Breakthroughs, Blockages, and the Path to Self-Accomplishment: The Case of Pentecostal Church Founders in Kenya


The neo-Pentecostal movement emphasizes the promises of "breakthroughs"—financial and other—as a key point of appeal. At the same time, it offers a wide range of possibilities for self-made professionalization, giving rise to a caste of religious entrepreneurs whom Paul Gifford refers to as "founders-owners-leaders" Drawing on research on self-accomplishment and "waithood," we show how the church-founding avenue becomes a path for personal breakthroughs by meeting social and economic criteria for success. We draw on ethnographic research and several contemporary examples, notably that of Margaret Wanjiru, a successful female bishop. At the same time, we offer a retrospective examination of the career of an earlier Christian entrepreneur, Nganga wa Kago, with the purpose of asking just how new such professionalization actually is.

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