Every morning at 7am Nigerian time, Pastor Jerry Eze can be seen on a YouTube live stream praying fervently for thousands of requests he has received from his followers around the world.
Usually flanked by his wife Eno, and an associate, Eze’s impassioned prayers are performed with urgency, as he prays for the healing of ailments and problems such as illnesses, court cases and financial problems.
Eze promotes miraculous healings with the slogan “What God can’t do doesn’t exist,” and halfway through the live broadcast, he cuts to pre-recorded videos of his followers sharing testimonies they say are the result of their prayers.
They range from healing from terminal illnesses to conception after years of infertility.
Eze describes the testimonies as the “strange acts of God.”
“It goes way beyond science and technology,” he says.
CNN has not independently verified the content of the videos.
Broadcasts on the New Season Prophetic Prayers and Declarations (NSPPD) channel have propelled Eze to become one of the most viewed preachers on YouTube.
With more than 90,000 peak concurrent viewers, Eze’s daily broadcasts are among the most streamed globally on YouTube, according to analytics website Playboard, which compiles data for YouTube channels.
His YouTube platform also ranks second among the most-watched live gospel channels worldwide, behind Brazilian preacher Bruno Leonardo, Playboard data shows.
Eze also collects large amounts of donations from his broadcasts. He is one of YouTube’s highest-grossing preachers who is taking advantage of the platform’s Super Chat donations that help creators earn revenue.
YouTube’s Super Chat feature allows viewers to pin their comments on live streams for a fee ranging from $1 to $500.
Eze’s YouTube channel receives one of the highest Super Chat donations in the world, according to Playboard.
Among his passionate fans is an award-winning Nigerian singer from banj who tells CNN that joining Eze’s morning prayers has become routine.
“Waking up every day with NSPPD… has become part of my daily routine. I almost miss it. It’s part of my family’s morning devotion,” adds D’banj, real name of who is Oladapo Daniel Oyebanjo.
The singer says he’s had his own share of platform prayer miracles.
“I remember last year Pastor Jerry said we should write down seven things we want to happen, and we prayed and I believed. I looked at the list the other day and … all seven have been answered.”
Nollywood actress Tonto Dikeh says she also connected with Eze’s ministry early last year. Now she’s “addicted,” she tells CNN.
Eze, who turns 40 on Monday, has come a long way since the days when he and his single mother struggled to find food to eat.
“I came from a family where poor people describe my family as poor,” he says. “There were days when my mother and I had no food to eat, and my mother would hold my hand and pray and thank God. My mother was a single mother and a small trader who sold peanuts in the market. .. There were days I would come home crying without having made any sales, so I couldn’t buy us anything to eat.”
Born on August 22, 1982, in Bende Local Government Area of Abia State, Eze tells CNN that his education was funded by a benevolent couple who had noticed his active participation in a church in its early years.
“I was just doing things at church like sweeping and singing and reading the Bible, doing what most of my peers didn’t want to do. I had just finished high school at the time before they took me in,” she says of the couple .
Eze excelled in his studies and obtained a degree in history and international relations from the Abia State University. He also completed a master’s degree in human resource management.
Before venturing into the ministry, Eze previously worked with a local television station before joining the World Bank’s HIV/AIDS project and later worked as a communications specialist with the Population Fund of the United Nations (UNFPA).
“I was very excited about the job (at UNFPA), but my mother was not. She said it was not what God told her. According to her, God told her that she would be a preacher,” says Eze.
“I never shared those aspirations (to be a preacher). I wasn’t even listening to her. She and I lived in poverty, so I always asked why God didn’t help us out of poverty first before asking- I asked him to leave a job that was giving us money to be a preacher. The money I was giving him was from his job (at the UN), so it didn’t make sense.”
He eventually quit his job and entered full-time ministry, but sadly his mother died of heart failure before he could fulfill her ambition for him, he says.
“It was when he died that the reality of my assignment began to dawn on me,” he adds.
Entering full-time ministry has involved great sacrifices, and Eze says he spends many hours praying late into the night to prepare.
“I don’t have friends, I don’t go out, I don’t have free time. I don’t know what my hobbies are anymore because there is no place for hobbies,” he says.
Eze has two children with his wife Eno, who is also a pastor. He said his marriage has not been perfect because of the demands of the ministry.
“It hasn’t been 100 percent, but because my wife and I do the same thing (ministry), we bond in the same way. The things that matter to others don’t matter to our family. Our conversations are about the ministry and how we will then fulfill God’s will for our lives. If I married the wrong woman, I will bore the person.”
Eze may have become an Internet phenomenon, but he insists his fame is accidental.
He had started live streaming in hopes of inspiring his congregation when the pandemic shut down all church services and attendance at his fledgling ministry, Streams of Joy International, dwindled.
“It wasn’t a goal to reach the world,” says Eze. “During the (peak of) Covid, there was palpable fear everywhere and I noticed that many people in my church were very afraid to come to church. So every morning my wife and I will connect , spreading encouragement to people,” he tells CNN.
“I just wanted to talk about hope,” he adds.
Eze’s daily messages of encouragement later morphed into a daily online prayer network every weekday on YouTube and other video sharing services.
The live streams were a success and now in its third year, Eze’s YouTube channel has 880,000 subscribers as of this publication and his broadcasts have garnered over 122 million views over a three-year period , according to the figures of his channel.
UK and US viewers together account for 25% of their live streams on YouTube, with over 1 million views from the UK and over 700,000 views from the US between 20 July and 16 of August 2022, according to platform data. .
Nigeria is the highest with over two million viewers. Its broadcasts are also seen in other African nations and countries such as Italy, Germany, Canada, France, Spain, Ireland and the Netherlands, the chart shows.
Digital analyst Edward Israel-Ayide says Eze’s success on CNN can be linked to the “recent rise of digital churches and online religious movements.”
Israel-Ayide says this is due to the consequences of Covid-19.
“With the lockdown restrictions in place, the need for community and a sense of belonging drove Nigerians at home and abroad to look for digital platforms that could provide them with direction and hope,” he says. “Post-Covid, many people are still searching for purpose and direction due to the socio-economic challenges caused by Covid-19 and the ongoing global economic crisis. This is one of the main reasons why religious movements like Pastor Jerry Eze’s NSPPD are thriving “.
Although many people now know him because of his online platform, “that’s not where he started,” says Eze. “There was a physical church before the online one.”
Eze founded the Streams of Joy International Church in the suburbs of the eastern city of Umuahia in Nigeria many years before it rose to prominence.
Eze is now based in the Nigerian capital Abuja and his church has expanded beyond Nigeria to include branches in the UK, USA and Canada.
Attendance at his church in Abuja has also increased. But it is with the online community that it has gained the most traction and is here to stay.
“People all over the world are used to waking up and finding Pastor Jerry online,” says Eze. “It’s like a virus that’s here to stay.”