An electrical engineer by profession, Bishop Akinola of Rhema Chapel International, lectured at the Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro, Ogun State for about 14 years before heeding the call of God. He is happily married to Pastor Ireti Akinola and they have four children; Opeyemi, Oluwajoba, Tiwaloluwa and Jayeoluwa. In this encounter with ENCOMIUM Weekly at the National Stadium, Surulere on Saturday, July 19, 2010, he revealed how he was called by God, what has kept him going and more.
You are a trained electrical engineer turned fisher of men, how did it all happen?
No man preaches the gospel except he is called of God. That’s why the Bible said no one takes honour to himself except he was called like Aaron was. I found myself in a location where God said He wanted to use me and that was how it all started. I’ve been born again, I’ve been working with God, following His ways and He just told me He wanted to use me as a preacher. That was it.
At what point did you receive this call and what was your action then?
I was born again on April 4, 1977. The inkling for the call came up first in 1979 but I felt that could not be God saying that to me. So, for another twelve years, I was still struggling with the voice, saying no. And then I didn’t see why God should call me then because my training was not in the humanities, because we cannot marry preaching with engineering. I always thought of the demands, so I felt I didn’t want to go into ministry until one day it happened in Abeokuta. I went to visit a friend on a Sunday afternoon. I was in the sitting room and then the Holy Ghost seized me and said now is the time I will answer the call. I left the sitting room and went to the open field, praying and moving around to know if it was God talking and He continued that, yes, He is the one talking and that was when I resigned from my job and went into full time ministry.
Where were you working before you resigned?
I was lecturing in the Electrical Engineering Department of Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro. That was in 1991.
When you started out in 1991, what were the major challenges faced?
The challenges were many. Like they say, Rome was not built in a day. The work of a pastor is such that you have to cooperate with God to build His church and He builds from the scratch. He will train you, send people to you and all of these will take time. Initially, we didn’t have enough resources, both human and financial and that was limiting our vision. But after sometime, we overcame that. As I said, I didn’t study humanities so I was not too familiar with human behaviours, particularly deviant types. Some people would come to church and you will think they are Christians, you want to treat them so, but they are not. So, we encountered a lot, but over the years, we have learnt and we have seen things and we give glory to God that He is maturing us and He is showcasing His glory all over the world.
During your lecturing days, what were the things you did that contributed to what you are doing now?
I like to impact life and I saw stars in each class that I lectured in. I saw people that could begin to impact the society. There is something about education; the culture of intellect brightens up your future. So, I used to handle my students as stars of the future, and I considered that as an opportunity and that kept me on in that line until God gave me His voice to lead me out in His work.
Will you say your ability to lecture at ease then helped you more in your ministry?
No, I will not say so because what we use in ministry is not even what we learnt in school. Rather, it is the grace of God. So, I will rather refer to God’s grace in every area. Some people went to school and still fail in the ministry, and some people didn’t go to school and they excel in ministry. That’s why the Bible says in Acts 4:31, ‘Great grace was upon them, notable miracles were done.’ It was talking about Peter, the fisherman. People who were unschooled, who were unlearned, they changed the world at the space of three and half years because great grace was on them. So, rather, I will say thank God for grace. It is not education that makes me to excel. It may have given us some culture, it may be able to make us to talk and speak for you to hear me now, but definitely, it’s not what’s making impact.
Have you seen any prophecy about Nigeria so far?
There is a great future for Nigeria. Particularly if you can help me amplify it. This is the 50th year of Nigeria. I believe strongly that God is going to give us what I call jubilee experience. A time when there will be restoration of other things, a time when the glory of God will be released. So, Nigeria will be better. Of course, if you look at Nigeria today, you will discover in the map of Africa that the place where Nigeria is, is like the tiger of Africa. So, the gospel tiger of Africa is Nigeria, that’s why almost in all nations of the world, Nigerian pastors have the largest churches. I believe therefore, God is doing the foundation of something. Our star will still shine in this country.
You focus your message on change, how have you been able to implement this in the national level?
Our just concluded conference is part of it, because we know that change is paramount to progress. If there’s no change, there will be stagnation. As a matter of fact, motion is all about progress, you move from there to here because it means you allow changes. So, we always therefore say that change is essential for us to move forward. Politicians have to change; even ministers and businessmen have to change. Preachers have to change, journalists have to change, both in attitude and ideas because attitude is everything. Resisting change is denied progress of life, motion. That’s why I will always say that the focus of the Holy Spirit is for people to change. But to your question, we preach it, we train people for it. I discovered that the only way by which Jesus has been able to change his 12 disciples who were also Jews and made them world shakers in the space of three and half years was because He gathered them together and train them, because information is the only antidote against deformation. So, we keep on saying it on TV, radio, even in papers. But it is only God that can give the increase.
When you started as a young evangelist, did you envisage coming this far?
As a matter of fact, my vision is broader, because if I must tell you, we haven’t seen anything yet. That’s just the fact because the vision that God showed me in those days was a global vision. A vision with great crowd of people who are trooping to Jesus. In fact, in those days, I used to call it a landslide gospel impact. So, what we are seeing today is just a starter, we are seeing bigger things because the vision for an appointed time is for larger work.
Your television programme, Freedom Across the Airwave, is a tremendous blessing, how did it all start?
In the first place, let me make a note that we are going to suspend it for a while now because we have a project ongoing and you know all of these things cost money. So, for some weeks now we have put it on hold. But needless to say, everything that will excel in the ministry has to come from God’s voice. That’s why the Bible says that the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. His direction is the only thing that can guarantee distinction. He told us to start and I saw people receiving freedom and liberation as they were hearing the word across the airwave. That was when we started. And to the glory of God, we have recorded so many testimonies. In fact, in Oshodi, somebody died and was resurrected and a whole lot of others.
As a preacher of the gospel, what are the highs and lows of presiding over a big church like Rhema?
There is the fact that people should know that not all wolves are dead. By that, I mean, yes, even when things are changing, people should know that the devil is still at work; it’s not yet in chains and padlock. That’s why that song says be watchful and be wise because your adversary is still roaring like a lion. So, it is part of the low points that you must remember that you are still at war. So, we are always on that constant edge. You must be ready to fast and pray, depend on God and be patient. When the changes and challenges come, because in the church, you have to find those who God sent, those who the devil sent and those who send themselves. Those three classes are very distinct and of course, they create the various crest and then trust. Those who God sent, you will enjoy them so much, they will form a formidable team with you. But those sent in, the devil will be like caterpillar attacking anything. Those who sent themselves will be casual, non-committal, no purpose for living. So, those are some of the crest and trust.
Some pastors are focusing on the youths, some prosperity, some success. What focus does your message have in building the nation?
We preach what we call the message of triumph. Total triumph over sin, over Satan, over the devil, over poverty, and circumstances that are contrary in life. So, for that reason, our focus is holistic, because both the young and the old need to triumph. So, we are not just targeting youths or adults, but we preach the total gospel to the total man. All those who pick on liberation messages will become liberated.
You have authored many books, how and when do you get the inspiration to write?
You have used the right word. How I get the inspiration is by inspiration. So, we write by inspiration. There could just be a burden and once I pick my biro and I begin to write, until the burden lifts up, I don’t stop writing. One of our classical books is the one entitled, Making of the Champion. I could remember I was walking on a street somewhere in New York when I heard champion and my journey there was almost ending. When I came back home, I began to announce champion. I preached it for three months and the message became that book which is now read all over the world. So, I will say it’s God that gives the inspiration.
Pastor Tunde Bakare seems to be your friend, what’s your take on his political interests in recent time?
Yes, we are friends. But get something right, Pastor Tunde Bakare is not delving into politics. Rather, he creates political impact via the burden. He said it clearly that he is not a politician and he is not interested in politics. So, he has the readiness to change Nigeria. In fact, I was told some few weeks ago he cried in his church and wept seriously. They were acting drama where politicians were just in their greedy way, embezzling money and he was watching it. He just burst into tears. So, that shows a burden in the heart of a man who believes something must change. He is not a politician, he’s a minister of the gospel.
If you meet with the nation’s president, what will your advice be?
I will congratulate him first and foremost for receiving such a superlative grace to occupy the first man’s sit in Nigeria. Having said that, I will say to him to maximum grace and please not frustrate it. He should be focused and think through to see what his legacy will look like. He should not allow distraction. There are sycophants in this country and he must never dance to their tune. He should do things that will impact on the community. I have always said one of the foremost things that should be done in Nigeria for someone that wants to have a lasting legacy is to attend to the issue of light. If you look at the Bible, the first thing that God puts in place was light. So, if Dr. Goodluck can work on light, he should do it and the rest will follow. People hide under the cover of darkness to do so many things, so let there be light and the economy will change.
- This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, June 22, 2010