This thesis is based on five and a half months of fieldwork in Los Angeles, California in 2012, and explores how a non-profit Pentecostal Christian charity organization combines social work with evangelizing. From the material I collected through spending time within a highly religious community, I identify possible explanations to why Pentecostalism is considered the fastest growing religious denomination in the world by many.
By analyzing the very different ways Pentecostals tell their own conversion narratives and the way they count other people's conversions, I suggest that the numbers of converts reported by Pentecostal organizations themselves might be questionable. Through different salvation strategies my informants were highly occupied with counting as many converts as they could with every outreach event.
In addition, I found that performances of faith for my informants were regulated and adapted to their audience, and that the use of glossolalia and different forms of prayer rarely seemed arbitrary. The thesis also offers a discussion on how I as an atheist was welcomed and appreciated, but constantly encouraged to convert by my informants.
Some of the possible reasons I identify for the rapid growth of Pentecostalism include beliefs in the ability to attain spiritual gifts like tongue speak, divine healing and charismatic leadership skills. I argue that the belief in the availability of such gifts can draw converts to Pentecostalism. As can the affiliation with prosperity theology; seeking wealth was encouraged by my informants, but preferably through donations to the church, a gift that a miracle was expected to return.
With the federal Faith-Based Initiative, much of the social responsibilities of the US state now rests upon religious organizations, who are perceived as able to provide a holistic form of care, catering to both the need of the bodies and the souls of the homeless and the poor. I argue that when marginalized people become dependent on religious organizations for basic help, saying yes to salvation multiple times becomes a way of reciprocating the material gifts given by these organizations.