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.