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Research Project: The Shaping of a New Form of Missionary Initiative from Africa

This is a description of my doctoral project on the History and Development of Mission in the Church of Pentecost

Research Background

By the end of 2003 when the Church of Pentecost (hereafter CoP) which was founded in Ghana celebrated her 50th anniversary, the church had planted one thousand, nine hundred and thirty-one churches in fifty-two countries.[1] In Ghana alone the Church of Pentecost had eight thousand, nine hundred branches spread over in every region of the country.[2] This includes most difficult areas in terms of accessibility and social amenities for which the Church has named ‘Internal Mission Areas’. In 1989 the Ghana Evangelism Committee published a survey of churches where the CoP was found to be the largest with regards to church attendance in Ghana.[3]  A further survey in 1993 revealed that CoP had become the biggest protestant church in Ghana.[4] Later in 2001, the Operation World church statistics confirmed this position.[5]  Leonard sees the church as one of the fastest growing churches in Africa,[6]  whilst Anderson admits that it is the largest of the classical Pentecostal churches in Ghana.[7]   


What is amazing is that James McKeown, an Irish and founder of the Church of Pentecost did not receive any formal theological training neither did he have any official orientation on missions.  He did not even consider formal education to be very important to ministry.   Yet the church that he founded has become very significant in the history of the church in Ghana. According to Anderson, Pentecostal mission “has not always been clearly formulated or strategized”.[8]  Lord observed that people with the experience of the Spirit are often drawn together as ‘communities’ and become “God’s vehicle for mission” into the world.[9]By all indications McKeown’s missionary methods were formulated in a manner that has become peculiar to him and the Church of Pentecost. Probably this mission history and missionary methods evolved as a result of how the early church fathers understood the Christian faith and could make interesting study particularly since it is mission from below.


Theoretical Framework

According to Anderson, “Pentecostalism has probably been the fastest religious movement in the twentieth century and it is now found in almost every country in the world. One of the reasons for this must surely be because it has always had a strong emphasis on mission and evangelism.”[10] The CoP is no exception to this global Pentecostal wave of revival or renewal. But what really was the motivating factor behind CoP’s achievement? Was it just the move and unction of the Holy Spirit? As explored by Dempster that “theological reflection on church mission by early Pentecostals started with the conviction that the New Testament church was called into existence and empowered for evangelistic witness throughout the world by the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.”[11] It would however be interesting to find out what missiological principles aided the Church of Pentecost to grow and sustain its growth. What missiological strategies are used in reaching other nations? What missionary methods are applied in establishing, managing and sustaining churches within and from Ghana? Are the structures assumed or real? How does the external or receiving end perceive CoP’s missionary strategies? Are the factors that aided COP to become the biggest and fastest in a decade still relevant in this post-modern era? How can these factors be re-developed to become a model for the church today? These questions and many more remained unanswered in the annals of the church. Yet other churches in Ghana keep wondering and asking ‘what is the secret of the Church of Pentecost?’ Asamoah-Gyadu contends that “the CoP has acquired a unique indigenous character marking it out as different in outlook from say the Assemblies of God, whose American imprint after sixty years of existence in Ghana is still visible.”[12]


Until recently when Kingsley Larbi published his book “Pentecostalism: The Eddies of Ghanaian Christianity” little had been known about the CoP in academia. Asamoah-Gyadu and Opoku Onyinah followed with PhD research on the CoP but none have attempted an extensive study on the mission of the Church. An attempt would therefore be made to understand these missionary methods. A thorough investigation, examination and evaluation would be made of these methods with the aim of developing a model that will reflect post-modern elements in a contextualized framework. An attempt would also be made to understand the faith of the early fathers that made them so zealous for the work of missions. This will lead us to test the hypothesis that Missionary methods of the Church of Pentecost are still relevant for the wider church today if they are re-defined to reflect post-modern elements. In this way the unwritten faith, principle and practice of the CoP would have been documented. As the biggest Protestant church in Ghana that has in someway produced leaders for the main Charismatic churches, such an outcome is expected to affect the wider church in Ghana in particular and other African Pentecostals.

As is true that a lot of work has already been done on missions generally, there is still “much work to be done in gaining an understanding of the varying factors affecting receptivity”[13] and also understanding the practice of mission from below.


Research Methodology

To develop a framework for studying the mission of the CoP, it is important to refer to the Mission Statement of the Church. The statement says that:

The Church of Pentecost is a worldwide, non-profit-making Pentecostal church with its headquarters in Accra, Ghana. It exists to bring all people everywhere to the saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the proclamation of the gospel, the planting of churches and the equipping of believers for every God-glorifying service. It demonstrates the love of God through the provision of social services in partnership with governments, communities and other like-minded organizations.[14]


Reference to the goal or statement of mission is important since it will help to offer an appropriate missionary strategy as well as determine the methodology. From the above statement and the questions raised in the hypothesis, the contextualization model will be used as a framework to evaluate the mission principle and practice of the CoP. According to Lord, Pentecostal approaches to mission are mainly contextual and that contextualization offers a better understanding of the gospel in particular communities.[15] The main features of the contextualization model include the following:

1.      A process whereby the gospel message encounters a particular culture, calling forth faith and leading to the formation of a faith community, which is culturally authentic and authentically Christian.

2.      Control of the process resides within the context rather than with an external agent or agency.

3.      Culture is understood to be a dynamic and evolving system of values, patterns of behavior, and a matrix shaping the life of the members of that society.[16]


Anderson reiterates that the issue of contextualization has been severally debated with little understanding of the term and often times confused with the concept of ‘indigenization’. He explains that whereas ‘indigenization’ connotes that “the gospel message and Christian theology are the same in all cultures and contexts” ‘contextualization’ “assumes that every theology is influenced by its particular context and must be so to be relevant.”[17]


Before the introduction of the contextualization model in the 1970s, earlier models had been the ‘identification’ or ‘replication’ and the ‘indigenization’ models. Incidentally, features of these are still apparent in modern trends and it is very likely to find all three models being followed.[18] To obtain an accurate result therefore, a historical approach will also be adopted in order to discover changing trends in a particular model but not losing track of evaluating the entire mission principle and practice in the general framework of the ‘contextualization’ model. Kwame Bediako claims that through exposure to the history of mission “it should be possible to appreciate and understand some of “the essential urges of Christianity” as these have manifested themselves in the different cultural contexts of mankind.” According to him, “Christian mission history itself provides parallels, insights and explanations to the puzzles we encounter in Christian mission.”[19]  


To facilitate the general methodological framework adopted, questionnaires will be developed and sent to at least 30 mission areas. The Areas will cover Australia, Europe, U.S.A., Africa, Asia, Middle East and South America. This will be done mainly by post or through the internet. A few mission areas will also be visited to conduct interviews and engage in participant observation. Archival material from the CoP head office will also be collected and analyzed. Other sources of information will include reports, correspondence and various materials from the International Missions Office. Secondary resources available on the subject – books, journals, articles, reports, minutes and published magazines will also be consulted.


The adequacy of the data collected will however be limited in that responses will dwell on the good will of the people who are the recipient of CoP’s missionary activities. Data collected would then be analyzed in the framework of our methodology. Methodological analysis is helpful since it tests the effectiveness of the methods employed against the goals or mission statement that has been set by the church or the Missionary organization and how activities have geared towards such goals. This will lead the researcher in making “suggestions for reinforcement or modification as the case may be.”










[1] The Church of Pentecost, International Missions End-of-Year Report. (Accra: COP, 2004) Appendix

[2] The Church of Pentecost, 2003 Headquarters, Regional/Areas, Movements, Committees and Boards Reports (Accra: COP, 2004). Appendix 1A

[3] Ghana Evangelism Committee, National Church Survey: Facing the Unfinished Task of the Church in Ghana (Accra: Ghana Evangelism Committee, 1989), 16-17.

[4] Ghana Evangelism Committee, National Church Survey: Facing the Unfinished Task of the Church in Ghana (Accra: Ghana Evangelism Committee, 1993), 24-25

[5] Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk with Robyn Johnstone, Operation World: 21st Century Edition, 1974, 6th Edition (Carlisle: Paternoster Lifestyle, 2001), 274

[6] Christine Leonard. 1989 A Giant in Ghana. Sussex: New Wine Ministries

[7] Allan Anderson, An Introduction to Pentecostalism,  p. 116.

[8] Allan Anderson, An Introduction to Pentecostalism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.        p. 207.

[9] Andrew Lord, Spirit-Shaped Mission: A Holistic Charismatic Missiology, Milton Keynes: Paternoster Press, 2005. p. 105.

[10] Allan Anderson, Introduction to Pentecostalism, p.206.

[11] Murray Dempster, “A Theology of the Kingdom: A Pentecostal Contribution” Samuel and Sugden (eds.), Mission As Transformation, pp. 48 – 49.

[12] J. Asamoah-Gyadu, Renewal Within African Christianity: A Study of Some Current Historical and Theological Developments Within Independent Indigenous Pentecostalism in Ghana, University of Birmingham, 2000. p. 23.

[13] Robert L. Montgomerry, Introduction to the Sociology of Missions, Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1999. p. 144.

[14] Culled from, Mission Statement of the Church of Pentecost, Home Page.

[15] A. Lord, Spirit-Shaped Mission, pp. 91 – 92.

[16] W. R. Shenk, Changing Frontiers, p. 56.

[17] A. Anderson, An Introduction to Pentecostalism, p. 212.

[18] W. R. Shenk, Changing Frontiers, pp 50 – 55. See also R. L. Montgomery, Introduction to the Sociology of Missions, p 156.

[19] K. Bediako, ‘World Evangelization, p. 65. See also V. R. Steuernagel, “An Evangelical Assessment of Mission, p. 12.

Contributed by:

Daniel Walker

Telford, United Kingdom
University of Birmingham
last modified 2011-02-09 14:21