The last week witnessed PIWC-Kokomlemle celebrating the institutionalization of the PIWC concept; an idea that has been vilified and scandalized in much the same measure as it’s been lauded and praised to the heavens for being the panacea for the growth and development of The Church of Pentecost. Indeed for me, the PIWCs of today represent a microcosm of The Church of Pentecost for the next generation.
It is therefore imperative that we take advantage of this 25th Anniversary Celebrations to re-appraise the entire concept vis-a-vis the successes, challenges and pitfalls in order to make some good suggestions on the way forward.
At the inception of the then Accra International Worship Centre (AIWC) and its counterpart in Kumasi (KIWC), leadership of the church appeared to have been very favourably disposed towards the international worship centres. However there was a large segment of the church populace that were in no mood to accept them as members of the church who were genuinely committed to its growth. This was largely traceable to the relaxation and abandonment of some age-long church practices in these centres. Some of these people were ministers and officers of the church while others were members. For them, their understanding was that this group of ‘abrofosem’(modern-day) people had a hidden motive to control the church with the wealth that it was bound to aggregate due to the cream of members it had or even probably secede with time.
The persecution was very palpable. Somehow, rather than causing despondency and apathy, these rather created a certain resolve by the leadership and members of the PIWCs to be continually anchored to God and work extremely hard to ensure the success of the PIWC even if, it had been meant as an experiment.
Some of the successes of the PIWC concept have included the introduction of the home cell system into the church’s structure, infusion of Bible Studies into the liturgy of the church, introduction of Teenage/Youth Church Services, and relaxation of some church practices that were inimical and/or become outmoded to the mission-mindedness of the church. Other gains have been the diversification in programme content of PIWCs as well as the stemming of the tide by young people who would have sought solace in neo-Pentecostal/charismatic churches. Some of these successes have over time affected the wider CoP in very positive ways.
By 1996, Resident Ministers of PIWCs across the country had worked together for the collective growth of their centres. For example, they collaborated closely towards the organization of the first PIWC Christmas Camp Meeting from 18thto 21stof December 1998 at Prempeh College in Kumasi, in lieu of the traditional Christmas Convention. It brought together all ministers, officers and members of all the seven PIWCs in a four-day convocation hosted by Kumasi. It was addressed by an array of wonderful teachers of the Bible including the Chairman, Prophet M.K. Yeboah, Aps. Michael Ntumy, Aps. Daniel K. Arnan, Pastors Emmanuel Achim-Gyimah and Eric Nyamekye (both now Apostles) as well as the various Resident Pastors.
The success of that camp meeting was swiftly followed in December 1999 by the second conference at the Aburi Girls Secondary School hosted by Accra from December 16thto 19th. Speakers included the newly elected Chairman, Aps. Michael Ntumy, Aps. S.K. Ansong, Prophet J.S. Gyimah, Pastor Eric Nyamekye, and the Resident Pastors. This camp meeting was also very successful and it was expected that those conferences would continue but alas, this was not to be. Quite unfortunately, that was the end of the PIWC Conferences. Those two years of active PIWC collaboration brought in its wake many dividends. Through an exchange of platform programme, Resident Pastors and Presiding Elders switched pulpits with colleagues of other PIWC from time to time to minister on a given Sunday and share fellowship with the leadership there. Just as the Holy Scriptures admonish in Proverbs 27:17, ‘Just as iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend’, these served as times of refreshing.
Soon thereafter, the systems of the church seem to have begun tightening its noose and most of the gains were to fizzle out gradually. Since then, the PIWCs have not witnessed that level of collaboration.
The establishment of the PIWCs was undertaken without any vision document apart from the two addresses delivered by Aps. Opoku Onyinah upon which the proposal for the establishment was based as well as extracts from decisions from some General Council Meetings since then. Over the twenty-five year period since its establishment, the development and growth of the PIWC concept has virtually been dependent on the interpretation of an utopian dream by Resident Pastors posted there as well as the leverage that they enjoy from the various Area Heads they report to, but not necessarily the vision that established it by way of terms of reference, baseline indicators and key performance indicators (KPIs). As a result of this, the Areas, having so many traditional districts and only one PIWC, more often than not ends up having the PIWC being batched up the other districts for assessment. This leads to a situation where it were as though one was comparing apples with oranges. Invariably, not much regard is given to the peculiar nature of the PIWC as a specialized ministry of the church. Once the demand and outcomes expected of them are made same, the PIWCs are forced by those circumstances to water down their operational approaches and activity profile in order to meet those expected outcomes. This situation has in most cases, led to quite a number of PIWCs and their ministries being boxed into acquiescence and compliance.
At the inception of the PIWC concept, there existed very few neo-Pentecostal ministries generally concentrated in our cities most of which operated very attractive single worship centres. Twenty-five years on, most of these churches have gradually moved away from having singular mega churches into establishing multiple pseudo-mega branches within the various cities. Generally, these have virtually created considerable competition for the PIWCs which are increasingly being bogged down by the weight of the church’s traditional structure. If the PIWCs are to be able to fully execute their mandate, leadership of the church may have to seriously consider granting some kind of operational autonomy to the PIWCs. That could for instance require their implementation of the PIWC concept under the supervision of a small secretariat or some other structure at the General Headquarters while they continue to report administratively to their respective Area Heads. This will ensure that in their day to day operations, PIWCs are not coerced to operate as though they were traditional districts.
Inspite of the fact that the implementation of the PIWC concept has run for over twenty-five years without any detailed operational guidelines, not much has over time been made to orient officers and members who choose to worship with this very specialized ministry of the church. In February 2009, the Executive Council commissioned a seven-member committee chaired by Aps. Ekow Badu Wood to draft a working document to guide the operations of PIWCs and English Assemblies. That document was subsequently reviewed by the Executive Council and approved by the General Council Meeting in May 2009. Interestingly, very few of the provisions contained in that document continue to be implemented. Considering the specialized nature of the ministry of the PIWCs, it is hugely critical that its leaders make very conscientious efforts to regularly orient members (new and old) about the vision and mandate of the centres and what role they (as members) were supposed to play towards its attainment.
It’d be interesting to note that in a typical PIWC, the membership is composed of members who would have transferred from traditional districts as well as a chunk whose first experience with The Church of Pentecost is the PIWC. For such members therefore, worship in the typical CoP vein tends to be hugely unappealing and they switch off anytime traits of same occur in worship services and celebrations. It is for such and other reasons that leadership rightly determined that the operating culture (language, music, etc) driving the PIWC concept in Ghana was to be English. Though this was hugely adhered to in the past, it looks as though this is being heavily compromised in recent time – a situation that has almost turned some PIWCs into English Assemblies.
The implementation of the PIWC concept has over time proven that it does not necessarily take higher academic qualifications, work experience and life exposure to pastor a PIWC but more importantly, an appreciation of the mission-mindedness of the PIWC ministry as well as the nuances of the PIWC in question. Interestingly sometimes, this is not the case, a situation that have led to an oscillation the growth of many PIWCs. In my view and based on all the documentation sighted on the role of PIWCs, a PIWC that does not have the spirit of excellence driving and permeating every aspect of its services and programming is not worth its name as one.
Unlike the initial years when officers were literally pulled in to join the PIWCs, they have over these years become somewhat attractive for varied reasons that most of them now have a challenge of contending with huge inflows of presbyters from the traditional districts. Unfortunately, most of these move to the PIWCs with little or no knowledge about the PIWC vision and what they are established to achieve. This situation tend to negatively impact on the rise of the regular members into officership, a key reason that pushes some young persons out of the church. To address this challenge, the church may have to find a means of curtailing the tide of migration by not making it mandatory for an officer who transfers to a PIWC to become an automatic presbyter. Additionally, the individual PIWCs may have to devise more ingenious ways to appreciate the huge potential that the average young graduate, for example has and utilize same. This is even more so because most of these young ones return from University, having served in very prominent roles in campus ministry and offering leadership to hundreds of students. There are countless church districts in the hinterland crying for young people to join hands to undertake evangelism activity. PIWCs may be encouraged to rejuvenate the Go-Team approach established by Rev. John Waller (an Elim Missionary to the COP) in the 1990s. Under the approach, small groups of young zealous members were mobilized and deployed to particular distressed districts to organize crusades, house-to-house evangelism, etc while assisting them with clothing, bicycles and motor bikes, support in the construction of chapels, etc. By this, many young people who hitherto were bench-warmers had something to look up to as they were now engaged and thus felt fully part of the ministry of the Church. The distressed churches on the other hand, received the much-needed support to accelerate their growth and development.
Similarly, the PIWC is a ministry which go beyond the utilization of only presbyters for service. They have many ministries and departments such as Ushering, Protocol, Technical, Music, Audio-Visual and Media, Secretariat, Follow-up and Counselling, Security, Widows, Home Cell and Bible Study, Church Set-up, Prisons Ministry, Medical Outreach, etc. These are distinct to the classic ministries (Children, Youth, Evangelism, Women and Men) all of which should be well promoted and elevated to enable every member play key roles in one or two of these ministries. Thus, the situation where PIWCs are said to be a melting pot of under-utilized resources does no good to the church and the affected members.
While at this, one recently emerging challenge for quite a number of PIWCs is the refusal of its tertiary students to enrol with the church’s campus ministry (Pentecost Students and Associates – PENSA). It does appear that the operational differences between the average PIWC and PENSA is widening to the discomfort of several students in the PIWCs who have started worshipping actively with other campus ministries which to them are generally more attractive and youth-friendly. It would be very important for the church leadership through the Youth Ministry to address this concern, if the situation is to be reversed.
In conclusion, it is clear that the introduction of the PIWC concept in June 1993 has yielded huge dividends and led to the transformation of The Church of Pentecost in several ways. If the church is to remain well positioned for generations unborn, it would be imperative to ensure that PIWCs are properly positioned to be the catalysts.
Long live the PIWC concept and long live The Church of Pentecost! The Church is indeed marching on!
My dear friend,