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IFRA Special Research Issue Vol. 1

Globalisation of Pentecostalism in Africa: evidence from the Redeemed Christian church of God (Rccg), Nigeria

Asonzeh F.-K. Ukah

Abstract

The préoccupation with the globalisation discourse in recent times has often over- looked events in Africa as marginal to broad processes of global transformations. Africa is seen as a continent with a ‘recipient culture’, with little to contribute to the rest of the world. The turmoil that gripped Africa in the last three decades of the twentieth century brought with it socio-cultural changes. One aspect of these changes for many societies of non-Muslim Africa was the emergence of Pentecostalism as one of the most dynamic movements as well as a formidable force of change. In Nigeria this brand of religious participation is altering not just the way individuals reconstruct their self-understanding; it is also changing the social and economic practices of groups and corporate organisations. Using the Redeemed Christian Church of God, which is arguably the largest and fastest growing pentecostal church in Nigeria, as a case study this paper describes the différent ways in which the pentecostal movement in Africa has embraced global change as well as become a vector of change for the wider African society and beyond.

Author's note

Note portant sur l’auteur1

Full text

Introduction

  • 1 Dr. Emelda Ngufor-Samba of the University of Yaoundé 1, Cameroon read and commented on an earlier d (...)

1The processes of globalisation that became evident in the late twentieth century have often been conceived as emanating from the West and spreading out-ward to other parts of the world.1 Like all generalisations, this conception is one-sided and ignores details, both historical and social. While it is the case that certain of these processes, particularly those dealing with politics, economics, science and technology, are deeply entrenched in historical processes that can be traced to the West, there are others that flow from Non-Western societies. Some scholars have insisted that Africa appears to be part of the half of the world that is not globalized’ (Cooper 2001:207). Paul Gifford (1998: 324) for example, claims that ‘afro-pessimism’ is the dominant mood for Africans who have lost ‘self-confidence’ in the current global arrangement. Gifford is not alone in this grim assessment of the African situation. Similarly, Castells (2003:127) believes that Africa is no longer a ‘third world’, but a ‘fourth world’ considering its marginalisation from the information economy. In Samuel Huntington’s (1996: 47) reckoning for example. African heritage does not amount to a distinctive civilisation comparable to ‘Asian civilisation’ or ‘European civilisation’. If indeed the contemporary global situation will be shaped by interactions and conflicts ‘along the cultural fault lines separating civilizations’ (Huntington 1993: 25), then Africa may deserve the marginal status accorded it. However, this perspective focuses mainly on the dominant structures of African states and the international system, to the neglect of individual, local experiences and interpretations. Construing globalisation as processes of intensified interpenetration and interaction of cultures, civilisations, political and economic structures of diverse lifestyles show s that Africa has a long history and experiences of its graduai evolution. (On this fact. see the brilliant arguments of the Ghanaian historian, Emmanuel Akyeampong 2000).

2However true the above picture of Africa may be, there is a growing recognition of Pentecostal ism as a strong global ising force to reckon with in many non Muslim African societies (Berger 2000; Hunt 2000; Kalu 2000; Corten & Marshall Fratani 2001; Martin 2002; Jenkins 2002). Even when this point is made, some scholars see the rapid expansion of Pentecostalism as an instance of globalisation from above or from the centre to the periphery from the ‘first world’ to the third world’. This view evaluates social transformation in Africa in line with Western models of modernity. Such a view is not only simplistic, it is equally a generalisation that glosses over significant cultural details and uniqueness. Much like the globalisation discourse itself, the specific details of the dynamics of African Pentecostalism and its expansion and patterns of influence in different societies are often glossed over. Evident in the works of pioneers in this field of research, such as Roland Robertson (1992; 2001) and Peter Beyer (1994; 2001), is a high level of abstraction and generalisation that often confounds rather than enlightens the condition of primary social/religious actors. As Marfleet (1997:193) rightly asserts, most global accounts exclude the specific. Consistent with its emphasis on large issues, global theory strains to a higher level of generalisation and “empirical” matters are rarely a concern. The resuit is that global perspectives on religion strongly discourage contextual understanding.’ Our case study is designed, therefore to fill in this felt need for cultural and social details in the discourse of the interface between globalisation and contemporary religious (pentecostal) practice, especially in Africa.

The New Pentecostalism: Its Emergence

  • 2 George Barna's A Step-by-Step Guide to Church Marketing: Breaking Ground for the Harvest ( 1992) re (...)

3The crash of oil prices in 1981 and the subsequent imposition in 1986 ofthe International Monetary Fund-World Bank negotiated Structural Adjustment Policy (SAP), with its attendant austerity measures, brought about far reaching changes in the Nigerian society. The new economic realities brought about currency devaluation, massive retrenchment of workers, fold-ups of companies and factories, as well as a high graduate unemployment rate. To the midstof legitimacy crises of a bankrupt military leadership, social decay, state failure, massive corruption, endemic graduate unemployment, environmental degradation in the Niger Delta region, unprecedented abuse of human rights and crippling poverty of many amidst the scandalous wealth of a few, new pentecostal churches and ministries prospered and proliferated’ (Ukah 2005a). A significant feature of the new churches was its leadership that was made up of university- and college-educated young men (and in a few cases, women) who were self-assertive, upwardly mobile, articulate individuals. They were also well versed in the use of modem mass media technology. These leaders liberally injected a massive dose of secular leaming acquired in such disciplines as economics, political science, marketing and advertising into church teachings, practices, organisation and administration. An influx of audio tapes, vidéocassettes, magazines and books written by both American and local pentecostal leaders on ‘church marketing’,2 prosperity, wealth, deliverance techniques and other ‘techniques of the self’ (in the elegant phrase of Michel Foucault, quoted in Ellis and ter Haar, 2004: 166) and the spirit inaugurated an era of popular Pentecostalism. The new religious brand promised to help its adherents negotiate the massive social, political and economic transformations going on in the country.

4A further downward tum in the political and economic circumstances of the country in the 1°990s manifested in the emergence of more ministries and churches (Peel, 2000; Ayegboyin and Ukah 2002). As large businesses and factories folded up because of the high cost of doing business, new churches took over the vacated office spaces, erected massive billboards, printed high quality wall size posters of their leaders, and embarked on an enterprise of proselytising new frontiers. The popularity of Pentecostalism became infectious as older churches (indigenous and mission established) renegotiated their public and doctrinal identity by incorporating new doctrines and grafting new practices in order to compete effectively in the emergent religious market.

  • 3 Many companies begin the day's work with a formal prayer session in which every employee is expecte (...)

5Pentecostalism is the most popular religious movement in Nigeria. Although very little statistics exist to give an accurate impression of how it has expanded, what is publicly observed is that it has achieved a strong social presence, inserting itself forcefully into the religious economy of Nigeria and designing several strategies to create and maintain a market niche. Pentecostal symbols inundate Nigerian marketplaces and public spaces, sporting arenas, mass media, and educational institutions. Companies and other businesses are increasingly restructuring their public image according to the latest religious fashion,3 and the national legislature is embroiled in controversies whether or not churches need to pay taxes since these organisations have metamorphosed into economic firms designed for profit making. The real reason for the attempt to introduce the payment of taxes by religious organisations in the country is the realisation that religion

6(Pentecostalism) is the fastest grow ing industry in Nigeria and the second most popular export (after crude oil). Its influence in the marketplace of culture is unequalled in the country, as the hugely popular Nigerian home videos indicate (Ukah 2003; 2005b). Many older religious groups have come to reposition and adjust to the wider market by tapping into the pentecostal style of doing business and retaining its market advantage. Today, Nigerian Pentecostalism is both a religious practice and a commercial and popular culture.

7The repositioning of Nigerian Pentecostalism as a popular culture and commercial culture is one reason it has expanded so rapidly both within Nigeria and outside the country. One group that effectively reconstructed its identity in the 1°980s in order to accommodate the changing economic, social and political vicissitudes of the period is the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG). The importance of RCCG in the sacred market of Nigeria is that it redefined what a successful religious group has to be and introduced new trends that other lesser-known churches have now followed. In a world of mass culture, success is usually mimicked, and the RCCG has had its fair share of (poorly) clowned versions. The RCCG is arguably the fastest growing pentecostal church in Nigeria. It is also, on its own admission, the richest. In the last two decades, this church has altered its self-understanding as its public posture has become aligned with commercial practice. In subtle but interesting ways, it has reinvented itself in line with popular aspirations of mainstream society particularly in response to changes in other facets of society. It has as well strained to meet the aspirations of the youth.

The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG): A Brief History

  • 4 The C&S is an Aladura (Prayer) movement in Yorubaland jointly founded by Abiodun Akinsowon and Mose (...)
  • 5 The fieldwork upon which this section of the paper is based was carried out in Nigeria between Apri (...)
  • 6 An early source on the history of the RCCG called Rev. Akindayomi a babulawo a Yoruba designation t (...)
  • 7 The primary problem was the growing popularity ofthe Cilory of God society and the refusai of Josia (...)
  • 8 On AFM see Anderson 2000: 2001: 95-96: 2004: 103 f

8The Rev, Josiah Akindayomi an estranged prophet and Apostle in the Cheru- bim and Seraphim (C&S)4 church, founded the RCCG.5 Born in 1909. Josiah became a traditional healer6 before converting to the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in 1927. After four years in the CMS, he joined the just established C&S movement in 1931. Josiah was literate in Yoruba but not in English. He rose to the rank of prophet and Apostle in the C&S. but formed a small band of followers around him called Egbe Ogo Oluwa, the Glory of God Fellowship’. In 1952, he had some problems with the leadership of the C&S movement and was conse- quently ex-communicated for insubordination to authority.7 He transformed his small band into a church and changed the name to The Redeemed Christian Church of God, claiming that it was a name divinely revealed to him. This last name was chosen after five other previous names. viz.: Church of the Glory of God (Ijo Ogo Oluwa): ii) The Redeemed Church (Ijo Irapada); iii) The Redeemed Apostolic Church: iv) Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa (Nigeria Branch); and v) The Apostolic Faith Mission ot West Africa (Adekola 1989; Ukah 2004; Adeboye 2005a). For four years (1956-1960), this church was affiliated to the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) of South Africa, a relationship that was terminated after Nigeria gained political independence.8 The church grew slowly, and when Josiah died in November 1980 there were 39 small parishes, all in Lagos and its environs, with a total membership of less than a thousand.

  • 9 He was born into an Anglican family, reaffiliated to RCCG in 1972 and obtained his PhD from the Uni (...)
  • 10 Personal interview with Pastor Johnson Funso Odesola. Redemption Camp. Lagos. 01.06.01

9Before the founder died, however, he nominated a university teacher. Enoch Adejare Adeboye with a doctorate degree in Mathematics, as his successor.9 Adeboye had only spent seven years as a member of this church, and was himself only 39 years old when he took over the reins of power in January 1981. Some older pastors of the church felt short-changed by the founder’s action and the church splintered into factions. After a period of turbulence, the new leader set before himself the task of turning around the fortunes of a church that was aptly described by one of its senior pastors as ‘a tribal church’.10

  • 11 On the features of the Holiness type churches in Nigeria see Marshall (1993: 226 f).

10In order to underscore the import of the transformation that the new leader introduced. it is necessary to describe the type of congregations he inherited. The parishes of the RCCG in the 1970s and early 1980s, later called the Classical Parishes, were the Holiness type of congregations w ith the posture of a pietistic movement11 Thus, it was forbidden for women to wear trousers, earrings, face make-ups or visit the hairdressing salons to style their hair. They had to cover their hair during services or whenever they were in the church premises. In addition, they were not allowed to ride on motorcycles, for this was adjudged unworthy of a ‘Christian sister’. The founder ofthe church considered it unworthy of a Christian sister to indulge in any of these activities. There was a strict dress code for all who came into the church’s premises.

  • 12 Adeola Akinremi. ‘Some Old Landmarks’. Redemption Light magazine. Vol. 7. no. 7. August 2002. p. 33 (...)
  • 13 Ibid.
  • 14 Adeola Akinremi. ‘Some Old Landmarks’. Redemption Light magazine. Vol. 7. no. 7. August 2002. p. 33 (...)
  • 15 Pastor J.H. Abiona. Interview. Redemption Light magazine, vol. 5. no. 10, November 2000, p. 6.

11The congregations of the church were very small and were located at the back streets of Lagos and its environs. Services were conducted in Yoruba (with translations into English in some parishes) and electronic instruments and bands as well as local drums were forbidden. Virtually all ‘worshippers [were] wrapped... in tears, groaning in prayer’.12 The weekly crying service sessions earned the classical parishes the nickname of Ijo elekun’, meaning, the weeping church. Another significant feature of the pre-1980 RCCG was the church’s attitude to money: it took no collection of offerings during services. The leader-founder of the church believed that ‘money should not separate people from God.13 The principal source of its revenue, according to the son of the founder, was the collection of tithe or gifts from members.14 Adherence to a strict ethic led to the screening of members’ occupations to ensure that they conformed to an approved list of economic activities. Members were not allowed to take up employment in alcohol or tobacco producing, distributing or marketing companies, the armed forces and police. According to the founder’s deputy, these activities were considered to be ‘at variance with the doctrines of the church’.15

  • 16 RCCG at 50. an unpublished document produced by the Directorate of Mission of the Church. Lagos. 20 (...)

12These parishes represented an apocalyptical, or rather, prophetic, movement as they prepared and waited for the coming of the end of the world which the Parousia would herald. Made up of mainly disempowered and uneducated members, the church saw itself as a pilgrim movement, just passing through this vale of tears, in the world but not of the world, and so, not loving the things of this world, for it is passing away but the love of God abides forever (1 Jn 2.15, 17).16

13Aside from the challenges of schism, Adeboye faced many other problems, some of which were:

    • 17 Interview with Pastor Odesola op. cit.: cf. Adeola Akinremi op. cit. p. 33.

    The doctrines and practices of the church alienated the youth; hence, the church became ‘a church of elderly people, a bundle of people who were in the main illiterates, people who were not educated in a modem way’.17

  • The church was poor and for many years could hardly raise enough money to pay the meagre salaries of its clergy.

  • The church was seen as socially and economically unprogressive, particularly concerning the prohibition of certain types of occupations.

  • Because of all the above, the church was having difficulty attracting and keeping well-educated, young, upwardly mobile professionals.

Diversification of Religiosity

  • 18 Interview with Assistant General Overseer (AGO). Pastor M. O. Ojo. RCCG National HQ, Ebute-Metta. L (...)

14In response to the above situation, the new leader set out to alter the structures and social character of the church. However, he met with entrenched resistance to change from an older group of pastors and members who had a rigid understanding of church life. Rather than risk a possible rebellion by both his pastors and followers, Adeboye in 1988 created a new type of parish and called it the Model Parish. The new parishes, in contrast to the older ones, permitted all the things that were previously outlawed. In addition they were located at such strategie but ‘profane’ places as hotels, nightclubs, cinema halls, highbrow city centres and other places where ‘worldly people’ were found. Prospective members were instructed to ‘come as you are, for the Lord will touch you as we minister to you. Let them come to Jesus as they are, whatever the painting on their heads or faces or on their hair, whatever the disposition or garments they are putting on. At the end of the day when God is through with them, their lives would be changed, rather than say they should not enter the church’.18

  • 19 Pastor Pitan Adeboye. ‘No Contest between Classical and model Parishes’. Lifeway vol. 1. no. 3. Aug (...)

15Unlike the Classical Parishes, services in the Model Parishes were (and still are) accompanied by electronic musical instruments and western drums and band and conducted mainly in English w ith no translation into Yoruba. The vision behind the Model Parishes according to a senior pastor of the church, ‘was to reach the younger folk, graduates, upwardly mobile executives, which the older folk (meaning the Classical Parishes) could not have done duetoa lot of limitations’.19 Through the Model Parishes, the church started takingofferings during services. Gradually, the church was monetised through increased financial demands on its members in the form of tithes fees and levies offerings of many kinds (thanksgiving. freewill. seeds. etc.) and donations.

  • 20 There is a third strand of parishes called the Unity Parishes which were initiated in 1997 to harmo (...)
  • 21 For a rigourous examination oaf the diversification of parishes in the RCCG from the perspective of (...)

16These two types of parishes still coexist.20 While Classical Parishes emphasise holiness the Model Parishes emphasise modernity, prosperitv, and exhibit images of wealth as an index of grace and salvation. They symbolise what is best in the material world, bring home to people suchicons of high modernity as new media and global consumption appetites modem forms of packaging and marketing of (religious) services and products. The ‘success’ which is usually attributed to the Model Parishes could be construed as a lowering of the strict standards that governed the conduct of personal life in Classical Parishes. Removing restrictions over membership acted like a discount on a purchase. It stimulated and sustained demand.21 The people who trooped into the church were taught overtime to increase their expenditure, time, conviction and commitment in the cause of the church.

17Members of the Model Parishes are in the main influential, border-spanning networkers, mobile middle class men and women who criss-cross Nigerian society and try to extend their connections all over Africa and the world. The rapid increase and expansion of the Model Parishes soon became the driving force for the local multiplication of parishes as well as the founding of parishes in Europe and North America (Ukah 2005c). The dynamics generated through the Model Parishes aptly captures Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s (1995) four trends of the processes of globalisation, viz: mobility, simultaneitv, bvpass and pluralism. The new parishes are pragmatic and cosmopolitan in outcome, emphasising product packaging, ‘powerful delivery of the message’, astute salesmanship and creative media use.

Elite Groups

  • 22 Personal interview with Pastor Agu Irukwu. Jesus House. Brent Terrace. Brent Cross. London. 10.11.2 (...)

18As a resuit of the high quality of membership (in terms of education, occupation and the social and material resources that flow from these) that streamed into the church through the Model Parish experiment, the church set up some elite groups through which to consolidate and optimise the resources at its disposai. Members of these elite groups soon became articulate carriers and conveyors of the church’s ideas and practices to different parts of the world. Relevant to the globalisation of RCCG were two such groups. The first group, created in 1988, is a students’ body known as the Redeemed Christian Fellowship (RCF). It is the youth wing of the church concentrated w ithin tertiary institutions of learning in the country. The RCF was, and still is, the recruiting group for university-educated and mobile manpower for the church. As students graduate from colleges and universities, they disperse to different locations, carrying with them the ideas and practices they have learnt from the church. The first wave of transnational expansion of RCCG was the direct efforts of members of the RCF. The first parish of RCCG outside Nigeria was founded in 1981 in Accra, Ghana, by a Ghanaian who studied in Nigeria; the first parish in the United Kingdom was founded in 1989 by a former student22 and the first parish in the United States was founded in 1992 by a Nigerian student who was completing his education at Western Michigan University (Ukah 2004: 279-284; 2005e; Adogame 2004).

19The second group, the Christ the Redeemer’s Friends Universal (CRFU), was established in 1990 to garner financial and human resources from the very wealthy in the society. Members of this group must have a minimum educational qualification of National Certificate of Education or must be accomplished professionals in their field of endeavour. The CRFU targets people of influence and affluence, people in positions of authority and power. The RCCG in its new phase of expansion, much like many other pentecostal groups in the country, deliberately and systematically skims more of the cream of society than the dregs’ (Stark & Bainbridge 1985:395). Through this category of persons in the CRFU, the church aims at the social and economic conversion of Nigeria

Media Use

20The RCCG very early in its post-founder’s era recognised the power of the mass media. In the 1980s the church started to commodify the sermons of its leader, first in audiocassettes and, later, in videocassettes. It is a common practice in the church today that sermons are turned into books. Video Compact Dises (VCDs) and Digital Video Dises (DVDs) which are marketed in all its parishes in and outside the country. These popular culture materials are advertised as:

  • 23 Redemption Light. March 1999. p. 54.

“points of contact for prosperity, security, survival of family, unity of church, peace and progress in Nigerian [sic] and miracles, signs and wonders. [The] ministrations and prophecies of Adeboye [as codi- fied in the tapes and books] will turn your shame into glory.”23

21Through one of its companies. Transerve Disc Technologies Ltd (formerly Transerve Nigeria Limited) the church controls more than 60°% of the importation of blank audio and videotapes into Nigeria, as well as the distribution and marketing of locally produced musical audio tapes and VCDs. Christian video-films and American audio-visuals of evangelical sermons and movies (see Ukah 2003). The popular Redemption Camp of the church is an important marketing outlet for popular pentecostal audio-visual materials. A veritable marketplace of material religion, the Camp represents an industrial plant of popular Pentecostalism in Nigeria.

  • 24 Personal interview with Pastor Shyngle l. J. Wigwe. Redemption television Vlinistry (RIVM) Office. (...)

22Through the Redemption Television Vlinistry (RTVM) established in the early 1990s, the church’s programmes are broadeast on more than twenty-eight local television channels as well as on a satellite teley ision channel. Further the RCCG has numerous radio programmes that cover the entire southem Nigeria.24 The RCCG is the only church in Nigeria with an Outside Broadcasting Van (OBV) purchased at the cost of 42 million naira (circa €300.000.00) designed to hook up with any satellite television station any where in the world for the distribution of high quality sounds and images from the church. The church also sells the live broadcasting rights of its crusades to global media groups such as Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Service (CBS) and Lagos-based Minaj international Broadcasting (MBI). In early 2005, the church established a new cable and satellite television station called the Dove which disséminates the presence, images and ideas of the church and its leaders to a global community of followers and seekers.

  • 25 See www.reeg.org
  • 26 http://rl.rccg.org/rnission_stalement.htm (accessed 16.01.03).

23The use of the Internet forms a potent strategy for many pentecostal churches in Nigeria who put the collection of technologies to diverse uses. For the RCCG the Internet serves as a tool of evangelisation that enables its voice as well as its activities to be seen and heard globallv. There are three distinct Internet projects in the church. The first is the RCCG Internet Project based in Houston. Texas, which provides free e-mail facility, chat, officiai directories of parishes and provinces, bible study materials and testimonies site for its audiences, members and cyber visitors.25 This facility also markets the books, audiovisuals of sermons and other ritual events of the church to a wider audience as well as solicits funds for the evangelical work of the church. The second is the CommCentre (short for ‘Communications Centre’) based in Lagos which promises to carry the word of God by cybermedia to all men, f all races, in all places’.26 It offers consultancyservices to the different parishes in Nigeria on how to exploit Internet and satellite technologies for church programmes. The third is RCCG Internet Strategy, based in London. Through these means the RCCG mobilises religious membership and sentiment as well as funds. Also, through the Internet, the RCCG’s claim to be a global organisation is asserted and demonstrated. While its national and international headquarters are in Nigeria, its media and technical headquarters are decentred: in Lagos, Texas and London.

  • 27 Some of these items are actually sold to the public, panicularly members. Thus, they advertise as w (...)
  • 28 Interview with Pastor Ezekiel A. Odevemi. RCCG National HQ. Ebute-Metta. Lagos. Nigeria. 04.06.01.

24Aside from the above, the RCCG is in the forefront of pentecostal advertising in Nigeria (Ukah 2002). Advertisements for its major programmes usually begin six months or one full year ahead of time. During this time, different parishes of the church, parachurch groups, corporate organisations, such as banks, mobile phone service providers, manufacturers of consumer goods, pioneer the advertisement drive. They do this by erecting massive and attractive billboards: they print and paste wall size posters, sponsor radio and television announcements, put out printed vests pin-ups branded tennis caps and car stickers.27 In addition to these management/marketing strategies, the leadership organises several forums with big businesses where the programmes are sold to the business community and their financial assistance solicited. By informing the companies of the different ways in which they can benefit from participating in the religious events, these organisations are inveigled into making “promissory notes” and other forms of financiai and logistics commitments to the church. Through a form of mass marketing of its programmes, the church boasts of expending more than 400 million naira in hosting a three-day event in 2000.28

Global Business

  • 29 Many of these ritual programmes hosted by pentecostal churches are often held on the first Friday o (...)

25One of the salient features of Nigerian Pentecostalism is the restless and almost ceaseless circle of activities of vigils, crusades, conventions, anniversaries, prayer sessions and deliverance programmes. Many churches have evolved such programmes as encapsulation strategies through which they create a unique world for their followers and shield them from influences from other churches and superstar pastors (Rambo 1992). Moreover, the programmes constitute formidable compétition and profit making devices that attract people into religious places. Through three routinised programmes, the RCCG brings together, on a regular basis, several thousands and sometimes millions of people in one location for up to seven days. The first programme is the Holy Ghost Service (HGS): it is a night vigil that holds on the first Friday of each month29.The second is the church’s annual cor. vention that holds for one week in early August of every year and, finally the Holy Ghost Congress which is an annual event that holds for one week in December.

  • 30 The HGS holds in London every three months and is called ‘Festival of Life’ (FOL). According to an (...)

26These events are held at the church’s expansive Redemption Camp (RC), purchased in 1983. This Camp now covers more than ten square kilometres and houses some of the important institutions of the church. such as its Bible School, a university, two presidential villas, as well as guest houses for political leaders and dignitaries, supermarkets, a bakery, a gas station, three banks, etc. These three programmes have been exported to Europe and North America where they are organised on regular bases.30

27Representing the church’s international headquarters, the RC is the global production and distribution centre of Nigerian Pentecostalism. It is here that local subjects and ideas are produced and disseminated to different parts of the world. Activities held here are indeed media events that are sometimes broadcast live on global media. Some of these programmes involve the performance of traditional Yoruba praise chants (oriki) and poetry (ewi). These performances are always mass produced on audio and videocassettes, CDs, VCDs and DVDs and marketed all over the world through the church’s branches, bookstores and the Internet.

  • 31 The banks have devised special products for the church such as high interest loans for ‘church plan (...)

28It is a formal church practice to hire the best hands in the marketing and advertising industries to package and sell its programmes to corporate organisations from within and outside the country. Through its professional media and marketing specialists, the RCCG sources for sponsorship through business deals with global companies such as Unilever plc, Unisom, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble plc, Nestlé Foods plc, Nigeria Breweries plc, City Express Bank Nigeria Limited, Global Bank plc, 7up/Pepsi Bottling Company. Furthermore, a range of banks and insurance companies are actively involved in marketing the church’s events. Two of these banks have built their branches within the RC.31 These companies and the RCCG are allies in promoting each other: the companies donate huge sums of money to the church, provide skilled and technical manpower and the organisational expertise required to host large crowds, as well as provide electricity power generating equipment in exchange for marketing their products and services during the events.

Discussion

  • 32 See RCCG Convention: August Gathering in Search of Excellence. This Day (Lagos). Monday August 15. (...)
  • 33 The church has acquired some 142 hectares of land in London for its UK Convention and in the United (...)
  • 34 Pastor Joel Oke. ‘Tragedies of Mission Opportunites’. Catalyst. vol. I. no. 3. (October 2002). p. 2 (...)

29The RCCG has moved from a ‘tribal church’ of 39 parishes of about 1°000 people in 1981 to 10,000 parishes (as at August 2005) in 90 countries (managed by 11,000 ordained pastors): 8,500 of the parishes are located i n Nigeria and 1,500 are outside the country.32 As at January 2005, there are in the United Kingdom and Ireland (RCCGUK.) there are 181 parishes while in North America (RCCGNA), there are 228 parishes (Adogame 2004; Ukah 2005e). Apart from increasing exponentially, the RCCG according to its own admission, is the richest pentecostal church in Nigeria.33 The church has made its wealth by commoditising the knowl- edge of its leader and aggressively marketing this globally. By its own admission, the RCCG is by far the richest pentecostal church in Nigeria.34 The history of the RCCG is illustrative of the dynamics of the contemporain processes of globalisation and localisation. Increased diffusion of ideas, images and money has forced the RCCG to frequently restructure in order to be better positioned to respond to rapid changes in the religious market as well as global religious diffusion and transformation. The church has been characterised since the 1980s by the dynamics of adaptation and flexibility. Its history illustrates a significant feature of modem institutions that must adapt and innovate or wind up. For institutions that are experiencing rapid change, ‘constant effort to adapt supposedly ensures success’ (Brown 2003:704). Changing in changing circumstances becomes a survival strategy. Con- stantly negotiating change becomes a reflection of religious institutions in a globalisihg world, a factor of living in a modem, but uncertain, society. This demonstrates graphically the very character of the instability of modernity, religion and globalisation. Attenuating doctrines, as is evident in the Model Parishes of the RCCG therefore, is the spin off of the constraints created by the constant pressures to keep up with the ever-changing world’ (Brown 2003:721).

30For the RCCG and its new paradigm leader, divine revelation is not static or finished: it does not exclude change. As a fact, most of the recent shifts in doctrines and practices have been premised on freshly transmitted revelations to the leader of the church as the guiding principle for action in a new world order. As it were. God too recognises that change is necessary in order to avoid extinction or fossilisation. A central catalyst in bringing about change is money. This realisation is at the root of the church’s current monetisation practices: it partly accounts for its overwhelming appeal to the rich (who would want to remain rich) and to the poor (who strive to become rich). As globalisation processes speed up, religious organisations, companies and industries have merged strategies and expectations directed toward the realisation of the promise of globalisation for all who are will- ing to embrace extreme market capitalism through change and flexibility.

  • 35 Personal interview with Pastor Deiana Adeleye-Olusae. RCCG National HQ. Ebute-Metta. Lagos. 14.05.2 (...)
  • 36 See. for example. “A Chapel of Scandals’. Newswatch (Lagos. July 19. 2004). pp. 14-19.
  • 37 Pastors rarely attempt to probe the sources of the moneys that are brought into the church as tithe (...)

31It is pertinent to observe that the incorporation of business schemas and strategies in pentecostal repositioning eschews ethical considerations of corporate practice and conduct. While churches expand and deepen their market share, the social and economic climate remains hostile and sometimes even violent. The emphasis on money as an index of success as proponents of the prosperity message’ insist on (and Adeboye is one of them. see Ukah 2005a) has fostered wide- spread ethical abuses in individual and group conduct (Adeboye 2005b). The doctrine that success must be measurable,35 which pitches members of the clergy against one another in a cutthroat competition to recruit, mostly the wealthy members of the society, desensitises church workers to the importance of ethical conduct.36 Clergy malfeasance, which is on the rise in Nigeria, becomes the price paid for the endless pressure to find new ways of expansion and of making profit.37

32While the leadership sought to restructure the church from within by creating the Model Parishes, in order to attract and retain quality persons who would be trained to become high performing church executives as well as generate internai mobility, it also commenced a painstaking process of doctrinal reorientation. In order to compete effectively in the emerging religious market of the 1980s and 1990s, a church that was originally apocalyptic in its outlook soon began to incorporate pragmatic doctrines that pandered to the luxuriant emotions of the middle classes. According to the new teaching, as the new leader propounded it:

  • 38 E. A. AdeboyePastors rarely attempt to probe the sources of the moneys that are brought into the ch (...)

“God is not poor at all by any standard, [for], the closest friends of God [in the Bible] were wealthy people [...] God is the God of the rich, and his closest friends are very wealthy [...]. The rich are friends of the rich, and the poor are friends of the poor. Therefore God decided to befriend the rich.”38

  • 39 Ibid. p. 6
  • 40 Although originated in the United States of America, the prosperity religion is itself a trend in t (...)

33To the poor, they must become rich, because ‘[b]irds of the same [sic] feather flock together’ and poverty is an evil as well as a curse that brings hatred and destruction in its wake.39 This sort of teaching was adapted to the financial profile of the church and its target audience. The RCCG embraced a utopian doctrine of material abundance in the 1980s that was in tune with the promises of proponents of globalisation who see in the cluster of processes of interconnectivity the cure for humanity’s contemporary malaise particularly poverty.40

  • 41 This is the motto of a pentecostal church in Lagos as advertised on a billboard along Kudirat Way l (...)

34The RCCG developed the commercial possibilities of religious crusades in Nigeria. In addition to being religious events, crusades, congresses, night vigils, etc. are activities sponsored by commercial organisations to enable them to market their wares and services. Aside from the church’s self-packaging as a commercial possibility, the symbiotically reinforcing and mutually benefiting relationship with economic institutions represents a new transformation as well as manifestation of Nigerian Pentecostalism in the era of globalisation. Bythe resultant commodification of religion, it is easy for it to travel and be dispersed to different locations. More importantly, through its new doctrines and practices, the church makes itself attractive to corporate organisations, particularly those in the manufacturing and provision of consumer goods and services. As a globalising movement, the RCCG ruptures the distinction between the sacred and the profane, this-worldly and other-worldly, pastoring and profiting; its unspoken slogan, exploit the earth but focus on heaven41, aptly illustrates this point. Modem media have furthered the church’s objective of culturally dominating the local religious economy. The church’s obsession with new technologies of mass communication is a survival strategy of keeping up with new competitors, breaking new grounds, deepening its market share as well as fighting to take other churches’ customers and clients.

35Because the RCCG is expanding rapidly, with the likelihood of pastors being transferred from local parishes to foreign lands, the church has had to network with pentecostal institutions in Asia. Europe. North and South America to train some of its key personnel in understanding the demands of global religious transformations and transcultural religious trends. Such training enhances the prestige and thecapacity of religious producers to compete effectively locally and globally.

36One significant feature of the Nigerian religious economy, aside from its diverse and unregulated structure, is competition. Mutual rivalry among pentecostal churches has driven some to solicit for assistance from the business community for them to have an edge over others. Professional salesmanship has become a necessary skill for a new generation of pastors who now must strategise and package their products among other competing popular cultures. Part of this strategic repositioning has created specialisation within the pentecostal industry as some pastors insist they are wealth-inducing experts, others specialise in casting anc binding the devil and his minions, others in working miracles of many forms, yet others, like Helen Ukpabio of Liberty Gospel Church, claim to have a commission to liberate people from witchcraft and sorcery, while T. B. Joshua of the Synagogue of All Nations has a divine mandate to cure HIV/AIDS, cancer and other terminal diseases (see Maier 2002). All these reflect the increasing global specialisations that are conditioned by regional competences, availability of raw material and cheap labour, as well as areas of perceived need of the society.

Conclusion

37Cultural globalisation is redraing the contours of religious beliefs and practices. As globalisation increases in intensity in Africa, the interface between the religious sphere and the economic sphere enlarges the religious marketplace. As Karla Poewe (1989) observed over a decade ago, charismatic Christianity ‘is a religion of change’. This change is not only cultural, as she maintained, but also economic, as the teachings and practices of many pentecostal churches and leaders in Nigeria demonstrate. The history of the RCCG demonstrates the ability of Pentecostalism (and other religions in general) to domesticate and negotiate change in order to remain relevant to both individuals and corporate organisations. Through the pursuit of change, Pentecostalism blurs boundaries between the sacred and the secular, the religious and the economic, prophecy and profit. In so doing a new culture is invented which promises rapid transformation, personal and collective. Whatever political rhetoric of change Nigerian Pentecostalism espouses is still something of the future, difficult to access for the moment. At the moment, however, the face of religion in general, and Pentecostalism in particular, is very different from what it used to be two decades ago. This confirms Hunt’s (2002: 185) assertion that Pentecostalism in Africa today is not [...] the same movement that impacted on the continent in the 1920s... ‘(cf. Gifford 2004).

38As our discussion of the RCCG indicates, pentecostal capitalism is an emerging phenomenon in Nigeria. It is being entrenched w ith the help of local and global companies and industries. In the situation in which Nigeria (and much of Africa) still is today, this emergent religious market is already exercising a stronghold on Nigerian pentecostal and corporate cultures. The processes described in this paper are features of Pentecostalism the world over as a totalising system, a system of either/or: either one is on the side of God and brings in one’s resources to support God’s cause, or one is against God and his growing number of ministers and their lieutenants and therefore on the side of the Devil (Garner 1998). The increasing monetisation of Pentecostalism, while it has visibly enriched church owners and leaders, has also empowered a good number of struggling Nigerians living in difficult circumstances to connect to global desires, tastes and quests, as well as communities. Nigerian Pentecostalism, as its trendsetter (the RCCG) has shown, is now a veritable force and part of a multifaceted process of religious globalisation as well as global capitalism. The achievements of the RCCG are better appreciated against the backcloth of pervasive waves of protracted sociocultural, economic and political changes buffeting Africa in general and Nigeria in particular.

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Notes

1 Dr. Emelda Ngufor-Samba of the University of Yaoundé 1, Cameroon read and commented on an earlier draft of this paper. The author is profoundly grateful for the service.

2 George Barna's A Step-by-Step Guide to Church Marketing: Breaking Ground for the Harvest ( 1992) remains a popular textbook for many Nigerian church-owners more than a decade after it came out. It is still available in many pentecostal bookstores scattered all over southern Nigeria.

3 Many companies begin the day's work with a formal prayer session in which every employee is expected to participate in. In addition to this some have formed ‘lunch time prayer meeting’ during which both employers and emplovees engage in fervent supplications for the prosperity of the firm. In order to publicise this kind of ‘corporate spirituality’ some of these firms sponsor religious events in addition to displaying pentecostal svmbols in their offices or even on their products.

4 The C&S is an Aladura (Prayer) movement in Yorubaland jointly founded by Abiodun Akinsowon and Moses Orimolade in 1925. For more, see Peel 1968: Mitehell 1970a: b: 1979: Omoyajowo 1982).

5 The fieldwork upon which this section of the paper is based was carried out in Nigeria between April and July 2001 and again between July and November 2003. Data from this lieldwork formed the core of my PhD Dissertation (Ukah 2004). The research was part of a larger study carried out under a collaborative research project on Local Action in the Context of Global Influences in Africa' based at the University of Bayreuth. Germany, I acknowledge the support Professor Dr. Urich Berner, my PhD supervisor at Bayreuth, and also that of Sonderforschungsbereich Forsehungskolleg 560 during the period of research and writing up my dissertation.

6 An early source on the history of the RCCG called Rev. Akindayomi a babulawo a Yoruba designation that literarily translayes as father of concealed wisdom secrets mystery see Tijani. 1985: cf. with onise-ogun = masters of medicine, Hallen. 2000: 5).

7 The primary problem was the growing popularity ofthe Cilory of God society and the refusai of Josiah to subordinate the group s activity to the C&S authority. For details on this issue, see (Ukah 2004a).

8 On AFM see Anderson 2000: 2001: 95-96: 2004: 103 f

9 He was born into an Anglican family, reaffiliated to RCCG in 1972 and obtained his PhD from the University of Lagos in 1975.

10 Personal interview with Pastor Johnson Funso Odesola. Redemption Camp. Lagos. 01.06.01

11 On the features of the Holiness type churches in Nigeria see Marshall (1993: 226 f).

12 Adeola Akinremi. ‘Some Old Landmarks’. Redemption Light magazine. Vol. 7. no. 7. August 2002. p. 33. (The Redemption Light is the officiai monthly magazine of the RCCG).

13 Ibid.

14 Adeola Akinremi. ‘Some Old Landmarks’. Redemption Light magazine. Vol. 7. no. 7. August 2002. p. 33. (The Redemption Light is the official monthly magazine of the RCCG).

15 Pastor J.H. Abiona. Interview. Redemption Light magazine, vol. 5. no. 10, November 2000, p. 6.

16 RCCG at 50. an unpublished document produced by the Directorate of Mission of the Church. Lagos. 2002.

17 Interview with Pastor Odesola op. cit.: cf. Adeola Akinremi op. cit. p. 33.

18 Interview with Assistant General Overseer (AGO). Pastor M. O. Ojo. RCCG National HQ, Ebute-Metta. Lagos. 12.06.01.

19 Pastor Pitan Adeboye. ‘No Contest between Classical and model Parishes’. Lifeway vol. 1. no. 3. August - September 2001. p. 23. (Pastor Pitan Adeboye who is from Kwara state is no relation of Pastor Enoch Adeboye. who hails from Osun state).

20 There is a third strand of parishes called the Unity Parishes which were initiated in 1997 to harmonise the social and religious features ofthe first two strandy This latest strand has not met with much success as did the Model parishes

21 For a rigourous examination oaf the diversification of parishes in the RCCG from the perspective of Strategic Management, see Ukah. 2005d.

22 Personal interview with Pastor Agu Irukwu. Jesus House. Brent Terrace. Brent Cross. London. 10.11.2004.

23 Redemption Light. March 1999. p. 54.

24 Personal interview with Pastor Shyngle l. J. Wigwe. Redemption television Vlinistry (RIVM) Office. Redemption Camp. U6.08.02. He is the Director of RI VM.

25 See www.reeg.org

26 http://rl.rccg.org/rnission_stalement.htm (accessed 16.01.03).

27 Some of these items are actually sold to the public, panicularly members. Thus, they advertise as well as bring in revenues for the church.

28 Interview with Pastor Ezekiel A. Odevemi. RCCG National HQ. Ebute-Metta. Lagos. Nigeria. 04.06.01.

29 Many of these ritual programmes hosted by pentecostal churches are often held on the first Friday of each month. The choice of this time is informed by the fact that wage earners have just received their pay for the month. The hosts of these events expect their followers and clients to pay up their tithes as well as make handsome offerings during the “interdenominational service”.

30 The HGS holds in London every three months and is called ‘Festival of Life’ (FOL). According to an insider. the choice of this nomenclature was for Strategic/logistic purposes. to play down the evangelistic motive of the programme and make the programme more appealing to prospective attendees. FOL is thus considered in more benign caption tahn ‘evangelistic crusade’ or other such aggressive labels. The name is reminescent of the Jewish feast of Chanukah. an eight-day festival beginning on the 25th day of Kislev in December. This festival commemorates the rededication to Judaism of the Temple in Jerusalem in 165 BC after a period during which it had been used for the worship of Greek gods under Antiochus Epiphanes (See http://fp.thebeers.f9.co.uk/chanukah.htm [accessed 03.10.04] and also http://www.christiananswers.net/dictionao/dedicationfeastofthe.html [accessed 03.10.04). The church claims that through these programmes. God will rededicate Nigeria on a path of global relevance in bringing humankind to Himself. (For details on these programmes, see Ukah 2004:217-234).

31 The banks have devised special products for the church such as high interest loans for ‘church planting.’ acquisition of property and equipment.

32 See RCCG Convention: August Gathering in Search of Excellence. This Day (Lagos). Monday August 15. 2005. p. 82.

33 The church has acquired some 142 hectares of land in London for its UK Convention and in the United States of America. it has spent about US$3million on the acquisition of some 500 acres of property in Texas to construct a 10.000 seater sanctuary and Prayer Camp.

34 Pastor Joel Oke. ‘Tragedies of Mission Opportunites’. Catalyst. vol. I. no. 3. (October 2002). p. 27 (Catalyst is RCCG's Mission Magazine produced by the church's Directorate of Missions. Lagos).

35 Personal interview with Pastor Deiana Adeleye-Olusae. RCCG National HQ. Ebute-Metta. Lagos. 14.05.2001. The RCCG assesses its pastors for promotion by, among other things, the amount of money they collect each month as tithes, offerings and gift and the number and quality of member-ship. For more on the prerequisites of ordination in RCCG see Ukah 2004. pp. 127-129.

36 See. for example. “A Chapel of Scandals’. Newswatch (Lagos. July 19. 2004). pp. 14-19.

37 Pastors rarely attempt to probe the sources of the moneys that are brought into the church as tithes gifts and offerings. Consequently, armed robbers, fraudsters, corrupt politicians and businesspersons bring some of their loots into the churches with the hope ofgaining forgiveness and image laundry.

38 E. A. AdeboyePastors rarely attempt to probe the sources of the moneys that are brought into the church as tithes. gifts and offerings. Consequently, armed robbers, fraudsters, corrupt politicians and businesspersons bring some of their loots into the churches with the hope of gaining forgiveness and image laundry. How to Turn your Austerity to Prosperity. (Lagos: CRM Books. 1989). pp. 2-3

39 Ibid. p. 6

40 Although originated in the United States of America, the prosperity religion is itself a trend in the global resurgence of religious ideas and practices which has gained popularity in many parts of the world today (Coleman 1993: 2000: Harrison 2005)

41 This is the motto of a pentecostal church in Lagos as advertised on a billboard along Kudirat Way lkeja. Lagos.

Endnotes

1 Department for the History of Religions, University of Bayreuth, Germany.

© IFRA-Nigeria, 2005

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