George Feumba Samen, an attendee of Grace Polaris Church, a Grace Brethren church on the north side of Columbus, Ohio (Mike Yoder, pastor) and a graduate of Grace Theological Seminary, has written an article for World magazine on the prosperity gospel in Africa. A portion of it appears below. Click here to read the complete article (subscription may be required).
The prosperity gospel in Africa
Africans are especially attached to supernatural values. For this reason African Christianity is characterized by an intense spiritual hunger. Nevertheless, faith on the continent is threatened by several factors, one of the most serious being the prosperity gospel.
Where it all started
In the early 1970s the Charismatic Renewal movement appeared in traditional African churches. The followers of this movement launched by Pentecostal teachings walked away from Catholicism, Protestantism, and evangelical churches to launch so-called revivalist churches. In these churches the pastor occupied a prominent place in the life of the followers. This trend expanded through the 1990s after the failure of structural adjustment policies imposed by the Bretton Woods institutions. People lost confidence in economic mechanisms, social recovery plans, and the ability of governments to bail them out and turned to the churches.
The revivalist churches are originally from New (Neo) American Pentecostalism, preaching the gospel of prosperity and miracles. These churches, with their earthly founders called apostles, prophets, or visionaries, promised earthly happiness, refusing any open dialogue with other churches. According to the Acts of the Seventeenth Scientific Seminar held in Kinshasa in 2013, “They receive financial support and legal status of the various governments of the country in addition to the support of churches in the USA.”
These churches preach prosperity, offering utopian hopes through the gospel of prosperity and miracles. The prosperity gospel was received in Africa for two main reasons: First, these churches were born and grew because this gospel integrated with an African belief that human events are controlled by spiritual powers, bad luck, and good luck. Pastors substituted for fetishists and traditional practitioners. Second, the prosperity gospel found fertile ground in Africa because of the real sufferings facing these Christians, burdened by material and spiritual poverty, who needed immediate relief and thought they could find happiness trusting in anyone making such promises.
The explosion of the cult of democracy and globalization has created in Africa new messiahs, besieging large cities in particular, by selling the prosperity gospel. The profusion of churches teaching the prosperity gospel number in the thousands. In Kinshasa, one source counts about 10,000! In some countries there are seven churches in an area of 300 square meters (3,229 square feet). The great number of these churches in many African cities raises some questions.
Actually, these churches are often the result of dissent where their main characteristics do not meet the criteria of apostolicity, unity, holiness, ethical responsibility, and universality, and put little emphasis on the authority of the revelation of God’s Word. In addition, these churches, which have a closed leadership and lax administration of the sacraments, indeed show that they meet almost all the criteria that define cults. Therefore, these churches are not created from God’s vision to seek lost souls for extending the kingdom of God.
Statistically, it is difficult to quantify the number of followers praying in these churches because of the multiplicity of “informal” chapels, migration of followers who go from one church to another or experience various places of worship at the same time, the strategic and political manipulation of data that depend on the leaders of these churches, or, finally, the lack in their culture of statistics or surveys in these churches.
Click here to read the complete article (subscription may be required).