Pastor Jerry Eze, our wives and the virus that has come to stay, By Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo

 Opinion 

Pastor Jerry Eze | Pa Enoch Adeboyo

A new era of Pentecostal prosperity preaching dispensation is upon us. Move over, Pastor Enoch Adebayo. Move over, Pastor David Oyedepo. Move over, Apostle Johnson Suleman. Move over, Bishop Mike Okonkwo. A new kid is on the block.

A change of guard is taking place in our eyes. Sometimes we need to step away and get a drone-generated area view before we can understand the transition. Gone are the days of Apostle Johnson Suleman mesmerizing us with one scandal after another. Even his usual 3rd-rated Nollywood women have figured out that they should be classier than what the man offers. Gone are the days of Pastor Enoch Adeboye tantalizing us with stories of driving from Ore to Lagos in a car without petrol, an empty tank. In today’s market of N500/liter of petrol, that miracle would have been a pay-per-view opportunity if only he patented it and delivered it on demand. Gone are the days when Pastor David Oyedepo slaps around troubled small girls who come into his church for healing, and the congregation claps for him. He goes to the pulpit to read a satire written by Olatunji Dare. He tells his trusting and non-interrogating audience that the story of President Buhari being a clone from Sudan is a news story inspired by God.

Those are the dark ages of the Pentecostal prosperity preaching.

The new age is here, and the wonder preacher, Pastor Jerry Eze, owns it. He emerges with one simple scintillating line – what God cannot do, does not exist.

What God cannot do does not exist is the most honest one-line description of God ever conceived. And that is why it is very effective.

“It attracts wives, our wives,” a friend told me. He said, “Our wives’ ability to compartmentalize makes it easy for them to avoid looking at the other side of the coin – that God that can do anything does not do only good things; that God does bad things, too, and allows bad things to happen under his watch.”

My friend’s wife wakes up in New Jersey at 2.00 a.m., what in the past we called ungodly hours, to tune into Pastor Jerry Eze’s live prayer and declaration show on YouTube. That means she sleeps early so she can wake up at 2.00 p.m. And most nights, she wants to keep her body and soul clean in readiness for hours of prayers, so no action for my friend.

He made me watch the spectacle that was Pastor Eze’s prophetic prayers and declarations one day.

It was out of this world. The performance was comparable to that of a rock star like Michael Jackson. He makes the preaching of the Adeboyes and the Sulemans of this world look like a funeral service.

The 40-year-old Pastor Jerry Eze shot into the limelight during the COVID-19 lockdown. While Pastor Chis Oyakhilome was busy scaring people and sewing conspiracy theories, Pastor Eze told CNN that he went online to give people hope.

“It wasn’t a goal to reach the world,” Eze said. “During the (peak of) COVID, there was a palpable fear everywhere, and I noticed that a lot of my church people were very scared of coming around the church. So, every morning, my wife and I will come online, spreading encouragement to people.”

Three years after, he has the most popular online gospel channel on YouTube, beating the Brazilian preacher, Bruno Leonardo. The figures of his online ministry’s daily reach are out of this world. In the last three years, he has had over 240 million views. He now has the record as the most daily super-chatted Gospel Channel in the world. With over 1.4 million subscribers and 1,653 videos, he has received over $2,523,810 in super chats, an average of $9817 daily. His YouTube channel is 24th in Nigeria, with 1,393 live streams.

I did not know what super chat was in January last year. But housewives in Ikorodu, Toronto, Los Angeles, Kent, Duesseldorf, Melbourne, Dubai, etc., had figured it out and used it to send money to Pastor Jerry Eze. In the short period that I watched his show, I saw super chats landing on the YouTube channel from all over the world in different currencies. I felt sorry for Apostle Suleman. The remaining hair on Apostle Suleman’s head will soon fall off.

Unlike your regular prosperity preacher, Pastor Eze centers his ministry around healing. He prays for financial breakthroughs but mostly about healing. His declaration of cures to ailments attracts those who have sickness and needs. Unlike those pastors who preached the denial of the existence of illness in the first place, he attacks the disease with fervent prayers. Watching him, you would think he was physically wrestling with the disease.

Halfway into his performance, like a good marketing executive, he shows recorded testimonial videos of people that God answered their prayers because of his intervention. By the way, Pastor Eze has a Business Administration certificate from the Enugu State University of Technology (ESUT). You will find the typical testimonials of women who conceived after years of marriage, kids whose illnesses vanished after doctors had declared a few more days of life. And then, some got jobs, and others received financial breakthroughs. Those people now become the point of contact for those dreaming of similar healing or fortune. And the other point of contact is the super chat, of course.

Pastor Eze’s biography is another draw for his followers. He was born in poverty and only went to Abia State University because a couple took him in and paid for his education. “I came from a family where poor people will describe my family as poor,” he told CNN. “There were days my mum and I had no food to eat, and my mum would hold my hand and pray and give thanks to God. My mum was a single parent and a petty trader who sold groundnuts in the market … There were days she’d come home crying, having not made any sales, so unable to buy us what to eat.”

Despite the poverty, he quit the promising job as Communications Specialist with the World Bank project for HIV/AIDS and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to go into full-time ministry.

In 2011, Pastor Jerry Eze started Streams of Joy International as a regular church. When COVID-19 hit, he founded the New Season Prophetic Prayers and Declaration (NSPPD), an online digital prayer meeting. Though he is known for his live-streamed morning prayers worldwide, his church is growing from Nigeria to the US, UK, and Canada. He has moved his headquarters from Umuahia to Abuja.

Pastor Eze met his wife, Eno, a pastor in her own right, while they were both students at Abia State University. In an interview with Modern Men Magazine, Eno said, “I met my husband in my 300 Level at the university. My husband was the pastor of All Saints Chapel of Redemption in school. It was a big deal in those days. He was popular and everyone was talking about this new pastor that could preach so well. That was how I got to know him. I just knew him from a distance. However, on the 15th of November 2002, we had a relationship program in my fellowship, and I remember sowing a seed for marriage and praying that night like never before. By the next day, the 16th of November, 2002, my husband walks up to me and tells me that God asked him to meet me and tell me he is my husband. You can imagine. It took me a while to agree finally. So, ours started from the outset with marriage in view.”

To my friend in New Jersey, whose wife wakes up at 2.00 a.m. daily to join Pastor Jerry Eze, “He has his wife who sleeps with him on the same bed and often co-ministers with him,” he said. “My family has been falling apart since he came in. He should let us have our wives at night. And he should let us keep managing our money the way we used to before he came in and grabbed a big chunk of it every day.”

It was not polite to tell my friend to stop blaming Pastor Eze for his family’s plight. I do not know what they are going through. I could not ask my friend if his wife had an aliment or a financial need for which she was sowing seeds. But other acquaintances that I sampled their opinions about Pastor Eze and the morning prayers shared similar experiences.

One guy went on a tirade about the tyranny of today’s pastors. “They first capture your wife,” this angry man in Boston said. “Once they do that, it is over. I tell you, that first woman who called a pastor, daddy, should be fished out and hanged. That was when everything went to hell. Women how respect pastors more than their husbands. They listen to pastors and get their permission before they do anything around the house. White people did not control us, black people, like these pastors, control our wives.”

It is good that, unlike Apostle Suleman, Pastor Eze has no time to hang out with Nollywood ladies.

“I don’t have friends, I don’t hang out, I don’t have spare time. I can’t tell what my hobbies are anymore because there’s no room for hobbies,” he said.

That did not bring solace to my friend in New Jersey or the man in Boston. They still want their wives back to whom they were before they first clicked on Pastor Eze’s YouTube channel.

In a way, Pastor Eze did not give them any hope of that ever happening when he told CNN, “I am the virus that has come to stay.”

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