By Gareth Watson
T. B. Joshua… In the West many view the church as obsolete. In the UK for example, ancient cathedrals that date back to the 1400s are appreciated for their opulent architectural edifice rather than the social fabric that enlivens them on Sundays.
Contemporary issues that face the modern society such as access to education, promoting diversity in elite universities, marital problems, mental health matters and issues of depression are rarely tackled in a single church sitting – yet these are many of the 21st century challenges that society continues to grapple with.
The social stigma of adult bed-wetting
For example, the social stigma associated with the condition of bed-wetting among adults appears was recently challenged at a prominent church in Lagos, Nigeria. During a church sitting on 18 August 2019, a middle-aged woman from Canada who introduced herself as Jenette Njodzenyuy Yula shared her life experience of the shame she encountered bed-wetting as an adult and mother of two. “My husband had to sleep in the other room and I couldn’t even visit friends because of the bed-wetting”, she reminisced. Yula explained how after ‘prayers’ from T.B. Joshua’s church in Lagos, Nigeria the previous Sunday, she slept for an entire week without bedwetting for the first time in her whole life. “I slept and woke up with my bed dry!” she exclaimed.
Her mother and daughter strangely suffered from the same condition and both equally joined the testimony to acknowledge “God set them free” from the embarrassing condition after visiting the church. Talking about her former issue candidly appeared to be a kind of catharsis for Yula. Nocturnal enuresis, in other words adult bed-wetting, is a condition that millions continue to suffer with in silence. According to some research conducted, about 26 million American adults are affected by urinary incontinence and face social stigma associated to the condition.
Access to education & promoting diversity in elite universities Access to education remains a widespread challenge across the world. However, reputable elite universities across the West, particularly in the US and the UK, face an additional challenge of promoting diversity – racial and class representation – within their walls. The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge in the UK, colloquially referred to as Oxbridge, have in the past two years sought to attract the Black and Minority Ethnic communities of the UK to increase their abysmal statistics of Black and Minority Ethnic communities on their respective campuses. Lady Margaret Hall (LMH), at the University of Oxford inaugurated a foundation programme to attract a diverse student-base. Cambridge University has said that it intends to launch a programme to aid disadvantaged students with a similar programme as that at LMH. T.B. Joshua’s church seems to arguably have innovative ways of inspiring students in this area.
A black British teenage student, Miss Blessing Omorodion, shared on T.B. Joshua’s television channel how she was inspired by the cleric and his inspirational ‘faith-boosting prayers’ to apply to the University of Oxford to study Medicine. Omorodion stated how her mother visited T.B. Joshua’s mega-church in Lagos propelled her to study hard and ultimately apply to the elite institution. According to Blessing, some months after her mother’s visit to The SCOAN, she gained admission and she thanked T.B. Joshua for the inspiration. Another student, Rebecca Ayodeji Akeresola, stated how she had received the necessary impetus from T.B. Joshua’s church to apply to study Mathematics at the African Mathematical Sciences Institute in Rwanda. To her surprise she gained admission on a full scholarship. The role of the church in addressing marital issues Another young adult woman (accompanied by her husband) candidly shared her life experience that one would ordinarily not associate with a church setting: issues of marital intimacy.
During a detailed testimony, in a question and answer format, a young married woman, Mrs Ngozi Nwachukwu, stated how her marriage was saved from collapsing after she received what she called, “a word of prophecy” concerning a private issue she could not disclose to any person except her husband. “Prophet T.B. Joshua prophesied to me in the midst of the crowd and said, ‘There is a woman there – your passage is blocked for affection… It’s a spiritual attack’,” Mrs Nwachukwu said. The young woman explained how her marriage was encountering challenges due to her private gynaecological condition that she could not disclose to anyone. With a husband who was losing patience, she had nowhere else to go, and so she made a way to an unlikely place for help – where she had seen others with varied issues go and find succour – a church in Lagos. Mrs Nwachukwu explained (supported and reiterated by her husband) how after the ‘prayers’ conducted by T.B. Joshua the previous Sunday, both her marital relationship and her gynaecological-health challenge had been resolved; and she now enjoys marital bliss she never knew before the ‘prayers’.
Conclusion One may wonder what the role of the church is given all of these varied examples. T.B. Joshua’s Sunday services are unconventional, unorthodox and seem to shake the traditional church networks in his native Nigeria – yet they appear to directly address the societal concerns that people face. From teenagers to young adults; middle-aged men and women to older, senior citizens – all appear to collectively find solace in an unlikely place. Is the Nigerian cleric redefining and challenging the stereotypical and traditional notions of “church”? T.B. Joshua has over 3.5 million followers on Facebook. His YouTube channel is reportedly the most watched Christian ministry (without a musical focus) on YouTube, with over 2 million subscribers across its English, French, Spanish and Portuguese YouTube channels. His English channel alone has amassed over 500 million views on YouTube.
Gareth Watson is a freelance South African journalist covering Sub Saharan Africa. Vanguard