“A sense of responsibility hit me…that’s the BC and AD of my life.” Many speak of a “before” and “after” in their lives; a moment that discloses definition and provides guided purpose for the future. For Dr. Mensa Otabil, Christian motivational speaker, entrepreneur, educator and Ghanaian leader, this moment was shortly after the death of his mother. “It was an awakening of my individuality and my own sense of responsibility as a person. Everything I am now I define to that point because that’s when my mind started to change.” Dr. Otabil was a teenager when his mother passed and his father passed shortly after. Ever since, he has been living with what he calls a sense of responsibility; and his life works aim to help others disclose that same sense of responsibility and empowerment.
"Raising leaders, shaping vision and influencing society through Christ." This is the brief yet critical mission of The International Central Gospel Church based in Accra, Ghana. Dr. Otabil is currently the general overseer of ICGC, which formed in 1984 as a small church of 20 members and has grown into a “multifaceted network of ministries.” Perhaps what stands out the most about this church is the unique premise upon which it was formed: African Emancipation. Dr. Otabil explains, “I grew up with the reality of third-world living; the effects of underdevelopment in the community and the life of the citizens…I felt that there had to be a Christian response.” Dr. Otabil expresses the importance of leadership as liberation. He believes that the underdevelopment of Africa is undoubtedly due to significant factors such as history, geography, colonialism, and slavery. “Leadership with a clear vision,” however, will help the countries of Africa overcome… and so began the International Central Gospel Church.
ICGC grasps the major components of a modern-day civic center: social empowerment, spiritual guidance, health information, business skills, civic responsibility, and education. Every year ICGC facilitates “Life Walk,” an 18-kilometer walk that promotes heath education while fundraising for a local charity. This year 7000 people participated and raised funds to build a boys’ dormitory for orphans as well as a computer-learning center – something usually reserved for those with money. From walks to concerts, sermons to service, this church seems to do it all. And yet despite the seemingly large impact ICGC has on its community, Dr. Otabil realizes that the issues in Ghana and Africa as a whole are far greater than we can imagine. “The problems in our country are many, so even when we do these small bits they don’t seem like anything.” Dr. Otabil’s brief moment of visible discouragement no doubt, expresses the weight of living with a sense of responsibility. Simply put, it’s not easy. Nevertheless, Dr. Otabil only allows himself to dwell on this idea momentarily; for this dismay is quickly transformed and he goes on to talk about the role of ICGC in improving the lives of people.
Improve indeed – and not just in a religious sense. Dr. Otabil has taken positions in the areas where he may exercise his sense of responsibility. On top of being the general overseer of the International Central Gospel Church, he is the Chancellor of Central University College, Senior Pastor at Christ Temple, presenter of The Living Word radio and television programs, and author of a book “Buy the Future.” He also has a wife, Joy, and four children, Sompa, Nhyira, Yoofi Abotare, and Baaba Aseda. So given his accolades and community involvement, perhaps it is not surprising that about 10 years ago, he joined forces with Minnesota-based Pastor Randy Morrison of Speak the Word Church International for its annual Empowerment Conference.
Pastor Randy, who was born in Trinidad, West Indies and came to the United States as a teenager, passionately speaks of the importance of empowerment – not only helping out communities in need of assistance, but also providing them with the necessary tools so that they may help themselves. Dr. Otabil’s message of living with a sense of responsibility seems to go hand-in-hand with Pastor Randy’s message of empowerment. Who would have known that an instant friendship formed in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas in the Caribbean years ago would result in this spiritual and motivational duet? Today, however, it only seems natural. As Dr. Otabil puts it, “I agree with him on so many issues – philosophically we are on the same wavelength.” And if philosophical wavelengths are any indication of successful collaborations, then folks, we have a winner. Their philosophical perspectives on life practically mirror each other. When speaking of Africa, Pastor Randy exclaims, “Poverty is a state of mind.” On the same topic yet independent of Pastor Randy’s interview, Dr. Otabil states, “empowerment is basically mental and spiritual.” Certainly parallel.
In May Dr. Otabil joined Bayless Conley, Rick Godwin, Dr. A.R. Bernard, Pastor Randy and Speak the Word Church International in the “Empowerment Conference: Taking Responsibility.” The title alone combines both Morrison’s and Otabil’s personal missions. And when asked what he hopes program participants walk away with, Dr. Otabil says, “I think they should walk away with a clear direction as to something they can do to make their lives better.” This one-week event pushed its participants to reevaluate their lives and take responsibility for what they may have to offer the world. And the world is whom Pastor Randy and Dr. Otabil hope to reach. Their shared love for the continent of Africa drives their message even further. They are taking the Empowerment Conference to Nairobi, Kenya in June and hope to personally reach church leaders, congregations, and businesspeople alike. Their television programs are on back-to-back in Kenya, but they’d like to make the trip and deliver their message in person. As Dr. Otabil puts it, “[our role is] empowering people mentally, spiritually, and helping people take charge of their lives.”
Perhaps the title of Dr. Otabil’s book sums it all up. Buy The Future: Learning to Negotiate for a Future Better than Your Present. This book seems to be the textbook for his teachings and beliefs – supplementing the Bible, of course. He uses the story of Jacob and Esau [Genesis 25:20-34; 27:1-45 NKJV] to illustrate how we may buy the future in several areas of our lives. He believes that in society there are “Esaus” and there are “Jacobs.” It is up to us to decipher the two and take control of what we want to be in the future. And although uniquely interpreted, the underlying premise of the book along with Dr. Otabil’s religious, business, and academic teachings present a significant dual question: What is your BC-AD and how are you living with a sense of responsibility for a better future? Essentially, you too may buy your future.
International Central Gospel Church is located in Accra, Ghana on 69 Ring Road West. Speak The Word Church International is located in Golden Valley, MN on 515 Jersey Avenue South. Pastor Randy Morrison & Dr. Mensa Otabil will visit Nairobi, Kenya to speak about Empowerment June 12-16, 2