THE RISE….RISE…AND METEORIC RISE OF NATION-CHURCHES.
Deeper Christian Life Ministry (Deeper Life Bible Church)
By Leke Beecroft
The story of indigenously established Nation-Churches in the 20th century took a new turn with the advent of the Deeper Christian Life Ministry. We have established that the Nigerian pentecostal revival was led mainly by university staff and students, the birth of this indigenous establishment however revealed that with focus, sacrifice and perseverance, the established orthodox churches would soon be overtaken by the pentecostals working with deeper revelation from the Word of God-The Bible.
While Idahosa was more popular as an individual through his ‘Idahosa World Outreach ‘ than his ministry, Church of God Missions, Deeper Life as a church became a brand…. The first widely known pentecostal brand outside Nigeria, such that by 1990, she was known world over as the largest single church in Africa registering 50,000 in her weekly Sunday Services and the 3rd in the world. The Deeper Life thus heralded what has now become “Nation-Churches” reaching out of Nigeria.
What exactly is a Nation-Church and when does a church institution become one?
The three million Israelites led by ‘Pastor’ Moses, who marched out of Egypt towards Canaan can be considered the first Nation-Church scripturally. The term Nation-Church is therefore thus defined:
A church, numbering over a million members, which has grown into a major group or conglomerate several Mega-Churches and with a reach and spread internationally, such that she is now a veritable source of influence within and outside her foundational Base and as such is now respected the world over.
Such a church in Nigeria must fulfill several requirements such as:
*Physical presence in terms of membership, structures and facilities in all Nigerian states and her capital (100 percent local coverage).
*Physical presence in at least 4 continents (more than half) of the world and not less than 58 foreign nations (a quarter of the countries of the world) spread over these continents.
*Online presence in at least 120 nations (about half of the countries of the world).
*Membership of not less than 1 million people.
*Facilities and infrastructure to administer followers and organise large gatherings.
*Minimum of a thousand branches in Nigeria and another 500 branches cumulatively in other nations of the world.
*Self funded: No sponsorship or funding by any external agency or organisation.
*Annual budgets running into multi-million dollars or same size with several other nations.
*An established international headquarters with functional administrative structures.
*Numerous other organisations such as welfare organizations, schools, colleges, media houses and other institutions, established for the goal of the “Nation-Church” and which have inherent power to influence nations in which she has been domiciled.
*An organised system of succession.
According to Alan Isaacson, the story of Kumuyi is essentially the story of the Deeper Life, thus we will give a background of the life of the humble founder.
W.F. Kumuyi was born in 1941 into an Anglican home. It was a very strict Christian home where reading of the Bible and singing of hyms was the norm every morning. Going to church was also a regular phenomenon. On getting to secondary school, he lost interest in the church because the principal, one Tai Solarin taught atheism. After a while he resolved to start going to various churches in the town. Eventually, in 1963, a group of singers and preachers from a Gospel church, got permission to come to the school. He understood the Gospel message, and was born again. Kumuyi read books of the likes of John Wesley, Charles Finney, Spurgeon, Dwight L Moody and lots of other books. He got involved with the Scripture Union and developed as a christian.
He gained a first-class degree in Mathematics at the University of Ibadan; then went back to Mayflower School to teach. After five years he went to the University of Lagos to do a Postgraduate Certificate in Education and became a lecturer there in 1973; and that was when he started a small Deeper Life Bible Study group.
Surnamed Ikumuyiwa, which means ‘death brought this”. William Folorunsho on becoming a Christian, realised the potency of his name– death has brought something good. The death of Christ has brought us the grace and goodness of God, and the relationship we have now with the Lord.
As a young man, he left the Anglican Church for the Apostolic Faith Mission while teaching in Mayflower School, his alma mater.
He completed his secondary school education in 1961, and started teaching mathematics at Mayflower in 1962. It was there that he got introduced to the Apostolic Faith Mission and really heard about the change that Christ could make to lives when turned from sins. There, he had the salvation experience and experienced a turn around.
He became a born-again Christian at the age of 23, on 5th April 1964 in Ijebu-Ode in Ogun State, Nigeria.
As William grew in the Faith and his zeal for God increased at the Apostolic Faith Mission, he began to witness for Christ in a manner that was not agreeable to church doctrine-he was according to the church ‘preaching without credentials’ . He was cautioned, however he continued reaching out and even teaching students and staff at his Flat 2 Apartment at the University of Lagos until the church finally excommunicated him in 1975. This action as disappointing as it was, coupled with the yearnings of growing numbers in the university campus to be taught led to the birth of the Deeper Christian Life Ministry. The university quarters soon became too small to host the gatherings and the opposition to the meetings grew. Soon the fellowship relocated and was accommodated briefly at Ebute Meta, some 15 minutes drive away from the university by an illiterate head of a small but growing church, Pastor Josiah Akindayomi, General Superintendent of the Redeemed Christian Church of God who had earlier been maltreated by the same Apostolic Faith Mission because of tracts which he printed. The fellowship grew stronger and bigger thus leading to their relocation to their present place in Gbagada, Lagos.
The peculiar name of the ministry came from the people who thronged the fellowship. As they began to receive the articles prepared for them at the Bible studies, they said: “We’ve been Christians before, but this one is deeper than what we used to know.” So they used the name Deeper Life. Through that, the church’s articles became Deeper Christian Life Articles. As they continued with the Bible studies, the group became known as the Deeper Christian Life Ministry. And when it became a Church in 1983, it was named the Deeper Life Bible Church. That small group had grown to several thousands, at which time Deeper Life Bible Church was formally established.
The Deeper Life Bible Church is now a Christian denomination with its headquarters based in Nigeria and branches around the world.
The church essentially started with 15 persons in 1973 and is the general population arm of the Deeper Christian Life Ministry
The church’s headquarter is situated at Gbagada in Lagos while the church has an estimated attendance of over 800 000 individuals attending the church in Nigeria alone in 1988. By 1990, it became the most attended single church in Africa with a 50,000 attendance at the Gbagada headquarter church alone and also the third largest church in the world.
Deeper Life holds a single service which starts by 8am at its headquarters and this attracts a population of over 120 000 thousand, this is also simultaneously done in its branches (District). During the visit of late Charles Peter Wagner, a church historian in 2004, he counted close to 124,000 adults and kids on a Sunday service.
The women section formerly coordinated by his late wife, ‘Biodun Kumuyi is now coordinated by Mrs Folashade Blaize Kumuyi who married him in 2010 at the age of 65.
Deeper Life It has its branches known as districts in all the 774 local governments in Nigeria and is among the 4 most widely spread churches in Nigeria.
The church has spread throughout sub-Saharan Africa and then to the United Kingdom, from where branches were developed in western Europe, Russia, India, and North America and by 2011 numbered about 1 million members worldwide.
The church lists 22 doctrines of their beliefs: the Holy Bible, the Godhead, Virgin birth of Christ, total depravity, Repentance, Restitution, Justification, Water baptism, Lord’s supper, Sanctification, Holy Ghost baptism, Redemption, Personal evangelism, Marriage, Rapture, Resurrection of the Dead, Great Tribulation, Second coming of Christ, Christ’s millennial reign, Great White Throne Judgment, New Heaven and the New Earth, and Hell fire.
Deeper Life Bible Church not only has an attendance of 120,000 every Sunday, but has planted 500 churches in Lagos, 5,000 in the rest of Nigeria (with an independent estimate of more than 800,000 members in Nigeria alone), and 3,000 elsewhere (with missionaries to 40 countries of Africa) as the movement missionary contribution.
Deeper Life Bible Church also runs 16 Secondary Schools (Deeper Life High Schools) presently.”
The school, a great brain child of Pastor Kumuyi, has campuses in Lagos, the national administrative headquarters, Port Harcourt, Benin, Oshogbo, Ibadan, Ilorin, Akure, Abeokuta, Yola, Onitsha, Abuja, Ado-Ekiti, Enugu, Calabar, Kaduna and Warri in Delta State.
The idea of a university soon came up joining the plethora of Christian Universities in Nigeria. Thus, Anchor University, a private university owned by the Deeper Christian Life Ministry was founded at Ayobo, Ipaja, Lagos State, Nigeria with plans to relocate soon to the 900 acre Deeper Life Conference Centre which hosts the new Bible Training Centre as well as the makeshift 130,000 capacity auditotium.
Construction of the University began in 2013 while the University was founded in 2014. It was approved by the Nigerian University Commission (NUC) on Wednesday, 2nd of November, 2016
Its headquarters , the 30,000 capacity Headquarters auditorium which was recently completed in 2016 was said to cost around N5 Billion or £10 million. The church will begin services once she completes the new Gbagada Flyover Bridge which is aimed at curbing incessant church traffic which affects the Gbagada community. The first of its kind by any Church in Nigeria.
On arrival from Port Harcourt in December 2016, I met with Pastor W.F Kumuyi at the Lagos Airport with his wife, Mama Blaize Kumuyi and an assistant. He had just returned from a crusade at Port Harcourt and was on his way to another meeting. He spoke boisterously to me. Papa Kumuyi is still a strong Man even though he clocked 76 about 2 months ago (June 6, 2017). As the oldest Pastor of the Nation-Churches in Nigeria, (One year older than Enoch Adeboye) succession in Deeper Life, which has never occurred before dawns gradually. Pastor Kumuyi has also spoken frequently about preparations being put in place as well as steps being taken to choose a successor. He has insisted that anyone given to changing the long established doctrines would not succeed him.In my consideration, It could be a spiritual son or perhaps a spiritual cum biological son as a few have suggested; however one thing is sure, The Church is marching on……