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Man’s Colonisation Of Mars And The Moon: A Christian Response – An Introduction

Prologue

In writing this article, one song that keeps buzzing in my mind is Isaac Watts’ “Jesus Shall Reign Where’re the Sun.” This cannot be an earworm. Its first stanza assures of the unending nature of the kingdom of Christ thus:

Jesus shall reign where’er the Sun

Does his successive journeys run,

His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,

Till moons shall wax and wane no more

I was reflecting on how humanity’s exploration of outer space for settlement would impact “the faith which was once delivered unto the saint,” the Gospel of Christ. This invariably emanates out of my penetrating curiosity for theoretical physics, cosmology, astronomy and mathematics. This has been there since my high school days where my distinguished grasp of physics, chemistry, and mathematics caused my classmates to give me the name “Bohr,” after the Danish physicist and Nobel laureate Niels Bohr. The name “Avogadro” was later added after I explained to a class the nitty-gritty of The Avogadro Constant.

One thing is sure; the power of the Gospel has cosmic effect which cannot be thwarted in any way whatsoever. As I was reminded of the rule of Christ the cosmos over, I began to hum this song. This was before the lyrics of stanza one dawn on me heavily. It came to my realisation, interestingly, that the words of the song speak of the reign of Christ with respect to space. The mention of “Sun” and “moons” speaks of aspect of this perplexingly vast universe in outer space. I will say that the Lord was sitting by me and sailing me through my flood of thought. 

Here, I give an introductory discussion of man’s resolve to find haven on Mars, the Moon and beyond, taking into account God’s purpose for placing man on Earth and man’s special relation to Earth as revealed in the Bible. The Christian faith has been heavily defined in special terms to Earth right from the beginning to the eschaton. Albeit, the world is on the brink of great exploitation of outer space as home. What happens to the Christian Evangel here and beyond? How would we tell the Christ story elsewhere in outer space?

On the March to Settle in Outer Space

Since Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin of the then Soviet Union made it just into outer space (the expanse of the universe beyond Earth that is unoccupied) on April 12, 1961, and later, the successful landing of two men, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, on the surface of the Moon in July of 1969 by America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), man continued his dare to extend his home into space. This feat by the Apollo 11 of NASA’s Apollo programme has made human space settlement no more a science fiction or a metaphysical idea. From thence and over the years, with the signing of “Space Policy Directive” by President Donald Trump and Elon Musk’s SpaceX vision to embark on a Mars mission by 2022 using the Moon has base, the propensity for the colonisation by humans has become nothing but brighter. China and Russia have also been able to successfully land spaceships on the surface of the Moon. China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) has recently launched a probe called Zhurong to Mars in its Tianwen-1 mission. NASA also has two Mars rovers on Mars currently. India, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel’s also have Mars mission in the offing. Bas Lansdorp, a Dutch entrepreneur unveiled Mars One Organization that seeks to send four people as permanent human colony to Mars by 2032. Though the organization has become redundant since 2019, it suggests how determine humanity is about space settlement. Countries are going into joint space programmes. The International Space Station and others attest to this. Governments are committing huge sums of money to space exploration.

Mars, “the red planet” and the Moon, the natural satellite of Earth, are in the lead of places in outer space that are being exploited for settlement. Among other habitability prospects, the Moon is being considered significantly because of its close proximity to Earth. Mars has a solid surface. It comes next after Earth as the most habitable planet in our solar system. It is believed that it may support life, though no life form has been found there so far, and despite its hostile environment to human life. Like other places being regarded for colonisation, man hopes to terraform Mars to make it support life adequately. Other planets within our solar system have been regarded as having extremely poorer habitability potential. As an example, it has been discovered that Venus and Mercury are too hot. The others show various unsuitable conditions. The moons of the other planets in our solar are also being thought of. Humanity even want to go interstellar (a place outside our solar system but within our Milky Way galaxy). At present, Proxima B, a planet that revolves around the star Proxima Centauri within the Alpha Centauri solar system is observed by research as having some characteristics similar to Earth hence a decision to explore that planet. Assuming travelling to these places using the most powerful space rocket in the world currently, Falcon Heavy, manufactured by SpaceX, it is projected that it would take 3 days to get to the Moon, 9 months to get to Mars and 70,000 years to reach Alpha Centauri. Nanocraft has also been proposed as spacecraft to Alpha Centauri. This technology can enable space travel on the beam of light. It is believed that such a spacecraft can get to the Alpha Centauri in about 20 years from the time of launch to explore that solar system and send back data to Earth also on the beam of light.

Various reasons are advanced as basis for space settlement. For instance, Stephen Hawking, a Professor of theoretical physics and one time most renowned scientist in the world, in his most recent book Brief Answers to the Big Questions avers that “Not to leave planet Earth would be like castaways on a desert island not trying to escape. We need to explore the solar system to find out where humans could live . . . It will completely change the future of the human race, and maybe determine whether we have any future at all.” He presented various reasons for which we must look elsewhere in outer space to settle. The reasons range from asteroids impact, pollution and its devastating effect of climate change, population explosion, depleting Earth’s resources, nuclear war, shortage of food and water, and disease. There are others. He mentioned that “The Earth is under threat from so many areas that it is difficult for me [Hawking] to be positive. The threats are too big and too numerous.” Other scholars such as J. Richard Gott of Princeton University, Freeman Dyson, “the American mathematician” and Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the City College of New York argue, grossly, along the same line. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the esteemed American astrophysicist though in support of space exploration for “geopolitical” and “economic” reasons is of the view that instead of leaving Earth due to asteroids strike, it is possible to rather redirect such asteroids. He thinks that just as man faces risks on Earth, there are also life-threatening dangers in outer space including “gamma ray bursts, supernova explosions, black holes, solar storms [and] asteroid impacts.” (A black hole is a star so massive such that it collapses under its own gravity. Anything that falls in it cannot escape including even light despite its being the fastest known entity). It is noted that a number of impact events in the past has had devastating effect on Earth. A popular one is the asteroid that hit Earth some 65 million years wiping out the dinosaurs. This has been first theorised by geochemists. A number of other scientists are also not in support of space settlement. No matter the explanations given for the push for such colonisation of space, it is the view of this essay that space settlement would have striking implications on the faith and theology of Christianity. The response is along this line. It thinks that the redemptive work of Christ has cosmic effect that transcends Earth. Wherever man goes in the universe, the message of Christ goes ahead of him.

The Church and Physics

Looking to the past, the church has not been oblivious of happenings in science. Research and discoveries in science has impacted the church in a number of ways. In the area of the sciences, physics, which is the natural science pertaining to matter, its motion in space-time and how the constituents of the universe interact, has been important over the years. Physics dares to explore those magnificent things we see when we look up the sky. I think it has a special touch to it. It gives explanation to the place we mostly look to when we are ask about the dwelling place of God in the universe. Of course, not treating with condescension the great impact of other fields of the natural sciences. In the field of biology and genetics for example, why must we downplay say the evolution theory of natural selection which had seismic impression on Christian thought?

The work of scientists in the area of physics including but unrestricted to those of Ptolemy of Alexandria, Galileo Galilei, Aristarchus of Samos, Nicolaus Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, Isaac Newton, Georges Lemaître have had diverse responses from the church. For instance, when Copernicus, a Catholic, explored the heavens and propounded his heliocentric theory, his work invited a lot of debate in the church. The heliocentric theory primarily proposes that the Earth and the other planets (within our solar system) revolve around the Sun, with the Sun being at the centre. Compared to the widely held view at the time, the geocentric model, this was a sharp paradigm shift. The geocentric model which was greatly worked on by Ptolemy of Alexandria holds that the Earth is at the centre of the universe. The Church was in favour of the geocentric theory but seriously resisted this Copernican theory initially. It thinks that geocentrism is supported by the Bible (see Joshua 10:12-13). Galileo who became a great adherent of the heliocentric theory due to his observation of the heavens using a telescope did not fall in the good books of the church. The church judged the theory as going against sound theology. Galileo was charged to desist from promoting the theory further. The book in which Copernicus published this theory, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres was also banned. The church later became receptive of the heliocentric theory after more evidences have been put forward. Together with other interactions between science and the church, it is realised that the church is not anti-science. It is willing to reason and be rational about the universe.

The Bible and Cosmology

Humanity has been faced with the mind-boggling question of the origin of the universe, and why we are here on Earth. The Bible pointed to God as the first cause. It says that “In the beginning God.” This tells that before everything that defines the universe came into existence, including time and space, God was there. Time was not from infinity. It came into existence at some point. Hawking is of the view that since time began at some point, the universe could not have been created by God because there would be no time for God to exist in. However, God is outside time. From the narrative, God does not need the space and time within our physical space-time fabric to exist. In the beginning of everything, God was already in existence. The question of what God was doing prior to creation as in Genesis has also been asked. I find St. Augustine’s explanation along this line very plausible. In his book, City of God, he brilliantly affirms that God being the immutable creator meant that he also created time. If prior to creation there was no time, then, the question of what God was doing during the period before creation is absurd because there was no time then to make reference to. In the beginning in which time itself was created, God proceeded to create this vast universe.

Science also sought to figure out the origin of everything. To these particular scientists, religion was the initial attempt to try to understand the origin of everything. In their quest to explain out everything through empirical research, many theories have been proposed. The most popular presently is the Big Bang Theory. The term “Big Bang” was coined by Edwin Powell Hubble, an American astronomer, to mock the idea that the universe has a beginning in an explosion. He thought that such an explanation gives credence to the book of Genesis and points to a creator. Hubble actually discovered that the universe is expanding. Which means that it might have begun from an extremely small point possible and expanded to the magnificent size we observe today. This idea was first put forward by Georges Lemaître who was Catholic priest as well as a physicist and mathematician at the Catholic University. He proposed that the universe began from a “primeval atom” and expanded to the vast size we see today. Today, a magnificent tool, the Large Hadron Collider has been built to use to simulate the universe at the Big Bang to study the theory further. Other works in science including Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, Quantum Theory, Quantum Gravity and String Theory aim at understanding the universe as a self-existent entity. It has been the desire of Einstein to come out with a “Theory of Everything.” It is believed that this theory will bring together the macroscopic and microscopic aspects of the universe under one paradigm and explain out all physical characteristics or phenomena of the universe. Kaku thinks that this theory would even give explanation for some of the theological and philosophical questions regarding the origin of the universe. He asserts that it will point us to what happened before Genesis 1. Quantum Gravity and String Theory sought to combine Einstein Relativity Theory and Quantum Theory to decipher the theory of everything with just a short mathematical equation.

In Genesis 1:2a, the Bible records that, “The earth was without form, and void; darkness was on the face of the deep” (KJV). This follows the declaration that the heavens and Earth were created by God. This is a perspective approach to telling the story of the origin of the universe. God was preparing Earth for humanity to stay so a special interest was taken concerning Earth in the narrative. The “heavens” refers to the other aspects of the cosmos; the billions of other planets, solar systems and galaxies. The account that follows reveals God’s principle of preparing the Earth adequately to enable the survival of life forms. Earth was ‘terraformed’ because a planet without form, void and plunged in darkness cannot support life. Here, a simple language may be in use to explain a more sophisticated state of the Earth prior to the emergence of life on it. Importantly, this is in confluence with later scientific evidence of the existence of the Earth before life forms began to exist on it.

It is evident in the Genesis 1 story that God was transforming Earth as well as putting our entire solar system in shape simultaneously. Though the “heavens” was created already, God took an interest in part of our solar system that affect life on Earth more directly. It is recorded that God created two great lights, the Sun and the Moon, to control day and night, give light on earth and determine seasons. The stars also play these roles. God might have been defining the relationship between the Earth, Sun, and the Moon. As it were, these bodies being massive, warp space and time. This defines a geodesic in which the Earth revolves around the Sun as has been demonstrated by Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. In doing this, God was making conscious the laws of physics. Hawking asked this question in his book, A Brief History of Time: “What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?” I would answer that it is the Lord God. This fine-tuning of our solar system has implications for the suitability of Earth for life, undoubtedly. The defined roles of these bodies reveal the periodicity in the interaction between them. The Moon revolving around Earth as it rotates on its own axis brings about the changes that show day and night within 24 hours approximately. The revolution of the Earth around Sun shows time as well; a year being one complete revolution. The relationship between these three heavenly bodies impact on seasons among others. The cosmology of Genesis 1 shows that planet Earth has been specially fashioned as a habitation. Earth has thus earn great focus in telling the story of God.

Earth stands out as the only planet of our solar system not named after a Greco-Roman god. It is also the only known planet in which life inhabits and is preserved by Earth’s favourable conditions. The word “earth” and its translation in different languages originates from “ground” or “soil.” Though it has been used to refer to dry land and the soil on the land’s surface, the word is now used to refer to the entire planet. It has now been recommended that when referring to the planet, the word should be capitalised (Earth) and when referring to the ground or soil, it should not be capitalised (unless, of course, it is beginning a sentence).

Indeed, the universe is Brobdingnagian, immeasurable, awe-inspiring, mind-boggling and beyond words. Lawrence Krauss, prominent theoretical physicist and a hardcore atheist confessed in a lecture he delivered in June, 2015 on “A Journey to the Beginning of Time: Turning Metaphysics into Physics,” that considering the magnificence of the universe invokes in him “spiritual awe and wonder.” Possibly, Krauss’ idea of the spiritual here is the same as what he presents in his book, The Greatest Story Ever Told ⸺ So Far: Why are We Here? In that book he alleges that “. . . scientific story also encompasses both poetry and a deep spirituality. But this spirituality has the additional virtue of being tied to the real world⸺and not created in large part to appease our hopes and dreams.” The Bible well aware of the majesty of the universe forewarns about the possibility of being misled into worshipping the heavens. In Deuteronomy 4:19, it says, “And when you look up the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars – all the heavenly array – do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshipping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven” (Deuteronomy 4:19, NIV). Considering the magnificence of the universe, one would wonder whether we are relevant at all. It was this glaring fact that caused David to sing in Psalm 8:3-4 that “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (ESV). Despite the vastness of the universe, humans find themselves here on Earth and the Christian faith largely define in terms of Earth. Is it because humans find themselves here? Is there anyone out there? Does the faith foresee space settlement?

Concerning “Multiply and Subdue the Earth”

Following from the backdrop of the creation of man in his image, God blessed and charged the first people to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28, ESV). The charge to dominate God’s creation was not given in reference to any other part of the universe but Earth. Here, we may decipher the answer to a question on why human beings have today colonised or dominated the Earth. This colonisation is evidently not limited to humans, as other life forms are heavily present on Earth. Nonetheless, man has been positioned at a superior position. He/She can be described as an intelligent being compared to the other creation. Some scientists have questioned whether there are actually intelligent beings on Earth. This is in part as due to how man has been inimical to the wellbeing of Earth as a result of his activities. The “theology of man” in its attempt to define the image of God in man, recognises this intelligence of man among his/her other attributes. It discusses how this image of God in man has been marred due to sin. One aspect of theology proper (doctrine of God) is reflection on the providence of God. Louis Berkoft and Wayne Grudem have treated this in their seminal systematic theology books. This theology broadly explains how God relates to his creation in preserving it by his power. The environment on Earth has been made suitable before man came into existence. This reveals the providence of God in preserving that aspect of the universe in a fitting way to support life. In God we have our being because he chooses it to be so. He could say of himself that “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool” (Isaiah 66:1, NIV). This theology of providence of God may need redefinition on Mars and the Moon. The environment over there is not all-ready-made suitable for life. There is the need to terraform these places in outer space. Perhaps, supporting life in outer space by using materials from Earth, may give a bit of support to the providence of God in these new homes. However, it has been suggested by the scientific community that man can harness materials from outer space; from comets and other sources. These other sources from which materials can be harnessed to make Mars and the Moon inhabitable; have they not been created by God thus provided and sustained by him? Nevertheless, insofar as man would count himself as enabling life in a place that was formerly lifeless, the perception about the providence of God would be altered and may become defunct as the colonisation of space progresses.

“To the Ends of the Earth”: On Christian Witness beyond Earth

The salvation history of God has been keenly intertwined with life on Earth. Reflection on this may give a hint on the earlier question of whether God has been concerned much about Earth due to the presence of people here. People have been created in his image and he is determined to have a special relation with, call it special providence of God. An important information that this gives is that it is only on Earth that we who are created in his image, humans, exist. With the wake of artificial intelligence and a sick play on the human genome, the scientific community must be guided not to create certain intelligent lives and send them into space and turn to uphold that as discovery of alien life, thus promoting the theory of existence of aliens. It is the belief in the existence of extraterrestrial life elsewhere in the universe that provoked The Fermi Paradox which gives some hypotheses on why humans have not yet contacted aliens. If an alien natural life whose thinking faculty is the same or even beyond that of humans be found on other planets, this would impinge on Christian theology of man. Personally, I am open to any possibility. Indeed, the ways of God are past finding out.

Earth has largely been at the receiving end of God’s plan of salvation. The witness to this plan has been shared abroad on Earth. God has work beautifully in history to champion the salvation course. When God’s agent of salvation, Jesus Christ, was born, an angelic host declared that, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14, NKJV). In this declaration that shows the realisation of the long-awaited prophecy of the coming of the Christ of God, Earth has been favoured. God’s shalom is pronounced on Earth and on its people.

In commissioning those who have encountered him and have become partakers of the mission of God, Christ charged them to utilise the power he shall graced them with to testify of him. He defined the mission field to them in this way: “. . . you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8b, NIV). The phrase “ends of the earth” has been used more than 40 times in the Bible. Bearing witness of Christ to the ends of the Earth as used here is neither a hyperbole nor a metaphorical use of the phrase. It literally carries the sense of Christian witness to the farthest point on Earth where humans exist. From this, it may seem that the Bible somewhat did not foresee humans making home in outer space. Meanwhile, Christian witness is to reach all people. Colonisation of Mars and the Moon would imply a rethinking of the field of coverage in Christian witnessing.

That the impression of space settlement on the Gospel are substantial, must be appreciated. The teachings of Christ including “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5, NIV), “. . . your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10, ESV), “. . . whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18, NKJV) among others, must be considered in reflecting on the Christian faith on Mars, the Moon and beyond. Jesus’ millennial rule on Earth and the creation of a new heaven and new Earth at the eschaton must all be looked at. Thus from the doctrines of God and man, through the teachings of Christ and the church, and the doctrine of the future, reflections on the faith in man’s home in outer space must be on the go. 

The Cosmic Efficacy of the Finished Work of Christ

That the Christian faith would thrive anywhere in the cosmos is essentially connected to Jesus Christ who is Lord over the cosmos. The Christ of God must not be regarded as a leader of a Jewish sect that began in Judea some 2000 and plus years ago. He must not be limited to a religious leader and teacher who fell in the bad books of the Jewish people once upon a time and therefore had to suffer under Pontius Pilate. Jesus Christ cannot be placed on the same pedestal as charismatic personalities who emerge in societies claiming power and starting movements that promise the good life. He is not merely the gentleman from Galilee. Christ holds the entire cosmos in his hands. All things; whether on earth or anywhere else in outer space.

The deity of Christ, his role in the origin of the universe, and the effectiveness of his work of redemption have marked him off as the one in whom all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17 reveals that “The Son [Jesus Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (NIV). From this, the pre-incarnate existence of Christ has been pointed out as it is also seen in John 1. The Greek word prototokos used in the verse 15 of Colossians 1 is metaphorically used to refer to the role of Christ as the source of creation (and not as the first created being). All things originated from Jesus Christ and are preserved by him. This includes the laws of physics, of course. He is supreme over all.

The Bible further testifies of Christ that “it pleased the Father that in Him [Jesus Christ] all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things by Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:19-20, NKJV). This shows that Jesus Christ rules over the Earth and beyond the Earth. His work of redemption reconcile everything wherever they may be in the universe. The effectiveness of his deity and his work of salvation transcends earth. This means that wherever man may be in the universe, he can be redeemed by Christ. Jesus is Lord on Mars, on the Moon and anywhere imaginable in the universe. His redemption is effective at once! When humanity makes home anywhere in outer space, the diverse implications that would have on the Christian evangel, faith and theology end in the cosmic Christ who is Lord the world over.

Conclusion

Humanity cannot go away from the presence of God (Psalm 139). The Psalmist confessed that “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there” (Psalm 139:7, NIV). The Christian faith has meaning even in outer space. But what would be the philosophical foundation of interstellar or interplanetary civilisations? Would it be “In the beginning God” or in the beginning physics? Considering ‘advancements’ in artificial intelligence, are the inhabitants going to be fully human? These are questions that must engage the mind of the Christian community as we continually respond to emerging issues by the word of God. We must reflect on life in outer space and prepare for the future. As we think about space settlement, it is essential to note that inherent in the nature of the Christian faith is its ability to go on pilgrimage into different contexts and verily reveal Jesus Christ as Lord. The crew of Apollo 8 of NASA, Astronauts Bill Anders, Jim Lovell and Frank Borman, the first people to travel to the Moon, read from Genesis 1 publicly, as they orbit the Moon. I can imagine how beautiful and heartwarming that moment was as the Bible is read publicly from space for the first time on December 24, 1968. Later, Astronaut Buzz Aldrin of the Apollo 11, who was an elder of the Webster Presbyterian Church privately partook in the Lord’s Supper on the Moon after landing on its surface. He did this whilst inviting those on Earth to give thanks. Man can commune with Christ beyond Earth. The Lordship of Christ is cosmic.

Article by Elder Dr. S. Ofotsu Ofoe

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Send Us Another Giant: The Revolutionary Ministry Of Apostle Alfred Koduah In The Church Of Pentecost

  • By Elder Dr. S. Ofotsu Ofoe

Opening

After 37 years of active full-time pastoral ministry in The Church of Pentecost (CoP), Apostle Alfred Koduah draws down the curtains on his active ministry this weekend, August 15, 2021. He has affected the beliefs and practices of the CoP in significant ways. His giant physique is in agreement with his gigantic undertakings within the CoP. The pastoral interest, theological undertakings and administrative practicality of Apostle Koduah have arguably extended the frontiers of the CoP in postmodern ministry in the 21st century. For a church to hold the view that it is essential for Christianity to break camp towards making the world its parish and engaging various unexploited spaces within society, the work of the Apostle stands tall as a case of reference in enabling a forceful Christian presence and impression the world over. This article is designed to briefly engage with aspects of his ministry that shaped the doctrinal stance of the CoP, demonstrates its missiological strength of today, and shows the brunt of the Pentecostal movement in Ghana.

Reminiscing the CoP of 1984

Apostle Alfred Koduah came into the full-time ministry in 1984, two years after Pastor James McKeown retired from his chairmanship of the CoP after serving for 44 years, and the first African chairman, Apostle Fred Stephen Safo took office as Chairman of the CoP. By this period, the administrative structure of the church had achieved some stability. With the establishment of the Executive Council two decades short of 1984 to supplement the already institutionalised General Council, the various leadership wrangling of the earlier years have significantly subsided. The CoP was then poised to grow and advance its ministry. Within this period the CoP became Ghana’s largest Pentecostal church. A later study done by the Ghana Evangelism Committee in 1989 confirmed this. By 1984, the membership of the church in Ghana stood at 10,350 with 2,339 assemblies. The six other nations the CoP was then operating in had a total membership of 10,420 with 248 assemblies, according to the Statistics Department at the General Headquarters of the CoP.

Those who have entered the full-time ministry around that time would have been fully aware of the great expectation required of them in the context of happenings within that time. Good enough, the Pentecost Bible College which was started in 1972 but closed down a year later, was re-opened in 1982. This gives persons like Apostle Koduah the opportunity to earn a certificate in Pastoral Studies. His ministerial formation was undoubtedly shaped and aided by his studies at the Pentecost Bible College.

In the year he was called into the full-time ministry, the College was moved from New Abossey Okai to Madina, both in Accra. In that year, this college was renamed Church of Pentecost Bible Centre, and its new block at Madina was dedicated on June 3, 1984. Apostle Koduah was called from Asante Bekwai and stationed at Adukrom-Akuapim. Some of the brothers who were called in that same year include M. K. Ntumy called from Yendi, Narh Affum called from Asuom, M. O. Andoh called from Cape Coast, E. Achim Gyimah called from Okyinso, Samuel Antwi called from Kumasi, T. K. Owusu Bore called from Twifo Heman and E. K. Appiah called from Obuasi. In all, 21 brothers from Ghana were called into the full-time ministry in 1984. The Lord used them to accomplish a lot to his glory. Apostle Alfred Koduah shines through.

The CoP into the 21st Century

Apostle Alfred Koduah has distinguished himself as a specialist in exposing emerging trends in society and their impact on Christianity. He has researched this thoroughly. He is still studying this particular subject. He has given lectures and published adequately on emerging trends. The CoP has benefited greatly from this. Regarding the erstwhile conservation nature of the CoP generally, Apostle Koduah has challenged the CoP to break camp and advanced in order to remain relevant in a world that is changing very rapidly. If the CoP is seen as keeping pace with today’s world, he is one of the main architects of that.

In this vein, he has affected various ‘untouchable’ structures and thought of the CoP. For instance, he influenced the modification of the religious practice of head covering by the women of the CoP; and the tradition of segregating men and women in the seating arrangement at church meetings. He has raised a number of other issues in his paper, “The Church of Pentecost in a Postmodern Society” presented during the McKeown Memorial Lectures to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the CoP in September, 2003. These issues have shaped the thought and practice of the CoP today. The issues include but are not limited to attachment of baptisteries to certain chapels; putting up chapel complexes to cater for meetings of children, youth and adult church meetings; institutionalization of the ministry to the deaf and dumb; introduction of youth pastor concept, among others.

Regarding the head covering tradition, Apostle Koduah made a call in 2003 thus, “Considering the sensitive and controversial nature of women’s head covering in the Church today, I humbly call for a theological debate on the issue in the Church to arrive at a firm position on it in this postmodern world.” This practice has been part of the umbilical cord of the CoP. Going into a postmodern world, it has become quite apparent that such a practice is outmoded and needs a review. It was his study and subsequent presentation on the issue of head covering that influenced the “2010 Communique” of the CoP leading to the review of the practice. It seems he has been concerned about the practice long before he was tasked to give a lecture on it on January 19, 2010 at the Head’s Prayer Meeting of the CoP. For his Master’s thesis presented to the Regents Theological College in UK (Master’s degree awarded by the University of Manchester), he discussed the topic, “The Significant Religious Practices in The Church of Pentecost and their Implications for the Future.” In this thesis, he touched on the issue of head covering. Perhaps, this was what caused leadership of the CoP to give him the responsibility of researching the issue further. The practice of head covering for religious reasons has been explored further in his book, The Woman’s Head-Covering in Church published in 2010.

The CoP has been alerted on emerging philosophies and how they are shaping the Christian belief today through the work of Apostle Koduah. The CoP has thus become concerned about such ideologies. The subject is being taught at the School of Theology, Missions and Leadership of the Pentecost University to incoming pastors. He has been an adjunct lecturer in this regard. The lay leaders of the CoP have also been receiving training on the subject. By this, the theology of mission of the CoP has been positively impacted by Apostle Alfred Koduah. Today, the CoP has been able to develop workable missional paradigms to do its ministry in this century.

Catalyst of the Youth Ministry

To have a ministry of the CoP that would cater for the special needs and intentional discipleship of young people has not been given much attention during its formative years. However, young people were arguably regarded as essential part of the Christian ministry. This is evident in the call of some very young people into the pastoral ministry. For instance, the following were called at an early age in various periods of the church: Joseph Egyir-Paintsil, 21 years in 1949; Martison Kwadwo Yeboah, 26 years in 1950; Thomas Nyarko, 25 years in 1952; Fred Stephen Safo, 24 years in 1956; Michael Kwabena Arnan, 22 years in 1959; Opoku Onyinah, 22 years in 1976; among others.

Over the years, some efforts have been made to group the young people in the CoP together. The initial purpose was mainly in pursuance of its evangelism core value. On various campuses, students within the CoP were gathered steadily. This culminated in the formation of the Pentecost Students and Associates (PENSA) in 1980. PENSA was merged with the then Witness Movement into Pentecost Youth and Evangelism Movement (PENTYEM) 1991. The need of having a full-fledged group for the young people prevailed. This led to the formation of the now Youth Ministry in 1996.

Apostle Alfred Koduah has breathed fire into the Youth Ministry of the CoP. In his book, Teenage Ministry: A Neglected Mission Field published in 1997, a year after the Youth Ministry was instituted, draws attention to the great benefit churches can draw from paying particular attention to young people. He realised that teenagers have been ignored in the structures and models of churches. His recommendations have shaped the Youth Ministry of the CoP in no small way. The huge generational gap that existed between the old and young of the CoP was significantly addressed. He has taught widely on how to communicate with young people. He would often tell young people; “Do not think I am old when it comes to the use of your terms; I know them.” The immediate past Youth Director of the CoP, Apostle David Nyansah Hayfron, in presenting a paper titled, “Effective Handling of Teenage Ministry in The Church of Pentecost – The Role of the Youth Worker” during the historic Global Ministers and Wives Conference of the CoP in January 2017, placed his presentation in the backdrop of this important work of Apostle Koduah. I think it was the realisation Apostle Hayfron made regarding the influence of Apostle Alfred Koduah on the Youth Ministry that necessitated the perceptive he took, as seen in the early part of his paper.

Essentially, I would suggest that it was his great concern for youth ministry that caused Apostle Koduah to suggest the adoption of the youth pastor concept back in September 2003 in his McKeown Memorial Lectures paper.  Let me state that he made a suggestion for children pastors as well. Over a decade later, this concept has been adopted in the CoP. He saw the relevance of this and I believed he pursued it further. The CoP per its demography remains a church of the young. For example, in the State of the Church Address by its Chairman during the 15th Extraordinary Council Meeting in May 2017, 71% of 2,367,253 of its membership in Ghana alone was young people up to 35 years of age. Special attention must continue to be offered to the ministry to young people. It is a missional and a rewarding venture indeed.

Indefatigable Teacher and Scholar

Apostle Alfred Koduah’s ministry in the CoP has set a great benchmark worthy of emulation by future generations. He is diligent when it comes to studying, research, writing and teaching. Though he came to the full-time pastoral ministry with just a certificate in Agricultural Science, he worked hard to study up to the doctoral level, earning a PhD in Theology from the South African Theological Seminary. He has written a number of books and presented several papers. It may seem that in recent times of the CoP, when it comes to the controversial and impressing issues within the church, he is the one who is given the assignment to research such problems.  He has written and published a number of books. Some of these books include: If a Man Dies, Will He Live Again?, Christianity in Ghana Today, Who is Disturbing the Nation?; The Christian in a Sex-Craze World; The Pastor’s Health (co-author); Who is Disturbing the Church?; This Thing Called Salvation; Preparing for the Ultimate Journey: The Need to Develop New Attitude towards Death; Impacting Generations: The Need to Avoid the Generational Gab Syndrome in the Church; Managing the Decline of Christianity in the Western World: Lessons for Churches in the Developing World; The Ugly Face of Poverty; Unlocking the Psalms; Ten Socio-Economic, Political and Religious Dangers Confronting Contemporary Christianity; and Fifteen Ecclesiastical Dangers Confronting Contemporary Christianity. Some of his presented papers include “Managing the Generational Gap Syndrome,” “Head Covering,” “The Disciple of Christ as a Steward,” “An Example of Christ’s Leadership,” “The Role of Directive Prophecy in the Selection of Ecclesiastical Leadership: The Church of Pentecost’s Experience,” “Drawing a Balance Between Pentecostal Spirituality and Formal Theological Training,” “Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council: Celebrating Fifty Years of Pentecostal Influence,” and “God’s Amazing Financial Provision for the Church of Pentecost.”

His research works which he packages for the consumption by both scholars and lay church leaders have made groundbreaking realisations and provoked a number of changes within the CoP. He has played a key role in the shaping of the Prophetic in the CoP. “The Role of Directive Prophecy in the Selection of Ecclesiastical Leadership,” for instance, led to the modification of aspects of the Constitution of the CoP. This paper revealed the historical antecedents and the development of the prophetic office, with a special interest in how directive prophecies have led to the election of key leaders in the CoP. It pointed out the flaws and gave very helpful recommendations. Articles 12.3 (i), 13.3 (i) and 14.3 (h) of the Constitution in use at the time were amended. They initially read, “Where there is a directive prophecy on a candidate, it shall be judged on its own merit by the Electoral College. The candidate so accepted by the Electoral College shall be presented to the General Council to be voted upon.” To touch on only 12.3 (i), it was amended to read as follows: “All ‘directive prophecies’ and ‘revelations’ concerning candidates for consideration for the position of Chairman shall be communicated verbally or in writing to the Executive Council through the Chairman of the church”; “(j) The Executive Council regulating its own proceedings shall present a candidate to be voted upon by the Electoral College. The candidate so accepted by the Electoral College shall be presented to the General Council to be voted upon.” This among others demonstrates that he has affected the CoP so very fundamentally. Such influence was not limited to the CoP but spilled over to other Christian groups including the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council (GPCC) and the Bible Society of Ghana LBG, which he served as its vice president. In his book, Christianity in Ghana Today, published in 2004, he took note of the “Pentecostalisation of Christianity in Ghana”. This realisation shows the growing Pentecostal influence in Ghana. A paper he later presented to commemorate the 50th anniversary celebration of the GPCC acknowledged further this Pentecostal influence in Ghana. 

His style of teaching brings home the subjects he taught. He has skillfully exposed the various topics to the delight of many. His online Weekly Bible School has brought to light subjects that could be regarded as theological hard nuts to the general church populace. He adequately and painstakingly dealt with several topics including “Hamartiology (The Study of Sin),” “Biblical Perspective on Vindictive Prayer” and very extended ones such “Unlocking the Psalms,” “Understanding the Old Testament” and “Understanding the New Testament.” He has taught on various topical issues in everyday life that has prepared many for the practical life and godliness.

Leadership Ardour and Administrative Dexterity

Having served as the chief scribe of the CoP from 2003-2013, the administrative fortunes have been nothing but brighter. Apostle M. K. Ntumy, one of the two chairmen he worked with as general secretary of the CoP, described him as “a man of ideas.” Apostle Prof. Opoku Onyinah has also eulogised his gigantic undertakings as the general secretary of the CoP. He points to the ultramodern Pentecost Convention Centre as a project in which Apostle Alfred Koduah played a key role in the establishment. In fact, the Apostle was the one who led a team to the UK and Nigeria to study various convention centres and advised the CoP adequately on its quest to put up one. He [Prof. Onyinah] personally informed me back in 2018, carrying a demeanour of great satisfaction, during a conversation that “he [Apostle Alfred Koduah] is very hardworking.” This cannot be further from the truth. The way he carries himself about testifies to that.

Apostle Koduah is credited with the digitization of the entire administrative organism at the General Headquarters. The infrastructure development which the church witnessed between 2003 and 2013 can in part be attributed to the Accelerated Infrastructure Development Fund which he moved for establishment when he was the general secretary of the CoP.

He believes in leadership development and has personally championed this at various levels. The leadership competence and pastoral affection of Apostle Koduah have been acknowledged. His ministerial ardour was in full force when he served as a missionary of the CoP in Zambia from 1994 to 1998. It is reported that he shaped significantly the doctrinal stance of the CoP in Zambia. Whilst in Zambia, two Elders, Ekow Badu Wood (now Apostle) and Nelson M. Lukwesa were called to the full-time ministry.

Conclusion

Apostle Alfred Koduah can be appropriately described as a reformer having fronted a number of groundbreaking ventures in the CoP significantly. He has been described as a skillful leader who knows how to handle controversial issues. His pastoral warmth is palpable. He is such an ardent Bible teacher and a great lover of the youth. The doctrinal stance, theology of mission, administrative system, and ministerial ethos of the CoP have been positively shaped by the ministry of this great Apostle of Christ. As he closes the chapter on his active full-time ministry, may the torch he has lit burn its way into every facet of the church of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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I Could Have Died! … Resident Of Kultamise Shares Harrowing Ordeal

Twenty-one-year-old Comfort Atimbilla is the wife of Mumuni Jalil. The couple has been married for two years. Last year, the Lord was gracious to Comfort, and she conceived. The couple has since looked forward to what they refer to as the first of many children they hope to have. Although very optimistic, Comfort was equally worried. It was her first time at childbirth, having heard a lot of horrifying stories about the inconveniences in childbirth, especially at Kultamise.

Kultamise is a farming community in the Pusiga district in the Upper East Region. It is referred to as a “border town” because, together with other communities, it shares boundaries with Burkina Faso on the north, and Togo on the west. It has a Muslim-dominated population of more than 3,000 people, most of whom are vegetable farmers.

The community is separated from the Pusiga community by the Kulpelgu river. To get to Pusiga one ought to cross the Kulpelgu river or go through Burkina Faso – which is about four times the journey! This necessitated the construction of a concrete bridge over the river to link both communities. Unfortunately, the bridge was washed away by a flood shortly after it was constructed.

This means that residents of Kultaminse and other overbank communities can only come to the other side by crossing the river on foot or by canoe, which is rare. Simple as it may sound, this tends to be very life-threatening, especially when it rains and the river overflows its banks. For people like Comfort, crossing over was not just an option, but the only choice she has in order to access better antenatal care.

Apart from being the main commercial town in the district, Pusiga is also where the only standard clinic is located. This means that to access better healthcare, one must commute from Kultamise to Pusiga at all costs. However, for pregnant women, the challenges are more prevalent.

“When you are pregnant, the nurses discourage you from riding on a motorbike because it could lead to more complications, and since the motorbike is the most affordable mode of transportation here, the only alternative is to walk. So once every month from the latter part of last year, I had to walk for hours from Kultamise to Pusiga for antenatal care. It has not been easy o!” she says and chuckles.

Fast forward to Sunday, June 6, 2021, Comfort recounts the day she went into labour and had her worst fears realised: “At about 2:00 am, I began to feel pains in my tummy. I began pacing back and forth in the house. My husband was following me from one place to another because he knew I was due and was not taking any chances. After some time, the pains became more severe. So, he called his brother, sat me on a motorbike, and headed for the Pusiga District Hospital.

“When we got to the river, it had overflown its banks. It seemed dangerous to cross, but the pains were becoming severe, so my husband helped me off the motorbike, and together with my brother-in-law, they held my hand and helped me to cross the river.

After crossing it, my husband had to leave me and his brother on the other side to cross back to the bank of the river for the motorbike, and then cross over again to carry me to Pusiga. When we got there, I was told there were some complications, so I should go to Bawku instead. At Bawku, I had to wait for a while to be attended to, all the while I was enduring excruciating labour pains.

“This is why the Pentecost Clinic means more than just a health centre to us, it is here to save our lives and make life better for us. If it were here then, I would not have gone through the ordeal I went through. You people (The Church of Pentecost) have no idea what this means to us, especially to people like me who faced such a life-threatening situation. Imagine going into labour, and being carried on a motorcycle, imagine crossing a river on foot while in labour. I was even very fortunate, because others have lost their lives or even lost their babies as a result.”

Comfort, like many other residents, is optimistic about the future of the Kultamise community and the critical role that the Pentecost Clinic would play in this new era.

“Now, accessing quality healthcare is just a stone’s throw away and I do not have to even cross any river to get medical treatment. Now whether it rains or not, it makes no difference. The church has done so well and we as a people are very grateful,” she said.

According to the 2017 maternal health survey, maternal mortality ratio for Ghana is 310 deaths per 100,000 live births and pregnancy-related mortality ratio for Ghana is 343 per 100,00 live births. A review of the 2020 annual performance of the Ghana Health Service in the Upper East Region indicates that maternal deaths shot to 35 in the year 2020 from 30 in 2019, resulting in an institutional maternal mortality rate of 91 per 100,000 live births in the region. This was attributed to inadequate support services including infrastructure, residential and office accommodation as well as means of transport in all health facilities in the region.

Alhassan Kultamise, a native of the community, narrates how he lost his baby and almost lost his wife due to poor access to healthcare.

“It was late in the evening when my wife got into labour. When we got to the river it was too full and we were scared to cross. I did not know what to do. My wife was in pain and yet I felt helpless, there was nothing I could do; attempting to cross would have been signing our death certificates. So, we had to wait until the next day. In the end, we lost the baby, but for the mercies of God, I would have lost my wife as well,” he said.

Alhassan, a father of 12, says thoughts of the incident which took place about four months ago still saddens him. “I know for a fact that if this clinic were to be here, my child would have survived. This is why this community would forever be indebted to The Church of Pentecost for what you have done,” he said.

Carrying her three-week-old baby at her back, a cheerful Comfort Atimbilla joined Alhassan Kultamise and other residents to witness the historic commissioning of the Pentecost Clinic in the community by the General Secretary of the church, Apostle Alexander Nana Yaw Kumi-Larbi, on Thursday, June 24, 2021. The project was fully funded and constructed by the church, through its social services wing, Pentecost Social Services (PENTSOS).

The edifice, worth GH¢ 850,000.00, has a fully furnished Out-Patient Department (OPD), Male and Female Wards, Delivery Ward, Dispensary, Washrooms for both patients and staff, Laboratory, and Consulting rooms as well as residential accommodation for the health officers.

According to the General Secretary, the intervention was informed by the urgent need to provide a health facility that can serve the community and its environs, particularly in helping to reduce maternal and child mortality in the area. “We trust that it will provide a lasting remedy to the decades-long problem faced by the people,” he added.

The facility is expected to serve communities located over the banks of the Kulpelgu river, namely Kultamise, Kolnaba, Bitsu, Nware, Gamburugu, Cinakom, Sangaboli and Kawerigu. It would further serve some neighbouring communities of Kultamise such as Zumbeku in Togo as well as the Hotige, Sugumonma, Garega and Morgande communities in Burkina Faso.

PENTECOST NEWS.

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To Punish Or Reform? A Church’s Prison Reformation Agenda Misjudged

Prisons serve as the final point in criminal justice administration since offenders are kept there as punishment for crimes committed. Imprisonment in recent times has transitioned from the era of offender warehousing to that which seeks to cure the precipitating factors that push people into the life of crime. This demands that ‘societal misfits’ are taken through modules aimed at realigning their way of thinking to acceptable societal standards so that offenders re-enter society truly reformed.

Unlike in jurisdictions with best practices, Ghana’s prison system has struggled over the years to develop prisons into real centres of rehabilitation. Successive governments have invested little in this regard leaving most prisons in deplorable states.

It is not surprising in the light of the above that Ghanaians seem to downplay the struggles prison authorities endure to ensure that offenders do not only remain under lock and key, but reform from the life of crime. The unfortunate situation has resulted in public disinterest in complementing the efforts of the Ghana Prisons Service directed at keeping society safe.

A Hero Castigated

In 2019, after years of near unsuccessful attempts at courting public partnerships for the expansion of prison infrastructure, The Church of Pentecost emerged as a worthy partner to fund this essential change. The church, which has contributed substantially to the reformation drive of the Service through evangelism and medical outreaches, had its Chairman, Apostle Eric Nyamkeye, cut the sod for the commencement of construction of five 300-capacity camp prisons across the country.

Refreshingly, the first facility situated in Ejura was commissioned and handed over to the Ghana Prisons Service on the 11th of May 2021. This becomes one of the few purpose-built prison facilities in the country. The facility consists of two dormitory blocks, an administration block, visitor’s lounge, an infirmary, a church building, workshops, a football field and other essential offices.

It is sad to note that news of this magnanimous gesture has been described as a misplaced priority by a section of Ghanaians. The flak has centred around why a church would build a facility to house offenders instead of schools, health facilities and factories. This is a clear indication that most Ghanaians do not see the prison as an extension of society but rather as ‘a devil’s den’ for punishing offenders. It is clear also that, society see little or nothing wrong with the deplorable conditions in our prisons resulting in the seeming disgust after the first pictures of the facility hit the media.

Ironically, society is quick to mention that some incarcerated persons re-enter society unchanged. They say so without realising that our prisons require humane environments equipped with the right infrastructure to take inmates through structured regimes that will ensure that they come out of prison as individuals willing and able to lead law abiding lives.

Congestion Festers into Homosexuality, Diseases and Recidivism

The congestion rate in our prisons stands at around 52% with about 15,000 prisoners struggling for 9,945 spaces. Prison administrators due to the overwhelming numbers are unable to do proper classification of inmates to prevent contamination and limit the exposure of low-risk inmates to their high-risk colleagues. Weaklings who find themselves in same cells as powerful recidivists are sometimes bullied to trade their bodies for sleeping spaces.

Most of Ghana’s prisons are remnants of the colonial era. These forts, castles and armouries are not purpose-built and as such do not present environments that support healthy living. Congestion in these facilities allow for easy transmission of diseases. Though the prison administration over the years has attempted to alter facilities to make them more habitable, outbreaks of communicable diseases suggest that there is the need to invest in building requisite structures to support the wellbeing of offenders. One effect of the situation is that inmates lack the peace of mind and strength required to subscribe to prison rehabilitation programmes.

Another worrying trend in this direction is the fact that, some offenders come out of prison just the way they entered; unskilled. The reason is that trade-learning workshops required to champion the rehabilitation agenda of the Service are non-existent in most prisons. The few ones lucky to have them are highly under-resourced. In effect, most offenders are not able to receive any form of trade training throughout their incarceration. These ex-convicts, under the slightest temptation, relapse into the life of crime after release as a way of survival due to unemployment.

Why Prioritise Prison Reform?

Only a small number of Ghana’s prisoners spend their entire lives in prison, as most of them are released at a point. This is the reason why all should follow the unprecedented example of The Church of Pentecost by contributing to ensuring that offenders receive requisite moral and trade training to support meaningful living upon discharge. It will also ensure that, they serve their sentences without feeling rejected by the society they call their own. 

All should note that Ghanaians cannot enjoy sound sleep if ex-convicts re-enter society with the thought that they were unduly punished during their period behind bars. They could engage in crimes as payback for the pains they suffered behind bars. The next time you are tempted to discourage a donor from supporting prison reform, be reminded that the prison is everybody’s second home. It takes the lenses of justice to point to us that we are not saints after all.

By: Daniel Machator, Public Relations Practitioner (machator@hotmail.com)

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Seven Reasons Why You Should Not Criticise The Church Of Pentecost For Building Prisons

I have keenly observed some opinions from some individuals in connection with the Ejura ultra-modern Correctional Centre (prison camp) built by The Church of Pentecost.

There have been divergent views as to whether the church had set its priorities right or not. Many people are also bashing the church, lamenting that the church should have catered for the needy among them before embarking on this project.

Well, these are all opinions. I think the church has done no wrong. I was expecting Ghanaians to praise God for a church like The Church of Pentecost, which is helping to transform the nation.

The church is not just building only prisons, as some people may think, but there are several other national interventions that the church has done over the past few years, and continues to do to help develop the country.

I would therefore like to give seven (7) reasons why we should not lambast the church for the good work done, but rather praise and encourage them to do more if they have the means:

  1. THE CHURCH IS NOT DISCRIMINATORY; NOT A FRIEND TO THE RIGHTEOUS ONLY, BUT “SINNERS”AS WELL.

Following the ways of our Lord Jesus Christ, and His precepts, we should not reject sinners but show some love to them and win them for Christ. Jesus said, “He did not come on earth because of the righteous, but because of “sinners.”

(Mark 2:17 KJV) “When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” What I am trying to say is that the church has done a lot for its members and will continue to do more. However, it cannot ignore those outside the church, especially, the less privileged. Taking care of the privileged and the less privileged makes the generosity of the church balanced and unbiased.

2. OUR LORD JESUS COMMANDED US TO GO TO THE WORLD TO PREACH TO ALL, INCLUDING PRISONERS, AND BRING THEM TO CHRIST.

(Matthew 28:19, KJV) “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” This is the great commandment. It is obligatory for every believer to do this. There are many ways of doing this, but the most important thing is to have a good heart for the one you want to win for Christ. You must love him and show him kindness as the Lord has done to us. Apart from giving them the word of God, if you are capable of assisting them in any way, do it. Do not just say, “God bless you” and leave him to suffer! (James 2:15-16 KJV) “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” This is what the Lord says.

We must always help a brother who is in need. There is no doubt that prisoners in Ghana really need help. We cannot just preach to them without helping them, especially if the church has the means to help. Sinners are our clients, so we must serve them well so that we can win them for Christ for a better and a transformed life.

  • THE CHURCH BELIEVES THAT ANY GESTURE FOR THE LESS PRIVILEGED IS A GESTURE FOR OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.

Jesus demonstrated this in Matthew 25:31-45, NKJV: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ 44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.”

This clearly tells us not to care for only the righteous, but “sinners” as well. This does not mean if the church builds ultra-modern prison facilities for prisoners, they are promoting criminality. It is A BIG NO; the church is just doing what the Bible tells them to do.

  • IT IS THE BUSINESS OF THE CHURCH TO LEAD SOULS TO CHRIST, IT IS GOD’S BUSINESS TO TRANSFORM THEIR LIVES, BOTH PHYSICALLY AND SPIRITUALLY.

Responding to comments such as, “there are some needy individuals in the church…,” I wish to set the records straight. The church leads the members by (1) Preaching the Word to them. (Romans 10:14, KJV): “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” This is why God has called us from the world, sanctified us, and empowered us to go to the world, preach the gospel to them and tell them the goodness of Him. (2) Those that believe, we must teach them what Christ has taught us. (Matthew 28:20, KJV): “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:” If we preach to them and teach them well, they will practice what is right, then God will transform their lives and give them all they want. (Matthew 6:33 KJV): “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” In connection to the above quotations, the bitter truth is that the church is not a business venture for creating businesses or wealth for members, but the church gives biblical directions that will lead the members to Christ who will eventually transform their lives and give them their heart desires.

Obviously, there will be needy individuals in the church, because there are people that the church will be discipling at any given point in time. We believe that God will see to their needs in His own time, even though the church is doing its part to help such people. That does not mean that the church should not consider the less privileged.

  • TRANSFORMING A SOCIETY IS A GRADUAL PROCESS, AND MUST START FROM SOMEWHERE.

Most churches in Ghana, including The Church of Pentecost, are poised to transforming every sphere of the society with kingdom principles and good standards of living. For this reason, The Church of Pentecost alone has achieved the following:

  • Built 96 Basic Schools across the country; 2 Senior High Schools in Kumasi and Koforidua; 2 Skills Development and Learning Centres; 1 Vocational Training Institute; 8 Healthcare Facilities (3 Hospitals & 5 Clinics); Provided financial support to some needy but brilliant students at the National, Area and District levels.

The Church also has:

1. Spent GHS 2,716,112.36 on educational scholarships to support needy but brilliant members at various levels in 2018.

2. In 2020, 74 Street children, 298 drug addicts, 38 sex workers, 101 street dwellers and 48 others were enrolled in schools, put into trade, and given vocational and entrepreneurial skills.

3. Handed over the Pentecost Convention Centre, a multi-purpose conference facility, to the Government of Ghana to host Covid-19 patients, costing the church a total of GHS 39 million during the period.

4. The Areas, Districts and local Assemblies of the church also assisted the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic to the tune of GHS 5, 412, 653.20 in providing relief support to the vulnerable members and non-members alike.

5. The church spent GHS 2,313,859.09 on health care to support members.

6. Drilled 44 boreholes in rural communities across the country.

7. The church launched the ‘Environmental Care’ campaign to take care of our environment and to fight against sanitation issues in the country.

8. The church has started a process of building 1,000,000 trees in the country.

9. 37 active Credit Unions referred to as Pentecost Cooperative Mutual Support and Social Services Societies (PENCO) providing financial assistance to members of the Church. These and many more are what the church is doing to assist humanity, aside the core mandate of winning souls and discipling people for Christ.

Many other churches are also doing great things to help develop the nation. The Church cannot do everything at once, not even the government, so it has to start from somewhere according to its strength. Looking at what the church has done for both its members and the country, I think we must praise them instead of criticising them.

  • THIS PRISON WILL HELP SOLVE SOME HEALTH ISSUES THAT MAY ARISE DUE TO OVERCROWDING.

Looking at the rate at which our prisons are congested, no one needs a prophet to tell us that there can be an outbreak of diseases. Again, some conditions at the prisons are detrimental to human dignity.

In order to solve these challenges (both health and human right issues), I would personally commend The Church of Pentecost for taking the initiative to find a better place for our brothers and sisters behind bars. In this case, the church did not just visit Christ when He was in prison, but rather secured a better place for Him.

  • THE ULTRA MODERN PRISON WILL SERVE AS A FACILITY TO EQUIP INMATES FOR A BETTER FUTURE AFTER THEIR PRISON SENTENCE. 

We must thank God for the vision given of The Church of Pentecost. This project is not just to keep prisoners, but to train them to unearth their God-given talents as they serve their prison terms. This is equipped with facilities that will help them to learn a vocation of their choice that would help them to establish themselves after serving their prison terms.

It is worthy to note that, such a gesture will help transform the prisoners and lead them to live a better life.

CONCLUSION

We must see this corporate social responsibility of The Church of Pentecost as God-given. Let us encourage the church so that other churches will follow suit. Criticising someone for doing something good may not encourage him to do more. However, acknowledging their good gestures and showing appreciation can bring out better things from them.

As a country, we must not criticise blindly, rather, we must be circumspect in our criticism.

GOD BLESS THE CHURCH OF PENTECOST.

GOD BLESS GHANA.

By Nana Owusu Nkrumah, Broadcast Journalist

Untitled-1(3)

“To Proclaim Freedom For The Prisoners:” Towards an Understanding of Pentecostal Missional Ethos of Prison Ministry in Ghanaian Context

INTRODUCTION

In the statement that can be appraised as defining the ministry of the man Jesus Christ on earth, a joyful announcement of a time in the mission of God in which good tidings would pervade human existence is given. Citing Isaiah 61:1-2 in 4:18-19 of Luke’s account of the Gospel, Jesus indicated to his audience that he has received anointing to bring redemption to the poor, prisoners, the blind, the oppressed, and “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” It tells an exciting news about the penetrance of the Spirit in human history leading to viable transformation in the spiritual and physical welfare of people. This act of redemption in Christ essentially informs the approach that the Church in its ministry to the world ought to adopt.

This essay discusses the plausible ethos of mission which should underpin the spread of the Church’s tentacles into the recesses of the institutionalised prisons in modern civilisation to champion a holistic transformation of incarcerated persons. Pentecostals in their quest to leave no stone unturned, have defined a philosophy of mission that takes into account the holistic transformation of people and places. The essay briefly shows how Pentecostal missional spirit, exemplified in The Church of Pentecost (hereafter CoP), has seen the progress of social action with particular reference to prison ministry in Ghana. It thinks that such a ministry is highly tenable per the impressive design of humanity’s redemption in Christ.

THE PRISON CONCEPT IN BIBLICAL AND WESTERN THOUGHT

Prisons already exist in Egyptian civilisation in Bible times. Recounting the circumstances under which Joseph and the others have been incarcerated (Genesis 39:7-23; 40:1-3), it suggests that prisons were classically designated for political offenders mostly. The same can be said of Samson (Judges 16:20-21). Such conceptualisation also existed among other nations including Assyria and Babylon (2 Kings 17:4; 2 Chronicles 33:11; Isaiah 20:4). When the nation of Israel translated from theocracy to monarchy, such an understanding has been adopted from the other nations. Prior to this, Israel has been introduced to the idea of prisoners of war (Deuteronomy 20:10-15). In fact, Israel, the nation of God has had a fair share of being prisoners of war at various stages of its political history. The Old Testament is pervasive with the practice. Prisoners of war and their subsequent release or the giving off of people as prisoners of war as recompense for debt, would later inform the theology of our redemption in Christ.

By the time the Greco-Roman world, whose thought impacted heavily western culture, rose to prominence, the concept of prison saw expansion within a system of justice to include offends of various kind towards the building of a more civil society. In Luke 23:17-19, the account talks of one Barabbas who has been imprisoned for leading an insurrection in the city. Matthew 27:16 identified Barabbas as a “notorious prisoner.” The incarceration of John the Baptist by Herod because he spoke against a marital infidelity he was engaged in meant that even in this later civilisation, governments concentrated absolute powers and throw people in prison without trial (Mark 6:17).

Religious reasons also saw to the imprisonment of people. Though the Greco-Roman culture was initially religious tolerant because the Jews were at least allowed to practice their religion, imprisonment occasioned by matters of religion later increased in the religious pluralistic Greco-Roman world. Christians suffered not only imprisonment but persecution of various forms due to their refusal to sacrifice to Roman gods. The will of God was to prevail when later under Roman Emperor Constantine, the Roman Empire was Christianise. Christianity became the approved religion of the whole Empire. 

It can be assessed that the development of prison concept serves the purpose of imprisonment as a means of punishment, character reformation, rehabilitation and consequent incorporation of prisoners back into normal life in society. It is also obvious that whilst history presents with cases of persons who have been rightly imprisoned as means of punishment and attitudinal change, many have also wrongly suffered prisons. This makes the concept of prison in judicial system, a special area that Christians must speak to. Ensuring justice in the world is a mandate of the Christian faith.

GHANA’S EXPERIENCE

Perhaps prisons in Ghana remind us of our sad colonial past. The forts in Ghana which tell stories of Ghana’s past were the initial prisons in Ghana. The incarcerations which took place when the prison concept was transported from Western culture to Ghana, were significantly based on indigenous people flouting the rules of the colonial masters. It would be difficult to prevent yourself from crying when you visit some of the places that held prisoners in the past. Prisons survived the colonial period and were also utilized by indigenous politicians. The abuse of prisons continued. A good example is the Preventive Detention Act promulgated in Ghana on July 18, 1958. This Act permits that people who are deemed a threat to national security be detained for as many as 5 years without trial or any charge whatsoever. Within the 5 year period, detainees have no right of appeal to the courts. Many people suffered under this Act prior to its later revision.

In those days, as it is realised today too, the conditions of the prison facilities were substandard. They do not present themselves as able to fulfill adequately the principles underlining modern prison concept. One of the age-old concerns is the existence of adequate space in prisons to house inmates. Sergeant Ambrose Imoru Salifu in his work, “Beginning of Ghana Prisons Service” indicated that the colonial government once upon a time decided to modify the prison system in its colonies to make it conform to what pertains in England. Key among the attempts to overhaul the prison system is to ensure that prison facilities are spacious enough to house prisoners. This can be ascertained in a letter written in 1869 by the then secretary of state and cited by Sergeant Salifu. This letter gave directives on how to check overcrowding in the prisons without expanding the facilities, subsequent to the decision to change the prison system. On how to ensure space in the prisons, he quoted the letter thus, “it may be done by resorting to shorter and sharper punishments, by whipping in addition to shorter terms of imprisonment or in total substitution for any imprisonment, by substituting in the early stages of imprisonment strictly penal labour and by lowering the diet to the minimum required for health.” This rigid approach to ensuring space in the prison facilities would not warrant the following; adequate attitudinal change, empowerment of prisoners to become better citizens, vocational and skills training, psychological shaping and general improvement in the personality of prisoners. The fact is that, there is still great deficiency in the prison system today. A better way to ensure proper modification of the prison system must be pursued. I think the CoP is on course in ensuring a remarkable transformation of the prison system in Ghana.

Today, the Ghana Prisons Service maintains that treatments meted out to prisoners must be “guided by training, reformation and rehabilitation.” In its “Ten-Year Strategic Plan” spanning 2015-2025, the Ghana Prisons Service intends to achieve this by taking steps to “establish modern training workshops and re-equip existing ones with modern equipment.” One reason given for this move is reduce the situation where ex-convicts return to criminal activities. This reason is to be taken seriously. Reports show that substantial number of ex-convicts go back to criminal activities. For instance, the 2018 report of the Ghana Prisons Service show that out of the 13,971 average number of prisoners in Ghana, 1,505 were reoffenders. Thus a move to place prisoners on the job market is to be encouraged. It also plans to employ the service of clinical psychologists and professional counselors to aid the reformation and rehabilitation of prisoners. It further intends to ensure that the fundamental human rights of inmates are protected in the treatments given to them. Meanwhile, in this same strategic plan, the Ghana Prisons Service showed concern for the overcrowding nature of remand prisons, and frowned on inhumane treatment of prisoners. Such a plan must be supported towards fruition.

IN CHRIST IS OUR YEAR OF JUBILEE

The backdrop to Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 61:1-2 referred to above) that informs the mission statement of Jesus, is the Babylonian captivity situation the people of God found themselves. Under Nebuchadnezzar II, King of Babylon attacked Judah, the people of God and took many captives. Revolts against Babylonian rule ended up in failure (2 Kings 24:8-17; 24:18-20, 25:1-26). The Lord through the Prophet declares a time of redemption and restoration of Judah. The prophet called it “the year of the Lord’s favour.” In this eschatological period in the life of the people of God, they would earn their salvation from Babylonian imprisonment.

This promise of redemption reminisces the year of Jubilee as ordained by God in Leviticus 25. In the year of Jubilee, freedom is proclaimed through the land of Israel. Key features of the year of Jubilee include redemption, freedom from debt, rest from labour, and release from captivity. In the year of Jubilee is redemption realised and restoration achieved. The expression “acceptable year of the Lord” or “time of the Lord’s favour” has been linked to the Christ in Isaiah 49, particularly verse 8.

Redemption being linked with freedom from captivity or imprisonment has survived the Old Testament period and has found important application in the doctrine of redemption in Christ. Christ has paid the debt that has kept humanity imprisoned by sin. Freedom has been proclaimed to all those who put their faith in the finished work of Christ. Such people “are justified freely by his [God’s] grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24, NIV). Life in Christ is our desired Jubilee. Thus prison theology is essential in Christian soteriology (study of the doctrine of salvation).

PRISONS AS MISSION FIELD

Pentecostal mission knows no bound. Since the movement began, the Pentecostals have been on the quest to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth. They appropriate the power of the Holy Spirit as promised by Jesus in Acts 1:8. Professor Allan Anderson, the doyen of Pentecostal Studies indicated that in recent times, Pentecostal mission is the most successful. He realises that this is as a result of the strong emphasis on mission and evangelism. The CoP exemplifies this excellently. Many other scholars in and out of Ghana testify to this.

Pentecostal mission has advanced to such an extent that social ministry has become an integral part of it. Considering the missional tenacity of Pentecostals, many people have benefited greatly from the love of Christ which was shown to them through Pentecostal mission so that both the body and spirit of the saved are transformed by the Gospel. The CoP has embraced social ministry as key to its mission. Prison ministry has become its concern by dint of this missional ethos of the church. Its “mission statement” does not alienate the Church from the secular polity of Ghana but seeks to impact communities. This underlies the significant contribution the CoP has made to the educational, health, and other sectors of Ghana. Recently the CoP has taken its long standing prison ministry to higher level. It points to Hebrews 13:3 to advance a case for a holistic prison ministry. The text reads, “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (NIV). This demonstrates a continuing Pentecostal missional idea of prison ministry. The contribution to the general socio-economic fortunes of Ghana has been lauded by many. It is being advanced as the years go by. The Vision 2023 of the CoP carries great concern for the larger society. Since the vision took effect fully at the beginning of the year 2019, many projects have been carried out to put in effect its aim of transforming society.

Dr. David D. Daniels III, the respected American Professor of Church History, has classified the general social ministry of the CoP into “relief,” “renovate,” “reform,” and “repair.” This is important because it indicates the orientation of the CoP as it engages the larger society. I think that the prison ministry being undertaken by the CoP captures in diverse amounts the categories of CoP’s general social engagement put together by Prof. Daniels III. The Relief aspect is seen in the many donations the CoP has made to various prisons in Ghana over the years. Donations include food, clothes, personal hygiene items, shelter among others. The most recently reported relief outreach undertaken by the CoP was the donations made by the Men’s Ministry of the Kasoa Area of the CoP. Assorted items amounting to GH 29,700 were donated to the Awutu Senya Prison Camp in the Central Region of Ghana. With the Renovate class, which “seeks to maximize human potential,” the CoP recently built and donated to the Ghana Prison’s Service an ultramodern camp prison in Ejura in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. Others are to follow. Contained in the facility is a centre that provides educational and vocational training that would provide inmates skills thereby finding them a place in the job market of Ghana. This would enable their livelihood. The Reform class is seen in the restructuring of prison camps. The projects being undertaking by the CoP departs sharply from the old facilities many of which undermine the humanity of the inmates. The structuring of the projects have introduce some kind of civility in prisons unprecedented in the history of prison facilities in Ghana. In the Repair class, the entire structuring of the prison facility seeks to rethink the pervasive perception about prisons and to show that such facilities should rather be places for the shaping of the personality of prisoners. The environment of the facility alone would make inmates feel that they are part of the larger community. That knowledge would aid positive shaping of their personality. Provisions have also been made for the spiritual transformation of prisoners. The old idea of prison has been repaired by the prison projects being pursued by the CoP.

CONCLUSION

It has been showed that in the Ghanaian context, prison as mission field for Christians is highly tenable. More so, prison theology has proven to be key to the discussion of redemption in Christ. The ministry to prisons must be holistic. It must seek to rehabilitate the spiritual and physical life of prisoners. The larger society stands to benefit greatly if careful attention is given to prisons ministry in Ghana. If there is any place in society in which we witness a tangible case for “whilst we were yet sinners Christ died for us,” it is in the prisons. A missional church must be bothered about the prison system of the nations. Prison ministry as can be seen in Pentecostal missional philosophy must be understood and joyfully embraced.

By Elder Dr. S. Ofotsu Ofoe

take off your mask

ARTICLE: Taking The Masks Off And Becoming Agents Of Transformation – By P/Overseer Eric Akude

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints, and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:12-13 NIV).

One of the many lifestyle changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic is the wearing of face masks. The President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in his periodic address to the nation always encourages citizens to put on face masks while stepping out. Some citizens in the major cities have been subsequently arrested for flouting the presidential directive. Many discussions are going on in the Christian circles about the wearing of masks to church. Some people have ridiculed ministers who put on masks to church, citing a lack of faith in the protective powers of God. While some members of the clergy and Christians are seen wearing multiple face masks, others do not wear any mask at all, especially when they are in their churches. Other Christians have advocated for churches to not make the use of masks compulsory since wearing them makes them uncomfortable in the worship environment. Chorus leaders, instrumentalists, and preachers alike are seen pulling down their masks to the chin so they can have some breathing space to undertake their respective activities. Most people cannot wait for the coronavirus pandemic to be finally declared to be over so that they can go back to their normal activities, without the wearing of face masks. 

With many countries now embarking on mass vaccinations, one of the top questions on the minds of all is whether one can stop wearing a mask after vaccination. The U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in a briefing earlier in March indicated that fully vaccinated people could visit other fully vaccinated people in private settings, indoors, without masks or socially distancing. This is good news for a lot of people.

Mask wearing to church is however not a new phenomenon. As American Evangelist Paul David Washer puts it, “Some of you are mad about wearing a mask to church, but you have been doing it for years” Many come to church in fine and smart appearances, sing, clap, and dance to the name of the Lord, but that is where the worship ends. Worship for them only happens on Sundays in the church auditorium, outside the church is a different life altogether. In order to hide their public lifestyle from the church leadership and fellow worshippers, they put on deceptive appearances, covering who they really are on the inside, only to show the real self in their homes, at work, school, markets, on public transport or returning from church service. A. W. Tozer rightly states it with these words, “If you do not worship God seven days a week, you do not worship Him on one day a week. There is no such thing known in heaven as Sunday worship unless it is accompanied by Monday worship and Tuesday worship and so on.” Masking of the real self is one of the banes of Christianity and it has become so prominent that, the link between church and society is almost broken. The same people who raise their hands to sing about how holy God is are the ones engaged in unholy acts in their places of work and schools. The Christian is thus a Christian only while in a church service but is mixed with the world outside the church. The masks of Christianity are won only on Sundays to church but removed on all other days, and the real faces are shown in the society. The very fact that we mask ourselves whiles in the church shows we know the right thing to do but feel it can be done only in the church. Hidden under the masks are works of the flesh such as sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like (Galatians 5:19-21). But as the Galatian church are warned, those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Apostle Paul always emphasizes that a spiritual conversion to Christianity should bring an outward manifestation of an inward change – a transformation that should be evident to all, beyond the church walls. As Charles Spurgeon observes, “people bear the Christian name but act like worldlings and love the amusements and follies of the world. It is time for a division in the house of the Lord in which those for Christ go into one camp and those against Christ go into the other camp. We have been mixed too long.” We need to go to the world and show them our identity in Christ. There should be a clear distinction between the Christian and one who is in the world. This difference can be seen when believers unmask themselves before God, so their weaknesses are dealt with once and for all. God expects us to come to Him boldly and open ourselves to Him, to show him our weaknesses and shortcomings. In so doing, he takes over our weaknesses and works on them. David prayed to God to “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24, NIV). He thus removed his mask before God. It is a heart yielded to the Lord that God uses. Still keeping the masks on means we are not ready to let go of the pleasures we enjoy in the world, and so are not willing to change. The Christian should however remember that nothing is hidden in the sight of God and when God decides to unmask us, we might suffer great loss. In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14), the Pharisee went to the Lord with a masked face, justifying himself. The tax collector however removed his mask and in humility requested God to have mercy on him. That is the type of worship Jesus recommends for all believers. As a good friend of mine will say, “let us fellowship without masks”. When believers remove their masks, the Ghanaian society can feel the effect of the 72% Christian population. 

Apostle Ekow Badu Wood, the Area Head of Kasoa Area of The Church of Pentecost, rightly stated at the 2021 Greater Accra Ministers and Wives’ Conference of the church that, “The agent of transformation is conscious of his ministry from Monday through Saturday. He considers his life as a calling from God to engage and transform the world. The call to be an agent of transformation is a call to stop letting our Christianity start and end on Sunday. Instead, the fellowship on Sunday is to prepare the agent to use their occupation, vocation, and life as an instrument throughout the week – from Monday through Sunday to transform their world.” Since we are tired of wearing the physical masks to church, let us be tired of the spiritual masks as well. The Christian is thus admonished to take off his or her mask and present his real self to God for Him to work on his heart, so he can go back to the society and influence his sphere with the values and principles of the kingdom of God.

Writer’s Email Address: eric.akude@yahoo.com

Dr Ofotsu

PENTECOSTAL POWER AMIDST A PANDEMIC: A Story Of The Contact Between The Pandemic And Baptism With The Holy Spirit In Ghanaian Pentecostalism. – By Elder Dr. S. Ofotsu Ofoe

Abstract

What classical Pentecostals appropriate that enables their unparalleled response to missions has been identified as the baptism in the Holy Spirit. This largely informs the emphasis placed on this pneumatic phenomenon. Believers are strongly encouraged to desire this unfailing grace bestowed by Christ. Often special meetings are organised to seek for this encounter usually through prayer with laying of hands of church leaders on those who seek this experience. The usual proximity for the practice and the various bodily contacts especially the imposition of hands of the minister of the baptism on the recipient has been limited by the present global pandemic. Within a pandemic in which medical sciences put restrictions on the means through which this central praxis of Pentecostalism is carried out, this important practice by which Pentecostals receive power for kingdom work faces crises. This study uses a mixed designed mostly within The Church of Pentecost (CoP) to show how the pandemic influences the baptism in the Holy Spirit with respect to the means by which the baptism is imparted by human agents. The study reckons that the pandemic had a negative bearing on this Pentecostal distinctiveness. It recommends that the Holy Spirit and Christ, the baptiser in the Holy Spirit cannot be undermined by the COVID-19 pandemic with its limitation on bodily contacts and its tenet of social distancing. Emphasis should be placed on other means of receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit by learning from the Bible and from cases mainly in the history of Pentecostalism in Ghana. This would enable the Pentecostal practice of the baptism in the Holy Spirit for continual Pentecostal power notwithstanding pandemics of this nature.

Introduction

Pentecostalism since its renewal at the turn of the 20th century has grown to become a force to reckon with in world Christianity. The movement has been distinguished as a “third force in Christendom.” The Pentecostal movement has made incursions into diverse Christian traditions. Today, Professor Cephas Narh Omenyo could speak of “Pentecost outside Pentecostalism.” Dr. Alfred Koduah also talks of pentecostalisation of Christianity in Ghana. The Pentecostal fire keeps on burning its way into various Christian traditions and advancing Christian missions. With the realization by many scholars, both in and out of Africa that the heartland of Christianity has shifted from the West to the southern hemisphere, much of the growth is to be found within Pentecostalism. Thus especially in Africa, South of the Americas and Asia, Pentecostals are on the move preaching the gospel to the ends of the earth. In fact, they are giving hope to the Euro-American West due to their efforts in “reverse mission” to the Western places.

This fervency and committed response to missions is due to a distinctive experience with the Holy Spirit in which one becomes empowered for service. This is mainly based on Matthew 3:11; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:5, 8, 2:1-18, 8:14-17 among others. This experience called baptism in the Holy Spirit evidenced by speaking in tongues and operation in spiritual gifts has been the heartbeat of modern Pentecostals since the tail end of 1900. The dictum of belief in this regard goes like this, “that in the apostolic times, the speaking in tongues was considered to be the initial physical evidence of a person having received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.” The outburst of the Pentecostal movement really took off in 1906 and the movement knew no bounds since then.

This essay shall take a brief look into the Pentecostal teaching of Holy Spirit baptism, consider the praxis of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and its implication for the current global pandemic. Data were collected using written interviews of 7 classical Pentecostal pastors; the years 2018, 2019 and 2020 field statistical progress reports on the baptism in the Holy Spirit collected from 20 administrative districts of the CoP in the Greater Accra region; and by participant observation. These would be analyzed towards assessing the progress of the baptism in the Holy Spirit in the face of the COVID-19. The 2018 and 2019 reports would be compared to that of 2020, the year of the pandemic. Using cases from the Bible and church history, other means of receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit against the traditional practice of receiving the experience would be explored. These usual ways have been seriously compromised by the pandemic. I shall not delve into the history (emergence and progress) of the Ghanaian Pentecostal movement here. “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” and “Baptism with the Holy Spirit” have been used interchangeably in this essay.

“Second Blessing”

Pentecostal pneumatology is a fast-developing field of theology. This is partly as a result of the special attention given to the Holy Spirit by Pentecostals. It may seem at first sight that in salvation, Pentecostals place more importance on the Holy Spirit. Actually, Christ is the centre of Pentecostal teaching. As Keith Warrington, a New Testament scholar would put it, “Pentecostalism is pneumatologically Christocentric.” Dale Bruner’s assertion that Pentecostal theology is “pneumatobaptistocentric” is flawed. Pentecostal theological thinking revolves entirely around Christ through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit which is bestowed by Christ.

For Pentecostals, the role of the Holy Spirit in salvation does not end with the rebirth experience. Beyond conversion-initiation of a person into Christ, there is another experience with the Holy Spirit. This Pentecostal theology emanates out of the setting of the Holiness Movement in which spirit baptism was seen as a sanctification experience towards perfection in Christ. This baptism in the Holy Spirit took a new understanding in the classical Pentecostal movement. This overshadowed the erstwhile interpretation as sanctification. In the new understanding, the baptism empowers the disciple of Christ for ministry in the kingdom of God.

In salvation, the Holy Spirit enables the regeneration of a person who has repented, come into faith in Christ and confessed the Lordship of Christ. The spirit is bestowed upon the person to transform the person into a new creation. Subsequent to this is a post-conversion experience with the Holy Spirit. Here, the Christian noticeably encounters the Holy Spirit. This “second blessing” is a nerve centre of Pentecostal thought and practice. Pentecostals have lived up to expectation per their claim of power after this experience. How do they seek this blessing in practice?

The Pentecostal Distinctive Practice of Baptism in the Holy Spirit

In classical Pentecostal churches, special times are set aside for prayers to seek the experience. This is announced to the church earlier on. It is sometimes accompanied by fasting. Apart from these special times, baptism in the Holy Spirit may become necessary in any church meeting due to the leadings of the Holy Spirit. The church leaders may be moved to lead the church to pray for the experience. This Pentecostal practice is an automatic part of conventions, gospel crusades and rallies. These are reported on by church leaders to their immediate superiors. Those who do not have a show of an appreciable number of people receiving the baptism for the period under review are queried. The power that the experience brings and the accompanying evidence incites many people to seek the experience. In this practice, “tarry meetings” are used to engage the Holy Spirit in deeper depths. The mindset of Pentecostal Christians, their expectation and the consequent result are well captured in this Pentecostal classic by E. C. W. Boulton:

Tarry for the Spirit

He shall come in showers,

Energising wholly

All your ransomed power;

Signs shall follow service

In the Holy Ghost,

Then the Church of Jesus

Prove a mighty host

On, then, Church of Jesus,

Claim your Pentecost;

God shall now baptise you

In the Holy Ghost

The meetings proceed with relevant sermons expounding on the baptism. These sermons are usually accompanied by testimonies. The sermons are interjected with spontaneous singing and shouts of hallelujah. A key aspect of this ministration is to explain to the congregation that the baptism gives the Christian power to witness, and enables the Christian to live a holy and victorious Christian life. It is taught that the physical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues or other languages. These tongues may be known languages as in Acts 2:4-12 or mysteries according to 1 Corinthians 14:2. The preachers with a certain kind of enthusiasm would inform the congregation that “your tongue would change when you receive the baptism.”

The sermon is followed by hot Pentecostal songs about the Holy Spirit amidst drumming and clapping. The way the singing is done in these services seems to suggest that it is in this ecstatic environment that the Holy Spirit moves and get people baptised in him. Was this the case in the upper room on the “Day of Pentecost?” The prayer leader in many instances would invite the congregation especially persons that are yet to receive the experience to leave the pews and move forward. This is usually to give more space for people to comfortably pray. Frenzied happenings are expected during the prayer sessions so space is needed. The people are instructed to queue up in an orderly manner. This is to allow the church leaders to move among them freely to minister the baptism. Those who have received the baptism are encouraged to pray for themselves and for the ones who now seek the experience. The seekers are, in many instances, urged to pray and also keep on saying “Jesus, Jesus” in anticipation of the baptism.

After much prayer the leaders of the church especially the elders go and walk among and people to pray for them. They go to impart the baptism in the Holy Spirit. This ministration comes in diverse ways. One would often hear the prayer leader say, “the elders would now come and lay their hands on you.” Laying of hands as a means by which the baptism is done is not exhaustive. Other actions are seen being used for the ministration. Key methods used include breathing on seekers, putting fingers in their ears, pointing a finger on the forehead, holding the shoulders with two hands, putting hands on the eyes, raising the chin, placing the hands over the ears, holding the hands, rubbing the face with the hands, and putting hands on the chest. Many fall under the power of the Holy Spirit with shouts, groaning and speaking in tongues.

Whilst we can say that all these resonate with African primal religion, it is found in classical Pentecostal “Holy Spirit prayer sessions” not only in Africa but in the West and elsewhere. When the Holy Spirit descended at the Azusa Street in the USA in 1906, similar scenes were witnessed. The media portrayed the phenomenon at Azusa as “general chaos and a weird babel of tongues.” In this case, it was not merely African spirituality that was in the background. This way of life is to be identified with classical Pentecostals no matter where they find themselves. These methods used in the Pentecostal practice of baptism in the Holy Spirit are opposed to the protocols of the present global pandemic.

Baptism in the Holy Spirit and Medical Sciences Concerns in the Pandemic

The current global pandemic has gravely affected our everyday life. In Ghana, restrictions were imposed on the usual church meetings. On March 15, 2020, the president of the republic, H. E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in an address concerning the fight against the pandemic, imposed restrictions on gathering including church meetings. The restrictions were eased in another address on May 31, 2020. The CoP for instance directed its churches to reopen for public worship starting on or after June 19, 2020. Thus for about 3 months, churches did not meet in the usual way.

Humans are highly sociable beings. Works that drive life require that we physically interact with one another. However, the means of transmission of the SARS-Cov-19 virus which causes the coronavirus disease breaks down the human social system. Perhaps, humanity would have to be thankful for the sophisticated tools of communication made possible by advanced technology. This has helped to alleviate the negative impact.

The virus gets into the human body via the mucosal lining in especially the eyes, nostrils, and mouth. These parts of the human anatomy are opened to the air. From an infected human, the air becomes contaminated with the virus through droplets. The structure of the virus enables it to attach itself to receptors on cell surface when it gets into the human body. It later penetrates the cell surface, replicates and multiply.

Considering how the COVID-19 virus is spread from one person to another, the various methods used in imparting the baptism in the Holy Spirit, as observed from practice, have been crippled. Medical sciences preventive measures of keeping a social distancing of not less than two arm’s length, not touching the eyes, nose or the mouth among other protocols eliminate the highly used bodily contact methods in the impartation. Meanwhile, these supposed means of receiving the baptism are deeply rooted in the minds of Ghanaian Pentecostals.

Data Analysis

7 classical Pentecostal pastors selected from 5 different administrative regions of Ghana; Northern, Eastern, Volta, Bono East and Greater Accra regions have been interviewed. The interview questions were 10 in all; 5 closed-ended and the other 5 opened-ended. All of them (100%) were very much aware of the COVID-19 protocols. Within this pandemic, all the pastors organised sessions of Holy Spirit Baptism. This points out the important place of the baptism in the Holy Spirit in Pentecostal thought and practice. All of the interviewees observed the protocols in their practice of the baptism. Classical Pentecostal church leaders are increasingly becoming considerate of medical sciences though divine healing is a centre of Pentecostal theology. They have rightly given a place for medical science in their doctrine of divine healing. In heeding the protocols, the prayers for the baptism were done by the leaders for the seekers from a distance. Concerning how the baptism was imparted, all the pastors responded that it was done by “praying for the seekers of the baptism from the platform as they [the seekers] stand in their pews.” 4 of the interviewees were of the view that the laying of hands impact on whether a person gets baptised or not. The other 3 responded otherwise.

From the year 2018, reports from 20 districts of the CoP that have been selected in the Greater Accra region, the cumulative number of persons who received the baptism in the Holy Spirit was 2707. In the year 2019, the reports from the same districts totaled 2688. This shows a reduction by 19 (0.7%) of the year 2019 figure against that of 2018. In the year 2020, these 20 districts show 1010 as the number of people who have received the baptism. Evaluating the year 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic-stricken year, against the year 2018, a reduction by 1697 (62.7%) is observed. A reduction by 1678 (62.4%) is also seen when the figure of the year 2019 is used for comparison.

There has been a very significant reduction in the number of persons who received the baptism in the Holy Spirit? Has the frequency of the baptism services reduced? Almost all the interviewees organised a few of the baptism sessions. They pinned this on the COVID-19 protocols. One of them responded that “We are mindful of the COVID-19 protocols and the fact that at times people will have to be supported by strong deacons to avoid injuries when they are touched by the Holy Spirit.” Also, can this be pinned down on the reduction in church attendance? To a very less extent, the restrictions to church meetings for some weeks would influence this reduction. However, this study realizes that the protocols accompanying this pandemic are a more significant factor. This suggests that if the parameter of church attendance remains constant, there would be a significant reduction in cases of the baptism. This would be due to the no praying very close to seekers, laying of hands, breathing upon seekers, and putting fingers in the ears of seekers by church leaders in accordance with the protocols.

The Practice of Baptism in the Holy Spirit: Cases in the New Testament and Modern Church History in Ghana

Cases in the Acts narrative that apprise the Pentecostal teaching of baptism in the Holy Spirit with evidence of speaking in tongues present with diverse circumstances under which the baptism takes place. In the first instance in Acts 2, it was within a corporate tarry meeting that the Spirit descended. In obedience to the instruction of Jesus in Acts 1:4-5 to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father God, the believers waited in prayer until they had the phenomenal experience. The immediate event which led to the baptism was most intriguing. A noise sounded like a mighty rushing wind was heard. They sighted what appears to be tongues of fire that separated and rested on each of them. It is recorded that all those gathered were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues. Here, no hands were laid on the recipients of the baptism; not on their heads, shoulders, eyes, or any other part of the body.

The baptism in the Holy Spirit that took place in the home of Cornelius as recorded in Acts 10:44-46 presents with a similar case in which the family was filled with the Holy Spirit during Peter’s preaching. Apostle Peter did not use any special method that involves touching the recipients. Nevertheless, they received the baptism. To show that they have received the baptism, Peter in his narration of the event said, “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remember the word of the Lord, how he said, John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 11:15-16, NIV). Thus Peter connected the event at the home of Cornelius with the “you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” word given to the disciples by Jesus.

In Acts 19:1-6, at Ephesus, Paul encountered a group of disciples who were not aware of the Holy Spirit not to talk of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Paul explained issues to them and placed his hands on them. This saw these Ephesian Christians speaking in tongues and prophesying. This case as well as in Acts 8:14-19 in which the Christians in Samaria received the Holy Spirit after Apostles Peter and John laid their hands show that laying on of hands is also a means by which baptism with the Holy Spirit can be ministered. But it is not an exclusive means, of course.

Many continue to be baptised in the Holy Spirit. Church history, globally and locally showed cases. An old Methodist preacher has this to say as captured in T. L. Osborn’s The Purpose of Pentecost: “We Methodists were praying together when we heard a noise, like the sound of a rushing wind in our prayer room, whereupon we gazed with wonder as cloven tongues of fire actually appeared upon our heads. In awe and worship of God, we were caught up in a heavenly atmosphere, speaking and singing in other languages.” This experience with the Holy Spirit was not made possible by the placement of hands on these Christians.

In the CoP, there have many instances in which people received the baptism with the Holy Spirit without the physical bodies of church leaders serving as bridges through which the baptism happens. John Mensah, one of the earliest healers in the CoP (then Ghana Apostolic Church) received the baptism which he very much desired during his personal prayers as recounted in volume 1 of A History of the Church of Pentecost. It is said that he personally fasted and prayed fervently for the baptism. His day of joy came one day when he woke up around 1 a.m. to pray. As he prays, he began to speak in tongues suddenly.

Opoku Onyinah, the 5th chairman of the CoP also received the baptism through personal prayer. He narrated to me with joy how he got baptised as a young Christian. Then a Roman Catholic, he desired the baptism and got the experience eventually. He joined in a CoP prayer session during a time that Pentecostals would call “tarrying for the Spirit,” to pray for the baptism. He did not receive the experience immediately. He did not give up but continued his pursuit of the pneumatic encounter with fasting and prayer. On the last day of a seven-day fast, he went to a hide-out in a bush to pray. On his way to the place, he met another Roman Catholic who, like Opoku, was also seeking the baptism in the Holy Spirit. He requested this person to join him to pray in the bush. The two found themselves in a time of prayer. During the prayers, as he puts, “my tongue changed and I began to speak in tongues.”

James Kwaku Gyimah of Akroso, Stephen Owiredu of Brekumanso, among many other cases indicate diverse ways in which the baptism can happen. Other ways include the prayerful reading of the Bible, praying for seekers of the baptism from a distance without any bodily contact, and listening to the preaching of the word of God.

It is evident from the above that in the practice of the baptism, the Bible and evidence from the continual work of the Lord in history show that Christ, the baptiser with the Holy Spirit employs varied ways to course one to get the encounter. The methods that have become popular and the norm in Ghanaian Pentecostalism have swept under the carpet, the other ways in which the Lord can deal with his people.

The laying of hands has been revealed in the Bible as a means by which graces can be bestowed; being in ordination or special blessings. The Old Testament presents examples of this. For instance, Moses laid his hands on Joshua (Deuteronomy 34:9). Some patristic theologians took up the issue of the Spirit being given through the laying on of hands. Tertullian, Cyril of Jerusalem, Athanasius, Chrysostom, among others. Cyril of Jerusalem for example indicated that power has been designated by Christ to the Apostles to convey the Spirit through the laying of hands. Athanasius held a similar view. The interest of the church fathers on this issue was largely in the area of who qualifies to lay hands. Meanwhile, the laying of hands in Ghanaian Pentecostalism has become a baptismal rite that one who needs a baptism in the Holy Spirit has to go through. This method as a means of imparting the baptism in the Holy Spirit emerged from the cases in Acts 8 and 19.

Other methods evolved from diverse interpretations of biblical phenomena and perhaps from African primal religious practices. For example, John 20:22 in which Jesus breathed on his disciples to receive the Holy Spirit is sometimes used to justify breathing on seekers of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. On the contrary, this act by Jesus does not define a format for the baptism. Putting fingers in the ears is understood by some who ministers the baptism as a way of getting the ears of the seekers opened so they could hear from God and speak mysteries. This may have been wrongly picked up from Mark 7:32-35. More so and here too, Jesus putting his fingers in the ears of a man to heal him of deafness does not define a pattern for getting the ears of people opened whether spiritually or physically.

Conclusion

This essay has shown that baptism in the Holy Spirit, a distinctive classical Pentecostal practice has been impacted negatively by the present pandemic. The study points to the normative use of bodily contact between church leaders and seekers of the baptism in the Holy Spirit as underlining this impact. These popular methods used to minister the baptism have been undermined by the COVID-19 protocols. The methods also put in oblivion other ways by which the Lord used to baptise people with the Holy Spirit. The other means of receiving the experienced must be explored and built up in the minds of Christians. The Christian must come to grips with the fact that the Holy Spirit per his ontological nature cannot be limited by time and space. He cannot be undermined by the protocols of the present pandemic. We can be immersed in unlimited ways into the Holy Spirit by Christ. Restrictions that the pandemic placed on other aspects of church life should not limit Christ, the baptiser in the Holy Spirit. Pentecostal power must be on the go within any pandemic that may hit the world.

Apostle Joseph Egyir-Paintsil - poster

“Joseph, Where Art Thou!” – A Life Story Of The Late Apostle Joseph Egyir-Paintsil

He stumbled upon Jesus at the age of 18, while on his way to the movies in pre-colonial Ghana, something that was considered the epitome of worldliness at that time. And yes, despite his strict Methodist upbringing, after returning from school he was steep into the secular life. Smoking, drinking, bad companies, you name it. Besides, it was December 31st and who wouldn’t want to have good time?

But this night was different. He overheard a tall, slender Caucasian male preaching from Genesis 3:9. He screamed with a sharp Irish accent, “Adam, where art thou?” Then the call changed to “Joseph, where art thou?” He was Joseph, but the Irish man didn’t know him from Adam! The call echoed in his heart, after a short consideration he abandoned his friends and responded to the call to give his life to Christ!

The Irish man was Pastor James McKeown, the founder of The Church of Pentecost, the 18-year-old youth was the Late Apostle Joseph Egyir-Paintsil!

In a matter of days, he was baptized into water and later the Holy Spirit. Afterwards, “In his own words, quoting John Wesley, “My heart was greatly warmed.”

In hindsight, his heart was more than warmed, it was set on fire! He pursued the things of God with fierce tenacity! Shortly after the baptism with the Holy Spirit, he joined a prayer team called the “Bombing Squad!” A group, James McKeown took keen interest in, and not surprisingly, most of the young men in that team became prominent ministers.

Joseph was then called into full-time ministry at 21 years.

He became an apostle and the first general secretary of the Church of Pentecost at 23 years of age! The youngest person to serve in the position and the longest serving, holding the position for 29 years until his untimely death. By this, he laid a solid administrative infrastructure for the church; vestiges of which remain till today!

A handsome, sharp, and charismatic young man who knew his value and placed an outsized value for the things of God!

He travelled the length and breadth of the country to establish new churches and strengthen old churches. He did this mostly with public transportation. When he finally got a vehicle, it was a battered yellow Peugeot handed down after being used extensively. Due to financial constraints he had to make do with the vehicle!

The automobile was notorious for breaking down during long journeys. It broke down under torrential tropical rains causing Pastor Paintsil along with the few passengers to push the car over a mile!

When he preached, the heavens came down. A powerful charismatic young man who taught the word of God with power and clarity.

He was known for baptizing people in water and fire at the same time, as most of the people he baptized in water came out speaking in diverse tongues!

He had an incredible healing ministry. A child suffering from seizures was healed instantly under his ministration. Another child who had developed epistaxis, (nosebleeds) for 3 days straight was prayed for at the parsonage and received immediate healing!

He had a powerful prophetic ministry! In fact, after his death, James McKeown disclosed most pastors and apostles called under his tenure were called through prophetic messages delivered by Rev. Paintsil.

When a young military man, Felix Elvis Antwi stayed with him for 2 weeks on a military assignment in Accra, his life was transformed fundamentally. He recalled Apostle Paintsil waking up at 4:30am consistently on a daily basis, pacing his front porch while praying. His family would later join him at 5am for devotion!

After returning from work, late Apostle Paintsil will head to Labadi beach, yards away from his residence to pray some more! This prayer life, and commitment to God, left an indelible impression on the military man. When Felix got into ministry, he mimicked Apostle Paintsil’s pattern of ministry!

He also witnessed and emulated his love for his wife and the intentionality in his parenting. Again, traits the young military man replicated in his life!

He embraced the educated, and well-to-do, into the church which was predominantly for people on the lower end of socioeconomic spectrum at that time.

He chaired the first national conference of the Pentecost Students and Associates (PENSA) in 1980. 

He spearheaded the formation of Pentecost Fire as the church’s official mouthpiece and become the co-editor of publication.

He shared James McKeown’s vision of productive collaboration with other churches and was instrumental in forming Ghana Pentecostal Council (GPC).

Rev. Paintsil was a visionary who saw the church decades away and positioned her in the light of what he saw. He purchased prime real estate/lands for the residences of the Chairman and General Secretary, which continue to be used after over half a century.

Between 1953 and 1962, The Church of Pentecost hit its most tumultuous period. A portion of the African leaders planned a daylight coup against the founder, James McKeown. While James McKeown was vacationing abroad, a team comprising mainly of elders, impassioned by brewing nationalism of the time, plotted to wrestle the chairmanship plotted out of the hands of James McKeown and replace him with an African Chairman. Not only was Rev. Paintsil one of the most influential voices at the time, he was also a blood relative of Apostle Anaman, the deputy chairman and the proposed African chairman.

All eyes were on Rev. Paintsil as to where his allegiance will fall. Along with the attention came attacks, both spiritual and physical. But none of that shook Rev. Paintsil. He pledged his allegiance to the founder of the church and his God! He stood his ground and actively steered the church through this turbulent period. He was one of the founder’s most trusted confidants. The chaos and schism went all the way to the then President of Ghana who advised the name change. Rev. Paintsil was part of the leadership that rebranded the church from Gold Coast Apostolic Church to the Church of Pentecost. After the meeting, President Kwame Nkrumah, remarked to his cabinet, “this Paintsil man is very intelligent and hardworking, His church will succeed!” 

And yes, his church succeeded!

Today, the church he fought and toiled for is 3 million people strong, in more than 100 countries around the world and actively growing.

Exactly 40 years ago today, the world and The Church of Pentecost lost this preeminent founding father. A man among men, a person of unparalleled calibre, charisma, and grace. After a revelation of his passing in December, he addressed the whole nation of Ghana in February, and on this very day, March 22, 1981, at a prime age of 53, with a promising future ahead, he went to be with the Lord. Late Apostle Joseph Egyir-Paintsil has left a legacy that worthy of emulation by this and future generations. He has left behind a spiritual, ministerial and an administrative inheritance that will speak for generations to come!

The life of late Apostle Paintsil, is a reminder of how ready our God is to use all who avail themselves! The Holy Spirit is no respecter of persons, and He is no respecter of age either! A 23-year-old today may be considered an unsettled college graduate who needs another decade to decipher the direction of their lives. But 23 years in the sight of God can be an Apostle, manifesting all 5 ministering giftings, exercise multiple spiritual gifts, and build the administrative foundation for a church to thrive four decades later! 

Today we don’t only celebrate the legacy of Apostle Paintsil. We celebrate a God who can use anyone, of any gender, at any age for his own glory.

“Joseph, where art thou?” Samuel, David, Peter, Mary, Elizabeth, Beatrice where art thou?” God is calling, and He is ready to use you as His instrument for this and future generations!

God richly bless you!

By Samuel Antwi-Boasiako, MD

The Grace Movement!

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Coronavirus One Year On: Ghana, South Korea Named As Two Countries That Got It Right Globally With 3 Others Getting It Wrong – Article by Darren Lilleker, Professor of Political Communication, Bournemouth University

On March 11 2020, the World Health Organization declared that the COVID-19 public health emergency had become a pandemic: 114 countries were affected, there were 121,500 confirmed cases and more than 4,000 people had succumbed to the virus.

One year on, we have now seen 115 million confirmed cases globally and more than 2.5 million deaths from COVID-19.

“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly,” said the Director-General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on that day in 2020. But in the year since that announcement, the fates of many countries have depended on how leaders have chosen their words.

The impact of the pandemic was unprecedented and all governments faced challenges dealing with a severe but highly unpredictable threat to the lives of their citizens. And some governments responded better than others.

While some leaders were swinging into action, Boris Johnson was shaking hands with COVID patients. Will Oliver

My colleagues and I recently carried out a comparative study of how 27 countries responded to the emergence of the virus and first wave, and how they communicated that response to their citizens.

We invited national experts to analyse their government’s communication style, the flow of information on coronavirus and the actions taken by civil society, mapping these responses onto the numbers of cases and deaths in the country in question. Our work reveals contrasting responses that reflect a nation’s internal politics, suggesting that a government’s handling of the pandemic was embedded in existing patterns of leadership.

With news of the spread of COVID-19 flowing across international borders, domestic preventative measures needed to be explained carefully. The WHO proved ill-equipped, provided equivocal and flawed advice regarding international travel, even from Hubei province, and equivocated on the efficacy of wearing masks. So much came down to how individual leaders communicated with their citizens about the risks they faced.

Experts in crisis management and social psychologists emphasise the importance of clarity and empathy in communicating during a health emergency.

So who did well and who missed the mark?

South Korea and Ghana

We found two major examples of this style of communication working well in practice. South Korea avoided a lockdown due to clearly communicating the threat of COVID-19 as early as January, encouraging the wearing of masks (which were common previously within the nation in response to an earlier Sars epidemic) and quickly rolling out a contact-tracing app.

Each change in official alert level, accompanied by new advice regarding social contact, was carefully communicated by Jung Eun-Kyung, the head of the country’s Centre for Disease Control, who used changes in her own life to demonstrate how new guidance should work in practice.

Ghana’s President

The transparency of this approach was echoed in the communication style of the Ghanaian president, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

Akufo-Addo took responsibility for coronavirus policy and explained carefully each measure required, being honest about the challenges the nation faced. Simple demonstrations of empathy earned him acclaim within his nation and also around the world.

“We know how to bring the economy back to life. What we don’t know is how to bring people back to life,” he famously said.

Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has been clear and transparent in his messaging on coronavirus.

Brazil, the UK and India

South Korea and Ghana adopted a consistent tone highlighting the risks of the new pandemic and how they could be mitigated. Nations that fared less well encouraged complacency and gave out inconsistent messages about the threat of COVID-19.

In March 2020, just three weeks prior to placing the country under lockdown and catching COVID-19 himself, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson downplayed the threat, and said he had been shaking hands with infected people, against the recommendations of his expert advisers. Today, the UK has one of the highest per capita death rates from COVID in the world.

Avoiding a full initial lockdown, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro – who also contracted COVID-19 – called for normality to continue, challenging expert guidance and polarising opinion along partisan lines. Such practices led Brazilians to mistrust the official information and spread of misinformation, while adhering to containment measures became an ideological, rather than a public health, question.

‘It’s just a little flu.’ Brazil would be haunted by its president’s downplaying of the threat of COVID-19. Fernando Bizerra/EPA

Meanwhile, Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, announced a snap lockdown with just four hours notice, which caused an internal migration crisis, with poor labourers leaving cities to walk hundreds or thousands of miles to their rural homes. Understandably, the labourers prioritised their fears of homelessness and starvation over the risk of spreading COVID-19 around the country.

None of these responses effectively considered the impact that coronavirus would have on society, or that credibility is earned through consistency. The poor outcomes in each case are a partial reflection of these leadership mistakes.

Bad luck or bad judgement?

Of course, the unfolding of the pandemic was not solely down to good or bad communication from leaders. Health systems and demographics may also have played a role, and the worst impacted nations not only had strategic weaknesses but are also global transport hubs and popular destinations – London, New York, Paris and so on. With hindsight, closing borders would have been wise, despite the contrary advice from the World Health Organization.

Still, it’s evident that leaders who adopted clear, early, expert-led, coherent and empathic guidance fared well in terms of their standing with the public and were able to mitigate the worst effects of the virus.

On the other hand, those who politicised the virus, exhibited unrestrained optimism or took to last-minute decision-making oversaw some of the nations with the most cases and deaths.

Source: The Conversation