A peep into life in Africa, through the eyes of an African Reformed Baptist pastor.

Water, water, water, everywhere. What else do you expect? I am a Baptist, and I live in the land of the mighty Victoria Falls!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Is the evangelical church in Africa really glorifying God?


As 2014 draws to an end, my heart aches. I am deeply burdened about what has become the dominant characteristic of evangelical Christianity in Africa. I have tried to wrap my mind around this by simply asking an honest question “Is this Christianity that has become pervasive across the African continent really glorifying God?”

1. Are we glorifying God when we claim that we are experiencing miracles that are actually not happening? When miracles were happening in the Bible, the blind were receiving their sight, the lame were walking, those with leprosy were being cured, the deaf were beginning to hear, and the dead were being raised to life (see Luke 7:22). Today, the land is littered with posters of miracle crusades but we all know that none of this is happening. Are we glorifying God by cheating people this way?

2. Are we glorifying God when we speak in “tongues” that cannot be interpreted? In the Bible, tongues were unknown languages that could be interpreted (1 Cor. 14:27). Today it is nothing more than a few syllables that are repeated at machinegun speed: “Kakaka filolololo wandarakawandara, etc.” It is not surprising that whereas churches are full of tongue speakers, there is not a single interpreter. Can anyone interpret this? Yet, I am asking a more fundamental question: Are we glorifying God by behaving so senselessly?

3. Are we glorifying God when we reduce the benefits of salvation to more wealth and better health? In the Bible, the main message of salvation was the forgiveness of sins and moral transformation (Luke 24:47). Today, the main message coming from Africa’s “evangelical” church is the ending of personal poverty and the healing of all kinds of bodily ailments (as can be seen from the above banner). Salvation is under “any other business”. Again, I am asking, are we truly glorifying God by this deathly substitute?

4. Are we glorifying God when we abandon the preaching of repentance for motivational speaking? John the Baptist and Jesus and his apostles preached repentance (see Matt. 3:2, 4:7 and Acts 2:38, 26:20). The growing view today is not that men and women are fallen and responsible for their sin and thus must repent of it. Rather, it is that they are victims of wrong thinking and evil powers, and so they need deliverance. Hence, the sermons are nothing more than motivational talks followed by hours of deliverance sessions. I am asking: Are these messages and methods producing God-glorifying lives?

5. Are we glorifying God when we hide the rot of spiritual wolves preying on vulnerable souls? In the Bible, Jesus warned about wolves in sheepskins (Matt. 7:15). I recently received a text message from a lady in Lusaka who was taken into the bush and asked to take off her clothes by a pastor/prophet claiming he would cure her of the “disease” that was causing her husband to be unfaithful to her. Only witchdoctors did this once upon a time but it has now become common fare among “evangelical” pastors/prophets. The tragedy is our grave-like silence about this rot. Is this silence the way to glorify God?

6. Are we glorifying God when we reduce truth to a minimum for the sake of Christian unity? When I read my Bible it is adamant on the necessity of teaching and knowing the truths of the gospel if men and women are to be saved. From there, the gospel rays shine throughout the Scriptures, demanding holy living from God’s people. Today, we want to hold hands in the dark. We want fellowship with anyone claiming to be a Christian without asking questions about what they believe. Holy water and oil, Jewish prayer cloths, etc., are being sold and bought among evangelicals. And anyone who raises questions about this is shouted down. Is this new stance really glorifying to God?

7. Are we glorifying God when we reduce worship to senseless dancing to sensual music? Look at the psalms of the Bible and the worship songs that we have inherited from a previous generation and see how rich they are in expressing the faith of God’s people. Each sentence is pregnant with Scriptural truths. Today in Africa, intelligent professionals leave their brains outside the church door as they gyrate to songs that repeat one sentence over and over again. What matters is the music, the sensual music, as the worship leader shouts, “Glory to God!” Are we sure this is glorifying to God?

8. Are we glorifying God when commanding, declaring and decreeing replace humble petitions in prayer? I read the prayers of godly people in the Bible and they are full of humble pleas to the sovereign God of the universe. I then listen to the prayers of today’s men and women of God and they are full of declarations, decrees and commands “in Jesus’ name!” Is it not the height of arrogance that a person should command God to do his bidding? Can these prayers be glorifying to God by any stretch of our imagination?

9. Are we glorifying God when we fill our church membership rolls with goats and kick out church discipline? My Bible teaches that church leaders must be careful about who they allow to enter and stay in the church’s membership. It must only be those who have repented of their sin and trusted in Christ, and who show this by the way they live. If they don’t, they must be excommunicated (1 Cor. 5:9-13). Sadly, our churches today are full of members and leaders who are drunkards, fighting, living sexually immoral lives, stealing money, etc., and no one is dealing with this. Is this glorifying to God?

10. Are we glorifying God when we have women preachers while men sit in pews and listen to them? The Bible teaches male headship in both the home and the church…all the way from Eden. The Bible teaches that the work of preaching must be carried out by mature and tested males (1 Tim. 2:11-14). Sadly, the number of women going around as pastors in Africa (while their husbands call themselves bishops or prophets or apostles) has reached epidemic levels. Are we sure God is being glorified by this kick in the face?

I doubt it. Yet, these ten traits have become very dominant characteristics of African Christianity. I honestly wish this was a description of some extreme cult that can easily be separated from evangelicals, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but sadly this has become the most common “evangelical” Christianity in Africa. It is the one representing us on television and radio. It is the one on the billboards and posters in the streets. It is the one that fills up the rolls in our evangelical associations and pastors’ fraternals.

I wish that all the noise I am hearing and the dust being raised across Africa were God-glorifying. But it is not. It is man-centred and not God-centred. We want the numbers at any cost and we are getting them. Hardly anyone is asking the question, “Is not this thing in my hand a lie?” (Isaiah 44:20). It seems to me we are glorifying a false God—and not the God of the Bible. We have set up our own twenty-first century idol and are bowing down to it. This is not Christianity. This is not the way to heaven. No, it is not!

Hence, I end the year 2014 with a very burdened heart because of all this.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Pastor Chris Oyakhilome “the man of God”


Of the many scandals involving some high profile church leaders in Africa, the one of Pastor Chris Oyakhilome tops the list. His wife is suing him for divorce. Whether he is guilty of the wife’s allegations or not will depend on the court’s findings and ruling.

However, Pastor Chris (as he is more popularly known) has spoken out recently to address these allegations. His speech is on the Internet for anyone to hear what he says in his defense. At the least, he said that the allegations were crazy and stupid.

Pastor Chris' main argument
The main rebuttal he uses is to argue that he is a man of God, and as a man of God he could not have done the kind of things he is being accused of doing by his wife. He said, “No man of God does something against the Lord. Are you hearing me?”

“A man of God is not just someone who worships God or who preaches God. A man of God is directed by God, set on course by God. If you study the Scriptures you will not find one man of God going against God, sinning against God,” he said.

Pastor Chris lists only two men of God in the Bible who, in his understanding, made some small but costly mistakes—Moses and an unnamed young man—but they never obstinately went against God’s calling on their lives nor did they sin against God.

He asserted, “But a man of God setting himself in defiance to the word of God and living like they are writing those stupid things that I did this and I did that...You don't know what a man of God is. I don't go in that direction. That's crazy!”

Pastor Chris then argues that the fact that a woman is married to a man of God does not make her a woman of God. That is why the wives of men of God are not listed in the Bible. In other words, whereas he is insulated from going astray, his wife is not.

He is certainly very clear that Christians should not take each other to court or go for divorce. However, once sued, he knows he is obligated to appear there and defend himself. Thus he appeals to his hearers and followers to pray for his wife, Rev. Anita.

He ended with, “We are not walking in sin and living in sin and hoping we can mix sin and righteousness together. No! We are the manifestations of his righteousness. We walk in that light only, and that is the way it’s gonna be! Glory to God!”

A false view of "man of God"
Okay, so why have I gone into all this trouble of reporting on Pastor Chris Oyakhilome’s self-defense? It is because it is a perfect illustration of one of the issues I have talked about again and again; namely, the false view of “the man of God”.

As long as we think that there are “men of God” out there who are reeking with power and thus cannot fall, we will continue to have these scandals with us. We’ll continue to keep them above accountability structures until they come crushing down!

The best biblical proof that “men of God” also have clay feet and are as prone to sin as the rest of us lesser mortals is the story of David. He is called a man of God again and again in the Scriptures. Nehemiah calls him as such (see Neh. 12:24 and 12:36).

We read in 2 Chron. 8:14, “According to the ruling of David his father, he appointed the divisions of the priests for their service, and the Levites for their offices of praise and ministry before the priests as the duty of each day required, and the gatekeepers in their divisions at each gate, for so David the man of God had commanded.”

We all know what happened to David, “the man of God”. He lusted after Bathsheba who was Uriah’s wife. He had sex with her. When she told him she was pregnant, David “the man of God” conspired against her husband and got him killed in warfare.

King David then married Bathsheba, thinking that he had covered all his tracks and no one was going to know. Hence, for a long time he continued in silence with blood on his hands. It took Nathan the prophet to open the door for the skeletons to all fall out.

David “the man of God” confessed his sin against God. That was when Nathan told him that he was pardoned. Later, he wrote, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me…[I have] done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:3-4).

The obvious contradiction
Pastor Chris Oyakhilome says, “If you study the Scriptures you will not find one man of God going against God, sinning against God.” Well, here before our very eyes is a very prominent man of God who went against God and sinned grievously against him.

Pastor Chris Oyakhilome says, “No man of God does something against the Lord. Are you hearing me?” Well, we must now choose between hearing him or hearing what the Bible says. The Bible shows us that men of God also do things against God.

Pastor Chris Oyakhilome says, “But a man of God setting himself in defiance to the word of God and living like they are writing those stupid things that I did… That's crazy!” According to the Bible, it is not crazy. All men can do those stupid things.

I am very concerned about this. I have asked before, “Could it be that one reason why 95% of all these scandals are taking place among Charismatic leaders is because of something in the teaching itself?” I am told that it is not. Here it is in the teaching.

Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, one of the foremost Charismatic leaders in Africa, teaches that men of God cannot do something against the Lord, cannot sin against God, and cannot do any of those stupid things he is being accused of doing. That is a total lie.

The Charismatic world will continue to suffer hemorrhage among its top leaders as long as the views expressed by Pastor Chris continue to be pervasive among them. Sadly, the way they treat their pastors like demigods only sets them up for a loud fall.

The apostle Paul wrote thus about himself, “I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:22-24)

I will be the first to confess that I am a fallen creature in constant need of careful watch over my own soul. I need the careful watch of my wife, fellow believers, and my elders. “I’m prone to wander. Lord, I feel it; I’m prone to leave the God I love!”

Monday, September 8, 2014

The African Pastors Conferences


I want to inform you about a ministry in Africa, which began 2008 and of which I am a part. It is called the African Pastors’ Conferences (APCs) and was begun with the initiative of Erroll Hulse who is currently incapacitated in England due to a stroke he suffered at an APC. The purpose of the APCs is to supplement the work of Bible colleges and seminaries by providing basic doctrinal preaching for local African pastors. At each conference, speakerswhich are mainly Zambian pastorspreach God’s Word, modeling for them how to preach biblically and encouraging them in their work.

Pr Kennedy Sunkutu from Zambia preaching at an APC in South Africa
The advantage of having Reformed African speakers, as opposed to pastors from abroad, is that they uniquely understand the African culture. This enables them to correctly apply the Scriptures in practical, effective terms relevant to their audience. The speakers also provide models showing that biblical preaching is not a product of Western culture, but of Christian culture.

Pr Lichawa Thole from Zambia preaching at an APC in Malawi
These conferences are held from one to three days, depending on the situation of each host church. The only qualification for attendance by a pastor is that he accepts the Bible as the inerrant Word of God in his personal life, preaching, and church government.  Many of these attendees are not able to pursue formal educational training so these conferences are vital to their ministry. In addition to encouragement and education, the conference provides the pastors with free, and deeply discounted, books of the best Reformed literature to add to their often inadequate libraries.

Tables laden with deeply discounted books for pastors to buy
The African Pastors’ Conferences have grown to over 40 annual conferences in the southern, central, and eastern part of Africa! Some of the countries covered are Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. In South Africa alone, we run more than 20 conferences each year (which is about half of our annual conferences). We desire to increase the equipping of God’s people in this way. Each conference is affordable due to the subsidy received.

African Pastors Conference in Lilongwe, Malawi
I would like to encourage you and your church to help support the APCs. We are asking churches, as well as individuals, to choose a specific conference to support. The supporting church or individual will be sent information about that conference so that they can pray for their conference. Those attending the conference will be told about who is sponsoring and praying for their conference. We are asking supporters to make a five-year commitment, if possible. The cost of each conference can range from $1000 to $4000 depending on its location and length.   Please contact Pastor Thomas Winn, our USA board member, for information on how you can help fund the APCs.

African Pastors Conference in Harare, Zimbabwe
We hope that you will join with us in this great endeavor of spreading the Gospel and equipping God’s people here in Africa.

To Sponsor, contact: Pastor Thomas Winn, Grace Baptist Church Jackson, MS,
Tel: (601) 573-1072
Email: gbc@gracejackson.net

Conference books in transit on a ferry crossing the Zambezi river
To learn more about the African Pastors Conferences, please go to our web site: www.africanpastorsconference.com





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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The priesthood of all believers and its relevance to Africa today

In a previous blog post, I argued that the modern popular view of the pastor within Charismatic circles is simply another form of the traditional view of the village witchdoctor. It is full-blown African traditional religion that has returned dressed with a thin veneer of Bible verses made to say what the Holy Spirit never intended them to say when he first inspired the biblical writers to pen them.

In this blog post, I am answering the question, “How can we bring down this popular unbiblical view and chase African traditional religion out of the church in Africa. How can we restore true Christianity to the African church?” It seems to me that this will only happen when we restore the New Testament teaching of the priesthood of all believers to the place it once held within Protestantism.

The priesthood of all believers in history
“The priesthood of all believers” is a teaching that was particularly popularised by Martin Luther, the great reformer of the 16th century. Prior to the reformation in the church that he is known for, there was a very thick divide between the clergy (who were called “priests”) and the laity (the ordinary church members).

The priests were a specially trained and appointed group of people in the church who claimed to have special dealings with God. They alone could handle the Mass (an unbiblical form of the Lord’s Supper), baptism, weddings, and even prayers for the people of God. They mediated pardon too, and so God’s people came to them to confess their sins in order to receive God’s pardon. Through their mediation, the people of God could get their relatives who died outside Christ to cut short their period in purgatory (an unbiblical form of temporal hell).

In this way, the laity was totally dependent upon the priests in the church for everything…until Martin Luther came around. He showed that, according to the Bible, all Christians have equal access to God through prayer because all of them come to God through the mediatorial work of Christ. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). Through the death of Jesus Christ, he has paid for the sins of all his people and so God accepts them on the basis of Christ’s merit alone. Christians do not need a human mediator to receive any blessing from God—none whatsoever!

The results of the loss of this teaching today
These biblical truths are what Christians on the African continent today need to hear. Those who claim that we need to go to them to get a “breakthrough” or “deliverance” in whatever situation we are going through are impostors, cheats, and swindlers. There is no longer an altar in the front for you to go to in order to be prayed for. The brothers and sisters sitting next to you in church—indeed you as well—have the same access to God as those charlatans calling you to the front.

It is because we have lost this truth of the priesthood of all believers that we have now created a very sleek class of “men of God” in Evangelicalism. In the name of having special spiritual powers (which they call “anointing”), these guys are milking the church of its money and sexually abusing its women. They wear costly designer suits, drive the most expensive cars, and own property that even chief executives of our biggest business corporations only dream of. They do not even carry their own Bibles. Like chiefs, they have henchmen to do it for them.

Every weekend and during conferences, they invite us to go to them for spiritual breakthroughs and deliverance. As Johan Tetzel told the people in Luther’s day to buy indulgences by putting money into his tin box and once coins hit the bottom of the box the souls of their dead relatives would spring out of purgatory, today’s “Tetzels” claim that your socio-economic breakthrough will be bigger if you give them more money. Thus the poor are getting poorer as they give them their earnings, while they are getting stinking rich. This is daylight robbery!

The last two lines in this German poem read
"As soon as the coin in the coffer rings
The soul at once into heaven springs"
The one difference between the priests of the medieval era and today’s “men of God” is that the former often falsely promised a heaven after you die while the latter falsely promise you a heaven on earth while you still live. They invite you to their meetings in order for them to pray for you so that you get married or you get your loved one back who has run away with another man/woman. They say they will give you a breakthrough so that you get a job or a promotion at work. They claim that through their prayers you will get delivered from your persistent sickness or failure to conceive. They prey on the souls and wallets of men and women through the door of human greed. And thousands are falling for it.

We all have access to God through Christ
Yet the apostle Peter declared to all Christians, “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellences of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:5,9). In other words, if you have been saved from sin, i.e. brought out of darkness and into Christ’s marvellous light, you are part of a royal priesthood that has direct access to God. You do not need someone else to act between you and God. No, you can go and talk to God yourself. Period!

Every Christian is a priest to God. He has access to God the Father through Jesus Christ. The only barrier that any Christian can have in terms of his access to God is his own sins. If you are living in sin the Lord will not hear you. We read this in Isaiah, “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness” (Isaiah 59:1-3).

In this matter, there is enough evidence in the media today that these “men of God” who are claiming the powers to bring breakthroughs and deliverances in our lives are as steeped in sin and iniquity as the Herods of the Bible. As their wives sue them to court for divorce, we are discovering that while they were laying their hands on the innocent and unwary—and making them pay for this service—their wives were often catching them with their pants down behind closed doors. In outrage these women are now saying, “Enough is enough!” and letting the skeletons fall out of the wardrobes. Alas, these “men of God” are as corrupt as the Roman Catholic priests were in Martin Luther’s day—if not worse!