The Great Revival

The Great Revival started in 1930, here Apostle Ayo Babalola of CAC is shown preaching in the late 1930s
Apostle Ayo Babalola of CAC preaching in the late 1930s

The Great Revival was the phenomenon in the early 20th Century Western Nigeria, of Pentecostal awakening that led to the creation of the Aladura arm of Christianity. Many scholars limit these events to the activities of Ayo Babalola in 1930, but more encompassing narrative have risen from works of persons such as Ogunrinade and Adewale of the Department of Religious studies in the Gombe State University.

In 1918, Pa Joseph Sadare, in reaction to what was described as a prophetic vision by one Daddy Alli had led a small group of the St. Saviour’s Anglican Church, Ijebu Ode in series of prayer intersessions for the Anglican church, whose doctrine they were beginning to question. The object of their prayers soon shifted to the disastrous influenza which killed many in that year. Through the passionate effort of a female teacher, Sophia Odunlami, this group waxed strong and adopted the name, “Precious Stone,” a devoted group which believed in divine healing. By the help of Pastor Clark of the Faith Tabernacle Church of Philadelphia, U.S.A., this group received free tracts like the “Sword of the Spirit” from America.

During this period, it was realised that a branch of the Faith Tabernacle existed in Lagos under the leadership D.O. Odubanjo, who later became the first leader of the Christ Apostolic Church. In 1929, Odubanjo became associated with the Faith and Truth Temple of Toronto, Canada and brought to Nigeria four European missionaries- three of whom died, C.R. Myeus, the survivor, later took up an appointment with the American Consulate. With his associate pastors, J.B. Esinsinade, J.B. Babatope, and T.A. Akinyele, Odubanjo became associated with prophets Joseph Ayo Babalola and Oshitelu.

It is recorded that the praying group formed by these individuals from different Christian organizations requested in prayer specifically for a great revival within the Faith Tabernacle movement. Then started Ayo Babalola’s career in October, 1928. In the same year, a group arising independently, The Cherubim and Seraphim Society, which was to become the first Yoruba indigenous church, had begun activities that reflected Aladura beliefs. Moses Orimolade, a co-founder of this movement, served to wet the people’s appetite with his idiosyncratic styles of preaching and praying.

The revival, in the account of many, specifically began during a meeting at Ilesa of Odunbanjo, Esisinade, and other associate pastors, with local leaders of the Faith Tabernacle in Ilesa who were warring over doctrinal issues. Babalola, who had been invited to join the Ilesa peace meeting, had performed a spectacle at the Oke-Oye auditorium which left the Ilesa church bewildered, sparking a feverish rise of interest in the power of prayer that spread to Ibadan, Ijebu, Lagos, Efon-Alaaye, Aramoko Ekiti and Abeokuta. Inspired by this, a youngman, Daniel Orekoya took off at Ibadan where a dead pregnant woman was believed to have been resuscitated, but the nexus of the revival remained with Babalola, who would found the Christ Apostolic Church in 1940 as one of the pionner Aladura churches, among others such as the Church of the Lord, founded by Ositelu, who Babalola met at Ogere in 1929; the C&S, headed by Orimolade, who popularized the healing prayer ministry uniquely by his itinerancy.

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer