Friend or Foe?

Finding Common Ground between Development and Pentecostalism


  • Matthew Clarke Deakin University



Pentecostal, Development, Community development


Religious belief is a common human characteristic with 80 percent of the world’s population professing some religious affiliation. Indeed, global surveys report an increase in ‘religiosity’ across the globe in recent decades. Within Christianity, Pentecostalism has experienced considerable growth in contrast with the more traditional Christian churches. This growth is occurring across the globe, but is extremely evident within developing countries. Within development studies (both the theory and practice), religion has been negatively portrayed, misunderstood, or set aside as not being of importance to development outcomes. Such an approach towards religion is misguided and limits development effectiveness. While religion is certainly not the ‘answer’ to eradicating poverty or overcoming global injustices, authentic engagement by development actors with religion does provide important opportunities to enhance development outcomes. This paper will consider the basic tenets of development theory and practice and contrast those against Pentecostal theological teaching in order to determine where there exists common ground and where there exists misalignment of values and thus tension. Such assessment is important in order to enhance the religious literacy of the development sector to better understand how to authentically engage with communities expressing this belief.

Author Biography

Matthew Clarke, Deakin University

Professor Matthew Clarke is Head of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Deakin University (Australia). He has worked in the development sector for over 20 years, working first for World Vision Australia before moving into academia. His research interests focus on aid effectiveness, religion and development, and measuring community well-being. Matthew’s geographic focus for this research is largely the Pacific region.


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How to Cite

Clarke, M. (2015). Friend or Foe? Finding Common Ground between Development and Pentecostalism. PentecoStudies, 14(2), 156–175.