Rev. Tony Akinyemi is a renowned man of God, 13 years ago he set up The Shepherd Flock International Church with Headquarters in Ikeja and branches in Nigeria and other countries in the world.
Recently, the church celebrated 13 years of existence with a massive convention, Senior Pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Kalejaiye and popular gospel singer, Tope Alabi graced the occassion. The church has contributed immensely to the society through various initiatives.
And it has grown to be one of the most respected churches, contributing to people’s lifes and by extention the entire nation. Who is the man behind the church? How did he get called and what is/are his motives when he floated the church 13 year ago?
These are some of the questions City People’s Senior Reporter, ISAAC ABIMBADE, threw at him at the Headquarters of the church two weeks back.
Recently you celebrated 13th year of existence of this church, please tell us the story behind it?
This is The Shepherd Flock International Church, which started February 1, 2004. So February 1, 2017 makes it exactly 13 years and that was what we celebrated with our annual Convention. I used to be a Pastor at Foursquare Gospel Church, I was, with them for 26 years. I was for the first 15 years, a church worker and the last 11 years a Pastor. I pioneered the Oregun branch of the church and from there, planted more 10 churches, 9 within Nigeria and 1 outside Nigeria, precisely in Cameroon. I was a Zonal Supritendent Overseer in more than 15 churches at Four Square and then at some points I had from God to step out and start this new assignment.
Can you briefly tell us more about the man behind The Shepherd Flock International Church?
My name is the Rev. Tony Akinyemi. I studied Computer Engineering at the University of Ife. We were the first set of Computer Engineering graduates from that institution and the first probably from Africa. I worked with Chams Nigeria Limited, I rose to be the Chief Engineer before leaving to do my private business and ministry, and ultimately went into full-time church ministry and even my private business had to be abandoned. So, that’s how the journey started.
Tell us a bit about your background sir?
As I was saying earlier, I knew that my assignment at Foursquare Gospel Church had been concluded and that God was beginning to lead me into something new. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was, so I set time apart to fast and pray and then I received the leading that I needed to start a new work of God and that’s how The Shepherds Flock International Church started. God specifically mentioned the name to me.
He spoke to me that it was time to exit in 2003 and I tendered my letter of resignation in July 2003, and I gave them 3 months notice to exit by the end of September, 2003 but then, they requested that I should extend it for another 3 months.
So I stayed until December 2003 before I was finally sent forth with an appreciation service and by February 2004 this church (The Shephered Flock International Church) started. It was when we started that it began to become clearer to me precisely what God would want us to do on this new platform and that was when the three pillars of this ministry emerged.
First, we should be preachers of righteousness, preach Holiness and 2, Health and 3, High-success. And so we have 3 Hs. If you look at all we have done in terms of books, CDs, seminars, teachings, everything centers those three. Of course, we do other things on the side, such as marriage counselling, business seminars, etc, but everything still goes down to holiness, health and high success.
Can you please emphasis on the 3Hs you just mentioned?
We believe that, if you are a Christian, if you are born again, and if your life has been transformed, then you should bear the fruits that define, showcase and depict the facts that you are born again. If the fruits that you are bearing contradict your claim, you create more confusion in the minds of people. I mean, if you are a Christian and you still give and take bribe tell lie, steal, commit immorality, adultry, fornication and all of those things, I now begin to ask question that were you really born again? because the fruit is not matching the claim. That is why we teach the people of God that, it beholds us to live a holy life that, will confirm us that indeed, we have been made righteous in Christ. Then for the health aspect, we believe that without sound health, you can’t be very productive whether you are serving God or pursuing your own business or ambition. Health is a crucial factor for achievement, it is the greatest wealth anybody can have on the the face of the earth. So, we believe that we have a responsibility to maintain good health because we believe that a healthy population is a productive population. For example, in the New Testament, it says physical exercises profit a little.
So, if the Bible says bodily exercise profits little, let call that half a mark and because it is half a mark, you throw it away, it can cause you your position at the end of the day. So, I believe that scripture didn’t say don’t exercise. God can’t come and exercise for us, We have to exercise by ourselves.
So, what we are trying to do is to redirect people’s mind to focus on Biblical strategies for good health and longivity. We have Bible-based principle, science supported, tested and people, proven. Many evidences from people who have tried and it has worked for them. That is the health aspect of it.
For the High Success aspect, we believe that according to the Bible, there was a city in the book of Ecclessiastic that was beseeched by an enemy army, and there was a poor, wise man in the city who by his widsom delivered the city from the enemy. But after the city was delivered, no man remembered the poor. wise man. Then Solomon, the writer, the wise King of Isreal, concluded that a poor man’s wisdom is always dispised, that is always profound fact. What I gleaned from that is that, if you are wise, but you are considered a failure, poor, irrelevant, insignificant individual, your wisdom is not valid because people would say that if you were that wise how come you are this poor, low, down and such a failure.
So, we want to show people what high success skills are, that is, what you can do with on your own. If we take you and drop you off on an Island of nowwhere, can you survive or do you need support from here and there before you can make it?. Anybody who can use his hands, his mind, and all he’s got to make a living is a successful person.
We have a number of initiatives to contribute to the society, to the body of Christ and to the country as a whole. One of them is the Rev. Tony Akinyemi Scholarship Foundation, which we call R.T.S.F, we currently have over 100 students that we are paying their tuition and when we take any student up, even if the person was in primary one, we will continue to pay until he/she becomes a University graduate. It’s not just one off treatment.
We have a board of Trustees, Executive Secretary who runs the Secretariat. The qualification are; the student has to be diligent, it must be established that the parents can’t afford to send that child to school. The second qualification he/she must be brlilliant, he must have the capacity for academic works. We don’t want to be paying fees for one class, three times over, you must be making progress. So, if anybody is taking on our scheme, we pay for primary to tertiary institution and even to Ph.D level, untill the student says I am tired and don’t want to continue.
We have another initiative, which is the “Keke Napep” empowerment scheme. We have given out the tricyle to about 20 people, give it to them and they register as the operators. We just ask them to pay back N2,000 per day until they pay in full. It is not just for church members alone, but for everybody, anywhere. We just need you to give us two guarantors incase you elope.
How can someone identify his or her purpose and how did you discover yours because you studied Engineering in school?
I studied Engineering because I was mathematically inclined, it was just my passion and what I loved most. I loved Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Further Maths, those were my best subjects. I just felt that the only course that would make me continue those subjects was Engineering. People wanted me to study Medicine but I felt I would have to do Biology. I was good in Biology too but I felt it was feminine, I thought the hard ones were the Maths and Further Maths. I selected Engineering basically because of that but by the time I finished and started practising, I really enjoyed Engineering. I was having fun, it was my life. Along the way, I got involved in church Ministry, I have to work with people other than to work with machines. And I have always been a Christian right from my secondary school days. I was born again in Foursquare Gospel Church.
Even before I was born again, I was a church person. I was always going to church. I precisely gave my life to Christ in 1978 when I was in secondary school at Foursquare Church, 15 years before I finally became a Pastor and they made me a Pastor at Foursquare. I began to discover that I was having interest in contributing to people’s life, developing them, guiding them. The church I pastored was more like the youth church because I was just 31 years old when I was made a Pastor and most of the people in the church were in their 20s.
The idea of choice, courtship, marriage became a prominent issues that we needed to focus on, so that they don’t make mistakes. Because I believe that, one of the greatest mistakes anyone can make is to marry wrongly, it can ruin a whole destiny. So, we needed to guide them in that area. Then these people were students preparing for a career in life, so we needed to also shape their minds and their thinking, guide them and mentor them so that they can make themselves ready for whatever career they wanted to choose in life. I found my passion growing more and more in that area, while my interest in machines were declining until it got to a point that I knew that it was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
I saw myself hearing more in the pastoral direction and I had to resign.
How was it and how difficult was it to resign?
It wasn’t difficult for me because it was God who has been preparing me for it. All I needed was to be sure that my wife was in support and once I was able to convince her, it was easy for me to drop my letter and fultill the required notice I needed to give to them. I made sure I left properly. I still maintain warm relationship with my employers and workers up till today, even though I left a long time ago. I left in 1993 and it’s been 24 years since I left and I still keep in touch with them, we still have good relationships.
Have you achieved what you set out to achieve when you floated your church?
I wouldn’t say that I have achieved all the things I set out to achieve in the ministry, It’s still work in progress, but I would say yes, even though we have not reached where we are going, but we have come along way, we have results, fruits, testimonies etc to make one to be grateful to God for getting this far. Those are the accomplishments. If you take a look at our street, Shogunle Street, this church tarred the street, it cost us millions but we did it by the grace of naira God in the year 2014, all the drainages have been cleared, two or three times whenever they are blocked as our cooperate social responsibilities. We are on radio and television teaching people healthy living, high success because we believe that, what people need is not medication, but education. People who are informed make informed choices and decisions and then they are better for it.
What advice do you have direction? for those who are depressed and down because we have recorded many complain in that?
Life is always punctuated with ups and downs, and everyone who will make it to the very end should learn how to handle and cope with the ups and downs of life. Those who don’t have the know how may end up as victims. Because the whole intention of the devil orchestrating negative circumstances around our lives is to bring us down. We have to be sensitive enough to know that this is a ploy and that we should not fall prey. In terms of practical strategies to deal with down moments, I will give a few suggestions. The first is that, everybody must have a direct relationship with God. Two, is to have Accountability Group, what I mean by that is, I as a person should have at least two or three friends that are intimate who I can share my concerns, worries, troubles and issue with before I reach the level where I can’t cope anymore because when stress comes and becomes aggravated, it is called distress.
Before it gets to the level of distress, stress goes through three stages, the alarm stage, coping stage and then the third stage, which is the exhaustion state. At that stage, the person is no longer in control and anything can happen, but if the person had known the warning signals and shared them with friend that person wouldn’t get sick. Apart from accountability group, we have counsellors, psychiatrics, medical personel and pastors, who are trained in things like that. If people don’t have advantage of the professional services available to them, they run themselves into that high risk of becoming suicidal.
It might surprise you to know that some forms of depression are not necessarily spiritual, or economic or social, it is just physiological about the human chemistry.
Are you saying this would help reduce the rate of suicide cases?
Definitely, it is possible to reduce it if we take advantage of relevant professional services available and take into consideration those things I said.
Tell us about your upbringing, your background and your state of origin?
I was born almost 56 years ago in Ghana by Nigerian parents. In the next 5 weeks I will be 56 years. I spent the first 8 and half years of my life in Ghana. I was in Nigeria for the first time when I was 8 and half years old and I have been in Nigeria ever since. I started my primary school in Ghana. I attended 6 different primary schools because my parents kept relocating in two different countries and in several states in Nigeria. My parents were traders, they traded in diamond and other stuffs in the Ashanti region. I am from Osun State, from Ayan.
We came back to Nigeria with no diamonds to sell. They took to farming and poverty took a toll on us and we were many. My parents had 8 surviving children, 6 boys and 2 girls. Poverty was not just our neighbour but our co-tenant . The first few, years of my life was very beautiful, but growing up was tough and we had to struggle for life, to the point that when I finished primary school at the age of 12, there was no money to send me to secondary school, so my parents wanted me to learn bicycle repairing, but I refused. I chose to go and work and save money to send myself to school. That was how I became a domestic servant. I was a houseboy for 4 years, from age 12-16 saving money to go to school. I saved all the money apart from the ones my bosses didn’t pay owing to one thing or the other. I worked with three people, 3 months with one, 9 months with the second and three years with the third one. I took all the saved money and went to secondary school, I went to Saint Joseph College in Ondo State. As soon as I left, I gained admission into the University of Ife, did Computer Engineering and came to Lagos to serve and have remained in Lagos since then. I am blessed with a beautiful wife and three children, two daughters and a son. The first two are girls, My first daughter is a Medical Doctor, She works at the Teaching Hospital in Lagos, my second daughter will be graduating this year in Economics and my son is doing his A’levels right now.