CM2000 31 December, 2000
Plenary: Acknowledging Church Movements Toward the Unfinished Task


A case study of the
Presbyterian Church of Ghana

Rev. Godfred A. Bamfo

History

The PCG was founded through the efforts of Swiss missionaries who arrived in our country then called Gold Coast just after Christmas 172 years ago. They were the very first to come specifically to plant the Christian faith in our land. At the time the Danes had to their credit 400 years of brisk business on the coast but without any direct attempt to evangelise. To date, it is on record that some 200 missionaries died in the effort to plant the Christian faith in the Country.

Three of the four, who first came, died within four months. The Basel Mission persevered, and has resulted in a history of pain, suffering, death and conquest. The Christian faith was successfully planted in our land. Through the war years and up to the 1940's the Presbyterian Church of Ghana was the major Denomination in the country, being the first to be granted independence from Missionary control in 1926.

The years from the 1930's were difficult years for the P.C.G. The Leadership recognised a decline in membership and spirituality. One Church Leader summed up the situation of that period in these words: "The youth began to loose interest in the church, saying it was dull, devoid of spirit and unattractive. To make matters worse, other churches began..drawing away members..with their prayers, gospel songs, dancing and clapping of hands. The rate at which the Presbyterians were leaving was alarming".

A notable Church Musician captured the trend in a famous revival prayer song that still moves the soul.

The GEC and New Life for all. A moderator of the Church visited the USA in the early 1970's and interacted with a missiologist and as a result moves began culminating in the birth of Ghana Evangelism Committee in 1974. GEC's early product "New Life for all' was designed to address nominalism in the Christian Churches generally and to stir up church planting. The PCG participated wholeheartedly resulting in the revival of evangelism, and the planting of new churches.

Another product of GEC was its National Church Survey, which unearthed facts about unchurched people groups. As a result of this revelation, the Mono Ethnic Church strategy was initiated and the PCG along with other churches embraced the idea christened Northern Outreach Programme. (NOP). The PCG has sixteen NOP congregations in Accra alone.

The Bible Study and Prayer Group

Long before the birth of the GEC, some members of Church had been meeting for Bible study and prayer. Eventually the fire of Bible Study and prayer spread through many PCG congregations affecting congregations of other denominations. The PCG after careful study of the movement officially recognised and encouraged it as the evangelistic wing of the Church. The resulting evangelism explosion was due in part to the GEC products, which providentially met the ready task force of the Bible study and prayer movement.

Yet again, the young people who were affected by this revival offered themselves to be trained in ministerial formation. Today the larger percentage of trained Pastors is a product of this revival and includes quite thankfully the lecturers who train them at the Church's seminary.

Growth

The growth of the PCG was accelerated. A small city suburb congregation worshipping in a school classroom in 1968 is today worshipping in a 2500 seat sanctuary. In the capital city another district which had but three congregations within the same time, grew to twenty congregations and preaching points within the same city. And in the same city another district grew from five congregations to thirty congregations. The district head station itself grew from three hundred members in 1976 to three thousand members in 1996. A new sanctuary seating 2,500 has been built, and it runs two services on Sundays. Other city churches have started double services on Sundays.

Once the people caught the vision that the main agenda for believers is to find people for Christ, and for a church to plant other churches, the programme of Praying, Proclaiming the Word and Planting of new Churches grew. In the National Capital which had but 10 churches in the 1960's had 186 churches by the close of the century in twenty-two districts, and still growing. In response to the GEC's revelation that there were 14,000 unchurched towns and people groups the country in 1993, the PCG embarked on an evangelistic to face that challenge. For the past five years an average of sixty churches have been planted every year in the country by the PCG to bring the membership to 450,000 in 1,800 congregation.

The evangelism explosion was due in the GEC product, which providentially met the undercurrent of Bible study, and prayer movement. They were a ready task force. Yet again, the young people who were affected by this revival offered themselves to be trained in ministerial formation. Today the larger percentage of trained Pastors of the Church are a product of this revival and include quite thankfully the lecturers who train them at the Church's seminary.

..Towards the Unfinished task

The history of the founding Missionaries continues to inspire action. For example, three older women in a District decided to plant churches too. They traded along a route on which they realised there was the need for true Christian witness. One of them could barely read the vernacular Bible, the other two could neither read nor write. They went along with no public address equipment, neither generator nor lamp. Indeed they used a borrowed kerosene lamp and shared the gospel in an open space in the village. They have since planted three churches in three villages. Even old women can plant churches. Hallelujah!

Today the drift of people from the PCG to find spiritual help in other churches has minimised. Indeed many Presbyterians are returning to the Church. More and more the needs of members are being met. There are emerging Prayer Centres run by Pastors and Lay Leaders who have a specific gift in the area of healing and the casting out of demons, who are encouraged to exercise the ministry to the glory of God.

The movement of the Holy Spirit in the Church continues. The foundation for a major evangelism drive has been laid. The evangelism strategy has been repackaged for another major take-off. The present success is the effort of just 4?f the membership of the church who were committed to evangelism. While we praise God for what has been achieved, we acknowledge that in relation to the unfinished task many more should be mobilised for evangelism and a lot more should be done. Pray for the PCG! As she too faces the unfinished task.

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