International Bulletin

of Missionary Research

Vol. 39, No. 3
July 2015
pp. 115–20

Article in PDF Back

Progressive Pentecostalism, Development, and Christian Development NGOs: A Challenge and an Opportunity

Bryant L. Myers

Something unusual happened in the Global South in the late 1980s and 1990s. A new expression of Pentecostalism arose that was distinguished by a combination of Pentecostal worship, aggressive evangelism, and grassroots efforts to provide education, health services and other relief, and development ministries. The phenomenon has attracted the attention of secular scholars. Their research makes the claim that, in five instances, these churches were better positioned and more effective in development work than international NGOs at work in the same city. This article will describe and assess these findings and then apply them to Christian development NGOs

A Historical Convergence

A significant shift took place in the 1980s in terms of thinking about development assistance. In the aftermath of the success and eventual dominance of neoliberal economics,[1] Western governments and global aid institutions decided that neoliberal principles were a desirable antipoverty prescription for the Global South. World Bank and International Monetary Fund loans were made conditional on what became known as the Washington Consensus, which consisted of reducing public expenditures, extensive privatization of government businesses and services, trade liberalization, floating exchange rates, and deregulation.[2]

This shift may have made some macroeconomic sense over the long term, but in the short term and at the microeconomic level, where the poor live, it was a disaster in the Global South.[3] Reforming labor markets meant decreasing minimum wages. Reducing public expenditures led to reduced health services and to imposing fees for what used to be public services.[4] Public schools were forced to charge school fees, something that Western nations do not do. The result was that tens of millions of poor children in the Global South were unable to go to school. Health huts had neither health workers nor medicines. The Washington Consensus was not good news for the poor.[5]

But something else was going on in the 1980s and 1990s in sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the Global South, and it was good news for the poor. What some have called the third movement of the charismatic/Pentecostal movement, or Neo-Pentecostalism, emerged in poor urban slums in Africa, Latin America, and parts of Asia. This was a self-generating expression of Pentecostalism that emerged from the grass roots, was deeply contextual, and was generally nondenominational or postdenominational.[6]

Part of this new Pentecostal movement has been called “Progressive Pentecostalism.”[7] One of its characteristics is a deep commitment to social ministries organized around the congregation and its neighborhood or village.[8] In a search for a pool of churches for a sociological study of Pentecostalism and social engagement, Donald Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori sought the names of churches, Pentecostal or not, that were “fastest growing, most indigenous, self-supporting and socially active.”[9] Eighty-five percent of the churches nominated from around the world were in fact Pentecostal or charismatic.

The social ministries of these churches had substantial reach. Mercy ministries provided food, clothing, and shelter. Emergency services included responding to floods, famines, and earthquakes. Educational services included day care, schools, and tuition assistance. Counseling services included helping with addiction, divorce, and oppression. Economic development assistance included micro-loans, supporting business start-ups, job training, and affordable housing.[10] No one church provided all these services, but there was clear evidence that this kind of relief and development assistance was a normative part of the life of Progressive Pentecostal and charismatic churches. It was in part a product of Spirit empowerment made urgent by the belief that Christians are living in the last days.[11]

These findings attracted the attention of academics in anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies.[12] Examining Pentecostalism in depth is a new thing to many anthropologists and sociologists, and discovering that Pentecostals were doing relief and development work simply added to the interest. Refreshingly, these largely secular academics were generally sympathetic to their research subjects, although many work very hard to repackage what they hear and see into modern Western sociological and anthropological frameworks.

For example, one frequently hears the argument that Pentecostal churches began providing basic services in health, education, and economic development as a way of filling the social space vacated by governments whose ability to provide these services was diminished by the impact of the Washington Consensus.[13] Similarly, some noted that these services were paid for by tithes, which were described as Pentecostal-speak for “tax.” Also, frequent reference occurs to Pentecostalism as a creature of modernity and a feeder school for neoliberal globalization.[14]

Such readings smack of “finding what you are looking for” on the part of academics who are deeply influenced by the assumptions of the Western academy. Ogbu Kalu wryly observed, “The ordinary Pentecostal in Africa is less concerned with modernity and globalization and more focused on a renewed relationship with God, intimacy with the transcendental, empowerment by the Holy Spirit and protection in the blood of Jesus as the person struggles to eke out a viable life in a hostile environment.”[15]

The one thing these researchers openly declare as being beyond their explanatory frameworks is the affective nature of Pentecostal worship—filled with prayer, singing, Spirit visitations, prophecies, healings, and deliverance from demons—all part of a member’s direct and personal experiences with God during the week and on every Sunday. The researchers describe this “emotional exuberance” as honestly as they can. But beyond this observation, their modern Western framework allows them to say no more.

What have these scholars found in their ethnographies that might be of interest to Christian NGOs and their staff? What follows is drawn from research done in West Africa, as well as some from East Africa and Central America. Because the research base consists of a relatively small number of ethnographic studies of Progressive Pentecostal churches spread over a number of countries, I wish to avoid overgeneralizing and encourage the reader to do the same.

Nonetheless, the bits and pieces that have emerged over the last ten or so years present some new news for most academics who study development as well as for practitioners. These findings may provoke new thinking and further research, particularly by missiologists, as we try to make sense of this new reality within the global church.

Progressive Pentecostalism and Development

Before trying to summarize what these studies report regarding Progressive Pentecostal thinking about development, we need to remember that Pentecostals do not begin with thinking. Instead, they begin with affective worship, rituals, and lived experience.[16] Thus, one cannot speak of a Progressive Pentecostal theology of poverty or of development in general terms—at least not at this point in time.

Three broad generalizations emerge from what is heard in Pentecostal worship and from what is said by Pentecostals who are doing development work as part of their Spirit-empowered faith. These findings stand in stark contrast to what one reads and hears from evangelical, mainline, or Catholic development agencies.

First, one thing that these largely secular researchers find intriguing is Progressive Pentecostal formulations about what development is and why it is needed. Dena Freeman, an anthropologist at the London School of Economics, describes the churches in her study as framing development not as an issue of social justice or human rights, but as a question of what God wants for Africa: “A continent blessed with health, wealth and abundance, where people work hard, pray hard and live upright moral lives.”[17]

The cause of poverty is equally surprising: Underdevelopment, poverty, and suffering are what the devil wants for Africa. Correspondingly, development is understood as a war against the devil and demons, not a war against poverty or unjust social structures, as we tend to frame development in the West. International development NGOs, including most Christian agencies, may be fighting a war against poverty and injustice, but Progressive Pentecostal churches are fighting against the devil and his commitment to diminishing life.

Second, this recent research suggests a new geography of development. Charles Piot, a cultural anthropologist at Duke University, argues that in West Africa, the rural/urban geographic framework has been reimagined to reflect the kind of “theology” of poverty and development I have just described. The village is now the place of traditional religion, of angry ancestors, and of demon possession. The village is where you were poor. The churches in urban centers, in contrast, are where villagers came to faith and are baptized by the Holy Spirit. These urban Christian communities replace your village and deliver you from your traditional world. So turn your back on your traditional culture and step into a new culture of empowerment by the Spirit, a culture of freeing experience with God, who desires and empowers you for a new and better future. Piot argues that there is a new “development imaginary” in play.[18]

There is a deep irony here. This new development imaginary echoes what modernization theory has always argued—development requires leaving traditional culture and values behind and adopting more modern values—by which is meant those of the modern West.[19] But this new call for leaving tradition behind is indigenous to the Global South and its Pentecostal churches.

Third, combining the work of Piot with that of Mennonite sociologist Robert Brenneman, Miller and Yamamori, and Dena Freeman, it is possible to formulate a conceptual framework for the Progressive Pentecostal view of individual and social transformation. (See fig. 1.)

Figure 1. Progressive Pentecostal Transformative Framework

Figure 1. Progressive Pentecostal Transformative Framework

First, the Progressive Pentecostal church is an aggressively evangelistic community that uses modern technology and marketing tools to get its message of salvation into Satan’s world of traditional religion and sinful behaviors that are immoral and that diminish household income—drinking, womanizing, and the like.[20] This is Satan’s strategy for keeping you poor. The good news is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ can deliver you from this fallen world.

Second, conversion is personal, affective, exuberant, and accompanied by signs and wonders. Healing and deliverance are now lived realities, with both personal and social consequences. You become aware that you are loved personally by God and that God desires you to become fully human and to live a full life. Your personal story is redirected; you become an active agent in your world.

Third, Pentecostalism “demands and legitimizes radical behavior change.”[21] Personal holiness matters. As new creations, with new moral behaviors that do not drain household incomes, and the promise that God intends you to prosper, believers go back into the world as newly empowered witnesses, expecting new and better futures.[22]

Fourth, with a new transformative religion—emotionally renewed during the week and every Sunday—you are disconnected from the change-resistant nature of traditional religion. The churches provide training in the life skills and work habits conducive to modern urban economic life. Thus empowered, the Pentecostal believer is expected to prosper, tithe and give generously, and be an evangelist.

This framework describes a virtuous cycle that is inseparably material, psychological, and spiritual in nature. Freeman concludes, “Pentecostal and charismatic churches create new social, economic and moral structures and act to transform both the subjectivities and lifestyles of their followers.”[23]

The optimistic tone of this proposal needs to be qualified in a number of important ways, beyond the obvious concern for overgeneralization mentioned earlier. Pentecostal scholars from the Global South such as Nimi Wariboko and Samuel Zalanga are concerned that the Pentecostal role in economic development in Africa may be more ambiguous than it first appears.


•  The ambiguous nature of the “prosperity gospel” proposal is well known. The misuses are well reported, but it also has the potential for being good news for the poor.[24]

•  Framing the cause of poverty as the work of Satan and the demonic provides a convenient fig leaf for the people and institutions that are responsible for corruption, bad development policy, and unfair economic practices and policies.[25] Will blaming the demonic, while ignoring social structures of inequality and violence, and offering a new identity, while ignoring the role of structural violence in diminishing identity in the first place, result in a Progressive Pentecostalism that simply sustains a status quo that both creates and sustains poverty?[26]

•  The ambiguous relationship between Progressive Pentecostal development work and modern science is also cause for concern.[27] Germs and improved seeds reduce poverty as positively as does dealing with demons or curses. Is there a trajectory of convergence, or are the poor being forced to make unnecessary choices?

•  Finally, the long-term impact of this recently reported work is unknown. Will it prove to be sustainable and transformational?


Keeping these legitimate questions in mind, one feature of this proposal is nonetheless worthy of serious attention and further research: the factor of personal transformation.

Personal Transformation: Recovery of Identity

This research brings the issue of personal transformation into focus as an important element of social transformation. Development literature has many references to a subjective, debilitating internalization of poverty and oppression that seems to be the primary driver for fatalism and unwillingness to believe that a better future is possible or even permitted.

Jayakumar Christian and I have written elsewhere about a phenomenon we termed “marred identity”—the internalization of the impact of chronic poverty and sustained oppression, which result in reduced agency, risk avoidance, and resistance to change.[28] Stigma literature refers to the need to mitigate what is called “spoiled identity.”[29] Ann Cudd argues that the dynamics of oppression in the form of economic, political, and symbolic coercion are the means by which this diminished or degraded sense of identity is formed.[30]

Jayakumar Christian’s use of the phrase “marred identity” allowed us to go beyond simply describing the psychological result of oppression. We also wanted to assert the important theological affirmation of the true identity of every human being—known by God, loved by God, and made in the image of God. Suffering from marred identity is a bad thing, but not knowing that this marred identity is not what God intends, or failing to announce that God has a solution for marred identity, is even worse.

For most practitioners, addressing this embedded sense of powerlessness is one of the most difficult challenges when working with the poor and oppressed. Sadly, there have been few offerings as to what one can do to address this problem. At this point the research on Progressive Pentecostal churches and their work among the poor has something fresh to say. The simple fact that the Holy Spirit of God chooses to visit and revisit the poor through Spirit baptism, healings, deliverances, prophecies, and miracles is itself an affirmation of the true identity of the poor.

Piot argues that Pentecostal churches in West Africa are “narrative machines . . . a brilliant generator of intensities and affects: of joy and happiness, of confidence and pride, of feelings of empowerment and importance, of optimism and hope.”[31] This is a result of Pentecostalism’s transcendent, affective worship that focuses on personal transformation—a change in how people view themselves.

Drawing on the separate ethnographies of three of her researchers, Freeman reports that new Pentecostal Christians “begin to see themselves as part of God’s people, a ‘somebody’ rather than a ‘nobody,’ a victor, not a victim. Most important, they begin to move beyond a passive fatalism and come to realize that they have agency in their lives.”[32]

Brenneman reports on what he calls “identity reconstruction,” which occurs when former gang members become part of a Pentecostal community and find a solution to the chronic shame that drove them into gangs in the first place.[33] In a similar vein, David Martin reports on “a revision of consciousness”; and David Maxwell, on the “remaking of the individual.”[34] The bottom line is that a number of ethnographic studies have noted that Pentecostal worship and its sense of new community can be an antidote to marred identity.

In Pentecostal churches in Ghana, the issue of recovering identity is also directly connected to how the Bible is used. Paul Gifford, professor emeritus at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London, describes how the Bible as a source of the living word of God, empowered by the Holy Spirit, comes to tell you who you really are.[35] Gifford reports that the Bible functions as a repository of narratives about God and particularly the miraculous. Yet, he says, it is not the miraculous itself that is the focus, but rather the stories that illustrate God’s desire and ability to intervene in the believer’s life and to prosper him or her.[36] The Bible contains living stories of what God can and wants to do today.

For most evangelicals, the Bible is the Word of God and the rule for life and thus the foundation of our theology. For Pentecostals, however, the Bible is a source of new being and transformed identity, the promise of a new life and a new better future today.

Churches’ Effectiveness vs. International NGOs

Dena Freeman’s primary goal in Pentecostalism and Development: Churches, NGOs, and Social Change in Africa is to explore the role of five Progressive Pentecostal churches in Africa and to compare the development effectiveness of those churches to that of an international NGO in the same city. A weakness in the research is that none of the researchers were part of the development-studies world, nor did any of them have extensive practical experience in development. Assessment tools such as impact evaluations are largely missing. Conclusions on impact and sustainability and, hence, effectiveness are thus not always as well supported as they need to be. But the comparative work on worldview and cultural values and also on personal transformation is more robust.

The rather unexpected conclusion from Freeman’s five case studies is that “Pentecostal churches seem to be rather more successful in bringing about change that is effective, deep-rooted and long lasting.”[37] Some of the reasons cited were predictable, based on what we have already seen, and others shed new light.


•  These churches are indigenously led. Language, culture, and worldview do not present themselves as complicating issues for project leadership to struggle with, as they do for international NGOs.

•  The development work of local churches is funded from within the church through tithes, while international NGOs bring in money from the outside, along with all the accountability requirements that accompany such funds.

•  Churches insist on new moral behaviors that are generally “pro-developmental”—no drinking, partying, or womanizing. Unhelpful cultural practices and traditional religion are challenged. International NGOs avoid addressing these kinds of issues in order to avoid charges of cultural imperialism.


The bottom line for the better performance of these churches, Freeman concludes, is that, at their best, “Neo-Pentecostal churches are embedded institutions that change people and their narratives, alter moral behavior and create new meaning, vision and hope for the future.”[38]

At a deeper level, the differences in effectiveness may be related to differing views of the world and how it works, of what poverty is, what causes it, and how poverty should be addressed. These ethnographies suggest that Progressive Pentecostal churches view poverty and the better human future in ways that are more in line with the poor they serve. This stands in stark contrast to the worldviews, and especially the ontologies, of NGOs.


•  For these churches, the problem of poverty is spiritual, and the solutions come from the Holy Spirit, repentance, worship, and holy living. For the (secular) international NGO, the problem of poverty is material and is thus best addressed with money, technology, and good public policy.

•  For the churches, the adversary is Satan and traditional religion. To the secular NGO, the adversary is lack of education and unjust structures and systems.

•  For the churches, the world is an “enchanted place,” where the central issue is managing power, especially spiritual power. For the secular NGO, the world is a material place that can be improved by reason and science.

•  For the churches, the best human future is being reconciled to God and loving one’s neighbor. For the secular NGO, the better human future is some form of material well-being.


Freeman then posits something even more seminal than issues of worldview and culture. The key to the effectiveness of these churches is their ability to trigger what Freeman calls “personal transformation”—the transformation of marred identity, which we discussed above.

A number of Freeman’s researchers point out that Pentecostal worship experiences result in converts re-creating their identity in ways that lead them to no longer accept fatalistic beliefs or remain passive in terms of the future. In other words, they discover that they are of personal interest to God and thus have value. They discover that they are intended for a better future by God and that God will empower them to act to change their world.

Freeman concludes, “While Pentecostals seek to bring about personal transformation, the international NGOs tend to think more of the community level and structural change. When it comes to bringing about social and economic change, it seems that approaches that focus on individuals are rather more effective.” Freeman goes on to note that international NGOs lack both the tools and the theory to address the challenge of personal transformation.[39] This is a remarkably honest insight from a secular source and a very important one for any Christian NGO.

What about Christian NGOs?

One wonders whether Christian NGOs are significantly different from the international NGOs that Freeman and her colleagues studied. Would Church World Service or Caritas be as effective as these Progressive Pentecostal churches were found to be? While Freeman did not examine any explicitly Christian NGOs, other studies have been done that might help us draw some tentative, if somewhat speculative, conclusions on this issue.

In his important work on gangs in Central America, Robert Brenneman noted a contrast between the way the Catholic Church addressed the gang problem compared to that of the urban Pentecostal churches he studied.[40] For those interviewed within the Catholic community, the causes of the gang problem were the structural issues of poverty, poor education, unemployment, and abusive families. For the small Progressive Pentecostal urban churches, the gang problem was understood as a result of sin and Satan. As a consequence, their respective solutions differed. The Catholic gang ministries focused on gang prevention—working for justice, development, and advocacy. In contrast, the Progressive Pentecostal churches focused on gang recovery—through evangelism, baptism by the Holy Spirit, and the requirement of new moral behaviors.

My personal experience is similar. Catholic and mainline development agency personnel often reflect their Western heritage and the view of their Western funding agencies, with the Western two-tiered spiritual/material ontology. Thus Satan, demons, and spirits are seldom mentioned. The role of the Holy Spirit is understood more as a historical or future phenomenon or is ignored altogether, except as a personal concern. The miraculous and evangelism are viewed with some concern or even suspicion.

While I am sure there are exceptions, it may be the case that Catholic or mainline Protestant development agencies are not all that distinguishable from their secular international counterparts when seen from the perspective of the poor they serve. This is a hypothesis that requires additional research for validation.

Implications for Evangelical Agencies

But what about evangelical development agencies such as World Relief, Tearfund, Food for the Hungry, and World Vision? Might they have a worldview that avoids some or all of the discontinuities that secular and possibly mainline or Catholic NGOs tend to have in comparison with Progressive Pentecostal churches? On this subject, there is no research of which I am aware. I can only speculate based on my experience working with World Vision.

At the theological level, there appears to be a greater degree of congruence between evangelicals and Neo-Pentecostals, but this may not be reflected as fully in practice as one might hope. Evangelical NGOs usually affirm a holistic worldview that unites the spiritual and the material, since such a view is consistent with their belief in uniting evangelism and development as part of what they call the integral or holistic Gospel.[41] Progressive Pentecostals would agree, but, I suspect, for a wider range of reasons.

For most evangelical organizations, evangelism is seen as something Christians are obligated to do but, if working in a development organization, something they need to do “sensitively,” since evangelism is a taboo issue for some of the organizations’ funders and may be even for some people in the Western sectors of their own organizations. For Progressive Pentecostals, in contrast, evangelism is central, urgent, and Spirit driven; it is considered to be the central contributor to the effectiveness of development work.

The development practices of the two types of organizations have similarities, yet with differences, as well. Progressive Pentecostals are comfortable with emergent, affective, and nonlinear processes of change in which the Holy Spirit acts and people follow. Evangelicals, reflecting their captivity to modernity, tend to approach development planning in a more linear, rational frame (think “log frames” and results-based management) and to believe that technical interventions are the drivers of development change.

As we have seen, Progressive Pentecostal development work is locally owned, led, and funded. For evangelical NGOs, the funding and expertise comes from outside, and even when project leadership is done by a national, this person tends to be an urban professional (World Vision) or the pastor of one church inside the community that acts as a bridge between the NGO and the community (Compassion, Tearfund).

The bottom line is that evangelical development organizations are closer to Progressive Pentecostal churches in worldview, development theory, and practice, but with important differences—particularly related to worldview and cultural issues—that Freeman’s study suggests may provide a competitive advantage to Progressive Pentecostal churches when it comes to enabling transformational development. Again, this conclusion calls for additional research.

What Is an Evangelical Development NGO to Do?

What steps lie ahead? The most obvious place to begin is to take the steps necessary to get over the bias and, often, misunderstandings that evangelicals have about Pentecostals and charismatics and their churches. Meeting some Pentecostals and charismatics and being in fellowship is a reasonable place to start. Much commonality that is worth naming will be found once evangelicals get over their “concerns” about Pentecostalism or surrender their unspoken hope that they can make Pentecostals into just another expression of evangelicalism.

The second place to start is for evangelical agencies in the Global South to go into their cities and rural areas and seek out the kinds of Pentecostal churches described in the ethnographies mentioned in this article. Where are these churches? Who are their leaders? What are they saying to the poor? What are they doing with the poor? What might they have to offer to a sympathetic observer? Might they be potential partners who can bridge the worldview and cultural distance between the evangelical development organization and the poor?

The third place is to look inside the evangelical development organization and take seriously the work and reality of their people who work at the grass roots among the poor. Erica Bornstein, a self-professed secular Jew, studied two Christian organizations in Zimbabwe: World Vision Zimbabwe and Christian Care. Although her worldview had no room for witchcraft, she was honest enough to take it seriously because her informants did. Bornstein devoted an entire chapter to witchcraft as something that “retarded” development.[42] She observed that while the World Vision national office leaders in the capital city of Harare did not want to hear much about witchcraft as a problem out in the development projects, responding to witchcraft was an unavoidable part of the development practice of the World Vision staff working at the grass roots.

This contrast between headquarters personnel and field workers reinforced an informal finding of an internal study I did in World Vision in the mid-1990s. I led a Christian Witness Commission made up of senior staff and members of the international board. The purpose was to determine if there was any evidence that World Vision was sliding toward secularism—a laudable exercise for any Christian NGO to do from time to time. We spent two years doing surveys and in-depth interviews, as well as reviewing country strategies, policies, plans, and evaluation reports relating to Christian witness. In one country the national office leadership affirmed the need to examine our “Christianness,” since, they reported, the field personnel working in their front-line programs were “out of control” and might not really be Christian. “Out of control” turned out to mean that they were Pentecostals using all the gifts of the Holy Spirit as part of their development work! Three days later, in one of the area development programs in the same country, the local project staff or field personnel also affirmed the need to examine World Vision’s “Christianness,” since their leadership in the capital city did not pray expecting change, did not believe that the Holy Spirit could heal, and were not convinced that demons could be banished.

I relate these incidents as a way of asking whether the bridge between the Progressive Pentecostal experience and its effectiveness in terms of improving the lives of the poor might be an unrecognized opportunity for evangelical development organizations.

Summing Up

The latter half of this article is far more anecdotal and speculative than one might like. Clearly a great deal of additional research is needed, both by Ph.D. students and within Christian development agencies. It also seems as if it is time for missiologists to get in the game. The missional impact of Christian relief and development work still needs attention. The potential for getting a better and more nuanced view on mission among the poor seems promising.

It is also clear that evangelical NGOs and evangelical churches doing development work in the Global South need a change in scenery. We need to leave our evangelical sanctuaries and go visit our Pentecostal neighbors. Surely there is a lot we can learn from each other that will benefit the poor.

Finally, we evangelicals need to take Pentecostals and Pentecostal thinking and practice about empowering the poor much more seriously. We can no longer afford to warily affirm the Pentecostal commitments to the Bible, evangelism, and mission, while ignoring the unarguable role of the Holy Spirit today in enabling personal and social transformation around the world. We need to stop treating Pentecostals like somewhat odd country cousins and begin to ask ourselves if we missed out on something that God did in the last century while we were fighting our theological battles against the modern West.



[1]. Neoliberalism is a free-market, minimalist-government approach to the economics of a nation based on the thinking of Friedrich von Hayek and the Austrian school of economics. It is driven by a conviction that no state can know enough to manage its national economy effectively and that, in trying to increase its control of the economy, a state would continually increase its coercive power over its citizens. Neoliberalism was a reaction to the post–World War II experience in the West with a social democratic approach to political economy and its belief in a strong role for the state in the “management” of the economy. This approach lost credibility in the West during the stagflation in the West during the 1970s.

[2]. Richard Peet and Elaine R. Hartwick, Theories of Development: Contentions, Arguments, Alternatives, 2nd ed. (New York: Guilford Press, 2009), 84.

[3]. Dani Rodrik, “Goodbye Washington Consensus, Hello Washington Confusion? A Review of the World Bank’s Economic Growth in the 1990s: Learning from a Decade of Reform,” Journal of Economic Literature 44, no. 4 (2006): 973–87.

[4]. Peet and Hartwick, Theories of Development, 90.

[5]. Dena Freeman, ed., Pentecostalism and Development: Churches, NGOs, and Social Change in Africa (Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 4.

[6]. Ogbu Kalu, African Pentecostalism: An Introduction (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2008), 17; Donald E. Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori, Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 2007), 27; and Freeman, Pentecostalism and Development, 11.

[7]. Miller and Yamamori, Global Pentecostalism, 39–67. Amos Yong, In the Days of Caesar: Pentecostalism and Political Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 34–35, uses the term “Pentecostal progressivism.”

[8]. In this article, I use the term “Progressive Pentecostalism,” although some of the studies cited use the term “Pentecostal” or “Neo-Pentecostal.” Regardless, all the churches cited are consistent with this article’s definition of Progressive Pentecostalism.

[9]. Miller and Yamamori, Global Pentecostalism, 6.

[10]. Ibid., 41–43.

[11]. Kenneth J. Archer, The Gospel Revisited: Towards a Pentecostal Theology of Worship and Witness (Eugene, Ore.: Pickwick Publications, 2011).

[12]. In addition to authors cited in this article, related work has been reported by André Corten and Ruth A. Marshall-Fratani, Between Babel and Pentecost: Transnational Pentecostalism in Africa and Latin America (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 2001); R. Andrew Chesnut, Competitive Spirits: Latin America’s New Religious Economy (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2003); and Nicole Rodriguez Toulis, Believing Identity: Pentecostalism and the Mediation of Jamaican Ethnicity and Gender in England (Oxford: Berg, 1997).

[13]. Charles Piot, “Pentecostal and Development Imaginaries in West Africa,” in Pentecostalism and Development, ed. Freeman, 113.

[14]. Joel Robbins, “Globalization of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity,” Annual Review of Anthropology 33 (2004): 131; and Corten and Marshall-Fratani, Between Babel and Pentecost, 1–4.

[15]. Kalu, African Pentecostalism, 191–92.

[16]. James K. A. Smith, Thinking in Tongues: Pentecostal Contributions to Christian Philosophy (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), xvii–xviii.

[17]. Freeman, Pentecostalism and Development, 2.

[18]. Piot, “Pentecostal and Development Imaginaries,” 116–17.

[19]. David S. Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor (New York: Norton, 1999).

[20]. Elizabeth E. Brusco, The Reformation of Machismo: Evangelical Conversion and Gender in Colombia (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1995).

[21]. Freeman, Pentecostalism and Development, 14.

[22]. Samuel Zalanga, “Religion, Economic Development, and Cultural Change: The Contradictory Role of Pentecostal Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Journal of Third World Studies 27, no. 1 (2010): 48.

[23]. Freeman, Pentecostalism and Development, 15; and Piot, “Pentecostal and Development Imaginaries,” 121–22.

[24]. Nimi Wariboko, “Pentecostal Paradigms of National Economic Prosperity in Africa,” in Pentecostalism and Prosperity: The Socioeconomics of the Global Charismatic Movement, ed. Amos Yong and Katherine Attanasi (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 35–59. See other chapters in Yong and Attanasi as well.

[25]. Zalanga, “Religion, Economic Development, and Cultural Change,” 53; and Amos Yong and Samuel Zalanga, “What Empire? Which Multitude?,” in Evangelicals and Empire: Christian Alternatives to the Political Status Quo, ed. Bruce Ellis Benson and Peter Heltzel (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2008), 244.

[26]. Adrienne Pine, Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 2008).

[27]. Zalanga, “Religion, Economic Development, and Cultural Change,” 57.

[28]. Jayakumar Christian, God of the Empty-Handed: Poverty, Power, and the Kingdom of God, 2nd ed. (Victoria, Austral.: Acorn Press, 2011), 146–47, 161, 167–69; and Bryant L. Myers, Walking with the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development, rev. and updated ed. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2011), 127–28, 139–40, 145–46, 194–95.

[29]. Erving Goffman, Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1963).

[30]. Ann E. Cudd, Analyzing Oppression (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2006).

[31]. Piot, “Pentecostal and Development Imaginaries,” 114, 121.

[32]. Freeman, Pentecostalism and Development, 13.

[33]. Robert E. Brenneman, Homies and Hermanos: God and Gangs in Central America (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2012), 238.

[34]. David Martin, Tongues of Fire: The Explosion of Protestantism in Latin America (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998), 287; David Maxwell, “The Durawall of Faith: Pentecostal Spirituality in Neo-Liberal Zimbabwe,” Journal of Religion in Africa 35, no. 1 (2005): 4–32.

[35]. Paul Gifford, Ghana’s New Christianity: Pentecostalism in a Globalizing African Economy (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 2004), 71.

[36]. Ibid., 72–73.

[37]. Freeman, Pentecostalism and Development, 24.

[38]. Ibid., 24–25.

[39]. Ibid., 25.

[40]. Brenneman, Homies and Hermanos, 15–16 and 193–94.

[41]. Myers, Walking with the Poor, 7, 316–17.

[42]. Erica Bornstein, The Spirit of Development: Protestant NGOs, Morality, and Economics in Zimbabwe (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford Univ. Press, 2005), 141–64.


Bryant L. Myers

Bryant L. Myers is professor of international development in the School of Intercultural Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California. —

To cite this article:

[Chicago] Myers, Bryant L. “Progressive Pentecostalism, Development, and Christian Development NGOs: A Challenge and an Opportunity.” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 39, no. 3 (2015): 115–20.

[MLA] Myers, Bryant L. “Progressive Pentecostalism, Development, and Christian Development NGOs: A Challenge and an Opportunity.” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 39.3 (2015): 115–20. Web. .

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