/ 13 March 2008

Pentecostal growth bodes well for SA

A substantial jump in the number of Pentecostal Christians could have a positive impact on South Africa’s social and economic development, the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) said on Wednesday.

According to a 2001 census, members of Pentecostal and charismatic churches grew by 55%, a figure which could be higher since the same census recorded 3,2-million ”other Christians”.

”If this rate of growth is maintained, South African Pentecostals will number almost 10-million by 2011, or one-fifth of the population,” the CDE said.

According to research conducted by, Peter Berger — a CDE associate — early Protestant ethics promoted saving, capital accumulation and economic advancement.

These ethics included a disciplined and rational approach to work and social activity, including family life, along with a deferral of gratification and instant consumption.

”Involvement in Pentecostal tends to breed feelings of self-confidence, self-esteem, and a sense of viability which find outlets in a more ordered family life, working life, and business activities, the study found,” the CDE said.

CDE executive director Ann Bernstein said the significance of the ”remarkable” growth of the group was not confined to theology and worship.

”There is growing evidence, notably in Latin America and Asia, that the explosion of many different kinds of evangelical Protestantism is associated with attitudes, habits and dispositions that promote independence, entrepreneurship and development,” the CDE said.

It was notable, it said, that a larger number of Pentecostals than any other religious group had broken into the highest income brackets.

”South Africa should take note of this silent revolution and the likely connections between newly spreading and developing forms of religious belief, practices and organisations on the one hand, and the basics of economic growth — including work and enterprise, saving and spending –on the other,” Bernstein said.

The entrepreneurialism, skills development, crime prevention and social networks characterising Pentecostalism suggested the possibility of a ”true African Renaissance emerging from civil society rather than politicians”.

The CDE said while it was not suggesting that everyone in South Africa should convert to Pentecostalism, it was acknowledging the large, growing phenomenon in the country whose potential social and economic impact was positive. – Sapa