By Joshua Chizoma
On August 7, 2021, popular Nigerian pastor, Paul Adeolu Adefarasin, was honoured alongside several key players across various sectors in Nigeria with the Forbes Best of Africa Award. The clergyman was awarded the Most Influential Personality in Africa, and also gave the keynote address at the Award ceremony.
The Forbes Best of Africa Award is a prestigious award that celebrates high-flying individuals across Africa’s business, leadership, and economic landscapes. In a statement, Forbes revealed that the awardees were selected after months of intense scrutiny and due diligence. Anyone surprised that Adefarasin bagged this lofty award is clearly unaware of the influence wielded by the preacher. The 58-year-old is undoubtedly one of Africa’s brightest minds, and deserving of all accolades that come his way.
Born on January 25, 1963, and raised both in Nigeria and the United States, Adefarasin is easily one of Nigeria’s most recognizable mega-ministers. He is the presiding prelate and Metropolitan Senior Pastor of House On the Rock (HOTR) Church, an ultra-large congregation with headquarters in Lagos, Nigeria, and parishes in every major city in Nigeria, as well as various other parts of the world. The Rock Cathedral, the building that serves as the church’s headquarters, is an architectural masterpiece. The church workers and ministers look like professional bankers. The choir members render their ministrations with verve, and the services are generally conducted with an air of elegance. Remarkably, this is the trend with all HOTR churches all over the world. It is, of course, important to note that there aren’t many HOTR parishes – there is just one in every major city – which could explain how it is possible to replicate the same level of excellence that abounds in the mother church.
Adefarasin is also the convener of The Experience, which is unarguably the largest Christian gospel worship concert in Africa. The event, which holds annually at the Tafewa Balewa Square in Lagos, plays host to hundreds of worshippers from different parts of the state, with thousands tuning in from various parts of the world. The Experience holds every December and helps to provide a platform for the finest worship ministers in Nigeria and around the world. The concert is so massive that it has worked as a springboard for the careers of many gospel artistes in Nigeria.
Away from the flamboyance associated with his ministry, Adefarasin is the founder of The Rock Foundation, a charity organization that works to rehabilitate drug addicts, commercial sex workers and ex-convicts. Every now and then, the Foundation teams up with the mother church to reach out to the country’s indigent citizens across multiple cities.
The excellence of HOTR’s parishes cannot be divorced from the persona exuded by the church’s founder. Adefarasin wears many hats and wears them beautifully: he is not just a preacher, but also a motivational speaker, TV personality, astute businessman, and life coach.
Furthermore, the clergyman is a patriot and a statesman to the core. Beyond preaching the gospel, Adefarasin frequently weighs in on topical issues in Nigeria, speaking truth to power without fear of repercussions. He is one of the very few Nigerian pastors who don’t try to sugarcoat the grim state of today’s Nigeria with platitudes and empty words.
Also worthy of adulation are his fashion choices as well as his charisma. Adefarasin teaches with an eloquence that is reminiscent of ancient Greek orators, and he has also successfully branded himself as a style icon: whether clad in a three-piece suit, traditional attire, or a pair of jeans and tees, everything just seems to fit. His sartorial prowess was once criticized by conservative Nigerian Christians, but now he’s the man that every preacher aspires to dress like. These days, the “HOTR kind of excellence” is the standard for most churches. Under his ministry, many young believers have come to learn that Christianity is not necessarily synonymous with poverty or shabby appearances, and that piety and wealth “can peacefully coexist”.
The influence of Adefarasin, and by extension, House on the Rock, transcends religious circles. This is not to say that Christians should aspire to impress the world, but it goes without saying that Christians need to seek to influence the world. What better way to do that than through excellence? This mandate is particularly important for those who exist in spaces that are predominantly felt to be “worldly”, for instance, those in arts and entertainment. To influence and perhaps change the culture in those spaces, it is necessary to adopt “the Adefarasin way”: being excellent, eschewing mediocrity, exercising diligence every day and twice on Mondays.
The Bible enjoins us to do whatever we set our hands to with all our might (Ecclesiastics 9: 10). This level of excellence is what Adefarasin exemplifies. For Nigeria and Nigerians, where anything and everything goes, excelling at all fronts without being stifled by religious inclinations is a feat that should be emulated.
The recognition by Forbes is much more than just an award; Adefarasin has bagged several in his lifetime. This recent accolade reiterates the fact that faith is not a “disability”, and that one does not have to give up faith to pursue wealth or fame. With a commitment to excellence, the desire to put in back-breaking work, and approaching every endeavour with grit and doggedness, a hardworking Christian will always stand before kings.