Ways the Prosperity Gospel Is Hurting Africa

Good message from Lee Grady.

I’m not an African, but in 2008 some Nigerian friends gave me a Yoruba name (“Akinwale”) because I have been to that country so often. My visits there, along with trips to Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa and Egypt, planted a deep love for Africa in my heart. My first grandson’s arrival this year from Ethiopia made the connection even stronger.

I’m often asked to describe how God is moving in Africa today. Since I’m an optimist, I usually tell of the large churches, the passionate praise and the intense spiritual hunger that characterizes African Christianity. But there is also a dark side, and I think it’s time we addressed one of the most serious threats to faith on the continent.

I’m talking about the prosperity gospel. Of course, I know a slick version of this message is preached in the United States—and I know we are the ones who exported it overseas. I am not minimizing the damage that prosperity preaching has done in my own country. But I have witnessed how some African Christians are taking this money-focused message to new and even more dangerous extremes.

Here are five reasons the prosperity message is damaging the continent of Africa today:

1. It is mixed with occultism. Before Christianity came to Nigeria, people visited witch doctors and sacrificed goats or cows to get prosperity. They poured libations on the ground so the gods would hear their prayers. Today similar practices continue, only the juju priest has been replaced by a pastor who drives a Mercedes-Benz. I am aware of a pastor who buried a live animal under the floor of his church to win God’s favor. Another pastor asked his congregants to bring bottles of sand to church so he could anoint them; he then told the people to sprinkle the sand in their houses to bring blessings. The people who follow these charlatans are reminded that their promised windfall won’t materialize unless they give large donations.

2. It fuels greed. Any person who knows Christ will learn the joy of giving to others. But the prosperity gospel teaches people to focus on getting, not giving. At its core it is a selfish and materialistic faith with a thin Christian veneer. Church members are continually urged to sow financial seeds to reap bigger and bigger rewards. In Africa, entire conferences are dedicated to collecting offerings in order to achieve wealth. Preachers boast about how much they paid for suits, shoes, necklaces and watches. They tell their followers that spirituality is measured by whether they have a big house or a first-class ticket. When greed is preached from the pulpit, it spreads like a cancer in God’s house.

3. It feeds pride. This greedy atmosphere in prosperity churches has produced a warped style of leadership. My Kenyan friend Gideon Thuranira, editor of Christian Professional magazine, calls these men “churchpreneurs.” They plant churches not because they have a burden to reach lost souls but because they see dollar signs when they fill an auditorium with chairs. A selfish message produces bigheaded opportunists who need position, applause and plenty of perks to keep them happy. The most successful prosperity preacher is the most dangerous because he can convince a crowd that Jesus died to give you and me a Lexus.

4. It works against the formation of Christian character. The prosperity message is a poor imitation of the gospel because it leaves no room for brokenness, suffering, humility or delay. It offers an illegal shortcut. Prosperity preachers promise instant results and overnight success; if you don’t get your breakthrough, it’s because you didn’t give enough money in the offering. Jesus calls us to deny ourselves and follow Him; prosperity preaching calls us to deny Jesus and follow our materialisticlusts. There is a leadership crisis in the African church because many pastors are so set on getting rich, they can’t go through the process of discipleship that requires self-denial.

5. It actually keeps people in poverty. The government of Malawi is currently under international scrutiny because of fraud carried out by top leaders. The saddest thing about the so-called “Cashgate” scandal is that professing Christians in the administration of President Joyce Banda have been implicated. One of these people stole millions of kwacha from the government and hid the cash in a teddy bear! Most people today in Malawi live on less than $1 a day, yet their leaders have been known to buy fleets of cars and huge plots of land with money that was not theirs. Sadly, the prosperity gospel preached in Malawi has encouraged pastors and leaders to follow the same corrupt pattern. As a result, God’s people have been financially exploited.

When Jesus described false prophets as wolves in sheep’s clothing, He warned us to examine their fruit. Matthew 7:17 says, “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit” (NASB). What is the fruit of prosperity preaching?

Churches have been growing rapidly in many parts of Africa today, yet sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in the world where poverty has increased in the past 25 years. So according to the statistics, the prosperity gospel is not bringing prosperity! It is a flawed message, but I believe God will use selfless, broken African leaders to correct it.

3 comments on “Ways the Prosperity Gospel Is Hurting Africa

  1. A wonderful message! I would also add that many ministries use footage of African meetings to raise money in order to bust TV time as well as sustain their luxurious living.

  2. As an African Christian living in America I can attest to the fact that the prosperity gospel is blazing a trail of destruction as it traverses the savannah. I have several friends whose Facebook feeds are overwhelmingly dominated by mantras that savor of dreams of uncommon wealth accumulation and the derision of those that do not aspire to or have not achieved such heights of greatness. They hold an unrealistic view of American prosperity preachers. The mystique of prosperity preachers is enhanced by the well manicured images projected by the religious American media and the sophistication of their sales pitches. Always looking out for the next trend from American prosperity preachers. I left my country 12 years ago and since then there has emerged a plethora preachers whose claim to spiritual leadership is not soundness of doctrine or character but the ability to communicate the easiest path to success and one’s having their finger on the pulse of the latest trends in Christendom.

    Prior to leaving Africa I saw Christian government leaders get caught up in scandals involving embezzlement of public resources. It is because of this real experience that I place little value on the championing of so called Christian leaders in government in the US, merely on the grounds that they claim Christ as their savior. Or the so called cultural mandate being pushed by the New Apostolic Reformation. In my experience most of the prominent players are in it for the money and the evangelical Christian is an easy source of votes if you utter the right conservative or “christianese” platitudes. I remember pastors getting bribed publically with the equivalent of a presidential petty cash fund to support going against the constitution so that an incumbent(Christian president) could run for an extra term of office in violation of the constitution. They claimed God had revealed to them that the president was not finished with his mission and God had anointed him for an extra term. Without getting into all the minutia regarding the numerous scandals (I have only touched the tip of the iceberg here) I have seen the close associations even between the prosperity gospel and a lack of accountability in Christians; not expecting accountability from others and not being accountable themselves. The notion that no one can correct anyone else (their calling card being “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”) because no one is perfect. Christianity is way different than it was even 20 years ago when I first gave my life. The simplicity of the Word has been cast aside for more exotic doctrines.

    • Thank you for adding an eye-witness account to this topic Brosi.

      Sadly, America use to be the largest exporter of missionaries who carried the gospel, but sadly is now the largest exporter of false teachers who carry false doctrines and heretical teachings.

      Six years ago i posted a message written by Kato Mivule, who warned about this as well.

      Having returned to Africa from the United States, I have been astonished at the breadth and width of what I have termed as ‘Westernized Christianity’ and how this type of Christianity is flourishing across Africa, especially in the urban areas courtesy of ‘American Christian Media’.

      You can read it all here

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