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People who have helped us on the Journey: Pastor Chido

There are surprises around every corner of the NYC Religious Census. Many times, it is we journeyers who are surprised by the warm welcomes. We are unannounced visitors like long lost relatives that only today decided to visit. Yet, invariably, people are warm and friendly. Some people, of course, are not at the church on the […]

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From a back alley in north Staten Island, Solid Rock Church is planning big things!

There are surprises around every corner of the NYC Religious Census. Many times, it is we journeyers who are surprised by the warm welcomes. We are unannounced visitors like long lost relatives that only today decided to visit. Yet, invariably, people are warm and friendly. Some people, of course, are not at the church on the day we come by. So, we call them later. One was Pastor Chido (Chidoziem Nkemakolam)  of Solid Rock Parish of Redeemed Christian Church of God. His welcome was infectious through the phone. He was so happy for our visit and encouraged us to keep doing it. He said, "It is wonderful to do the census and to get the opportunity to connect with other pastors and ministry leaders."

His ministry is one of the many that have been planted by this visionary African Christian denomination. His church is a mix of Nigerians and other ethnicities. See the website for their leadership training center. Also, Rachel Zoll's article on African Christianity in America gave good coverage to the Redeemed Christian Church of God. Her 2006 article is still as fresh and relevant as it was then.

Washington Post

African Christianity Boom Spills to U.S. (excerpt)


The Associated Press

IRVING, Texas—On the 25th floor of a luxury office tower, a church most people have never heard of is planning to save America.

Its leaders believe Jesus has sent them to spread a difficult truth in the United States: Demonic forces are corrupting society and only spiritual warfare can stop them.

Call it the message.

The messenger comes from Nigeria.

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.”

It opened its first U.S. congregation in 1992, when Adeboye prayed in a Detroit living room with a Nigerian engineer who was working for Ford. Churches in Tallahassee, Fla., and Dallas soon opened, and many more followed. About 7,000 people attended the church’s national meeting in New York’s Madison Square Garden last year.

The group’s pastors in this country have doctorates, degrees in management or engineering, and extensive experience in the business world _ though they generally have far less religious training than clergy from mainline denominations. To keep trust with churchgoers, they have hired an accountant as a national watchdog over how parishes handle tithes.

Ministers are building their congregations by making every worshipper a worker, teaching classes for children, holding events for singles _ even cleaning. At one U.S. parish, the pastor has given the title “Holy Police Commissioner” to the churchgoer who manages the parking lot.

“They are amazingly sophisticated,” said Elias Bongmba, a religion professor at Rice University in Houston. “They know how to organize.”

Still, however effective they are at administration, Redeemed Church leaders know their future here depends heavily on something harder to control: their public image. With their mandate to save all peoples, they worry they’ll be dismissed as a “foreign” church.

John Garner, a native Texan who sold the church the first parcel of land for its Floyd headquarters, said local residents have been asking him “about that cult coming in.” Garner, who is white and previously belonged to a Baptist congregation, is now a member of the church, and his wife, Marti, is an assistant pastor who leads a new congregation on the site.

“People don’t understand what’s going on,” said John Garner, standing in the first new building on the property _ a sleek conference center for 1,000 people rising incongruously amid grain silos and barren fields. “People don’t realize they’re Christians just like them.”

Yet, even as newcomers, Redeemed Church pastors are already carrying an American burden.

U.S. churches remain largely segregated by race _ and the Nigerian church fears being drawn into those divisions. Many of their parish Web sites and fliers feature photos of whites and Hispanics, along with blacks, even though the church right now is overwhelmingly African.

“They are going out and bringing people in, and the way they treat people will keep bringing people in,” said Katie Bendorf, a 26-year-old mother of three who was one of the few whites at a recent service at Jesus House, a major Redeemed Church parish in Chicago.

A music minister invited Bendorf to attend last December and she now plays violin with the church band. “Everyone knew my name by the second time I came,” she said.

In fact, American Christians looking beyond ethnic differences will find something familiar. The Redeemed Church is Pentecostal _ a movement that began 100 years ago at a downtown Los Angeles revival and is now the fastest-growing wing of Christianity worldwide.

Pentecostals/charismatics are biblical conservatives known for ecstatic, spirit-filled worship, speaking in tongues and a belief in miracles and supernatural battles with evil. Missionaries and evangelists from the United States and elsewhere spread the movement in Africa throughout the 20th century.

The connection is clear at Jesus House in Chicago, where Sunday services fit squarely within the mainstream of American Christianity.

The carpeted sanctuary, with its recessed lighting and 600 deeply cushioned chairs, looked the part of a well-funded megachurch. TV monitors installed along the ceiling broadcast the service to the back of the room. Except for one song in an upbeat Nigerian style, the music was standard Christian gospel. And Pastor Bayo Adewole, who chose preservation of the family as the day’s theme, distributed literature from James Dobson of Focus on the Family.

For years, U.S. and African churches have carried on a steady cultural exchange, as Americans became fascinated with the spectacular growth of African congregations and African pastors looked to U.S. evangelists for recognition and support.

Bishop T.D. Jakes, the prominent Dallas megachurch pastor, and the Rev. Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life,” regularly visit Africa. Redeemed Church leaders are advising all their U.S. parishes to consult Warren’s book “The Purpose Driven Church.”

“There is an immense move of American pastors going over there and forming church relationships,” said Tony Carnes, head of the Values Research Institute, who studies African churches in the New York area. “These pastors in Africa have already read American writing. They have a common vocabulary.”

The Redeemed Church is counting on it. As soon as their Dallas TV studio is completed, they’ll invite American pastors to preach on the air. Bleachers are being built to bring in a local audience. If the TV venture succeeds, they plan a companion Spanish-language network. Their Internet radio station is already broadcasting from the Irving office. And Akinkoye, the network chief executive, is preparing for Dove Media to produce its own movies in America, just like the church does in Nigeria.

All of this is in service to the goal their international leader, Adeboye, has set for the church: “At least one member of the church in every household in the whole world.”

“A society that will not embrace the Holy Spirit of God is encouraging satanic influences,” Akinkoye said. “We are not introducing Jesus Christ to America, but this society has become a post-Christian society and that is a dangerous thing.”

Originally published: Sunday, March 26, 2006

  • Thank you A Cunningham. We will pass along your comment to the church for reflection.

  • It has been my experience, from being an American in an RCCG church for a good while, that if they aren't careful, they will be an African church in an American culture. That was my experience there.

    I took a caucasian person to a worship service there and the music was so loud that guests simply can't handle the volume. Every single American I took there said the same. The volume was way too loud for all of them. The Pastor didn't want to turn it down. He saw the guest holding their ears but didn't really want to accomodate them. As a result, the woman I brought needed deliverance and never returned because she couldn't respect the way things were run. That is not God's will. People are more important than anything else and her need was very important. She never got the help she needed and it was a serious ailment.

    Another issue there was that African Pastors tend to be controlling and their culture of taking care of adults by calling them for every service, etc, is not how Americans function. It's not how adults need to be related to. God holds adults responsible for themselves and responsible to Him and not to a Pastor. There was a demand and control that wasn't healthy there. That isn't how American Pastors function and it's not healthy spiritually. I attended another African church prior to that in the USA, and it wasn't a part of RCCG. The Pastor was also controlling. There is this push to force everyone into some duty and it was by the flesh and not by the Spirit.

    It's been my experience with working with Africans and I've worked with them for about 15yrs, and with others who migrate to the USA from other countries, that they lack a lot of the training we have here. They are ignorant in some areas and not too matue emotionally in how they relate.
    I'm not against RCCG. I think it's a great org. I know they're doing great things. But overall, I think it's an African
    org in an American culture and some things need to change.

    There were almost no Americans in attendance and I was there a very long time. Please take a clue to these matters because they are true and might be helpful if RCCG takes a look at bringing African culture into God's Kingdom. There is no culture in God's Kingdom and it has no place in the church. Thank you!

  • Candace,
    I hope you've had help connecting with the Nigerian Pastor you met on Staten Island Ferry. If you haven't, I would recommend that you go to a site for Nigerian Pastors in your area. There is a very large organization based in Nigeria, that has hundreds of Pastors around the world. Their headquarters in N. America is near Dallas, Tx. I am in one of their churches in that area. I can't promise that the Pastor you met is affiliated with this organization but it's a strong possibility, since their Pastors are Nigerian. Here is their website: Go there and click on Find A Parish. Then click on Zone. Then click on Zone 3 for NY. It will populate the Pastors in the Staten Island Area. Be blessed and I pray you make the connection. I've been in one of their churches for almost 2yrs and it has totally changed my life and released me into a higher level spiritually. It will radically change your life. If you haven't found a church already, I would visit each one in Staten Island and pray about where the Holy Spirit would have you to be. Many believers do their own choosing but we are to be where the Holy Spirit plants us so I encourage you to submit to that in prayer. Blessings, Rev. Helen Davies/Dallas, TX.

  • Candace, An opportunity to follow up on a faith story suddenly came up so we weren't able to upload your info yet. It looks like we will have to do that next week. Very sorry! We will come back to it.

  • Thanks I look forward to it, when you have a chance to put it up, no worries I know you are probably busy. When you do put them up can you include a link here so I don't miss it? Thanks a lot, I appreciate it!!

  • Hi Candace,

    Late today, we will post some churches with their addresses for you. Let us know about your experience. Thanks!

  • Hi,

    I know this is random, but I meet a Nigerian pastor on the Staten Island ferry yesterday and he invited me to worship at his church. At the time, I wasn't interested so I didn't get a lot of information from him but after thinking about what he said a lot of it hit home for me. I'd love to be able to find the church. I don't have a lot of information to go, and while he did tell me his name for the life of me I can't remember it. I know he owns a Christian church both on Staten Island and also one back home in Nigeria. He was very warm and friendly so if this information fits with any of the churches you visited please let me know.


  • Who does your video/photo editing and graphics design? Clean, modern, attractive.

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