‘What Nigerian churches can learn from American ones’
Pastor Toye Ademola is the Presiding Pastor of Dominion Inter-national Centre, Houston Texas, America, which he founded in 1999. He spoke with Sunday Oguntola on lessons churches in Nigeria can learn from their American counterparts and sundry issues. Excerpts:
When I was in school, in 1987, my final year in college, we were worshipping God when there was a prophecy that there were some of us in the fellowship that would never work with our certificates. The Holy Spirit spoke to me and said I was one of those people; that I would not use my certificate to work.
I studied Mathematics and Statistics. I began to seek the face of God to know His plans for my life. In 1989, I moved to Lagos and was staying with one of my sisters in Ipaja. We were looking for a church to worship and I found the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in Ikeja. As soon as I entered the auditorium, the next I heard from God is ‘that this would be your church from now on.”
Moving to RCCG
I was shocked because God had told me I was going to pastor in the US while seeking His face. As at that time, none of my family members had been to the US before. I just left it in God’s hands to fulfill His plans. So, when He told me RCCG would be my church, I was confused. Later on, I found out that it was a training ground.
While living with my sister, I was helping her husband to run a small business but I was not collecting any salary. So, I never worked in practical terms until I became the Administrator of the RCCG on January 2, 1991. That same year, I became a full-time pastor and I was sent to the RCCG parish on Allen Avenue. By 1993, I moved to pioneer RCCG, Dominion Chapel, Ipaja. By 1995, we moved to the USA to start another branch of RCCG. Until then, I had never been anywhere near the United States though my wife is a citizen.
Journey to the United States of America
On May 9, 1994, we were going for a leadership training at the RCCG National Headquarters in Ebute Metta when I heard God telling me that my assignment in Nigeria was up and it was time to move to US. I didn’t want to move again because the model parish I was pastoring was doing really well. I loved the people and thought they were my own. But God said if I didn’t leave, the people would leave me.
So, we started processing our papers and moved by April 1995. Our first point of call was in Dallas, Texas. We spent one month there. I pastored the RCCG parish in Stanford, Texas until God told me it was time to actualise the assignment He gave me in 1987. By April 1999, I left to pioneer Dominion International Centre.
Our mandate is dominion. We have four, which are dominion, prosperity, faith and righteousness. People know us for dominion.
Differences in pastoring here and USA
If you are a pastor doing well in Nigeria, the members will respect you so much. We treat our pastors as mini-gods. We don’t allow them to do anything; we carry even their Bibles and everything. But it is not so in the US. You are always on your own. They see you and just say ‘hi.’
Initially I was shocked. Most pastors who migrated to the US from here also have their experience. I was not annoyed because God has been preparing me. Since I knew I’d be pastoring in the USA in 1987, I shut down many things in preparation. I stopped eating heavy foods like amala and eba, knowing I needed to be disciplined to function there.
I kept to salad, rice and bread; meals I could find there. It was only when I got there that I realised one could find Nigerian foods in some cafeteria.
What Nigerian churches can learn from American churches
One is excellence. They don’t compromise excellence. They keep records and cannot function without records. If you come to our church today, any offering or tithe you give has to be recorded. At the end of the year, we need to send you a letter, stating how much you donated.
There is nothing like ‘it’s between me and my God’. We know that but the government also wants to know how much you are giving to your assembly. If you have your records properly as a church, it helps accountability and prevents reckless spending. People expect you to send letters of donation to them at the end of the year so that they can present them to government. That way, they get tax rebate and they can then return the tithe of whatever they get from government to the church.
So, there has to be records. If you want to do anything with government, they have to see your records. Two, Nigerian churches can learn about time management from their counterparts in the US. You just have to be conscious of time. You can’t spend four hours in a service because people will walk out on you. America works 24 hours every day unlike here when we observe holidays.
If you want people to come, you must stick to time. It must be from 10am to 12noon because those people are resuming for work by 12: 30noon. As soon as you are leaving, others are resuming. If you don’t finish on time, they won’t return. So, Nigerian churches can learn about time management from over there.
There are a lot of Nigerian churches in the US that just want to keep doing things the way they are used to here. You can always see the differences.
Lessons for the American churches from Nigeria
God is moving in Nigeria. The anointing is here; the word is here. American churches can learn from the spiritual discipline and vibrancy of the Nigerian church. When it comes to prayers, fasting and trusting God, Nigerian churches are way up there. There are many things we trust God for here but over there, when someone is sick, they think of hospitals and not prayers. If you want to do a conference here in Nigeria, you have to pray for power stability if you don’t have a generator. That can never happen in America. So, we trust God more and put His words to test than they do.
Whenever I come here, I get challenged. Nigerian Christians will challenge you to study the word more and have more revelations. That is why the largest church in the world is here. The largest auditorium is also here. That is to show you God is here.
Expanding to Nigeria
The Lord has not spoken to me to start a branch of our church here. I can never say never though. I don’t do anything until I hear from God. I won’t say I should do it because that is what everybody is doing now.
I love our worship and vibrancy because we are a lively people. We are trying to replicate the same in our church. It is a multi-racial assembly with many non-Nigerians. We don’t stereotype Nigerian or African praise.
Pastoring a multi-racial church in America
We had the challenge in America where people saw us as a Nigerian church. People always associate a church based on the origin of the founder. We were first considered a Yoruba church. When we overcame that, we became known as a Nigerian church. They called us an African church and we still overcame that. Then, they said we are a black church. Gradually, we are overcoming that. But there were some steps that we took that helped us. Our official language is English. We don’t expect our workers to speak in vernacular. We believe if you made it from your country to America, you must be able to speak in English. Though people speak vernacular at the parking lots but we generally don’t encourage it.
As a worker, people can talk to you in vernacular but you must respond in English. Two, we don’t sing in any Nigerian language. We don’t tolerate that so that we don’t alienate people. We don’t want to Africanise the church.