Wealthy Nigerian Prosperity Preacher Expands Reach Into United States
One of the wealthiest prosperity preachers in the world is making inroads in the United States.
In 1981, Nigerian pastor David Oyedepo started Living Faith Church Worldwide, also known as Winners’ Chapel, after claiming he had received a vision from God “to liberate the world from all oppression of the devil through the preaching of the word of faith.”
Since then, over 5,000 Winners’ Chapel congregations have been planted all over the world, including in Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America. There are Winners’ Chapel congregations in over 30 American states.
Winners’ Chapel congregations in the U.S. are growing rapidly. For instance, the Houston congregation was started in 2008 and holds two services each Sunday morning in a facility that seats 1,000.
In October 2021, a new sanctuary and headquarters for Winners’ Chapel in the United States was dedicated in Maryland. Both of Oyedepo’s sons, David Jr. and Isaac, have served as resident pastors for the Maryland congregation, but now David Oladasu serves in that capacity.
While Winners’ Chapel in the Americas in Maryland received a non-profit exemption status from the Internal Revenue Service in 2015, it does not regularly file Form 990s nor does it make any financial information public on its website.
According to Ecocnn, Oyedepo has a net worth of $150 million, just behind his mentor Kenneth Copeland, whose ministry is in Texas. Both men are part of the prosperity gospel or “word of faith” movement. Its adherents teach that health and wealth are the rights of Christians and part of salvation.
Copeland ordained Oyedepo’s sons as ministers and also spoke at the 40th anniversary of Living Faith Church.
Oyedepo is no stranger to controversy. In 2021, he reportedly fired 40 pastors of Winners’ Chapel congregations in Africa for “failing to grow the income of the church.” Pastor Peter Godwin claims he was told his dismissal was because “the church doesn’t operate at a loss” and his congregation wasn’t providing sufficiently for his salary.
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However, a source close to the story who spoke to the Vanguard in Nigeria said the pastors were dismissed because they were not “morally or spiritually prepared” to be in the leadership positions.
Also in 2021, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists discovered as part of its “Pandora Papers” project that Oyedepo set up a family offshore company in the British Virgin Islands.
The British Virgin Islands are known as a tax haven for offshore companies because of the favorable treatment they receive, including paying no income taxes.
According to reporting by the Premium Times, Oyedepo’s family offshore company “appears to be the family’s investment vehicle under which the family’s wealth is warehoused for offshore management.” Each member of his immediate family is listed as a shareholder.
Oyedepo was born in 1954 to a Muslim father and Anglican mother. He has been married to his wife Florence (also known as Faith) for 40 years and has four children—two sons and two daughters.
Beyond preaching at the largest church auditorium in the world, Faith Chapel, in Lagos, Nigeria, Oyedepo acquired a 730-acre complex known as Canaanland. It is home to the 50,000 seat chapel built in 1999, an elementary school, secondary school, and university, including housing for students and faculty. Canaanland also has retail and business establishments, like a bakery, gas stations, restaurants, banks, and stores.
Oyedepo also founded the Word of Faith Bible Institute in 1986 in Nigeria. The Winners’ Chapel Maryland campus houses the American branch of the institute. It offers basic and leader certificate courses. The courses include topics such as financial prosperity, divine health, signs and wonders, and “vision analysis.”
He has also authored over 100 titles, such as Satan Get Lost, Commanding the Supernatural, and All You Need to Know to Have Your Needs Met.
As part of his prosperity teaching, Oyedepo claims tithing is “not a church doctrine; it is a law of the Kingdom that launches the believer into realms of financial fortune.”
As Pastor D.A. Horton explains on the 9Marks website, prosperity preachers use the principle of tithing to motivate their congregations to give, teaching them that “you give to get.” Sometimes the preachers refer to “sowing a faith seed” whereby God will allow congregants to reap financial benefits.
Main photo: David Oyedepo / YouTube screenshot