Dr Tayo: A leader of our times

The Christian community pays tribute to the late Dr Tayo Adeyemi, founder of New Wine Church in Woolwich, south-east London.

One of Britain’s foremost Black mega churches, New Wine Church in Woolwich, south-east London, recently celebrated its 20th anniversary with its Maximise Life conference and a special civic service.

Dignitaries present included the Mayor of Greenwich, Councillor Angela Cornforth, who paid tribute to the church’s work in the borough, which included distributing 23,000 Christmas food hampers complete with a turkey and vegetables for disadvantaged families between 2002 and 2012. And when the church leadership handed Councillor Cornforth a special gift commemorating its 20th anniversary, in a manner typical of New Wine Church, it was a gift to bless everyone: 10 benches to be placed in the borough’s various parks.

These generous acts were at the heart of New Wine’s mission, and typical of its founder, the late Dr Tayo Adeyemi, who died after a long illness on June 30.
Under Dr Tayo’s leadership, the church became one of the UK’s most well-known Black mega churches, and currently attracts up to 5,000 people to its weekly services.

Not only did the church attract huge crowds, it carried out a welter of social projects locally and internationally. These included: running career initiatives for the unemployed; business start-up seminars; donating books to schools; running a food bank, and responding to international crises, such as the Haiti earthquake and the Asian Tsunami, as well as funding overseas water projects; supporting missionary activity, and training and equipping church leaders.

Countless thousands across the world benefited from Dr Tayo’s teaching ministry programmes, which were broadcast on radio and TV. Dr Tayo made it his mission to not only spread the Gospel, but also to challenge Christians to impact their local communities and wider world. And he personally mentored numerous church leaders and business owners.

It’s no wonder that, when he died, the Christian community mourned the loss of a great leader. In paying tribute to Dr Tayo, Bishop Wayne Malcolm, founder of iCan Ministries, wrote a Facebook post describing Dr Tayo as “a five-star general and a patriarch in the faith, who has literally blessed the lives of millions with his amazing teaching gift.” Praise and worship leader Noel Robinson wrote, “He was one of the great pastors of this generation – a true General..!”

Dr Tayo, as he was affectionately known, founded New Wine Church in 1993, and was, until his passing, its Senior Pastor. Pastor Michael Olawore, Dr Tayo’s right hand man for many years, and member of the New Wine Church leadership team stated: “We mourn the loss of Dr Tayo Adeyemi, an inspirational and irreplaceable leader; loving husband; father and friend. However, we celebrate the impact of his life, work, and are challenged to follow his example of dedication, courage, humility and unforgettable servanthood. Our prayers are for his wife, three sons and the family of New Wine Church.”

Other church leaders who paid tribute to Dr Tayo included Dr Joe Aldred, head of the National Church Leaders Forum (NCLF). He stated, “I recall inviting him to speak at a Church of God of Prophecy regional convention during the mid 1990s. He had so evidently sought God for a word for us, and delivered that word with clarity and rare insight. The high-water mark of excellence we experienced typified his ministry generally, which is why his contribution to the propagation of the Christian faith in this country and beyond will live on for many years to come.”

Rev Yemi Adedeji, Director of the One People Commission, said, “Dr Tayo Adeyemi was a General for Black Christians in the UK. He pioneered a new way of doing church amongst Black majority churches, and his leadership style and spirit of excellence have become a footprint for many emerging young leaders today.”

Rev David Shosanya, Regional Minister and Director of the London Baptist Association, shared, “My definitive memory of Dr Tayo is of a deeply humble man, a gentleman, whose passion to express the love of God caused him to have a global vision for ministry and mission that reached well beyond the UK and into terrains that African leaders were not expected to enter. Dr Tayo was a pioneer and a gentleman!” Dr Tayo was born in England to Nigerian parents, and was taken to Nigeria as a young child, where he completed his education and medical training as a doctor.

He became a Christian as a young boy, and got the call to share the Gospel in 1981. Whilst in medical school, Dr Tayo founded a student fellowship, which grew to a movement of more than 3,000 students in over 30 Nigerian universities and colleges in five years. He also helped found three Chapters of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship in different parts of Nigeria. He came back to England with the intention of training in general surgery. It was in the midst of pursuing his studies that he felt led to found New Wine Church in 1993. The rest, as they say, is history.

He is survived by his wife Joke, and three sons.

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