Sunday Adelaja, 43
#16 Most Influential
Pastor Sunday Adelaja, the exuberant Nigerian who founded and heads the evangelical Embassy of God in Kyiv, has a knack for drawing a crowd -- and controversy.
He launched his religious career shortly after arriving in Ukraine in 1993 and his church now boasts 2.5 million members, including 100,000 weekly churchgoers.
And despite the negative reaction to him by Ukraine’s powerful Orthodox clergy, Adelaja's colorful preaching has earned him endorsements from the likes of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, according to the church’s website.
He has also been implicated, however, in financial scams.
“Everyone has dropped in at least once. But the famous ones don’t want anyone to know about it, because I am supposedly controversial.”
- Pastor Sunday Adelaja.
“Everyone has dropped in at least once. But the famous ones don’t want anyone to know about it, because I am supposedly controversial,” the pastor told the Kyiv Post.
Leonid Chernovetsky, Kyiv’s eccentric and controversial mayor, has never been shy about his affiliation with the church, gaining spiritually and politically. The church runs a soup kitchen in Kyiv and a rehabilitation center for alcoholics and drug addicts, two charities that worked to Chernovetsky's advantage at election time.
The pastor, married with three children, offers something to everyone.
“My major contribution has been to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. When people see me, they say: I don’t want to go to his church, but maybe I should reconnect with Orthodoxy.”
Reinvigorating religious fervor after 70 years of official atheism by spreading the word in a simple manner is what Adelaja considers to be his greatest achievement.
The result has been a worldwide ministry that Adelaja says extends to embassy churches in the U.S., Europe and former Soviet Union, a radio and television audience of eight million in Ukraine, plus over 80 books written and published by the pastor and translated into several different languages.
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