In June 2021, prominent Nigerian born religious leader T.B. Joshua died, leaving a large contingent of mourning followers in Africa and around the world. With an acclaimed status as a “great man of God”, the wealthy megachurch pastor earned popularity as well as notoriety. Below is a snapshot of the man behind the miracles.
1. T. B. Joshua’s Birth is an Interesting Story
T. B. Joshua was born in the small village of Arigidi, halfway between Lagos and Abuja, on the 12th of June 1963. According to his biography, his mother’s pregnancy lasted 15 months. It is also reported that a large boulder crashed through the roof of his home, when he was just a few days old. This boulder only narrowly missed the infant T. B. Joshua. So his mother named him Temitope. In Yorùbá, this name means: ‘What you [God] have done for me is worthy of thanks’.
TB Joshua claimed to receive a divine anointing in a heavenly vision.
During his elementary education at St Stephen’s Anglican Primary School, Joshua led the Student Christian Fellowship. Here he earned the title of ‘small pastor,’ for leading prayer during school devotions. This was both a play on his small stature and a sign of things to come. Unable to complete secondary education due to poverty, Joshua took on various menial jobs. But then he claimed to receive a divine anointing in a heavenly vision, as well as a covenant from God, to start his ministry. So at the age of 24, together with eight others, he started Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN).
2. He Zealously Promoted Healing
T. B. Joshua contributed significantly to the advancement of the Pentecostal movement in Africa. This movement is largely driven by people’s belief in the healing and transformative power of the Holy Spirit. Problems, both spiritual and physical, are solved through miracles, especially divine healing and occasionally economic prosperity. T. B. Joshua promised these and much more. SCOAN has published numerous videos documenting the healing of all kinds of illnesses, disabilities, and injuries—many of which were claimed to be medically incurable, such as HIV/AIDS and blindness.
He contributed significantly to the advancement of Pentecostalism.
His anointing water, “for good health and breakthrough in all areas of your life and for the salvation of your soul,” sold by the gallon. It was advertised through countless testimonials, claiming astonishing successes. SCOAN was also known for its deliverance ministries and services. All kinds of strange occurrences were reported during the preacher’s deliverance prayers for those possessed by evil spirits.
3. Emmanuel TV was a Global Powerhouse
In 2004, the National Broadcasting Commission in Nigeria banned TV stations from airing the miracles of pastors on terrestrial television stations because of the controversies surrounding them. Unwittingly, this action more than any other seems to have boosted the global image of T. B. Joshua. “He was perhaps the first [African pastor] to utilise the internet and satellite broadcast to sell his ministry to an international audience,” says Abimbola Adelakun, assistant professor in the African Studies Department at the University of Texas.
This self-made prophet earned the title given to him by media outlets: the ‘Oprah of Evangelism.’
By launching Emmanuel TV in 2006, the church’s television station, T. B. Joshua shot to televangelist fame, with the channel’s catch-phrase “distance is not a barrier,” encouraging viewers from across Africa, Latin America, and beyond to “touch the screen and pray along”. In addition to 6 million Facebook followers, his YouTube channel had over 1.8 million subscribers (it was suspended in April 2021 as a result of alleged hate speech against homosexuality). There is little doubt that this self-made prophet earned the title given to him by media outlets as the “Oprah of Evangelism”.
4. T. B. Joshua was World Famous
T. B. Joshua’s services attracted over 15 000 people weekly, both from Nigeria and abroad. Some have described his church as “Nigeria’s biggest tourist attraction“. Figures released by the Nigerian Immigration Services indicated that six out of every ten foreign travellers coming into the country were headed for SCOAN.
Some have described SCOAN as Nigeria’s biggest tourist attraction.
He also often rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous. He interacted with numerous celebrities, politicians, and international sports people. According to Forbes, at the time of his death, he had an estimated fortune of several million dollars.
5. A Generous Philanthropist
T. B. Joshua was an outstanding philanthropist. He provided generous financial aid to several communities in distress. He often gave to disaster relief, supporting migrants and deportees. Joshua funded the building and running of schools, even starting a football club in an effort to help the youth.
T. B. Joshua funded the building and running of schools.
SCOAN’s scholarship programme caters for the academic needs of thousands of students, from primary through to tertiary education. It has sponsored students through Oxford and Harvard. These activities among many others like them endeared Joshua to his admirers, and earned him a number of humanitarian awards. One of the more noticeable came in 2008, when the Nigerian government awarded him the Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic.
6. Mainstream Nigerian Christian Organisations Rejected Him
Christian organisations in Nigeria, like the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), refused to admit SCOAN into their associations. When there was talk of Joshua aiming to join the PFN in the early 2000s, vice chairman Bishop Abraham Olaleye said: “There are only two questions Ayo Oritsejafor [then President of the PFN] asked us to ask Joshua or anybody who comes from him: When were you born again? Which church did he attend and who was his pastor or mentor?”
Christian organisations in Nigeria refused to admit SCOAN into their associations.
Paul Adefarasin, founder of House of the Rock, Lagos, once said about T. B. Joshua: “Where was he when he was called to ministry? Who are the men of God who can point at him, that we raised him into ministry, laid hands on him and sent him forth into the ministry?” In a similar vein, Matthew Ashimolowo, the prosperity preacher and founder of Kingsway International Christian Centre in London remarked “We don’t know Joshua’s Pastor; we don’t know where he was raised from. He has no testimony from where he got born again. So, we cannot accept that he is one of us… There is no proof of his salvation”.
7. He Regularly Claimed to have Predicted World Events
It was common for SCOAN to release videos claiming that T. B. Joshua predicted a major world event before it happened. His claims include events like the death of Michael Jackson, the London Riots, and plane crashes around the world. The most notorious of his prophecies was the one that Hillary Clinton would win the presidential election in 2016. When that prophecy did not come to pass, the prophecy was deleted from their website. When the international press including the BBC, CNN, Newsweek and various major African publications (see here, here, here, and here) reported on the deleted prophecy, SCOAN then reposted it. According to SCOAN’s social media team it was “mistakenly removed and has been reposted as such is not our policy” (reported by the BBC).
8. He Was No Stranger To Controversy
T. B. Joshua’s popularity was constantly under threat from controversy. One major criticism was for endorsing activities “more akin to paganism and magic than Christianity”. Many deemed his practises heretical, along with some of his teaching. And criticism did not only arise within the African Church. Recently, his claims to be able to “cure” the LGBTQ+ community met with a serious backlash across the globe.
Criticism did not only arise within the African Church.
T. B. Joshua gained notoriety in other ways. Four of the SCOAN building structures collapsed. One of those tragic collapses, in 2014, killed 116 people. The pastor allegedly blamed the incident on a low-flying plane and Boko Haram militants. But authorities maintain that it was due to structural defects. There was also a stampede for his holy water, causing four deaths. While it seems that a number of his prophecies and predictions did come true, others missed the mark completely.
9. He may have Died from a Stroke
T. B. Joshua was a strong proponent of supernatural healing, yet media reports state that he died of complications arising from a stroke and that he was flown two months before his death by air ambulance to Turkey for treatment. This was never publicly acknowledged by his church who never issued any explanation behind his death at the age of 58.
T. B. Joshua’s Legacy
Is it possible that, by focusing on this life, he distracted people away from Jesus?
T. B. Joshua famously said, “The greatest way to use life is to spend it on something that will outlive it”. Indeed, his legacy will live on in various ways through his philanthropic endeavours, and his impact on people’s lives will not be quickly forgotten. But is it possible that, by focusing so much on this life, on health and miracles to make it easier, he distracted people away from Jesus, the great giver of eternal life?