A lot of people are really excited to see their favorite celebrities like Don Jazzy, Chioma Apkota, Rita Dominic, Ini Edo, Iceprince, Toke Makinwa, etc lift up their hands to Jesus Christ in worship, how does it feel to see these media influencers worship God through this platform?
The sight is beautiful. Kings and Kingdoms, Prince and Princesses would come to bow before the Lord Jesus. The word says ‘every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord’. It was such a pleasant sight seeing these great people, people who had shaped culture, people who had influenced people, also bowing night after night and just lifting the name of Jesus. This shows the authenticity of who this God is, this God is big, he’s huge, he’s amazing. Every other celebrity, every king, every queen, every prince, every princess have come to acknowledge that He’s indeed the ‘King of kings’ and I have a strong and deep feeling that we would still see more. We will see presidents, we will see governors, we will see senators, we will see billionaires coming to proclaim the name of Jesus.
Before you started this project, did you imagine that an average of 50,000 people everyday from all over the world would be worshiping?
To be honest, when I started I had no ambition to break record or to gather this massive crowd. Mind you, the 50 to 70 thousand people is just the number of devices, I’ve heard and also seen that churches, schools, campuses, and hospitals connected and it’s humbling to see such effect, something that started in my room. We had a ‘Tongue Challenge’ which essentially was praying for one hour, quite a number of people joined but it was not on this scale. So seeing it just spread day by day from 800 to 2000 to 4000 to 7000 to 13000 to 20000, 31000 to 50000 was amazing. At some point we had 79000 and that was Instagram alone. I never imagined it, I just did it first for myself and then my followers who cared to really praise God with me. To see that God just breath on it and took it to great levels was really humbling.
I noticed that as the challenge went on, testimonies were just pouring in, how do you feel about the fact that people were testifying.
It was just an innocent idea. We were just going to praise God and enjoy him and see what he would do. But from the get go we started having people send in testimonies and I praise God this happened. Talking about God’s deed, which essentially is what praise is, praise is declaring his works, his greatness, talking about what he has done. So we decided we were going to share the testimonies and we kept seeing them pouring, the more we shared them, the more people connected to them. I shared them on my page but at some point I told people to go to the blogs themselves. I’m sure we are going to talk about critics and all of that stuff because people have said they are not real, that why are we talking about them, that we are boasting. I think the truth is, we can’t praise God the way we did for a month, at midnight, which is sacrificing your sleep, and he won’t be moved to come into your situation. As we speak, we keep having the aftermath, people are sharing post Hallelujah Challenge testimonies. So I think it’s the nature of God, you can’t serve him in vain, it’s the natural consequence of serving God in a hallelujah style.
Talking about the criticism that trailed the ‘Hallelujah Challenge’ there’s a particular one that was from Daddy Freeze. He condemned the ‘Hallelujah Challenge’ and said it was a ruse to promote your song ‘Olowogbogboro’ and to be popular, how do you feel about this?
I always say to people, before you respond to criticism, you look at the character of who is criticising. Daddy Freeze is a great on air personality, in his sphere he’s been doing well, but when it comes to spiritual matters, I don’t think he deserves alot of my time to answer. Jesus faced a lot of these criticism and that’s my master. Jesus who performed genuine miracles was accused of using the power of the devil ‘Beelzebub’, so how much more , and it says, ‘the servant was not greater than the master’ so if Jesus was condemned, of course, I would be. But the truth of the matter is criticism is not bad, the bible says, ‘if the prince of this world had known, they won’t have crucified the King of glory’. I think as soon as the criticism came, the ‘Hallelujah Challenge’ just exploded.
Did you also read the one written by Joy Isi Bewaji?
Because I was tagged alot, I just looked through, but those things are not important, any great person, any great idea faced criticism. The president of Nigeria, Donald Trump, the founders of Apple and Microsoft are facing criticism. You’d face some positive and negative criticism and over time, I’ve learnt to look at the character of the people criticizing. We’ve had some criticism within the faith, people saying ‘what’s this’, ‘this is showoff’. There’s a revival called ‘Azusa Street Revival’ in the early 1900s where certain people prayed and the Holy Ghost visited them, they were seen as weird people, mad people, people who were possessed. But you and I, once we are born again and filled in the spirit are a fruit of that. What we call ‘Pentecostal Christianity’ is an overflow of ‘Azusa Street’. Normally, when there’s a new move of God, like the apostles in Acts 2, people came and said these men are drunk, these are crazy people. And I understand, why would a slim guy like me with a trumpet and shakers praise God and draw thousands of people. I’m sure they are saying ‘who is this dry looking guy to gather all the celebrities’. I’ve learnt over time that your response to criticism is even what matters so I couldn’t be bothered about a lot of them. When God speaks to me and I’m sure it’s God (laughs), I just follow. It’s not important, they actually helped our ministry and I say thank you to all of them.
At what point in your life did you encounter God, was there any particular incident that happened in your life that made you realize that it’s God or nothing.
Picking from the other question when people say I did this to be popular, the truth of the matter is, before now God had given us a music ministry that has gone around the world. By God’s grace, our songs are sung around the world and so I’m not sure that I wanted to be more popular than I was before. Popularity is really not my thing, I don’t seek fame, I seek God’s kingdom and if he decides to make you famous, so is it. So going back to your question, we’ve been in music ministry for some time, I started music over 25 years ago. I had an ambition like every other musician to tour the world.
I had always wanted to be a great jazz trumpet player. I grew up listening to a lot of instrumental music, high life music, Rex Lawson, lots of jazz music, lots of Bebop music, standards, Luis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and all those guys. I had that ambition to be a super jazz musician doing afrocentric, jazz, highlife and just making a name for myself. I was in church as well but I wasn’t really in Christ, you can be in church, go to church, sing the songs, say the words but you are never really in Christ. Somewhere along the line I had this encounter with God. I had a pastor, Pastor Eskor who was such tremendous influence in my life and I had an elder sister who got born again first and prayed for me. She said to me that God told her to pray for me for over a year. According to her, God has said he was going to use me so she had to spend time with her friends to pray for me, her name is Mercy Bassey. All of this time I wasn’t born again, I was just a gifted musician playing in Jazz bands, in clubs, just strictly jazz. I was driven purely by my music, still played in church but never really have an encounter. Then I had this encounter with God whilst at the City of David. I got born again in TREM but I wasn’t really really committed, it was just about music. But the day I had an encounter with God at City of David, it seized to be about music. God just captured my heart and it became all about knowing God.
The music became an instrument rather than a goal, it became a platform to show forth the love of God. It was at that point that my life turned around, I began to seek God, I began to pray, I began to read the word. I chased God so radically that the same sister who prayed for me started thinking that I’d lost my mind, she said, ‘Nath you are taking this too far’. The rest is history. I think he’s given me a passion to go all out for something I believe in. I believe in the Lord, I believe in being the best in all I do, I believe in good marriages, I’m passionate about my wife and my marriage. I’m passionate about young people achieving their aims, I’m passionate about young people marrying well and having healthy marriages, men being responsible, men loving their wives. Those are various passions that I have, and I find out that whenever I have a passion for stuff I just go all out, I give my whole being, one hundred and one percent.
In respect to what you said about men being passionate about their wives, what do think of men who abuse their wives?
Honestly, I think everything rises and falls on the fear of God. We need to see a society where men have such love and fear for God. I’m big on men having character. I say to alot of my young girls in church – I pastor as well in the Redeemed Christian Church of God, The Oasis – that there are two levels I look out for in men; they are the constants and the variables. Where he works, his height and how he dresses are variables. A person can be taught how to dress well, somebody can hit it big overnight but there’s something called constants, character, the fruit of the spirit. When you come to say to me that you met this guy, I’m interested that he’s born again, that he’s tongue talking, but beyond speaking in tongues, what’s his character? Does he have self control? Is he easily angry?
When somebody says to me, ‘well pastor he didn’t know, he just mistakenly slapped me’, I’m like, ‘that is a red flag because if he marries you, he will punch you.’ So I’m big on character and I think that if we had a lot of character based teachings, emphasize character in church, bearing the fruit of the spirit as opposed to breakthroughs; prosperity, we will raise men that fear God, loves God and a man that fears and loves God will automatically love his wife. By the grace of God my wife rarely asks me about my location because over time God has helped us to build trust, trust is built deliberately. When a man says, ‘why don’t you trust me’, it’s because she can’t trust you. If you acted the part, trust comes immediately. So I think we need to emphasis character in our christian messages and in our sermons. We need to emphasis excellence and strength of character in our men. I always put the responsibility on men because they are the heads and it’s natural for them to take responsibility.
There are some instances where we are told that the women pushed the men to the wall and the men hit them. In such situations, what do you think a man should do when it gets to that extent where the wife makes him so angry that he might want to hit her?
I will always hold the men responsible because they are the leaders and it’s just natural that the leader takes responsibility, women also have a huge part to play. I tell people that before they get married, there are obviously signs, there are obviously red flags. I mentor alot of young people; teenagers, young adults and I say to them, ‘don’t be too emotional when it comes to courtship, dating and all of that’. Love is not blind, open your eyes. There are obviously some things you saw but chose to ignore. I tell people that they should spend time praying in the spirit. When you are in love, don’t pray in your understanding. Spend time praying in the spirit, take some time to fast. What happens when we pray is revelations. So it’s not a questions of the person pretended, there’s a thing about prayer that makes people show themselves.
If you are praying and you are sincere, God will expose things, but then it’s up to you to decide. Going back to domestic violence, a man raising his hands to beat you, there must have been a sign. A few days ago, a lady sent me a chat on Instagram. She had an argument with her boyfriend, someone she was supposed to marry. Just reading the chat from the guy, I just saw that this was an accident waiting to happen. He has not married you yet, he’s commanding you, saying ‘if you go to this place, don’t call me’. He’s calling her names but the girl is obviously head over heels in love. Then she says to me, ‘what do you think?’ Normally I tell pastors, ‘if you are wise, don’t be the one to give the word’. I’m a wise pastor so I won’t tell you ‘thus saith the Lord, marry him’. I can only create the atmosphere for you to come to that knowledge yourself. Because at the end of the day your pastor won’t live there, your mum won’t live there, it’s your decision.
So in that instance I saw a guy so abusive in just a chat, he was unbelievable, he was talking down at her, calling her names and she’s hell bent on marrying this guy. And you can see from there that that’s an accident waiting to happen. The same thing happens with the guy, coming back to our question. When you pray and seek God, God exposes things. I tell people that love then becomes a choice, love is not really a feeling. Love is a decision, the bible says ‘and God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son’, and he did that while we were yet sinners. God knew we were sinners but still gave his son. So I tell people that love is not all about feelings, maybe a little part of feelings is in it but at the end of the day, love is a decision. I’ve chosen to marry this guy, I’ve seen the flaws, I’ve seen the strength, I’ve done a SWOT analysis, I’ve seen the lady, she can cook, she cannot cook, she talks too much and I have what it takes to cope with that.
Now when you choose to marry people regardless of their weaknesses, you must be ready to cope with it so there’s no question of she’s acting away, you knew all of that. It begins from the foundation level. When you get into marriage, like Paul the grace of God must be sufficient for you. You must develop the character, and the strength to cope with that. My wife is an introvert, she doesn’t talk so much. I’m probably the more talkative person. I saw that from when we were courting so it shouldn’t be a surprise. I must then find ways of understanding, of adapting to how she is, knowing that that’s her person. At the end of the day, both personalities, if we’ll managed, complement. So I think people should do a lot of homework and not be illusioned. Don’t think that things will sort themselves out. Normally, from statistics, marriage amplifies whatever you saw in courtship. I think people should do alot of homework in courtship or whilst dating. Also when you make your decision, you must be ready to adapt to it or ask for grace to cope with whatever you find.
What are the challenges you faced during the ‘Hallelujah Challenge’ and also the challenges you’ve faced as a pastor?
At the risk of sounding cliché, the truth of the matter is over the years, I’ve learnt to rest in God. There are different challenges, that of ministry, of travelling, of combining ministry, wife and family and being a father. It’s challenging, but I somehow find God’s grace at work helping to balance thing. In all, God has taught me to rest on his grace somehow. I don’t know how to explain it, I would be lying, I would be cooking out a principle if I could. God’s grace just helps us to cope with various challenges of life. Also because I’ve learnt to not put myself under pressure, I live a simple life. I don’t live a celebrity life, I’m not under pressure to buy things I can’t afford or to go to places I can’t afford. I’m a very plain person, I’ve always wanted to be authentic, what you see is what you get. So that in itself takes away pressure. A lot of what we call challenges are self inflicted, we work ourselves into it. I’ve just learnt to live a simple life, and the grace of God helps us.
People say you are very humble, and some hope that you don’t become an arrogant person because of the fame that the ‘Hallelujah Challenge’ has brought you, what do you have to say to this?
Before now, I had the privilege of travelling the world, I had the privilege of having some A-list American gospel artistes singing our song. I’ve always had some sort of media attention and God has kept me. I think one of my strength is the ability to just be myself , I’m very big on that, I teach on that. It’s a core element of being a true worshipper; authenticity. Yes, people will call your name, they will take selfies, but I’m a realist. Someone who inspires me alot is pastor E.A Adeboye, when a man of that calibre says, ‘you know what, I’m just starting’, with the millions of lives he’s affected.
The thousands of churches around the world, the miracles, the projects, and he says to us that he has not started. What do I say because I have one or two songs or done Hallelujah Challenge.
I’m very real with myself, I’m my number one critic, I critique myself, I speak to myself and I believe that as long as I spend time with God and allow his word renew my mind, he’ll keep me humble. I posted a few days ago that humility in my definition simply means staying under grace. A cup of water that would be full must stay underneath the flask so there’s no way you can fill a cup if it’s over the flask. To be great you have to stay under and what makes us great is the grace of God. God says he gives grace to the humble, so as long as I remain humble, God will continually pour his grace. And with prayers from people like you, our fans, our friends, God will help us.
What do you feel about Christians not being given endorsements like circular artistes?
It’s not a big deal, to be a gospel artiste is not an invitation to live a celebrity lifestyle, it’s not about you. I say everytime that gospel music is different from circular music, the rules are diametrically opposed to each other. In the circular music industry, it’s about the artist, it’s about image, it’s about packaging, your fans, your Instagram followers, it’s about you. But in the gospel music industry or ministry as I choose to call it, it’s not about you, it’s about Jesus. I wrote a song a few months ago; ‘take the stage Lord, have your way, I’m just a vessel, I’m nothing more, when you are done, please take the glory, I’m satisfied just to see you glorified’. Personally, I’ve never lived my life just to be endorsed, as long as Jesus is glorified. The truth of the matter is some Gospel artistes have been endorsed, I’ve been approached a couple of times but everytime I have terms that would contradict what I stand for, the values I uphold, then I turn it down. It shouldn’t be an issue, I don’t think it’s out of place that we are not endorsed. God endorses you or you endorse God, whichever way.
How easy was it for you to bring other Gospel artistes that have participated during the challenge? There was a particular time Steve Crown tweeted, ‘We are going live today again with my brother and pastor Nathaniel Bassey for the Hallelujah Challenge’.
Well that’s the beauty of the unity of faith and of the spirit. One of the things the Hallelujah Challenge highlighted was unity of the faith. There was no question of ‘what church are you from’. We had Catholics, Anglicans, Pentecostals, Methodists, even Muslims joined, and that the beauty of a platform like the ‘Hallelujah Challenge’. There was no denominationalism and we had other A-list Gospel artistes participate. We didn’t see it as Nathaniel Bassey’s project, we saw it as a kingdom project and I believe that that’s what God wants us to have more, where his children are one, where there’s no denominational divide. There was no ‘ it’s not my thing so I will not be part of it’. I hope and pray that we see more of those alliances and synergy, it would only advance the kingdom of God.
We noticed that you enjoy ‘Woli Agba’ comedy, is he your favorite at the moment?
Yes I have a little comic part of me, I like good humour, healthy humour. I’ve always liked comedy, I was a big Nkem Owoh and Okey Bakassi fan for years. As long as the jokes don’t defile, as long as they uplift and make you happy. Lately I’ve just enjoyed the duo of Woli Agba and Dele, gifted and talented young guys blessing us.
Obviously you are a very busy man, how do you spend your me-time and relax? When you are not travelling and playing music, how do you relax?
I like soccer a lot, I’m a huge Barcelona fan. I used to play when I was in Unilag studying Urban and Regional Planning. In fact, if it wasn’t music, it was going to be soccer. It was a prayer point for my mum so I would stop watching soccer, I used to cry watching soccer. I’m very big on soccer, I follow the premiership but I’m not a fanatic, when I’m free I watch. But I’m a huge Lionel Messi fan. So I watch soccer, watch some good comedy and spend time with my wife, children and friends.