The Inspiring Story Of
Nigerian Born, UK Based Pastor And Motivational Speaker
Pastor Abraham Great, the man of God in charge of He Lives Bible Church (HLBC) in Milton Keynes, England is one of the most influential African clergy men in England today .
In fact, the church which started with an evening service in 2011 has now become one of the most popular churches in England with a Nigerian pastor as its head.
No wonder then, that the motto of the church; “It Is Working” is popular not only among the members of the church but among christians generally.
People that are farmiliar with this goodlooking, well-groomed pastor, social commentator, motivational speaker, singer and publisher will tell you how humble he is, and how he has refused to allow his achievements to detach him from his people.
A very busy person; Pastor Great as he is fondly called, after months of chasing him around finally granted the request of OSUN CITIZEN’S Executive Editor; Dotun Olanibi for an interview and i tell you what, the interview is worth the wait.
He explained how the journey of life took him from his “hood” in Mushin through Ivory Coast and finally to England, his calling, mysteries surrounding his life, his proposed university, his marriage and many other issues. Its a total package, enjoy reading…
Kindly tell us about your growing up in Nigeria?
Well I don’t know if I should say I grew in Nigeria really… (laughs)
But I will say I was born in Nigeria, matured in Ivory Coast and grew up in England.
However, I was born in Nigeria in the Adeoyo area of Mushin in Lagos. I remember the memories of growing up on Adeoyo Street where I spent the first 13 years of my life.
I have gone back there a couple of times and I am amazed that the whole place is now a shadow of itself. Interestingly, the Adeoyo that I grew up at that time was even better than most parts of Ikeja GRA. My story is a bit funny, in that I grew up with strange attacks of illness which made me not to enjoy my childhood because I was always in the hospital for one ailment or another.
I recall collapsing many times on my way from Primary School (Layi Oyekanmi Primary School) which was right at the end of our street. Most times it is usually bystanders that come to my aid either to resuscitate me or rush me off to the hospital in the full glare of fellow pupils.
During period of festivities such as Christmas, I recall spending mine at the hospital. But the uniqueness of all of this was that in spite of my constant illness, I started honing several gifts including playing musical instruments and even football. I recall playing football to the degree that I represented my street in a contest.
In Mushin then, residents of the area used to organise street by street contest where residents usually purchase an entry form to be a part of the tournament. I soon became one of the most sought after player. I must really say that I had a passion for playing football but my illness at that time was a major stumbling block as I usually fall ill after the strenuous exercises. My parents had to put a stop to that for me.
For my Secondary education, I attended Ajumoni Secondary School in the Daleko area of Mushin. Even when I left the area at age thirteen, I still insisted that I continued to attend the school from Ikeja where I moved to for a while and later to Papa Ajao where I lived with one of my Uncles.
Another thing I remember growing up is that I was born with with what you call a silver spoon, which turned into a wooden spoon and eventually became a plastic spoon… (laughs).
Things changed so drastically for my parents to the extent that I couldn’t even fathom how fast it all happened.
However, I was lucky to escape most of it because my illness kept me away from home after the age of thirteen. From the age of 13 onward, I never lived with parents due to certain issues that came to light during my illness. In 1990, I had meningitis which was relatively new in Nigeria at that time.
I was a regular visitor at Columbia Hospital on Adeoyo Street, which interestingly was owned by my father’s friend, who he convinced to set up in the area. From Columbia hospital, I was moved to Eko hospital on referral but Eko hospital could not handle my case, so I was then referred to Ikeja General Hospital. While at Ikeja General Hospital, something unique happened to me.
The story I was told was that I gave up the ghost, and was already prepared for the morgue after being certified dead. However, they needed my father to come around to append his signature to the relevant paperwork. My father who was also a Pastor, as well as a civil servant with the Defunct Nigerian Telecommunications Company (NITEL) blurted out the word “My Child cannot be dead” when the Doctors informed about what had happened.
My father remembered that before I was born he received a word of prophecy while on a visit to a prayer mountain in Ibadan that God was going to give him a male child by the following year and the child was going to be a Prophet unto the nations. In his company at that time were some of his relatives and notable among them was the well-known founder of the Celestial Church – Prophet Oshoffa whom God revealed this to and he in turn told my father.
My Dad kept on screaming “my son cannot be dead” to the chagrin of the Doctors and Nurses in the room, and when they attempted to rebuff him, he went completely unclad and started dancing round my bed, and praising God in my mother tongue (Yoruba language) with people around thinking that he had gone insane.
However, for some reason, Dr Kuku of Eko Hospital who had come to see another patient in the building decided to step into the room, having heard the shout emanating from my ward and suddenly sighting my father, he screamed “is this not Rev. Akintayo?” He soon got an account of the situation from those present in the room and he reached out to my father, held him by hand and also my wrist at the same time. All of a sudden, he miraculously felt a pulse and instantly beckoned for an oxygen tank and that was how I was resuscitated and brought back to life. From the account that I heard, I remained in coma for few weeks but in the midst of it, all that I heard I kept on saying was “Mo ri Ogo” which means either that I am in a deep and excruciating pain or that I see the glory of the father.
However, my Dad later told me that he believed it was a combination of both because according to him sometimes I say “Mo ri ogo” while crying and sometimes with a smile.
On a lighter mood, I soon got the moniker “Mo ri ogo” from some of my friends and family members when I got back from the hospital and even till date. According to my father, something unique happened on one of the days while I was at the hospital.
He said that I woke up from sleep screaming that I do not want to go back to our family house at Adeoyo Street because there is something there that wants to kill me. Interestingly, my Dad also got a confirmation via a revelation from someone else that I should not be allowed to return to the house.
So I was hidden away for a while and from that point marked my journey of living with relatives and other individuals other than my parents till date.
At a point in life, you decided to leave Nigeria, why did you take that decision at that time?
At some point when I started living alone I discovered that I had developed the love for music and for playing musical instruments.
Although all these started from when I was much younger in church which was right in our compound where I had the opportunity of trying my hands on the local drum called “Acuba”. I also played for my school as well and people use to pay me to play for them. I soon graduated to playing the drum set…I mean the one we fondly call “Jazz” back then when my school got one.
I soon proceeded to playing base guitar when one of my older cousins gave me the access to it. With the same zeal I also learnt how to play the trumpet while my Cousin was away at School with the trumpet that his church purchased. I was really tenacious with honing my skills because of the fact that I was told that I may never be able to excel academically as a result of learning difficulties that arose as a result of my illness.
So while my parents were strongly advised to allow me pursue vocation work, I decided to embrace my musical skills as a consolation for my assumed loss in the area of academics. Afterwards, I soon move on to the Piano and then my gift started opening doors of opportunities for me.
Even at a tender age, I was privileged to have played for the likes of Gbemi Olaleye, Sister Dupe Solano for a few years also.
These persons helped develop me and through this entire journey, I gave my life to Christ and joined a church that eventually built me.
One day, while in a rented apartment with a friend in the Shomolu area of Lagos, I heard God saying that I should leave Nigeria. I was reading Psalm 19 and the Lord spoke to me from verse 3 where it said “There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.” God spoke to me that he was going to send me to a country where I do not understand their language.
When I got out of that trance, I just assumed that since I have always wanted to travel to America, maybe God wanted me to travel to her neighbouring countries such as Cuba and Mexico where their language isn’t English.
A few hours after that encounter in the presence of God, an older friend of mine from the church came to visit me without any prior notice. He told me that he an urgent reason for coming because he needed to sell to me a return ticket he had for a trip to Ivory Coast which his father refused him from embarking on. He told me he decided to dispose the ticket but the only person who he felt could have enough money to buy it off him, was me.
As soon as he said Ivory Coast, I asked him what language do they speak there and he replied French. The Holy Spirit then confirmed to me that, that was where I was being sent. Following that confirmation in my spirit, I bought the ticket off him for about Four thousand six hundred Naira only (N4,600) at that time in 1997 and the next herculean task for me was convincing my parents that indeed God was sending me to Ivory Coast.
Luckily enough, my parents agreed and that was how I left Nigeria for the first time.
Growing up, have you ever thought of becoming a Pastor?
From my story you can see that God revealed to my parents that I was going to be a prophet unto nations. I did also mention earlier on that we had a church in our compound; the church was so big that we regularly held revivals there very often. I can’t remember exactly what age that I was, but I recall that Pastor Obadare came to minister at a 7 days revival in our church. I was so young at that time and he insisted on carrying me on his laps and kept on referring to me as “A prophet unto nations” in Yoruba language.
I must also mention that he was not aware of a similar message that the Lord had given to my Dad through Prophet Oshoffa before I was conceived. Consequently, as I grew up I began to detest the notion because everyone started attributing every display of my gifting to that prophecy.
The reason for this was that I felt that prophets are people who are always falling into a trance and usually surrounded by people who throng to their abode daily for prophecies. So I hated everyone who called me a Pastor or prophet at that time because all I wanted to be in future was a musician in the likes of Sunny Ade or maybe a Chemical Engineer.
However, from the point when I gave my life to Christ in 1993, I soon realized God’s call upon my life and I became aware in my spirit that I may never be able to run away from it.
I never wished to be a Pastor even though my father was a pastor although he was also a businessman and civil servant which I admired at that time.
My major grudge was that I was being called a prophet and not a pastor which appeared a bit better. Another incident that made me detest the title of a Pastor or prophet was an incident which happened when I was younger. I was about registering for my West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) at that time, so I took the form to my Dad’s office. I recall that he was in the company of a Pastor’s friend who he asked to pray on the form as was the practice in Nigeria at that time.
While praying, he told my Dad that “this boy, you plan on sending to the university, I see Ago Igbala (Bell of salvation) in his hand, leading people to Christ.” This same man also said something that builds on God’s call for my life. He said that he didn’t just see black people in the audience but people from across various race listening to me.
As a result of what he said, I left him with resentment.
Another encounter I had was during a time that I was at the Redemption camp alone as a teenager on a dry fasting and prayer session to ask for God’s vision for my life. God spoke to me through Psalms 2:8, when he eventually took me out of Nigeria, many things started to come to light and to the glory of God, I am now a Pastor. I get the privilege of ministering in different parts of the world and our congregation is racially diverse as well and all of it began to make sense now.
At what point did you receive your calling and what extra-ordinary event will you say marked your life at that point?
My life is a culmination of encounters like I always say. In 1996, I went on a dry fasting and I was at the Redemption camp to pray on my own, even though I was not a member. All I wanted and sought for during this period was for God to tell me or show me who I was to become.
Although I had been reading a lot of self-help and motivational books, I didn’t hear anything throughout the 3 days. Even while, I searched the scriptures, listened to tapes and during my prayer sessions. I then decided to leave after 3days and I left by public transport. When I got closer to Lagos, at Berger bus stop to be specific, someone alighted from the vehicle and as soon as the bus conductor went to assist with his load, something flashed across my mind and I heard Psalm 2:8 clearly. I quickly picked my bible and read that portion of the scripture.
Then God spoke to me saying “You have been asking for your purpose in life, let it be known to you through this first clue that it doesn’t begin from Nigeria.” From that day onward, I began to dream of living outside Nigeria.
When the Lord led me out of Nigeria in 1997, I had already developed the gift of hearing from the Lord through fasting, prayers and fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
The 2nd week when I got into Ivory Coast, I was in the house that I was staying at that time with a huge dictionary and bible that was owned by my host. Around 2am on one fateful day, The Holy Spirit directed me to read the book of Luke and I perused through the book. I kept on seeing “…and the Child shall be great.” My name as at April 1997 was Sunday Adeshile Idowu Adebunmi Akintayo but by divine instruction I changed my name to Great. During this encounter, the Holy Spirit asked me to check the meaning of Sunday, I found Sabbath and I was then instructed to search for the meaning of great. I checked the meaning and I heard the voice of God asking me if I wanted to be ordinary or great? Then I answered that I wanted to be great, and God then said from now on your name shall be Great. That was another major encounter that marked my life and interestingly my Pastor at that time; Pastor Ajibade decided to shock me by conducting a christening ceremony and anointing for me during one of our Sunday services. The same pastor is now the Senior Pastor of Winners Chapel in America.
By January 1998, I had started living with Pastor Ajibade as a missionary and helping in church planting. I was also involved in the World of Faith Bible Institute (WOFBI) which I attended a couple of times.
But this time around, Pastor Ajibade was teaching on vision analysis and he instructed us to find out from God before the end of that week. In the evening, when I returned to the house, he called me aside and said that I must have an encounter from God before the end of the week. So on the 21st of January 1998, that same week, I was asleep and something woke me up to take a walk along the street that we were residing at that time. I obeyed the voice and stepped out and God started speaking to me about things to come. The voice then instructed me to go back to the house and read Romans chapter 8, which became an encounter that lasted several hours as I took notes.
When I got to verse 19 – I began to ask God how can that be possible because I am feeble and weak health wise, but God referred me to verse 11 of the chapter – “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” Then I asked Lord, how do I know that it is you that is speaking to me and he spoke to me from verse 14 as a confirmation. Then I started to reel out my perceived inadequacies and the Lord spoke to me from verse 18 (For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us). Then I asked if all of these were meant to be, why all these sufferings that I am going through or have gone through? Then the Lord replied me with verse 28 – that all things work together for good for them that love God. He then decided to cap it with verse 29 – For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
That is where God spoke to me about this ministry that we birthed.
In January 1998, he gave me the name for our church – He Lives Bible Church, that same day as well, he gave me the name for our publishing house – Golden Pen Publishing, as well as that of a University that God will bring to pass through our hands, even when the ministry that I was with at that time had not conceived the idea of starting a university.
Which year did your ministry start and how has it been so far?
Well I did not build this ministry because Christ is the builder. He builds me, just as the bible say in Philippians 2:13 that God is the one that is at work in us both to will and to do his good pleasure.
He called us out of where we were, to start off this work that he called me to do as far back as 1998 by allowing us to begin in 2010. So our first fellowship started in November, 2010 and we started with our first evening service in January 2011 and by March 24th, 2011, HLBC had been inaugurated.
Cases of crashed marriages abound daily in the world today even among Christians, as a married man and a pastor, what do you think is responsible for this and how can this problem be solved?
First of all, we all know that every good thing comes from the Lord and we know that Satan is the purveyor of every bad thing. I know that whenever anything goes wrong, people flippantly attribute the blame to the devil. But the truth is that the devil is seriously after marriages.
There are three things God instituted himself and they are: Marriage, the Church and Government. When God put man over everything he created, he gave man governance, when God gave him a wife, he gave him marriage, and when God fellowshipped with them, that was the first church. From the aforementioned, you will see that these 3 things are always under attack by the devil.
However, we human beings need to know that we have a special mind, we can refuse evil and we can work together with each other. Even the worse set of people can live with each other peacefully because love transcends all things. If you sincerely love somebody, your greatest desire will be to see the person transformed. Although in some cases involving life threatening conditions, I understand that people have to make hard choices.
What is the best gift you have ever received from anyone?
Apart from the gift of the Holy Spirit, the best gift I will say I have received or should I say gifts…is the gift of divine direction. The fact is that God has divinely led me in my entire journey in life. Sometimes on my own, I am usually in tears when I reflect on how God has led me so far. Who lives away from his parents from age thirteen and has taken every step in the right direction since then? I can’t even recall my parents coming to settle any issue between anyone and I then.
Secondly, I will say the gift of my wife. She has been what I am not. The best part of what I lost growing up alone. She has added to my life in no small way and to sum it up – she completes me!
You recently celebrated your 13th wedding anniversary, can you tell us how you met your wife and how has the marriage been so far?
I was going out with someone before and we were all living outside Nigeria at that time and even had to manage some of their family business at that time. But all of a sudden, things changed when my Winners Chapel family called me back at that time, requesting that I work closely with the then Pastor as his Personal Assistant. I acceded to their request then and one thing led to another which later cost me my relationship. I became very despondent and to cool off, I decided to take off to Nigeria to be with my Dad and other family members. On my way to Nigeria by road, I got to the border late and had to sleep over. While on this journey, I had a book (Maximum Impact) which I was reading and I read it throughout the night. But something happened to me in the early hours of the morning and I saw a lady with a green dress showing conspicuously on a page on the book from nowhere and a voice told me, “Stop mourning over what you lost, this is your wife…a natural beauty.” After 3 days in Nigeria, I was in the company of a friend (Dom), and we were in the old building of Winners Chapel at Raji Oba Lagos, just catching up on old times when I saw a lady walk by with the exact dress that I saw in the trance on my way to Nigeria. This might sound a bit weird, I just told my friend immediately, that she was my wife and he looked at me and said that I must be crazy. He asked that how can I refer to a lady that I have never met or spoken to as my wife. Funny enough, her back was turned to us, I didn’t know how she looked, what language she spoke or even if she had a major impairment or not. So I just asked him if he knew who she was and he responded in the affirmative, that the Lady was one of Bishop Oyedepo’s daughter and her name was Queen. He beckoned on her and she came over to where we were and as soon as she saw the title of the book I was reading, she told me with amazement that this was the exact book that Bishop was reading at that time. She then said “you must be up to something if this is the sort of book that you are reading.” So she got interested in me and gave me audience just for the book. She then asked that I should allow her read it as well whenever I was through with the book. On a lighter note, she didn’t know that I had intentions and the rest they say is story – she is my wife today with four children.
As an African, what can you say about the new world political order using Donald Trump being the new American President as reference?
I don’t agree that there is a new world order but I think there is an old order and we need to usher in the new world order. There is an intended order of the world and that is not new. It is the one that has been prophesied in the book of Revelation and Daniel and has already been revealed. So therefore there is nothing that has been perpetuated by Donald Trump or any other leader that we do not know of before. There has always been bigotry, division, recalcitrance, corruption and many more. Right now, we can see comparison been made between President Nixon’s Watergate and President Trump’s recent incidents. You can see the news of various related happenings around the world and you can see that it is not new but what I will say is new is that there is a need to address this, although I don’t have a solution personally. That is one of the reasons I have gone back to the university, I do believe that there is something wrong with democracy and democracy is not the answer to the world’s problem. I am not sure yet if it is just politics or democracy. Nigeria and some parts of Africa had a system of governance before democracy; even nations in the bible govern themselves before democracy. We have what we call theocracy – where a whole nation will be waiting for what God is going to say and in most cases nations like Israel in the bible will be fasting and praying in a choice of a leader. Now democracy has reached its brink and it also divides because of its partisan nature. It divides people, it causes chaos, riot, hatred and I don’t think it is certainly an answer. You cannot refine democracy beyond what it is to solve that problem. So I believe that our world will need a solution. Countries, particularly my country of birth – Nigeria and many other nations will take the lead. I have the expectation that one day we will be able to form a different system of government that is different from democracy.
You are presently studying law, do you intend to practice law plus your calling as a pastor?
No, I never intend to be a lawyer, go to law school or be called to the bar. As you may already know, I have an immigration law firm and I could have added whatever else to it. I am actually studying law because I have a national mandate as part of the calling that God has called me and I believe that I need an increase of capacity and knowledge to be able to understand broader issues especially around nation building, and related issues and I believe there is a lot of things available for me especially with the study of law. I don’t think I will ever become a practising lawyer, barrister or anything like that… (laughs)
What are your hobbies?
I don’t know if I have one… (laughter) but I know love reading, listening to tapes because I always strive to learn something new. I have also found out that my greatest passion is the bible, I love unravelling what is in the bible, although that might sound too religious. Reading is certainly a first choice. I also love watching football – I am addicted to it. Everyone around me knows that my favourite football club is Arsenal. I am an Arsenal Fan even though I don’t watch them as much as I should because of my busy schedule but I always catch up with the highlights. I also love tennis as well.
What is your philosophy of life?
My philosophy about life is what God has put me through and because I find them true. I have formed a philosophy that “the order of my life is glory.” By that I mean not just my life but everyone that I come in contact with. I just know and believe that my life and the life of everyone that I come in contact with will be better, no matter what we are going through today. If you decide to come back after 5 years from now, you will see that my life would have become a lot better. It is not just a philosophy it is something I hold true to myself and I also believe that “it working!”
13. Are there people in your life who have helped shaped you or left indelible marks in your life?
Firstly, I will say my father played the most important role in my life. He instilled in me values like prayer, love, and integrity amongst many others. I don’t think I can ever love anyone like my father and that is why I appreciate the fact that my children love me so much. Like I said earlier on, I usually leave where I was then, just to go and see my father. I usually will tell him Daddy I am just coming home to greet you, even though he will be the one to pay my return fare. I always felt that I owe him so much but regrettably he did not live long to enjoy it. My mother is another person, although we did not spend much of my growing up together but I have realized that some of what I am today, especially the business side of me can be credited to my mom. She has always been to me as the most enterprising woman I have ever known. My mother also taught me tithing, and as a woman of prayer, she spends all her life praying for her children. I will say that she has a strong influence over my life. Aside my parent, one other person is Bishop David Oyedepo – he has the greatest influence over my life. I see him as a father and a role model. The other person is my pastor – Pastor David Oyedepo Jnr. If I can sum it up, I will say those are the persons with the strongest influence over my life and I thank God for their lives.