Conversion to pentecostalism in Chongwe Township: A rural perspective of an Urban phenomenon
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Pentecostalism is a Christian revivalist movement which originated as an urban movement in the United States of America in 1906. In the 1960s a new revival movement within Pentecostalism which came to be known as Charismatic renewal or neo Pentecostalism swept the United States and as it spread to other areas more especially to Africa, it was initially taken up in towns and cities. In Zambia the movement that largely started in towns, along the line of rail from Livingstone to Kitwe is slowly expanding to rural communities. This dissertation explored why conversion to Pentecostalism was growing so rapidly in Chongwe Township and its impact on mainline churches. The findings indicated that the first Pentecostal church to be planted in Chongwe Township was Acts Assembly which began in 1981. Apart from churches that broke away from the first church, other churches and branches from other places more especially from Lusaka urban came to Chongwe Township. Major attraction to these new churches were their emphasis on healing the sick, on deliverance, freedom of worship and dress, on prophecy, promises of financial and material prosperity, performance of miracles and on speaking in tongues. The research also indicated that there were endless conflicts in mainline churches concerning Pentecostal tendencies which cause a lot of members to leave and join Pentecostal churches. The movements of people have resulted in mainline churches accommodating Pentecostal practices in their churches, in order to maintain their membership. Horton’s theory has been utilised to explain peoples’ conversion in Chongwe Township. Horton (1971) argues that conversion to a new system of belief is only possible when an individual or group is exposed to a larger world view by moving from a micro society (microcosm) to macro society (macrocosm). Horton’s theory was challenged by other scholars such as Gray (1978); Carmody (1992; 2001); Ifeka-Moller (1974) and Fisher (1973). They have agued that Horton’s causes of changes that he talks about seem not to have been uniform throughout Africa as he claims. Carmody has particularly disagreed with Horton on the meaning of ‘conversion’. Primary data was solicited from forty respondents in the township through both participant and non participant observations, and semi-structured interviews. The study utilised purposive, snowball and random sampling procedures. Data was collected through interviews and analysed qualitatively and interpreted thematically. The dissertation concludes that Pentecostalism in Chongwe Township tends to address rural needs, more especially of the lower classes. The main recommendation of the study was that Pentecostal leaders should encourage proper Bible interpretation of financial and material prosperity to help put the message in line with the Bible teachings.
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