By Gbenga Osinaike
It started out as a fellowship, but with time the members could not continue running as such. There was need for them to be more on ground and reach out to people. That informed its metamorphosis to a church in 1987. The fellowship group of seventeen families started what is now known as Upper Room Baptist Church.
With headquarters in Ketu, Lagos, the church runs as a full Pentecostal church though an offshoot of a Baptist Church. The founding members were originally of the Shepherdhill Baptist Church. But the need for a deeper fellowship and the drive to be more evangelical informed the decision of the families to step out of the denominational setting and launch out into a wider evangelical space.
The beginning according to Richard Igberaese, who is the secretary of the church was quite daunting. ‘We operated from Green Springs School located at Anthony at inception. But with time the Lord provided a space for us located at 2A Davies Street, Ketu, Lagos. Then members had to make a lot of sacrifices to grow the church and impact people around. People gave their belongings and were quite willing to serve. It is that passion that has seen to the growth of the church and its spread across the country.’
The beauty of Upper Room Baptist Church is that the leadership is selfless and seamless. It has been smooth transition from one General Overseer to another in the history of its 30 years. The first General Overseer, Pastor Abiodun Longe was inaugurated by the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye in 1995. He was able to lead the church successfully till December 21, 2003 when he retired voluntarily; even when the constitution of the church still allowed him to continue in office. ‘He was convinced God wanted him to leave at the time he retired. He is not the type of person given to power as such. He felt there was need for another person to hold forte.’
His gesture was quite strange in the African terrain where people love to hold to power and position. Before he retired however God had used him to grow the church from its initial 50 members to thousands of worshippers. He was able to establish ten parishes of the church and two missions’ field alongside a Bible College. He also saw to the acquisition of a large expanse of land at Pakuro in Ogun State for use as the camp ground and was also able to establish a missionary primary school on the camp ground. The beauty of the school is that it was operated as a non-fee paying school to the locals.
‘The only person that can reward the pioneer General Overseer is God. He laboured selflessly and that is why we are able to sing the halleluyah song today,’ said Igberaese.
The journey of the church has since continued under the leadership of Pastor Oluleke Akinola. It was a seamless transition. There was no rancour, no infighting. Akinola has been described by some of the church members as quiet and unassuming. ‘He is a quintessential man of God with a large heart who believes the body of Christ is one.’ Said Igberaese in his remark at the 30th anniversary.
Of a truth, Akinola has demonstrated his passion for the oneness of the body in his involvement with the Lagos Chapter of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria. He is the financial secretary of the body and has demonstrated great commitment to the cause of Christ. He combines his role as G.O with active involvement with the PFN.
Under Akinola the church has grown to 26 parishes and three mission fields. The Bible College has also been affiliated with the West Africa Theological Seminary under his watch’
The story of the church is chronicled in a book described by Igberaese as a collector’s item. He said ‘the Lord has shown his faithfulness. We are depending on him to take us higher.’
The 30th anniversary came with a lot of pomp and ceremony. But one thing that seems to make the church unique is its ability to maintain a sober structure. There is no loudness as it were. Yet, the church is penetrating nooks and cranny making great impact. The story however seems to just be starting.
Pastor Akinola in his speech at the one-week event designed to mark the 30 years of the church said, ‘The number 30 has great significance in the Bible. Jesus and John started their ministries when they were 30. David became king when he was 30 while Joseph left the prison when he was 30. As it is for us, we are entering a new phase of ministry.’
The chairman of the Anniversary Planning committee, Bro. Richard Adewole expressed great appreciation to all those who worked tirelessly in ensuring the success of the event noting that it is the faithfulness of God that has kept the church strong and growing.
Indeed, the church may well just be starting. It is hoped that the values that has held it together in the last 30 years will be sustained and improved on.