The convener of the New Season Prophetic Prayers, and lead pastor of Streams of Joy International, Jerry Eze, tells ADELANI ADEPEGBA and GIFT HABIB about his life, ministry and other issues
What made you leave your lucrative job with the United Nations to become a pastor?
I realised that there could not be any higher calling than the call of God on one’s life. So, I came to the reality that purpose would always trump any human satisfaction at any time. It was extremely compelling to fulfil the desire of God for my life. When I weighed what I wanted and what God wanted me to do, I realised that destiny was much more important than what I wanted to do for myself. I left the secular job to do the work of God. Meanwhile, at a time there was nothing exciting about it (the job). I knew I had a mandate to fulfil for a generation waiting to hear my voice.
How did you know it was the right time to make the move?
Everything about it suggested that it was the right time. I actually felt a level of discomfort with where I was, so the satisfaction was no longer there. My mum was very instrumental to who I have become. It was a season when the voice of my mum kept resonating very strongly in my heart. She passed on shortly after that. She kept telling me that the job I was doing was not the will of God for my life. Of course, I had always argued with her. But, as soon as she passed on, the reality hit me that she was correct all along.
Your ministry is growing rapidly. What is the secret?
The secret is that I do what God wants me to do. There has not been any deliberate strategy to get to where I am. My secret is God. I know that it sounds basic, but that is what it is. I have not made any efforts to say this is where I want to be. Whatever has happened in my life has been about me just following God. Between last year and now, there has been so much visibility around me. It looks like every month, something happens. People are asking, ‘How did he get here’? I’m also asking them, ‘How did I get here’? There is no strategy. Sometimes, I even think I am too ‘unstrategic’ for my liking. Sometimes, I feel I should do more, but I tell myself that I did not bring myself here. As a matter of fact, everybody around me knows that if they want me to do something for them, no matter how laudable it is, I would tell them that I need to pray about it and hear from God. That is my motto. No matter how exciting it is, I must pray and hear from God. I have got a lot of ‘blissful’ offers in the past, and I always told them that it was whatever God said to me, that I would do.
What happens if you need to make a quick decision and the voice or direction did not come at that moment. What do you do?
God never leaves anyone who loves him without direction. When it comes to hearing from God; sometimes, He speaks to one audibly; and at other times, there is a deep conviction in one’s spirit. In some cases, He takes one to His word. God cannot leave one without direction. The Bible said that as many as are led by the spirit of God, those are the sons of God. The Bible did not say that ‘as many that sometimes get direction’. It is a continuous leading, and that is what makes my life different.
Do you think churches should adopt your ‘strategy’ of not planning for growth?
I did not say that I don’t make plans. I plan, but I am saying that whatever happens, I need to hear from God. The Bible says that there are several devices in a man’s heart, but only the counsel of the Lord will stand. I always put every plan, purpose, and desire side-by-side with what God is saying to me. Whatever does not fit into what God is saying, I trash it. It becomes unimportant in my life. It is only whatever is in sync with what God is saying that I apply.
My advice for anyone who loves God is to have their plans, desires and purposes, but they should mirror everything with the counsel of the Lord. Some things might look really nice and one would want to take a plunge into it, but, if one looks well, it might not be the will of God, so one would have to let it go.
What is the most challenging aspect of managing a fast growing ministry like yours?I don’t want to call it a challenge, but it is taking a whole lot from us right now in terms of discipleship. I am a bit old school with the way I approach things. I do not celebrate numbers as much as I celebrate followers of Christ. Every day, there is a surge of people who are fascinated by one’s gifting, who come into the fold. Some of them are not Christians, while some others had not been to church for more than 10 years. However, they like the gift and they come to church (because of that). I do not want to end the relationship with them on the basis of, “Oh, this is what you want. Receive the gifting”. I believe that I was gifted in order to raise disciples for Jesus; not just those who follow my gifting or me personally. I was called in order to raise men for Jesus.
Do you think that is a global challenge facing the church?
I do not want to call it a global challenge, but many Christians and men of God are pushing really strongly in the place of discipleship. I was talking to my people some days ago, and I told them that the lines are totally blurred. It is almost hard to tell who is born again and who is not. Christians are not just good people; they are those who have had an encounter with Christ, which has translated into a change of behaviour. It is not just about speaking in tongues; but being Christ-like in every area of our life.
God is calling on people to raise men for Him. It is not just those who follow our ministry, but those who are truly disciples of Jesus.
How have you been able to stay faithful to that directive?
That is our major thrust; whether online or offline. We have even delineated into other demographics, because we are taking it down. We are making disciples of children and teenagers. We are pushing for everything that has to do with the ways of the Lord, the transformation of the spirit man and the fruits of the spirit. We will keep doing it over and again, because we understand it is not something that happens with the snap of the fingers. We will keep doing it until men come to the fullness of the Lord.
What factors in your background helped to shape the way you do things now?
I grew up in a local church. It was a place that was all about God, the Holy Spirit and what God was saying. As a little boy, I literally saw God. Some of the people who had the gift of the spirit then actually saw God. It gave me a seeming awareness, and it also opened my eyes to the fact that God could dwell among men. I had core raw experiences of the supernatural. Before my mum passed on, I saw her manifest God in a ‘raw’ manner. It gave me a different appetite from what my generation had. I saw people, such as the blind and mentally-challenged people healed.
How do you manage the church, business and family in view of your schedule?
Everything has to be in place. My ministry is not different from my life. My church, marriage and business are all together. I cannot separate them from one another. What I am doing is not a vocation; it is a calling. My marriage is a ministry to God. Raising my children is a ministry to God. Living the way God wants me to is a ministry to God. But, if you are talking about pulpit work, that is a different thing. I cannot say that right now, I am done with ministry work, and go back to my marriage. That marriage I am going back to is a ministry, because it must reflect the ideals of God.
When it comes to timing (and scheduling), if one is led by God, one will understand that God helps one to do what one needs to do at the right time. There are things that have to do with parenting that God lets one speak into the lives of one’s children, or He helps one to shape things in the lives of one’s children by His instructions that ordinary parenting cannot achieve. God gives one insight. He tells one what to do, and if one does it, it will yield results. The Bible says that children will be taught of the Lord. I am a stickler for supernatural parenting. It helps one to organise oneself, and to speak the right words into the lives of one’s children. All I am saying is that God has directed me. My work takes a lot (from me), but God has been helping me. I love to pray but then, what is ministry if one’s family fails? That will be a total failure.
Do you think that some pastors who devote more time to the work of God are not balancing work and family?
That is why I said even one’s family is a ministry. One cannot do well on the pulpit and fail in family. Such pastors need to understand what ministry is all about. Whenever I teach people from the pulpit, I must also create time to teach my family members. If I pray for people to receive healing, I should also be able to pray for my family. One should not concentrate on one part of ministry, and lose sight of the other sides. The narrative that some pastors concentrate more on ministry and leave their families, is very defective. As a cleric, every part of one’s life must bring glory to God.
Have you had any ‘wilderness’ experience?
I cannot say I have had a major wilderness experience. But, like every other growing ministry, we have gone through times of lack, where things were not really pleasant. I have gone through seasons where loved ones left. There are also some people who one thought would remain with one in ministry for a long time, but who are no longer there.
While growing up, I went through hard times with my mother, because we did not have money. There were many times that we could not feed well.
But, in ministry, I have not gone through very hard times. However, having visions and not having the resources to accomplish them could be termed a ‘wilderness experience’; and it happens to everyone. I have not experienced any excruciating wilderness experience.
If I would refer to any period as ‘a wilderness experience’, that would be the tough days of my marriage. And, my wife has already written a book about it.
How did you train your mind to soak in everything God is telling you?
One would not want to be a visitor in the presence of God. The Bible says that, ‘He that dwells in the secret place of the most high shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty’. The keyword there is ‘dwelling’. One always has to be conscious and aware of the presence of God. As I am having this interview, I could be praying, speaking in tongues and creating an atmosphere that would allow God speak to me. One should jealously guard one’s mind, so that the wrong thoughts don’t settle there.
You once stated that you had been exposed to some tempting offers. Can you share some of them with us?
When I say tempting offers, I do not mean people tempting me. I have had some offers that did not look like they had the hands of God in them.
A lot of people, including presidents, are interested in me. It sounds really great, but they are coming on the heels of my influence and what God is doing in my life. However, I literally hear God say I should sit down; that it is not yet time.
One of such things happened recently. It was something I really wanted. It was like a honour, which looked big to me. My team had already started the talks but God said that was not what He wanted from me. With this work I am doing, I have a burden but not for the spotlight. If there was a way I could take out the aspect of people seeing me every day, while still making an impact in their lives, I would be very grateful.
When NSSPD started, I was excited about it. But now, I am tired that I don’t have a life. I cannot go out any more like a normal person. I am sincerely tired. I do not have time for myself. I pray all through the night every day to be able to minister in the morning.
The ministry is basically done on social media; and, that gives people the right to say whatever they like. Sometimes, I wish they could be where I am and know what it feels like. I am doing this for people. My life is literally gone, because I want to make other people be the best in their own lives.
Aside from lack of privacy, what are the other things fame has deprived you of?
The lack of privacy is the major issue. Whenever people have problems, they come to one, irrespective of where one is. They could meet one at the airport and plead with one to say a word of prayer for them.
Meanwhile, there are some people who love one genuinely but have decided to stay away from one because one is very busy. However, I am not complaining. I love the fact that my life counts. Even if I die today, I would be able to say to the world, ‘I touched my generation’.
What issues did you face while planting churches in other countries?
I am in the fruitful season of my ministry. Since those branches were planted, I have never been there. Yet, the numbers keep increasing.
I am raising an army that looks like me, wherever they are. It is the same gift of the Holy Spirit and the power of God. It is not domiciled in one man. They are also running with it, and God is doing wonders through them.
There have been some cases of pastors taking over some church branches they were overseeing. How are you sure such a thing will not happen to your branches abroad?
I do not bother about that. The structure of the church does not allow anyone to do that. I am very careful not just to raise people who are pastors, but I want to raise believers for Christ. Such cases could happen when the pastors are not genuine children of God.
My desire is to raise people for God. It is not about perfection, but having a walk with God. I do not expect them to be perfect. They can fail and stumble. I try as much as possible to raise a generation that is God-fearing. We teach them that we do not have laws that make ministry difficult. It is when ministry is difficult that people would want to move to another church. We make our people love and enjoy ministry.
How have you been able to avoid controversies and scandals that come with being in the spotlight?
It is when one has too much free time, that one gets to the place of scandals being created around you. However, that narrative is changing. There are some things we do not have control over. We do not have control over how people perceive us, but we have control over what we do. People can wake up and perceive one in certain ways, but those things don’t bother me.
What God has called me to do is important. What people perceive about me is not important at all. I don’t consciously try to avoid scandals. It is tedious to live like that. I live for Jesus. I am making sure that I love God, and I am doing what He wants me to do for him. It is a natural escape from everything that is not of God. Once one’s eyes are on Jesus and one is doing what He wants one to do, one cannot be involved in scandals.
Regardless of one’s past errors, one should just focus and do what God wants one to do. Our purpose is enough to keep us busy and make us refrain from doing evil. When God thought about what to give a man, he gave him a purpose. As far as one pursues one’s purpose, one will not have time for distractions. If a man distracted, there are chances that he is not focused on his purpose.
Are you worried that despite the growth of Christianity in Nigeria, the country is still seen as a corrupt nation?
And, who said that we (pastors) are not contributing? The mere fact that Nigeria is corrupt is not an indicator that the church is not playing its role. The truth is that people should stop making generalised statements, and come and sit in some churches and hear great teachings. What people do not understand is that some things will stop when people have ideas about how some other things work. Look at what is going on. The church has done a lot. It is not sitting back all the time and saying that is the reason why some things are not working. God is using the church and the church is doing a whole lot. I will want to be excused from the narrative that says because of corruption in Nigeria, the church seems not to be doing enough.
Whether you remove the church from it and put the mosque, everybody has a role to play. Show me a country without crimes. Things still go wrong there. We will keep pushing. An army is rising. Things are no longer the way they used to be before. There are great men of God, who God is raising everywhere. There is hope for Nigeria. There is hope for what we are doing. But, I want to say that we are even able to do what we are doing because of those who have gone ahead of us. Their voices told us that it can be done. What they did showed us that it can be done, and that is why we decided to push through. I honestly think that we are trying and pushing. I am here today because some people believed in me, validated me, and went ahead of me.
Who are your mentors, and what are the things that you have learnt from them that have really helped you?
I have a lot of role mentors. One such is Matthew Ashimolowo. He is such a wisdom- personified figure. He radiates with so much wisdom. He is extremely caring, and he wants people to succeed. He is always there to provide a platform for that to work. There are great men around the world who are also doing great work. I also have people who are not popular but they are amazing.
What do you do for fun?
Imagine that I have to think about what I do for fun. I do not know what I do for fun. I love to laugh. I am a very boring person. I do not have the time for all that, but I like to tell stories. I love the smile of little children. It makes me very happy. I love the resilient spirit of the Nigerian people. I love to see people who are making huge milestones, breaking out from where they were and doing more. It gratifies me. I love people that love people. I love to see things work. I go to the gym, and I love sports. It makes me happy.
What is that one weakness you permit yourself?
I hope to find it because this question excites me. I do not have one yet. That is why I said I am boring. As I said, I love to have good people around me who have beautiful hearts, who are forgiving, and who do not like trouble. I don’t really have one, to answer your question, because once I am done with this interview, I am going back to work and meetings. I will learn to do that.
Do you go on holidays, and where is your favourite destination?
What hits me is bigger than me. I am trying to understand the way He works. I am literally in the midst of a revival and trying to find out and know His dynamics. The holiday will definitely come. I am just in that place where I am holding the light for people to see and fully understand what the mandate is. I have not gone on holiday for a very long time. I travel, but not on holidays.
Has your wife ever complained about you not giving her enough time?
Not at all. I do not have a large family and that makes it very easy for us. I have a son and a daughter. My daughter is in secondary school, while my son is in primary school. We are good and doing very well. Most times, my wife has ministrations as well. If I do not go on holiday, my wife should not. It is something that we are intentional about. We are intentional about our home.
Do you have some personal aspirations aside from spreading the word of God and empowering people?
Raising a memoriam for my mum is my biggest aspiration. Raising a home where children will go to school for free and be raised with a very fine standard as my mum taught me is another thing I would love to do.