James Abayomi Boyejo, fondly referred to by many as “Papa Foursquare” and “Pastor Emeritus” was one of the three people usually referred to as the founding fathers of the Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria. The other two are Rev. Samuel Olusegun Odunaike and Rev. Friday Chinyere Osuwa. These three were the first group of Nigerians to come in contact with Rev. and (Mrs.) Harold Curtis, the missionaries who brought the Foursquare message to Nigeria. When the church started in 1955, Boyejo became one of its national officers and he served it meritoriously in various capacities until his retirement from service in 1995.
James Boyejo was born at Ijebu-Ode on November 26, 1928. He started his elementary education at the Wasimi African School, Ijebu-Ode and was there for six years. He then proceeded to Ibadan to further his education at the Anglican Bible School. Throughout his early life, he desired to reach great heights in education, but he was constrained by lack of finances. He committed himself to a disciplined life however, and did all that he could to acquire a reasonable level of education by attending various part-time schools while working, mainly along vocational and secretarial lines, and later started his career in Lagos as a secretary.
His desire to live a righteous life made him interested in the message and the music of the American International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (ICFG). Consequently, he was in the first group of ministers to contact Reverends Mr. and Mrs. Harold Curtis, the first missionaries of the Foursquare Church to Nigeria. It was reported that he was instrumental to Odunaike’s contact with the missionary couple. Just as Andrew in the Gospel narratives brought Peter to Jesus, Boyejo brought Odunaike to Mr. and Mrs. Curtis. He became a student at the Foursquare Gospel Church Bible College (formerly LIFE Bible College, now LIFE Theological Seminary, Ikorodu) with the two other ministers mentioned above and graduated with them in 1957, as the first set of ministers produced by the ICFG in Nigeria.
He acquired further theological training through external study programs, and his career began with on-the-job training. He started his services to the church in 1955, when he was appointed pastor of the first ICFG church in Nigeria, the National Headquarters Church, Yaba, Lagos. By virtue of this appointment, he became the first national pastor of the ICFG and he held this position for twenty-five years. During that time he functioned in other capacities within the church. He was partly the national secretary and also divisional supervisor for the Lagos area churches. He was also national director of Christian education until he was made full time executive secretary of the church in 1980. His work as executive secretary stopped when the church introduced a new form of administration, at which time he became the transitional general supervisor (1983-1984).
Boyejo was a pastor, Bible expositor, author, counselor, teacher, preacher, and leader who committed his entire life to the furtherance of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He believed in the totality of what the Foursquare gospel stands for, which is: Jesus the Savior, Jesus the baptizer with the Holy Spirit, Jesus the healer, and Jesus the soon-coming king. He embraced the Foursquare gospel message and never deviated from it, making it the focus of his life by preaching and living it in practical ways.
An articulate preacher, Boyejo taught biblical truth with simplicity, candour, and Pentecostal fervour. He also prayed with passion. The front stage of the then National Headquarters Church of the Foursquare at 62 Akinwunmi Street, Yaba, Nigeria, was familiar with his bended knees, his sweaty brow, and teary eyes as he prayed for men and women to commit their lives to Christ. He had a persuasive voice and fine diction in the pulpit. He was the weeping pastor of a “weeping church” a common name for the Foursquare Gospel Church in those early days. Pastor Austin Nworah, a former board member of the church commenting on his success in this regard said, “His labour yielded great fruits and his commitment was rewarded as many came to know Jesus Christ through his ministry, and some of these became ministers and Christian leaders of great influence.”
As a Christian leader who believed in the visible unity of the church, he held various positions in many ecumenical organizations in Nigeria. He was national vice president of the Scripture Union of Nigeria, and one of the founding fathers and first national president of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN). He also served as the chairman of the Yaba Auxiliary of the Bible Society of Nigeria and as one of the founding fathers and a past chairman of the Yaba Interdenominational Fellowship of Churches. This was an association of churches situated within the Yaba area of Lagos comprised of six churches: Hoare’s Memorial Methodist Church; St. Dominic’s Catholic Church; Yaba Baptist Church; All Saints Anglican Church; Lagos Presbyterian Church, and the Foursquare Gospel Church, Yaba. The main objective of this fellowship was to encourage unity and cooperation within the body of Christ. He was also a member of the national executive committee of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), as a representative of the churches of the Pentecostal denomination.
Tributes were paid to Boyejo by various personalities. Rev. Dr. Ummah Ukpai described him as a man of vision. According to him, one of the attributes of men of vision is seeing in a situation what others could not see. It was this ability of his that gave birth to the PFN around 1985. In 1985, there was an open air crusade in Lagos in which over fifty churches of the Pentecostal denomination participated. It was led by Rev. Dr. Umah Ukpai. As the crusade was coming to a close, Boyejo suggested to Dr. Ukpai the possibility of keeping this coming together of churches alive in a sort of a union through the establishment of an organization. The suggestion later gave birth to the PFN, an umbrella organization for churches of the Pentecostal denomination and one of the five segments within CAN. It was in this regard that Boyejo served as the first national president of the PFN.
Rev. Dr. Wilson Badejo, the former general overseer of the Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria often fondly refers to him as “my own pastor.” Dr. Okey Onuzo, associate pastor at the National Headquarters Church, Yaba, described him as a minister with foresight who encouraged a lot of people, someone who was also known for his methodical teaching. Onuzo explains how he encouraged him in the ministry: Dr. Boyejo just called him after the service one day and said, “I learned you are a preacher. You are going to preach next Sunday.” There was a great uproar about this because Onuzo had only stayed in the church for two years. Consequently, Boyejo was criticised for putting education ahead of grace, but he went ahead all the same. He not only endorsed Onuzo to preach the following Sunday, but also invited him to speak at the leaders’ retreat. Onuzo called Boyejo “a good man,” but was quick to add “when we say someone is a good man, it does not mean the person does not have any fault at all.”
Rev. Mitchell Belobaba, former missionary advisor to Foursquare, once referred to Boyejo as “a small parcel with valuable contents.” Elder Joe Charles, veteran church administrator at the Foursquare Church in Yaba said, “Papa Boyejo gave feet to the lame and eyes to the blind. He gave opportunities for people to grow.” Mrs. Bridget Alasa, better known as “Mama Ndidi,” who has been in the church since 1974 said, “He was easy going, a man of peace and a peacemaker. Any time I went to him for counselling, he would say ‘Follow God’s way. Let’s wait for God’s time.’” Rev. Lawrence Kehinde, a retired senior pastor of Foursquare who taught at LIFE Theological Seminary (then known as LIFE Bible College), described him as highly spiritual, experienced, dedicated, a principled person, and a sound counsellor. According to her, “If he asked you to take a road and you got to a junction, you would need to get back to him and ask for direction again. If you followed his advice, he would back you up.”
The late Archbishop Benson Idahosa of Church of God Mission International held him in high esteem. Bishop Mike Okonkwo of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM) called him “father” and “mentor.” Bishop Francis Wale Oke, president and founder of the Sword of the Spirit Ministries recalled how Boyejo and Dr. Samuel Odunaike assisted in making his ministry go international by facilitating his attendance at the World Pentecostal Conference in Switzerland in 1985. He was a focused pastor who was committed to sound teaching and spiritual work, careful not to focus attention on himself, but on Christ. His posture is what has defined Foursquare as a church and which has helped it overcome some of its leadership challenges.
In recognition and appreciation of his services to the body of Christ, Boyejo was a recipient of two honors, both from national and international institutions: the Certificate for Meritorious Award through Trinity College of Ministerial Arts and Studies (TRICOMAS), Aba, Nigeria, and the Honorary Doctor of Divinity from Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, Oklahoma, through its affiliate institution in Nigeria, the All Nations for Christ Institute International.
His first marriage was to Sister Comfort Boyejo. The marriage was blessed with three sons: Ayo, Deji and Ope, but ended in 1986 due to the death of his wife. He remarried to Sister Victoria in 1992 while serving as the pastor of the Foursquare Church, Akoka. In 1994 he planted a Foursquare Church in Tel Aviv, Israel. Boyejo retired from the service of the church in 1995, after the historic celebration of the 40th Anniversary, having served the church in various capacities for a period of forty years. An appreciation service was held for him, for Rev. F. C. Osuwa, (who also retired during the same period) and two other Senior Ministers, Rev. J. A. Ademulegun and E. Olu. Oshibanjo, at the National Headquarters Church, Yaba, Nigeria on Sunday, February 11, 1996. A few months later, Boyejo left with his wife for the USA to “assume a new dimension in ministry.”
In the USA, the United Kingdom, and other parts of the world where the ministry work took him to, Boyejo (fondly referred to as Papa Foursquare), worked with churches as a guest speaker in conferences and seminars, sharing with them his wealth of experience in ministry, church matters, and the Word. In the midst of these new experiences in 2003, the enemy struck. He lost his first born, Ayodele. However, the Lord gave him the fortitude to bear this great loss. Like David, he encouraged himself in the Lord his God and continued doing exploits for Him.
He remained active in one way or another within the church, both in Nigeria and abroad, travelling from the USA to Nigeria when necessary. He fell ill in the USA and was flown back to Nigeria for medical attention by the leadership of the Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria. As it pleased the Lord however, he died peacefully on the morning of Friday, June 17, 2011 at the age of eighty-three. He is survived by wife, children, and grandchildren.
Michael Adeleke Ogunewu
Adeogun, Ebenezer O. A Transplant of the Vine (Forty Years of Foursquare History in Nigeria). Yaba: Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria, 1999.
Funeral Service Brochure, August 12, 2011.
Ojo, Tunde. “Boyejo: Exit of Foursquare’s Pastor Emeritus.” Nigerian Tribune, August 29, 2011, 18.
Umah Ukpai, Rev. Dr. Sermon at the Funeral Service of Rev. (Dr.) James Abayomi Boyejo held at the Rowe Park, Yaba, Nigeria on August 12, 2011.
This biography, received in 2012, was researched and written by Dr. Michael Adeleke Ogunewu, Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, Nigeria. Dr. Deji Ayegboyin in the DACB liaison coordinator.