THE GENESIS OF PENTECOSTALISM IN NIGERIA


Pentecostalism in Nigeria ‘began’ or 'started ' in 1918 when a group of believers took a decision to start a prayer band at St Saviours Anglican church Ijebu-Ode to intercede for the church as they were led through a dream. Before this time, sometime in 1917 David odubanjo came across a booklet titled the seven principles of prevailing payer at a friend’s house. Odubanjo was fascinated by the idea in the booklet that anyone could consistently have their prayers answered. This idea was totally strange at the time. Odubanjo thereafter began exchanging correspondences with Ambrose Clarke the Pastor of faith Tabernacle church Philadelphia. Clarke responded with a generous number of publications on various topics on the Christian life.By studying, and applying the teachings in the publications Odubanjo experienced a spiritual transformation during which his heart was overwhelmed by love. He later went ahead to start preaching the gospel at Ijebu-Ode. Through a divine orchestration in1919 Odubanjo was invited to attend the prayer group that started in 1918 that started in St Saviour’s church. The exposure to literatures and the ministry of faith tabernacle Church in the United States gave Odubanjo an edge of revelation knowledge over his contemporaries. After a brief fellowship with the prayer band in Ijebu-Ode, everyone unanimously adopted odubanjo as the leader of the group, as it was evident to all that He was ahead of them in spiritual things.

The group was first named precious stone society and later renamed diamond society in 1920. Ambrose Clarke continued to send large quantities of faith tabernacle publications to Odubanjo which he then circulated to members of the group. Pretty soon the members started corresponding with Ambrose Clarke themselves, asking questions about teachings they did not understand. At this time the sword of the spirit publications became the bible of some sort to members of this group. Odubanjo later left for Lagos to establish the Lagos branch of the society and eventually the group metamorphosed into the faith tabernacle group in Nigeria after formal affiliations with the faith tabernacle church in Philadelphia.The society required its members to abstain from the use of both traditional and modern medicine thereby differentiating itself from the Anglican congregation of which it was still a part. They developed a form that was more rigid and demanding than the Anglican persuasion which eventually led to a clash with the Anglican authorities.

Their rules were puritanical in nature, defining as immoral; dancing, drumming, debt, drinking, cigarettes, cards, gambling, interest in money, too much ornaments and chewing kolanut.The issue of baptism of infants which the group was against as it was being practised in the Anglican Church at the time, created a controversy that led to the group formally exiting the Anglican Church and was subsequently officially affiliated with the faith tubercles church in America. This group in 1923 then became the faith tabernacles church Nigeria.The faith tabernacle church Nigeria exploded numerically due to the fact that most of  it’s members were in the employ of the government and whenever they were transferred  to other parts of the country, they started branches of the church to cater to their spiritual needs 
The faith tabernacle churches were pockets of small churches with very strict holiness doctrine. They lived very austere lives denying themselves of most conveniences. they were generally looked upon with pity by members of the community who referred to them as the ‘wretched tabernacles’. The decade long relationship between the faith tabernacle America and Nigeria abruptly came to an end when Clarke the leader of faith tabernacle in America was accused of adultery. This fiasco led to developments that ended the decade long relationship between the two groups.One of the largest faith tabernacles congregations in Nigeria was the Ilesha church with 120 members in 1930. Under the leadership of a man by the name J A Babatope.

In 1928, the Nigerian faith tabernacle church stated querying the American faith tabernacle's restriction of the manifestations of the Spirit and began to fast extensively seeking revival and the power of the spirit.It was in this season in 1930 that revival broke out in Ilesha through the ministry of a 26 year old man by the man Joseph Ayo Babalola a faith tabernacles member.It was in 1929 that Babalola was introduced to the leadership of the faith tabernacles church and was subsequently baptised by them in the same year. Odubanjo later said of Babalola “since the days of the Apostles I have not met with any of his type who has direct dealings and intercourse with the Holy Spirit”

In July 1930 precisely July 9th and 10th Babalola was invited by Odubanjo to a congress of the leaders of the church in Ilesha, it was here, after praying for a dead boy and the dead boy came back to life the 1930 revival was ignited. After raising the boy from the dead many sick people rushed to Babalola for healings and miracles. 200 people came for healings, the meeting could not stop but continued into its second and third week. By the third week of the revival about 100 lepers, 60 blind and 50 lame persons had been healed. Subsequently all kinds of healings of diverse sicknesses began. The meetings became so large that it had to move to a new venue an open space near a hill called oke-oye in the outskirts of Ilesha.

 In the following weeks people began to troop in day and night to experience the spiritual revival and miracles in oke-Oye at Ilesha. Babalola’s fame spread throughout the country and beyond its shores.In the following weeks and months other healing evangelist were raised like Daniel Orekoya, Peter Olatunji and David Babajide. Babalola and the other healing Evangelist focused on stirring the faith of the people to believe in the miraculous. Unlike the faith tabernacle leaders, Babalola and his team did not teach the biblical doctrine of healing in any systematic way but rather relied on the operations of the healing gift of the Holy Spirit which many of them were strongly endowed with.

Typically the meetings consisted of a stirring message by Babalola, Olatunji or Orekoya followed by vigorous singing and prayers and then specific instructions to the sick and the oppressed as a means of receiving cures for their ailments. By far the most prominent of this instructions was the application of the holy water. Generally the crowd took on the words even seeking to touch their garments.The government later embarked on a crackdown of the activities of Babalola and his team, this was due to pressure from the mission churches who were fast loosing members and many of the traditional chiefs who accused the revivalist of instigating unrest in their domain. The height of this was the arrest and subsequent and subsequent imprisonment of Babalola for 6 months in 1932.Even though babalola was a faith tabernacle member.many of His converts acknowledged him as their leader but didn’t not have any connectedness to the faith tabernacle movement. Surprisingly Babalola submitted himself to leadership of the faith tabernacle movement.

Two streams emerged from the revival; the faith tabernacle stream with Odubanjo as leader and the healing revival stream with Babalola as leader .both streams were connected by their faith in divine healing. Odubanjo was however the overall leader of the movement and provided crucial source of funds for many of the evangelists Babalola included.The movement was continually troubled by the authorities, hounded from place to place, the situation that later became overwhelming for everyone involved. This led to a quest for foreign partnership with British missions whose doctrines were in agreement with theirs.It was Odubanjo who eventually came across a publication from the apostolic church in Britain. After studying its contents he began corresponding with the leaders who sent to him loads of their literatures. Odubanjo was convinced that the apostolic church was the answer to the church’s partnership dilemma, being a British church. This was a huge blessing since Nigeria at the time was a British colony. Also the church believed in speaking in other tongues. After reading and studying the apostolic church literatures on the subject of the baptism of the holy spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues and after listening attentively to the inspired biblical teachings on the subject matter from the leadership of the British apostolic church, odubanjo and his team decided to hold revival tarrying meetings for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. 

This was the beginning of tarrying meetings for the purpose of being baptised in the Holy Spirit in Lagos in 1930. This led to odubanjo and the faith tabernacle leaders extending an invitation to the leadership of the apostolic church in Bradford England to visit Nigeria. Upon the arrival of the team of leaders from Bradford in Lagos the power of the Holy Spirit was tremendously felt such that men and women of the church were swept off their feet and baptised in the Holy Spirit. Some of them wept and flood of tears rolled down their checks rejoicing and praising God at the meetings held under the leadership of DP Williams the founding president of the apostolic church.This meeting conducted by the leadership of the apostolic church from Bradford England became what birthed the modern day Pentecostal move in Nigeria. It was a meeting that brought together men and women from all works of life and from all the mainline denominations. People came from different part of the country to be part of this spiritual awakening. The meetings held with both morning and evening sessions filled to capacity. The team later visited Ijebu- Ode, Abeokuta and Ibadan with great testimonies with multitudes being filled with the Holy Spirit. The meeting was later taken to Ibadan with odubanjo, Babalola and Akinyele as well as other key leaders in attendance. It was at this meeting in Ibadan that the final decision was reached, by the Nigerian leaders to form a partnership with the apostolic church of Great Britain.

 In 1931 in Lagos, the apostolic church of Great Britain having been accepted as the governing authority of the emerging apostolic church of Nigeria ordained seven leaders of the erstwhile faith tabernacle into the pastoral office. The seven leaders were Babatope, Odubanjo, Mensah, Akinyele, (who later became the Olubadan of Ibadan), Esisinade, Adegboyega and McCauley.After deliberations, the faith tabernacle leaders decided to adopt the name the apostolic church Nigeria.The arrival of the apostolic church missionaries marked the beginning if Pentecostalism in Nigeria, their arrival activated in their Nigerian brethren the nine gifts of the Spirit, the power and gifts of the Spirit, their proper use, correct method of tarrying for the Holy Ghost baptism, liberty, prayers in divine worship, prayer meetings, divine guidance by the word of the Lord through prophetic ministry, singing of joyful choruses, clapping of hands scriptural dancing and jumping and shouting s of hallelujahs. The years between 1932 and 1940 saw a great outpourings of the Holy Spirit which laid the foundations for the decades that followed. The movement was then in its infancy before institutionalization set in.

According to historians and documents available what happened between 1932 and 1940 was indeed our own version of the famous Azusa street revival as the Holy Spirit manifested mightily in sweeping powers. The experience was comparable to what happened on the day of Pentecost as peoples from all works of life began to speak with other tongues as the spirit gave them utterance.These continued until mid 30S when strains began to appear in the relationship between the British Missionaries of the Apostolic church and the Nigerian leaders which led to the polarization of the leadership of the church.

This eventually led to a major separation in which healing evangelist as well as their loyalist led by odubanjo babalola and others formed the Nigerian apostolic church. This was the first split in Nigerian Pentecostal history. The assemblies which chose to stay under the leadership of the British missionaries retained the name the apostolic church while the churches which rallied under the leadership of odubanjo, akinyele and Babalola was renamed Christ Apostolic Church (CAC). Unfortunately, the great movement that had started with a handful of saints who formed the nucleus the first precious stone group in Ijebu-Ode in 1918 which had gone through many changes and phases of partnership and which by 1940 had become a vibrant nationwide movement could not reconcile the differences that had begun to threaten its unity since the mid-1930s. Sides were taken, friendships broken, insults traded, blame passed and eventually the house did not stand. By April 1940 the center could no longer hold and the great split occurred. The issues that played out in the breakup were not strictly based on the interpretation of the biblical doctrine of divine healing it was largely due to sectional loyalty. Then In 1936, 40 apostles met in a certain place in England to consider what to do about the great call of God and the revival in Nigeria, they wanted to resolve the issue surrounding the activities of the healing evangelist in Nigeria. Then a prophecy came “send Elton my servant to Nigeria”. The arrival of SG Elton in Nigeria specifically Ilesha in 1936 kick started the next significant era in the development of body of Christ in Nigeria.

Elton was sent by God to bridge the obvious gaps and lapses in the revival. He was sent to preserve the gains of the revival that broke out in 1930. He was sent to take over a revival that had happened, which had very little gospel in it by adding to the value chain of the said revival things pertaining to justification by faith, baptism by water, the second coming, baptism of the Holy Spirit with signs following and the manifestation of divine government in the church today. Elton argued that the practice of blessing water encouraged many to place their faith in “holy water” rather than in the word of God, the revivalist countered saying that the practise had come by revelation and Elton was to face his business which was to teach new converts the basic doctrine of the bible. This infringement on what the revivalist considered a divine mandate was completely unacceptable to Babalola and other prophetic figures who became embittered towards Elton and his colleagues who were increasingly perceived as a hindrance rather than a help, to the move of God in their midst. “mefoyinbo” which means “we don’t want the whites” became their war cry. Pa SG Elton later between 1960 and mid-80S worked with and mentored the likes of Archbishop Benson Idahosa of the blessed memory. It was his relationship with the late Archbishop that led to the meeting between the late Archbishop, TL Osborn and Gordon Lindsay, who was later responsible for the training of the archbishop in his bible school in America.



 Another individual greatly influenced by Pa Elton is the incumbent General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God Pastor E.A Adeboye. Pastor Adeboye had this to say about Pa Elton. “Papa SG Elton knew the word of God and taught it with simplicity; with candour he was a great instrument of God in the life of many people including myself. I visited him towards the end of his life every two weeks, I used to spend only one hour and you can be sure we were not talking politics; we were not talking business. We were discussing the Lord Jesus Christ. I remember he said once that he regretted that he didn’t me earlier in his life, I regretted I hadn’t met him earlier either , but I thank God that the last days were profitably used, and I think it’s on record that the last major meeting that he had in 1984 or 1985 was on this RCCG campground . He slept in our little house and we had time for fellowship together, and I remember that his last sermon brought every one of us back to the altar – General overseer, Pastors, everyone. We all came back to the altar to cry before God and rededicate our lives before God. So nobody can truly write the history of either Pentecostalism or full gospel in Nigeria and leave PA SG Elton out of it. He was a tremendous influence not just on individuals, but on the church of God as a whole.






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