When David Olaniyi Oyedepo received a Divine mandate in an 18-hour long vision in a hotel room in May, 1981, that, “The time has come to liberate the world from the oppressions of the Devil by the preaching of the word, and I am sending you to partake in this”, he was left with no doubt about what his mission on earth was. He knew immediately that his mandate was not only to preach the gospel of Jesus and prepare adherents for the Kingdom of God, but also to act as the channel through which people would be materially uplifted.
In the vision, he saw a mass of humanity – the young and the old, men and women – wailing in anguish from the devastating effects of disease, squalor and poverty. They were also groping in the dark in search of spiritual direction. The multitude thirsted for any message that could give them hope for a better tomorrow, spiritually and materially speaking, but there was none to deliver it. The picture he saw caused him to weep inconsolably for hours on end, which was made even worse by the fact that he was alone in the room.
Many a faint-hearted young man would have been frightened by the scary picture into declining the mandate. He wouldn’t have been the first if he had done so, anyway. Jonah had to be forcefully delivered on the shores of Nineveh by a whale, at God’s prompting, after he declined a similar mandate, according to Biblical account. But Oyedepo was not faint-hearted; he wasn’t Jonah, either.
He must have remembered David, the teenage son of Jesse who was fetched from the fields where he tended the flock of sheep to be anointed king of Israel, after his elder brothers who could have been considered more qualified had been bypassed. Quite coincidentally, too, his name is also David.
Oyedepo was then a 27-year old staff of the Federal Ministry of Housing in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital. His involvement in Christianity did not go beyond membership of the Students Christian Movement that he had joined while in secondary school, though he had been born again barely 12 years earlier. But he felt sufficiently equipped to carry out the Divine mandate. This David’s anointing for the assignment was spiritual only, not a combination of the spiritual and the material, like the Biblical David’s.
Oyedepo set about the task of carrying out his Divine mission by establishing the Liberation Faith Hour Ministries (the forerunner to the Living Faith Church, a.k.a. Winners Chapel) in Kaduna, two years after he received the mandate. He got ordained into full-time ministry as a pastor by Pastor Enoch Adeboye, General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), on September 17, 1983. He became a bishop five years later, in 1988.
For the next eight years, the church remained the rallying point for Christian faithful in Kaduna who were desperately in need of liberation from the shackles of ignorance, disease and poverty. Soon, Oyedepo’s fame spread far and wide.
The Pentecostal fold and, indeed, Christendom, had been used to the charismatic preaching of Benin-based Archbishop Benson Idahosa, the progenitor of televangelism in Nigeria. The appearance of a young man in Kaduna, up North, with the rare spiritual gift to inspire the downcast and give hope to the hopeless, was something of a surprise. But Oyedepo had just started.
In September, 1989, he received another Divine mandate to take his message of liberation down South, to Lagos, where there was a yearning for such messages. In Lagos, he did not go to the Lekkis or Victoria Islands of the state, where his message probably would not have resonated with the rich and the affluent. He chose Iyana Ipaja, a middle class suburb where majority of the people needed such messages. And from a rented two-storey structure, he set up what became the focal point for the church’s initial catchment area.
The church’s progress at Iyana Ipaja was rapid, to say the least, and in three years, it bought an abandoned hotel complex in the vicinity, where the structures were demolished to make way for an auditorium that could sit two thousand worshippers, a five-storey structure that served as offices, as well as a one-storey building to accommodate the Bible school arm of the ministry. Despite what many saw as a major achievement by the church, it soon became clear that the complex was too small for the throng of worshippers that trooped in on Sundays and Wednesdays, for the usual and midweek services, respectively.
Oyedepo does not act without Divine instruction. He soon received another instruction to look for a virgin land with enough space to accommodate a city. He found one at Ota, in Ogun State, about 20 kilometers from the Lagos location. That is the location of the church’s 50, 000-seater Faith Tabernacle, described by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest church auditorium in the world. The church is part of what is known all over the world as Canaanland, which also accommodates the church secretariat, a youth chapel, a university, as well secondary and primary schools.
The church that started with a handful of people in Kaduna in 1983 has today grown into an octopus with branches in 300 cities in Nigeria, as well as 45 African countries and Dubai, United Kingdom and United States, with membership that runs into millions.
Multiple channels of evangelism
Oyedepo realized the need to take his preaching to the nooks and crannies of the world quite early in the life of his ministry. Before the popularization of televangelism, he recognised the need to put in permanent form his messages as they were revealed to him. Not only does he possess oratory skills, he is also a prolific writer, and had actually written a few books that made impact on Christian faithful. He thought of a publishing arm for his ministry.
On December 2, 1992, the late Archbishop Idahosa performed the official commissioning of the Dominion Publishing House, the publishing arm of the David Oyedepo Ministries International (DOMI), at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos. The company has published over 70 Christian, motivational and inspirational books, to contribute to the spread of knowledge to the millions of people that yearn for it.
Today, with satellite television, Oyedepo’s messages are broadcast live to television audiences around the world, from the alter at Faith Tabernacle.
Contribution to education
Oyedepo recognizes the importance of education in human development. Having realized that messages with religious and material benefits cannot be absorbed by the ignorant and the uneducated, and in order to contribute to the spread of knowledge, he decided to set up educational institutions for the training of leaders in all spheres of human existence.
Today, educational institutions at all levels, from crèche to university, stand to the credit of his vision for an educated and enlightened society. The church owns the Kingdom Heritage Model School, for nursery and primary education; a secondary school named Faith Academy, and two universities that are currently operational, namely, Covenant University in Canaanland and Landmark University in Omu Aran, Kwara State. The third, Crown University, is currently under construction in Calabar, the Cross River State capital. Living Faith is the only church in Nigeria with three universities.
Church’s involvement in enterprise
At Living Faith, it is not only about preaching the gospel and performing miracles. It’s also about enterprise. The church is involved in several enterprises that include a bakery, a bottled water plant, a petrol station, restaurants and shops, as well as residential buildings for the church’s over 2, 000 employees. There is also a guest house and a micro-finance bank, all operated by the church.
Three commercial banks set up shop in Canaanland to take advantage of the numerous activities that take place in the complex almost on a daily basis, many of which have commercial benefits.
There is a proposed 15, 000 housing estate, to be known as Canaan City.
Oyedepo is unapologetic about the tag of prosperity preacher that he was given from the early days of his ministry. His explanation has always been that the needs of the people are both spiritual and material. He has said several times that nobody can be spiritually focused if he is materially in lack and want. Before the church moved to Caananland, Oyedepo used to hire hotels to conduct breakthrough seminars for both members and non-members of the church. It was an event people always looked forward to with high expectations, especially as it was always laced with mind-blowing testimonies from those who attended previous editions. He is credited with pioneering the hosting of such events that are specifically targeted at lifting people out of poverty into prosperity. The public event was discontinued after the church moved into its own complex at Ota, where virtually every service these days is about prosperity, even if the weekly events are given different tags.
In December of every year, the church holds what it calls Shiloh, between Tuesday and Saturday in the second week, with particular focus on material breakthrough. It is an event that brings people from different parts of the world where the church has branches. For the period the event lasts, Caananland is usually a beehive of religious and commercial activities.
Lifestyle of a prosperity preacher
Oyedepo is not the proverbial carpenter described in the Ibibio speaking part of Nigeria as one that makes doors for others while his own house is without a door. He preaches prosperity; his lifestyle reflects it.
While at Iyana Ipaja, he had often talked about the amounts of money he spent annually on travels, with predictions that he would one day not have to be spending money travelling on commercial flights. He prophesied that the time would come when he would be travelling round the world on a private jet for evangelism.
It did not take long for that prophesy to come to pass, as he soon became the first Nigerian preacher to own a private jet. Forbes magazine reports that he now owns two private jets. The same magazine rates him the richest pastor in the world, with a net worth of $150 million.
Despite his stupendous wealth (at least from the point of view of what clergies are traditionally known to be), Oyedepo waves off allegations that he feeds on the church. Not even the money for the purchase and maintenance of his private jets, he insists, came from the church.
“People who are walking in truth are hardly bothered when things are said negatively about them, because they have nothing to hide”, he told Education Explorer, in response to a question on the many allegations against him. “The truth is, I have never felt it. Some say it’s not human, but I have not. I can’t be wasting my time trying to reply lies because I have too many things to do”.
He said he does not earn anything in form of salary, either; not even royalties on the numerous books has authored.
“I have never drawn a dime from my books once; we only feed on the testimonies that come in”, he said. “No author from DPH earns a dime from the books in DPH, yet it sells around the world. We sell the cheapest of all Christian literature and we produce among the best. The Church has never drawn from DPH since inception. Why are we so blessed? We are doing the right thing. Is it wrong to get money from books? No, but that’s not my style with Jesus”.
His source of wealth remains a mystery, and has continued to confound his critics.
Birth and history
David Oyedepo was born on September 27, 1954, in Osogbo, in today’s Oshun State, though a native of Omu Aran, in Kwara, to a Muslim healer named Ibrahim, and a Christian mother, Dorcas, a member of the Holy Order of the Cherubim and Seraphim Movement Church (C&S), a branch of the Aladura movement in Nigeria.
He grew up in Osogbo under the guidance of his grandmother, who taught him Christian virtues like early morning prayers and payment of tithe.
Oyedepo got “born again” in 1969 through the influence of his teacher, a white woman named Betty Lasher. The woman must have recognized him as a gift to humanity and the role he would play when he grew up, for, she took interest in him and guided him in the ways of God.
He attended Kwara State Polytechnic, Ilorin, where he studied Architecture. He worked briefly with the Federal Ministry of Housing, Ilorin, before resigning to go into full time religious ministry.
He later obtained a Ph.D. in Human Development from Honolulu University, Hawaii, in the United States.
Oyedepo has a few men (and woman) of God he considers his mentors. They are Kenneth Copeland and his wife, Gloria, T.L. Osborne, Smith Wigglesworth, Pastor Adeoboye and the late Archbishop Idahosa.
He is the President of David Oyedepo Ministries International (DOMI), the umbrella organization that comprises the Living Faith Church Worldwide, World Mission Agency (WMA), which handles the church’s global missionary operations; Dominion Publishing House and the Social Development Missions, comprising educational institutions, hospitals and maternity homes.
The Oyedepos dynasty
The Oyedepos can correctly be described as a dynasty in the house of God. It is a six-member dynasty that has every member involved in the activities of the church, at different levels, from the patriarch down to the youngest of the children. It comprises Bishop Oyedepo, his wife, Faith, and four children, namely, David, Jr., Isaac, Love and Joyce.
Pastor Faith Abiola Oyedepo (nee Akano), is the wife of Bishop Oyedepo and matriarch of the Oyedepo dynasty. They got married in 1982, one year before the husband was ordained a pastor. For the 36 years she has been married to the revered man of God, she has been a practical proof of the popular axiom that says behind every successful man there is a woman.
She plays the dual role of holding the home front when the man is away on his numerous pastoral trips around the world, while also directing female activities in the ministry. Faith has been a dutiful wife, as well as mother to her biological children and the millions of church faithful who see her as a role model and ‘Mummy’ to all.
She and her husband met at a motor park (proof that you could meet a spouse anywhere, even at a seemingly unsuitable place). She was a student of Obafemi Awolowo University (then University of Ife), Ile Ife, while he was a student of Kwara State Polytechnic, Ilorin. She accepted his overtures, not minding the class distinction between university and polytechnic students. And from then on, she stuck by him, ready to overcome temptations that reared their heads at every turn in their journey together. She demonstrated uncommon faith in a man she was convinced was truly sent by God on a special mission. Was it blind love? It wasn’t, as she was able to proof.
For instance, when his friends complained that he was carrying his Christianity too far, to the extent of overzealousness, she became overzealous in the faith, as well. He took her to a church and made her to sign an agreement to marry and follow him wherever he went, in whatever situation he found himself, even if he became blind, lame of handicapped in whatever way along the line. She did. On their wedding day, they rode in his rickety Volkswagen car, when he could have borrowed a better and more prestigious vehicle as is commonly done. She did not mind.
Oyedepo told his wife God had sent him to liberate the world, when he was still hopping from one job to another, and actually resigned from his job, facing condemnation from his brother. She believed him and stood by him. He told her God had shown him the key to prosperity, even when he could barely afford one good meal a day. She believed him. He told her he would build a 50, 000-capacity church and fly around the world in private jets preaching the gospel. She believed him.
In a moment of unbridled faith that bordered on insanity, Oyedepo ordered a mad man to be put in his Volkswagen car with his then pregnant wife, and left just the two of them in the car. She wasn’t scared, but remained in the car. When she had their first child, they had no food at home and no money to buy it. They ate Cerelac baby food for three days. She did not complain. Alarmed by their overzealousness, friends began to pray to God to deliver them from whatever force was propelling them so blindly. She kept faith.
It wasn’t long before she began to witness all her husband’s predictions come to pass, one after the other.
Faith has been the pillar of support Oyedepo has had to rely on to carry out his Divine mission on earth. The couple’s 35th wedding anniversary celebrations on August 21, 2017, provided an opportunity for the bishop to publicly show his romantic side to a wife that has helped him succeed in all his endeavours on earth so far. And when Faith celebrated her 60th birthday in a thanksgiving service at Faith Tabernacle on Sunday, February 4, 2018, social media platforms were awash with pictures of an event that marked a milestone in her life.
David Oyedepo, Jnr, is the first child and first son of Bishop Oyedepo and his wife, Faith. He was born on June 1, 1983, exactly nine months after his parents got married, which means his conception may have occurred the same day mother and father tied the nuptial knot (August 30, 1982). It was the same month Living Faith Church was commissioned in Kaduna.
Since Oyedepo relies on Divine direction before taking any action, he enquired about the name of the newborn baby, and was told, “Another warrior has come”. He followed up by naming the boy ‘Oluwamakinde’ (God has brought victory).
David, Jnr, attended the Oral Roberts University and the Oklahoma Christian University, both in the United States.
In 2004, he became the youngest member of the Covenant University Board of Regents (governing council). He was ordained pastor by Dr. Kenneth Copeland in May, 2007. He got married the following year, July, 2008, to Kemi Olubu, at a ceremony that was conducted by Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo, founder of Kings International Christian Churches.
David was formerly based in the United Kingdom, where he was the regional pastor of the European Region of the Living Faith Church, and oversaw the growth of the church. He established the first Kingdom Heritage Model School of the church outside Africa.
David joined the big league of pastors to preach at Faith Tabernacle on March 24, 2013, where he was introduced by Bishop David Abioye, one of Oyedepo’s most trusted disciples and head of the Living Faith Church in Abuja, as “the next generation”. He was one of the preachers at Shiloh 2013.
In August, 2016, David, Jnr. became the only pastor other than his father to minister in the five Sunday services at Faith Tabernacle, when his parents travelled outside the country on vacation. He is the youngest vice president of the Living Faith Church. There are four other vice presidents.
His wife, Kemi, is the founder of Crisis-Proof Your family (CPYF), a ministry she set up to work at promoting successful marriages and families.
They both have two lovely children, a boy and a girl.
Isaac Oyedepo is the second son and second child of David and Faith Oyedepo. Like his elder brother, David, Jnr, he was ordained pastor by popular American preacher, Kenneth Copeland, in May, 2007.
He currently runs Winners Chapel International, in South Africa. He got married to Miss Ayomitide Omogbadegun in 2010, and they both have two children.
Love Oyedepo-Ogah is the first daughter and third child of Bishop Oyedepo. She is not an ordained pastor in the church, but is deeply involved in church activities, and often accompanies her mother on trips for the mission.
She got married to Stephen Ogah, one of her father’s personal aides, in a lavish wedding ceremony about two years ago.
Joyce, the last child of the family, is a product of the church’s Faith Academy. She is currently studying in the United States, and often gets involved in church activities any time she is in Nigeria.