Words by Jobe Baker Sullivan
Rasaq Ibrahim is lead pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in Erdington, which formed its first congregation 13 years ago last month. He is also vice chair of Erdington Churches Together, treasurer of Erdington Food Bank, and has recently launched the Street Pastors scheme in Erdington.
Erdington Local caught up with the prolific pastor to learn more about his life and community work across the constituency.
Now in his late 50s, Rasaq Ibrahim is originally from Lagos, Nigeria – born into a Muslim family, he and his father converted in Rasaq’s early life. He trained as a chartered accountant, achieving a first from University of Lagos and a master’s in accountancy and finance at Birmingham City University.
Whilst successful in his studies, Rasaq worked hard at his education: “In Africa, you are either rich or poor – no middle class. I’m from a poor family. I really went through a lot. I struggled to come out of the woodwork, to become somebody.”
Moving to the UK in 2005 under the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme, Rasaq Ibrahim came to Britain: “because of my children. I was doing work in Nigeria, I was okay. I became a Chief Inspector for banks, gained a senior career.
“But I wanted my family to have a better future and education. I didn’t want my two boys to go through what I went through.”
Helping to establish the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in Erdington in 2008, Rasaq Ibrahim was ordained as a pastor the following year. Originally founded in 1952 in Lagos, RCCG now has over 5 million members worldwide – Pastor Rasaq explains the church’s humble Birmingham beginnings.
“We started at the old swimming baths. After about eight months, we moved to Six Ways Baptist Church and were based there for 10 years.
“We would be there praying, having our service in the afternoon, and then raised some funds for our own church building. The Christadelphian Hall in Erdington was closing down, so went to the housing market to bid for the building – and now we are based there, on Orphanage Road.”
With 100 adult members in Erdington, RCCG has also founded three further ‘Church plants’ across Birmingham – wherein other Christian churches in the same denomination are created thanks to the mother church.
“We are a friendly, family church where everyone is welcome,” explained Pastor Rasaq. “We’re a Pentecostal, evangelical church – we want to show the love of Christ. We show this through our lives, not just through the things that we say.
“We gave birth to RCCG Kingstanding, Sheldon, and our Bulgarian Church.”
With many churches relying on the gathering of people to one place, the coronavirus crisis and lockdowns have drastically affected how they reach their congregation.
The RCCG has continued to meet where it is safe and legal to do so, but also adopted online services to stay in touch with their community.
“We can only have 20 adults in the building on a Sunday for a ‘hybrid service’, livestreaming to Facebook and Zoom as well. We tend to leave two seats for first-time visitors. But we have services Tuesday and Thursday online.”
Outside of his own church, Pastor Rasaq is co-founder of Erdington Food Bank and remains its treasurer. From an initial investment of £1000, the Food Bank has become a breadbasket for Erdington, from its two outlets at Six Ways Baptist Church and George Road Baptist.
“The foodbank started with Churches Together,” told Pastor Rasaq. “Nine years ago, we started very small – 10 churches contributed £100 each. Now we feed 300 people every week in Everyone Erdington. This is a blessed project!”
Pastor Rasaq is also project manager for the RCCG BAME Project, which assists: “those affected by Covid – stress, out of work, troubled, worried, going through challenges.” It employs two external councillors running four sessions per week.
He explained that whilst the RCCG BAME Project has a particular calling to help Black and Asian minorities, it is for everyone: “We council Chinese, Caribbean, Indian, African, English… We’ve never turned anyone down. The project also gives food, separately from Erdington Food Bank.”
Through his role as vice chair of Churches Together, Rasaq has connected and launched many other projects – including most recently the Erdington Street Pastors scheme, covered in the community pages of this newspaper.
Asking him about his hopes for the future, Pastor Rasaq told Erdington Local: “I want to see Erdington come back to life. Everything used to be prosperous, when I came 13 years ago – now I see so many charity shops on the high street, and most businesses are closing.
“16 years ago, I would come to the UK on holiday. On Sundays, on the road, we could feel the presence of God on the street. I want the churches to be filled again.”
For more on the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in Erdington visit: www.rccgcraerdington.org