It is perhaps an unlikely setting for a praise and worship session. But every day at midnight, thousands of worshippers around the world have logged on to Instagram to lift their voices in praise and prayer, united by one hashtag: #HalleluyahChallenge.
More than 60,000 people have joined in the Instagram praise and worship in an hour-long midnight gathering, which is the brainchild of Nigerian gospel singer Nathaniel Bassey.
It all started with a simple post on his Instagram page on the 31st of May, where Bassey signalled his intention to start a 30-day midnight praise challenge throughout the month of June.
Even Nigeria’s expensive internet data costs have seemingly not deterred eager worshipers who have flocked to the livestream on his Instagram and Facebook pages.
At it’s peak on Monday, CNN observed that around 68,000 people joined the Instagram livestream, while over 50,000 joined the Facebook livestream.
Statistics from Evolve Press reveal 10,000 posts with the hashtag “#HallelujahChallenge” and over 18,000 with the hashtag “#olowogbogboro” making it the number one trend in Nigeria.
Bassey said he did not imagine the movement would become so popular on Facebook and Instagram.
“I had a sense which is the leading of the spirit to praise God the whole of this month,” Bassey told CNN
“Against the backdrop of the challenges in the world today especially in our nation, with the scourge of terrorism and the recession … it has brought a sense of hope and respite. It is a reflection of the desire and hunger for answers and for hope,” he said.
Bassey frequently shares testimonies of participants who say taking part in the challenge has yielded results and a change in their circumstances.
“He’s on course to build the largest congregation ever with 1 phone and Instagram /Facebook” said Facebook user OO Nwoye.
“One lesson I have taken away from the success of this #hallelujahchallenge is have a specific/consistent theme and go live at a time the audience would not be distracted. This has helped in the pulling together the mass compared to others who have tried adhoc live streaming.” he added.
The #Halleluyahchallenge has also gained the attention of popular Nigerian celebrities like Funke Akindele, Don Jazzy and Toke Makinwa who have also shared the hashtag with their followers.
The movement has however not been without criticism. Media entrepreneur, Joy Isi Bewaji criticized it in a Facebook post calling it a “cute online revival.”
“This… will change nothing… We have had too many spiritual revolutions. What we need is a mental one.”
“You cannot pray Nigeria to greatness… It is not up to God to save the rot in our educational institutions or fix the drainage on our roads. It’s up to us. And we can’t do any of that on our knees. ” she added.