A historical analysis of the emergence of newer Pentecostal churches in Adamawa State, Nigeria from 1975 to 2008.
Ishaya, Edward Rokulegodo
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Scholars and observers have described Pentecostalism as the fastest growing Christian movement in the world today. Since the beginning of the 20th century the movement has aimed to repeat the experience of the early church, with special emphasis on the power of the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, miracles, ecstatic prayers, singing, visions and prophecies. Divine healing and holiness were and are still aspects of its teachings. In the developing world, Africa has been identified as the continent with the fastest growth of the Christian church in general. Nigeria holds a leading position in this respect with a spectacular growth of the Pentecostal movement. The present research is concerned the rise of Pentecostalism in one out of the 36 states of Nigeria namely, Adamawa State. The research focused on discovering the factors that have stimulated the establishment and growth of Pentecostalism in Adamawa State. In conducting interviews and gathering of data, oral history methodology was employed followed by phenomenological and participatory observation approaches at worship services and conventions. Part of the research consisted of conducting in-depth structured and semi-structured interviews with leaders, „apostles‟, „founders‟, elders, clergy and other influential members of the churches which were used as case studies. Critical players of the mainline churches, as well as former „mainliners‟ who have moved on to Pentecostal churches, have been interviewed, along with independent observers who are experts particularly social scientists. The research indicates that Pentecostalism gained influence in Adamawa State through the activities of members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) who were ardent readers of Pentecostal literature in their university days. During their service year, they usually get posted as teachers in schools. This gave them the opportunity to influence the students they taught. Also, new universities and schools established all over Nigeria in 1975 helped to prepare the ground for the spread of Pentecostal Christianity in the North of Nigeria where Adamawa State is situated. Thus, the first leaders of indigenous Pentecostal churches in Adamawa were products of the new universities and schools that had been influenced by „Pentecostalized‟ teachers from the southern universities. The research also demonstrates that, in the mid-1970s, the first contacts with neo Pentecostalism took place through the Lutheran Youth Fellowship (LYF) and its leadership. The second medium was to be found in the Associate Fellowship of Christian Students/Fellowship of Christian Students (AFCS /FCS) set up in schools, colleges and churches. The research highlights further that the various Pentecostal churches in Adamawa are quite independent of each other but, at the same time, maintain close net-working to support each other. It was also discovered that the age groups most attracted to Pentecostalism are those of secondary school leavers and university graduates. The research further observes that liberalism in music and church architecture have contributed greatly to the status of Pentecostalism in Christianity. Pentecostal theology is centered on Christ and on Christ alone. Christ must constantly be experienced in the believer`s life and the constant presence of Christ is required in all facets of life. Marriages are pre-arranged for members. This is done to check the behaviour of intending couples because there is great stress on chastity before marriage among Pentecostals. Faith healing is a draw-card for Pentecostals in Nigeria where illness is rife. Repentance, required of every sinner, must precede belief in Christ in order to activate faith. The study observed that most Pentecostals do not display the Cross which is generally seen as the most important Christian symbol, either in their churches or at their conventions. Pentecostal leaders in Adamawa State are still strongly attached to their former mainline churches. They pray for them and hope for a reformation among the mainline Christians and they also see the mainline churches as mission fields. Pentecostals have revised their stance regarding governments and politicians with whom they previously kept at bay and whom they considered as outcasts who defiled the treasure of being „born again‟ for the sake of access to power. Today, business communities and Pentecostals maintain a symbiotic relationship. The close association of the Pentecostal churches with the business community also helps to sustain the flamboyant life style of the Pentecostal clergy while the drive to secure a wealthy membership has been a reason for many splits among Pentecostals and their proliferation. Among the most essential factors contributing to the proliferation of Pentecostalism in Nigeria are a lack of proper theological education and the role played by the so-called African worldview, the quest for modernization and the “Nigerian phenomenon”, namely the “survival spirit” of people who are characterized by determination and an unlimited thirst for wealth accumulation.