Josiah Olufemi Akindayomi was the founder and first general overseer of what is today known as the Redeemed Christian Church of God. The church, today acclaimed as the fastest growing Pentecostal church in the world, started in 1947 as an independent prayer fellowship, the Glory of God Fellowship. This group blossomed into the Redeemed Christian Church of God in 1952.
Josiah was born in 1909 into the Akindayomi family in Ondo State, Nigeria. From early childhood Josiah’s parents noticed unusual things about him. When he was sick, alledgedly his sickness, that usually defied traditional medecin-the most common treatment for sickness in those days-would abate and subsequently disappear once he was bathed with ordinary water. Josiah himself also had an inkling that he was different, for although he grew up in an environment where the worship of Ogun (the Yoruba divinity of iron and war) was prevalent, he was aware of the existence of a greater power and yearned to know the true God who created the earth and everyone in it.
His yearning after God led him into the Anglican Church where he was baptized in 1927. Still spiritually unfulfilled, he joined the Cherubim and Seraphim Church in 1931. A few years later he began to hear a voice inside him declaring that he would be a minister of God. He was not at ease with this voice, which he identified as God’s call to full time ministry. For seven years he ignored it, since he had never intended to be a pastor. During this period, virtually everything went wrong for him. All his business ventures failed; heavily in debt and without peace of mind, he found himself totally dependent on the grace of God.
The turning point for Josiah came when, in 1940, he dreamed of an old man scratching his leg. He woke up the next morning with a sore on his leg that deteriorated significantly within a short period of time. Then he heard the voice inside him telling him to submit to God’s will and to serve him. When he asked for signs to confirm that the call was from God he was given the following passages as confirmation: Jeremiah 1:4-10, Isaiah 41:10-13, and Romans 8:29-31.  Without the use of medication, the Lord healed the sore on his leg. This marked the beginning of a definite relationship with God. Totally broken, he yielded to God, saying, “Lord I will go wherever you want me to go.” The Lord assured him that he would provide for all his needs as he would henceforth receive no salary from anyone. This promise from the Lord was a comforting reminder to him during his trials in subsequent months.
Akindayomi was married in 1947 and relocated to Lagos in the latter part of that year. In Lagos, he worshipped with the Cherubim and Seraphim Church at its Ibadan Street, Ebute-Metta branch, where Prophet Onanuga, the immediate successor to Prophet Moses Orimolade, the church founder, was the leader. He was still with the church in 1947 when a zeal for a better service and a deeper experience with God prompted him to start the prayer fellowship later known as the Glory of God Fellowship that met at 9, Willougby Street, Ebute-Metta, Lagos. Initially there were nine members; however the fellowship gradually grew as the news of the miracles that occurred in their midst spread. It became so popular that it drew not only members of the church, but others from the neighborhood.
By 1952 he felt persuaded to leave the Cherubim and Seraphim Church. The fellowship he had started then grew into the Redeemed Christian Church of God. The name of the church was said to have been revealed to the founder in a vision. Allegedly the letters forming the name of the church appeared in the English alphabet to Akindayomi, who could neither read nor write. Miraculously he was able to scribble down the individual letters which, when put together, read “The Redeemed Christian Church of God.” This has been the name of the church ever since.
In this same vision God promised to take the church to the ends of the earth and declared that the Lord Jesus Christ would meet the church when he returned in glory. The Lord also established a covenant with Akindayomi similar to the Abrahamic covenant in the Bible, promising to meet all the needs of the church in wonderful ways if only members would serve Him faithfully and be obedient to His Word. The Redeemed Christian Church of God was formed, based on this covenant, in 1952. The church continued to meet at 9 Willoughby Street until they acquired some land and relocated to their headquarters at 1-5 Redemption Way, Ebute-Metta, Lagos (formerly 1a Cemetery Street). In the 1950s it was quite fashionable for Nigerian independent churches to affiliate with overseas ministries for expansion purposes. However, according to sources, God strongly instructed the Redeemed Christian Church of God not to merge with any foreign or overseas body. Today the church has become one of the fastest growing Pentecostal churches in the world.
Like Moses in the Bible, Akindayomi named his successor before his death. In the early 1970s God had told him that his successor, who was not yet a member of the church, would be a young educated man. Thus when a young university lecturer joined the church in 1973, Akindayomi was able to recognize him in the Spirit as the one whom the Lord had spoken of. This man, Enoch Adejare Adeboye, a lecturer in mathematics at the University of Lagos, soon became involved in the activities of the church. He became one of the interpreters translating Akindayomi’s sermons from the Yoruba language into English. He was ordained a pastor of the church in 1975.
One day the Lord revealed to Akindayomi that it was time for him to die. He then sent for Pastor Adeboye and spent several hours with him, sharing the details of the covenant and the plans of the Lord for the church. A year earlier, the Lord had revealed to Pastor Adeboye that he would be Akindayomi’s successor, but it was too difficult for him to fully contemplate such an awesome responsibility. Akindayomi died in 1980 at the age of 71. Thereafter Pastor Adeboye’s appointment was formalized and he has since been the general overseer of the church.
Today God is still doing powerful work through the Redeemed Christian Church of God worldwide. In 1981 there was an explosion of growth in the number of parishes. At the last count there were about 2,000 parishes of the church in Nigeria. The church is also present in other African nations, including: Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Zambia, Malawi, Zaire, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Gambia, Cameroon, and South Africa. In Europe the church has spread to England, Germany, and France. In the Americas there are U.S. parishes in Dallas, Tallahassee, Houston, New York, Washington, and Chicago, and in the Caribbean states of Haiti and Jamaica. One prominent program of the church is the Holy Ghost service, an all-night miracle service, held on the first Friday of every month at the Redemption Camp at Km. 46, Lagos-Ibadan expressway. The average number of those who attend the service is about 500,000. The Holy Ghost service is now also held in London on a quarterly basis.
Michael Leke Ogunewu
- Jeremiah 1:4-10: Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,
‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’
Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.’ But the Lord said to me,
‘Do not say, “I am only a boy”;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you.
8Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
says the Lord.’
Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,
‘Now I have put my words in your mouth.
See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.’
Isaiah 41:10-13: do not fear, for I am with you,
do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
Yes, all who are incensed against you
shall be ashamed and disgraced;
those who strive against you
shall be as nothing and shall perish.
You shall seek those who contend with you,
but you shall not find them;
those who war against you
shall be as nothing at all.
For I, the Lord your God,
hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear,
I will help you.’
Romans 8:29-31 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.* And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?
Adapted, in part, from “About Us - The Redeemed Christian Church of God.” http://www.rccg.org/about/index.rccg-redeemed.
Ajayi, O. Warrior of Righteousness. Abeokuta: Ordinance Publishing House, 1979.
Akin-Ojo, A., “Classical and Model Parishes: Two ‘Denominations’ in the Redeemed Christian Church of God.” M. A. thesis, Department of Religious Studies, University of Ibadan, 2001.
International Directory of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, 4th Edition. 2002-2004.
Odedele, P. O. “The Concept of the Holy Spirit in the Early Church and in the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Nigeria.” M. A. Thesis, Department of Religious Studies, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria, 1998.
Oguntoyinbo-Atere, (Mrs.) M. I. “Lucan Teaching on the Poor in the Context of the Redeemed Christian Church of God’s Programmes for the Poor in Lagos.” Ph.D. diss., Department of Religious Studies, University of Ibadan, 2005.
This article, received in 2009, was researched and written by Dr. Michael Leke Ogunewu under the supervision of Rev. Dr. Deji Ayegboyin, DACB liaison coordinator.