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New Community Media and the African Charismatic Church

Monday, October 7th, 2013
Inside the 'Charismatic' megachurches of Africa

Inside the ‘Charismatic’ megachurches of Africa

Berrigan (1979, p. 8), as cited by Howley (2009), defines community media as ‘adaptations of media for use by the community, for whatever purposes the community decides.’ (p.16) In the case of the Charismatic megachurches, the purpose is clear – spreading their ‘prosperity gospel’ which stresses ‘personal fulfillment and success as much as theology.’ (CQ Researcher, 21 Sept. 2007, p. 769)

The Case of KICC and the African Charismatic Movement

In 1992, Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo a ‘reverse mission,’ or a mission to bring the Gospel from Africa to the West. He founded Kingsway International Christian Center (KICC), now the fastest growing church in western Europe. KICC was founded to serve the ‘socio-economic and spiritual needs of multi-cultural [Christian] communities.’

In terms of community media, KICC has ‘grown big’ by using every available medium to spread their objectives. Through Matthew Ashimolowo Media, KICC publishes Christian literature, as well as produces the internationally-broadcast Winning Ways media ministry which produces television and radio programs, as well as Christian literature and documentaries. New media has only enhanced this rapidly-growing community-based effort. On the church’s homepage, viewers can listen to podcasts, live streaming of sermons, blog and make purchases in the online shop. As the homepage declares, ‘We believe in using timely technology to teach the timeless truth.’ (www.KICC.org.uk, TV/Radio, 2013). This speaks directly of the level of engagement these churches are prepared to have with new media. Already characteristic of these churches is their by any means necessary approach to evangelism. Charismatic churches, such as KICC, have certainly envisaged new media as a frontier yet to be fully explored.

The engagement of these churches can be understood through the lens of institutions. Lievrouw (2011) explains that new media can be defined through the institutions whose governance mandates them to achieve a particular objective. (p. 6) The use of new media to reach the broadest possible audience in an effort to winning as many souls as possible to Christ fulfills an age-old expectation which resonates with a broad audience.

The aim of KICC, among many other African-led charismatic movements, seems to be to create a congregational environment where virtual members get the sense that they are receiving the same level of pastoral care as those present in the church buildings. In this way, the megachurches can be viewed as good examples of the instrumentalization of media and communication technology as an ‘integral aspect of communication itself’ rather than simply as a mean to an end or an intervention. (Lievrouw, 2011, p. 6) New media give the opportunity for the church to recreate the real experience of churchgoing in a virtual space. On at least five different megachurch websites, participants can receive counseling, send prayer requests, share testimonies, give offerings and donations, and get involved in the service of the church. The church members can build relationships through their links on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

The ‘Charismatic’ churches serve as a positive example of the information society in terms of Rao (2005) 8 C’s; they have clearly considered the pressing issues of connectivity, content, communities, commerce, capacity, culture, cooperation, and capital. (pp. 275-279) The churches sustain themselves financially, offer a message that is far-reaching which resonates with local and virtual audiences, and capitalize on the technical knowledge base within their  membership.

The influence of the ‘Charismatic’ churches of Ghana and Nigeria cannot be underestimated or ignored. Religion’s impact, in the Ghanaian and Nigerian context, weighs in as a heavyweight force that arguably transcends that of political parties or ethnic affiliation. As these churches seem to understand the potential of ICTs to ‘create and unleash the developmental force of human socio-economic and political networks,’ governments in emerging economies could take note from the ‘Charismatic’ churches as they attempt to overcome the key challenge, as Rao (2005) describes, ‘to align the interests and strengths of various constituents of society and find their appropriate niches in the global information society.’ (ibid., pp. 274-5).

Literature Reference List

Colin, T. (m. ed.). (21 Sept 2007) The Rise of Megachurches. Congressional Quarterly Researcher. Volume 17, No. 33, pp. 769-792. Retrieved from http://www.sagepub.com/chamblissintro/study/materials/cq_researcher/


Howley, Kevin (2009). Understanding Community Media : SAGE Publications. Retrieved from http://www.eblib.com

Kingsway International Christian Centre. Viewed on 4 October 2013 on website www.kicc.org.uk

Lievrouw, Leah (2011) Alternative and Activist New Media. Oxford: Polity Press

Rao, M.(2005)  The Information Society: Visions and Realities of Developing Countries. Hemer, O. & Tufte, T. (eds) Media and Glocal Change. Rethinking Communication for Development. Buenos Aires: CLACSO. Ch. 16, pp. 271-284. Retrieved from http://bibliotecavirtual.clacso.org.ar/ar/libros/edicion/media/media.html