By Rev. Odi Okundaye as interviewed by Timendu Aghahowa
Church4Real is a product of the movement NGL (Next Generation Leaders), which Bishop Feb Idahosa started and led from sometime in 1999. Before Church even started, we (NGL) had been having meetings with Bishop Feb Idahosa upon his return from America. He led discussions on possibilities that we could create as a group of young, intelligent, God-fearing people.
Our mantra was ‘Change Nigeria’ but not in any kind of political way. One day, during one of our sessions, we realised that the most significant opportunity we had to make a difference was to start up churches. The church is a veritable tool for social change and transformation. In 2001, I was ordained by Mama – Bishop Margaret Idahosa. As I left church, Pastor Obinna Madunagu walked up to me and said that the Lord had laid it in his heart to work with me. We both came back to Lagos and continued to be in touch, and eventually started a prayer cell with my wife, Imoh, Pastor Tom Amidu and a couple other people. After we had prayed for a little bit, we tried to start church but one of the challenges we faced was that of venue. It was difficult for us to get a decent venue. Mama was very supportive through all of this, even offering to help us make payments whenever we found a suitable place.
It was an offer we never had to take up but it was good to know that we had her backing. At some point, we started to meet at a hotel in Ifako but it wasn’t working. The timing was off. Visibility was a problem, as well as financing. So we decided to put things on hold and return to the churches we were already members of.
Sometime in 2005, people started asking again when we were starting. More people were interested and this made it easier to pick it up once more because there were now more people to take on various responsibilities.
In August 2005, my wife was at CWFI convention where she met Elder G.O. Isibor, now Rev. G.O. Isibor, who had just been given a mandate to start up a church. They talked, and then she called me and asked me to call him. I did, we spoke and agreed to meet when he returned to Lagos.
After our first meeting, I called back everyone who had been on the former team and others who were not but who had now moved to Lagos and were anxious for us to start the work, and we set up a new team called The Church Birth Committee made up of myself, my wife, Obinna Madunagu, Ogieva Madunagu, Stanlee Ohikhuare, Tom Amidu, Blessing Nnachi, Ukinebo Dare (nee Isibor), Chris Ubamadu, Toyin Ubamadu and Hope Okhuoya. We met regularly to pray and to plan. We came up with the name Church4Real during one of those sessions that we had been thinking and talking and praying. We decided on a name that would be unique even though it was still a part of Church of God Mission. Inspiration came from Ukinebo who had been talking about how it should be a real church so we went with Church4Real with the pay line – Real God, Real People, Real Experiences.
Incidentally, that was the same pay line used by CGM Church Unusual which had launched in 2004. It hadn’t occurred to us then, that it was the same pay line but when we discovered, it just proved to us that the Spirit of God is one, and that we were all thinking the same kind of thoughts on what church should be to the community.
Venue, however, was still a challenge, but one day, Rev. G.O. Isibor said to me “If you don’t pick a start up date, we’re likely never going to take off” but my concern had been that we would pick a start up date and be frustrated by our lack of venue. Nonetheless, we picked a start up date – first week of January 2006.
At that time, Rev. G.O. Isibor spoke with his wife, Rev. Mavi Isibor, the current Head Pastor of CGM House Of Praise, who offered to let us use one of her bigger lecture rooms of the building that Poise Finishing School was using for free. So we had our first meeting. About 70 people were around for that first meeting including Bishop Feb Idahosa, Rev. Wale Ajayi, Rev. Osas Obarisiaghon, Rev. Emma Ubamadu, Rev. James Areghan, Rev. Aniekan Udoh, Patrick Ohikhuare, Stanlee Ohikhuare, Daisy Ohikhuare (then Okosun), Square and Enimien Egbucha, Isi Okhuoya, Vivian Okoroma, Rasheed Alawode, Patrick Edwards, Ohehen and Dami Oduware, Omosede Oghama, Osato Ehigiator, Kate Obarogie, Okhai Ohiorenonya and every member of The Church Birth team. Pastor Obinna Madunagu was now clearly my Associate Pastor. We all started to work together. At this point, Pastor Chris Ubamadu was part of the team and we stayed at Poise for about 6 months till Square found us another venue at Anthony Village.
When we moved to Hotel Newcastle, we had a membership of about 50, then it just grew from there. Our children’s church grew as well till they were bursting at the seams. Our Couples’ Fellowship (eventually christened LoveNest) started there, as well as our Singles’ Fellowship. We hosted our first Church4Real wedding between Reuben Oshomah and Ajoke Okunlola.
We were able to organise ourselves better and participated in more CGMi activities. We started attending National Convention and CWFI convention as a church. Sometime in 2007, I began to think about the fact that Lagos was growing in the Lekki direction. I thought it was a tremendous opportunity for us to take advantage of this knowledge by buying some property when the price was still manageable. We eventually bought two acres. The idea was to buy a sizeable portion of land that we could use to interpret our dreams and visions that God had put in our heart – how church should be to the community. Church should be actively involved in influencing community, by giving them schools, hospitals, providing a library, a playground for the children in the community to be able to come and express themselves. So that as the church establishes itself in the community, that community begins to reflect the values of Christ. In 2008, we had the 3-in-1 service. It was a thanksgiving service, which was also to be a groundbreaking service as well as an inauguration service for the work that we were doing, and Our Mama came to lead that service for us.
Meanwhile, we continued to have church at Anthony Village and organised various programs like Rev Concert, football matches with the youths of Anthony Village and had the very first Praise Forward in 2008. In 2010, Rev. Obinna Madunagu and his family relocated to the U.K. and In 2012, Rev. Tom Amidu and his family relocated to Abuja. In August 2013, church split and some of us went to start CGM Living Springs at another part of Lekki called Ogidan, just before you get to Sangotedo where the aforementioned land is located. Rev. Chris Ubamadu, who had been my associate pastor, stayed behind to be the Head Pastor of CGM Church4Real while Rev. Duke Isabemoi went with me to Living Springs.
I had to leave Living Springs, a year later, on another assignment that Mama gave to me, and Church4Real moved from Anthony Village to Anifowoshe, and through it all, God has been faithful. All the churches have continued to grow from strength to strength. We know that there’s still greater opportunity for the work to expand and that as we work in obedience with God, we will receive the fulfilment and manifestation of every promise He has made to us in Christ Jesus. As The Word of God says, every promise he has made is yea and amen in Christ Jesus.
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