This one is LOOOOOOg but I think you will enjoy it!
The author of the controversial article – Beware of the Nigerian Religious Junk, Pastor Conrad Mbewe has come out with another controversial article entitled – Why is the Charismatic movement thriving in Africa? In this one, he claims that “the explosion of the current extreme form of the Charismatic movement in Africa is not Christianity, but African traditional religious worldview sprinkled with a thin layer of Christianity.” If you have time take a look at his interview with Don Carson on the subject of Nigerian Religious Junk I think you will find it informative.
Why is this important? Well, Pastor Conrad is one of the speakers at the upcoming “Strange Fire Conference” organized and hosted by John MacArthur. But if you care about missions, evangelism and the well-being of the Church in Africa, you will want to listen or tune in to the debate going on now. For starters, I think Michael Brown has a compelling response to Pastor Conrad’s article that is worth reading.
But I can say beyond the shadow of doubt that there are some very disturbing issues and serious errors affecting the church in Africa. But there is a lot of great things happening on the continent as well – and we will do well to celebrate those things instead of discrediting the entire move of God as not Christian.
I praise God for the great things he is doing all over Africa. I thank him for missionaries from all over the world and all over Africa for the work they are doing. But like others have pointed out – “Christianity in Africa is complex… it is alive… it is thriving,” and it has it highs and lows like every other church around the world. So before this much-needed discussion begins to degenerate into a needless chatter, we should seriously begin to look at how we can fix these problems and help the church Africa to continue to thrive.
Here a is a list of 15 real issues and concerns in “some” African Church that I would like to highlight
- Personality Cult – the man of God is like a king. He is treated like one and he acts like one also
- Exclusive Revelation – the man of God is the only one who can see and understand the supernatural. He has a word for you and you must obey
- Churches have become ‘Ministries’
- African Spiritism – the same tricks used by witch doctors have found their way into some churches
- It is all about deliverance – you must be delivered from generational curse
- Sinful living – the man of God can live like he wants and no one can question him. They hide behind scriptures like – “touch not my anointed and do my Prophet no harm.”
- Churches as entertainment centers
- Lavished Lifestyle – the man of God dresses like a king… drives and flies in style
- Selective nature of church discipline – the man of God show favor in his choice of who gets disciplined
- status, power and a craving for title – the bishops, and the apostles, and the big names…. internationally recognized
- No accountability structures – leaders do what they want, use church finances however they want
- Crocked Con men in bishop’s robes – some are just in it for the money
- The cross of Christ and the Christ of the cross is not preached – just some vague form of deliverance
- The pastor as a witch doctor – many see the pastor as a witch doctor
- Money for prayer, deliverance, miracles – you cannot come empty-handed
The list is not exhaustive and you can certainly add to it if you live on the continent and know how these guys operate.
Between 1995 and 2002 I was a missionary and worked at JVA – a Christian radio station in Lome, Togo. Among other things, I hosted a prayer program once a week and one night during one of our broadcasts, one of my guests reached into his backpack and pulled out a machete and started swinging it around saying that he was chopping the devil and cutting demonic strongholds to pieces. That was one of the most bizarre intercessory strategy I had seen in my life.
Don’t get me wrong, I do understand, Ezekiel was tied up with ropes and he also took a brick at God’s command and drew the map of Jerusalem around it to show the Israelites that there was going to be a siege. But I am sound enough to know that in dealing with demons and principalities – the blood of Jesus – the word of God and the authority given to the believer in the name of Jesus is more than enough. Unfortunately, we have allow some of these religious junk to creep into our churches.
It should also be of interest to you that most of the new churches – the independent churches that have sprung up and are springing up all over the continent of African are led by men and women who left local churches from every major denomination in Africa ( the Assemblies of God, Baptist, Catholic, Methodist ect…). Usually these young men and women leave their churches because of a lack of leadership – one that inspires, impacts and deploys. They leave because of a lack of opportunity to use their gifts, because those in charge felt threatened.
In many cases there is a lack of gospel power and Holy Spirit’s fire, and a lack of vision to do church differently – take risks – do new things – do some out of the box ministries, tap into the energy of the young. Because of the lack of these things – the mass exodus of most our talented youth are left opened to new and misguided trends of doing church in Africa.
I think if we will ever be able to impact this movement and change its course, there are a few things we need to discuss:
- Begin to find, invest in, train and unleash potential leaders within the walls of our local congregations. If we don’t they will get frustrated, leave and go get a two-week bible training somewhere and start a church right next to yours.
- As senior leaders, we need to understand that our associates are not threats – they are assets (Dear Senior Pastor: Sincerely the associate pastor). Don’t feel threaten by those who work with you in the ministry and begin to marginalize them and treat them like rivals. Invest in them give them wings – bring out the best in them.
- It is time to tear down the walls of bureaucracy, politics, tribalism, favoritism, and the idea of the “keepers of the gates.” Young Africans are sick and tired of the red tape and bureaucracy in the church. If our local church leadership don’t understand these things – we will continue to see the rise of unhealthy churches, because this is the kind of thing that have cause many to leave to go start a new church.
- Don’t stifle the voice of the youth. Make it easy for them to discover their gifts and talents. Listen to them, make it easy for them to express themselves through proper channels of comments and criticism.
- As leaders we want people around us we can trust – but sometimes all we really want is a person who will say yes to everything we tell them to do. So we elevate “yes men” and isolate free and independent thinkers. In Africa and most places around the world – if one is not a ‘yes man’ kind of person – he is seen as a rebel. We need to stop this – if he does not agree with me he is against me mentality.
- Raise the value of disciples in our local churches. If our people are properly feed they will be able to discern truth from falsehood. Give them sound biblical teaching.
- Understand the evangelistic context and present the gospel accordingly. Africa worldview is one of the supernatural. If this is not taken into consideration you will find yourself knocking your head against the wall. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:-5 “And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” Unfortunately, this is where most of our churches fail. They do not contextualize and address the heartfelt needs of the people. Heal the sick, raise the dead, set the captive, drive out demons. Instead of trying to make a debate about whether a Christian should be delivered or not or whether one can be demon possessed or not – I say, anywhere you find a demon cast it out and move on.
- The temptation for some of our local church pastors to emulate some of these popular, extra biblical preachers is rising. These guys are so popular that pastor fear loosing their flock if they don’t preach like them or teach some of the stuff they preach. It is time to encourage our local church pastors to live for God, seek him, preach the word and depend on him to heal and deliver their people.
- Reach Out – usually these guys are marginalized and criticized in pulpits all over the continent and around the world. Therefore, further public shaming is counter productive and further isolate them. If you see them as heretics don’t forget they see you as out of touch. So no need to stir up unnecessary fights. Reach Out privately, prayerfully and politely.
- Make theological training attractive. You must understand that most of these guys feel that theological training is not necessarily of the devil, but that it makes you cold, turns you into a big-headed know it all preacher. That’s because they’ve seen what bible school did to some of their pastors and friends – they went in full of zeal and Holy Spirit’s fire but left dusty, dry, dead and full of book. So, put programs in your seminaries that encourage and help students keep the fire of the Spirit burning. Send out graduates that show this. Let your staff and curriculum show this.
- Invest in leadership training of local church pastors because as they grow the will be able to help others grow
- Finally, build ‘Berea Minded Believers’ Believers that think, ask question and study.
Please join the conversation…
- Is the African Charismatic Movement Not Christianity? (blackchristiannews.com)
- Is African Charismatic Christianity a Counterfeit?. (greatriversofhope.wordpress.com)
- Is African Charismatic Christianity a Counterfeit? (endtimeheadlines.wordpress.com)
- A peep into life in Africa, through the eyes of an African Reformed Baptist pastor. (kimolsen.wordpress.com)
- Dressing African Traditional religion in Biblical Garments? (thebiblematters.wordpress.com)
- The Devil That Sits on The Front Pew (purposeandintention.wordpress.com)
- Not a Pretty Picture! (iamnotashamedofthegospelofchrist.com)
- Why is the Charismatic Movement Thriving in Africa? (savouringthegospel.wordpress.com)
- The Baptism In The Holy Spirit for All is the Biblical Norm. (keithlannon.wordpress.com)
Hi Walter. It appears that we have two extremes: Africa with “wildfire” and the United States with “no fire.” Bless you.
Thank you for the call to look for answers in addition to pointing out the error. That’s a very balanced approach – which you already knew. 😉
Having said that, I also appreciate that you highlighted some of the errors in the fellow’s approach. I’ll hear from God myself, thank you very much! And deliverance with out a Deliverer? Now how would that work? Wow. It sure is a crazy world, isn’t it?
Lord, I ask for discernment of those who are your children worldwide – and especially where this “ministry” is concerned. Help us, Lord, to not allow our pride to hinder our ability to intervene in prayer (or by any other means) for those caught in this trap. Reveal truth to them, and give them courage to stand for the Truth. They need your mercy and grace, O Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
wow… praise the Lord! What a beautiful prayer. This has been my prayer all week. Amen to that!
My husband is from Cameroon and his uncle is a past dean of students at a protestant seminary there and still works in the headship of the school. The list that was provided above as a description of some of the problems in the African church sound strikingly familiar to what seems to be the problem here in American churches too. The only thing that really stuck out to me in this article is that [African] traditionalism and Christianity get a little mixed up together at times. One of the main issues that my husband has with what I would probably label as Christian “fundamentalism” is that the way I was raised by fundamentalist parents reminds him of how he was “brainwashed” to believe in the rites of traditionalism at such a young age in the village. I think that any culture’s deep seated traditions affect the institution of organized religion, whether it’s the South’s tradition of slavery that made a lasting impact of congregational segregation or whether it’s a village’s belief in witchcraft that makes it all the more reasonable for a man from that tradition to swing his machete at the evil spirits.
Never was I more discouraged to discover that Christian evangelism is a messy venture than when I spent a year in Cameroon privy to how local missions conducted business [because they had to]. It’s quite impossible for any of us to separate our ego from our work, even if our work is “for God.” And our ego will also simultaneously be the leaven that leavens the whole lump when it comes down to us sacrificing our tradition for the greater good of Corporate Christianity.
We all hold on to bits and pieces of who we were in effort to reconcile who we are becoming. This is the reality of “winning souls.” Someone’s conversion does not ensure that they instantaneously become a replica of their “soul winner” or the respective church/denomination.
I guess there will always be a fearful tension between those in power, those coming into power and those falling out of power. Perfect love casts out fear. I do not know what that means fully, but I do know that if our motivation is love and not recognition, control or promotion within the institution of church, some of the “traditions” won’t matter so much anymore and we’ll get our hands a little dirtier to actually help those in need. Easier said than done. And I for one, tend to let my egotistical expectations of the church outweigh any true love and concern for the well-being of others.
Wow! Beautifully well written and on point. I agree totally with your analysis.
All of us, for example, read the bible through the tainted lenses of our past, culture and upbringing. Sometimes, we are so encapsulated by our culture and world view that we fail to even see that our interpretation or response to scripture is faulty.
Scripture introduces a whole new worldview, one that is supposed to change everything we hold on to. Jesus would say – “my Kingdom is not of this would.” Paul would say, “do not let the world squeeze you into it’s mold, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”.
Thank you so much for your comment. I am sorry my response is late. I have been away for about 11 days.
Did you learn a little French from French Cameroon?
See you on your blog!
For some reason I didn’t get an email w/your response. I guess I didn’t click the get a response….
Yes. I know enough French to work with my husband’s family there to train them on technology. We’ve just started a business venture there, as a last ditch effort to employ his family. My hope is to obtain a contract/grant so that our companies akcsolutions.com and icc.cm can work together toward a common purpose that will hopefully give a boost to the family and to Cameroon. I would appreciate your prayers if it ever passes your mind. Our aim is to instill a work ethic and enable everyone to take care of themselves so that they can go beyond that and help others. But it seems impossible at times.
Yes, it’s hard to remember that there is a “kingdom beyond?” How does what we do here matter in terms of eternity? I’m not altogether sure.
This is educational. Thank you!
Hey Sheryl, thank you. Hope all is well… Sorry for the late response been away for about 11 days. I will see you on your blog! Stay blessed