In order to understand the presence and impact of Pentecostal churches in Nigeria, we examine briefly the religious arena in Nigeria before the explosion of the contemporary pentecostal spirituality. We have to categorise and identify the nature of Pentecostal churches, its influence and impact on Christianity in the country.

The global Pentecostal churches is interwoven with various forms of “independent” churches in Nigeria. It is therefore difficult to identify pentecostal churches from various African Initiated Churches (AIC) in Nigeria. For the sake of clarifying the complex situation, we have to do a typological study of pentecostal phenomenon in Nigeria. This throws more light on the different forms of Christianity in the country. Our focus on the global Pentecostal churches is highlighted by a nutshell presentation of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria. At this juncture, we attempt a synthesis of the impact and influence of Pentecostal churches in Nigeria, as a contribution towards a renewed Christianity today.

0.  Historical Overview of the Nigerian Christendom

The advent of Christian faith in Nigeria is usually identified with the evangelisation mission of the Portuguese in 15th century.1 The early western

missionaries to Nigeria attempted to build the Christian faith in the country on the category of “Church-State relationship.” The kings were targeted for conversion and the churches were built around the palaces of the converted kings. This effort yielded fruits, and the Catholic faith in particular was rooted in the people of Warri and Benin.2

According to a testimony recorded in 1644:

In the city of Warri there is a church with an altar, a crucifix, statues of Mary and the Apostles, and two candlesticks alongside. The Black people come into this church with the rosary constantly in their hands, just as proper Portuguese do. They recite it together with other popish prayers. Outwardly they show themselves very religious. They also know how to read and write and are eager for Portuguese books, pens, ink and paper.3

Unfortunately, the Church in Warri did not grow, mainly because the faith did not develop from the religious conviction of the people, but it was a kind of diplomatic

relationship with the king of Portugal. To this effect, in a moment of spiritual crisis, the people found the solutions in the traditional religion, which offer them more meaningful relationship with the divine.4

The Christianity of this epoch in Nigeria (15th – 18th centuries) could be described as “palace’s diplomacy with the West,” as the African monarchism of the period was inseparable from the traditional religion, the kings were not really converted to Christianity, but they only allowed a few and sporadic incorporation of Christian elements into the royal cults. The kings were considered evangelised by the missionaries, but the people knew that they were their traditional religious leaders, who were only in a diplomatic relationship with the western missionaries. This situation did not warrant an authentic Christian conversion of several people.5

This led to a new wave of missionaries arriving in Nigeria between the 19th and 20th centuries. The protagonists of this wave were protestant missionaries and their approach was “abolitionism” of the slave trade which was closely linked to the early western missionaries’ endeavours in Africa. Their main focus was to preach the abolition of slavery, and to separate the Christian faith from the colonialism.6 According to F. Nwachukwu: