of 30 million Naira per Sunday (excluding offerings and other levies), franchises including literatures, e.t.c.
Whenever he or Faith, his wife is going out in the town, either separately or together, they usually go out with a convoy of vehicles and blaring of siren to beat the traffic. The couple like riding in posh jeeps with one or two vehicles in front and a similar number of cars following the one occupied by either of them.
Although the Winners’ Chapel is one of Africa’s fastest-growing Pentecostal churches, Oyedepo is often invited for crusades by other churches. He has a global vision of evangelism and has taken the gospel outside the shores of Nigeria, which have yielded a lot of financial rewards. “Your financial revolution is tied to what you do with your finances on the gospel,” he often tells his congregation.
As part of his outreach programmes, Oyedepo acquired a multi-million naira aircraft in 1996 to facilitate his evangelism programmes to countries outside Nigeria. This earned him the appellation “Jet-Age pastor”. He believes he is sent to a generation and not just a denomination to work signs and wonders. He established the Covenant University in Ota, Ogun State, thereby using his wealth for the promotion of tertiary education in Nigeria.
Prophet T. B. Joshua
Temitope Balogun Joshua, born June 12, 1963 and commonly referred to as T. B. Joshua, is the founder of The Synagogue, Church of All Nations (SCOAN), a Christian organisation headquartered in Ikotun, Lagos State. A Christian pastor, humanitarian and author, Joshua broadcasts Christian televangelism via SCOAN’s Christian television station Emmanuel TV, and on the Internet via the Streaming Faith Broadcast Portal. His sprawling church building on Ikotun/Egbe Road is reported to worth billions of naira.
Joshua is said to have started a church with just a handful of members, naming it ‘The Synagogue, Church Of All Nations’—a name he says God divinely revealed to him. Since then, the church has grown far beyond the shores of Nigeria . More than 15,000 members attend the weekly Sunday service, and visitors from outside Nigeria are accommodated in the church facilities.
From the very first service held in 1987 to the present day, the church has been controversial due to reports of miraculous signs and wonders that occur every week.
The church currently has branches in Ghana, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Greece. He is also mentoring many evangelists from around the world in the church premises, saying: “The biggest reward God can give to His servant... is to make disciples who will do better than what we are presently doing.”.
‘Another Ministry’ is the humanitarian arm of SCOAN, with projects catering to the needs of widows, dwarfs, the elderly, physically challenged, orphans and the destitute. The church provides scholarships to orphans and children of the less privileged, with educational support promised from primary to tertiary levels. There is also a rehabilitation programme for armed robbers and prostitutes.
Often, the church financially supports them to secure a practical vocation. During his 45th birthday on June 12, 2008, T. B. Joshua made a large donation to the less privileged. Joshua has also provided scholarships for numerous physically challenged students and sponsored many physically challenged athletes. He is known to help people, irrespective of faith or denomination.
Joshua recently floated a football club ‘My People FC’ as part of his efforts to help the youth, the young team already making a mark on the Nigerian football scene. Already, three players have been sponsored abroad to play professional football in Sweden.
Two players from My People FC played for Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets in the last FIFA U-17 World Cup,were raised at Synagogue. Sani Emmanuel, who was raised in The SCOAN and worked as an altar boy, was Nigeria’s top-scorer and the tournament’s MVP, winning the Golden Ball and Silver Shoe. Emmanuel and his colleague Ogenyi Onazi have since expressed plans to have a foundation to help other less privileged youths, where ‘every proper means will be used to discover the talented’.
At a thanksgiving service in The SCOAN held after the cadet World Cup, Golden Eaglet’s goalkeeper, Dami Paul, also testified to receiving healing through Joshua’s prayers before the tournament’s commencement.
Pastor Chris Oyakhilome
Chris Oyakhilome, Pastor of Believers’ LoveWorld Incorporated otherwise called Christ Embassy Church, is not only winning souls but has built an expansive business empire from which he is making huge amount of money.
His church headquarters is a magnificent glass building. Its blue and gold colours stand it out in the crowd of old buildings on Oregun Road, Ikeja, Lagos. The building which is a few poles away from the old Suzuki Motorcycle assembly plant glitters like the corporate headquarters of a progressive new generation bank.
Chris Oyakhilome, the Edo State-born pastor, runs the branches of the church and his other businesses from there. The church has provided for Oyakhilome a good platform for his other business interests which include banking, publishing, broadcasting, entertainment and the hospitality industries.
A normal Sunday service at the headquarters draws not less than 30,000 worshipers. Most of them come from distant parishes of the church and the attraction is Oyakhilome himself who they all want to see live on the pulpit.
Oyakhilome belongs to the growing clan of pastors who preach prosperity but he is better known for his miracles which are very controversial. Even then, they have remained the source of his popularity and the huge fortunes that he has made.
The church operates like a conglomerate with no fewer than 10 subsidiaries that work with the common goal of oiling the purse of the ministry and its patron.
The major money spinning arms of the ministry includes LoveWorld Cyber Ministry, LoveWorld Television, Love World Christian Network, LoveWorld Multimedia Ministry and LoveWorld Publishing Ministry.
One business enterprise run by the church is the LoveWorld Records Limited located in Ikeja. It was incorporated in 2008 as a private limited liability company to carry on the business of music, entertainment and gospel merchandise. The Christ Embassy recording studio operates a distribution network that facilitates the selling and marketing of records within and outside Nigeria.
His group’s investments in the media include Minaj Broadcasting International, MBI; Superscreen television; National Standard, a monthly magazine; National Daily, a weekly newspaper; and a cable television network known as Loveworld Media.
The satellite television is based in South Africa and it is a free-to-air-no subscription channel. It was set up primarily for the purpose of the church evangelism.
Superscreen television station, owned by Oyakhilome, occupies the seventh floor of Lagemo House at Onipanu area of Lagos. The television which began operation in 2007, boasts of state of the art broadcast equipment. .
Majority of staff of the television station are members of Christ Embassy. The television station serves as the media arm of the church, especially because it routinely telecasts church programmes of Christ Embassy.
In pursuit of the church’s craze for publicity and in spite of huge investments in the broadcast media, Christ Embassy again set up its sole private television station called Loveworld News Media. The studio is located within the church headquarters and is said to operate a 12-hour daily service airing church programmes.
National Standard hit the news-stands in July 2004 as a monthly glossy magazine. Its first office was at Plot 2, Ajumobi Street, off ACME Road, Agidingbi, before relocating to 25 Ogunlowo Street, off Adeniyi Jones, where it is at the moment. Today, the publication has gone weekly. Its sister publication, National Daily, which is a weekly tabloid, is located on Emina Crescent, off Toyin Street, Ikeja. Paradigm Communications Limited oversees the publication of the papers for Oyakilome’s business empire. The church’s investments in these media enterprises alone is put at more than N5 billion.
Global Plus printing press is another investment of the pastor. The hi-tech ultra modern press is located along Ikosi Road, Oregun, Ikeja. Monthly financial yields of the printing press which is worth more than two billion Naira is about N10 million.
Christ Embassy also owns CFI Pictures, a company that produces Christian movies. Located within the headquarters premises is a digital media store that markets electronic books and a gift card shop. The two are also money spinning channels for the church.
The church also has investments in the event and entertainment sector. In 2008, it bought over a warehouse belonging to a shoe making factory along Oregun Road which was converted to an event centre called K and G Event Centre. The event and recreational centre which is located at 8a, Oregun Road, has relaxation spots and other entertainment conveniences for customers.
The church also has an eatery called Dicksons. The fast food joint is rapidly expanding its outlets. It is being developed to compete favourably with Mr Biggs and similar outfits in the country.
Oyakhilome has also spread his business tentacles to the financial sector. The church owns two microfinance banks one of which is Moneycom Microfinance Bank.
Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo
Matthew Ashimolowo of Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC) has carved a niche for himself in the British Christian community. His church, which attracts 8,000 congregation, is considered one of the richest in Britain. According to Robert Booth of The Guardian (London) reports, Pastor Ashimolowo, with a £100,000 yearly pay, earns more than the Archbishop of Canterbury, the official head of the British church.
KICC is reported as one of the richest religious institutions in both Britain and Nigeria.
The Kingsway International Christian Centre, in Walthamstow, has filed company accounts which reveal it made a £4.9m profit over a period of 18 months. It also has assets of £22.9m, more than three times the amount held by the foundation which maintains St Paul’s Cathedral.
His church’s wealth, according to reports, stems largely from the donations it encourages from its 8,000-strong largely African and Caribbean congregation. They gave £9.5m in tithes and offerings in the 18 months to April 2008, dwarfing the £33,000 that the average Church of England congregation gave over the same period.
Rather than a more traditional plate collection, forms are handed out to worshippers so they can make bank transfers at some services.
KICC’s wealth is the clearest sign yet of the gathering popularity of evangelical Pentecostalism which is the only growing branch of Christianity in the UK with an estimated 300,000 weekly worshippers.
The church’s increasing wealth represents a transformation in its fortunes after the discovery in 2005 by Charity Commission investigators of financial irregularities. Ashimolowo was ordered to repay £200,000 after it emerged he used church assets to buy a £13,000 Florida timeshare and £120,000 on his birthday celebrations, including £80,000 on a car. New trustees were appointed and Ashimolowo was removed from his role as chief executive.
“The last 18 months have been a period of incredible journey in the life of KICC,” said Ashimolowo in a preface to the accounts. “It has been very exciting to see God move the ministry from one level to another as we witness the increased manifestation of His glory.”
Ashimolowo is understood to earn his salary from preaching as well as royalties from sermons published in books and on DVDs through his own company. Ashimolowo Media Ministries made a profit of close to £60,000 in 2003.
Four KICC directors earn between £60,000 and £80,000 each. By contrast, a typical Church of England vicar earns around £21,500 and even the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has responsibility for an active congregation of close to a million people, only earns £68,740 a year.
“This is a very well-financed business,” said a tax accountant who examined the accounts for the Guardian. “It holds more than £16m in short term investments. I am the honorary auditor of my local church and they have just £20,000 on deposit.”
“The teaching of the church is very much about self-development,” said James McGlashan, a former oil executive who is now KICC’s chief operating officer. “If that is preaching wealth then we are preaching wealth. Becoming financially independent, owning a house, getting a degree and a better job is good.”
According to the accounts filed with Companies House, KICC finances were boosted by the sale for £10.1m of its Waterden Road home in Hackney to the London Development Agency which needed the site for the 2012 Olympics. It is planning to spend between £50m and £80m on a five-year project to build a complex at a site in Rainham, Essex, with capacity for 8,000 worshippers, classrooms, a TV studio, bookstore and offices.
As in Britain, Ashimolowo is fast spreading his church in Nigeria, spending millions of naira to plant branches of his church in every part of the country. His expansive church auditorium in Mende area of Maryland, Lagos speaks volume of his financial muscles.