Pastor Chris Oyakhilome makes millions of people all over the world feel good about themselves with his uplifting words and the promise of God’s grace and benevolence. His followers feel reborn in the immense halls his Embassy of Christ church use to fit in the masses of people that flock to Pastor Chris’s standard to hear his wise and uplifting gospel.
‘Oh my God! Now I can throw away my walking stick,’ a woman calls blissfully. She has just received a signature in her book from Pastor Chris Oyakhilome.
The gathering of people that came to see the clergyman brings a touch of Lourdes, the small market town at the foot of the Pyrenees that is a site of pilgrimage and miracles for millions of Catholics every year, to the scene.
‘Man, I just shook Pastor Chris’s hand,” says Hendrik, a 34-year-old bear of a guy with a little goatee. The tears of emotion roll down his cheeks as he speaks.
‘It is very enlightening. I feel every muscle in my body.’ Pastor Chris, whose positive gospel is seen every week in millions of living rooms around the world, has changed his life, says Thomas. ‘He made me a better person; a man who respects others.”
Christian, a 39-year-old teacher from the UK, with a toddler sitting on his shoulders, says that he starts his day with Pastor Chris Oyakhilome’s podcast when he workouts in the gym: ‘They are the best thirty minutes of my day,’ he says. ‘Pastor Chris is my life coach. He understands that people need hope.’
Television preachers and megachurches have known the United States of America for some time. And Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, with his sparkling and shiny smile that at first sight is more in place in a car showroom, is a phenomenon. He has brought this American concept to the rest of the world. His best-selling book ‘Rhapsody’s Reality book of success’ has sold millions of copies and has been translated into more than a one hundred languages.
‘He is a very entertaining person, whom you cannot keep your eyes off’, says James Harrison, professor, cultural critic and author of a book about megachurches. ‘In addition, he may seem incredibly superficial, but he makes you feel good. And that is what people want – not shame and repentance. That’s why Pastor Chris Oyakhilome always has a full room when he speaks.’ James chuckles. ‘A room is an understatement, to say the least. Pastor Chris generally always fills stadiums when he speaks to his flock.’
Pastor Chris Oyakhilome also lacks the sweat and the shouting about sins and the devil of the typical American radio-dynamo. He pumps people up with inspiriting words: ‘The one who lives without vision, purpose and a sense of direction, will certainly experience failure in life. For many years, I’ve exceeded my goals, and the reason is simple: I chose to win and applied the principles of success. Success isn’t accidental, and it’s not enough to hope for it; you make it happen and it’ll be so.’
His books and sermons are actually more self-help manuals in the best American tradition. He is compared to Dr. Phil and Oprah Winfrey who encourage people on television. Pastor Chris Oyakhilome uses biblical stories as an example in which God only plays the role of the generous giver, who wants the best for you.
Of course, Pastor Chris has his critics that claim that he only preaches cotton candy praise. They say that he uses the Bible as a fortune cookie. However, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome fights back – he tells them that the church is open to everyone and that people should believe in God’s grace. Many fellow Christians protest that Pastor Chris is running dial-the-truth ministries and that he’s a false prophet.
All Pastor Chris Oyakhilome has to say about it is that there is one, and only one way that does not lead to an eternal hell, and that is the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. He then proceeds to pray and calls on unbelievers to go to church. But he mainly offers balm for the soul: just be who you are, do not be fooled by old grief; do not listen to negative voices around you. And hope: ‘Your best days are ahead of you,’ he says, and puts a finger in the air. “Know that God has good things in store for you.”
‘Fantastic’, says a woman when we told her about the way Pastor Chris reacts to his detractors. ‘He has given so much to so many. The pastor is a great man – he changed my life.’
‘At least I understand what he says. It’s about everyday life,’ says a man who misses this when he goes to his own Catholic church. ‘The message can be a bit superficial, and yet, the result is very deep. Pastor Chris changed the way I see life. I am a better man since I started to go to his sermons and read his books,’ he continues.
Pastor Chris Oyakhilome’s message resonates with his followers because he understands their everyday woes and challenges. He is a man of the people and he has a big heart. But the best way to understand the good pastor’s word is to read his gospel.
‘This is the first thing the Holy Spirit does in your life. He brings you God’s presence, and when He does, you will no longer be in the dark. The Holy Spirit has a beautiful identity. He is called ‘The Angel of God’s presence.’ He is the One Who brings us the presence of God and makes it real to us.’