TGS2022: It’s Been 30 Years Of God’s Faithfulness…Dr I.S James

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In those days, choosing to go into full time ministry was choosing a pathway with little prospects for success, which was why he rebelled against the call of God until he eventually surrendered to His will.

The singular conviction that God was behind it all, is what has kept him since that time. His parents were the biggest concern in his life in those days and their welfare the biggest barrier between him and ministry but when God gave him assurance that He would take care of them, he accepted and went into full-time ministry.

Below are excerpts of an interview with him on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary Celebration of Glory Christian Ministries.

It’s been 30 years since the establishment of Glory Christian Ministries, how would you describe the journey so far?

These thirty years have been full of ups and downs; challenges that have expanded and increased us and changed our perspectives. We have grown through it all. We are not the same people that started this journey for sure. Experiences, encounters and challenges change you; you learn and unlearn as you go. There were moments of sadness, there were moments of joy, times when one felt like giving up and of course those moments when you are excited because God chose to use us as channels to touch the lives of other people.

So, all in all, it’s been a very rewarding time. Besides, when you are on a journey because of God’s call, there are no other options but to continue even at moments when you feel like stopping. The conviction of the call and the commitment to the call is what drives you on through every obstacle.

What are the things that make Glory Christian Ministries stand out and the factor that has kept the Ministry growing?

Our complete reliance on God. There are some of us who came into this call, without any formal training, trusting fully the grace of God but mindful of our inadequacies or weaknesses, like Apostle Paul would put it.

When you are conscious of your own weaknesses, you have no other choice than to completely rely on the grace of God, which was what we did. We needed God at every turn, in every moment.

What’s your attitude to Ministries and Scandals?

Ministries and scandals are not supposed to go together. Our God is a holy God and should not be associated with anything unholy. There is nothing holy about scandals. It is always a sad moment when scandals occur.

The effects are always far reaching. God’s grace has been our mainstay these past 30years and we continue to trust him to keep us. This is not saying that we have not made mistakes.

What actually inspired you into ministry?

Nothing. I had no inspiration for going into ministry. In fact, I did not want to go into ministry. I wept for one month from August 1st, 1986 until the last day of the month as I waited on him through fasting and prayers.

When you are the only son in a typical Nigerian family in those days, with 8 sisters, and the only one who had the privilege of a university education, which was expected to facilitate access to a good job and wealth that will bring succour to the rest of the family, the dynamics were different. I knew what the expectations were.

They were like heavy burdens on my shoulder and I just knew I could not disappoint those expectations, especially my parents. In those days choosing to go into full time ministry was choosing a way of failure and endless struggle. Thank God for his mercy.

What are some of the challenges you went through that made you strong?

Challenges are the regular diet we live on in ministry. Every single day you wake up, you wake up to new sets of challenges. Be it in the management of resources or how to relate to people or to counsel certain cases that you absolutely have no clues about or other people you need to carry with heaviness in your heart to the place of intercessory prayers because of the hurt/problems they are going through.

Sometimes you cry and pray with them on your knees. You go to bed crying on their behalf; waking up and praying that by evening the cases that will be added to the list will be bearable by the grace of God. There are other areas like choosing and training leadership. In all, God has seen us through.

What has sustained you in ministry these 30 years?

The conviction of the call. You see, I loved my parents and I know what my parents did in helping me attain the little education I got, and I wanted to let them know that they did not labour in vain.

All I wanted was to get a job and look after my parents. I wanted them to live and not die. During the period of my preparatory waiting on God at the start of the ministry, He assured me. He said “You go take care of my work and I will keep your parents alive so you can take care of them”. My parents were already very sickly at that time. I knew my mother from when I was a little child to be very sickly. God’s assurance was the key that made me accept to go into ministry.

And faithful as always, He gave my mother more than 20 full years after His commitment, before she went home to be with Him. During those years, I was filled with endless joy at being able to look after her and my father (who passed away later) the way I had dreamed I would, many years previously. Actually, my mother became healthier; no more sickness for 20 years or more.

When my dad passed on three years after my mum, it was a great testimony for me because I didn’t see them living for that long and in good health before God’s assurance came and calmed my heart.

We are celebrating the third decade of the Ministry at this Summit. Can you provide some highlights for each decade?

In the first decade, the highlight was my total unpreparedness for the rapid expansion of the ministry. Because we didn’t have any preparatory training, we were not able to equip enough people to effectively manage the sudden expansion.

In a period of about 2 months, we opened 7 different churches across Lagos. That was the only way we could decongest the central location that could not contain the large number of worshippers coming in. That was a very hectic period. After some time, we found out we could not sustain some of those centres. Some we merged or let go to become independent churches and others had to return to the headquarters.

In the second decade, it was our foray into foreign countries beyond Nigeria. We had the opportunities, the experience and challenge of ministering to audiences in other countries.

In this current decade there are many highlights but the greatest probably would be seeing those whom you have raised up in the New Believer’s Class become ministers, build their own ministries, and seeing them thriving in other places. Seeing them now holding their own as ministers in different countries, gives me tremendous joy.

Nigerian parents almost always have plans for their children. Did your parents have any plans on what they wanted you to do after graduation?

Nothing specific that I was aware of. Just the general dream of becoming successful and being able to take care of them in their old age and the rest of the family. Where I come from, we were not many that had the opportunity to go to school in those days. If you went to school and completed your studies, that in itself was an achievement.

What was your parent’s reaction to you going into ministry?

Telling them that I was going into ministry was the most difficult thing I had to do in my life. Of course, I couldn’t immediately, but they had to find out basically. I had no courage.

I had a late cousin who was also a father-figure. I had to write a letter to him explaining things because it was from his home that I left for Lagos to start the ministry. When he got my letter, he replied thus: ‘Do you know what you are doing?’ My answer was, ‘Yes sir, I think I know what I am doing’. He continued, “If you think you know what you are doing, then you have my backing.”

That was it! I believe he was the one that explained things to my parents. I got to see my parents much later when things were a bit settled down so it was much easier for me. In those days, it was more like a death sentence. Later, I got to know what happened. I was told people literally went to my parents especially to my mum to ‘mourn’ and console her as if she had lost a child.

In those days, that was what it felt like when people chose “to become Pastor” (go into ministry), sentencing the whole family to debts and hopelessness.

Did your parents finally give you their blessings?

Yes, they did. My dad was especially proud of me. I think. And it was at that time he told me about a ‘contract’ he made with God when I was about 11years old.

And all that I remember was him taking me into his bedroom and making me kneel beside his bed and he also knelt down and prayed. It was the only time I remember praying together with my father! And of course, it was at a time when the terminology of being ‘born again’ wasn’t even known to us. This was about the time I had to leave home for the first time for another town for schooling.

I was the third male child he had; all the others had died. He never wanted me to go out of his sight. For me to go to another town to live with strangers was very frightening to him, especially the fact that the last oldest living son he had was poisoned by a relation through food. He was desperate for a male child to continue his lineage. It was then that he told me he made a vow with God and said, ‘Lord if you keep this one alive, you can use him for your work’. I wish he told me that before; I wouldn’t have gone through all the torture I had to go through. When we eventually met, months after I had accepted the call, he told me he wasn’t surprised, and that I had nothing to be worried about because of the vow he made many years before.

Have you always been their favourite child given all the things that happened…?

Oh no! I wasn’t. My father was proud of me but I don’t think I was the favourite because he did tell me before he died his favourite child. And it was among the daughters.

But being the first son, there were a lot of responsibilities. As for my mother, I knew she loved my elder sister the first born, and the last born my late younger brother was her pet. I was basically the ‘unwanted’ one to do the chores and to blame for every unfortunate occurrence in the house.

To tell you the truth, if not for Christianity, like I clearly told her plainly I would have had nothing to do with her because I grew up believing she didn’t love me.

I guess your call has been a mixbag of sacrifice, triumphs and defeats here and there. But at this point from being the son of a fisherman from a fishing pot, to now being a fisher of men, how fulfilling has this voyage been for you?

Nothing could have given me the fulfilment than this present call has given me. There are other things I probably would have wished to be but I am very proud and thankful to God for this choice.

At this age I can look back and say that nothing else could have given me this satisfaction and fulfilment in life. I am living the dream because of God’s abiding presence. You can never fall out of love with Him. When you fail, you fail for Him, when you win, you win for Him. That you are on God’s team, the winning team, gives you that satisfaction. There is no loss. It’s gain, gain, gain.What else can give you fulfilment more than that?

Most interesting moments in the ministry these 30 years?

There are many. The most exciting moments for me are when I see hope return into the hearts of the people who probably have lost hope on any issue or cause. When you see the light on their faces because God stepped in, probably using us, those are the moments. But one particular experience remains unforgettable for me.

Years back we were woken up by a lady pounding on our door in the night, in the same building of many rooms (face-me-I-face-you) If you know, you know. A baby born to another family in the same building about a week or two previously had gone into some sort of seizure in the night, and was now lying motionless, and there were no hospitals close enough to take the child. All the parents could do was call some traditional healers and they came with their charms.

Apparently, they had been making some incantations all through the night without any change in the baby’s condition. About 4am we were woken up by the pounding on our door by that lady. I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor, and my friend in the bed. That was the life at the time, and we jumped up with our wrappers around our waists as we ran to answer the door. The woman grabbed us by the hands and said, “You are the pastors, come.” Later, she pushed us inside the room and pointed to the baby, which was placed inside the crib. The child continued to jerk with unending seizures. They had oil and all kinds of charms and there were women weeping, yelling nonstop.

At that point they had given up because the child was not getting any better. I don’t know who or what told her to come to us. When we saw the situation, my friend and I looked at one another and started looking for excuses to get out of the place. The woman noticed our uneasiness, then she closed the door and stood in front of it. We told her there was no way we could do anything with all the charms and all items that were placed on the baby. She said “just a minute”. I believe the woman was related to the family because the mother of the child was already hysterical. She just went and remove all the charms and cleaned off the oil from the baby then she said: “Over to you.” Everybody in that whole building had gathered and we saw there was no way out; we basically looked at one another and said “why not?”.

We closed our eyes and began to call upon our God and began to rebuke the power of Satan, and called back life into that child. We kept on praying but what made us stop was the screams of the women and we thought that maybe the child had passed on.

When we opened our eyes, we actually saw that the seizures had stopped and the child was relaxed and opened his eyes. The women were shouting, then the mother came to pick up the child and fed him. The child survived and came back to life. It was a proud moment. We didn’t know what happened because our eyes were firmly closed. It was a good feeling, being able to walk out of that place with our heads high. Until we left that building, those women greatly respected us. They didn’t come to our church but they knew we were “pastors”.

To be given the privilege to represent God in moments like that was truly very special.

What are your expectations for the Ministry in the next 30year?

That was the focus of my last private retreat. Actually, I have a number of expectations. The focus has been on getting people saved and preparing them for the kingdom of God. We are grateful to God for the privilege.

But going forward, I believe our chief preoccupation will be to help people find their way up the different mountains from where culture is shaped so that in our little way we may add our piece to the fulfilment of the prophecy, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ and He shall reign for ever”.

It is time to raise as it were, a people with capabilities in politics, arts & entertainment, media, business, education, etc, who will strategically influence cultures everywhere according to the will of God. It is time to release into the mainstream genuine political change agents and inspirational business leaders with heart. It is time to release people like you into the media, arts and entertainment space so that the values of the kingdom may penetrate the culture and provide light for the rest of society. It is time to become more intentional about taking the kingdom of God into those strategic outposts of culture.

We have been given an assignment especially in GCM to become practical in our Christianity. It is time to take these values and use them to impregnate and penetrate areas that have been hitherto taken over by ungodly cultures and people. For as long as the church remains inside the buildings and centres and refuse to be what God said we should be, we would continue to witness the sad spectacle found in most cultures around us and in the world today. The church should be the salt of the earth, not salt inside church auditoriums or centres. We should be the light of the world, not the light inside the church building or centre. In other words, it is time to intentionally and strategically influence the cultures around us for God. I believe that the coming of the Lord Jesus is very near.

We need to move with more intentionality and haste in our preparation for his return. We must move away from contenting ourselves with feeding and enjoying ourselves inside our many worship centres while the world races downhill towards perdition. We must become more strategic in our approach to politics, the entertainment industry, education, etc. It is time for us to enable our people to move into education, politics, into governments, in the industries, in the entertainment world.

So for the next 10 years at least in GCM that will be our area of emphasis, impregnating and penetrating every sphere of man with kingdom values practically and responsibly.

Dr I.S James, Founding pastor of Glory Christian Ministries

In these 3 decades, are there people that you would like to acknowledge who have in one way or the other helped to advance the ministry?

The first person to acknowledge? That honour belongs to my wife, Pastor Faith. She has been with me every step of the way. She has seen me at my worst, she has seen me at my best. Probably no person has been able to encourage me better than she did. On many occasions when I felt like giving up, she would say, “Give up for what?” She willingly threw in all her lot with me saying: “If you fail, I fail; if you succeed, I succeed.” I guess there are many wives like that but I thank God who gave me my own; who saw my call as her call and threw in her lot with me. I knew she was with me so I had nothing to hold back, nothing to be afraid of, and thankfully God gave her the grace to pray. So, she was specially prepared by God for me to succeed.

There have been many months of being away from each other because of God’s work, which requires total commitment and devotion. I couldn’t have made it without her.

Secondly, there are others who are still in the ministry with me who are examples of true faithfulness. They are some of the closest people to me. The closer people are to you, the more of your nakedness they see and when they decide to remain with you regardless, they become very special indeed. Some may no longer be in GCM today but they still relate with me in a special way.

I am especially thankful for people like the pastor in charge of our Church at Satellite Town, Alakija Lagos, Mrs. Elizabeth Yemisi Duggan. I am thankful for Pastor Shola Famoye of the Okota Church, Pastor Femi Junaid of the Pretoria, South Africa church. I am thankful for Pastor Obote of the Twon Brass Church, which was actually the first branch of the Ministry. They are not the only ones; that’s why I hesitate in calling names. When you forget to mention other people you may create problems for yourself.

I want to make it very clear that there are obviously those who have done very well in being an encouragement.
The next class of people are those who are out there, who came out of GCM and are now in their own ministries but who still recognise the fact of where they come from. We call them “GCM in Diaspora”. From Pastor Babalola in Minnesota, USA to Pastor Chuks Nwachi of Grace & Glory Church Lagos and numerous others. These are people who grew up from this ministry but today are independent but still relate with us.
And there are some men of God who have been heaven’s special gifts to us all these years. This ministry has been blessed immeasurably over the years by great men that God sent to minister to us and impact us with His word. They are too many to mention.

But of course, our special thanks and respect will always go first and foremost to Pastor Tunde Bakare. He was God’s instrument at the inauguration of this Ministry on the 8th of March 1992. He was gracious enough to do that important work. Since then, he has stood with us and not because of what he could gain. I want to say clearly that there is no time in this 30-year period that Pastor Tunde Bakare has ever asked for anything for all the times he has come to minister to us. He has been a big moral support, spiritual guide, friend and father.

There is also the respected founder and presiding Bishop of TREM, the highly respected Bishop Mike Okonkwo. He and his wife, Bishop Peace have also been very consistent in their love to my family and the ministry. He has been a very helpful father figure that looks at you with love, prayerfully wanting you to succeed at anything. There are many other men of God but these ones have particularly been a great encouragement to us over the years. And in this Ministry we don’t joke with the blessing and honour of fathers.

You are known to be a blunt person. Have you always been like this or is it something that grew on you as you matured?

When people say that I always get surprised. I guess I do not know how to be anything else other than that. You need to get into my mind to understand why.

I believe it is better to make things clear and distinct enough for people so that they can understand exactly what you mean. As a preacher I have come to realise that there is always the message the preacher wants to preach, that is different from the message he eventually delivers, which also may be different from what the hearer eventually took away from what was said.

Going round and round for me makes things complicated. It is better to just hit the nail on the head. I think it is better for me, better for the person you are talking to, to be able to understand precisely what you are saying. A little bit of impatience and immaturity I must say had made that experience harder and more difficult for people. There are people who have been offended that way, unappreciative of the motive behind the message. I understand, but if they look at it from my own perspective, they would see that the impatience or the bluntness is not out of disrespect for them.

I want every person I have a chance to meet, to be impacted, to become successful. That’s my drive. In my much younger days I was considerably ‘sterner,’ grating on some people with my approach but none of it was out of spite or hate. But I think I have gotten better with age.

Given what you know today from your experiences, what would you have said to your younger self at 20 or 25 years old about life, ministry and marriage?

About life, I’ll pass. About ministry, I would say, be more patient with people. Not everyone is ready for what you want to impart. Not everybody actually wants to change. That I have come to learn. Some people just came for an experience. They just came to see. Not everybody really wants to have what you have to give. So be patient with people, understand where people are coming from and be more accommodating. That’s what I would say to the younger me.

In marriage, I would say listen more to your spouse. Very often these days I look at my wife and I say to her, how did you survive with me in those younger days? Some of us placed ministry above the needs of the wife. That was wrong. I would say to my younger self, wife comes first, parenting comes first, paying attention to the kids comes first before ministry work.

Those are things I didn’t put in the right order. Those are things I would say to my younger self.

How do you unwind?

I love football and played a bit of it. Today you get to watch them in professional leagues. Everybody seems to have their own team. So when I have the chance I sit down, watch sports especially football and especially after ministering.

The second thing is anything that makes me laugh. That’s why I love clean, godly comedy. Very often what passes as comedy in Nigeria is some foolish children making fun and disrespectful remarks about God and things about God that we hold very sacred. That is the reason I am opposed to the Nigerian brand of comedy. One of my most favourite comedians is Mark Lowry, the writer of the popular Christmas song, ‘Mary did you know?’ When you listen to people like that, they make you laugh, and they make you learn at the same time. That’s because someone like him is a graduate of Bible School training, a singer and an entertainer.

Once you begin to make fun of the values and the things of God that I love, that repels me.

And if I don’t have any chance to see any of these, then I go for nature, National Geographic Channel, watching nature. Seeing God’s creations whether in the sea or anywhere else amazes me.

You hardly have time as you get older for other things to help you relax, but whenever you have time, take a moment to appreciate some of God’s wonders in nature.

Last words…

My dear friends, please be serious about your relationship with God. And maintain the sacredness of sacred things.

There is too much unseriousness in the church. People today have replaced godliness, intimacy with God with activities. They go to a place called church, give tithes or offerings, sing some songs and think in their hearts, “that’s it God. I’ve given You your due. Now, leave me alone to do my thing for the rest of the day, week or month”. And they call that Christianity!

Our walk with God is far more than all these things. Those activities do not replace or even amount to real Christianity. Those are the things that will not even count in heaven. Those are just expressions, fallouts of the intimacy we share with God.

It breaks my heart that when people say they are Christians, you can hardly see passion and longing for God as you observe them. This morning for instance my prayer was, “Lord You are my breath, I live in You. I live because of You. Without You I will suffocate and die. I need You. I just need You to live”.

That’s God to me. He is everything. I can’t think about living or doing anything else outside of God. The greater desire I have is that each time He looks at me, He is pleased that I bring him a smile. That should be the desire in the hearts of Christians, at least those who say they have chosen Him as their God.

There are too many activities, distractions, entertainments that have now replaced that hunger and intimacy and passion in the hearts of God’s people and that really bothers me and I don’t know whether we as pastors are doing enough to communicate this as we should. I just pray that people realise that when eventually we stand before Him none of these activities, we give so much time and emphasis to will come to qualify for entrance with Him.

Remember, on the last day He said this will be said to so many “I never knew you, depart from me.” But we all know the meaning of the word “knew”, used to describe the most intimate relationship between a man and a woman. So basically, God is saying, I need to know you. We need to be intimate. We need to walk together.

That seems to be lacking in this generation. I pray that people will get back to it, especially in this #TGS2022. I pray that intimacy with God will be our focus; that when all is over, not in the glamour, lights or everything we do, people will be drawn to Him. They will fall in love with Him all over.

Quotes: “When you acknowledge your own weaknesses, you have no other choice than to completely rely on God.”
“If a man’s way pleases God, God can cause even his darkness to become light.”
“According to the Bible, comparing ourselves with other people is not something that is wise.”
“When you are on a journey because of God’s call, there are no other options but to continue even at moments when you feel like stopping.”
“Be patient with people and be accommodating. Not everyone is ready for what you want to impart.
“Listen more to your spouse. Your spouse comes first, parenting comes first. Paying attention to the kids comes first before ministry work.
“The conviction of the call and the commitment to the call is what leads you to face every obstacle.”

“Challenge is the regular diet we live on in ministry. Every day you wake up to a new set of challenges whether it is in the management of resources or on how to relate with people, or to counsel certain cases that you absolutely have no clues about”