By Eric Elezuo
As controversial as many may see him, the obvious fact remains that Nigeria-born, England based pastor, Tobi Adegboyega, is busy transforming young and youthful lives into the wonders they were created to be, using his Salvation Proclaimers Anointed Church (SPAC Nation), a Christian denomination worship centre in East London.
Situated at The Atrium on 124 Cheshire St, London, SPAC Nation was established to rekindle hope in lost and about to be lost lives, especially among black youths.
According to the church’s site, “SPAC NATION is a faith based organisation that is committed in seeing the lives of young people being transform ed. A generation whereby many young people have been dejected, abused and simply overlooked, SPAC NATION merely offers an alternative, whilst changing the narrative of this generation one step at a time.
“Taking a hands-on-approach, SPAC NATION offers 1:1 mentorship/key work sessions, counselling and guidance through the means of lifestyle evangelism’’. A concept that is not common within today’s society, SPAC NATION breaks the mould…”
In a research conducted by BBC in 2019, it was observed that Adegboyega, who is said to be the cousin of Britain based popular actor, John Boyega, in collaboration with five other pastors (the generals) working with him, has helped many young people to lay down their arms and take the bible as well as worthy and rewarding businesses for a greater and better future, and of course many testimonies abound. Each of the pastors runs one of five churches across the capital.
Popularly known as PT (Pastor Tobi) by adherents, the young up and mobile Nigerian pastor is always the cynosure of all eyes during his services, which more than anything, takes the shape of a celebration, and the message is principally ‘prosperity gospel’ – a belief that God rewards his followers with material wealth – and the more they give, the more they will be rewarded.
Like every flamboyant preacher, Adegboyega attracts condemnation from most people who do not know how his church is run, and others who may have been fed with insiders account albeit wrongly. But he affirmed that he has not taken anybody’s or church’s money, his flashy lifestyle notwithstanding. It is reported that he drives a Rolls Royce among others, wears matching designer outfits, and eyewitness account on the spot, says he was ‘sporting a £15,000 watch’.
PT’s denials came in the wake of claims by young followers that they have been left in thousands of pounds of debt, calling to question the church’s inner workings. But PT explains, bringing to the fore the reasons the church and its pastors sort of appear ostentatious:
“We realised young people need help. That help may be getting into college, or getting out of a gang.
“I realised that to connect with the generation you have to look like them.
“What are they looking for? Why are they attracted to drill rap? They want the shoes, and the clothes.
“We thought we’re going to do the same thing, and wear what they wear, then we’ll pass on the right message.
“I can easily pull up in a nice car among secondary school kids who may be about to start selling drugs. They ask what I do and I get them engaged.
“Once I get their attention I can pass on the right message, and tell them they’ll make money by changing their lives. We had to attract them.”
Adegboyega, himself, a pastor’s son and trained lawyer, has truly exhibited charisma in everything he has been engaged in, especially in the way he has been getting the young ones to jettison a life of crime and gangsterism to embrace the loving Word of God and genuine business. He is far from the typical everyday minister.
“SPAC is a very different kind of church. It’s not your typical church.
“We tell them there’s something better, whether that’s a start-up business, or education – if they weren’t part of our church many would be in prison, or dead.”
The wealth on display, apparently is also a cause for concern, given the vulnerability of many youngsters looking for a better way of life. Tobi believes that instead of allowing the youngsters seek good life through crime, it were better they are introduced to Christ, using all the trappings of the good life they envisaged.
In his church are neatly arranged rows of weapons, mostly knives, which have been surrendered by repented gangsters and small time criminals in what appears like a gangster movie.
While the church denies all allegations, vulnerable teens have opined that extortion reign supreme in the church in as much BBC reporter said she saw otherwise ‘when I spent a Sunday there’.
Tobi’s SPAC is another fortress with hefty looking and well dressed security men in their numbers, syrveying and parading the length and breath of the church. The measure, the church explains, is necessary because of the likelihood of persons coming in with weapons.
“We have very strong security measures in place. My first duty is to make everyone feel safe. The security we have, they are also from that background, so they know to sit certain people in separate areas.
“We’ve had arguments and near clashes but no one’s been beaten up because of our security.
“We have briefings every week. The head of our security has served in the military and one is an ex-policeman. We don’t do searches but we’re always keeping an eye out.
“People do bring weapons, but most do it to submit it to the church.”
He insisted that people come into the church with weapons only to surrender them. This sometimes is a consequence of appeals and admonitions overtime. He added that at sometime, guns were recovered as well as drugs.
“We’ve had guns once in a while. We’ve had a guy hand in four guns. He is still one of the leaders in church now. He said he wouldn’t go to the corner shop without a gun because he was so afraid people wanted to get him.”
Speaking further on recovered weapons, he said: “Most of these look like they’ve been taken from the kitchen, taken by young people who want to be able to protect themselves. Sometimes we’ve had rambos and samurai swords – professional knives, bought on the internet.”
Testifying to the Church’s way of changing the youths, fellow pastor, Nathan, 28, who joined SPAC in 2015 from a life of gangsterism and poverty told BBC reporter his story:
“I grew up in South East London and by the age of 15, I’d already buried one of my friends because of knife crime.
“I’d got involved in that life aged 13 in secondary school. It wasn’t hard. I grew up in abject poverty, my dad wasn’t around and I was with my mum. Seeing the bailiff come into the house was just the norm. We moved seven different places in four years. I felt a responsibility to do something about it and I looked at the options.
Nathan did something about it, and joined the gang, but today, he is a classic example of one of their ‘success stories’, as he says with their help he’s now a finance broker, with a five-bed house, an Audi sports car and a £40,000 watch. This was the story of one who started selling at 13, and couldn’t go anywhere without a knife for about six awkward years.
Pastor Tobi Adegboyega summarised his destiny thus:
I grew up in the church, preached my first message in church at the age of 8 but, I grew to get into other things and I looked for solace and direction in drugs, education etc.
I felt the Lord calling me back at the age of 25 years but it wasn’t going to be into the church like I had known it. I had followed the Evangelical, Pentecostal and Orthodox “movements” all my life but I knew there was something more.
I am sent to a disenfranchised group of people. A new generation of young people, prospering on fire for God but mostly coming from difficult backgrounds.
Some years ago, we started to speak to this set of people about three of them to begin with, now these young men and women have increased to over 2000 people, in each service. Currently we operate with over 200 ordained ministers and pastors and we operate about 17 community units across London.
According to the BBC, nothing like this has ever been seen before. Young people coming to surrender to Christ and gang leaders and members coming to church to give up their weapons, drugs etc on the altar.
Financial times and many other television channels in the UK have recorded and reported what God is doing. We have created over 40 businesses as we create alternative lifestyles for young people in politics, business, finance, education etc.
Culled from The Sun UK