By Leke Beecroft
Bishop Oyedepo has announced the establishment of a minimum of 5,000 new churches worldwide in 2019. According to the Bishop, God spoke to him on 2nd May 2015 about a new era of Church growth for the Church of Christ at large and Winners’ Chapel in particular. He stated this morning that Church growth was not an ambition but an act of divine visitation and fulfillment of prophecy.
The Church arm of the ministry started on December 11, 1983 in Kaduna at No. E.E. 5 Ramat Close, Ungwan Rimi while on May 24, 1987, Church planting began with the first five new churches planted in North Eastern Nigerian towns and cities namely, Maiduguri, Biu, Mubi, Azare and Bauchi. The Lagos Church which first bore the name ‘Winners’ Chapel’ was soon planted on September 24, 1989 at No. 1A, New Era Road, Iyana Ipaja, Lagos and moved to an abandoned Motel facility on 38, Raji Oba Street, Alimosho, Iyana Ipaja, where the renowned Winners Complex was built.
The Church eventually reached out to Africa on January 15, 1995 through the Phase 1 of the African Gospel Invasion Programme (AGIP), planting Churches in 6 African nations namely, Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Congo Kinshasa. Today, the Church is in about 48 African nations.
Subsequently, MISSION TO THE WORLD (MTW) a project to plant churches outside Africa started in 2001, with the first branch in London, England. The Living Faith Church continued to expand with one major church in every city where she was present and by December 2009 she had a network of about 700 branches worldwide. That same month, she began aggressive planting of branches all over Nigeria and Africa such that by November 2010, her branches had increased to 2,500 and by November 2011 had planted another 2,000 all over the world.
On September 7, 2012 the Church Constitution known as ‘The MANDATE’, was published. This operational manual of the church clearly spelling out doctrines and history of the church as well as administration and succession spelt out that there would be a church located every 2km distance all over the world. Later in December that year, the
Church listed over 5,000 branches in Nigeria alone and over 600 in foreign countries, totaling about 6,000.
In May 2013, about 60 churches were planted in hinterland Lagos especially for those who might have to cross over water to reach Faith Tabernacle on Sundays. By May 2015, the Church commenced ‘Wonder Double’ Outreach phase based on prophecy. Bishop Oyedepo soon ordered for overflow tents to be erected and by January 2016, 52,000 seats were provided under tents for people outside Faith Tabernacle Auditorium making a total of 102,000 capacity. Presently the plan for a 100,000 capacity Faith Theatre has been jettisoned for a minimum 120,000 capacity auditorium which could be further increased.
The Church has continued to spread and by early 2018, was well over 6,000 Churches, apart from the Lagos structure which is the largest structure of the ministry. In Delta State alone, over 500 Churches have been registered.
The announcement of today thus signifies another intensive church planting drive by the Church. Another sister Church, the Redeemed Christian Church of God has planted over 20,000 Churches in Nigeria alone and both churches along with Deeper Life Bible Church have the largest network of Churches both in Nigeria and all over Africa. This is all in their bid to ensure that the Gospel of Christ reaches all the ends of the earth before Jesus comes according to scriptures.