The Pentecostal Kairos: Methodological and Theoretical Implications

  • Musa W. Dube


The massive growth of Pentecostal Charismatic Churches (PCCs) constitutes a Pentecostal kairos in the global history of the Christian movement. In its current form, the Pentecostal movement spreads itself into politics, economics, cultural and social spheres, interacting with various disciplines all at once. Yet the massive growth and impact of PCCs has not attracted equivalent attention from scholars of religion in the African continent. This article highlights the PCCs’ kairos and the pentecostalisation of religion and society. It also challenges African scholars of religion to undertake interdisciplinary collaborative research projects in order to make meaningful contributions to the methods and theoretical implications for teaching religion in the PCCs kairos.

16.1 Introduction: The Pentecostal Kairos

In 2011 when I returned from my study leave, a friend of mine, who had been a staunch member of one of the African Initiated Churches (henceforth AICs) informed me that she had moved to one of the Pentecostal Charismatic Churches (henceforth PCCs).1 She said:

Rona mma re tsena Dikereke tsa Sekgowa jaanong. Mo marketing mo, basadi botlhe ba ke rekisang le bone, re tsena tsa Sekgowa.” (These days we go to English Churches. The women that I work with in the market, we all go to the English Churches).

“Tsa Sekgowa ke dife?” (“Which ones are English Churches?”), I asked.

“Ke raya tsone tsa MaNigeria. Di tetse MoTVing. (“I mean the Nigerian ones. They are all over the TV”).

“Ehe dibidiwa tsa Sekgowa? A mme jaanong le bona pharologanyo?” (“Ooh! Are they called English Churches? Are you finding any difference?”), I asked.

“Aah waiyi! Go tshwana fela le tsone Dikereke tsa rona tsa Semoya. Le bone ba neela batho metsi a phodiso le go ntsha dibati. Baneela batho oile le dihankerchief tsa phodiso. Barekisa metsi a mantsintsi. Lebotlele ke P50.00: Metsi a dikereke tsa Sekgowa a a rekwa mo Francistown: (“Oh well, there is hardly any difference from the AICs. The English Churches also give us a lot of water for healing and to counteract all forces that may hinder our prosperity (dibati). They give people oil and handkerchiefs, all the things that we have been doing in the AICs. The difference is that for them, a bottle of water goes for P50 in the English Churches and it is selling like hot cakes in Francistown.”)

“A mme wena metsi a a go bereketsi?” (“Does the water work for you?”)

“Ee. E rile ke sena go a tsaya, kefa rraagwe bana anteletsa lantlha morago ga dingwaga.” (“Yes it does. After I took the water the father of my children called the following day, which was surprising for he has not called me for the longest time.”)

“Ha metsi a Dikereke tsa Sekgowa a go berekela go siame.” (“If it works for you, then it is okay”), I said.

“Mme nna ke tla boela Sione. Ga ke kgone modumo wa dikereke tsa Sekgowa. Diletso tsa teng di kwa godimo thata.” (“I want to return to the AICs, for I find the loud instruments in the English Churches unbearable.”)

Shortly, afterwards I was at my elder sister’s place and she said, “I no longer go to IPCC (International Pentecostal Church, a member of AICs). I now go to Potters, founded by a Motswana woman who visited T.B. Joshua in Nigeria three times to bring healing water.”

In the above conversations, we are touching the tip of the iceberg in what has been noted as the “the shift” towards Pentecostalization of religion and society in Botswana, Africa and, indeed, worldwide (Omenyo 2006; Grooen 2010:356). Many Batswana, and citizens of other African countries, can testify to this shift among their friends, families, workmates and neighbours. Voices of researchers, announcing this shift, screech to a crescendo, like a mass choir. They speak of “astonishing growth” (Kalu 2008:5), “a radical change” (Anderson 2001:7), “the changing religious landscape” (Kubai 2007:198), the “paradigm shift” (Gifford 2004:20), “the shift” (Meyer 2004), “an emergent force” (Miller & Yamamori 2007:15), “the fastest growing group of churches” (Nkomazana 2011:14), the “Pentecostal movement” (Belcher and Hall 2001: 64), the “sweep across the African continent” (Ojo 2012: 295) and Cephas Omenyo, underlining that this change and growth spills beyond the boundaries of the PCCs circles speaks of “Pentecost Outside Pentecostalism” (2006), which Asamoah-Gyadu asserts has “completely transformed the face of faith in the New Africa” (2005:238). The ground has moved under our feet in the African continent: we are standing somewhere we have never been as above researchers underline. It is a chorus fully supported by numbers, acknowledging that while all religions and churches have grown in Africa, PCCs excel by all standards (Nkomazana 2010:336; Kalu 2008:3). It is therefore not an exaggeration to say we are living and working in the Pentecostal kairos—the supreme time for the Pentecostal movement worldwide.

Consequently, white Western Africanists, who were charmed for decades by AICs (Sundkler 1961, Turner 1965, 1967, 1979, Barrett 1968, Hastings 1996) have once again, been confounded by African religious creativity or what Brigit Meyer (2004) has described as the “UnAfrican” African in the Pentecostal space, stimulating a new set of PCCs Africanists (Gifford 1992, 1993 & 1995, Meyer 1999 &2004, Hollenweger 1972, 1997, Dijk 1997:159–181). While almost two centuries ago the celebrated German philosopher, Hegel (1956), relying on missionary reports, dismissed the African continent and people as having no movement, no culture/civilisation and not being part of the universal humanity (1956:93), the PCCs African appears “unAfrican,” for s/he makes the globe her/his stage through establishing worldwide network of churches, uses the media extensively, disavows both disease and poverty through the gospel of “health and wealth.” Needless to say, such seismic “shifts demand new theory and… new methods” (Meyer 2004: 454). Given the complexity and wide impact of PCCs on almost all aspects of society, departments of theology and religious studies in Africa must undertake inter-disciplinary collaborative research projects. It is the inter-disciplinary approach that is likely to make a meaningful contribution on the methodological/theoretical implications of the Pentecostal kairos for religious studies in Africa.

16.2 Pentecostalisation of Society in Africa

According to H. Grooen (2010: 356), Pentecostalization is “the combination of Pentecostal numerical growth, Pentecostal influence on other religions and Pentecostal impact on the rest of society”. As the above opening conversation highlights, this shift is characterised by migration, transnationalism, gender, media, health quests, prosperity proclamation, church tourism, similarities and differences with AICs, among others. Pentecostalism is notably growing in leaps and bounds in Africa and Latin America (356). Some have thus postulated it is a religion of the poor (Chiquete 2004:474; Pfeiffer 2011:163) while others hold it attracts, young, professional literate crowds, who cherish dreams of prosperity (Asamoah-Gyadu 2005, Dilger 2007:62, Togarasei 2011:120) in places that have been devastated by political and economic structures that created inequalities. If it is the poor, they do not intend to remain poor, but rather they cherish dreams of upward social mobility.

In his paper, “Pentecostal and charismatic movements in modern Africa,” Matthews A. Ojo (2012:300) gives a regional sketch of their beginnings in the continent. For West and East Africa, he says

Charismatic movements in Nigeria emerged from revivals in the 1970s among evangelical students in the University of Ibadan and University of Ife. Intensive Bible study, prayer sessions, and a quest for new experience brought them into contact with Pentecostal spirituality…. For East Africa, evangelical students in Kenya and Uganda facilitated the spread of the Charismatic Renewal Across the borders…. African Charismatic movements expanded to Europe and North America from the early 1980s because of increasing migration of Africans to the western world… While interconnections and networking have increased in the global context and while sometimes Africans look to the west for material assistance, the indigenous origin of these movements and role of African pioneers must not be neglected.

Although Ojo recognises the impact of the Asuza Street movement in South Africa, the charismatic regional growth in Southern Africa is not directly linked with it, since the indigenous roots are stronger. Concerning French-Speaking Africa, Ojo notes that political and social structures of French colonial tradition differentiated its pace from the charismatic movements in the English-Speaking Africa. Their growth is much slower in the former, for “the centralised unitary systems in the French-speaking and Lusophone countries have created religious uniformity and governmental supervision that requires religious organizations to register or have Presidential permission before they can operate openly” (Ojo 2012:302).

Botswana is having its share of this baptism of fire—pentecostalization—which has been happening gradually over the past 40 years, but has now reached, pardon the pun, its climax. According to Lovemore Togarasei, “Neo-Pentecostal churches have taken Botswana religious landscape by storm” (2011:120). Fidelis Nkomazana holds that in Botswana PCCs are “mainly formed by immigrants flocking into Botswana from other African countries for economic and religious reasons” (2011: 14). In the 1970s and 80s, what constituted Pentecostal Churches in Botswana was a handful denominations: Assemblies of God, Apostolic Faith Mission, Independent Assemblies, Pentecostal Holiness Church, Family of God, Full Gospel Church, which shall be referred to as Classical Pentecostal Churches in this chapter. In Setswana they were called Dikereke tsa Pholoso (Churches of Salvation). They were often accompanied by ecumenical youth movements such as Student Christian Movement, Scripture Union, Christian Union, Action Group and The Jesus Generation Movement (JGM). By the 1980s the picture began to change with the Reinhardt Bonnke’s Christ for All Nations evangelical campaigns, the introduction of Victory Fellowship from South African, the founding of Bible Life Ministries by Pastor Enoch Stima from Malawi, followed closely by David Monnakgosi’s Good News Ministries in the early 1990s. The 1990s would become an explosion with some Pentecostal Churches coming from outside and some being founded by local people. In the 2000s such notable lawyers as Tshepo Motswagole, Moffat Lubinda and Biggie Butale, left their firms and lucrative jobs at the government enclave and started Pentecostal ministries. Currently there are about 45 Pentecostal Charismatic Churches registered with their Umbrella body, the Evangelical Fellowship of Churches (henceforth EFB), but the actual number of registered PCCs in the government ministry is above 100 (Republic of Botswana 2004:4543–4554). Since most of them retain their external headquarters, while many more prefer to go it alone, given the highly competitive Pentecostal tussle, many are not registered with their umbrella body, EFB.

In Botswana, Pentecostalisation through numbers is also attested by the tendency for these churches to meet in industrial areas buildings (Winners, Christ Embassy, Share the Fire etc) or the mushrooming of mega church structures (Bible Life, Apostolic Faith Mission, Assemblies Family of God) for their huge numbers. The traditional church building as we knew it, is quickly disappearing, being unwanted or being behind the times. Church buildings are now likely to be huge industrial-like buildings, located, not in the residential areas, but in the industrial areas. This meshing of church with industrial area is perhaps the story of its theology—a theology of prosperity. PCCs Christianity is commercial. But it also indicates growth that far exceeds the capacity to build established buildings (Asamoah-Gyadu 2005:1–8). Similarly, gone are the pews, the long and hard unmoveable wooden chairs, which are now replaced by single plastic chairs, representing fluidity and perhaps, individuality of the Pentecostal philosophy.

The Pentecostalisation of Botswana and African society in general is attested by the number of Pentecostal programs accessed in private homes through the media, the posters that frequently announce international guest speakers and the crowds that often come in huge numbers to hear these guests. It is also attested by how biblical texts have become public language amongst public figures (Thabo Fako’s inauguration speech as Vice Chancellor of the University of Botswana, 2011) and print media. On the latter, one outstanding newspaper has now created an insert dedicated to PCCs’ events. It is attested by the great trek to the African Pentecostal holy lands (Nigeria & Ghana). The Pentecostalisation of Botswana society is also evident in the infiltration of some expressions provided from West Africa’s faith giants. Expressions such as “spiritual husbands” and “generational curses”, although culturally specific to West Africa, have become part of conceptual thinking among believers. For example, many Batswana have come to regard High Blood Pressure or Sugar Diabetes as generational curses, since these are diseases linked to one’s genetics. Pentecostalisation, with its transnational character is, unfortunately, English in its language: most preaching, singing and worship is rendered in English language, without translation—hence the popular naming, “Dikereke tsa Sekgowa,” that is, English Churches. In overall, PCCs have attracted massive followers from immigrants, other churches (AICs, Mainline Churches and Classical Pentecostal Churches) and the unchurched through their vibrant worship, the gospel of healing, deliverance from all negative forces, and proclamation of prosperity in all aspects of one’s life. PCCs are thus known as churches of “Health and Wealth” (Asamoah-Gyadu 2005: 8, Kubai 2007:200, Dilger 2007:66). Hence, Togarasei (2011:120) holds that “Pentecostal churches are generally attracting the rich and affluent in Botswana or those who feel they are on a journey to success in life.”

Yet the PCCs’ fire on the Botswana public space has not been without controversy. Allegations and confrontations with the government have emerged over some PCCs leaders who discouraged the taking of ARVs, banked church money in individual accounts, operated as churches while registered as trusts, run drug trafficking through their church visitors. Some pastors were thus deported from Botswana, while some churches were closed. Similarly, radio stations frequently discuss PCCs and money management and question the amount of giving demanded from members. Botswana TV has also run crime prevention shows on faith and fraud, highlighting how PCCs healing and giving is sometimes staged to steal from trusting people. Worldwide, the pentecostalisation of African Christianity is blamed for its conservative character (Jenkins 2002). Of late, African homophobia has put African Christianity on the spot, ever since the African Anglican Communion responded negatively to the ordination of the Bishop Gene Robinson, a gay man, in the USA. Nevertheless, PCCs pull huge followers from immigrants (Dijk 2003: 560–583), missionary-founded churches, AICs, and even from the classical PCCs, filling their churches to the brim with young professional urban people. Despite this massive pentecostalisation, research in academic departments of religion in Botswana, and Africa as a whole, have not fully caught up with holy fire of pentecostalisation, burning across their countries.

16.3 African Independent Churches and Pentecostal Charismatic Churches

From colonial to post-Independence times, academic research has focused on African Initiated Churches (AICs), also known as Dikereke tsa Metsi (Churches of Water), Dikereke tsa Phodiso (Healing Churches), Dikereke tsa Baporofete (Prophetic churches) or Dikereke tsa Sione (Zion Churches), Dikereke tsa Semoya (Churches of the Spirit) (Kealotswe 2011: 91–103; Amanze 1998). The AICs were celebrated as churches that accompanied political liberation movements by insisting on a gospel that embraces both African cultures and biblical tradition in their preaching and practices as well as taking a stance that was anti-colonial and pro-liberation (Daneel 1987, Dube 1996: 116). AICs were founded by African people, or broke away from their Western Mother Churches hence the name, African Independent Churches, which is often reconstituted to African Initiated or African Instituted Churches or African Indigenous Churches. AICs were celebrated for fashioning a Christianity that is nurtured in and with African soil—a cross fertilisation of African traditions and practices with biblical ones. As their names attest, they underlined healing, Spirit, prophecy and water-related rituals.

If AICs described churches founded by Africans in the continent, then clearly AICs have been shifting towards PCCs, given that the majority of the latter are founded by African people (F: Kumuyi, David O. Oyedepo, Chris Oyakhilome, T. B. Joshua, Enoch Adeboye, Mensa Otabil, Enock Sitima, Ezekiel Guti, Andrew Wutawunashe, etc). The latter are the Pentecostal giants, popes so to speak, whose influence cannot be ignored by their governments or the world. Notably the PCCs share many attributes with AICS (see Chap.  4 of this volume), such as vibrant worship, emphasis on the Spirit, healing, use of water, centrality of the founder, prophecy and dominance of women (Pfeiffer 2011–163-164). However, there are notable differences, for PCCs seemingly underline biblical texts to the exclusion, if not outright dismissal, of African culture to the realm of evil; their global reach and the emphasis on prosperity gospel are also notable differences (Asamoah-Gyadu 2004:391; Meyer 2004: 454–458; 1999: 316–49). While AICs were largely national (and sometimes regional movements) PCCs have assumed an international and global character underlining extensive use of media, use of immigrant communities to formulate global networks of PCCs—they do not only plant churches in various African countries, they are planting churches in metropolitan cities such as London, New York, Los Angeles, Uppsala e.t.c. As Asamoah-Gyadu (2008: 11) notes, “Not only has African Christianity become very Pentecostal, but also by the end of twentieth century, the largest Christian congregations in Europe—both East and West—were led by Africans.” Whereas it used to be the trend for Western countries to send missionaries to Africa, PCCs are forcefully reversing this trend (Haar 1998; Adogame 2008). Whereas it is a worldwide stereotype to associate Africa and African people with poverty and disease, the PCCs gospel seems bent on exorcising these two demons through underlining deliverance from evil and proclaiming healing of the body and material prosperity for its members (Asamoah-Gyadu 2004:393). If concrete results cannot be delivered, the PCCs gospel of health and wealth seems bent to turn the clock from low self-esteem to high self-esteem among African people, with hope for a brighter future amongst its members (Gifford 2008:203–219; Dilger 2007:66). Are the PCCs movements a second wave of decolonization, carrying on the legacy of AICs’ resistance faith in another fashion? This is a question that calls for much research and debate among scholars of religion in Africa.

16.4 The Pentecostal Eruption Explained

Studies carried out from various places have given several reasons for the shift towards Pentecostalism in Africa and Latin America. Writing on the latter, Daniel Chiquete (2004:474) holds that; “Changes of religious emphasis in Pentecostalism… have to be understood in the changing living conditions in Latin American societies. The impoverishment affecting all areas of life, that has reached dramatic proportions since 1990s, is a very important factor when it comes to understanding the renewed emphasis on healing practices in Pentecostalism”. Concerning the former, Allan Anderson (2001:7) writes that “In Africa Pentecostal-like movements manifested in thousands of indigenous churches, have changed so radical the face of Christianity there …. The good news in Africa, Pentecostal preachers declare, is that God meets all needs of people, including their spiritual salvation, physical healing and other material necessities.” Anna Kubai (2007: 204–214), writing from the Rwanda context, holds that the proliferation of Pentecostalism in a country that was largely Catholic is linked to the post-genocide disappointments, the desire to start anew, the desire to create new forms of community, not based on ethnicity, the impact of returnees and International organisations who brought Pentecostalism to a country that desperately needed healing and reconciliation. Kubai (2007:201) holds that, in Nigeria, “Like elsewhere in Africa, the proliferation of new churches and religious movements occurred at time when Nigeria was experiencing a social, political and economic crisis.” Looking at the Case of Tanzania, Dilger (2007: 62–65) locates the explosion of Pentecostalism within the failure of Structural Adjustment programs, that left people poorer, the HIV&AIDS epidemic and globalisation as factors behind the spread of PCCs. In the case of Mozambique, James Pfeiffer (2011:163), asserts that “Pentecostal fervour has rapidly spread throughout central and southern Mozambique since the end of its protracted civil war in the early 1990s” and that “over this same period another important phenomenon has coincided with this church expansion: the AIDS epidemic.” In sum, the Pentecostal moments are thus methodologically linked to modernity, immigration, global and local structural changes, globalisation, traumatic experiences, epidemics and poverty and the contents of its message, which gives vision for a different reality.

In Botswana, a country known for its political and economic stability, what prompted the PCCs shift and pentecostalisation of religion and society? This is an area that needs further exploration. Jacob B. Born’s (2009) “Worlds of the Spirit”, which is an exploration of the relationship of African Spiritual (AICs) and the New Pentecostal Churches in Botswana, is possibly the largest research monograph on PCCs and AICs in the country. Further, small academic studies have begun to be undertaken in Botswana. In biblical studies, Togarasei (2011:117–137) has explored the use of the Bible in the HIV and AIDS contexts, while Rosinah Gabaitse (2013) has explored Pentecostal feminist hermeneutics for her PhD. In Church history, Togarasei and Nkomazana (2011:104–117) have explored the attitude of Pentecostal churches towards HIV&AIDS. Nkomazana and Abel Tabalaka (2009:137–159) have explored some aspects of healing practices among Pentecostals in Botswana. In conjunction with women from AICs and mainline churches, Dube (2007:210–236) has studied strategies used by Pentecostal women to seek ordination. In addition, students’ dissertations have also explored various aspects of PCCs in Botswana. While these studies are a scratch on the surface of the massive work that needs to be done on the PCCs kairos and pentecostalisation, they are an important base for collaborative research. Many African departments of religion are mostly at this starting point, for little or no work has been done from theological, philosophical, ethical, interreligious and biblical perspectives that factor the Pentecostal context. How, for example, should inculturation and black theology position themselves in the Pentecostal age? What would be the inculturation and black theology assessment of the Pentecostal theologies? What would be the new theoretical/methodological frameworks that are offered by the Pentecostal context? Given its migratory character what are the cosmotalian ethics, theology and philosophy it provides? Similarly, the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians has begun to interrogate the PCCs hermeneutics and the gender constructions they propound (Nadar 2005:60–79; Masenya 2005:47–59; Mwaura and Parsitau 2008: 175–186 and Gabaitse 2013), but it is only a drop in the ocean. It would be interesting to evaluate and theorise the implications of healing and deliverance for feminist and liberation theologies as a whole.

16.5 Conclusion: Pentecostal Kairos and the Methodological/Theoretical Challenges

Given the massive shift and the undeniable Pentecostal kairos, methodological questions are in order from African scholars and departments of religion. What kind of methods, theories and paradigms are practiced, necessitated and generated by the PCCs shift and the pentecostalization of religion and society in Africa as a whole? In asking this question, departments of religion will need to undertake inter-disciplinary, hence collaborative research projects, to make contributions in methods and theories of studying religion in the Pentecostal era. Working in collaboration, the different disciplines of the departments of religion, can, for example, document, analyse and theorise:
  • Philosophical and ethical issues and methods it raises

  • The inter-religious and church historical issues and methodological questions it raises

  • Issues and methods of biblical interpretation it generates

  • Theological issues, themes and paradigms it generates

  • Gender, class, and sexual identities it constructs and maintains.

  • Cultural, postcolonial and liberation hermeneutics it generates

This is particularly poignant, given that the majority of key studies on African Pentecostal movements are dominated by white western Africanists, who write from anthropological perspectives (Meyer 1999, Gifford 1991, Werbner 2011, Dijk 2003). There are only a few African scholars, based in West Africa, who published monographs on PCCs (Asamoah-Gyadu 2005, Omenyo 2006, Adogame 2008, Kalu 2008, Ojo 2006). These too are highly insufficient even for their region. The dominance of Western based anthropologists, suggests that studies on African PCCs lack sufficient input from African scholars based in departments of religion. Further, substantive research carried within the continent is largely West Africa based, (with a handful from Southern Africa, but western based scholars, such as Anderson 1991, 2000 & 2001 & Gifford 1991). Given this major gap from African based scholars of religion, my proposal needs no special pleading, for while the PCCs shift and Pentecostalisation of religion and society has occurred in the African countries, significant academic studies have not been carried out to study the phenomena and its implications for the study of religion in the areas of church history, philosophy, ethics, inter-religious relations, theology, and biblical studies. What kind of inculturation, feminist, black, postcolonial and liberation theology/hermeneutics/ethics/philosophy rise from the pentecostalization of African religions and communities? What kind of biblical/theological/philosophical/ethical/inter-religious discourse should rise from and/or are implied by the Pentecostal themes of deliverance, healing, prosperity, spirit power among others forms of religious creativity? Given its link with migration and transnational identity, what kind of border-crossing discourse/s does African Pentecostal movement construct for all disciplines of religion? Clearly, African departments of religion need to rise up to the Pentecostal kairos and the methodological/theoretical challenges it brings to the study of religion. This volume is a step in the right direction and should challenge more studies not only in Zimbabwe, but in other African countries as well.


  1. 1.

    In this paper, Pentecostal Charismatic Churches will be used to cover classical and neo- Pentecostal churches and movements, but it will not include African Independent/Instituted/Initiated/Indigenous Churches (AICs).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of TRSUniversity of BotswanaGaboroneBotswana

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