Johnson Oyekola Olayinka’s life and ministry is reflected in this biblical injunction: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Olayinka was a non-tribal minister who spent most of his time in Christian ministry in the northern part of Nigeria. He was a fearless minister who did not become jealous when other people came into the Christian ministry.
Education, Secular Work, and Ministerial Positions
Johnson Oyekola Olayinka was born on August 3, 1959 at Wakajaye-Gbongan in Osun State, Nigeria. His parents were late the Pa E. A. Olayinka and Mrs. J. T. Olayinka of Akireku compound, Oju Oja, Wakajaye-Gbongan. His received his primary education at St. Matthew Anglican Primary School, Wakajaye-Gbongan, from 1966 to 1973, and his secondary education at St. Paul’s Anglican Secondary School, Gbongan, from 1974 to 1977. He attended Ibadan Christian College in Ibadan from 1979 to 1981. He was Anglican by birth, but because of his love for the Baptist denomination, he joined the First Baptist Church in Idikan, Ibadan, Oyo State, in 1979, and was thereafter sponsored by Chief and Mrs. Adediran, (members of the church) to study at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso.
He studied at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, from 1985 to 1989, and graduated with a Bachelor of theology degree. His post-graduate study (extension program) was done at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, in 1991. He also attended the Theological College of Northern Nigeria, Bukuru, Plateau State, and graduated with an M.A. in systematic theology in 1994. He received a post-graduate Diploma in Education from the University of Maiduguri in 1995, and attended an Advanced Leadership Seminar on evangelism at the Haggai Institute in Singapore in 2000.
Olayinka married Margaret Kikelomo Olayinka on December 24, 1988, and the marriage was blessed with children. He worked in several places, which included Irewole Local Government Council, Osun State, 1977, and Oyo State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, from 1978 to 1979, as a clerk. He taught at Vining Nursery and Primary School, Molete, Ibadan, 1981 to 1985. During his student days at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, he served in Obada Baptist Church in Ibadan, in 1986; in Ayorunbo Baptist Church in Ogbomoso, 1986 to 1987; in Awaye Baptist Church in Ibadan, in 1987; in Pilgrim Baptist Church, Gbagada, Lagos, in 1988; and in Eleruwa Baptist Church, Ikoyi-Igbeti Road, Ogbomoso, from 1987 to 1989. After graduating from the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, he was the pastor of First Baptist Church, Maiduguri, from 1989 to 1998. In Maiduguri, he was ordained at First Baptist Church, on June 6, 1992. He left Maiduguri for Fellowship Baptist Church, Kawo, Kaduna, and was there from 1998 to 2000, after which he moved to First Baptist Church, Minna, from 2001 to 2003.
God’s grace in Olayinka’s life made him dynamic and resourceful, which resulted in a lot of respect and in appointments. For example, he was appointed as student food director, Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, 1987 to 1988; associational moderator of Borno Baptist Association, 1990 to 1994 and 1996 to 1997; chairman, Nigerian Baptist Convention (NBC) media center, 1993 to 1998; chairman, North East Baptist Conference, 1994 to 1996; and adviser, Borno Baptist Association, 1997 to 1998. Moreover, he served as a board member to some departments of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, which included: the ministerial board 1994 to 1995; the publishing board, 1992 to 1996; and the board of governors, Baptist Pastors School, Gombe, Adamawa State, 1994 to 1998. He was also the coordinator of Mission and Evangelism for the Niger-Kebbi Baptist Conference, 2002 to 2003.
Contributions to Christian Ministry
In his bid to see to the spread of God’s word, Olayinka became a regular preacher on the network of the Nigeria Television Authority and on the network of Borno Radio, in Maiduguri. He was sponsored on a holy pilgrimage to Israel by the Borno State government in 1993. He also had the opportunity of visiting Rome and Brussels. He did some evangelism among the Kanuri people of Borno State, and converts won among this tribe were called “secret disciples.” This led to the creation of the Kanuri Project during Operation Reach All (ORA) of the Nigerian Baptist Convention. He worked with Southern Baptist missionaries like Rev. and Mrs. Faw, and Rev. and Mrs. Larry David. He encouraged them to declare the Borno area a home mission field, and this was adopted by the Nigerian Baptist Convention. Through Olayinka’s efforts, two Kanuris were sponsored as pastors in the Baptist Theological School in Kaduna (one of them was Pastor Kachala). Among the pastors he trained were Rev. Luka, who is at present working with the Nigerian Baptist Convention Media Center, and Rev. Tula, who has also become a pastor in a church at Mubi.
When Tam West was in prison in Maiduguri, Olayinka was visiting him and using the opportunity to reach out to other inmates of the prison. He also had the opportunity to reach out to the inmates of Kaduna prison, where he was conducting a fellowship service every Saturday. He was credited with ministering to a man who had been sentenced to life imprisonment in Maiduguri. After having ministered to him for two years there, the man was released, and a thanksgiving service was conducted in his church. Subsequently, many more released inmates came to his church in Kaduna for thanksgiving. A good number of them also received some form of assistance to get back to their bases. He spent about six years ministering to the inmates, and introduced the same ministry to Minna prison when he was at Minna. That ministry is now being led by Professor S. B. Oyeleke, of First Baptist Church, Minna.
Olayinka’s passion for evangelism was focused on schools. He believed that one could work for the Lord in places where Christ’s gospel had been suffering from a ban, or from rejection, or from a religious crisis where there had been great loss of life and property. He was involved with the Kanuri Project started by COCIN (Church of Christ in Nigeria), and would go to market with a Kanuri man. Once there, he would distribute tracts and speak secretly with Kanuri people through his interpreter, as open confession of Christ could result in death. Moreover, he made an effort to translate the Bible into Kanuri, but there is no record of success in that regard.
Olayinka was called to the pastorate of the First Baptist Church in Minna in January of 2001. He served the Lord diligently and faithfully, and the construction of the following structures can be credited to him: the Niger Baptist Computer Center; eight additional classrooms; the administrative blocks. He led the First Baptist Church of Minna’s 90th anniversary celebration, which produced documentation for the church history book entitled “Ninety Years of Glorious March,” in 2001. He also ensured that the existing history of the church was corrected to reflect the true situation there. He initiated the equipping of the Baptist Computer Center which he declared open for public use on August 1, 2001, and started an annual church calendar.
Olayinka’s calling was to be a local church evangelist. He worked hard to serve the local church, but also ministered to unbelievers. He encouraged the church to purchase land in the Tunga and Kwapungu areas of Minna, with the intention to have Baptist churches in the four major areas nearby. Since former missionaries had used education as a means of “catching them young for Christ,” he expanded the Baptist Nursery and Primary School, which became the Baptist High School in Maiduguri. The Baptist Nursery and Primary School in Kaduna was also upgraded, becoming Fellowship High School, during his time at Kaduna. His aim was to equip and to use young ones for the purpose of local area evangelism. It was Rev. D. A. Adeniran (the former pastor of First Baptist Church, Minna), who had earlier started exploring that vision, and Olayinka continued it, courageously starting the Niger Baptist High School, Minna, on August 8, 2001. The foundation of the permanent site of the school was laid on August 8, 2002. He did all the work on site, personally supervising the labor and making sure that every amount was spent judiciously, being accountable in all things.
He probably knew that his time was limited so he worked tirelessly and faithfully to serve the Lord in Minna. He awakened the prayer life of every member and discouraged them from drinking alcohol, encouraging spiritual growth instead. He started a program called “Miracle Hours,” which took place every Wednesday, and the monthly house-to-house fellowship grew quickly. He also introduced a prison ministry and assisted in funding it. He cared for the aged and the widows in the congregation and made use of every available opportunity to assist them. He was in the process of writing a book called “The Plight of Widowhood in Nigeria,” but he died before the project could be realized.
He was a leader who believed that things should be done on time. He made a tremendous improvement to church life, both spiritually and structurally. The salvation of souls and stewardship were his two main points, and he preached Christ, living by example. His thoughts and actions were centered on the progress of every member of the church, and he was a father, a brother, and a friend to all who came in contact with him.
He died on Saturday, May 17, 2003. He returned from a trip to Oyo town, where he had attended the graduation of one of the pastors he was sponsoring, and he died after dinner, around 11.30pm. He was buried on Friday, June 6, 2003. After his death, a portion of his retirement allocation was dedicated by his family to the giving of a Christian Religious Studies (CRS) award to the best student in CRS. It was intended to continue encouraging students to participate actively in Christian studies, since the subject was not being encouraged or included in the public school curriculum in the northern part of the country at that time. Schools that have benefited and are still benefiting from this generous gesture are: First Baptist School, Maiduguri; Fellowship Baptist School, Kaduna; and First Baptist Secondary and Primary Schools, Minna. Another award that was created is an award for the best student in evangelism. Institutions that have benefited from this award include: the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso; Baptist Theological Seminary, Kaduna, and Baptist College of Theology, Oyo.
It could be said that Olayinka’s ministry was a model of sustainability in relation to evangelistic efforts. In practical ways, he showed Christ’s love for all, without tribal prejudice. Although Olayinka is dead, his labor of love for the church and the unreached tribes of northern Nigeria will be better realized by those who received God’s grace through his service in the north, as well as by those who are now being sent by the Lord.
Samson Olufunmiso Olopade
Funeral service program of First Baptist Church, Gbongan, Osun State, June 6, 2003.
Margaret Kikelomo Olayinka, interview by author, September 19, 2009, Minna.
This article, received in 2010, was written by Samuel Olufunmiso Olopade, a Ph.D. candidate at Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, under the supervision of Dr. Michael Leke Ogunewu and Dr. Deji Ayegboyin, DACB liaison coordinator.