Last Sunday, Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo celebrates his 40th year in ministry with Gospel artiste Sammie Okposo and Bishor Bismark Tudor in the assembly, but the exciting journey began long before that, in a house in Chindt, Nigeria army barracks, in Zaria, in Northern Nigeria, with surprises.
Originally, he wasn’t born a Christian. Born at 9 am on Monday, 17th March, 1952, the child was named Ahmed Abiodun Ashimolowo, according to the Islamic faith of his father.
One day in 1972, something happened which was to change the course of his life forever. Ahmed was at home and had been drinking heavily without a care in the world. He spotted a piece of paper close to him and picked it up and read it. It was a tract, and despite the haze of alcohol, the message of the Gospel of Christ got through to his heart and he repeated the sinners’ prayer, without realising the impact it was going to have on his life and the lives of millions of people who would be influenced by his decision in the future.
Ahmed was now a born-again Christian. The angels were having a party up in heaven. Destiny had spoken.
Ahmed had become a Christian. Just like his father, who, in the past, had opted for a different life from the rest of his family, the young man had turned his back on the faith he had known and embraced the Lord Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour. He was now Matthew Abiodun Ashimolowo and a new future lay in front of him.
In mid 1973, a relative of his,`Mama Aladiye’, invited him to the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC), situated at Oke-Anu, Akarabata, Modakeke, Ile-Ife, a thriving university town in Western Nigeria. It was there that he met a man who was going to be instrumental in impacting his destiny.
A man who he still credits as being his pastor, mentor and father in the Lord –Pastor Oyebanji –under whom he served as a church sexton. Matthew was baptised by water immersion soon afterwards, followed by the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. It did not take long for Pastor Oyebanji to see that this young man had the calling of God on his life.
It was around this time that an evangelist called Matthew Adediran, who had noted the strong call of God on Pastor Matthew’s life, spoke to Pastor Oyebanji about the young man accompanying him on ministrations. He also advised Pastor Oyebanji that Pastor Matthew’s gifts and calling could be enhanced if he went to Bible school.
Bible school days were days that required stamina and discipline. Although he learnt to feed himself on the Word, getting physical sustenance wasn’t always possible due to the constraint of funds.
It was during these days that his principal, Mr. Mitchell Belobaba, recognised the gift in him and realised that his favourite subject was Hermeneutics – the study of the interpretation of The Bible. Life in Bible school was very regimented. Marks could be deducted for lateness, failure to submit assignments on time, untidiness and failure to attend early morning prayers. This approach embedded a disciplined approach that continues to permeate every area of Pastor Matthew’s life.
After graduating from Bible school, he was assigned to the Foursquare Church in the busy suburbs of Shomolu in Lagos, which was pastored by Rev. Olu Osibanjo, who was later to become his father-in-law.
Those who remember Pastor Matthew back in those days say that he looked much younger than his age, but was a teacher and pastor whose ministration was unusual and different. He joined the choir, as he loved to sing and learnt to play the guitar. He was also responsible for working with and counselling the youth. He regularly ministered in the Scripture Union (SU) in university campuses and was quite popular among the undergraduates. This was preparing him for the future work he would do with young people and singles in the body of Christ.
One day, he was talking to an elder in the church about marriage, who advised him that, instead of expecting to marry someone who was active in the ministry, God could be leading him to someone to nurture and mentor for ministry. It was at that time that the revelation came to him in a flash, that Yemisi Osibanjo, his pastor’s daughter, was the woman who was going to be his partner for life. With the revelation at the forefront of his mind, he attended an all-night prayer meeting and proposed to her there.
After an exemplary courtship, which was to serve as an example to the many singles he was to mentor and teach later on in life, Matthew and Yemisi adhered to the highest moral conduct and were married on 29th August, 1981.
After more than 30 years of marriage, the love they both share is going strong and the joy and pride in their two sons, Tobi and Tomi, who are both graduates, is evident for all to see.
In 1984, Pastor Matthew and his family came over to England as part of the Foursquare denomination as a missionary, to establish a branch in London. When you look back at his life, even from the day he was born, which happened to coincide with the day Christianity was introduced to Ireland, parallels can be drawn with the way God sent him from Africa as a missionary to the United Kingdom, to touch destinies and bring the fresh Word of God to a society where Christianity had been relegated to cold grey buildings, men in long robes and Songs of Praise on the BBC.
The Foursquare Church, part of a family of international Pentecostal churches, had grounded him in the core principles of Christianity on which his faith in God rests. Its main tenets, being the principles of Jesus the Saviour, Healer, Baptiser with the Holy Spirit and soon coming King, helped Pastor Matthew as his desire to grow and establish his faith deepened. He started the ministry in a building on Balls Pond Road but left soon after when he realised that it was owned by freemasons. The ministry moved to St John’s church and quickly grew then moved to an Elim church building on Regina road in Finsbury Park.
More expansion followed and the ministry started holding large conferences, things that had only been done in the States. The first conference was so well attended that the church had to get stewards to deal with the crowd. The church sought larger facilities for its conferences and was the first Black led church to invite Pastor Carlton Pearson to the City Temple for a conference in 1998.
Pastor Matthew’s quest to reach for new boundaries made him restless in his spirit, as he desired for Christians to experience the fullness of God in their lives. He had read books and listened to tapes, watched videos and was enlightened about the new innovative ways to reach out to the world: an insight that was beyond what his current denomination’s grasp and full appreciation. He and his wife, Yemisi, together with Esther Appleton (their first member of staff), began to seek the Lord in prayer for 18 months before taking the step of leaving the Foursquare denomination in 1992 to start KICC (Kingsway International Christian Centre) that year with approximately 300 adults and 100 children.
This decision caused some consternation with the denomination and he found himself having to start a church from scratch as the equipment and materials had to be relinquished back to the Church headquarters. However, despite all the misunderstandings and unrest that surrounded his departure from Foursquare, God confirmed his leading with miraculous answers to prayer even on their first service, which took place at Holloway Boys School, Hilldrop Crescent, North London. A few days before, a musical group had disbanded and they sold all their equipment to the newly formed KICC.
Once he founded KICC, the Lord told Pastor Matthew that everything KICC would receive would be on its knees. This embedded a strong foundation of prayer in the church. June and December were set aside as months of prayer and fasting – and still remains so, although the first prayer in June was originally for 30 days, but it went on for 60 days as Pastor Matthew did not have a release to stop. Prayer became the bedrock of the ministry, with the leaders and stewards meeting every weekend to pray.
Pastor Matthew intensified the God-given vision for KICC to Grow Up, Grow Big and Grow Together. His desire was for the entire ministry to strive for excellence and to glorify God. As the Senior Pastor of KICC, he has the mandate from God to challenge the people who become members of KICC to prosper, mature and reach their true potential in Christ through the Word of God. The church soon expanded and within a year, a four storey multi-purpose building was acquired at No 1 Darnley Road in Hackney.
KICC began hosting yearly conferences; starting with Wake up the Mighty Men, which became The Warriors of Righteousness, the Gathering of Champions and finally the International Gathering of Champions. IGOC is Europe’s premier Christian conference featuring renowned and respected international speakers, including Bishop TD Jakes, Bishop David Oyedepo, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, Prophetess Juanita Bynum, Dr Joyce Meyer, Dr Mike Murdock and Dr Bill Winston, to mention a few.
The church started increasing and gradually Pastor Matthew’s gift for administration was evident as he implemented church growth strategies that God had placed on his heart – membership grew rapidly. KICC started steward management training, incorporating spiritual and management principles.
These were so effective that KICC stewards translated this into their professional lives at work, leading to advancement and promotion. Between 1992 and 1995, the KICC brand was taking shape. There were audio tapes, CDs, videos of Pastor Matthew’s teachings and books. KICC became the first church to have regular air time on BET (Black Entertainment Television). BET, known for its music and films, was very popular with young people returning home from clubbing, who would tune into the station, see the programme, get convicted and show up at a KICC services on Sunday morning.
KICC has become known as a church with a thriving and active youth ministry. In January 1995, Pastor Matthew re-launched the brand KICC – with a new logo, corporate structure, vision, code of conduct and statement of faith. These services were held in Hackney Empire and were significant in seeing many people sign up for membership to KICC.
In August, 1998, the Church expanded and moved to 57 Waterden Road, which was named the Miracle Centre. A miracle because of how God came through and the site was brought, despite having to contend with big players, such as Sainsburys, who also had their eyes on this location. The eight-acre facility had space for a 4000-seater auditorium and parking for more than 1000 cars. By the grace of God, KICC has continued to grow.
However, the Olympic commission’s possession of Waterden Road, caused KICC to move offices to 3 Hancock road, Bromley-By-Bow and the Church to the Land of Wonders, Hoe Street Walthamstow. Sunday’s saw Pastor Matthew preaching at five services, every one as full as the previous service.
Since that moment in 1998 Pastor Matthew, through God’s guidance has expanded KICC by focusing on increasing chapels, opening city churches and planting churches overseas. As a result of this church growth strategy, we now have over 20 chapels and branch churches in the UK.
It was during this time that Pastor Matthew again intensified his personal and corporate prayer, and God answered with a eye has not seen testimony, 24 acres of land with 12 buildings, in the beautiful woodland grounds of Buckmore Park in Kent.
During the last weekend in July 2013, KICC’s new home- Prayer City, was dedicated by Pastor E.A Adeboye and ministration by Bishop T.D Jakes. Under Pastor Matthew’s leadership, KICC has grown tremendously with over 45 branches and satellite churches established in eight nations.
KICC has great plans to execute for the young and the old, men, women, families, students, professionals, entrepreneurs and ordinary people, to experience and benefit from. More importantly, continuing to preach God’s Word to a dying world using timely technology. The community work both internationally and locally is not to be forgotten. Thousands of pounds has been raised for charity projects including Tsunami appeal, famine in East Africa appeal, sickle cell society, World Vision, Operation Christmas child, Wells in Mozambique and over 1000 hampers given out during the last festive season. Pastor Matthew has been constantly giving to widows in Ode-Omu, Osun State for the past 5 years. January 3 – 4, 2014 saw over 3000 widows presented with food, money and clothing.
The vision is ‘To Grow up, To Grow Big and To Grow Together’. It has always been one of the cornerstones of the vision ‘To Grow Big’, using every medium available to reach the lost. The television ministry is now a powerful tool for reaching the unsaved and strengthening believers. The media ministry has been able to reach countries and in turn homes that we would not physically be able to reach.
Currently, his TV ministry broadcasts into more than 100 million homes, over 120 nations throughout Africa, Europe and the Middle East.
Indeed, KICC is truly a church without walls and a church for all.