RECENTLY, the Nigerian press was awash with a deluge of criticisms about Pentecostal ministers buying jets and living in affluence. Beautiful! This is the same Pentecostal movement that started as the church of the poor, the downtrodden, the strugglers, and the dregs of the earth. We were labelled as “poor church rats”, “mushroom churches”, “SU”, and with such horrible, derogatory names. I personally remember being warned in 1975 to stop going to the church of “those who weep when they pray”. I was asked what problem I had that drove me to that kind of church. According to them, the members were poor and never-do-well. Today, the story has changed! We are being criticized for buying jets! But they forgot that before we started to buy jets, we were winning souls in thousands and millions, turning men and women from darkness to light. We were transforming lives, giving them beauty for ashes. We were empowering people, equipping them with the revelation knowledge of God’s word that lifts men out of the pit of poverty, to the pinnacle of grace and dominion! We were empowering the poor, not only giving them fish to eat but also teaching them how to fish. We were building schools that were giving quality education to the people, empowering them mentally to become prominent (these include those throwing stones at us now!). We were building universities. We were transforming our society and changing our nation, one soul at a time. Imagine what Nigeria would have been without the labours and the influence of the church, particularly the Pentecostals and the Charismatics! It would have been a living hell, if with all our positive, godly efforts; we are still in the mess that our nation is today! Our critics fail to observe that we have not stopped doing those things that brought us into relevance and prominence. Though we have climbed the ladder of grace to rise from the pit of poverty to the mountain top of affluence, we still genuinely reach the poor masses of the downtrodden daily, showing them the way to life, the way to abundance and dominion, the way to righteousness and holiness, justice and equity, the way to God and glory, not only in the world to come but also in this present life. Our critics do not understand the way of God, that when someone sows, he or she must reap; that those who sow in tears shall reap with joy. If they were to control the harvest, they would have left us to continue to labour and languish all through our lives, from generation to generation, reaping nothing out of our field of labour. They have seen a few jets. They ain’t seen nothing yet! More of us will yet buy and maintain our jets because, by the mercy of God, we have been given the wisdom to do so. And we are willing to teach the nation, if they will listen to us, rather than throw stones. However, our critics should know that the jets mean nothing to us! They are just tools to do the work that God has given us in a more effective manner. Or how can an Enoch Adeboye who has churches in over 160 nations of the earth cope with his pastoral and apostolic responsibilities without some private jets! He does not need just one. He needs some! How can an Ayo Oritsejafor, who has to minister around the globe, pastor a very large congregation in Warri, and still attend to critical national matters in Abuja cope if he has to keep waiting at the airports, in a system where nothing is predictable? Our critics should please note that more of us are following the trail of the likes of Adeboye, whose wealth and affluence has never stopped him from being a true shepherd of the poor and downtrodden, in true humility, simplicity and godly sincerity, a shining example of true Pentecostalism and Charismatic wisdom. The nation should have turned to the church for wisdom. How do you provide electricity for your massive organisations and campsites and we have not been able to power the nation? How have you been able to maintain your jets for years, and we don’t even have a national carrier? How do you make your schools, colleges and universities such first-class institutions and ours are dilapidating, riddled with cultism and violence in spite of so much money we are pumping into them again and again? How have you been able to truly live and accommodate yourselves in spite of coming from the North, South, East, and West and with such cultural diversities, whereas the nation is filled with mindless violence and hatred, based on tribal sentiments and primordial jingoism? How could you handle leadership and power in a way that makes your huge organisations so stable and peaceful whereas our own political leaders are at one another’s throats? Rather than blind, and sometimes irreverent, criticisms that flow out of a mixture of ignorance and envy, the Pentecostals should have been asked, how did you move from a people that were despised and rejected to becoming the jet owners, institution pioneers and nation-builders that you are today? We would have answered them in this manner: We are the stones that the builders rejected, which have become the heads of the house. This is the doing of the Lord and it is marvellous in our own eyes. Our only explanation is, God’s grace has lifted the poor out of the dust and the beggars out of the dunghill. I wish every Nigeria a violence-free, restful and beautiful Christmas and a glorious 2013. More Pentecostal jets are on the way, and we owe no apology about that. Come along with us, and you too will soon become a solution, a job provider, a pioneer, and no more a part of our national rot, corruption and inefficiency. You are blessed and highly favoured. • Bishop Oke is National Vice President, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, South-West.