Josiah Adegoke Adeleke was an outstanding denominational leader in the Nigerian Baptist Convention who will not be forgotten. Goke Adeleke (as he was fondly called), was a powerful preacher, an ardent mentor and counselor for young people, an excellent author, an accomplished pastor-teacher, and a motivational speaker in conferences and in various Christian gatherings. He lived a very short but meaningful life, and achieved many things, confirming the truth of the saying, “It is not how long, but how well.” He touched many lives, making a positive impact on them. At his death, all the churches of the Nigerian Baptist Convention mourned a young, dynamic, gifted, and charismatic minister who had invested his life in ministering to young people.
Josiah Adegoke Adeleke was born on February 3, 1967, in Ogbomoso, Oyo State, Nigeria. The circumstances surrounding his birth and christening were very significant and unique. Like the prophet Jeremiah, Goke Adeleke had been divinely commissioned to be a reformer, a leader, and a visionary, from conception. His parents knew from the beginning that the baby in the womb was a different person, a person set apart for the Lord who would serve the Lord from his youth. The mother had an unexplainably strong feeling that the baby in her womb would become great. By divine guidance, he was christened “Josiah,” and like the biblical king, Josiah Adegoke Adeleke was a reformer par excellence.
He was the first child of his parents, Papa and Mrs. Solomon Adeleke. Although young, he made an immense contribution to the growth of the student ministries of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, and was truly a contemporary Josiah. Almost all his colleagues in ministry were older than he was, but none of them could contest the fact that he was a born leader and reformer.
Adeleke accepted Christ into his life as Lord and Savior in 1983 during a crusade organized by Maranatha Evangelical Ministry in Ibadan, where Seyi Oloruntunji, now the Deeper Life Coordinator for Osun State, preached. He did not have the privilege of receiving discipleship after his conversion experience, and he had to rededicate his life at Antioch Baptist Church, Ogbomoso, where Rev. Prof. Yusuf Ameh Obaje was the pastor.
Adeleke was a thoroughly educated man who kept on educating himself. In 1986, he graduated from the Oyo State College of Education, Ila-Oragun, with a teaching degree, the National Certificate in Education (NCE). He later attended the University of Ilorin, also in Nigeria, and earned a B.S. in Education in 1989.
Goke Adeleke also attended the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Theology in 1993. At the seminary, he won the seminary’s William Jester Award for Christian Leadership and Future Usefulness. It was a well-deserved award, because he excelled in leadership and was very useful in the vineyard of God until his death. He also received the J. P. Price Memorial Award for academic excellence awarded by the faculty, in 2003. He traveled to the United States of America to earn an M.A. in Youth and Collegiate Ministries from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Ft. Worth, Texas. While he was there, he also went on a mission trip to China. He graduated from the seminary with excellent grades and several awards, and even received a scholarship to begin his Ph.D. degree in Ft. Worth, Texas, but he decided to return home to provide leadership for his family and the Nigerian Baptist Convention Youth Ministries.
At the time of his death, Adeleke was still pursing his Ph.D. at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso. He was a brilliant student, always ready to learn. He had a charismatic personality that was a combination of his moral finesse, his simple mien, and his courageous character.
Josiah Adegoke Adeleke was a true family man. He married Princess Christianah Adeola Adeleke (née Olasoko) on his 29th birthday, February 3, 1996. Goke was very meticulous in everything he did. They were happily married for over nine years, and had three children: JIL [acronyms are explained below] Adedapo Ireoluwa, JIM Adedoyin Anuoluwa, and JIK Adedayo Ifeoluwa. Their fourth child, a boy, was born on April 3, 2005, a few months after Adeleke’s death, and was christened JIV Adedotun Ayooluwa Adeleke.
The children each had an acronym name which had a significant meaning to Adeleke. The acronym of the oldest child, JIL, means “Jesus is Lord.” The second child is popularly called JIM which means “Jesus is Mine.” The third child’s acronym, JIK, means “Jesus is King,” and the fourth’s acronym, JIV, means “Jesus is Victorious”. Goke Adeleke decided to give his children these acronym names because of his conviction that giving his children such names created an opportunity to talk about Jesus Christ and was a way of reflecting [on] his understanding of the Lordship of Jesus.
Ministerial and leadership roles in the NBC
A. Student and youth ministries
Adeleke served as the Baptist Student Adviser at Saja Baptist Church, Ogbomoso, from 1986 to 1988. He motivated several young people to do their best for the Lord and several people gave their lives to Jesus through his efforts. He also served as the president of the Baptist Student Fellowship at the University of Ilorin from 1988 to 1989. He served concurrently as the president of the Baptist Student Fellowship, Kwara/Kogi Conference, from 1987 to 1989, providing very strong leadership for the students there at that time. Some of his colleagues at the University of Ilorin who are still alive and are still serving as ministers in various churches testified that Goke did his best for the Lord while he was the president of the fellowship.
Adeleke had a very strong passion to serve the Lord by ministering to students and young people. After his graduation from the university, he resolved to do his mandatory National Youth Service as the zonal worker with the Student Ministries Department of the Nigerian Baptist Convention in 1989-1990. When he answered God’s call to be trained at the seminary, he served faithfully as the campus volunteer minister at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH, Ogbomoso) from 1990 to 1992. He served as an interim campus minister at Osun State Polytechnic, Iree, Osun State, from June to August of 1992, and also in the University of Jos, from June to August of 1991.
He completed seminary in Ogbomoso in 1993 and accepted the call to work with the students as a full time minister as BSF zonal coordinator, Western Zone, of the Baptist Students Ministries, which was comprised of four states. He served meritoriously in this capacity from 1993 to 1996. Philip L. Wilson, the onetime executive secretary for the American Baptist Mission in Nigeria, said, “As he (Josiah Adegoke Adeleke) served with the student ministries, he encouraged them to be discipled… only eternity will reveal the many lives that were touched, encouraged, and strengthened through the life and ministry of Rev. J. A. Adeleke.”
Adeleke was appointed National Youth Coordinator by the Nigerian Baptist Convention in 1996 and served in that capacity until 2001. While he was the national coordinator, he supervised and provided leadership for the youth in all the Nigerian Baptist Convention churches. In fact, Goke Adeleke brought life and serious reformation into the youth ministries of the NBC. Before he became the youth coordinator, little was known about the youth fellowship in different churches, but when he came on board, the churches of the Nigerian Baptist Convention felt his impact. Several youths (who had moved out of the church to join Pentecostal churches) returned when they saw the new, creative ideas and reforms that he had brought in.
It is appropriate at this juncture to mention that some people envied him and criticized him unjustly because they felt that he was outshining them. Goke was an achiever who loved challenges, and he liked to set goals and to reach them. Rev. A. Emiola Nihinlola, who mentored and discipled him, said of him: “Josiah Adegoke Adeleke was smart, focused, energetic, hardworking, visionary, intelligent, innovative, and dynamic.” These characteristics and virtues were evident when he served the students and the youth of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, and his equal has not yet been found.
Adeleke was focused, untiring, trustworthy, and very supportive. He did not leave any doubt that in ministering to youth, he was pursuing a God-given agenda for his life. He was committed to the work and was willing to commit much more. Even after his return from the United States, he had several calls to different pastorates in large and flourishing churches, but Goke declined them and accepted the student work.
On July 1, 2004, he was appointed chaplain of Bowen University, Iwo. Within a very short time, he touched the hearts of the students and the staff, and he was loved by all. He was a charismatic leader who related well with all types of people, an encourager, a good man, and a team player who believed in working with people. The present writer, who pastors a church in the university, had the privilege of watching him closely when he served there as university chaplain. He will not be forgotten there, as he reconciled so many groups and people with the management. He discipled, baptized, and mentored many students, some of whom are now being trained as pastors in different theological seminaries. He was a man of great faith, full of life, full of energy. He committed everything, including his very life, to ministering to young people. On his way from Abuja, where he had gone to participate in a workshop against the spread of HIV/AIDS, he was involved in a terrible motor vehicle accident. Both he and his disciple, the Rev. Tayo Orodiji, were killed. When the news about his death reached the university, the whole community was thrown into mourning, and both students and staff wept openly. Darkness literally descended upon the whole community, because all the students put on black clothes.
B. Leadership roles in churches and denominational work
Apart from his major calling of ministering to youth, Adeleke also had the privilege of serving in different churches. He served as the pastor of Ilodo Kinni Baptist Church, Tewure, Ogbomoso, while studying at the Nigerian Theological Seminary. As a student pastor, he brought a lot of innovation into the church, where he was loved and honored by all. Goke also served as the pastor of Sanders Memorial Baptist Church in Iree, Osun State, for a very brief period. Nonetheless, the church felt his impact as he labored to disciple the young people there.
His longest local church ministry took place at Akobo Baptist Church, Akobo, Ibadan, Oyo State, and that is where he was ordained, in 1996. Through his efforts and the grace of God, the church grew and expanded within a very short time. He was very committed and served the Lord faithfully there, so much so that after his death, the church was renamed Goke Adeleke Memorial Baptist Church, to honor and memorialize him.
He also served as a youth minister in the African Evangelical Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. He became a member of the church in August of 2001 when he went to study at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Forth Worth, and was retained as the youth pastor even after his graduation in May of 2003, when the church discovered that he was not returning home immediately. He served there until August of 2004. The senior pastor of the church, the Rev. Dr. Johnson Olalekan Omoni, had this to say:
Goke’s brief time with us greatly and positively impacted every area of our individual and corporate life, and moved us forward to whom and to what we should be in Christ. Goke’s talents and giftedness as a preacher and as an eloquent, sweet, and admirable speaker spread like a fire to touch many lives in the Joint Baptist African Community, African-American, and Anglo [sic] churches, not only in the Dallas/Forth Worth area, but across the whole of Texas. He really loved the Lord and made himself available as a vessel of honor and service wherever God led him. Goke was a very loyal associate pastor to me for the sake of Christ and helped me through troubled waters, which every local church passes through intermittently. Goke was loved and highly respected by the many people he came into contact with here, but most especially by every member of the African Evangelical Baptist Church.
Goke Adeleke’s impact was felt at the Baptist General Convention of Texas, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Baptist World Alliance. He was invited to be with former President George W. Bush at the White House and had the privilege of preaching at various times in China and Russia.
As a denominational leader in the Nigerian Baptist Convention, Goke served in different capacities at different times. He served as the secretary of the Baptist Building Executive Staff Committee (1998-2000) and as the secretary of the Student Ministries and Youth Advisory Board, NBC (1994-2000). He also served as a member of the Global Mission Board, NBC (1998-2001), as a member of the Sunday School Curriculum Committee, Christian Education Department, NBC (1998-2000), as a member of the National Standing Committee, Christian Council of Nigeria (1997-2000), as a member of the Youth Leaders Forum/Bible Society of Nigeria (1996-2000), and as a member of the Church Growth Study Team, International Mission Board, SBC, USA. As a denominational leader, Adeleke also attended several local and international conferences and missions outreaches.
Publications and papers
Josiah Adegoke Adeleke had a number of published and unpublished papers and articles to his credit. He also authored several books and booklets. Some of his published works include:
- “The Role of Adult Education in National Development,” The Bedrock, (the magazine of the Educational Foundations Dept.), University of Ilorin, Ilorin, 1989.
“Because of His Love: Revival Teachings I” (1996).
“Saved to Serve: Baptist Youth in Christian Witnessing” (1996).
“Retaining the Ancient Landmark: Baptist Youths in Biblical Revolution” (1997).
“The Supremacy of Jesus Christ: Expository Bible Study I” (1997).
“Thirst after Righteousness: Baptist Youth in Christian Service and Commitment” (1998).
The Great Epoch: The 25-year History of Baptist Youth Ministries in Nigeria (Ibadan: Baptist Press, 1998).
“The Nature of the Christian Hope: Expository Bible Study II” (1998).
“The Baptist Men & Their Prayer Life: Expository Bible Study II” (1998).
“Resisting the Different Gospel: Baptist Youth Contending for the Faith” (1999).
“Life in the Spirit: Expository Bible Study III” (1999).
“Celebrating the Glorious Church” (2000).
Power in the Word: Baptist Youth in Biblical Revelation (Ibadan: Baptist Press, 2001).
- Samuel Ola Fadeji, a Living Legend: A Biography (Ibadan: Baptist Press, 2001). [Co-authored with Solomon Atoyeje]
Membership in professional bodies
Josiah Adegoke Adeleke belonged to distinguished professional bodies both in Nigeria and overseas. He was a member of the National Network of Youth Ministries (NNYM) and the Baptist Association of Christian Educators (BACE). He also belonged to the Association of Youth Educators and Ministers (AYEM), and to the Baptist Religious Education Association of the Southwest (BREA).
The death of Josiah Adegoke Adeleke came as a shock to the whole nation and most especially to the Nigerian Baptist Convention. He had gone to Abuja to save lives through the HIV/AIDS awareness project of the Nigerian Baptist Convention. On his way back to Ibadan, he was involved in a ghastly motor vehicle accident that claimed his life and the life of several others on January 11, 2005. He died with his son in the Lord and ardent disciple, Chris Tayo Orodiji, who was also a revered minister in the Nigerian Baptist Convention. The mysterious accident was a double tragedy for the churches of the NBC. Those who died were celebrated, mourned, and buried in the same place.
Josiah Adegoke Adeleke lived a full life even though he died in his prime at age thirty-eight. An intelligent man, he made very significant contributions that will be difficult to outdo. The churches of the Nigerian Baptist Convention are inspired, blessed, and challenged by his outstanding life. The story of his life, ministry, and death is best captured by the words of Robert O. Davidson: “The best life is the richest, the life that is varied in content, replete with thought and action, with contemplation and adventure, with danger and responsibility.”
Oluremi Adebayo Ademuyiwa
Adeleke, Christiana Adeola. Interview by author, Ibadan, University College Hospital, 2009.
Adeleke, Josiah Adegoke. Professional resumé.
Babalola, Tayo. Young, Useful, Yoked to Christ. Ibadan: Sceptre Prints Ltd., 2005.
Funeral service program for Goke Adeleke and Tayo Orodiji. Ogbomoso: FBC Oke ‘lerin, January 18, 2005, Nigerian Baptist Convention.
This story, received in 2010, was written and researched by Oluremi Adebayo Ademuyiwa, Ph.D. candidate at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, under the supervision of Dr. Deji Aiyegboyin and Dr. Michael Ogunewu.