By Nehru Odeh
Bishop David Oyedepo, founder of Living Faith Church Worldwide, aka Winners Chapel, brooks no compromise when it comes to things related to his faith. And he comes across as a no-nonsence man of God. On many occasions he had taken some personal decisions he felt were justified but which the public frowned at.
And lately he has become a firebrand critic of government. If he is not criticizing government on issues such as Leah Sharibu, who is still being held captive by Boko Haram and the rampaging onslaught of Fulani herdsmen, he is criticizing government for what he regards as its anti Christian policies.
But recently the highly respected pastor, who commands a huge followership got his hands full when he criticized President Muhammad Buhari over his decision to shut down religious worship centres while allowing markets to open to prevent the spread of covid-19 that is currently rampaging the globe.
Oyedepo, who is fondly referred to as Papa by members of his church, bared his angst on Wednesday 6 May, 2020 during the Covenant Hour of Prayer programme of the Church, when he said government’s decision to keep churches closed was suspicious and based on ulterior motives. He also said the Lord told him that it was part of moves to stop the church of God from exploding.
He said, “There is something wrong; for people to be allowed to be in the market for six hours and can’t be in church for two hours, it is an upside-down way of looking at things.
“Which one is more orderly? The market or the church?
“I can smell a rat. The Lord spoke to me on it so strong yesterday. I can smell a rat. Behind all this, how do we stop the church from exploding? The people involved don’t know it.
“The voice of darkness is influencing people at various levels, targeting the church because the growth and expansion of the church is the greatest headache of the devil.
“But the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. The devil and all his agents shall surely pay for this.
“I don’t know what hospital that records the kind of healings that the church of God records. And now hospitals, where people die every day, are open, but the church is closed because the oppression of the devil has no medical cure.”
However, the clergyman has been under attack since the day he made that statement. Many have taken to social media to air their displeasure at his statement, which they considered insensitive.
Below are comments from Nigerians on social media:
@Justinabenson10 “It is quite simple for me, churches aren’t running “essential services” like our markets offer. Bishop Oyedepo of all people should understand this. So who has died because he couldn’t go to church or mosque? Same can never be said of the markets, people need to re-stock supplies.”
@Ogbenibambam “I guess Bishop Oyedepo is fighting for his pocket and not God, No one can fight the battle of the Lord.”
@Abdrahimnda “This is why we are so poor in mind, in thoughts and pockets. We think everything is about religion. Why won’t people go to markets for 6hours? Will you feed them at the church? Or is it that prayers and worships are no more accepted at homes?
@Boxypiper “Churches aren’t running essential services papa. Do you know what it means for Muslims not to pray on Fridays during Ramadan?
@Ichinazam “Even the Bible preaches of quarantine. God told Moses that if someone had leprosy he had to separated from everyone and kept in isolation. Stop free styling with Christianity and read your bible. Spreading false information like this damages our beliefs.”
@Kene_Onyemaeme “Meanwhile his churches in UK and US are still closed but his Nigerian churches should operate. What do you take Nigeria for? The lockdown was partially lifted because of the impending economic implications on the masses, instead of his Church to support the government he’s smelling a rat.
@Lorenzodgenius “Market is a place where people go to buy basic things they need to survive, church is not. If Oyedepo is a common man, can he and his family survive without food stuffs. What purpose does the church serve right now? This is not about being sentimental, no need for church now.”
@Wolenchy02 “Sentiment aside, Bishop is making sense.Church is more organised than the market and bus stops though, so God help us.”
@Cephas_Basu “He has a point about the church being more orderly than the market.But please all these Pastors should know that not everything is an attack on the church. The paranoia is too much.”
@Supaflyest “Papa doing the most to secure his bag, hurts bad when you suddenly stop seeing free weekly money. Growth and expansion of the church worldwide but 95% of the members are not growing. Market provides food but the church wouldn’t. You are not going to eat the words.God is everywhere!
@Obianuju_Obakpu “What people fail to understand is that we Christians are the church. The body of Christ. Not the building!. No body was stopped from praying and holding services with family in their houses. So you can pray in your house. Market is opened because we have to eat. Eat food!”
Poju Oyemade, a highly respected clergyman and the Senior Pastor of The Covenant Nation has also come out to defend the decision of the federal government to keep churches and mosque closed. Oyemade, on his Instagram page, said the closure of churches does not in any way stop the Holy Spirit from working.
Making reference to the Bible, he said, “the sick healed in the book of Acts were healed on the streets, in people’s homes, in public places and not within the four walls of a Church.”
His post reads:
“Closing the doors of a physical building does not in any way mean the closure of the anointing of the Spirit from working.
“Church buildings may be shut down but true faith and the anointing of the Spirit has not stopped working.
“There is a difference between expression of emotions and the manifestation of the anointing to heal the sick. There is nowhere in Jesus’s ministry where the healing of the sick was preceded by a congregational service.
“In the Book of Acts, the sick were healed predominantly on the streets with no fanciful service going on. Closure of a church building does not stop the rivers of living water from flowing out of your belly. It resides in our inner man.
“There was collective prayer to receive a supply of the Spirit which led to outdoor manifestations.
He stressed that Apostle Paul in the Bible attested to the fact that Christians don’t have to be together in a physical space to receive that supply.
“Did he not say to the Church at Phillipi, I know this shall turn to my salvation through your prayers and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus. The Church was miles away from where Paul was.
“Charles Finney began a massive revival by people praying in their homes all keeping watches at same time. They all chose the exact time to pray and they did in their homes until the Spirit broke out on the streets.
“They did not criticize any other Church or ministry of weakness. Criticizing others doesn’t attest to the fact that you have strength. They only stayed with God until something broke out on the streets,” he added.