Time was when pastors squarely faced the primary calling of propagating the gospel and winning souls for Christ, by whatever means. Today, an increasing number of Nigeria’s pastors are going beyond the pulpit and diversifying into mega businesses. When it comes to business behind the pulpit, credence should go to popular Nigerian televangelist, founder and President of Believers’ Love World Incorporated also known as Christ Embassy, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome. With flourishing branches across Nigeria, South Africa, London, Canada and the United States, the dandy preacher is arguably among the wealthiest pastors in Nigeria with an intimidating business empire. In fact, Oyakhilome is arguably on the top rung of the ladder. Operating under the Believers’ LoveWorld umbrella, the Edo-born pastor’s mega-business interests span publishing, broadcasting, entertainment, hospitality, real estate as well as banking.
Whatever the argument, however, there is no doubt that Oyakhilome’s mega businesses are contributing immensely to the growth of the economy, especially through job creation. In 2008, Oyakhilome, through his Believers’ LoveWorld, floated a national microfinance bank as a platform to achieve his ministry’s vision of creating an opportunity to upgrade the lives of people; and give people’s lives a meaning. On May 22, 2020, Oyakhilome successfully converted the MFB into a commercial bank duly licensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria to carry out commercial banking services. And last week in a first-of-its-kind achievement in the Nigerian banking space, the MFB officially launched its own full commercial financial institution. The bank, known as Parallex Bank, commenced operation with a view to redefining customer experience through digital innovation. And typical of his business model, Oyakhilome always distances himself from the running of all his business ventures but always allows the professionals within the ministry to handle their operations. For Parallex Bank, the charming entrepreneurial clergyman appointed Dr. Adeola Phillips, one of his trusted senior pastors and CEO of Loveworld Nation to serve as the new bank’s chairman.
Spotlight learnt that as an MFB, Oyakhilome’s bank enjoyed the patronage of hundreds of thousands of the ministry members and now that it has morphed into a full-fledged retail banking institution, Parallex Bank is expected to do well by wooing not only the general public but also bank more on the upwardly mobile church members for its products and services.
In 2011, Forbes listed Oyakhilome as one of the five richest pastors in Nigeria. Topping the list was Bishop David Oyedepo with an estimated net worth put at $150 million. Following behind him was Oyakhilome with an estimated net worth put at about $50 million then. More than a decade after, that list is yet to be altered as many have attributed the success of the super rich pastor to his charismatic ministration which has won him many followers from the corporate world, notably the upwardly mobile young men and women who have spared nothing to keep the ministry and his conglomerate going.