Dr. Hank Hanegraaf, president of Christian Research Institute in California, and one of the finest and courageous Christian apologists of our time, in his book, “Christianity in Crisis” prophetically and passionately argued that modern-day Christianity is in crisis. He said that the Church is undergoing a major transformation and that millions of Christians have embraced another gospel, another Jesus, a gospel of false promises of prosperity, wealth, healing, signs and wonders. He attributes the problem to lack of sound biblical training and Seminary education. George Barna, the famous Church consultant, researcher and writer, also supports Dr. Hanegraaf postulations that the Church is dying due to lack of sound Bible teachers and strong Church leadership.
There is no doubt that the Christian faith has lost its value, respect and dignity. C. S. Lewis, the famous Oxford apologist for the faith, wrote: “We must return to Christianity in order to preserve the things we value. But we cannot return to Christianity at all unless the thing we value above all else is Christ….. Otherwise, we are in effect, asking to save our idols for us.”
In his best-selling book, “Crisis in the Village,” Dr. Robert M. Franklin, a theologian and public intellectual, wrote that the “Church has lost her moral mission, call and commitment.” Today baby boomers and the new “millennials” are flooding to churches and synagogues because of widespread hunger for meaning and many bring aversion to such traditional teachings such as sin, evil, forgiveness, commitment, even truth itself. As a result, what we have today in many large churches is “designer gospel message” and “religious syncretism” where the gospel are re-packaged to suit those who want a faith to satisfy their “felt need,” the gospel message that “God wants you to be rich.” “Send money as a step of faith and God will bless you message.” “Give a $1,000 pledge and God will bless you.” Name it claims it.” “Give to get rich message.” “100 fold return-blessing and even 1000 times return” is another gospel, a different gospel from what Jesus Christ taught. Their tricks are working because many of those who profess faith in Jesus Christ are biblically ignorant and gullible and that is why ‘god-want-you-rich theology’ is a booming business for their proponents.
It is true that Jesus taught on the subject of money and finance more than any other subject in the Bible – but all His teachings on money were in negative connotation. I will write more on Jesus’ teachings on prosperity in the part-2 of my article.
Big faith equals wealth $millions$
In the July 2007 edition of Christianity Today, it carried a survey conducted in 2006 by the PEW forum on religion and public life. They found that 25% of Nigerian Christians are renewalists – that is Pentecostals and Charismatic. The same survey noted that 33% of South Africans and 50% of Kenyans were also renewalists. Out of nearly 900 million Africans, which include Christians, Muslims, pagans, Atheists and other religious persuasions, about 150 million Christians are now renewalists. Professor Paul Gifford of the University of London, England, in his 2004 book: “New Christianity: Pentecostalism in a Globalizing African Economy” writes, “African Christians believe that success is determined by your faith.” Professor Gifford notes that these renewalists have moved beyond traditional Pentecostal practices of speaking in tongues, prophesying, and healing to the belief that God will provide – money, cars, houses, and even spouses – in response to the believer’s faith – if not immediately, then soon. In the same 2006 survey by PEW forum, 92% Nigerian Christians, 90% South African and 85% of Kenyan Christians agreed that “wealth and material blessings are based on one’s faith.” What a tragedy and travesty!
This is how sad and drastic prosperity gospel has become among Christians in Nigeria and most of Africa. Prosperity message is destructive and has negative effects. This blind spirituality is not only destructive, damaging, and deceptive but worse than slavery. It is bondage, abuse, deception, manipulation, godlessness and satanic capitalism. Most Nigerian Christians are only not enslaved spiritually, morally and financially but intellectually as well. It is economic, moral, and intellectual slavery. Million of Nigerian Christians are now victims of Satanic Churches and their false prophets. The prosperity gospel is also destroying Nigerian society –family, homes, causing a combination of disappointment, hurts, discouragement, and anger toward God and sometimes causes people to turn away from God. What we have nowadays is moral bankruptcy, biblical ignorance, a modern day voodoo and satanic spiritual spiritualism. In a nutshell, what we have today is 419 in the Church. What we have today is materialistic Christianity and there is enormous danger in it.
Warning against false doctrine and false prophets and teachers
Jesus Christ warned his disciples and followers about false prophets who would rise up to lead many astray and to destruction (Matthew 24:11). In Oliver Discourse, Jesus warned, “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name. And will deceive many” (Matthew 24:4-5). Jesus said if you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free – John 8:31-32. People remain in bondage when they are ignorant of what has been provided for them through the life and death of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, today, too many Christians are more interested in this present world materialism than in the balanced teachings of Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul dedicated the entire epistle of Timothy to teach against false prophets, false doctrines and godlessness in the last days. He warns Timothy, his son in the ministry, to flee from such things. He writes, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” – 2 Timothy 4:3-4.
In 2 Timothy 3:1-5, Paul warns, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God — having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17 say, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. The Apostle Paul charges Timothy, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” As teachers and preachers of the Word of God, we are reminded to do our best to study and show ourselves approved to God, a workman who odes not need to be ashamed but who correctly handles the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
There is no doubt that that the Nigerian Pentecostal Church and certain bishops in the fold are emulating and borrowing from the rich American Church and her superstar pastors, bishops and televangelists like Pastor Benny Hinn, Bishop TD Jakes, Dr. Creflo Dollar, Bishop Eddie Long, Bishop Dale Bronner, Pastor Joel Osten, Pastor Joyce Myer, Pastor Paula White, and Pastor Darlene Bishop etc. These imitators and imposters refused to understand that United States is a rich and capitalist country. The American Church organizations are big businesses and they have learned to tap into the wealth and prosperity of the nation without depending on the meager tithes and offerings from their members. Today, the streets of major cities in Nigeria are littered with all kinds of Churches promising healing, wealth, prosperity and happiness and yet Nigeria and vast majority of its citizens are among the poorest people in the world. Additionally, the presence and practice of rituals, divination, astrology, sorcery, witchcraft, voodoo, magic, envy, greed, jealousy, hatred, idolatry, hypocrisy, ungodliness, wickedness, lust, immorality, adultery and corruption remain rampant and alarming in the society. There is no sign of righteousness, love, peace and hope, but injustice, unrighteousness, hate, anger, resentment, bitterness, evil, wickedness, violence, killings, and hopelessness reign supreme in every household, neighborhood and city.
Modern-day designer Church is perverted
I’m afraid to say that what we have today is a perverted Church; a Church that is totally misconstrued, misguided and misinformed where spiritual witchcraft and biblical ignorance are in abundance. What we have today is a Church that is bewitched, a Church that is preaching and teaching another gospel; another Jesus and a message of “get rich and get healed theology,” a Church were the so-called men of God are preaching eisegesis rather proper exegesis and sound exposition of the Word of God, where they are using pragmatic psychological philosophies for attaining success and for solving spiritual issues rather than sound exposition of God’s Word, men who are using the Word of God for lucre and for profit.
The Church was called upon to uphold the honor, glory and authority of Christ on planet earth. Instead of upholding this divine mandate with dignity, the Church and her leaders have been deceived and trampled upon by demons of antichrist and cultic and pharisaic associations where the presence of God is completely absent and self and pride are enthroned. What we have today are Church buildings where sin, wickedness, witchcraft and all manners evil are practiced and people accept it so; multimillion dollar buildings and temples where the spirit of Christ has been thrown out and Satan himself is enthroned on the altar. No wonder atrocities and exploitations of worshipers such as the ones we read in our newspapers and watch on television are happening every day. The Church must pray for revival and renewal. I agree with Rev. D. Peter C. Moore, who wrote that, “The Church that God cherishes is one that is “Evangelical in Teaching, Catholic in Sacrament, Reformed in Doctrine, Charismatic in Ministry Gifts, and Liberal in Ethos and Global in Scope.” Anything else is just humanistic and designer religion.
The danger of prosperity and materialistic message rather than true gospel
The danger of Pentecostal prosperity and materialistic message is giving people false hope – that God will fulfill His promises based on their twisted interpretation of Scripture. Biblical hope is more of a simple wish; it entails certainty based on God’s demonstration of faithfulness to people in the history of salivation recorded in the scriptures and as experienced by promise of Christ’s return and the anticipation of resurrection from the dead. That is the blessed hope in God. Most of these prosperity preachers may have earned PhD’s in other fields of study but not in theology, divinity or ministry. They should go back to school – Seminary to study the Scriptures – and take course in exegesis, biblical interpretation, hermeneutics, homiletics, and biblical languages such as Hebrew w and Greek in order to be qualified to correctly teach the Bible. Because what most of them are teaching today is another gospel, a twisted and muddled gospel – a gospel of hell and that of Satan designed for the coming of antichrist. Prosperity teachers are preaching arrogance, foolishness, sin, and false doctrine – because what most of them are propagating today is not true gospel but another gospel, a muddled message. They should repent and confess their sins for contradicting and twisting the gospel message of Jesus Christ.