This is the first guest post from another ex-SCOAN disciple who has got in touch with TB Joshua Watch. Gareth, from the UK, was a disciple of TB Joshua from 2001 to 2010. His name has been changed to protect his family who are still involved with SCOAN. In this post he dicusses a time when he was put in ‘Addaba’, the state of ostracism and punishment imposed on disciples who ‘misbehave’.
I was one of the first foreign disciples at SCOAN. A lot of the time in a disciples life is spent studying his “notes”, that is TB Joshua’s writings. Any visitor to the church will testify to seeing disciples reading and copying out these notes into the early hours of the morning. Disciples regard these notes as equal in authority to the Bible. Its not hard to understand why. TB Joshua is regarded a Prophet, a man of God, and according to his own teaching everything that is done, by such men is infallible.
Anyway, one of the main focus of reading and studying TB Joshua’s notes, is to learn to preach in a similar manner. Visitors to SCOAN can again testify to seeing disciples practicing preaching to other disciples or to thin air.
When we first started preaching as foreign disciples, the “chosen” among us were given the opportunity to preach to the foreign visitors. Typically each time foreign visitors came to SCOAN, TB Joshua used to give them a lecture. This time, he let us foreign disciples, do the preaching. However, the four of us were called to TB Joshua’s office and instructed by him to use the same introduction to our messages. The introduction went something like this:
“My name is … and by the grace of God I am an evangelist in training under my Father in the Lord, Senior Prophet TB Joshua. Before I came to SCOAN, I was a sinner. I thank God for the life of my Father in the Lord, TB Joshua. God has used him mightily to point me to Salvation. Before coming to SCOAN I didn’t know Jesus, but now through my mentor I have come to know Jesus”….
Now all four of us stood up in front of the assorted foreign visitors, gave our introductions and our little sermons. Now let me just explain here, that all four of us preaching that day had come from Christian backgrounds. Myself and another disciple, had grown up in dynamic churches and had been fully committed. We had both made decisions to follow Christ long before visiting SCOAN. Some of the visitors that day were from our former group of churches and were alarmed by this introduction given by all four of us. They told my mother (who was visiting at the time), that this seems a bit cult-like. Why were we denying our previous beliefs?
My mother came to me, crying and confused. I was taken aback. I listened to her and gently tried to reassure her that this wasn’t a cult. Unfortunately this was in the computer room and was in full view of several other disciples, who immediately went to report me to TBJ. I entered a huge amount of trouble that day. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t agreed with her. It didn’t matter that I’d actually done a pretty good job of convincing her that everything was all right. The problem was that I had even listened to such “blasphemous words” and hadn’t strongly rebuked my own mother.
The kind of trouble I experienced is referred to by disciples as “Adabba”. When this happens you are not allowed to eat, sleep, enter the dormitory or shower. You are not allowed to talk to anyone and no one is allowed to talk to you. TBJ usually shouts at you (sometimes slaps you) and you have to mope around his office until you are “forgiven”. Disciples is this situation feel terrible, you feel like you have let down not only man, but God. As a disciple you see TBJ as the link between you and God – failing him is failing God.
Sometimes disciples can be in Adabba for days. Thankfully I was allowed in the room about 6 hours later. However I was viewed with suspicion and it took me months to build up my position at SCOAN again. Why did I get in trouble? Because any hint of a slur or question against the ministry is not tolerated. The right reaction of a disciple should have been to walk away immediately my mother started talking about doubts and what people were saying. Or I should have rebuked her, shouted at her, told her not to doubt. The fact that I listened to her and didn’t respond, just wasn’t good enough.
Going back to what caused this trouble in the first place. It was the identical introductions by four foreign disciples denying any previous Christian experience and belief and claiming that it was only through TB Joshua that we had come to know God. This is actually how disciples see themselves at SCOAN. Many will try and qualify such statements by explaining that they had a measure of belief before attending SCOAN, but it is only there that they have discovered true, real, practical Christianity.
The culture of SCOAN is to regard what is happening there as the pinnacle of all Christianity. To see TB Joshua as the greatest man of God who has ever lived, since Jesus. Church members claim to have dreams that TBJ is the junior brother of Jesus, and these claims are not dismissed, rather these people are given microhpnes to share their “revelations”. SCOAN’s PR people and TB Joshua himself will say that there are many living Churches. But ask them to name one? Ask them to name another church leader who they respect, and they will struggle. The truth is that SCOAN does not relate with any other churches, unless it is for an ulterior motive.
SCOAN in Lagos is not recognised by other evangelical churches, and TB Joshua does nothing to try and build bridges with other large ministries. He has relationship with a few smaller churches that he helps out and runs a “network of pastors” called “Persevering Faith”. These pastors are all from small churches and come to the church because TBJ pays them to.
In private, TB Joshua regularly ridicules other ministries and pastors. He watches quite a bit of Christian television and regularly mocks the people he sees. As a disciple, when you join SCOAN, you join for life. You can’t move on and join another church – that what be a ridiculous thought to have. Disciples see themselves as incredibly privileged to be part of such “an amazing ministry”. The thought of moving on is therefore nonsensical.
This is purely cult-like behaviour. An exclusive group that believes it has the answer to the world’s problems, that no one else has.