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.

12 comments:

  1. Amen, Bro. Conrad Mbewe. Well stated. I live in St. Kitts of the West Indies, and the very same thing is also true here in my island, and in the whole West Indies as well. Also we have these very same African churches that you spoke about above, are being set up here are well, and in other parts of the West Indies, such as Christ Embassy, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, and so on. They are a curse, and not a blessing from God, and very foolish people here become members of them.

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  2. Thank you Ps. Conrad. We really need to examine ourselves according to the bible.

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  3. This post is glorifying to God brother. Keep speaking truth. He hears you.

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  4. Pastor Conrad,

    Your may end 2014 burdened with the condition of the churches. But, maybe God will use the burden, to bring about much fruit in the coming year.

    Wait on the Lord.

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  5. I've never been to Africa, so I can't say what evangelicalism is like there. But I'm wondering if you have been all over Africa to say that these characteristics really characterize evangelicalism all over Africa. Africa seems to be a rather culturally diverse continent, and I'd be surprised if it's really all the same. Egypt has to be different from Namibia.

    About speaking in tongues, the speaker does not understand what he is saying, as it is written, 'but my understanding is unfruitful.' Interpreting tongue is a gift of the Spirit, as we see in I Corinthians 12. The Bible does not say that it is a natural ability. We shouldn't expect that others in church will understand a message spoken in tongues naturally, as it is written 'no man understandeth him.'

    In the United States where I live, there are churches that believe that tongues are to be interpreted if they are spoken out in the assembly, but other churches seem to ignore I Corinthians 14's instructions on this or interpret it in IMO, a weird way to allow for people speaking in tongues at the same time in church.

    Honestly, some speaking in tongues sounds like repeated syllables to me. Some of it sounds like real languages to me, though and I have a degree in Linguistics, I've studied several languages, and I've travelled quite a bit in Asia and lived abroad.

    There are the experiences of believers who receive an interpretation for a tongue but someone else gives the same interpretation before this other individual does. I've never interpreted tongues, but I had two friends who testified to having received the same interpretation of tongue as I described. I have experienced receiving a word of knowledge about someone and someone else giving a prophecy for the person that contained the information in my word of knowledge before I had a chance to share it. But I haven't experienced it myself with interpretation of tongues.

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  6. I wonder about your statements that none of these miracles are going on, is that driven by real, careful research on your part where you have examined all of these cases? I don't see how you can prove a negative like this. It reminds me of atheists asserting boldly that God does not exist even though they have no basis at all on which to base their assertion. There is a major logical problem with proving a negative. Since you are stating that 'none of this is happening' for an entire continent, that is quite a bold claim. I have heard reports of people returning to western nations reporting having experienced a miracle in Africa. A few days ago, a Facebook acquaintance of mine who is a theologian reported that a cessationist theologian's family member was healed miraculously through a preacher on a trip to Africa, and he has dropped his cessationist beliefs over it. I've read a report from another preacher that genuine miracles are going on. Have you really researched these issues where the claims are made? A false claim does not mean that nothing is going on in the whole continent. Does a false claim to miracles mean that Jesus did not do miracles? An atheist could apply the same 'logic' that you are applying.

    Or, is your assertion that 'none of this is happening' based on some sort of theological position on the topic? Biblically, there is absolutely no basis for saying that God does not do miracles through individuals like I Corinthians 12 and other passages teach that He does. The theories that miracles was ONLY for the first century, only to confirm the apostles, only to confirm the canon, etc. are not theories taught in scripture, and actually contradict scripture. Cessationists often have different proof texts to arrive at the conclusion they are trying to reach the conclusion they are aiming at that certain gifts cease. Some people base cessationism on a doctrine of scripture that isn't taught in scripture, acting as if their doctrinal statement about scripture trumps scripture when it comes to the issue of spiritual gifts.

    Is your assertion that none of this is happening merely based on a theological presupposition, or on actual research?

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    1. As an African living in Africa, and having been in the charismatic movement for 15+ years I have never seen or experienced a genuine miracle in the same breadth and scale of the miracles described in the bible. What most foreigners do not understand about Africa is that most of its Christianity is represented by the likes of Benny Hinn.

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  7. In the last ten years of my reading about so-called miracles, I’ve noted that advocates don’t extend their mental faculties beyond a witness or testimony of one. It doesn’t seem to matter than weeks/months later that person dies, or how the mind can aid in healing the body when one “thinks” in a positive way about their health after being declared “healed,” or even that Satan can counterfeit healings. An experience must always be made to account to sound doctrine – even a so-called miracle!
    www.christianresearchservice.com

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  8. I don't know about the rest of Africa, but I share most of the concerns raised in this blog about Zambia. I am not a cessationist, but I have also observed, (longitudinally) very disturbing trends in Zambia's evangelicalism.

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  9. The debate can go on as one would expect, but I have no doubt that we are faced with a spiritual perversion of the highest magnitude. The Bible states clearly that we should love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls and minds. Irrationality has greatly affected our spirituality. It is dangerous to live out that aspect of the 'mind' and just sail on in a sea of ignorance.

    I'm an African and have served in church all my life, but my heart is heavy with pain because of this twist of truth and lies. The words of our Lord can never be truer today: the wolves have put on the sheep's skins, and the sheep are helplessly being led to an endless abyss! Imagine a person comes to a pastor for counseling because of a burden of debts - bank loans, etc., and the pastor declares, "In the name of Jesus, I now cancel all your debts"! No rational help at all! He cannot guide him on how to exercise discipline, save, begin paying off the debts and eventually get the burden off his shoulder. The only counsel to this heavy soul is, "Thank God, all the debts are cancelled in the name of Jesus"!

    May the Lord be gracious and raise his hand of protection over his flock. Amen.

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  10. The debate can go on as one would expect, but I have no doubt that we are faced with a spiritual perversion of the highest magnitude. The Bible states clearly that we should love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls and minds. Irrationality has greatly affected our spirituality. It is dangerous to live out that aspect of the 'mind' and just sail on in a sea of ignorance.

    I'm an African and have served in church all my life, but my heart is heavy with pain because of this twist of truth and lies. The words of our Lord can never be truer today: the wolves have put on the sheep's skins, and the sheep are helplessly being led to an endless abyss! Imagine a person comes to a pastor for counseling because of a burden of debts - bank loans, etc., and the pastor declares, "In the name of Jesus, I now cancel all your debts"! No rational help at all! He cannot guide him on how to exercise discipline, save, begin paying off the debts and eventually get the burden off his shoulder. The only counsel to this heavy soul is, "Thank God, all the debts are cancelled in the name of Jesus"!

    May the Lord be gracious and raise his hand of protection over his flock. Amen.

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