Against Pentecostalism: A Tribute to E. M. Okwori
By: Deji Yesufu
All my emotional, intellectual and spiritual energy, all my time and all the little money I have had, have gone into the production of my writings. Whether or not someone would consult them at a later time and find them useful, I do not know. I leave everything at God’s own disposal. Whatever happens, so long as it is His will, I am happy – Pastor E. M. Okwori
In 1998 I came to faith in Jesus Christ and I began to attend a little Pentecostal church, Christian Teaching Centre (CTC), Samaru, Zaria, opposite Ahamdu Bello University. In that church, I met Paul Oche Adoyi. After church services, and during our long trek to our various homes, we sometimes discussed the challenges we saw in our local assembly. Paul had come from a Roman Catholic background and he used to complain bitterly that Pentecostals were imbibing everything that had been the ruin of the Catholic Church.
Paul would say that the General Overseer was only a miniature Catholic Pope. I had issues with the prosperity leaning of the church. I also could not understand why our pastor insisted that we shout when we pray. We would be in these discussions for hours church.
One day, Paul gave me a book titled “GODLINESS FOR GAIN”. It was written by an unknown E. M. Okwori. Paul had been given the book at a Youth Camp he went for at the Redeemed Christian Church camp ground along Lagos-Ibadan express way. He told me that the author wrote about many of the things we had been discussing on. He said save for the author’s views against “speaking in tongues”, he felt the author was largely right about the challenges in the Pentecostal movement in Nigeria.
This was 1999. It was the year of my extended six months industrial training. I used a great deal of that time studying the Bible and reading Christian literatures. E. M. Okwori’s book was one of the books I read and it simply blew my mind open. I was so affected by that book that I did two things that I can still remember. I wrote Pastor Okwori, through the ECWA Seminary address I found on the book. I sent the letter through the post office. I am not sure he saw that letter because I never got a reply.
Then, in my last few weeks at CTC, I wrote a book titled “On Doctrine and Practices: A Critical Evaluation of a Local Church’s Doctrine and Practice”. Okwori’s book was my primary citation. My church was the case study. I printed four copies of the book from a business centre. I gave a copy to my General Overseer, Dr. John Akpami, through his secretary. I gave one copy to my local church pastor – Rev. Esiebor. I gave another to a brother in the home cell fellowship I led. And I kept one.
Two weeks ago, my mind drifted to E. M. Okwori – the man who had formed the foundation in my heart on the position I have taken against Pentecostalism today. I searched the name on Facebook and a link to “E. M. Okwori Foundation” was found. I sent a direct message to him, thinking that I found him at last. One Oloche Okwori replied my e-mail. He said he was E. M. Okwori’s younger brother. E. M. Okwori had died in 2014, he told me. I was heart broken. This piece is written in his memory and to create awareness about his works, and the foundation in his name.
“Late Edache Moses Okwori was born to Late Mr. Moses Akpa Okwori and Mama Eleojo P. Okwori on 9th April, 1966 at Azare, in present day Katagum Local Government of Bauchi State. He was fondly called ‘Pastor’, a title he reluctantly accepted having described himself as one who is “allergic to titles”. He began his educational career at Dunama Primary School, Lafia in present day Nasarawa State in 1972 and later completed same in Anglican Primary School Dekina in present day Kogi State in 1978. He thereafter attended Bassa—Nge Anglican Grammar School Gbokolo from 1978—1983. He was an exceptionally brilliant young man and passed his WASC/GCE examination with excellent grades. He gained admission soon after to the school of Basic Studies, ABU Zaria. However, before completion, he passed the JAMB Exams in the same year and secured admission to study Medicine at the University of Jos and resumed studies in Jos. Late Pastor E.M. Okwori was equally reckoned to be one of the best students in his class at the Medical School and won some awards for his brilliance in some courses.
“The journey to become a Doctor was short-lived because God had a plan for him, which many, including his family members found very hard to come to terms with. Late Pastor E.M. Okwori left the Medical School abruptly in final year in 1989 to answer God’s call into full time Christian service. He enrolled at the ECWA Theological Seminary (JETS) Jos and was there from 1989—1993. Thankfully, he completed the B. Th (Pastorial Studies) programme despite the fact that the step he took did not make sense to many from a human view point. He had said, “I have burnt the bridge behind me and there is no going back”. He went back, albeit reluctantly, for graduate studies at JETS in 2009/2010 but never got round to completing same before his exit.”
The above was gleaned from a short biography on E. M. Okwori sent to me by members of his family. At the back of the book, “Godliness for Gain”, it was written of the author that he left Medical School in his final year to pursue training in ministry. I never could understand that aspect of his decision. And I still cannot comprehend it even now. Perhaps he had the premonition that he was not going to live for too long and that the little time he had he would use for the service of Jesus Christ. The biography continued:
“He started his working career with the International Church of Jos which he pastured from 1993—1999. While at the International Church of Jos, he was a member of the team then working on the Hausa Common Language Bible Translation project between 1996/1997. A lover of languages, he mastered English Language and a host of other international languages like Greek and Hebrew. Thereafter, he taught in three different Theological Institutions beginning at ECWA Bible College Aba in Abia State from where he moved to a Theological Institution in Ikwa in Akwa-Ibom State and ended his mission as a Teacher with Peter Achimugu College of Theology, Ankpa, Kogi State.
“In February 2002, he returned to Jos and devoted his life entirely to reading and writing. He believed with a strong conviction that he was called into ministry as a Christian writer. He was an avid and consummate reader of classical, orthodox and hardcore Christian literature including authors such as C.S. Lewis, C.H. Spurgeon, A.W. Tozer, Francis Schaeffer; R.R. Tolkien, John Stott, John Piper, Ravi Zacharias, etc. In fact, he was reading “Apostasy from the Gospel” by John Owen when he passed on. He was a quiet and reserved person and a man of strong convictions. Pastor E.M. Okwori was a writer who authored many books, three of which have been published. The first which was published in 1992 titled, “Issues of Life”, “Godliness for Gain”, and “The First Christmas”. His book, “Godliness for Gain” did a scriptural exposition of the prosperity Gospel in Nigeria. There are a dozen other works which are yet to be published as at the time of his death.
“Pastor E.M. Okwori loved the Lord Jesus Christ until his final breath. Excerpts from some of his final written words attest to that. He desired to get married at some point but it never really worked out until his demise. He is survived by his mother, Mrs. Peninnah E. Okwori and eight siblings—Grace, Ameh, Arome Okwori, Ojoma Nenji, Onyeje Kuje, Oloche Okwori, Victoria Musa, Joyce Okwori and Enenche Okwori. He took his last breath peacefully in his sleep on 9th May 2014 after a brief illness at the age of 48 years at JUTH.”
In the opening of his book, “GODLINESS FOR GAIN”, E. M. Okwori explained to his readers that he was under pressure not to mention the names of ministers that his book criticized. But he said that he had no reservations mentioning them. He took persons like Benson Idahosa, E. A. Adeboye and David Oyedepo as his case study. He analysed their teachings, quoting profusely from their books and tapes. He made it clear that the messages that these men were preaching was a false gospel from the very pit of hell.
He referenced many books in that book, two that I can remember clearly were “Charismatic Chaos” by John MacArthur and “A Different Gospel” by D. R. McConnell. D. R. McConnell’s work remains one of the most quoted works against the Pentecostal Faith movement today. Yet, McConnell remains a Pentecostal. McConnell was a student at the Oral Roberts University in the early 1980s. Faculties at the theological department of this university had been warning Mr. Roberts that the gospel he was preaching was false.
It was an interesting dichotomy. While the owner of the school was preaching his Faith/Prosperity messages, the teachers in his theological seminary were investigating the falsehood of the message the owner of their school was preaching. D. R. McConnell eventually did his Masters work studying the origin of the message Mr. Roberts preached. McConnell traced the cultic roots of the Word of Faith movement. It was he that discovered that Kenneth Hagin had plagiarized many parts of E. W. Kenyon’s work. In fact he proved that what Hagin had taught all his life, claiming it was special revelation from directly Jesus, were actually taken from Kenyon’s works word for word.
This discovery plunged the faith movement in the USA into crisis. Kenneth Hagin never said a word on it until his death. E. W. Kenyon’s daughter, to save the famous preacher from embarrassment, released a statement saying that the foundation on her father’s works, which had rights on them, was not aware of any plagiarism made by Hagin. But McConnell had proven it in his book and everyone discovered Hagin was a thief. Okwori took time to explain some of these things in his book and it was mind blowing for me.
In 2015, I eventually renounced Pentecostalism as a religion. Everything Okwori wrote then made a lot of sense to me. In, 1998, at the Redeemed Camp were my friend, Paul Adoyi, was given this book written by Okwori, Paul told me that close to a thousand other young people that came for that retreat were given free copies each. I have recently published a book and I know what kind of sacrifice would follow printing a thousand copies of one’s book and giving them all out free of charge. One of those young persons got the book to me and as Okworie wished in his own words above, I consulted that book and have found them very useful.
I present to you one of my teachers in the faith: E. M. Okwori. May the memories of the righteous remain blessed in our hearts. Amen.
(This article was first published in 2018 in mouthpiece.com.ng. It is republished here today to mark 7th year passing of Pastor Okwori)