Pastor David Ayo Akerele is a Canada-based Nigerian preacher. The widely traveled University of Ibadan-trained engineer, who is also a Canadian citizen, shares his odyssey from a staunch Muslim background to a global preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as Senior Pastor of Rhema for Living Assembly, Ontario, Canada, in the below interview with Christian Benefits’ Wole Olarinde on The Exploits of Nigerian Preachers in the Diaspora. Excerpts.
Please can we meet you sir?
I’m David Ayo Akerele. I am a Nigerian by birth and also a Canadian Citizen. I was born into a Muslim family. I grew up in a nuclear family of eight people.
Briefly tell us about your background and upbringing
My dad was a lecturer while my mum was a teacher. We had a formal upbringing in the typical African background where the parents would want the children to be very serious with their academics. You must read your books. You must make sure you make an A. It must be distinctions. They emphasized that to us, particularly me; being the first son. So, we had a very good rapport with our parents. Sadly, my mum is late. She passed on in 2005 after a brief illness. Inspired by her life, God has helped me and my siblings to grow up to who we are today by the grace of God
Please share with us your rebirth encounter by which you became a believer
My dad was a staunch Muslim. He had a very strong passion for Islam. Obviously, because of his strong academic mind, he said he needed to be sure that what he was doing (Islam) was correct. One of his friends in academics had been pestering him to give his life to Christ, but he refused. In 1984, he traveled from our base in Ibadan to the eastern part of Nigeria for a course. In his hotel room he decided to read about that Jesus that people have been talking about. He brought out Quaran and the Bible and studied the two holy books. He said each time he read about Jesus, he discovered that Jesus talked with authority like where he said I am the way, the truth and the life. But each time he read about Mohammed in the Quaran, he discovered that Mohammed was not sure where he was going and always talked like a slave like Allah will decide where he would be when he dies. My dad said he saw a different person in Christ and right there in his hotel room in 1984 he knelt down beside his bed and gave his life to Christ. When he returned home he told us that he had met something superior to Islam, and then offered Christ to the rest of the family. The lady who had been pestering him to give his life to Christ followed him up and led him to New Life Baptist Church. All of us went with him to the church and gave our lives to Christ. So, I met with Christ 36 years ago; precisely 1984 and it has extremely been impactful. I have not looked back since that time.
What informed your personal decision to give your life to Christ?
As I said it was my dad that God used to channel our hearts to Christ. He brought the gospel to us. No other incident triggered my journey to Christ other than my dad. When my dad brought his “thesis” as I will call it, and began to tell us how wonderful Jesus is, our hearts opened up to the gospel, and we all gave our lives to Christ. Our dad and we all his children are sound born again Christians till now.
Share with us your kind of lifestyle before you accepted Christ?
I met Jesus Christ when I was a very young boy. I hadn’t committed crimes or gotten involved in terrible things. I was still dad’s and mum’s boy. I was very diligent and studious. I studied very hard. My dad is a disciplinarian. I had a combination of formal and informal upbringing. So, my upbringing before I accepted Christ was very simple. I was serious with my studies as a young boy aspiring to be a doctor.
How will describe your walk with the Lord these 36 years?
It has been full of ups and downs, but has also been highly rewarding too. I haven’t looked back from following Christ since 1984. It has been from glory to glory. God has given me unusual grace and has helped me. I have been very strong in the faith; always spending time in prayers and in the word; speaking and encouraging people that you can’t just be a nominal Christian. You have to grow up in Christ. That has been the central thrust of my life and ministry over the years. It has been explosive. God has used me by his grace to be a blessing to so many people around the world. I make mistakes too as human, and I thank God for his grace and the blood of Jesus that is always available to us—helping us from all our sinful ways.
What was your level of commitment to church activities as a young convert?
After I got born again in 1984 at New Life Baptist Church I was with the church till 1993. I was in the university at that time till I left the church. While I was at New Life Baptist Church, I had, and still have unusual love for God in my heart. I participated in the choir. I was part of the prayer warriors. I had the drive and passion for God, which I later discovered God planted in me because of the work he would later commit into my hands. I had the passion to serve God, but the time was unripe then based on what God told me later on over the years. So, I went into professional development. I studied Industrial/Production engineering at the University of Ibadan. I graduated and worked in a bank and three other different companies in Nigeria. I later moved to South Africa for a post graduate degree.
Share with us how you developed your spiritual growth as a young covert
In Nigeria, i spent a lot of time with about four different ministries. I served with Bishop Francis Wale Oke’s Sword of the Spirit ministries. I was very close to a couple of ministers as well. My heart was much glued to ministry. I would defy all odds to attend all conventions and conferences across the city. I had a longing to attend wherever the word of God was present. I would attend any church doing a programme or conference. I was a very strong proponent of reading of books. I spent lots of time reading books. I would buy Kenneth Hagin’s books. Sometimes I borrowed. In fact I borrowed most of his books from my friends. I read more than 60 of Kenneth Hagin’s books between 1984 and 2000. I read the books of other authors too including Myles Munroe, and the books of so many others ministers of God around the world. Those were my formative years. I grew up under Bishop Francis Wale Oke. He took us through very rigorous trainings, conventions, conferences and 30 days, 40 days fasting and prayer. Sometimes I was part of the planning committee for big events, and among the key prayer warriors for major conferences. All these developed and enhanced my spiritual growth.
How did you eventually receive the call into ministry and the mandate?
I never had any intention to be a minister. I was just doing those things because I loved God. But while I was doing those things I mentioned above I was building myself spiritually. I was also working professionally. In year 2005, I finally left Nigeria for South Africa for a post-graduate programme at the University of Pretoria. And God connected me with a ministry in South Africa and I began to serve as a minister under them. The heads of that ministry are fantastic couple. God used them exceptionally to impact me because of their kinds of lifestyle. They worked with the less privileged. They would go into the streets, pick people up and feed them and mentor them. I was part of the ministers who trained those people. Those were the years God was training and building me. But I never had any intention of being a minister or a pastor. I just loved God, wanted to serve him and help people; make money and put the money into the gospel. I left South Africa in 2006 to the United Kingdom. That was when the call came officially. Things were not working well for me. I guess the Lord was trying to draw my attention. I obtained an MBA on a partial scholarship in a Scottish university. I got married in 2007, my wife joined me and we had a child. And things were not working. I had prayed and asked God lots of questions. And the Lord said it was time for me to go back to my calling. What is my calling? That was when God said that he had called me to be a teacher of the word. I prayed about it. I studied the word and the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart very clearly.
How did you finally launch out your ministry after God had spoken to you?
The signs were already there. I was with the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Scotland at that time. Whenever I open my mouth to lead prayers, the word of God would be coming powerful. I never did those things because I wanted attention to be a minister. My desires were to be an engineer, be the MD of a big company, get big propositions in Chevron or Shell; hold international positions and then use part of the money I make to serve God and support his work. But when I hit the wall, the Lord said to me, “I don’t need your money”. I need you. I said wow, Lord you need me? So, I submitted myself to the call. We hadn’t started a church at that time. I moved from Scotland to England and joined another Redeemed Christian Church of God and served with them too. At that time a door was opened for me to come to Canada. It was like a bomb when I got to Canada. The hand of God became very heavy on me. The word of God exploded in my mouth. And God began to use me. He began to give me revelations. I began to minister. I began to publish books. All to God’s glory alone. This is the trajectory of the call of God on my life.
What are the gifts that God endowed you to work with this mandate?
I am a teacher of the word. I am called with the mandate to teach. God has given me an incredible teaching gift. He has also given me the gift of revelation as well. But primarily, i function as a teacher in the Body of Christ. Aside these, I am a prolific author by the grace of God. I write books. I have written hundreds of articles and thousands of documents. I have been writing for years. Though I have a very strong training academically, I attribute all of these to the grace of God because it is the anointing of the Holy Spirit quickening and enabling me to do all the things I have done.
Tell us some of your church programmes in line with the mandate of your call
Aside from our regular Sunday church programs, we organize a quarterly Believers Fire conference where we bring together from different churches. We feed them physically and spiritually. We nurture them with the word. And it has been explosive. We organize annual Prayer Conferences as well. We bring people together to pray for different nations. We pray for America, Nigeria, Canada and different other countries. We also do book launches. By the grace of God I have written nine books. We set up specific launch for each book where we invite people and pastors from different churches. Some of these launches are big teaching conferences and events. We have done book launches in South Africa, England and Canada. We are supposed to do a book launch in America this year, but we suspended it because of the COVID-pandemic. I’m also on radio 94.9 F.M in Nigeria every Sunday, teaching the word of God, reaching about 5 million audience across the south-west part of Nigeria. People also log in from different parts of the world, including from places like America, Canada, England and different parts of the world. We were also publishing my messages in newspapers in Canada. We have suspended that for now. We have also featured on TV in Canada that streamed live to several countries. We trust God for other platforms that are coming up where the word of God will be taught. All glory to God alone.
Share with us some of the testimonies from these programmes?
God has healed, influenced and saved people. I get messages on my phone from different parts of the world, of people, including pastors sending e-mails to me that they are blessed, their lives are transformed and their souls are saved. People inbox me on face book sharing their testimonies with me. God uses our books, teachings and conferences to impact and influence people, set people on fire and give direction to people. It is God who is doing all these. I give all the glory him. They that do the things that count don’t stop to count the things they do. My heart is not focused on what God is doing. My heart is focused on obeying him and remaining faithful to him. If you focus your heart on those works and testimonies, they can get you derailed. And if you are not careful you can find yourself entering into the pride mode. So, I’m always very careful. I hardly say these things publicly to people because God is the one doing them. Without God I’m nothing. I can do nothing. He gave me the grace to teach. God also uses me in the area of revelation. He speaks to me about nations, people, pastors and events that are going to happen. Sometimes I pray about those things. Sometimes God will lead me to tell the person concerned. These are accurate and precise revelations about terrorist attacks in nations and so on. I will just call a pastor, the Lord asked me to tell you this, please sir, do this, and it will be exactly like that. Everything I have said is to the glory of God. We haven’t started yet. We haven’t seen anything. We want God to do more for us and use us more. My value system (driving force) is not success in ministry. It is faithfulness. God doesn’t reward success. He rewards faithfulness. You can be successful as a minister and may not be faithful. But you can’t be faithful and not be successful. That is my driving passion. And that is some of the things God has done in our lives and ministry.
What informed you relocation to the U.K?
I am in Canada now. I only went for an MBA programme at Robert Gordon University, U.K. That was when I got a full residency and the path to becoming a citizen. I moved to Canada because Canada offered a faster route to becoming a Canadian citizen. But I believe God orchestrated it because it was when I got to Canada that the ministry exploded! Canada is like my Canaan land. The Lord set me on fire here. Who am I? God just picked one poor boy somewhere and put his grace on him. That is why everything I’m doing has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with God. I will speak for 5 minutes and people will be asking, who is that pastor that just finished speaking? The word will be coming like fire like they opened a tap and somebody is speaking from my mouth. When I finished speaking, I become ordinary. And that opened the door to so many invitations from different parts of the world to come and preach. So, Canada is like the trigger for all that God is doing through me. God is the one who orchestrated and packaged it, using immigration opportunity. God is the one that pushed me into this country.
Share with us some of the impact of your ministry in all parts of the world?
The impact is numerous. God has given me a prophetic and apostolic teaching mandate to stir up the Body of Christ, to raise disciples and not just church members. All my teachings center on making believers to grow up and become mature. God has given me a unique grace to go very deep to bring out strong and life-transforming revelations from his word that fills his people. By the grace of God, some of my books are in Saudi Arabia, Asia, Europe and places I have not visited; God has sent my books there and they have been of tremendous blessings to people. I am on the social media preaching and meeting a lot of people I have never met in my life. God has impacted them significantly. A lot of people I have never met in my life have been healed. A lot of people I have never met in my life have heard the wisdom of God to resolve their marriage crisis. God has also given me a very strong teaching grace in the area of marriage as well. I have done a lot of counseling for men and women having crisis in their marriages. Sometimes it is very difficult for a minister of God to be saying God did this, God did that. I’m very careful doing that because by the time you count all those things and write them down; you have to be very careful before you are dragged by them into self glorification and ego-centrism. It can spark up your ego and pride, and then you just miss it. I am very careful with that. But I can assure you the impact of our ministry is global by the grace of God. I know that God has blessed so many people around the world. I have received many testimonies and messages from senior pastors, pastors and members. The second area is that of apostolic awakening of the Church. God has given me another unique grace to speak in the apostolic office, to call believers back to God, to call the Body of Christ back to unity and to speak to correct doctrinal errors. God has given me a unique grace for balancing scriptures and helping the Body of Christ to avoid doctrinal errors. I do that very often in my teachings to straighten things out. In the last four months my teachings on the radio are centered on apostolic reawakening of the Nigerian Church and the Body of Christ at the global level as well. All the glory to God alone for all he has done.
Who are those you look up to as your mentors or role models in ministry?
Bishop Dr. Francis Wale Oke is my spiritual father. I served him for many years. Dr. Sam Tukura is my mentor. He has impacted me significantly. Pastor Olubi Johnson in Ibadan is also my mentor. Rev. Olive Adelodun is also my mentor. I have direct access and relationship with these four people. Their ministries have impacted me significantly. There are those I have not met, but also look up to and follow wholeheartedly. Bro. Gbile Akanni is one of them. I love him with passion. Bishop David Oyedepo has impacted me. I have been listening to his messages since 1990. I would put his messages in my ear phone and play them continuously. I cannot deny God the honour of celebrating him. The late Archbishop Benson Idahosa impacted me significantly. Anywhere I heard he was ministering I would be there. Pastor E.A Adeboye also impacted me significantly, though I don’t have direct relationship with him. I served at the Redeemed Christian Church of God for 10years. Internationally, Kenneth E. Hagin had the greatest impact in my life, and followed by Reinhard Bonnke. I love Bonnke passionately and followed him for a while. Dr. John MacArthur, Pastor of Gracet Community Church, California has blessed my life tremendously. I also followed Dr. Tony Evans. I have many of his books. Dr. John Bevere has blessed me tremendously. Finally, Dr. David Jeremiah has been of incredible blessings to me. I should have like 14 or 15 of his books. Anytime I hear him release a new book, I must buy it. He has blessed me tremendously. These are the role models and mentors that I follow. They have impacted me significantly. There are others that have also impacted me, but these are the ones I can remember at the moment.
Apart from ministry, what are other things you do for a living in Canada?
I have got DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) degree from Edinburgh Business School in Human Resource Management. I’m a consultant. I have consulted for 14 or 15 companies worldwide. I should have worked for 17 companies across Nigeria, South Africa, England and Canada. I worked full-time for some of the companies while I consulted for others. I run some businesses. I have an education-based business. I have worked in realtor/real estate companies. I do so many other things professionally. I’m also a researcher. I worked for a research company in London for seven years and produced more than 1,500 research documents for them. If those documents are published in books, they would be around 500 books. I do a lot of professional writing and editing commercially. But all of those things are going lower in terms of my priority. The ministry is the main calling and which is what I am doing. I wish I can abandon them and face the ministry full time. But very soon we are going to be doing that.
Can we have a look at your lovely family; that is your wife and children?
Yes, I have got a beautiful wife. Her name is Omolara Omowunmi Akerele—a very supportive and inspiring woman that will be the delight of all ministers of the gospel. Without her support, I can’t guarantee you that all that God has used me to do would have been possible. I have three great sons—Enoch, John and Daniel. All of us are living together as a happy family in Canada. And together we are serving God at our ministry, Rhema for Living Assembly. They are doing well and God is helping us.
If Christ tarries, what are your plans or vision for your ministry in the next 5 years?
First, I’m trusting God to give us a green light to start a church in Nigeria. I have a strong passion to bring the message God has given to me right to the Nigerian soil. But I haven’t received a go ahead from God. We have that passion but passion is not the same as the will of God. So, I want to be sure God is leading me. Second, we want to hold A Fire Conference in America and some parts of Africa where we will bring believers together and train them. Third, I’m trusting God to help us to start a mentorship programme for pastors. I have got a very strong passion for raising Godly, Christ-centered and Bible-based ministries. It is long overdue. If not for COVID-19, this year was supposed to be the kick start. We want to raise between 10 and 50 pastors yearly to go through my mentorship and come out with fire for Christ. I’m trusting God to help us to run series of ministers conferences and conventions in different countries with two or three guest ministers that can impact this generation. These are the thoughts in my heart. I write two books yearly. I’m not going to write any book this year because we haven’t been able to push the last two books I wrote because of COVID-19. They are powerful books. One is titled, The Gospel of the Kingdom. The second is titled, The Race. I want these books to be reprinted in different languages. I want to reprint thousands of copies and ship them to Nigeria, Ghana and some other countries. I want to make them available to believers. I’m trusting God to give us the enabling, the grace, the finance and to raise men to support us. There are other things that are coming up, but at the moment the above plans and vision are the topmost in my mind. We are trusting God to help us. And if he says this is not the time to start; or this is not even my will for you at all, oh beautiful! I don’t want to jump before God until he wants me to move. I’m so glad for this interview opportunity given to me by Christians Benefits magazine. It’s a rare privilege. May God bless your ministry.