We know that God often takes the metaphorical loaves and fishes and produces miracles – the last few days I have witnessed one. A Pastor called James McKeown left the UK in the 1950’s and headed to the warmer climate of Ghana. There wasn’t a welcome committee for him or an established church for him to lead – he was arriving as a pioneer missionary, starting with virtually nothing. There was no trip advisor, google maps, skype or any other gadgets that we’re accustomed to using on our travels today – but there was the very same passion that I see motivate many modern missionaries – a passion to make a difference in the world.
What an impact this man made. Today I stood among the present leaders of what Pastor James McKeown founded – the Church of Pentecost. He sowed for years into this country (under the covering of the Elim Church in the UK) and laid great foundations. He’s no longer alive but his vision very much is. What I experienced was a church that now:
- Has a membership of 2.6 million people
- Is working in 91 different nations
- Has 18,000 churches
In 2014 alone they started 956 new churches and baptised 160,248. The grace of God is so evident on their lives and work – they take no credit – they point to God as the source of all the amazing things they are seeing. They have developed in other ways also. They run:
- a university with 3625 students just outside Accra
- a bible school to train ministers (which a number of Elim ministers have been principal of over the years including Lionel Currie and John Waller)
- 87 schools
- 8 health centres
- 49 micro-credit schemes to empower new business start ups
- their own TV channel
They have also just built the largest conference venue in Ghana which sleeps around 3000 people with various auditoriums holding over 9000 people in total – it’s a bit like a new city springing up in the middle of what was just waste land – they are even building a police station in the year ahead. From such small beginnings it’s incredible to see all that is happening. All of this has happened in such a relatively short time and they’re not finished growing yet. The church now makes up 8.4% of the total population (estimated to be around 26.5 million) and have seen annual growth in all ages for a number of years. They have gained great influence in this African country building relationships will all sectors of leadership – they are incrementally impacting this nation. (I noticed a plaque that identified the countries president had officially opened their conference centre) So what can we learn from this miracle? The context is so different from the UK and their approaches to many things may not translate. As I stood for hours in a very Ghanian worship service I felt God give me some advice. He said ‘Don’t look at what they are doing – look at what I am doing through them’. I have followed this throughout the week and have enjoyed following this up with the question ‘Why are you doing this through them God?’ I have come to a few possible answers:
- They are serious about the great commission – I don’t mean that they preach it and make reference to it in their mission statement – they place this as the highest instruction in their lives and are getting on with it with great urgency.
- They hold everything lightly. There is a process called the ‘white paper’ where the COP executive council instruct people where they are to move to – it’s a bit like a military army getting their assignment from their generals – these assignments can be anywhere in the world and often involve great upheaval for families, but they go with it. They sing a song ‘where you lead me I will follow’ and they mean it – they actually mean it. Compare this to leaders in a western context who can be reluctant to move somewhere never mind anywhere.
- They carry a grace and are mindful this is Gods provision and doing. There are outstanding leaders – naturally gifted, well trained (lots of Phd and Masters degree holders) and visionaries but they’re extremely careful in their language, actions and culture to ensure God is understood as central to their work. Everything they do seems to involve searching for the mind of God.
- They pray and worship – hours can go by as they do so even in public gatherings. Their corporate worship may be a culture shock for some western churches but there is no doubting their passion. Their prayer is not like the shopping list approach that has become all too common place in western church – it is an expression of honour, intimacy and seeking the presence of God. I’m sure their humility comes from regularly standing in the presence of someone greater!
I’m inspired – inspired by the courage of one man who started this. Inspired by the way others have built on that legacy and inspired by their focus and dedication in taking the gospel to others. It’s wonderful to see this miracle in our day!