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Independent charismatic churches in a period of post-modernisation – a case study of the Christian Outreach Centre Movement

Centre for Social Change Research, School of Humanities and Human Services, QUT
Publication Date
  • 160805 Social Change
  • 220405 Religion And Society
  • Australian Christianity
  • Social Change
  • Pentecostalism
  • Charismatic Movement
  • Postmodernity
  • Political Science
  • Religious Science
  • Social Sciences


The period from the mid 1960s to the present has witnessed a decline in many established churches. At the same time, it also saw the emergence of new religious groups, and within Christianity, the blossoming of revival movements. This paper describes a case study of an independent charismatic church, the Christian Outreach Centre (COC), and the denomination that grew from it during this period of rapid social change. It seeks to illuminate the particular appeal of new charismatic Christian churches, and to show how their innovative religious and organisational practices buttressed their growth during this period. The COC was an Australian religious group that was founded in Brisbane in 1974, before growing into a national and international movement with over 700 member churches. It was a local development that interacted with, and adapted, overseas religious models as an aid to developing contemporary avenues for religious expression. The COC developed innovative responses to the changes associated with advancing suburbanisation, de-institutionalisation and post modernity. It encouraged greater involvement of laity, the working class, women, and youth, and sought to give these religious consumers greater choice appropriate to increased market options. The COC was quick to use new technologies and media, including television, to start religious schools and a tertiary college, to expand into welfare programs, overseas aid agencies and political lobbying. Through merging socially conservative Christian beliefs with creative responses to local and global developments the COC grew into one of Australia’s larger mega churches by the late twentieth century. In conclusion we suggest that the particular appeal of the COC lies in its experiential (rather than creedal or dogmatic) theology, and in its adaptive religious and social practices. Its rapid growth allowed it to maintain organisational flexibility appropriate to these practices, but its long term sustainability is, as yet, untested in the face of organisational stagnation or decline.

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