The history of Christianity in Nigeria would be incomplete without reference to Pentecostalism. The colonists came with evangelism but Pentecostalism in Nigeria started with homegrown Christianity and the thirst for revival in the early 20th century. There is no doubt that, Pentecostalism is an offshoot of Catholicism and other orthodox churches but Pentecostalism imbibed the vigour that Christianity in the African and Nigerian environment in particular needed.
It started with the establishment of an indigenous prophetic movement that has today metamorphosed into the Christ Army Church in 1916. Prior to this, a preacher baptized in the Anglican Church, Garrick Sokari Braide, a native of Obonoma in the Niger Delta region began evangelism campaign against idol worshiping and alcoholism in that part of the country. He became popular in that region when after successfully healing people and as a result became notorious to the authorities due to the decrease in the level of consumption of alcohol which led to his arrest in 1916 for charges bothering on disturbance of public peace. Braide died in 1918 shortly after he was released but by that time, his followers had formed the Christ Army Church of Nigeria.
The formation of Christ Army Church led to the springing up of more spirit-filled and revival-influenced groups especially with the Spanish flu pandemic that ravaged the world between 1918 and 1920. By 1925, the Eternal Sacred Order of the Cherubim and Seraphim Society was founded by Orimolade Tunolase while the Church of the Lord, also known as Aladura was founded in 1930 by Josiah Ositelu. The churches and groups were known for fervent prayers and performing of miracle.
Orimolade’s church picked up after he prayed and revived a girl, Abiodun Akinsowon, who has fallen into a trance. The Aladura church with the promotion of the power of prayer to heal and the healing and survival of many Nigerians during the Spanish flu contributed to the exponential growth and spread of the church in the 1920s.
Revivalism and Pentecostalism was not only synonymous with breakout prayer groups from the orthodox churches. Around 1918, the Precious Stone Society, a prayer group, was formed by an Anglican to heal victims of the Spanish flu. By the turn of a new decade, the group broke out of the Anglican Church and joined Faith Tabernacle, an American based church.
It was from the Faith Tabernacle that the late founder of the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC), Joseph Ayo Babalola emerged in 1941. Before the founding of the CAC, Babalola had in the 1930s led a revival that converted thousands to Christianity. Because of the expansion, other Pentecostal denominations like the Welsh Apostolic Church, the Assemblies of God, and the Foursquare Gospel Church were established in the country in 1931, 1939 and 1954, respectively. Today, the CAC today boasts of millions of members in parishes spread across the country. The church is majorly populated by the Yorubas.
Towards the end of the 1950s, the Celestial Church of Christ was established in Nigeria. Although the white garment church was founded by Samuel Oshoffa in Port Novo, in the Republic of Benin, it spread rapidly in the 50s to almost every parts of the country and became one of the largest Aladura denominations on the continent of Africa. Meanwhile, by 1952, Pa Josiah Akindayomi, a member of the Cherubim and Seraphim movement founded the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Ebute Metta, in Lagos Mainland. The church that started out as an Aladura prayer group has become a total Pentecostal with parishes spread across the country and millions of members.
By 1972, Nigeria had experience a new wave of Pentecostal revival and expansion. It was at this period that one of Africa’s most influential preachers, Benson Idahosa established the Church of God Mission International. Idahosa was referred to as the father of Pentecostalism in Nigeria.
In 1975, the Deeper Life Bible Church was founded and by 1986, David Oyedepo founded Living Faith Church that was popularly known as Winners Chapel.
As a result of the thirst for revival in the country, a larger percentage of Christians are Pentecostals. According to a 2006 PEW Research Centre survey, the renewalists, which include charismatics and Pentecostals account for approximately three out of ten Nigerians. The survey also found out that six in ten Protestants in the country are either Pentecostal or charismatic.