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Jimmy Odukoya: Between the Church, business and morality

Jimmy Odukoya: Between the Church, business and morality

It is no longer news that Jimmy Odukoya, actor, musician, and first child of the late pastors Bimbo and Taiwo Odukoya, has been elected as the senior pastor of the Fountain of Life Church. His election was announced by the board of trustees of the ministry during a church service on Sunday, September 17, 2023.

In making the announcement, the trustees disclosed that the spiritual grandfather of the Church, Bishop Mike Okonkwo reached out to the G7, board of trustees, thanking them for giving a befitting burial to the Pastor and asked for the succession plans.

According to Rotimi Okpaise, who addressed the church on behalf of the trustees, though the late pastor did not make any open declaration on who succeeds him, he however, left word with some three people on the choice of his successor.

Expectedly, Jimmy was nominated and unanimously elected as the Senior Pastor and chairman board of trustees of the Church, while his installation would be made on Saturday 30 September, 2023.

In responding to his election as the senior pastor of the ministry, he said, “A lion does not give birth to a goat. The Holy Spirit is the pastor of the Church and out of their bellies shall flow the fountain of living waters.”

He further thanked the board for harkening to the voice of his father, explaining how his father chose him to continue with the work.

According to him, he was with his father recently, sitting at the foot of his bed when suddenly he raised his hands and said to him, this is your story now.

“I don’t know what you are talking about. Your story has not ended. You still have a lot of story left. But in the spirit, I know what he was saying.

“And so, Fountain, I want to say this is our story now. The Bible says the latter shall be greater than the former,” he said before announcing his younger sister, Tolu Odukoya-Ijogun as the associate pastor of the Church, disclosing that both of them would do the journey together.

However, his election and the appointment of his younger sister did not go down well with some sections of the society who are now asking questions about how he emerged as the leader of a Church; and if the church has become a family business in Nigeria?

For many, his physical appearance does not reflect the calling of a present day Pentecostal minister of the gospel. However, others are of the view that having Jimmy Odukoya as the senior pastor of a ministry like the Fountain of Life Church could be an indirect way of taking the church to the street.

Read also: Jimmy Odukoya, from actor to Daddy GO: What you need to know

“The arrival of Jimmy Odukoya as the Senior Pastor holds a big promise, not only for the Church but for the Church of the younger generation of Nigeria,” Bola Adewara, editor-in-chief, Elife and Provost, Elife Academy, said in his write-up on Jimmy’s election as the senior pastor of the church.

According to Adewara, having an actor and an Oral Roberts University-trained pastor leading a big Church like the Fountain of Life is a foretaste and escalation of dramatic changes the 21st Century Church would witness.

However, Church Times, a Lagos-based Christian publication in its editorial of Wednesday 20 September 2023, titled, ‘Jimmy Odukoya: Let every man be true to himself’, wrote that “When the news broke on Sunday, September 17, it turned out to be a ready recipe for those who were waiting to take the Church to Golgotha and make a mess of everything that is sacred. It’s now a joke. It’s a fun thing. They are having a field’s day saying ‘Church is family business.”

According to the publication, the argument from all sides suggests to us that we have a notion that when a church is still in its first generation, it’s always difficult to have a proper transition plan. “Maybe so, but we are often blind to the fact that a church system has its foundation in the Holy Spirit, with Christ being the pillar of the foundation. And this is about churches where the founders were genuinely called.

Church Times position is that succession in the church system cannot be entirely judged from a human perspective. “It is more about the person, not the position. If the person is right, the position will be right”.

According to the publication, “It was reported that Jimmy has been a Pastor in the Youth arm of the church since 2010. It’s also a known fact that he was a gospel musician. If the lines were connected, his emergence would not be strange to church members, only that the timing was unexpected. And there was no formal transition from father to son.”

Tope Ilesanmi, chairman, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Ikeja Province, said the Church is first of all a divine institution before it registered with CAC to become a physical entity with boards of trustees as required by the government.

According to him, the CAC requires that the constitution provides that secession plans should be written. However, it could be difficult to work with the letter of the constitution on the back of the Church being a spiritual entity.

“Even when they are talking of secession, if the constitution of that church does not say they should be appointed by election, then they are subject to other factors. But, if God has told the founder that his son will succeed him like Aaron, and Aaron was alive when God recruited his own children and began to prepare them as successor.

“More so, in the case of Moses, God was preparing Joshua as a successor from Moses; so if God led that way, who are we to question God. So, it’s now up to them and God to sort out that difference, and whatever the situation, time will tell,” Ilesanmi said.

According to Wole Olarinde, publisher/editor-in-chief, Christian Benefits magazine, the Bible admonishes Christians that everything should be done in an orderly manner. “For me, it is immoral and indecent for a deceased pastor to be succeeded by a member of his family, because doing so will definitely and rightly label the church a family business.”

Read also: Late Pastor Odukoya’s son, Jimi takes over as general overseer

Olarinde said that going by the uproars against his dreadlock-wearing to lead a church by some people, “I think the young man should have a rethink to cut the true picture of a priest conforming to the priestly etiquette”.

According to him, it is only the leadership of the Fountain of Life Church that can explain clearly how and why Pastor Jimmy Odukoya emerged as the new general overseer of the church. “Nigerian church founders should learn from the Anglicans, the Baptists, the Methodists, the Foursquare and even the CAC and the RCCG why and how those churches are still thriving, relevant and popular long after the demise of their founders.

He further said that The Fountain of Life Church may go the way of the Church of God Mission and the likes whose family members succeeded their founders.

“Of course, God can choose anyone either within and outside the family of a deceased church founder as the successor, but whoever is chosen to become the priest or pastor must conform both in character and manner to the priestly etiquette.

“Bankers have dressing etiquette. Doctors have dressing etiquette. Lawyers have dressing etiquette. Muslim imams have dressing etiquette. Even it is against the Police dressing etiquette for officers to wear a beard, not to even talk of wearing dreadlocks”.

According to Olarinde, the Church that should be the light of moral standards and decency, shouldn’t be found wanting in etiquette.

He said that priests and pastors have dressing/appearance etiquette that people easily identify them with. “So, that young man should conform to the priestly etiquette both in manner and character,” Olarinde said.

On the issue of the succession, Olarinde said that the intention may not be to run the church as a kind of family business; however, the manner speaks otherwise. According to him, time will surely tell the right intention of the church.

“One may ask, despite the massive clout of the late Archbishop Idahosa while alive, what has become of the relevance and popularity of his church today since his wife, Bishop Margaret Idahosa, succeeded him?” he asked.

Some also argued that the Church is not a birthright inheritance that can be willed. However, the service of God is hereditary and can be transferred for continuity. For those on this side of the argument, the service to God and the Church is continuum.

“The continuity and succession of a spirit-led church in the New Testament and as was also in Old Testament practice requires someone close as a disciple. Who had keyed, followed, understudied, bought into or carried and walked with the vision,” said Gracious Akintayo, publisher and editor-in-chief, Providence news, stating that we often have confusion and contradiction of the personality of the Godhead in today’s church.

Akintayo said further that depending on individual understanding and knowledge of the scriptures, the church is a business both spiritually and generally, not only in Nigeria, but across the globe. However, it is not to be taken as a commercial venture that can be merchandised.

According to Akintayo, Jesus declared the work of God as a serious business when He said, “I must be about my Father’s business it operations” (Luke 2:9) and in another place, He said, “my food (meat) is to do the will of Him who sent Me,” (John 4:34). He also noted that “I must work while it is day, the night comes when no one can work” (John 9:4). We can appreciate His reaction in John 2:16 “And He said to those who sold doves, “take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise”.

Read also: Taiwo Odukoya, the pastor-feminist

Speaking further, he said that during the time of Jesus’ ministry that was divinely instituted with the succession plan of the Apostle, there was a Baal Jesus who was never at any time related or associated with Jesus Christ.

According to Akintayo, among Jesus’ disciples were his own blood brother who was among those that succeeded Him and continued the ministry.

“This, primarily means, someone who is diligent, committed, devoted, selfless and ready to sacrifice in the things of God. But, not for the purpose of merchandising the things of God with the attitude or motive of birthright,” he said.

In Nigeria’s recent history, some prominent clerics had been succeeded by members of their families.
When the founder of the Church of God Mission International, Archbishop Benson Idahosa died in 1998, his wife, Margaret succeeded him.

Following the assassination in 1995 of Francis Anayo-Iloputaife, founder of Victory Christian Church, his wife, Nkechi took over the ministry.

A few years ago, Pastor Obiora Ezekiel, founder of Christian Pentecostal Mission (CPM) died, his wife, Mercy, was announced the next spiritual leader of the church.

When in 2021 Prophet TB Joshua, founder of The Synagogue, Church of All Nations, died, there arose a leadership tussle over who should succeed him. At the end of the skirmishes, his wife, Evelyn, became the general overseer.