Rev Yemi Adedeji is a Christian leader of influence, who wears many hats. He has been ordained in both the Pentecostal and Anglican churches, and serves as the Head of the recently-formed One People Commission (OPC), a new representative body for Britain’s ethnic Christian community. The OPC is making waves, and has already challenged the Government on its plans to legalise same-sex marriage. Rev Yemi also has a heart for mission, and served with the CMS (Church Mission Society) for many years. He is now an Ambassador for Christian charity, Compassion UK, and his remit includes encouraging the Black Christian community to support the Charity’s work, whose aim includes taking children out of poverty. Alongside this role, Rev Yemi is an Associate Director for Hope Together, an organisation which encourages UK churches to engage in mission, and he runs a consultancy advising churches how to impact their communities. Rev Yemi spoke to Keep The Faith magazine about his work; the need for a united Church, and how the Black Christian community can help bring about revival in the UK, by working more closely with the wider community.
KEEP THE FAITH (KTF): You were recently appointed as Head of the One People Commission. Why was it formed and what does it do?
Rev Yemi Adedeji (RYA): The One People Commission was formed as a visible partnership of unity that will bring transformation in the land. It’s an (Evangelical) Alliance body made up of key national church leaders, who really want to celebrate our diverse ethnicities, but also say that we need to come together as the UK Church.
KTF: Why was the decision made to form an organisation that represented all ethnicities, as opposed to a replacement for ACEA (African Caribbean Evangelical Alliance)?
RYA: The One People Commission has been established in recognition that the Church in the UK needs to be more inclusive of churches of all ethnicities – not just African and Caribbean, but also Korean, Chinese, South American, Asian, etc. We recognise that ACEA did a good work, but the One People Commission is going beyond this remit. We don’t just want to do this for unity’s sake. It needs to be unity for a purpose – to see our wonderful, diverse communities transformed with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
KTF: What are the special and unique qualities Black and ethnic communities bring to Christianity here in the UK?
RYA: Black churches are intense in their prayer life, since prayer is what informs and shapes who they are. Together with other ethnic communities, they have developed a cohesive internal community that places value on family and significance. Their expression of faith and style of worship come from their soul, which may often be seen as extravagant. Most White evangelical churches are, however, exemplary in biblical exposition. You just need to imagine a combination of both working in synergy! Now you have a dynamic and a fertile ground for a revival.
KTF: How should those qualities be harnessed to help revive the spiritual temperature of the UK?
RYA: It is already being harnessed. For example, Pentecost UK is a result of synergy between three major churches in the city of London. HTB, Hillsong and Redeemed Church have been coming together to create an atmosphere of worship, with diverse ethnic groups and denominational backgrounds. Equally, the bi-annual ‘Festival of Life’, an all-night prayer meeting, is organised by Redeemed Church at ExCel Centre London, where 40000+ people gather overnight in prayer for the nation. The more we work and stand together in unity, with our brothers and sisters from different backgrounds, the more we are going to see spiritual and physical revival in the UK.
KTF: Does the One People Commission have any projects/initiatives planned for the future and, if so, what are they, and when will they be happening?
RYA: The One People Commission has been active in challenging the Government on the issue of same-sex marriage. We have researched and produced helpful tips to help inform church leaders on this issue, and we have also gone ahead to start putting together advisory guidelines to help churches serve their communities if the bill is passed. We are also looking forward to a joint celebration of all ethnic churches within the One People Commission in the autumn. Ultimately, we hope to influence and help shape the future of the Evangelical Alliance on all fronts.
KTF: Aside from the One People Commission, what other projects are you involved with?
RYA: I represent Compassion UK as an Ambassador across 26 countries, where I help connect many ethnic churches and their leaders into global mission and child poverty eradication. In the last 18 months, I have taken several key ethnic church leaders on mission trips abroad. Over 2000 children have now been sponsored out of poverty through (these churches’) members through Compassion UK. I also serve as an Associate Director for Hope Together, with the main focus on doing mission locally within the UK. We have just produced a Hope resource book to help churches do mission locally within their context in their community. I am an Ordained Anglican Priest, serving with the Nigerian Chaplaincy across two church parishes in the UK. I am a member of the Pastoral Council at Jesus House, where I help foster ecumenical engagement and external relations for the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG UK). I lead as CEO at RYA Consulting, a firm that supports leaders, churches and Christian charities in the UK.
KTF: You are an ordained Pentecostal minister, as well as an ordained Anglican minister. Why did you opt for ordination in two very different church traditions?
RYA: It was not my original intention, but somehow along the way, as an ordained Pentecostal Pastor in the year 2000, I felt a burden to engage in authentic mission with the UK community. With this in mind, I was clear that I needed to explore ordination within the context of the established Church in the UK. So, for seven years, I served the Church of England Church Mission Society as the Outreach and New Relationship Advisor to over 2000 Anglican churches in the UK and mission outlets across the world. I later became the first Black Trustee/Director of the CMS since its inception in 1799.
KTF: What spiritual lessons or insights have you learnt from your experiences in these very different organisations, and what can they learn from each other?
• That we can do more in unity
• That prejudice is the major barrier
• That authentic relationship must first be developed ahead of collaborative ministry work
• That clear understanding of areas of uniqueness and gifting must be acknowledged and celebrated
• That partnership in ministry and relationship must be engaged with definite intention, backed with clear strategy
KTF: Can you tell me a little bit about your childhood? Where you were born; how many siblings you had, and a little bit about your parents?
RYA: I was born and educated in Lagos, Nigeria. I went to the University of Lagos and am the fourth child from a family of five. My late father was a policeman, and died when I was 13. I was brought up by my mother, who is now 86 years old. I owe my life today to my mother, who gave everything as a widow to bring up and educate five children at a younger age.
KTF: What role did the Church and Christianity play in your life whilst growing up in Nigeria, and what made you decide to become a Christian?
RYA: I was born into religious syncretism. My late father was a Muslim; my mother was then a nominal Christian, who was also a daughter of an African king, where sacrifices and African traditional religion were rife in their animistic faith. I grew up a practitioner of three faiths, until I became a born again Christian at the age of 25. Becoming a Christian was not negotiable in 1987, when a mini revival spread through Nigeria, particularly in Lagos through the ministry of Dr Tunde Joda of Christ Chapel. I was the first to become a Christian in my family, but was faced with serious rejection and opposition. Today, every one of my siblings is an ordained minister of the Gospel.
KTF: When did you get your call to ministry, and how did you pursue/how are you pursuing that call?
RYA: I was first ordained into ministry in September 1999 as a Pentecostal Pastor. I cannot confirm whether I felt called into ministry then. To me, it was an appointment, and I continued to serve. Barely two years later, whilst working as the Commercial Manager at the flagship store of Marks and Spencer in Marble Arch, London, I began to feel a sense of dissatisfaction in my life. I felt a sense of higher calling, and took some time away to pray for direction. I resigned and, after a period conviction and assurance, I began a new journey by first taking a 70% salary drop with the Church Mission Society, and working with people who were totally different from me. I was constantly faced with prejudice, and yet I had a feeling of joy and fulfilment as my world opened into authentic ministry calling.
KTF: Black Christians are at the forefront of church growth here in the UK. What steps should Black Christians take to have more impact on the spiritual life of this country?
• Intentional relationship building with the host communities
• Sharing ministry strength in the area of prayer, boldness and faith for witnessing, while encouraging and supporting host churches
• Engagement in public life and politics to influence godly decisions
• Basic theological education to help inform and engage in public witnessing
KTF: In what ways do you help churches to do so?
RYA: Through my consulting firm, I help churches and their leaders to identify areas of concerns and establish core areas of development. I also help to signpost them to right relationship, and to networks that will enhance their work and create impact.
KTF: What should we expect from Rev Yemi Adedeji in the forthcoming months?
RYA: I take every day as God gives grace and opens the door for more opportunities to serve Him through the Church. I am, however, committed to helping churches and leaders engage in authentic integration of purposeful meaning.
KTF: And lastly, what message would you like to leave with the Keep the Faith readers?
RYA: When God’s blessing stops flowing through you, it stops flowing to you. That’s why you cannot afford not to be generous with your gifts, your talents and your resources. A church vision must be Jesus’ mission. Anything else is self-promotion.