When a Son Should not Succeed a Father
By: Deji Yesufu
Charles Haddon Spurgeon is the most recent ancestor for all of us who hold profession to the Reformed Baptist faith. When Spurgeon began to pastor the New Park Street Chapel (later named London Metropolitan Tabernacle) in 1856, one of the first things he did was to introduce the 1689 London Baptist Confessions to his congregation. Spurgeon understood the liberal bent that English Christianity was about to take, and he positioned his congregation to battle the enemy headlong. Spurgeon was, however, not always successful in everything he sought to do ministry-wise. For example, he wanted his son, Thomas, to succeed him in the pulpit ministry at the Tabernacle. Thomas, however, had other plans. Thomas felt called a missionary to foreign lands. It is said that this troubled the great Prince of Preachers. When Spurgeon died in 1892, his pulpit was taken over by Authur Tappan Pierson. A year later, the Tabernacle inaugurated Thomas as minister at the church his father used to Pastor. The church convinced Thomas to take up the mantle the father left behind. They understood enough the pressing desires of the great Spurgeon and that the young man, Thomas, had earned the right to succeed his father.
On the 7th of August, 2023, Taiwo Odukoya, Pastor of Fountain of Life Church, with headquarters at Ilupeju, Lagos, died in far away United Kingdom. He was aged 67 years old. Taiwo Odukoya had lost his well known wife and preacher, Bimbo Odukoya, in 2005 to the ill fated Sossoliso flight that year. Prior to her death, she was known as a charismatic preacher, a motivational speaker and one of the leading female preachers in Nigeria. Taiwo and Bimbo had a son, Jimmy, before their deaths. Jimmy Odukoya is the subject of our discussion today. Jimmy Odukoya has been proclaimed the worthy successor to his parent’s legacy as founders and pastors of Fountain of Life Church. The trouble is not with his succession; the trouble is with the hues and cries that have greeted this announcement. People in churches are worried with the reality they are faced with: it appears that church work has essentially become family business in Nigeria. People invest time, talent and treasure in church, and then watch as they are bypassed at the death of the founder, while children that know little or nothing about the church are announced successors. In this article, I want to suggest when it is ideal for a son to succeed a father. And when it is not.
Naturally speaking, where all things are the way they should be, children should succeed their parents in a family’s line of work. Biblically speaking, the Hebrew were herdsmen that took this line of business from Abraham. The Aaronic priesthood passed through the sons of Aaron. Just as God honoured the Davidic line of royal succession, so that one day, the Son of David, Jesus Christ, will rule the nations. If a father carries out a work with integrity and professionalism, a son would have long learnt the spirit of that work before even venturing into the meat of it. So that by the time the father is old and passing, the son would have long taken over. We saw this in the life of the late Queen of England. For years, Charles had taken over most of his mother’s duties. So that at her death, he just took over the running of the monarchy – seamlessly.
There is however a few reasons why things are a bit different with the Odukoyas. The number one reason concerns the spirit and life of the Pentecostal/Word of Faith religion. At the heart of this religion is not service to God but service to self. Those of us who have observed this religion have seen how the consistent testimony from within her ranks is self-promotion, success, self-preservation, self exaltation, and personality cults. So that the almost universal certainty is that the moment the founder dies, the wife succeeds him. Or, the moment husband and wife are no more, the son is the natural successor. It doesn’t matter even if the son was known more in the entertainment circles than in ministry life. Again, the problem is not with Jimmy taking over his father’s work; the problem is with the spirit of the father’s work in the first place. If these churches had been known as places where the poor is catered for; where the sick have found shelter; where the gospel is preached and sinners are converted; and where the leaders are living sacrificial lives, no one will say anything. They will understand that Jimmy is coming to serve and not to enrich himself. At the death of Spurgeon, the church was housing the largest Christian gathering in the world. Thomas Spurgeon understood the immense responsibility he would be getting into, and the natural tendency was to shrug it off. When ministry becomes an inheritance, rather than service, people have a right to complain.
My son, Iseoluwa, will be ten years old next month. Last Sunday, after church, I commented to a few people that I look forward to him learning theology and becoming a preacher like me. But my son will not be succeeding me as pastor of Providence Reformed Baptist Church, Ibadan. If he must, my son would have to receive a call from God to serve Him in Christian ministry. Then he would have to learn theology and become personally convinced of the Reformed Baptist faith. Following that, my son would have been serving in the local church in various positions. And if at my retirement or death, the church appoints him my successor, to God be all the glory. In the natural, because I see how much sacrifice true ministry comes with and how little money one makes, I’ll be sending my child to school to become a consummate professional in the field of medicine, law or engineering. If while serving there, God calls him to ministry, that will be between him and God.
Sons can succeed their fathers in business, and usually this is how it should be. There is however too many things wrong with the Pentecostal/Word of Faith religion that lends people towards suspecting her of foul play every time they make the headlines. No one can say for sure whether it is right or wrong for Jimmy to succeed his father in ministry. The heart motivation of all parties involved in this matter alone will justify the decision. But because the Pentecostal/Word of Faith religion is almost always self serving, people have a reason to be suspicious of every action taken within these churches.