•What He Told City People
Pastor Matthew Asimolowo hardly grants interviews. But he granted City People an interview a few years back about his life. Many don’t know, he was a Barracks Boy who yearned to be a soldier like his father, but his aspiration was twisted when an Evangelist told him after passing GCE Examination that he looked like a person called by God. That was how he found himself at the Foursquare Church Bible School. When the Foursquare Church initiated Reversed Missions, a scheme to send missionaries to Europe, Pastor Asimolowo was the first choice sent to Britain to start the programme.
His march from the Foursquare Church to Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC) was a short distance. In this interview with City People Publisher, Seye Kehinde he spoke on his over 40 years in the ministry and what makes KICC different. Excerpts.
You have an interesting story. Tell us about it?
Yes, it is. I got born again when I was 20 years old. That was in 1972. In 1973, I began to have a very strong urge for the Ministry. I didn’t have that vision, I was born in the Army Barracks and my desire was just to be a soldier. My dad was a soldier, my brother was a soldier, I was born in the Army Depot in Zaria. But having seen my father rose through the ranks, and the men of other ranks, I just wanted to pass my GCE and go to the NDA.
But it was while I was in a church in Modakeke, serving as a sexton that I began to sense that my desire was no longer to be a soldier, but just to pronounce the word of God, to study the word of God. And in the course of that, while living in the church premises for that one year, an Evangelist was visiting the church and he said to me: “You look like somebody God might be calling. I didn’t even see or feel anything.
Some pastors might say I saw a vision, I heard a voice, I had a dream. No. I didn’t see anything. I didn’t hear anything. It was that simple statement that confirmed the urge I was having. That was how the man, the Evangelist staying with us in the church personage, gave me the idea of going to the Bible School of Foursquare Church and that was how I ended up in the Bible School of Foursquare Church and that is how I finished.
I entered January 2nd, 1974. That is 40 years. That was why we recently celebrated 40 years because that was the time I entered the Bible School.
At that time, how come nothing else really changed your mind?
The call or pull of God is very powerful. Even though I said I never saw a vision, or dreamt any dream, God has different ways He calls different people. For me, it was a passion that could not be shakened. I could not do anything else. I consider it the greatest and the rarest, humblest privilege to have been called to prepare to preach the gospel.
And I had an uncommon, unusual urge to serve Jesus Christ with people to the extent that even though I didn’t have much knowledge, I had this urge to share the gospel and I could not stop it.
I remember, I was travelling to Lagos in 1973 for the Bible School entrance and I was in a bus full of Jehovah Witnesses and I was arguing with them from Ibadan to Lagos, and I didn’t know much scripture. But that was the little I know. So, that was the passion I had. It was a real passion. It was a calling that was confirmed by a strong desire to fulfill.
What happened after Bible School?
While I was in the Bible School, it was a Foursquare Bible School, I came there from Christ Apostolic Church. The dean of the school, felt that there was a calling that is unique on this man, and that he should work with us.
So, they began to persuade me if I could work with the Foursquare Church. But I wasn’t convinced that I could do that unless God gave me a clear lead and in the end, I had a leading of God that I should work with the Foursquare Church. So, I started serving Foursquare Church immediately upon graduation at the Somolu Foursquare Church. I was posted there immediately as an Assistant Pastor, while I was there I gave everything I could. I didn’t know that the leaders of the Foursquare Church were observing me. And based on that observation, they now had the desire to do what later was known as Reversed Missions – that is Africans now posting missionaries to the Western World.
You know the West used to send missionaries to us, so they decided to do reverse missions. And when they decided to do that, those leaders now told me that I was the one they wanted to send as the 1st Foursquare Missionary to England. That was how in 1984, February, exactly 10 years after I have been in Ministry, I ended taking up the pastorate of the Foursquare Church in the City of London.
How did that translate to the setting up of your own ministry, KICC?
I never had the desire to do an independent ministry. I had the desire to just serve God, to just be passionate with whatever I was called to do to submit to the leaders under whom I was, and work kept growing. Our church the Foursquare Church was growing. When I was part of Foursquare UK, the local church I pastured was even equivalent to 75% of the total Foursquare work in the UK.
But then, some people began to just say maybe I wanted to leave Foursquare Church. I was doing things differently. And the truth is, I had no such mind. In fact, that their statement prompted me to now seek God, for 75 days in fasting, non-stop. That was when I now heard God clearly, when He said that, it is in stepping out that I will find my destiny. That he has a bigger river for me. I never thought of leaving Foursquare before then. I gave 18 years of my life to the Foursquare Gospel Church.
In fact, some of their key leaders today were either my students, or my colleagues. A lot of those, who are today major leaders there, went through me, as my students, whom I taught in the Bible School. Many of them are now their District Supervisors. They are people I had taught or people my students taught. So, I had no desire at all to leave the system in Foursquare Church. It was just that it was a very clear leading that God said He had a bigger river for me.
How did the leadership of Foursquare take your decision to leave?
Obviously, when you are losing somebody, who you feel you like, you wouldn’t want to say ok, we release you. Ok. Thank you very much. It was not very easy to leave. But God taught me something. It is a lesson from God that every time you are leaving a place, shut the door gentle. Never bang the door.
That is why nobody can ever quote me to have said anything negative about Foursquare Church. Not anywhere. And as a result, I am a regular speaker at their Convention, annually. I just spoke last November at their convention and even sowed my own seed towards the hostel they are building. Because God just taught me that look, you can never erase these people from who you are. Christ Apostolic Church taught me how to pray. Foursquare Church taught me the Word. So, one gave me fire, the other one gave me light. So I believe I am a Minister, who combines Fire and Light. The fire I got from CAC, the light I got from Foursquare Church.
How smooth was the transition?
I reached a point in my heart when I was so convinced that God was calling me to start something new. I wasn’t trying to prove anything. I have already given 18 years of my life in Foursquare Church. If I wanted to be political I just needed to stay in Foursquare and I would rise steadily.
But I was ready to Pastor my wife and 2 boys. That was how strong the conviction was. I announced on the 6th of September, 1992, that from Sunday 13th of September anyone who comes where I pastor will be under a new Ministry and that those who want to be Foursquare they would continue somewhere else.
That was how I started an independent Ministry on the 6th of September 1992, but announced to people to continue with the Foursquare Church and so the General Overseer of Foursquare UK, came and we handed over everything that belong to Foursquare including dustbin. At that time our church had a savings of 25,000 pounds.
God said we must hand over everything since it wasn’t a money given under the auspices of KICC and also legally it would be wrong to keep anything. So, everything was handed over, because I was operating under a mandate that said He had a bigger river for me.
And in the middle of it, God said we have to die in other to resurrect. And our resurrection is what became KICC.
How did you come up with the name KICC?
A times, people sound very spiritual when it comes to how they receive the names they call their church. Some will say they met some angles. I didn’t see any angel.
In my case, I was visiting Canada, particularly the city of Vancouver, Canada. And I liked that name Kingsway because it meant the people of the king on the way. And I just said no, whatever I will do in the future.
I am raising Kings. I am raising champions. So, we shall call our church, people who are on the kings way. So that’s how we came about Kingsway and then we added International Christian Centre.
At that time, to the best of my knowledge, we were the only ones called International Christian Centre to the extent that one Jamaican Pastor, whom when many of his members moved to us, he was responding to some people and he wondered why were people moving to that place its not even a church it’s a centre.
So, God was the one Who laid it on my heart, but it was based on the fact that I saw another church that used that name and it resonated in my spirit because it agrees with my vision of raising kings, raising champions, which I had in my spirit.
Can you recollect the 1st service you had at KICC and the number of persons who attended?
We started with 200 adults and 100 children. My last day at Foursquare, there were probably 600 people. But because I had made that announcement, and I did not want anybody, who was not called to join us.
So, 200 adults, 100 children stayed with us that 1st day and I preached a message on Life With A Purpose some of them were new people who had joined us, many of the people who could not care less whatever name we were bearing. They knew Pastor Mathew, they knew the grace of God in his life. They were there because his Ministry pulled them.
How did you give the new Church direction? What makes KICC Unique?
One of the things that happened was that immediately KICC took off I subscribed to a Xtian magazine and the man had just written a book called The Power of Vision.
The statement he was using to advertise the book, I just knew. In the book, he was advertising that every church must have its own DNA, its own fingerprint, its own uniqueness. Sauce gospel, but certain uniqueness to it. You need to find what makes you different or else you will be like any other church, so why are you operating.
So, I bought that book too. I also read a book by Robert H Shuller. He wrote a book entitled Your Church Has A Fantastic Future.
The book also challenged me. He began to share very pioneering attitudes, spirits, methods with which you need to do things, for it to come out of the box. I adopted an aspect of it.
Part of the things that made KICC unique was that we began to write out our vision clearly. We began to state what we shall do. We committed ourselves to very good training of people, clarity for anybody who is going to be our member. If you are going to be a leader, you have to go through a school of leadership, which we call Leadership 101 and we would take you through different modules.
So that anybody, who wants to be our member will also have to go through Christianity 101. Then, God gave me a very strong message that we must be passionate about Excellence. So, that from day one, when a person comes to our Church, there must be a whao effect! So, that caught their attention.
The way God speaks to me is really very interesting. It is different from many other people.
I was in the place flying somewhere, when they were showing a film called Sister Act and I saw Whoppie Goldberg. And I saw how this empty Church, which nobody was attending when they brought a contemporary approach to the music, suddenly the church was congested and there were people outside and God began to speak to me make a courtship of this new place you are starting consecrated music, but let it be contemporary, committed music, using latest equipment, latest ability, but not compromising the lyrics.
So words went round that KICC was a place of Excellence, so within 10 months of our operation, we had moved to about 1,000 and straight away we bought a building, within 10 to 11 months of operation. Under 1 years we bought our building No 1 Douley Road Hackney E9.
Immediately we bought the building, all hell was let loose. We went to town in trying to make it Excellent. At that time we didn’t have too much money.
So, every member became painters, a plumbers. They directed us on what to do.
We did so well that in a year and 6 months of our operations, we had gone into 3 services. People were queuing up to enter. And on some days, people were breaking down our doors because those for the next services will be queuing up.
Before we knew it we went into 4 services in this small building.
Again, another out of the box thing we did during those days was, because I kept reading books and praying and God speaking to me, I came to some information that you should never let your building control your growth. If your building is going to control your growth, step out of the building.
KICC, at that time, moved out of our own building and rented a building not far from us in a place Mere Street, Hackney.
So, our building because the youth Church and we were now in Hackney Central Hall because it was bigger and the momentum of growth was not stopped became if we had stayed in our own building, there is something called Sociological Strangulation in the process of Church growth. That is when your building begins to strangulate your growth.
So, we moved into the new space because it was bigger. Then again we began to grow. Unbelievable within 5 years of existence cash down, for $4 millions pounds KICC bought 9 an half acres and 2 massive warehouses underground and 2 offices on Walterdem road.
That was 5 years, we were then on Walterdem road on 91/2 acres with all those land and a hall that would seat 3,500. The news broke in British newspapers that since 1861, it was the largest church building, a place of worship since 1861.
Does that possibly explain how the British Charity Commission came hard on KICC?
When these things were happening, when we were worshipping in a 3,500-seater church, we went into 2 services, that was about 7,000 worshippers in one day, I became very visible and on TV I became extremely very visible.
And the Press was extremely positive and the way they were writing was powerful.
That was the time the Anglican Church had declared the decade of Evangelization, but yet they were in decline. But have a man coming from Africa, who was on the increase. And one Professor from Columbia University did not help my case. He wrote a whole book in the future of Christianity in Europe and while he was castigating the Anglican Church he was praising this Nigerian man, who had come and his work is growing and he had just bought a premises. That was the beginning of my trouble.