Apostle Joseph Egyir-Paintsil was born on May 28, 1928 at Mbrom, Kumasi. His parents were Kojo Paintsil (carpentry foreman of the Methodist Church) and Adwoa Kwansima of Abura Dunkwa. He was the eighth of ten children.
Egyir-Paintsil started his primary education at the Salvation Army School, Kumasi in 1934 and later completed his elementary education at Abura Dunkwa Methodist School in 1944. He passed with distinction. He won a scholarship to attend Achimota School but could not go due to financial constraints in the family. He read widely and was self-educated to university level.
In his late teens he worked at the Swiss United African Company (UAC) in Accra as a comptroller. One evening after work in 1947 he was out with friends on the streets when he heard a missionary preaching to a crowd. When the white preacher repeated God’s call to the first human being, Adam, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9, NIV) and then paraphrased it as “Joseph, where are you?” Joseph Egyir-Paintsil was startled. He did not know the white man; they had never met before. Paintsil responded to the altar call and accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior that night. This began a life-long relationship with Jesus Christ and work with the missionary, James McKeown.
Egyir-Paintsil gave his heart to McKeown’s missionary church, the Apostolic Church. He was an ardent member of the youth evangelistic ministry nicknamed the ‘Bombing Group’ after the World War II bombing raids. They went out on evangelistic campaigns spreading the gospel in various communities. At one of their twelve-hour all night prayer sessions another missionary, Charles Sercombe, prophesied that many in the group would become fulltime ministers.
On December 27, 1949, Egyir-Paintsil was made an overseer in the church. He was ordained a pastor and appointed general secretary of the denomination on April 13, 1952. On January 29, 1953 he was ordained an Apostle.
Egyir-Paintsil planted hundreds of churches in the western, Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Sefwi Denkyira and Greater Accra areas in Ghana. From the beaches at Sekondi-Takoradi to Old Polo Ground and Labadi in Accra, to rivers in Ashanti and the Volta River at Tefle-Sogakope he baptized several thousands of new converts, many of whom came out of the waters speaking tongues in a swift baptism of the Holy Spirit. His inspiring messages on Christology, Parousia and pneumatology brought transformation and deliverance to many people.
In 1969 he collaborated with a media worker, Kafui Asem, to launch the Pentecost Fire magazine and prepare the church for radio ministry. A decade after the denomination had a name-change, Egyir-Paintsil led the Church of Pentecost team to initiate a fellowship with the United Kingdom Elim Pentecostal Church at a meeting on August 6, 1970, at the general headquarters, Labadi, Accra. Elim missionaries in Ghana would be hosted by the Church of Pentecost. In turn the Church of Pentecost would receive from Elim material support for a printing press, radio ministry and for the training of ministers. Egyir-Paintsil led this major turning point in the Church of Pentecost’s ministry strategy that birthed the Pentecost Hour and Pentecost Press. It also laid the groundwork for a Bible Center which later morphed into the Pentecost University College and the Pentecost Theological Seminary.
Throughout the major schisms in the Church in 1953 and 1962 Egyir-Paintsil was an indefatigable general secretary who created a formidable church administration that survived the turbulent waters and sailed safely into decades of stability. His staunch defense of James McKeown halted the attempt by detractors to deport the Irish missionary. At a July 1962 meeting with President Kwame Nkrumah in Flagstaff House, the Osagyefo was so highly impressed by the wits of Egyir-Paintsil he remarked to his confidants at the meeting, Dowuona Hammond (Minister of Education) and Tawiah Adamafio (Minister of Interior): “This young man Paintsil is highly intelligent and a nationalist. His church will stand.” Nkrumah advised McKeown and Paintsil to change the name of their church.
The meeting at Flagstaff House was to resolve wrangling between the Apostolic Church of Ghana and the Ghana Apostolic Church. In 1953 James McKeown broke away from the original benefactors of the Apostolic Church (Pennygros and Bradford, UK) over a racially problematic church constitution amendment. Back home in Ghana (then called the Gold Coast) the Apostolic Church split into two. The Apostolic Church faction in Ghana (AC) stuck with the old colonial mission of Bradford. However, McKeown’s faction broke away to form the Ghana (Gold Coast) Apostolic Church (GAC). In August 1962, following aborted attempts to oust McKeown from chairmanship of the GAC and more quarrels with the AC on church properties, the GAC heeded the president’s advice and changed its name to The Church of Pentecost. McKeown and Paintsil continued as the chairman and general secretary of the newly branded church.
The name changed sparked a revival in the assemblies of the Church of Pentecost across the country. Although an avalanche of new worship songs, prayer cohorts, and evangelistic zeal seeped into the church it nevertheless lost many chapels to AC and had to meet under trees, in public school classrooms, and in people’s homes. Egyir-Paintsil crisscrossed the country strengthening the members, helping to purchase new lands and places of worship and he led an aggressive church planting movement in many communities and neighborhoods. By the end of the 1960s and beginning of the 1970s the tide had changed with the Church of Pentecost constructing several new chapels including McKeown Sanctuary – Korle Gonno, McKeown Temple – Asokwa, Thomas Wyatt Sanctuary – Accra New Town, and Sophia McKeown Temple – Labadi. Egyir-Paintsil also took the lead in purchasing prime real estate for the residences of the chairman and general secretary, which continue to be used as such after almost half a century. He was a man of faith and vision.
He also bought into McKeown’s vision of a fellowship of denominations and he ran with it. When the Ghana Evangelical Fellowship (GEF) started in 1969 Egyir-Paintsil was the first vice president. The GEF morphed into the Ghana Pentecostal Fellowship and later became the Ghana Pentecostal Council. The council became a healing place for the fractured relationships of the triplets birthed by McKeown’s ministry in Ghana: Christ Apostolic Church, Apostolic Church and The Church of Pentecost. These three, together with Assemblies of God, were the founding members of the GPC. In recent times it has become known as the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council.
In 1979 Egyir-Paintsil, as president of the Ghana Pentecostal Council, collaborated with the Catholic Bishops Conference and Christian Council of Ghana to present a cohesive message by the body of Christ on national issues.
Egyir-Paintsil persuaded his denomination to contribute generously and regularly to the Bible Society of Ghana (BSG). He was appointed to various positions in the BSG including president, vice chairman and finally, chairman. He participated in various institutes including the Ghana Institute of Language Literacy and Bible Translation (GILLBT) and the Haggai Institute in Singapore, as well as in international conferences such as the Lausanne Congress in 1974, and the World Pentecostal Conference in London, 1976. He was closely acquainted with Byang Kato, Kwame Bediako, Samuel Odunaike, Festo Kivengere, Thomas Wyatt, Billy Graham, T. L. Osborne, Morris Cerullo, Gottfried Osei-Mensah, and T. F. Zimmerman. Whenever a top evangelist was in Ghana in the 1950s through the early 1970s, Egyir-Paintsil often interpreted the sermon into a local Ghanaian language as he did for James McKeown.
Egyir-Paintsil’s keynote speech at the Ghana Congress on Evangelization in 1977 launched him as an expert on missiology, contextualization and the rising impact of Third World Pentecostalism on global Christianity. With fervency and authority he ministered across denominations, at workplace Christian Fellowships and among student groups. He presented papers at events. He chaired the first national conference of the Pentecost Students and Associates (PENSA) in 1980. He was a co-editor of Pentecost Fire and a regular voice on Pentecost Hour. On February 22, 1981 he preached to the nation by television from the Black Star Square as President of the Ghana Pentecostal Council. Four weeks later, on March 22, 1981, when he was called home to be with the Lord, he had clocked sixteen years as Greater Accra Regional Apostle, 1965 – 1981, and twenty-nine years as general secretary, 1952 – 1981. At the time of his home-call he was president of the Ghana Pentecostal Council, Chairman of the Bible Society of Ghana, general secretary of The Church of Pentecost and Greater Accra Regional Apostle.
His wife was Victoria Vivian. They had four children, Joseph, Elizabeth, Sophia, and Victoria.
Diaries of Apostle Joseph Egyir-Paintsil and excerpts from his forthcoming biography.
Asare-Duah, Oppong. The Gallant Soldiers of The Church of Pentecost, (History of the Fathers of Old Whose Relentless Efforts Gave Birth to the Church). Accra, 2002.
Leonard, Christine,* A Giant in Ghana: 3000 Churches in Fifty Years-The Story of James McKeown and the Church of Pentecost*. Chichester, 1989.
This story, received in 2015, was written and submitted by Elder Joseph Paintsil, D. Min., Schools Coordinator of the Pentecost Leadership Training Institute in Leominster, MA.