Australian neo-Pentecostal churches: incorporating late-modernity in a new religious form
thesisposted on 29.03.2022, 03:26 by Mairead Shanahan
Sociologists of religion have found significant and sustained global growth amongst Pentecostal and Charismatic forms of Christianity. From this research, neo-Pentecostalism has emerged as a fruitful site for scholars to examine developments in Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianities. Despite acknowledgement of the successful global expansion of Hillsong Church, and denominational studies of COC/inc and Australian Christian Churches (formerly Australian Assemblies of God), sociologists of religion have not examined incarnations of other internationally-recognised Australian-based neo-Pentecostal churches. The present study contributes to both international and Australian Pentecostal studies through an analysis of the theology and operations of five such churches: Hillsong Church, C3 Church, Citipointe Church, Planetshakers and Influencers Church. The thesis seeks to answer the question: what are the features of theology and organisational practice that assist these churches in growing on both a local and international scale? Using a critical religious studies framework to examine materials produced by the five churches, the thesis situates the continued expansion of Australian-based expressions of neo-Pentecostalism in historical, economic, social, and cultural context. The thesis argues that Australian neo-Pentecostal churches have expanded into organisations with international reputations by responding to the conditions of late-modernity. The thesis assesses the impact of several characteristics of late-modernity—neoliberal governance, marketisation and branding, mass-communication strategies, globalisation, celebration of entrepreneurial abilities, and individualised patterns of consumerism—as significant dynamics for facilitating the global expansion of Australian-based expressions of neo-Pentecostalism. The research finds that Australian neo-Pentecostal churches actively incorporate aspects of late-modernity—specifically, consumer capitalism, globalisation, and individualism as a curated self that realises modern understandings of personal freedom—in justifying and supporting their theological underpinnings and church-branded activities. The thesis advances Australian religious studies by developing an analysis of the emergence of neo-Pentecostalism in Australia and contributes to an international body of literature that seeks to position neo-Pentecostalism within conditions of late-modernity.