Dr. James Akanbi is the General Overseer of the fast growing God’s Mercy Revival Ministries worldwide with 86 branches in eight countries apart from its 74 branches in Nigeria. In the below interview with Christian Benefits, Wole Olarinde on My Rebirth Encounter Column of the magazine, the highly sought preacher and front line columnist in Christian Benefits, shares his early years of rascally until God arrested him at 17 years old, and subsequently called and ordained him as a global preacher of the gospel to counter the devil’s revival this End time. Excerpts.
Please can we meet you sir
I’m Dr. James Akanbi, General Overseer of God’s Mercy Revival Ministries worldwide with Headquarters at Idimu, Lagos, Nigeria.
Please, let us have a look at your upbringing?
I’m a product of grace. I’m the last child from a polygamous family. Under normal circumstances, with my kind of background I’m someone that shouldn’t have been in the position that I found myself today. I’m the last child of the last wife of a polygamist. I was born into an Anglican family. Then I didn’t know anything about been born again until I was 17 years old when I had an encounter with Jesus Christ and became born again in February 1979.
Tell us what informed your decision to accept Jesus into your life that year?
Before then, there was no problem that I could probably say informed my decision to accept Jesus Christ into my life that year. I actually went for a particular job search, and right there I saw this wonderful believer preaching Christ to an unbeliever. I was watching them. And at the end he prayed with the fellow and gave him the address of his church. When he mentioned the address I discovered that it was closer to my home. In the evening of that day I went to the church called ‘Soul winning Miracle crusade’, Ibadan, Oyo State. Evang. Caleb Oloyede was the General Overseer. Evang. Paul Chucks was the preacher that evening. And he preached wonderfully. He was a very intelligent and good teacher of the Word of God. He gave a very good analysis of the scriptures. Unfortunately, I was not moved even though I loved his cerebral presentation. After he finished his one hour ministration, Evang. Caleb came up the altar, and said, “Ladies and gentlemen we have finished for the night. We are going home. But before we go home let me just ask you one question; what is your name? Like when Jesus met the man at the Gada-renes, and asked him what is your name? And he answered, we are legions. I also ask you tonight, what is your name? Are you a fornicator? Are you a fighter; are you a drunkard?” As he was asking the questions the words were hitting me like a thunderbolt. Within the five minutes that he talked it was like a whole lifetime. At a point I didn’t know what to do. I just went on my knees and wept myself into the kingdom of God that night. The man climbed up the altar around 7pm. But by the time that some people picked me up from the floor it was around 9pm. I was just sobbing. I couldn’t explain what had come over me. I was handed over to one Pastor Tunji who became my first mentor. He guided me in the Christian faith and explained to me all that a new life in Jesus Christ is about. I attended the crusade in a pair of knickers and shirt without buttons. He told me I can no longer dress like that to church anymore. I can’t dress or behave anyhow anymore; that I’m now born again. I returned home that night a totally changed person.
How will you describe your kind of lifestyle before your rebirth encounter?
I was so rascally and very rough. I just told you that my shirts don’t have buttons. When I make new shirts I will tell the tailor not to put buttons. When I buy new shirts with buttons I will remove the buttons. I lost my mum when I was two years old. I lost my father when I was around 17 years old, so I couldn’t care less about courtesy.
Tell us your experiences in your 43 years of walking with the Lord till date
It’s been both exciting and challenging. This has enabled me to see the goodness, the provisions and the wonderful mercy of God. I have seen the fatherhood of God in my Christian walk. You can imagine a young boy without a mother and a father. From 17 years old that I gave my life to Jesus Christ, the Lord picked me up. When I was around 18 years old he told me he would be my scholarship. My education up to the PhD. level was funded by God. I have seen God in his most caring form.
Share with us your baptism in the Holy Ghost as evidence of your new birth?
I received the baptism in the Holy Ghost in April 1982. That’s another wonderful experience that I will never forget. Evang. Paul Chucks declared a particular week “Holy Ghost week”. During that week anyone who wanted to be baptized in the Holy Ghost was required to be in the church at 4pm before the main evening service starts by 6pm. I decided to fast to the program, even though we were not told to fast, just to make sure my spirit is fully prepared to receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost. The first day of my fasting nothing happened. The second day nothing happened. The third day nothing happened. But on the fourth day something happened. At around 6pm when that session was rounding up, I felt a hand came on me, and suddenly I lost consciousness. The next thing that happened was that I started speaking in another tongue. I was speaking in that tongue for almost two hours that some people had to carry me out from the hall so that the next service can continue. They moved me to another place where I kept speaking in tongue. For more than a week after that experience I continued speaking in tongue. On a daily basis if I want to say good morning I will speak in tongue. If I want to do anything during the day I will speak in tongue. Pastor Tunji was still guiding me. He said I should let it flow, that anytime I have the urge to pray I should move to one corner and pray in tongue.
As a new convert what were some of your favorite Bible verses or quotations?
Shortly after I gave my life to Jesus the first thing that Pastor Tunji told me was that I should read my Bible everyday. So I bought a Bible that is called The Little Bible in those days. And in six months I read the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation. I was so voracious in the reading. I wanted to know everything in the scriptures. And one of the scriptures that dawned on me so seriously is 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore If any man be in Christ; he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.”Another one is “Verily, verily, I say unto you. He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do;” (John 14:12.). Another one that Pastor Tunji made me to understand carefully was he that is removing the armour should not boast himself like he that is leaving the armour. Because then as young believers we were always ready to criticize people that were not on fire for the Lord. But Pastor Tunji checked me. He said we are just putting on the armour, rather we should pray for grace to run the race till the end while we keep trying to win the unbelievers over to Christ. He said they’ve been able to do their Christian works till their old age by grace.
What were some of the Christian programmes that you regularly attended as a young believer then in order to boost your Christian faith and growth?
Shortly after my rebirth encounter with the Lord I joined the prayer group in the church. My counselor was a prayerful man. He was the head of the prayer group. I loved to be at prayer meeting, especially because of the issues of speaking in tongue that I didn’t have other place to fully express it like prayer meeting. I had enough liberty in that group to express it. It was an enriching programme for me.
Share with us how you eventually received the call of God into the ministry
I received the call after I completed my tenure as President of a Christian students’ fellowship at Divisional Teachers College, Ipetumodu, Osun State from 1981-1982. When I finished in 1982 the Lord said to me, ‘You have been faithful over my house at this little level. I will make you to be the head over my larger house in the future.” That was the first Inkling that I had towards calling. Unfortunately, I made a mistake. I thought the calling was to start immediately. I just told people I’m not going to do anything else. I’ m going into the work of God. I packed my belongings and came to Lagos. I met one Pastor L.A Ojo of The Apostolic Church, and told him God had called me into ministry. He asked me how I knew. I told him what I heard in a vision. He said I should sleep overnight. The following day he woke me up, and said, “Wole (that was my name then), God is going to use you but not now; the education you have now will not make you to be relevant to the calling that God has upon your life.” He advised me to further my education. I felt disappointed. I almost queried what he heard from God. I just finished as President of a fellowship. I took over a fellowship of about 80 members but handed over with about 320 members. I just wanted to move straight into the field with this zeal. I went back to the Lord in prayers and the Lord also spoke to me that it was not yet time for me to start. Around 1992 the Lord spoke to me again that I should be tiding up. In 1997 the Lord spoke to me that it was time. And in 1998 the Lord spoke to me specifically to start the assignment on May 1999. We commenced the work with a vigil in May 1999 before we eventually started the church in July1999.
What is the exact mandate that the Lord gave to you for this commission?
The mandate is to counter the revival of the devil at this end-time. The Lord spoke to me, “Son, go into the world. The devil is creating a revival. He wants to stage himself back into the world and capture the whole world. You have been sent to go and counter the devil’s revival at this end-time.”The devil is creating a revival through barrenness, sicknesses, stagnation, failures, complications e.t.c in the lives of people. The devil just wants to be known and worshiped by all. He wants to take the centre stage of the whole world. He wants the knowledge of God to go down so that his own knowledge comes up. He wants to show himself. Wherever you see barrenness, you see the devil. Wherever you see sickness, you see the devil. Wherever you see failure, complication, stagnation you also see the devil. He wants to be everywhere. Anywhere you go you see the devil on sign posts, flyers; everywhere! So, we have to counter that. Wherever we see barrenness we change it to fruitfulness. Where he puts stagnation we change it to progress. Wherever he puts sickness we counter it with healing. God sent us to damage devil’s information and signposts and replace them with His own information and signboards. That’s our calling!
Tell us some of the gifts that God endows you to achieve this tough mandate
What I have seen in God is that he gives you the gift that will meet the situation at any particular time. But specifically we see the prophetic operates in this ministry. We see the gift of miracles. We see the gift of healing and deliverance in this ministry.
What are the church programmes in line with the church mandate?
We hold a monthly miracle service. We hold a quarterly festival of miracles here in Nigeria. We also hold power conferences in different parts of the world like U.K, Canada and America among others in line with the mandate of this commission.
How did you arrive at the name, God’s Mercy Revival Ministries?
The name came from the mouth of the Lord. The day the Lord told me the work to do, he also delivered to me the name it will bear. I remember in a vision I met an angel who asked me where I am going. I told him I was told that I had been given a commission to the earth. He said yes we know about it, go to that yonder. When I got there I saw the heaven opened and I heard a voice called me by my name, and said the name of your ministry shall be called God’s Mercy Revival Ministries.
What is the spread or presence of God’s Mercy Revival Ministries globally?
God’s Mercy Revival Ministries has 86 branches in eight (8) countries apart from its presence in some other countries that we don’t have branches yet. To me we are just starting because about four years ago the Lord showed me the foundation of this ministry. We are just finishing the foundation. We still have a long way to go.
Please share with us some of the challenges the ministry had contended with over the years, and how you overcame the challenges to keep the work going?
When God calls he equips. He knows the challenges and equips you ahead of time to be able to go far. Yes, we have had some challenges. For examples the landlord of our former rented site almost threw us out. He tripled the rent and said he is giving us just two months to leave if we can’t afford to pay the new rate. I was in a service at that former site when the Lord told me, “you have not bought land but you have built a house.”That prophecy was shocking. It was a challenging time. Eventually someone brought me to this land. He took us to the landowner who demanded lots of millions from us for the land. The secretary of the landowner; an Alhaji, encouraged us to buy the land. He said he would deposit N100,000 to the family so that we can have the land. I was surprised. I didn’t know him from Adam. He deposited the money; we came here and started the foundation. We did the first deck of the building because our conference was just five months to that time. We moved in and had our conference without having paid a dime as a church for the land.
Who are the people you look up to as your mentors or role models in ministry?
We thank God for the likes of Baba E.A Adeboye and Baba W.F Kumuyi. A year after I gave my life to Jesus under Evang. Oloyede, I attended Deeper Life Bible College for a course and came under the Deeper Life Church. I attended the first short-time ministerial course at the IBTC of the Deeper Life among the first set in 1981. This brought me in close contact with Pastor Kumuyi. He was one of our lecturers at the IBTC.
Please tell us the level of your educational attainment.
I did Grade II at Divisional Teachers College, Ipetumodu. I did my first Degree in Accounting. I did Diploma in Business & Industrial Law at University of Lagos. I was doing my Masters in Business Administration at Obafemi Awolowo University. I had completed my project and was to write my last paper when God told me it was time. I stopped instantly and started off into full time ministry. I went on to bag a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theology and PhD at Church Growth Services Inc. And most recently I did a Strategic Leadership course in Harvard University; all through the grace of God.
In the next two years if Christ tarries in his second coming what is your vision and plans for God’s Mercy Revival Ministries?
God is the one in charge of this ministry. And by His grace in the next two years if Christ tarries I see the flag of God’s Mercy Revival Ministries in more countries. Presently we have about 74 branches of the ministry in thirteen (13) states in Nigeria. We are working towards having more branches in many more states in the country.