Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Nigerian religious junk spills into Zimbabwe

HARARE – This epistle seems to be rather offensive, but after careful analysis, one will notice why we chose the title. Often, as nations or tribes or social groupings we take on a certain characteristic that is not true about each person in the group but which we come to be identified with.

In the same way, we tend to (rightly or wrongly) identify Americans with arrogance, Kenyans with marathon running prowess. While West Africans are associated with fraudulent activities, Afrikaners with racism and South Africans are known for xenophobia.

One prominent preacher who recently visited South Africa has noted that.

Prophet Walter Magaya
Prophet Walter Magaya
“Central to all this was the state of evangelicalism in all these countries. He says, many people reported on the arrival of “Nigerian religious junk” that was changing the original evangelical landscape. A few countries were blessed exceptions. Evidently, this junk originated from mega-churches in the USA and then found ready soil in West Africa, and especially in Nigeria. Having given it an African flavor, it is now being exported across Africa at a phenomenal rate.”

Sadly, Zimbabwe has been led along this path. Many will recall the debate initiated by Prophet Walter Magaya and his PHD Ministries. The founder has been in the headlines for various reasons. Coincidentally, his spiritual father T. B. Joshua has also tinkled many nerves in Nigeria and beyond.

The preacher adds, “I feel very sad to write about this, but by “Nigerian religious junk” I mean the phenomenon of churches that elevate individuals. They exalt the personality of their founding father, who is still alive somewhere in Nigeria or elsewhere and is treated with the aura of a state president or paramount chief. It does not matter which country you go to, the bill boards of these churches do not have the faces of the local pastors of the congregations in those towns but of the founding father in Nigeria—or wherever he has since relocated.”
“It is all about image and power. This “man of God” claims to hear the voice of God and proceeds to minister to you accordingly. If you do not obey him you are resisting the ministry of God into your life. So, the churches are often called “ministries” rather than churches. And to make them even more impressive, the term “international” is often added to their name.

Prophet T. B. Joshua
Prophet T. B. Joshua
How appropriate. In Harare, one preacher recently cut ties with his assembly pastor because he proceeded to do deliverance and healing sessions in the absence of the founding father. In short, the pastor had stolen the show from the spiritual father and elevated himself to a ‘demi-god’.

According to the writer, “The Africanisation of this religious junk is primarily in the way it has been made to appeal to African spirituality. The pastor is the modern witchdoctor calling all and sundry to come to him for “deliverance”. Just as the witchdoctor appealed to us by inviting us to see him for spiritual protection, bad luck, childlessness, joblessness, illness, failure to attract a suitor for marriage or to rise in a job. These pastors do precisely the same thing.”

The Zimbabwe situation is not far off from the above notion. We have prophets who are seeking dominance and name building by casting out demons and evil spirits. To them it has become a vocation and one wonders where they will be, if the spirits are dealt with.

“So-called prophetic utterances are given why all this is happening, holy water or oil is prayed over and dispensed, and some money is extracted from the persons seeking help. Thus their churches attract thousands of people who are there for purely selfish reasons. The motivating factor is not reconciliation with God through Christ but rather “deliverance” from perceived evil and to be blessed through the supernatural powers that “the man of God” possesses. Let’s face it: this is our African traditional religions coming into the church through the back door,” the preacher added.

We have seen more of this in Harare, where people who have been healed return to offer properties, probably due to fear. In other words, these churches have been converted into religious cults that solely exist to uplift individual gifts rather that exalt Christ.

“The self-centeredness of all this is seen in the worship. Churches are being turned into entertainment centers instead of edification centers. People come to church to be entertained, healed and blessed. The fact that professionals, who engage their brains when working with their hands weekly, stop thinking and just dance and laugh in worship is extremely sad, in the light of the demand of God that we are to love him with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength.”

We feel that our professional are being abused and confused in the hope of getting more in churches. We have people back in Harare who later realized that they were not in their right frame of mind after pledging to the churches.

“It has been the failure of Christians to think through the implications of their Christian faith on the whole of life that has left Africa filled with Christian churches and lack of development at the same time. Surely, if these professionals were thinking they would have added up why their pastors have become stinking rich. It is not their faith but the money of their congregants, whom they cheat with promises, that makes them buy expensive cars and clothes and put up mansions. If one thousand individuals are “sowing the seed” every week to be blessed by the man of God, of course the man of God will get very rich while they will get relatively poorer,” reasoned the servant of God.

Though we shall not dispute the power of blessing, but in some instances it has been abused to mean something else in order to entice presents and accumulation of wealth.

“The result of this phenomenon of worshiping individuals has been the selective nature of church discipline. You do not discipline a Sangoma or a chief. It is a known fact, even among the church members, that a number of these pastors have serious moral problems. However, “you do not touch the Lord’s anointed” and so they are not disciplined, even when they have impregnated girls in the church. One such anointed one in Zambia changed wives three times through divorce in less than six months and still remains the apostle of his church. To be fair, this man is a Zambian, but he has imbibed this phenomenon from Nigeria. There must be accountability from everyone in the church that includes the church pastor.”

Zimbabwe churches are steaming with such scenarios. Incarcerated former church leader, Gumbura rose to fame for raping women. He remained a church leader even though criminal charges were leveled against him. He had almost a dozen wives when he was finally convicted. And this is not a limited case.

“Africans love titles. Once upon a time, evangelical pastors were content to simply be called pastors. Terms like “bishop” were left to those who had an Episcopalian system of church government, which was a formal structure that rose to national and global level. Alas, that has now changed. With the advent of this Nigerian religious junk, it is titles galore. You now have bishops, arch-bishops, prophets, apostles, chief apostles, etc. Some are not even content with that and so have combinations like, “chief apostle prophet doctor so-and-so.” This is certainly very different from the teaching and personal lifestyle of the Lord Jesus Christ whom they claim to serve,” observes the man of God.

It’s not only names that have caused havoc in Zimbabwe. The arrival of ‘gosprenuers’ has left many flabbergasted with the gospel of today. For how can we explain a pastor who splashes $500 000 for cars intended for his subordinates only.

The writer further laments this saying, “Many of these churches have since been discovered to be nothing more than fund-raising outfits, with sole proprietorship maintained by the pastor and his wife. The pattern seems to be: start a church and then milk the congregation. The pastors basically prey on the vulnerable and gullible. They are crooks and conmen. In a number of the southern African countries represented at the consultation, governments have sent these pastors packing upon finding undeniable proof that large stashes of money were being milked out of their citizens and being shipped to West Africa. This has made these governments very suspicious of anyone coming from any other African country as a missionary into their country. They now think that all African missionaries are just mercenaries.”

Prophet E. Makandiwa
Prophet E. Makandiwa
The sad part is some Christians have resigned from attending churches believing that their presence will enrich the pastor. As the writer observed.

“Yet, the saddest part of all this has been the loss of the gospel. Once upon a time, you could go to any church that purported to be evangelical and once you survived what was called worship, you would hear a sermon that finally pointed you to Christ and him crucified for pardon from sin. Inevitably, once you lose the gospel, you lose true spirituality and morality. Christianity becomes a thin veneer of respectability but inside there is total corruption and decay. This explains why, although Nigeria is packed with such mega-churches (and is now exporting them across the continent). You cannot grow true spirituality where the cross of Christ and the Christ of the cross is absent. We must insist that the Spirit of God is the Holy Spirit. Where holiness is conspicuous by its absence, we should never attribute what is happening there to God’s Spirit because he is a spirit of holiness. Crowds and people falling backwards upon being touched prove nothing if holiness of life is missing.”

This above statement is befitting for Zimbabwe. Locally, we have churches that have reached 300 000 congregates weekly, such that people have to sleep over to enter the main arena. The main reason is to be in contact with the man of God.

In conclusion he said, “Anyone who has eyes to see and ears to hear knows what I am talking about. Let me end by once again apologizing to any genuine and sincere Nigerian pastors who distance themselves from all this junk. Just as I know a number of sweet American folks who are very humble, Kenyans who cannot run halfway around a football ground, and Afrikaners who are color blind. I am sure there must be many West African pastors and Nigerians who will have nothing to do with this spiritual corruption. I only wish they were more vocal in condemning this religious junk being exported from their country.

We too wish it that people realize religious charlatans when they look at them closely. – Salvation Press News (SPN).

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