LIBERIA'S CONTRIBUTION TO THE GLOBAL SPIRITUAL LANDSCAPE
Someone was paying attention to the incredible influence of the Monrovia Bible Training Center on the spiritual landscape of Liberia in the late 1980s and early 90s. Here is an excerpt from a book entitled: Exporting the American Gospel: Global Christian Fundamentalism. The article was meant to be critical of the school but instead ended up chronicling the impact of the Word of faith (Romans 10:8) in Liberia. This is not an American Gospel. This is the Gospel of the Kingdom changing a nation.
CAUTION: CHEW THE MEAT AND SPIT OUT THE BONES!!
A method through which charismatic Christianity spread was the Bible school. Consider the Monrovia Bible Training Center, run by a group of missionaries, all graduates of Kenneth Hagin’s Rhema Bible Center of Tulsa, and linked to Jim Zirkle’s Living Waters International in Guatemala. This ministry opened its doors in September 1987. The influence of this school rapidly became incalculable. This training center functioned each Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., in a rented public secondary school. In the morning there were two hour-long lectures and an hour’s worship; lunch was then provided; two more hour lectures followed in the afternoon. The year consisted of four terms of eight weeks, and the cycle of courses changed each term. For each course, set books and course outlines were distributed. Each course had an exam (twenty-six true/ false questions). Students successfully completing one year received a certificate, and students who successfully completed the two-year course were given a diploma. Graduation ceremonies, held at Monrovia’s Centennial Pavillion, in many ways eclipsed the graduation ceremonies of the University of Liberia. The total cost for a student was U.S. $ 56 a year in 1989. The school was operated very efficiently— procedures were spelled out and insisted on. Its first fully operational year was 1988– 89; when it opened for the 1989– 90 year, the number of students enrolled had reached 828.
The other schools in the Monrovia area are tiny in comparison. The Church of God Bible College had twenty-two students; the Seventh Day Adventists had four Liberian students; the Mid-Baptists had forty; the Carver Institute and College together had sixty-five; the Episcopal and Methodist evening schools had about twenty each; the Association of Independent Churches of Africa’s School of Personal Evangelism had about twenty; the Baptist seminary had eighty-two; the United Pentecostal Church’s
Maranatha Bible College had about forty. Thus within the space of about three years, the Monrovia Bible Training Center had increased to train more than twice the number attending all the other schools put together. Even more significant is a denominational breakdown of the training center’s 828 students. They came from 183 denominations. These included all the historical denominations, Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodists, African Methodist Episcopalians, andWesleyans. More importantly, they included scores of African Independent Churches, older ones like the Church of the Lord (Aladura) and newer ones like Bethel, Philadelphia, the Refuge Temple, the Four Square Gospel Church, the Salvation Church, Baffu Bay Pentecostal Church, the Trump of God International Church, Transcea, and countless others. The 828 students included seventy-five pastors, most of them from small African Independent Churches. Such pastors were keenly aware of their lack of theological education, and this Saturday school that provided books was very attractive. Some churches used the center as training for at least some of their pastors; besides numerous independent churches, the AME Church followed this policy. Nor was the influence of the training center limited to Monrovia. In September 1988 similar schools opened in Kakata and Gbarnga, with eighteen and thirty-one students respectively. Staff and students of the Monrovia Center conducted these schools one day each week, traveling by van. Then in September 1989 nine more schools were opened around the country, and operated in the same way. So by 1989, every major center in the country except for those in the two southeastern counties had a Bible school of this type. This is where the Monrovia training center probably exerted its greatest influence, molding the evangelists and pastors of the churches of the interior.
Altogether about thirty pastors attended these eleven extension Bible training centers. Total enrollment of students in all twelve schools for 1989– 90 was 1,153. The theology of the Monrovia center and its subsidiaries was the pure “faith theology” of Hagin and Copeland. The set books distributed in the fourth term of 1988– 89 were Copeland’s Sensitivity of Heart, The Force of Righteousness, The Decision Is Yours, You Are Healed; Kenneth Hagin’s The Believer’s Authority; and Courage, by Ed Louis Cole, another prosperity proponent. The books distributed for the first term of 1989 were Copeland’s Our Covenant Making God, and A Ceremony of Marriage; Hagin’s Understanding How to Fight the Good Fight of Faith, New Thresholds of Faith, and Don’t Blame God; Ed Louis Cole’s The Potential Principle: Living Life to Its Maximum; and Billy Joe Daugherty’s The New Life. 41 In the first year at all twelve schools the following courses were offered: Faith, Obedience, Blood Covenant, Healing, Authority, Demonology, and Christian Stewardship. Thus the theology of Tulsa’s Rhema Bible Center found its way into 183 different denominations. The seventy-five pastors took it back to their congregations, and this message spread even more widely. Liberian law made provision for the Bible to be taught in public schools. Often this was not done, because there was no one to teach it. (The mainline and historical evangelical churches gave this little priority.) The Monrovia Bible Training Center proposed to the Ministry of Education that their students and graduates do this teaching; the Ministry agreed, on the grounds that the center was non-denominational. So 110 of its students and graduates taught the Bible every week to twenty-one thousand pupils. 42 In 1988 the director brought one hundred fifteen thousand copies of various publications from the U.S. as support literature. In two years, he claimed Living Water Teaching had distributed sixty thousand tracts, two thousand Gospel portions, twenty thousand elementary level children’s magazines and booklets, twenty-five thousand junior and senior high books, and more than seven thousand teaching books. 43 These publications for schools all expounded the faith gospel, and included Billy Joe Daugherty’s This New Life, and Honeycomb, the Family Magazine from Willie George Ministries, of which one issue concerned banishing sickness, which comes from Satan. 44 At the Monrovia center’s graduation ceremony on May 31, 1989, the director of religious instruction in the public school system spoke and thanked the center for its contribution; in the course of his remarks he urged the Liberian Council of Churches to “forget about politics and raise money for the center to spread the Gospel through Liberia.” Moreover, the center’s staff were invited to speak at various churches around the country. The series of talks given to launch the Lutheran Good Samaritan organization in May 1989 were all given by the center’s staff, and they preached on Sundays at various churches. The MBTC team exerted their influence not just individually the center was institutionally linked with Bethel World Outreach Center, which was one of the fastest-growing churches in the country. 45 The Bethel pastor had his office with the Monrovia center’s office, and he taught the stewardship course at the center. This pastor was Liberian, but had spent ten years studying at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He too preached the faith gospel of health, wealth, and miracles. The center had institutional links, too, with the Liberia Fellowship of Full Gospel Ministers; the director of the center was the driving force behind setting up the fellowship. This fellowship had as its aims: “1. To provide an opportunity for denominational Full Gospel ministers to meet and interact with independent Full Gospel Ministers. 2. To sponsor an annual Camp meeting/ Convention that will bring together Full Gospel Churches and Christians for several days of spiritual retreat and revival. 3. To promote unity and strength for the purpose of winning Liberia, deterring the spread of false religions and cults in this nation.” 46 In establishing the fellowship, great effort was made to include as many influential churchmen as possible. At the ceremony marking the formation of the Liberia Fellowship of Full Gospel Ministers, the American AME bishop preached, and the superintendent of the Assemblies of God inducted the office bearers. Among the five office bearers were the director of the Monrovia Bible Training Center and the pastor of Bethel (as well as an assistant at a UMC church who has attended Copeland’s seminars in Britain).
Brouwer, Steve; Gifford, Paul; Rose, Susan D. (2013-12-16). Exporting the American Gospel: Global Christian Fundamentalism (p. 145). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.