Ashimolowo And 40 Years In Ministry!



By Emmanuel Ayomide-Praise

It is not very often that we in Nigeria celebrate our spiritual leaders, change agents, outstanding sportsmen and women, public figures, most beautiful women, human and civil rights activists, remarkable entrepreneurs and wealthy capitalists who are often large employers of labour and heavy contributors to the growth and success of our economy.

One of such outstanding and remarkable Nigerian achievers is Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo, senior Pastor and founder of the multi-faceted Kingsway International Christian Centre(KICC),London, United Kingdom, that was founded in the very early nineties and is now present and active in several countries in Africa and the USA, touching hundreds of thousands in the four-walls of her churches and impacting millions of others across the nations of the earth through its Satellite TV broadcasts and expansive media outreach. Very few individuals in the world, black or white, Asian or Caucasian, have the influence of Reverend Ashimolowo on leadership, change, public life, governance, success and personal development. Yet at about 62 years of age, he remains one of the most unassuming ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ that is known today, the world over.

Born on the 17th of March 1952 to a Nigerian Muslim Soldier and growing mostly in the Northern part of Nigeria, Ashimolowo  converted to Christianity at the age of 22, after the death of his father. While I know very little about the circumstances of his youth around this period of his life, I am of the opinion that perhaps the humble clergyman may have been confused, frustrated and exasperated after his father’s death, hence the need to give his life to Christ, an encounter which undoubtedly has made him a global and iconic figure in our world today and possibly one of the most influential black persons on the planet.

Pastor Ashimolowo himself has often talked about how his father served in the Nigerian Army and consequently lost his life during the Biafran war with his corpse being abandoned on a bridge (where it seemed there may have been a battle between the Nigerian and Biafran Armies with Ashimolowo’s father being shot in the process) without any official communication whatsoever from the Army leadership or the Federal Government of the time.

Ashimolowo began to grow in his new-found faith in Jesus Christ around the mid-seventies, enlisting in Bible College to obtain his seminarian credentials and later became ordained as a pastor in the Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria in 1974 where he would later meet his wife, Yemisi, with whom he has been happily married for more than three decades. Now, the story of Ashimolowo’s work with the Foursquare Church in Nigeria has often been told, retold and misconstrued. I have read many untrue stories, especially  on the internet, where it was said that Ashimolowo was sent to pastor a branch of the Foursquare Church in London, United Kingdom and after a few years decided to go and set-up his own Pentecostal denomination, thereby splitting the church he was in charge of.

Nothing can be farther from the truth! It is clearly obvious that at the time that Ashimolowo became an ordained Spiritual Shepherd at the Foursquare ministry in Nigeria back in the 1970s, he could never have dreamt of even pastoring a branch of the same denomination outside Nigeria, let alone founding an independent denomination of his own overseas. Ashimilowo was clearly working hard and focusing on his ministerial assignment and must have had no such plans on his mind.

It must therefore be a combination of providence, or call it, the hand of God, that was upon his life, like the Biblical David, who never dreamt of killing Goliath, the uncircumcised Philistine, for intimidating the entire nation of Israel for more than 60 days, let alone become King of Israel at the age of 30. David was only on an errand to deliver much-needed foodstuff to his older siblings at the war-front when God’s hand found him. In the same way, Reverend Ashimolowo never thought of pastoring a church in London, God’s hand clearly found him out! Looking at it from another angle, all of these can also be attributable to his hard work, perseverance and faithfulness to God and to those in the Foursquare denomination who placed several pastoral responsibilities on his young shoulders.

Let us not forget that in the 1970s and 1980s, there was no motivation for anybody to become a pastor, clergyman or even a priest; not in these days of fat offerings, sacrificial giving, seeds, cars and houses for pastors and their families as well as private jets for foreign missionary trips or international outreaches. Not that I was born in the 70s. Even at that, I can clearly recall that most, if not all, of the pastors that I grew up to know in the 80s and 90s were mostly poor clergymen who brandished the bible like a logo or banner openly but had nothing to show. So I can imagine what it was to have been a pastor, in the 1970s.

Well to the issue of pastors flying private jets, it’s not that there is anything wrong with it. I see absolutely no wrong with pastors owning private jets,driving fast cars, living in expansive houses, wearing the best suits, and enjoying amazing family vacations, because as it is said in the Holy Scriptures, those who work in the vineyard must be the first partakers of the fruits, especially when they work faithfully. Like I said earlier, opting to become a clergyman, priest or pastor in those days of Reverend Ashimolowo’s youth was akin to being cursed or bringing your family into public shame and ridicule as anyone who chose to become one was considered a failure, never-do-well or even a renegade. So, if people like Ashimolowo answered the call into ministry and carried their cross for around 40 years, particularly in those days when it was ignominious and ridiculous to be a man of God, and they have held on steadfastly to their call and to the God who called them, it should be no cause for alarm that that same God has duly rewarded them.

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Ashimolowo did not just become a pastor at the Foursquare Church in London. He was found faithful during several years of hard work, commitment and perseverance which I believe took him across several of their churches in Nigeria.  It was this doggedness and never-say-die attitude that ensured that the man of God was duly rewarded and sent to pastor a church overseas. How shall we also forget that Pastor Ashimolowo met this church in London with a considerable number of members and consequently grew it to become a large congregation of several hundreds within a couple of years, which is a remarkable achievement in a city  like London.

It was imperative that after pastoring this flock for many years and later receiving the call of God to start the KICC ministry, a substantial number of people in his previous congregation, having been touched by his years of impactful ministry, felt the need to go with him and support that new work of ministry. It is obvious that Reverend Ashimolowo apparently parted at his previous denomination in an amicable and Christ-like manner and this is clearly evident in the fact that even today, after more than two decades of leaving the Foursquare Church, he is still often sought-after by this same denomination, as a keynote speaker, at some of their leadership conferences and annual conventions. This also explains the rapid growth and expansion of the KICC ministry in London which reportedly grew to over 8,000 members in less than 10 years, making it the largest single Pentecostal church denomination in the whole of Europe, confirming the words of Scriptures which say clearly that he that is faithful in another man’s work will also have a greater work of his own committed into his hands.

One other often criticised realities of Ashimolowo’s ministry, especially in the Western media, is the prosperity message of the clergyman, which is nothing new from the standpoint of the Bible. The argument about the prosperity message is a never-ending one which I am not prepared to delve into other than to say that as I am pro, and not anti-prosperity, I already stand in a position of bias, a position which I don’t intend to abandon. So to everyone who believes that Christians are supposed to suffer on earth and then enjoy or get rewarded in heaven, let me just plainly say that I beg to disagree. Those who accept Christ and follow him faithfully are not given a promise of lack, poverty or hardship by him but that of prosperity, protection and blessings, with a mixture of great and small persecutions here and there and some measure of afflictions and temptations, which the believer is supposed to resist and overcome.

While it is written that many are the “afflictions” of the righteous ,all of which the Lord delivers him from, it was never said that many is the “poverty” of the righteous, but only the ‘afflictions’ so the erroneous assumption that the believer is supposed to live in lack or poverty is against Biblical doctrine in its entirety. It is difficult for many secular thinkers to accept that Jesus was never poor as they often misconstrue some biblical texts or instances. If Jesus was poor, nobody would have been willing to cast lots (or in latter day terms take bets) for His coat because nobody wants to take bets for a poor man’s clothing. Let us also remember that while Judas stole so much from the accounts of Jesus’ ministry, which were enough to have rendered the ministry bankrupt, the ministry never went broke, much to his own astonishment!

Let us also consider the fact that on one occasion when Jesus asked Peter and the other apostles if after leaving their secular pursuits and businesses they ever lacked anything and their response was no. We cannot discountenance the fact that Peter, with his impatient and temperamental nature, could not have left his fishing business to follow Jesus, if he wasn’t sure that his needs would be met and he would have more than enough to take care of his family. It is doubtful that he would have agreed to follow the Messiah if his financial and material needs were not guaranteed to be met.

Finally, think about the fact that Jesus was never at any time financially embarrassed, for when the tax collectors came to him and the disciples to demand for tax payments, the Master simply commanded his disciples to go and take money from the mouth of the fish, which they promptly did, thereby averting any form of ridicule, from the Pharisees and Chief Priest. Ashimolowo is therefore in order preaching prosperity, as this is a doctrine of Scriptures, which was further clearly expounded by Jesus himself. Many of Jesus’ parables centered on themes such as money, financial planning, investment and the like! Likewise, God takes pleasure in the prosperity of his servants, not in their poverty.

Ashimolowo has accomplished so much in his 40 years on the pulpit. However, much still needs to be done. As he celebrates four decades of giant strides on the pulpit in 2014, it is important for him to look into the future because there are so many challenges that lie ahead of him. The Man of God must put his influence across the religious and secular arenas to good use by addressing some of the leadership deficit pervasive in several African countries where he is so often invited as a keynote speaker at various leadership conferences and religious conventions, because one of the most fundamental problems bedevilling the continent of Africa is the lack of quality leadership and the absence of good governance, and this seriously needs to be tackled.

Reverend Ashimolowo noted quite recently at a forum in Nigeria that he is now convinced that God is calling him into a new phase of ministry which basically involves leadership empowerment and development. On this new-found mandate of his he must not falter neither must he lose focus. He must continue to speak boldly and fearlessly to political leaders, change agents, opinion moulders, public servants and religious torchbearers as he traverses the length and breadth of the continent nudging them on the need for selfless leadership, good governance, poverty eradication and sound education for Africa’s brightest young people. It is my prayer that God will continue to endow him with the wisdom, boldness and capacity to fulfil this divine assignment.

•Ayomide-Praise wrote from 41 Road, Block 6F4, Gowon Estate, Ipaja,Lagos. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @ayomidepraiseng

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