For centuries, European and American missionaries have gone to Africa to spread the word of Christ. That trend is now working in reverse, with a Nigerian minister in Texas who plans to build churches as numerous as Starbucks coffee shops.
Drive an hour north-east of Dallas, and you will find yourself staring off into a barren, flat horizon. One out-of-place building rises above the landscape: a 10,000-seat auditorium. It is the centrepiece for the Redeemed Christian Church of God in North America.
It is one of Africa’s largest and most influential Christian movements, claiming more than five million followers worldwide, mostly in Nigeria. Pastor James Fadele, who runs the Church in North America, said God told the Church’s leader Enoch Adeboye that its North American headquarters would be founded near Dallas – but not where, and not when.
Then, Fadele (pictured above) said, a white man in Texas had a vision. “God told him, ‘The land doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to a group of church people,'” Fadele said. “‘When you meet them, I will let you know who they are.'”
Fadele, a short man with a booming voice, said a few Redeemed Church members were eating at a local restaurant when they were approached by the white man.
The man told them God had asked him to buy a patch of land, but that the Church was the owner. “They accepted it, they paid the check, and the rest, as they say, is history,” said Fadele with a laugh.
The Redeemed Church plans to build a university, sports complex and golf course on its land near Dallas That divine spot is Floyd, Texas, an unincorporated community with a population of 220. Church leaders have grand plans for the property, which now spans 700 acres (283ha): a university, sports complex, even a golf course.
Fadele radiates with excitement describing his vision for future events at the auditorium: “Crazy people for Jesus, people who are in love with Jesus, shouting ‘hallelujah’, praising Jesus, having prayer vigils, having fun, giving each other high-fives.”
Fadele’s goal is to establish a church within every 10 miles (16km) in North America, to take as many people as possible to heaven. “Because heaven is real, God is real,” he said. “And that is why we want to plant churches like Starbucks.”