Nothing tells the story of an emerging ecclesiastical oxymoron today perhaps better than the image of a Reverend Father with a loaded rifle, much more ruthless AK-47, slung on his shoulder ostensibly while conducting a church service (pictured above), flanked by a company of soldiers in battle fatigue.




Nigerian pastor T.B. Joshua speaks during a New Year’s memorial service for the South African relatives of those killed in a building collapse at his Lagos megachurch.

Worshipers at Joshua’s New Year’s memorial service in Lagos.

Pentecostalism is booming all over the globe, but especially in Nigeria. Meet the man responsible for its rise.

Rows of sick people queue up one afternoon in downtown Lagos. There are people with crutches, mothers with crying babies, a couple of wheelchair-bound people and several with bad coughs. This is not a hospital; it’s a sports center. And they are not waiting to see a doctor; they are here to see a priest.

T.B. Joshua is one of Nigeria’s most controversial clergymen. Besides claiming to have a direct line to God, this 52-year-old has been performing so-called “healing miracles” for 20 years. Call him the Oprah of evangelism, the African case study in the kind of mass preaching that much of America is so famous for; he has his own TV shows, two million Facebook fans, sold-out events and branded merchandise. And like Oprah, he’s rich as hell. The latest estimates put his wealth at about $150 million. His church has branches all over the world, from the U.K. to Australia. He often goes on what he calls “Miracle Crusades” to other nations, and he claims that more than a million people have paid to attend his Tony Robbins–style seminars worldwide.

“I have nothing to say,” says one follower, asked about Joshua’s critics. “The Holy Book teaches us to love even our enemies.” 

Joshua is certainly not the only millionaire priest in Nigeria. Over the past 15 years, televangelism has taken over the country, and Pentecostalism — a Christian renewal movement that emphasizes a direct, personal experience of God — is booming across the entire African continent, as well as in Latin America. The first Pentecostal missions arrived in Nigeria in 1910. By 1970, there were an estimated 300,000 converts, and by the turn of the century, 30 to 40 million, according to Ruth Marshall, professor at the University of Toronto’s Departments for the Study of Religion and Political Science and author of Political Spiritualities: The Pentecostal Revolution in Nigeria.  According to the World Christian Database, some 12 percent of Africans are Pentecostals.

His pastoral style is sui generis. Joshua, who didn’t respond to OZY’s requests for comment, doesn’t preach that much. Rather, for a few minutes, he screams into the microphone, often prophesying what is to come — wisdom garnered from the latest chat with God. (He claims he foresaw the September 11 terrorist attacks.) Then, he takes his powers away from the mic and toward the sick, praying over the bodies of the afflicted and asking God to release the object of his prayer from cancer, syphilis, whatever disease it may be.

Chimbiebere Stanley Okah, 42, one of Joshua’s followers, tells us that he found the preacher through TV and was convinced when he saw one of Joshua’s “miracles” — healing a man from baldness with a sip of water. “I’ve seen countless miracles,” Okah says. “His preaching is flawless.” As for Joshua’s critics? “I have nothing to say,” Okah tells us. “The Holy Book teaches us to love even our enemies.”

For many followers, wealth enhances their pastor’s credibility and their own faith, rather than sullying them. Indeed, it’s not his money so much as his power that pisses off his preacher peers. The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, the country’s association of leading Pentecostal churches, has denied Joshua membership because, it says, he hasn’t provided proof of ordination. A few years ago, some preachers gathered to warn followers about Joshua, calling him an agent of the devil, arguing his curing powers had a dark source.

Such earthly demands for proof don’t trouble Joshua, who dismisses them as quack talk. Joshua claims his birth was prophesied a century earlier and that he spent 15 months in his mother’s womb before being born into a small Western Nigerian village. There, he attended primary school and worked odd jobs before starting to organize his first Bible groups.

He’s extremely charismatic, says Rene Peters, a Rwandan student whose mother took him to one of Joshua’s events. Joshua, Peters recalls, yelled at a woman who tried to stand up and leave during an event, and made her sit back down. “He exploits the naïveté or desperation of his followers with no accountability,” says Pradip Thomas, a scholar at the University of Queensland and co-editor of the book Global and Local Televangelism. A dozen people died last year when one of his event venues collapsed. Joshua has not been held legally accountable for the incident — yet.

It would be churlish to paint all of Joshua’s followers as naive or wooden-headed. “It’s hard to believe you can run on empty claims for over 20 years,” Marshall says. Those who come to Joshua are, after all, seekers; many have prayed and dreamed for years on end. Like Paul Ighodaro, 37, a Nigerian living in Greece. A composer, singer and writer, Ighodaro tells us about a vision he had: A son of God would appear in Nigeria. Ighodaro himself began to spread this word, which brought him to Emmanuel TV and Joshua. “I know the signature of God when I see one,” he writes. Ighodaro doesn’t even need to go to Joshua’s church, he says — he never has attended. He’s seen himself in Joshua’s congregation in a dream, wearing the choir garment. But don’t think he’s just relying on visions to connect with Joshua. Ighodaro credits the internet most of all.

J.Y. Lee contributed reporting.

Source: The Millionaire on God’s Payroll



Modern Miracles—True or False?

Some years ago I prepared an essay titled: A Study of Divine Providence. In that piece I pointed out, among other things, that although God is providentially working in today’s world through his natural laws, the Lord is not performing “miracles” in this age.

In response to that article, I received an irate letter from a Pentecostal reader who characterized the study as a “non-scriptural, non-edifying” exercise that denies the power of God.

We do not question the sincerity of most critics, but the letter reflected a type of uninformed emotionalism that unfortunately is common. The following statement from his note is typically “Pentecostal.”

The miracle power of Christ was at work when my friend was healed instantly of terminal cancer, including the scar tissue from the radiation.

He then declared: “The proof is in the pudding.”

All we ask is: “Let us see the evidence that there was any pudding!”

Does the gentleman actually expect anyone to believe that story in the absence of any objective evidence whatever? Were there before-and-after x-rays that document the “miracle”? Is there written testimony from competent physicians regarding the instantaneous disappearance of the “terminal cancer”—scar tissue and all? If so, where is it? And if the Lord miraculously healed the cancer victim, why was radiation necessary?

I have been investigating these miracle claims for half a century, and not one time have I ever seen anything that even remotely resembles the type of miracles that adorn the pages of the Bible.

Where is the modern instant restoration of a severed ear? Where is the Pentecostal minister who can walk on water? Where is the corpse that was four days in the grave, and walked out? Those who contend for modern miracles simply have not studied the issue sufficiently to identify the nature of a genuine miracle.

Many years ago, Oral Roberts came to our city with his “miracle working” campaign. We ran a newspaper advertisement offering a $1,000 reward for medical proof of a single miracle. Roberts never sought to claim the reward. He subsequently went back to Tulsa and established a hospital in which to treat the sick!

When the late Ronald Coyne, a small-time “healer” from Oklahoma, came to our community, claiming that he could miraculously see through a “plastic eye,” we offered to pay all expenses if he would submit to testing administered by a qualified ophthalmologist. He declined the offer and threatened to sue me. I urged him to do so, for the courtroom is a real arena for the examination of evidence. He took his “magic eye” con game and left town.

When another “miracle-worker” came to our city, claiming he could raise the dead, I offered to accompany him to a nearby cemetery. I suggested that he could pray for a corpse to “come up,” and I would pray for it to “stay down”—thus, we could demonstrate who had the greater power!

I have seen witch-doctors in Africa who claimed they could mutter incantations over a chicken gizzard and miracles would result, but there was no proof. In spite of the lack of any credible evidence, the poor and ignorant people of the village were offering the same kind of unsubstantiated testimony as do our Pentecostal critics.

This issue is not one to be decided by the subjective testimony of those who “feel” that God is working signs today; rather, it turns upon the critical examination of the facts in the light of plain Bible teaching.

The New Testament teaches that miracles occupied a special place in God’s redemptive plan, and they have not been extended throughout the Christian dispensation. See the article, Miracles on this website.

Some have sought to argue that miracles have continued beyond the apostolic age, but Dr. A. P. Waterson responds:

It has also been shown that the frequently quoted passages in Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Justin Martyr which purport to show that miracles of healing continued well into the 3rd century will not in fact bear that testimony (318).

Jackson, Wayne. “Modern Miracles–True or False?” Access date: September 4, 2016.