Bishop Austine Nwodika, from Umunya in Anambra State is creative with spreading the gospel, which explains the array of programs and services he deploys in his ministrations. He is involved in capacity building of church workers, philanthropy and advocacy He spoke with THEO RAYS for The Oracle Today on his 50 years on the pulpit, impact of Pentecostalism, challenges facing the Church today. Excerpts:
How do you got into the ministry and preaching the gospel?
I got converted in 1970 and moved straight into service as a full time Minister of God. I discovered that there is no other job I could apart from preaching the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. It was a tough decision but God helped to drive and sustain me. At that point the Pentecostal fold faced serious persecution from members of the Orthodox Church. Then, it was a taboo to mention that you are a born again Christian. It was very tough. After two years of giving my life to Christ, I went to Bible schools to learn and to perfect my skill. From there we formed the Gospel Faith Mission Church; that was the first Church I pastored. From there we established the Riches of Christ Church. With my friends Edozie Mba, Emeka Eze and Paul Nwachukwu, we got involved in establishing the Church. Since then, we have been going about evangelism and building churches all over Nigeria and abroad. We built the Grace of God, but I left to start the Throne of God Church which is where I am pastoring now as the Presiding Bishop. For 50 years I have never done any business apart from preaching the gospel. And I have every reason to testify to the glory of God. The years have been been fruitful. Today, I am the founder of the Throne of God Church and head of other organs and associations as the founder of Episcopal body of Anambra Pentecostal Bishop Association. I am the President of International Fellowship of Pentecostal Bishops, founder Kingdom Advancement Mandate, founder Do God Empowerment Initiative and founder Kingdom Revolution Has Began.
How would you assess the impact of Pentecostal churches, referred to as the new generation churches, in the development of the the Church and the society?
Pentecostalism has come to stay and the impact of the movement is there for everybody to see. The situation of Christianity has completely changed. It is unlike in those days when we were persecuted. As I said earlier, in those days, it was like a taboo to say that you were a born again. People will do all sort of things to discourage you from practicing Christianity according to the Biblical principles. Some of us were thrown out of the house simply because we were born again. But now things have changed. Every Church now is following the examples of Pentecostal Churches especially in preaching healing and miracles, speaking in tongues and collection of tithe. The Pentecostal movement brought what people were looking for in the first place. It freed Christians from the shackles of ignorance through the Bible based fellowship and inspiration of Holy Spirit. More so, the born again Christians like to evangelize and open Churches and that has really moved Christianity forward. Some people are uncomfortable with the high rate of Pentecostal Churches but they are comfortable with numbers of beer parlors, hotels, markets and petrol stations everywhere. From different angles, the Pentecostal Churches have made remarkable impact in Christendom and in the society in general. Through Pentecostalism a lot of people have found solution to their problems. We have seen people receive healing and breakthroughs in business, barren women having children. But most importantly is conversion of people like armed robbers, cultists, addicts, and other vices, who have given their lives to Christ to the glory of God.
Could you recall some of those things you may consider spectacular that God had used you to do in the lives of the people in the last 50 years?
They are too numerous to count. God has used me to move the supernatural power upon the lives of the people. We have seen various diseases disappear from the sick. We have seen the blind regain sight, the cripple walk, the barren bore children, people in different situations overcome failure and disappointment. Most importantly, souls have been converted.
Do you think the failure of political leadership in Nigeria has affected the Church in the country, especially with suggestions that things people are expecting more from the Church ministers?
The problem is that we have two forms of Christianity which includes the Church mindset and kingdom mindset. People practice Christianity with a mindset on the Church and not the mindset towards the kingdom of God. The reason for the failure to make impact is consequent upon the fact that majority of Christians operate with Church mindset. They want to gather people and build cathedrals but that is not just what we are here for. We are here to render the service of the kingdom of God on earth. The kingdom is the overall development of God’s rein upon humanity. The Bible says kingdom of God suffered violence and violent men take it by force. Again, the Bible says occupy till I come….Go into the world and preach the gospel and make disciples of all nations and covert people to God both the old and young, the poor and the rich, the kings, queens and the leaders and the lead no exception. Again it is written that government should be upon the shoulder of Christ but Christians are running away from politics because they are concentrated on establishing churches. Why are we running away from politics? The Bible says we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. How do you salt the earth and light up the world if you are running away from politics? A born again Christian can be a President of a country or a State governor or a Senator or even a traditional ruler or President of a town union and by so doing use the position to provide quality service of righteousness to the people. The Bible says when the righteous is on the throne, the people rejoice, but the same people will suffer and mourn when the wicked is on the throne. It is part of the duty of born again Christians to place righteous people on the thrones. That is what we need now to make a positive impact on Nigeria.
What are the services that are obtainable in the Christendom of Kingdom mindset?
First is love, charity and philanthropy. Kingdom mindset demands that we have to show love to others, do charity and philanthropic work. There is wickedness, greed, envy and hatred in the land. During the COVID-19 lockdown, people suddenly became generous, turned out to do charity work, remember the poor and the needy. Do we have to wait for a lockdown before lending a hand to the less privileged. Kingdom mindset demands that we should be generous all the time.
Second is family building. As Christians we have to ensure that we raise our families according to the Biblical standard. Today, many Christian families are in shambles to the extent that some pastors divorce their wives. Third is agriculture services. Christians are not in agriculture. If famine hits Nigeria today Christians will be at the receiving end because we don’t have farms.
Those who preached the gospel before us were farmers, fishermen, shepherds, cattle breeders and grain cultivators among others, but we are just after acquisition of material things. Fourth is promoting good leadership with righteousness. My prayer is that Church leaders should encourage their members to move into politics. We cannot sit back to watch others to control the political scene and end up complaining that they are not doing well. Five is economic development. Christians are not featuring well in the development of the economy. Moslems are key players in the world economy. They have Islamic Bank but we don’t have a Christian Bank. Six is science and technology. We are not in science and technology and there is no way you can advance the kingdom of God on earth without featuring strongly in science and technology. Seven is industrialization. We don’t have industries and we are not strong enough in education sector and health industry. We are lacking a lot of things because we operate with Church mindset instead of kingdom mindset. Jesus operated with Kingdom mindset and that is why He conquered the world. My prayer is that God will open the eyes of men of God to adapt the kingdom mindset and move down the kingdom of God here on earth because by so doing we shall live up to the expectations as light of the world and salt of the world.