Pentecostal churches are wildly popular in Nigeria — and increasingly rich, as they run thriving businesses empires on the side. Critics say they exploit people’s faith.
“The siege of unemployment is over in your life, the siege of business stagnation, frustration in your life are finally over.”
The prosperity gospel by David Oyedepo sounds hypnotizing. A crowd of 50,000 people is taking in every word. 50,000 — that is the current capacity of the Living Faith Church just outside of Lagos, the country’s third biggest Pentecostal church.
Many more listen to Oyedepo outside this megachurch, those who did not get a seat inside. They raise their hands towards the sky in devotion, in hopes their prayers will be heard. Oyedepo is just one of many pastors in Nigeria who promise positive change.
astor’s multi-million dollar net worth
The pastor, who calls himself bishop, knows what people in Nigeria need the most: stability and jobs. His net worth is estimated to be $150 million (€128 million). Many of his followers want to be like him. They yearn for prosperity in the country that ha the highest number of people living in extreme poverty worldwide.
Nigeria, instable as the violent campaign by jihadist militants Boko Haram has been raging for almost a decade, has experienced an economic recession in recent years. The government promises change, but the country is plagued by mismanagement and massive corruption. It was during this period that the number of Pentecostal churches began to increase. There are at least 500 in Nigeria, some of them with branches worldwide. Nigerians turn to faith as their trust in the government wanes.
Service as a mass event
The country is already one of the most religious in the world: About 50 percent of the country is Muslim. An estimated 80 million people are Christian and about half of them are members of a Pentecostal church.
I am attending the third service of the Living Faith Church, but it takes a while before I find the entrance. The church is on a huge campus with parking lots, a private university and a school. Friendly welcome teams usher me in with thousands of other worshippers.