In recent time, one of Liberia’s revered Christian denominations, the World Outreach Ministries Int’l (BWOMI), has been in the news, though not for any pleasant reason. Media outlets and other sources had spoken of internal bickering and potentially disruptive feuds amongst some bigwigs of the institution over a number of policy differences. Prominent amongst the differences, as per what was in the news, included issue of change of the denomination’s name or nomenclature, something reportedly generating bitterness and ire, and triggering division. But the Public Relations Team of BWOMI is saying something else, which is seemingly altogether different from those earlier reports. Alexander Redd of the Church has shared with The Analyst what he considers “an accurate and orderly account of what transpired” since its founding in 1986.
The administration of the Bethel World Outreach Ministries International has reacted sharply to reports about animosity allegedly rocking its stability due to the change of name to Harvest Ministry International.
The Analyst and outlets had reportedly that following months of spiritual squabble over attempts by some of its leaders to change the name of Bethel World Outreach Ministries International to Harvest Ministry International backed fired as several pastors of the denomination and their respective congregations were vehemently resisting the move by the overseer of the Church, Bishop Darlington Johnson.
Bishop Johnson, who has been the head of the Bethel World Outreach Ministries International since its formation in 1986, reported sought to change the nomenclature of the Ministries.
Those who reportedly opposed to the change of name were backed over the weekend when the Founding Father of the Church, Apostle Natt Friday, who reportedly commended them for their courage and bravery in standing their grounds against altering the identity of the church which withstood difficult times in the country over the years.
But in a clarification commentary by a stalwart of the church, Alexander Redd, in titled,
“Facts About Bethel According to Timeline of Historical Events,” there is no quabble as reported, however admitting that the BWOMI has been changed to Harvest Intercontinental Ministries, Unlimited (HIM-U).
According to Redd, in 1986, Pastor Natt Friday started Bethel Full Gospel Church in January at the Barnes Foundation School in Lakpazee, Liberia.
Giving a more detailed reflection on how the Church evolved over the years, Redd wrote:
“1986–Pastor Natt Friday, while visiting Oklahoma, USA in October, asks Bishop Darlingston Johnson to pray about pastoring the church upon his return in 1987, because he (Pastor Friday) intends to pursue further training for ministry in the US,” noting that “This was not a request by Pastor Friday to Bishop Johnson to just take care of the church temporarily for three years. It was a request to begin pastoring the church.”
In chronological order, Redd further states: “1987–Bishop Darlingston Johnson returns home (Liberia) from Oklahoma, USA in June and agrees to pastor the church, but requests a name change to Bethel World Outreach Center, in order to be consistent with the vision God had given to him, not only to pastor a local church, but to lead a world outreach ministry. The church has around 100 persons at this time.
“1987–In August 1987, the name of the church is changed to Bethel World Outreach Center and then, Pastor Johnson begins to oversee the affairs of the church. The changing of the name of the church in 1987, in response to Bishop Johnson’s request, offers additional proof that he was not being asked to take on only a temporary assignment for three years, as a favor to his friend.
1987–A few months later, Pastor Friday leaves Liberia for school in the US. He spends three years in school in the US.
1987-1990–Bishop Johnson pastors Bethel World Outreach Center. It becomes the fastest growing church in Liberia.
1990–Pastor Friday completes his study and returns to Liberia. The plan was for him and Bishop Johnson to work together in pastoring the Church. His focus would be training missionaries in a missionary training institute owned and operated by Bethel World Outreach Center. Bishop Johnson would continue to focus on the growth of the local Church into a world Outreach ministry.
1990–The Liberia Civil War erupts. The plan to co-pastor never materializes.
Bethel World Outreach Center, which at that time was meeting in a makeshift facility with a dirt floor, comes to a standstill. Members are scattered. Only a handful remain. The church is at the verge of collapsing completely.
1990–Change of plans and paths.
Due to Civil War, Apostle Friday ends up In Minnesota. Bishop Johnson ends up in Maryland. Each must now seek the Lord for fresh directions. Each makes different decisions.
The Lord speaks to Bishop Johnson not to seek secular employment, nor employment with an established ministry, but to continue to pursue the call of God upon his life. To pastor a local church with a world outreach vision. That this mandate on his life was not limited to Liberia.
Apostle Friday makes his own decisions as well, which follows another path. It’s a path that led to a full-time career in the accounting field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It also led to the planting of one local church in Minneapolis, in 1997. Pastor Friday names it Bethel Full Gospel Church, and then later changes it to Bethel World Outreach Church, in order to associate it with BWOMI, which Johnson oversees.
Unfortunately, Pastor Friday attends only one of BWOMI’s International General Conferences and visits Liberia only one time in 30 years. Anyone participating in a growing organization at such a minimal level will naturally sacrifice any influence he or she could have had on the organization. Such was the case.
1990–Bishop Johnson follows his chosen path. That path leads him to incorporate a new ministry in the U.S. He calls it Bethel World Outreach Ministries International. On August 12, 1990, the first service is held at Howard University in Washington DC. Less than 20 persons are present. Bishop Johnson has no salary, and must depend upon his wife, Pastor Chrys, to do minimum wage jobs and braid hair, to help take care of family expenses.
1990—Bishop Johnson begins to use financial resources of the newly established “Bethel World Outreach Ministries” in Maryland to support what’s left of Bethel World Outreach Center in Liberia. BWOMI eventually invests hundreds of thousands in the 90’s to revive the work and set it once again on a path of growth.
1991–Bishop Johnson takes the risk to travel to Liberia shortly after President Doe’s death to encourage the brethren, bring some relief, and organize the few members still around in an effort to keep the church from ceasing to exist altogether. He flies to Sierra Leone and takes a U.N. flight into Liberia. Spends a lonely Christmas, 1991, in Monrovia.
Bishop Johnson then returns to Maryland and continued to oversee and contribute financially to the work of Bethel World Outreach Center in Liberia, a role he continues to do up to the present. The church begins to revive, work on the building, now the Cathedral, starts and is eventually completed. Bishop Johnson is present for the dedication.
1992-BWOMI sponsors its first foreign missionary, a pastor, now known as Bishop Musa Korfeh, who is sent to Sierra Leone.
1992-Present. BWOMI, established in 1990 in Maryland, grows under the leadership of Bishop Johnson. It embarks upon an intentional, aggressive church planting missionary strategy in fulfillment of his world vision. It invests millions in support of this vision.
Bishop travels yearly to Liberia and other nations to facilitate the vision. In the process, hundreds of ministers and missionaries are raised up. To date, hundreds of churches have been planted in multiple nations, on five continents.
2016–Apostle Friday expresses a desire to withdraw his formal membership from BWOMI, in order to pursue another vision he desired to fulfill. He and Bishop Johnson meet and they mutually agree to draft a joint statement acknowledging the withdrawal of Apostle Friday. The statement is written and signed, indicating that the two organizations, Bethel World Outreach Ministries International, established by Bishop Johnson in 1990, and Bethel World Outreach Church, established by Pastor Friday in 1997, will henceforth work with one another as sister ministries. According to the document, the separation became effective January 1, 2017. That document has been made available to you to see.
2020–The Lord leads Bishop Johnson to change the name of the World Outreach Ministry he established in 1990. He shows Bishop Johnson the spiritual significance of a name, the examples of him changing the names of Abraham, Jacob, Simon Peter, and the greater spiritual impact they had after the name change. He reveals that one reason for the name change was to refocus the ministry on its core mission and to make it harder for this and successive generations to neglect the core reason the ministry exists—“to win the lost at all cost”, and “to see a world where no one lives or dies without Christ.”
Bishop Johnson shares what He believes the Lord is saying, but submits this to other bishops and senior leaders in the Ministry to pray about and judge. He does so in obedience to the teaching of Scripture that when someone says the Lord has spoken to the church, these “words from the Lord” should be tested and judged.
Finally, upon confirmation by other leaders, the proposed change of name was submitted to the constitution, which required a 2/3 majority vote of all ministers and duly appointed church representatives. The constitutional process was followed and the vote was held. The name change was approved, with 95% of votes cast being in favor.
The new name of BWOMI is Harvest Intercontinental Ministries, Unlimited. HIM-U is governed by the exact same constitution and manuals as BWOMI. The four-fold purpose of fellowship, accountability, training and partnership remains unchanged. The leadership structure remains in tact. The only things that have changed are the name and a greater commitment to fulfilling the mission of the Ministry, connected to the harvest.
Each word in the new name is significant and intended to reinforce and inspire commitment to soul-winning and discipleship.
Harvest—the focus of our mission and assignment
Intercontinental—the scope of our assignment, our mission-field
Ministries—the manner or method by which we will accomplish our mission and vision. Loving service.
Unlimited—the unlimited ability of the One who has sent us and who is with us—unlimited in wisdom, in resources, in love and in power.
HIM-U—Because it’s all about Him, and about Him in us, working through us, for the sake of the Harvest, for His own glory.
2020 and Beyond—The future is in His hands. But I am certain, as we resist this attempt to divide us and unite even more to pursue the vision of a world where no one lives or dies without Christ, our most fruitful and rewarding days are before us.