Does Pentecostalism promote secularization? As crazy as it sounds, that is the thesis of Stefan Paas's article "Notoriously Religious' or Secularising? Revival and Secularisation in Sub-Saharan Africa"...and I think author could be on to something. At first glance, it would seem that Pentecostalism should be a major force against secularization of societies, given its strong emphasis on the supernatural and the miraculous. And at one level, it that is certainly true.
But we need to remember that large sections of the Pentecostal world also promote the so-called ‘prosperity gospel’, the mistaken belief that God’s will is that all believers be financially prosperous and have good health… if they have enough faith to receive those blessings. This instrumental view of religion, namely a this-worldly focus on using religion as a tool to achieve physical and material success, is nothing new, nor is it necessarily unique to Pentecostalism. However, as Paas has pointed out, when believers with this view of religion obtain the material success that they desire, their need for religious means of obtaining those goals decreases. An increase in an ability to provide for your own needs often follows on from the achievement of material security. If the primary attraction of the Christian faith was the possibility of worldly success, and if ‘conversion’ resulted in new habits and lifestyle habits that led to hard work and business success, then the very thing that led a person to the church has become the very thing that leads them away from the church. God has served his transitionary purpose in achieving success. If you can achieve success on your own now, who needs God?
Unless Pentecostal believers and other Christians are able to stand against and root out prosperity teaching from their churches, then an important factor contributing to an expansion of churches today might well become its major undoing, an Achilles heel that leads to a shrinking of global Christianity in coming generations. The prosperity gospel may mean short-term gains in overall numbers of people counting themselves as Christians, but in the long-term, it has the potential to decimate Christian churches, both numerically and spiritually.