How I was Called
My call to ministry was not as eventful as some will have it. Some will say the Lord visited them in a trance, in a revelation. I almost missed the call of God. It came simply through a man of God visiting the church I was a caretaker. Before then, in 1972, I had given my life to Christ but I did not have a mentor. Looking at me, the man said “You look like a young man who God may be calling. I have the address of the Bible school I went.” That was simply the voice that made the call of God aware to me. That made me feel that the Lord was calling me to Ministry. I did not see a vision, neither did I hear a voice ore received any revelation.
Prior to serving as a caretaker of that church. I had a background of organising parties for the Boy’s Club. I even resigned my clerical work at the University of Ife to organise the 1972 party of the club. But I went into the new year, 1973, without a job. I was unemployed. Somewhere around the month of May, I was invited by an aunt to apply as the caretaker of their church. It was not the most appropriate of jobs for me but I had to apply because I needed a job desperately. I did not know that being the church caretaker meant I had to live in the church parsonage. That was how I became the caretaker of Christ Apostolic Church, Oke-Ani, Akarabata, Ile-Ife. It was there that I came to understand fully the decision I had made for Christ when I got born again. But I did not know enough scriptures and I was not being followed up. However, I had to share a small room allocated to me by the church with a God-fearing gentleman who had come from a small town known as Moro in Osun State to learn how to be a lorry driver. He was a committed Christian and a lover of God. We lived in the church premises along with the pastor and some evangelists who served in the local church.
It was not these evangelists or even the life of my pastor that challenged me, but the young man who had come to learn to be a lorry driver. He lived Christ; he walked Christ. He was the manifestation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I saw God in him. He woke up at 5 ‘o’ clock every morning and he had an automatic way of sliding off the bed to his knees to have his devotion and I saw him read the scripture. I saw his love for God; I saw this man’s commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. It was the most remarkable impact of one person that made me to continue in Christ.
I was born on March 17, 1952 to a soldier family. My father, Lt. Salako Ashimolowo, was a Muslim whose name was Salawa. My mother, Aishat Ashimolowo, was also a Muslim; so were my sister, Adijat, and my brother, Mudashiru, who also served in the Nigerian Army as a Lieutenant. He later worked in the special security section of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport at Ikeja. While he was in the army, my brother was a military police special weapons and military law instructor. I was raised in the army barracks in the North and later in the South. I did not know Jesus, However, there was a craving inside me to know Jesus Christ, My Muslim name at that time was Ahmed. I was practically a street boy who had an absentee father and a mother who had experienced a nervous breakdown, Life was challenging as I grew up.
But it was not until many years into ministry before I came to understand the subject of Romans 8:28 that “All things work together for good to them that love the Lord and to them that are called according to his purpose,” The word ‘purpose’ here comes from a Greek word, which means original intention. It is amazing that at the age of 51, I can now look back and see that every pit I had to fall into, was made to be part of my training. As a matter of fact, Joseph worked more in the pit than he did in the house of his father. The word PIT for a preacher stands for “Preaching in Training.” Therefore, every battle, every challenge, that is to say the nervous breakdown of my mother, the absenteeism of my father, the fact that one had to grow on the street, learning from the school of hard knocks, experiencing the sense of abandonment, may have left some damage but the interesting thing about God in his omniscience is that oftentimes a lot of people He calls into ministry may have suffered a certain degree of neglect, poor self-esteem or a poor family background. What this kind of deprivation has done for me is to help me be real. To be effective, you have to be real. In 1987, I had an encounter with God in which he told me to preach messages people can use.
Ministry: what it is
Ministry, frim biblical, practical and ministerial point of view, is a calling. You can walk away from your career, you can have a career change. A vocation is something you train for, as you specifically want to do because it is a passion you have, while a profession is also something you profess to be and specialise in. A calling is a two-pronged matter; you have to be called to respond, if you are not called and you are in ministry, it means you sent yourself and you are in denominational leader state. For me, ministry is a calling because I had an insatiable passion for it at the time I responded to the Gospel and to serve the Lord. I was an adult in 1973 at the age of 21. I was still reading for my ‘A’ Levels to try to enter The Nigerian Defence Academy to be a military officer when I lost my desire to study and for preparation to be a military officer because I was in a situation where I just could not depart from reading so much of scripture and being passionate for soul winning.
The challenges and how I have coped
It is not easy to enumerate in one go the challenges of ministry. In the beginning you are so unlearned and virile – childish in thinking and style – but as you grow into adulthood a lot of those things are shaken away. Paul said: When I was a child, I behaved like a child and I put away foolish things later. Sometimes we needed to unlearn. If I have the ministry to do all over again, I will study more and preach less. When you are a young minister you want to minister everywhere; you want to be available to everyone. So the challenges of ministry include the fact that one should declare a passion to be excellent and to stand out. The mediocre feel threatened and therefore criticises. Part of the challenges of ministry sometimes also is finding yourself in a certain denomination where you are likely to get into ‘neck-step’ mentality, that is, because you have, for instance, a 500-member church and your classmates from the Bible School have 300, you think you are doing well. No, you are only locked into their step whereas your calling may be loftier and greater. Other challenges include the challenge of having to retrain because once an organisation doubles, your knowledge become obsolete.
There are also spiritual challenges: the attacks of the enemy. There is no other place for warfare than in the ministry. The challenges of ministry include also the congregation to whom we have to minister. The 21st century minister, particularly if he lives in the urban cities, is faced with amazing challenges. Within the congregation are the people who have never been to school and also those who might have a B.Sc, a Ph.D and probably a D.Sc. You have to be able to preach the message in the same service to make sense to the woman who has never seen the four walls of a school and to the man who has been to the end of that.
Coping with ministry is a matter of learning to retrain oneself until one becomes the best that one can be in order to achieve the best.
Sustaining the faith
The question is difficult to answer from the point of one sustaining one’s own faith. It is God who wills and does his good pleasure in us. However, Christianity is two-pronged. There is the part of God and the part of man. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, we see the aspect of the supernatural. But when the dead man rose he left the natural to man. He said loose him and let him go. He did not lose the ghost clothes supernaturally. Our own part is what might be said to be what we could do to sustain our faith. I have so much passion for God’s word that thirty-one years after knowing the Lord, I read the word everyday. I believe in starting each day with an hour in his presence. It is recommended in the scripture and it is good for the health of the spirit.
Battle with Satan
There are several instances Satan and I had to confront ourselves in spiritual warfare. It is certain that I have experienced opposition just by a change of position. It has made me to believe that one of the pillars of favour is that favour makes opposition to turn to new position. I experienced opposition, as I was moving out of a denomination setting to pursue the vision God had given me. Having given 18 years to that previous setting. I was not likely to move. I preferred the comfort zone. It seemed that it was not just Satan who instigated the situation, God also used it as a catalyst for bringing me into his purpose and destiny. It was a real battle because somebody had made up their mind to destroy my ministry but what was meant for evil turned around for good.
Gift of ministry
My personal theological conviction does not allow for one to argue that he already knew his ministry from the day of calling. It is my opinion that a man’s gift and ability evolve with time in ministry. However, even while in Bible school my friends would say that my calling was in teaching.
Message for Nigerians
I am fully persuaded that Nigeria carries a mantle upon itself for ministerial blessing, financial blessing and spiritual impact. The degree of battle Nigeria has been facing is an indication of the quality of the destiny it has. It is impossible for armed robbers to go and attack people who sleep under the bridges. So these battles against Nigeria are an indication that the destiny of this nation is so awesome, it scares the devil. The coming generation must therefore know that one of the things the Bible says is, replenish the earth. This was the mandate God gave Adam. It basically means to make the world better than you met it. When I got born again, there were not many gospel churches. The concept of being born again was not understood and in the over thirty years of preaching Jesus Christ, I have seen the great hand of God upon our land but as I look into the future irrespective of what people say of Nigeria, I see Nigeria as a nation that shall become the Japan of Africa economically. I see Nigeria as a nation that shall become the Korea of Africa spiritually. Already the theologists are saying in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, the move of God was in Korea; in the 1990s, it was Argentina. Many by a prophetic mantle, are already declaring that the last great move of God will come out of Africa particularly Nigeria. The coming generation should stop looking up to the government and start looking to the Lord.
My normal day
My day starts with a habit of waking up and declaring first and foremost, “This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it,” and also by declaring that it is another day to experience the favour of God. I believe in starting my day with an hour of prayer based on the scriptures that Jesus scolded the disciples for their inability to wait with Him for one hour. Also, the Bible says that the disciples of Christ, after His ascension, went to the temple during the hour of prayer. What it does is to link you with heaven, opens your heart to receive from God and prepares you to confront man. Once you have quaked before God you will not quake before man. I believe in then sitting down and writing the things I want to achieve in the day. I like 60 per cent of what I do in a day, to have to do with my life-time and long-term goal. I have lived long enough to know that if you keep quenching fire and not working a plan of life, you will live life like a fire brigade and have no clearly-defined life. I believe in setting goals and pursuing those goals and that life should be SMART, the acronym which stands for goal setting: S for Specific goals, M for Measurable goals, A for Achievable goals, R for Realistic goals, and T for time-based goals.
published by ” HOW I WAS CALLED”