I am a preacher that sings, not a singer that preaches – Umunna
Bishop Leonard Umunna, general overseer, Bible Life Church, recently dedicated his latest book and music album at the headquarters of his church in Lagos. He spoke with a select group of editors on the sidelines of the event. ZEBULON AGOMUO was there. Excerpts:
You just unveiled another book and music album; how do you sing, write, preach and do other things at the same time?
I used to compose every minute if I wanted to but now I am looking for stronger words and greater melodies; inspired words that can explode into the hearts of people and solve their problems just like my book. I used to compose from events and sounds that I hear and inspiration, but now I concentrate on any message given to me or incidents that will change lives. Incidents that people can learn from, anything that can make mankind better. I can take existing tune and expand it to be relevant to the day and the present generation that we are into. But I compose better now; I have gone into the area of voicing, I have trained professionals, I can sing any song anywhere in the world. God told me that he wants me to be a preacher that sings and not a singer that preaches. I am into all aspects of music. I write, compose, sing, produce and also go into market. Some people say they dream or have vision. My own inspiration comes in diverse ways. God speaks to my hearing and uses things happening to quicken me to take action, to show myself responsible and responsive to the needs of the hour. Permit me to say I don’t hear from God only, I hear from people, I hear from circumstances. All I want is to advance my generation. Every generation has its own music and message. Everyone born into this world must experience a forward march; so, if the person thinks that the forward march is only possible through the old means, the person will be left behind. I tried to discover what the next level is, call for it and be ahead of it in most cases.
What is the place of Christian music in worship because some churches nowadays seem to pay more attention to music than to the word of God?
Those into music for money become antagonistic when they are told the whole truth. Music to such people is synonymous with anything in the church, they are not seeing music the way God sees it. David used music to glorify God; Paul and Silas used it to praise God and they were released. The children of Israel used it to pull down the wall of Jericho. The Bible recorded that Jesus sang with the disciples and went to the Mount Olive. I use the portion of the scriptures where the demons left the king when David was playing the harp. So, I tell them that the effect of your kind of music shows whom you are glorifying. Satan, who is Lucifer the first musician in heaven, lost it all because he used his music to glorify self not God. If when you sing or after singing people begin to lust after you, then know you are glorifying self. Perhaps, after singing, you proceed to committing sexual immorality, fight or engage in any other sinful act; you know it is the devil that is using you. If while you are singing, somebody who is possessed is freed, you know it is to the glory of God. You know they no longer sing songs like ‘In the name of Jesus send the light’, ‘The name of Jesus, the name that conquers Satan’, you know demons will go because they are not only inspiring, they contain God’s words tailored to meet the needs of people and free souls. The type of songs we hear now is more of self-worship; they are anything but songs that can free a soul and shift focus to God. So, depending on the impacts songs make, you know who is worshipping God or Lucifer.
You said you are 65 years old but feel like 12 or 13 years old; can you let the secret out?
There is a scripture I found that says, ‘thou restoreth me, thou reneweth me as an eagle…’ Until it happens to you, you may not be able to know. Last year in May, when I was 64 years old, after preaching I went to kneel in the press office to thank God; I felt dizzy for the first time and I was shocked and asked God why. He said He reduced my age by 35 years, He told me what and what to take for the renewal of my age. I work 24 hours and when I want to sleep, I sleep like a baby. I do not have a clerk, driver or messenger; I sing, I compose songs, I prophesy, I write, I attend to my schools and do several other things. During the time I had the dizziness, some of my brethren advised that I engage in sports, take days off, but my spirit did not say yes to the suggestions because I was looking for what God will to my spirit. God told me to consume foods like pumpkin seeds, flat seed oil etc. Shockingly, I noticed I was waking up from a different time I used to wake before I started consuming the food God prescribed for me. Without these things that I am eating that are slowing me down to rest and renew my strength, it would not have been easy. So, God taught me to renew through His words, the type of food I am eating to meet up with my health needs not necessarily what my body likes and my lifestyle, surrounding myself with positive things and forgiving in advance.
You mean you don’t engage in any form of physical exercises?
Forgive me; what exercise to me is more than dancing? My eyes are seeing clearer than when I was younger. My ears are sharper; everything about me is not weak. With Nigeria’s life expectancy being 45, don’t you know with God, I can be 100 years and not feel any weakness?
Again having spent many years in ministry, are there things that bother you about the state of today’s church?
Please do not go there. If you want to compare and contrast the churches today, you will make mistakes. We were sometimes in the days when we were told Jesus was coming and people sold their properties without caring. Now, some members of Jehovah Witness are better than some Pentecostals, do not argue with me on that. We had the days when a good man of God taught people how to dress and some were angry that people tied turbans, but what we are exposed to today is like the worst kind of vanity. Spiritually, the former days were better but technology-wise, the present days are better. If you lose focus on scriptures, you will be carried away by the vanity fair of this generation. Quote me; in 20 years if Christ tarries, this generation will be far better. Then lawlessness will be everywhere. You will not even tell a man not to marry a man. You will not tell the live-in lovers not to do so because they would have removed where it is in the bible. But you will see that mankind would have developed faster means of transportation. Someone wrote ‘The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born’; up till now they are not yet born.
What is your charge to younger ministers?
They know it all. Bible calls some people ever-learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth. Any effort you put to correct them, they will paint you black. If you ever accuse any of them of rape they will draw crowd that will put you to shame. If you tell any of them to pay tithe, they will pull crowd together to put you to shame. If you tell them that the music they play is bad, they will tell you that you are old school and that you are heading nowhere. If the new ministers want to listen, they should take heed to what the Bible says. The Bible says, ‘remove not the ancient landmark.’ People these days are not spiritual but they have the appearance of spirituality and they are unthankful. Nigeria, in the other year, was said to be the happiest nation but now Nigeria is ranked as the world’s poverty capital as well as world’s capital of corruption and religious bigotry. Prostitution is endemic now in our nation; just mention any evil, we borrow and mortgage our children to the third generation and our leaders are not seeing it as wrong. So, the younger generation should take cognisance of what God said will be happening in these last days because God is not going to judge the old generation differently from the younger generation or a Nigerian differently from other nationalities.
What is your take on border closure and hate speech regulation?
There are many benefits in border closure but the border should not be closed for long. Some people are benefitting but majority is losing out. We have too many things to correct before talking of hate speech. Anybody’s statement can be seen as hate speech. Jesus was even called Beelzebub. What we should be looking at is border closure and the money being borrowed and owed even when we heard that Abacha’s loot was recovered. What is hate speech to you can be fine speech to another.
Could you please comment on the state of the nation?
We have not elected any president yet in Nigeria, it is our leaders that select and ask us to vote. Now, in electing other officers like governors, senators and so on, we have also lost it as we are no longer electing them. What will you say about that? That is the state of Nigerian nation. Every regime becomes worse than the previous one. Nigeria is cursed on leadership, Chinua Achebe told us that. I told you that unless the constitution is changed and not amended, and possibly the name ‘Nigeria’ is changed also, these ugly situations will not change. But if the constitution is changed, it will help to deal with the situation. The case of Sowore is a sign that something is wrong. Somebody who contested to be the president of Nigeria and could not be the president now turned to call for a revolution and the world is saying he is a prisoner of conscience, and the court said he should be released on bail. Yet, he is yet to be released. This is the ninth year and tenth month I am paying salaries of teachers in my schools from my pocket. I even heard that in the north, the borders are open. PDP and APC should watch it; there is no difference between the two parties. When the repercaution will come, nobody should say I did not raise the alarm. The governors are saying pay us this amount and they are busy building houses. Anybody that diggeth a pit will fall therein; they are digging pit, their friends and children should watch it.