The Redeemed Christian Church of God was founded in Nigeria in 1952 by Pa Josiah Akindayomi, who grew up illiterate in the West African country’s southwestern tribal region. Nine people attended the church’s first prayer meeting. Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, a former mathematics professor, assumed leadership of the church in 1981 after Mr. Akindayomi’s death. Under Mr. Adeboye’s guidance, the church has established parishes in more than 90 countries, including China and Pakistan, and throughout Europe. There are 292 churches in North America.
World: 2 million to 5 millionUnited States: 25,000
North Texas: 2,500
To make heaven.
To take as many people as possible with us.
– Source: African church plans ‘Christian Disneyland,’ The Dallas Morning News, USA, July 16, 2005
The Redeemed Christian Church of God was founded in Lagos by men and women who were once the target of missionary work themselves. Now their church is one of the most aggressive evangelizers to emerge from the recent advance of Christianity across Africa, and their offices in the high-tech corridor of greater Dallas reflect the group’s bold, entrepreneurial approach.
The Redeemed Church is part of a boom in African churches establishing American outposts. Jacob Olupona, a professor at the University of California, Davis, who compiles data on African congregations in this country, has found hundreds of examples in cities large and small.
“Anyone who writes about Christianity in America in the 21st century,” Olupona said, “will have to write about African churches.”
At the core of the shift are pastors from Nigeria. Over the last century, Christians in the West African nation have swelled from a tiny minority to nearly half the population, and its pastors have shown an exceptional talent for winning new believers abroad.
In the United States, the Redeemed Church is ahead of them all.
The church has opened more than 200 parishes in just over a decade, from Chicago and Atlanta to Washington and New York, and is training Americans of all races to help them reach beyond the African immigrant community. One of their largest congregations, Victory Temple in Bowie, Md., claims 2,000 members.
Fifty miles north of Dallas, the church is building a multimillion-dollar national headquarters and conference complex on more than 600 acres of farm land in rural Floyd, Texas. The site is modeled on the denomination’s massive campground outside Lagos and is expected to draw thousands of followers for marathon prayer meetings that are the hallmark of its worship style.
At the center of their North American push is a for-profit, satellite TV network, launched in December from Dallas under the name Dove Media, which broadcasts sermons from the church’s world leader Pastor Enoch Adeboye, between reruns of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “Bonanza.” Dove hopes to attract viewers throughout the continent who would not normally watch Christian TV.
“We didn’t bring this church to the United States to be another Nigerian church,” said Ajibike Akinkoye, chief executive of Dove Media, in an interview in his Irving office. “We are afraid with the way things are going in the world and in America – allowing people to do what they like, creating their own religion and philosophy – those people are going to pay for it. We don’t want that to happen.”
The United States, with its ever-expanding megachurches, influential evangelists and deep religiosity, seems an unlikely mission ground. But the Redeemed Church believes Christianity here has become a lifestyle, not a transforming way of life, and they feel obliged to rescue the people who brought them the faith in the first place.
“There is a vibrancy in Africa,” Akinkoye said. “We are offering that gift back to America.”
– Source: African Christianity boom spills to U.S., AP, via HeraldToday.com, USA, Mar. 26, 2006
Are they uniquely African, traditional Christian or both?
This is what religion experts are asking about the teachings of the nondenominational churches from Africa, where Christianity became a major force over the last century.
The churches cover a wide spectrum of belief and worship, but many are either Pentecostal/charismatic or are heavily influenced by that Christian movement.
But some African Christians still cling to indigenous traditions.
A smaller number also continue to venerate their ancestors in addition to believing in Jesus Christ.
The Redeemed Christian Church of God emphasizes it is wholly Christian – not some mix of African and Christian beliefs.
Still, Americans and Europeans may be alienated by its leader’s annual prophecies from God, which are vague but touch on international issues as well as spiritual life.
The Nigerian church also may draw objections over its linking of the Bible and personal success.
Redeemed Church pastors insist they do not promote “Prosperity Gospel,” which teaches that donating to the church and living like a true Christian will bring wealth and other earthly rewards. However, the Nigerian church heavily emphasizes God’s desire for personal achievement.
Philip Jenkins, author of the book “The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity,” cautions against dismissing African Christianity as outside the bounds of the faith. He says most of the differences between Western and African Christians are cultural not theological, and derive from different ways of reading the Bible.
– Source: A Glance at African Christians, AP, via SunHerald.com, USA, Mar. 26, 2006