07 December, 2016
Consultative Workshop: Review of Preliminary findings from the study of New Media and Prophetic Ministries in Botswana
Date: 28th November 2016
By: Mosadi Moloi
A consultative workshop themed “New Media and Prophetic Ministries in Botswana” was held at the University of Botswana on 28 November 2016. The workshop was organized by a team of researchers from the University of Botswana led Dr Gabriel Faimau who is also the Principal Investigator of the study on “New Media and Cultural Application on Religion: A Case Study of Prophetic Ministries in Botswana” funded by the Nagel Institute with generous support from the John Templeton Foundation in the U.S.A. According to Dr Faimau, the workshop aimed at presenting the preliminary findings of the study as well as generating critical inputs, comments and suggestions from workshop participants. In attendance were experts in the area of media, religion and culture and representatives from the Office of Registry of Societies in Botswana, Botswana Council of Churches (BCC), Evangelical Fellowship of Botswana (EFB) and a number of Botswana-based prophetic ministries.
As the director of ceremonies, Camden Behrens, a lecturer in the Department of Sociology, gave an overview of the scheduled programme and gave the floor over to each of the guests to introduce themselves. Prof France Maphosa, also from the Department of Sociology gave the welcome remarks, touching on the new media and prophetic phenomenon within society today. He further remarked that new media has made a significant contribution in the way religion is practised and experienced in society. This opened up the floor for Dr William Lesitaokana from the Department of Media Studies, a member of the research team, to give an overview of the study.
Dr Lesitaokana began by explaining why the researchers felt the need to carry out the study in the first place. According to Dr Lesitaokana, Botswana has experienced a revolution of New Media and the seeming impact it has been having on society. At the same time Botswana also witnessed a spectacular growth of prophetic ministries. The study therefore focuses on the role that new media play in the development of religious practices and how prophetic Ministries in Botswana make use of the new media in advancing their missions. He further explained the thematic analysis was utilised to ensure that the study results would portray the true image of the impact the new media has had on religion. After his overview of the study, Thato Setambule, research fieldwork leader, presented a summary of the data collection methods and the research fieldwork covering 8 prophetic ministries in Botswana.
Dr Faimau, the study’s Principal Investigator, presented the preliminary findings to the panel. The presentation covered the selection criteria, which was used to determine the churches that would be eligible for the study. The church had to be of a prophetic nature or led by a prophet. The churches also had to have a strong social media presence including the use of Facebook, twitter, whatsapp or instagram. The conceptualization of Church and Prophetic study was formed on a basic understanding that this is a church led by a prophet. It is expected that upon its completion the study would provide a more more grounded definition of what a prophetic ministry really is. The information garnered thus far points towards a strong presence of prophetic ministries in Botswana. Dr Faimau also noted a shift from the previous private space of worship, to a more public form of worship including the use of various new media outlets. To belong to a church is to have membership and dominion, but to belong to a ministry is more fluid. It was pointed out in the presentation that a certain number of the respondents admitted to being members of one church, but attending other ministries simply because their churches did not have the prophetic element. Membership at prophetic ministries was not a major concern as they advised that they were open to any and all, to help whoever had come to them for help.
The discussant of the study preliminary findings was Prof Rijk van Dijk, an anthropologist and senior researchers at the University of Amsterdam. Prof van Dijk response centred on four (4) particular points: Drivers, Prophets, Clientelism and Secularism, that highlighted the ever-changing nature of religion and the church. Where it appears exclusivity in belonging to a particular denomination is not the driving factor anymore but rather the inclusive nature of being allowed to receive ministry where one fits most comfortably. With the influx of new media and with almost 2000 churches to choose from, its now no longer a question of where one goes to church but rather which ministry or which prophet does on ascribe to.
The Workshop ended with responses from the stakeholders and experts that gave a more in-depth analysis of what impact the preliminary findings may have on the idea of church and religion in Botswana.
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