Joshua was known for his popularity across Africa and Latin America and his social media presence with 3,500,000 fans on Facebook. His YouTube channel, Emmanuel TV, had over 1,000,000 YouTube subscribers and was the world’s most viewed Christian ministry on the platform before it was suspended. Described as the “Oprah of Evangelism” and “YouTube’s most popular Pastor”,
He was awarded various accolades, notably receiving the Officer of the order of the Federal Republic (OFR) by the Nigerian government in 2008 and being voted the Yoruba man of the decade by Pan-Yoruba media outlet Irohin-Odua. He was called one of Africa’s 50 most influential people by Pan-African magazines The Africa Report and New African Magazine
As of 2011, according to Forbes, Joshua was Nigeria’s third-richest pastor,although the claim was immediately denied in a statement by the church. He was known to be controversial, and was even ‘blacklisted’ by the government of Cameroon in 2010.
According to Joshua’s official biography, unusual circumstances surrounded his birth. He said that he spent 15 months in his mother’s womb and narrowly avoided death after a quarry explosion near his house sent rocks through its roof just seven days after his birth. It is also alleged that Joshua’s birth was ‘prophesied’ 100 years prior.
Joshua, then known as Balogun Francis, attended St. Stephen’s Anglican Primary School in Arigidi Akoko, Nigeria, between 1971 and 1977, but failed to complete one year of secondary school education. In school, he was known as “small pastor” because of his love for the Bible. He worked in various casual jobs after his schooling had ended, including carrying chicken waste at a poultry farm. He organised Bible studies for local children and attended evening school during this period. Joshua attempted to join the Nigerian military but was thwarted due to a train breakdown that left him stranded en route to the military academy.