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Neopentecostalism in Africa, and abroad

15 April 2009

One of the blogs I read regularly had some interesting comments on an African independent church from Nigeria that was engaged in mission in the USA (Notes from a Common-place Book: On Pork-pie Hats, Nigerian Evangelists and Baptists in Boots).

I keep a database of African Independent Churches (AICs), and checked to see if this one, the Redeemed Christian Church of God was in the database. It wasn’t, so I looked for more information, and came across this: Guardian Newspapers:

How has it come to this? How did we arrive at a situation where a man who was (and in some quarters, still is) widely respected for his personal austerity and moral courage, has now become the handmaiden of political power? And why does he now acquiesce in a decision to buy a N4billion private jet in a country with 80 percent youth unemployment, and where the majority of the population (including most of his own congregation) continues to wallows in absolute immiseration?

That is part of an article by Dr Ebenezer Obadare, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Kansas, which articulates many of the concerns people have about neopentecostalism in Africa. He describes the transformation of the Redeemed Christian Church of God from the austere piety of its founder into a corporate brand, with unhealthy ties to the state and big business, a corporate jet for its leaders, and other signs of affluence and influence.

It has taken the prosperity gospel taught by some neopentecostals in the USA, repackaged and rebranded it, and is now selling it back in the country of its origin.

There has been much discussion recently about the “emerging church”, and this seems to be one of the most prominent emerging trends in African Christianity, but it doesn’t seem to be a very good one. I’ve written elsewhere about how some of the neopentecostal churches in Africa, unlike the older African independent churches, have encouraged witchhunting. I haven’t seen any evidence that this particular denomination has done that, but a lot of the things that seem to be emerging look quite ugly.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. 16 April 2009 9:43 am

    Well, so called pentecostal experiences, old or “neo” biblical or otherwise have never guaranteed a holy life. Indeed, such people will be prime targets for the evil one, because Holy Spirit filled believers win others to the faith. Sad story.

    • 16 April 2009 1:29 pm

      Yes indeed. And that particular denomination has been so effecting in winning people for the faith that they have spread to dozens of countries, and that could justify the aircraft, but we also see a recurrent danger in it, when the church becomes wealthy and powerful. But neopentecostals, especially those with the “prosperity” teaching, are also likely to lead people into an idolatry of wealth and power.

  2. 16 April 2009 10:41 am

    In our church we distinguish between gifts of the Spirit and fruit of the Spirit. Both are good, but there is a clear priority in what is the greater.

  3. 17 April 2009 12:55 pm

    Those that talk of mosaic church tend to be a bit more diverse.

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