The Prosperity Gospel in Africa

This is a long but important article from World Magazine. The tactics of ‘Prosperity’ preachers in Africa are no different than here in the good old U.S.A. Thy might be more blatant than some are here, but the heresy is the same and many of the victims are similar. If you read this, and I hope you do, the more subtler forms of this false gospel might come to mind, as well as the American purveyors of this garbage. I’ll only say that there are mega churches full of deceived hearers and the preachers of this poison will one day appear before the judgment seat and the One whom they mock with their blasphemy. Here is the article in it’s entirety.

The prosperity gospel in Africa

Religion | The cultic activity promises worldly power in place of the power of the cross

By Feumba Samen

In five trips to Africa I’ve been impressed and even thrilled by the spread of Christianity in country after country south of the Sahara. At the same time, many more experienced travelers caution that Christianity in Africa is sometimes thousands of miles wide but only an inch deep.

Feumba Samen, an economics and statistics graduate of Université Marien N’Goubi in the Republic of Congo, last year became a doctor of missiology via Grace Theological Seminary in Indiana. He is also a multilingual and multi-continental journalist with articles in Congo Magazine, The Intruder, La Rue-Meurt, La Come Enchantee, and other publications.

Samen will be a student in the World Journalism Institute’s mid-career training course in Austin, Texas, next week. The following article is derived from a book he is writing. —Marvin Olasky

Africans are especially attached to supernatural values. For this reason African Christianity is characterized by an intense spiritual hunger. Nevertheless, faith on the continent is threatened by several factors, one of the most serious being the prosperity gospel.

Where it all started

In the early 1970s the Charismatic Renewal movement appeared in traditional African churches. The followers of this movement launched by Pentecostal teachings walked away from Catholicism, Protestantism, and evangelical churches to launch so-called revivalist churches. In these churches the pastor occupied a prominent place in the life of the followers. This trend expanded through the 1990s after the failure of structural adjustment policies imposed by the Bretton Woods institutions. People lost confidence in economic mechanisms, social recovery plans, and the ability of governments to bail them out and turned to the churches.

The revivalist churches are originally from New (Neo) American Pentecostalism, preaching the gospel of prosperity and miracles. These churches, with their earthly founders called apostles, prophets, or visionaries, promised earthly happiness, refusing any open dialogue with other churches. According to the Acts of the Seventeenth Scientific Seminar held in Kinshasa in 2013, “They receive financial support and legal status of the various governments of the country in addition to the support of churches in the USA.”

These churches preach prosperity, offering utopian hopes through the gospel of prosperity and miracles. The prosperity gospel was received in Africa for two main reasons: First, these churches were born and grew because this gospel integrated with an African belief that human events are controlled by spiritual powers, bad luck, and good luck. Pastors substituted for fetishists and traditional practitioners. Second, the prosperity gospel found fertile ground in Africa because of the real sufferings facing these Christians, burdened by material and spiritual poverty, who needed immediate relief and thought they could find happiness trusting in anyone making such promises.

The explosion of the cult of democracy and globalization has created in Africa new messiahs, besieging large cities in particular, by selling the prosperity gospel. The profusion of churches teaching the prosperity gospel number in the thousands. In Kinshasa, one source counts about 10,000! In some countries there are seven churches in an area of ​​300 square meters (3,229 square feet). The great number of these churches in many African cities raises some questions.

Actually, these churches are often the result of dissent where their main characteristics do not meet the criteria of apostolicity, unity, holiness, ethical responsibility, and universality, and put little emphasis on the authority of the revelation of God’s Word. In addition, these churches, which have a closed leadership and lax administration of the sacraments, indeed show that they meet almost all the criteria that define cults. Therefore, these churches are not created from God’s vision to seek lost souls for extending the kingdom of God.

Statistically, it is difficult to quantify the number of followers praying in these churches because of the multiplicity of “informal” chapels, migration of followers who go from one church to another or experience various places of worship at the same time, the strategic and political manipulation of data that depend on the leaders of these churches, or, finally, the lack in their culture of statistics or surveys in these churches.

Incestuous relationship

For decades, Pentecostals and evangelicals considered the practice of politics like “the Devil” and located outside God’s scope. Cults offering messages of prosperity opted in favor of the relationship of “church” and politics.

According to the Rev. Francis Michel Mbadinga—founder in 1985 of the Center for Evangelization Bethany (CEB), one of the most recognized and powerful prosperity gospel churches in Gabon—the primary purpose for his vision of the church supposedly received from God is: “The proclamation of the Gospel of Christ and His Word to create a new awakening that must affect and transform all areas of life in society: spiritual, political, economic, social, cultural, and educational.” This bridge between Church and nation would appear to be excellent, but it is the shameless exploitation of this “vision” that is outrageous and questionable.

In Gabon, members of prosperity gospel churches represent more than one-fifth of the voters. Some politicians, although without declaring publicly to be Pentecostals or evangelicals, use these churches to become popular in order to benefit politically. These churches encourage their followers to vote for these politicians, which are also for them a reliable source of funding. Thus, certain politicians, while providing visibility and credibility to their pastors, saw their political standing grow. Some were elected to political office; others, such as D. Divungi Di Ndinge, who was appointed to minister, were rewarded with high government positions. In this arrangement of giving and receiving, followers believed they could also come into contact with these political authorities through the church for certain opportunities, while churches improved their recognition and spread their religious message, thus, being a version of “I’ll scratch your back, and you’ll scratch mine”!

These pastors often have unlimited influence. In 2003, Francis Michel Mbadinga managed to sack Gen. Nguétsara Lendoye, head of the General Commission for Documentation and Immigration (CGDI), for refusing entry to the Gabonese territory and for lack of visas to the Rev. David Fletcher, who had been invited by the CEB for “Christian” events. Following this incident, the CGDI was dissolved under pressure from influential CEB members.

Gabon is not the only case where the tentacles of this spiritual anomaly have crept into the spheres of state administration. Joseph and Elisabeth Olangi lead a cult called the Spiritual Warfare Ministry. It spread its tentacles from its headquarters in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, to the Republic of Congo, where the Olangis expropriated state land. Members of the government, businessmen, and wealthy people, especially women, attend such cults to submit their requests to remain “forever” in the government and “continually keep” their high status or increase their business.

Because of their acquaintance with political powers, prosperity gospel churches reject democracy, although it has allowed them to emerge from the shadows to spread their extravagance in broad daylight. In their understanding, this political system is not the will of God. Their reasons: The democratic political system is that of “struggles and fights.” Placed in the African context and to a certain extent, that is not entirely false. Among other reasons they believe this system of government is not from God is, “If man had not failed in his duty, we would be living in a theocratic regime.” Their messages support the regime or political authorities in power. Their sermons emphasize the sacredness of the authorities and the fact that we should vote for them because God Himself established them.

These maneuvers are analyzed by observers of the religious scene as a means for these churches to exist on the economic and social scene, to be recognized, to be able to access some functions, or to avoid too deep a financial control from the government.

Prosperity gospel strategy

The sermons of prosperity gospel churches follow this pattern: predestination of members of their cults to reign (political and social power), prosperity (economic power), and the overcoming of disease and occult forces (mystical power). In a sermon titled “Chosen for the Summit” by Nigerian David Oyedepo, founder in 1983 of the Winner’s Chapel, he teaches how to reach the peaks. Excerpts:

“‘But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light’ (1 Peter 2:9). God had a purpose in creating you. The ultimate objective of this goal is to make you walk on the hills here on earth to make you an outstanding success. Successful means stand out, be distinguished among others. … To walk on the heights, your will must be strong. It is your will that makes you go through and over the opposition of life. With this established will, no opposition can stop you. Exercise your will to succeed, and it will lead you through the obstacles to your palace.”

In his 1987 book titled The Fourth Dimension, South Korean Paul Yonggi Cho, founder of the Full Gospel Central Church and another guru of the prosperity gospel favored by Africans, gives guidelines that followers of prosperity gospel churches must follow to live a happy life:

“You have to enter into your mind the idea of ​​victory and abundance. God never fails. So if you get thoughts that come from God, you will always know success. God never loses the battle, because He is the eternal winner. You should always be aware of the victory. God never lacks anything. Get used to thinking also in terms of abundance.”

In his theory of positive confession, which is the “incubation, the law of faith to see our prayers answered,” he outlines four steps that govern: the representation of objectives clearly defined, a burning desire to achieve, prayer to be assured, and expression of the language of faith.

“Church” without a theological foundation

Prophets, pastors, and gurus take the place of God. They do not preach according to the vision of Christ whose sole mission for the church is to seek the lost and make disciples, according to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18–20). They do not preach Christ crucified—instead they proclaim healing, miracles, and support for the tired and overworked as a priority of the church. These so-called men of God divert the theological foundations of the church, using all the means of propaganda for manipulating their followers looking for social rank, honor, and money by means of miracles and healings. They also aim to attract members of independent churches, as well as other churches: Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, and even Muslims.

According to Ngolo Gibau in Congo Vision:

“The proliferation of churches in Congo is a deadly vapor. I expressed my anxiety about the scourge in this mess that clogs the channels of awareness with all sorts of aberrations, deception, songs worthy of a Luciferian spirit, and rapacious merchantry, which Congolese ‘pastors’ demonstrate. Becoming a pastor requires a long and arduous journey that is defined by sanctity … humility, discretion, the refusal of any form of ostentation, to be immune to the allure of money. As in other areas in the Congo where these churches prevail, the devil, vanity, and quackery are the first ministers.”

This disorder is not specific to the Congo but extends to this type of church in other countries of the continent. It is explained by the epistemological, biblical, philosophical, and logical errors within these churches due in part to the lack of training of their founders, who claim to have received their vision directly from God and yet reject the mission of Christ for His church.

These churches, which lack a theological foundation, set aside the mystery of the cross of Jesus Christ. Thus, they reject the invitation of Christ to those who love Him to take His cross and follow Him (Matthew 10:38, 16:24), the profession of faith of the Apostle Paul to which the cross of Christ is the only source of pride (Galatians 6:14), and the exhortation from the writer of Hebrews of “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

According to the theologians of prosperity, sin is the “high treason” of Adam by which he transmitted to Satan the dominion that God had given him over creation. Thus, Satan has dominion over the creation by a “legal right,” not only because of the rebellion of man. This approach shifts the problem of responsibility in the act of the commission of sin. Satan becomes the instigator of all wrongdoing in the world as the author of sin. The aim of the “theologians” of prosperity is disassociating man from sin. He does not deal with his own sin but that of Satan. By denying original sin the fundamental core in the sin problem becomes the lack of self-esteem. The most serious sin is the one that causes a person to declare that he is unworthy.

Intellectuals’ attraction to the prosperity gospel

African intellectuals are increasingly exposed to and victims of these magico-religious cults. These people, who could instead be reflecting on the concepts and techniques of development of the continent, spend part of their time in these cults chasing demons. In their approach they seek to achieve prosperity or promotion in their professional lives by shortcuts.

Pride, envy, excess, and the search for physical, material, and spiritual security make them spiritual prisoners of these cults. Examining political, economic, social, and legal issues to find solutions is outside their field of thought and reflection. Basic scientific and technical research is placed on the back burner. Their truncated Bible study remains the only search tool to achieve the desired security. Their fear of self and of others is a result of profound disorientation experienced when suddenly put in contact with a sectarian environment. Its features are unknown, incomprehensible, and threatening, which causes African intellectuals to have an internal imbalance resulting in the erosion of moral values, the loss of cultural identity, and the degradation of positive competitive values. These cults, by capturing African intellectual potential, have placed in hibernation most African academics and researchers. They have become puppets in the hands of gurus.

The philosophy taught in these cults manufactures uprooted and alienated individuals. The good seed—that is, the African intelligence that should be the pride of Africa—is not, for the reason that they are victims of spiritual alienation caused by looking up to the gurus who eventually lull their consciences.

Why is the charismatic movement to appealing to so many?

I found an interesting quote below in an article with a political bent at the American Thinker website. The article discussed the success of the Democrats to capitalize on human emotions and a few significant examples of Republicans missing good chances to do the same.

“People vote with hearts not heads. Statistics might make sense; yet, if your pitch has no emotional appeal, it’s a dead letter. Budweiser doesn’t sell adult beverages, beer companies sell tradition, babes, and parties. If your message doesn’t touch an emotional “g” spot, the product will not sell.” – G. Murphy Donovan

At the same time, I’ve finally finished listening to the audio from the Strange fire Conference (online here) at Grace Community Church, and have spent considerable time pondering a period of about five years I spent in a charismatic church and two reasons why I changed my own opinions about some things.

While I don’t really initiate conversations concerning those years, when I am asked about what changed my mind and opinion concerning various charismatic teachings, my first reply has to do with reading the Bible for myself, especially the scripture passages used to support charismatic ‘doctrine’.

Well, this blog post isn’t about why just reading the Bible ought to cause a pro-charismatic person to question some things, although serious Bible study certainly should generate some re-thinking. From what I’ve experienced, using that reasoning just doesn’t work with many die-hard charismatics. I actually tried to use that argument on one Web site and was answered with the old “if I had a nickel for every time someone has said that, I’d be a rich man” mantra. That response to ‘read the Bible’ points to a deeper issue going on here, and I think the ‘political’ quote expresses that issue quite accurately, if not exactly eloquently – “If your message doesn’t touch an emotional “g” spot, the product will not sell.”

In other words, get hold of a person’s emotions and the product DOES sell! I fear that much, if not the majority of ‘rebuttals’ to the Strange Fire Conference point to the Charismatic Movement’s validity based on having connected to human emotions, either through ‘personal’ pleasurable experiences, or appealing to excitement (another emotion) over thousands/millions having come to Christ, wonderful music having been produced by charismatics, some of them having been martyred, and other such appeals.

As I write this, I am listening to a response to John MacArthur by a Dr. Michael Brown in a 2-hour podcast that 1:17 into it has not addressed a single passage of scripture exegeted at the Strange Fire Conference, but has demonstrated everything in the previous paragraph. I am hearing callers, one after another, swearing to the reality of speaking in tongues just because it happened to them accompanied by a ‘feeling’ that confirmed the experience.

I think the personal experiences/emotions arguments are the easiest to refute from a careful study of familiar ‘charismatic’ passages taken out of their natural context(s). The “look at how many have been brought to Christ” argument is a bit more difficult to refute. After all, how CAN you argue against a movement that has brought so many to Christ? Having been in the movement for more than five years, I can begin by asking a single 2-word question: “Which Christ?”

While I am not indicting all charismatics, nor am I denying that many in charismatic circles have been brought to genuine faith in Christ, I ask that question with all seriousness. “Which Christ?” I remember my experience in a ‘conservative’ Pentecostal church (Assembly of God) having been highly focused on experiences, feelings, and the ‘gifts’. I remember reading tracts about how one can live in a state of ‘divine’ health, the alleged ‘words from God’ spoken in tongues, sometimes ‘interpreted’, and the ‘all we need is love’ type of gospel (emotions again).While there was great appeal to human experience/emotion, I don’t remember hearing any powerful sermons that addressed in a significant way the serious nature and problem of human sinfulness in an address from the pulpit.

If the ‘non-extreme’ segments of the Charismatic Movement appeal to experience and emotions above all else, the ‘extremes’ do so exponentially! Not only do they claim all sorts of things like regular conversations with God, Jesus and angels, they do some really weird things. I won.t go into any of the details here; you can listen to the Strange Fire audio for yourself. They claim to be ‘anointed’ apostles and prophets and even tell us we can have the same ‘anointing’. They make much of the ‘glory’ and ecstatic worship in the ‘glory cloud’ while when the manifested glory of God in the Bible put people on their faces, flat on the ground in shame for their sinfulness in it’s light. It’s all about experience and emotions.

Sadly, the calmer, saner charismatic leaders seem very reticent to speak against the Benny Hinns, Rick Joyners, Todd Bentleys, Mike Bickles and Cindy Jacobs (and the list goes on and on) types out there who claim to receive so much direct revelation from Jesus, angels and glory clouds, that one has to wonder if any person in the Trinity has any time for the rest of us regular folk! While they will confess to ‘extremes’ in the movement, they hesitate to expose the heretics in their midst.

The emotional appeal in the Charismatic movement is HUGE, and it works. However, being sinners saved by grace, and although we have a ‘new’ nature, the vestiges of the ‘old’ nature are strong enough and still as sinful as they ever were. The words spoken by the prophet Jeremiah are still true:

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jer 17:9)

Having said all that (I hope it was understandable), let me say in all honesty that I once was sold on the charismatic movement and as anti-MacArthur as many are today. It does however escape me, at this point in my spiritual walk, how any thinking, rational, biblically literate Christian can swallow some of the ‘charismatic’ junk that’s not only on the street, but is also all over the airwaves. Unless of course it IS true that “People vote with hearts not heads” and subjective experiences and emotions tend to draw us away from the objective truth of scripture.

Food for serious thought. . .

May God bless you as you try and ‘process’ the Strange Fire Conference and the Charismatic movement for yourselves.

Super Apostles – They’re Everywhere, They’re EVERYWHERE!

During my morning Bible reading today 2 Corinthians, Chapter 11 stood out among all of the various readings in the Old and New Testaments. I’m sure that happens to most folks engaged in Bible reading plans, and for various reasons.

As the title of this post states, for me today it was the subject of Super-Apostles! It does seem that like ‘Chicken Man’ of radio long ago, they are indeed everywhere! I’m not going to name any of them. I will however share some of what the Apostle Paul said about them.

11 I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! 2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. 5 Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. 6 Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.

7 Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. 11 And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!

12 And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. (2 Cor 11:1-15)

Here’s my take on the passages highlighted above, which I conclude either from the plain text or Paul’s strong implication:

  • They preach to you, but a different Jesus, a different spirit, and a different gospel than the true Biblical gospel (v 4).
  • They are usually gifted speakers! They will grab your attention and keep it (v 6). Cloaked in false humility, if any, they always find ways to ‘charge’ you for their false gospel (v 7).
  • They boast of grand exploits; visions of and trips to heaven, direct messages from God, new and fresh revelations never found in the text of scripture, while claiming to be on the same mission as genuine preachers of the true gospel (v 12)
  • They are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ (shiny toothed wolves dressed in sheep suits) (v13).
  • Disguised as servants of Christ, they are not even saved (v 15)!

What’s really sad is the ‘itching ear syndrome’ that seems to not only be a malady that permeates unbelievers and deceived, those of us who not only profess, but posses Christ also fall victim to the slick preaching and nefarious schemes of professional flock-fleecers.

So how do we know we are being duped?

Well, I suppose you can memorize all of the characteristics Paul presents us, and use them to evaluate those you find suspicious. I would like to suggest a simpler approach that cannot and will not fail – ever.

First, ask a simple question, as you listen to them: “Where’s the gospel?” If it is not present at all – if all they do is boast about themselves and their spiritual exploits, run for the door.

Second, if there seems to be a gospel in their preaching, ask: “What IS their gospel?” If the gospel they preach doesn’t challenge you to face your sin, repent of it and believe in Christ as your substitute, run for the door.

Third, if their salvation message seems to be spot on, yet they tell you that the life of a Christian is promised to be one of continuous prosperity, health and happiness (provided you are ‘doing’ all the right things or that you have enough ‘faith’), run for the door. If you have somehow been convinced already that the life of a Christian is supposed to be ‘your best life now’, read what the New Testament really promises us.

Lastly, remember Jesus’ words:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10 ESV)

Today’s ‘super-apostles’ are only out to steal, kill and destroy. Truly abundant life is found by abiding in Christ, and on His terms, that the Glory of God may be manifest in our lives and demonstrated to the world around us, whatever that might ‘look’ like.