A Nigerian born London based gospel musician and President, Gospel Musician Association of London (GOMAL), Evang. Mary Ayani spoke with our Providence Magazine during one of her visits to Nigeria. Excerpt;
Can we meet you?
I am Lady Evangelist Mary Abiodun Ayani, aka, Ambassador for Christ, a wife, mother gospel singer and co-pastor of CAC, Oke Ayo, Nile, London. I am an indigene of Ibadan in Oyo state, but was born in Lagos and presently lives and work in London.
Share your Christian life experience?
By the grace of God, l became born again 22 years ago and later joined the choir and since then I have been in the choir. I’m not only a singer, l also minister in word to singles, youths and couples. I love serving God and enjoy His presence.
What is life to you?
Life couldn’t have been better and I couldn’t have been anything without Him. I thank God for where He is taking me to.
When did you start singing and what inspired your going into gospel music?
I started as a chorister and the Spirit of God and being in the choir inspired me. I was enjoying myself as a chorister until the Lord called me into the ministry. I did not just go into the music ministry until l had the conviction that God called me with the message of peace and love to people. I did not go into the music ministry for money and if the money comes, it is an addition and not the priority. First, I’m a minister by the grace of God and singing is another channel God is using in me. I minister in churches, not minding the size. It’s about the passing the message across not the music.
How do you differentiate gospel music ministration from entertainment?
Many gospel singers give people what they want and not what they are inspired to deliver. Even in churches, people loved to be entertained and gospel music has equally turned entertainment, which is not good. Gospel music is like the word, to minister healing, deliverance, salvation, praise and worship to people. The differences and the motives are clear. I don’t believe gospel music should be done just to entertain, but minister to people and praise God. As a praise and worship leader, l believes singing praises and dancing should not be done or seen as entertainment, but thanksgiving and celebration of God. Unfortunately, the love for money and the quest for fame have made most singers turn gospel music into entertainment and it is not supposed to be.
Compare the gospel music of today?
Today, gospel music is changing and revolving. What l found is, many singers collate and download popular praise songs then go to the studio. They change it a little bit and give it coloration with a new melody, name and new beat arrangement. It is good, l have nothing against singing popular praises. But we should be original with a message. God cannot call you with into the ministry without core message.
Who among the older gospel singers inspired you?
Many have inspired me including the gospel singers, the likes of Funmi Aragbaye, Gbemi Olaleye, Toun Soetan, Dupe Olulana and others I’ve not been graced to know and those I have been privileged to meet or hear, as long as it is inspiring, l love them. Though, l may love the secular music and lyrics, but does not make me one of their fans.
What are your expectations?
My expectation is for people to encounter God through my music. Get the message and not the costume, make-ups or my beautiful face (laughter), they should concentrate on the lyrics, that is where the message is. To the glory of God, feedbacks and comments from around the world have been tremendous and inspiring.
What is your take on gospel musicians crossing over to secular music?
Basically, when you crossover to the secular, no matter the excuses, you lose your calling. If God calls you in the first place, you will not crossover. Some are not called by God; they discovered that people love listening to gospel music and start singing it for monetary purpose. Like many churches opened for business and not for God, so also in the music ministry. And some had calling with a message, but mixing with the wrong crowd made them lose their calling. If you are called, stay on your calling. The role of the church in a situation like this is to keep encouraging gospel singers and I will advise gospel singers not to prioritize money and fame above the message of their calling. I’m aware, like secular musicians, gospel artistes also charge fees to minister at churches or crusades. It is not bad at charging for private parties, but it is something else when it comes to church ministration, it is an opportunity to reach out and minister to souls and whatever honorarium given at such ministration should be joyfully received. Unfortunately, many are after the money and not the message. The pressure of economy pushed them to compromise their calling, denying growing churches the opportunity of their ministration to advance the gospel.
Outside music, what do you love doing?
I love preaching as the Spirit leads. I was in a church to minister in songs and the Holy Spirit said to me, prepare for a message and the host church pastor just whispered to me, ”ma, you’ll share a word o.” I smiled and excused myself for some minutes. Preaching the word gives me the opportunity to preach Christ. It is saddening that church activities today are majorly focused towards warfare and fighting the enemies to die. People are not talking about redemption of souls, the second coming of Christ, rapture, righteousness and salvation. The light of the gospel has been forsaking for the pursuit of darkness of the gospel, we concentrate on inviting and fighting the enemies in battle to finish, forgetting, the battle is not ours but God’s. Unknowingly, we celebrate and attach relevance to the enemy. I’m not saying we would not do warfare, but our focus should be on God’s promises and how to please Him. Should Jesus come now, how prepared are we? Should He meet us still fighting the enemy He had defeated thousand years ago? There are many misplaced priorities to our Christian growth, but we hold and attached importance to them. The joy of meeting Christ and the interest of receiving the crown of glory should be of priority to us and not on already defeated enemies. Anytime, l have an opportunity, l remind people about righteousness and the goal of receiving the crown of glory instead of fighting the lost and won battle. The major battle should be preparation for Christ’s second coming.
Tell us about your husband
Pastor Isaac Ayani, is a wonderful man and husband, not because he is a pastor. He is a man of integrity and of the word. I thank God for him and what He is doing in our lives. God is using him in London, outside London and around the world. He is passionate about the mission and always ready to work wherever God wants him. We are blessed with 3 children who are busy working for God and we are fine with God.
What is your relationship with Gospel Musician Association of Nigeria (GOMAN)?
We have good working relationship through which Gospel Musician Association of London (GOMAL) was formed about six years ago. I am a member and the current president of GOMAL. We are a strong and formidable body in London. We fellowship, share and work towards the goal of spreading the gospel and making proof of our individual ministry.
What are your plans for GOMAL?
My plans for GOMAL are big and large, but I’m trusting God to perfect and make them come true. Partly, l plan to accommodate more people to be part of us, discover more talents and help them grow, make it bigger as a credible platform of unity, fellowship and development where gospel musicians in London will find a place. I’m trusting God to perfect the plans for His glory.
Your advice to upcoming gospel musicians and those already there?
Those already there should maintain the standard, be focused and not lose the call of God and for those not called by God, they should leave if they cannot fit into the standard. If they want to do gospel, they should stick to the gospel according to the standard and if they want to do secular, they should face it and not mix it. You cannot be here and there. The upcoming ones should make sure God called them with a message. Money and fame should not be their priority, though the financial challenges will be there, but if they focus on God, they will not have reasons going back. If they sincerely trade with God, they will never loss. They should not misplace preaching the gospel to the dying world as Ambassadors of Christ for pecuniary gains. They should not compete, create or involve in rivalry, rather, they should complement one another in the unity of the spirit as Christians and ministers of the gospel.
With your schedules, how do you relax?
My leisure time is important to me. I have a family and because of my tight schedules; working with the government in London, supporting my husband as co-pastor, taking care of the children and the church family with my singing ministry, once a year, as a family, we pack ourselves and go on holiday. Spend some weeks to relax, meditate, refresh, reenergize and restrategise; as a family, we don’t joke with our annual holiday. We all need it and it is essential for our health, growth and bonding. Some people feel, ‘It is my work, l am the only one who understands it and the way it should be, if am not there nothing happens or goes well’, forgetting that, the work is not ours or about us, but God, Who make things happen and does what we think can’t be done without us. Many ministers don’t rest or create time for their families or go on holiday. People need to rest, refresh and get energy to carry on the work.