Research Program

Conversion Careers and Culture Politics in Pentecostalism:
A Comparative Study in Four Continents

Pentecostalism is the fastest growing form of Christianity. Most Pentecostals live in the ‘South’. The majority of the Pentecostals are female. In this program the relation between the rapid growth and Pentecostal churches’ attitudes towards their cultural and social context is studied, taking conversion careers as a primary locus for the study of Pentecostal cultural and social praxis. The main research question is: In their operating on the religious market, what is the culture politics followed by Pentecostal churches and how is this connected with their members’ conversion careers?

A belief focused on individual decision and experience is becoming a force to be reckoned with, gaining momentum in a social and political way. Both as a moment and as a process, conversion marks the start of a career in which the church socializes its new members. Conversion, for which in this research program a new five-tier model is proposed and tested, is viewed in connection with the position taken and the strategy adopted by both churches and church members with regard to the local social and cultural environment, including mainline forms of religion. The relationship between new members and their institution is viewed as the crossroads where actors - both members and new converts - and structures - both ecclesiastical and societal - meet.

Using qualitative methods and working with a comparative approach, the research team will study a number of cases in four continents. Nicaragua, Mozambique, Japan and the Netherlands have been selected as countries with a significant growth in the number of Pentecostals and each with their own idiosyncratic and regional features. The Dutch case is designed as a ‘Northern’ counterpoint in a secularized setting.

Problem, Goal, Questions

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