Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Influence 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 blindly following trends set by TV-Evangelists. I was amazed to see that this specific entry still seems to be one of my most popular posts – or perhaps to put it in better perspective, it is being read more widely than the others!
Isaac Phiri and Joe Maxwell recently wrote a thought-provoking article entitled Gospel Riches. It is worthwhile to read. Living in a fairly poor country like Swaziland, where a great part of the population have less than $1 per day to survive on (which, according to the World Bank can be described as Extreme Poverty), it is little wonder that prosperity evangelists are getting a strong foothold within Christian circles in countries such as this. Promises of wealth obviously appeal to people who scarcely have enough to survive on every day. In my opinion it borders on criminality to make such promises to people who don’t even have enough to eat. And more often than not, the only people who prosper, are the church leaders.
I do believe that God cares for us. I do believe that, if we trust Him for what we need, that He will provide for our daily living, or to say it in Biblical language, that He will provide our daily bread. We have experienced it in our own lives and there are many Christians who can witness to the fact. But to proclaim that, whatever you give to God will be multiplied by Him tenfold and given back to you, as some claim, is just not the truth. And yet we find more and more that this is the message which is brought in many churches in Africa – also here in Swaziland. And these churches are growing – but at what expense?
But there is another side to this story and this is that we have found through the years that many, by far the majority, of our church members, have an attitude that they were born poor and they will die poor. They will never be able to break through this vicious circle. Somewhere between these two extremes we have to find a way to tell people that happiness is not found in wealth but also that we do not have to remain in our state of extreme poverty. We need to pray and find ways to break out of this.
Last Sunday a young girl (in her twenties) attended our service. Afterwards I spoke to her, as I did not recognise her. She used to attend our church many years ago, but after finishing school she went to the University of Swaziland where she did a degree in agricultural economics. She passed the degree with distinction. Now she is trying to find a scholarship so that she can do her master’s degree. I was so happy for her part, because I believe that she has broken through this feeling which I so often find, of being worthless. One of my other young members finished his master’s degree in applied mathematics some time ago and one of my elders, who had a teaching diploma, (he is older than I am) went back to university some years ago to do a four year degree in education. He is now the headmaster of a highschool in Swaziland. Looking at these people, and thinking about what the prosperity evangelists are telling their members, I sincerely believe that the three examples I mentioned understand more about God and the Bible than the prosperity evangelists do. Obviously, to achieve what they did, took a lot of hard work and determination, but isn’t that part of the message of the Bible?

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Friday, July 13, 2007 - Posted by | Mission, Theology

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