by Leke Beecroft
*To plant 2,000 more before year end.
*Bishop Oyedepo leads others in aggressive street evangelism.
*Brief History of Church Growth in the Commission.
Plans by the Bishop Oyedepo led Living Faith Church Worldwide aka Winners’ Chapel International to plant 5,000 rural churches in 2019 is fast gaining traction. Latest reports have it that 3,000 rural churches have been planted in Nigeria during the first half of 2019 as stated by Bishop Oyedepo recently. The Church has also ordained evangelists to administer these churches this bring the number of church branches in Nigeria to well over 8,000 with well over 1,000 churches in over 65 nations across the globe. Presently, a neighboring country already has over 174 church branches apart from other countries in Africa and in 4 other continents namely Europe, Asia, North America and South America. Online coverage during the annual Shiloh Program also reaches over 170 countries every December. The Church intends to establish 2,000 more rural churches in Nigeria before the end of the year and many more outside Nigeria also.
Bishop Oyedepo has also continued his usual street evangelism on an almost daily basis since May 2015 when he heard a diving marching order : I THE GOD OF WONDER DOUBLE, I AM VISITING YOU: this indicating that God had come to double the Church many times over. Often times, he has successfully invited people on the street to church at an average over 1,000 weekly while helping them to meet basic needs; often people have been invited in their thousands leading to over 200,000 worshippers being invited personally and in person from the streets by the Bishop since the new move began. His deputy, Bishop Abioye has also followed suit in this street evangelism revival. Church members all over the world have also carried this vision and this has led to an exponential growth of the Church globally.
Living Faith World Outreach Centre or Living Faith Church Worldwide has had a history of consistent growth through evangelism. The Commission led by Bishop David Oyedepo began as a ministry in 1981 but started as a Church when the Church arm was commissioned on September 17, 1983 by Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God.
According to records, the Church started with 4 members in December 1983 and this grew to 21 early in 1984. By May 1984 it became 57. At this point, the leaders of the church used markers to write on cardboards and pasted on strategic noticeboards and trees within Kaduna metropolis inviting people to the one bedroom apartment in Unguwar Sarki. At that point, David Oyedepo usually parked his Volkswagen at the filling station by the junction leading to his street to take the few who were available to his home for services. By May 1985, the number had grown to 263 leading to the building of a ‘grass cathedral’ to accommodate the growing crowd. It grew to 743 then 1293 in May 1986 and May 1987 respectively. The Church by divine direction spread from April 24, 1987 to 5 towns namely Maiduguri, Biu, Bauchi, Azare and Mubi. By May 88 and May 89, the Kaduna Church grew from 2062 to 2693. The first major auditorium of the Church , the 4,000 capacity Garden of Faith, Barnawa was announced in 1989. A few months later, the Church began in Lagos while the Kaduna church had grown to 3428 in attendance by May 1990. The Garden of Faith was dedicated in December 1995.
The move to Lagos began a new phase of the ministry. The church moved to the Iyana Ipaja area which was not a popular place to start church in Lagos. This area was a group of brothels on the Raji Obi street. Raji Oba was popular in the 70s after being killed leading to a celebrated murder case at the Supreme Court. The Lagos Church started with 250 worshippers at 1A, New Era Road and then moved about 150 meters to the Raji Oba location. At this point, the Lagos Church became known as Winners’ Chapel which has since become the popular name of the Church. Pastor Simeon Afolabi who is now of the Revival People’s Church, Port Harcourt, Nigeria was the First Pastor of the Church before David Oyedepo ordained Bishop a year earlier by Archbishop Benson Idahosa of blessed memory soon took over.
The Church witnessed tremendous growth over the next free years. From May 1993 to May 1995, she increased from 2785 to 5410 and 13489. The Church complex was completed by December 1995 and dedicated by Benson Idahosa.
In 1994, Bishop Oyedepo received divine instruction ‘The harvest of Africa is now overripe, Rush in and preserve it from decadence’. This led to the move to establish a foothold in African nations.
May 1996-1999 witnessed an increase from 21283 to 28306, then 29634 to 40682.
The Church began the Canaanland project by September 1998 and by the following year September 1999, a week before the move to Ota, the numbers had reached an excess of 50,000.
At inception of Faith Tabernacle, Bishop Oyedepo declared, ‘The Tabernacle has been built, the Tabernacle must be filled.
Many including Christians and some church members who soon left thought the move to Canaanland Ota, a town actually in a neighboring state and about 40km away from the capital of Lagos was an erroneous move which would lead to the decline of the Church.
The ministry received the vision ‘Mission To the World’ in August 2001 and consequently reached out to other continents of the world.
In Nigeria, starting from Lagos, the numbers grew due to the power of the word being preached and despite the distance from the City, the church in Ota witnessed 80,000 in attendance by October 2000.
The growth remained stable for a while and by January 2007 the second service began in the 50,000 capacity church auditorium. January 2008 and 2009 heralded the third and fourth services and fir a while a fifth service. Overflows were soon built to cater for an additional 52,000 overflow facility thus totalling 102,000 seated comfortably at any point in time apart from Shiloh period.
The Church had 700 churches by November 2009 before growing to 5,600 by November 2013.
The present move however is a unique one which has brought multitudes to the Kingdom while ensuring the growth of a Kingdom Army. As the church prepares to move to Faith Theatre very soon, she continues to spread on all sides, in Church growth, Church spread as well as church attendance in leaps and bounds ensuring that the Church plays her part towards the establishment of a glorious Army that will herald the coming of the Lord.
And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.