Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Influence of TV-Evangelists on church in Africa

I’ve just returned from Swaziland where we had our “Easter Conference“. I was asked to preach and my choice fell on 1 Cor 15:12-19. What has been worrying me for several years, is the influence that TV-Evangelists have on the church in Swaziland and I am fairly certain on most churches in Africa.

Swaziland is very much a “Christian” country and a lot of time on the TV channels is given to religious programs. Some of these programs are produced locally, but many, probably most, are obtained from overseas, mainly the USA. This is not a critique against TV-Evangelists, but rather a concern that the church in Africa is becoming increasingly a duplicate of what they see happening on the TV screens. When the African church leaders pray, many sound exactly like the preachers on TV. African people have the most amazing ability to sing and to harmonise without any instruments, but this weekend huge speakers were unpacked in the tent in which the services were held. An expensive keyboard was set up (with a brilliant player) and most of the singing was done with five women leading them over microphones – this in a tent in which I could preach without a microphone and everyone could still hear.

I love their enthusiasm for the Lord. I love to see how they utilise Christians who are not in the leadership to take part in the service. But I am wondering at times whether we are going to lose the traditional African way of worshipping God completely in favour of an American (and a very un-African) way of serving the Lord in Africa. Is this good or is it bad?


Sunday, April 8, 2007 - Posted by | Africa, Swaziland, Worship


  1. One of the things that disturbed me most upon my arrival in South Africa was the influence of some televangelists featured on TBN. I say some, because there are a few orthodox ones here and there. After getting over the initial shock of TBN even being broadcasted in Africa, I was saddened when I visited a friends Church one weekend. As we arrived I saw the Pastor pull into his reserved parking space in a brand new S-Class Mercedez Benz and next to him pulls up the worship pastor in a brand new 700 series BMW. There is nothing wrong with having a nice car but this scene had raised one of my eyebrows…keep in mind this Church is in Soweto. ( I will call out certain names only with the intent of warning as John does in 3 John 9-10). While sitting through this service I realized that it was as if a T.D. Jakes impersonator was giving the sermon. He even had the matching pin-striped zoot suit. I wouldn’t have been surprised either if the sermon had been a transcript from one of Pastor Jakes’ services. I’m unclear why the prosperity Gospel is attracting relatively poor South Africans. Although it promises wealth and riches for the faithful and generous tither, most of the congregation hardly drove a car that compared to his. Why are we even looking for Christ-like leadership among a man who has an income of over 1 million U.S. dollars, wears a huge diamond ring, has a lake-front mansion, and private-jet to fly him around? Is not the role of a Pastor or any Christian for that matter to show others what Christ looks like through our actions and our lifestyles? At this point it doesn’t even matter if his Theology is sound, because his personal witness isn’t-and that destoys much, by promoting false truths of prosperity in finances and detracts from the life of sacrifice which Christ has clearly shown us.

    Comment by Bryan | Monday, April 9, 2007 | Reply

  2. Hi Bryan,
    Thanks for your comment. What you describe is indeed a problem in many places like Soweto and I believe the same could be said for certain denominations in Swaziland. I am from a Reformed background. From the Reformed side we have of course made the mistake in the past to ignore the more African (or specifically Swazi) way of worshipping, telling the believers that the only true way to worship God is by singing Reformed songs and following the liturgy which is common in Reformed churches. But now, instead of developing something which is more indigenous to Africa, we find more and more that the churches are following the example they see on TV – in Swaziland’s case people like Benny Hinn. As I’ve said, I’m not writing against the TV-Evangelists – I’m more concerned that in Africa people tend to believe that this way of worshipping God, which they see on TV, is the only true way.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Monday, April 9, 2007 | Reply

  3. Since I came back from a trip to Nigeria (who consider themselves as the second most religious country) last year, the influence that TV evangelism has on their Reformed church has been haunting me. As Brian said, the idea of prosperity teaching has a huge influence on the message that the reverends bring to the masses, this also appears to be what the people want to hear. I also saw some flyers at restaurants and at the airports on miracles which are performed at some of the churches. Before arriving there I thought that the whole T.B. Joshua thing might be a unique situation – but found that it wasn’t so unique at all (I wonder if someone has been watching Benny Hinn?)!

    But if I need to be honest (and this will be more to the topic of which (Oom) Arnau is concerned): in the practical experiences that we had in our theological training, attending services of different denominations in Hammanskraal (Near Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa) I realised that the liturgy of the different congregations are very much the same as their so called Westernised counterparts. The AFM church service was the same as what I would expect one to be in a suburban Afrikaans AGS service, The Dutch Reformed service (Hervormd)the same as their white counterparts (except for the music – which were a bit more joyful). And I wondered how much these people had to sacrifice of their own culture in accepting God (or is it accepting the doctrine of Westernisation?).

    I think that a pre-program of seeing what people’s culture and rituals involve and measuring how that could be reconciled with liturgical events should be done before planting a church, instead of just trying to implement our own Western ideas and forcing them on people.


    Comment by Pete | Friday, April 13, 2007 | Reply

  4. Hi Pete,

    Thanks for sharing something of your experience in Nigeria.

    You have a good point in your last paragraph: “I think that a pre-program of seeing what people’s culture and rituals involve and measuring how that could be reconciled with liturgical events should be done before planting a church, instead of just trying to implement our own Western ideas and forcing them on people.” I agree with this 100%

    But I do want to play devil’s advocate and ask how far culture should be accepted under all circumstances. Is there a point where we have to say that a certain part of culture is no longer acceptable in a Christian church? And if there is, who should determine this?

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Saturday, April 14, 2007 | Reply

  5. […] of TV-Evangelists on church in Africa (2) On 8 April I posted something about my concern that the church in Africa seems to be following blindly trends […]

    Pingback by Influence of TV-Evangelists on church in Africa (2) « Mission Issues | Friday, July 13, 2007 | Reply

  6. As a Christian, born and brought up in strict christian
    teachings of humility, charcter and compassion, it is sad to see the change in attitude of the believers due to the
    wrong teachings of T.V. evangelists from the U.S. I used to hear “Jesus is coming soon” but I have not heard the
    message of His coming in years. It is now prosperity gospel, how to get rich, generational curse and a lot of other subjects have influenced the Pastors and Christian leaders of Asia, Africa, South America etc. T.V.Preachers are preching, how to bring heaven to earth and enjoy here for ever. God’s judgement will start pouring in any time
    because the love for money and the material things is
    contrary to the Word of God. American T.V. evangelists will have to answer first to the believers and God for
    their ungodly lifestyle of pomp, arrogance and pride of life.

    Comment by A. S. Mathew | Thursday, November 22, 2007 | Reply

  7. Dear Pastor,
    God bless you so much,I am Pastor of new life church international here in africa,bujumbura,burundi,i am very happy to see our web site and i am very interrested,so i need the friendship and if you have a conference you will contact us and we will coming.and we invite your ministries in africa
    God bless you.
    Bishop Dimoke
    new life church international

    New Life Church International/Bujumbura,Burundi

    Comment by pastor omana | Friday, March 14, 2008 | Reply

  8. We are researching the idea of having a blog, how did you get your blog this poular? : Influence of TV-Evangelists on church in Africa Mission Issues 🙂

    Comment by TV Africa | Monday, November 21, 2011 | Reply

  9. I’m not quite sure. I blog about topics I think people will be interested to read. Tags are important but should refer to issues specifically touched on in the blog post, otherwise it becomes untrustworthy. But then it takes time. It took me 119 days to get my first 1000 hits, then 36 for the next 1000 and then 22 for the next. Don’t worry about becoming popular. You will eventually get a following. When I do post, I usually put it on Facebook as a link. I hope this helps. Everything of the best on this exciting venture!

    Comment by Arnau Van Wyngaard | Monday, November 21, 2011 | Reply

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