Christian Century: Economic Boom in Africa - Philip Jenkins
When I lecture on global Christianity, I am sometimes asked whether, in retrospect, I would revise what I wrote many years ago in books like The Next Christendom. Usually my answer is no.
But in one critical area conditions are changing so quickly as to demand rethinking. Whereas I (and others) once presented Africa as a region of extreme poverty and deprivation, we now have to take account of economic development that in some regions is so rapid as to amount to a boom. We can only begin to outline the religious consequences. ...
... The main impact on Christian churches will likely fall into the category of “more of the same.” For some years now, older independent churches have faded in the face of competition from new denominations rooted in global Pentecostalism that emphasize the blessings of material prosperity. Some tailor their message to aspiring professional and entrepreneurial groups, which will become much more numerous in the coming decade. Charismatic megachurches should boom.
Prosperity teachings never lack for critics. Nevertheless, such teachings usually include important practical lessons for coping with the new globalized world—lessons, for example, in the responsible use of debt and credit. Latin American precedents suggest that these churches also provide a vital organizational focus for campaigns for social and political reform and civic improvement. Expect more, rather than less, religious politics.
Other likely effects lie in the longer term. Increasingly, the demand for labor should draw more women into full-time paid employment, particularly in emerging service sectors. Expect to see more Western-style debates over issues of gender and sexuality, although framed strictly in terms of African traditions. What a pleasure it would be to see Africa’s churches enduring some of the familiar discontents of prosperity.