The Church of Pentecost traces its origin to the ministry began by the Rev. James McKeown in 1937. James McKeown (1900-1989) whose parents originally came from Antrim, Northern Ireland, was born on 12th September, 1900 in Glenboig, Scotland. Terminating schooling at the age of eleven, McKeown had to help his father on the farm in their local market-town of Ballymena where he later became a train driver.
At the age of nineteen, through the ministry of Pastor Robert Mercer, McKeown got converted in the Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance (now Elim Pentecostal Churches) and was greatly influenced by George Jeffrey‟s' "Foursquare gospel.”
The Four Square Gospel means: Jesus Christ the Saviour, Sanctifier, Baptizer in the Holy Spirit Displaying very great enthusiasm and organizational ability, he soon came to play very active roles in the church, including the supervision of assemblies throughout Ayrshire Renfrewshire and Lanarkshire.
Later in 1935, at an Apostolic Church Convention, somebody prophesied that McKeown and his wife should go as missionaries to West Africa.
This happened at the time when a man in the Gold Coast (Ghana) by name Peter Anim, converted to Christ. His conversion was through reading of the "Sword of the Spirit" magazine. Anim later came into contact with the Apostolic Missions headquarters in Bradford and requested that they send down a missionary.
The Apostolics, considering this to be the will of God, decided to send McKeown to Ghana as their missionary. McKeown however did not accept the call until after two years, suspecting that the church was "using prophets and prophecies to carry out their own design, the hands being the hands of Esau and the voice being the voice of Jacob". Arriving finally in March 1937, McKeown settled in Asamankese with Anim, the man who had requested for a missionary.
After some doctrinal problems (issues which had to do with divine healing) which brought a division between McKeown and Anim, McKeown moved down to Winneba to start a new mission station for the Apostolic Church in June, 1938. Apostle Anim added the prefix Christ to his new founded church making it the " Christ Apostolic Church."
Right from the beginning of the new work, McKeown's determination was to apply what Rufus Anderson calls the "three self-formula," that is, his church would be "self-governing; selfsupporting and self-propagating". In this regard, his intention was to build an indigenous church with Ghanaian culture, Ghanaian ministers and finances generated from within the church.
He mentioned that "it would be difficult to grow an English Oak‟ in Ghana. A local 'species' at home in its culture should grow, reproduce and spread (where) a church with foreign roots was more likely to struggle". Obviously, McKeown might have arrived at this position as a result of practical observation of the other church missions in Ghana.
He was aware that the mainline churches westernized in their worship and practices and therefore had very little attraction for the ordinary man, McKeown's strategy was therefore to contextualize the gospel into the local situation and developed a mode of worship and practices that would attract even the ordinary person "the local species", who would eventually be able to lead the church.
In his opinion, Mckeown believed that Christianity should no longer be branded "the Whiteman‟s religion" but rather, a universal religion for all, including the black man literate and illiterate as well:
To make the ordinary person come to know Christ and to achieve his aim of indigenization, McKeown developed the philosophy of “just to evangelize” and make the people know God. His argument was that "once we have a strong church of people who know Jesus and the Holy Spirit, then everything else will follow”.
This by implication meant that McKeown was not going to provide social services as the other missionaries were doing. Perhaps McKeown had observed how little the missionaries who attempted to evangelize through the provision of social services had achieved and also the high costs of such services which had occasioned the closure of many such social services. It could also be because he did not have the resources to undertake such services since he had arrived in Ghana with only ten pounds.
As the church grew, apostles, prophets, pastors and overseers were called into full-time ministry to strengthen the work. McKeown and his wife Sophia moved from Winneba to Cape Coast in 1942 and finally to the capital, Accra in 1948.
In 1952, Dr. Thomas Wyatt and his Latter Rain Ministry were invited to the Gold Coast to hold revival meetings in the Apostolic Church. This visit brought in tremendous healings and other manifestation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The aftermath however brought a great controversy in the Apostolic Church headquarters which subsequently led to the amendment of the constitution of the Apostolic Church in the U.K. In May 1953, during the Apostolic Church's General Council meetings, the Church's President, Rev. Hugh Dawson called on all participants to re-affirm or ratify the amended constitution by standing.
The amended constitution segregated the white Apostles from the blacks stating, “An African could be an Apostle to Blacks, but a white Apostle was an Apostle to the whole church”. McKeown, judging this amendment to be unscriptural and discriminatory, refused to ratify it and was subsequently dismissed from the Apostolic Church.
When the Apostolic Church in Gold Coast heard of McKeown's dismissal "on their account", many of them broke away from the home church and renamed themselves "The Gold Coast Apostolic Church". They invited McKeown to return from UK to lead them. The few who did not join McKeown maintained the original name "the Apostolic Church of Gold Coast".
Later in 1957 when the country became independent, both churches substituted "Ghana" for Gold Coast as part of their name. The similarities between the two names brought so much confusion to the ordinary man such that in August 1962, McKeown's church, the Gold Coast Apostolic Church, adopted the name "The Church of Pentecost”.
When the dust of the break with the Apostolic Church and its aftermath had settled in 1962 and the church had taken the new name (The Church of Pentecost), membership stood at 20,000.
The two decades which followed until McKeown retired in 1982, saw the church experiencing growth in geometric progression to over 170,000. 1982 and thereafter did not only mark the beginning of indigenous church leadership for the Church of Pentecost but also a point of testing of McKeown's missionary success.
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