1st Edition

Nigerian Pentecostalism and Development Spirit, Power, and Transformation

By Richard Burgess Copyright 2020
    264 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    264 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    This book examines the contributions, both intentional and unintentional, of Nigerian Pentecostal churches and NGOs to development, studying their development practices broadly in relation to the intersecting spheres of politics, economics, health, education, human rights, and peacebuilding. In sub-Saharan Africa, Pentecostalism is fast becoming the dominant expression of Christianity, but while the growth and civic engagement of these churches has been well documented, their role in development has received less attention. The Nigerian Pentecostal landscape is one of the most vibrant in Africa. Churches are increasingly assuming more prominent roles as they seek to address the social and moral ills of contemporary society, often in fierce competition with Islam for dominance in Nigerian public space.

    Some scholars suggest that the combination of an enchanted worldview, an emphasis on miracles and prosperity teaching, and a preoccupation with evangelism discourages effective political engagement and militates against development. However, Nigerian Pentecostalism and Development argues that there is an emerging movement within contemporary Nigerian Pentecostalism which is becoming increasingly active in development practices. This book goes on to explore the increasingly transnational approach that churches take, often seeking to build multicultural congregations around the globe, for instance in Britain and the United States.

    Nigerian Pentecostalism and Development: Spirit, Power, and Transformation will be of considerable interest to scholars and students concerned with the intersection between religion and development, and to development practitioners and policy-makers working in the region.


    1. NGOs, Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs), and Churches

    2. Pentecostal Economics, Entrepreneurship, and Capacity-Building 

    3. Pentecostals, Governance, and Development 

    4. Pentecostals, Education, and Development 

    5. Pentecostal Healing and Healthcare 

    6. Pentecostals, Human Rights, and the Family  

    7. Pentecostals, Violence, and Peacebuilding  

    8. Pentecostals, Migration, and Development



    Richard Burgess is Senior Lecturer in Theology, University of Roehampton, United Kingdom.

    "The scholarly traffic at the nexus where religion meets development has increased since the turn of the century, with researchers specifically of the pentecostal movement being inconclusive at best about whether its churches and members have made any positive impact on the betterment of society. Burgess has mastered the secondary literature and done fresh qualitative research on especially Nigerian neo-Pentecostalism and its diaspora in order to present in almost comprehensive compass evidence of the potential for social transformation embedded in pneumatic and charismatic spirituality. The local and yet transnational scope of this study frames the discussion of Pentecostalism and development for decades to come."Amos Yong, Professor of Theology & Mission, and Dean of the School of Theology & School of Intercultural Studies, Fuller Seminary

    "Popular Pentecostal churches in Africa promise prosperity to the faithful. International donors and African governments pledge to combat poverty with development. In recent years, faith-based organizations have become active agents in official development efforts and Pentecostal churches have engaged in work that could best be described as development. What are the consequences of these endeavors? For development? For religion? For the poor who are supposed to benefit? Drawing on many years of up-close involvement with and intensive study of Nigerian Pentecostal churches, Richard Burgess offers highly readable, insightful, ethnographically rich analysis of the relationship between Pentecostalism and development in Africa’s most populous country."Daniel Jordan Smith, Charles C. Tillinghast, Jr. Professor of International Studies, Brown University

    "This volume deserves an exemplary status in the thriving field of studies on global Pentecostalism. In a rare multi-disciplinary approach Dr Burgess explores contemporary transformations within Nigerian Pentecostalism including its wide transnational networks. The reader gets empirically based access to long neglected dimensions of Pentecostal concepts of development, entrepreneurship and capacity building with an expertise also on migration contexts. In sovereign style theological prepositions are fused with Pentecostal interventions in human rights discourses as well as with coping strategies against violence and questions of peace. With such compact sense of development the volume inspires future comparative analyses of the social agency of Pentecostalism."Andreas Heuser, University of Basel, Switzerland

    "It is a well-documented fact that the vitality of Christianity is in the Global South, not in Europe or North America, and the source of this vitality is Pentecostalism. Richard Burgess’ book focuses on Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa and also the location of some of the largest congregations in the world.

    This book is based on years of research. It draws on Burgess’ own experience of living in Nigeria, multiple interviews that he did with leaders of Pentecostal movements and congregations, a survey of clergy and lay members of churches, and impeccable research into the literature on religion in Nigeria.

    Each chapter is framed by an overview of the issues related to the various topics that he explores in the eight chapters of the book: The role of faith based organizations; the role of religion in economic development; the contribution of Pentecostal churches to education; the various ways in which Pentecostalism is addressing healthcare; interventions by Pentecostal churches related to street children, human trafficking and gender based violence; and the role of Pentecostal churches in responding to political violence. While Pentecostals often address these issues at an individual level—through conversion and appeals to the supernatural—Burgess also indicates that some Pentecostals conceptualize issues of poverty and violence in structural terms, and seek solutions at political, cultural and societal levels.

    The book has a very scholarly tone while also being highly readable, since it repeatedly offers examples to illustrate the theoretical arguments it is making. At every point, Burgess entertains opposing points of view and is very fair-minded in seeing the shadow side of Pentecostalism while, nevertheless, offering examples of congregations and movements that are pushing beyond simplistic, supernatural ways of addressing issues of poverty and violence in Nigerian society.

    This book makes a major contribution to the literature on the role of religion in development, drawing on the innovative practices of progressive Pentecostal churches in Nigeria."Donald E. Miller, Leonard K. Firestone Professor of Religion, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Center for Religion and Civic Culture, University of Southern California

    "Burgess' book sovereignly connects two vibrant research areas, Pentecostal studies and the field of religion and development. Comprehensive and thought-provoking, it is of much interest to academics and practitioners alike and will be a cornerstone for further research and collaboration in Pentecostalism and development."Dr Jörg Haustein Lecturer in World Christianities, University of Cambridge, Fellow, Selwyn College, Cambridge