Churches In The Global South

Churches In The Global South

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Pneuma 32 (2010) 390-411

Te Transnational Location of Two Leading Evangelical Churches in the Global South

Stephen Offutt*

Fellow, Center for Global Christianity and Mission, Boston University, Boston, MA, USA

soff[email protected]

Abstract

Religion remains critically important in the Global South even as globalization intensifies. As international political and economic structures evolve, transnational religions shift societal locations within countries. Tese shifts cause changes within religions themselves, altering pat- terns of interaction that may in turn have political and economic consequences. By examining Iglesia Josue in El Salvador and Rhema Bible Church in South Africa, this article shows that the current leading Pentecostal churches and actors in developing countries are often located in upper-middle-class neighborhoods. Strong institutional and personal networks that stretch across borders transnationally embed such churches at multiple levels. Te transnational orienta- tion of leading churches has important implications for the rest of the in-country Pentecostal community.

Keywords

Global South, transnational, El Salvador, South Africa

In his essay “Te Social Psychology of World Religions” Max Weber1 explains that religion is affected by the social strata from which it emanates. As the place of Pentecostals has shifted in the social world, so has their scope of action. And as Pentecostals have shifted their activity in the world, the social world itself has changed. Across the southern hemisphere, the locus of culture pro- duction and decision making within the movement is shifting away from the

* I would like to thank Amy Reynolds, Roman Williams, the Religion & Public Life Seminar at Princeton University’s Center for the Study of Religion, two anonymous reviewers, and the editors of Pneuma for comments on earlier drafts of this paper. I would also like to thank the Hauser Center at Harvard University, the Society for the Social Scientific Study of Religion, and the Religious Research Association for their generous financial support of this project.

1

Max Weber, “Social Psychology of World Religions,” in From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, ed. H.H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills (New York: Oxford University Press, 1946), 267.

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2010 DOI: 10.1163/157007410X531925

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poor and from western missionaries. Te mantle of leadership has been passed to financially stable citizens and churches in affluent neighborhoods. Tese actors and institutions are well-connected globally and serve as the country’s primary receptors and transmitters of Pentecostalism within the global community.

Tis article argues that the leading churches in El Salvador and South Africa are operating within the transnational business classes of their countries and that this new social position has implications for national faith communities, global Christianity, and the transnational business culture. Tese churches are connected to international and local actors alike, which means that their actions and decisions have wide-ranging effects. Tey are playing an increas- ingly strategic role in the still-coalescing global structures of evangelical Pente- costalism, while at the same time helping to chart the course for their national faith communities. In order to understand the future of global Pentecostalism it is thus important to examine the underlying social forces that have made these churches so strategic, and to describe the beliefs, practices, and strategies for social engagement they are using to impact their globalized world. While this article focuses on congregations, it should be noted that other evangelical and Pentecostal entities also populate the transnational business classes. Even more tightly linked transnational ties are created by international NGOs that establish in-country offices. National offices for such denomina- tions as the Assemblies of God or the Apostolic Faith Mission also tend to inhabit middle-class neighborhoods of developing countries, as do leaders of such ministries as the Full Gospel Businessman’s Association, Promise Keepers, and the Billy Graham Association. Finally, international evangelical media efforts, such as the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) or the Christian Reformed Church’s Back to God Hour, maintain country offices in neighbor- hoods in which technology necessary for media production is available and dependable; this is usually in the suburbs or financial districts of capital cities.

Te Social Location of Leading Churches

Pentecostal churches are blossoming in middle- and upper-middle-class neigh- borhoods across the Global South. Whether they are in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, Seoul, or the cases presented in this study, highly visible churches are attracting urban professionals and university students.

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Tey sit in pews with

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It is notoriously difficult to provide precise economic definitions for what is meant by the

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their social peers and listen to pastors that are also socially mobile. But not all members come from this social stratum: some come from poorer neighbor- hoods. Te churches welcome them as well, often providing transport on Sun- day mornings to people who want to be part of this surge into higher society but who have not quite made the leap themselves.

Upper-middle-class churches in the developing world often grow to be quite large. Tis helps them to acquire the necessary resources and technology to communicate and interact on a global level and thus to join transnational moral communities. Professionals and businesspeople in these churches also have strong transnational ties, forged while operating in a global economy. Tey are fully engaged in the networks and cities that Saskia Sassen3 describes as central in today’s global structure. In spite of being awash in global exposure and acting as prime receptors of U.S. cultural radiation,4 these churches and

terms middle class or upper middle class. Te Workers Rights Commission has estimated that the lowest living wage in El Salvador should be $482/month (minimum wage is $163/month). See Asia Floor Wage, “Sample Living Wage Estimates: Indonesia and El Salvador,” asia floorwage.org (accessed March 19, 2010). Many consider the middle class to begin at about this level, but there is no consensus about where the upper end of the middle class becomes either the upper middle or the upper class.

None of the subjects I interviewed was close to the minimum definition of middle class in El Salvador. Tey were, rather, in the sector that has defied easy economic definition but is most likely to be upper middle class. Most were owners or managers of businesses. One subject, for example, owns several Texaco gas stations. Another subject started a construction company that builds houses selling for $600,000-$800,000, and lives in one of the models that he builds. Tese examples may not indicate the median economic power of all households represented in Josue, but they do represent the target social class for Josue’s outreach activities.

In South Africa, Lawrence Schlemmer asserts that there are about 185,000 black South Afri- cans above the age of sixteen in the “upper middle” and “middle middle” classes. Te latter cat- egory is defined in part as middle-level executives or owners of medium-sized businesses (most authors do not use an income level definition). Tere is also a black “super elite” that is not included in these figures. See Lawrence Schlemmer, “Lost In Translation? South Africa’s Emerg- ing African Middle Class,” A CDE Focus Paper ( Johannesburg: Centre for Development and Enterprise, 2005).

Some of Rhema’s most important members are super elites. Subjects of this study that popu- late this category include the CEO of Vela International, an investment group that has been involved in some of the country’s largest private and public sector endeavors, and the founder and CEO of another investment group called Wisdom Keys Trust, who began his company after heading up a group in the fourth largest advertising agency in South Africa. Tere are also numerous members of the upper middle class at Rhema. Subjects in my study from this category include owners of medium-sized businesses, such as the founder of an up-and-coming tourist agency and the owner of a media production studio.

3

Saskia Sassen, Cities in a World Economy, Second Edition (Tousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, 2000).

4

David Martin, Pentecostalism: Te World Teir Parish (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002).

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congregations do not lose their national identity; their geographic location is profoundly important in shaping how they act and what they think. But the outward, international orientation of these churches make them effective mediating structures between the individual and society’s megastructures, which in these cases is the international political economy.

Congregations fitting this description have become “leading churches” in their national evangelical communities. Tis leadership is demonstrated in a number of ways. National ecclesial leaders, for example, recognize the influ- ence of the church on the national faith community and respond to initiatives made by these churches or include leaders from these churches in their own strategic initiatives. Leading churches also often have the ability to impact their social and political landscape through church-sponsored programs or through its members. Finally, such churches have global connections that meet or exceed similar types of connections of other national churches. Tis final point is of particular interest, as leading churches in the Global South have become primary interstices of Pentecostalism, transnationalism, and globalization. Transnationalism and globalization are complex phenom- ena that have been defined in multiple ways; this study will consider transna- tionalism to be the flow of people, information, goods, services, and other resources across national boundaries, and globalization to be the increase in those flows.5 Transnational flows are part of all religious communities, and perhaps none more so than Pentecostalism. Indeed, the churches in this study are simultaneously constituted by, and produce, transnational Pentecostal flows. Tey serve as a space in which a “glocal synthesis of religious or religio- cultural interaction occurs.”6

Pentecostal churches have long been part of a global movement and thus sites of glocal synthesis. What is new here is not the globality of Pentecostal- ism, but rather the social location of these global Pentecostal sites and the unprecedented intensity of transnationalism that they experience. Te change in social location qualitatively changes the content of the flows that leading churches receive and produce; the intensity of transnationalism represents a change in the quantity of global interactions in which they engage. Both of these allow leading Pentecostal churches to impact their communities in new and unique ways.

5

Robert Wuthnow and Stephen Offutt, “Transnational Religious Connections,” Sociology of Religion 69 (Summer 2008): 209-32.

6

Michael Wilkinson, “Religion and Global Flows,” in Globalization, Religion and Culture, ed. Peter Beyer and Lori Beaman (Boston: Brill Academic, 2007), 389.

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Discussion of this new social location requires a brief explanation of where in society Pentecostals are coming from, and how they have arrived in this new place. Although contexts differ, the standard account of the movement begins with western missionaries planting churches in the remote and impoverished sectors of society. In Latin America the movement remained in the poorer sec- tors throughout the first half of the twentieth century and in most countries into the 1970s. But recently, more affluent members of society have been con- verting, thus joining second- and third-generation Pentecostals that have climbed the social ladder to form the region’s budding suburban churches. In Africa the story is more contested and complex, but the trajectory of evangeli- cal Pentecostals, as opposed to Pentecostals who do not normally identify with global evangelical Pentecostalism such as those found in African Independent Churches, has been similar to their Latin American counterparts, lagging just a decade or so behind.7

Upward social mobility is not unique to Pentecostals in Africa and Latin America. Long ago, H. Richard Niebuhr wrote that “the churches of the poor all become middle-class churches sooner or later.”8 Niebuhr pointed to restric- tions on consumption and an emphasis on production as the motors for such upward social mobility, and he noted that “there is no doubt of the truth of Max Weber’s contention that godliness is con ducive to economic success.”9 Southern Pentecostals and evangelicals have demonstrated a strong penchant toward both of Niebuhr’s causal mechanisms for increased wealth. Tey prac- tice a godly asceticism and possess an inspired energy that have pushed many up the economic ladder.

Neither social theory nor empirical data supports the idea that all members of religious groups benefit from this upward spiral. Many Pentecostals in Africa and Latin America remain poor. Tis includes those who have been faithful Pentecostals for a generation or more as well as recent converts. Te conditions that would be necessary for all Pentecostals to rise through existing social strata simply do not exist.

Nonetheless, the churches in this study are evidence for the fact that a sector of the movement has repositioned itself, and this has resulted in some very interesting dynamics. When upper-middle-class interests mingle with the

7

Martin, Pentecostalism and Philip Jenkins, Te Next Christendom: the Coming of Global Christianity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).

8

Richard H Niebuhr, Te Social Sources of Denominationalism (New York: Te World Pub- lishing Company, [1929] 1957), 54.

9

Ibid.

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spiritual energy of old time Pentecostalism, an optimistic neo-Pentecostalism often emerges. Its primary characteristics include a spirituality that hopes for and anticipates success in this-worldly activities and cell-group structured megachurches. Especially where rapid growth of the movement has been quite recent, evangelical Pentecostals are for the first time being charged with the task of participating in state governance and business management. Tey bap- tize these responsibilities with religious rhetoric, motivation, and activities. Pentecostals seize opportunities with an energy that weaves together the opportunity to be servants of Christ in the world with a religiously cloaked thirst for earthly power — two opposing but nonetheless connected impulses. For those whose origins were within the established order before they became Pentecostals, religious conversion can radically reorient their approach to existing positions, commitments, and responsibilities.

As Pentecostalism surges upward in society, it also encounters members of the intelligentsia. Tese educated believers are eager to apply their skills to their faith community and are bringing forth projects of social and theological criticism. Such criticism is often inwardly focused, and themes such as the evils of apartheid, the imbalance of power between North and South, and economic injustice have been addressed. Activism, a trait that is consistent with the movement’s overall tilt toward practicality, often accompanies this scholarship.

Te presence of Pentecostals in the upper classes affects coreligionists in lower social strata. Rich churches attend the same denominational conferences as poor churches, visit poor churches with medical brigades, provide aid in times of disaster, and send youth teams to help with evangelism or other forms of ministry. Te connections also serve as conduits for signals from coreligion- ists in other parts of the globe. As Durkheim would have predicted, this cre- ates a cognitive understanding of a moral community that extends beyond individuals’ local experience, which in turn lowers the high boundaries created by tribes, ethnicities, nations, and states. It also increases relational and physi- cal mobility.

Description of Leading Churches

Two churches that exemplify the congregations in this social niche are the Iglesia Josue in San Salvador and the Rhema Church in Johannesburg. Both are considered to be the leading churches in their countries and exercise sig- nificant influence in crafting the national evangelical Pentecostal ethos. Tey

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are not the only churches that inhabit the transnational business classes. In El Salvador there are several neo-Pentecostal churches that are younger and equally affluent, but there are none as influential in the national faith com- munity. Josue is not a neo-Pentecostal church, but rather fits solidly within the Assemblies of God (AG) denomination. Neo-Pentecostals nonetheless regard Josue as a leader in the Pentecostal community. In South Africa other leading churches are on more equal ground with Rhema, including the leading white, multiracial, and black churches in the country. An example of each, in order, includes the Rosebank Union Church in Johannesburg, the His People churches in Johannesburg and Cape Town, and Grace Bible in Soweto. Still, none have the same crosscutting social and political clout that Rhema wields.

Data on Josue and Rhema comes from a research project based on ethno- graphic research and qualitative interviews conducted in South Africa and El Salvador. I conducted the research in 2006 and 2007, with follow-up trips and correspondence in 2008 and 2009. Te ethnographic research was multi- tiered. To gather data on events occurring within the national level leadership, I attended meetings at which national leadership was likely to gather, includ- ing the Evangelical Alliances, NGO networks, national missionary networks, and Pentecostal business fraternities. To research leading churches, I regularly attended worship services, visited some of the ministries sponsored by these churches, attended men’s breakfasts, went on a men’s retreat, and attended cell groups or house groups that many Pentecostal churches encourage members to join. I also listened to evangelical radio and television programming and read literature produced by the churches.

In addition to this ethnographic work, I conducted 118 interviews with national level leaders and leaders within these churches. Interviewees included the heads of the evangelical alliances, senior pastors of megachurches, directors of Pentecostal or evangelical NGOs, ministries, media outlets, and academic institutions. Within Josue and Rhema, I interviewed Pentecostals with influ- ence in the private sector and key members of civil society. Te interviews were semistructured, usually lasting between sixty and ninety minutes. Open-ended questions allowed me to explore a consistent set of topics during each inter- view. Of particular interest were the relational networks maintained by inter- viewees, and whether they stretched across national borders or if, domestically, they reached beyond the evangelical community. What follows is a description of Josue and Rhema, focusing on the beliefs and relational structures they have created.

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El Salvador: Iglesia Josue

In the mid-1970s the Assemblies of God began to make deliberate efforts to reach the professional classes in San Salvador. A missionary named Pablo Finkenbinder hosted a Bible study in his house on Friday nights for people who would not associate with the lower classes. When Finkenbinder left El Salvador, fellow missionary John Bueno did some follow-up work with the group. Te situation remained fairly insipid, however, until Bueno’s wife, Lois, started a women’s group called Koinonia. Te idea was to reach out to women through teas and other activities. Koinonia expanded quickly, and soon the women invited their husbands to join them at these events. One wealthy cou- ple, the Valientes, then decided to rent out space in a shopping plaza so that people could meet for a more formal Bible study. When that location didn’t suit the class of people they were targeting, they moved the Bible study to Escalon, one of San Salvador’s most affluent neighborhoods.

Iglesia Josue grew out of these meetings and was formally founded in 1979. Tere was, at that time, still a strong upper-class aversion to Pentecostalism because it was considered to “be only for ignorant people” or for “yahoos.” But Lisandro Bojorquez, the current Josue pastor, pointed out a second obstacle: Pentecostals themselves felt that it was impossible to talk to the rich. Te struggle between social classes, with Pentecostals being situated in the lower strata, “created a marginalization by the church against [upper-class and edu- cated people],” he said. Te AG missionaries and some national leaders, including Lisandro and his brother, Hector, who was Josue’s first national pas- tor, hoped to change this reality.

Josue’s attendance continued to increase throughout the 1980s. By the early 1990s it was sufficiently influential to catch the eye of researcher Philip Wil- liams.10 By 2006 it had grown to about 3,600 people,

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complete with a Bible Institute, a bilingual primary and secondary school, and a number of educa- tional and ministry programs. Although today there are enough other churches in San Salvador’s upper-class neighborhoods to make Josue’s institutional strength seem less remarkable, just a quarter of a century ago it would have been unimaginable for a Pentecostal church such as Josue to exist in its current neighborhood. Departure from “the traditional religion” by upper-class

10

Philip Williams, “Te Sound of Tambourines: Te Politics of Pentecostal Growth in El Salvador,” in Power, Politics & Pentecostals in El Salvador, ed. Edward L. Cleary and Hannah W. Stewart Gambino (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1997), 179.

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Te total congregation is comprised of 3,000 adults and 600 children.

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Catholics represented a move that bordered on social deviance. But the com- plex sociopolitical and economic dynamics12 of the civil war created space for religious entrepreneurs such as Finkenbinder, the Buenos, and the Bojorquez brothers to gain entrée. Tey succeeded in establishing something new within the Salvadoran upper class, and in the process they planted the seeds of reli- gious pluralism in the upper strata of society.

Iglesia Josue’s ethos is consistent with its transnational location. Its worship style is lightly Pentecostal, much like many AG churches in the U.S. Attire also mirrors the smart casual garb to which many U.S. congregations have gravitated, although perhaps kept a bit smarter than some because of the dress habits of the Latin professional class. Latino cultural elements enable a friendly, family feel to pervade Josue, even when the church’s increasing size militates against such a relaxed atmosphere. All of this puts Josue’s numerous interna- tional visitors at ease as they enter the church building. Utilizing its strong denominational ties, Josue regularly hosts U.S. speakers and has American, Canadian, and European visitors in the congregation. Simultaneous English translation is offered to help such visitors overcome the language barrier. Far from just receiving visitors, Iglesia Josue also actively sends people across national borders. Flags of fifteen to twenty countries grace the sanctuary, indi- cating the places in which Josue has had some sort of missionary presence. Te church’s 2006 foreign outreach budget was $165,000, through which they supported Salvadoran missionaries to India, the Philippines, West Africa, and a number of Latin American countries. Medical or evangelistic mission teams from Josue have gone out to Kosovo, Equatorial Guinea, Honduras, the Niger, Nicaragua, and Vietnam.

Frequent transnational interactions have not deprived Josue of its authentic Salvadoran identity. Although U.S. missionary activity was indispensable in starting the church, the leadership is now completely Salvadoran: Bueno lives in the U.S., Finkenbinder is retired, and Lisandro Bojorquez continues to serve as the church’s general pastor. He has a gentle and friendly disposition and is liked and respected by his congregants and the larger evangelical community.

Josue’s leadership team maintains a studious, Bible-centered ethic. Tey for- mulate and articulate their belief system with care. Bojorquez’ core teachings

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Bojorquez factors in spiritual dynamics when he considers reasons for church growth: “this social group ]previously] saw it more as a religious need and not a spiritual one, but . . . they began to . . . see really that [(a relationship with Christ] was what they needed . . . and this is how the vision of the church has grown to penetrate all the socioeconomic strata of the country. . . .”

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include the idea that Christ took human form to redeem humans from sin and that the Holy Spirit fills the lives of believers. Bojorquez understands the Bible to be inspired by God and to contain infallible rules for faith and conduct. From this source of authority, Bojorquez further argues that the Christian life is constituted by the processes of justification, regeneration, and sanctifica- tion. Although Josue has clearly internalized this set of beliefs, they are highly consistent with AG teachings in the U.S. and elsewhere.13

Te way in which church leaders understand the development of the Chris- tian life — that people establish a relationship with Jesus and then over time change their behavioral practices as they become more mature Christians — is important to understanding the diversity of behavior that exists within the Josue congregation. Tere are now numerous Josue members who have been Pentecostals for a decade or more, and some who are second-generation Pen- tecostals. Teir education and social standing have made them prime candi- dates for international evangelical organizations looking for nationals to manage and staff country offices. Josue members have served World Vision (WV) (director of WV’s regional office), Compassion International (director, ex-director), Samaritan’s Purse (director of evangelistic outreach), Operation Blessing/700 Club (ex-director), AGLOW (director), Full Gospel Business- man’s Association (president), and Orphan Helpers (director). Local Pentecos- tal or evangelical organizations have also been founded or managed by Josue members. Tese include the owner of the leading Christian bookstore chain in El Salvador, the president of MIES, one of the national missionary sending agencies, and another local ministry called Associación Amiga (ex-director). Additionally, numerous Josue members have either left to start other churches or have been sent out by Josue to serve as missionaries to work in other coun- tries. In sum, Josue serves as a stable of national Pentecostal leaders in El Sal- vador and as a launch pad for Salvadorans interested in national and international ministry vocations.14

In addition to the professional Christian leadership cadre just described, Josue welcomes non-Christians and nurtures new believers whose lifestyles may not yet conform to standard Pentecostal expectations. Josue’s teachings

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Bojorquez’ articulation of the basic tenets of the faith is in line with the General Council of the Assemblies of God. See Assemblies of God, Statement of Fundamental Truths, http://ag.org/ top/beliefs/Statement_of_Fundamental_Truths/sft.pdf (accessed March 22, 2010).

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Tere are also people who have garnered “worldly” influence in the church. Tey include a Counselor in El Salvador’s embassy in Washington, a former national police chief, an alternate judge for the Supreme Court, the rector of the country’s largest university, and small and medium-size business owners.

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include prohibitions against drinking, smoking, and engaging in extramarital sex. Te Pentecostal ideal is that adherence to these rules creates an alternative lifestyle to the standard macho culture that predominates in El Salvador, and that mature believers become more attentive to the needs of their children and spouses as they give up selfish indulgences. Many social scientists have described Latin American Pentecostal culture in precisely this way.15 But changes in lifestyle are expected to begin, not end, with conversion, so it is no surprise to Josue’s leaders when new Christians continue for a time to exhibit these behaviors. Jorge Cervantes, a cell group leader at Josue who is starting an evangelical radio ministry, stated that “there is a tolerance when the sinner is getting to know the Lord and he still consumes this type of product. Tey don’t close the church doors if you smoke or commit whatever sin, in fact these are the kinds of people we want to come to the church so the Word changes them.” In other words, Josue promotes a culture in which actions are tightly linked to ideas, but the process of linking them takes time.

Pablo’s story provides a good example of how these connections are achieved. Pablo first became a Christian in 1987, but his conversion did not change his way of life. He says, “I was a Christian inside the church and outside of the church, well, there were bad words, drinking, fornication, adultery.” Tis con- tinued for about sixteen years until a personal crisis precipitated a “second conversion.” He was fired by his employer (La Constancia, El Salvador’s national brewery) and dumped by his girlfriend. In response, he says, he began avidly to read the Bible: “this is what in reality began to transform me and to convince me of . . . what the Lord wanted me to be . . . and the radical changes that He was demanding.” Pablo now says he has let go of his vices and exhorts others to stop living a mediocre Christianity. He estimates that a solid major- ity of the people who attend Josue have lifestyles that resemble his own before his second conversion. Pablo’s speculation lines up well with the widespread concern among Pentecostal leaders that their movement is losing its distinc- tiveness. It also means that the intentionally low bar of entry that Josue main- tains creates great variety in the level of commitment to the lifestyle Josue encourages.

Te highly committed group within Josue has weaker links into mainstream society, which shows that a structural as well as cultural evangelical distinctive- ness is maintained, at least at that level. Of the fourteen businesspeople I inter-

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Just one example is Elizabeth Brusco, “Colombian Evangelicalism as a Strategic Form of Women’s Collective Action,” Feminist Issues 6, no 2 (1986): 3-13.

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viewed at Josue, only one of them participated in the Rotary Club or a similar civic organization. Although they forego social/civic organizations and replace them with church activities, Josue members do fully engage in workplace- oriented activities. A few of my subjects had served in professionally related guilds or boards: Alberto, a civil engineer, previously served as the president of the Association of Industrial Engineers for the eastern zone of El Salvador; Nelson, owner of a car battery distribution company, has long served on the Board of Directors of the Salvadoran Association of Industrialists; and Cer- vantes serves on the national board for Texaco. But this kind of participation has usually generated professional contacts rather than personal relationships. Committed members of Josue do not have strong ties with other civic orga- nizations in part because they are kept so busy by their involvement within the Pentecostal community. Te Bible Institute, which offers a degree program, is one example. Classes include in-depth studies of books of the Bible, training on how to evangelize, and preparation targeted to specific ministries within Josue. Tey meet once a week, significant reading and homework are assigned, and different modules run over a three-year period. Te end goal is to prepare people to be effective lay leaders in the church.

Josue’s members can also spend an extensive amount of time carrying out the ministries they are trained to do. Alberto, for example, runs a marital class for young couples, while others I interviewed lead the church’s Family Minis- try. Te time commitment can be even more intense for those in senior leader- ship positions. Luis, for example, served as a deacon for six years. During those years, Luis remembers

I had to attend vigils, I had to attend funerals . . . go to hospitals to talk to the ill, I had to attend to the subsidiary churches in the interior part of the country. Someone would say “brother you have to go because the pastor is sick, let’s go and preach,” or “we have to go with the pastor to run a seminar somewhere,” or “let’s go to Nicaragua to an evangelization mission, let’s go to Guatemala, let’s go.”

In addition to these activities, members are encouraged to attend cell groups, seminars on missions, special music presentations, and all-night prayer and fasting vigils. Tere is thus no shortage of reasons to spend many hours a week at church functions.

A second reason for fragmented ties between Josue members and other civic entities has to do with sharp cultural differences that evangelicals perceive to exist between the two groups. One Pentecostal lawyer practiced for a few years before dropping out of the profession because he believed the work environment

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was not conducive to his Christian journey. Another respondent estimated that more than half of Salvadoran businessmen have affairs with women at the office. Complaints about corruption, especially against the government, were also voiced frequently.

Tax evasion is also a major issue in El Salvador, as in the rest of Latin Amer- ica. Even many Josue members are not naturally inclined to pay taxes in a country in which enforcement is low and they are skeptical of how the govern- ment will use, or steal, their money. Several years ago, however, the church hosted a U.S. speaker who taught that Christians were responsible before God, not the government, to pay their taxes. A number of respondents stated that they had changed their tax-paying habits after listening to this speaker.

What Josue members lack in ties to Salvadoran civic organizations they make up for with their transnational networks. Many of Josue’s members are deeply embedded in El Salvador’s transnational business class, as more than half (57 percent) of the businesspeople interviewed had previously worked for multinational corporations, including General Electric, Maytag, and Elec- trolux. Not quite a third (29 percent) had lived in other countries for reasons other than education, working in such places as New York City, California, and Costa Rica. Two-thirds of respondents travel internationally at least twice a year for business, often to the U.S. but also to other Latin American coun- tries and to Europe. Finally, respondents participate in the international move- ment of products and services; half of those interviewed serve as vendors for imported goods. Less than a third export products to other countries, which is not surprising given the structure of the Salvadoran economy.

Josue members continue to produce Pentecostal culture as they interact in the global political economy. Tey share their faith in some instances, such as when one member explained to a potential business partner in Honduras that he was an evangelical Christian. In other instances Josue members introduce ascetic practices to the transnational business culture, shunning entertainment venues in Costa Rica where “mujeres van conquistando hombres” (women are “conquering” men) or quietly refraining from alcohol on business outings in Miami. In all of these examples, Josue members were eager to maintain busi- ness relationships but tried to reject and reshape the components of interna- tional business culture that they found objectionable.

In addition to professional transnational activities, respondents also devel- oped a variety of personal transnational connections. International education is quite popular among Josue members, as over half of my respondents (57 percent had attended a U.S. university, such as the University of Illinois, Georgetown University, Notre Dame, and Vanguard University in California.

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Family is also critically important to developing transnational connections; at least two-thirds of respondents had relatives living abroad. It is clear, then, that quite apart from the numerous religious transnational connections maintained by the Josue community, members are deeply embedded in the global political economy and in other forms of transnational networks.

South Africa: Te Rhema Church

Te story of Rhema begins with its charismatic founder, Ray McCauley. In the late 1970s McCauley went to Tulsa, Oklahoma to study at Kenneth Hagin’s Rhema Bible Training Center. He quickly became a disciple of Hagin, who is known by many as the father of the Word of Faith movement, or the prosper- ity gospel. McCauley returned to South Africa in 1979 ready to start a minis- try from scratch. His magnetic (and polarizing) personality, coupled with the Word of Faith message, soon attracted a large following. After the first services were held in his parents’ house, the church rented a cinema, then bought an old warehouse, and finally bought their current property in Randburg, a northwest Johannesburg suburb, and built an entire complex. Tere are now about 40,000 members and roughly 14,000 people who flow through the doors every Sunday morning and into one of three services. Rhema partnered with another charismatic megachurch, the Hatfield Christian Church, to start the International Federation of Christian Churches (IFCC). Te federation (roughly equivalent to a denomination) now has over 400,000 members. Rhema has a corporate feel. Its auditorium fits about 7,000 people and is architecturally similar to Chicago’s Willow Creek Community Church. Jumbo screens run through the announcements before the service begins and skilled musicians lead the congregation in praise songs that would be familiar to U.S. Pentecostals. On stage, McCauley’s dynamism connects so well with his audi- ence that he regularly draws first time visitors into the church.16 Ron Steele, Rhema’s former media spokesman and assistant to McCauley, stated that Rhema receives about 600 commitments a month. (As in any large church or crusade, only a fraction of those commitments are retained.) An example is Gordon Greaves, who first came to Rhema only because his girlfriend brought him. He describes his own journey to Rhema’s altar in this way: “I was . . . critical of Rhema and I went to that service just [because of my girlfriend] . . .

16

Off the stage, McCauley’s marital life creates deep controversy. He divorced his first wife in 2000, which created hot debate in the Rhema community. In late January 2010, McCauley’s second wife filed divorce papers against him. It remains to be seen how greatly this will impact McCauley’s legitimacy and ministry.

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but it felt as if the preacher was talking to nobody else in that auditorium but me and I just felt so convicted that I didn’t walk to the front, I ran [chuckles].” People come to the altar from attractive cushioned seats, where attendees fol- low along with the service or occasionally glance at polished brochures that promote upcoming events. At home members can visit Rhema’s professional- looking website, which lists Rhema’s four aspirations: being spiritually vibrant, socially significant, prophetically relevant, and evangelistically potent. Like a well-run company, much of what Rhema does is in line with these four goals. In addition to the auditorium, Rhema’s complex consists of a Bible college, a book store, a chapel, and recreational facilities. Rhema’s Bible College is a much grander enterprise than Josue’s Bible Institute. Whereas Josue’s insti- tute is designed to deepen the knowledge of its own church members, the Rhema Bible Center functions as a college or seminary campus. Some of the faculty members are international. Students, many of whom are also interna- tional, attend classes full time and often have internships with one of the church’s many ministries. Today, graduates of Rhema are leading churches and ministries in various denominations and independent churches across the continent.

Rhema’s theology is driven by practicality. Steele openly admitted that McCauley is not a theologian, and Rhema’s leadership avoids the doctrinal questions that so engaged Bojorquez. When Rhema needed a statement of faith, rather than hash out their own beliefs, they simply grafted one on from another Pentecostal denomination. Lack of interest in the esoteric is replaced by a consistent quest to know what kinds of ministries God blesses. Once Rhema’s leadership goes through a process of discernment, they pour consid- erable energy into developing those kinds of programs. Says Steele: “Ray has a very simple philosophy and that is just look at the fruit of whatever the thing is . . . even if you don’t like it, if the fruit is good then you’ve got to say well, you’ve got to be careful, God is in those things.”

In line with this practical approach to the faith, Rhema commits consider- able resources to addressing the practical needs that are so prevalent in the South African context. Teir social outreach programs include orphanages, a home for unwed mothers, soup kitchens, literacy classes, and ministries to AIDS victims, alcoholics, and drug addicts. Many of these programs are deliv- ered through care centers established in poor communities. Rhema also part- ners with the government to help with social service delivery — one of the post-apartheid government’s most serious weaknesses.

In addition to these local involvements, Rhema seeks to increase its trans- national connections. As an independent church Rhema has no international

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denominational ties, and sending missionaries overseas is not a part of the church’s agenda. But as a regional epicenter of the global Word of Faith or prosperity movement, it nonetheless has links with churches and ministries worldwide. Tese links are in some flux because Rhema is shifting its position within this movement. It is diminishing its ties with Hagin’s ministries and increasing them with high-profile actors within the African American com- munity. Tis repositioning is driven by a subtle but substantial change in Rhema’s message and by a reworking of the church’s racial composition. In the early 1980s Rhema was an all white church; today it is at least 80 percent black. Te former development has allowed it to link with international Pen- tecostal actors that might otherwise shun Rhema; the latter has strengthened Rhema’s connections on the African continent.

Positioned thusly, Rhema’s transnational connections are forged through the use of mass media, institutional connections, and a barrage of interna- tional speakers. Television programs made by Rhema, usually featuring McCa- uley, are broadcast throughout Africa, Australia, parts of Asia, and the Middle East. Tis medium has been tremendously powerful. Ade, a Nigerian studying at the college, emphatically assured me that “Rhema is known in Nigeria!” Such strong responses can be found in many other countries as well. In addi- tion to mass media, Rhema has built transnational relationships with other Pentecostal organizations, such as Hillsong, a powerful megachurch in Austra- lia, and Te Ministry of Reinhard Bonnke, which has generated the largest open-air evangelistic meetings in the world.

Rhema maintains further ties with numerous churches and ministries in the Pentecostal community in the U.S. and although it has repositioned itself, Rhema has not left the Word of Faith movement. Te international speakers that attend Rhema’s many conferences are evidence of its continued involve- ment. Rhema’s women’s conference in 2006 featured speakers such as Bernice King, daughter of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Deborah Cobrae, copastor of Te Rock Church & World Outreach Center in San Bernadino, CA, and Sarah Omakwu, a pastor of a 7,000-member church in Abuja, Nige- ria. In their 2007 Annual Conference, Rhema hosted Kenneth Ulmer of the Faithful Central Church in Los Angeles and John Bevere, who moves in the Word of Faith circles but offers a sort of insider criticism to some of the move- ment’s practices — a direction in which McCauley and Rhema would also like to move.

Rhema utilizes transnational resources in its ministry in multiple ways, but it owes much of its influence within South Africa to its involvement in the fight against apartheid. According to Steele, the decision to get involved was

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sparked in the late 1980s when McCauley spoke at a meeting in the South African town of Rustenburg.17 Te audience in the pews was white, but another audience, this one black, peered into the room through the outside windows. McCauley said to a friend sitting next to him, “Tat’s it, I’m never going to preach again to an all white audience, you know, that’s it. Never again!” As Rhema sought to engage with those fighting apartheid, their legiti- macy was enhanced by Steele’s membership on the Rhema team. Before com- ing to Rhema, Steele, who is white, had pastored a church in Lusaka that was attended by exiled ANC members as well as members of SWAPO, the Angola freedom fighters.

By hosting private dinners, McCauley and Steele were able to kick off a chain of events that brought the principal protagonists of the apartheid con- flict together: Nelson Mandela of the ANC, Mangosuthu Buthelezi of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), and then Prime Minister F.W. DeKlerk. Once the foundations of these talks were established, leadership was handed off to members of the civic and business community. Tey ultimately led to the National Peace Accord, which was an important step in South Africa’s peaceful transition to democracy in 1994.

Rhema’s involvement in this and other initiatives made it a legitimate place of worship for some of the most important new black leaders in the country. Former Anglo American Corporation CEO Lazarus Zim, CEOs of black investment groups, and leaders in other industries are all Rhema members. Some of the heroes of the ANC struggle and other cultural icons, including a former ANC chaplain, are also part of Rhema’s inner circle. Nelson Mandela was known occasionally to frequent Rhema during his presidency, and more recently, during South Africa’s presidential elections in 2009, Jacob Zuma spoke to the congregation. During his comments he stated that “the ANC practically derived its moral vision from the [Rhema], among other sources.”18 Such visits and activities allow Rhema to maintain a high level of social and political significance within South Africa.

17

Several scholars, including Paul Freston (see Paul Freston, Evangelicals in Politics in Asia, Africa, and Latin America [Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001]), have consid- ered McCauley’s motives in getting involved. Was McCauley simply opportunistic, or was he perhaps trying to salvage white privilege in the coming political dispensation? Freston is not convinced that these kinds of motives were part of McCauley’s calculus; he and others point out that McCauley’s subsequent actions and policies and those of other members of Rhema’s leader- ship team seem to bear out the authenticity of these earlier moves.

18

Baldwin Ndaba, “Zuma’s Prayers Fail to Move Rhema’s Sceptics,” Independent Online, March 16, 2009, http://iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=6&art_id=vn20090316054748746 C263518&set_id= (accessed January 19, 2010).

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Rhema’s political involvement has brought its leadership into a wider gam- bit of relationships than is normally maintained by Pentecostals. Because part of Rhema’s identity and ministry is directed at national leadership, they are willing players in arenas defined by religious pluralism. In the mid-1990s the National Religious Leaders Forum was launched which brought together Muslims, Jews, Baha’is, Buddhists, Hindus, African traditional religions, and Christians. McCauley served on the executive committee of that association. Under the Zuma administration, McCauley helped to form and currently chairs the National Interfaith Leadership Council, which is composed of Christian, African traditional, and Muslim churches. Providing ecumenical leadership is highly unusual for a Pentecostal pastor, but such alliances have proved useful on a number of social issues. Steele stated:

We’ve learned to work with them, I mean, when the abortion issue was debated . . . we had an alliance with the Muslims and the Jews and the Hindus in opposing abor- tion. . . . So we’ve learned to form alliances without compromising our faith. It’s not about your faith, it’s about common values.

Rhema has also joined South Africa’s chapter of the World Council of Churches, which is the South African Council of Churches (SACC). Tis is an ecumenical body that Pentecostal denominations usually shun. Te white section of Rhe- ma’s congregation and the IFCC reacted strongly against the decision,19 but the SACC stood strongly against apartheid, making it an entity with which Rhema leadership wanted to ally itself. Tis move also helped Rhema gain access to more progressive circles both nationally and internationally.

Rhema’s lay members readily engage with nonevangelical actors in civil society and political life. Whereas Pentecostalism represents a protest against the status quo and the dominant religion in El Salvador, the conversion stories among my subjects in South Africa often recount a church-going childhood that was perhaps legalistic, but was nonetheless centered on compatible values. Teir conversion was comprised of the addition of a supernatural encounter and a new relationship with Christ, not the negation of many pre-existing practices and beliefs. Some Pentecostals do consider an anti-ecumenism to be an important part of their identity, but this does not change their perception of South Africa’s more friendly religious composition toward the evangelical Pentecostal community.

19

Allan Anderson and Gerald Pillay, “Te Segregated Spirit: Pentecostals,” in Christianity in South Africa: a Political, Cultural, and Social History, ed. Richard Elphik and Rodney Davenport (Oxford: J. Curry, 1997), 227.

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Te impetus for social involvement is perhaps strongest in those who are engaged in the nation-building process of the New South Africa. David Molapo, who sometimes preaches at Rhema when McCauley is away, is also the founder of the I Can conglomerate, a group of businesses based on con- sulting and motivational speaking engagements. Molapo is active in numerous civil organizations and was awarded Rotary’s highest international honor — the Paul Harris Award — in 2002. He encourages Pentecostals to get involved in activities outside of their churches, saying that there is “a problem with institutionalized religion, because Jesus made it clear. He says, go out into the world.” Another Rhema member is the Director of Vela International, which is the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) partner of Sun International Group, one of South Africa’s most powerful conglomerates. A picture of the director’s father standing with Nelson Mandela graces her conference room, and she casually mentions that her parents and Mandela were neighbors. A third example is Greaves, mentioned above, who is linked into South Africa’s broadcasting community. When Greaves was asked to professionalize Rhema’s TV department he brought in an editor and a videographic artist who were not Christians (they eventually became Christians while working at Rhema). Church is critically important to Rhema members, but their faith community assumes that they will forge relationships with people outside Pentecostal circles.

Te inroads Rhema members have made into society complement the transnational connections that they maintain. I interviewed fourteen entrepreneurs,20 and like their counterparts in El Salvador, over half (57 per- cent) had previously worked for multinational corporations, including Anglo American, JP Morgan and Deloitte Touche. Almost a third (29 percent) had lived in other countries for reasons other than education, such as work, min- istry experience, or having lived there as a child. Two had lived in England and two had lived in other southern African countries. Over half of those inter- viewed (57 percent) travel internationally for business at least twice a year. With respect to their roles in moving goods across borders, only one of the people I interviewed served as a vendor for imported goods to South Africa, while half had companies that produced goods or services for international

20

I interviewed only seven entrepreneurs connected to Rhema, as access was limited. I inter- viewed another seven businesspeople from churches in the same upper middle-class sphere and with a kindred ethos, such as Grace Bible Church in Soweto, founded by Mosa Sono, to whom Ray McCauley refers to as his “spiritual son.”

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clients. Tis last dynamic reflects the marked differences between the econo- mies of the two countries.

Like the businesspeople attending Josue, Rhema’s transnational actors also produced a distinctive business culture. Tey too reported ascetic or pietistic behavior in international business settings, and added to these characteristics a distinctive social ethic. One South African created an international organiza- tion designed to help AIDS orphans, drawing people from the U.S. and other countries into his organization. Members of the group often piggyback on business trips either to or from South Africa to further the group’s cause. Another South African businessman passed up a lucrative government con- tract in central Africa because he believed the government actors would ben- efit rather than the people whom the project was formally intended to reach. Tese kinds of decisions are motivated by a Pentecostal understanding of morality that impacts the individual transactions and encounters undertaken by many South African Pentecostals.

Respondents also developed personal transnational ties. Tese came through family who lived in other countries — this was the case for slightly less than half of those interviewed (42 percent). Teir families could be found in coun- tries such as Argentina, Nigeria, England, the U.S., and Zimbabwe. Personal ties had also been developed through international educational opportunities. Slightly less than half (42 percent) of the interviewees had gone to either Europe or the U.S. for tertiary or post-graduate educational opportunities and have maintained friendships formed at those times. Hazel Shelton, for exam- ple, received an LLM from Columbia and stays in touch with a former profes- sor. Shelton is also linked with other young African leaders through a leadership development program run by Duke University. Such personal ties remain strong when they are maintained by three to four emails and phone calls between the actors each week.

Conclusion

Tis article contributes to our understanding of Pentecostalism’s intersection with transnationalism and globalization in three ways. It documents Pentecos- talism’s upward social mobility by ethnographically describing more affluent churches and the strategies they use to relate to society. It explores the transna- tional embeddedness of leading churches and their congregants by showing the impact of transnational ties on Salvadoran and South African Pentecostals as well as the impact Pentecostal culture can have on transnational ways of life

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and business. Finally, it shows the interactions leading churches have with their national Pentecostal communities. Each of these points reveals the stra- tegic position within global Christianity of affluent churches in the Global South.

Multiple forces are causing the emergence of Pentecostal churches in the transnational business classes. Individual Pentecostal initiative and agency is certainly one factor. Tis agency can be traced to attributes that are similar to the ones Weber highlighted in his study of sixteenth-century Calvinism. Just as importantly, global flows running within Pentecostalism and beyond it are reorienting and repositioning the movement. Within Pentecostalism, flows of people and ideas have crossed borders and created a globalized religious energy for more than a century.21 External to the movement, technologies, infrastruc- ture, trade flows, and democratic regimes have increased and moderated the timing and the numbers of Pentecostals that have risen in society. In sum, a Pentecostalized Protestant ethic is pushing people up the social ladder at the same time that globalization is causing religions to reposition themselves in society. Pentecostalism’s pre-existing global flows are helping to do this reposi- tioning, but this new position is also changing the kinds of flows that charac- terize global Pentecostalism.

Te flows initiated by more affluent Pentecostals run through their churches, their business activities, and their personal and family relationships. Te trans- national flows of churches are a central part of this story, and it is worth noting the different ways churches can structure their transnational interactions. Josue is part of a formidable international denomination and it is active in denominational events that help the church retain tight transnational ties.22 Rhema’s transnational activities, on the other hand, are not mapped by an existing denomination. Instead, Rhema radiates its messages across borders through mass media, creating relationships in the process. Rhema employs a personality driven organizational schema: charismatic figures are needed to undertake not just the entrepreneurial, pre-bureaucratic phase of institution building, but also to keep people regularly tuned into Rhema’s radio shows and satellite television programming.

21

Wilkinson, “Religion and Global Flows,” 2007.

22

Tese types of denominational strategies for knitting faith communities together across borders fit in well with existing typologies about religious transnational networks. See Rose Ebaugh and Janet Chafetz, eds., Religion across Borders: Transnational Immigrant Networks (Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2002) and Peggy Levitt, “Redefining the Boundaries of Belonging: Te Institutional Character of Transnational Religious Life,” Sociology of Religion 65 (Spring 2004): 1-18.

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Just as churches create religious ties, so, too, do people. Much has been written about personal and civic transnationalism. Te subjects of this study vigorously participate in these kinds of ties. But members of Josue and Rhema also form transnational business ties, and in doing so they introduce compo- nents of Pentecostal culture to the global political economy. Josue and Rhema members exhibit a tendency toward asceticism or pietistic social behavior, a willingness to proclaim their faith identity in the business environment, and an approach to business opportunities and networks that include a social ethic. Pentecostals are still relatively scarce in the international political economy, and such activities are not likely to have had a measurable impact on global culture. It is also likely that some Pentecostal actors integrate themselves into existing culture, thus losing their Pentecostal distinctiveness. Nonetheless, the strategies exhibited by the members of Josue and Rhema may have wider implications in the future.

Churches like Josue and Rhema also impact their own societies, but these two cases have done so in very different ways. Josue has largely been content to foster a minority religious identity and to introduce pluralism to the upper class. Tey do not perceive their church to have a significant role in deciding the political or social climate of the nation. Rhema, on the other hand, is clearly involved in South Africa’s body politic and intentionally influences the course of national political events. Context may matter as much as church leadership in the different strategies of engagement chosen by these two churches, but this sharp variation shows a diversity in how affluent Pentecos- tals view their relationship with society. As more churches move into higher social strata, that diversity may continue to grow.

Te presence of affluent churches also changes national Pentecostal com- munities, perhaps most obviously through creating socioeconomic diversity among coreligionists. Diversity can lead to new class boundaries and divisions. In the Pentecostal experience, however, members of the lower class often come to the emerging upper-class churches. Additionally, many cross-cutting net- works such as denominations, missionary movements, and other church net- works continue to knit national faith communities together. Indeed, other Pentecostals gain access to the goods, services, and messages that flow through transnational linkages via their relationships with Josue and Rhema. Tese help to orient their behavior and shape their goals. Such networks do not erase class differences, but they do mitigate their effect while establishing the neces- sary relationships and mechanisms for Josue and Rhema, and churches like them, to exercise leadership in their national faith communities.

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