Following the death of the Nigerian televangelist Témitope Balogun Joshua, who founded the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, there have been a multitude of tributes and obituaries. Religious scholar George Nche, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Johannesburg, explains Joshua’s enormous influence and impact on African Christianity.
Who was TB Joshua?
The late Temitope Balogun Joshua (known as Prophet TB Joshua) was a charismatic pastor and founder of the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Ikotun-Egbe, Lagos, Nigeria. He was born on June 12, 1963 in Ondo State, Nigeria. He was educated at St. Stephen’s Anglican Primary School, Ikare-Akoko, Ondo State, from 1971 to 1977, but was unable to complete high school.
Early in his life he struggled considerably. For a period, he did many menial jobs, including garbage collection.
His frequent involvement in church activities as a child earned him the nickname “little pastor”. The ecclesial community could not then know that he would become a religious leader of international renown with great significance affecting.
His church attracted a congregation of more than 15,000 people. People came to his synagogue in Lagos from several countries in Africa and elsewhere. His sermons and healing activities were televised on Emmanuel TV – a television station he founded that was dedicated to the activities of his church.
TB Joshua was also an outstanding philanthropist, which made him even more endearing to many admirers. him. He has received numerous awards for these activities. One was the Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic awarded by the Nigerian government in 2008.
What role did he play in the advancement of Pentecostalism and Televangelism?
Pentecostalism appears to be, among other things, a “problem-solving” movement (both spiritual and physical) that has miracle and healing at its heart. Its origin and growth, especially in Africa, is largely driven by people’s expectations and beliefs in the healing and transformative power of Holy Spirit.
TB Joshua has met those expectations. Many miracles in the form of economic prosperity and Divine healing would have been received in his church or at a distance by his prayers. It has been a major draw for many people across Africa and beyond.
Many personalities and celebrities were visitors to his church. Among them were Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, South African opposition party leader Julius Malema and international footballer Joseph Yobo. Nigerian actor Jim Iyke reportedly visited him in search of healing.
This was a major means by which he contributed to the advancement of the Pentecostal movement in Africa.
In addition, the non-denominational nature of the Synagogue Church of All Nations has protected the church from interfaith struggles. This made it open and accessible to people from “all nations”, regardless of their affiliations. No wonder he has a large congregation and many devotees.
Joshua’s philanthropic activities further portrayed the Synagogue Church of All Nations in a good light. In giving to the poor, Joshua presented his ministry as a movement concerned not only with the spiritual well-being of the people, but also with their physical prosperity.
Joshua has also made a substantial contribution to the advancement of televangelism in Africa. For example, the Emmanuel TV The channel was founded in 2007 by Joshua and widely used to present the activities of the Synagogue Church of All Nations. These activities include Bible readings, teachings, testimonies of miracles, and Christian children’s programs such as cartoons.
Before the suspension from its YouTube account for videos claiming to “cure” homosexuality, Emmanuel TV had more than 1 million subscribers, making it one of the most subscribed Christian YouTube channels in the world.
Joshua also had over 5 million followers on Facebook and over 4,000 on Twitter. Like the American historical phenomenal televangelistsJoshua used these media platforms to spread Pentecostal ideas, advance the Synagogue Church of All Nations brand, and promote the idea of televangelism in Africa.
Why was he so controversial?
TB Joshua has been embroiled in a lot of controversy. These are due in part to his involvement and “unpopular” positions on sensitive socio-political and health issues, and in part because of his “unorthodox” ways of worship.
For example, there was the stampede this led to the deaths of four worshipers in a rush for its “holy water”; the “misleading” account he gave of the cause of the 2014 tragedy in which 116 people died when a guesthouse attached to the Church of All Nations Synagogue building collapsed; the suspension of his YouTube channel over his claim he could be cured homosexuality; his politics and his sports dissatisfied prophecies; and his claim to have the power to heal Ebola and HIV, and to have remotely cured COVID-19 patients from an isolation center in Honduras, central America.
He was also criticized by the general public churches for being heretical and deceptive for his routine way of administering healing by selling morning holy water and stickers.
A critical urged Christians “to stay away” from Joshua and those who mix “Christianity and paganism in a very seductive way.”
What legacy will he leave?
Joshua’s death has left a void that will take time to be filled. His undeniable mannerism and courage, his philanthropic temperament and his “spiritual gifts” will be missed by his followers.
However, his greatest legacy, the Synagogue Church of All Nations, is likely to survive, perhaps under the leadership of his wife and children as well as the many pastors who formed under him.
History shows that churches generally outlive their founders and in some cases still grow. An example is the case of the redeemed Christian Church of God, which developed vigorously under Enoch Adejare Adeboye, who became the general overseer after the death of the founder, Josiah Olufemi Akindayomi, in 1980.
However, there are also examples of churches that died with their founders. One example is the Mai Chaza Church, which shrank after the death of its Zimbabwean founder, Theresa Nyamushanya, in 1960.