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Home Up Power Change Hands Fourth Revolution 'Missionary Tongues' Social Media








"Nigeria's Pentecostal Churches and the Tribunal of Social Media"


By Dr. Femi J. Kolapo





Heated discussions on Nigeria’s social media about Pentecostal churches (PC) have become a significant feature of the country’s mediascape.  This paper argues that social media, taking its cues from similar concerns about the dire political and socio-economic conditions of Nigeria as do the academic studies, is constituting itself into a tribunal subjecting Nigeria’s prosperity-preaching Pentecostal churches (PPCs) to more social scrutiny than has done formal scholarship. Much of recent literature of Nigeria’s (and Africa’s) Pentecostalism has highlighted the modernizing, economic savvy, and social-psychologically advantageous aspects of the organizations to their adherents. It has advertised the PCs increasing political significance to national quests for democratic political transformation in Africa. This study argues that digital social media platforms have provided Nigeria’s netizens with a lever that seems to help them subject Nigeria’s Pentecostalism to a different narrative than found in scholarly treatises and to a jury of non-faith, opposing faith, rival/non Pentecostal public opinion. This social media bench is constituted by self-appointed judges who challenge the theological-philosophical self-appreciation of Nigeria’s PPCs and are institutionally and ideologically located outside of the boundaries of their authority.




I seek to advance a neglected perspective on the relationship between cyberspace and the evolving character of Nigeria’s Pentecostalism. My thesis is that the logic of social media is reconstituting the audience of Nigeria’s PPCs, consequently creating a public glare problem for them. I argue that social media in Nigeria draws Nigeria’s PPCs into a larger extra-Pentecostal public opinion court, a situation with the potential to complicate the transformations ongoing in the Pentecostal movement. As social media become a prevalent platform of communication for Nigeria’s PPCs and as the techno-social logic of these technologies when they are deployed kicks in, they are providing a significant avenue for the contestation, negotiation, constitution, and reconstitution of aspects of the structure, culture, and doctrine of the PPCs. Social media draws and grafts Nigeria's PPCs into a more inclusive, more open, public space, out from their previously enclaved Pentecostal religious public. This space evidences a discursive process of struggle that is transformative of the notions of power and of the effect of power negotiation within the Pentecostal church movement and between it and other religious and secular interest groups in the country. As Nigeria’s PPCs use these social media technologies to build their Pentecostal empires, the social logic of the technologies and some of their democratizing features challenge doctrinal, leadership, and ritual verities held dear by the churches as well as undermine power concentration by their leaders.


            Nigeria’s PPCs are clearly more than the mega-churches with their headquarters in the leading urban centres of Nigeria. However, those urban-based leading Pentecostal mega-churches, with their extensive media reach, national prominence, and international spread, have come to give character to what is considered to be Nigeria’s Pentecostal movement. This essay is therefore restricted to this sector (PPCs) of the country’s Pentecostal movement—a sector with its distinctive mega-church empires and a conspicuous and dominant national social media presence.


All the primary source information used in this analysis are culled from the Internet and digital social media and are therefore public knowledge and in the public domain. I, however, stick as much as possible with referencing a generalized Nigeria’s PPCs rather than focusing my analytical attention on individual Pentecostal churches and their leaders. This rule is undermined only when a specific issue under consideration that is publicly available online directly relates to a specific church and its leaders.[1] The author has been a long time member of a Nigerian Pentecostal church and of para-church Pentecostal organizations and also participates in a number of Pentecostal and non-Pentecostal as well as secular social media networks. Hence, as a personal and scholarly stakeholder in Nigeria’s Pentecostalism, but also together with the general public, I have been a recipient of social media posts and participant in social network websites regarding issues and topic that this essay explores. Where my personal experience has been drawn upon, I have made it as clear as possible while at the same time trying to avoid presumptuousness.


In the second section of the essay following this introduction, I summarize the successes that the literature has claimed for Nigeria’s PPCs' use of electronic mass media. The third section lays out and affirms the churches’ adept use of the Internet and social media to enhance their image, drive membership, advance their evangelistic and church administration goals, and otherwise to promote their theologies. The forth section examines the characteristics of the new social media and theoretical insights into counter-intuitive challenges they have the potential of posing to Nigeria’s PPCs. The fifth section produces evidence to support the theoretical position on possible dangers of the NPCs use of social media and a concluding section sums up the significance of the tendencies emanating from Nigeria’s PPCs use of digital social media.


NPC and successful adaptation of mass media technologies


Studies of religion and media technologies in Nigeria going back over 20 years already showed that Nigeria’s PCs, especially the rich mega-churches, have been enthusiastic and astute users of mass media technologies – print, broadcast, and computer-mediated. They not only adopted and adapted these technologies to preach, evangelize, and communicate but have admitted them as an essential part of the ritual practices that define Pentecostalism.[2]


Birgit Meyer (2005) explored how Pentecostal churches in Nigeria and Ghana successfully took to and used the film media in the “performance of visibility.”[3] She demonstrated how these media enabled the PC in Nigeria and Ghana to enact their vaunted exposure of the hidden, and therefore allegedly evil, powers and powerbase of traditional religious figures and institutions through what was essentially a visual instantiation in film of the power of the Holy Spirit. The visual representation of the struggle between the powers of the praying Pentecostal pastor and his/her group on the one hand and the enemy traditionalist on the other served powerfully to propagate Pentecostal doctrines. It also enhanced an image of transparency for the Pentecostal pastor and church as opposed to the dark secretive characterization of local traditions and the traditionalists. The uptake from the use of the film media was to demonize the social and cultural powerbase of the traditional priest and chief, vindicate the rightness and inevitable success of the PC pastor over the latter and, in the public space and imagination of the people who subscribe to these media, enlarge the presence and power of the Pentecostal pastor and church.


J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu’s discussion of mass media-Pentecostal church relationship in Ghana and Nigeria prior to the rise of the current internet-based social media technologies also followed similar lines of analysis as Meyer’s. He documented wholesale adoption and effective use of mass media technologies by Pentecostal Churches to make themselves and their leadership nationally and locally visible. Asamoah-Gyadu stressed the astuteness of the use, the choice of the most relevant ones that the churches and their leadership deployed back in the decades before modern social media became available. He highlighted the artistry and successful marketing and suasion psychology inscribed in texts crafted and beamed via TV, radio, billboard and poster media to attract people’s attention and to stress Pentecostal religious themes. He documented how the visual effects of billboards and hanging posters, etc., highlighted themes of transformation, anointing, power, and success – all themes to attract people to the PC as well as affirm the power of the leader and the church as a prosperity generating church. On the other hand, these media representations also effectively demonized local traditions and other religions.


Tella, F. & Ampofo (2016) amassed references that demonstrate how the new social media have ensured a positive impact on the churches who use them. These media, according to the authors, helped in “supplementing local users’ involvement with the church” and helped to “strengthen and affirm religious activities and the authority of the church.” They emphasized,


“The natural advantage of the use of social media is that they are fast, furious, and infectious (this is interestingly reflected in the use of the term “going viral” when referring to an item that spins out of control). It  is  an  all-inclusive,  non-restrictive,  non-hierarchical  and  non-             pretentious way of spreading the gospel”[4]

They are characterized by “participation, conversationality, connectedness, community and openness” allowing for diverse forms of communication” and all but eliminating all restriction on individual views or opinions.”[5]


The focus of much of these studies has been how Pentecostal organizations, associations, and individuals have adopted and used the World Wide Web as an instrument to disseminate information about themselves, to promote their organizations, their leadership, and to popularize their doctrine. These studies have also tracked changes to the character of the messages and to the impact of these social media-mediated communications. The discussion has tended to follow the conceptual binary categorizations of religion online versus online religion, i.e., between information on and communication about religion on the Web as against the religious devotional activities that have the web as their locus and location.


Nigeria's PCs' adept use of the Internet and social media


            R. P. Reimann, the “web team leader of the Evangelical Church of the Rhineland and former president of the European Christian Internet Conference (ECIC)”, reported a discussion about his church’s relationship to digitalization and the social media that took place at the Synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) in 2014. He documented considerable reservation and even reluctance on the part of some top church members on how the church should relate to cyberspace technologies. Some argued that there could be no online congregations and that only online communities could exist since sacraments could not be celebrated online. An opposing majority view that emphasized communication rather than physical closeness as the criteria that define a church congregation prevailed. They distinguished between sufficiency and exclusiveness, arguing that preaching the gospel and celebrating the sacraments are not the exclusive criteria for defining the church, even if they are sufficient.[6] Expressing frustration, Reimann noted that while the “process of digitalization is changing our society, the world of work and politics”, those “people trying to raise issues about the digital world in church committees are often dismissed as troublemakers.”.[7] He asserted an absence of advocacy for internet use by top leaders of the church other than “the new council president, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm” who had an active Facebook account.[8]


This example of a conservative stance towards the Internet and social media platforms from technologically advanced modern Germany is, of course, singular. I have referred to it only to highlight the contrasting enthusiasm of the leadership of the PCs of less technologically advanced Nigeria in adopting the internet and the social media.[9] I have also used this example because it raises the significant question that I engage with in a later section of this essay of how the very idea of religion in cyberspace challenges Pentecostal understanding of ecclesiology and pastoral authority.[10]


In Nigeria, while levels of enthusiasm and efficiency in the adoption and use of the internet, digitalization, and the new social media vary, its PCs do not at all hold sceptical views of their relevance. In deed, they have gone beyond the use of the internet and email as a one-way communication tool and have embraced the latest social media with their multi-functional and multi-modal versatility. Nigerian PCs deploy the social media to disseminate sermons, advertise and invite people to meetings, crusades, church activities; to teach and exhort; and to coordinate reading, praying, and bible study communities and cell groups. They deploy the Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, WhatsApp, GooglePlus, etc., to enhance face to face interactions, promote their churches and their leaders, propagate their narratives of themselves and others and to insinuate Pentecostal philosophy and beliefs into the daily lives of people. These social media platforms are also important in Pentecostal activities that condemn and oppose local traditions and that challenge and even demonize non-Christian cultural and religious ideas which they range themselves against.


Internet and Social Media penetration in Nigeria[11]


            Nigeria has a high rate of Africa's smartphone use (18 million users in 2017). Its internet penetration rate was 50% as of December 2017, (98 million users) relative to 32.5% average for all of Africa and 54.4% world average. Social media use is getting more pervasive. The Facebook penetration rate in 2017 was at 8.7% involving a total of 17 million users. This is about a 25% increase over a 5-year period from 2013. As of the third quarter of 2017, the most popular social media platforms in Nigeria were Facebook and WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) each with 41% penetration rate. They were followed by Instagram and Youtube at a 25% penetration rate each. Facebook Messenger and GooglePlus were at 24% and 15% penetration rate respectively and Twitter took the rear at 13%.


All the major NPCs are users of these social media platforms. Each of the major Nigerian PPC and their multiple online personas has no less than 3 million “followers”. They all apply the integrated social media approach; subscribing to and using all the major social media platforms simultaneously and in an integrative mode. A post to one is automatically reflected on and redistributed to the others either directly or through links and feeds. Thus, every instant of information dissemination is replicated and multiplied across the multiple platforms such that the several network of audience are instantly connected to the churches/leaders via multiple networks and platforms. In addition, they have all developed stand-alone ministry apps that take the user directly to their social media platforms, as can be seen from the screenshot images below.


Integrated social media platforms: “Follow Us” on Twitter; Youtube; Instagram; Facebook; Blog; Pinterest, Left for SCOAN, and Right for DCLM


Stand alone ministry apps for the smartphone and tablets, on the left for MFM and on the right for SCOAN.


Social Media Likes, Comments, Followers, and Shares


A significant element to the socio-psychological logic of social media, according to Courtney Seiter (2016)  is their interactivity tools, the emoticons, the Like, Comment, Share, Follow, and Unfollow icons/buttons. Liking a post (i.e., clicking the Like button or icon) is considered to be akin to a quick easy nod, in many cases affirming something about ourselves in regard to the information or content we just liked on social media. Comment and Share take this to a higher level. The latter online actions bolster the online actor’s sense of responsibility to bring relevant content to others by redistributing and circulating text, video, voice or image contents that they have engaged with. They also serve to indicate agreement with or advocating a cause that the online actor believes in or that they feel needs to be shot down. In either case, engaging with Like, Share, Comment, helps to affirm the self of the audience engaging with the online information/content. It helps to define the online actor to others.


The social psychology of Like and Comment implies that those who so engage with online content on social media associate at a psychological level with the tangible community of discourse represented by the social media web persona, cause, and people with whom the actor is engaging. Research indicates that the audience member so engaged actually feels “less lonely” or put positively, feels a sense of belonging to a community when they so engage. Either way that a Comment goes, in support or against, it is an indication that a community is developing, parameters of discourse and interaction are either engaged, being created or recreated, or being critiqued. As PSyBlog author, Dr. Jeremy Dean (2010)  notes, “The very act of reading online can create a surprisingly intimate connection. Because other people’s words are in our heads, we may merge them with our own internal monologues.”[12]


Hence, while Like expresses some amount of sympathy or at least neutral acknowledgment, Comment establishes rapport and indicates purchase. Share associates the sharer with the content shared either as favorable to it or as advertising the need to pay attention to the content regardless of the positivity or negativity of the content. It enhances the social standing of the sharer in sharing in and promoting the further circulation of a stream of ideas or contents that s/he now identifies with.[13]


Likes, Comments, and Video views (in red oval) Left, on T. B Joshua’s  SCOAN Facebook page and Right, on Bishop Oyedepo’s Living Faith Church International  Facebook page


Likes, Comments, and Video views (in red oval)

On Bishop Oyedepo’s Living Faith Church International Facebook page



            On the above three screenshots from the Facebook pages of T. B. Joshua’s SCOAN and Bishop Oyedepo’s Winners’ Chapel International, the circled “Likes”, “Comments”, and “Video view” icons are an indication of the extensive and intensive reach these social media platforms afford Nigeria’s PPCs. Each of these images reflects posts to which their audiences have responded within 48 hours of their posting as of the date that I accessed them. T. B. Joshua’s topmost video post had garnered 10,000 plus Likes, and more significantly, also 1800 Comments. Similarly, the second image reflects 8,600 likes and 2,400 comments for the first video and 6,100 likes and 1300 comments on the second for Bishop David Oyedepo’s posts. The high counts of the Comment icons are very strong indications of audience buy-in and of a strong sense of audience commitment to engaging with the message posted and the need to commit to think about and share personal views and reflections on the posts to group members and social media followers on other social networking platforms. The 55 Comments and 108 Shares within 4 hours of the posting of the third content, an inspirational quote by Bishop Oyedepo, strongly reflect an active ongoing relationship with the audience.


Community formation: RCCG Facebook Groups



The above screenshot shows the use of Facebook by RCCG to anchor church fellowship groups around the daily devotional book produced by the RCCG leader. This provides an opportunity to spread a single set of staple RCCG doctrines to its global membership within the Groups wherever they may be. It clearly facilitates a socialization to RCCG norms and expectations, as well indirectly helps to concentrate the authority of the church leadership. There are dozens of these groups, with varying sizes and, as can be seen in the images above, their organizers decide on the optimum number of posts per day; one with a whooping 290,000 members going for 10+ posts a day and another one only 3 posts a month!


It can be seen how the online interactivity brings the membership into direct engagement with their leaders or the personas that the leader reflects on that Facebook pages. Nigeria’s PPCs have effectively used the Internet and modern social media to disseminate information, to entice and attract new members, to promote their leaders, to anchor members of church groups, and to augment face-to-face worship. They do this in various ways that include live-streaming of worship, and integration of video and podcast of sermons and other church activities into Internet pages and social media platforms. All this supports published studies that have associated the success of these Pentecostal mega-ministries with, among other factors, their savvy use of mass communication media, including the new social media


Socio-technological logic of the Internet and social media


        The aforementioned studies have dwelt on the uses of these technologies by the churches as they became available. The studies affirm the notion of PC in Nigeria and elsewhere in the global south, as a reflection of modernity and globalization. The churches are portrayed as marching in tune with global modernity trends, even as these trends are locally mediated. Like modern business corporations and secular state and parastatal organizations, the churches are depicted as modern components of the emerging world order. They are helping to fill in for the lacks of the state and are helping to reorient and capacitate their adherents to be more adept at operating within the global neo-liberal economic order and in the context of the dire economic conditions of their poor countries. Thus, the savvy agency of these PC has received a lot of good press. Less so some negative tendencies resulting from their successful and effective adoption and use of social media.


In more radical sanguine consideration of the relevance of the Internet to the church, the Internet is given a salvific character. Margaret Wertheim (1999) for instance, argues that the multidimensionality, fluidity, and virtuality of cyberspace would help to redeem space and spatiality from the physicality constraints of totalizing modern science. The cyberspace she considers to offer a technological substitute of heaven; of a space where the soul is unconstrained or unrestrained by materiality and where the absence of materiality or corporeality implies or promises equality, peace, and beauty for all. The concept of space, thanks to the Internet, could now resume its expansiveness to include non-corporeality and non-material places put together not just by interlinked fiber optics but also by networks of social relationships. In this reading, the church's integration of cyberspace technologies to its practice would merely mean a reclaiming of its tradition that accorded some mystical character to space, e.g. heaven, as well as the ability of the human (mind, soul, and spirit) to operate across all forms of spaces, even as the mystical body of Christ.[14]


Other studies focused not on the leaders of the church but rather on the membership that subscribes to the social media and Internet sites, emphasizing the new reality of online religion. As Rosalind I. J. Hackett (68, 2006) noted,[15]referencing Heidi Campbell[16] (2003), scholars have found that  “people join online communities for fellowship, to realize ‘the body of Christ’, rather than just for information.” She documented the active presence of internet spirituality or digital spirituality and online religion either as autonomous practices or as a supplement to off-line churches and congregations. Hackett's list of features of online religiosity that researchers have identified includes proselytization; informing, like blogging and providing alternative viewpoints and positions; marketing the sacred – commoditization of religious good and services; and religious experience, (e.g., of absorption, asceticism, escapism, oneness, communitas) for example, sounds from the internet inducing hypnotism and “psychonavigation” (Hackett 2006 Diogenes, 70).[17] Hackett observed that cyberspace has assumed a significant ritual location for some people–where religious practice and spirituality take place. She noted,


one can go on cyber-pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, or make puja at sacred sites in India. At the turn of the millennium, expectant millennialist Christians, using live webcam footage, could watch for Christ’s return at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem”[70)[18]


But the invention and use of new technology also often portend significant challenges to society. The discussion of the negative impact that new technologies entail to society is not new. Indeed, as soon as Internet use began to spread, scholars began to raise questions about negative social consequences inherent to its nature. Though internet technologies may provide novel solutions to the problem of modern mass society in regard to “space, population, access, and participation”, opponents argued that they could also exaggerate these problems. They argued that the structural features of computer-mediated communication could detract from democracy and from the vaunted prospect of the enlargement of the public sphere. Such negative features of the Internet that were identified included its anonymity, limitation of access to all and thus restricted audience, and its network form, etc. (Crossley and Roberts, 2004)[19]. When applied to Nigeria’s PPCs, the deployment of information and communication technologies has engendered challenges as much as it has been shown to have solved many problems. The most obvious was that traditional sociospatial practices are called to question and are challenged by the cyberspace.


Discussion of the role of the new Internet based communication media on the democratization of religion has mirrored the early discussion of the role and impact of internet technology on political democracy (Diana Saco, 2002).[20] Doubters like Quentin J. Schultze (2002) considers the Internet to be subversive of the essence of the Christian community and to be unamenable to empathy because, according to him, the cyber culture that is engrossing the modern human is vacuous and shallow and privileges individualism and isolation. It undercuts the necessity to engage more in face-to-face body-to-body interactions at a genuine level where only “habits of the heart” - truth, beauty and goodness – can be cultivated.[21]


Directly relevant to one of the objectives of the current study is Campell and Teusner’s work that raises the issue, in the context of the US, of the negative impact of church engagement with cyberspace. They suggest that “one of the core concerns raised for religious groups by the Internet is how online engagement changes our understanding of religious authority” (2011, 62).[22]


            In this study, I am suggesting that the increasing participation of Nigeria’s PPCs in the use of these social media technologies have started to generate tendencies that promise to undercut some of the culturally and institutionally defining characteristics of the Pentecostal Church in Nigeria (cf. Saco vix).[23]


With the widespread adoption of the new social media in Nigeria, the inverse impact of the technologies on Nigeria’s PPCs cries for investigation. In this regard, Hackett long ago was one of the few to pioneer this theme for Africa’s PC. She observed that the liberalization of access to and adoption (use and eventually ownership) by PCs in Africa of Satellite TV went hand in hand with aggressive evangelism which tended to exacerbate tensions across ethno-religious lines in many African countries in the 80s and 90s. Similar to Meyers and Asamoa-Gyadu discussed above, L. Togarasei (2012) also recently documented for Botswana and Zimbabwe their PCs' serial adoption and active and effective use of a wide range of mass media technologies – print, electronic, and the new social media.[24] She also raised the critical ecclesiological question that arises as the use of social media technologies disrupts and challenges the staple notions held by PC church membership. She hints at the quandary likely to arise were online converts to continue to privilege fellowshipping online over seeking physical membership with the church and how to define and manage conversion outside of the usual notion of locality and locatedness. We thus observe a similar concern here as was raised by German EKD members mentioned in earlier who had reservations about the practicality and legitimacy of online congregations. These ecclesiological challenges have arisen as a direct product of the logic inherent to digital technologies that are implicated in the online experience of Christian spirituality.


Media logic


The point about mediatization via social media is that the mediums of information production and exchange exert a media logic on society deriving from their very nature. As explained by David Morgan (2011), “the social influence of communication”, a situation whereby "social reality is constituted, recognized, and celebrated with the media", developed with the adoption of new technology. The new technological medium exhibits inherent characteristics in its production and operation that organize "the selection, transmission, and reception of information".[25]


A critical element to understanding the impact of social media on Nigeria’s PPCs thus lies in this concept of media logic. Previous visual media technologies of TV, print, and CDs, for instance, were a one-way top-down phenomenon produced and tailored towards certain goals which product could not be changed or modified by the audience-consumer.  However, the new digital social media are interactive, allow for receiver or audience dis/ambiguation or disarticulation and disassembling and re-assembling of the content put forth by the initial producer like Nigeria’s PPCs. It allows for quantum multiplication, distribution, and redistribution of all or part of the content to audiences not intended by the original producer or stage one disseminator.


Given the nature of the Internet and especially of social media, the spatial and temporal dimensions of information and discussions they host, transmit, circulate, and disseminate are transformed as the audiences engage with the content put out. This happens for example as the discussions on social media platforms become expansive, un-rooted to the source and unconstrained, as the same material continues to circulate into different networks totally unknown to each other and far into an indefinite future. As information leaves the source, the inherent character of social media allows it to be edited, truncated, de-contextualized, enhanced, augmented (with images, memes, emoticons, and other extraneous materials), and even deformed. Hence, when the initiator of content that went out probably thinks the information has reached its target and achieved its objectives, it could have continued alive circulating on various nested and interlinked networks into which it has been teleported in relays. But also, in the author’s experience, it often comes back alive reworked even as it goes through the same or new circuit and networks, again and again, drawing responses from audiences to which it was not originally directed. Thus the epithet of virality (i.e., a post going viral) that has been associated with some (in)famous Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram posts has both positive and negative implications.


The ideal of turn-taking and control as norms in face-to-face meeting, for example, by a Master of Ceremony, a pastor, information officer, or church deacon, etc., is thwarted since the mediatization involved here has excluded the restricted and fixed temporality and spatiality normally associated with immediate communication. By its nature, social media thus temper hierarchy and mediate shyness, as well as hide social status disadvantage and in many respect equalize the right and opportunity to participate and respond to or distribute information that emanates from the church on one’s own terms.


The indefiniteness of the discursive mode of social media platform allows for communication—information, ideologies, positions, doctrines, slogans, critiques, and challenges, etc.,—to be continually repeated and circulated and for the engagement between the initiator, non-initiators, and connected networks of people to continue in an open-ended mode. Since the platforms are not controlled by the church, nor indeed by the various peoples connected by these networks, the continued existence and circulation of and access to the information, content or parts of it as transformed/deformed in the distribution and re-distribution process is democratized.


The Internet and social media, by the use of monikers as well as by the sheer mass participation of thousands and, even, millions of people, is characterized by a significant element of anonymity. Ironically, this characteristic conveys autonomy to participants as due to the lost-in-the-crowd effect, they are freely able to interject their views and opinions. This is especially so as they are not under the direct spiritual or temporal authority of a General Overseer (GO) or leader who, in the examples that I draw on below, were being condemned or challenged. Hence, even if members of a NPC would not dare challenge his/her pastor, elder, or GO, others who are not members and who do not hold themselves accountable to the particular PC's officers nor consider themselves bound by its hierarchical order or its unspoken rules, are able to engage robustly with the issues being thrashed. In this way, they may even speak for those within the fold who had to “hold their tongues” because they are under the authority of their leader.


            For Nigeria’s PPCs and their leaders who have national image and/or world-scale reputation to cultivate and protect, the general anonymity of the social media audience hardly reduces the impact of social media. Nigeria's PC leaders, given their love for publicity and self-promotion through the media, are concerned about what everybody and anybody thinks about them. Also, because they want more church members and audience to populate their churches, they cannot but be concerned what image of them is being perpetrated on social media and how all this would affect their image, authority, and their legitimacy within and outside of their churches.


We can apply the term massification (a sociology of education concept) to another media logic of many social media platforms. The logic of Twitter or Facebook or Whatsapp and Instagram massifies the audience, transforming what used to be a one-to-many medium of communication (at the point of initiation of communication within the PC), into a many-to-many mode once it enters several networks where it is retweeted or reposted, liked, or tagged and relayed into multiple networks in an unending circuit. This redistributes and, in some sense, dilutes church control over information sent out by the leadership.


Nigeria’s PPCs Social Media engagement and subversive moments[26]


            How does the social logic of these media create new challenges and create new notions of praxis and how are they impacting on the structures, cultures, and the legitimacy of the NPC as they are currently constituted. In this section, I look at Nigeria’s PPCs not just as providers and generators of social media content but also as consumers and as a re-constituted audience of social media and the larger Worldwide Web. Consequently, my stress here is on the impact of information up flow rather than down flow, on the obverse side of the social media uptake. I explore how these churches and their leadership, from being the subject using the tools, are themselves reconstituted into objects and acted upon in the process of integrating the new social media into their practices; especially the Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram, Messenger services, etc.


In a curious way, Nigeria's PCs' adoption of and participation in the use of the digital social media to communicate and relate with their audiences, I argue, is tending to also create a reverse process analogous to what the PCs have used the older film and radio media discussed by Meyer (2005) to accomplish. Thriving on the fact of the ease of access, immediacy of broadcasting, interactivity, and the impossibility of asserting control over what happens to information or material that goes out, where it goes, how far it reaches, what audiences respond, etc., I suggest a rising trend whereby the general literate public, including non-Pentecostal Christians in Nigeria, is increasingly using social media to re/cast the leadership of Nigeria's PPCs as less transparent than they let out. Nigeria's PPC leaders have come under public scrutiny and are challenged over the poverty of their membership versus the crass opulence displayed by many within their leadership. Nigerian bloggers, twitteratis, and Facebook and WhatsApp subscribers who have been able to participate in discussions and in networks that are mass-casted by these social media have successfully integrated themes and agendas exterior to the PPC's concerns into their engagement with the churches. The infusion into the stream of rhetorical and ideological tussle of the discourse of national poverty, Church elite privilege, exploitation within the church, the rise of hierarchy in the church, etc would seem to put the elite of the PC on the defensive. They found themselves in an awkward position where NPC elite and regular membership rail against the inequitable wealth gap in the nation but turn a blind eye to the inequitable and the reportedly increasing wealth gap within the church due, it is alleged, to financial exploitation of the poor tithe-paying members by the wealthy and powerful leaders, in a paradoxical reflection of the national situation.


In the following examples, I highlight a couple of “loud” cases of the subversive tendencies manifested by the dynamics of social media activities that enclose Nigeria’s PPCs and non Pentecostal and non church members in the same public sphere. My first example occurred at the end of 2017 during RCCG’s annual end of year Camp Meeting that shows the dangers to Nigeria's PCs of their robust use of social media platforms. The RCCG GO in the course of a teaching session during the meeting pronounced what under normal circumstances would have been considered a pastoral blessing and an end of year reassurance from the leader of the church to members of his congregation worldwide that all obstacles to progress would be removed. “Any relative or anyone blocking your way, if they don’t repent, they won’t see the new year.”



RCCG GO’s prayer point that draw the ire of many



He tweeted this prayer point out to his followers and it got replicated all over social media to multiple networks.  It was a prayer clearly culturally informed, since it hacks back to traditional belief that put overwhelming stress on spiritual obstacles and enemies, (usually considered to be jealous relatives back in the village, or witches, wizards, evil eyes, spiritual antagonists responsible for poverty, illness, and misfortune) as the cause of backwardness, lack of promotion at work etc. It is a prayer formula that even Christians of mainstream Nigerian churches, not to mention PCs, are familiar with. Growing up in a mainstream church and eventually joining Pentecostal church circles over a long period of time, I have heard and have prayed these type of prayer myself. The leader of Winner Chapel made a similar prayer that appeared on his Facebook and Twitter pages recently, fortunately for him, without drawing outside public attention and similar outrage. He had twitted out the following: “Anyone pursuing after your life, God will remove their wheels like He did to Pharaoh and his army.”



Bishop David Oyedepo’s prayer point  of a similar nature to Pastor Adeboye of the  RCCG



Some of those who quickly rose to challenge and condemn the prayer point twitted out by Pastor Adeboye as immoral and unchristian were celebrities in the entertainment world, on-air personalities Uti Nwachukwu, Ifedayo Olarinde popularly known as Daddy Freeze (OAP of Cool FM), online radio presenter and rapper and producer eLDee The Don followed by a host of twitteratis. While they obviously fuelled the discussion by their celebrity status, the multiple thousands and possibly millions of ordinary people across multiple platforms of social media that contributed to the discussion denouncing the theology behind and immorality associated with the prayer point created more than a PR nightmare for the leader of RCCG and his church.


Examples of several posts show how the entire issue played out to cast the RCCG GO in ill repute. But beyond that, some of the philosophical and ideological bases of the challenge to and discussion of the prayer point introduced into the discussion were materials entirely extraneous to the theological reasoning behind the GO’s prayer. Multiple responses highlight what the ordinary Nigerians considered to be the more crucial issues that the pastor and the church should have attended to rather than cursing what they saw as imaginary or non-existent enemies..

For example[27]:

First post        "JomaniOluwadare @samdhare :

You guys have never said any prayers against corrupt politicians & leaders in this country. Sometimes, I wonder if the church isn't one of our major problems in Nigeria Read more:"


Second post    "Ehinomen @ehi_smith :

When Jesus said pray for your "enemies", I'm certain this wasn't the type of prayer he was talking about. 4:10 AM - Dec 9, 2017 39 See Ehinomen's other Tweets Read more: "


Third post      "Dutchwooddesigns @bidemisadiq

If we all concentrated half the energy and attention we give to imaginary enemies on productive ventures, maybe we would be more prosperous.dat neighbor you think is the one blocking your prosperity is actually worried more abt himself than to think abt you. 4:31 AM - Dec 9, 2017 Read more:"


Fourth post    NPComplete: 3:30 pm

Lool. Boko Haram is rampaging, prayers like this haven't worked on them. The boko haram we all know and can see and can attest to their evil. These pastors won't pray against them because they know it doesn't work. It is innocent relatives they want to start setting people against. That way, if a family member dies this year and someone gets a job or a breakthroughs next year, he will claim it was Adeboye that did it. Something we can't prove. These pastors have no powers, they only hope on chance and the law of large numbers by spreading paranoia.  95 Likes 10 Shares (Nairaland Forum, 2017)."


It is important to emphasize that equally strong pushback and expressions of support for the pastor and the church from loyal supporters occurred on social media. The point though is not that such supports do or do not continue; it is that social media platforms are creating alternative venues of religious instructions and information, creating competing structures of theological authority and pastoral legitimacy, and are providing opportunities that force even members to read and contemplate alternative views of their church's doctrines and practices.


The posts above, for example, represent the Pentecostal pastors who pray that type of prayers as self-serving, hypocritical, and wilfully ignorant of the political-economic and structural causes of backwardness that the pastors attributed to “relatives or anyone blocking your way”. The pastor is thus challenged to show concern for and condemn national corruption which is a structural blockage to individual progress in the country.


The second post raises the question of PC’s deficient views of human agency; the perceived lack of balance in Pentecostal circles regarding the relationship between praying and seeking miracles as against picking oneself up by the bootstraps and engaging in productive work to save oneself rather than imagining that some mysterious enemy was the cause of failure or of lack of progress. The third post exposes and condemns the manipulative nature of such declarations. The author notes that such prayers are never targeted at concrete national crises and problems so that one is able to judge whether the declarative prayer did or did not resolve concrete crisis situations. Rather the prayer was associated with death, a normal daily and regular human occurrence regardless of prayers by any pastor.  These mass circulated counterviews have tremendous potential to undermine the legitimacy of the churches and their pastors.


The online air personality (AOP) of an Nigerian FM radio station, Daddy Freeze, has established an online Christian ministry, he claims, to liberate Nigerian Christians from the thraldom of tithe-taking churches. He advanced from online religious criticism, Free theSheeple Movement to hosting an online church — ‘Free Nation In Christ Online Church’.  Here he tries to debunk, through Youtube teachings, the doctrines and practices of the most popular of Nigerian’s PPCs that he believes are wrong and exploitative.[28]


The following is an example of his several dozen such posts challenging a NPC. The one below was apparently directed at what seems to be the RCCG parish to which he was previously before falling out with the church.

Jan 12, 2018


Cool FM OAP Daddy Freeze has cried out to Redeemed Church City of David to leave him out of their mailing list. He also took time to condemn the church's annual fasting and prayer programme.

As posted on Instagram

Dear city of David, kindly remove me from your mailing list.

I'm not a member of your church, neither do I share your philosophy of praying for what developed nations work for and have largely achieved. According to the RCCG website, you people have circa 33,000 branches. If you turned 10,000 of those branches into factories, you won't need to pray and fast to 'fulfill purpose'.

If another 10,000 were dedicated to 'FREE EDUCATION' less prayers would be dedicated to fulfilling purpose. If the redeemed church made their schools FREE OF CHARGE AT LEAST FOR THEIR MEMBERS, it would be much easier for them to find their purpose and fulfill it!

I once took my kids to your primary school and I was told it was about 500k a term, do I need to say more?

Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Mark Zuckerberg and the nations of China and UAE are fulfilling their purpose through hard work, innovation and charity, NOT PRAYER, emulate them!

Why 50 days of fasting and prayer? Even Jesus himself fasted only 40days.... The one you people prayed and fasted last year, how far had it taken the body of Christ? Or the nation as a whole?

Nigeria is predominantly Christian with 51% of the population being Christian, does it show? The richest nation on earth per capita is Qatar and it's a Muslim nation, out of the top 8 wealthiest countries on earth per capita, 4 are Muslim nations and one is Buddhist, the only Christian nations that made the list are predominantly Catholic. NOT ONE COUNTRY THAT IS PREDOMINANTLY PENTECOSTAL MADE IT TO TGE LIST AND THIS IS WHY!

While you dedicate 50days to praying and fasting, they are building their nation and would eventually lend us money!

A few days ago, Bill Gates came to bail us out by paying our $76million bill and you are here praying for fulfillment of purpose? ~FRZ


Above is a Daddy Freeze Instagram post shared in an online newspaper Pulse.Nigeria


A rundown of online newspaper headlines of his activities shows him go after all the big names in the NPC circle, including, even the late Bishop Benson Idahosa (CGMI). On the other hand, he commends pastors whose intervention veer towards his position. Either way, he not only equates himself with them but tries to establish some intellectual, ideological and moral superiority over them. 


Below is a selection of Newspaper headlines of Daddy Freeze’s religious activism

·         Daddy Freeze Everything you need to know about OAP’s free the sheeple online church

·         Daddy Freeze OAP criticises Apostle Johnson Suleman and Pastor Paul Adefarasin

·         Daddy Freeze Smoking, drinking, and masturbation is not sin, according to OAP

·         Daddy Freeze OAP criticises Pastor Adeboye over new tithing sermon

·         Pastor Adeyemi, Tunde Bakare These two are the only popular Nigerian preachers who agree tithing has expired

·         Daddy Freeze Controversial OAP calls Bishop Oyedepo “screeching bald headed fowl”

·         Daddy Freeze 5 things we learned from controversial OAP’s latest interview

·         Tithing Daddy Freeze shares more truth on controversial subject

·         Dapchi Girls Daddy Freeze blasts Nigerian pastors over kidnapped schoolgirl

·         Daddy Freeze, Pastor Fatoyinbo Religious activist ‘attacks’ COZA founder again [VIDEO]

·         Daddy Freeze OAP reacts after Pastor Fatoyinbo criticises Christians who listen to ‘ungodly man’

·         Daddy Freeze “Let's be careful where we pick our doctrines from” — Religious activist says

·         Daddy Freeze OAP says its okay for married couples to have sex while fasting [VIDEO]

·         Daddy Freeze What makes OAP’s church different from others

·         Pulse Exclusive “My church will not be taking tithes” — Daddy Freeze says

·         Daddy Freeze Everything you need to know about OAP’s free the sheeple online church ([29]


These challenges and the social media responses and discussion about them seem to be having some impact. This is borne out by the need that many of the leaders of the PPC have felt to respond either directly or indirectly to Daddy Freeze’s challenge. The leaders of the Daystar Church (Pastor Adeyemi), RCCG (Pastor Adeboye), Kingsway International Christian Centre (Pastor Mathew Ashimolowo), Winners Chapel (Bishop Oyedepo), Omega Fire Ministries Worldwide (Apostle Suleiman) have all had to respond to this doctrinal and legitimacy challenge.


Another interesting example occurred in relation to the criticisms of Pentecostal pastors by Daddy Freeze. Daddy Freeze’s unrelenting condemnation of top leaders of Nigeria's PPC who he claimed were mis-educating and cheating their congregations as they take tithes so riled an allegedly  popular Pentecostal pastor, Nicholas Uagbor, that the irate pastor suggested on his Facebook page that the controversial religious activist might die before year end. Presumably this was going to be a repercussion of his temerity in opposing such highly placed men-of-God as Pastor Adeboye and others. An avalanche of responses across social media followed this poorly conceived response by the pastor. He was also condemned for the un-Christian act of invoking a death wish and a curse on the activist. The exchange became viral, producing another occasion to engage in discussions condemning alleged clerical threat and fear-mongering that PPC leaders use to manipulate, exploit, and oppress their church members. As discussion went viral and, with the unending torrent of condemnation and ridicule from the social media platforms, the pastor was promptly forced to delete his Facebook account.


Above screenshot of a Nigerian Pentecostal pastor forced off Facebook for wishing evil on an opponent on his Facebook page



One more example occurs in the many iconoclastic social media and newspaper posts of Dr. Femi Aribisala (founder of a Pentecostal fellowship called Healing Wings). He is a famous long-time Newspaper columnist and a contrarian and iconoclastic cleric who questions certain aspects of the bible and chooses which of the disciples of Jesus who contributed to scripture he considered inspired or not. As an international affairs expert and a columnist with a continuous newspaper platform going back to the 1980s who engages in serious scholarly discussions of political economy issues, he has a wide following beyond Church or Pentecostal circles.


Femi Aribisala, iconoclast founder of Healing Wings Pentecostal fellowship. He is opposed to Nigerian PPCs' doctrine of tithe, among others.



He has challenged Nigeria’s PPCs that take tithes, condemned title-seeking in church, and has openly called out the leaders of RCCG and KICC over their doctrine of prosperity. In many other respects, Dr. Aribisala has challenged patent Nigerian Pentecostal pastors’ literalist and non-contextual interpretation of the Bible. He has 35,000 twitter followers; larger than that of any of the large Nigerian PC earlier listed in this paper (whose twitter use is marginal). Father Freeze, who I believe to have taken his cue from Aribisala, seems to have given Aribisala’s long-standing posture and views on tithing significant publicity, thanks to his celebrity status and followership on social media.  Providing another example is Reno Omokri, a past media assistant of a former President of Nigeria, who has pitched his lot with this contrarian position. Hence, he contributed to fueling the controversy and adding significant clout to the status legitimacy of the challengers and opponents of these PPCs.


Reno Omokri was the media assistant of a former President of Nigeria, Dr. J. Goodluck. He has challenged the doctrinal integrity of the RCCG leader via social media



A last example, from within Nigeria’s Pentecostal circle, comes from Pastor Sunday Adelaja, the founder of Embassy of the Blessed Kingdom of God for All Nations, Africa’s largest Pentecostal mega-church in Europe (Ukraine). He put out an hours-longYoutube teaching on his Facebook page to refute RCCG leader, pastor Adeboye’srecent teaching on tithing. It is the most direct challenge so far from any Nigerian pastor of a Pentecostal Mega church, and especially of such international repute as Adelaja’s. It puts him and  Femi Aribisala and Rev. Adeyemi in the same camp regarding the theological question of religious ministers teaching that tithe payment is compulsory for Christians and not paying invites curses on the defaulting member.[30]



Pastor Sunday Adelaja’s Facebook video page (screen shot) denouncing RCCG Pastor Adeboye’s stand on Tithing



It is neither the first nor the thousandth time that this particular theology of tithing that Pastor Adeboye preached has been heard in Nigeria. It has been the staple of pastoral exhortation of church members across mainstream and charismatic church circles to pay their tithes even in the decades before the rise to dominance of the PCs. That the controversy has forcefully come to a head is due, in many respects, to the impact of social media.


Pandora’s Box


        Social media is clearly a great information dissemination tool that comes at a relatively minimal cost to these churches and their leaders as a means to win potential recruits, help enlarge the church, and facilitate other communication goals. However, it also packs risks. It harbours a danger that participation in these media subjects the church, its doctrine and rituals to the glare of potential antagonists. There is no escape – other than taking down a social media account and refusing to use the technologies they afford. Social media and the internet thus generally subvert enclavement and internal autonomy of the Pentecostal religious public. This is because information about, from, and regarding them circulate across public and private networks of people, denominations, and philosophical positions. Social media by its logic helps to re-embed the NPCs, previously enclaved as an autonomous or semi-autonomous religious public, into a larger and more diversified network of discourses run by myriads of institutions – secular and non-secular - within the larger Nigerian society (Cf. Nancy Fraser 1992, 124).  The sense of Pentecostal orthodoxy maintained by the ardent membership within what was previously an enclaved Pentecostal public is to this extent subverted. Non-members interject their views strongly and challenge patent truths of previously enclaved PC.


Once the social media participation across multiple network of online communities and platforms by members of the Pentecostal religious public pulls them into the swirling eddies of a more encompassing public opinion universe, they seem to come out at a disadvantage. This is because the rules of judgement they work with and hold to be objective from their Pentecostal point of view usually diverges from those in the general public or civic realm that the social media have merged them into. Also, it turns out that they do not necessarily share the same conventions, language, norms, nor have an equal expertise and professionalism that is required in dealing with extra-Pentecostal issues of social justice, poverty, and development (cf. Fraser 1992, 124). The larger public thus could judge or misjudge them for these failings.


It is a different question though whether accountability in the socially constructed space that occurs in cyberspace is truly mutual and equal. Nonetheless, it is instructive that the RCCG GO, apparently wary of the attacks and condemnations generated by a religious content he had put out on his Facebook, was said to have told his congregations to stop posting his messages onYoutube: “Spare me the problem. I’m not talking to you so that you can put me on YouTube . . . My messages are not for everybody. So, I plead with you, ask God to speak to you specifically.”[31] The implication is that the said GO was made accountable for what he had said; he was brought to appreciate where public opinion beyond his church put him, and he was reported to have expressed exasperation over an avalanche of negative social media responses to the message. It could be concluded that whatever superhuman status some people in or without the church had attributed to the GO was lowered a notch or two and the patriarchal rung of authority and latitude previously exuded by the GO probably lowered.


It can be envisaged how social media would allow supporters and opponents an open forum to respond, curse, threaten, applaud, express and insert their notions of what moral, religious, social or economic issues matter most to them and what ideas they harbour of how the churches should be run, etc.  Social media affords an opportunity to less popular, less powerful other Pentecostal contestants and other churches or denominations in the field to position themselves, and project into the public space their views, their ideas about God and what they think about the country’s juggernaut PPCs.


The social media platform using Nigerian PPCs, and especially their powerful leaders, are finding out that they cannot limit to only their church or Pentecostal members the audience to whom they are answerable. Social media has unilaterally distended the audience of Nigeria’s PPCs beyond physical cell-group affiliation or church membership.




As can be seen from the above discussion, what virtual space does for content or information that the PPCs send out is to transmute the character of the terminal audience - to amplify (increase size, multiply reach & potential recruit), augment (stretch membership or participants beyond registered names), diversify (admit into communication community, other lingos or conventions and extra denominational people), and transform or mutate it (giving voice to enemies, opponents, secular voices, atheists, rebels and Muslim antagonists within the context of ethnoreligious divide in Nigeria). Agendas are amended and issues extraneous are inserted into the original issues and contents put out to what was originally meant to be a limited Pentecostal audience.  Competing and alternative perspectives are admitted into consideration. The control of the outcome of information sent out slips out of the control of the PC (Saco, 1).[32]


Ambitions people, including social media celebrities – people who pull crowds to watch their videos, podcasts, blogs, and their other social media posts, some drawing revenue in the process—are incentivized to stand up to and expand their challenge of Nigeria's PPCs. As can be seen, Daddy Freeze has taken it up as a cause to champion and a movement to propagate. As an avenue of a significant source of income, incendiary, exotic, or adversarial social media posts, the likes that call out powerful religious, political, and social actors on important national issues would seem to reinforce the vehemence and virality of these posts.


In all this, it is important to note that much of the discussion is premised on the concerns that impoverished people in the churches are being manipulated, intimidated and cheated by their religious leaders. The concerns are that these poor people should not be made to continue to give over their meagre earnings to mega-rich jet owning and jet flying Pentecostal pastors. These popular rather than academic knowledge about Nigeria's PPCs are currently being easily, quickly, and massively distributed over social media. This popular knowledge about NPC that is in circulation seems to go contrary to the largely positive portrayals of the PC that obtain in academic studies.


Social media provides a platform for the propagation of counter–tropes of Nigeria's PPC leaders allegedly relying on evil powers of “fetish” or tradition, or allegedly engaging in human sacrifice, or having their “power from Power” drawn from some the underworld of the occult. They offer cost-efficient, effective and easy platforms to celebrities, especially, internet or YouTube celebrities, iconoclastic clerics, and other opposition figures to mount very serious ideological, philosophical, theological, and PR challenges against Nigeria's PPCs.


Social media are bringing these churches and their leadership under a standard of accountability set outside the church, beyond Pentecostal walls and control, by audiences not under the control of the church hierarchy or under similar ideology and language economy. Information about, representation of, condemnation of, Nigeria's PPCs are circulated; their doctrines and the declarations of their pastors are interpreted with more than one yardstick or viewpoint and their errors or theoretical shortcomings exposed.


By recasting space, social media also recast the audience and transform the parameters of discussion. The Pentecostal public becomes distended to allow for the possibility of simultaneously accommodating within the same space, a local and extraneous audience asynchronously. For the PCs' two publics (the Pentecostal religious public and an indeterminate public of cyberspace constituted by an indeterminate number of interlinked individuals and communities) and multiple simultaneous discourses now asynchronously occupy the same Cyberspace due to the nature of social practice engendered by the Internet and other digital social media. The two audiences and spaces are made to overlap and to interact and engage even if unevenly. Secular discourses of humanists, iconoclastic critiques of celebrities and critics of PPCs like Dr. Femi Aribisala or Daddy Freeze, etc., are admitted into this shared space. These discussions and opposing and antagonistic interpretations of affairs of the church suddenly become an agenda issue outside of the control of Nigeria's PPCs in the new spatiality created by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Church members are forced to hear and respond to non-church members’ engagement with issues emanating from within the church. Secular people, adversaries, and enemies hear and can selectively engage with PPC issues and even subject these issues to a wider spectrum of public opinion than the church feels is justified or necessary.[33]


The Pentecostal lingo and church speak as manifested, for example in its deployment of the concept of salvation, the notion of sowing and reaping, of anointing, miraculous living, of godliness in leadership, and the biblically based specific categories of analysis employed by Pentecostals, all serve as the basis for a stable social contract between clergy and lay.  The forced integration of the Pentecostal religious public and the general public into an inclusive shared space in the Cyberworld, and the consequent admittance and intrusion of extraneous categories of analyses into themes and topics of discussion, some that are antagonistic, challenge the authority of the pastor. They are subversive of the theological and a/political positions of the leaders and the members of PPCs.


That a titanic struggle might have started, perhaps in the order of Martin Luther’s questioning of the Catholic church, can be legitimately contemplated based on several issues over which Nigeria's PPC leaders have come under ferocious condemnations. Such issues include PPC leaders accumulating private jets, leading lavish flamboyant lifestyles in the midst of dire economic situation and poverty of the majority of the membership of their churches, the doctrinal and bottom-line economic issue of tithing, commercialization of anointing and Holy Spirit power, the propagation of sexist and other pre-modern ideas under the cover of scriptural authority, etc. One thing is clear, that the recent massive social media response to the challenge of collecting 10% of church members’ earnings compulsorily tantamount to social media platform assisting iconoclasts embark on de-sacralisation or delegitimizing of practices and rituals that are at the heart of the PCs.  These developments can be theorized to carry the potential to rouse government into a consideration of whether some oversight over financial administration in these churches would not be necessary to guard against criminality that the social media hint might be ongoing under the cover of freedom to exercise religious rights.


It is an interesting paradox that difficult economic and life situations have been theorized to be partly responsible for the astonishing growth of the PCs in the global south. It seems, in the case of Nigeria, that it is these same economic difficulties that are helping people re-engage with and critique notions, categories and practices that define and uphold what the PCs stand for. Would this trend last? Where will it all lead? It is not yet clear, though, I will hazard that for Nigeria's PPCs, it is ominous.


[1] The following is a list of the leading NPCs with their leaders in no particular order, all of who have a heavy Internet and social media presence.: The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM), Dr. Mike Okonkwo;  Foundation Faith Church [Salem Family] - Archbishop Sam Amaga; Word of Life Bible Church - Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor; Daystar Christian Centre– Pastor Sam Adeyemi; The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) – Pastor E A Adeboye; Deeper Life Bible Church (DLBC)- Pastor W. Kumuyi; Living Faith Church Worldwide (LFC), aka Winners Chapel – Bishop David Oyedepo; Christ Embassy (CEmb; or Love World)- Pastor Chris Oyakhilome; Mountain of Fire Ministries (MFM)- Dr. Daniel Olukoya; Sword of the Spirit Ministries Intl (SSM) –Francis Wale Oke; Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC) Mathew Ashimolowo; The Synagogue, Church Of All Nations (SCOAN), Prophet T. B. Joshua; Church of God Mission International (CGMI) – Bishop Margaret Idahosa. There is a Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria serving as an umbrella body for Nigeria’s Pentecostal movement.

[2]Rosalind I. J. Hackett,“Charismatic/Pentecostal appropriation of media technologies in Nigeria and Ghana,” Journal of Religion in Africa vol. 28 , 3 ( 1998 ): 1 – 19 ; Ihijerika “In-Line Religion”:  Innovative Pastoral Applications of The New Information And Communication Technologies (NICTS) By The Catholic Church In Nigeria,” Politics and Religion no. 2 (2008), 79-98; Rosalind I. J. Hackett, “Religion, Media, and Conflict in Africa” in The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to African Religions ed., Elias KifonBongmba (Blackwell Publishing Limited, 2012), 483-88; J. KwabenaAsamoah-Gyadu “Of Faith and Visual Alertness: The Message of “Mediatized” Religion in an African Pentecostal Context,”Material Religion, 1:3, (2005) 336-356, DOI:10.2752/174322005778054078

[3]Birgit Meyer, “Mediating Tradition: Pentecostal pastors, African Priests, and Chiefs in Ghanaian popular films,” in Christianity and Social Change in Africa. Essays in Honor of J. D. Y. Peel, ToyinFalola, ed., (Durham, Carolina Academic Press, 2005), 275-306.

[4] Peter White, Fortune Tella, MishaelDonkorAmpofo, “A Missional Study of the Use of Social Media (Facebook) by Some Ghanaian Pentecostal Pastors,” KOERS — Bulletin for Christian Scholarship, 81. 2 (2016), 2. URL koers.81.2.2250

[5] White, Tella&Ampofo, “A Missional Study,” 2.

[6]Ralf Peter Reimann, ‘“Uncharted Territories” The Challenges of Digitalization and Social Media for Church and Society,’ The Ecumenical Review (2017), 68.

[7]Reimann, ‘“Uncharted Territories”,’ 68.

[8]Reimann, ‘“Uncharted Territories”,’ 68.

[9] This does not reflect the state of affairs of other European churches with the internet. The church of England for instance, according to Bex Lewis, uses the cyberspace to effectively engage its immediate and larger audience to “debate issues, connect to others and reach people and, in turn, humanise the Church” its leaders “have taken to digital platforms to speak out on social and political debates from Brexit to international terrorism” (Brex Lewis, “From Pokémon Go to Hashtags: how digital and social media is changing the Church”­pokemon­go­to­hashtags­how­digital­and­social­media­is­changing­the­church/ 1/5 Retrieved 11 July 2017.

[10]See also the “Catholic Churches. The Church and the Internet, Para. II, 2002” where it is stated, “The virtual reality of cyberspace is no substitute for the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the sacramental reality of the other sacraments, and shared worship in a flesh-and-blood human community. There are no sacraments on the Internet; and even the religious experiences possible there by the grace of God are insufficient apart from real-world interaction with other persons of faith. Here is another aspect of the Internet that calls for study and reflection.” An interesting discussion of the possibility or otherwise of “virtual sacramentality” is found on Terra Nova, Aug 19, 2010 “Virtual Communion? No”  The legal status issue of online religion is brought home in a US report about an internet religious organization had filed for tax exemption and was refused charity status and tax exemption as a church. The case was litigated and in “Foundation of Human Understanding v. United States, No. 2009-5129 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 16, 2010)”, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that ““[t]here is no evidence . . . that [the Foundation’s] adherents regard their experience while listening to [the Foundation’s] broadcasts as a shared experience with other . . . followers, or as a communal experience in any way.”” at

[11] Internet Worldstats is the data source for this sub-section.

[12] “Six Causes of Online Disinhibition”, Psyblog,

[13] Courtney Seiter, “The Secret Psychology of Facebook: Why We Like, Share, Comment and Keep Coming Back,” (2016)

[14] Margaret Wertheim, The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace A History of Space From Dante to the Internet (W. W. Norton & Company, 1999)

[15] Rosalind I. J. Hackett, “Religion and the Internet,” Diogenes, vol.53.3 (August 1, 2006): 68.

[16] Heidi Campbell, “Approaches to Religious Research in Computer-Mediated Communication,” in Mediating Religion: Studies of Media, Religion and Culture, eds., J. Mitchell and S. Marriage (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 2003). 213-228.

[17] Hackett, “Religion and the Internet,” 70.

[18] Hackett, “Religion and the Internet,”70

[19]James Bohman, “Expanding dialogue: The Internet, the public sphere and prospects fortransnational democracy,” inAfter Habermas. New Perspectives on the Public Sphere?ed., Nick Crossley, Roberts John and Michael John (Blackwell Publishing, 2004), 131-32.

[20]DianaSaco,CyberingDemocracy: Public Space and The Internet (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002)

[21] Quentin J. Schultze, Habits of the High-Tech Heart: Living Virtuously in the Information Age (Baker Books, 2002)

[22]Heidi Campbell&P. Teusner, Religious authority in the age of the internet,” in. Virtual Lives:Christian Reflection (Baylor University Press, 2011), 59-68). URL:

[23]Cf. Saco, Cybering Democracy, vix.

[24]LovemoreTogarasei.“Mediating the Gospel: Pentecostal Christianity and Media Technology in Botswana and Zimbabwe,” Journal of Contemporary Religion, 27:2, 257-274, DOI: 10.1080/13537903.2012.675740]]

[25]David Morgan,“Mediation or Mediatisation: The History of Media in the Study of Religion,” Culture and Religion, 12:02(2011), 38.137-152

[26] Several other such subversive moments and challenge are myriad on the Internet, including by leaders of classical Pentecostal Christian who have not subscribed wholesale to the Health and Wealth doctrine attributed to the NPC

These include the following:

I wept over pulpit ministers in Nigeria by Daddy Francis Akinnola – CAC;

Getting chieftaincy titles in the churches -ON JANUARY 17, 2016 12:20 AM / IN ARTICLE OF FAITH / COMMENTS - By Femi Aribisala; Corruption and the Nigerian Church- ON JUNE 24, 2017 12:48 AM / IN FRANK & FAIR / COMMENTS - By UgojiEgbujo. The author addresses the church in general, condemning the materiality, departure from Chrsitlikeness, descent into religious marketing, corruption etc, bringing in the Pentecostal Pastor turned VP of Nigeria in to the discussion. However, hidden in the middle of the 6 A-4 pages long write up is a paragraph that indicates that all of the accusations were directed against the Pentecostal churches, and especially the Prosperity preaching PC.; Nigerian Pastors Criticized for Owning Private Jets; “ 5 alternative things you can do with your 10%” - Here is how you can put your 10% to good use while waiting for pastors to make up their mind.

[27] [Nairaland Forum. 12/9/2017. www.]




[31] In this case the controversy was over his admonition to single men and women on who to and not to marry:

“Don’t marry a girl who cannot cook. She needs to know how to do chores and cook because you cannot afford to be eating out all the time. “Don’t marry a girl who is worldly! If you do, you have carried what you’ll worship for the rest of your life!”

[32]Saco, Cybering Democracy, 1

[33]Saco, Cybering Democracy, 8.