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WEALTH AND WORTH:
PASTORSHIP AND NEO-PENTECOSTALISM IN KUMASI1
Karen Lauterbach
Abstract
he concern of this article is how neo-Pentecostal pastors
build up wealth and status in Kumasi, Ghana. The
argument is that neo-Pentecostal ideas of wealth appeal to
pastors as well as church membership, because it enables a certain
form of entrepreneurship on the one hand and relate to more
established ideas of social mobility and status in Asante on the
other. I also point out that the way wealth has been perceived in
scholarship on neo-Pentecostalism is narrow in the sense that is
merely looks upon wealth in terms of money and commodities. I
argue that wealth in the case of pastors should be seen in a broader
context to include aspects such as time and presence of people and
social relations. By analysing specific cases and events I propose
that pastors and church members invest in social relations and
networking to attain wealth.
T
Introduction
When I first arrived in Kumasi in December 2004 I was struck by
two things. The first was the enthusiasm and vigour of some young
pastors I met and the second was the ubiquity of neo-
1 This article was first presented at the Ph.D. workshop: ‘Religion and Public
Moral Debate in Africa’ in Copenhagen, 27-29 February 2008. I am indebted to
my Ghanaian colleagues and the people I met during my stay in Ghana for
sharing their time, stories and experiences with me. Moreover, I would like to
thank Ben Jones, T.C. McCaskie, Bodil Folke Frederiksen, Lene Bull
Christiansen, Christian Lund, and Camilla Strandsbjerg for commenting on
earlier versions of the paper. My fieldwork was funded by the Danish Research
Council for Development Research and the Nordic Africa Institute.
Ghana Studies v.9(2006): 91-121.
KAREN LAUTERBACH
92
Pentecostal/charismatic churches and their pastors in the cityscape
of Kumasi. A group of young pastors were setting up a branch of a
Ghanaian-founded church in Copenhagen. They did not have much
money or mobile phones, which meant they could not get in touch
with the pastor who led the church. Their congregation comprised
only a few friends and some family members of the leading pastor
in Copenhagen, and they did not have a church building. What
they did have, however, in terms of church objects were eight blue
plastic chairs, a few instruments, and a banner. In terms of
affiliation they had contact with a senior pastor in Denmark. They
conducted the Sunday service in a class-room in a school in
Kwadaso, Kumasi, as did many other little new churches. One
could hardly hear the words of the sermon, because of the noise of
drumming from next door. The image of a church factory came to
my mind.
When I next went to Kumasi in February 2005, I was even
more puzzled by the development of this little church. It had
moved away from the school into a little dark store room. One
Sunday morning, I came to join the Sunday service. On my arrival
the room was locked and there was no sign of life. A little later one
of the young pastors came, opened the door and sat at the back of
the room, behind a wooden pulpit with his head bowed and prayed.
My Ghanaian colleague and I sat down and waited. After some
time a few people arrived and the service started. The question in
my mind was why four young men would be so eager to set up a
church which had almost nothing: no money and no congregation.
These depictions of young and up-coming pastors,
establishing their own churches in storerooms and garages, stand in
contrast to the picture of the flamboyant mega-star pastors of some
of the more established and successful neo-Pentecostal/charismatic
churches2 in southern Ghana and elsewhere in Africa. However
2 Different terms are employed in the literature on Pentecostalism in Ghana.
There is a distinction between Pentecostal and neo-Pentecostal churches. The
former is the so-called classical churches, introduced by foreign missionaries,
such as the Church of Pentecost and the Assemblies of God Church. The latter
group represents the more recently established Pentecostal churches. These
WEALTH AND WORTH 93
small and insignificant these young pastors might seem to be, they
represent a larger group of younger, junior or associate pastors
who are serving under bigger pastors, or are attending bible
schools or are trying to set up their own churches. Their actions
and behaviour express an eagerness to succeed, to become
someone, to become a ‘man of God,’ and they draw on both socio-
political and religious criteria to achieve success. Seeing and
talking with these pastors motivated me to explore and understand
the processes by which one becomes a pastor and move on to
become a ‘big man.’
What I try to do in this article is to analyse how ideas of
wealth and status are configured in Ghanaian neo-
Pentecostal/charismatic churches and how pastorship can be seen
as a way to achieve, display and distribute wealth. I deal in
particular with how neo-Pentecostal doctrine relates to wealth and
success and how doctrine is related to certain economic, political,
and social processes. This article argues that neo-Pentecostal ideas
of wealth appeal to pastors as well as church membership. This
creates a dual driving force. Such ideas are conducive to a certain
form of entrepreneurship and relate to more established ideas of
social mobility and status in Asante. I also point out that the way
wealth has hitherto been perceived in scholarship on
Pentecostalism is too narrow in the sense that it merely looks upon
wealth in terms of money and commodities. I argue that wealth, in
the case of pastors, should be seen in a broader way and include
churches are the offspring of the older Pentecostal and Protestant churches, or
are independent churches. The term charismatic is used more broadly to include
charismatic groups outside the Pentecostal churches, such as the Catholic
Church. Some use the term Charismatic Ministries (Asamoah-Gyadu 2005), or
simply charismatic (Gifford 2004). Here I employ the term neo-
Pentecostal/charismatic churches, as it best encompasses the varieties
represented in the group of churches I am interested in. Moreover, it underscores
the sometimes blurred boundaries between the various denominations and
churches. I am mainly interested in the newer independent churches and
fellowships, and do not deal with the churches belonging to the group of
classical Pentecostal churches. See Robbins (2004) and Maxwell (2006) for the
history and global character of the movement.
KAREN LAUTERBACH
94
such aspects as time, presence of people and social relations. The
church can be seen as an arena in which to negotiate claims to
wealth, to amass wealth and to display wealth.
The article draws on my larger work on the configurations and
dynamics of pastorship in neo-Pentecostal/charismatic churches in
Southern Ghana. That work explores how Ghanaian pastors build
up their careers and how becoming and being a pastor is a process
by which one contests for status, wealth and power and becomes a
‘big man’. It also examines the social processes that evolve around
the craft and politics of pastorship, and the power structures and
struggles involved in building up and maintaining a strong position
as a ‘man of God’ (Onyame nnipa).
The pastors of these new churches are gaining prominence,
and emerging as public figures and figures of authority. They have
been described as being ‘self promoting, flamboyant and icons of
success and power’ (Gifford 2007). Within these churches there is
a widely noticeable attention on the pastor and he3 is in many ways
the pivot around which the church moves. Tellingly, these
churches are popularly known as ’one-man churches’, meaning the
church of one person, belonging to one person, and in the control
of one person. The prominence of pastors is according to some,
one of the more dominant features of the growing number of neo-
Pentecostal/charismatic churches on the African continent (Gifford
1998; Maxwell 2006: 9; Meyer 2001, 2005; Marshall-Fratani
2001).
These pastors are called osofo4 (pl. asofo) in Twi. Osofo
means a priest, one who officiates in the service of God or a Fetish,
or one who performs a religious ceremony. The word was in use
before the introduction of Christianity, but has since been
appropriated by it. Therefore, the term osofo does represent an
insulated vocabulary specific to neo-Pentecostalism in Asante. It is
part of a terminology that has a history beyond both the classical
3 There are both male and female pastors within the neo-Pentecostal/charismatic
churches. I use ‘he’ when discussing pastors in the article, for the sake of
linguistic clarity and because the majority of the pastors are men.
4 T.C. McCaskie, personal communication.
WEALTH AND WORTH 95
Pentecostal churches and the neo-Pentecostal churches, and which
is rooted in Asante experience. The term osofo, and its history in
Asante, is important to bear in mind when looking a how one
becomes a pastors.
There are various ways to become a neo-Pentecostal pastor.
Many begin by working and training under a senior pastor, after
they have received God’s calling (Nyame fre). The training
consists of entering into an apprentice-mentor relationship with the
senior pastor. The senior pastor provides legitimacy to younger
pastors. Becoming a pastor also often entails going to Bible School
a couple of years. Although, this is not a formal requirement, it
adds to a young pastor’s status. It is common to leave one’s senior
pastor (or spiritual father) and establish an independent church.
This is a step to become a ‘big’ pastor. Pastors become pastors not
merely by making careers within the church, but also through
relations to e.g. family and kinship. Moreover, in order to build up
and legitimise a position as a pastor, the pastor has to show that he
has access to the spiritual realm, hence spiritual power. This is
done for example through display of wealth and abilities to heal
and perform miracles. The idea is that the pastor is a mediator
between the spiritual world and people and thus holds specific gifts
and powers, which gives him an a priori privileged position. Being
a mediator also implies controlling access and having the ability to
make things change (e.g. like a gate-keeper or broker). Claiming
access to the spiritual has a specific meaning not only in the church
and among church members. It is also recognised and meaningful
within other social fields. The importance of being a mediator
between the physical world and the spiritual world is to be
understood as part of a cognitive matrix that has a broader
resonance in Asante society (Akyeampong & Obeng 1995;
Asamoah-Gyadu 2005a, 2005b).
Building up a church and a pastoral career is about creating a
community, gathering a flock and providing both material and
spiritual services. There are strong elements of authority building
and community building to this process. Pastors are religious
innovators and promote themselves as bringing about change in
KAREN LAUTERBACH
96
people’s lives. They employ the religious idiom of ‘making a
break’, which is part of a process of personal transformation
(Maxwell 2006; Meyer 1998). Moreover, by invoking spiritual
power, they enable themselves to transgress certain types of power
hierarchies (based on class, age, and gender). At the same time,
pastors draw on cultural symbols and criteria for success in their
endeavours. Becoming a pastor is, from this perspective, a way of
achieving social mobility and status, which builds on already
existing ideas of success and of how one becomes and behaves as a
‘big man.’
Analysing the Concept of Pastorship: Some Premises
I discuss pastorship with the aim of uncovering the social,
political and economic significance of a religious office. I am
interested in this not because I want to show that pastors are
rational beings, but as an attempt of viewing religion and belief as
“routine common sense, [which implies that] we would try to see
how the supernatural was embedded in mundane social relations”
(Fields 1985: 20; see also Beidelman 1998: xviii). I examine the
extent to which belief and religious ideas and practices are part of
‘routine common sense’ in the Ghanaian context, how these
unfold, and what their political significance is. At this level I see
my work as a contribution to studies of religion in Africa, which is
based on an approach that views religion not within a
cultural/religious– political dichotomy, but one that sees religion as
part and parcel of the mundane (Fields 1985; Lambek 2002;
Middleton 1999). This approach also implies viewing religious
institutions and actors as linked up with other institutions and
actors, and not as self-contained places. Pastorship is therefore
perceived as a social process. Moreover studying the social
processes of pastorship gives insight to these new figures of
success that are playing an important role in Ghanaian society, not
only in terms of religious leadership, but more widely in how they
represent new trajectories of ascension (Banégas & Warnier,
2001). At a more general level, and following on from the above,
WEALTH AND WORTH 97
studying neo-Pentecostalism and pastors provides a lens to study
social change in a West African (Ghanaian) context that may allow
us to think differently about processes of becoming. In the present
article it opens up space for an analysis of how the practice and
ideas around status, wealth and power are changing and being
redefined.
There is persistence to the logics, structures and practices of
religion in Africa and how it is linked with politics, which has been
emphasised in the works of Peel (2000) and Maxwell (2006),
among others. The ways in which pastors establish careers build on
and integrate notions of power, status and wealth which have a
long history in Asante. In order for new churches and pastors to
become legitimate, there has to be resonance with former practices
and experiences. New institutions need a stabilising principle and
there “needs to be an analogy by which the formal structure of a
crucial set of social relations is found in the physical world, or in
the supernatural world, or in eternity, anywhere, so long as it is not
seen as a socially contrived arrangement” (Douglas 1986: 48).
However, the rise of the neo-Pentecostal movement in Africa has
mainly been interpreted as a major change of Christianity in
Africa, with focus on new ways of structuring and practicing
religion as well as in terms of innovations in religious ideas and
belief (Gifford 1998, 2004). One of the premises of this article is
that these institutions and ideas are socially and historically
embedded, to a much larger extent than the literature has
acknowledged, despite the often foreign origins and inspirations of
this sort of religious movements.5
Another premise is that the rise of new religious movements is
not necessarily a reaction or a response to modernity, or an
expression of ‘social malaise’. The following quotation from Baëta
(1962) is a reaction to the argument that the rise of African
Independent Churches (in Ghana known as spiritual churches—
5 This embeddedness is to be understood as more than building on traditional
religious thought (see discussion of this in Gifford, 2004 and Asamoah-Gyadu,
2005). It is to be understood as building on for instance ideas around status,
wealth and power.
KAREN LAUTERBACH
98
Sunsumsorè) were a response to the anxieties brought about by
colonial impact, modernity and Western influence.
“It appears to me that in recent studies of new cults and other
movements of a religious nature among African peoples, the
presumed background element of psychological upheaval,
tensions and conflicts, anxieties, etc..., due to ’acculturation,
technology and the Western impact’ has tended to be rather
overdrawn. Here is a typical judgment in this connection [...]
Whether there is more anxiety in Ghana now than at any time
previously, or than in most other countries of the world at
present, must probably remain a matter of opinion. After all,
people have seen some very rough times here, e.g. slaving era,
and the ’Western impact’ has been with us already for the best
part of half a millennium...” (Baëta 1962: 6).
This ‘social malaise’ argument is still prevalent in
explanations of the rise of religious movements in Africa. The
fundamental assumption is that these religious movements and
their popularity is a reaction to change (modernity) in society, a
change that brings fragmentation, anxiety and chaos as well as
hopes and aspirations (see Meyer 1998c: 759). Religious
mobilisation in this frame of understanding is either a response in
terms of providing security, or in permitting people to contest new
and suppressing powers. The causality is often not questioned, but
taken for granted, and religion is seen merely as a reaction or a
response.6
We need to question the taken for granted assumption of
connections between certain developments of time and religious
movements, and instead “we need to treat them as problematic, as
needing explanation, just as all other kinds of social and political
implications of religious movements need explanation” (Ranger
6 This idea is of course not limited to studies of religion in Africa, but part of
classical theoretical thinking within the discipline of sociology of religion,
where religion is seen as a response to a certain development of society. The
idea is vivid (however contested) in today’s debates on the link between
radicalism, terrorism and religion.
WEALTH AND WORTH 99
1986: 51). That said, and even rejecting the causality of the ‘social
malaise’ argument, the understanding in this article is that religious
institutions and ideas have an affinity with social, political and
economic interests (Weber 1995; Gerth & Wright Mills 1991: 63).
The point is that we can not set up a causal line of argumentation,
but rather that it is the interplay and affinities between these fields
that must be explored.
The Rise of the New Pastors
In Ghana a new group of pastors has emerged with the
proliferation of neo-Pentecostal/charismatic churches since the
1980s (Gifford 2004; Meyer 2005: 282). Asamoah-Gyadu asserts
that “Pentecostalism at the moment represents the most cogent,
powerful and visible evidence of religious renewal and influence in
Ghana” (2005: 14). According to Gifford’s most recent study
focusing on the neo-Pentecostal/charismatic mega-churches in
Accra, he estimates that the top five churches attract somewhere
between 1,600 and 13,000 people to their Sunday services (Gifford
2004: 24-26).
The early Pentecostal movement emerged in Ghana in the
beginning of the twentieth century. According to Larbi (2001: 32)
the forerunners of the movement were prophets like Wade Harris,
Sampson Oppong and John Swatson, who attracted many members
to the already established churches (e.g. Catholic, Methodist, and
Anglican churches) (see also Sackey 1991). Another prophet
operating in the 1930s was Peter Anim, who established a church
on his own (Faith Tabernacle Church, later Apostolic Church,
Gold Coast). In 1931, the Assemblies of God arrived in the
Northern Territories, and in 1937 the missionary, James
McKeown, arrived from the Apostolic Church in the UK. He
founded what was later to become The Church of Pentecost,
Ghana’s largest Protestant church which had approximately one
KAREN LAUTERBACH
100
million members7 in 2002 (Bredwa-Mensah 2004; Larbi 2001: 32-
33, 2004: 142).
The recent wave of Pentecostal churches– the neo-
Pentecostal/charismatic movement– started in the 1960s and in the
early days mainly took place in parachurch evangelical
associations. The most significant rise of the movement occurred
from the 1980s and onwards and was marked especially by an
increasing number of new and independent churches, as well as a
number of mega-churches that operate in the form of international
business corporations.
The charismatic movement in Kumasi started in the 1950s
with the proliferation of Scripture Union within educational
institutions (Adubofuor 1994). Later on in the 1960s, Town
Fellowships and other parachurch movements emerged. Initially
well-educated people joined the fellowships, but the ‘educationally
underprivileged and non-professional literates’ also took part in the
Town Fellowships (Adubofuor, op cit: 81). Foreign influences
came from international evangelists such as Benson Idahosa of
Nigeria and Morris Cerullo from the USA (Adubofuor, op cit:
318). During the 1960s and 1970s, Kumasi witnessed an increase
and transformation of the charismatic movement; ‘Kumasi
emerged as a “spiritual Capital”– the epicentre of charismatic
activity in Ghana’ (Adubofuor, op cit: 318-319), and in the 1980s,
the number of crusades, conventions, and other events grew
significantly. The first of the neo-Pentecostal churches in Kumasi
were founded in the 1980s and were in many cases offspring of the
classical Pentecostal churches such as the Church of Pentecost and
the Assemblies of God.8
An example of such a church is the Family Chapel
International, which has its head quarters in Kumasi. The church
7 According to van Dijk (2001: 220), The Church of Pentecost had 260,000
members. The year is not specified.
8 Sackey (1991) notes that the spiritual churches started operating in Kumasi
from the 1920s. However, most of the spiritual churches were founded between
1967 and 1986, at the time where also the neo-Pentecostal/charismatic churches
began to grow.
WEALTH AND WORTH 101
was founded in 1992 by Victor Osei, a former Assemblies of God
pastor.9 Because of rivalry in the leadership of the Assemblies of
God church he belonged to, he founded the church, initially with
less than 20 members. The church he broke away from is today the
Calvary Charismatic Centre, led by Ransford Obeng, which used
to be the English speaking branch of the Assemblies of God.
Today Family Chapel International has grown to become one of
Kumasi’s biggest neo-Pentecostal/charismatic churches with a
large church structure at Susanso. It gathers about 1,000 people to
its Sunday service, which is also broadcast on radio. The church
has branches around Kumasi, in Accra, Cape Coast and the UK.
The church can be said to be a largely prosperity oriented church,
and offers classes on how to set up a business to its members.
There is a notable difference between the Kumasi founded
neo-Pentecostal churches and those planted from head quarters in
Accra. The former group of churches is seemingly the more
successful in terms of attracting members and constructing large
church buildings. The pastors from the Kumasi based churches are
well known locally and have local influence. According to
Adubofuor10 the success of the locally founded churches should be
seen in the light of earlier pastoral networks within for example the
‘Faith Convention’. The ‘Faith Convention’ was founded in
Kumasi in 1981 with the aim of coordinating the many activities of
the new charismatic fellowships and ministries (Adubofuor, op cit.:
345-348). This created a platform where the churches could
promote themselves, organise joint events and where their leaders
exercised influence. The movement was managed by a group of
people including Gregory Ola Akin of Harvestors Evangelistic
Ministry, Alfred Nyamekye of House of Faith, and Ransford
Obeng of the Calvary Charismatic Centre, all of whom are today
important and influential neo-Pentecostal church leaders in Kumasi
9 Victor Osei is from an elite family in Kumasi. His father was a well known
business man and the first development counsellor (nkosoohene) to the
Asantehene. He moreover has a wide web of international pastoral relations
10 Personal communication, Christian Service College, Kumasi, 7 September
2005 & 12 September 2005.
KAREN LAUTERBACH
102
(Adubofuor, op cit.,: 347). This means that the churches in Kumasi
represent a different layer of churches than those normally focused
upon in the literature. The movement in Kumasi is not a mere
subdivision of the Accra-based churches, but is a separate
category. This movement has its own history. Some of their
founders are from the Kumasi elite, whereas others are from others
regions of Ghana.
Wealth and Neo-Pentecostalism in Public Debate
In Ghana there is a vivid public debate on the message and
practices of neo-Pentecostal/charismatic pastors (Sackey 2006:
66). The below quotation is in example of the common public
criticisms levelled against these pastors and their churches. The
criticism is aimed, particularly at the churches’ fixation on and
display of money and wealth, as well as at their religious
foundation, authenticity and lack of order and regulation. A
newspaper article reported:
“’Charismatic churches exploiting the poor – Dickson’. A
renowned Methodist Minister and one time Chairman of the
Christian Ghanaian Council of Ghana, the Rt. Rev. Prof.
Emeritus Kwesi A. Dickson, has expressed grave concern
about the manner some charismatic and upcoming churches in
the country are overly exploiting a cross-section of Ghanaians
purported to be members of their congregations. He said these
so-called churches are causing serious harm and doing the
nation a complete disservice by keeping their members all day
long in prayer camps, denying them the opportunity to pursue
vital productive economic activities and services that could
enhance their livelihood. He noted that these pastors who
manage to lure these members from the orthodox churches
because of the ‘miracle and prosperity gospel’ they preach to
extract a lot of money from the poor without providing any
kind of social services to benefit these members in return […]
Prof. Dickson indicated that most of these churches, whose
pastors are self-ordained and proclaimed, veer off the normal
and true cause of evangelism as they have no laid down
WEALTH AND WORTH 103
regulations to practically guide their conduct and their religious
approach to worship […] He describes them as a machinery for
money making; the pastors are barely cheats and a liability to
our society”. The Daily Dispatch (7 September 2005)
The Methodist minister quoted here summarises the
controversy surrounding the so-called ‘one-man’ churches by
attacking their focus on prosperity and by describing the pastors as
self-ordained, thus with no authority and legitimacy behind them.
In a booklet called ‘Genuine or Counterfeit – Pastor/prophet’,
written by two Kumasi-based neo-Pentecostal/charismatic pastors,
they respond to the criticism, or the negative representation in the
media, by distinguishing between true and false pastors.11 They
write: “We are living in days when the church has experienced a
rise in carnality and spiritual disease. There have been highly
dramatic, highly publicized moral features among a number of
very prominent leaders of churches. Their fall have been amplified
by the mass media […] This brings the work of God’s Minister
into disrepute. And many think all pastors are the same, they all
fail and fall short of expectation and there is no need to waste time
in Church and listen to these blind leaders. However, in reality, all
Pastors are not the same. Some are good and some are fake”
(Owusu-Ansah 1999: 2).
Interestingly they also establish a link between being
‘counterfeit’ and focusing too much on achieving wealth: “There
are many reasons why people enter into the ministry. Some rush
11 I bought the booklet in a supermarket in Kumasi. The authors are the founders
of a Kumasi-based church called ‘Great Expectations Ministries International’
that has branches in Ghana and Great Britain. The authors’ merits as pastors are
listed at the back of the book: “They are seasoned international preachers. They
have travelled extensively in the United States of America and have ministered
in many cities there. They were used tremendously of God in Savannah Georgia
to meet spiritual needs of both whites and blacks […] They also preach in
Conferences, Seminars, and Churches throughout Ghana, Nigeria, Great Britain
and other places. They broadcast on two F.M. Stations Kapital Radio 97.1 and
Garden City Radio 92.1 in Kumasi, Ghana”. The booklet contains 100 pages and
deals with various aspects of pastorship.
KAREN LAUTERBACH
104
into it because of financial gains, they think the work is now very
lucrative, so it is good to enter for you will get money quick. …
[They] work to please themselves and move heaven and earth to
achieve their canal objectives, to get wealth fast. They are
counterfeit ministers…” (Owusu-Ansah 1999: 7). At the same
time, and in accordance with neo-Pentecostal doctrine, they see
wealth as a reward from God, which is achieved by praying: “Pray
to have financial freedom by giving to God. Many men of God are
poor because they don’t give to God … Financial freedom begins
with scriptural giving. Luke 6:38 says, “give”, and if we increase
our tithe, He will increase our financial reward, it shall be given
unto you … Don’t rob God … If you give, you allow God to create
employment or secure your job” (Owusu-Ansah 1999: 32-33). As
will be discussed below, this is the essence of the prosperity
gospel, which is one of the characteristics of neo-Pentecostal
ideology; wealth is a sign of God’s blessing and one receives
wealth by giving abundantly.
Generally, there are two positions in the public debate on
religion and wealth. One position hails money and wealth, and
perceives it as a sign of God’s blessings and of spiritual power and
authority. The other position believes that the role of
religion/Christianity is to provide a moral code of behaviour, and
to contribute to the welfare of society and provide social services.
Many of the critics of neo-Pentecostalism, many of whom belong
to mainline churches, claim that adherence to a neo-
Pentecostal/charismatic church renders people individualistic and
make them neglect their familiar obligations. Meanwhile, the
message of the neo-Pentecostal/charismatic churches is construed
around a strong focus on the individual—the possibility of
personal transformation and individual success, that however also
contains an urge to members to contribute to the church
community both in terms of time and money.
The tendency to become more individualistic cannot solely be
ascribed to neo-Pentecostalism. The contradiction between
individual and community is constant in Asante experience,
however changing expression and form over time. It reflects a
WEALTH AND WORTH 105
more general dilemma in Asante society about whether
accumulated wealth is for the individual or the community
(McCaskie 1995: 78). Historically ‘big men’ (abirempon)12 in
Asante were responsible for the maintenance and continuity of
society. Moreover, there were social restrictions on the use of their
accumulated wealth, which was seen as belonging to the
community. In the first part of the twentieth century, a new group
of social entrepreneurs (akonkofoo)13 emerged; these were new and
progressive Asantes, who defended the “individual’s right to
accumulate and to dispose capital” (McCaskie 1986: 7).
It can be argued that contemporary public debates on neo-
Pentecostalism and wealth reflect this dilemma. Neo-Pentecostal
pastors somehow seek to strike a balance between promoting the
individual (not least themselves), and contributing to the well-
being of society. An example of this arose at a convention
organised by Pastor Joshua Kas-Vorsah in Daban, Kumasi. The
theme of the convention was fighting armed robbery, corruption
and road accidents through prayer, all issues which were perceived
as impediments to the well-being of society. There are many other
examples where pastors promote themselves as helpers of the
community e.g. by setting up vocational schools or the like. Also,
McCaskie writes about a neo-traditionalist priest in Kumasi
(okomfo) who is highly critical of the neo-Pentecostal/charismatic
churches, for the reasons mentioned above. The priest concurrently
stresses and proves his own commitment to the development of the
community he operates in by funding small self-help projects
(McCaskie 2008). This debate on accumulation and the
distribution of wealth and the changing positions within it can be
12 Obirempon (pl. abirempon): means a ‘big man’; it also implies rule, power
and wealth. According to McCaskie “It was a hereditary title held by the heads
of territorial chiefdoms, and also conferred upon the very wealthiest
accumulators” (McCaskie 1995: 275).
13 Akonkofoo (sing. okonkoni) is “a term defying exact translation, but carrying
implications of wealth, of capitalist individualism, and of ‘modernity’ – and
other businessmen of the early colonial era” (McCaskie 1995: 71). See also
McCaskie (1995: 291) for the meaning of the word akonkofoo.
KAREN LAUTERBACH
106
traced in the development of the broader Pentecostal movement in
Southern Ghana.
Wealth and Worth
Originally Pentecostalism was based on ideas of personal
salvation, baptism in the Holy Spirit and belief in divine healing
(Maxwell 2006: 7-8). Other crucial features are the personal
experience of being born-again, evangelism and a strict reading of
the Bible. Within the neo-Pentecostal/charismatic strand, there is
moreover focus on prosperity and an active involvement in society,
which was decried in the classical Pentecostal churches. Below, I
outline the content of the neo-Pentecostal message on prosperity,
and go on to discuss how this is reflected in what pastors do and
how they relate to others within and without the church. The
ambition is to analyse ideology in relation to social practice in
order to capture the constitutive relation between the two. For
example, how do pastors talk about wealth, how is that put into
practice in terms of their work and how is that reflected in the
ways in which they build up wealth?
The doctrine on wealth in neo-Pentecostalism (prosperity
gospel) is, put simply, about seeing wealth and richness as a sign
of God’s blessings (Asamoah-Gyadu 2005: 211-212; Gifford 2001:
62-65; Meyer 1998c). In Gifford’s words: “A believer has a right
to the blessings of health and wealth won by Christ, and he or she
can obtain these blessings merely by a positive confession of faith”
(1998: 39).14 A common way of explaining the appeal of neo-
Pentecostal/charismatic churches is that people come to church to
seek success in life such as in business, marriage, education, to get
a visa and travel and to “switch from low status to high status
religious groups […] establish social and economic connections as
well as meet people of similar moral or religious conviction […]
[that] brings along certain degree of religious distinctiveness”
14 The origins of the faith gospel are ascribed to American evangelists such as
Kenneth Copeland, Oral Roberts and T. S. Osborn (Gifford 2001: 62-63).
WEALTH AND WORTH 107
(Ukah 2005: 268). The focus on success and prosperity is, in other
words, what makes neo-Pentecostalism attractive to many (Meyer
1998c: 762; van Dijk 1999: 81).
Studies of wealth and Pentecostalism have mainly focused on
the part of the message that touches upon money and commodities
(monetary and material wealth, gift giving and the symbolic
function of wealth in the sense that money is not actually being
distributed, but that money serves as a symbol of success) (Gifford
2004; Meyer 1998b, 1998c; van Dijk 1999). This is a narrow
perception of wealth in that it does not take into account other less
material aspects of wealth. I attempt to broaden the understanding
of wealth to also include people, institutions and relations. This
way of approaching wealth draws from the work of Guyer (1995),
McCaskie (1983, 1986, 1995) and Berry (1995), among others, to
suggest that wealth is more than things and money. In this
perspective, the church and religious ideology is understood as an
arena for negotiating claims to wealth as well as displaying wealth,
and one’s success as a pastor depends on mobilising supporters and
establishing a congregation (Berry 1995: 307). In other words,
wealth is also in people, in social relations and has cultural
meaning, that changes over time. Wealth is closely linked to social
identity and to the making of social relations since wealth is also
about displaying it, claiming it, and recognising it.15 Besides, it is
particularly interesting to study wealth in the specific historical
context of Asante in relation to how wealth is being interpreted and
presented in the neo-Pentecostal prosperity gospel. At first glance,
one could say that the two fit well. However, we should not forget
15 This is not a definitional exercise as such, but an attempt to include aspects
other than material and monetary aspects of wealth. [Another way of
approaching the importance of access to social relations and other resources
could be through the concept of social capital. Pentecostal church members and
pastors can be understood as investing in and getting access to social capital
through their membership of a Pentecostal church. This membership provides
resources (for example when migrating) through the contacts in the Pentecostal
network. It is not networks themselves that are interesting, but rather the
creation, access and use of them and thus the production of social capital
(Bourdieu & Wacquant 1996: 84, 105).
KAREN LAUTERBACH
108
that prosperity gospel as it is understood and practiced in Kumasi,
is a local interpretation of a more global religious ideology. It is
through this interpretation that wealth in the neo-Pentecostal sense
has resonance in an Asante context.
The Pentecostal Message on Prosperity
Two central ideas in the neo-Pentecostal message on
prosperity are the ideas of ‘giving and receiving’ (sowing and
reaping) and the refusal of poverty (‘you don’t need to be poor’).
The Principle of Giving and Receiving
The principle of giving and receiving is referred to again and
again by pastors as the underlying rationale behind receiving the
blessings of God: the more one gives in church, the more one
receives from God (on the theological background of this principle
see Asamoah-Gyadu 2005). Pastors teach church members how to
learn to give easily and spontaneously. One pastor said: “God
gives in the first place and we give back and it comes back
multiplied. Then it becomes easy to give … We surrender things to
God, submit our entire life and possessions to the Lord and it
comes back to us multiplied. People who spend more time with the
Lord, they get more time back to work”.16 This principle builds on
the unique relation between human beings and God. All that
members give in church is seen as something they give to God,
which means that giving to the church or the pastor is the same as
giving to God. This relation is what Ukah terms “an economic
transaction between believers and God” (Ukah 2005: 261),
mediated by the religious leadership.
Church members were not only asked by pastors to give
money to God and the church. They were also asked to give their
time and to give their loyalty. As one pastor instructed: We have to
16 Evening service, Harvest Chapel International, 7 December 2004, head
branch.
WEALTH AND WORTH 109
give “our life, our time, our talents and abilities, our possessions:
monies, clothes, cars, houses”.17 Francis, a young pastor in Kumasi
said the following about giving: “Noah offered. What have you
given to this church? Since we started this building, how much
have you given? Noah gave an offering, and God was moved. God
took away curse…” … “Its time you spend time with God. Give
time; give money, give, give, give, give. Who gave food to the
pastor at Christmas? The pastor’s gift is to understand the
principles of giving and receiving. … You are not travelling
because you have not sown financially. You have died spiritually
because you haven’t spent time with God …. Give, give, give, give
your time, money, sika, and resources. Be blessed and lifted up. He
is about to favour you. Who wants to buy cement for the church?
It’s an opportunity to be blessed”.18
After the sermon people got up, stood in the front of the
church and pledged how many cement bags they would give. They
were then prayed for and blessed by the pastor. This event cannot
only be understood as a pastor collecting for himself and the
church. In this case, Francis was not preaching in his own church,
but was making a so-called programme in a branch of Family
Chapel International. I suggest that the incentive for him to get
people to give is not so much about him getting richer in a material
sense, but rather to show that by invoking the word and the power
of God he was able to make people give. By proving his ability to
collect, he also shows that he is a powerful preacher, he can control
people, and that is how he builds up a position as a powerful ‘man
of God’.
Time and presence can be seen as something to give, as
resources in the same way as money and other commodities.
Clearly money plays a significant role, both in terms of a strong
symbol of wealth19 and as necessary to run a church. The focus on
17 Evening service, Harvest Chapel International, 7 December 2004, head
branch.
18 Sermon at Family Chapel International, Atonsu branch, 20 February 2005.
19 For instance at a Sunday service at Family Chapel International (21 August
2005) money was given to the musicians by church members, who put notes on
KAREN LAUTERBACH
110
money cannot only be ascribed to faith gospel or prosperity as
preached in neo-Pentecostal churches, but represents a longer
historical trend in the capitalisation and monetisation of Ghanaian
society, where cash is required for consumption (McCaskie 2000:
132-133). That said, control over people and over institutions also
seem to play a role in the ways in which pastors build up and
display wealth.
McCaskie (1995) argues that the political economy of pre-
colonial Asante should not only be understood in economic terms,
as wealth and the accumulation of wealth are also based on socio-
political and ideological factors. Wealth, particularly measured in
gold, people, land and food, were part of Asante experience and
knowledge on how to obtain success and progress, “hence, the
accumulation of wealth as imperative and as yardstick, and the
deeply resonant meaning of wealth as symbol and as mnemonic,
were abiding and central figures of Asante life, history and self-
knowledge” (1995: 37). The possession of subjects and land
validated and represented influence, attainment, status and rank
(1995: 56). Possessing wealth was not only a matter of securing
power in a political sense, but also “spilled over into cultural ethics
and religious belief” (McCaskie 1983: 29). In terms of processes of
becoming and social mobility, accumulation and display of wealth
played a central role. Status was achieved through becoming office
holders and eventually and possibly through promotion by being
awarded the title of obirempon (‘big man’), which was a sign of
recognition (McCaskie 1983, 1995).
With colonial rule, the socio-economic context changed and so
did ideas and consensus around accumulation and wealth
(McCaskie 1983: 38-40; McCaskie 1986: 4; McCaskie 1995: 65,
68). The new ideas were characterised by entrepreneurial
individualism. One of the new social groups was the akonkofoo
that formed as a group between 1896 and 1930. The akonkofoo
became a distinct social group in the colonial period, many after
the musicians’ foreheads or in a basket. At the end of their performance, the
head pastor rose from his big chair at the side of the stage and threw a bunch of
cedis notes at the musicians.
WEALTH AND WORTH 111
having fled Asante during the civil wars of the 1880s. Upon their
return to Asante, they introduced and practiced new ideas of
accumulation and wealth, such as the “individual’s right to
accumulate and to dispose capital” (McCaskie 1986: 7). McCaskie
argues that they were the new and progressive Asantes, in that they
had broken with the past in the sense that they had escaped the
moral constraints embedded in ideas of wealth and accumulation.
At the same time though, they still drew on the social norms of the
nineteenth century and behaved like ‘big men’, abirempon. They
represented a new development within Asante society, and
“[c]entral to the view of the akonkofoo was the absolute non-
negotiability of the individual’s right to accumulate and to dispose
of wealth” (McCaskie, 1986: 9). This group of men represented a
“very confused ‘individualism’; an embedding in Asante society of
a sense of capitalist enterprise, and of a ‘business’ or petit-
bourgeois element” (1986: 9). Individuality and individual
accumulation of wealth was becoming the norm: “Money, and
there could never be enough of it at the cognitive level, was the
key to individual success” (1986: 15).
Refusal of Poverty
The idea of ‘refusal of poverty’ is that one is not destined to be
poor, but by being with the right people and ‘claiming what
belongs to you’ one can escape poverty (see also Gifford 2001).
Victor Osei, founder and leader of Family Chapel International,
said at a church programme titled ‘Break in, Break free, break
through’: “To break in, is to take everything that belongs to you.
You need to take it; you need to do something actively”.20 On
another occasion he talked about the problem of having the wrong
‘spirit’. He shouted: ‘I can do all things, I can do all things, I can
do all things, I can do all things. I can do, because you are ‘I can
do’ person. The problem with many Christians is that they depend
on lack. Most people are programmed to fail in life. You are
20 Family Chapel International, Father’s Cathedral, 21 February 2005.
KAREN LAUTERBACH
112
programmed to fail and your friends, they will cause you more
failure. Walk with ‘I can do’ people. Move from area of lack and
change to possibility. Change your mentality. People work for it …
If you sit there you will die. People work hard for money. Success
is like a beautiful woman. If you tell her, it won’t change her. You
have to convince money to be at your side. Success brings forth
success. Richer gets richer and poorer gets poorer. Make friends
with money. Seek it. If you are stupid your money will be taken
from you”.21 This quote shows how getting rich is not only about
going to church, but also about one’s mentality and not least being
with the right people. The pastor provides instructions on how to
get rich (moreover church members can attend classes on how to
set up a business). Additionally, being rich is not a sin, and can be
thought of as a sign of spiritual power. There is a strong relation
between wealth and the spiritual capabilities of pastors in the sense
that showing one’s wealth is a way to prove one’s spiritual
capabilities and thereby building up a strong position as pastor.
Another aspect of the ‘refusal of poverty’ is the importance of
networks and social relations. A pastor in Kumasi talked about the
value of relationships in this way: “I always try to keep
relationships because money is a weapon, so is also a relationship,
a godly relationship is also a weapon. God can reveal it to one
person, who will stand and pray for me”.22 A relation in this way
functions as a way to legitimise a pastor’s position. Also
international relations are seen as crucial when founding a church
and when building up a position as a pastor. Another point is that
people are not only engaged in exchange within the church, but
“people join social clubs, churches or Muslim brotherhoods,
cooperatives and political parties, and concurrently maintain ties to
kin, affines or members of their ancestral communities” (Berry
1995: 309). People (members and pastors) are not only members of
a Pentecostal church, but they are involved in multiple networks at
the same time.
21 Family Chapel International, Father’s Cathedral, 21 August 2005.
22 Interview with Francis Afrifa, Kumasi, 13 September 2005.
WEALTH AND WORTH 113
Discussion
As the above analysis suggests, wealth in neo-
Pentecostal/charismatic churches is more than money; it is richness
in relation to both money and people. It is not merely wealth in
relation to control over people as such, but also in relation to social
relations, and having access to international relations etc.
Furthermore, wealth can be understood in terms of wealth of
association, in the sense that one is more likely to obtain wealth by
being associated with a wealthy pastor. Meyer argues that in terms
of wealth and prosperity, the neo-Pentecostal/charismatic churches
merely play a symbolic role; for example, she asserts that the
churches’ financial assistance to members is of a symbolic
character. She therefore concludes that “[i]n the sphere of
accumulation and distribution the pentecostalist churches also play
an important role, although again symbolic, role. By offering
protection for a person’s individual business and by cutting
symbolically the blood ties connecting a person with his or her
family, pentecostalist churches promote economic individualism
[…] Pentecostalism provides an imaginary space in which people
may address their longing for a modern, individual and prosperous
way of life” (Meyer 1998c: 763). However, if we approach the
analysis of Pentecostalism and wealth differently, and not only
look upon how churches and pastors assist church members, we
get a different and somewhat broader understanding of how the
concept of wealth is defined, how wealth is built up within neo-
Pentecostal/charismatic churches, and what relations are involved.
In approaching wealth and Pentecostalism one has to look at
how ideas on wealth are attractive and meaningful to both church
members and pastors. Members are part of the process, as they
provide wealth and make pastors wealthy, not only by contributing
financially, but by their mere presence and time. Leading a church
that has many members is a sign of wealth and gives the pastor
some form of control over people. Another aspect is the
relationships between pastors; they also make each other achieve
wealth by inviting one another to participate in programmes and by
KAREN LAUTERBACH
114
promoting each other. This is exemplified by the case described
above, where Francis got people to buy cement for a church. I
argued that it was not about collecting for himself, but about
proving that he was able to make people give. Moreover, I would
argue that it was also about building up a strong network. If
Francis makes the church he visited a strong church, he also
becomes a strong and powerful pastor himself. In other words, he
invests in social relations and networks by encouraging church
members to contribute bags of cement to construct the church.
Ideas about wealth in the neo-Pentecostal/charismatic
churches, which I studied, are not only about flamboyant lifestyles
or abundant richness. It is also about founding churches,
controlling people, or having access to international relations etc. It
is not only about what is promised in church or the lifestyle of the
pastor and some rich church members. It is also about the social
relations that are invested in and that are negotiated. It is about the
relations between the pastor and the congregation, as well as the
pastor’s relation to others outside the church. It is about the
possibility of mobility and “opportunities for acquiring wealth
through participation in institutions” (Jones 2005: 41). In the
churches, wealth can be measured in money, extravagant goods
(cars, clothes), international connections, control over people, and
controlling churches and pastors. In the local Pentecostal
institutional context, these are the public indicators of upward and
downward mobility. In my opinion, putting these indicators into a
historical frame shows us that wealth has a broader meaning in this
particular context than it might be in other contexts. The neo-
Pentecostal doctrine on wealth and prosperity has affinities to the
historical context in Asante and to the development of a society
with increased focus on money and circulation of capital.
This article has showed that, on the one hand, there is
resonance with the perceptions of wealth and power on Asante. We
have seen how a broad conception of wealth is in play in neo-
Pentecostal discourse, and also how accumulation and
redistribution of wealth, and its public display, are central for the
ways in which neo-Pentecostal pastors raise and build themselves
WEALTH AND WORTH 115
up. Displaying wealth publicly is of paramount importance, as was
also the case of the pre-colonial ‘big men’ (abirempon). However,
displaying your wealth is not merely about showing richness in
terms of money, but also about having a large church building and
a large and loyal congregation. Wealth is displayed and performed
publicly, but is also a constant target for public debate and
criticism in newspapers and everyday parlance. On the other hand,
the neo-Pentecostal focus on wealth and prosperity can be seen in
conjuncture with more recent changes with regard to the relation
between wealth and the individual. There is thus conjuncture
between the focus on individual responsibility and possibilities of
progress as part and parcel of a broader neo-liberal moral regime.
As shown in the article, these values are expressed in such ideas as
‘refusal of poverty’ and ‘I can do people’. There is a strong explicit
focus on the ability of the individual to escape poverty, to become
rich and successful.
So there is both affinity and resonance with former and more
recent ideas on wealth. Moreover, there is accordance between the
doctrine and the interests of both pastors and church members.
Becoming a pastor can be seen as a way to fulfil social and
economic aspirations; pastors are engaged in processes of
becoming someone and preferably someone important. Therefore,
the idea that pastors are mediating the power of God and also that
their wealth is a sign of God’s blessings fits well with their
aspirations. At the same time, for church members the doctrine on
prosperity combined with ideas of ‘refusal of poverty’ and ‘I can
do it people’ concur with their aspirations of being successful in
for instance their education, business, political career and family
life. Moreover, the broad understanding of wealth (wealth also a
time and presence), as well as wealth by association, put people in
a different position than if only money mattered. Being a good
Christian and being associated with the pastor, not only depends on
the capital resources members can afford to bring in. They can also
invest their time and presence. This makes a broad understanding
of wealth particularly meaningful in a context where people’s
KAREN LAUTERBACH
116
economic resource might be scarce, but where people possesses
other resources such as time, presence and talent.
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... In what follows, I explore pastorhood as a form of spiritual entrepreneurship that combines aspects of calling and career (Lauterbach 2015;2017;van Dijk 1992). In his work on religious leadership among Pentecostal-charismatic leaders in Zambia, Thomas Kirsch highlights a tension in Max Weber's definition of charisma: 'a special quality of an individual's personality by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities' (Weber 1968: 48, cited in Kirsch 2014; see also Lauterbach 2017: 99). ...
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This article explores the intertwining of migration and religion in the lives of migrant men who were born in Kenya and have become Pentecostal pastors in London. Drawing on the spiritual careers of several pastors, I suggest that pastorhood be understood as a gendered means of social mobility. As pastors, these men attain a status that is socially and culturally intelligible in London and Kenya. At the same time, given that status is contingent upon recognition, the article also examines how pastorhood helps them navigate the challenges and inconsistencies of their lived experiences, such as a competitive religious marketplace and hostility in London, and the high expectations of those in Kenya. Rather than viewing religion as compensatory, I argue that Pentecostalism offers a ‘site of action’, to use Ruth Marshall's phrase, in which they can (re)make themselves as ‘new’ men and (re)position themselves vis-à-vis the multiple social worlds they inhabit. © 2018 The Authors Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Anthropological Institute
... I shall elaborate on and discuss two central ideas of the message on prosperity; namely the idea of 'giving and receiving' and the idea of 'refusal of poverty' (see also Lauterbach 2006 ). Before doing that I will discuss more in depth how the literature on charismatic Christianity in Africa has approached wealth. ...
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The second chapter consists of a historical analysis of wealth, power, and religion in Asante, Ghana. It discusses the social processes around how status, wealth, and power were achieved and how this has changed over time, as well as how religious ideas, practices, and institutions have changed over time. The chapter seeks to look at the historical resonances of charismatic Christianity in terms of being a ‘big man’ and a religious expert. It moreover provides an account of the introduction of Christianity in Asante, as well as the growth of the charismatic movement. The chapter also relates the careers of charismatic pastors with former groups of aspiring people and lays the ground for subsequent analysis of the social principles forming pastoral careers.
... Moreover, pastors follow the model of the 'big man' as they seek to attain wealth (understood in a broad sense as time, people and money). They are concerned with how this wealth is redistributed, perceived by others and with displaying wealth publically (Lauterbach 2006). ...
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This chapter is concerned with the relationship between entrepreneurship and religion. It examines the making of Pentecostal churches and pastoral careers as a form of entrepreneurship and discusses what the religious dimension adds to our understanding of how entrepreneurship unfolds in Africa today. The chapter analyzes in particular how striving for and attaining social and economic aspirations can be fulfilled through a pastoral career in Pentecostal churches in Ghana. What is remarkable is that young men and women are able to 'become someone' in society, achieve status, and accumulate wealth through the making of pastoral careers in a general context where the possibilities for social climbing are constrained.
... 9 Given that "traditional" practices and beliefs (e.g. in witchcraft, magic, ancestral and other spirits) are themselves highly dynamic and adaptive and need to be historicized, 10 I propose a focus on how born-again Christians partake in ongoing social contestations of identity, morality, power, wealth and legitimacy in contemporary Africa. 11 ...
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This article examines the relationship between the Faith Gospel in a Tanzanian prosperity ministry and "occult economies," described as discourses and practices relating the means of generating wealth to an occult and morally ambiguous dimension. The author argues that in addition to offering miraculous means of attaining material ends, the Faith Gospel provides ways of dealing with moral and perceived dangerous aspects of wealth and accumulation. This argument is pursued through a focus on ritualized offerings, seen as a "gift economy" along the lines described by Marcel Mauss. In offerings, coins and bills are purified and invested with complex human and divine qualities, turning them into personalized gifts rather than neutral mediums of exchange. Finally the author discusses how born-again Christians come to terms with the absence of immediate divine countergifts, in part by emphasizing the cultural value of slowness and transparency.
... The emergence and prominence of neo-Pentecostal pastors is to some extent an outcome of this more plural public sphere with diversifi ed opportunities for social and economic ascension. In order to become legitimate public fi gures of authority, young pastors engage in new trajectories of ascension that are innovative and at the same time refer to notions of, for instance, power and wealth that resonate with the past (Lauterbach, 2006). ...
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Ghana, like a number of other African countries, witnesses an increasing number of smaller independent Pentecostal churches founded by young pastors. These young pastors engage in pastoral careers as a way to achieve social mobility. It is an attractive career path for many young people as it offers opportunities of ascending religious and social hierarchies in a situation where the more conventional modes of achieving success, through education and employment as civil servant, are decreasing. By exploring the careers of young pastors, the article discusses how this particular group of youth are innovative and entrepreneurial in the sense that they create spaces, where they can build up status and where this status is socially recognized. At the same time the young pastors are dependent on more senior pastors in order to make a career. This points to the importance of approaching youth from the perspective of generational dynamics. The argument is that in order to become successful pastors, young people have to engage in complex relations of dependency and at the same time be innovative. A religious setting, like the small independent Pentecostal churches, enables young people to be involved in and transcend these generational relations by drawing on powerful religious repertoires of invoking and claiming access to divine powers.
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In recent times, there has been an upsurge of Neo-Prophetic Christianity in Ghana, Sub-Saharan Africa. Churches that belong to this genre of Christianity appeal to the socio-religio-cultural worldviews of the African and Ghanaian people to bring meaning to their lives. In view of this, they have carved for themselves a niche in the religious space of Ghana. One of the churches that is of interest to this article is the Ebenezer Miracle Worship Centre, Kumasi, Ghana. Comparatively, whereas in the public space the church has gained much popularity, little in scholarship is known about its history and activities in the Ghanaian religious field. This article is a narrative on the church’s history, beliefs and activities. Using a qualitative approach, a phenomenological study is conducted. The two research principles of epoché and eidetic intuition are observed. The article significantly contributes to the scanty existing literature on the history of some prominent Neo-prophetic African Pentecostal Christian churches in Ghana.
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Neo-Prophetic Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity in Ghana has become business. It is typically characterised by the sale and purchase of assortments of religious items and services between churches and religious consumers. This practice is said to have experienced its exponential index in view of the utmost demand for miraculous mediation by desperate religious consumers to address their religio-psycho-social pickles. Irrespective of the abuses religious consumers are said to go through, coupled with the high cost the religious items and services are sold, one is curious to ascertain by what means the churches use to hook religious consumers to their offers. This paper thus, sets out to reveal and analyse some of the main strategies Neo-Prophetic Pentecostal/Charismatic churches in Ghana use to hook religious consumers onto their offers using Christian ethics as assessment criteria. The paper argues that the strategies the churches use are not in conformity with Christian ethics, thus, they are unethical. This is because it was revealed that the intentions that drive the strategies are mostly geared towards selfish, domineering and manipulative end.
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African Pentecostalism is not confined to Africa. As Africans move into Europe, many bring new ways of interpreting Christianity. The empirical research in Nigeria, Ghana, and Italy supports the idea that African Pentecostalism has produced a worldwide socio-religious innovation. Two elements in particular emerge: high mobility in individual religious choices and the fluidity of the boundaries of religious affiliation. Migration processes have emphasized the latter to an even greater extent. The most important result of this innovation is, on the one hand, the radical change that affects the church model and, on the other, the emergence of a charismatic religious leadership. This chapter deals with the idea of “charisma” as a transnational “company” or religious “enterprise.” In this way, the new African churches that are transplanted in Europe contribute to the weakening of the traditional boundaries of Euro-centric Christianity and to the loosening of the link between national identity and belonging to a Christian denomination.
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This chapter focuses on the moral practices of being a truthful pastor, which is related to how wealth is amassed and used. These moralities draw on historic understandings of wealth as well as on the prosperity gospel. The aim of the chapter is to analyse the ideological and moral frameworks that are put into play and drawn upon when pastors make their careers and their positions are legitimatised by others. The chapter argues that achieving wealth is a way to prove oneself as a successful man of God, and that using wealth in way that is morally acceptable proves one as a truthful pastor. There has to be a balance between accumulating for the individual and redistributing to the community.
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Prayers, Guns and Ritual Murder In Ghana, as in Nigeria, Pentecostalist videos are enormously popular. This article analyses the development of this form of popular cinema, which stages figures of power and social success, most of which are marked by « born again » family morality. The author shows that the schema of signification expressed by this fictions are works in progress: the positive heroes of « family dramas » are being replaced by immoral protagonists who kill and ally themselves with occult forces in order to ensure their prosperity. These transformations of the imaginary are correlated to transformations in Ghanaian public space.
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The thesis examines the origins, growth and indigenisation of parachurch movements, in their primary and secondary forms, in the context of established Christianity in Ghana in the post-war era. The historical accounts explore the operations of primary groups, particularly, Scripture Union and kindred Christian Fellowships, stimulating the development of secondary independent evangelistic and charismatic organisations. It includes early and later movements towards independency, culminating in "church formation" a metamorphosis in the whole parachurch movement. The indigenous and exogenous components of the parachurch phenomena - evangelical and Pentecostal, are discussed to indicate the complex multi-1ateral determinant factors involved. The very significant background factors include the traditional religion and national political and socio-economic situations to which the parachurch groups respond in diverse ways. Church relations emerges as the immediate problem in parachurch operations. Parachurch operations are intended to complement that of the Church, but they generate issues of conflict and mistrust which are discussed as they emerge in the historical accounts. Particular international and local efforts towards resolving conflict and promoting co¬ operation are considered. A detailed examination is made of the evangelicalism of the parachurch movements, expressed in terms of doctrinal affirmations, commitment to the Bible and evangelism, and particular modest acts of social concern. A radical brand of evangelicalism emerges with Pentecostal influence, involving the adoption of the music and spirituality of local Pentecostal Churches. Hence the engagement in fasting and extended prayer with glossolalia, particularly in all-night prayer meetings; focus on prophecies and visions; with the ministry of healing and deliverance emerging and enduring as evangelical Pentecostal response to the supernatural realities of the African world. The evangelical pentecostal impact of the parachurch movements on church life is evident in the rise of growth of charismatic renewal movements within the Protestant Churches, as indicated by the case of the Methodist Church which has been selected for special treatment.
Thesis
Uganda has been considered one of Africa's few "success stories" over the past decade, an example of how a country can be transformed through a committed state bureaucracy. The thesis questions this view by looking at the experiences of development and change in a subparish in eastern Uganda. From this more local-level perspective, the thesis discusses the weakness of the state in the countryside, and incorporates the importance of religious and customary institutions. In place of a narrow view of politics, focused on reforms and policies coming from above, which rarely reach rural areas in a consistent or predictable way, the thesis describes political developments within a rural community. The thesis rests on two premises. First, that the state in rural Uganda has been too weak to support an effective bureaucratic presence in the countryside. Second, that politics at the local-level is an "open-ended" business, better understood through investigating a range of institutional spaces and activities, rather than a particular set of actions, or a single bureaucracy. Oledai sub-parish, which provides the empirical material for the thesis, was far removed from the idea of state-sponsored success described in the literature. Villagers had to contend with a history of violence, with recent impoverishment, and with the reality that the rural economy was unimportant in maintaining the structures of the government system. The thesis shows that the marginalisation of the countryside came at a time when central and local government structures had become increasingly reliant on funding from abroad. Aside from the analysing the weakness of the state bureaucracy, the thesis goes on to discuss broader changes in the life of the sub-parish, including the impact of a violent insurgency in the late 1980s. The thesis also looks at the role of churches and burial societies, institutions which have been largely ignored by the literature on political developments in Uganda. Religious and customary institutions, as well as the village court, provided spaces where political goals, such as settling disputes, building a career, or acquiring wealth, could be pursued.
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