7 Questions with Richard Sylva-Jaja
Name: Richard Sylva-Jaja
Current title: Senior Pastor
Current organisation: The Maker's House
I am Richard Sylva-Jaja, an exhaustive Bible teacher, author, Radio Pastor, writer, Bible scholar [I am a student of Bible theology], leadership expert, motivational speaker and single father of four wonderful kids [whom I love very much and have single handedly raised from their infancies]. I am 52 years old.
I’m passionate about ministry and helping people find God. I’m passionate about God; I live by the precepts of His word. My life belongs to Him and none else.
I am a person who is very much concerned about personal integrity. I have known the Lord while in my early teens; and started preaching since the 80s as a teenager but was formally ordained in April 1992. My relationship with God is worth more than life to me.
I got saved on the mid-night of 23rd of April, 1984 and a few weeks later, while praying in my father’s bedroom, I was gloriously baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. Since this awesome baptism in the Holy Spirit, I have been passionately preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.
My goal in life is to be used by God to impact and be a blessing to humanity; inspiring them to defeat the inhibitions their past may have placed on their path to destiny, and helping them get to their highest horizon. This I have been engaged in for over thirty years.
1. What have you found most challenging as a church leader?
I feel that getting prepared (trained) to lead God's people is one of the most challenging aspects of a church leader's life. First, it stirs a feeling of inadequacy within your spirit which makes you want to avoid it.
2. How did you become a church leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I got saved on the mid-night of 23rd of April, 1984 and a few weeks later, while praying in my father’s bedroom, I was gloriously baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. Since this awesome baptism in the Holy Spirit, I have been passionately preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. About this time, I joined my Pastor's ministering team where I was mentored in a lot of ways and given platforms to serve. This helped me develop my spiritual capacity and personality, and thus exposed me to higher spiritual and church responsibilities within my local church.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I simply put things in their right priority. Initially, this was an area of challenge, especially in the beginning of my leadership role. Today, I simply identify those items that form the pillars of a day's goals and tackle them seriously. Each day has its goals and each goal has its core pillars. A leader may not be able to do everything he set out to achieve in a week. But the best way to handle this area of leadership is to delegate the not too important items and handle the fundamental ones yourself. This is my strategy
4. What's one book apart from the Bible that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
Several years ago, I came in contact with a book titled "With Jesus in the school of prayer" written by Andrew Murray. That was the first christian book on prayer I read at that time. Each letter contained in this book was like breath to my soul or like I was sitting before Jesus and had Him talk to me about the subject of prayer. When I finished it, I began to cry. I felt like one who had never known God in this area. I found that the hunger to pray grew and became a root in my heart to the point where I began growing in prayer and thus, began praying for eight hours at stretch every day. This experience helped find the Holy Spirit and His wonderful gifts. As days ran into months, I was enabled to speak in deep tongues that I never learnt from anywhere. As I speak in tongues, God opens my eyes and I see things about nations, people, government, etc that God would want me to pray for. I have grown in my walk with God in the area of prayer and through it God has shown me His great might.
5. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
1. That people are utterly depraved
2.That, in order for a leader to keep influencing people and maintaining his relevance, he has to continually nurture the perception of people about him by improving his character.
6. How do you develop a healthy leadership pipeline in a church?
I make myself a friend of the people and use such relationships to showcase the life of Christ. People easily mimic their friends. Friendship has been my method of mentoring and reproducing myself in others who follow my leadership
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a church leader so far?
THE STORY OF MISS HELEN
In one of my New Believers’ Class years back was a young lady by the name Helen. Helen gave her life to Christ during Reinhard Bonnke’s second crusade in Port Harcourt (1999) and commenced the class with other new converts.
Just like I didn’t know all the other members of the class and what they had been through with their lives, so I did not know Helen. The only thing that made her so conspicuous was her dress code – she dressed provocatively and seductively. It was bad! Young men in my class did not know where to keep their eyes. Apart from showing brazenness and confidence in her absurd appearance, Helen had an attitude I liked – she had such ferocious and infectious passion to hear the Word; it drove her to come to my class very early – never without her bible, pen and a notebook; it propelled her to ask meaningful and relevant questions. In this way, she distinguished herself from other members of the class.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t long after she started the class some of my other instructors walked up to me complaining about her indecent dressing and suggested that I should ‘call her and tell her to dress like a Christian’. “And how does a Christian dress”, I funnily asked this crew of whiners, “what constitutes a Christian dress code.?” I inquired forcefully. Instead of an answer which was my anticipation, they rather started chuckling. Then I frankly advised them in these words; ‘since none of us here knows what exactly constitutes a Christian dress code, let’s allow the Holy Spirit through the Word to teach her. I think He will do far more thorough work than the efforts of all of us put together. The important thing is that she is keen about the word. Let’s not get her into religion. If we are teaching her the right thing then the word will prevail over her life and reproduce himself’.
My advice truly did the magic; it calmed the storm and Helen was left alone – to concentrate on what was basic and important.
God accepts people the way they are in order to, by grace, transform them into his beauty. For the scripture says that:
Suddenly, God began His work in Helen’s life by the word she exposed her life to weekly; changes started occurring here and there. I observed that her weird mode of make-up stopped, abruptly. Just like I, everyone in the class was kept in suspense, wondering what she was up to. As we were trying to digest that, she altered her peculiar style of dress; as if she overhauled her horrid wardrobe and changed the foul and vicious expression of her sexuality - through her habitual "sexualized" appearance. We were completely enthralled when she took another major decision; and stopped her witty, vile and despicable way of walking which made her very conspicuous on the street.
This is my view of what transpired in her; Miss Helen began to have definite convictions (as she persistently made herself available to hear the word). The Word enabled her to see the contrast between her old life and what her new life in Christ ought to be. Seeing this egregious and abysmal contradistinction, she was stirred to alter the flow of her life’s current by making right decisions – Word based decisions - about her life. Being continually transformed by the renewal of her mind through the atmosphere of God’s Word – Which now residents in her soul, she was able to discern the will of God concerning her frivolous and overriding world-view. Rejecting her conformity with the world - which was contrary to and conflicting with her present spiritual status - became an irrepressible ambition.
"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may experience what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God." (Romans 12:2).
Helen moved from one level of spiritual metamorphosis to another. None had any idea of what she had been through with her life and where she was coming from. None valued the awesome operations of God’s Word in her life until months later when she had some initial trial of her faith: because of her prevailing stand in Christ, she couldn’t afford to renew her residential bill and her landlord willed to eject her. The church learnt of her challenge and sent its welfare department to go see her landlord. It was this visit to her neighborhood that revealed her past – she traded her body for whatever men offered. Having met Jesus, she couldn’t any more continue in the awful and uncanny lifestyle and thus, her handicap in settling her bills. It was at this point that we began to appreciate the enormous work God had done in her.
One of the things that occur as we open ourselves to the Word is conviction – clear-cut Bible conviction; the Holy Spirit through the Word vigorously works on our minds and at the same time reveals Jesus to us and when we would have seen Him - and keep seeing Him (through the Word daily) - the same Spirit creates in us a hunger to conform to Christ; a longing to become exactly like Him in every area of life. The Apostle Paul explained this peculiar divine experience in 2 Corinthians 3:18 as observing or seeing the Lord with our bare faces through the mirror of His Word which incidentally transforms us from one level of His likeness to a higher level – of the same likeness.
"But we all with unveiled face beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, are transformed [according to] the same image from glory to glory, as [proceeding] from the Spirit of the Lord."
In contradistinction from that, Paul says that New Testament believers are enabled by the Holy Spirit to steadfastly look upon the glory of the Lord through His Word without a veil - without any obscure, intervening medium. Thus, in this new order the Lord's glory appears in us as in a glass – this is an awe of grace; a distinction from the former; an artistry of Calvary.