Bishop Isaac Abiara is eldest male and one of the first set of twins of the former General Evangelist Worldwide, Christ Apostolic Church (CAC), Prophet S.K. Abiara. Isaac, who arrived Nigeria from the United States of America recently, speaks with GBENGA ADERANTI on his relationship with his father, the future of the CAC and the pains of being a pastor’s child, among other issues.
WHAT was it like growing up as a pastor’s son?
My childhood days were very uneventful. We were always in the church premises. Our house then was within the church premises and growing up was church focused or church related. I even joke and tell people that while every other person would visit other parts of the world, we would spend our vacation on the mountain at Olorunkole, a community outside Ibadan, Oyo State. Because we lived in the church premises, we had to go to every service. There was no time to play as one would have loved to.
As a pastor, would you have preferred to do something else?
Initially, yes, especially when you see what pastors’ kids go through. Most times, pastors’ kids are not given a chance to grow up as normal children, so if I do anything a typical 10 or 11-year-old would do and everybody would say he is just being a kid in Yoruba language, if it were to be a pastor’s child, they would say, ‘Ah, Pastor’s son!’ He has become a bad kid, or something like that.
There was a resentment towards the church, because when you look at it, you can’t even make a mistake. If you do something right, you have not done it enough. There is so much pressure on you. Because of that, many of the pastors’ kids would tell you that they want to run away from the church environment, especially their parents’ church. For me, I didn’t want to do ministry work. I can’t speak for everybody.
But one day, in my rebellious way, I did something bad in the choir and Baba punished me. My dad, Prophet Abiara, can flog people. When I was growing up, 80 per cent of his flogging was on me. And after every flogging and punishment, the next thing he would ask me to do was to go to the mountain for three days with three days of dry fast.
There was one incident that I will never forget. One day, I messed up in the choir. I had a fight in the choir. My dad punished me and, in his usual practice when he is flogging you, he is flogging you with scriptures. Every strike of the horsewhip comes with a scripture. He would whip you and say, ‘It is in the heart of a child that madness lives…’ He would whip you again, and say, “But the Bible says it is through cane, he will drive it out.’
When he finished doing that, he told me to go to the mountain. We got to the mountain and for three days, no food, nothing. But I must say this: throughout the period I was on the mountain, wherever my father was at that time in Nigeria, the man would come and make it to that mountain. I was never alone on the mountain overnight. On the third day of the fasting, he now came in the morning. Of course, I was upset. He would pray but I would not say amen. As we were going, he called one of the prophets to pray for me, and the prophet now prophesied and gave a word of knowledge and said: “This boy, I see him blowing trumpets among the white people.” This was 1985, 1986 when I was 14 or 15
When I got to the United States, things became tough because I made up my mind that I would not do ministry. My school in the US was a theological school, and you would not believe it, the first semester, I flunked it. It was really terrible. Why? I didn’t want to do ministry. I wanted to study computer. But guess what, I couldn’t make ends meet. Initially, I didn’t want to get into it. Then I remembered that if there is something God has told you to do, until you get back to it, the struggles will continue. But when I got back into it, there was a difference. Initially, I didn’t want to go into ministry. No way!
You said Baba was very strict with you. What impact did that have on your life?
It had tremendous impact on my life. It gave me boundary. I could rebel or do whatever, but I knew within my head that there was a certain boundary I could not cross. As much as I rebelled when I was growing up, I never smoked, drink or sleep around with women. I never did any of that. It was more or less a disobedience act. That shaped me. Up until now, there are some things that people find okay that I will never touch. I will never do it because that strictness, that guide is always there.
How often does your father’s name open doors for you?
I have to thank God for that. Almost 60 years in ministry, God has helped him to build a good name and the name is not tarnished. I know for sure that there are some doors that will not open if not for him and for the name God has helped him to build. I say that in an humble manner, giving all the glory to God that this is what has happened and that is why I guard than name jealously. I always make sure that I’m not in a place where people would say, ‘Ah, are you not the son of so, so, so?’ I instill that in my children too.
Many pastors struggle with different temptations, women, money and so on? What has been your biggest challenge?
Thank God that the grace of God has covered me with that because of the examples of Baba that I see. He and my mummy were married for 50 years before she passed on. When we were growing up, he would tell us, ‘I don’t have a girlfriend anywhere. I don’t have any child anywhere. Everyone of you, one man one wife.’ Number two, he was always instilling it in us to be content with whatever we had. So whatever God gives to me, I gladly accept it without coveting. If there are pastors doing well where they are I celebrate the grace of God upon their lives. In our church in Dallas, I always tell them I’m a pastor that will not use gimmick to get money from anybody. The way I see my father, he is not a greedy minister. Baba could have been riding a jet, but he would rather give his money and serve the poor.
Do you sometimes feel that life could be better if you were doing a secular job?
No. It has never crossed my mind like that, because I believe that there are things God is bringing my way now that would not have happened in a secular world.
It is an open secret that the church is polarised. You belong to the new generation of CAC. What are you doing to bring the church back under one roof?
It is an unfortunate thing that happened several years ago. But the current generation of leaders is working seriously on it to bring the church together. We the new generation or the next generation, we must be one. When Jesus Christ was praying for his disciples, He said so that they may be one. It is quite unfortunate that it is the Christendom that we have a lot of factions. We have created identities: Cele, Redeemed, Winner. God said you are one in Christ.
I know that as far as the CAC is concerned there has been a challenge; there is no doubt about it. They are working on that.
Before we started this interview session, you placed a call to your wife, sounding like someone deeply in love. How did you meet her?
Yes I’m in love. I met her in the early 90s. I was living in a different state from where my wife was. My wife was living in Maryland. Baba had a church in Maryland and when Baba would come, my wife was the one that would interpret for him. She had been a wonderful interpreter from a very small age in her father’s church herein Ojodu, CAC, Ojodu, Lagos. She was a Sunday school teacher and also an interpreter. When she came to the US, Baba would speak and she would be the one to interpret. I don’t know what happened, one day, Baba just asked me, ‘Can you relocate and help one church there?’ I was the music director. I play instruments. I got there and I started to notice that whenever I was with her, everybody would just leave us alone.
The first day we met, it was in church that we met, because she was living with her pastor then. We started to talk and one thing led to the other. We got married in 1999.