By Ihechukwu Njoku
Pastor Gabriel Ikpenwa was an avid advocate against controversial Nigerian Pastor T.B. Joshua, vehemently testifying that he was the antichrist, offering public prayers against him in crusade grounds and fervently discouraging anyone who planned to visit his church. However, in an ironic twist of fate, the man he had campaigned against and slandered religiously ended up being the one used by God to set his family free.
“I have actually preached a lot of messages against Prophet T.B. Joshua, as the antichrist of our generation,” Pastor Gabriel remorsefully told the congregation at The Synagogue, Church Of All Nations (SCOAN) in Lagos, Nigeria during a Sunday service broadcast on the church’s television station, Emmanuel TV.
Ikpenwa, who was the President of Deeper Life Campus Fellowship in his university days as well as the President of Nigerian Corpers Christian Fellowship (NCCF), said that when the major Christian bodies within Nigeria, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) had publicly denounced The SCOAN and its leader, he adopted the same stance without questioning. “I took it upon myself as a leader of the youth to make sure that none of them would have anything to do with Prophet T.B. Joshua,” he stated.
He recounted organizing huge crusades for young people as well as being a regular guest speaker at mammoth Christian Union events. “You can imagine when a crowd has gathered and you handle such a message, psyching up the youths against T.B. Joshua as the antichrist. You can imagine the type of prayer that would happen in the crowd. We started casting and binding him.”
After leaving Deeper Life, Ikpenwa joined Redeemed Christian Church Of God (RCCG) as an Assistant Pastor while pursuing his medical career and managing his increasingly influential microfinance bank. Soon joining the ranks of young Nigerian millionaires, Ikpenwa decided to look for a wife to stand at his side in ministry. Meeting a beautiful young lady who was working as a model, the fiery pastor preached repentance to her. Moving closer to her, he did not know the deep spiritual entanglements he was about to engulf himself in.
As the pair courted, Ikpenwa had a strange encounter with two snakes who attempted to attack him in his house. As a date for marriage was set, he one day awoke to find a strange man in his house, who warned him to ‘leave that girl alone’. Shocked at the man’s entrance to his locked house, Pastor Gabriel attempted to hit him. His hand passed through the man as if he was boxing thin air and he mysteriously disappeared before his eyes.
The day of his marriage seemed to spell the beginning of his downfall. “I saw myself going down to a zero level after we married,” Ikpenwa stated, explaining that employees in his bank stole millions which led to its premature end. Ministry-wise, Ikpenwa admitted that he became ‘an administrative pastor’, confessing that he backslid in his faith and became someone merely “practicing religion, teaching people the Bible without the power.”
In the search for the deliverance of his wife who was regularly plagued with spiritual attacks, Ikpenwa remembered the man he had fought so hard against in the past. Despite banning Emmanuel TV in his house, an instruction that had been passed onto him by his superiors at CAN and PFN, Ikpenwa secretly began watching it. “I started matching the activities I saw with the Scriptures,” he revealed, deciding to go on an investigative mission to The SCOAN incognito to assess for himself.
“I wore jeans and put a face cap on backwards just to disguise myself because many people know me as a minister. I went to sit right at the extreme back to spy what was going on, not to participate in anything.” After the service, Ikpenwa returned to his home and told his wife that he had deceived multitudes about Joshua, acknowledging that he was truly a man of God. Upon this admission, the couple resolved to go to The SCOAN together.
As one of Joshua’s ministers, known as the ‘Wise Men’ passed by Mrs Ikpenwa, she started to react violently under the influence of a strange force. “That was how the drama started,” the preacher recalled. A demon within her began manifesting and subsequently confessed the atrocities it had caused in her life, including the downfall of her husband’s business, stating that it was her spiritual husband and Pastor Gabriel had ‘snatched’ her from him. At long last, she was ‘delivered’.
Pastor Ikpenwa pleaded with the multitudes he had deceived to forgive him, stating that he had turned many who would have come to The SCOAN for solution against it. “The place I said nobody should go to is the place where I finally received my deliverance,” he concluded.
Advising pastors, Ikpenwa stated, “Many of us men of God act by what the news tells us because the power and spiritual insight is not there. I told people to excommunicate Prophet T.B. Joshua because I believed that my leaders had done some findings about him and they told us not to have anything to do with him. I plead with other men of God to find out the truth before going ahead to form judgments”.
Ikpenwa’s wife testified that the strange dreams of being pursued by snakes and seeing a man sleeping with her had ended following the prayer and she enjoyed sleep for the first time in her life thereafter. She advised congregants to identify their problems, stating that such would pave the way for solution to come.
In his comments, Joshua stated that the persecution he passed through was actually a catalyst for his ministerial success. “I know the value of my trials… It’s a free advert,” the pastor said, stating that The SCOAN has no signboard or advertisement yet attracted congregants from around the world, making it one of Nigeria’s foremost tourist attractions. Citing an example, he recounted how it was the ban on televising miracles by Nigeria’s National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) that actually led to the birth of Emmanuel TV, currently one of Africa’s most popular television stations.