Pastor Austin Udeoha is the General Superintendent (GS) of Holiness Power Bible Ministries. . In this interview with our Lagos City Editor, GODWIN OBI, the clergyman whose church is popularly known as ‘Operation Tikpoo’ (Operation Destroy Devils’ Works) called for amendment of Nigeria’s Constitution to make looting of public treasury a life jail offence. He also called on Church leaders to preach the Bible standard of holiness and righteousness in their churches, and stay away from politics to be able to speak out the truth when the government goes wrong. Excerpts.
Can we know your background?
I am Pastor Austin Udeoha. The church started 14th November 2004, coincidentally, the same day I was born again. I was born again on November 14, 1979. Frankly speaking, when I was born again in 1979, I started the ministry in 1980.
From that year, I wanted to go to Deeper Life Bible School but I could not because of the death of my father. Later, I went to Pentecostal International Bible School (PIBS). All along, I knew it from 1980 that I was called to be a Christian leader. The only thing I didn’t know was that I was going to be a General Overseer as they call it in the world today.
All I was thinking was that one day, Pastor W.F Kumuyi would post me to any state or nation as I was a key leader right from the CPM to Deeper Life. One day, God led me to start an outreach ministry called ‘Operation Tikpoo’, meaning ‘Destroy Devils’ Works’ under the Deeper Life Bible Church. This was taken from Jeremiah 1:9 & 10 and 1st John 3:8.
So I went to My G.S – Pastor Kumuyi and told him. He told me to start it and hold prayers on last Sundays of every month. We printed handbills and started at Hassan, Ilasa-Maja. With about 750 members, we increased to 1000 and from there to about 2,500 until that place could no longer contain us and we moved to Twins Nursery and Primary School, Mushin. The last one we had there, there were over 6000 people.
So, when the crowd started coming, some leaders started agitating that it was pulling crowd and my pastor, even without telling me, announced the cancellation of Operation Tikpoo. I went to him and begged him that it was the same church and he said no, saying that it was like a Kingdom inside another Kingdom.
During that process, I prayed and God told me that it was not Pastor Kumuyi that stopped the outreach but God himself. He assured me that Operation Tikpoo would migrate to a church of itself; that He wanted to use the Deeper Life platform to sell my programme to the whole world. And that was why initially, they did not want me to leave the Deeper Life.
Even the ignorant ones in the church fought against it but now, there is a rapport and unity from my father in the Lord and all the leaders. That is why they attend all our meetings and we attend theirs too. So, in everything we do, you see father and son cordial relationship. So today, we have 51 branches in Nigeria. We have our messages broadcast in five radio stations in the South east.
We have our camp ground at Uli, Anambra State, where we intend to build an international university. We will soon to start building nursery, primary and secondary schools.
There is corruption everywhere in the country. What should be the role of churches in curbing corruption in the society?
It is when the devil started taking over the seat of power in this nation that the church began to backslide – the church going into the world and the world going into the church. When the church leaders forgot that they were called to preach the gospel, they began to look for positions in government, looking for favour, demanding for one thing or the other.
If you are a prophet of God and speaks the truth that changes the people in power, there is no way you will fall into their hands. When men of God started going to Aso Rock, collecting gratification, all those gifts filled up their mouths and the politicians in power saw their nakedness- the way they obtain VISA as worldly people and collect bribes like worldly people.
Government people were watching and knew that those men of God don’t stand by the standard they preach. And when you listen to them, you see that what they preach are miracles, money, prosperity and breakthrough. Nobody is talking about the consequences of corruption.
Once we go back to the foundation which is holiness and sanctification, we will build the nation and if not for any other thing, God will hear us when we pray. Again, the Bible says, “Because judgment was not executed speedily against evil deeds, it made sons of men to do more evil works”.
Because corrupt politicians who are supposed to be in jail are freely cruising around, the corruption rate has continued to soar unabated and the judiciary is not helping matters.
That leads to the question of why there are many unanswered prayers when people go to vigils and mountains every time for prayers .What do you have to say about that?
Yes! My problem with religious people is that they know church so much but they don’t know God. God does not compromise standard of holiness. All the Prayer Mountains here and there can only be of great effect if there is holiness and fear of God.
But the problem is this, when the background which is the heart is filthy- listen, the more a sinner prays, the more satan torments him. But one thing I learnt from my father in the Lord, Pastor Kumuyi for 25 years I was with the Deeper Life Church is that when you live a holy life, satan will fear you. Satan does not fear much prayers, he doesn’t fear fasting.
Demons never fear speaking in tongues, he doesn’t fear your titles- whether bishop, professor or reverend. What devil fears is the holiness in man. Devil can imitate titles, prayers, fasting or anything but the devil cannot imitate holiness. When demons see a holy man, they cry out -“What have we to do with that Holy man of God?”
You have been crying against lowering God’s standards in the church today. Do you still feel the same?
Yes! Some of our fathers that started pentecostal churches are still standing according to the standards of the Bible but many of them are disappointments to us.
They have mixed up everything with the worldly churches because at least, I was born again in 14th November 1979 and I saw the glory in Christianity, the fear of God and the blessings of Christians. But today, you see worldliness. Pentecostal pastors, even their wives dress like Jezebel and many of them are not serious with holiness or even the commonest repentance doctrine- restitution, Christian dressings in the church that makes us different from the worldly people.
You don’t see it anymore and that is the reason people in government are taking the church for granted. There are no more exemplary lives in many churches. So, my concern is how this church can restore the old time Bible standard teachings of genuine repentance, restitution, righteousness, sanctification, uncompromised standard of the word of God.
What they call Christianity today is far from the Christianity of Holiness and Righteousness that Christ died for. Even the present Pastors and General Overseers are guilty of this. This is because when you talk of exemplary life, it is based on the life of righteousness and holiness.
It is no longer so today in the church, rather, they are busy talking about healing, deliverance, breakthrough, prosperity and “Kill our enemies, fight our enemies, back to sender”, without mentioning holiness and righteousness of life, which when we do that, God will be pleased and take care of our enemies by himself.
Are miracles truly real or mere claims and if so, why do some people not receive when they need it most?
Every God’s anointed one will believe that God is the God of miracle and as God was then, is how He is now and so He will be forever.
If God had done miracles in the days of Abraham and in the time of Christ, He is doing it today. Miracle depends on the faith of the pastor and that of the receiver. A sinner can receive miracle if he has faith. Miracles, signs and wonders are the avenues that God used to prove the ministers He sent. For example, there is no Bible days’ miracle that has not taken place in this church.
God has raised up to eight dead persons in this ministry since we started; blind eyes have been opened. There was a woman with breast cancer and blind eyes, already smelling. They brought her here and after prayers, God healed her and her eyes opened. She is one of the women leaders of this church today. There was a boy born blind. His eyes were restored.
God has healed many with HIV/ Aids here and so many others.. We believe in miracles but what we are against is proclaiming miracles, signs and wonders and at the same time, relegating holiness and righteousness to the background since without them, no man shall see the Lord.
Deliverance has become a common feature in Pentecostal churches; do you disagree with this trend?
Not at all. Deliverance ministry is biblical. There is no day I don’t conduct deliverance here. Every believer should believe in deliverance. But these people conduct deliverance for people with malaria fever, other minor biological disorders and even people that are jobless for one year due to economic situation. Some of them charge exorbitantly, forgetting the Biblical injunction thus:
“Freely we receive and freely we give”. That is my point of disagreement. But if one is led by God to take a family home for prayers, there is nothing wrong with that. Another problem is that when they go to such families, if you are a minister like Jesus, your priority should be to preach the Gospel to the family to get converted to Christ, for sinners have no promise in the Bible but promise of judgment unless they repent. In ideal situation, when you go to such places, you capitalize on altar call, tell them the truth and if they repent and obey the word of God, the power of God will definitely work and free them from all manner of afflictions..
There are multiple crises in the land today- from the steady massacre of innocent Nigerians by herdsmen to political upheavals leading to defections among politicians. What is the position of the church?
I am amazed that up till now, the armed herdsmen that have killed Nigerians in their thousands have not been declared terrorists while mere agitating armless IPOB members were tagged terrorists. For me, this does not suggest actions of a responsible government.
This poor sense of judgment in serious matters affecting the nation makes many think the government is biased. Cattle-rearing is a private business of the cattle owners and so, government should not be involved in how cattle are ranched.
There are lands everywhere. If a cattle owner wants land, he should buy a parcel of land from the owner just as other businessmen and women acquire lands for various businesses in all parts of the country.
It is unfortunate that political crisis in Nigeria has never assumed this dimension since 1960; where the nation is characterised by divisions, steady killings, defections from one party to another and barricading of the National Assembly by the DSS. The development in the political space casts fear on the sustainability of our democracy.
The unprecedented upheavals in the land were caused by the lopsided appointments by the President. When people saw that all the sensitive positions in government institutions-the Army, Navy, Air force, EFCC, INEC, Civil Defence, Immigration, Customs, the Police et cetera, are headed by people from one tribe and one religion, it bottled away their sense of belonging to one Nigeria. So, if Mr. President had balanced his appointments like his predecessors did, the anger in the land wouldn’t have been aggravated and people wouldn’t be questioning the seeming suspension of federal character principle in the government appointments.
What will you like to be remembered for when you leave this planet?
I want to be remembered as that man, who lived a holy life; who lived on the standard of the word of God without compromise. I will be happy to be remembered as that man who fired on this word and took the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to places, and because of his preaching, many churches were established. My Books and CDs will be everywhere, speaking for heaven and on my behalf.
What is your message to Nigerians?
Let Nigerians use their PVCs well and vote out clueless politicians, nepotism, wanton killings, disregard to rule of law, and the growing sense of disunity and uncertainty in the land. We need fresh politicians with intellectual power and the zeal to develop and unite this nation.
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