Sound theology is important. Churches are built and destroyed because of theology. How you view God and how you view events around you is your theology. We’re all theologians.
This article is about Christianity in Africa. It’s not like anything you find in books from your local Christian bookstore, heard from testimonies of short-term missionaries or saw on a documentary on TV. You’re about to discover the most kept secret in Global Christianity.
After you read every word in this post, you are going to do one of three things:
- You’re going to be angry. Infuriated. That’s okay, as long as you’re not going to sin.
- You’re going to be dismissive. Disdainful. That’s not okay because you should care about Christianity in Africa. Everyone should.
- You’re going to be excited. Motivated. That’s not okay if all you’re going to say is, “I knew it!” but that’s okay if you’ll say, “What can I do?”
Here’s the most kept damning secret:
The true population of Christians in Africa is half the reported numbers and the popular methods used to reach the unreached are adding to the problem.
But I am not going to end there. I want to show you how Africa can be liberated from this pandemic through intentional bible reading. The answer to the problems of Christianity can be solved if all believers become as noble as the Bereans. The question is: how can African lay people become better theologians?
Is Christianity Really Growing In Africa
In World Christianity by the Numbers, George Weigel wrote:
The most extraordinary Christian growth over the past century has come in Africa: home to 8.7 million Christians in 1900, 542 million today, and perhaps 1.2 billion by 2050, when there will be as many African Christians as Latin American and European Christians combined.
Let’s come back to reality. I don’t know about 1900, but in 2016, they ain’t 542 million Christians in Africa. The correct population is less than 271 million and the remainder are best classified as religious people.
Don’t you believe me?
Christianity in Africa is ruined by two things; greed and history.
The narrative of Africa as the dark continent doesn’t need to be restated. Ebola. Burundi. Boko Haram. Inflation. People are suffering, but across the street, there’s a story of success. Africa has the rapidly expanding middle class. There’s hope.
And that’s the problem.
The fastest growing churches in Africa sell hope. Stories of people who moved from rags to riches fill the pulpit. Congregations are promised that it’s their inheritance in Christ to be rich. But there’s a slight caveat-give everything you have to the preacher and God will bless you.
Though it’s sad, these hundreds of million people who believe in the prosperity gospel are Christians. They all believe in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord. And guess what? They are part of the 271 million Christians.
Who’re the other 271 million?
8 Disturbing Christian Theological Teachings In Africa
At best, syncretism blends various foreign elements into Christian terminology. At its worst, syncretism adds a little Christian terminology to that which is antithetical to the Faith and proclaims it a more relevant one. A syncretist believes in God when it suits him, and will obey His Word when it is useful. In reality he serves himself and obeys his own self-will.
-Mark R. Rushdoony
These are the victims of history. Twisted history, I must say. They are called Christians, they tick Christian during a national census, but the truth is they’re not. They ain’t even close to Jehovah’s Witness or Mormons. They’re worse.
They are called by many names in books, but I will call them African Apostolic sects.
Let me give you a rundown of their core beliefs so that you can judge for yourself.
- Rejection of Jesus Christ. They don’t believe in the Deity of Christ. He is a white man’s god.
- Rejection of the Bible. They don’t read the Bible because they say it’s not relevant to Africa. God speaks to them directly through prophets.
- Worship of the dead. They believe good people when they die become God’s agents to those alive. Wicked people become demons when they die.
- Polygamy is acceptable. This varies from prophet to prophet. Most of them believe in polygamy. Child marriages are common.
- God speaks through prophets. The churches are built around a prophet who claims he hears from God. Everything he or she says is not questioned. Hence, sexual and emotional abuses are common.
- White people are evil. Colonialism is their excuse. They preach against visiting health centers, sometimes going to school and child vaccinations. Some of them don’t wear shoes, only sandals they make from car tires.
- Suffering is caused by demons. They believe evil spirits cause anything bad. Failing in school, marriage, health or finances. A prophet removes these demons.
- Bad attempt of Judaism. They keep the Sabbath, Friday, Saturday or Sunday depending on the prophet. Most of them teach different variations of the Levitical laws. Animals are sacrificed at their meeting places to chase away evil spirits. Stones are kept in houses for the same reason.
Do you still think these people are Christians? They’re not. How can they be Christian if they reject the Christ of Christianity? That’s absurd.
But guess what? You’re part of the billions of people who claim these people are Christians. You remember when a missionary told your church they’re 85% Christians in Zimbabwe and you all clapped your hands? You bought into the lie. They ain’t 10 million Christians in Zimbabwe.
Let me break it down for you.
The largest group of Christians is the African Apostolic sects constituting 4.5 million. Followed by Pentecostals and Protestants who are a combined 4.5 million. They are only 1.3 million Catholics and 1 million other Christian groups.
Here’s another sad fact most of the modern independent Pentecostal churches are variations of African Apostolic sects. They don’t allude to all of the 8 core teachings of Apostolic churches but subscribe to five or more.
These churches are worse. They are the ultimate Frankenstein of Christianity borrowing heavily from prosperity theology, African Apostolic churches and African traditional religions.
Dangers of Syncretic Christian Theology in Africa
Words can’t explain the theology of these churches. I will let the following images expose the sad truth to you.
If you’re not angry, please watch the pictures again. People eating snakes. People eating grass. People being stepped on. People being robbed. All in the name of Jesus.
These people ain’t fools. If you were born in similar circumstances and under the same beliefs, you will probably do the same. They’re people in pursuit of hope. Not just hope, but a miracle. Hope has become synonymous with miracles.
Miracle babies. Miracle condoms. Miracle money. Miracles…
I love miracles. Who doesn’t? Miracles are awesome.
Imagine you have a splitting headache and a friend lays his hand on you and in a fraction of a second the headache is gone. Just like that. Even if the miracle takes a process, they are still cool.
When Jesus restored the sight of a blind man by spitting on his eyes, it wasn’t gross it was unbelievable. Of course, the man first saw people like trees, that didn’t diminish the power of the miracle. It remained a powerful miracle nevertheless.
n Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole, there’s a grow crop of miracle workers. Not the face-painted, half-naked, mantra chatting type. No. Dressed in designer suits, driving Bentleys and living in mansions in leafy suburbs. They’re pastors, men and women of the cloth.
Actually, they’re not just pastors.
They’re chief apostles and major prophets. I will abbreviate them to CAMPs to save space. Good luck finding a Bible reference that corroborate those titles. Pastor is lowly title and so is teacher, evangelist, prophet or apostle. These guys are majors and chiefs.
They’re superior to any ministry Paul conceived in his missionary journeys.
Millions of people across Africa have been swept by the spell of CAMPs. And that is a huge problem.
A big problem not only to the gullible masses who are swindled their hard-earned cash, but to the whole body of Christ. Very soon, Africa will be sending missionaries to your country and they might be bringing that gospel. CDC could screen people for ebola, but no government agency will protect you against this false gospel. Nigeria and South Africa are in the top 20 countries that are sending missionaries.
If that doesn’t shock you this will:
All of the modern independent Pentecostal leaders in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi claim their are proteges of popular questionable Nigerian pastors.
In 2013, in a report entitled, Christianity in its Global Context, 1970–2020: Society, Religion, and Mission, the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary wrote:
Southern missionaries go not only to other Southern countries but also to Northern countries, in a reverse of the pattern seen over much of the twentieth century. While many of these international missionaries from the global South work among their own peoples in diaspora, they are also increasingly seeking to reach the native populations of the countries in which they minister.
Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi are already experiencing the woes of modern independent Pentecostals. If you think distance and your knowledge of the Bible shield you from this scourge, can you safely say the same about your kids, friends and relatives?
5 Dangerous lies Affecting Christianity in Africa
I am writing this article to shake you a bit from your comfort zone by making you aware of the growing problem in the Christendom. Modern independent Pentecostals are different from all other shades of Charismatics in doctrine and in practice. Their message can be summarized as:
- God wants to heal you: You’re sick because of demonic activity in your life. God wants to deliver you from your sickness through his anointed servants, the prophets.
- God wants to make you rich: You’re poor because of evil and familial spirits. The reason you continue in poverty is because you do not give to the anointed servants of God. Give to the church and your spiritual leaders and you will be rich.
- God wants to tell you the future and the past: You do not trust God because you do not know the future and God hasn’t told you about your past. Have faith in the servants of God and they will prophesy to you. This prophecy will build your faith.
The level of control Zimbabweans have given CAMPs is discomforting. These so-called man of God have been granted control by millions. A prophet decides when you can sleep with your husband or wife, what job you should apply and when you should apply for it, the amount of money you can send to your parents if at all, the kind of hairstyle you can wear and in some crazy instances the condom you can use when sleeping with your spouse. CAMPs rule. they’re like god.
Why do people give them such control?
Here are the top five beliefs held by followers of CAMPs and my counter questions to each of them.
CAMPs are true servants of God
Does the gospel require us to totally surrender our lives to men and women supposedly called of God? Who deserves more honor, the servant or the master?
CAMPs are true prophets of God
Did God call us to sit at the feet of the prophets or at the throne of grace? Is the word of a prophet equivalent to the written inspired word of God?
CAMPs perform real miracles
Is working miracles the mark of a prophet? For whose purpose are miracles, believers or unbelievers?
CAMPs preach the word of God
What makes a preached sermon the word of God? Does the sermon bear its own authority or the authority is vested in the scriptures?
CAMPs are used, filled and led by the Spirit
What are the marks of the infilling of the Holy Spirit, is it merely speaking in tongues or entails manifestation of the fruits of the Spirit? How do you judge if the spirit evident in MMA is from God?<
Africans are looking for a Messiah and CAMPs take advantage of that.
Why Prosperity Gospel Thrives in Africa
In African cosmology, the belief in and pursuit of prosperity is paramount. Africans do not ‘honor’ or accept suffering or poverty. It is a battle they have always sought to fight. The belief in the gods is primarily to ensure prosperity and well-being. The influence of American-type prosperity teaching only served as a catalyst and also reinforced what was already prevailing in the matrix of the primal worldview.
-Emmanuel K. Anim
The present spiritual, political and economic climate in Zimbabwe and most African countries is contemporary with Israel in the time of Christ. Israel was a colony of the Roman Empire. Similarly, most African nations suffered in the hands of imperialist Europe. Zimbabwe only gained independence from Britain in 1980.
Political oppression marked life in Israel with elite groups lording over the populace. Today, politicians and their rich charlatans oppress the common people through profiteering, corruption and intimidation. Recently in Burundi hundreds of people died because they refused to let the current president Pierre Nkurunziza run for a third term in office. Doesn’t that read like the appraising of Judas, Jesus once spoke of?
A few years ago, Zimbabwe had the worst inflation in history that peaked to 79,600,000,000 in November 2008. At that time I earned roughly US$50 per month and I was a quadrillionaire. Fast-forward to 2015, Zimbabwe is now fighting another economic battle, deflation that was estimated at -3.26% in October 2015. Goods are so cheap it makes good business sense to retrench or close shop. They’re a lot of things to buy, but people don’t have the money to buy them.
To make matters worse, a bogus reading of the law by the supreme court resulted in estimated 100,000 people losing their jobs. According to the labor law, companies were free to retrench workers willy nilly and only pay the employee three months salary as severance package. Who benefits from all this? Politicians and they friends, of course.
Students of the New Testament, does that sound familiar? The common people of Israel lived at the mercy of their compatriots who were friends to Rome. Tax collectors and religious leaders oppressed the children of Israel. Despite having the lowest salaries in the region, Zimbabweans are the most taxed people. Sadly, the tax doesn’t go to repairing the country’s infrastructure, roads are dilapidated, schools are in ruins and hospitals are ghosts. Both the members of the opposition and the ruling party are like the tax collectors-richer.
What makes CAMPs attractive to most Africans is:
The African culture. We Africans should be commended for our understanding of the spiritual realm. We fully grasped the truth that human beings are not just the body and the mind, we’re spiritual beings. The spiritual world is more real. But that also makes us susceptible to manipulations. Africans ascribed events, both good and bad to activity of spiritual beings.
Their message. They bring a message of hope to nations knee deep in economic, social, health, political and educational woes. People want hope.
Why is hope in demand in Africa?
5 Solas of African Traditional Religions
The late theologian Tokunboh Adeyemo had the perfect answer in his insightful Is Africa Cursed:
The African lives in a religious world. Unlike his Western counterpart, an African perceives, analyzes and interprets reality or events through his religious grid. For example, in 1979, Britain experienced an excessive snowstorm and the then Prime Minister, Mr. Cunningham had to appoint a Minister of Snow to handle the situation. In the same year, Kenya experienced a severe drought and the then President, Daniel Arap Moi, called a day of national prayer and, as was his practice, went to church that day.
Africans are very religious. The roots of this gullibility can be found in the basic premise of African traditional religions, which is a fatalistic attempt at Calvinism. The five solas of African traditional religions can be rendered:
1. Sola Pretium
Sanctification is by payment of penitence. Ancestors will only consider you pure if you pay the price of your wrongdoings. For example, a child who curses their mother will be oppressed by evil spirits unless they pay a set number of cattle to their mother.
2. Solus Pater per
There’s no way to God besides a good dead ancestor. Ancestors are mediators between God and the living. These ancestors communicate with the living through spirit mediums and everyday events.
3. Sola Legem per
Breaking the law is not controlled by laws only, but by myths and legends. Sleeping with your sister is not wrong, but taboo. Answering back at elders isn’t disrespectful, but taboo. Doing anything considered taboo is believed to bring misfortune to the whole family of the perpetrator.
4. Soli Deo Benedicat
Anything that happens is either a blessing from God, a reward for good behavior (Ubuntu) or a curse from God. Such a belief demands that people follow all the laws and be on God’s good side because every good thing is from God. Good rains are blessing from God, and so is a good harvest or finding a good wife.
5. Solum A Senioribus
Old people are reservoirs of knowledge. They have seen it all, and they know it all. Importantly, they spoke to the ancestors while they lived. Elderly people advise kings, they are consulted when there’s a problem they are the Nicene Creed of African Traditional Religions. Hence the ChiShona proverb, muromo yevakuru haiwiri pasi, the lips of elders will never fall down. The saying means everything elderly people say is true and should be revered.
African Apostolic Churches (AACs) and CAMPs do not shake the beliefs in African Traditional Religions that are contrary to the gospel. They just replace the key players. Let me show you how.
Wolves take advantage of this African worldview and rob the gullible public. The belief in the spiritual ordering of life events and circumstances nourishes the prophetic healing and deliverance ministries, and prosperity teachings. But I strongly believe there’s hope for Africa.
Why Spiritual Sensitivity Is Good
It is important for African Christians who want to be authentic and relevant to have a thorough knowledge of the African terrain. Unless we know what it is that we need to renew and transform, we cannot make progress in the transformation. Until we know and understand the people we wish to transform.
I believe the perceived gullibility of Africans is a God-design. We’re susceptible to the spiritual. We know there’s more to life than the body or the soul. The spiritual realm is not a subject of legend , but a daily reality. To the learned and sophisticated global North, this assertion might be considered a mark of ignorance. But I believe that it is a seal of God’s purpose for Africa.
There’s no better person to illustrate this fact than Simon of Cyrene. For a more detailed look at Simon of Cyrene I recommend Tokunboh Adeyemo’s Is Africa Cursed?. Simon of Cyrene has become a Christian folklore legend- the African man that carried Jesus’ Cross. Can you stop for a second and consider what that really mean?
He was considered lowly by all. No law protected him from the embarrassment that ensued. Carrying the Cross was not an act of honor, it was shameful at its core. It simply meant you’re not worthy to live.
Simon carried Christ’s burden and shared in His shame. I strongly believe that is exactly what it means to be an African. The African heritage is not a story of suffering, but a narrative of sharing in Christ’s burden. It is found in carrying faithfully the Cross.
As the world condemn Christian faith to foolishness, the African heritage compels us to embrace the Cross. As learned societies grapple with winning arguments for Christ, our African heritage invites us to take the Cross and bear the shame.
I wish I could spare a moment and highlight how colonialism and slavery mirrors how Simon was forced to carry the Cross. But I will take you to the two sons of Simon, Rufus and Alexander. The two are recorded in church history as missionaries to Africa. Trained in Jerusalem they went back home and led many to Christ. May be salvation of pillars of church history like Origen of Alexandria, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian and Cyprian could be traced to Rufus and Alexander?
So, what is the answer to all this?
Why Christian Theology Matters More in Africa Today
Christianity does not negate our Africanness but affirms it. There is much that is good in our heritage. But our Christian spirituality and practice are influenced by our Africanness to a far greater extent than we realize.
The problem currently faced by the church in Africa can be answered by redeeming theology. Theology needs to be removed from academic corridors and the Western shores and made accessible to every day believers.
A believer who is as noble as the saints at Berea will not be easily manipulated. They will check everything a church leader says against the Scriptures.
As a lay theologian, African believers need to address 5 issues highlighted by Samuel Waje Kunhiyop in African Christian Theology. This is not for church leaders only. Every believer should make an effort to understand what they believe and grow in faith.
Issue 1: African theologians should take seriously the religious worldview of African people.
Issue 2: When Africans come to Christ they bring with them their religious worldview. These religious beliefs affect how Africans, work, marry, farm or travel.
Issue 3: African theologians should address issues pertinent to Africa. Believers need to invest time in studying what the Bible says about practical aspects of their everyday life.
Issue 4: Abstract thinking is often rejected in Africaand most people desire concrete reality. This demands that theology speak to real issues of life.
Issue 5: Theology must be accessible to all people and not elitistic or snobbish. Africans should be able to articulate their theology with simplicity without hiding truths in abstract ideas.
We can only successfully address the issues raised by Kunhiyop through proper Bible interpretation and application.
Every believer is a theologian. You have your way of interpreting events around you with a concept of God you developed from the sermons you heard, the books you read, the experiences you had and the way you read the Bible.
Ugandan Bible scholar, Michael Kyomya advices, “Whatever beliefs, principles or teachings we hold, we should take into account all that Scripture has to say about a subject so that the applications we draw are in harmony with all scripture.” And adds, “If we do not keep our pre-understandings in check, they can endanger our interpretation.”
As an African, I know it is considered rude to question your leaders. But there’s a story that is often told of the dangers of being a blind follower you should heed.
During the last decade economic crisis in Zimbabwe, winding lines were a common sight. People waited in lines for anything. I once saw people hanging in a line waiting to buy ice cream. People joined a line without asking back then. If you see a line, it meant something scarce was being sold.
A man wants joined a line for a couple of hours. When his turn came to be attended to he realized he had joined a body viewing line at a morgue. When you hear a sermon or read a book, you need to start asking questions.
This article discusses the basics of theology. It further argues why all believers should become theologians. The problem currently faced by the Church in Africa persist because very few people devote themselves to study the word. People opt for listening to their preachers instead of listening to God.
If Africa is going to influence the world for the Gospel, we need to invest time in knowing the God we believe through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and study of the Word.
Theology matters but you need to know how to be a better theologian. This posts pools advice from 22 Bible Scholars, professors, Christian authors, bloggers and pastors. The experts answer the question:
How can a layperson become a better theologian without going to seminary?
Seminaries are a valuable resource for the church. However, they’re few seminaries in Africa. And there were no seminaries in the first centuries. The experts I interviewed gave agreed the foundational way to become a sound theologian is prayer, Bible reading and community.
The reason most people don’t read good Christian books in Africa is because they do not know how to read. Reading is an art that can be perfected. You need to invest time reading good books if you want to be a better theologian.
This article presents an intriguing technique for finding motivation to read. It then presents a method of reading that will help you in selecting a Christian book to avoid wasting your time and also to read and retain what you read. The method also offers a way of fact checking everything you read.
One of the challenges faced by African Christians is finding a good book. Christian books by prosperity teachers are found in every bookstore. However, they are some good books out there and when you find them you should read them.
This article identifies 10 books written by Africans that address issues highlighted by Samuel Waje Kinhiyop. Reading these books will help you see your cultural biases and find better methods of studying the word.
There’s hope for Christianity in Africa. God is watching over us. Soon, the lies of the enemy will be exposed and the victory of Christ declared. The question is:
Are you willing to be a bondservant of Christ devoted to upholding his word no matter what?
Christ is looking for such, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”