As The Shepherd’s Flock International Church (TSF) celebrates 20 years of raising a Holy, Healthy and Highly successful people, the Lead Pastor, Rev. Tony Akinyemi, says a lot of Nigerian companies in the food industry are now beginning to remove some dangerous and toxic ingredients from their recipe because of the healthy living awareness that TSF has created in the past 20 years. In this exclusive interview with Christian Benefits on TSF at 20, Rev. Akinyemi, the best student in computer engineering in his graduating class at the former University of Ife (UNIIFE) Ile-Ife; now the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife recounts: “Our healthy living ministry has impacted and influenced many things in Nigeria and beyond. Many people have become more health-conscious than before due to our teachings.” The amiable preacher, sound teacher and healthy living coach/mentor also speaks on other TSF impacts in two decades including its many corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects beyond the spiritual as the church holds its 2024 DIVINE IMPACT SUMMIT (DIS)/ 20th anniversary at its headquarters church, Ikeja, Lagos, starting from February 1-4. 2024. Excerpts.
Congratulations on the 20th anniversary of The Shepherd’s Flock International Church (TSF). Please, tell us how you feel seeing the church clocks two decades this year’s February 1, 2024.
Thank you. We are full of gratitude to God for two decades of the commission. It didn’t look like it when we first started. All we had was God and the instructions He gave us. We had no financial or material resources to prosecute the vision. However, we had faith in the One who called and commissioned us, that He would provide all the resources needed to carry out the mandate – spiritual resources, human resources, financial and material resources, and He has been more than faithful in sending us quality and loyal men and women who have teamed up with us and laboured alongside us to get to this point. We can only shout Ebenezer at this time, ‘hitherto has the Lord helped us.’ We feel extremely happy and joyful for the privilege of serving the greatest employer of men, the Almighty God Himself.
Specifically, what are you most grateful to God for TSF at 20 years?
We are most grateful to God for the faithful and loyal men and women of skill, character and integrity that God has used to support us. We are grateful that, despite some challenges along the way, we are still standing and growing in leaps and bounds. We are grateful for all that God has helped us to accomplish in 20 years. We are grateful that when the COVID-19 Pandemic hit the world, TSF did not lose a single soul to COVID-19 in any of our parishes scattered all over Nigeria and abroad. God preserved every single one of us. We are really grateful.
Briefly, recap the vision that birthed TSF 20 years ago, and how you set out starting the church
The mandate God gave us is to raise a Holy, Healthy & Highly successful people using a totally new platform to accomplish the vision. We could have stayed back on our previous platform in the denomination where we were privileged to serve as pastors for 11 years; but God said we should create a new platform for the vision so that it will not be hindered in any way due to a misunderstanding of the vision, hence The Shepherd’s Flock International Church. We set out starting the vision by simply listening to directives from God and guidance from the Holy Spirit every step of the way. When He says “move”, we move, and when He says “stop”, we stop. Every step we have taken is by divine instruction, direction, and guidance, and this has made the work stress-free for us. Alleluia!
What were some of the early challenges of the church, and did you overcome them to keep the work going till now?
Of course, if we didn’t overcome our challenges, we wouldn’t be here celebrating 20 years! Like any other human being or institution, we have had our own fair share of challenges but, to the glory of God, we have overcome them all because God has made us more than conquerors. Among many other challenges, we faced challenges of venue for our church services when we first started. Today, God has planted us on our own property right now. Not only that, even all our parishes all over Nigeria have been blessed with their own landed properties, except only one parish, and we believe God that that one parish too will acquire their own property soon. Even our parish in the UK is on their own property to the glory of God. In fact, even three parishes that we are yet to start already have their landed properties in place in Lagos, Ogun and Osun states. To God be the glory!
You started the church with a unique dimension of healthy living teaching and services. To what extent has the healthy living dimension contributed to TSF’s growth in these 20 years
Well, we set out to teach on HEALTHY LIVING in order to fulfill an aspect of our mandate. It was not intended primarily to grow our church numerically. We have other strategies for numerical church growth. We have been raised to be a blessing to the entire body of Christ in the area of healthy living and to the world at large. For example, if a pastor or general overseer or a deacon or an elder or a church member from another ministry or denomination comes to our ministry to be ministered to in the area of their health, we sure are not going to expect that after we have ministered to them and they are healed, that they would now abandon their own ministry and come to join us. No! That’s not our objective. We have been raised to fill a gap in the body of Christ, to minister to people so that they can be healthy and live long enough to fulfill their destinies and finish their assignments. By the way, there have been instances when un-churched people have come to know the Lord and joined our ministry through our healthy living teachings and medical outreaches. However, if you are talking about growth in terms of impact and visibility then it would be right to say that our healthy living teaching has really helped us to be well known out there. Today, we have a fairly large following on social media because of our healthy living teachings. Two of my healthy living videos (one on Facebook and one on TikTok) actually garnered more than one million views each in less than one month after we released those videos. Our series on EXPOSE WITH TONY AKINYEMI, which we stream on Facebook and YouTube every Monday evening at 8pm Nigerian Time, has a fairly good following too and has been a blessing to many. Our RAPHA INSTITUTE OF HEALTHY LIVING (www.LMS.raphainstitute.org) has also trained hundreds of Healthy Living Ambassadors (HLAs) both from within and outside our ministry that are also doing amazing things out there in the wellness & fitness industry. To God alone be all the glory.Rev. Tony Akinyemi: Our aim is to raise and disciple well-rounded and well-grounded individuals
Aside the healthy living programmes, what are other programmes of the church at which God impacts lives in the these past 20 years?
Like I said earlier, our mandate is to raise a Holy, healthy and highly successful people. We have published books and held seminars in all of these three areas. Our annual free 5F Conference is one of the programmes specifically designed to minister to folks in the areas of their faith, fitness, family, finance and future. Our aim is to raise and disciple well-rounded and well-grounded individuals who will be able to radically transform their world for God’s glory and for their own fulfillment and joy. We also run The Shepherd’s Academy, our free discipleship training programme for fostering spiritual growth and development and for building spiritual capacity. Our TSF Creche has been another platform to impact the lives of infants and toddlers very early in life. Our Rev. Tony Akinyemi Scholarship Foundation has been a lifeline for many brilliant but indigent students who may never have been able to get formal education if our ministry didn’t offer them scholarships. To the glory of God, we have helped to train several people who are now graduates in medicine & surgery, dentistry, agricultural science, mass communication, computer science, economics, accounting, business administration, engineering, education, you name it. Some of them even graduated with first class honors. To God alone be all the glory!
What is the significance of the annual Divine Impact Summits (DIS) of the church that also marks its yearly anniversary?
Essentially, our annual Divine Impact Summits (DIS) are moments of taking stock and counting our blessings in order to reflect on what God has done in us, for us, and through us, so as to elicit deep gratitude and appreciation on the one hand. On the other hand, these summits also help to create both a platform and an atmosphere for Divine Encounter with God for all attendees. These summits are moments when divinity kisses humanity. Because Divine Impact Summit (DIS) holds around February 1 of every year, we also use the occasion to emphasize the direction in which God is leading us in every New Year. So, the theme of the year is often the theme of the summit, so that our people can be taught the mind of God for the moment, the present truth, if you will.Share with us the theme of the 2024 Divine Impact Summit/TSF’s 20th anniversary celebration starting on February 1, 2024, and the expectations from this year’s event.
Our theme for the 2024 Divine Impact Summit (DIS) is “DUNAMIS: The Mighty Power of God. Our texts are taken from both the Old Testament and the New Testament of the Holy Bible; Deuteronomy 4:37 KJV & Luke 9:43 KJV). We expect to see the raw demonstration of God’s mighty power during and after the conference for salvation, healing, deliverance, blessings and diverse miracles in the lives of the people. We also expect that this mighty power of God will continue to work for us, in us, through us and among us till Jesus returns to take His church home.
What is the spread, the impact and the influence of TSF in these 20 years?
TSF currently has parishes in some states in Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory as well as the United Kingdom. A number of our brethren are also scattered all over the world in the USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and so on. Talking about impact and influence, by God’s grace, our healthy living ministry in particular has impacted & influenced many things in Nigeria and beyond. A number of Nigerian companies in the food industry are now beginning to remove some dangerous ingredients from their recipe because people are now beginning to reject those products containing those toxic ingredients because of the awareness that we have created in the Nigerian space and marketplace. Also, if you go around Nigeria now, many people have become more health-conscious than before due to our teachings. You will observe that many people are no longer indulging in health-damaging drinks but opting for freshly-made fruit juices, vegetable juices, smoothies and nut milk. You are likely to find Tiger nut milk to buy at almost any corner in Lagos now because of our teachings and the many healthy living ambassadors that we have trained at our institute that have now set up wellness centres, juice & smoothie bars, salad bars, fitness centres and so on. Some of the graduates from our institute have even gone a step further to train as naturopathic doctors and have now set up clinics in Nigeria to treat people with natural remedies and protocols. Some of our graduates now produce locally their own natural products such as herbal teas, spices, supplements, etc. To God alone be all the glory!
Let’s look at the Rev. Tony Akinyemi Scholarship Foundation and other corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities of the church aimed at impacting lives beyond the spiritual these 20 years
As I have mentioned earlier, the Rev. Tony Akinyemi Scholarship Foundation (a.k.a. RTSF) was set up to intervene in the lives of brilliant but indigent students. By the grace of God, I was a brilliant kid too but my parents were so poor that they couldn’t send me to school beyond primary school. So, after graduating from elementary school at the age of 12, I had to go work as a domestic servant for four years until I was 16 years old before I could save enough money to sponsor myself through high school from 1977 to 1982. Today, by God’s grace, I hold three certificates in computer engineering (from the Obafemi Awolowo University), pastoral theology, and nutritional consulting from institutions in Nigeria and the USA. I am currently Board Certified as a Holistic Health Practitioner (HHP) by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners (AADP). I was also one of the earliest Nigerians to be certified as a Novell CNE (Certified Netware Engineer) 32 years ago, precisely in 1992 . I was privileged also to be among the first set of computer engineers to be trained by any university in Africa. I attended the University of Ife, Ile-Ife, in Nigeria (now Obafemi Awolowo University) from 1982 to 1987 where I earned my BSC in computer engineering, graduating as the best student in computer engineering. So, it then became both a burden and a passion for me to help and support brilliant students who have no one to sponsor them to school so that they won’t have to suffer what I suffered. Apart from RTSF, other CSR projects undertaken by our ministry in the last 20 years include rehabilitating the street that our headquarters church is located on in Ikeja and tarring the road with Asphalt, rehabilitating the street light on our street and supplying WHEEL-O-BINS for refuse collection to every house in our community during our 10th anniversary. Some of those bins are still in use by residents to date. We sank a borehole and installed overhead water tanks for the Police Barracks in Ikeja near the Ikeja Police College. We have held a couple of medical outreaches; offering free medical consultations and treatments to patients by our medical team of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists, healthy living ambassadors, and other health practioners. We are also planning on more CSR PROJECTS for our 20th Anniversary for our community.
Did you envisage the high level of growth the church has attained today when you started out 20 years ago?
Absolutely! Since it was God who has always been calling the shots and giving directions and guidance, I would have been utterly surprised and shocked to my bones if things didn’t work out.
What are your dreams for the church in the next 5 years when it will clock 25 years?
We have no personal dreams other than whatever the owner of the church lays upon our hearts. However, we expect to see further growth and development on all fronts, as well as expansion into new territories in terms of church planting, in the next five years. We expect to see more spiritual growth, numerical growth, growth in grace and the operations and manifestations of spiritual gifts among us. We also expect to see financial growth as well as further growth in our impact, influence and Infrastructural developments. We intend to see more leaders and ministers being called and prepared for ministry, and all of these culminating in the harvest of souls into Christ’s kingdom.
Finally, can we have a look at your lovely family; talking about your beautiful wife and lovely children and the roles they play in the church these 20 years.
I couldn’t have asked for a better family than the one God has blessed me with. My wife is simply amazing! Our children are terrific. They do not give us any headache as some pastors’ kids do. Each one of them is born again and serving the Lord where they are right now. One is a medical doctor, confectioner, fashion designer and draughtswoman (architecture). The second is an economist and a banker, and the third is an engineer and a musician. What more could my wife and I have asked for? We are most grateful to God. Our children have all supported us in the ministry and have served in various departments in the church in the last 20 years. Of course, all of them were already born before we even started TSF. So, we all started it together. To God be the glory!
Once again, congratulations on TSF’s 20th anniversary, and thank you for your audience sir.
You are welcome