Summary of Research Findings by UNIJOS Centre
The following is a summary of findings from the Nigeria Pentecostal and Charismatic ResearchCentre based in the University of Jos related to the three major research questions.1. What are the distinctive characteristics of the spiritual practices and experiences of Pentecostal and charismatic Christians?
A. Dramatic Preaching. Dramatic preaching is widely practiced by Pentecostals. Young people prefer dramatic lively preaching. Interestingly, some older Pentecostal and Charismatic churches are replacing dramatic style preaching with a teaching style.
1. Most Nigerian Christians believe in predictive prophecy. There is little difference between Pentecostal’s belief (70%) and that of mainline churches (72%) but Africa Instituted Churches (AIC) have the greatest belief in predictive prophecy (95%).
2. There is a substantial difference between the manner in which prophecy is given. In Pentecostal/Charismatic (P/C) churches, 84% believe prophecy comes in the first person “I the Lord say to you” whereas 97% of those in AIC churches believe prophecy comes in the third person “The Lord is saying to you.”
3. Prophecy can take many forms in Pentecostalism. Some of the more dramatic ones are prophetic offerings (such offerings provided greater assurance of a positive response), prophetic harvest (blessing by the prophets for greater yields), and even prophetic kisses (designed to keep husbands from straying), and prophetic projects (the giant building projects implemented by the Living Faith in Ottah and the National Temple of the Apostolic Church were said to have been conceived through prophecy.)
4. Many respondents affirmed that both in Pentecostal and mainline churches, there is growing suspicion of the activities of prophets and their prophecies. This is because of materialism and sexual immorality among the prophets, frustration that in some cases prophecies have failed and bitterness that some prophets have even cursed their clients.
C. Breaking Curses
1. The need for breaking of curses is believed by 100% of the AIC churches, 87 percent of the P/C churches but only 19% of the mainline churches.
2. Among Pentecostals, 66% believe that breaking of curses is a specialty which ordinary pastors cannot perform. Many AIC pastors report that Pentecostals have come to them for assistance in breaking curses.
3. Some specialists charge fees for breaking curses, from ₦ 5000 to ₦ 10,000.000 (about $30 to $60,000). Curse breaking is the major source of income for some churches.
4. Our research confirms that the ability to break curses is one of the causes of church growth because people tend to look favorably on the ability to break curses.
5. More women than men seek for curses to be broken.
D. Child Witchcraft. The belief of child witchcraft is common among Pentecostals. Children suspected to be witches are dealt with a variety of ways, from deliverance to expulsion from home. Many have been burned or wounded in other ways during deliverance.
E. Link with African Traditional Religions. Though there are great differences within P/C churches, certain practices overlap with ATR practices such as separate seating for men and women, the use of symbols (oil, holy water, etc.), and the shaving of hair while in mourning.
2. Where precisely are Pentecostal and charismatically-oriented churches growing and where are they not? What accounts for growth and how, conversely, can the lack of growth or decline be explained?
A. Pentecostal and Charismatic Church Growth
1. The more Africanized churches (charismatic groups who prefer to be known as ‘spiritual’ churches and not Pentecostal churches) are not growing. They are losing younger members to the more trendy churches who replicate what happens in the spiritual churches but in modern and sophisticated ways.
2. Less growth was seen in traditional Pentecostal churches (like Assemblies of God and Foursquare). They are not losing members like the ‘spiritual’ ones.
3. There is growing influence of Pentecostalism in historic or mission churches. Pentecostal practices in most mainline churches are led by the youth. We noticed a deliberate effort by leaders of these churches to accommodate Pentecostal phenomenon. This has helped mainline churches to keep most of their members. For example, the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) earlier had serious problems with Pentecostalism. In1984 a group of young members in Kaduna broke away and founded Rhema Agape Church which has since splintered into several churches. However, since the 1990’s ECWA has become more accommodating toward Pentecostalism and there has been no PC breakaway since.
B. Urban Phenomenon
1. The P/C movement or the New Christianity in Nigeria, whose adherents prefer to be referred to as ‘Born Again’ is primarily an urban phenomenon.
2. The major exception is the Deeper Life Bible Church, which deliberately indigenizes its leadership and liturgy and plants churches in rural communities in Nigeria. We saw this trend in Deeper Life in both Ghana and Liberia also.
3. In the southeastern Nigeria we observed that Pentecostalism is characterized by a plethora of splintered churches mushrooming primarily in the cities.
C. Regional Distinctives
1. One factor encouraging the growth of new Christianity in southeastern Nigeria is the practice of contracting churches. A church founder recruits apprentice ‘junior pastors’ and sends them to various locations to establish branches. Those branches pay a certain amount of money every month for a period of time. After the contract is terminated, the junior pastor becomes the new founder/president and the process starts over. These churches are often built around families and become family dynasties.
2. Growth of New Christianity in Nigeria’s Middle Belt is slower than in the southern part of the country primarily because of competition with Islam.
3. In the Far North Muslim politicians are more tolerant of mainstream churches. They call Pentecostal churches ‘mushroom churches’ and are more likely to refuse their requests to buy land and demolish churches. Pentecostal growth in the North is slow. Mega churches are few. David Oyedepo started his mega church, Living Faith Church Worldwide in Kaduna but later moved to Lagos. One Muslim sheikh, Mahmud Gummi said about the P/C movement that this type of Christianity is ‘nothing’, meaning it is not a religion.
D. Multiple Membership. We learned that many Christians maintain membership in both P/C churches plus their original mainline churches. We also observed that members of mainline churches will often continue to attend Sunday services but will attend functions in Pentecostal churches during the week. This influence P/C statistics
3. What is the impact on civil society, if any, of Pentecostal/charismatic religion? What contribution does the study of “spirit-empowered” religion make to our understanding of the role of religion in human society?
A. Core Values
1. Our research has demonstrated that there are corporate core values influencing and motivating Pentecostalism’s attempt to impact society. These include the virtues of love, compassion, mercy and kindness, the principles of justice and righteousness and the theological concept of kingdom-dominion and obedience to Biblical precepts.
2. We discovered that personal core values of Pentecostals transform people into becoming social reformers and political activists. Some of these values are the conversion experience, a personal spiritual call to ministry, gratefulness for God’s grace, motivation from the example of Jesus and the apostles, individual revelations through dreams and visions, personal exposure to social problems and the prophetic role of dynamic leaders.
B. Engaging Society
1. There is a growing movement within P/C churches that rejects secularism and the segregation mentality of earlier Christianity. Pentecostals are contesting for political office, promoting human rights and engaging in other social activities. For example, the current Secretary to the Federal Government, Pius Anyim Pius, is a Pentecostal. Organizations like the African Forum on Religion and Government, the National Institute for Transformation as well as the Centre for Values and Social Development have all been founded and led by Pentecostals. These organizations have all engaged in political activism by providing training and public awareness in good governance and leadership.
2. The Pentecostals and Charismatics have demonstrated that they are willing to partner with the government, the people and society in general. The Guiding Light Assembly in Lagos has helped to renovate public schools and health facilities, provide bore holes and public toilets and provide other social services normally provided by government. The Dunamis Church in Abuja has built a public road leading to the church.
3. Mainstream Christians in Nigeria have so recognized and appreciated the leadership of Pentecostals in social and political areas that they have elected the president of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, as president of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the umbrella organization of all Christians in Nigeria.
C. Change of Emphasis
1. There is a growing emphasis within Pentecostalism on the physical rather than the spiritual. Many Pentecostals believe there is a need to improve the economy, generate wealth, create a healthy environment and insure that people live meaningful and successful lives. This is in contrast to the earlier emphasis of Pentecostalism that was largely limited to the spiritual side of humanity with such emphases as repentance, prayer and evangelism. These social activities have demonstrated that the Pentecostals are engaging themselves seriously in holistic activities beyond the religious realm.
2. There is a growing emphasis on the natural laws of God rather than the supernatural laws. Pentecostals continue to emphasize the supernatural but the growing emphasis of kingdom theology which stresses learning and implementing God’s natural laws has reduced the emphasis on the supernatural in some Pentecostal circles.
D. Summary: If Pentecostals and Charismatics sustain the momentum of their social activities as our research has shown, this gives new insight into the role of religion in human society.