Tuesday, March 28, 2017

At 60, Bishop Aremu says, I Could Have Died at 25

Bishop Thomas O. Aremu is Missioner of Living Faith Church a.k.a Winners Chapel Worldwide and the State Pastor, Oyo State. Alongside with his wife, Pastor (Mrs) Elizabeth Aremu, they both pastor Living Faith Church (Winners Chapel), 

At 60, Bishop Aremu says, I Could Have Died at 25

Basorun, Ibadan. On the occasion of the couple’s diamond jubilee, Bishop Aremu shared insights on the successes the ministry has recorded so far, in this interview by PAUL OMOROGBE.

How does it feel to be alive at 60?

I want to say that my wife is also 60 and we are having a double diamond jubilee for which we are grateful to God. I am one of the people that would have died at 25. I didn’t know I would survive. In the campus (of The Polytechnic Ibadan), I was sick. But for me to now spend 35 years more, after all hope was lost that time, is great. I am very excited and I am grateful to God for it.

How did you join the ministry?

I went for my NYSC in Jos, Plateau State not knowing that certain corps members who were to serve under the ministry were posted there to kick-start the ministry. These were the first vice-president, Bishop David Abioye, Bishop Dickson Olorunda, among others. And from the NYSC orientation camp, you could notice them. They organised a programme and I attended, even though I didn’t know their content or intent. After service year, I got a job with the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) whose headquarters is in Jos, and they posted me to Kaduna. There, I discovered these people again. I also met with Bishop Ebohimen who was also a Power House member. So, they told me about the take-off of the church which was in December 1983 – I finished service in September 1983. They invited me and I was one of the first eight members. It was destiny that made me meet them in Jos. They were even supposed to start in Jos – that was why they came to Jos. But, there was a shift to Kaduna, and God’s power enabled my posting to Kaduna also. So, that was the meeting point, and that was the beginning.

How did you then get into full-time ministry?

I became a deacon and in 1988, I was ordained a part-time pastor, when God’s servant, Bishop David Oyedepo, was consecrated as the first Pentecostal bishop of the North. I served and grew to the post of senior associate pastor; that is the most senior part-time pastor. I was resporting to Bishop Oyedepo directly. From there, in 1994, I received a call to join the ministry – the detail is a long one! But I received a call: God instructed me to serve under His servant and that I should await a call. Later, an altar call was made and that confirmed the call within two weeks. That was how I came in. I resumed in May 1994. I was posted to pioneer Ibadan and the Western operations of the ministry.

The ministry has had its challenges during which many people left. Why did you stay?

One, we came in as individuals. Those who left were consecrated together in 1999. But each time people leave, I ask God, ‘Do I leave?’ He consistently told me not to leave. And I walk with God. He called me into the ministry, and I have the privilege of hearing from God. I hear Him very clearly. In coming to Ibadan, He spoke to me first before God’s servant told me to go and pioneer the work. So, I am very close to God in terms of hearing God in detail, and He has told me not to go. In fact, He spoke to me to a point that He said even at 60 which was the retirement age, I should not go. And I told Him, ‘I am not the owner of the ministry, how will I not go?’ But few weeks after, God’s servant called me and said, ‘you shall be here with me for life.’ So, I am a life servant under Bishop Oyedepo.

What then is the secret of the ministry’s growth, expansion and influence?

I can summarise it to be: integrity of the vision; the integrity of the Word, because that is the greatest tool that God gave us, and the integrity of the visioner. That’s all! People will always follow a man that is reliable, that is here today and is still here tomorrow; a person that you know where he is going with all honesty and integrity. That is the secret of the ministry – its expansion, financial growth and so on. All of that anchors on those three points.

What’s your take on Christians in politics?

If Christians are not involved, you will have sinners ruling the Christians and messing them up. We in Winners (leadership) are instructed not to mix politics with the ministry. In fact, those who are in full time, we cannot go near it, for the sake of consecration and focus. But, we also believe that Christians should participate in politics because we are the light of the world. So, as many as have it as their vision to participate in politics, we back them up and pray for them. But, we should not be isolated and join the critics, we should participate and contribute to politics.

 What can you tell us about Bishop Oyedepo that most people don’t know, having worked with him for a long time?

Hmm! Unquenchable zeal to do the will of God; to walk with God, and to fulfil the vision. That man works a minimum of 16 hours a day.

Have you had the opportunity to see him discouraged?

No! Even when the unusual happens, within five minutes, he has shaken it off. He calls them distractions and he says distractions are enemies of distinction. If you are heading for distinction, don’t mind distractions.

How does it feel to be one of the only three bishops in the Living Faith Church?

It’s a privilege to be among the three. The two (other bishops) are my bosses – the presiding bishop and the first vice-president. And to be honest with you, they take care of me and they love me. They actually depict love for me, for my family. If I mention any challenge to them, they are all out till it is solved. Even though God has asked me to stay, assuming they treated me badly I would run away and tell God I can’t cope. But I am well treated, well honoured and loved.

Some say starting a ministry in Ibadan is tough. How was Winners Chapel, Basorun able to grow to 10,000 worshippers in four years?

We do nothing except it is commanded. The ministry started in 1981, the church-planting started in 1983, yet we did not come to Ibadan till 1994, because God said it was time. And when God told His servant it was time, He spoke to the man that would pastor the church to move. Before I was posted, God spoke to me that I would be posted to Ibadan, so there was a sent- man under a sent ministry with a message. Under that, there was no way there would be no explosion. We didn’t come to Ibadan because we wanted to be like other churches. We came when it was time. And when you go when it is time, He gathers the people by Himself, and He made us a name and a praise. The main centre is still not less than 10,000 as it relates to capacity, and we have 64 churches in Ibadan, some of them with up to 4,000 in attendance. That is in the city, not the state. In the state, we have 143 churches.

How exactly do you do it?

It is as stated in Acts 6 verse 4. We give ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word. There is prayer every day in our churches. And when it comes to our services, we allot the greatest time slot to the Word.

How has the recession affected this ministry?

Our case is different. In fact, we are expecting progression. That is the truth. Everything is increasing, and we don’t know how it comes. That means God is increasing His people despite the recession. We believe God for exemption which results in distinction and it reflects everything.

What is your personal outlook beyond the age of 60?

The Word says anyone connected to God will still be fruitful in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing. I want to still remain an impactful and fruitful pastor in my very good old age.