Rev Olufemi Babatola is the founder of House of Hope Calvary Christian Centre in Old Kent Road, London. Tayo Fatunla and friends caught up with him to talk about his ministry, his work, family life, being a leader and even Brexit!
Keep The Faith (KTF): For many decades, you have had a successful ministry, starting from Nigeria and stretching to the UK. How did you achieve this great success?
Rev Olufemi Babatola (ROB): Entering the ministry isn’t an overnight decision; it’s about God using various means and people to prepare and inform you. I knew serving the Lord would be the best life even though, at first, I didn’t know exactly what would happen, but to God be all the glory.
In (the former West) Germany, where I studied, the pervading spirit of the land convinced me there was no living God, but inside my heart the Holy Spirit was telling me that God exists. Thank God it got to a point that I knew something had to happen in my life, because I was displeased with the life I was living. I humbly prayed to God to reveal Himself to me, and it happened so unexpectedly. A few months afterwards, my friend’s wife came to Germany and shared the Gospel with her husband and me, and we got born again. This lady was God-sent.
I finished my studies in Germany and returned to Nigeria. Quickly, God took hold of me, and my wife and I were introduced to Foursquare Gospel Church in Ibadan, Western Nigeria. Within nine months, by the grace of God, I was already on the church council. My spiritual growth was so rapid, and I was determined to serve God.
Within two years, I became one of the leaders in Foursquare in Ibadan and got involved with planting and pioneering churches. While in Nigeria, I remember my senior pastor, Rev Dr Paul Jinadu, national leader of New Covenant Church in Britain, saying to me continuously for four years that God wants me in the ministry.
My senior pastor saw what I didn’t see, and used every tool he had to develop me. I eventually preached and still remember my first message from 1978: ‘If My people that are called by My Name…’ That was how it all began and, by the grace of God, here I am today. I have tasted the goodness of the Lord and He is so good.
KTF: Your wife has stood by you and your ministry as co-pastor all these years. What do you attribute your phenomenal partnership to?
ROB: I know God has definite plans for everyone, and my prayer is that we should never miss this. When I first met my wife, something within me knew there was something unique about her and her family. I grew up in a family that was always fighting, but I got to know her family through her older brother. He was just like a father to her, and was my maths/physics teacher at college. He just developed an interest in me and, by the grace of God, introduced me to my future wife.
When we got married, she was greatly instrumental to my growth because this wonderful lady has always been part of the Scripture Union. Her brother’s wife was also strong in faith, and together they kept talking to me about Christ, and teaching me God’s Word when I became a Christian.
She did that for a while and said: “Now that you are the head of the home, God wants you to take charge and full responsibility.” That was how I took up the challenge. She was always praying for me and I believe strongly that those prayers were actually spiritual seeds being sown.
KTF: After many years of your impactful ministry and involvement in the Foursquare Great Britain and House of Hope CCC, you have now decided to step aside. Can you please tell us more about this decision?
ROB: When you are growing old – either in age or in faith – God begins to direct your path in ways that will affect others. What is the use of attaining old age if you cannot impact others?
About 23 years ago, my wife and I were in a leadership meeting with close to 300 people. There was a guest minister, who walked up to me declaring that God said He was going to use me to be a father to pastors. I began to notice this taking place, as we continued ministering all over. I believe strongly that, with what God has done for me – I have a greatly supportive wife and wonderful children and family – it’s time to broaden our support to other ministers and strengthen God’s work. We are very grateful that we are privileged to do this by God’s grace.
KTF: Going by your modest background as a minister, how did you strike a balance between your family life and the work of the ministry, and what advice do you have for pastors and leaders?
ROB: When you are in the ministry, the first priority is to love God, and the second is to love and take care of your family. I grew up knowing that family is very important, because they will stand by you during trials, when friends have run away and people you trusted have disappeared.
When I got born again and was in the leadership cadre, I began to read about the lives of people in the Bible. As mighty and powerful as Eli was, he was careless with his family, and that’s why he fell. Family comes before ministry. I looked at the life of Moses and all the leaders, and more importantly, our Lord Jesus Christ, and came to the conclusion that without the family there is no ministry. The ministry can only succeed if you have the attention, cooperation and total support of the family. We go the extra mile to help build homes and lives, but God will ask us to give an account of whether we trained and raised our family in a God-fearing way. Any minister who is not doing that is chasing shadows.
KTF: Throughout your ministry, you have married so many couples, blessed their marriages, and their marriages have stood the test of time. Marriage and family life are constantly under the radar and attack of the enemy, so what role should the Church continue to play to help build strong marriages?
ROB: People must endure and endeavour not to take wrong steps. Foundation is very important in anything you do, for the Bible declares ‘He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favour from the Lord’. If you don’t allow God to lead and direct you in this very path, it will be a futile journey, because once you start, you cannot go back.
The Word of God is very clear: only death can separate marriage. Believers need to be very wary of misguided elements who erroneously teach and counsel people to stray in marriage and remarry. All the stories we hear about people leaving their wives and remarrying in the same church is not of God. The will of God is for a man and his wife and for their children to stay strong together, and to enjoy fellowship for the sake of the Kingdom.
The enemy wants to batter many couples and destroy their marriages and homes, because unfortunately many believers don’t seem to know the value of marriage. The Bible says ‘One shall chase a thousand and two, ten thousand.’ Can you imagine what a family of five, six or seven can do? We can chase millions!
My prayer is that the good Lord will touch those who don’t have an understanding of what a marriage should be, and teach and help them.
KTF: As a father and spiritual leader, what advice do you have for the nation and leaders at this time of Brexit, and the air of uncertainty in this country?
ROB: Believers stand as the light to the nation, the beacon of hope and the light of Jesus to our neighbourhood. We are here to make an impact. We must continue to stand for righteousness and truth. God hasn’t called us to judge or condemn unbelievers or even our leaders, but we need to continue to pray for them, as the Apostle Paul tells us to, because every wrong decision can hinder us from preaching the Gospel.
I want to say candidly that politics is dirty but, because the world rejected Christ, God has thrown everyone into the same boat, and we need to sort ourselves out. We must constantly and sincerely pray and intercede for our nation. There is a strong government influence over religion, and we need to pray unceasingly, because many Christians have sold out.
I believe that revival, an act of God and not man, will break out in this country, and neither Satan nor his demons can stop it. Hearts will be touched and marriages and people healed. God will do His great miracles over this nation. As far as Brexit is concerned, God is in control, as God wants to use Great Britain to evangelise Europe. Great Britain has experienced revival three solid times, in Scotland and in Wales. The next revival will break out from Scotland, and will sweep over this nation.
KTF: And finally, what is your favourite Christian book?
ROB: (Laughs) My Bible is my favourite book, and I love the song, ‘I am a friend of God’ by Israel Houghton.
Interview edited by Tayo Fatunla