24 year old plants his second church
IMPRINT Church London launched this September, with nearly 200 young people filling St Edmund the King in the City of London. Its leader, Wole Agbaje, is just 24 years old and onto his second church plant, after starting IMPRINT Church in Leicester in 2017. The vision is to lead people into an encounter with Jesus so they can leave an imprint on their city and communities. We spoke with Wole, who’s just been given a Bishop’s commission as the leader of IMPRINT Church by the Bishop of Islington, Ric Thorpe.
How did you get the vision for IMPRINT?
In my second year at university in Leicester, I had a dream one night about forming a Gospel Showcase to tell the story of Jesus through creative media like drama, poetry, dance, video visuals and music. I felt God say that it was going to be a movement called IMPRINT and it would bring His prodigals home. When I had the same dream for the next six nights, I couldn’t ignore it and decided to tell some of my friends! In March 2015 we launched the first ever IMPRINT Gospel Showcase at the Leicester Students’ Union. We knew it was a different evangelistic approach to the gospel, but we didn’t expect to host 400 young adults from the city. It was a packed night, and as we shared the gospel, we saw young adults dedicate their lives to Jesus and get involved in a local church.
How did you start IMPRINT Church in Leicester?
In my third year at university, I had another dream about going to Holy Trinity Church in Leicester. I had to look it up in the morning as I had no idea where it was! After a few months of joining the Anglican church, I felt God say that it was going to be my home, but instead of feeling excited about this, I started crying as I didn’t want to be called to the Church of England! After finishing my degree, I had planned to go to New York, but God highlighted the internship year at Holy Trinity Church. I remember telling God that he couldn’t force me to stay in Leicester, but God said, “Will you obey me?”. I knew I needed to trust him with my future in Leicester.
Early in the internship, God encouraged me to have another IMPRINT Gospel Showcase, and when I asked my vicar, John McGinley, he gave me the opportunity to host it in the church building. 300 young adults came to the event, with several of them reconnecting back with their faith or giving their lives to Jesus for the first time. After this Showcase, my vicar called me into his office and asked me if I’d ever thought about starting a church. I’d also had dreams about this, but I’d dismissed them as I felt too young to be a leader. However, my vicar told me that he’d been praying for me and felt this was the right step. When my internship finished, Holy Trinity Leicester and the Diocese of Leicester gave me their blessing and support to start a new church community called IMPRINT Church Leicester.
IMPRINT Church Leicester was launched on 8th October 2017 and it’s grown from six friends to over 200 people. As a result, we’ve been able to develop various creative outreach projects, like our Gospel Showcases that are held throughout the year and attract around 300 people per show. We have also created a gospel music label called IMPRINT Music, which aims to disciple and equip musical evangelists in the secular music industry. We’ve already seen some of our songs played on BBC radio, where they asked some members of our team to come in and share their testimony of Jesus.
Why did you plant a church in London?
I grew up in London but I never wanted to move back! But after much prayer and discernment, our team felt it was right to start something new with some graduates from Leicester who had returned to London. Even then I assumed I’d stay in Leicester and someone else would be leading our London plant, but gradually I felt called back to this city. We began IMPRINT London in July 2018 with our small group as the core and held our first London Gospel Showcase in August 2018. In the summer of 2018, IMPRINT London launched a weekly Bible study group called Crews for working professionals in the City, which has grown to over 80 people. We’ve hosted various conferences, worship nights and a New Year’s Eve Crossover service in London; and we launched our Sunday service at St Edmund the King on Sunday 9th September with nearly 200 people attending and an overflow worship evening afterwards. We have an amazing IMPRINT team leading different parts of the church, from kids work to worship and women’s ministry, and it was great to see so many new people at the launch.
What’s the vision for IMPRINT London?
Our prayer is that IMPRINT London will be a place for Londoners to experience God intimately so they can leave an imprint on their city and communities. Through discipleship, community and the Word of God, we are changed, and we can then leave God’s imprint on the world around us.
Our heart is to be a church that is outward facing, intentional in sharing Jesus, and creates opportunities for people to explore faith. We want to develop our creative outreach, such as monthly themed socials where people can invite their friends and colleagues on Friday nights and lunchtime Alpha in the City. At the same time, it’s important for us to be a community that disciples people into spiritual maturity. A lot of millennials are the only Christians in their family, so we want to support them as they pioneer and share their faith with their parents, siblings and friends. We also want to equip believers in various fields to share Jesus and to be light in whatever realm they are in.
In the future, we’d love to take our Gospel Showcases to different cities and from these events to plant Crews (our weekly Bible study groups) and eventually future church plants if there was the right opportunity. We’re really excited about all that God is going to do over the next few years in London and hopefully beyond.
Interview by Philippa Guy