As Revd. Dr. Victor Akerele assumes a new office as President of Lagos Central Baptist Conference, he reflects on his service to God since the Lord picked him up as a kegite (palm wine drinkers) chief in the university to serve in his vineyard as a preacher of the gospel. Having served the Lord as a preacher from 2000 up to the apex as Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, FESTAC town, from 2000-2020, the brilliant 50-year-old cleric shares with Christian Benefits’ Wole Olarinde in this interview his transition from the kegite club to becoming a Church pastor and now President of a large consortium of Baptist churches under Lagos Central Baptist Conference.
Please can we meet you sir?
I am Victor Bamidele Akerele. I am married to Esther Modupe and we are blessed with three children; Oluwatobiloba, Oluwatomisin and Toluwalope. I was born on May 12, 1970. First Baptist Church, FESTAC Town has been in existence for 43 years now. I began my service in the church on August 1, 2000 as Associate Pastor under the now late Rev Gabriel Awoleke Fabiyi who transited on June 9th 2004. After his transition the church recognized the grace of God upon my life and appointed me as the new Senior Pastor of the church, which I initially rejected because of my young age then, and the level of the task of that office. I was satisfied as an Associate Pastor because the work load rests on the Senior Pastor. The church told me to pray about my appointment as the new Senior Pastor of the church. My wife and I prayed about it and the Lord told us that he had prepared us for that task. We relayed this to the Diaconate. And after we went through the entire process of my new appointment, I assumed office as Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, FESTAC Town in October 2004. Since my graduation from Nigerian Baptist Seminary, Ogbomosho, Oyo State, where I obtained Master of Divinity in Theology in 2000 I had been serving the Lord at First Baptist Church FESTAC Town, Lagos until August 2020 when I assumed office as new President of Lagos Central Baptist Conference..
Please can we have a look at your background and upbringing?
I grew up in the Army barracks. So, you can imagine the kind of lifestyle and upbringing in the barracks. However, I confessed Jesus Christ as the Lord in 1986, but with a little understanding until I submitted my life to him in 1987 when I was about passing out of Randle Secondary School, Apapa, Lagos. In that same year I gained admission to study Microbiology/Virology at University of Agriculture Abeokuta (now Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta). When I got into the university, because I had just given my life to Christ and my salvation was still tender I joined the kegites club. With my background as a drummer in the church choir, when I saw a group of fellow students drumming, singing and drinking palm wine on the campus I felt the drummer was not doing it well. So, I joined them to beat the drum for them. Before I knew it I was initiated as a member of that group popularly known as the Kegite club. I went very deep in the kegite club in the university. In my 400 level in the university I became the chief of the kegite club. It was after I became the chief that the Lord cornered me, broke me down and showed me that I had gone astray from him. So, I had to retrace my steps. It was the time I was getting up to leave the stage as the chief of the club. So, I left the stage as kegite chief before the end of my tenure. Since that time I have been on fire for the Lord.
Share with us journey after you left the kegite club to be on fire for the Lord
After my graduation from university I worked for some years and got committed to the Lord. I had the inkling that God was calling me into ministry. But nobody will want to leave a certainty for an uncertainty. I was enjoying working in the Medical Laboratory. I had dreams. In fact I had already gained direct entry admission into University of Benin to study medicine when the call became very strong. I told my parents about it. They didn’t say no, but their body language showed they didn’t support it. In 1996 I obtained admission forms of Nigerian Baptist Seminary, Ogbomosho, but I was not admitted. My parents were happy but I was not. I returned to my job. At a point when I was praying the Lord told me to tell my parents to pray and fast for me while preparing for next admission into the seminary. After my parents prayed and fasted for me they said the first time they were not in support of my going to the seminary; but now they are in support. It was after then I gained admission into Nigeria Baptist Seminary, Ogbomosho in 1997 and graduated from the seminary in 2000. Since then I have been serving the Lord at First Baptist Church FESTAC Town, Lagos.
Have you any regret abandoning your career prospects to go to the seminary?
None at all! Sincerely, I am thanking the Lord that I answered the call. I don’t know what would have become of my life if I had not submitted to the call. Thank God I have a wife who is very understanding. We were already in a relationship before the call. I concluded that if I tell her God is calling me and she refuses, then she is not meant for me. We both had lofty dreams. She was a nurse in training. I was going for further studies to read medicine. We both had a dream to go abroad for further studies in the area of consultancy and return home to have one of the best consultancy outfits in Nigeria. So, when I told her about the call I thought she would say no. But her response shocked me. She said it is better “we” answer the call. She used the collective pronounce “we.” She said we have not married yet. It is better we answer the call of God now. If we don’t do it now, we would still do it later. Now that we are young, let’s do it. That gave me joy! So, there is no regret.
How would you describe your experience since you took over the leadership of First Baptist Church, FESTAC Town, as Senior Pastor from 2004 until August 2020 when you were elevated as President of Lagos Central Baptist Conference
As a leader of the church, it has been both sweet and bitter experience. It’s like when you taste bitter leaf, at first it tastes bitter but later tastes sweet. The Christian ministry is not a bed of roses. So I was not expecting a leadership that would be sweet all through. Looking at the challenges and the success, the latter has been overwhelming; swallowing all the stresses and challenges. The members of First Baptist Church, FESTAC Town are wonderful people. Yes, sometimes we may have our differences because of different ideologies, but once the members understand the idea, they will take it and run with it faster and better than you that shared the idea with them. I often wonder how the ministry of Jesus Christ would have been without the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Those people who look as opposers are not actually opposers. They are simply there for check and balance. They are there to help you to know what to do, and to also to do a self-check as a pastor before you bring anything to the flock. You do a self-critique and self-check before you come to the open so that when you speak and the people ask questions you will have something to say. It’s been wonderful shepherding this flock these past 20 years. The Lord has really helped us. In the years so far I have been able to lead the church to plant five churches by the grace of God. FESTAC Town had just one Baptist church until 2007 when we planted two more Baptist churches in FESTAC. So in between 2007-2020 we have planted five Baptist churches; we planted two in FESTAC Town and three other churches elsewhere and they are all urban churches.
What are some of the gifts God endowed you for the work of the ministry?
The Lord endowed me with the gift of preaching and teaching. People often say I’m more of a teacher than a preacher. As a teacher when I pick a text, I do a dissection of the text, do an analysis of the text and try to highlight it point by point. And you see those points there; and not introducing an idea to the text. I allow the text to speak for itself as God spoke to its original recipients. You look at what God said to them and how you can apply them to our setting now. I am also gifted with the gift of faith. I believe nothing is impossible with the Lord. What we have been able to achieve as a church are more than our financial capacity. I always tell people that if you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you can’t. This has really helped us. We started the church building in 2003 and dedicated it in 2007. We started our multi-purpose building in 2012, which includes a school, and dedicated it in 2015. We have started the foundation of another building which was done in six weeks. We are going four floors on the new building. Though I have left the church, I believe the project will be completed in record time with the help of God.
Having achieved so many successes as Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, FESTAC Town, how do you feel leaving the church to go into administration?
It is with a mixed feeling. My family members struggled with the reality of our leaving. The children struggled with it. They felt this is where we were born. We grew up here. So, it is with a mixed feeling. We are simply submitting to the calling of God.
So, how do you feel with the new posting or assignment?
Sincerely, I am leaving all to God because He calls me to this next phase of ministry. There is that sense of my insufficiency and the sufficiency of God. So, my feeling is a feeling of total dependence on God who calls me for this task.Whenever I’m given assignment in God’s vineyard, my first response has always been, Lord, you know I can’t do it. Please help me. Like when I took over the leadership of First Baptist Church, FESTAC Town, my immediate response was I can’t do it. It was when people started saying you have done so much in the church that I became conscious that so much has been done. So, what I always ask is, God what do you want me to do? Take the lead, I follow you and we get results.
What are your set goals as President of Lagos Central Baptist Conference?
We have a slogan as a conference. The vision, the goals and the objectives are built within the slogan. The slogan is “Building Kingdom people for kingdom projects.” My focus is to increase the number of our churches through evangelism and Church planting. The Conference will empower churches and associations for Church planting. The Conference will strengthen the welfare package of her pastors. Their will be loan facility for Churches to acquire property for kingdom use. We will also look at how our churches can go into investments for multiple streams of income. Another thing we also aim to do is to empower our pastors. Once our pastors are empowered they would be able to do the work of God more effectively.