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African Caribbean Pentecostal Churches Theology Religion Essay

2184 words (9 pages) Essay in Theology

5/12/16 Theology Reference this

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In this essay, I will establish why African-Caribbean Pentecostal Churches in the United Kingdom are experiencing phenomenal growth in contrast to the decline in the growth of traditional Churches, such as the Church of England and Roman Catholics.

I will also enumerate on some Biblical principles that was used in relation to Church growth and other influence of past revivals which the African-Caribbean Pentecostal Churches exploited to arrive at this creditable accomplishment.

Similarly, I will indicate some probable cause of the decline in growth of the traditional Churches and ideas borrowed from the Afro-Caribbean Churches that could create a positive change to the growth of the traditional Churches in the United Kingdom.

AFRO-CARIBBEAN IDENTITY AND WORSHIP MODE.

The Afro-Caribbean Pentecostal Churches are generally the offshoot of African Independent Churches, which are African expression of worldwide Pentecostalism by virtue of their characteristics and origins. According to Harvey Cox, despite the common theological origins, the unique innovative methods of worship differ from those Pentecostals that are influenced by Western Pentecostalism. With time scholars began to recognize their distinct Pentecostal character such as: unique prayer methods, preaching of the word, speaking in tongues, and the praise and worship methods including accentuated music and dancing during services [1] .

According to Parsons, all Afro-Caribbean or Black-Led Pentecostal Churches do uphold evangelical and fundamentalist understanding of the Bible, of which the texts are considered inerrant and applied strictly to the individual and Church life. This requires a stringent ethical lifestyle that encompasses areas such as being stern against perceived social vices such as: smoking, specific dress code and other distinction between ‘Saintly Holiness’ and ‘Sinful Worldliness’. The required lifestyle is being effectively achieved with week days of Church programs that occupy member’s leisure time. While the leadership of an Afro-Caribbean Church is ‘potentially hierarchical and authoritarian’ the system allows for multiple leadership opportunities such as: Sunday school leader, Youth work, Choirs, elders, Women ministry deacons etc.

On the contrary, the leadership opportunities given to qualified Afro-Caribbean members in Orthodox Churches are very much limited. This could influence the movement of Black members to Black led Pentecostal Churches. [2] 

The typical Afro-Caribbean Pentecostal Church structure agrees with the analysis of Mclntosh (a professor of pastoral ministry), who reiterated that for a Church to experience Biblical growth they must adhere to some principles indicated below:

A commitment to the absolute authority of the Bible, holding on to salvation with a strong desire to abide by God’s great commission (missio dei ) with the monitored evidence of ‘bearing fruit of new converts’.

Involvement with glorification of God through praise and worship modes, alongside creation of ministries and programs.

Development of an effective method of welcoming and nurturing new converts to a maturity level which incorporates baptism and teaching.

Recognize Divine empowerment and guidance through the Holy Spirit, which is acquired through prayers.

Maintain effective leaders and cultural relevance to the community which they operate, with a structure that is void of barriers to the outside world and a focus on Church planting. [3] 

The foregoing principles are manifested by the Afro-Caribbean Churches which their leaders religiously apply, with a resultant phenomenal growth of members. The zeal exhibited in Church planting explains the wide spread success of Afro-Caribbean Churches all over the United Kingdom, which matches the geographical extension Church growth principle that was demonstrated by in the apostles in the Book of Acts 9:31 where Judea, Galilee and Samaria were reached from Jerusalem. [4] 

Nevertheless, there are viewpoints in opposition to emphasis on acclaimed numerical growths that are comparable with the Afro-Caribbean Churches. An example is that of Newbigin who is a proponent of the spread of the gospel with full consideration of the positive and negative aspects of Culture. He opined that there is no Biblical basis to dwell on successes from numbers related to Church Growth and goal setting. He said that it is a matter determined by the Holy Spirit. In lay terms it would seem that a Church with a lot of people may not really have a sizeable number of people who are genuinely born again, if the ethical dimensions of the gospel were neglected. In the same vein he objected to the reluctance of Orthodox Churches to change from their traditional worship and evangelical methods which remains obsolete to the demands of modern times.

Another critique to Church Growth principles is Elmer Towns, who warned of the great danger in allowing the ascribed success of social science methodology to overshadow the associated theological Church Growth principles, with attendant risk of ignoring human and godly aspects.

In response to their criticism, McGavran objected to their ‘remnant theology’ argument which favours a small community of genuinely born again Christian to a largely populated Church of yet-to-be perfected Christians. He reiterated that it is a defeatist position which can only be held by a failing Pastor [5] .

IMPACT OF HISTORICAL EVENTS ON AFRO-CARIBBEAN CHURCH GROWTH

In consideration of the past decades, Parsons opined that a great influence on the Afro-Caribbean Church Growth is the rejection that antagonised the Afro-Caribbean immigrants and their children in the 1950s and 1960s. Which continued in 1970s and 1980s.

The rejection from predominantly ‘White Churches’ was also experienced by Afro-Caribbean Anglicans, Methodists, and Catholics in the 1960s. The coldness and hardening of race relations in Britain led to the Afro-Caribbean’s search for of sense of identity, they therefore needed to restore the status which they were deprived.

Additionally, this Afro-Caribbean Christians who were members of historic (Orthodox) Churches from their own country, prefer the spontaneous worship mode mostly used by the Pentecostals and Holiness Churches, in contrast to the comparatively low keyed worship at the Orthodox Churches. Another factor that accounted for steady growth of Afro-Caribbean Churches is their engagement in socio-political matters in Britain, which led to creation of organizations that tackled education and social issues. Examples of such organization are the Council of African and Afro-Caribbean Churches as well as the West Indian Evangelical Alliance. The Afro-Caribbean Churches from mid 1970s also joined and complemented the efforts of the ecumenical mainstream of British Christian community and Religious life in general.

The advancement of the Growth of Afro-Caribbean Churches can also be traced to their media evangelism drive. This was achieved through religious broadcasting accorded to them through the Songs of Praise presented by Southwark Cathedral in 1987. It featured Black congregations and gospel choirs. Additionally in 1990, TV Channel 4 featured documentaries that cover Black led Churches. [6] 

EMULATING CHURCH GROWTH THEOLOGY

The North American Society for Church Growth defined Church Growth as ‘the discipline’ that researches the “nature, expansion, planting, multiplication, function and health of Church” as related to the Great Commission. [7] The Afro-Caribbean Churches are fully aligned with the three fundamental principles of Church Growth derived by Donald McGavran (1897-1990) the renowned father of Church Growth movement as itemised below:

a) Numerical Growth as evidenced by ‘countable converts to the Church’ is in fact the raison de etre of missions, which must remain an utmost priority, void of distraction from other Church programs. The Bible book of Acts confirms the Church Growth principle of numerical increment of the Church in Acts 2:47 by daily addition of converts by the Lord. The Afro-Caribbean Pentecostal Churches in a typical interactive Sunday service will formally welcome new comers into the Church and also initiate a follow up and visitation process.

b) The concept of ‘identifying and profiling an ideal target’: implies and all out study of sociological and anthropological approaches that can be strategically directed to particular set of people with the aim of maximising their Chances of conversion to Christianity. [8] 

As earlier mentioned, the Afro-Caribbean Churches imbibe an evangelical culture of reaching out to communities in their immediate environments as well as those very far off with the strategies that bear Church planting in mind. In reaching out to certain cultures with predominantly different migrant groups at various settlements, they essentially use linguistic approaches whereby interpretation of the English language to the local language of certain category of a targeted audience in a community.

c) People movement concept describes how the gospel gain access and thrive in denominations consisting of ‘ethnic and social units’.

People movement is the end result of the determination of individuals from the same group, to become Christians without ‘social dislocation’, while maintaining interaction with unbelieving relatives. These unbelieving relatives and other sections of the group, eventually take a similar decision to become Christians after much interaction; hence they form Churches that have majority of the members wholly made up of the people of the same ethnic and social circle. Furthermore, exemplar lifestyle and welfare of the Church, known as ‘Institutionalized philanthropy’ will then influence the attraction to the Church of the remnant of the people in the same aforementioned category.

An example of the People movement concept which reflected growth principle from the Bible is the ‘Lyddic Movements’ which described the conversion of the Lydda and Sharon communities. (Acts 9:35) [9] .

MEMBERSHIP GROWTH DUE TO IMMIGRATION ASISTANCE.

It has been identified that growth in membership of some Afro-Caribbean Churches at the United Kingdom are also greatly influenced by the various social and legal services associated with their corporate identity. New members are welcomed to utilize the vast knowledge and services of the Church in the areas of their immigration challenges. [10] 

THE INFLUENCE OF PAST REVIVALS PRINCIPLES ON THE AFRO-CARIBBEAN CHURCH GROWTH.

The great historical Revivals such as the Welsh and Azusa Street Revivals that led to origin of Pentecostalism involved a common pre-condition of prayers and qualitative ‘feeding’ on God’s word. The tradition of continuous prayers and ardent focus on God’s word were continually upheld as constant pattern of services of the Afro-Caribbean Churches. This consistency according to McGavran led to: Holy Living, operating with empowerment of the Holy Spirit and having a genuine drive for evangelism. The dynamics of Revivals within a Church actually lead to positive impact on Church Growth as the members of the Church channel their spiritual energy into evangelism. [11] 

Conclusion.

When the Afro-Caribbean success in Church growth is considered in the light of McGavran principles and the critiques of some aspect of the Church Growth movement such as Newbigin and Elmer Towns, I concur with the McGavran arguments that having an increasing number of attendance in the Church is more beneficial to the Church members notwithstanding their status as mere Church goers or truly born again Christians. However, despite the likely presence of mixed multitude in the congregation of Afro-Caribbean Churches, I believe that as long as they are in an environment where the word of God is continually preached, the Holy Spirit will perfect their salvation with time. Consequently, the remnant theology and the excuse that highly populated Churches might possess very few perfected Christians, is not an excuse to be slack in the area of adopting and planning a modern day strategy geared towards soul-winning.

BIBLOGRAPHY

Bennett, C. Problems and Possibilities of Church Growth. Journal of Unifications Studies Vol. 8.

Falola,T & Agwuele,T.Africans and the Politics of Popular Culture. Suffolk:

Boydell & Brewer Limited; 2009.

Koschorke, K & Schjorring J.H. African Identities and World Christianity in the Twentieth Century. Wiesbaden, Germany: Otto Harrasowitz, Verla; 2005

Holy Bible NKJV. Nashville: Thomas Nelson; 1982.

McGavran, D. A. Understanding Church Growth. Grand Rapids: Wm.B

Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1990.

Mclntosh, G.L. Biblical Church Growth: How You Can Work with God to Build a Faithful Church. Grand Rapids: Baker Books; 2003.

Parsons, G. The Growth of Religious Diversity- Vol 1 Oxford: Alden Press; 2012

Payne,J.D. Kingdom Expressions: Trends influencing the Advancement of the

gospels. Nashville: Thomas Nelson; 2012.

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