“Going for a church interview, you think you would only be asked about doctrine and church leadership issues. That they would go into issues of globalisation and touch on how you would handle political decisions shows the Citam (Christ is the Answer Ministries) leadership expects the bishop to engage with some of those issues.” This is what Rev Calisto Odede, the new presiding bishop of Citam, told the SHEPHERD a few days after he was named bishop-elect in late February.
He said the interview questions were exhaustive ranging from Brexit and globalisation to doctrine and church leadership matters. But that did not really surprise him.
“Citam has a lot of international engagements. The bishop needs to be a person who can also address issues that are impacting the globe,” he said.
As he takes over from Bishop David Oginde, Odede, whose consecration is scheduled for December 5, knows that expectations are very high and his leadership style will be watched keenly not only locally but also internationally. Some people have already described him as ‘Mr Fix It’ because of his trouble-shooting ability.
It is a description the Kenyatta University-trained Bachelor of Education (physics and chemistry) graduate, who got saved 40 years ago as a Form Four student, accepts reluctantly.
“I have been used a lot in that area. The Lord has used me (a bit) in the area of trouble-shooting and straightening out issues, but I won’t call myself a Mr Fix It,” he told the SHEPHERD in an earlier interview.
Until his appointment, Odede, 57, was the senior pastor at Nairobi Baptist Church, where he had served since November 2014. He joined Baptist from Citam Valley Road, where he was the senior pastor, following a mutual agreement between the two ministries.
So how does he see himself?
“I am a man who loves the Lord and who is quite engaged in bringing renewal. I would call myself a revivalist,” he said.
What then will be his priority areas as he takes over as Citam’s third presiding bishop?
He said he would focus on consolidating the “great expansion” Citam has experienced over the last five years, by ensuring proper staffing. This was in apparent reference to the aggressive church planting initiative that has seen the giant Pentecostal ministry, boasting about 45,000 members, reach about 25 assemblies.
Odede said he would also focus on expanding the ministry internationally.
“Citam has great potential in terms of international church planting. I am looking forward to God helping us move into other countries,” he said.
Locally, he would like Citam to support other ministries. “We are so gifted as a church and I think that gift should be beneficial to churches in the wider country, not just limited to Citam. I am hoping we can come up with something that would benefit pastors in rural areas and counties who are not necessarily Citam pastors. One of the ways this can be done is by training them to put proper structures in place. I believe God can use us to be a blessing to the wider Church, just as we were a blessing to Nairobi Baptist.”
One person who has faith that Odede will bring awakening to Citam is Joshua Wathanga, an elder at Nairobi Baptist Church and chairman of Hesabika, a Christian organisation focused on bringing about socio-economic transformation in the country.
In an earlier interview, Wathanga, who worked with Odede at the Fellowship of Christian Unions (Focus), said Odede had a passion and commitment for evangelism and mission.
“Odede not only has passion but also a burden and experience in growing a work of God. He is going to bring spiritual growth and revival at Citam; that is what God seems pleased to do wherever He sends Calisto,” he said.