By Esther Folarin
SIR: This letter is for two reasons: I want to celebrate a teacher of holiness, who has made significant contributions to me as a person and helped in forging a generation of youths passionate about God and godliness. I also want to make a few observations and recommendations as an active member and observer, hoping you will take them to heart at this milestone age.
I was in a crowd of thousands of worshippers at the Deeper Life Conference Centre on April 12, 2009, when you preached that sermon: ‘Lovest thou me?’ You started that day with a hymn, ‘Hold the fort, for I am coming.’ And when it was time to preach, you asked, ‘Are you following the Lord because he will take away your sickness every time?
What we did not know was that you had lost your beloved wife some hours earlier. You never betrayed any emotion or delegated your ministerial assignment to anyone. I got home to hear the news on radio and was in shock, as I made frantic calls expecting someone to deny the report. I later joined a delegation that paid a condolence visit to you at your home in Ayobo. I was dumbstruck at your equanimity in calamity, as you took time to recount her last moments and how you accepted the will of God because of your conviction she was in heaven. That episode has never left me and many others.
Your love for God, sincerity of purpose, passion for holiness, commitment to excellence, tirelessness in evangelism, and tenacity in integrity, are too open for anyone to deny. Everyone testifies that your messages reflect the mind of heaven for mankind. Those powerful and piercing three-point alliterated sermons cut through our duties to God and responsibilities to fellow humans. I have listened in awe as many, members and non-members alike, who have drunk from your stream of wisdom, testified that the water is soothing and satisfying. Despite age, you spend hours on your feet, serving the undiluted Word of God. Sometimes, when that golden voice of yours goes hoarse from over-speaking during retreats, I feel like racing to the stage to hug you in gratitude. And those moments you cried on the pulpit in jeremiad exhortation because of the yearnings of your heart, left deep impressions. Not many know you don’t collect salaries or have any property despite this intense commitment to the work.
Let me use this special occasion to make a request for the youth, who form a critical mass of our population as a nation and some of whom I have interacted with both online and offline. As a church, we need to have an event where we can aggregate their pains and desires and how the ministry can accommodate them without compromising any scriptural standards. We have lost many of them; if they are the future, we need to listen and make adjustments where necessary.
We particularly need to reinvigorate our local assemblies with some youthfulness without edging out the fathers. As a former leader at the Deeper Life Campus Fellowship, University of Lagos, the first day I left the university environment for the district was most disorienting. I found a huge gap between the vibrant and lively service I experienced on the campus and the tepid rituals in the district. I was disconnected. I have changed districts several times and found that the situation is endemic. It is scaring the youth away.
Then there is the part of outward conformity with dressing. The youth are not allowed to be their true self, and this is breeding a crop of hypocritical young people who end up as renegades. I suggest leaders and elders need reorientation; let these youths show their true nature so we would know those who really need prayers and those who are genuinely saved. Whipping everybody in line is an approach that no longer works.
You once talked about some traditions you believe are good for administration but are becoming clogs in the wheel of progress and taking people from the kingdom. You said you would remove some of them before you go. I believe that those things have become dogmas for certain people because of their longevity. If you don’t remove or amend them now, whoever succeeds you will have trouble doing so. Whatever changes you don’t make, your successor will face stiff opposition implementing.
I wish you a happy celebration sir. As your days, so will your strength be. May you reap the fruit of your labour and may you continue to lead us in the path of holiness and righteousness until we see Christ in Heaven.