Thank you to everybody who pushed me to write! Its been a while yo!
So, Africa is a place where spiriticism and ancestral worship takes pre-eminence more than anything in religious terms. What happens exactly in my culture (Shona) is that every family has its own spirit medium whom the gods speak to the family through. Some of the roles that this spirit medium is said to play are that it protects, guides and directs all the facets of that family’s life. For example, a spirit medium would tell a family that there would be no rains in that rainy season and advice the family to store up their food supplies and save for the next season. He or she would typically advice against a member of the family travelling if danger was impending and so forth and so on.
In essence, these spirit mediums, masvikiro (in Shona), are the ends and means to families' thriving. They were the way that people hear from 'god' and are given direction. I used to have deep-set debates with the late and former Editor of Sunday News, Paul Mambo, on the subject of ancestral worship. He would wind for hours describing how it all worked and to be honest, he was extremely convincing. It is not something whose existence I wouldn't argue, but rather, its basis is what I believe to be demonic and non-godly – Mr. Mambo would not hear that! I did enjoy the exchange with someone who actually believed in the African traditional religion because it sharpened my understanding of it – prior to that, all I knew was shallow and assumed.
Having said that, one thing that stands out about the African spirit medium anecdote is that power, foresight and god’s direction are given through one specific individual. That is staggering if you think about it. When that individual passed on, it would be transferred to another, and so on, and so on, and so on.
2015 years after Jesus came, died, resurrected and ascended back to the Father, I can assure you that this assumed ‘power, foresight and god-leading’ is still viewed as something that is possessed by one special person – especially here in Africa because of the historic background highlighted above, among the Christians.
What we see more and more are church movements led by an individual who carries the air of a president, is hard to access, claims to carry a ‘special anointing’, is always right, whose words are as the words of God and no one should dare challenge his teachings. What we see more and more are little cult-followings where folks can pledge alligence to that ‘man of God’ and will head with him even if he leads them into a ditch. What we see are brainwashed and brain-dead, educated, beautiful, handsome persons blindly following some of the most outrageous teachings from these ‘men of God’ or ‘prophets’ - because they self-proclaim to have 'power'. Wow.
The word of faith movement, if anything, has perpetuated this disproportionate idea of God’s servants by its teachings and practice. At its worst, the movement perpetuates the philosophy that individuals carry an ‘anointing’ which other people need to recognise or submit under for it to work for them. Now if there is anything outrageous it has to be this! It is foolish because it literally spits in the face of the reality that only Jesus is our access point to God – for everything that pertains to life and godliness. Any baby Christian would know that. Or maybe not. Paul tells Timmy, “For there is ONE God, and ONE mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for many (1 Timothy 2:5).”
Look, everything in the Bible points to Jesus. He is what the Book is about. He is what the faith is about. He is all you need to access the God of heavens. Already, do you sense the undertones of the African religion of spirit mediums? It’s clearly there man.
But this cannot be true. There is no one with anything more special than the other. Yes, others have more responsibilities but it doesn’t negate the exceptional value of everybody’s gift. We all use our gifts to minister to each other – as of the oracles of God. The lead pastor’s gift carries more responsibility than the church janitor’s gift but all are God-given and both these men are anointed by the Holy Spirit. For the lead pastor to then say his anointing is better than the worship leader’s or the door steward’s is at least dumb and at most utter pride and foolish arrogance. This other ‘special’ anointing that folks claim is alien to the Bible.
Many fall into this trap because they fall for the Old Testament method which saw God anointing individuals for an assignment which he would have set for them (David for example). However, in the New Covenant, all believers are priests and have access to God via the atonement - the work of Jesus on the Cross.
Peter says in his first epistle, “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellences of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:5,9). We don’t need anyone with special powers to give us access to God. God’s anointing is a gift and He gives and gifts all Christians differently. In fact, if we use the meaning given by Paul in Ephesians 4, all our gifts are actually not ours but are a gift God has given to the church via us. Do you get that?
In other words, we don’t really have gifts in the literal sense; we are gifts that God has given to edify the body and make much of Him in the world as He wills. So, our attitude should never be that we are any special – if anything, we should be humble because God chose us in spite of ourselves for His good purposes.
In our day and age, we see, read and hear of women getting rapped and abused by ‘prophets’ and ‘pastors’ as they administer ‘prayers’ or ‘deliverance’. I mean, I have read of some of the most unlikely women (if there is anything like that) being told that if the ‘man of God’ has sex with her, she will be delivered from her barrenness. Now, think about it – this is no simple issue, and it is accumulative. It starts off with a perception. So, Mrs X here sees this ‘Prophet Y’ as the high priest of God, the only means by which she could access God. And he is usually a very charismatic dude who can speak eloquently.
With his prowess in articulation, he begins asking for small things like “sow a seed to the ministry” so that God does such-and-such (already there is idolatry here because she is giving for her own benefit not out of her love for God). After that, he asks for more stuff. And then more stuff. And then more stuff. And then finally asks for sex – and like all else she has given to get to God or to an answer, she gives it to Him. Foolishness. Debauchery. Multiplied by a billion.
We are definitely desperate for so many things in Africa and charlatans take that opportunity to fulfill their lusts for money, power and sex.
Man, I care less about the myriad of men who are older than me who have taken this route of making themselves special and claiming to possess ‘special powers’. They would probably not care a bit what a 20-something dude has to say because they 'know-it-all'. But I am tryna reach out to my peers. I am tryna reach out to myself.
You see, I am a Next Generation Pastor at my local church and that can so easily get to my head too and I can begin to operate like I am the conduit with which the brothers and sisters I lead will have to use to access God. So it scares me to fall into that. I don't want that! So man if I can at least reach out to someone my age, I know the next generation will be safe from this syndrome.
On any day, I would take Jesus over any man of God. He is all I need. He created everything and everything exists because of Him. I am grateful for the gifts the Lord has so graciously given to the body but I will choose the Giver over the gift on any day.
As can be guessed, some of the effects of this syndrome are that these men’s heads grow big and they do not even associate with their ‘flock’ or the least of the least in society. They want the high seats. They want to be recognised, thanked and this is usually done financially - you show your commitment via the chequebook or your wallet.
I would rather have Jesus man. Jesus spent His life serving. He washed His disciples’ feet. He cooked them breakfast after the resurrection. Jesus served.
As someone who writes for a weekly newspaper, I will be the first to tell you not to be fooled by that newspaper picture of the ‘men of God’ sweeping the streets. It is staged. Those who really do it with their lives don’t look for a photo-op.
The church needs to send this self-promotion back to where it was birthed - in the cesspool of hell. Wasn't Lucifer the first being who became full of himself and decided he should be promoted? The next generation of believers needs shepherds and leaders who have a "servant syndrome" not a "serve-me syndrome."
I pray the Lord keeps me true and leads me thus. I pray that for you too.