The spread of charismatic revival through independent evangelists

Austen C. Ukachi

Austen C. Ukachi

Two ministries, the Hour of Freedom Evangelistic Association (HoFEA) founded by Stephen Okafor, Raphael Okafor, and Arthur Orizu, and the Masters Vessels Group (MVG), founded by Joshua Uhiara and Felix Okafor, influenced the Charismatic revival in Igboland immediately after the civil war. They helped to mentor a generation of Charismatic revivalists, who spread the revival to other parts of Nigeria.

They pioneered the teaching of the baptism in the Holy Spirit after contacts with Muyiwa Olamijulo and Mike Oye, two Scripture Union travelling secretaries. By 1973, some young men from HoFEA, such as Edozie Mba, Paul Nweke now Nwachukwu, Augustine Nwodika, Emeka Eze and Charles Nwafor, started the Riches of Christ Mission. Within two years, it had 66 congregations. Due to schisms within Riches of Christ Mission, some of its leaders broke away to start Grace of God Mission (1978), All Believers Fellowship Group (1978), All Christians Fellowship Mission (1979), Bible Faith Mission (1979), Living Faith (1985), Bread of Life Mission (1988), Higher Dimensions Ministries (1988), Overcomers’ Bible Church (1991) and Throne of Grace Church (2000). In turn, Masters Vessel Church spread out and planted branches in Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Port Harcourt and Uyo.

Four Key Igboland Evangelists
Stephen Okafor, Ralph Okafor, Felix Okafor, and Joshua Uhiara, early converts of the Scripture Union during the civil war, were not only destined to play a major role in pioneering the revival in the East, but also shaped the lives of many others, who were to help spread the revival beyond the shores of Igboland to other parts of Nigeria. From 1971, they spread the flames of the Charismatic revival across the nation through their various open-air crusades and street evangelism. Those they influenced include Rev. Dr. Obiorah Ezekiel, the General Superintendent of the Christian Pentecostal Mission and Rev. N.C. Thompson of Redeemed Peoples Mission, among others.

By 1970, Ezekiel and Thompson found themselves in Lagos working under Pastor Joe Matthews of the Grace Missionary Assembly (GMA) in Mushin, Lagos. It did not take long before Pastor Joe Matthews discovered God’s Hand on these two young men. Pastor Joe Matthews sponsored independent evangelists to hold crusades in various cities across Nigeria. “God started using Matthews’ paid evangelists, such as Reverends O. Ezekiel, Brown Etokwu, Gabriel Nwaokoro, Evangelist Arthur Orizu, N. C. Thompson, etc. in spreading the revival fire in the Southern part of Nigeria.”

From September 1973, Rev. Thompson was posted to the North by Rev. Joe Matthews to continue with his burgeoning ministry. From his base in Jos, he held miracle-healing crusades all over the North, when such kind of public crusades were not so common. Benson Ezeokeke and Edward Ezenwafor also held crusades in the North under the banner of Christ for All Nations. Similarly, Rev. O. Ezekiel and Rev. William Okoye held crusades all over Nigeria in the 1970s. While in the Southeast, Tony Okeke, Jonathan Ikegwuonu, John Okafor, and Lewis Morah operated at Nnewi under the banner of the Save the Lost Mission.

Charismatic Ministries
By 1973 a plethora of Charismatic ministries had emerged in Igboland. Frequent schisms changed the structure of these ministries over time. Schisms and splinters are common phenomena among Charismatic churches; they are endemic in Pentecostalism in Africa. In Igboland, at one point in the 1970s, there were over a thousand Charismatic congregations. By 2012, the figure would have quadrupled.

Not even Pastor Elton with his overarching spiritual authority could bring a permanent solution to schisms among the churches in Igboland. At best, he brought a temporary unity among a few.
Contact: pastoracukachi@gmail.com

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Austen C. Ukachi


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